Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Quick Terrain Projects — Mini Monday Ep 6

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we take on two quick terrain projects, which you can bang out in an evening.

Quick Terrain Projects of a stalagmite and road sign.

The first project is a stalagmite, those naturally forming spikes of rock that you find at the bottom of caves.

For mine, I used paper clay, but any type of clay should work. I drilled a hole through it and threaded a bit of chain through the hole to create some visual interest. I dripped super glue down the chain, which keeps it stiff. To paint the stalagmite, paint with a dark gray then dry brush with a lighter gray on the raised edges. The chain is painted black and then painted with a metallic color. Done!

The road sign is a bit of chopstick and popsicle stick, shaped and stuck together with wood glue. I used paper clay for the base, and you need something that is heavy enough to keep the sign upright. I then painted it brown and edge-highlighted it with a tan brown. I didn’t paint a name onto the sign, because I wanted to be able to add names to photos with Photoshop, as I’ve done above.

Both of these projects are simple and quick enough that you could turn out several in an evening, and they’re great projects for beginners. Besides being cheap, you can get a lot of reuse out of each bit of scenery. My little stalagmite has appeared in every prison and dungeon I’ve run since making it, and fills an inch square nicely.

Is there anything you’d like to see me paint or build? Let me know in the comments below.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Deck building is a major part of Magic: the Gathering. You can throw a deck together, based on a theme or a cool synergy, and it might work. The best decks take thought and research, combining strong synergies with cards that can handle whatever you’re up against. The strongest decks I’ve ever played were carefully put together and refined through hours of playing. This is planning, pure and simple, and it’s Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win.

Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You know how some decks are amazing at creating 1/1 tokens, or gaining life, and then there are decks with high win rates? The decks with high win rates are built to win, first and foremost. This is all about knowing your goal, but it’s also about creating a plan to achieve that goal. Some of these strong decks might create tokens or gain life, or do whatever they do well, but never lose sight of controlling the board, which is vital for victory.

Spock detecting large quantities of win in this sector. Magic Life Lesson #4

Lessons from Industry and Life

At the start of this year, we went back to our business plan for Rising Phoenix and gave it a lot of thought, which led to an overhaul of how we publish, what we publish, and how we market our publications. We knew it was vital to our business to have a strong plan, informed by lessons we’ve learned since we got started, viability, and our goals. Without it, we’d be all over the place, but, with the plan, we have something to gauge new projects by and goals to work towards. We won’t always get it right, we will make mistakes, but we’ll keep refining our plan based on the lessons we learn, and that will make us stronger. Just like refining a MtG deck after a few games or when you get new cards.

A Simple Plan (Not the Band)

A plan doesn’t need to be complex. Whatever you need to do, from studying for an exam to raising funds for your next RPG spending spree, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify what success looks like. How much do you need to know to ace your exam? How much do you need to raise to afford those minis?
  2. Chunk the work needed to gain success down into manageable bits. If you need to study 100 pages, how many can you handle in a 45-minute study session? How many study sessions would you need to learn all 100 pages?
  3. Begin working according to your plan. Track your progress as you go.
  4. Modify your plan to ensure you meet your goals. Do you need to cut pages from your study plan? Do you need to work more overtime to afford that core book? Make changes to how you’re going to achieve your goal, not to the goal itself.

The ICBM acronym might be a stretch, but planning works. Don’t roll through life without a plan — figure out where you want to be and go for it, fists flying!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Mushroom Miniatures — Mini Monday, Ep 5

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you some easy mushroom miniatures to make with clay, to decorate the subterranean caverns of your RPG table.

Mushroom miniatures and a drow in the Underdark
badger, badger, badger, Mushroom, MUSHROOM!

Badgers love mushrooms, everyone loves mushrooms! On pizza or in the dungeon, mushrooms add a touch of class that’s hard to beat. These mushroom miniatures give your players something interesting to fight around, a refreshing change from the ubiquitous grey walls and stone tombs found below.

I made these mushrooms with air drying clay. I added gills underneath with a sharp tool, by drawing lines outwards from the stem.

When they were dry, I painted the stems with white mixed with a touch of green, which gives a sickly tint to them. The mushroom caps were painted purple, and I used two shades. Lastly, I varnished them with a matt varnish, and they were done.

I molded the mushrooms by hand, and there’s nothing inside them to give them more structure, but you could use toothpicks or wire as a core — a good idea for longer stems. If you’re making bigger mushrooms to take the weight of a miniature, then use a tightly pressed core of aluminum foil as the core. It’ll be lighter and will dry quicker than a hunk of solid clay.

I didn’t base them, so they’ll fit anywhere, but you could make up mushroom forests on a large base, or myconid figures or shrieking shroom markers on smaller bases. You can find rules for myconids in the Player’s Companion.

Rodney Sloan

Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic the Gathering is a great game, and it has plenty to teach about life. Today I want to talk about goals.

You win a game of Magic by getting your opponent’s life total to 0. Nothing new about that. There are other ways to win, such as if your opponent has to draw a card from an empty deck, but, for the most part, it’s all about that magical number, 0.

It’s easy to miss the point here. You can play to “beat” your opponent, forgetting that you’ve got everything set up for a lethal play. Taking your opponent down to 0 is the goal, any distraction from that goal is an opportunity for your opponent to win. Strong decks and strong players keep this in mind.

You’ll see people forgetting this in MTG Arena often. When your opponent has a significant advantage, but doesn’t go for the win, then they’ve forgotten the win condition. That can buy you time for a life-saving or game-winning play.

Knowing your goals will get you ahead, in Magic, and in life.


GOAL
Magical Life Lesson #3 by MaxieLindo on DeviantArt

Magic Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

By figuring out your goals, you can eliminate anything that distracts you or stops you from achieving it.

As an example, I’ve been wanting to do regular posts here again, and blog about Magic, but I didn’t want to kill my productivity. I figured that short, 300-word posts would give me a chance to achieve my blogging goal without taking too much time away from writing RPG content. My priority — my number 1 goal — is to write new RPG books. Knowing this goal helps me manage my time and gauge how well I’m doing, so I budget time for blogging appropriately.

We’re halfway through 2019, so it’s a great time to look back at the year’s goals and see how you’re doing. Cut any goals that aren’t working out, create new goals where needed, prioritize them, and the rest of the year’s your chance to shine.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Set Sail in a Miniature Ship — Mini Monday, Ep 4

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll build a miniature ship to go with your Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign or Undersea Sourcebook inspired adventures.

Wind Runner Ship Complete
“Yo ho ho, a pirate’s life for Smee!”

This little boat is very easy to make, looks great on the table, and is highly customizable. I’m planning to make a small armada for my undersea pirate campaign, which won’t take much time or break the bank with this technique.

Wind Runner Miniature Ship
“Arr, tis a ghost ship!”

Building the Ship

I used foam board, which I marked out to be an inch wide and 5 inches long. I then cut it and shaped the bow and stern.

For the gunwales, I used cardboard strips, which I glued to the sides of the foam board. The prow and rudder is made from balsa wood, and the tiller is a match stick. The deck was left plain, except for four struts, which are used to mark the squares off for models to stand on. The mast is a bamboo skewer, with thick yarn glued around the bottom of it.

I then undercoated the miniature ship in white, and painted the hull and prow a dark red. The rest was either painted dark brown to resemble wood, or light brown to resemble rope.

When the paint was dry, I rolled up a thin strip of linen and tied it to the mast. I then glued it in place and painted the yarn. To finish up, I painted the whole thing, including the sail, with matt varnish.

Full Stats Coming Soon

The wind runner, which this is a model of, will appear with full stats in our forthecoming Undersea Sourcebook: Feats & Equipment, which includes two new ships, two submersibles, and an airship.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Scratch Built Flying Sword — Mini Monday, Ep 3

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you a simple scratch building project for a flying sword.

Flying Sword
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Oh, never mind!

This was a simple scratch build, and there are plenty of ways to get similar results. I wanted a flying sword animated object for one of my NPCs, but the model can just as easily be used to mark a guardian of faith or spiritual weapon spell.

I took the scimitar off an old Warhammer orc, then drilled into the base of the blade to insert a pin, made from a paper clip. I then used modeling epoxy to craft the handle, then attached this to a small base. Done!

I undercoated with white, then painted black over the sword and pin. I then painted the base green and dry brushed the sword with metallic paint. I used brown with a leather brown color for highlights on the handle. I then flocked the base and varnished the whole thing with matt varnish. For the second varnish coat, I used gloss on the metallic parts and matt varnish everywhere else. And that was the painting done.

This was a quick project and the idea can be used for so much more, such as spell effects, other animated objects, floating orbs, and markers, such as a triggered blade trap.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

One Card to Rule Them All

So I’m playing a life gain black and white deck against an arguably better version of the same deck. I’m at 9 life, my opponent’s at 765! He or she has four creatures that could nail my coffin shut, and I can block three of them. But, for multiple turns, only two creatures come at me, so I block with my two 1/1 bats, spawned each round by Regal Bloodlord. A win doesn’t look possible, and I could throw in the towel — something common on MTG Arena — but I press on.

Then I land Adjani, Strength of the Pride. I activate his +1 ability and reach 40 health. My opponent goes all in on the attack, but at this point I’ve got the extra creatures to block. I kill off all but the three biggest guys, then pop Adjani, destroying my opponent’s advantage for good. Still far above 750 life, my opponent quits the game.

Draw Engine Fail

Earlier the same day, I played against an elemental deck with Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Risen Reef featuring prominently. My opponent’s forces were stacked heavily against me, but I waited for the assault that never came. In the end, I won because my opponent drew their last card off Omnath.

So…

Magic Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up


NEVER GIVE UP!
by Emezie on DeviantArt

Never give up, success could be just around the corner. I’ve seen this again and again in RPG publishing, where one book might struggle to sell and another can fly off the shelves. You can do all sorts of things to help sales along, but you’ll never make it in the industry if you’re not creating new content regularly.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Simple Drow Paint Tutorial — Mini Monday, Ep 2

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you a simple drow paint scheme to have you ready for your next drow encounter in no time.

This paint scheme is perfect for an Underdark campaign and doesn’t take much time at all. I used the drow duellist miniatures from the Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game (Boardgame Geek Link).

Simple Drow Paint Scheme
“This way!” “No! This way!”

Base Coat

Base coat your drow miniatures with a medium to dark grey. I use this as the skin tone for my drow, since black is a very flat color that pulls in light. Your drow figures are going to be predominantly black, so the grey gives you some variation, and you can always darken it with a wash later.

Any Color as Long as its Black

Paint all the armor, weapons, bases, and gear black. Leave only the skin and hair grey. For variety, you could paint the armor and any cloth dark red or deep purple.



Hair

Drybrush the hair white. This works very well with the grey basecoat, which defines the recesses.

Metals

Pick out metallic parts by dry brushing with a metallic color. I used Mithril Silver from Citadel, which shows how old my paints are. Mithril Silver is a bright metallic, now called Runefang Steel. I painted the swords with the same metallic paint, but might have gone with a darker metallic color, like Leadbulcher, just for more variation.

Done, And…

At this point, the simple drow paint job is done. They’re ready for gaming.

Simple Drow Paint Scheme

If you have time, you can go back into your simple drow paint scheme and pick out details like eyes, belt straps, wands, or markings. With white, you can highlight the hair, and use greys to highlight the skin. When you’re done, use a dark purple wash to bring out the detail, but leave the hair.

Painting Heroes and Villains

This tutorial works best for rank and file drow, but you can extend these principles for major NPCs and dark elf player characters. I use this technique as my first stage on all my drow figures, then work in more detail for the major minis.

Pro Tip: Us a purple base coat if you want your drow to look like the ones in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Miniature Japanese Torii – Mini Monday, Ep 1

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kit bashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you how to build a miniature Japanese torii gate for Steampunk Musha, Legend of the Five Rings, or similar East Asian inspired settings.

Here she is, folks. This miniature Japanese torii can easily accommodate most Large sized D&D or Pathfinder figures in the center.

Miniature Japanese Torii
The base is 2 x 4 inches: perfect for using on a grid map.

Steampunk Musha – Shangti Factory Hub

This project is the first part of my Steampunk Musha terrain project that will consist of several factory pieces set in the mega city of Shangti. Since it’s steampunk, I figure this set will work well for both my Warhammer 40k games and for fantasy gaming, so this is a “two birds with one stone” type of deal.

The torii gate we’re making today is highly customizable, but is perfect for a Japanese themed game. You could use a similar technique to make gallows or other structures featuring a prominent wooden frame.



Getting Started

You’ll need balsa wood for this, but popsicle sticks will work well too. A sharp hobby knife, wood glue, and sandpaper will do all the heavy lifting, then you can paint and varnish the gate as you see fit when it’s done. I used hardboard for the base.

Prep

Make a paper template for the top piece of the gate (the kasagi and shimaki). Cut 3 of these. Cut 1 long crossbar (nuki), and 6 poles (to make the hashira). We’ll add more bits later, so keep any extra wood aside.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Torii Frame

Place 1 top section on top of 2 pillars. There’s no need to glue it yet, but you can if you like.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the crossbar onto the pillars, with a small space between it and the top piece.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Connecting Things

Score lines on 2 more pillars under the crossbar, like so:

Miniature Japanese Torii

Then cut along the scored lines.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the longer sections of pillar below the crossbar. Glue the short sections of the pillar over the top section. This forms the very center of your Japanese torii gate.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Don’t worry too much if the glue is causing all the pieces to float around. When you’re done you can move everything nicely into place, and sanding will clean it all up when we’re done.

Bulking Up the Top

Score lines to match the location of the pillars onto the second top piece.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the pieces of the second top piece onto the first top piece. In the end, this gives the model more strength and bulk.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Finishing Up your Miniature Japanese Torii

Now glue on the last of the pillars and top piece. If your glue is still wet at this stage you can move things around, then put a heavy book on the gate and let it dry.  Miniature Japanese Torii

Next, add a small down piece between the top and the crossbar. Then cut 2 identical pieces to form the very top section of the tori. These will look like slightly curved french fries.

When it’s dry, use your hobby knife to make everything flush along the edges, then sand the model. An emery board (used for fingernails) works very well for this.

Miniature Japanese Torii
There are 25 ninjas hidden in this image. Really!

I base coated my model white, then painted the whole thing red. I washed it with a purple wash to pick up the natural wood texture of the balsa wood, and to age the model a bit.

For the base, I used hardwood covered in two grades of sand, the finest for the path. I painted and dry brushed this before adding flock. I varnished everything when I was done, because I like harder wearing gaming pieces.

Pro Tip: Suppliers of Shinto religious goods will often have miniature Japanese torii for sale. Personally, I prefer to make my own.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

The Quick Win – Leveraging Goals for the Big Win

I’m a big believer in the quick win.

Especially when it comes to hobby gaming.

The Quick Win
Photo credit: Andre Hunter.

Quick wins, as the name suggests, are small projects that don’t take much time, or effort. The miniature you paint in an hour, the terrain you bang out in 3 hours, or the monster stat block you write in 5 minutes all fall into this category.

Why the Quick Win?

Getting things done is very motivating. My recent post about painting RPG miniatures gets into that more. The reverse is also true though, that having too much on your plate can turn you off of your hobby quicker than a quickling in hyperdrive.

It’s also great having something to show for your efforts, and with a string of quick wins you can easily build up to a much larger goal. It’s a lot like how I write now. My current RPG book — teasers here, here, and here — is being written in 2-hour bursts. In each session, I aim to finish one section of the book. Sometimes I’ll get 2-3 monsters done, sometimes it’s most of a background, but every session that I finish something is another thing off the checklist.

How’s this different from how I used to write? Before, I didn’t break down my tasks much, so in 2 hours I often worked on a bunch of sections, got demotivated, and lost my concentration. That kind of thing can lead to burnout. In other words, I’m talking about the tortoise’s approach to winning the race: slow and steady, and about breaking down that race into milestones. Each milestone is a victory in and of itself.

Life also takes up much of our hobby time, so when we have time, we need to use it wisely.

Your Next Quick Win

I’ll leave you with this thought. What small hobby project would give you the most satisfaction. Is it drawing that dungeon map you’ve been planning? Making a handout? Stating up an NPC? Or do you just need to run a short session over Google Hangouts to get everyone ready for a longer session?

Plan it. Do it. Celebrate your quick win.

Black Friday with Rising Phoenix

This Black Friday we have a massive 50% Off Sale on Drive Thru RPG.  This includes books compatible with Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as stand-alone games, map tiles, and all of our Solo Adventures.

Looking for some unique gaming gift ideas? D20Radio.com has some excellent gamer gift ideas worth checking out.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.