All posts by Rodney

Hey there, I'm Rodney! I'm a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. Welcome to Rising Phoenix Games! Dwarves Rule! By the Power of Greyskull! Jesus Saves! Turtle Power! Bionics On! Waaagh Ork! For the Golgari, for the Swarm! ThunderCats Ho! Skate the Apocalypse!

Paint Minis While the Sun Shines — MM 50

It’s funny how some things affect others. Take the weather, for instance. Here in South Africa, in the Highveld where Rising Phoenix Games is based, we have dry, hot summers and dry, cool winters. When it rains, painting is magic.

Mini Monday Logo

When it’s dry, which is most of the time, paint doesn’t last long unless you’re using a wet palette. Spray paint, on the other hand, flows well and drys quickly (which is great for second and third coats).

Paint Minis
Have you ever primed with gold? These minis, predominantly from Wrath of Ashardalon, are ready for my next painting session.

The point of this rambly post is simple: make the most of what you’ve got.

Is it raining and great for painting? Then paint. Is it hot and sunny? Maybe spray some minis or build terrain in the shade.

Think about your momentum. Don’t let the weather be an excuse. Don’t let anything be an excuse. Paint what you can, when you can. Adapt and prosper. When life gives you lemons…

You’re bright and intelligent, you don’t need me to mother you, so I’ll stop there and switch to anecdote mode. Draw up a chair, my dears, and listen…

A Tale of Trial and Tribulation

In the last few years, just before Covid, I was painting like a madman. I’d managed to get through loads of Orks and Gretchin, as well as many fantasy miniatures. I’d jumped into the hobby again and was loving it, learning, and gaining huge confidence.

Then Covid threw its proverbial in the proverbial and I had very little time for minis. Chalk this one up to life experiences and learning to appreciate the time you have! But you can’t sweat the small things. If anything, the pandemic took away but also gave. Mini painting became the way to enjoy the hobby, and there were fewer distractions (no kid’s parties, family engagements, or going to the mall to waste time).

So, we’re back here again, at the point. Do what you can with what you have. And that’s not just with painting minis.

Hawk and Dove: Countdown (#7, Dec ’89)

Hawk and Dove: Countdown (#7, Dec ’89) is written by Barbara and Karl Kesel, with Greg Guler penciling and Scott Hanna inking. This one is worth a look.

I think DC just made a new fan!

(Honestly, I never thought I’d say that. Make mine Marvel! Okay, okay, make mine Marvel and Dove. It’s just one exception. Oh, and Mouse Guard. Fine. Make mine Marvel, Mice, and Dove.)

Hawk and Dove #7

The Good

Hawk and Dove #7 was written by wife and husband team Barbara and Karl Kesel, and they represent the titular guy and gal duo perfectly. This issue opens with Dawn Granger (Dove) being chased through a spooky house by its occultish occupants and their pet tigers. Despite the danger, Dawn doesn’t swoon at the first sign of trouble or kick butt with abandon; she feels real enough, which helps the suspense build without the damsel-in-distress vibes we dudes are so fond of writing.

Dawn is the perfect partner for the brash Hank Hall (Hawk), who we meet next. He’s the muscle, she’s the brains. It might seem simple, but the tension in their relationship works and keeps the story flowing.

There’s no romantic twist to the story, at least not yet, which helps the team stand out from other comic teams. This isn’t Scott Summers and Jean Grey, or Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy, and I appreciate that. (I still love you guys!)

Overall, it’s a well-written comic.

Notable Points
Action on every page, drama, great art, monsters, mysterious villains, esoteric magic, this issue delivers all of that in spades.

Also, the fashion represented in this issue is far more tasteful, while still sexy, than anything I’ve seen in other DC comics from this era. No cringy 80’s music video vibes, and that’s worth a star all by itself!

Seek This Out
I’ll be looking for more Hawk and Dove for sure. They might not be as well known as Superman, Batman, or the Flash, but this team has something worthy of your attention.

4 out of 5 Cheeky Cthulhus!

4 out of 5 Cthulus

 


Flash: Red Trinity (#7, December ‘87)

Flash: Red Trinity (#7, December ‘87), by Baron, Guice, and Mahlstedt. This is gonna be fast, so try to keep up…

Flash: Red Trinity (Flash #7, Dec '87)

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES. Finally, some hot-blooded hero action, an engaging plot, and the character development we need.

The Good

Tina’s plight now has me hooked. Real consequences, that’s what we needed. This issue has action on most pages too, so the soap opera vibe of issues #2 and Flash #5 is gone. Joy!

I’m tempted to go back and fill out my collection, and if a comic can do that, it has won half the battle.

The Bad

McGee (Flash #5) was basically evil Flash. The new baddies, the Red Trinity team, adds three more Flash-wannabes. You can guess what Blue Trinity will give us. Is the concept of super speedy people that interesting that we need eight of them? I’ve also heard of this Reverse-Flash dude, and I know about Impulse. Impulse works because he has a strong character flaw: he’s impulsive. At this point, the villains seem like they were only written with super speed so they could keep up with the main character, and that’s boring.

What about a bad guy that could make Flash go even faster? Uncontrollably fast. Too-fast-Flash could be a real danger to himself and others. Doppelganger-Flash one through 7 is just repetitive and confusing. And I’ve lost track of who is who in Red Trinity already.

Synopsis

Flash’s powers make him the ultimate plot device; a master of the segue. Think about it. He’s able to reach the next scene before the reader. That must make him difficult to write. There’s no need for a shot of a jet flying off to the next mission, no pause before the next battle. Instant combat, just add water. As a writer, you probably need to spend a lot of time slowing the Flash down.

This ish gets a solid 3 out of 5 Cheeky Cthulhus from me. It’s worth reading if you can get your hands on it, but there really isn’t anything amazing going on here, so it’s not a must-have. If you’re a die-hard Flash fan, then maybe check out Flash: Red Trinity anyway.

3 out of 5 Cheeky Cthulhus


Why is the RPG Industry Growing?

Despite Covid-19’s reign of terror, the RPG industry looks healthier than ever. But why? In a time when we couldn’t get around the table with friends, this surely wasn’t what anyone predicted. So, why is the RPG industry growing?

Playtesting Horde
Our lone hero gets ready to repel the undead legion.

I recently read articles about the growth of the manga and comic book industries. Despite the global pandemic, piracy, any economic downturn, and other negative factors, these market segments proved robust enough to keep growing. The tabletop RPG industry is also reportedly growing, with ICv2 citing a 31% growth in the RPG market in 2020. This growth is great, but what’s actually driving this growth?

I’m asking. I don’t know.

Many of the people who read my blog are intelligent folks who know things though. Maybe their insights will help us figure out the answer.
That means you, so sound off in the comments.

I suspect that community content is certainly playing its part. Websites like the Dungeons Masters Guild and Storytellers Vault give GMs (and DMs, and Storytellers) a way to earn something from the content they’re creating for their games anyway. Now, Paizo is joining the community content market with their own Pathfinder Infinite and Starfinder Infinite initiatives. It’s a solid route for a publisher with a strong IP to go.

Streaming on platforms like Twitch and YouTube probably brings in more players and more book sales, though I’m not too familiar with the streaming scene and its impact. I’m guessing. I do know that watching HarmonQuest always got me amped to play though. It’s the perfect kind of marketing that worked for TV: look at us, we’re happy (playing D&D), you should join us and also (play D&D).

Being at home more might have had an impact too, though I don’t know how many people are still spending most of their time at home. After a few months of lockdown I picked up skateboarding again, maybe many others have dived back into roleplaying? I’d love to find the numbers and know the actual trends.

Then there’s the virtual tabletop boom, and of particular interest to us, the growth of solo RPG gaming.

Most likely, all of these factors are because of the pandemic. If that’s the case, then should we expect the market to contract as the world recovers from Covid? Nothing is forever, as they say.

Above is a short poll I did at the start of the year. I didn’t get loads of responses, but if this is any indication of how people and the market reacted to the crisis, then it’s worth digging deeper and understanding exactly what’s going on. My feeling is that demand outpaced supply, leading to better sales. What do you think?

If you like knowing about the RPG industry, you should add your voice to Kim Frandsen’s RPG questionnaire, which is running until October 1st, 2021. He’ll send out the results via e-mail if you add yours to your response. He’ll also be publishing his findings on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, so connect with him now.

Flash #5: Speed McGee (October ‘87): #CritFail

Flash #5: Speed McGee (October ‘87), by Baron, Guice, and Torrance. Let’s take a peek.

You can find our look at Flash #2 here on the Rising Phoenix Games blog.

Flash #5: Speed McGee
Yes, yes you can judge this one by its cover.

Here we get to a well-known issue with older DC comics.

The Good

The comic opens on a scene of graphic domestic abuse, then goes on to blame the wife-beater’s violent streak on steroids. Well done to DC for tackling tough issues.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t make great use of the setup. Wally (Flash) meets Tina (whose husband is mainlining ‘roids into his increasingly angry brain) in a very public restaurant. You’d expect the big floppy hat, scarf in summer, and dark glasses, but still, would anybody really manage to meet in public? Especially when your appointment is with the Flash, the same guy who can be anywhere, instantly?

Wally and Tina are quick to hook up, even after she affirms her loyalty to her deranged husband, making the wife-beating feel like a thin excuse for Wally to get the girl. Was it necessary?

The Ugly

In 22 pages you get 13 boring shots of the Flash in his full kit, while you get 20 great shots of the villain being a bad Flash that takes only 4 pages. I thought I came here to see superheroes?

Still, I’d be fine with the villain flexing if the drama was good.

So, here’s the crunch.

In the Marvel vs DC showdown of the 80s, Marvel was known for writing identifiable characters we could sympathise with. Peter Parker having issues with his boss? We get that. Rogue trying to fit in? Been there. The Hulk struggling to manage his temper? Now you’re getting personal.

The Wally-Flash, on the other hand, has millionaire problems. He’s twenty, she’s 31. He’s single, she’s married. Should he? Shouldn’t he? Come on!

Overall, Issue #5’s tough-to-stomach premise made the millionaire-problems even more unpalatable.

Hard skip.


Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop — MM 49

It’s Mini Monday, with customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re building Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop.

Mini Monday Logo

The trash speaks to me. It tells me to make things. Inconceivable things of waste and scrap.

It’s all very Orky.

The Gretchin Gun Shop uses a bit of hardboard for the base, some corrugated cardboard for the walls, bits of old pens and medicinal sprays for the turret, and spaghetti for the bullets.

That’s right, I chopped up dry spaghetti for the piles of bullet casings. Don’t worry if they’re not of equal length or if they break skew. This is terrain, so it’s not worth stressing over if it’s just going to sit on the tabletop. It’ll look fine when you paint it.

Gretchin Gun Shop - Dakka-Mart

In fact, you don’t want your terrain to outshine your models, so you have loads of leeway when crafting and painting something like this.

The guns and potato-mashers were made from bits of sprue and toy guns I had lying around. The knife was a bit of plastic card cut to shape, with cord glued to the handle. I twisted bits of thin wire around the weapons and then glued them to the walls.

Gretchin Gun Shop Side 2

Hold on though, I want to talk about effort more.

I knocked the main shape of this out in my lunch break, then spent another two hours or so on the details. Painting was quick too. I started this on Friday and was done by Sunday evening. It was a slap-dash paint job done in bad light, but I’m happy enough to have more Orky terrain. Which is the point: you don’t need to spend hours and hours on terrain pieces.

Heck, you don’t even need to spend loads of time on your miniatures.

A little effort is better than no effort. A little colour is better than grey plastic. The terrain you have is better than the terrain you don’t have.

So just go for it. Make stuff. Don’t let expectations of quality hold you back.

Gretchin Gun Shop Painted

Flash #2 (July ’87) Savage Showdown

Flash #2: Savage Showdown (July ’87), written by Mike Baron, pencils by Jackson Guice, inker Larry Mahlstedt, letterer Steve Haynie, Carl Gafford on colors, and Mike Gold editing. Let’s take a look.

Flash Savage Showdown Cover

I’m a die-hard Marvel fan, but I was wondering about the Flash and gave this a read. I have a few more of these issues to read, but I don’t think this was the best place to start my DC journey.

The Good

Is Savage some sort of vampire? Or just immortal? For a first-time reader, I thought he was pretty cool, like a cross between Kraven the Hunter and Dracula, but I was baffled about his abilities. Flash’s girl, Francine, can push metal around like Magneto. I’m down for that.

The best part was the 80’s fashion in the flavor of Dead or Alive.

Side note: “You Spin Me Round” was a hit in 1985, and this comic was published in ’87. I was six. These are not my nostalgic memories.

The Bad

The Flash wins the Lotto. I guess he’s going to lose it all (gone in a flash?), or realize that money isn’t everything (it was just a flashy fortune).

The Ugly

The comic didn’t age well (oh look, a girl with powers who still needs saving, and what does “chez” even mean?). It can also get confusing, and I don’t just mean “you missed issue #1, you dolt!” kind of confusing. Did Flash run down the wall? I’m no physics major, but running down the wall is just going to get you killed faster, because gravity.

But okay, it’s a comic, and all’s fair in love and comics. If you love the Flash, this might be for you. Otherwise, give it a skip.

Why RPG Settings are Built Like Theme Parks

Take a look at your favourite RPG setting and you’ll find odd similarities with theme parks. These settings can easily kill your group’s story if you’re not careful. Here’s why theme park settings are so popular,  their inherent pitfalls, and some ideas on how to fix them.

Raven on tombstone

Why RPG Settings Feel Like Theme Parks

RPG designers, by necessity, need to give players plenty to play with. That’s why Golarion, Faerûn, the Mortal Realms, and even the mega-city of Ravnica are so cleanly divided into areas. It’s as if they were designed by a theme park designer. There’s usually a hot place, a dry place, a wet place, a funny magic place. There’s also often some form of Steampunk City, Pirate Island, Monkey Kingdom, Dragon Mountain, Asia Land, Snake Jungle… and the list goes on, covering all the tropes.

This is a good thing. GMs need options, players want to explore their favourite tropes, and RPG writers don’t want either of them to go looking elsewhere for their fun.

Unfortunately, all these choices can destroy a coherent story.

How Theme Park Settings Destroy Stories

Image your party heads to Tian Xia, the East Asian themed lands of Pathfinder’s Golarion. On the way there they stop off in the Mwangi Expanse (lush jungles) and take a session to explore the deep oceans around the Isle of Kortos.

Have magical portals, can travel.

Finally, the party gets to Tian Xia and they’re off to see an important diplomat. The encounter, an important setup for the rest of the campaign, has little buildup. The party have been in their bikinis or deep in the jungle for a few sessions now, with no time to dip their feet into the deep culture Tian Xia represents. As a result, your carefully prepared roleplaying encounter falls flat with the players missing vital cultural and historic clues dropped by the diplomat.

Bummer.

How to Fix Theme Park RPG Settings

One thing I love about the Game of Thrones setting is that the fantasy elements are relatively limited. I’d argue the same about the Lord of the Rings: there are no drow, flumphs, owlbears, or beholders. You could fit the LotR bestiary into one book. Both settings still have their worlds, but they’re doing more with less.

Similarly, you can get more out of the many options modern RPG settings present by picking and choosing. It’s that simple. Give it a try.

Check out the Battle Zoo Bestiary

The Battle Zoo Bestiary, for Pathfinder 2e and 5e, is now on Kick Starter. The book features many new monsters, so you’re sure to find some great additions to your campaign world. Remember, you can always reskin a monster to turn it into a variant of something prevalent in your world, which is one neat trick for keeping things simple.

Don’t miss out on this one.

Battle Zoo Bestiary


Why You Absolutely Must Play Pathfinder 2nd Ed.

Pathfinder Second Edition has been around for a while now, and if you’re still finding excuses not to try out the system then let me tell you why you absolutely must play Pathfinder Second Edition.

Pathfinder Second Edition
Image credit: Yuri_b

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 was a great system. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (good old 1st ed) was also a great system, which built on 3.5, streamlining some of the clunkier rules. Something then happened in the D&D world that might be better left forgotten, but then came Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, another amazing system. Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition marked a renaissance for the hobby and became immensely popular.

Then came Pathfinder Second Edition, which might not have become the smash hit D&D 5e is, but does have the benefit of all these systems that came before it.

Which is why you need to give it an honest go.

If you’re serious about your TTRPG hobby (you probably shouldn’t be too serious though, it’s just a hobby), then you owe it to yourself to see what Pathfinder Second Edition has to offer with its new take on fantasy roleplaying and D20 systems in particular.

Steal Like a GM

Great gamemasters steal ideas all the time, and because Pathfinder Second Edition evolved out of so many other, solid D20 systems it has a lot to offer in terms of new mechanics, reworked rules, and fresh perspectives. You might find something you want to adapt for your own game, even if you’re sticking with 5e. There are plenty of resources on the Internet for converting PF2 to 5e, which will give you pointers on how to tackle your thefts. (Don’t actually steal something folks. I’m talking about grabbing inspiration and making it your own.)

Ultimately, PF2 has a lot to offer players who like fiddly-bits in their games. While 5e is great in general, the level of abstraction in the system can get frustrating, while Pathfinder Second Edition offers many more dials and switches to tweak. If you’ve never tried Pathfinder, then go see what all those dials and switches can do for you.

You can find Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Fifth Edition books in our store.


Truly Modular Doors for the Tabletop! — MM 48

It’s Mini Monday, and this week we’re making truly modular doors for tabletop gaming!

Mini Monday Logo

Really Modular vs Almost Modular

There are plenty of great dungeon tile terrain sets out there that have “modular” written somewhere on the box, but which usually only fits with sets from the same manufacturer. Special clips and connectors become a problem if you enjoy making your own terrain or want to buy sets from another company and have it all sit seamlessly together on the tabletop. Turns out though that making modular terrain that’ll fit with any other terrain isn’t all that hard at all.

It just needs some planning.

My ideas about modular terrain changed when I saw Johnny Fraser-Allen’s tabletop terrain, which is modular because it stacks. Gravity, not pins, do all the work.

Take a look, Johnny’s work is very inspiring:

Truly Modular Doors

Here’s a hobbit door, a trapdoor, and a sewer grate:

Three Truly Modular Doors

I used plastic card, clay, and matchsticks to build these, with a small eye crew for the door handle of the hobbit door. There’s not really that much to them, and they only took a couple of hours to bang out and paint.

But check how useful they are:

Truly Modular Doors for Wells
“Well, this looks unsafe. What if little Timmy were around?”

Modular Doors Well Coverr
“… Much better!”
From inside the well: “Mwfff mff mmfff.”

Modular Doors Trapdoor
Any of these pieces of terrain could work here. The castle floor doesn’t have any features of its own.

Castle Greyhobbit
“Oi, hobbit, let me in! I know you’re in there.”

As you can see in this last picture, a bit of Prestik (Blu Tack) will get you a vertical door and some burglar bars. No special connectors needed.

The Perfect Fit, Anywhere

I really appreciate this sort of modularity when I’m building dungeons on the fly, such as when I’m playing with a dungeon to get inspired for a session or some module writing.

And if you think about it, you can apply this principle to so many other types of terrain too.

The Gear Heart of the Mechamancer

We recently released the Mechamancer, a cybernetic reimagining of the barbarian for fifth edition fantasy. You can check it out on Drive Thru RPG. If you already own the Grimdark Pamphlet then you’ll be getting the mechamancer, for free, in a future update of the pamphlet.

Mechamancer