Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Adventurer’s Guide to Fey Magic

The Adventurer’s Guide to Fey Magic is an introductory guide featuring advice, treasure, charms, and other rewards for your journeys into the Feywild. Written by David N. Ross, the PDF clocks in at 26 pages, with the OGL and credits taking a page of that, together.

From the Back Cover

The homes of the fey — in the Feywild or in enchanted regions of the mortal world — offer power and danger for local heroes and intrepid interlopers alike. Many seek their fortunes there for good reason. Any adventurer might quest for the otherworldly power of the fey courts, or even aspire to become an archfey, in the right circumstances.

Part 1 of the guide helps adventurers orient themselves among the fey.

Part 2 provides a variety of unique fey rewards for adventurers to seek out.

The Adventurer’s Guide to Fey Magic is available on the DMs Guild.

The Adventure Begins

David, who has many writing credits, particularly for Paizo, came to me with an idea for a series of books on the Fey and Feywild of Faerûn, and the ball got rolling.

Now, we’d like you to join us as we plan for the next book in the series. What would you like to see David and I unpack with book 2? Let us know, in the comments below.

Magic Life Lessons and Mini Monday

I’ve decided to put our two blog series on hold for now, so that we can focus on producing more exciting RPG content. If you enjoyed Magic Life Lessons or Mini Monday, please leave a comment on one of the posts in the series and let us know. Your feedback means a great deal to us.

With MLL and MM out of the way, we’ll be able to focus on our free fiction. The first release, First Contact, is on the blog.

Mini Monday #13: Level Up Your Painting in 2020

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’m playing it lazy and sharing an excellent video from Midwinter Minis that will help you level up your painting in 2020. I’ll also add in a few of my own tips.

Mini Monday Gargoyle

Guy and Penny from Midwinter Minis share great painting and scenery making tips on their YouTube channel. They’re one of the top mini painting channels, in my opinion, and their 23 Free ways to get better at painting models video (below), is worth checking out.

Rodney’s Tips

Here are a few of my own tips:

1. Paint with a Pal

Painting with others is a great way to learn, make time for painting, and keep motivated. Kim Frandsen (writer of Heaven & Hell) and I chat over Google Hangouts while we paint. We talk about the industry and all sorts of things, and we share our progress live or by sending photos of our work. Kim used to work at a games shop, where he also had to paint minis, so I’ve learned loads from him.

2. Finish Models, Keep Painting

Mini Monday is all about keeping motivated and getting through that pile of plastic. After 20 years, I got back into painting and found it to be a great (and even cheap) way to clear my mind and relax. But why had I given it up for so long? I loved the hobby, and even made it into a career, but I’d started collecting prepainted minis and my grey plastic ones were collecting dust. I realize now that the pile of unfinished models was intimidating.

Now I pick my battles and get models done, and that keeps me motivated.

3. Batch Painting

Batch painting really sped up my painting. By painting squads or groups of similar miniatures, I can turn each step of the painting process into a production line. That way, the minis are ready for the table at the same time and I don’t have to switch tools or paints often. You can literally do your whole army like this, as Brent from Goobertown Hobbies did with his 100 goblins (another YouTube video).

level up your painting
I painted four drow together, before finding four more that needed the brush. Doh!

May 2020 be a great year for you as you level up your painting!

Magic Life Lesson #10: Magical Synergies

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.

Deadly Discovery was arguably the best 2019 Challenger Deck around, and it certainly earned a great number of wins for me. With Throne of Eldraine came a new season, and Deadly Discovery was cast into the annals of history. Graveyard Adventures was a green and black deck I built, and although it had some strong points, it was not nearly as effective as Deadly Discovery. But, with their powers combined, a new deck was forged to take on the current meta. Introducing Undying Pledge:

Undying Pledge

Smitten Swordmaster & Deathless Knight - Magic Life Lesson #10: Magical Synergies
Smitten Swordmaster has two ways to return Deathless Knight from the graveyard.
8 Swamp (ANA) 58
4 Smitten Swordmaster (ELD) 105
4 Leyline Prowler (WAR) 202
2 Blacklance Paragon (ELD) 79
3 Deathless Knight (ELD) 208
2 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151
2 District Guide (GRN) 128
3 Golgari Findbroker (GRN) 175
4 Murder (M19) 110
1 Syr Konrad, the Grim (ELD) 107
4 Order of Midnight (ELD) 99
10 Forest (ANA) 60
2 Find // Finality (GRN) 225
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
1 Charity Extractor (WAR) 81
2 Casualties of War (WAR) 187
4 Temple of Malady (M20) 254

(You can copy and paste the above text to import it into MTG Arena.)

The deck has many synergies, and synergy is really just a fancy way to talk about combined ideas that work better together than on their own. Like in Magic: the Gathering, you can get a lot out of combining ideas to make something new, and that’s Magic Life Lesson #10: Magical Synergies.

Magic Life Lesson #10: Magical Synergies

Swords are cool. Lasers are cool. Laser swords? Now those are even cooler! Bread is a good idea, and so is cutting it. Sliced bread? Best idea since… well, you get where this is going.

Combining ideas is a great way to come up with something new and valuable. That “value” might be obvious, or it might lie in how useful or entertaining something is.

Just look at the Stranger Things franchise. It took concepts from old horror movies and threw in a fair load of nostalgia to make something new and groundbreaking, even though it is squarely rooted in the past. It was so inspiring to me that I ran an eight-session Stranger Things campaign.

Glasses reflecting Stranger Things Logo
Photo credits: Puneeth Shetty

Apply it to Your Life

But how do you apply this principle to your own life? You could create a competitive advantage, a niche market, or find a better way to do something by mixing ideas together and seeing what sticks.

I started releasing free fiction for Valkyrie: Ragnarok as a way to build a following and introduce my setting to roleplayers. It’s an idea combining freemium, blogging, and the concept of the minimal viable product (MVP). Time will tell if the idea floats, but the important thing is that it’s a stronger concept because of the parts it draws inspiration from.

Two are stronger than one!

Mini Monday #11: Basing Basics

It’s Mini Monday, where we share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we get down to the basics of miniature basing. It’s Mini Monday #11: Basing Basics.

Mini Monday Gargoyle

I’ve been tinkering with this basing method since I started painting Warhammer 40,000 figures, and have refined it into a simple method that gives great effects.

Mini Monday #11: Basing Basics
The Gretchin on the left has sand from my garden. Sam, on the right, has a larger grain of dirt. You could paint this grey or brown to look like gravel, but it’s good enough for gaming, and that’s the point.

Remember, the main thing you’re looking for when basing your army or figures for roleplaying is consistency. You can differentiate heroes from the rank and file with special bases, but generally, you want a process you can apply to all your figures, to give them unity.

1. Preparing the Miniature

Paint your miniature and glue it to its base. Leave the base for now.

2. Texture

Get sand from your garden and sieve it. You can cook it in the oven for 10 minutes to ensure it’s free of life, then let it cool. I keep my sand in small plastic containers. Mix PVA or wood glue with water, in a 1:1 ratio. Paint this on the top of the base and then dip the base into the sand. Leave to dry.

Homemade Sand - Mini Monday #11: Basing Basics
“Homemade” sand sieved and ready for use. Costs nothing and you can get tons of it.

3. Glue it Again

You can use the same mixture again over the sand when it’s dry to ensure it stays down, otherwise it might come off when you’re painting it. You can also spray the PVA and water mixture onto the base, but I find an old brush works well if the glue is dry: start at the edge and work your way inwards.

4. Paint

When this is all dry, paint the textured base. There are a few options for this. I like to paint the whole base in Warboss Green, from Citadel Colour. Some people like to paint the edge of the base black, or you might choose a sandy tan colour — it’s up to you.

5. Flock

Use small bits of flock to represent scrub and bits of vegetation. Stick this on with PVA glue.

6. Varnish

When it’s dry, varnish the whole mini. Sprays are great, but if you don’t have a spray, you can paint it on using an old brush.

That’s it. This technique is cheap and easy, and really finishes off a model. Doing batches of miniatures together makes waiting for things to dry less of an issue.

You can support the blog by purchasing a gargoyle mug from our store.

Gargoyle Mini Monday Mug
Paint brushes, water, or regular ol’ caffeine, whatever it holds, it does so in style.

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

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.

In Magic: the Gathering, knowing your goal is simple; you’re playing to win. How you win is far more complicated: you could win by taking your opponent down to 0, by milling their library, or through some card’s effect, such as Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God’s ultimate ability that causes opponents to lose if they don’t control a legendary creature or planeswalker.

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

Life is a lot like that too: there are many roads to success. The important thing is defining what success is. Being a millionaire might tick the success box for many people, but isn’t your contribution to society worth more than the contents of your wallet? It’s an important question to ask, and that’s why it’s Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success.

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

Magic Life Lesson #9: Your Definition of Success

Speaking for myself, I’ve always struggled fitting my professional goals into my world view. I want to be a successful writer and game designer, and I know that stories (and, by extension, games) are an important medium for tackling and teaching important concepts — such as how Spec Ops: The Line is a harsh introspection on war and games about war — but I don’t always feel that I’m making peoples lives better. When I was a teacher, this was a no-brainer. My students learned and grew before my eyes, and I felt that my contribution mattered.

What does give me hope are all the writers who have made an impact on my life. Tolkien’s love for language flows from every page of his works, while C.S. Lewis brings a profound wisdom to his works that any man should seek to emulate. George R.R. Martin understands history and the humans that wrote it in a way that breathes new life into all history.

Games have resonated with me, too. Emperor and Emperor worship in Warhammer 40,000 has, as a bad parody, always stood in stark contrast to what the church and Christianity are to me, and has motivated me to question and dig into what I read in the Bible, so that I gain a true understanding of the writer’s message. And, you already know how Magic: the Gathering has proven to be a great game through which one can learn about life.

Ultimately, the struggle to balance my world view and goals has led me to change the ways I do things. Even if I have yet to nail down the how, I know that I want to make good games and tell stories that get people thinking about real issues, even if those issues are embedded in fantasy stories about elves and dwarves.

The struggle to define success in your own words is infinitely valuable, and certainly not easy, but it’s integral to your personal journey and to the question we all ask:

Why am I here?

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

This was supposed to be a post about getting 18 miniatures painted in 18 days. I needed to finish 18 Orks to finish my battalion detachment, and I gave myself 18 days to do it in. ‘Easy,’ I said. And that’s why today’s full title should be Mini Monday #10: Good Enough and the Power of Being Satisfied with the Chance to Try Again.

Mini Monday Gargoyle

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting ideas for your roleplaying table. This week we talk about mediocrity, the value of arbitrary goals, and being satisfied.

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

Here’s my kitbashed Ork boy with rokkit launcha. He’s the only figure I finished in the 18 days.

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

I’m very happy with the kitbashing I did with him, but not with the paint job. But, you know what, it’ll do. It’s better painted than unpainted.

The 18-day goal was arbitrary, but it was still good for a few things.

Just Your Average Geek

For one thing, it was good to remind myself that I’m no pro painter. This blog isn’t about me teaching you. It can’t be. The only thing I have to give is passion and the determination to keep learning. Rather, this blog is about sharing my discoveries and, hopefully, encouraging you to go make your own, paintbrush in hand.

Flinging Paint on Plastic

I still have 17 minis to go, but the 18 days meant I got closer to finishing them. How long will that take? Who knows!? All I can say is that whatever time I spend painting is progress. If I want to get through that pile of plastic, the only way to do it is to sit down and paint.

Got anything to say? Slap it in the comments below and let’s talk about painting, kitbashing, and the benefits of more dakka!

Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

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.

It can take time for things to come together, but when they do, all the effort can pay off in a big way. Today’s Magic: the Gathering deck is all about the long game, and it wins by sticking around and grinding down the opponent for the eventual win.

Graveyard Adventures

You can copy and paste this list into MTG Arena:

3 Lucky Clover (ELD) 226
4 Order of Midnight (ELD) 99
7 Swamp (ANA) 58
8 Forest (ANA) 60
3 Rosethorn Acolyte (ELD) 174
3 Garenbrig Carver (ELD) 156
4 Leyline Prowler (WAR) 202
4 Spark Harvest (WAR) 105
1 Witch’s Cottage (ELD) 249
2 Glowspore Shaman (GRN) 173
2 Syr Konrad, the Grim (ELD) 107
1 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151
1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General (WAR) 97
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
4 Temple of Malady (M20) 254
2 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136
2 Loaming Shaman (M20) 180
2 Find // Finality (GRN) 225
1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed (GRN) 180
2 Golgari Findbroker (GRN) 175

Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

Life is about the long game too, and that’s Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game. You work your plan for weeks, months, years, until you successfully achieve your goals. This takes two things: the ability to see where you want to be and stubborn perseverance to keep slogging away until you get there.

It won’t be easy.

It shouldn’t be easy.

Nothing worth doing is easy.

Your future is like a marble sculpture, while your plans are the sketches and clay models of what you’re crafting. Your hammer and chisel are the efforts you put into making this new reality happen.

Right now, I’m seeing my RPG content — writing and ideas I’ve amassed over years — come together as a consistent whole. Many lessons, over many years, have gotten me to this point, but only because I kept the future in mind. If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t dream bigger, sooner. But I don’t regret the lessons; tomorrow’s brighter because of them.

MM #9: Smoke Grenade Objective Markers

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. Today we’ll look at making smoke grenade objective markers for your games of Warhammer 40,000 or Kill Team.

Mini Monday #9: Smoke Grenade Objective Markers

These were easy to make, but before I break it down, I need to point out that the best part of these, the bases, were a lucky find. They are from a line of Steamboy collectables, and I had six of them in my box of D&D minis, so I used them instead of gaming bases. Games Workshop has some excellent bases that would be a great substitute, such as their Sector Mechanicus Industrial Bases.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught an Ork Alive…

I used a kid’s stencil to create an outline for my own numbering stencil, and then painted the numbers on in white. I then painted the outline of each number in black.

Smoker’s Corner

The smoke is cotton wool, pulled apart slightly to make it more whispy. I left mine white, which made sense for a smoke grenade, and glued it down as is, with PVA glue.


The grenades were the most fun to make. You’ll need a thin, hollow plastic rod and a paper clip. I used the stick from a lollypop and a single paper clip for the six grenades, so these are really cheap to make.

Cut the rod into six 5mm segments. Using the end of a pair of needle-nosed pliers, bend the paperclip so that it makes a small D shape. The left part of the D should be 5mm long, so that it fits into the small segment of rod. You’ll need six of these D shapes, and they should pinch the rod segment when inserted inside them. This is your basic grenade.

Fill the top and bottom of each rod with PVA or wood glue. When it dries, this makes the rod look like a solid, closed-off container and they’re ready for painting.

I base-coated my grenades black, then mixed green and black for the body of the grenade. I then painted the striker lever of the grenade silver, but a dull metallic dry brushed on would work better.

Glue these so that the top of the grenade is sitting in the smoke. Varnish everything except the smoke and your smoke grenade objective markers are done.

Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

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 lot like poker, and both games can teach you a lot about life. For one thing, you’ve got to know when to mulligan. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em… .” And that’s today’s Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em. Here’s Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler:

There’s enough there to write a book, but let’s focus on “knowing what to keep.” When you draw your starting hand in Magic, you get the choice between keeping them or mulliganing for new cards. Knowing when to mulligan helps you draw better starting hands, which helps you curve out better. Think about it, if you’re a master of the mulligan, then your whole MTG game improves.

Many writers and YouTubers have written about the mulligan and curving, so I’m going to assume you know enough about it and dive into the life lessons we can glean from it.

Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

Life, like a game of cards, if full of choices. One of the most important choices revolves around judging the value of things, especially activities and relationships. You have to decide what’s good for you, which activities are worth pursuing, and which relationships grow you as a person. Ruthlessly discard everything else.

Keeping the worthwhile things isn’t always easy, but those people, those passions, they’re worth fighting for.

So fight for them.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Mini Monday #8: Expanding Your Toolbox

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll look at expanding your literal and figurative toolboxes, so that you can achieve more with your miniature projects.

The Figurative Toolbox

As you tackle and complete more hobby projects, you’ll learn and practice skills, building your repertoire. The important thing is to keep challenging yourself and learn new things. Find better ways to paint or scratch build, find out what doesn’t work, and master useful skills. That will build your figurative toolbox, allowing you to achieve a much wider range of things with the hobby.

The Literal Toolbox

This includes all the tools you use to work with miniatures, like paint, brushes, cutting boards, files, hobby knives, glues, and everything else you use to cut, shave, sand, or paint a miniature. Collecting these tools can prove expensive, but you can build your collection of tools up over time. This gives you a chance to learn how to use those tools before you become inundated with stuff.

When I got started, I bought a Citadel Colour Paint Set (which I still use), and an extra brush. I got some hobby knives for a birthday and an old emery board (nail file) from my mom. That was enough to get me started with cleaning and painting minis. Later I got more brushes and spray cans, which stepped things up a notch. I kept collecting tools and built up the collection I now have.

Here are some of the most essential tools you’ll need to get started:

Cutting Tools

A variety of cutting tools is useful for tackling different jobs. Extra blades and a clean, tough cutting board is essential. Sharp blades make a big difference, and don’t forget to cut away from yourself.

Cutting Tools for Miniatures and Kit Bashing
Snip snip.

Filing Tools

Different grits and types of sanding tools, like files and sandpaper, give you more control over how you finish a surface. You can glue sandpaper to a popsicle stick to make your own sanding sticks.

Sanding tools for miniatures and kit bashing.

Painting Tools

Paint, brushes, and a pot for water rounds out the collection. I recommend getting a starter set unless you have a very good idea of what you’ll be painting. Even though you might never use all the colors in the set, it’s good to have a wide range of colors to pick from. Don’t worry about getting an ultra-fine brush; go for two cheap, medium-sized brushes and build your collection from there.

Citadel Colour Paints
My 20-Year-Old Paint Box

If you’re just starting out, then you’re in for a great journey. Take your time, enjoy it, and you’ll learn loads. It’s a very rewarding hobby.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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