Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Keeping Motivated to Hobby — Mini Monday 21

It’s Mini Monday, where we share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we talk about motivation and keeping motivated to hobby.

Mini Monday Logo - Keeping Motivated to Hobby

Phew! Is anyone else finding they’ve got less time during lockdown? I sure am. These days, I finish a good chunk of work at night, so my hobby time is at a premium. But let’s not get discouraged. If anything, lockdown and new obstacles are just opportunities to do better at the things we count as important. Let’s see how we can keep the motivation high and paint more minis.

The Satisfaction of Starting

Taking your first steps on a new project can be just the change of scenery you need (ha, modeling pun)! If other projects have stalled, a quick project can bring out the joy of the hobby and get you excited again. New ideas are often the most exciting, so use that energy to revitalize your enthusiasm.

Having a few projects on the go helps too. Just be sure to keep finishing some of them off, otherwise you’ll feel overwhelmed by the number of incomplete projects waiting for your attention.

The Joy of the Journey

Every step closer to done is a small victory, so get a little done when you can. If a project sits for too long, it can kill enthusiasm, so a little progress often is the way to go. You’ll probably find that, if you keep progressing, you’ll find time to finish the project off in one final, satisfying go. This was the case for me with my Gundam Deff Dreads, which took ages but were finished off quickly over a few final sessions before a big tournament.

The Dopeness of the Destination

Finishing is possibly the greatest motivator, and it will energize you well into the next project. It’s also an important part of learning, because you’ll learn more from completing the whole process than from only getting through a part of it. With a completed model you can take a step back and consider the work as a whole, and you’ve got something you can show off n your display shelf.

Good luck, get minis painted, and stay safe!

Sculpt Saxon from Mouse Guard – MM #20

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll build Saxon, from the Mouse Guard comics.

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In case you’ve never heard of it, Mouse Guard is an award-winning series written by David Petersen. It was also turned into a best-selling tabletop roleplaying game, based on the Burning Wheel system, by Luke Crane. I love the series and the RPG, and I wanted figures to use in my games, so I made one. Let’s take a look.

Saxon from Mouse Guard

I built a wire frame for the model, then covered it with aluminium foil to give it more shape, particularly around the body, face, and ears.

I then used paper mache, much like in our recent Barrow-downs project, to cover the model.

Paper Mache

For fine detail like this model, which stands about 8 cm high (excluding the base), I made a very fine paper mache by shedding newspaper. I tried to soak and mash it finer, which took a lot of effort but did give me a slightly finer paste in the end. Mix this with 1 cup of water to 1 cup of flour.

Paper mache is great for model terrain projects, and although it’s not great for detail work, I chose it because I figured it would give me a furry, natural look, which worked out well.

Saxon Mouse Guard Paper Mache
The base is made of hardboard, and his hands are made of modelling epoxy. You could use Green Stuff too.

Painting

I base coated the model brown with acrylic paint, and picked out the skin of the hands, feet, ears, and tail with a browny pink. I used grey for the base, stippled on with a brush.

I then switched to Citadel Colours for the main coat. I used Snakebite Leather/Ballor Brown and Bestial Brown/Mournfang Brown for the fur, with Skull White/White Scar for the white patches. I heavily watered down the paints to blend them better.

Finally, I used a brown/black mix with lots of water as a wash, covering the whole model.

Finishing

I used pliers to cut a tiny black bead in half, which I superglued on for the eyes. Two coats of matt varnish, and Saxon was almost ready to join the Mouse Guard.

Saxon of the Mouse Guard

Sword and Cape

I’ll cover Saxon’s iconic sword and cape in a later tutorial, because I’ll need to experiment with a few techniques for the sword first. I’ve already tried plastic card, and now I’m shaping some alluminium, which seems to be working very well. Have any ideas? Drop them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

Jump into Mouse Guard

Looking for the comics? You can find Mouse Guard issues on Drive Thru Comics for a cheap $1.99 each. I highly recommend finding the printed books though, they’re gorgeous.

Painting a Doom Cacodemon: Mini Monday #17

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’re paining a Doom Cacodemon.

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Here’s another miniature painted with Flesh Wash, my new secret weapon that I used to paint my skeletons and Yochlol. For this post I painted a Doom Cacodemon, from the Doom: The Boardgame Expansion Set, which came out in 2005. I’ll be using this mini as my Patriarch in my twisted Genestealer Cults army — more on that soon!

Doom Cacodemon

Painting a Doom Cacodemon

 

There’s not much to painting the Doom Cacodemon really; he’s big, but not overly detailed. I undercoated the mini white, then painted the pinks, followed by the coconut crab pattern on the back. This was based on CatgutPainting’s excellent Tyranid ‘Coconut Crab’ paint scheme tutorial on YouTube. I know this isn’t strictly “canon,” but I think it adds some visual interest.

The back of the Doom Cacodemon
The back of the Doom Cacodemon

I replaced the last two coats of CatgutPainting’s wash mix with Flesh Wash, which made him look more fleshy — surprise surprise. Generally, I don’t like Flesh Wash for skim, but monster skin is a different story.

I painted the base black, then added detail with metallics for the panels, wire, and steel rods. I might go back in and use the rust technique on some of those panels later, but I’m happy for now.

Next, I mixed white and yellow to paint the teeth. I finished them off with a little Flesh Wash around the base of each tooth to give them some grungy definition. Avoid pure white teeth at all costs!

Finish off with matt varnish, or with gloss varnish if you want a wet look. Done!

Follow Mini Monday on Pinterest and CMON

We’re sharing mini painting and kitbashing photos on Pinterest, on our Mini Monday Pinterest board. I’ve also been collecting a huge amount of Warhammer 40,000 Ork kitbashing pictures. Check it out and get inspired.

We’re also on CoolMiniOrNot now, come and check out our growing gallery and vote!



Mini Monday #16: Painting Skeletons and Easy Rust

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’re painting skeletons and rust.

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Walking skeletons are a staple of fantasy, so knowing how to paint them will come in handy, even if you’re only painting a few for your roleplaying sessions. This method is super simple and very effective. If you haven’t already had a look at how I painted Yochlol, be sure to check it out. That tutorial goes into using Flesh Wash, which is the key ingredient in this recipe.

1. Basecoat White Then Flesh Wash

Basecoat your skeletons white, then wash with Flesh Wash, aka Ink Wash: Flesh.

Painting Skeletons 1

2. Dry Brush Off White

For this step, I used a 1:1 mix of white and a brownish flesh tone. You’re looking for whatever looks the most like bone.

Painting Skeletons 2
The guy in the middle isn’t dry brushed, so you can compare the effect.

Painting Skeletons 3
All dry brushed… and done!

To dry brush, dip your brush in the paint, then wipe most of the paint off. Paint this residue over the raised edges of your model by flicking the brush back and forth. It takes a little practice, but the technique is very useful.

And that’s it, those bones are done. Let’s move on to the rust.

3. Paint Rusty Surfaces Orange

‘Nuff said!

Painting Rust 1

You can mix things up and have patches of different shades of orange, if you like. We’ll be adding plenty of visual variety still, so don’t worry too much if you don’t.

4. Sponge on Brown

Using a small bit of sponge and tweezers, sponge brown over the rusty surfaces. Like with dry brushing, you don’t want too much paint on the sponge here. The aim is to get a random pattern of dots.

Painting Rust 2

5. Paint in Metal Edges

Now, here’s the magic part. Paint a metallic colour on the edges of the swords and shields, focusing on raised edges that would see wear in battle.

Painting Rust 3

It’s a smoke and mirrors technique, but the metallic edges sell the rust and suggest that the weapons and shields are actually made of metal… actually.

6. Finishing Up

Lastly, put some Nuln Oil or a black wash over the rusty armaments, paint or base the bases as you wish, and seal off the miniature with two coats of matt varnish.

Painting Rust 4
Done dun dun dun DONE!

I was blown away by how easy and effective these techniques were. I’ve used the rust technique a bunch of times on my Warhammer 40,000 orks already, and painting these bones felt like cheating, it was that easy.



Mini Monday #14: Jump into Miniature Painting

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I share why you should take the plunge and jump into miniature painting.

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Many of you already know that I got back into miniature painting after 20 or so years away from the game. In all this time, and the four or so years I’ve been back, my Space Marines have gone unfinished, all because I was too intimidated to paint their Angels Encarmine chapter symbols. Here’s how I took the plunge.

Jump Into Miniature Painting

Blood Angels fans might know about their sister chapter of the Second Founding, the Angels Encarmine. Their chapter symbol is a blood drop between bat wings. Drawing symmetrical bat wings is hard enough, but try painting them freehand on a 10mm wide shoulder guard! There are no transfers for this. I didn’t want them to look cheesy, so I left my minis unfinished.

Now, these were some of the first minis I ever painted. They don’t look great, but I didn’t want to scrap them or strip them. Why I thought badly painted chapter symbols would make a difference, I don’t know, but ego is a powerful thing.

Skilling Up

Knowing how to paint freehand is half the battle.

I had already tried making a template, which worked well for the company symbol — a single yellow-gold blood drop for my 2nd Company. Miniac, a prolific mini painter on YouTube, recently posted a great video on freehanding, which showcased templating along with a load of other freehanding tricks. That got me onto using electrical tape to make templates, and I was halfway there.

But the template didn’t always work. Most of the time it left me with a big black blotch. What did work was painting in the detail with red on the red shoulder guard, hiding the black. Think of it like deleting parts of the image to get what you want. This worked phenomenally well, and turned out to be pretty easy.

But That’s Not the Point

The point is, you have to try, otherwise you’ll never learn. These Space Marines aren’t about to win any prizes, but this has given me a bunch of ideas for improving, and I can move on (finally).

Angels Encarmine First Attempt
Yes, I’m posting embarrassing photos of my poor painting skills, but that’s not the point…

The other thing is motivation. I’m very interested in what motivates me. I realized it would be awesome to do “painted” Adeptus Astartes that looked like they’d been worked over by a Renaissance artist.  Maybe the Angels Encarmine decorate their armor with elaborate images in veneration of the Emperor or as a reminder of past battles. It sounds like a cool bit of lore to me.

So now I’m not just freehanding chapter symbols, but scrolls and oaths of moment, and have plans for much more intricate work. I have a vision, a plan, and all I need to do was jump.

So jump into miniature painting.

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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.

Deck
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.

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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.

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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
Source: Gatherer.wizards.com

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
Source: Gatherer.wizards.com/

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?