Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

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.

My Vedalken! deck (say it like you’re pulling off a Hadouken) has been winning games, and has proven to be versatile enough to handle a number of decks in the meta.

Vedalken! Deck - Magic Life Lesson #6
Smurfy, very smurfy!

When I first had the idea for this deck it didn’t work, but I came at it again and again until I found a powerful synergy. The key is card draw and the ability to bring cards back to your hand, and thereby control the board. When you’re ready, Sage’s Row Denizen and Stolen by the Fae creates a powerful mill combo that can end the game in your favor.

Our Sage’s Row friend has a life lesson, and that’s that you have to keep trying. One more lap. One more try. One more push for the goal. The deck mirrors this perfectly, giving you the ability to duplicate and recast creatures as if they were teleporting rabbits. That’s Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

You never know when things will come together for you. Maybe the next attempt will be the clincher. Maybe one more job application. Maybe two more. Maybe twenty more. Don’t let failure stop you, but keep learning and keep trying, and eventually, you’ll find the way and succeed. That’s what the Vedalken does.

The official version of Unstoppable by The Score is worth checking out.
Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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MORE DAKKA — Mini Monday Ep 7

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll scratch build and kitbash weapons for Warhammer 40,000 Orks. Because everyone needs MORE DAKKA!

I’m busy converting a bunch of old Warhammer Orcs into 40k Orks, and kitbashing two Deff Dreads. The hardest part has been making weapons, and here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far.

Ammo Belts

You can make great ammo belts using cable ties. Cable ties come in so many sizes that you’re bound to find one that matches your model’s weapon.

Ammo Belt — MORE DAKKA
The gun is from a Mech Warrior Clix figure.

 

Rocket Launchers

Method 1: I used a cylinder of sprue to form the main body of the “launcha,” then added bits from other weapons to make it look more like a weapon. For mine, I used a handle from a Dark Eldar weapon and two disks from a Gundam kit on either end. I drilled into the ends to finish it off. Really, it all depends on what your bits box has to offer. You can see this “rokkit launcha” in the last image, below. He’s the second Ork from the left.

Method 2: I used the caps from small medicine vials, which I glued together onto plastic tubes. I added greeble from sprues and bits of bent plastic to make this monster-of-all-rokkit-launchas. They look great on my chibi-style Gundam Deff Dread, and when they’re painted will look like they’ve got rockets loaded and ready to go.

Rocket Launcher / Rokkit Launcha - MORE DAKKA
Lots of things that go “BOOM”

Grot Lash & Grabba Stikk

Here are my custom Ork Boys and Runtherd, which I hope will inspire your own army of green-skins.

Scratch built and kit bashed Ork weapons.
More custom weapons.

I want to call out the Runtherd’s grot lash and grabba stikk. He’s the third from the left.

The grot lash was made with modeling epoxy clay, which I rolled thinly. I drilled a hole into the Runtherd’s hand, then glued it in. This guy’s not going under any bridges, but it gives him a dynamic look that the rest of da boyz are missing.

The grabba stick is a bit of wire attached to a plastic stopper from a nose spray. Yes, lots of medical waste here. Again, I drilled a hole into his hand to take the pole, then I finished it off with a bit of fine chain.

We Gotz MORE DAKKA!

Scratch building weapons can take a lot of playing around with bits of plastic until things fit, but the Orks — with their bashed-together aesthetic — are a very forgiving army to work on. Oversized weapons are never out of place in the Waaagh, and a wide range of weapon designs adds visual appeal to your forces.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

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.

As I write, Magic 2020 Mastery is coming to a close in MTG Arena, and we’ll be dipping into Throne of Eldraine by the time you read this. Trying to grab the last mastery orb forced me to find a fast deck with a high win rate, and that got me thinking about speed, which is Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Krenko’s Kommando

The deck that’s gaining a lot of XP for me right now is Krenko’s Kommando, a fast 1/1 aggro token deck.

Krenko's Kommando — Magical Life Lesson #5 The Need for Speed

It ideally works like this, by turn:

  1. Torch Courier comes out
  2. Cavalcade of Calamity out
  3. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin out. Sacrifice the courier to give him haste.
  4. Sure Strike and any other buffs on Krenko, before he attacks. That’ll create between 6 and 9 goblins.
  5. You horde attacks, each dealing 1 damage to your opponent’s face, even if they’re blocked

Krenko’s Kommando applies “planning to win” and “knowing your goal” and is fine-tuned for speed. Most of the games I’ve played I’d taken the victory by turn seven. That meant I could fly through games and rack up XP. In life, you need quick wins to get ahead, and that’s  Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

It takes time to learn and gain competence. You spend years of your life at school, then you have even more learning at university or on the job. The time it takes to get skilled up can be frustrating, especially if you’re like me and want to do things properly. But then things click into place and you gain speed.

You really crack things when you find work that you can blast through. For me, that’s editing work. I need a lot of time for writing, which is what I give my mornings to. My afternoons are for editing, and because I’m faster at it, I get a sense of achievement much faster than with writing. That keeps me motivated. Dan Abnett, who writes for Black Library, has a similar approach. He writes novels in the morning and comics in the afternoon.

Let me be clear here, you don’t need to be fast with everything, but having something you do often that you can handle quickly does so much for your momentum.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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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

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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

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