Rejoining a Galaxy at War: New 8th Edition Warhammer 40K

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A few more words on my quest to rejoin the 40K Collective.

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table

I have converted the storage shed in the back yard into a painting studio.  At least a spray painting studio.  My buddy Ross left me some nice Citadel spray paints that he couldn’t take in the move, and I’m finally getting around to using them.

tray

Here in this tray are the first recipients: my custom made Eldar Fire Dragons, made from the awesome Dark Eldar Warrior kits and other bits.  I always thought the thorny DE Warriors looked way more dragon-like than the smooth, elegant craftworld carapaces.  I’ll have more on these guys when the unit is finished and painted.

Last week, I bought the 8th ed rule book and 3 Indexes: Marines, Chaos, and Xenos 1, which is all flavors of Eldar plus Necrons.  Every time I browse through one, I get excited and inspired for that army again.

My main marine force is Crimson Fists (naturally–they’re obviously the iconic best!) but I also bought a bunch of Space Wolf stuff last year and have a love for those burly, lusty, savages too.  And I’ve always had a little thing for Dark Angels, too, though not enough to win out over other armies.  Right now, I’m tending toward a small contingent of Dark Angels to take along with Fists or Wolves.

And as I believe in embracing whatever it is that makes that army that army, my unit choices are very flavor specific.  Just about every unit in the Space Wolf force is very wolfy, but I especially favor Thunderwolves, Murderfang, and all the awesome HQs.  And in this new 8th edition and its “power level” point system, there’s generally not much difference between generic heroes and the named characters; like 1 or 2 points, versus the old system of spending 150 for a kitted-out HQ instead of almost 300 for a named HQ.  So there’s little reason to make many of your own.  Just take the guys who are cool and fight, fight, fight!

For Dark Angels, I again favor the flavor: Ravenwing bikers mostly, plus DA chaplains, like Azmodai, the really slick DA jetfighter (aside from a chaos dragon, the only flyer I fancy), and the bone-armored Deathwing terminators.  I’d take a squad of green marines to fill the ranks and just go with a small ally-type detachment.

But I have so much shit already, I don’t see me investing in Dark Angels anytime soon.

40kShootingCypher

Though when I do, I’ll also use those models for Fallen in my Chaos army, along with a homemade Cypher.  He and his tricksy brethren are now in the Chaos index.  I’ve also always loved Huron Blackheart, along with most of the Chaos units, both traitorous and daemonic.  Chaos has endless combinations of cool and fun units, and I could play every weekend for a year and never field the exact same list twice.  Love my Chaos.

But my first 40K love was Eldar.  I started collecting them back when the Aspect Warriors were new in 1991, and they still shine as my fave 40K army.  So that’s where I’m headed right now.  And again, there aren’t many units I don’t like.  (Although my least fave approach is seer-heavy or wraith-heavy, which are both very popular builds.)  Aspect warriors are my bread and butter but my vision is a little darker than the traditional one.  Thus my “Black Phoenix” craftworld I started a few years ago, using mostly Dark Eldar models and kits to build custom guys.  I also love the speed and grace that the Eldar have moved toward in the last few codices, so I’m planning to be kind of jetbike-heavy too.  Oooooh, it’s going to be grand!

Grand, but slow going.  My “plan” (or “intention of a plan”) is to try and produce one completed, painted unit per month for the next six months.  It’s no way to crank out an entire army in short order, but it’s a good goal considering all my other commitments in life.  So we’ll see how that goes.

First up: my Black Phoenix Fire Dragons, including my own badass version of Feugan.

Stay tuned…

Warhammer 40K 8th Edition: Impressions

As I read through the new rules and my chosen armies’ datasheets, I plan to squawk about it a little bit.  Here’s some of my first impressions thus far:

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More Killy

Games will likely go faster (like a red-painted war wagon).  Which is especially good for me, ‘cuz the games me and J would play took forever!  But the swiftness will come from the games being way simpler and all the extra rules being on your datasheets, thus eliminating the need to look up rules all the time.

They’ll also go faster because I think models will die faster, overall, despite the addition of more wounds on many of them.  Saves are no longer absolute valued, they are modified.  So the 2+ all but guaranteed save you’ve been counting on for your termies, Phoenix Lords, etc, is no longer rock solid.  Neither is the 66% chance on space marines or any other 3+ save.  Only invuln saves can’t be modified, and even they are no protection against “mortal wounds.” Most psychic powers and special circumstances, like being trapped inside a transport that blows up, deal mortal wounds, which you just take, no saves of any kind allowed.  Many weapons also do more than one wound, so even though your jet bikes and terminators may have 2 wounds now, they might still lose them both to one hit.

A note on shooting: we’re back to you picking your own casualties, which I always liked from 5th ed.  There was something to be said of the “cinematic approach” to first models in the line of fire dying first, but it forced heroes to lead from the back, which is a cowardly skaven thing.  When your guys die, you get to decide who dies, preserving your special weapons and coolest models and allowing the fodder to be the first to go.  Way more fun that way.

More killy stuff: There’s morale.  Models flee the board from failed checks.  Models flee.  The board.  You don’t take additional wounds that you then might get saves on, whole models disappear, no matter how many wounds they have.  And you don’t involuntarily fall back by inches.  Whatever the numeric difference from your check total versus your Leadership, that many models go bye-bye.  Narratively, I would prefer to think some of them left the battle to carry off the dead and wounded, or to rally reinforcements from reserve, rather than bolted from the fight.

The “to wounds” chart is simplified too.  Basic math comparisons dictate what you need to wound.  Is this weapon’s Strength less, equal, or more than the target’s Toughness?  Is it half or twice as much?  That’s all you need to know.  And everything can wound everything!  Even a laspistol might damage an open panel on a landraider’s flank if you roll a 6.  (Much more killy.)  But with the landraider’s high save and wound total, it’s still not going to bring it down with one shot.  (More on that below.)

I’m not saying any of this is bad, I’m just saying models will go faster now.  Which is all well and good.  If you get a game done in short order, then maybe you can get two in on one afternoon!  More fun!

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Unit Types, Vehicles, and Realistic Freedom

Another big difference (and also related to model death) is that there are no unit types anymore.  Everyone plays by the same rules.  Unit types are been replaced by keywords, so certain effects still apply to “the type of unit” a model is, but they don’t have their own sets of rules.  Vehicles now have Toughness, Saves, Wounds, and can even attack in melee combat!  I was weary of how well this would work initially, and haven’t been able to test it out yet, but it sounds grand!

First let’s look at what this really means: that it frees everyone up to do everything!

There are no more Independent Character rules.  Character hero models running solo do not “join” units, and therefore do not have their influence and lives bound to that one unit.  The biggest reason for “joining” before was to keep your hero from getting shot to hell all by himself.  Safety in numbers, hide in the crowd.  Now a “Character” (keyword) can only be specifically targeted if he’s the closest model to the shooter, or if he’s so big as to be an obvious target (designated by having 10 wounds or more).  (He can also be picked out by snipers, if the sniper datasheets say so.)  So they can be in very close proximity to a unit, or multiple units, without having to turn their backs on others to benefit just one.

While we’re on that subject, there is also no more “locked in combat.”  All the effects are kind of still there: you can’t target a unit that is within an inch of the enemy (presumingly fighting) because you might hit them; units so close can only fire pistols at that range, no other guns; they can’t declare a charge against anyone else, etc.  But they are not “locked,” per se.  They can freely decide to fall back, if they wish.

Another aspect of this freedom is that entire units of guys don’t all have to shoot at the same target.  Which is more logical and realistic, right?  The missile launcher can target the flying tank that’s rumbling airborne at extreme range while his buds all shoot the more immediate infantry on the ground.  Why wouldn’t the most elite fighters in the galaxy be able to split their fire?

Also, if you wield multiple weapons, you can use them.  All of them.  Split up your attacks in melee and shoot two-fisted.  A guy with two pistols can fire them both like the badass cowboy mutha he is.  Again, silly rules get out of the way for obvious combat fun.

So generally, models do not become artificially locked into modes—firing as a group, stuck fighting one group, stuck supporting one group—but instead are free to act like real people would.

I was supposed to be talking about unit types, right?  So again, no more classifications defining units by certain, separate rules to remember.  Everyone is the same type of unit with different descriptors, though some special rules tend to apply to common descriptors.

“Fly.”  What we’ve known as Flyers no longer inhabit their own celestial realm of hoity-toitiness either.  Full-blown flyers are still harder to hit from the ground, but this is the universal -1 modifier (like cover and firing heavies when moving and assault weapons while running).  They have minimum move ranges but now disappear from the battle if they leave the field.  And they have an advantage shooting at the slow, vulnerable targets on the ground, and can fire all their weapons even if they advance (run).  So, okay, there are some special shooty rules with them.  But after that, they function like everyone else.

And the keyword “fly” isn’t just for them.  Jet bikes, jump infantry, hover tanks—they all fly!  Which means they can all move over models and terrain and, more importantly, they can all shoot at and even assault other flying units!  Makes sense, don’t it?!  So your jet bikes and jump infantry can use the altitude that comes with their very nature to fly up and attack a flyer as it goes by.  The shackles of gravity discrimination by “unit type” are taken off!  Only makes sense.

Another huge change is that Vehicles are no longer their own thing either.  As I said, they all share the same stat line.  They just have higher Toughness, a great Save, and much more Wounds than a walky-talky-fleshy guy.

One of my biggest complaints of 6th and 7th edition was Hull Points.  In 5th, my dreadnought could take several Tau missile hits and, thanks to some dice, only be “shaken.”  My tanks could take great abuse, as they should, and might last the entire battle.  With the addition of Hull Points, three glancing shots that didn’t even penetrate my armor caused my dreadnought to roll over and die.  And with the vehicle damage chart, my mighty Chaos Crab Monster would make threatening gestures with his massive claws from the deployment zone, then get hit by a single krak missile and blow up in a fabulous display of shittiness, possibly taking a few more of my chaos marines with him.

No more.  No more glancing to death.  No more one-shot explosions (unless the weapon just does that much damage to your light assault crafts).  Now, you wound a vehicle’s 7 or 8 Toughness, it makes armor Saves and takes Wounds.  Most (if not all) vehicles, once reduced to 0 Wounds, still have a chance to explode.  Roll a die; on a 6, it blows up.  Simple, cinematic, fun, and fair.  And a lot less likely to deprive you of your proudest, toughest models on Turn One.

Some vehicles and monstrous creatures also reduce in effectiveness as they take damage.  This is another Age of Sigmar innovation that I wasn’t too sure about, but now that I see it, makes way more sense.  As a landraider or carnifex takes damage, its effectiveness in battle wanes.  So instead of an immobilized or weapon lost vehicle damage result, it just slows down and can’t shoot as accurately.

Unit equality (if I may be so liberal) is the same across the board.  No more Jump Troops vs Jet Pack Troops, Cavalry vs Beasts, Artillery vs Chariots, Monsters vs Infantry.  Basic tenants rule for everyone.  Your stats and datasheets tell you all the now-integrated rules that apply.  You have a jet bike?  Your Move shows it, along with a turboboost Ability and the keyword “fly”.  Period.  Done.

It’s nice.

 

 

New 8th Edition Warhammer 40K Books: Quest for the Tomes

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Not too long ago, I received an email from Games Workshop (via the general mailing list) saying, “Get these codices while you can,” because a new edition was about to come out.  Get these expiring and about to be useless $50 books before we take them off the shelves because they won’t be valid anymore. 

I thought, “You sons-a-bitches.”

I wanted to fax them a picture of my middle finger.  Or my pale, hairy ass.

The cycle of new 40K editions over the last several years has come across to me (and others) as greedy ways to boost short-term sales.  Kind of like all those terribly pricy text books you had to buy in college.  “We changed 3 things and rearranged some tables, come buy all our books all over again.”

So when the new rumors went to flying, I was naturally skeptical.  Very skeptical.

I’ve been stationed in Japan for nearly 3 years now and in that time have only played once.  So I wasn’t too worried about a new edition.  Haven’t been playing, and now not planning on playing.  Screw those greedy corporate bastards.

But then I started actually reading the rumors and leaks.  That this edition wasn’t just bolting on a few new rules to the clunky old machine, haphazardly spraying on an uneven coat of paint, and charging $200 for a new go.

This was “the edition you asked for.”

No, really.

So between getting actual gamer feedback and simplifying the rules to look more like their well-received Age Of Sigmar redesign of WH Fantasy, the game was starting to sound pretty good.  (I was also skeptical of the Age of Sigmar reboot of WH Fantasy, btw, though I was never a huge fan of the Fantasy system anyway: even more complex than 40,000 Rules and seemed to require a calculator to even play the game!)

If they could thin 40,000 Rules down to 8 to 12 pages, that was an amazing revelation to me.  I was now interested.  And the more I saw, despite my own hardened pessimism, the more I liked the way it was looking.

Within a week, I was actually excited.

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Getting the books themselves, then, proved to be a worthy quest.  (Relatively speaking.)

I had to find locales in Japan, and books in English.  There are 3 or 4 GW stores in Tokyo, but that’s a ways to go for me.  In my store search, I also got a few other pings for non-GW stores, one much closer to my base.  Long story short, I ended up journeying to a city I’d never been to before, in a foreign land, using a paper map as a guide (I’m not into the whole cellphone omniscience thing).  I’d called the day before and spoken to a woman who kind of spoke English and reserved me some books.  Namely, the Rule Book, the Marines Index, Eldar Index, and Chaos Index.  A hefty, blind purchase.  But I figured that I hadn’t spent any hobby money for a long time, so why not?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new datasheets were being combined into affordable softbacks with multiple related armies all in one book.  Given the easy of access, I figured I had to buy those books.  With three affordable tomes, I had all colors of Space Marines, Eldar, and Chaos Marines and demons all covered, plus Necrons for good measure.  Easy peasy.

But I ended up paying more than the listed market price for everything.  I don’t know if the markup was simply because we are in Japan or if my shop owners charged a little more, but I honestly didn’t mind.

This was a very small little hobby shop owned and operated by a very nice elderly couple.  The husband didn’t speak English and the wife just barely enough.  The shop was more about model airplanes and trains and modeling supplies than it was a gaming shop, though they did have a rather impressive selection of Warhammer stuff, as well as a rack full of Citadel paints.  There were a couple small displays of painted models too, most of which had been painted by the owner.  His wife bragged that he was a beginner, but, damn, did they look nice!  Way nicer than my meager, atrophied painting skills could manage, and I made sure he knew as much.

I spent about half an hour on the trains getting there, and a little more time walking the streets, so I took my time to check out all the nice toys on their shelves.  Saw some cool new stuff I wouldn’t mind having (like the 30K style termie models), but I’m not in a hurry to buy more.  Not using all the stuff I have now.  When it came time to pay, I found out they only took cash.  Darn it.  So then it was a quest to find an ATM that would take my American card.  The two bigger banks with whole lobbies full of ATM machines didn’t work.  It looked grim, my long quest cross country for naught.  Then I found a little booth with a single machine and that one worked out.

So my mighty quest was a success.  I might have paid a bit more, but it went to the mom and pop shop of a really nice elderly couple, so money well spent.   In fact, the venerable Papa-san rounded down the total price for me, threw in a couple of (no doubt expensive) Citadel-brand paint brushes (after I told him about my waning painting skills), and a few odd sprues to boot!  I didn’t even find out about the sprues until I got home and opened up the tiny plastic bonus bag.  Three marines and one of the cool Age of Sigmar space marine wannabe guys with a hammer and shield.  (Which I think could make cool special space marine units too—especially the winged guys for angelic vanguard vets.)

So there’s my long-winded story about how I fell back into love (obsession) with the new 40K and made the perilous journey of a lifetime to score the new books on opening day in a strange land.

I’m sure I’ll be blogging further about my impressions as I get into the books.  I’m actually about to take 2 weeks of leave to relax with the family and supposedly to get some writing projects done.  So much for all that…  I’m sure this new distraction will impede those lines of progress.  But at least I’ll enjoy being delayed!

More to come…

 

DnD5e XP option

If you understood the code in that title, you’re a nerd.  And that’s okay, nerds are “in” these days.  No more hiding in our parents’ basements (at least not for most of us…)

Anyway, thought I’d post my latest take on dishing out experience for player characters in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, “the world’s greatest role playing game.”

(BTW, if you want to see more of this stuff, check out my Fifth Edition Creative Companion on the DM’s Guild — it’s pay what you want, so if you want to pay zero, you can.)

female elf with a bow in the forest

EXPERIENCE POINTS AND LEVELING

This is the biggest change I’ve brought to my personal house rules for Fifth Edition D&D.

I’ve always had issues with the traditional Experience Point (XP) system.  It seems to me that it’s pretty much kill-monster-based and collect-gold-based.  If these are the only factors that matter in gaining levels, then they become the only things that matter to the characters.  Any other storytelling or character interaction is irrelevant.  Why bother with that crap when it doesn’t do anything to help me become a greater hero?

I do like that this Fifth Edition emphasizes three aspects of game play: not just combat (which we all enjoy), but also character interaction and exploration.  If there are three aspects to our fantasy adventures, then all three should count toward advancing our heroes through their careers.

Now, there is a way to figure out non-combat XPs in Fifth Edition by calculating encounter difficulty along with the angle of moonlight and alignment of the North Star, etc.  I’m being a tad sarcastic, obviously.  The way they’ve outlined it isn’t a terrible system, but it’s pretty tedious and math-heavy.  More so than I care to deal with.  I want less math and more story.  So here’s what I’ve come up with.

XP is measured in Blocks, acquired by completing Story Objectives. 

If one of your story objectives is to defeat the band of hobgoblin bandits that have been robbing caravans passing through this area, then yes, you get an XP Block by killing all the hobgoblins.  Or at least beating them down and chasing them off, never to return (hopefully).

But your Story Objectives might also include finding a missing person, discovering the identity of a killer, brokering peace between two political factions in a war-torn city, or bringing home a specific item from the long lost ruins of an ancient king’s hidden treasure hold.  These move the story along through use of exploration and character interaction, as well as potentially using the more exciting dice-rolling action of combat.  And they advance your characters and shape your unique world.

Story Objectives might be accomplished each gaming session, or they might take several.  Conversely, you might achieve more than one in a single session, even a single encounter.  Maybe discovering the killer’s identity and bringing him (or her) to justice are two separate objectives laid out by the DM, and after two sessions of tracking and investigation, you pull off both in the evening’s climax encounter.  In that case, BAM! you get two blocks in one fell swoop.

Subplots could also contribute as a character-driven experience.  Let’s say you own a tavern and it mysteriously burns to the ground.  Rather than continue on the main course set up by the DM last adventure, you decide to investigate the fire further.  Instead of chasing the next planned adventure, you go off on a tangent important to your characters.  This is a story in and of itself, and certainly worth some XP.

Other subplots could include investigating the murder of a PC’s parents, suddenly noticing the significance of a trinket, or pursuing a love interest or political office.  All of these character-based story lines can become adventures in and of themselves.

So what is an XP Block?

I call them XP Blocks because the easiest way to track them and chart out level advancement is with our old friend Mr. Graph Paper.  I have come up with two simple formulas for Level Advancement, but I’m only going to talk about one in this blog post, which I recently developed after using the first for a while.

(You can see the other one in my Fifth Edition Creative Companion if you really want to know, but I think this one is the better of the two.)

Leveling Up: The Proficiency Method

Each level is accomplished by achieving a certain number of XP Blocks, just like it is with normal XPs.

The requisite number of Blocks to advance to the next level is equal to your current Proficiency Bonus.

Therefore:

Levels XP Blocks to Level Up
1-4 2
5-8 3
9-12 4
13-16 5
17-20 6

Mr. Graph Paper’s (or Mr. Excel’s) XP Tracking Chart, then, might look like this:

XP TRACKER 1   2   3   4   5     6     7    
Bobfreid the Druid                                  

So the further up you go, the longer it takes to advance, but not so much that you never get to level up.  DMs can regulate the rate by either being stingy or generous with XP Blocks and what constitutes a Story Objective.

Play Tested, Mother Approved

In actual game play, this new XP system has been working out great.  The PCs are advancing at a steady pace but not too fast.  They level up regularly but not every session.  They have to earn those levels.  And, as the DM, I only have to keep track of what is important: milestones in the story.  After all, counting dead monsters and dividing them up is accounting work that I don’t need in life.

New Fifth Edition Monk and Artificer on Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey there, fellow nerdlings.

A quick update on my Dungeon Masters Guild titles.

I just adjusted everything to “Pay What You Want,” which means you can either take it for free or, if you’re feeling generous, you can flip me a silver dollar or two for my trouble.

I also just added a few new things to my 5th Edition Creative Companion.  Here’s the description:

female elf with a bow in the forestEdition 3.0 has more XP system options, new Monk and Ranger class modifications, and an Artificer archetype for Wizrads!

Contained herein are 50 pages featuring customized game rules, a new story-based experience system, and 17 powerful feats for players.  But that’s not all. 

Presented for your inspiration are 10 complete characters created from new takes on existing classes, all forged via enhanced creation rules that favor player characters.  Each hero features stats, background stories, and character-building decisions spelled out to give you new ideas for your PCs and NPCs.  Examples include an archetype-defying Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, rogue spymaster, and Thor, godling of thunder.

SF/Fantasy author J. D. Brink has been playing Dungeons & Dragons for thirty years.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can share some of his own ideas and game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  The 5eCC works in conjunction with your own imagination to develop exciting new worlds and the heroes needed to save them!

So how do you get that?  Just click here:  5eCC, baby!

Dark ritualAnd while you’re at it, check out my sleepy occult village adventure Dark Gods of the Jersey Shore.  It’s as creepy (and silly) as it sounds!

I also modified my new XP system to make advancement go more smoothly and quickly without all the math.  You’ll find that in the 5eCC as well.

Hope you enjoy them.

Now, on to bigger and better things!

 

More Eldar: Dark Reaper Conversion

I originally posted everything below the first pic on my “old” blog on March 4, 2016.   A FRICKIN’ YEAR AGO ALREADY!  Only once since then have I made time to sit outside and do this kind of hobby stuff.  And I didn’t accomplish nearly this much.

But this shows the painting plan I was talking about yesterday.  Dark blue body, armor dry brushed for highlights. Skull-white head.  My preferred wraithbone blue-grey super-long sniper rifle/railgun/reaper launcher.

Boom. Done.  Good enough. Next!

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It’s been a good 1.5 years since I indulged in ye ole Warhammer 40K hobby.  (With my schedule, it’s either hobby or writing, not both, which is why I managed to get a lot more writing done last year.)  Yesterday I got out of work early, it was a sunny, warm day, and I decided that I was going to camp outside and do some painting, damn it!

And I did so using my new painting philosophy, which is: keep it simple, stupid! If I ever want to get even half of the irresponsible horde of models I own painted one day, I’ll have to keep each one pretty simple.  That means relying heavily on washes and dry brushing for details, and keeping the perfectionist in me at bay.  Overall, I’m pretty darn happy with this guy.

I usually paint the first one by him- or herself to figure out the scheme, and then I can paint more than one at a time once the design it determined.  So hopefully, completing my squad won’t be far behind.  There’s only 3 more models, after all.

You might notice that these are not the Craftworld Dark Reapers you are used to.  The “new” (at that time) Dark Eldar models are just so much cooler than the old Craftworld ones, that I decided to build a lot of my aspect warriors using DE kits.  That’s my “Black Phoenix” Craftworld, and these badass aspect warriors are no exception.

They are basically DE Warrior bodies with WH Fantasy dark elf masked heads.  I also added a DE accessory behind the head to act as “reaper range-finding” gear.  The weapon, I believe, is a DE dark lance.  To me, the Reaper Launchers are not mini-missiles but quick-fire railguns.  Each time they pull the trigger, two very thin, javelin-like munitions are magnetically fired in rapid succession.  The poor targets at the other side are dead before they even hear the report of the gun.

I don’t know when I will get another tiny pocket universe of time to paint more, but this was sure nice.  And I completed him in only an hour and half, which is pretty good for me, especially being rusty and all.

 

 

Painting 40K Eldar, the Easy Way

da-4While I was swimming today–something I haven’t done in a while–I was daydreaming about something else I haven’t done in a while: painting Warhammer miniatures.

Years ago and three duty stations back, when I first got back in Warhammer (thanks to my friend Josh and my finally earning an adult paycheck), I used to think about painting strategies while I swam laps.  This kept my mind occupied.  If I thought too much about swimming, I’d get bored with it, or convince myself I was tired or out of breath.  The one time-space coordinate that is still stuck in my mind is swimming the very narrow pool at a particular gym in Carlsbad, CA, thinking about how I should paint my Eldar fire dragons.

And nine years later, I still haven’t painted those bastards!

Actually, I’ve made new dragons out of Dark Eldar warriors.  And I haven’t painted those bastards, either.

da-back2But I was thinking today, that if (when!) I ever get time to mess with them again, I want to keep them extremely simple.  My Eldar scheme would basically be to pick a body color and a head color, and keep the other details to a minimum.  Some washes, some dry brushing for highlights, and not much more.  Mostly in an effort to get some damn models painted!  In about 30 years of off-and-on obsession with the game and hobby, I really haven’t gotten jack squat done.  Not for having had 30 years to do it!

These Dire Avengers I painted about the same time I was swimming those laps (2008-2011).

(I know the labeling on the pic was totally unnecessary, but it made me feel good, okay?)

I was going for a Darth Vader badass feel, and I want to stick with that.  But future models, and future aspects, may be even more simplified.  For example, I might do those fire dragons orange with red helmets.  Banshees red with white helms, or bone-white with red helms (even better).  My scorpions I won’t mess with; they’re already on that scheme, basically.  scorp-lord-2

I know I’ll never be satisfied with any paint job I do, and that my talents have atrophied since about 5th grade on (I was really good then!), but I have to convince myself that many painted models is better than a handful of overly-stressed-over ones.  And someday I’ll get back there!  I even have some high-quality, hobby-grade spray colors that I inherited from someone else who couldn’t pack them when he moved.  And once the weather warms up, I need to use them up!  I left most of my shamefully large collection of models back in the States, but I do have lots of Eldar, Space Wolves, and Chaos stuff here still.  And throwing at least a base color on them will at least be a small step in the right direction.

(I know this blog post didn’t accomplish much, but it made me feel like I was doing something 40K related, ya know?)

5th Edition D&D: New Monk Archetype

monk

For those D&D gaming nerds out there, I have a customization I’d like to share.

This is not actually a new archetype for Monks, just a modification to the Way of the Open Hand.

It seems to me it’s kind of flimsy when compared to some other 3rd-level career paths in terms of abilities gained.  So, for your consideration, I suggest a small adjustment.

In addition to the current Open Hand ki abilities that you can add to your Flurry of Blows, you also gain at 3rd level the Feat “Martial Adept” just as it appears under Feats.

This grants you one superiority die (D6) and two maneuvers under the Fighter’s Battle Master archetype.  If you already have this feat (or are already a Battle Master Fighter as well as a monk) then you gain +1 superiority die and +1 maneuver.

You also gain +1 die to your pool and +1 maneuver mastery at monk levels 6, 11, and 17.  If you have a maneuver you don’t care much for, you can also trade it out for a different one any time you level up.

In addition, you can generate superiority dice by expending ki.  One ki point equals one die.

Maneuvers I recommend for a monk of the Way of the Open Hand would be trip, disarm, feint, and sweep attack, though you can pick whatever seems right for you.

Also as an experiment (and it may be too much), I thought to add some very specific monk weapons, the very design of which are helpful with performing these special manuvers.  A monk of the Open Hand who is thus armed can reroll the result on superiority dice (but must accept the second roll no matter what).

* Nunchaku (1d6 bludgeon damage)

* Sai (1d4 bludgeon damage) (sai are not actually pointed or sharp, by the way)

* Spiked or Bladed Chain (10ft reach, 1d6 damage of bludgeon, piercing, or slashing type, depending on how you use it—you pick)

I think this makes the Way of the Open Hand more kung-fu badass and more worthwhile in game play.

I intend to refine this and add it to a revised 5th Edition Creative Companion sometime soon.

(Monk image from D&D 3rd edition, btw.)

Space Marine

spacemarineIn the last couple days I’ve started playing the old Xbox Space Marine game again.  (If you ask me something like “the first one or second one?” it’s probably the first, ‘cuz I’m not aware that there was more than one.)

This is a really cool game, though the game play isn’t the best.  The marine you control can’t jump or climb anything — your path is pretty much 2D, walking only where they want you to. The targeting isn’t the best as, even in sniper mode, nudging the stick generally makes a big jump and it’s hard to be precise.  So I’m not going to say it’s the bestest game ever.

But the visuals and very cool and the 40K-ness of it is fantastic.  It really captures the feel of the 41st millennium.   The marine armor is great, very detailed, looks like a model come to life.  But my favorite part is the bolters.  They aren’t spraying light machinegun fire; they’re launching mini-RPGs like a bolter should!  And at a high rate of speed!

sm2

The challenge level is kind of weird.  It seems like you walk through large areas with no resistance, and most of the time the killing is pretty open and low-threat, but then you’ll hit certain boss-type combats that are just murder to get through!  That’s when I quit playing years ago, when I hit that wall over and over again and couldn’t get past it.  Orks and gretchen and squigbombs in waves, and those damn squigs get right up on you and blow up.  And again, targeting isn’t that easy, so you shoot the hell out of a bunch of gretchen that couldn’t hurt you if they had plasma pistols in each hand, but you miss the squigs that blow your legs off.  And then when you finally make it past the squigbombs and take them all out before they get you, this big mutha of an ork comes in and beats the hell out of you!

sm3FINALLY this morning I got past that part, first try of the day.  Then, eventually, I came to a really cool ork dropship that reminds me very much of a Reaver boat in Firefly.  You have to plasma cannon the thing while it’s shooting you with some megashoota type double-barrelled machinegun and the best shot in all of orkdom is manning the thing!  And THEN, if that crackshot doesn’t gun you down, they drop orks to engage you while you’re trying your damnedest to shoot down the ship with an overheated plasma cannon.

It’s hard.  But it’s fun!

I know this is all old news to most anyone who will read this, but since I buy mostly old games on the cheap and never quite get around to playing them (got two on clearance last Xmas that I haven’t even opened yet), I’m pleasantly surprised right now to come back to the year 40,000!

Cthulhu Warlock for D&D 5th Edition

This is reposted from my old website (thus the “classic” tag), where it was by far the most popular blog post.  Apparently there’s a lot of D&D gamers looking for a good warlock build, most likely of the dark and mysterious Cthulhu variety.

blackeye_cvr-miniYou can find Jansen here, as well as within the virtual pages of a free sample book on the Dungeon Masters Guild website called The Eye in the Shadow (just click here).  He’s one of three characters profiled there.

You can also find him with 9 other characters, 16 feats, and lot whole lot more in my new Fifth Edition Creative Companion,  available from theDungeon Masters Guild right now for only $0.99.  You can find it by clicking here.  

female elf with a bow in the forestThe 5eCC is a 45 page PDF.  Here’s the description:

Fantasy author J. D. Brink first discovered Dungeons & Dragons more thirty years ago.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can now share some of his own game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  

Contained herein are more than 40 pages featuring custom game rules, a new experience point system, and 16 new feats for players.  But that’s not all. 

A Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, and rogue spymaster: these are just 4 of 10 characters created from new takes on existing classes, complete with detailed backstories and decision descriptions.  Ten characters meant to provide players and DMs with new inspiration for developing their own worlds and the heroes to save them.    

*****

JANSEN, THE EYE IN THE SHADOW

“Kinda a funny looking feller, eh?  Don’t look dangerous, but something ‘bout him makes me skin crawl.  Better keep a distance.” – Constable’s Deputy, Dunwich

Warlock (3)

Alignment: CN

STR 8 -1
INT 14 +2
WIS 14 +2
DEX 11 0
CON 10 0
CHAR 16 +3

HP:  24

AC:  12

PROF:  +2

SAVES:  WIS (+4) CHAR (+5)

INIT:  +2

RACE:  Human

BACKGROUND:  Noble

* Dragon chess gaming proficiency

* Life of Privilege

* Languages: Common, Elven

WARLOCK: 

* Otherworldly Patron: Great Old One

* Awakened Mind

Pact Boon: Book of Shadows

Eldritch Invocations:

— Beguiling Influence

— Mask of Many Faces

SPELLS:

* Spell DC (13)  Spell Attack Mod (+5)

* Warlock: 2 Cantrips, 4 Known Spells, 2 Spell Slots at 2nd Level

— Cantrips: Eldritch Blast, Prestidigitation

— 1st Level: Hex, Arms of Hadar

— 2nd Level: Suggestion, Crown of Madness

Eldritch Invocation: Disguise Self at will

Books of Shadows: Druid (WIS)

— Cantrips: Shillelagh, Produce Flame, Resistance

* Magic Initiate Feat: Bard (CHAR)

— Cantrips: Mage Hand, Minor Illusion

— Once per long rest: Dissonant Whispers

* Ritual Caster: Wizard (INT)

— 1st Level: Find Familiar, Unseen Servant

FAMILIAR:  Lovecraft, the ferret (fiend)

SKILLS:

* Intimidation (+5)

* Arcana (+4)

* Investigation (+4)

* History (+4)

* Insight (+4)

* Deception (+5)

* Persuasion (+5)

* Bonus Languages: Primordial, Abyssal

FEATS:

* Magic Initiate

* Ritual Caster

BASIC GEAR:

* Ornate cane (club), 2 daggers

* Studded leather armor

* Fine clothes, Scholar’s pack, scroll of pedigree, 2 signet rings – one of Fellcorr family, one unknown (arcane focus)

* His uncle’s estate in Dunwich

STORY NOTES:

Jansen Fellcorr came from a family of minor nobility and had lived most of his life in abject boredom.  The life of privilege didn’t disagree with him, per say, but there was very little about that easy, controlled life that held his interest.  He made study and observation (“people watching”) his hobbies, sometimes following strangers all day, even back to their homes, to discover the secrets of their lives.  Jansen was an intelligent, polite, and rather creepy young man.

The death of Hadspen Fellcorr–Jansen’s uncle–went largely unnoticed, as Hadspen had been the strange and estranged black sheep of the family.  Jansen, at twenty-six years of age, barely even remembered his uncle Hadspen.  But when he heard of the man’s passing and saw how the rest of his noble family chose to ignore the black sheep’s death from their flock, Jansen made it his business to find out more.  (He had nothing better to do, after all.)  It took him a week to travel to the city of Dunwich, where his uncle had lived and died.  The Dunwich mortician and Hadspen’s landlord were only too happy to turn over the odd nobleman’s personal effects and quarters to the nephew who had come to claim them.  Though he had lived there for years, no one in town seemed to know Hadspen very well, nor did they want to.  It was rumored that he dabbled in dark magic and secrets best left undiscovered.

It was in his dead uncle’s home that Jansen uncovered new mysteries and a new purpose in life.  Hadspen’s quarters were filled with books and rarities: drawings and journals, maps and star charts, ancient artifacts and dusty grimoires.  Jansen dove in eagerly and lived in Dunwich through the summer,  fall, and into winter.  And it was on the bitter cold evening of the winter solstice that he finally unlocked the same key that his uncle had years before.  It was on this cold, snowy night that he finally met Hadspen Fellcorr’s other-worldly benefactor.

Jansen has taken his uncle’s place as the servant and apprentice of a strange, extra-planar power.  He has, in fact, surpassed his uncle and become an actively mobile agent, taking on the title of Eye in the Shadow.  The motives of his patron are unclear, even to him, but he serves it with no less devotion.  Be it good or evil, Jansen’s benefactor seems to be an entity of shadow, deception, knowledge, and madness.  Though his master speaks to him only rarely, Jansen continues to follow wherever his destiny seems to be leading.

As an adventurer, Jansen carries the same cane that his uncle had used in life.  This is a very ornate walking stick carved to resemble an alien tower on another plane of existence.  It is patterned after the very structure that is benefactor inhabits, be it a palace or a prison.  His loyal companion and familiar, Lovecraft the ferret, acts as his eyes and ears, sticky fingers, and only true friend.  Jansen wears two signet rings: the Fellcorr crest on his right hand, and, on his left, a ring bearing a symbol unknown to any court in this reality.  Jansen uses his family pedigree only when needed to infiltrate or influence others along his course, preferring to forget the worthless life of nobility he’d lived before.

GAME NOTES: 

I actually did quite a bit of dark research myself to see what options and spells I wanted to take with this character.  Warlocks have three paths they can follow, called Eldritch Invocations, and in a way I have managed to take all three here rather than settling for just one!

I wanted to favor spellcraft with this guy, partially because Warlocks have such a weird and limited magic-user mechanic.  (Though I do like that they work in a different way than the rest.)  I took the Book of Shadows, which lets me pick 3 cantrips from any class list.  I chose Druids and Shillelagh, a spell that lets me turn Jansen’s fancy cane (club) into a magical weapon of moderate power.  Therefore, I kind of get the bonded weapon invocation.  I also tend to make human characters, so I started with two Feats.  For both I took more spells, which gave me access to Find Familiar, thus effectively giving me the Chain invocation too.

BAM!  All three Warlock paths in one character!  And I have an amazing number of spells for a 3rd level character, especially a warlock!

And while he is magicked up pretty darn well, he’s not going to dodge or take a hit very well.  But not all characters need to be combat powerhouses!  I like how Fifth Edition clearly states the three main aspects of game play: not just combat, but also exploration and social interaction.  Jansen is a brainy magic user who will excel at the second and third aspects far more that the first one.  As a player and DM—as I’ve said before—I like to make sure skills and non-combat spells are valuable in the game too.  This character will put his best ability score—Charisma—to good use, along with useful INT- and WIS-based skills.

His role as the Eye in the Shadow makes him a spy and a manipulator.  I chose many of his spells to specifically fit his shadowy and Cthulhu-like nature.  I also considered an owl and raven for his familiar, both of which seem very Cthulhu to me, but the ferret just seemed to fit more comfortably somehow.

I actually really like this character concept.  He’s just begging to be in a story/novel someday!