Friday, July 13, 2018

Preparing for Dunjon of Death I :: The Plan

Overview

This is my series of images documenting how I'm building out my Dunjon of Death assets for MEST Tactics. There's a lot of work to do. Here's my previous posts on the topic.

The Plan

I had two options for myself which I considered.
  1. Either I build a set of doors, rooms, and walls and free-form arrange them at the start of each game session. 
  2. Or I build a standard set of uniformly shaped tiles.

Since I wanted to have a campaign system where players can grow their adventurers and their dungeons, I opted for the tiles. This allows ease of noting configurations. 

Here's what I have as my floor plans.

My floor plans. Each tile is given a unique identifier which will be used during dungeon design. Rooms are labeled A, B, and C for later use with notations on the dungeon layout grid.

The floor plans do not identify doors or gates; these would be added during the start of a game session. What is most critical is that centered at the edges of each tile is (for me) a 7CM connector; this allows me to align the tiles when they are laid out.

All of those brown areas I'll physically create using cork-board. The red walls denote a standard room using 1-inch thick foam board. The actual size and shapes of the rooms doesn't matter; it's just that each of the openings need to be 3-inches (about 7.5 CM) because all of my doors and gate assets will be built slightly narrower in order to fit. This will also allow me some wiggle room if the finished corridors on the dungeon tiles are crafted crookedly.

My corridors are also 3-inches wide because that allows me enough room to have two 30MM figures standing abreast. I could go narrower or wider for the corridors for any future tiles I'd ever build, but I don't think I'd ever go below 4CM or above 12CM and even so that'd be limited to special tiles.

You may notice that the tiles have unique identifiers at the top left of each diagram. I use S for straight-runs, T for T-sections, L for L-sections, X for 4-ways, and E for Ends. The number after each letter (0 to 4) shows how many rooms on the tile, with '4' being a free-for all but generally big rooms. 

I'll also have additional H for Hallway tiles indicating start and end. These are meant to be long halls with stairs leading into / out of the dungeon layouts. It'd be where the adventurers would start a delve and where they'd need to exit.

Dungeon Layout Planner

Although I am constructing these Dunjon of Death tiles for use with my MEST Tactics game, the idea is to inspire others with some of (what I think) are cool ideas for how to layout modular dungeons. Since everything is a tile with standardized naming, I will be able to assign one card for each tile and draw them at random during solo and co-op play. Furthermore, in one-vs-many campaigns, I'll be using a grid which allows me to notate where each tile lays, its orientation, and any connections.

Here's an example "back-of-the-napkin" sketch for a would-be dungeon master after generating the layout using the Dunjon Deck cards.

I am presuming that a game session for Dunjon of Death game lasts roughly 3 Turns per tile before any complications such as locked doors, secret rooms, or combat. So 6 tiles is about 18 Turns at roughly 5 minutes per Turn or 15 minutes per tile.

Here are the cards laid out by random draw from the Dunjon Deck. The pawn I used to represent the Adventurers as the party explored the tiles. The dice with their pips indicates the relative Security Rating of that tile; further from the START tile is more secure.

Here's the recorded version for later reference. The arrows show the orientation of the tile and point to its top. I'll have a separate post about how to use the Dunjon Deck and and how to generate a dunjon, record it, and use it. I think it is fairly unique in how I do this. It will be in the Dunjon of Death Dynamic Delve rules. =)

Tiles

Ideally, the tiles would be 15x15-inches square which will allow large rooms. I wanted that, really I did, but it was impractical for me.

BTW, MDF boards sold in the USA are known as 4 x 8 feet, but they really are just 47.5-inch x 95.5-inch. This means that you can't really divide them into perfect 16x16-inch squares. This is why 15x15-inch squares are ideal.

Practically, I need to carry them to and from gaming sessions, and my crates are 16 x 12 x 12 which can only support (roughly) 12-inch wide tiles.

I wanted the tiles to be uniform in shape, and so I got my local hardware store to cut up a 4-foot x 8-foot MDF board into about 20 tiles each 12x12-inches square. I have extra source board for future plans as well.

MDF tiles each 12-inches x 12-inches


Doors and Gates

I purchased two sets from Mantic Dungeon Saga and one set from CMON Zombicide. I prefer the CMON doors because they are multi-pieced and can swing open or closed. The Mantic set are prettier but are always "closed".

Mantic and CMON doors. Maybe too many? Nah!

Spraying with black primer.

The CMON doors can swing open and closed.

Walls

For my first set of dungeon tiles I didn't want to create cyclopean walls, nor brick walls, but also not intricate cavern walls. So I decided to carve up some 1-inch thick pink foam and use a featherstone and push details into the foam. This will require gym gloves because the featherstone has sharp edges on their surface.

Pushing featherstone (whacking violently really) into the foam creates these varied textures.

Friday, June 29, 2018

MEST v2.x :: Additional Archetypes


Overview

As always, I'm striving to make MEST v2 complete and correct.

Archetypes are basically standard collections of attributes and traits. Common Archetypes are normally what each game session of MEST starts with. The most most basic is the Average Common Archetype where all Attributes are just 2 (average human), and there are no traits assigned.

The most expensive is the Hero Common Archetype which has a whole bunch more. See the image here for the complete table;

The Common Archetypes representing most human or humanoid characters. These haven't changed very much from MEST 1.6x except for maybe their BP costs and some tweaking of traits, especially for the Acrobat. I think the Beasts (Dog, Fiend, Predator, Monster) have had some adjustments as well.

Variant Archetypes

To add variety to each game-session, I introduced Variant Archetypes. Again, these are presumably human or humanoid character types. Therefore I've introduced entries such as Average, Cultist, or Acrobat, Sneaky, and Mystic, Leader. I've created quite a few to cover most situations or settings, being that MEST is a per se "low-magic" or "realistic sci-fi" game system. 

Here's a sample of the provided Variant Archetypes;


Animal Archetypes

For some players with a wide collection of figurines and miniatures, I've added Animal Archetypes. The table is a bit large and in all likelihood incomplete, but it does include entries for Bear, Cave Bear, all sorts of Dogs including Wargs, all sorts of Horse, and even a Komodo Dragon. As I build out more of MEST 2.x I'll probably expand the table just wee bit more, but the idea is to not be complete in the baseline rules since I'll have the genre documents to do that for me.  For example, the Dunjon of Death genre document will include varieties of giant spiders, rodents of unusual size, and maybe a few slimes or molds.

Here's a quick look at the include animal species;

The various animal species available for MEST 2.x. I like the fact that I've got all sorts of dog species listed so that I can differentiate between Wargs, Wolves, and Hounds!

Sophont Archetypes

A Sophont is an intelligent species commonly encountered in science-fiction and fantasy settings. The default sophont for MEST is "human", and most humanoids in MEST are just like what you'd find on television or in movies; humans with make-up otherwise known as "rubber-forehead aliens".

Therefore it wouldn't be unusual to limit alien species in MEST gaming sessions to just the Variant Archetypes and have ALL Klingons be Veteran, Warriors or Brawler, Knife-fighters, with just a few also being Leader, Fighter or Brawler, Brawny.

However, I've decided to list a few common sophont species for quick use. Just like the Animal Archetypes table where this list of Sophont Archetypes is not meant to be complete because each of the genre documents will introduce setting-specific entries. For example, the Gothic Horror genre document will introduce Wampiri ("vampires"), Lycans ("werewolves"), and Ungasumati ("mummies"). 

Here's a quick look at the included sophont species;

The current set of intelligent species included with MEST 2.x. Many of the names are specific to my FYBS role-playing game (I'll create a post later), but some of the entries shown are intuitive such as the Tcho-tcho being Pygmy, Leng or the Verminati being espys for GW's Skaven or Mantic's Verr-Myn.

Custom Archetypes

I wanted to provide a way for players to create their own Archetype, just in case the tables for Variants, Animals, and Sophonts is not enough!

The problem is that the points-costing system I use is very prone to abuse, as is any points-costing system. I've been tweaking and adjusting the system for several years now and I think I've got the numbers pretty much where I want them. 

Here's the gist of the system;
  • All characters have a BP cost which is a combination of all costs of their traits and attributes.
  • Some traits and some attributes are so powerful that they make the character exponentially more effective. Such considerations are REF, FOR, Tactics, and Leadership. 
  • For these traits and attributes, I introduce a Cost Ratio factor [CR]. These are written as +1 or -2.
  • Each CR represents a proportional cost adjustment. +1 CR means that for every 10 BP a character is worth, it increases in cost by +1 BP. So a 100 BP character with +1 CR is worth +10 BP extra; total is 110 BP. Also, a 100 BP character with a -2 CR is worth -2 BP per 10 thus -20 BP less; total is 80 BP.
  • You can think of CRs as fractional factors. Just divide by 10 and add 1.0. So +1 CR is x1.1 and -2 CR is x0.8. Same with +4 CR or -3 CR; these are x1.4 and x0.7 respectively.
You can see how having a spreadsheet or maybe having a very clear, concise process for determining costs will be useful.

Building a Custom Variant Archetype

So, one of the many ways of creating a Custom Archetype is to combine a species template from the Animal Archetype or the Sophont Archetype tables with an entry from the Variant Archetype table.

Let's combine the Brute Sophont with the Brawler Variant. Here's both templates next to each other; take note of the last two columns for dBP ("delta build-points") and CR ("cost ratio").

We'll combine these two templates.

Steps
  1. The first step is to add the dBP from both templates together. This makes +26 dBP plus +25 dBP for 51 dBP Total.
  2. The second step is to note the CRs and order them from highest to lowest. So, its +1 CR and then -2 CR.
  3. The third step is to adjust the dBP Total using the CRs in order. First is +1 CR. This means for each 10 dBP, adjust the cost by +1 BP. For 51 dBP this is +5 BP, causing a new total of 56 dBP. Second is the -2 CR. This means for each 10 dBP, adjust the cost by -2 BP. For 56 dBP this is -10 BP, causing a final cost of 46 BP.
Here's the above in picture form:

Math. How does it work?

For people with calculators, we can just convert the CRs into decimal factors by dividing each by 10 and then adding 1.0. So +1 CR becomes 0.1 plus 1.0 = 1.1. And -2 CR becomes -0.2 plus 1.0 = 0.8. Multiply both together 1.1 x 0.8 = 0.88. That factor is multiplied against the Total dBP of 51 making (51 x 0.88) = 45 BP.

The difference of 1 BP between the two methods is small enough to ignore during game-play because players are allowed to have upwards of 25 BP differences into totals for their Assemblies.

Anyhow, we'll call this combination of Brute + Brawler maybe "Brute Brawler". If we'd add Leap, Claws, Bite, and Detect, it could maybe become a Kzinti in "rage mode".

Other Custom Archetypes

I've included rules for creating other archetypes as well. I've got one for creating new Sophont species and another for creating new Animal species (or Sophonts, or whatever). 

Tables for generating new Sophont Archetypes.

Tables for generating entirely new Custom Archetypes. These can be used for crating new Animals and new Sophont species.


Traits Lists

Lastly, I've decided to make the most common Character Traits become available. This is sort of open-ended; I'd rather that any new archetypes don't use more than few beyond whichever was used for the creation of Variants, Sophonts, or Frames. Use at your own risk!

Here's the pick-and-choose list for traits. Go wacky and make things unbalanced if you'd like.

Finishing the Kzinti

Above we've created the Brute Brawler Archetype. It's 46 BP using +51 dBP and CR 0.88. Let's make it represent a Kzinti from Larry Niven's Kzin-Man Wars by adding Leap, Detect, Claws, and Bite. And for theme, we'll also add [Berserker]. 

We can get those traits and their values from the Character Traits List above.

Bite is +9 dBP
Claws is +3 dBP
Leap is +8 dBP
Detect is +5 dBP
[Berserker] is -2 dBP and -1 CR
Brute Brawler is +51 dBP

Total is 74 dBP.

Final Cost is 74 x 0.88 x 0.9 = 52 BP

And there you have it! 

The Kzinti Write-up 

Using the MEST v2.x recommended format, the Kzinti write-up looks like this:

Kzinti 402|044|424
Brute Brawler (+Bite, +Claws, +Leap, +Detect, +[Berserker])
[Beast+][Berserker]. Bite. Brawl. Brawn. Claws. Detect. Leap.
52 BP /+74 dBP -2 CR

The top series of numbers is CCA RCA REF | INT POW STR | FOR MOV SIZ in that order.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Some Rough Terrain

Today's Tutorial :: Rough Terrain!
I created some Rough Terrain for my 28MM MEST rules. In terms of the MEST Tactics rules, unless in Flying status or using Agility, models move at half normal rate. This is very similar to many tabletop wargame rules.

Tutorial

I'm trying a new process for building this terrain which goes like this;

Crafting


  1. Cut some MDF. I start by getting plyers and breaking off weird shapes from masonite boards I purchased from Michael's Art Store.
  2. Next I use a matt-knife to refine the edges of those boards.
  3. Then I glue some small bits of expanded styrene. I use this "Pink Panther" brand.
  4. I carve that with my hot-wire knife into interesting shapes to form boulders.
  5. Afterwards, I use some plaster spackle to given some texture to large areas of the board. I use the high-density type, and so it takes some time to dry after application.
  6. While the spackle is wet, I start jamming into it small rocks and pebbles of various sizes. I think kitty litter or aquarium pebbles could work well for this, but I got my rocks from the side streets and washed them before use.
  7. After everything dries, I cover the entire surface with a coat of Elmer's Glue. This helps seal the spackle, the pebbles, and also glues down any fibres from the styrene.

Painting

When that stuff dries;

  1. I go over each board with a thick coat of black acrylic paint. This may bring up some of the glue, but it will all eventually dry again. I try to hide all white and pink; flood all surfaces with black paint.
  2. When the black paint dries, I use dark brown and wet-brush all of the boards in an attempt to bring up some of the textures.
  3. After the brown paint dries, I dry-brush tan acrylic paint.
  4. I also dry-brush some medium gray.
  5. I then do a very quick dry-brush with a 4-inch brush white on the edges of all of the boulders I carved out of styrene. I also touch up on the rocks and pebbles where I think looks nice. However, I do this by drawing up from the edges of the boards to the tops of the boulders.
  6. And I wet-brush medium green in areas I want to look as though it were damp.

Flocking

After that tan dries, I try something new!

  1. Get some green flocking material. I use fine-powder dark green and lighter clumpy forest green.
  2. I mix a bowl of medium green acrylic paint with Elmer's glue.
  3. I dab the boards in the areas where I had already dry-brushed with green paint earlier. 
  4. I then sprinkle some dark green flocking on those areas.
  5. Afterwards, with my fingers, I jam the clumpy flocking atop that where desired.
  6. When I am done with everything, I spray the clumps with flocking glue to hold it into place.


Wide boards. About 3-inch by 10-inches

This is about 6-inch by 8-inch

Another big piece.

Some of the pieces with boulders made of carved pink styrene.

How the new Rough terrain looks like with some 28MM figures. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

MEST Tactics :: Fantasy Gladiator v2.x Cards

EDIT: 2018-06-11 Updated the images of the cards to match the current version with altered Trample and Bite traits and capabilities

Overview

I've been play-testing the new MEST Tactics v2.x rules with my nephew and brother and as a result I wanted to increase the variety. As a result, I've been updating my demo cards for the Fantasy Gladiator genre. Unlike the v1.6 version, these cards have three variations for each of my characters. I figured I'd start doing this because it makes for more interesting combinations of combatants.

I'm also using my new points-costing system from MEST v2.x. It's a bit more complex and is meant to only be used as a build-your-own tool since my intention is to have each genre document (Mythos, Gothic Horror, etc) to have pre-built archetypes for each faction. Anyhow, the new points system seem to be a bit more balanced, but only time can tell.

The Gladiator Variations :: Chaka

So, each warrior has three variations on itself. The most basic is just whatever the Sophont (i.e.; species) defaults are plus some weapons, armor, and equipment. To add some flavor, I introduced character-specific traits as well.

Here's Chaka in his most basic form, for example;

Gray Chaka. Just an Average Common Archetype plus Acrobatic and Sneaky. Don't mess with Chaka!
And here's two more versions, Red, and Blue.

Blue Chaka. Blue variations concentrate on adding Tactics or Leadership; both of which are very expensive. Blue Chaka is about 25% more (+24 BP) in cost than Gray Chaka.

Red Chaka. Red variations focus mostly on improving the character for combat. Very expensive as well; Red Chaka is about 50% more (+41 BP) than Gray Chaka. This version provides +1 REF, STR, +1 FOR, and +Brawn. 


The Others :: Perlo

I always thought that Perlo with his two swords was always unfairly treated by the default rules. In that, having multiple weapons is nice but not very cinematic in feel during game-play. And so I added the Multi-strike trait just for him.

Gray Perlo with Multi-strike. Nasty little guy.
Red Perlo is even scarier; +Fight, +Brawl, and then +1 CCA, +1 POW, +1 STR, and +1 FOR. At 111 BP, this figure is well worth the investment. When compared to Blue Chaka (above), Red Perlo is definitely more about getting into melee and kicking butt.

The Others :: Iago, Azazel, and Baal.

This is from my last post; I recently acquire and prepped some new figures. 

Here's Gray Iago. He's got Winged Flight and Bite 2 at STR 3. The Leap will offset the penalties of the [Winged] Disability trait which requires that Iago has enough room to start Flying status. Bite is now shown with a penalty of -2 Modifier dice for Attacker and Defender (when interrupted by a React).


This is Gray Azazel. You may notice that Azazel is a Robustus Centaur; he's got SIZ 5 and and Brawn 2. Compare him with Gray Chiron below. Notice that Trample is now a weapon stat-line using SIZ. The (?) indicates additional Impact and Modifier dice are received for each SIZ larger than the target, which must already be SIZ - 1 or smaller.
Gray Chiron is a Gracilis Centaur; at SIZ 5 he's smaller than Azazel but he has Detect 2 instead of Azazel's Detect 1. Otherwise these centaurs have nearly identical baseline attributes and traits. Also notice that I made the Centaurs (both Azazel and Chiron) have INT 1; this will force them to be more about speed of movement and less of leadership or tactics during game-play.

The Others :: Selgir and Medusa

My two favorite characters are Medusa and Selgir. Like the others gladiators in v2.0, I've updated their character cards and re-jiggered their point costs.

Red Medusa is the scariest gladiator in the entire set with her Fear 4. I needed to adjust that trait a bit, but the result is that it makes her cost 329 BP. Is she worth nearly triple the other fighters? I think so, that is; until I can get some archers and sorcerer figures to allow some range-combat opponents for her.

Red Selgir. Selgir gets POW 4 and Grit 2. This makes Selgir the most courageous gladiator of the entire set.  Also see the red triangles at Selgir's REF and MOV. These are the [Laden] penalties called out for wearing Medium Armor and Medium Shield. The penalties are -1 REF when Distracted, and half normal Agility.
This is Red Selgir's Fear Test comparison against Medusa. You can see that Selgir only gets 1 or more Fear tokens about 11% of the time. With the v2.x Grit rules, Selgir's Grit 2 allows him to convert one of those tokens into a Delay token instead. This makes Red Selgir able to approach Medusa usually uncompromised by Fear.

Downloads

You can either go to the Downloads section or click here for the updated documents.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Latest Creations

Here's some pics of the results of my labors in the world of terrain building.

Greek Pantheon

I was able to complete my Greek Pantheon. I built it very quick with the intention for use in 28MM scale gaming for MEST Tactics.

This is my Greek temple. It is modeled after the Greek Pantheon and I think it will be very useful in my Mythos and VSF settings. In the back of the building you can see the new walls that I recently crafted.
Here's a photo of the original Pantheon.


Side view of the Pantheon. I painted the dome gold and the bases of the columns as well. It made the entire thing just "pop" from its old drab brown looks.
A back corner. Figures for scale. Unfortunately, I built this originally for my daughter's school project on Greek mythology and so I didn't craft it with removable walls. The interior would basically be alcoves with statues of the Greek gods upon pedestals.

A final close-up look of the Pantheon for showing the scale.

New Gladiators

I also acquired some new 1:18 scale (90MM) figures and painted them up after basing them. These go with my main MEST Tactics demo set for the Fantasy Gladiator genre.

This is "Azazel"; he's a bit bigger than my other centaur "Chiron". I'll have another blog post discussing my updated character cards for the Fantasy Gladiator builds soon. Azazel is available from Safari Ltd.

This is "Iago". He's a fairly large griffin also available from Safari Ltd. Originally the plumage on this figurine was shiny gold and so I dry-brushed it with brown and then tan to keep it more subtle and per se realistic.

I added a metal screw to the chest of Iago. This allows me to mount him upon a magnet with a stand. Here's Iago and Azazel together for scale.

Here's Iago's stand. In the latest MEST 2.x build I added Flight as a trait. It seems to work fine in solo-play but I'll find out soon when I play-test with my nephew.

This big guy is Baal; "lord" of the desert. Like Iago, I dry-brushed the figurine to make it look more realistic because the original design is as a "swamp dragon" from Safari Ltd.

I need a new camera; my macro pics are terrible. Anyhow, this is Baal and Azazel near each other.

For scale, here is a 28MM model next to Baal which is 90MM. I fully intend to use Baal in my 28MM gaming as well!

New Objective Markers

These five objective markers [OMs] I created for the 90MM Fantasy Gladiator set, but I made them generic enough for use in my 28MM gaming.

Purple rocks, gears, bronze bullions, bundle of sticks, some weird metallic boxes. I've got about three more OMs to create and then I'll have enough for a good race-and-capture gaming session.

And here's the 28MM figure at the center of it all.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Some Terrain

NOTE: I recently revisited MEST Fantasy Gladiator with my nephew. He is definitely getting better at the tactics. Just a short 4-Turn battle between myself, him, and my brother. We each received 4 characters.

Overview

The Fantasy Gladiator genre set that I have is 1:18 scale where in each figurine is 90MM tall or about 3.5-inches in height. At present this is my principal ad hoc demo set for new-comers. I've used this set at my workplaces for the past 6 years ... works marvels because the figures are large! However, I created the set with very little terrain except for 12 pillars. The idea was to keep everything simple.

Well, I've learned that with more figures there's probably going be a need for more terrain. Especially if the demo set becomes a competition game. And so, I've built more.

Process

Here's my process!



I purchases this foam board from Lowes. It is about 1-inch thick about 4 by 8 feet in dimensions and sells for about $8.00 USD. You'll need to peel that "R-Tech" plastic from the front, and a similar but gray foil from the back. Otherwise paint won't stick to it.

This was my Christmas gift to myself. About $120 USD. Cut the big foam boards into smaller squares and rectangles. The ruler you see at the top allows for precision cuts of consistent dimension.

You will need this hot-wire knife to create details in your foam, and to carve out gashes and scratches. This is a lot easier than when I used as hot wire gun.

So, I cut out a bunch of square and rectangular tiles. I stacked them together and started using the hot-wire knife to cut shapes into the tiles. You can see the crazy gray foil that still sticks to the foam board.

More creative stacking. You may notice that I have some MDF boards I use as the base. I got these cut a few years back. I think places such as Lowes and Ace Hardware (both in the USA) will cut MDF for you. Otherwise you'll need to get a circular saw because MDF is hard to cut with a blade.

I tried to create step-like layouts. I figure that maybe I can use these finished projects with both my 1:18 figures and with my 28MM figures. Why not, right?

More of the same. Some interesting gaps for the smaller figures to move about.

Once I have the shapes hot-glued into place, I need to add some interesting texture. I use sand and white glue for this. BTW, I discovered that you can purchase jugs of white-glue for very cheap. I highly recommend this.


You can see that the sand and glue chunked up a bit. Bah. Not a problem.

What I did afterwards when the glue dried is that I revisited each piece and added another layer of white-glue as a sealant. This allows the remainder of the sand to be locked into place. It also creates a smoother surface for when I paint.



These walls have a base-coat of dark brown. I did a thin black wash afterwards when the brown dried.

The foreground is essentially done. The background walls need a dry-brush of white.

When I dry brush, I use a lighter brown across the entire face with a 2-inch brush. I then use a 1-inch brush  with pure white for dry-brushing corners and edges.