The Device [Terrain-making]

Basically, I got tired of dealing with simulating all of my corrugated tin/steel with cardboard. It looks.. okay. But it’s not very sturdy, and it’s all fuzzy and shit. So, a while ago I realized I could use all the pop cans I had lying around the house if I could find a way of corrugating them. What did I have? Popsicle sticks. So I tried an alternating arrangement, which worked.. sort of. With a lot of work.

Version one

Version one

This one was, of course, hilariously unsafe. Something about rubbing small sticks right together vigorously next to a sharp-ass metal edge. I did use the test pieces to make that shack a couple weeks ago, though. In the ensuing weeks I’ve gone through a couple iterations, and finally put together something that requires about the same amount of work but far less filing. Or risk of severe finger injury.
Directions below the cut.
(more…)

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Making 28mm Asphalt Roads [Modern/Post-Apoc]

Following on from a post over at Tabletop-Terrain about making roads with self-adhesive floor-tiles, I swung by the Home Depot (gotta love that 10% veteran’s discount) and picked up a sample of this shit – TrafficMaster “light brown travertine” SA vinyl. Given that it’s running less than $1/square foot, and each square foot makes two 12″x6″ road sections, this is going to be a about half the price of my previous favorite option – Ikea “Avskild” cork placemats.

Before I break down the advantages of each, I figured I’d put up a quick shot to show you the texture of the vinyl tiles versus the cork.
• Ikea Cork sheeting, painted as concrete (from the Airbase Toblerone project).
IMG_20160605_213622_431
As you can see, it’s got a pretty fine texture, even on the smaller bunker. Good for concrete, but it’s not really my favorite on the asphalt front. The surface tearing is nice and chunky, and the edges wear pretty well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the commissioned road set I did a few years ago, but we’ll go over my experience with them below.

•Trafficmaster tile, inked and uncut (I just slapped some India ink on with a wet rag and took a photo here without cleaning the tile first: the pale spots appear to be greasy areas from previous handling..).

img_20161030_151202_887Here we’ve got a much more irregular surface, and it’s already very reminiscent of weathered asphalt even with the pale spots and brown undertone. It is, however, a thin sheet of plastic – less than .25mm – laid over a ~1.5mm rubber sheet. That may make larger areas of surface damage look less realistic unless I cut out the undersurface and hammer the surface plastic down into the “damage” pattern, or fill them with basing ballast.

So, what’s my take so far?

Cork sheeting

Advantages –
Realistic surface damage (for both asphalt and concrete). It’s easy to sink in some paper clip wire to simulate rebar on a broken section, or a small piece of low-gauge copper cable/plastic pipe for other conduits, which dresses up the edges nicely.

Multi-purpose. Crumbled scrap bits make great rubble. You can face a chunk of foamcore or stiff card with the cork and get a plastered concrete surface in minutes – one that’s also easy to trash and make look good.

Super-easy to work. Cutting, fitting, and weathering the cork bits for both of the pieces in the pic above took me about two minutes.

Cheap. Granted, both of the materials have that going for them, but it bears repeating; this stuff costs about 75c/ft^2.  In other formats, unfortunately, that’s not so true – a straight-up roll of cork from a craft or art store can be more along the lines of $5/ft^2.  And there’s a certain amount of wasted material because of the rounded edges of the Ikea stuff and the weird size.

Disadvantages –
Poor surface sealing coupled with moisture sensitivity. You have to paint PVA or another sealant onto cork, or it has a nasty tendency to swell. That flakes off paint. It also behaves oddly when painted unless you seal it – soaking in some colors, repelling others, and generally being a pain in the ass. Plus, again, it can swell or crumble without sealant while you’re painting it, screwing up your effects or damaging the piece.

Fragility – the same thing that makes it easy to work makes it hard to store. Cork works best as a facing on top of another material, like heavy card or styrofoam. In storage, dropping or bumping the container can shatter off a large chunk of cork, and the pieces frotting against each other in the box will not just wear the paint but tear chunks out. That means you need padded storage and rigid containment, which reduces the amount of stuff you can store in a given space. With roads it’s less of a problem – you can wrap them in cheap felt and glue a sheet of craft foam to the edges of the box – but storing a large building is a >massive< pain in the ass

It just doesn’t look like asphalt at larger scales. With a good paintjob, you can pass it off pretty well at 6-10mm, and I’ve seen some guys make 15mm look decent, but at 28+ it looks like shit unless you work it as concrete. How many cities or highways do you know of that use concrete for the roads? Yeah. It’s fine for sidewalks and warehouse floors, but not roads.

Vinyl Tile

Advantages –
Tough as hell. I did a few experiments with a painted chunk, slapping it edge-on against a desk and flapping the piece back and forth. Paint held well, and even the section I stripped the vinyl from seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately, rubbing the painted sides together did do some paint damage, so I’ll still need surface protection, but rubbing gently with stiff, sealed card didn’t do too much damage. I think I may be able to get away with just peeling and sticking the flooring sheets onto posterboard and using that as layer protection; for more on that, see “conclusions” below.

Great surface texture. I mean, look at that pic again. That’s literally a thirty-second swipe of india ink – not a damn lick of paint – and it already looks like a road.

The sheets are a better shape and size than the Ikea mats I’ve been using, which means there’s less waste. Basically with cork I got two 6″x16″ chunks of straight road, or two 12″x8″ sections. Lots of room for a shoulder, but the roads also wound up looking unrealistically wide compared to 1:43 or 1:48 cars (let alone the figs). Of course, I could trim off that extra couple inches on each side and use to make sidewalks and curbs or building parts, which was pretty cool. With the vinyl I get four 6″x12″ straights, nearly quadrupling the yield per dollar spent.

On that note, the sheets are even cheaper than cork, especially in bulk; I can get ten 1’x2′ sheets for under twenty bucks. So for the same $20 I can get either ten sections of road with sidewalks/shoulders, plus 2 intersections per road section I drop, or forty sections without sidewalks. Sections that require less reinforcement and storage area.

Properly painted, it also looks like facing stones. With a little work, it’d be great for adding a “sandstone” texture to the lower floors of Foamcore ruins, which means I still have an outlet for scraps. Cork does have an advantage, though, in that crumbled bits of cork will look great just tossed on a rubble pile, where this will require trimmed and (roughly) squared sections of the scrap rather than “whatever’s left”

Disadvantages –
Heavier, by a substantial margin. Each sheet weighs about half again as much as one of the placemats, making it harder to transport on foot/bus.

Harder to weather and simulate surface damage – as I mentioned above, just picking the surface off reveals a chunk of rubber, which has a terrible texture. So you have to backfill the holes with basing ballast, or find some other way of getting an interesting texture instead of smooth cuts. That adds working time as well, which seems to be compensating for not needing to seal each individual piece.

Harder to work – This shit is dulling the HELL out of my boxcutter, and straight-up snapped a #11 Exacto blade within 5 cuts. It’s also tearing the shit out of my leatherworking swivel knife, which is why the boxcutter is getting an outing. I also can’t slap it up on the deck of my paper-cutter to just slice off straight sections, which means breaking out the rulers, square, and compass.

Floppy – A disadvantage both share, but the higher weight of the sheeting makes it more noticeable. I’m gonna need to give these a stiffer backing to keep the paint on, even if it held reasonably well in the basic tests.

Surprise contestant:
EVA (Craft) Foam
Advantages:
Easy to work, soft, multi-purpose.

Disadvantages:
Poor surface texture, floppy, fragile, and more expensive than either. Worse, it’s sensitive to heat and to spraypaint, so it’ll need sealing.

ConclusionsI’ll definitely keep using cork for my own street/postapoc projects, but I’m about to add a lot more vinyl to my toolbox. Given the properties of both, I’m thinking of using an 8″ wide strip of black posterboard, with the vinyl laid on top (using its own adhesive) as a road bed and either cork sidewalks or ballast to simulate gravel shoulders. I could also take strips of foamcore and cut out roadbeds from the center ( just leaving the bottom layer of card), and mark up curbs/sidewalks onto the raised edge sections. The foamcore method is almost certainly going to be the way to go if I’m making bridges/overpasses, unless I can convince that guy in the Makerspace to let me use his laser cutter on some MDF or hork up for the Hirst Arts bridge mold..

Borderlands Fan-RPG update

I posted the first mechanical draft last night. Anon has been shitting up the threads (as he so often does), so I’m not linking to the archive right now. I’ve also added to it (of course). In the meantime, I’m posting the FAQ section of the preview. This is both a sort of manifesto and a way of keeping myself honest as I start having to really buckle down and get to the nitty-gritty of hacking this system together.
Finally, I’d like to thank Anon for some of the cooler ideas in the game, including Slag Harpies, new corporate turrets, and the “Biggest Badass In the Room” rule.

What is D6? Who made it? When?
The engine was originally created by West End Games in the 1980s. It was intended to be fast-playing and cinematic, while also being easy for newbies to pick up. West End would use it as a universal franchised RPG. The two most notable licensed games were Ghostbusters and Star Wars, both of which licenses they lost in the mid 1990s. West End itself subsequently perished in the infamous D20 crash of 1999-2002. Refugees from the company still make a D6-based RPG, and the core system is now available for free from most RPG e-retailers.
I hold a special place in my heart for the first edition of the Star Wars RPG; the humor and immersion of its presentation are still basically unmatched. If you can find it, buy it just for the R2-D2 advertisement centerfold.
The insanely popular Paranoia does NOT use the d6 system, because Friend Computer is special.

How does it work?

The original system is closely related to the old World of Darkness in layout, but in practice functions more like D20. It uses a “DC “-like target number, which you roll against using your skills’ dice pools.
EXP are used to improve your Skills and (in this game) buy Quirks – unique improvements to your character that function similarly to the Skill Trees in Borderlands.

Why did you choose this system for Borderlands?
Several reasons.
• I’m comfortable working with it, since I’ve been hacking around with the basic system since I was 14.
• It’s a universal system that gives the right feel for Pandora. None of the rest really tickled my fancy.
Note, before I get into this system by system: yes, I actually have run and/or played multiple games with all of these systems. This is not just rarghrgarghfrothskub from a fa/tg/uy, this is an ADD-addled GM with 23 years of experience in dozens of systems breaking down his own logic.
• GURPS is too crunchy and yet too unfocused. Tri-Stat isn’t crunchy enough, and the mechanic is too easily-broken by character advancement.  Interlock can be readily broken in character creation and doesn’t deal with advancement well at all. None of the last three handle vehicles the way BL does – as disposable extensions of the characters. FASA D100 (Star Trek, early drafts of MechWarrior) focuses too much on the character’s history in character building, and the system is insanely lethal – hardly appropriate for how resilient BL characters actually are. I very seriously considered using a modified Crafty system for it, but D20 requires too much work on statting everything at multiple levels and doesn’t focus enough on what makes Pandora fun (guns, Skags, and shooting people with a shotgun that shoots fire instead of bullets). Not to say it wouldn’t work, but I really wanted the weapons to be modular, rather than discrete with modular add-ons. And don’t get me started on ammo tracking in D20…
• The D6 game mechanics, on the other hand, allow me to get crunchy enough for players to feel like their weapon choices matter, without losing the flow and pacing important to the game. The mechanics are intuitive for a generation brought up on D20, and you get to roll a lot of dice without being saddled with the picherfuls that Shadowrun, WoD, or Interlock can require. It’s also technically point-buy. Normally, I prefer random-build systems, but Borderlands itself is all about how you express your character off of a template, not taking what you get dealt and running with it. Character advancement is constant but incremental, and choosing between Skills and Quirks (an entire mechanic I’ve added) at low levels gives you some interesting choices. Basically, in a skill-based RPG, you can constantly feel like you’re accomplishing something without having those massive jumps in power that come with a level-based system; it also means that “human” enemies stay dangerous in packs for a lot longer.
• The BADASS mechanic just feels right for Borderlands.
I could see World of Darkness and FFG D100 (you might know it better as the Dark Heresy engine) both working, but I was comfortable here, and one anon was allegedly already working on an FFG-based system.

What did you change?
I added a LOT of mechanical crunch, with an eye towards keeping the speed-of-play and elegance of the engine. I altered or added the combat mechanics, the Ammo system (D6 uses “cinematic” ammo, like BESM, where it doesn’t matter until it does) Elemental Attacks, Quirks, Attributes, the flow of the combat round, the new Shield and Wound mechanics (D6 uses a far simpler version: this is more akin to the WoD system but more intuitive), and the new cash system. Not to mention the brand quirks and vast proliferation of weapon types.

What’s left before you put up a playtest draft?
Designing an intuitive character sheet, preferably one that includes everything you need to run an entire combat on one side of one sheet of paper.
Templating some playtest characters, and statting out enemies for them.
Writing out and/or converting several dozen more Quirks. Right now I’ve only got a half-a-dozen plus a couple of Signature Quirks.
Writing out and organizing the fluff in a coherent fashion. A couple of the people I’m bouncing this off of are unfamiliar with my inspiration: if they get the right “feel” from what I’ve written, I’ll know that the game has accomplished what I set out to do. I also want to dive more into this ‘verse; I’ve done as little “massaging” of the canon material as I can.

Legalese: No challenge is intended to the rights of any entity owning trademarks or copyrights mentioned herein. This is not created for profit, not an official product, and is in no way endorsed or approved by Gearbox, Lucasfilm Ltd., West End Games, or indeed any entity but Anonymous and myself. Use of the name of a game or other work for comparative or educational purposes does not imply that this game is a derivative of that work. Keep circulating the Tapes.

Project Log: Pinewood Derby (Gary’s)

So every year Kayce runs a pinewood derby at Gary’s (see sidebar) (Gary’s has since, sadly, closed.) to celebrate her birthday. They’ll post more stuff on the Facebook page later, along with a vote for the prettiest car.
Anyway, this is the first year I participated, finally feeling comfortable enough to try. Bought a standard Woodland Scenics $4 kit with a 2×2 block, some axles, and some wheels.

Tools:
400 and 600 grit 3M sanding blocks.
Gerber pocket knife
X-acto (#2 blades), razor saw (used to start the hacksaw cuts)
Bargain-bin Hacksaw. I think I got it from Harbor Freight like 6 years ago.
JB Weld “Qwik Wood”
Hammer
Various Deco Art acrylic paints

Step one: Roughing and carving the block.
Partway through the first cut I belatedly realized that I have a blog, and random people might actually like to see this.
SDC10029This is partway through the first cut. You can see the roughed-out design freehanded with pencil on the side of the block here. It changed a little, of course. This is ~3PM

SDC10030Started whittling.  Don’t worry, I patch that horrid fuck-up in the hood later.
SDC10032Mostly finished with the sanding now. You can see my knife in the top right corner here – had to sharpen the blade 5 times before I was finished.
SDC10031
The kitchen floor in the aftermath… After that, it was bondo time.
SDC10036
Here you can see some of the stuff I was roughing out for the decorations. Unfortunately, none of the pictures I took of this step came out :/
~5PM

Step two: Detailing and painting.
SDC10037Detailed and basecoated. 2 Reaper Bones kobolds, a Games Workshop Land Raider hatch and Rhino hatch arranged like an Israeli/British turret, part of some weird Dr. Frankenstein diorama I bought ages ago (see the comment below for the post where I finally IDd the damn thing), a shitload of Green Stuff, and an Unseen Rifleman (actually a 1/300 Macross destroid) arm. Chain is from my inexhaustible supply of crappy aluminum quarter-machine jewelry chains, anchored with green stuff. You can tell the thing on the head of the “gunner” kobold was supposed to be a taco hat, because pirate kobolds. This was taken around 7:30 PM.

SDC10040First bascoat layer. After this I went to do other shit for the night (cook dinner, watch Deep Space 9 with my wife, etc); ~8:30 PM.

Day Two: Painting.
Started at 9:45 AM. Had to leave by noon-thirty, so I had to bust ass to get this done.
SDC10043In this shot, the varnish is still wet, ~1205. Unfortunately, it started to frost, and I had to patch it.  Text on left side reads “Luv Waggin” and on the right is a “20” inside a triangle. “JATO” in stencils on the rocket pack on the back.
SDC10050SDC10049The Van De Graff generator on the ass-end. I wonder how bad-ass it would be if it went into the red? :b
Note that the “pirate hat” has now, sadly? devolved into a pompadour, but it’s still sufficiently awesome to require no redo.

SDC10055Finally, a shot of me and the other racers on race day (I won!). Kayce’s Twinkie in the middle, Tim entered the Gandalf wagon to its left. (Entries are arranged in order from first place in the races on the right, to last on the left). There’s still a contest for best-looking racer, which will also go up on the Gary’s facebook page.