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.
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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..

Quick, Cheap Skirmish Horde Basing; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hole Saw.

So, one of the problems you’re inevitably going to face as a wargamer is simple – you’re gonna run out of bases one day. A lot of companies sell their minis with “integral” display bases that aren’t worth a damn. Especially the cheap shit – Wargames Factory, Reaper, lookin’ at you here. And of course, these aren’t cut to fit on GW’s patented slotted base. The hole’s easy to cover, but still more of a pain that you really want to deal with – not now that GW is charging in excess of a buck a base, anyway.

So I’ve started manufacturing my own, at least for the “horde” models. I put together this tutorial to help you make your own quick, cheap bases in large quantities. Short version is, forty bases cost me ~$2.15 using existing tools (about $30 worth). It’s about the same price as mail-ordering MDF stuff, but you get it now and don’t have to pay shipping..
Tutorial below the cut.
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Useful article for the DiY carpenters out there.

I strongly recommend this article : http://makezine.com/2011/02/09/skill-set-tuning-planes-and-chisels/
I just spent about 40 minutes tuning my flea-market rescue plane and spokeshave, and they’re already cutting like silk compared to yesterday. I still need to sharpen my irons and chisels (waiting on payday to snag a new stone), and I can’t wait to feel the difference after that.

Sculpting again – Robotech Tactics

I was annoyed by the lack of Malcontent command chips, so I started sculpting my own this afternoon. So far, I’ve got about 20-30 minutes of work into it. I freehanded the base shape onto paper using a UEDF chip as a size comparison, sketched the design onto it loosely with a Micron .005, and then freehanded from that with my engraver (picked on up free from one of the Makerspace guys who was ditching it after getting a laser engraver).

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel - ~5m.

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel – ~5m.

Next, I mixed a tiny amount of Green Stuff and worked it onto the design.
Step three - 10 MinTook about 10 minutes so far. I’m pretty proud of the detail on the Valkyrie tail, especially since it’s less than 1mm tall.

Now I gotta wait until after my volunteering shift at the local film society to throw another layer of GS on there, but it’s already looking damned good. I’m probably gonna be in shape to drop rubber on these by the time I can afford to buy more. Eventual plan is to cast off a pair of masters, sand the backs down slightly, and then glue them together and install a thin rim instead of trying to do this thing double-sided. All told, should take me about an hour’s actual work to get a mold going, maybe another 40 minutes total to set up a full mass-production rig.
Not, of course, that I’d MP these. But Jesus, Palladium, it’d take a pro sculptor less than a fucking day to set this up and GHQ could be pumping them out by the thousands in less than a week. Hell, you already have masters for the UEDF and Zent chips, put them under some rubber and give us enough to actually play with…

I made a bookcase today.

Salvaged a broken, but good-quality bookcase (made with actual wood and quarter-round molding, I might add) from the side of the road last month. Bleached it to neutralize any mold/acids in the wood, cleaned it up, sanded off the ruined old finish, and cut/stained new shelves. Cost me about $8 in materials to restore her. Letting it dry overnight before I seal it with polyurethane and put books/models on it. So, got a ~$60-100 bookcase now for about ten bucks and six or seven hour’s labour. Most of which was literally letting paint dry.

Yup, it's a bookcase

Yup, it’s a bookcase

yet another quick update.

Nothing super big going on for the last two days, just a lot of micro-progress. Still, I’m trying to publish at least once every two days right now, so here ya go.

As far as the ongoing cleanup goes, I sorted out the last of my terrain and materials into boxes, cleaning out and consolidating my three unsorted boxes of minis into one coherent whole. Still need another three to four plastic shoeboxes to finish storing everything (I need to sort the Mars Attacks suburbs and generic post-apoc terrain into its own box and clear out the big shoebox currently full of modular Necromunda and Russian industrial terrain so I can put my Space Hulk set into it). Bases are sorted for now as well, but I need to replace or repair the current Plamo case they’re in – the hinges on the lid shattered from UV degradation.

Less impressive-looking than perhaps it is. Top to bottom: Bases, Fantasy, Post-apoc, Warzone, Light Vehicles and Mecha. Gundams to the left, IG and moderns to the right.

Less impressive-looking than perhaps it is. Top to bottom: Bases, Fantasy, Post-apoc, Warzone, Light Vehicles and Mecha. Gundams to the left, IG and moderns to the right.

On the modeling front, I cleaned up, converted, and posed a Stalker, Wasp, and two RRPGT Valkyries, and did a photoshoot for my long-delayed review of the Destroid Tomahawk (which I need to finish now so that I can start on a Secret Project [tm]).

no soup for you

Finally, I’ve gotten the last bits of wood I need to do the paint shelf and finish restoring a bookcase I salvaged last month, so tomorrow’s gonna be a carpentry day.

About to be a couple of far more-impressive things.

About to be a couple of far more-impressive things.

Then I’m having guests for dinner. Should be a lot of fun.

Airbase Toblerone: Part one (Battletech, Robotech Tactics)

As promised (two weeks ago -_-;;) here’s some WiP shots of the terrain I’ve been working on. I got a fire lit back under me while working in the local makerspace with one of the guys on some really basic foam-cork stuff, and started back up on one of my long-term stalled projects; a fully-fleshed out 6mm Drop Port and/or HPG station for Battletech and Robotech Tactics. The wall and command bunker entrance here come from that session.

Ha Shi Dao complex front

“But what’s the ‘Mech, Doc?” Come back tomorrow for more..

IMG_20160605_213655_604 They’re loosely based on the Hai Shi Dao defense emplacements from Steel Battalion (Christ I love that game), and depicted as shelled and partially knocked-out. The intact emplacement on the left in the bottom pic is going to be getting a twin-AC/10 emplacement later. I really wanted to get a kind of “churned and barraged” feel, so I referenced a couple paintings of WWI battlefields for the ground colors on the main emplacement. You can also see a partly-overgrown crater with bits of a tree in the foreground of the piece.

Airbase step 2

For the main buildings, I rooted out one of my old ERTL Space Shuttle kits for the EuroLab components and the  GPS satellite payloads (I’m converting the Shuttles themselves into mini-Leopards, but that’s another post) to make the Quonset huts and barracks. The Command Center is a fighting deck from a Warhammer 40k Basilisk that I’d converted to a direct-fire SP gun, along with a few resin scrap components and a Cardassian comm screen from an old Star Trek figure. All are mounted on 1/8″ foamcore. The beveling was done roughly with a sharp hobby knife.
The gate towers are each made from half a Toblerone package (which I’ve been wanting to do for ages), scrap from the “Storage Units” that I got from the Burn In Designs kickstarter as ‘Mech hangars, and bits from a trashed Mechwarrior DA figure I used for parts on an N-scale kitbash. The bay windows are simply cut from mini blisters. These are still waiting on internal floors for the third deck and some catwalks against the back wall, as well as armament for the towers. I’m focusing on the plastic buildings at the moment, so I can get as much as possible put away before doing any more heavy conversion lifting.

Airbase progress 10 Aug 2016Current status after base-coating.
I sealed the foamcore with PVA glue, then added sand and flocking with another couple coats of glue before spray-coating. No melting, so I must have done it well enough..
You may remember the turrets here from my casting tutorials (link to first post here). I’ve since converted a few of them to laser and missile turrets, as well as a massive mini-missile rack and a “mechaturm” based on the old German Panzerturms. The turret torso is from one of my own “Shortbow” custom FrankenMechs. The readout below is just for the “factory” option, since making a Franken proper is a massive pain in the ass.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit. Enough sinks to fight, ammo for days, and no armor to speak of. It’s perfect!

 

Remaining for this project: Doll up the Burn In Designs modules and the Toblerone Towers, prep the power center and fuel farm (I have the parts, just haven’t put them together) and make a blast shield for droppers.

Desk Organization System (DiY)

IMG_20160810_131249_686I wound up putting a lot of projects on hold over the last couple weeks so I could do this. I’ve put together a new top shelf for my desk to expand my storage space, and I’m also working on a paint rack to free up one of my toolboxes for all of my new gear. I’ve been talking shit about fixing the desk for over two years, and the overwhelming clutter has been holding me back from doing a lot of other stuff. It feels damned good to have this done.
Below the fold, I talk about the tools and equipment I used to make the shelf, but all told this cost me almost nothing and presents a substantial improvement over the absolute wreck I had before.

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Props, general update

I’ve been hellaciously busy the last month and change. First I did a crash commission for a cosplayer friend at PAX Prime, then I got roped into working Kumoricon with almost no notice, and I’ve just finished working on Theater Artists Olympia’s reprise of their original musical “The HEAD! That Wouldn’t Die“. More on that later.

First prop: Jinx’s Zapper (League of Legends).
There are only a handful of “official” images of the Zapper, so I was forced to make do with a couple promo images that showed the handle, and what I could glean from in-game footage.

Materials:
1.5″ pipe fittings, hangar wire, 1/2″ nylon cabling, plastic, a couple found items, a soda bottle, acrylic gem, 1/2″ nylon tubing, a maple 1×2″ board, and plywood.
Jinx zapper day 3
First shot I have of the build process, taken at the beginning of Day 3. This is all the parts assembles. You can see that I’ve outlined a tentative grip shape here, as well as carving the grip shape and trigger out. All of this would have taken half an hour with a Dremel, but I was working with a shitty hand-saw and sanding blocks.

Jinx Zapper day 4
Day 4.
A test design for the light-up vacuum tubes, along with fitted grips and a mounted hand-guard. The acryl gem is colored using a trick I picked up ages ago from another builder – if you put nail polish on one side and back it with something reflective, the gem winds up turning that color and sparkling. It’s basically how they make colored Rhinestones. As you can see, I mounted the rope around the wire for stiffness and shaping. I used left-over dessicant tubes from one of my medications, cut in half, as the end caps. The tube is just a placeholder at this stage, since  the one I’d glued together out of the 2-liter soda bottle was still in the clamps.
I’ve sawed off the base of the 90 degree bend, and am using it as an end-cap for the main barrel-tube. The trigger now has the knob on its end – for an up-build, I’d put some kind of knurled bead in there.

Jinx Zapper day 5
Day 5, about halfway through the workday (I took a break and took some photos). I’m test-fitting the butt-plate and the 1.5″ circular wooden plates that will hold the barrel-tube in place. The grip-plates are now stained and screwed in place, and the plastic parts and knuckle-guard are painted.

Jinx Zapper Day 6
Day 5, Final (I took this on Day 6, before I started work, hence the title). The second iteration of the vacuum tubes is in place (they failed spectacularly as well). I’ve puttied the sides of the receiver and mounted the muzzle furniture: the electrical tape is simply holding the main body of the barrel in place as the glue dries. At this point, I had also dropped rubber to start a mold of the prong I sculpted on day 1.

Jinx Zapper Final 1

Jinx Zapper Final 2
Day 6
, The “finished” Zapper without glowsticks installed. I’ve added a friction-fit center “strap” on the barrel. The copper tube though the center adds rigidity as well as serving as a conduit for the eventual lights & sounds conversion I intend to do. There are plastic spacers installed in the breech and rear of the muzzle that center the tube and have holes for glowsticks, my interim lighting solution.
The new, and final, vacuum tubes are based on short sections of copper tube, paperclip wire, wire mesh netting, and one-shot casts of found objects.
The head of the trigger guard forms a pin locking the barrel assembly in place; it can be rotated 15 degrees for maintenance or replacing the glowsticks.
The trigger itself is rigged on a return spring and wired to a simple detent switch for electrification. There is a slot for a battery pack immediately above it inside the breech housing. The grip and breech are screwed together, and the vac tubes will be screwed on as well once I rig the electric lighting.

The final product (for now)

Jinx Zapper final - Internals with flash Jinx Zapper Light Test
Top: unlighted. Bottom: a lighting test with cheap glow-bracelets.

Future Plans:
Electrify prop with flashing lights: not sure I can get a good sound rig inside it without undue expense. The vac tubes, barrel tubes, and gem will go from a steady, light-blue glow when on, to bright flashing blue-white when the trigger is pulled.
I’m also going to get a $5 ice-maker coolant hose to replace the interim rope-and-dessicant guard, and move the grip out and down slightly while sculpting the floorplate of the breech for better handling characteristics.

Fast, cheap Flightpath proxy dials (Attack Wing, X-Wing)

So, the biggest and most irritating barrier to making your own ships or proxying in the Flightpath system is the maneuver dials. I have a whole shitload of ships that will likely never get a release, not to mention a bunch of Clix-Trek ships I bought for parts or other wargames. So, as I was sculpting my 1:1200 K’Vort Bird of prey this evening, my eye fell on a sad, abandoned Clix-trek base, and something clicked into place (if you’ll pardon the pun)..

Note: this tutorial does not include making “ship chips”/bases, nor making custom cards. Check the Boardgamegeek or afewmaneuvers sites for that. And for the love of pants, don’t try to drag these into an OP event or some such stupid shit.

Warning: This involves sharp things. You could get hurt. Be careful. Now you can’t sue. Have a nice day.

Materials:
One two-inch “Clix” dial (needs to be the big ones with the secondary dial boxes, which I know they made for Mechwarrior and Crimson Skies Clix). Sadly, Clix-Trek bases only have 12 “slots” for maneuvers, whereas the large-format ones have the necessary 18. You can pick up minis from the Mechwarrior game for about a buck.
Colored paper (I used some 30-bond 3×5 cards I had lying around, since they came in faction colors).
Red, white or silver, black, and green pens. It helps if  the black is a small fiber-tipped micro pen. If you’re using black paper, you >must< use paint pens for this.
Craft knife
Compass cutter (I got mine from Daiso for $1.50)
Sandpaper or a sanding sponge.
Roll of cheapy cellophane tape.

Steps below the cut.
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Craft Fair Aftermath

Didn’t manage to sell my book, but the wife sold off essentially her entire inventory, and I used some calligraphy to barter for goods. Then we got free bookcases on the way home, so hey. $60.

The finished product

The finished product

IMG_20131204_080850_149 IMG_20131204_080916_511Vinyl cover, hemp thread, and Japanese rice endpapers. Not bad for a first effort, I think.

IMG_20131204_160256_118Our table, after the stampeding hordes made off with all our finished offensive cross-stitch. I embroidered “be a dick” on the Wheaton’s Law patch, which I found somewhat ironic.
IMG_20131204_160317_425My wife briefly abandoned me at the table.
In the Student activities building of an extremely progressive college.
With gigantic, framed cross-stitches of an uncomplimentary Saxon word for a latrine and/or female genitals, of a short tube for the conveyance of fluids, designatory terms for female dogs, and various other “helpful” things.
I instantly became the Gingery White Male Oppressor.
The sign deflected most of the filthy stares once people actually read it..

The highlight was the aged Yiddish woman who bought all the dirty words on the table and snapped up the rest as fast as we could sew them.

I have made an art (project)

IMG_20131204_031023_332 Glue’s still setting but she looks darned good if I say so myself. Will put the final touches on it tomorrow morning, and case the other two text blocks I’ve finished. With any luck, this might be my second project to actually break even!

Busy Busy Binder (project)

Today I rigged up a bookbinding press and glued my second text block ever. As usual, I’ll be doing a more detailed “how-to” once I get the process down better. I’m testing several methods, focusing on 15th-16th century binding, as part of the folio project I mentioned earlier.IMG_20131202_170323_704Items (costs included), clockwise from upper left, top to bottom:
3m Sanding Sponge, 400 grit ($2.99) – I use this for modeling and various other things as well.
Fiskars 5″x9″ guillotine paper trimmer, ($10 on sale at Michaels)
Outdoor-rated Mod-Podge ($6.50, same)
Jute twine, various weights, and waxed leather thread [the black spool at the bottom] ($5 all told, left over from a leatherworking project)
Rubber mallet, 2# ($1.5 at Daiso Japan, a hundred-yen store in Seattle)
Ruler (45 c)
Standard safety razor blade ($1/pkg 5, Ace hardware)
Linen bias tape ($2, Jo-Ann’s, sale)
Bone Folder ($6, Dick Blick)
Folding Japanese-style saw ($9, Home Depot, bought for camping) note: Japanese saws cut on both the draw and push stroke – this isn’t just me being a weeaboo.
Awl ($1.50, another leftover leatherworking tool from Daiso)
Ghetto bookbinding press  – 2x  2″x1″ C clamps (local hardware store, $3.50 each) and a couple 9″x1″x1/2″ strips of maple, which were left over from a prop project. I’ll give it feet later.

This setup lets me bind books roughly B4-6 and A4-6, which suits me fine. Total cost is ~$50, which means 5 books at $10 to break even. Should be doable in theory, but the craft fair is in 2 days. Wheeee!

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 3 (Resin Casting and The Final Product)

So, three days on and here we are; time for the payoff.
Basic precautions and materials: Part 1
The Mold-making process: Part 2

As before, wear your safety gear; respirator, gloves, and disposable clothing. This stuff will give you chemical burns and make your skin insanely sensitive to even the most minor irritants. It doesn’t really wash out, either.
Use a waxed paper sheet, big enough to hold ALL the molds you’re casting in this run and your resin containers with at least 3″ of room for overspills around the edges on your surface (You can see some of the results of NOT doing that in the last couple posts..). For the love of pants, put something between you and the floor, especially if you have carpets. I like cardboard because it comes in big sheets for basically free behind any local business.

Mixing the resin is a delicate and fiddly process. That’s why there aren’t really any pics of me doing it; the detail required is too high, and the times so short once the curing agent hits (plus the chances of getting resin on a couple hundred in electronics..) that there simply wasn’t time.

Step 1: Prep your molds. Finished insideHere’s our mold from last time. You want to make sure there’s no dirt, old resin, or clay clinging to the surface. You can use a thin layer of mold release to extend the life of the mold, but in my experience it only gives you about 5-10 more casts before the mold wears out; important for infantry or trees, not so much with bunkers and artillery, or fittings for books and costumes. Place the clean mold halves, opened, side by side on your dropcloth; try to arrange them like book pages, so you can quickly and accurately fold them together when the resin starts to set (see step 4, below).

EDIT: I have begun using talcum powder as a mold release. It is freaking amazing and you should do it too. Look for a scentless baby powder (scented if you can handle the stink) with “talc” or “talcum powder” as the only ingredient. Cornstarch fucks with the chemistry, but does make a fantastic filler putty (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2XJ7PTT3M ) . Wear a mask, because inhaling a bunch of it will fuck your evening up. Tap the talc lightly over the mold halves, then clap them together a few times to distribute the powder evenly. It shreds the resin’s surface tension, and I’ve managed to pull much cleaner and less-bubbly casts than ever before with it. Get dat shit.

You will probably want to cast multiple items simultaneously; it’s very difficult to measure the exact amount you need for a mold by eye (again, as we’ll see below..). It’s a good idea to have an additional mold on standby just in case, so as not to waste resin – one model’s worth per run adds up FAST.

At the same time, resin cures faster when there’s more of it; more than about 4 mold’s worth of a fast-curing resin will sieze up in the mixing cup before you can pour it. For the Smooth-cast 300 I use, I’ve found the sweet spot is 3 molds’ worth – about 2Tbsp each of the two parts of the resin. I’ve tested 325 Colormatch before, and found it a bit lacking for small-scale casting; it’s very sensitive to mix ratios, fills with bubbles if you don’t vac it, and cures unpredicatably.

Step 2: Mixing the resin

No pix here, but I’ve got some pointers.
• Stir the resin in each jar separately, using a smooth circular motion to avoid bubbles. Let the jar sit for a few minutes before pouring, which will also help.
DO NOT allow ANY of either component of the resin to enter it’s opposite number’s jar. You can instantly ruin it. I store the jars on opposite sides of my workroom, in fact. Use separate, labelled stir sticks for Part A, Part B, AND the mixing cup. Pour the resin parts into opposite sides of the mixing cup.
• If you you accidentally pour too much of one part into the cup, MATCH IT. Bad proportions of the resin can keep it from curing, or cause it to attack the mold; both can ruin a day’s work slowly and painfully. It’s better to waste half a pour from curing too fast than wreck multiple molds.

Once it’s in the cup, you’ll notice that one part is smokier and a bit yellow, while the other’s clear. You can use a desklamp from the side to see the two liquids as you mix; stir with a smooth, circular motion until the two blend completely and the mixture looks clear. About 15 seconds is enough for a small pour.

Step 3: The Pour
This is where you make or break your piece.
You want to pour the resin evenly and smoothly, starting with the smallest and most detailed items and moving to the largest last. To minimize bubbles, aim for the lowest area on the mold and pour slowly. You can use the stir stick to guide the flow to a certain extent.
Remember, it’s better to overpour than get too little into the mold, but every dram that you overpour is contributing to the mess. Try to keep the resin from overflowing the mold cavity, but don’t freak out if it does.
If the resin starts flowing less like water and more like honey, it’s about to set; it will also heat up significantly.

Step 4: Pricking Bubbles (Optional)
So, you don’t have a vacuum table/viber? It’s cool.
Remember that pin/paperclip I mentioned a ways back? Here’s where it comes in; this step is optional, but will dramatically improve the quality of your final piece. You only have 30 seconds to a minute to do this, depending on how much resin you mixed and poured. Keep an eye on the other molds; if you see the “bloom” (see next step), or if the resin starts to “skin up” on the one you’re working, STOP.

Now, what you’re trying to do isn’t actually popping the bubbles, just pulling them off of the surface of the final piece.
Pricking bubblesThis was a pretty clean pour; I’ve already pulled one bubble on the left, and I’m working another one out of the rivet hole on the right. Work delicately, you don’t want to tear the mold; it’s usually better to put the pin over the bubble and coax it up by stirring the resin than to dive in and crank it out.

Step 5: The Bloom

As the resin is about to cure, you’ll see a skin develop, then a white cloud appear in the middle of the cavity.
Resin Bloom
Once the resin blooms, you have to work fast. If you’ve overpoured and let it cure too long, you won’t be able to press the mold halves close enough together, leaving massive mold lines and distorting the piece. If it doesn’t cure long enough, the resin will run out of the major cavities inside and, again ruin the piece (see below, “Candling” for some more on this).

Take the more-cured half of the mold – and there will be one, it’s usually the one you poured second because of the weird-ass ways resin works. Using your gloved hands (you do have gloves on, right? This shit will squirt..) fold it quickly and firmly onto the other half, matching the keys and making absolutely SURE the sides are perfectly aligned. Press down gently but firmly, or squeeze it using both hands for even pressure; you want to make sure the halves are as close as possible to minimize flash (the extra stuff around the edges) without distorting the mold. At this stage any major distortions you put it through will show as wrinkles and bulges on the final pieces.
To avoid distortion on particularly delicate pieces, you can go back to the legos: build a frame just high enough to enclose the bottom half of the mold (if you enclose the top, it’ll prevent excess resin from escaping, and it will likely catch the top mold half up, further distorting the cast), then press the top half down on it.

Step 6: Waiting

Set the pressed molds down and walk away. If you’re worried about the molds slipping, you can place a thin board or sheet of plastic on top and a weight on top of that: the board will keep the weight distributed evenly, and protect whatever you’re weighting it with.
For a fast-cast resin, you’ll want to wait about 10 minutes, or a little longer: you can use the resin around the sides to judge when it’s fully cured.
Resin leaksThis isn’t quite cured: the resin is shiny and flexible. You’ll want it to be a little more matte, and just losing its flexibility.

Step 6: The moment of Truth (Sort Of)

You can take the gloves off for now, since most of the reaction is done. Keep the mask, though. When you open the molds, the resin will still be warm to the touch and slightly flexible: the flex will help you extract the models. Now you get to see how well you did.

Well crap.

Well crap.

This is a common error: I underpoured the resin for the bunker half. You can try to salvage an underpour by adding more resin, but you’re more likely to just wind up with a piece that’s got weird raised and lowered areas all over it from the new resin partially flowing under the old.

Step 7: Candling (optional, but recommended)

Take your piece and hold it up to a light. As you can see, I’m using a CFL desklamp (hooray for ecological responsibility AND cheapness)
Candling the pieceAny internal air bubbles – like the massive one here – will show up as much lighter areas. This is caused by closing the molds while the resin is undercured, and/or squeezing it together too hard.
For smaller holes, if you have modeler’s epoxy putty – I use Green Stuff and JB Weld Qwik Wood – you can carefully cut out a section from the least-visible part of the bubble, then force some putty inside to reinforce the part. With a larger bubble like this, I usually just scrap the piece. Small surface bubbles can also be patched with epoxy.
So what can you do with these trashed parts? Battle-damaged scrap, terrain, base embellishments.. You can also take correctly-cast parts and save them: this one had perfectly fine gun barrels. If one of the next passes winds up with messed-up barrels, I can just glue them in place, or save them for converting other pieces.

Step 8: Cleanup.Resin pre-flash
So, you’ve got a finished, non-screwed-up piece. All that extra crap around the edges is called “flash”. It’s usually best to wait until the resin fully hardens to do the fine detail work, but you can trim the flashing down immediately with your diagonal cutters. While the piece is still soft and pliable, you can straighten detail parts, and easily do some preparatory cutting work for any planned repositioning.

After the part hardens, mask up; resin dust is still a lung and eye irritant. It helps to wipe down your work surfaces with a wet rag or paper towel and vacuum the floor after any trimming or filing.

Te remove the flashing, it’s best to trim it close to the surface, then sand or scrape off the remainder. To scrape, hold your blade facing at a slight angle away from you, and drag it towards yourself slowly with very light pressure, while holding the piece in a clamp or your other hand.
For sanding, I use several jeweler’s files for the aggressive work, but I mostly resort to a very fine-grit 3M sanding sponge; you can wash it out after every batch and re-use it pretty much indefinitely.

The final product!

The final product!

Okay, the caption’s slightly premature: the tiny bubbles you can see in the windows need to be popped off with the tip of a craft knife, and the barrels need a wee bit more sanding. Note how the barrels on the cast piece are straighter than the master, and the detail seems sharper: these are common benefits when you’re recasting from lower-quality plastics and rubbers.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful, and wish you success with your own casting setup.

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 2 (The Mold)

Okay, so you’ve gathered up the gear I listed in Part I, and are keeping in mind my warnings and tips. What now?

First off, you’re going to be working with some nasty, nasty shit. It won’t kill you, but it will damage your skin, make you itch like mad, and ruin everything it touches. Wear your damned gloves and clothes you won’t miss.

Step 1: Assemble Your Gear.

Starting materialsHere’s my starting setup. Note the horribly resin-stained sheet of waxed paper on my desk, and the damage from the resin on the surfaces outside it. The giant red lump is Van Aken oil clay. It’s non-hardening, and more importantly, non-reactive with all the things we’re about to expose it to. It also works easily. Knead it a little bit before you start building the mold frame, it’ll get more flexible. Also, it stains.

Step 2: Building the First Frame Layer, Testing Layouts

test layout
You’ll need to do both these steps at the same time. First, lay out your master on your baseplate, trying a couple of configurations. My master today is a generic artillery turret I got in a sack full of stuff from China. I need more arty and pillboxes, so into the silicone it goes.
I sprayed this master with mold release beforehand – it’s not usually necessary, but I wasn’t sure about the material, and the mold release helps shield it from what’s about to happen. There’s also a buildup on the bottom right corner of the bunker, which I didn’t notice until I was ready to pour. I keep around a shitty old watercolor brush to help smear the release around and pick up excesses. It ruins paint, so, yeah, make sure you keep it out of your regular paint caddy…

Anyway, what you’re doing here is working out a good layout for your pieces. You want to leave some room around the edges for “keys” – parts that force the mold to line up when you’re casting. For this style of mold, you also want at least 1/8″ of space around each edge to keep it from being damaged in a cast.
Once you find a good layout, build up the blocks to about half the height of whatever you’re casting.

Step 3: Placing and Prepping the Clay.

rolled clayOnce you’ve got a good layout chosen, tear off some clay and pack it into the block frame, then roll it flat. I used a wine cork because I’m cheap, but really almost anything will work. Make sure, if you’re doing a deep 2-part mold, that the clay is deep enough to sink the model half-way in, or you’re going to have to redo this step.

Step 4: Embed the Masters in the Clay. 

Clay pre-sculptTHIS STEP IS CRITICAL to the quality of your finished piece.
Do not fuck it up.

I’ve done something slightly naughty here because I was short on time: since resin cures faster the more of it there is in a piece, you usually want to make separate molds for parts of drastically different sizes like these two. In fact, the turret base could get away with being a one-sided mold, even though there is a lightening space on the other side of the master.

Place your master on the clay.  With long, thin parts (like the gun barrels on this one) push them down into the clay, then pull them out completely and set them gently back into the holes. You want them to lie as naturally as possible; otherwise, the part will be deformed in the final resin cast.

This clay is now exactly the shape the second mold will be.In fact, if you only want to cast one, one-sided part, you can skip the rest of this and carefully pull the master, then skip ahead to the next section (mixing and pouring the resin)
The three divots in the clay were all made with a pencil eraser: they will be the keys in the final cast, along with the 2×1 brick in the top left corner. You ideally want keys going into both sides of the mold to help the alignment; you can also press bricks into the clay and then pull them out. Make sure the keys align at least three corners and two sides, and put keys on either side of small or fiddly parts to keep them aligned.
AFTER you’ve made the impressions for the keys, carefully take your sculpting tool and bring the clay up to the edges of the material being cast. You want to avoid what are called “undercuts”. That’s places where the mold wraps around a part; they shorten its life, and make bubbles much more likely.
For round or cylindrical pieces, try to make the mold line come right up to the center of the part, along its long axis.
For a more pyramidal part, like the gun and the turret base here, you want to keep the mold line at the bottom.
If you’re doing more cubical parts, try to keep the mold lines running vertically on the “sides”; that’s the area and placement your eyes will be least likely to make out any distortion.

Also, you don’t want a really strongly raised or lowered area in your molds, so if you find yourself having to cut or build up a large area inside, try tipping the master at a diagonal. If you’re casting a pre-cast plastic master, follow the existing mold lines; plastic casts absolutely cannot have any undercuts, which makes your job easier.

Step 5: Raise the Mold Frame’s Sides
building up the sidesNow, you’ll take your blocks and build up the sides of the mold frame. You want the top of the frame to be at least 1/4″ higher than the highest point on the master inside the frame. After this photo was taken I added another level just to be sure.

Step 6: Mix and Pour the Rubber

Once the frame is high enough, mix and pour your rubber according to the instructions. If you have scrap rubber, don’t completely cover the piece; you want it to just barely submerge all the components.

This is the second most important part of the process; accidentally disturbing your master or getting surface bubbles will ruin the mold and you’ll have to start over. You can minimize bubbles by stirring the rubber inside the cup with slow, linear motions instead of a fast, circular one. If you have a vacuum table, great, but most people don’t. This is the most cheapest and most effective method I’ve found yet.

Step 7: Basic Degassing
Once you’ve poured, stir the rubber inside the frame in a slow, gentle back-and-forth motion at the top of the mold, as you see below.

stir 0 stir 1 stir 2 stir 3It’ll take 3-5 minutes for the mix to stop actively bubbling and quiet down. You may have noticed the bits sticking out of the rubber there, and be asking yourself “why is it so thin?”
Here’s where recycling comes in.

Step 8 (Optional): Reinforcing and Recycling

If you’ve fucked up (or, in this case, worn out) a mold, you can use it to reinforce a new one; it’ll also stretch your available material considerably.

Scrap moldHere’s a trashed mold (I actually poured badly-mixed resin in and it destroyed the casting surface, but that’s for next post). You can also use the pucks of leftover rubber that will build up in the bottom of your mixing cup.
Diced mold scrap
Slice off a chunk of the scrap with your craft knife, then dice it into smallish chunks. The small blue bits you can see inside there are actually from another salvaged mold; you can keep doing this pretty much indefinitely. Pick off any resin stuck to the diced scrap. You want to keep the scrap to about 30% of the total volume of the mold half; too much more and it starts to become unstable.

inserting scrap 1inserting scrap 2inserting scrap 3To insert the scrap, place it on the surface and gently push it in with the end of your stir-stick. This helps keep you from trapping large pockets of air under or between the bits, and also from disturbing the mold.

Once you’ve put in the scrap, you’re done with this half of the mold for the next 8 hours. Put it on a level surface where the cat/kids can’t get at it, and walk away.

Step 9: Extraction and Cleanup

(8 hours later).
You’re ready to trim and prep the bottom half of the mold. Bust open the frame (carefully), and peel the mold away from the master and clay.
Opening the finished moldSee all those dangly bits?  They need to come off. This looks like a job for Mr. Craft knife!

Trimming 1Lay the piece on its side on a cutting mat (or not, if you don’t care all that much about your furniture..). Make a straight, slightly beveled cut on each side, rolling the mold as you go. You can also tear or trim off the areas where rubber snuck between the blocks now. Here’s a shot of the finished outside.Trimming 2Note how all that mixing still didn’t get all the bubbles out; the rubber gives off gas as it cures. But at least this way they’re inside the rubber, not on your casting surface.

Finished insideWell.. mostly. After inspection, I’d normally trash this mold half – but the bubbles are small and not in immediately noticeable areas, and I’m low on rubber, working with a relatively unimportant piece. I’ll give it a bit of clemency.
Look over the inside of the piece for rubber “tags” – small bits of unsupported stuff hanging off. You can see a few places on the turret base where I had to cut them away. Also, you’ll want to clean any clinging clay from the mold, or it’ll interfere with casting the second half. Note also how I trimmed down the keys slightly to keep them from binding in the other half of the mold.

Step 10: Prepping for the Second Mold Half

Now we come to our second toxic friend – mold release.
This shit is nasty. It burns your lungs and gets slippery oily crap everywhere. It’s kind of what it’s supposed to do. Wear a mask, and do this outside.
mold release
Spray a thin coat of it on the mold half, without the master model inserted. Smear it around, making sure to get all the nooks and crannies; I use a shitty old Crayola watercolor brush.
Wait 5 minutes and do it again.

Step 11: Here We Go Again

For casting the second half of the mold, the procedure is almost the same, though there are a couple of pointers:
• Completely disassemble the mold frame, place the mold on the baseplate, and completely rebuild the frame around the first mold half. DO NOT shove the mold into the old frame; it will distort it and ruin the second half of the mold.
• Make absolutely, completely, 100% sure that the master parts are inserted firmly and held in place on the first mold half. If not, you’ll have to start over. By the same token, be especially gentle when outgassing and pouring the second half. If I’m working with a really, really fiddly part I use a thin layer of white glue to hold it into the first mold half. Be aware that you’ll have to wait about 6-10 hours for the white glue to dry so it doesn’t screw with the rubber’s chemical reaction.
• Once again, do not screw with the mold for at least 6, preferably 8 hours. I usually time it so I wind up pouring the second half right before I go to bed so I’ll be less tempted to do something stupid..

Click through to Part 3 here, where I’ll show you how to use your new mold with yet more toxic stuff!

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 1 (Materials and Equipment)

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while. It’s the product of more than a year of horsing around and testing, using a somewhat uncommon method of casting. This method is best for short runs (less than ~25) of items without especially dynamic poses or deep recesses/spindly projections. My failure rate on casts is about 10-15%.
First, before we get into this, some notes on legality (and remember, I’m not a lawyer, just an opinionated internet asshole from America) :

• It’s technically legal (in the “not-criminally-actionable, but still-naughty” way) to cast stuff for your own use, and of course anything you’ve sculpted >entirely< yourself or using parts cleared for reproduction is okay.
• It is all kinds of illegal to sell or (to a lesser extent) even give away models based on/including parts from someone else’s work. Get permission, get a contract, and get a lawyer before you start even thinking about doing casting for someone else.
It’s actually much more complicated than that, between FASA vs. Playmates and Chapter House Studios vs. Games Workshop, among others – but this is a decent guideline for not getting your ass sued.

Selling “Garage Kits” (short-run, self-sculpted models of something that the official licensor doesn’t make) is still illegal, but usually tolerated. If you do still want to break the law here, remember that it’s in the same general category as fansubs: don’t mass-produce, don’t do anything to twit the creators, and immediately back down if you’re challenged or even requested to. Not that I’m advocating it, of course.

• It is a DICK MOVE to take recasts into a store that sells that product line. No-one cares how “legal” it is, you’re shitting where you eat. Don’t take them to tournaments either, you will eventually get busted and ejected. Similarly, if you’re making garage kits or even recasting for your own use, don’t post about it on official forae.

Finally, there’s something a lot of people on the Internet forget –

You have no “free speech” rights in a private forum or place of business.
The owners are completely within their rights to kick/ban/C&D you. They can, and will, so fucking fast it’ll make your balls slap your voicebox.

Now then, with that out of the way, let’s get into the materials and equipment you will need.

(more…)

Borderlands Fan-RPG: Update 2

I’m back on the stick after a very trying weekend, and I still have a bunch of educational outreach crap to get done by next week, but I’ve added several pages, and finally settled into a character sheet format with which I’m comfortable. The front covers your character’s basics; skills, description, accumulated Badass points and EXP. The back is only the combat-relevant skills, weapon stats, ammo-tracking, and character Quirks. The idea is to flip your character sheet and be ready to go as soon as the shit hits the fan.
On the rulebook front I’ve settled on a skillset, now I’m writing out the skill descriptions and some sample tasks with difficulties for each. The post-combat sequence is still in flux, as is the gun-generation system in general, but I think it’s going to boil down to a Tech Level system. More on that when I get it out of my head and onto a page.
Current pagecount: 18 single-spaced, 10-12 point. I’m also experimenting with fonts, trying to find something with the right in-verse “feel”, but the aesthetics are less-important right now than keeping my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

Remaining:
Quirks
Enemy, NPC, and character templates
Weapon stats and generation system
Post-combat sequence
Pre-combat sequence
Sample Adventure
Fluff work;
the timeline is almost complete. The corporate armies are now fully-described, and I have a list of vehicles I want to make (Monster Truck, Racer, Torgue Supercycle, Technicals, Maliwan Hoverbike, Runner, a couple corporate APCs, and the dreaded Jakobs SkagCoach). Critter fluff, ecology information, geography, major towns, and most of the info you need to set up the world still needs making though…
Once I get this into beta form, I’m going to start soliciting new planets to play on, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Legalese: No challenge is intended to the rights of any entity owning trademarks or copyrights mentioned herein. This was 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.

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.

Projects pending

4 signatures punched for a mini-book binding test run. Still need some scrap cloth for the covers. Once I get the system down I’ll do a couple octavos of the art-free LotFP books with interior design fabric and wood-braced covers. Should be fun! (The mini-books are being used for a second project that I’m still working on)

Also, I got wood (hurrhurr) to throw together a couple of prop weapons. I figure with S-con coming up, I can advertise for that bespoke prop-making service I’ve been bullshitting about for – Lord, like 8 years now. Now that I’ve got the casting tools and expertise, it’ll be even easier.