Monday, 27 February 2017

Treasure Hunt by Aaron Allston + Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Treasure Hunt
Last night I was back in the DM chair after a long break as a player. Currently our gaming group has a few campaigns on the go, with different game systems/settings, including Traveller and Dungeon Crawl Classics. I didn't bring the players back to old characters from the D&D campaign, deciding instead to run the AD&D classic, Treasure Hunt (1986).

It wasn't until today that my good friend Stephen pointed out I had run the module, quite by coincidence, on the three-year anniversary of the author's death. Aaron Allston wrote modules, supplements and sourcebooks for various roleplaying games, and a slew of Star Wars novels.

Now, I am not new to Treasure Hunt. When it came out back in the 80's, I was in a group of a dozen players from High School (including Mr Holland the English teacher) that were at the mercy of another friend called Stephen (who usually ran Dragon Warriors but in this instance was our DM). How he wrangled us all, I barely recall. I would reckon it would have been like herding cats.

Aaron Allston
(December 8, 1960 – February 27, 2014)
Zero-level cats. I have mentioned before the similarity between Treasure Hunt and the Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel system. Back then, playing AD&D without choosing a class was kinda funky. Each player character began the game at negative 500 experience points, working our way up to 1st level. We were very free in our gameplay, often making spontaneous choices, which Stephen would take note of as they determined a character's eventual class, alignment, etc.

Fast forward thirty years and I am on the other side of the DM screen. How did our group of "experienced" forty-somethings cope? So far, so good. We are about half-way through the module and already the players are trying things they might not if they had a list of skills and special abilities on their character sheets. I also have a couple of new favourite NPCs. One has been tweaked slightly; A Half-Ogre instead of a Half-Orc. I'm not sure how he will fare next session but he could end up making a cameo.

So thanks Aaron for the zero-level concept which began with Treasure Hunt and proved popular with D&D fans - James M. Ward included an appendix for 0-level characters in Greyhawk Adventures (1988). Thanks also for  Gazetteer 1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos (1987) and D&D Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Last Week of a Successful Kickstarter + How Do You Do It?

Alliteration Works!
What a great start to 2017! Starting with a Kickstarter that funds in two days, January is almost at a close and so is that Kickstarter. Dungeon Delvers Lost in the Dungeons of Doom! 2!! has basically followed that same template as the first DDLitDoD! and apart from being 19 days long instead of 33 days, the backer trend seems to be similar also. Lots of action initially and then a plateau. "Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship. Upon a painted ocean." to quote Samuel Coleridge.

What do you do? How do you get more interest? How do you get beyond this inertia? When backers change their pledges up/down/sideways or worse yet... drop off altogether!

With extraordinary strength of purpose. Or, in one word: Faith. Not just in God (although that certainly helps me!) but also in the creative process and being ready to begin right now. Why wait? You're probably as ready to start something now as you'll ever be. And you keep on communicating. Discuss the project with your backers. Ask what they like. What they would love to see. Keep working on it, and be patient.

I have no doubt the second Kickstarter will fund and I didn't even before it went live. What is the secret of my success? Hard to be sure. Obviously having "Dungeons" in the title has helped. People recognise the genre just from that work. Alliteration may also have contributed. What do I think is more important than all that? I love sculpting these miniatures (a new skill, though I've painted them for decades) and have enjoyed fantasy roleplaying since childhood. I let that love shine through. Be passionate! People get that. I really would love my miniatures in your hands and on your gaming table! Because I believe the world is a better place when people come together. Games are one way to enable that.

I have also made some new friends from around the world. The internet makes collaboration easy and with their encouragement and support, I offer something better than if I did everything myself. It also means word gets out in different places, like France and Germany (and America) for example. Friends closer to home are equally important because the Kickstarter isn't over when it hits the funding date. Without my gaming group, collating addresses and packing boxes would've been a nightmare!

A shout out to a few fine fellows my be in order here:

Lewis, Grant, Greg, Blair, Dennis and Dave for their inspiration at the gaming table (and help packing boxes).
Erik Tenkar, for letting me sculpt his famous dwarf, Tenkar Calishun.
Ken St. Andre (creator of Tunnels & Trolls), for his advice on Trolls and encouragement throughout this project.
Rick Loomis (Flying Buffalo) and Liz Danforth for their blessings and support.
John R. Lehman for his review.
Rom from Cult of Game, for his mad graphic design skills and another cool review.
Will from The Grinning Skull: Grim’s Dungeons of Doom, who is definately a kindred spirit!

My loving wife and our awesome children who don't mind having a crazy sculptor around.

God bless you and have a fantastic week!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Tenkar Calishun + St Andre Troll + Delvers Lost in the Dungeons of Doom! 2!!

Warriors & Wizards. 
Here we are, January 2017 and I realise that my gaming blog has been gathering interweb dust. So, what have I been up to? December featured a trip to Fiji for a youth convention on climate change. I am really surprised how quickly Christmas rushed by! I enjoyed time with my family at the beach - it's a cracking hot summer in New Zealand. Running through the native bush and swimming at the beach is a great way to unwind after a challenging year in my new role as a Youth Ministry Coordinator.

I also began sculpting again. I sculpted my first 'Green', a barbarian called Kroag for my friend Lewis. Green putty is so much easier to use than Tamiya Quick Epoxy Putty! I continued to be amazed as more miniatures took shape. While at the beach I contacted another blogger, the renowned Erik of Tenkar's Tavern

I found him on Facebook and sent him a message:

  • 31/12/2016 08:50
    Darcy Perry

    Hey Erik, not sure what time it is there but it's quarter to nine, the morning of New Year's Eve here in New Zealand. I am a longtime follower of your blog. I was wondering if you ever had a miniature of Tenkar the Dwarf sculpted? I am new to sculpting but have managed a successful Kickstarter campaign and will be starting another one early 2017. Are you interested? Merry Christmas, Darcy Perry
  • Erik Tenkar
    31/12/2016 08:51
    Erik Tenkar

    heh - that would actually be kinda awesome

We chatted for a while and Erik sent me some artwork. Over the next few days we discussed details about his axe and shared our love for gaming,

Tenkar's Tavern

I started with his face (needs more beard!)

A double-bladed bearded-axe!

Goat insignia on his stein!

Then I thought about my friend Mark, an avid Tunnels & Trolls gamer. Ok, a fanatical Tunnels & Trolls player. He has even written and published Solo T&T Adventures! So, me thinks, how about making him a Troll? I hadn't sculpted a monster before. I may have even told a few folks I would stick to smaller heroes. Never say never.

Wait a minute, he's mates with Ken St. Andre! Ken stayed at his place last time he visited New Zealand. What if I asked Ken for advice about a Troll miniature? That would be really cool. So I went back to Facebook. I soon had an email with two screenshots of a Troll from Snow White and the Huntsman, along with a couple of snapshots of Ken's smiling face! Game on!

The result? The St. Andre Troll!

The Wire

Low on Green Stuff, I resort to left over Tamiya Quick Epoxy Putty.

Fedora hat for style.

Ken prefers his Trolls without toes or nails/claw.

The great Troll Hammer!

Note the rulebook and dice bag!

Welcome to the Dungeons of Doom!

Ken's archetypal Trollworld Rock Troll.

Ken is an amiable guy. He also knows what he likes in a troll. As you can see, I took some licence as an artist, making the St. Andre Troll a combination of sentient rock and more Ken-like features. I was also inspired by the art of Josh Kirby and Liz Danforth that for me, were the Trolls of my youth. They are burned into my brain. Ken suggested a Tarzan loincloth, which was great because (I love Tarzan, and) it meant a belt. Which meant a belt buckle. So I put a T&T on that!

I also slipped a rulebook in his left hand and a dice bag hangs from the studded belt. You need a lot of six-sided dice to play Tunnels & Trolls! The hammer is a nod to Troll Hammer Press, while the fedora hat is Ken's signature headgear.  

I launched the 2nd Star Hat Miniatures Kickstarter this afternoon. In a couple of hours it was half funded. As I write this, I realise I will be packing a lot of boxes in February!

God bless you all and enjoy your week!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Star Hat Miniatures + Flying Kickstarter!

Here are the final turns in the winding road of my Kickstarter: Delvers Lost in The Dungeons of Doom! In my last post, the metal masters were about to be drop cast in preparation for making production moulds.

Ian and Alan Farley at Regal Enterprises sent me photos of the spin casting (aka centrifugal rubber mold casting) process.

You may notice that they are doubled up. By having a two of each miniature, the amount of spins required is halved. The fourth disc also has a few new miniatures. More Delvers? Yes, I let the cat out of the bag with photos of three miniatures that will be part of the next Kickstarter campaign. I am getting a small number of Ailgavart, Saetog and Vok Wightkicker cast in preparation but they won't be included in this Kickstarter.

Halfway through October, well ahead of our December delivery deadline, the production moulds were spinning.

In the words of my good friend Lewis, "It wouldn't be a Kickstarter without some unexpected twists and turns." I received this email from Regal Enterprises about the remaining miniatures:

HI Darcy, I am going to do some casting with the last mould tonight. The barbarian woman is going to cause trouble as she has broken in the mould at her ankles . Hopefully I can get some out that will be OK. Will try to send a picture of her tomorrow. If it’s not Ok might have thicken the ankles on the master , make a new silicon mould etc. Cheers , Ian

On the bright side, Ian is a master mouldmaker and caster, so expect this issue to be resolved quickly. This is the Amazon we are talking about and I know she's a survivor! 

The improved Amazon arrived soon after, ready for packing
Here are some photos from our boxing day. That Saturday we packed 42 boxes, which which were joined by 56 other boxes after the final shipment from Regal Miniatures arrived early the following week. Thanks to Blair and Dave for that second boxing session!

Dave and Lewis ponder mail merge.

Dave, Grant and Lewis boxing.

Pizza break.

A box of treasures.

Row by row.

Calum oversees the production line.
As you can see, everything was well in hand! It took a week to work out shipping details with NZ Post. After some fine tuning and some help from my good friend Dennis, the boxes were ready to fly!

Dennis applies air mail and customs stickers.
Little boxes, little boxes!
Star Hat Miniatures has now sent over 2000 miniatures to gamers all over the world. Last Friday the International boxes left for the airport. I can honestly say that this has been a life changing and at times challenging experience! I still have a few weeks painting to fulfill the Dungeon Master pledges. Bear with me, they will be worth the wait! I will post photos of the painted miniatures on here of course!

If you backed this Kickstarter, please let me know when you receive your Delvers and feel free to comment on here. Your feedback will shape my next Kickstarter campaign. Thank you all for your continuing support and encouragement. The original group of nine miniatures grew into a whopping total of seventeen! I couldn't have done this without your help.

This only just occurred to me but this was a May to December affair! I began sculpting in May and the final painted pledges will be in the hands of backers in December!

A special thanks to Lewis who introduced me to Jason Fairclough's Wasteman game and to Jason, whose miniatures inspired me to try my own hand at sculpting.

God bless and enjoy your games!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Metal Miniatures Master Mould Making

Master Mould Making
As followers of this blog will know, my Kickstarter funded at the end of August. About three weeks after funding, the backers money finally made it to my bank account. I must admit by that time I was somewhat anxious! The sculpts are with Ian and Alan Farley at Regal Enterprises and they have sent me photos of the master mould making process.

Star Hat Miniatures is now on the verge of producing over two thousand miniatures for gamers all over the world. When I started sculpting back in May, this wasn't even something I had considered! Here are photos of the figures being pressed in plasticine and the silicon moulds being made for drop casting the metal masters. 

 After the latex was set, Ian then poured the second half of the moulds.

A few miniatures required minor alterations, so Ian from Regal Enterprises sent them back to me and I got to work. I sculpted a new scabbard for the Ninja and the other two have a slight change in weapon position. Thanks again to Ian for his expert advice and for adjusting the Wizard's sword.

Basically all the changes were to avoid 'undercuts', which are severe recesses or awkward angles on a sculpt. The previous scabbard created a gap behind the Ninja's head that was an issue for making the mould. I sculpted a new one and placed it lower down his back. The Amazon's sword was previously over her shoulder at a different angle which also meant a gap behind the head. I could have snapped her blade off but I wanted to keep this miniature as a single-piece cast, so now the blade is flat against the back of her head. The Wizard's sword is now at a better angle for mould making also.

The only multi-part miniature is the Kobald on a flying carpet, for reasons that may be more obvious if you check out the previous blog post. He would have looked far less dynamic if I made him a single-piece cast.

These miniatures then traveled back to Regal Enterprises to make master moulds and be drop cast. After casting, the metal masters are sent back for me to look over. I'm really excited about this (they are due any day now).

After I give the all clear, the production moulds will be made and then spun. Spin casting is new to me. If it's new to you, Larry (not related to my project or Regal Enterprises) has posted a groovy video on YouTube:

Delvers Lost in the Dungeons of Doom! has been an amazing project and I can't wait to send these miniatures out to the people who helped make it all happen.

God bless and enjoy your week!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sculpting Fantasy Miniatures + Kickstarter Success

More Dungeon Delvers! 
The first part of the journey is over. All the sculpts are now with Ian and Alan Farley at Regal Enterprises in Greytown. 98 people backed pledges on the Kickstarter, Delvers Lost in the Dungeons of Doom! which achieved over 250% of the funding goal over the month of August.

The final 8 were Legendary Heroes, Stretch Goals and Kickstarter Exclusives. That makes a total of 17 miniatures, which is as surprising to me as the success of the Kickstarter!

Because of this success, Star Hat Miniatures has become a small business. With pledges to fulfill, I move from amateur sculptor to production manager. I also am continuing to grow. Not just as an artist but as a human being. That's if the two are any different! I love that Kickstarter calls you a creator. I thank my creator for the ability to be creative.

One of the popular pledges was Legendary Hero: your own character sculpted and added to the party. This was a generous pledge because this miniature is also shared with the other backers. Here is an example, Salis Shishervish, a Kobald Cleric/Mage from a backer's Hackmaster campaign. Salis ended up being a 3-part sculpt - the only multi-part miniature of the set. I sculpted Salis from a written description provided by Cally. In all my years of gaming, I have never seen a Kobold on a flying carpet! Now there is one!

God bless you and enjoy your week!