Welcome to the Highlander Studios blog.

I won't promise any earth shattering revelations here. What I will be trying to do is post some new products as I release them, share some thoughts on gaming and show some pics of games and other stuff that I enjoy. So come in and make yourselves at home.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It Was a Dark And Stormy Night...

    The goblins lay battered and moaning around Rongar as he counted the strange ten-sided nuggets that they had left scattered on the table. Gold to be sure, but oddly shaped. The last conscious goblin had told him they had taken them from a kobold mine to the East. Should be easy enough to run them off and take over the operation. He'd need a bit of help, though. There had to be a wizard worth his salt in town somewhere. Preferably a dwarven wizard.

    Do any of you remember way, way back when Rongar Darkhammer made his first (and only) appearance here on the blog? It happened in June of 2010 in the "Taking Out the Trash" post. Almost two and a half years later, I'm finally ready to continue his adventures. I'm nothing if not patient.

    A lot of that time was filled with a bunch of life stuff. But some of the delay was because I hadn't really worked out just what it was I wanted to try to do with the plot line. The rest was deciding what adaptations I wanted to make to Sword Play and Warrior Heroes. I decided that I would rather use Rongar's adventures as a way to help me work out some issues I'm sure to have while writing my own rules. I can play through each scenario several times and see what I like and what I don't before I subject some friends to them. Back to Rongar.

    Rongar took stock of his assets and pondered the best way to approach the problem. Aside from his stein, decent armor and fine battle axe, he had very little in the way of possessions. Kobold gold would go a long way toward rectifying that if he could find quality veins. His natural Dwarven ability would help, but magical dowsing would increase the prospects of greater fortune. Now where to find that wizard?


Rongar Darkhammer

    "Wench! Would you bring me another tankard of Root Cellar Surprise? And I'm in need of some information."

    "Emily," she said. "The name is Emily, not wench." A perky bar maid plopped a beer down in front of him and headed back to the bar.

    All right. Here are the first few hurdles. Rongar needs to interact with Emily.That can always be done purely by role-playing the situation out and the GM deciding what happens. But what if he doesn't have a set agenda and wants to let things happen more randomly? I'll need some quantified stats for characters, monsters and NPCs. I'll also need some mechanic for determining success and failure of actions. I'd also like to incorporate variable degrees of success or failure.

    I like the look of White Wolf's Vampire and Werewolf game mechanics. So I've chosen ten-sided dice for my system. For the basic rules, one could use any type of die they wanted since I'll be counting pass/ fails based on 50% of the numbers on the die; 1-5 fail, 6-10 succeed. I'm going to stick with 10-sided for now because want to build in a critical failure/ success method; 1s subtract a success from the total rolled, 10s can be rolled again for additional successes. Very similar to White Wolf, but I don't want to mix adding/ subtracting dice with variable target numbers as game mechanics. One could use 6-sided dice, but the chances of the addition or subtraction of successes greatly increases. I want enough variance to give about a 10% per die of each result.

    The characters will need attributes. I've broken them down into six that I want to use. I've broken them down into three physical and three mental.

    Physical: Strength (STR), Agility (AGI), Fitness (FIT)
    Mental: Personality (PER), Intelligence (INT), Willpower (WIL)

   I have a general idea of what each attribute encompasses, but they will probably mutate over the course of writing and play testing. It would be easy to go way overboard and list a couple of dozen attributes to use. But for the goal of RPG lite, six will suffice and may end up being more than I want.

    Rongar's attributes: STR 3, AGI 2, FIT 3, PER 1, INT 2, WIL 1


    Emily: PER 3

    For this interaction, Emily only needs one attribute. I'll add more later if needed. How I chose attributes will be discussed at another time.

    Rongar has a slight problem on his hands. He's already insulted Emily and his Personality attribute isn't very good. Rongar will be rolling 1d10 vs. Emily's 3d10. Emily will be bumped a die to 4d10 due to Rongar's faux pas. He needs to sweeten the pot so he'll offer her one of the gold nuggets. That's more money than Emily would see several months so Rongar will get a hefty 3d10 bonus for a total of 4d10.

    "Miss Emily, my excitement got the better of me," Rongar said. " Would you accept this trinket as apology and payment for any information you could provide?"


Emily Swift

    Emily tucked the gold into her waistband. "This will buy forgiveness for the slight," she said. "But the information will cost you more. I want in for a cut. Take me with you."

    Rongar thought a moment. "Done, " he said. "Now where can I find a wizard?"

    "We'll need to go down into Little Moria and find Old Crow. I finish work at ten."

    Rongar rolled 4 dice for: 1,5,8,10. The 10 was re-rolled as a 3 for no extra successes. His total was 1 success (2 -1 for the 1 he rolled). Emily rolled poorly: 2,3,3,5 for no successes. Rongar barely persuades Emily to tell him what he wants to know and ends up with more than he bargained for.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Sooner or Later...

...all gamers contemplate writing their own rules. I'm convinced that this is one of the immutable laws of our hobby. What gamers do with that contemplation has a great many permutations.

    The first wargame I actually designed was a simple one played on a grid with 1/32 scale plastic medieval figures. My brother and I were 10 and 13 respectively and we had a simple set of rules for movement, melee and ranged combat. We played it for an afternoon or two and then moved on to Dungeons & Dragons and Squad Leader.

     Thirty three years has passed since then. I've read, played, tweaked and set aside many more rule sets than I can remember. I've helped write a couple of games. I've edited, promoted, and pimped many others. But now it's time to sit down and actually write a set of rules. By blogging my design process, I hope to solidify some ideas, work through some design choices and hopefully get some feedback from those of you who read this.

    I've put a lot of thought into what I'd like a game to do and how I'd like it to work. Some ideas have been tested in part with other game systems. As with all creative processes, this design will draw heavily on the experiences of things (in this case games) that came before. I'll pick and choose some elements and concepts I like from other systems, throw them into the blender brain and see what can be created without blatant plagiarism.

    First let's name the game BFD for Big F'ing Deal. We could call it Whoop-de-do, Rod's Dumb-ass Game or Another Gamer Geek Wants to Make  a Million Bucks if we wanted, but BFD is a nice simple acronym. BFD needs to meet the following general goals and criteria.

            1) Be fun to play; hopefully for a wide audience.
            2) Provide experience designing and writing a game to meet my specific needs.
            3) Provide experience self publishing and marketing to a greater audience than just
                myself and a few friends.
            4) Become an alternate source of income either in it's own right, as an example of work
                for other clients or as a driver of miniatures sales.

            1) Simple, generic, universal game mechanic.
            2) RPG-lite, but expandable to skirmish and mass combat.
            3) Adaptable to most historical periods and genres.
            4) Easy to use campaign system with good depth.
            5) Easy to learn.
            6) Fast playing.

    I'm sure I'll think of some other things to add later, but it's a good start for now. Realistically, All of the goals and criteria may not be met. Things evolve over time. So I'm prepared to make changes, let things that aren't working go, and remain open to new ideas. At the same time, I don't want to end up like some friends of mind who constantly change their rules, seeking perfection or the next great thing.

    Enough for now. I'll post again in the next day or two with thoughts on the first criterion. Please feel free to chime in with suggestions or critique.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Ground Cloths

    So a couple of friends and I played Two Hour Wargames' Long Rifle last Saturday. More on the games and my impressions in another post. The point here is that we used an old wool army blanket for the ground cloth. By Sunday evening I was experiencing an moderate psoriatic flare up on my elbows and forearms. It's easy to forget that you are allergic to some things when you don't come into contact with or have to think about them every day. The upshot is that my wool allergy is still very much present and I needed to look for new table coverings for my games.

     Last night we had to go to Wal-Nut for some shopping so I stopped by their craft section to look at cloth. My goal was to find a nice green to use as a general covering for most land battle games. This is what I decided to purchase.

    It's a nice mottled green with a small leaf print on it. That was the only thing I was going to buy until I spotted a blue with a mottled oily pattern.

    This one gets to be used for naval gaming. Ok, purchases done, right?

    On my way to the cutting table I spied a deep blue mottled with black. That was pretty cool in itself, but this cloth also had gold and silver sparkles in it. While it lacks various colored nebuloid shapes, it should function well for any space games I want to play.

    The best part is that they are all a decently sturdy cotton which should wash and wear well without setting off my allergy. They measure 6 feet by almost 4 feet so I have a decent area in which to play and they fold to about the size of a 6" x 9" envelope and not much thicker for easy transport and storage.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Digital Fortress

    All right, all right. So it's merely a cardboard box fortress right now.

    I've had several PDF tile downloads available on the store for quite some time and I'll still be making things available there. But... I'm thinking that I can take a cut in profits for a much greater distribution base at RPG Now and it's associates.

    The first addition is the Derelict Hulk tile sets. It includes all of the currently available tiles for a greatly discounted price of $6.00.

15mm Large Derelict Tiles based on 2-square wide hallways
15mm Small Derelict Tiles based on 1-square wide hallways
Large Doors; 2 squares wide
Small Doors; 1 square wide
Blips and Counter Set

    I'm neck deep in sculpting, digital sculpting and painting projects so it may be a while for new printable content to be added. But for now I can play with the settings and promotional stuff and see how it all works before I dump a lot of products on to RPG Now.

     It's all one more small step toward total global domination. :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Last of the Virginians

    Queue mood music. My apologies if you can't listen without Spotify.

    My goal when starting the new French and Indian project in 15mm was to buy a few packs of troops, paint them and actually play a few games with them before I purchased more. So far so good.

    I wrapped up the provincial militia last night by painting the last 20 figures as a Virgina regiment.

    I also finished a second cabin. I have 20 civilians and 1 cabin to finish before I can buy more figures. I plan to get more Blue Moon regulars, rangers and militia as well as a few more cabins and a block house. That will give me about 120 more miniatures and a few terrain pieces to add to the collection before the next purchases.

    Tonight I get to fulfill the second part of that goal by playing a few skirmish games with friends. I'll probably post some after action reports early next week.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gone a Viking

    David at Splintered Light Miniatures has given me permission to post pictures of some of his latest 15mm viking project. Below are 8 personality figures out of the 32 new sculpts this past month and a half.

    These include a few berserker types, some heroes and a rune priest.

    I was also able to complete the second FIW casualty. This one is a wounded woodland Indian.

    The completed sets will have 6  Indians and 6 European/ Colonial casualties. I'm keeping then fairly generalized so they can be used for most 18th century North American conflicts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Morning View

    My days, weeks, months in a nutshell.

    Here's the view that greets me when I sit down to sculpt. I usually have between 30 and 50 figures in various stages of completion. Probably a product of adult Attention Deficit Disorder, self-diagnosed, of course. Some of these figures will never be completed, but most will eventually be rotated into the front row where the lucky winners reside.

    And the view when I sit at the computer to post, check orders and answer email. These are the lucky winners. I sit them in front of me so I can see what progress has been made. It's a little disappointing when I finally do get enough for a master mold and have to send them off. But slowly the ranks fill out with new work, making room to start more of the ideas bouncing around in my head.

    The problem I've had since I started sculpting miniatures has been that everything I see on TV or read becomes fodder. I start mentally working through the problems of sculpting the subject. The next step that naturally follows is, "How do I make money from this idea?" I've come to the realization that it's OK to not complete everything and not everything has to become a finished miniature cast in metal. Sometimes the whole lesson is working through one part of the piece. Or maybe it's that the idea really sucks and shouldn't be pursued along those lines. It's all part of my creative process and it's all good, even when I rip a figure from the stopper and throw it in the garbage. One just has to keep the momentum going, building on previous successes and learning from past mistakes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Greeting and a Farewell

    In order to complete my Viking commission I had to clear off some of my rubber stoppers so I had more available for the personality figures. The first sculpt in line to wrap up was a new Space: 1889 Martian to go into the personality pack.

    Say hello to the Hill Martian shamaness/ priestess. She'll eventually get three male companions and be sold as a set in the Hill Martian line.

    And now for the farewells. As I complete more of the 15mm Blue Moon French and Indian War figures, I feel comfortable letting go of the 28mm guys I've had sitting around for years. Most are unpainted but there are some painted miniatures that I want to sell to a good home.

    Any thoughts on this? I have two 15mm FOGRE MK III tanks, both boxed. I'm keeping one, and selling the other. It's a prototype model with metal and resin bits, but the hull and treads are plaster. Make me an offer.

    Right now I have 6 SWAT, Bobby Jackson sculpts, but I'm not sure who the manufacturer is.

    I'm asking $60 post paid to U.S. addresses. $70 postpaid outside of the U.S.

    I also have a set of 7 Foundry Treasure Island characters that I was going to use as special personalities for the FIW campaign.

    I'm asking $80 post paid to U.S and $90 post paid to other parts of the world.

    Please email me at highlanderstudios at comcast dot net if you're interested in purchasing either set. I also have a lot of unpainted conquest rangers and Old Glory French and British if anyone would like to purchase them as is or hire me to paint them. The list follows:

    22 Old Glory Provincials, Civilians, etc.
    30 Old Glory Courier de Bouis, Fronteirsmenr, etc.
    30 Old Glory French Firing Line
    30 Old Glory British Light Infantry w/ Command

    I'll have 2 more painted sets available shortly:

      8 Old Glory Militia/ Civilians
    12 Perry AWI State Militia

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

French and Indian Progress

    Several posts ago I showed a couple of pictures of my new French and Indian War project. Unfortunately the Indians were left quite unsatisfied by their vandalism raid at that time. I've been picking at some settlers and colonial militia since then. I've also painted 10 more Indians to add to the raiding parties with another 10 to finished this week.

    The settler on the right I've named Parrish Blake. I'll be using him as the star in my Long Rifle campaign. You can't see it in this photo, but he's armed with a shovel. All the better for whacking the risen dead from the Indian burial grounds and laying them to rest again. It might even be silver to better deal with those pesky werewolves that pop up now and then.

    I've been reading several books about the French and Indian War. Most of them are centered around Fort Pitt and Braddock's road since I live right here in the area. I'm planning to set the beginning of the campaign right after Braddock's defeat. The Virginia militia has pulled back to around Cumberland and is mainly focused on defending settlers against raids in the Shenendoah Valley. Where things go from there only the dice and whim can tell.

    On a side note, sculpting has been going well here. I wrapped up one commission and I have about a week to go on another for Splintered Light. But with all of this reading and campaign planning I couldn't resist working on the beginning of a small line of casualties for the French and Indian period. They'll probably work in a pinch for AWI as well. The first is a wounded officer.

    My thought was to do a total of 8 figures for the set; 4 European and 4 Indian.

    I don't really want to produce them myself, so if you know any current manufacturers who would be interested in making these to add to their 15mm FIW lines, let me know or have them contact me.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Afternoon Quickie

    One of the really quick projects I wrapped up this weekend was a small conversion of the Space: 1889 British troops.

    These guys have been armed with the latest Lee-Metford no. 9 chemical pulse rifle.

    I'm also working on gas masked versions for those who want a more steampunk look to their troops.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Building the Perfect Beast

    About a week ago my head exploded. I was picking away at a couple of commissions and my mind started assembling items that I had seen or had been pondering for several weeks. I ended up with 10 new sculpts on the table with no great amount of progress on any one thing. So now that the armatures are made and the images firmly seated in my mind I can go back to the work that has to be done for a few weeks. I'll tell you more about them in future posts.

    One item, however, was the ruumet breehr sculpt I had been avoiding for several months. It's a larger piece so I don't feel guilty working on it a little when the putty starts getting too stiff to apply to the human-sized 15mm work. For those who aren't familiar with the Space: 1889 setting, the ruumet breehr is a large elephant/ cow beast of burden on Mars. It is used to carry howdahs, tow artillery and pull the great caravan wagons from place to place.

from Space:1889 rulebook

    The problem I was having with starting this creature was the same problem I had with the gashant. The illustrations were not the most interesting and left a lot  more questions about anatomy and bone structure than they answered. While looking through the Caravans of Mars book I ran across a small drawing of one that finally made sense to me.

from Caravans of Mars

    Using the first picture for height and length and the second for the general anatomy, I started building the armature.

    It's pretty big and I hadn't decided on metal or resin for the finished product. So I decided that it would be free standing, at least for now, and started bulking him out with Apoxie Sculpt.

    Here is the first layer over the armature with a British soldier for size comparison. I chose to make him a little taller and slightly shorter than in the first drawing. It seemed a good compromise between the several reference pictures I was able to find. It also makes the beast big without being overly large for casting in metal if I need to go that route. The second layer of bulk was added the next day.

    I was also able to start laying in a bit of head structure with the Pro Create putty. Armatures are all well and good... all right... they are often critical for getting the proportions and pose the way you want them, but I was really excited to get down to the surface detail work.

    There is  a point in the cure time where the putty is too stiff to apply to the finer wires and features of the smaller sculpts. I usually keep a piece of terrain I'm building handy to use up the hardening putty. But this beastie serves the purpose beautifully. I can push and pull the putty around on the solid body for quite a lot longer.

    Here's the latest layers applied. I was working out the foot and leg structures and getting the head closer to it's final shape.

    This last is a picture of the same work from a similar angle as the second drawing. Things are progressing nicely, but I'm still troubled by the choice of resin or metal for the casting. I'd like to have it done in resin, but I'm nowhere near ready to do that myself and the metal can be done reliably. I guess I can always have them made in metal first and produced in resin later on. I'd like to get some metal masters for conversions later anyway. We'll see how it all goes.

    That's all for now. I'll post more pictures in a week or two when it's close to being finished.

Friday, August 24, 2012

And sometimes...

    ...even a blind pig finds an acorn. It's true. Not every project that gets started here in my studio is left to gather dust for, well... about ever. The problem I run into is that I just like too many things and have too many ideas bouncing around in my head. However...

    Early last year I started assembling an Arthurian army. What else was I to do with all of those artist castings I had piled up from Splintered Light? I decided to use Warrior Kings/ Rally Round the King from Two Hour Wargames so I wouldn't need to paint a huge amount of figures. Here is the Arthurian army, mk I.

    I based the army around a small core of 3 elite cavalry units. Now in Warrior Kings one stand is a unit; a lot like elements in DBA.

    I added 6 units of heavy infantry which will become elite infantry if I expand my army in the future. Of course, they can be used that way now if I desire. I simply wanted to have them finished first.

    The core of the army is 6 units of unarmored infantry and another 6 units of archers. I don't generally have all of these on the table at the same time. But having several units of each type allows me to mix and match a bit due to the battlefield.

    Often I don't use formed archers and replace them with units of skirmishers instead. So the last addition was 6 stands of skirmish archers.

    Now I do own hundreds of castings of Saxons for Arthur to fight, but after painting that many figures for one army, I wanted an army made of fewer more powerful units. Enter the Giants!

    I built this army around several old Ral Partha castings. Their 25mm giants are truly memorable when fielded with 15mm figures. I used a couple of models for the mountain giants.

    Some Ral Partha ogres became my hill giant contingent.

    I added some ogres and trolls for variety. The ogres are Splintered Light castings with a couple of their savage orcs to fill out the base a bit. The trolls are from Ral Partha.

    Sorry about the fuzzy pic. My camera evidently didn't want to differentiate between greens.

    I played a couple of early games with just the above troops and found that they really didn't have enough flexibility when faced with overwhelming numbers of stands. So I added 6 stands of Splintered Light savage orcs as peon troops for the giants to kick around.

    As mentioned before, I haven't fielded the entirety of both armies at the same time. However, having a decent mix of unit types and several stands of each type allows for a wide range of battles from a small cavalry break out to a large stand up open field fight. I'm looking forward to many hours of both solo and head to head gaming with these two armies. Oddly, I'm  also looking forward to adding some new units as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

French and Indian Vandalism

    Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, the French and Indian Wars have always held at least a passing interest for me. Some times that interest has been stronger than others. About 2 years ago I decided I wanted to do some skirmish gaming with 28mm figures.

    The problem I have with 28mm is that it takes me so long to paint them compared to smaller scales. But a friend was starting to collect some and I had already purchased some Conquest Rangers and woodland Indians several years ago when they were first released. So I bought a couple of bags of Old Glory castings to bulk out my forces.

    Both painting and sculpting commission work limits the time I get to spend on my own gaming projects. When I do so much of it for work, I don't always have the desire to do more painting during my down time. So things have progressed really slowly. Around the end of march this year I had 18 Indians and about a dozen settler types ready to put on the table. But I had no buildings or even trees. What's a guy to do?

    Old Glory/ Blue Moon released FIW figures in 15mm last year. So in true gamer fashion, I decided that I could pick up a few items from them and have a game ready to go in a few short weeks. Then came the rest of the wedding planning and personal projects once again took a back seat. Actually they got shoved into the last remaining space in the trunk since available space was filled by all of the other things that got shoved aside for the wedding preparation.

    Late June came around and I was able to start painting again. I'd love to say that I had time to paint the 3 cabins and 90 figures I bought. But at this point, I have one cabin ready to go.

    I do have hills, trees and other assorted terrain items already available from my other 15mm games. And I did manage to paint a small band of 10 Indians.

    Unfortunately, I think they're really going to be disappointed when they arrive at the cabin after a long canoe trek down river and have to settle for breaking a few windows and scribbling graffiti on the walls. There are settlers and militia on the painting table now. Maybe they'll be home when the raiding party makes it's way back up river in the Fall.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Incoming this Week

    The mold maker finished the last 4 production molds on Friday. Production casts of the latest Highlander Studios products should be arriving around the end of this week. They are listed for sale on the site as of today. I'll be shipping at them out at the end of the week or early next week.

    Here is what's new:

    Space: 1889 British Firing Line (5)    BRI-01     $5.00

    Gideon's Dust Wild Spanish Pigs (6)   GID-AN03     $5.00

     Zap, zap zap! Die, Die Die! Monkey Boy Mercs (5)     ZD3-101    $6.00

     Space Kendo Masters and Student   See the Space Pals for Red Cross page to donate.

    All of these miniatures are sized for 15mm gaming and come unpainted.