X-Wing Playmats and Asteroids

Star Wars X-Wing is one of the prettiest games you can have grace your tabletop. On the weekend I picked up one of the FFG playmats (the one featuring the 2nd Death Star). It looks just gorgeous with a nice level of detail and layout of Endor and the space station. At one point I wasnt sure if I wanted this or just the generic star field, but decided I could make a circular flat moon that can cover up the death star to make the mat into a more generic location. That is a little project to come later, for now check out how pretty it looks:

New playmat closeup (expensive but gorgeous)

With this uplift in visual quality I decided that Sunday would be Asteroid-day. The game comes with flat carboard markers asteroids but creating actual 3D ones to float above the battlefield the same way the ships do has been on my todo list for a while.

There are a few options for doing this, mostly involve using foam of some sort, painting then mounting them. I did consider modelling and 3Dprinting some but that would be a longer process.

So armed with some packing foam I started testing. First if I could model up some roid looking shapes and then how painting might work. You can see here that the modelling was fine, but my paint test using enamel showed that the meltyness of the paint was just too much. Yes, you get a nice effect as it eats into the foam, but my foam must have been too light as it ate into it toooo much (or maybe if I was super patient and used lots of really fine coats).

roughing up an asteroid - knife was used, but fingers did most of the work
modelled a suite of roids from the foam trying to get some interesting shapes
asteroid field on stalks ready for some spray paint

So I popped out and grabbed some black spray paint that works on plastic, which did eat into it a tiny bit adding more randomness to the shapes - made for a good basecoat of black. The paint was just black rust-guard for metal which also bonds to plastic that I got from the hardware shop. I used Games Workshop modelling paint to touch up the bits that needed it which actually takes a while with this many asteroids on the go.

spray painting, this shot is after the black with a dusting of modelling white on top
painting in the orange using nice watery paint so it gets into the nooks and cranies

Then I tried a few colours before settling on adding orange. I made this pretty watered down and only in certain parts of each asteroid. Kind of makes it look like rust and just makes them less monochrome. Lastly drybrushing some white over each asteroid brings out their complexity, detail and shape. Lastly I added a little more white to ridges and particularly prominent bits of each.

The bases I wanted to be simple black stands which could just be placed on top of the 'official' asteroid markers. This means they could just be picket up whenever they got in the way and the game rules could play out using the carboard.

stand testing using bolts, washers and such

They needed to be heavy enough to stay upright with a big foam asteroid on top which is more about dealing with any breeze wafting over the board. I got some bolts and washers which I superglued onto a thin piece of card and to each other. I sprayed them with the same black and they were ready to go.

assembled, glued and spraypainted weighty stands for the asteroids

Assembly was just about sliding the larger asteroids onto a stand and then making holes for skewers to attach some of the smaller ones to them. I superglued them in place after they were all setup and hey-presto a whole suite of asteroids.

I am not sure how durable they will be with transporting etc, but they look super on day 1. Maybe they look a bit 'deadly' compared to how other people may want them to look - I think it may make us players think twice about getting too close.

Completed asteroids lined up on the new playmat
new asteroids sitting nicely on top of the cardboard playing pieces
closeup showing the rusty feel with the drybrushing over the top
Scary looking asteroids - all pilots beware

So it took me a full day to make these, basically season one of Star Wars Rebels which I had on during construction.

Game design and Star Wars

While I may have dropped the ball on updating this poor blog over the last little bit there has still been lots going on.

Let's start with the release of Rogue One, one superb little film that scratches the Star Wars itch with great enthusiasm. I watched it again yesterday and revelled in the starwarsiness of it all. I had just been getting back into the Fantasy Flight X-Wing game and seeing all those space battles unfold on the big screen reinforced how great that game is at bringing that same feeling to the tabletop.

The most fun games of X-Wing so far for me have all involved multiple players in some form of teams. The game is just super fun as it evokes the star wars dogfight feel, the different ships, special characters and the whim of the Force and its effect on the dice. Even with my smallish collection there is lots of variety to behold - yet the lure to purchase more is so so strong.

One of the reasons I wanted to mention all of this is something we have been talking about amongst our gaming groups - designing games to make losing fun, as fun as possible. What logic you can bring to the design of a game that can make losing really enjoyable. In a competitive game (where there is conflict between players) it can end up being not so fun for the losing player/s depending on the game. X-Wing is (I think) a fun game win or lose (the wonderful Shut Up and Sit Down review makes a similar point).

What makes it so fun to lose, I think there are a few factors. First the game is often well balanced, meaning it can come down to a roll or two that decides the fate of your pilots - but that is far from enough. The Narrative that grows out of the play is engaging win or lose - this type of storytelling has more in common with sport where it is emergent from the play. In this case it can manifest with the abilities of Chewbacca, R2-D2 or Darth Vader which informs the narrative even more. Other things that can make losing fun include time - the game is relatively quick to play with a chance you can make a comeback with a lucky roll always there. The 'way' you lose sits very well with the strong theme and it just looks so good on the table that there is a certain amount of joy in just watching. I will give this some more thought and post pack when I have more to offer...

This pic shows my Y-Wings under-performing the other day but looking super-great while doing so. "Gold squadron starting their attack run!"

Now I just need to organise some more gametime...

Delta Green Sums

Started another tabletop RPG game last week where we are playing Delta Green. Here is a little pic of Summer (Sums) who loves her little daughter but still heads out on these dangerous missions. She is a fun computer geek with a very disturbing cult incident in her past. She has a nice manner developing where she has nicknames for everyone/everything. Anyhow, here is a little pic using a more painterly style done in SketchbookPro on the Surface Book.

Character Design Challenge and Baldi

One of the aspects of drawing that I love is creating or designing a character and bringing it to life on the 'page'. I wanted to call attention to the Character Design Challenge which draws a huge array of artists to try their hand at the chosen concept each month. If you check out the previous winners there is so much inspiration to draw on, either in the concepts themselves or the detailed realisation of the drawing. Plus if you follow your nose to all the inspiration, anatomy references and guides on their pinterest pages you wont regret it.

The current challenge theme (well just finished actually) is all about the Centaur which has clearly got lots of people's creative juices flowing as they say. Centaurs are a tricky one as that brings forth not only human anatomy but the tricks of horse anatomy as well. Check out the slew of entries there and get ready for the next theme coming mighty soon.


I was going to post a suite of cool entries here to inspire you to go check them out, but I really only need to post one. Here is Baldi Konijn's entry which is just all class, love the style, the execution and the details.

Since we are here, how about we let a few more of Baldi's pieces grace the page, I will have to try and practice more, to be able to draw like this would be wonderful!

Orianna Ult Pencils

I wanted to try my hand at another piece of League of Legends art, after a little pondering, I decided that Orianna would make for an interesting subject, with her ballet grace and her devastating ultimate making for a nice starting point.

I wont be able to finish the inking pass, colouring and finishing before my flight - so I thought a post showing 10 steps of the pencilling might be interesting. Note that when I say pencils, everything is done in SketchBookPro on my SurfaceBook - so a virtual pencil I guess you would say. There may have been a few more layout scribbles before the first sketch as I played with the ballet form and getting Orianna to be the main focus while also building in lots of detail for the other 5 champs in the background. Many cool LOL images have other champions in them and it works really well.

Anyhow, stay tuned for the completed piece...

RPG Character art

One of the fun things for me with the tabletop RPG hobby is drawing characters, scenes, NPCs, maps and such from our games. Since every one of these is unique to each game, there is something fun about fleshing them out visually.

There are plenty of examples of my stuff all over this blog, so I thought I would highlight a few pieces from talented artists out there.

This post was actually inspired by this piece by Shalizeh for Critical Role showing Percy and Vex. The characters are full of real life and the lighting is just superb.

Diving into DeviantArt and looking for 'Duneons and Dragons Characters' characters reveals a plethora of talented people who have put their time into their characters or commissions for other people. Plus all the streamed tabletop RPGs have illustrations of their characters available which is awesome.

So the risk of this post being just an enormous gallery is too high, thus how about I just show off the work of only a few.

First one more from Shalizeh of some younger Critical Role characters:

Now a couple of character commissions MeoMai:

Now a couple of D&D character commissions by dinmoney:

Let's finish with some incredible pieces by noiprox, how amazing must it be to play these characters with a portrait like this for yourself and everyone else to see!

Congrats to the artists showcased here, hopefully more work and fame comes your way!

Snake Eyes Archer

Inspired by the recent Magical Land of Yeld kickstarter and the lovely art created for it by Jake Richmond - I draw up this character concept in a similar style. The Snake Eyes Archer could just be an NPC if it didnt fit any of the character classes. Note that I havent read much of the Yeld lore at all, so I am just winging it...

Bat Jaw Inflator

I sat down to do a drawing without any goal in mind and a batman started to materialise, with a mighty impressive jaw which then evolved into this little cartoon. Enjoy...

Deviant Art Profile

I realised that I have been a member of deviantart.com for aaaages yet I hadnt ever loaded any of my images into my profile - so I have just added a bunch of images in there and it least now looks like I do things. Since it is perhaps the premiere artist community on the web it makes sense for me to be a part of it - I am at least trying to do fun creative things and am happy to share.

So check out my profile gallery as it actually makes for a nice way to view the variety of things I have done over recent times and I will slowly add more bits in there as I go...

Tahm Kench Pool Party Concept

I had a desire to draw up a skin concept for League of Legends today. Not having any particular place to start I thought about the skin sets and decided on something for the Pool Party suite - esp as it is insanely hot here at the moment. Next step was to pick a champion and since Tahm Kench is one of my favourites I jotted down a few ideas for him. Relatively quickly the idea of him having ice creams and licking them with his huge tongue felt good, then I had the idea of him being sunburnt a real 'lobster' and that felt like a nice theme that matched him pretty well. Getting sunburnt and licking ice cream should fit many people's memories of being at the pool (or beach) and I liked how this phase of design thinking had gone, just had to realise it in an image.

So into SketchBookPro I went on my SurfaceBook with the idea that this first drawing should just be a concept image, one that conveyed the idea instantly but it needn't be a fully realised skin or anything just yet. I spent a bit of time on rough pencils trying to get the overall shape feeling Kenchy and the pieces in place like the ice cream cones as well as a place in the silhouette for his signature tongue. Then came some quick inks, which I always seem to have to tidy up, so it takes me much longer than it really should. Lastly all the colour, trying to keep it very bright and summerish - esp for his sunburnt lobster skin. Oh and a quick design for his acquired taste in-game icon too...

(I did have to go back and fix up his hands after I had accidentally given him one too many fingers on each hand - oops)

The next level of design would probably incorporate a few more elements in the details, perhaps a ring on his tentacle moustache and a pattern on his board-shorts. Anyhow I am happy with this version anyhow, so here he is...

Pool Party Tahm Kench Skin Concept for League of Legends
"Lobster sunburn, ice cream and not a care in the world"

slightly updated image with a few additions like nicer shorts and the ring

LOL OCE Pixel Art Contest

I have been meaning to try my hand at a League of Legends art event/contest and hey-presto the OCE region has a pixelart contest on right now. I admit I hadnt really done any pixel art so I had fun and got to learn some things along the way.

The details of the contest give everyone the basic rules as well as some tips and the gallery of entries is growing but not big at this stage. I am happy with my entry - let's see how we go. I quite like the more comic-like sketch version as that is more 'me' but that didnt seem to be in the full spirit of the pixelart style...

I opted to use GraphicsGale rather than the web-based pixelart editors or the overkill of Photoshop and that worked out quite well giving me enough control as well as being able to bring in a version of my sketch to work on.

So yes, I started with this sketch done in Sketchbook for a LOL Summoner Icon showing an Epic Poro and a poor Pantheon. I wasnt sure how much detail would end up in a 128x128 res square - but you can see in the final pic that you can get lots in there as long as the primary shapes are strong.

So then after a tiny bit of manipulation to get it down to a 128x128 PNG I brought it into GraphicsGale and proceeded to recreate the pic. In the small amount of playing I did before this I found that Photoshop could quite easily take any image and crunch it down to this small resolution and it would look pretty good. I bet there will be entries in the competition that will be basically that.
Anyhow, my first step was to rebuild the basic shapes using just a few colours and then flesh out the shading until the final result.

Here are the actual 128x128 and a more useful version at 4x that res so you can see things a bit better/bigger.

Netflix Stranger Things

I freely admit to be quite late to the Netflix bandwagon, but now that I am there I am really happy with all the viewing that is to be had, even if the Australian selection is limited. Some of the shows I have been enjoying include Blacklist, Continuum, Daredevil, Orphan Black and a heap of documentaries. But my favourite so far by quite a margin is Stranger Things

The show is compact (just 8 episodes) and sticks to what it is doing without losing focus. The 80s feel is superb and really takes me back while also just giving the show a feel that plays into what it is building for us. The characters are good and the plotlines are worth following - a great piece of tv!

There are 80s cinematic references throughout, but one of the things I liked most was seeing the kids playing Dungeons and Dragons and even using D&D for exposition - super!

Lets finish this little slice of fandom with a look at the wonderful poster by Kyle Lambert who brought this style to life with these characters. He walks us through some of the thinking and process on his Behance page - using ProCreate on his iPad Pro first then finalising everything in Photoshop at higher res.

Viking Axe, Spear and More

I must have done this little concept pic for a Vikings children's story after I posted the others, so here is the little guy with Axe and Spear in hand ready to deal with whatever comes even if his arms are super stubby.

Plus here is a concept sketch from a logo idea I was toying with - didnt really work out but playing with the style was fun. Logos can come in all manner of forms, but coming up with something striking but not just a play on the words or a simple geometric form is fun to work on. Having clean lines, something with a nice silhouette but still detailed enough to be a t-shirt or something all play into the thinking for me. I certainly need more practice...

Batman Cartoon and a Movie

I am not sure why I drew this, it just sort of fell into existence while I was doodling on my machine. So I neatened it up a little and made it into a little cartoon of sorts. So here is a squat unimpressed little Batman!


I guess I could write something at the end of this midget post about the Batman vs Superman movie I finally got to see recently (the extended blu-ray version). There are lots of pieces of the whole that are quite fun and could be really cool. I didn't think the whole hung together at all well though - it is like 20 trailers all cut together from different movies to try and make it into one. There are characters, ideas, shots, sequences and more that each could have been really awesome if they were fleshed out - alas the movie just flits onto the next thing and thus leaves everything unresolved and left wanting...

The gallery shows how stunning the visuals are - good inspiration for many an RPG could come from any one of these pics: http://batmanvsuperman.dccomics.com/gallery.php
And it does make for an epic trailer:

KotPO Logo

Nephews were after a logo for their game group/clan/guild/etc - the Knights of the Pebble Oath! So this is what landed on the page for them (page, screen - you know what I mean). Extra points to those who know the anime reference for the name...

I like how the shading came out on the shoulder pad (I am sure there is a more armour-ish word for that) and in general I like how he looks pretty serious even though he has a little pebble of power. Again, all done in in SketchbookPro on the SurfaceBook.

Yeld Colouring Contest

The final days of the kickstarter for The Magical Land of Yeld tabletop RPG added something fun and community-centric with a colouring competition. A suite of the simply gorgeous artwork inks from Jake Richmond are provided for anyone who might like to try their hand.
This link to the 22 Aug update has all the images people can use to colour their troubles away:

I took the first image of the sword wielding hero with the belt on her head which I love. But the chainsaw unicorn was too cool to leave out, so I added it in as the shadow - showing the menace that this heroine now needs to deal with...

I used Skechbook Pro on my SurfaceBook for the whole thing, essentially just using the ink tool and a few shades of each colour to keep it simple. It still took a little while to have the shading layers and the details like the paw-print camo pattern etc. Here is the pic, plus the source image below as well.

Kickstarter RPGs

Well this poor blog has been starved of updates yet again through no fault of its own. I have been doing interesting things but have clearly failed to pop in here and post. I was about to write all of that in the third person to absolve myself of some of the guilt, but as I look around the blame does seem to fall to me...

I will post some of the images and such to try and catch up somewhat, but maybe for this post I can just mention a few things which will hopefully get more blogspace to come.

I just want to mention some RPGs, chiefly because they are on kickstarter and some of them are still alive and thus you could dive in and back them - I am sure they are worth it!

Apocalypse World 2E
D Vincent Baker is bringing us a super second edition of the mighty Apocalypse World game and thus engine. There is much to love and the fantasy world version looks wonderful as well.

Grant Howitt brings us Unbound with lots of cool world building and mechanics that look like heaps of fun the way they will all come together.

Magical Land of Yeld
How gorgeous does this game look, not just the artwork, but the logic of the game and its younger heroes.

Mutant Genlab Alpha
I have this delivered already actually and it looks great, I have only just started to read the book but playing a mutant animal in a post apocalyptic world as part of a huge experiment sounds really fun.

Villains & Vigilantes 3E 
The Mighty Protectors is a long-time-coming third edition of the now venerable Villains and Vigilantes superhero RPG. I remember loving all the points-building from the original and it may be interesting to see what they bring to the table in a third incarnation.

There of course others that are well worth people's attention - but I cant back everything!!


Latest League of Legends sketch from me is of mighty VI sporting those wonderfully punchy steampunk gauntlets of hers. This was wholly done in Sketchbook Pro again on the SurfaceBook and essentially with just the pencil for the initial sketch then the inking pen for the linework and colours.

I even included a Trevor to keep her company - or is he nervous of a Smite coming his way? It has been quite refreshing just going full-steam ahead on sketches like this. I often find myself double-guessing myself and it can be nice to just dive forward and complete something and learn from that for the next drawing rather than iterating a heap of times on the one.

I wonder which Champion will appear next??

Sunday Supanova

Due to other commitments I only enjoyed a single day of the Sydney Supanova this year. As always I had a great time with all the cosplay, seminars, merch shopping and more.

The highlights for me this year were:

The Artist Sketchoff
This is perhaps my favourite thing at Supanova every year actually. Having 4 comic masters up there creating something wondrous in 35 minutes is inspiring in every way. This year the audience voting steered the subject to be drawn to a sexy female Swampthing. Art Adams, Joyce Chin, Cully Hamner and Frank Cho then set about creating their pieces while simultaneously trying to answer questions. We get to see their work unfold in real-time on the big screen - loved it!

Writers Impossible Quests Panel
The discussion topic here was questing and more specifically its use in written fiction. Tamora Pierce, Justin Wooley, Alison Goodman and Stephanie 'Hexsteph' Bendixson were inciteful and fun as they explored the tropes, traditions and good use of quests that inspired them, annoyed them and they used in their own work.
I get alot from these panels in terms of narrative and thinking through how these ideas apply to gaming, esp Tabletop Roleplaying. One great takeaway for me was Juston's anecdote regarding the writers of South Park and how stories should be about 'but therefore' rather than 'and then' - which is hugely telling in a successful quest story. They looked at the male/female logic of quests, profecy, stereotypes and good practice for avoiding various pitfalls. Hexsteph was lots of fun as she brought gaming concepts into things as well which was great.

LOL Figures
Lastly, my merchandise 'accident' was a pair of League of Legends figures to go on the shelf - meet Vi and Nauty:

Sunless Scene - Joe's new arm

Our current TRPG (tabletop role playing game) is set in the weird world beneath the surface dominated by the Sunless Sea. Our bad of adventurers recently had an encounter in which Joe caught a cannonball to save an innocent's life with what was left of his mechanical suit. This created a shattered mess of metal, flesh and bone which our ship's renowned surgeon and our best engineer set about repairing. Alas their masterpiece is something of a mystery to all as Joe's powersource was leaking, which caused them to slip into dreamlike memories and forget things in the present.

Anyhow, here is the pic featuring all the PCs which I did in Sketchbook Pro on my SurfaceBook. Below you can see the sketch and ink pass as well for reference. I am really liking bringing these interesting characters to life including little hints of other gaming moments like the 1st Mates Memorbees and the Captain's scorched kisses. There are lots more posts here on the blog with pics and notes from the game if anyone is interested...