Monthly Archives: December 2015

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?!

Since I’ve been playing with my Diesel Pulp models and setting, several people have asked where a lot of the visuals and models come from. So, a post!

My just-for-fun Diesel Pulp “Weird War” setting has an aesthetic that I understand, but can’t necessarily articulate. As a result there are lots of miniature lines that have some material appropriate for it, but few that are entirely on-model for the idea in my head. For mecha in particular, I want to avoid things that are too anthropormorphic (I don’t want just diesel gundam), or too “goofy” (which is entirely subjective).

My Diesel Pulp world is focused on 1949, toward the last years of the First Global War, and after the long-running Ward of the Worlds, when Martian Walkers nearly conquered the Earth. This is a world where tracks are simply not considered reliable for front-line armor units (though anywhere wheels were used in the real world, tracks or wheels may still be considered acceptable, such as cycles and combat cars), and walkers are generally accepted as superior. Some advanced technology exists, mostly in the form of lightning guns, though individual nations have death rays (Japan), sonic weapons (America), wind cannons (Germany), rockets (Germany), freeze rays (Russia), and so on.

Walkers are divided much as tanks were in WWII, with heavy walkers, medium walkers, and light walkers. Mech Hunters take the Tank Destroyer role. Tankettes and infantry support vehicles are mostly replaced with mechettes (usually but not always very light walkers) and gun carriers (ranging from armored jeeps to extremely heavy powered infantry). Infantry ranges down from heavy infantry (full powered armor) to medium infantry (unpowered armor and often heavy weapons) to light infantry (unarmored, generally organized as real-world infantry of the time was). Different nations have a few other special units, such as German Air Cavalry (rocketpack troops) and Japanese Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊 “Special Attack Unit” – elite troops using Martian metallurgy for Samurai and Ninja style weapons) and Kikusui (“floating chrysanthemums”) kite-troops (the only nation to recreate Martian antigravity at a personal troop level).

Occult elements exist, but are rare and largely psychic in nature. Things like zombies and vampires might occur in tiny numbers, but not to the degree that troops on any side expect or prepare for such things. Germans have limited access to dinosaurs (with Allied rumors unable to determine if they are from someplace in Africa, someplace in South America, or from a Hollow Earth with a secret access point), which are mostly deployed in Africa as Donnerkavallerie (“Thunder Cavalry”). Germans also have surgically uplifted canine and simian units, though both are fairly rare (based on real-world German claims to have trained dogs to talk). Russians use Humpanzee troops (based on the real-world work of Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov), who mature very quickly, allowing Russia to maintain high-casualty-rate troop wave attacks, and who must almost always be directed by a Commissar. These are often call Organgos by other Allied units.

So, with that background, what miniatures do I like as aesthetic matches for my Diesel Pulp setting? This is just a partial list. Note that while I own some of these, many others I have just picked as appropriate, without the budget or space to actually acquire them.

AE-WWII (Darkson Design)

These are all difficult to get hold of nowadays, which is a shame. The Tumbleweed (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/AE-WWII-American-T4-Tumbleweed-Tank-by-Darkson-Designs-/360853779570) is based on an actual idea from the 1930s and was featured in Popular Mechanics. It neatly matches my idea for American designs to include experiments not undertaken by other nations. Technically a light walker, (torturously justified with the idea it walks on its fins, though clearly it’s a rolling mech), the Tumbleweed’s three heavy machine guns and extremely heavy armor make it more than a match for anything with light armor, and utterly unable to take on any other light walker. As heavy infantry support it excels, but only America has the industrial capacity to built armor units designed to fight just infantry and unarmored vehicles. While the guts of thousands of Tumbleweeds were sent to Britain as part of the Lend-Lease act, the actual armor was so heavy it was considered cheaper to let Britain forge that themselves. Rather than do so, the British made Jackrabit gun carriers.

AT-43 (Rackham)

Most of the AT-43 line is much too sci-fi for my Dieselpulp needs, but the Red Blok mecha work well for Russian Walkers. I already have a modified Hussar (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturesgamehussarredblokunitbox.aspx) and modified Urod (http://www.iguk.co.uk/products/hero-box-odin-01-manon-02-at43-6477.aspx) as Medium walkers, and use three modified Kolossus (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturegameredblokunitboxstrielitzkolossus.aspx) as Russian gun carrier they think of as Heavy infantry. I could happily use a Molot (http://www.boardgames.ca/at-43miniaturegameredblokunitboxmolot.aspx) as another Medium walker, and a Dotch yaga (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/catalog/product/view/id/32605/s/rkh-rbc301/) as a heavy walker, if I could get them at reasonable prices.

Dystopian Legions (Spartan Games)

Most of Dystopian Legions is too Steampunk to fit well in my Diesel Pulp setting, but there are exceptions. Some Empire of the Blazing Sun troops (http://www.spartangames.co.uk/products/dystopian-world/dystopian-legions/empire-of-the-blazing-sun) work for Japanese Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (though not their “Ashigaru” troops), and the Rocket Corps (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlbs21.html) are perfect for the Kikusui.

The Ke Ho Ironclad (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlbs09.html) would make a great Interwar precursor to the American Tumbleweed from AE-WWII (if it weren’t so expensive). The Basset Takeneete (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/catalog/product/view/id/34459/s/spgdlkb33/) is a fine Tankette design, and I have two, which are likely to end up as Italian or Japanese Mechette designs.

The FSA armored infantry *might* work for Medium infantry, but the design looks a little too hurky to me. The normal FSA infantry (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlfs19.html) could work well for Brittish or German greatcoat troops, with a head swap and appropriate paint scheme. The FSA treadbike (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlfs33.html) is perfect for mechanized cavalry for Germany (who did half-track motorcycles in the real world, for heaven’s sake), against with a head swap. I thought I disliked the Brittania light dragoons (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlkb21.html) as too open-air, but have begun to wonder if they’d make good light mech hunters, designed to hit-and run with heavy weapons using something similar to tank destroyer doctrine.

The Prussian Teutonic Knights (http://www.miniaturemarket.com/spgdlpe22.html), however, make great German SS Heavy Infantry.

Dust Tactics (FFG when I was buying them, it’s less clear to me where to get them now).

I like all the German mecha, and all the regular light and medium infantry units. Like many miniature lines, there is a strong pin-up element to their female units, which annoys me but can be worked around with paint and green stuff. I dislike the 2-leg US and Russian walkers, and have other choices for those in my setting. The powered armor units generally look too modern for my aesthetic, and I have chosen different brands to fill those roles in my setting. I don’t much like the aircraft.

GZG (Daemonscape)

Most of these vehicles are too modern, but the GZG Spider HQ (http://www.daemonscape.com/contents/en-uk/d5.html) works well for an Interwar or light walker design. I suspect I’d end up making it German, despite my desire to give the US spider walkers, and my constant search for French, Italian, and Japanese dieselpulp walkers.

Mekatank (Mekatank)

Several of these I don’t like, but a few are good for Interwar walkers, light walkers, or gun carriers

The Night Fighter (http://www.mekatank.com/robot_model_kit/mek48007.htm) looks like it either has a spotlight or a low-light system, making it a perfect infantry support mechette or gun carrier. It’d likely end up being German, despite my constant effort to find French, Italian, and Japanese dieselpulp walkers.

The Wolf I (http://www.mekatank.com/robot_model_kit/mek48001.htm) is pretty clearly an Interwar design, and I might make it Italian.

Secrets of the Third Reich (West Wind Productions)
This is one of the major Weird War 28mm lines, and there’s lots of stuff I like, and a little I don’t.
I love two of the four Russian spider walkers (http://www.westwindproductions.co.uk/catalog/index.php?cPath=126_210_195), the Hammer Jaw and Termit. I have one of each, which I haven’t put together yet.

My plan is to use these not as Russian walkers (I like my AT-43s for that), but as US walkers. This would make the US one of the only major powers to prefer walkers with more than 2 legs even at the Medium walker stage, and I envision them as sacrificing armor for stability and thus the ability to fire their main gun while moving (rare for walkers in my envisioned Dieselpulp setting). Also, they have manual gun loaders, which slows down their firing capacity compared to those with external magazines, but gives them greater long-term offensive staying power.

I’ll probably put Dust Tactics Sherman-style turrets on these – the long barrel on my Hammer Jaw, and flamethrower for the Termit.

Walking Tanks (Mig Productions)

At 1/35 scale all of these walkers (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mig-Productions-1-35-38TX-Walking-Flame-Thrower-Tank-35-653-/390498932093)( http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mig-Productions-1-35-38TX-Walking-Tank-35-654/320985345121?_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIC.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D33431%26meid%3Dacfe6bd59c7d4e71af3b3bb2ac0e1ccd%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D2%26sd%3D390498932093)are going to be giants. I assume I’d make the US, maybe Interwar designs, but might change my mind once I had one on my desk. There’s a third model (http://www.hlj.com/product/migf35-651/Sci) that’s so clearly Russian I’d likely skip it entirely, and I am not a fan of its leg design.

World Without End (Clockwork Goblin)

It’s important to make sure you pick up the 28mm versions of these pics, and least in most cases.

I don’t like most of their Mech designs, but there are two exceptions.

The Grizzly Medium Walker (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3246483-US-Grizzly-Medium-Walker-28mm.html) is *exactly* what I want in a 2-leg US walker. It certainly meets my needs for a US mech hunter. I’m not a fan of having two very robot-looking arms, but I may be able to rework those as weapon pods, or more claw/crane looking options, if I ever get hold of one of these models.

The German Spinne (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3705723-German-Spinne-Light-Mechpanzer28mm.html) is really too light and small to count even as a light walker, but it would likely serve well as a gun carrier or mechette. I might make it Italian or Japanese rather than German, however, since my Germans have Heavy Infantry to fill this role. It reminds me a bit of the Fiat L 6/40 Light Tank, an aesthetic I might be able to augment if I made it Italian.

The Soviet Heavy Infantry (http://www.clockworkgoblinminis.co.uk/ourshop/prod_3254298-Soviet-Heavy-Infantry-5-figures.html ) is pretty good aesthetically, though the weapons are a bit too modern for my tastes. They make me think of Ned Kelly, and I was already thinking of using modified Kelly Gang figures (http://northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=7326) for Australian Medium Infantry, so this would work well as heavy versions of the same armor program.

Also, the 15mm German Heavy Mechpanzer Thor (http://www.imagereplicas.com/clockwork-german.html) still comes on a comes on a 50 x 64mm base, which means it likely could work for a light walker or mechette, which would compliment some of my plans for spider walkers from the US.

Herofinder

This is just an exploration of ideas that are already out there, in an effort to create a game with familiar rules and a different feel. It borrows heavily from Ryan Stoughton’s E6: The Game Inside the World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, and numerous other sources.

  1. Character level is unlimited, but class levels are capped, based on what kind of character you are.
    a. Mooks are limited to 3rd level. These may well be professionals, but they are no one of importance.
    b. Veterans are capped at 4th level. Veterans are Mooks who have accomplished a lot, and are a step above. Veterans may be sergeants, old soldiers, experienced burglars, knights, students of great promise, or highly skilled craftsmen.
    c. Notables are limited to 5th level. Notables are a cut above the rank-and-file of even experienced characters. These may be guild leaders, captains of the guard, city champions, lieutenants to major heroes or villains, and so on.
    d. Heroes are limited to 6th level, and the people stories are told about and who get hired by cities to slay dragons and end curses.
    e. Legends are limited to 7th level and are, well, the stuff of legends.
    “Typical” campaigns will start characters at 3rd, allow them to advance to 6th normally, and then
  2. When a character’s level exceeds his class level, he gains +2 hp and +1 bonus feat. He must meet the prerequisites, and if his levels are all in one class (such as fighter) he gets to treat his character level as his class level to meet these prerequisites.
  3. Bonuses by Level, from Pathfinder Unchained, are in use.
  4. There is no assumed wealth by level. Non-consumable magic items require rare and dangerous materials to craft, and are almost never for sale. If you get a magic item, you’ll actually be *better* at the area it boosts, rather than requiring it just to keep up. Magic treasure is rare, and many creatures won’t have much wealth… though gold may actually be more plentiful in big adventures, since it doesn’t equate to combat power.
  5. Because the range of attack numbers are much more tightly clumped (base attack bonuses only go from +1 to +6 in most games), instead of roll 1d20 for attacks, skills, saves, checks, and so on, 2d10 are rolled. This produces more average numbers more often. Critical threat ranges for all weapons are increased by 1 AFTER all other adjustments. (So a battleaxe is 19-20, x3, and a keen battleaxe is 81-20, x3).
  6. Monsters are also capped by effective CR, though in most cases this is a hard cap of CR 7 (though legendary monsters can go up to CR 11… an epic fight for a group of legendary heroes). When a monster exceeds this CR (such as ) it takes the Target Monster Statistics by CR (from the Bestiary) for its CR cap, and it brought down to those levels. For every +1 CR it normally exceeds its CR cap, it gains 1 bonus feat, +2.5 hp, +1 to primary attack and average damage, and +.5 to AC, all saves, secondary attacks, average secondary damage, save DCs. It’s CMB and CMD are reduced by an amount equal to what its primary attack is reduced.
    For example a typical Dire Crocodile is not legendary, and thus has a CR cap of 7. Since it’s actually CR 9, its statistics are restricted to the target numbers for CR 7, plus adjustments for being CR 9. It’s hp go down to 90 (85 for target CR 7, +5 for 2 cr beyond that), it’s AC stays at 21 (20 for CR 7, +1 for 2 CR beyond), it’s bite goes down to +15 (+13 for CR 7 target, +2 for +2 CR beyond) and 3d6+14 (32 average, no improved crit), tail slap +11/ 4d8+5 (average 23), death roll and swallow whole also 4d8+5, CMB +23, CMD 33.
    Of course this still means even a non-legendary adult red dragon (CR 14) is incredibly dangerous, with an AC of 23 and six attacks, even if the primary is restricted to +20 and low attacks to +13 (though in its case, damage doesn’t change), and a breath weapon that deals 5d10 (DC 20 for half).

 

Storytime: How My Mother Saved Christmas

This is the story of a Christmas that helped define me, as a person.

Thanks forever, Mom. I love you.

Merry Christmas.

Walker and Main Armament Design during the First Global War

This is fairly typical of the kind of worldbuilding I do for fun, when I am not so overloaded with work that all my writing MUST be on-task and on-schedule.

In this case, I have a never-slated-for-professional-publication Diesel Pulp setting that I buy and modify models to fit into. My first concern is aesthetics of these mystery men and weird war machines… but in time the world begins to form a cohesive whole that demands exploration in prose.

This is the same sort of exploration I did in the short fiction piece ’49, which is designed to be part of the same world.

While the fact that Martian Tripods had been so effective during the First and Second War of the Worlds could easily have been attributed to their advanced metuallurgy, heat rays, broadcast power, and compression gears, it nevertheless cemented in most nation’s military planners that a walker design of some kind was clearly superior to wheeled or tracked vehicles. Thus, rather than test walkers on a level playing field, most designers first theorized on why legged armor units were superior to other options, and then drew up tests to prove their theories.

One common theory in the early 1930s was that walkers had significant advantages over wheeled or tracked vehicles due to increased stability, and thus an improved ability to fire a cannon while moving with some degree of accuracy. The concept behind this idea was simple – the position of a walker was always entirely determined by the position of its articulate legs, driven by compression gears, and thus stabilizing cams could be built to read compression gear feedback. These cams where supposed to predict how the movement of articulated parts would affect articulated weapons, and automatically adjust the weapon’s position to compensate.

The reality of walker stability and predictability consistently failed to live up to theoretical models. For some reason, tripping, sliding, and even falling were never considered to be regular occurrences by military planners, and thus were ignored in tests run on articulated prediction cams. In battlefield conditions, walkers often ended up on uneven footing (debris, mud, soft earth, and even walker traps designed to limit their mobility), so assuming a given position of the legs always equaled what it should on a hard, level, stable surface often failed to give accurate adjustments to weapons.

The Nazi walkers favored heavy armor and heavy weapons, and a rapid reload time. The need to couple these with prediction cams inevitably lead to designs that placed a walker’s main weapons in articulated outboard platforms, called “Gewehrfaust” or Gun-Arms. These were normally mounted on either side of the main fuselage, and were connected by heavily armored gearing systems. As a result, any such weapons had to be auto-loading and have self-contained ammunition magazines. This gave main cannons impressive rate-of-fire and full cam stabilization… but the stabilization systems never worked well and the rate-of-fire only lasted until the magazine was depleted. A German Wotan or Donar walker armed with a Rheinmetall-Borsig 7.5 cm KwK 42 (L/70) carried twelve rounds in the magazine, and 48 more in the main body, but reloading the magazine required the walker to be at a dead stop and expose its crew for nearly thirty minutes. Worse, thought the gun could fire APCBC, HE, and APCR rounds (though that last was always in short supply), the integral magazine meant the ratio of such rounds had to be decided in advance. The gunner could dial up any round in the magazine, but if HE rounds were all that was left in the magazine, and APCR was a better choice, there was no practical way of loading the desired shell even if it was in-stock.

This lead to the advancement of more Lightning Guns and Thunder Cannons in variant designs, but Nazi Germany could rarely produce enough such weapons to meet demand. Flamethrowers, heavy flack guns, and rocket pods were more often used where LGs and TCs were called for.

Russian walkers also generally used outboard weapon platforms, and could rarely manage multiple main guns on a walker in any case, but used gyroscopic stabilization rather than feedback cams hooked to compression gears. While accuracy was never as high on the move compared to stationary fire, Russian walkers on the move could depend on hitting more than missing when shooting at targets that were in close range or that were themselves stationary. Additionally, since Russian walkers were always in short ammo supply, they were less likely to have multiple shells as an option, and might only have enough ammo to fill a single magazine in any case, minimizing the real impact of that design choice.

Americans also used gyroscopic stabilization, the only other nation to do so. However, their designs always placed a walker’s main armament inside the body of a walker. In the case of early six-legged Mulholland walker and later 8-legged Garland walkers, a single turret was used to house primary armament. The stability of the multileg suspension, coupled with gyrostabilization, gave these tanks and their variants the greatest moving fire accuracy of any Medium or Heavy walker of the war. However, the weight of the additional legs required these walkers to be more lightly armored than typical for their tonnage, and their guns were manually loaded, resulting in a much lower ROF for short engagements. This was partially compensated for by the ability to continue fire (a standard load was 55 rounds) without stopping or exposing crew, and for each shot to be loaded with the preferred shell type. Additionally, these walkers were constructed in vast numbers. A Mulholland might not be an even match for a Wotan, but three Mulhollands certainly were.

In the case of the American mech hunter Bunyan design, the main cannon was built into the center of the main body. Though also gyrostabilized, the Bunyan’s 2-leg design and antitank mission made moving fire both less accurate and less desirable. If a mech hunter could not outrange another walker, standard tactics were for it to move after every shot, to compensate for its lower average armor thickness.

Storytime: Bloody Murder

A story about a nosebleed. So if that doesn’t appeal, don’t watch.

Jolly #Microfeats

Jolly. You are always upbeat and cheerful, and cheer up those around you. You may choose to ignore any emotion effect other than feat effect, though you may ignore fear effects that specify they are a form of sadness or despair (such as a mummy’s despair ability).
Additionally, a number of times per day equal to 1 + your Charisma bonus (minimum 1/day) you may cheer up an ally within 60 feet as a swift action. If the ally is under the effect of an emotion effect you are immune to as a result of this feat, the ally may make a Will save at the same DC as the original save against the effect to immediately end it. If the ally is under the effect of one or more morale bonuses, you may increase one of those bonuses by +1 for 1 round/level. If neither of these things is true, you may grant the ally a +1 morale bonus to all saving throws for 1 round.
#Microfeats

Storytime: Rebel Lieutenant

My amazing experience introducing new people to the Star Wars d20 RPG in 2000.

Internal Reserves #Microfeats

Internal Reserves. When there’s no time to rest, you can draw upon reserves from deep within yourself, though not without consequences. You can regain all your uses of daily abilities and point pools and restore your spell slots and prepare spells per day without resting, and reset the time you have before you must make check to avoid fatigue. It must have been at least 16 hours since you last actually rested, and you take the penalties for being fatigued (though you are not considered fatigued for purposes of special abilities or becoming exhausted, and if you are actually fatigued the penalties stack).
You must rest for 150% of the normal time before you can use this ability again.

Storytime: Wide-Eyed, Wide-Mouthed Frog

A story I used to tell my niece and nephew, when they were young, now recorded at the request of my sister.

Storytime: French Food

The story of how, at the Knoxville World Fair, I learned to be suspicious of French food.