Friday, May 29, 2009

40K: My Other Game Table

My current 40K task of batch-painting 3 mobs of Slugga Boyz is going very slow, but I wanted to show a little love to the 40K readers. Here is the first game table (mentioned in the last post) I attempted to build:

The table is 6' x 4' and was 44" tall at the time these pictures were taken. I felt that was a little too tall and cut the legs down to 36". This allows the table to be high enough that you don't spend half the game hunched over, but not so high that you can't sit down and see what's going on.

It was made from 3/4" plywood and framed with 2" x 3"'s. It's incredibly sturdy, but rather heavy. The legs attach to the table via countersunk carriage bolts, as does the 2" x 4" on the end that can be taken off if an extension or even a second table needed to be joined to the first. That is also the end that I stand it on when not in use (ie: all the time :-( ).

The surface is Woodland Scenics ReadyGrass Vinyl Mat. The table legs are simply inverted deck posts, notched with a reciprocating saw (again, thanks to my Dad) and given a hole for the carriage bolts.

It has only seen action once, for a 40K tournament held by my LGS at a gaming convention. I think there were two games played on it? I couldn't attend . . .

Some lessons learned from this project:
  • Trim is freakin' expensive! (Hence the lack of it on my current project).
  • Avoid putting the surface down on a windy day - in fact, just avoid the whole month of March.
  • Spray adhesive may save time and money, but it does a lousy job of holding the surface to the plywood. A great many staples were put around the sides and covered with trim.
  • Tables designed to be broken down and moved about are never as sturdy as more permanent fixtures will be.
  • The trim really needs to be sanded well before applying a polyurethane stain to it.
  • Use mineral spirits to clean your stain brush immediately after using it, else you may as well just throw it away. The polyurethane will essentially glue the bristles together.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DnD Project: Building a Digital Game Table, Pt 2

In which a table is built and Paul thinks this might actually turn out kinda nice.

My Memorial Day weekend was spent collecting materials and assembling the table that will house the projector. The weather did its best to frustrate me - being nice and sunny one hour, and rainy the next - but I finally managed to get the thing put together.

The table is going to have a 3'x3' surface that is 32" from the floor - this should allow players to sit on a couch and view the top, or stand and not have to bend too far over. It would also allow me to acheive the 50" minimum distance I decided on after playing around with the digital projector (the dimensions of which are 16" wide, 12.5" deep, 6" tall).

Here is my list of materials from Lowe's:
Part #DescriptionQtyPriceSubtotal
45121"x3"x8' Premium Furring Strip2$1.48$2.96
45132"x2"x8' Premium Furring Strip2$1.86$3.72
374613/4"x49"x97" MDF1$19.98$19.98
100549Pine Outside Chair Rail4$1.78$7.12
838Straight Top Plate4$1.68$6.72
4365214" Traditional Chair Leg4$4.64$18.56
96871A21Z 2"x1" Angle Zmax8$0.51$4.08
23916x1/2" PH FL Wood Screws1$3.77$3.77
TOTAL (before tax)

The medium density fiberboard (MDF) panel was a large 4 foot by 8 foot sheet. I had already determined that I wanted the panels on this table to be 18" wide, so I had them cut the panel into four 18" x 4' panels with some extra left over. Having this done at the store is a huge time saver.

I still needed to make four straight 18" cuts to get the panels down to the 3' width I wanted. Unfortunately, MDF is very dense and my poor little jigsaw was taking forever to cut through it.
A quick call to my dad, and he brought his circular saw over - I was already borrowing his miter saw and finisher nailgun, so one more tool wasn't a huge deal. ;-) The miter saw was then used to cut the furring strips of both sizes to fit the panels.

I used Liquid Nail (Heavy Duty) and a cordless Dewalt finish nailer (to which I am very lucky to have access) to secure the furring strips to the MDF panels. I used 6 nails along the bottom strip (the 2"x2"), but only 3 for the top. This was because the 1.5" nails I was using were sticking out of the 1"x3" furring strip. I filed the points down so no one would pucture a hand when moving the table, but they still stick out a tiny fraction of an inch.

The furring strips do not go all the way the both ends of the panel. I decided that I wanted the strips to interlock with each other in the corners. I did not, however, take into account the width of the panel itself and soon found myself faced with the following problem when I tried test-fitting a couple of panels together:

I had to take a coping saw and a chisel to each of the strips that had been attached to the panels and remove 3/4". This added a lot of time to this phase of the project. Finally, I was able to glue and nail the panels together:

As soon as I would get a corner joined together, I would add the right angle brackets. These help maintain the square shape of the table and take some of the stress off of the nails in the MDF. I put the long side of the bracket against the outside furring strip, and the short side on the strip that sat further back in the corner. I have no basis for this reasoning, but it seemed like it'd be more sturdy that way.

So, finally having gotten the panels fit and joined together, it was time to attach the plates that the table legs would screw into. This would allow the table to use legs of differing height if needed and to be disassembled to a point and moved more easily between rooms. We are also planning to move in the near future, so anything that makes that easier is a plus.

It was at this point that using the MDF for the table panels became a bit of a burden. MDF does not like screws - it tends to split and can break. Most of what I read on the internet suggested using coarse drywall screws. I just used the screws that came with the plates, and you can see the results below - not catastrophic by any means, but annoying (to me, at least). Pre-drilling the holes does help a little, as does going very slow. To compensate, I slathered a generous helping of Titebond II Premium Wood Glue into and over the splits.

One final touch and the table would be ready for a finish (MDF is terrible with moisture and needs to be sealed, else it will flake and disintegrate). Instead of screwing down the plexiglass sheets that would be used for the surface, I thought it would be easier to hold them in place with something - ideally something that might add a little style to the table as well. I found these chair rail exterior corners near the table legs in the store and thought they looked nice:

I have considered adding decorative trim to the top and bottom edges of the panels, but it is prohibitively expensive and does not add any functionality to the table. Still, I will keep it in mind for the future. Another feature I'm hoping to add, but will probably hold off on are hinged trays on the outside of the panels that would allow players to set their materials on.

The next post in this series will deal with finding a solution to getting the projector into position and supporting its weight. Whatever I use will have to be adjustable to different styles and types of projectors.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Art: An Early Attempt at Sequential Art

One of the items on the multi-volume epic that is my life's to-do list is produce a graphic novel. To that end, I set out to hone my sequential art skills using excerpts from some of my favorite authors. The intent was to do 3-page sets from several prominent - though very different - comics.

I got one page into it before getting distracted with another project.

I happened across this page when I flipped open a long-neglected drawing pad for a new project. It is somewhere between 4 and 5 years old. The page is based on Neil Gaiman's script for The Sandman (issue 24, I think) - Part 3 in the Season of Mists. has a copy of it on their website, if you're interested in reading it.

This was done on an 11" x 14" drawing pad (70 lb paper, moderately rough tooth). Industry standard is 11" x 17" which is then reduced by 60%(?), so I had to try and scale it accordingly (approximately 75%). I enhanced the contrast and lowered the brightness around the edges of the page so you could see the measurements I used.

There are a few things I like about it, and a bunch of others I do not.

Monday, May 18, 2009

DnD Project: Building a Digital Game Table, Pt 1

Thanks to Mad Brew Labs for exposing me to this with his article on the Untapped Potential of Technology for roleplaying games. I have read and re-read Shane DeSeranno's blog entries related to his digital game table and finally came to the conclusion that, yes, I could make one of those.

So, without further ado . . .

Building A Digital Game Table, Part I
In which an infrared pen is built, and various other materials are collected

There are tons of tutorials and YouTube videos on the web. Personally, I found Ken Moore's website (which includes a video clip and printed instructions) to be especially helpful.

I purchased all my parts at Radio Shack - here's the list, including part numbers and prices:
ItemPart #Price (USD)
5mm IR LED 940 NM276-0143$1.99
1 "N" Battery Holder270-0405$0.99
PK2 Submini PB Switch275-1571$2.99
PK2 Alkaline N Batteries2300023$4.99
1.5 oz solder .0626400002$3.49
SUBTOTAL (before tax)$14.45
It should be noted that I purchased 1 of each item, but the batteries and the switches came in packages of two. Also, if you already have solder and/or an oddly sized 'N' battery, you'll be paying less. For the housing, I used an old furniture repair marker that was used to color in scratched wood with stain.

A couple of important things I learned: First, The positive wire is red. Seems obvious, I know, but after wiring my basement, I got used to seeing the black (pos) white (neg) color scheme. Second, the switch goes in the negative part of the circuit, between the battery and bulb along the black wire. Finally, and probably most importantly, we can't see infrared light!

Once you get this thing wired together and try it out, you'll have to look through a digital camera to see it light up. I spent a night fuming at a pen I thought was messed up, only to rtfm (or website, in this case) the next day and figure it out.

In addition to the pen, I spent about $110 getting two sheets of 3' x 3' plexiglass for a table surface (one was 1/4" and the other was 1/8" thick). That's been the most expensive thing thus far. I am fortunate to work at a university and was able to get an old digital projector for $1.00. It's not super high-end, but it serves its purpose and I can always upgrade when they swap out projectors each year. ;-) I also purchased a $5.00 mirror from Wal-Mart, but I think it's too small and will have to return it.

I'm hoping to have the remaining materials purchased and the table constructed next weekend. Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DnD: Idea - Fortified Planar Gate


In the world of fantasy, there are many places where one reality overlaps with another. Often times, crossing through these places comes as an unexpected shock - you're in one place one minute, a few steps later, everything is (perhaps radically) different.

But what of those points of intersection that are perceived and located? Having control over such a resource would provide a significant tactical advantage against potential invaders as well as a healthy profit for adventurous merchants seeking to peddle their wares in an exotic locale.


While gates such as this might come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the gate presented here was surrounded by heavy iron doors set into a stone wall. A three-story tower and small barracks sit on either side of the wall, ready to repel those who would try and force their way through the gate as well as stop those who might try to sneak across from the other side. The structure as a whole is not exceedingly tall nor is it very wide. Were it to exist in a forest, it could easily be bypassed by without ever being seen.


The paths that traverse realities can be fickle, unreliable things. Some are consistently active while others are only usable at certain times of the day or the lunar cycle or some other suitably obscure period of time. Other gates can only be opened with some kind of key that reacts as it passes through the portal.

For example: The Stonewall Gate - as we shall refer to it - is active every full moon for a period of 12 hours. It then closes until the next full moon. The iron doors of the gate can be locked, opened and closed at any point. The doors exist and operate only in the reality in which they were built - if a second set of doors cover the gate in the connected plane, travelers will not be able to pass through without some means of forcing them open.

When a creature passes through the gate, they come out in the new plane on the side opposite of the one they entered. This means that the gate can be used simultaneously from both planes. It also means that when a creature enters on one side, a second creature could return on the opposite side without the first creature's knowledge - hence the importance of the fortifications.


Two applications for the fortified planar gate immediately spring to mind:

First, both sides of the gate are located in a large, busy cities, the gate is important for allowing trade between two peaceful (or at least somewhat agreeable) civilizations in neighboring planes. Such a gate would probably be active on a daily or weekly basis and the cities on both sides would go to great lengths to protect it. In the event of a siege, the gate could be used to bring in supplies; should the city be overrun, it would become an escape route.

Second, an old forgotten gate exists in obscure corner of large forest. The gate is only ever active once in a long time and has fallen into ruin and disrepair. Any civilized races who happen upon it (and are not well versed in arcane history) might think it an eccentric piece of architecture by some rich noble with more money than sense. Less savory races would be happy to call such a place home, despite it being little more than a wall that doesn't block anything housing a door that doesn't go anywhere.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art: Lucan, Elven Cleric

Finally got my second PC portrait done. As before, start to finish in Corel Painter X with a Wacom Graphire 4 tablet.

I honestly think this digitally inked/cell-shaded style is harder than a more painterly approach. Also, I need a lot more practice at shading and highlighting - especially faces and wrinkled surfaces.

I "cheated" on the chainmail. Instead of actually inking and coloring it in by hand, I used a variation of a tutorial I found on that uses a Photoshop filter. Here's a close-up:

Monday, May 4, 2009

40K: Customized BA Librarian

Introducing Bellerophon of the Black Blade!

The first 40K model I've finished in far too long. And, by finished, I really mean "still needs a coat of matte finish and some high gloss on the blade and gemstones."

This is a souped-up version of my Blood Angel's HQ done more for modeling enjoyment than for game play - I normally don't equip him with Terminator Armor or with a Thunder Hammer. And, with the Wings of Sanguinius power, maybe Terminator Armor is a viable option . . . ?

Parts Used:
I tried to paint the force sword in a manner similar to Master Darksol's Bloodletters - with the glow emanating from the hilt - but fear it didn't turn out quite as nice.

Still, I'm happy I finally finished a model and reasonably proud of the way it turned out.