Monday, October 14, 2019

Forgotten Realms Campaign - Down a Player

I'm not surprised by the email I got today from one of the players saying he wasn't going to join the group. He's the one I expected to drop out. I honestly think the group was too social for him. The consensus vote was for a mixture of combat and role playing. That means interacting.

He had an interesting but problematic character in his gnome rogue/swashbuckler. I think he made a mistake in choosing the entire thing but I was willing to make it work. Now I don't have to.

I'll announce it again on Meetup this week and I may have found someone through a local Facebook group anyway. But now we're down to three players and they may not want to have a game with that few.

Things always work out one way or another.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Forgotten Realms Campaign - Session Zero

We had our Session Zero today. I had one potential player drop out a week or so ago because he didn't like that he couldn't assign his character stats and didn't want to even try the method I prefer. Honestly I think we're better off without him if that's enough to make him quit a game. But I digress.

We had the last space filled yesterday. I also have someone interested when I posted it on the local Facebook group but she couldn't make today's session. I'm going to try to meet up with her before the first game. I can handle a table of five players but no more than that. I also have a feeling that one of the current players might not be that reliable. It's just a vibe I'm getting. I hope I'm wrong.

As always this session is a lot of discussion. I went over my House Rules with everyone and explained some of the ones that were vague. No one had questions or wanted changes but again, Session Zero.

I always need to get contact information - name, email, and phone. This time I added a couple of things because there's a lot going on with my Twitter GM groups about consent forms. No, it's not what you think. It's finding out if there's specific words and/or situations that people don't want in the game. For me it's less of a problem since I'm not the GM acting out my prurient fantasies with the players but I agree that it's showing respect for them. I didn't have time to print one up so I wrote out the sheets while I was waiting for people to show up.

Then we got to stats. My method is one I stole from a GM I had before and tweaked until I liked it. It's a stat block rather than a point buy or 'roll and assign' method. As always the players found that it gave them a lot more options. One was very frustrated because the numbers didn't give him the character he really wanted but he could make several other kinds. That's the way the stat block works. It builds a character, not just a bunch of numbers.

They were a bit confused when I had them roll up birthdays. We did the random age thing as well as the height and weight but I take it a step further and have them roll up their birthday on the FR calendar. It's why I have a 30 sided die in my box. FR months are all 30 days long, if that wasn't clear. Now everyone has an actual birthday and I feel that helps with immersion.

I was the only one with physical books and the limitations of using PDFs became very clear as people were squinting at screens. After a game or two we'll have everything we need either in the books or printed out. At least I will. I will encourage (or shall I say "encourage") them to use the books/printouts rather than their phones and tablets when looking up things. I try to keep the electronics away from the table. It's even in my house rules.

After puzzling over the stat blocks and consulting many books here's what the party looks like at this point. The next post will have the character names as well but for now I was happy with as far as we got. We're starting at Level 2 so they're not quite as squishy but still very fresh.

Lesser Aasimar Druid (Note 1)
Gnome Rogue/Swashbuckler
Human Ranger
Sun Elf Druid

This is an interesting mix. There's not a healer in the bunch. Nor is there a tank. I'll be reading over those character classes in the next week so I can start figuring out how best to craft encounters. I see more dungeon work and less city work here. I'm fine with that one. Then again druids in the city can be amusing.

The reason we ended up with this mix is because I tell my players to play the character they want, not the one they think needs to be included. Hence no one feeling obliged to be a cleric or a fighter. Playing a character you don't like lessens the fun all around.

Since they're second level they would have at least one tasty item from previous adventures. I told them to get their basic equipment (nothing masterwork or magic) at no cost. They'd have all that. Using the loot tables I gave them their starting money (in whatever form they want to convert it to) so they're not poor.

A funny thing. I gave them an appropriate amount of money. One of the players got a little snippy, saying it wasn't much. I replied that it was more money than most of the people they encounter would ever see in their lives. He didn't snip after that. Players forget that they're freaking RICH compared to most of the population at large.

I need to work up magic items for everyone. I'm going to be leaning heavily on the healing magic so that they can patch themselves up reasonably well. Everyone will have a different kind of item with different levels of usage. I think it's a way to get around the lack of healing spells in the group without making it too much. No one gets something that will always heal them all the way back. There will be limits.

I also stressed the backstory aspect. One page isn't much to ask and I bribe them with saying they'll get something extra based on that backstory. It gives me a chance to get them another feat, some skill points, an item, whatever. They have stuff from before they joined this party. I keep stressing the need to be more than just some numbers on a page. Even if that's what the base really is.

Forgotten Realms gives players even more freebies. Everyone gets a bonus feat based on what region they're from as well as some extra equipment. We got through that as well. Of course one of the players wanted a feat that wasn't on their list. It makes sense that he would want it and I told him to convince me that he should have it with his backstory. He's fine with that one and so am I.

We ended with people still needing to fill out their characters since there's a hella lot of numbers in 3.5 but we got the core of everything down. I repeated that they can contact me with any questions they have and I'll check in with them later this week to see how they're doing. I need to know what regions they all chose so I know where to plunk them all down to start the campaign. So far they're spread pretty much from one end of the continent to the other. I can work with that.

Here's what Session Zero tends to look like after things get rolling. A table full of books, dice, paper, pencils, and whatnot. The actual gaming table will be larger.

Session Zero is over for this group. I'm hoping that they reach out to me with questions and I certainly plan on reaching out to them. And I really, really need to find my notecard holder since I love me some notecards.

Note 1 - Aasimars are not a playable race in my games because they're LA1. I don't allow level adjusted races. But there's a Lesser template to take out the level adjustment. I think it's a little cheesy because the stat changes are both pluses and there's some abilities they keep from the original race. I gave a tentative agreement with my final one coming after I've read over the changes thoroughly and possibly underpowered it more. The player is fine with discussing it and seems pleased that I'm willing to consider it and see how it goes. I'm hoist by my own petard because this comes from the books and I opened up the races and classes to all published books.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

3.5e Game Prep - Maybe

I've been asked to run a 3.5 game, which I am very happy to do. I like running games and 3.5 is my favorite edition of D&D. I put the event on Meetup and have four players signed up at this point. I'd like one more, just in case. But five is my limit because I feel it's difficult for everyone to be involved when there's too many of them at the table.

I was very clear in the posting - core races and classes only, no level adjusted characters, no splat books. That's how I like to run my games since it puts everyone on a level playing field. Another reason for that is it doesn't make the game difficult in terms of world interaction. A group of exotic races is very difficult to have show up in the rural villages without being burned alive. I'm good but I don't like having to make very large changes so they can simply play a game.

Every single one of them has asked for an exception. They want something from a splat book. They want a non-core race. They want this, they want that. I added the PHB 2 to the approved book list as a possible way to compromise but I'm beginning to wonder if that's going to work since half the classes are variations of ones from splat books.

There's someone I really wish I could talk to about this since he's got experience with, shall we say, diverse groups. But that's not possible. It leaves me on my own to figure this out.

What I want to do is put the line in the sand. Core classes, core races, no level adjusted characters, no splat books. If they don't want to follow those rules then they can find another GM. It could mean that there's no game because they want to play these variants and I can accept that. The game is no fun if everyone is not having fun. If they're not having fun because of the character limitations then why play? If I'm not having fun because of all the extra work I have to do to make the game run then why play?

I've been sick the last couple of days and haven't answered the latest round of questions. There's no rush since the game is still weeks away from Session Zero. I'd rather not answer when I'm not feeling well. That's a way to misstate things or make other mistakes in communication.

I would have considered running this past the GM in my 5e game but we don't meet again until the week before the 3.5 game and I'm not going make a special effort to contact him. I may not like his style but another experienced GM is another experienced GM.

There's far fewer GMs than there are players. Far, far fewer. You would think that these players would be happy to have someone willing to run a game and to accept that I have rules. The fact that they're not doing so makes me wonder if that's going to carry over into gaming.

As I said I'm not feeling well at the moment so I'm not making any decisions. I'm mulling them over and what the options are that might make everyone happy. I don't even know what kind of game they want to play. If they're going for the hack-and-slash then I could make it work since the role play aspect is far less important. If they do want the role play aspect and the odd characters then there's a problem, at least for me.

Players don't really know what goes into running a game. There's a lot of work on the GM side unless they're strictly running modules with no deviations. When I was running before I'd be thinking about the next game I would be running when I was driving home from the game that just finished. Literally there wasn't a day when I wasn't thinking about the games. I'd be making maps, working with plot hooks, reading back to find out what I could drop on them going forward, etc.

Players are characters in the story. The GM is the rest of the world. It does center around the PCs but there's a lot to center around them.

So back to my dilemma. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that they read the rules and are still asking for exceptions. That's kind of disrespectful in my opinion.

Give me some comments with yours, both as players and GMs. I'd like some outside viewpoints.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

I Gamed! 5e Session 2

Ok. Second session. Introductions are done and it's time to start doing party things. At least that's the hope.

I'm still not fond of this guy's style of GMing. He draws way too much on popular culture references but part of that may be his attempts to keep his son involved. But that sends his son into quoting stuff that pertains to the reference and it goes from there.

Or he could just be that kind of GM.

All the adults agree that we don't like the limitations of 5e. But we're going to keep playing it. I think trying to get his son to play a more detailed system wouldn't be practical. So 5e it is.

To summarize where we are. I passed a conquered city on my trip south. Turns out they were in that city trying to defend it and ended up with a band of refugees about 1,000 strong. But of course none of the city leaders made it out so the party (as it was) was trying to organize them into some kind of action.

I showed up and we got drafted to be the delegates for them to try to get help from a pirate village. Yeah. I hear ya on that one. The negotiations were done without us present and the one guy from the town got some help in return for us doing something for the lead pirate. They never asked. We sailed off to another city and have a set time to steal some item from the Pirate King.

We got to the new city. We talked to his contact. He sent us to another contact. Now you're caught up.

The pair of half-orcs decided we looked more suited to finding work in this place rather than the shiny paladins. That didn't work out at all. We tried a different tactic to get information and - surprise, surprise - it meant being enforcers with the target being the other guy who just blew us off.

The GM admitted it was to move the story along. He's that honest, at least.

At this point there's a bit of discussion between the practical half-orcs and the idealistic paladins. We want to wash our hands of this whole situation and take one of the roads out of town. We're tired of being used as pawns and honestly we don't care if those refugees make it or not. They're capable of finding their own ways to survive. The paladins make some noise about oaths and protecting the innocent. End result is we keep going. Of course.

The others in the party captured the person and turned him over to the guy who sicced us on him. There was payment. Woo. The guy also had a magic compass that showed us exactly where we needed to go to find the lair. And it was almost exactly like the compass from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Yes. He's that lazy.

We get to the island. We find ruins. We find the passage behind the waterfall. We overhear some pirates talking about how the Pirate King has plenty of treasure, that they're tired of being almost killed, etc. So I suggest we use these mooks to get us to the treasure room and if they live we take them with us when we leave the island. Surprisingly they agree.

So we left it with us having to get past some kind of guardian for the treasure room and then the Pirate King who seems to live in the room like some kind of dragon. Which I kind of hope he's not given our character levels.

I'm kind of but not really enjoying the game. The people are nice. The kid is as bad as I was warned he would be. The GM isn't as good as others I've had. And it's 5e.

I told them at the beginning that I've been asked to GM a 3.5 game and if it works out I may not be able to be in this game due to scheduling conflicts. They were understanding and we're going to see how things shake out. I have some time before the first session of the new game so I'll still play in this one.

I'll talk about the 3.5 game in another post. So far it's still gathering up people and answering questions about possible character ideas. And hoping that the venue will let us use their event room for free since none of the game stores around here are really RPG friendly.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

I Gamed! 5e Session 1

For the first time in almost two years I gamed last night. It was D&D 5e (meh) but it was gaming.

The group is a married couple (husband is GM), their teenage son, and their friend/neighbor. All the adults are in the same basic age range so that's helpful. I'll get to the son in a bit.

Disclaimer - I'm not fond of 5e. I'm very much a 3.5 person when it comes to D&D. I'm not saying it's better or worse than any other edition. It's the one I prefer. So no edition wars, please.

Their game is still early so we're all second level. That fit very well with the character I had already made and enjoyed in the previous 5e game I was in. She's a half-orc war cleric of Gruumsh. I stepped her alignment to the side so she's a chaotic neutral with a chaotic evil deity. The backstory I worked up has her free of the tropes that tend to go with half-orcs. I like her. The character was third level so I had to step her down one. No big deal.

As with most sessions when introducing a new player it was uneven. He had to get me set up to meet the group and continue with their story so it would all blend together. I expected it and waited politely when I wasn't involved. It happens. I was prepared. It let me read over the player's handbook to make sure I was clear on some of the rules.

Overall it was a decent game. The next one is coming up this weekend (two in a row then two weeks off while they play other games) and I'm hoping I don't get the call/text/email that they talked and decided I'm not going to fit into the group. I don't think it's going to happen but I can't help but worry.

On to my impressions of the game and how it's being run.

He showed me the charts he uses during combat for how damage is done, critical hits, critical fails, etc. I dislike those. I dislike those intently. I mentioned that I didn't but that I won't make a fuss if that's how the group plays. That caused the friend to say he didn't like the charts either. The son liked the charts (his vote really doesn't matter - more later). The wife waffled and eventually said she liked the flavor text but not the charts themselves. So the GM said he wouldn't use them. I felt awkward about making a change like that as a stranger but with a table vote it showed that no one else spoke up earlier.

He's using a couple of variants from the dungeon master's guide that are fine. They give the players a bit more flexibility and don't unbalance anything more than 5e already does. I still need to find out his change to initiative since he said he uses a d10 instead of a d20 but didn't say if we still add our initiative bonus. He said it makes things tighter. Um. Sure. I don't see what it matters if someone is 17 or 7 if the end result is the same but it's not worth bothering about.

The GM started out by telling me about a dream that I had and it was obviously a railroad into some kind of quest for a magic item for me. Nope. I'm going to avoid that as long as I can. I dislike being told what my character's goals are. I found out after the game that he's statted out legendary weapons to use in the game and I guess he wants us each to find one of them. Mine's some kind of spear. I don't use that kind of weapon, I've never wanted to use that kind of weapon, and I'm not interested in epic weapons.

During the game I found out how he runs. I haven't been on the player side of the screen much in the last decade so I made sure to go with his style and not mentally compare it to what I would do. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I don't know if he realizes how much railroading he actually does.

That dream thing I already mentioned. He said I could do with it what I would but it's obvious that he's going to push it later if I don't bring it up. There's a group of refugees from a conquered town that the other group was helping and he had it set up so they lost all their stuff except what they were carrying because of that. I found that problematic in that they have to rebuy everything they started with except their weapons.

We were 'chosen' to be the delegates to a pirate town as a way to get help for the refugees. Personally they had their own leaders, such as they were, and I would have left them to that. As second level we shouldn't have had to try to do anything to get them resettled and as adventurers with no ties to the town there's no reason to do it. But that was part of his story (or they decided that in the previous game) so we went. And of course the NPC from the refugees bargained that we would do a service for the head pirate in exchange for them helping.

Note that the negotiations were done without us so we were told about this after. We had the choice of taking on the task and the refugees getting help or not taking it and leaving them to their fates. Like that was a real choice. Personally I would have left them but that's me. So we take on the stupid quest.

The trail of breadcrumbs was more a series of loaves of bread at this point. We're getting passed from one NPC to another as we try to 'find information' we need to complete the quest. I found out in the middle he pulled this from a module so it makes more sense why it feels so flat. But I seem to be the only one with a problem so I'm not making waves. I'm playing it as my character would do, which isn't the dodge to do stupid things.

We left the game as we were going to talk to the next NPC who had information for us. It was a good stopping point.

Now on to the son. The son has socialization issues. They did tell me about this when we met to find out if we were going to be a match for gaming. Session Zero is important. They're getting him into gaming as a way to work on those issues and that's not a bad way to do it, in my opinion.

The kid has the attention span of a concussed squirrel. He's only concerned with the cool armor he wants for his character and the title that he wants, not with playing the character itself. We tried to keep him involved in the game but he wasn't responding half of the time and never initiated anything unless it was to show us a print of what he wanted his armor to be. For a while he was playing with a Transformer action figure rather than paying attention to the game. His dad let that go for a while then told him to stop. So they're aware of his limits and setting expectations.

I can handle the kid being in the game. He's not disruptive as much as not there. He's kind of an enhanced NPC from what I can see. We'll see what he does during combat rounds but for role playing he's not much. I was aware that role play was something lacking in the game and they were pleased that I enjoy the RP aspect as much as the combat parts of the game.

At this point my impression of the game is favorable. I'm not going to rank it because that's not relevant in this situation. If they don't kick me out I'll play and do my best to enjoy it. If nothing else I get to play a character I like. I'm also paying attention to his GM style and seeing if I do anything he's doing and I don't like as a player. If so then I can work on not doing that in the future.

It's tough joining a new group and it's even more so when the group is tight. They didn't make me feel like an outsider and they seemed to genuinely want me in the game. I'm working hard to adapt to what their table is like and not try to change too much to my own preferences. That table thing was the only one that stood out and the table vote makes me feel much less awkward about it. Did I mention I really dislike those kinds of tables?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

ReaperCon 2019 Review

I already posted a summary update on Twitter but there's only so much you can do with a series of 140 character posts.

These are my own experiences and thoughts about the convention. I've been attending since the artist convention in 2005, missing only 2012 (I needed a break for reasons). So I remember the days when it was at the factory, missed the first move to a hotel, then have been there through the remaining venue changes.

I've also got the comparison between pre-Bones and post-Bones conventions. I'll be making reference to that in my review. There will be more on that following the review.

Day 0 - Wednesday

Travel wasn't so bad. It started out not so great when I got the text that my flight was going to be delayed for an hour, then another text that it wasn't delayed, and then an unannounced gate change. The gate change was a bit of a scare since I'm using the wheelchair service at the airports so they had to push me and another person to the new gate in a hurry. But we made it.

I did have to use two pieces of luggage for the trip down due to bulky/heavy things. I had expected to need the second bag so I had the soft duffel from my GenCon trip ready. The suitcase was three pounds overweight but a quick switch of one item to the other bag fixed that easily. My airline 'gives' you two checked bags without an additional fee, which was part of why I selected that one.

I was the wheels for four other people going to the convention with about an hour's spread between our flights. Eventually we all gathered up and went to the rental car area. I'm a rewards club member and get to skip the rental desk, choosing whatever car I want from the designated aisle. I was a bit concerned about fitting five gamers and our luggage into a sedan but funny enough the only vehicle in the area was a minivan so I got to take it with no upcharge. Fate was smiling on us.

The hotel was the same as last year, if slightly more 'into' the convention now that they had a feel for what we were. Custom room keys (probably paid for by the company), colored lighting, etc. We got our room block goodie bags and dropped our things. Then a quick Walmart run for supplies and we were all set.

The check-in line was long and moved slow, which is about normal. They were having printer problems for tickets, which is about normal. But I got my badge, my class tickets, and a BUNCH of swag bags since two people had me purchase additional ones for them. All that got dumped in the room.

There's a Meet and Greet pizza dinner included in the VIP badge. They didn't get better pizza this year. It's pretty bad pizza. I resort to eating the toppings and leaving the crust behind. It makes for an interesting plate when I'm done and the servers never know whether or not to take it.

After that there's no real scheduled events so everyone breaks off into groups. I hit my room to rest.

Day 1 - Thursday

Hotel stay includes breakfast and this place is nice for having real food on it. I won't repeat this for each day but breakfast consisted of lots of scrambled eggs, a nice amount of bacon, fruit, and milk. Carbs are cheap and easy to get, protein not so much.

I set aside the entire day for shopping. Here's where ReaperCon shines for me. They have an area where all the cast parts are kept before they're packaged. Given the name of the company the area is called The Boneyard. ReaperCon is the only time of the year you can trade in old metal and get new metal ounce-for-ounce. Which means you can get figures for far less, relatively speaking, than buying them retail.

I do a lot of shopping. And I was shopping for three other people so that's even more shopping.

This year I remembered to bring a lot of plastic baggies so I could keep large multipart models together (it's a right pain to sort all that out) as well as keep things organized as I went. It helps with shopping for other people as well.

It's in Texas and there's no air conditioning in that area. It's a concrete floors with shelves six feet high. The minis are kept in those heavy yellow plastic bins so it's a day of standing, bending, stretching, reaching, and generally more exertion than I do at once. This is why I set aside the full day.

Whatever they didn't have on hand they'll cast so once I put my passengers to work on shopping for other people while I finished mine (long list this year) we filled out the casting slips and left. I would have stayed longer but one person had a class that afternoon and I didn't know that when I agreed to be his ride.

I don't like time limits on my shopping.

That night was me being tired so it was a drink at the complementary cocktail hour then a break until cheap appetizers at the attached restaurant. I was also told to try the tomato soup because it came with deep fried cheese fritters. The soup was all right, the seared tuna was overpowered by the relish, the chicken and avocado egg rolls were the best of the bunch. I ate too much.

Day 2 - Friday

I had one class on Friday. I try to take three classes per year, just to keep learning. It gets difficult at times given that I've been taking classes for so long and there's a lot that doesn't interest me. It doesn't help that there are instructors on my 'do not take classes from this person' list either. But I can generally find some classes.

The class I chose wasn't very good for me. The instructor focused on two things that I pretty much already knew how to do and didn't show any different ways for me to try. That and they both depended on dry layers and that doesn't happen quickly in Texas. So instead of nice clean lines we ended up with smeared messes. Which the instructor then tried to give suggestions on how to improve. He stopped looking at mine when I said I could have done it if the paint had time to dry.

I'm not sure if that instructor went on The List or not. I'm leaning towards it.

The rest of the day was me going through the vendors. You get a punch card in your swag bag and if you get it punched by all the vendors you get a free mini. It's a nice way to get you to visit all the booths. I like to shop, chat, and then ask for the card to be punched. I'm in the minority. This was a shopping day anyway, not a buying day.

The selection of vendors is eclectic. One big problem is that the convention is held over a holiday weekend and some of the more desired vendors won't bother. Another big problem is that a huge convention is happening at the same time so if they have to choose one it won't be this one. The last big problem is that the convention isn't that big and it's manufacturer sponsored. Until last year they only had to deal with the last problem. The other two are making themselves known.

After wandering the vendors (missing two because they hadn't arrived yet) I spent time catching up with artists and other people I knew.

I took the factory tour because I like to take the tour. I like to see what's changed, have some pleasant memories of what it used to be like, hear the history, etc. I can't do the upstairs part because of the stairs but I had a bit of shopping to do so I peeled off the tour early and did that. It's allowed. I met up near the end and still got to enjoy the last of the tour itself.

A couple of people I know were arriving this evening so I kept an eye out for them. I had brought stuff for them and I rarely get to watch people open presents. I was able to meet up with one of them, the other hadn't arrived.

Solo cocktail hour but free drinks are free drinks.

I made the mistake of ordering a pizza for dinner. It was a mistake because the tiny fridge in the room would in no way hold pizza leftovers even if I had a way to wrap them up. I really didn't think that one out. So I was back to eating pizza toppings and ignoring the crusts.

Day 3 - Saturday

Two classes today, separated out. I spent my day hanging out, going to a class, hanging out, going to a class, hanging out, etc. It's odd to have that break between classes because I didn't want to start anything with the short time I had. So it was kind of a wandering time.

The first class of the day was great. It was a demo on airbrush usage and I've taken classes from that instructor before. It's been agreed that this one is an inconsistent teacher - on point for some classes, not so much on others. This time there was an assistant of sorts to keep them on track and it helped a lot. I'll bring up my airbrush at the end after the review.

The second class of the day was me giving the instructor another chance. They didn't do well, in my opinion, teaching a class the previous year. But I liked the topic of this one and they had already taught it at GenCon so I hoped it would be better. My hopes were in vain. This one was another wasted class. And this teacher is on the 'do not take their classes' list going forward.

Cocktail hour again. The hotel had some special con-themed drinks so that was fun. I had the Dragon Tears blue thing and it was tasty. Actually I had two of them this time. I only had one the night before.

I socialized a bit and then had dinner at the attached restaurant. I just realized I had a coupon for that place I could have used, maybe, but oh well. Dinner was all right and far more than I'm used to eating.

The painting contest awards are held on Saturday evening and there's nothing of interest for me there. Everyone I know puts entries in the contest so I'm on my own during that time. I hung out in my room and read.

Day 4 - Sunday

I leave early on Sunday now because I have no interest in the auction and that's the big event of the convention after the painting contest. It's kind of bigger because there's free stuff. It's free because you can only bid using convention money you get from participating in convention events. There's nothing I want or need so there's no reason for me to stay.

Once again an unannounced gate change at the airport but that was the only hiccup in my travel. My suitcase was lighter than when I brought it because I left a lot of things there and had all my shopping shipped home. It was worth the cost.


It seems like my cat suffers from separation anxiety. She's been a perfectly trained cat until this weekend when she did unspeakable things to the pet bed and my bathroom floor. According to the person watching her that happened on Saturday some time. So it was after I was gone for a few days and she was left alone more than I would like. They could only visit once per day during the week and I think it was more of a 'food-water-litter box' situation than spending time with the cat.

I think she's better because I spent Sunday and Monday making sure she could find me and get attention any time she wanted. I did have to unpack the suitcase and I've made sure she has no ability to do unspeakable things to it. I hadn't planned on going into the office this week so she'll have me around more than just that time. That plan was made to give my knees some time to recover.


I didn't do any of the fun painting stuff I had planned and I'm not exactly sure why I didn't. I walked by the area any number of times. There were open spaces. But for whatever reason I didn't sit down to paint the free minis. I'm going to have to think about that one.

I'm never quite sure why I keep going to this convention. I don't socialize much and every year there's fewer and fewer people I know. I take a few classes. I don't enter the painting competition. I think it's the shopping that keeps me going and habit. If I didn't go to this one I wouldn't go to anything. It's a sobering thought.


What the heck are Bones you may be asking? Until several years ago everything Reaper put out was in metal. Then they used Kickstarter to start their plastic injection molded line. They call those Bones. That was a turning point for the company and their customer base.

The Kickstarter got a lot of attention and a lot of people who had never been a part of the hobby dove in. The site forum exploded with new people and everything was Bones, Bones, Bones. Then there was the second Kickstarter. And the third, And the fourth. The fifth is starting in a month. Plastic is the thing for the bulk of the attendees. I'm a metal snob so I don't bother with the plastic stuff at all.

The vast majority of the convention attendees have never painted metal minis. They're all about the plastics. I don't really blame them. The cost difference is significant and most of the new stuff is in plastic. It's the old timers who have more affection for metal. And the competition painters but resin is good enough for that as well. Metal is becoming sidelined.


I almost forgot I was going to put in something about my airbrush.

I have four Badger airbrushes. I really only need one but anyone who knows me knows I go big when I go into something. One thing I did during a sale was buy replacement triggers for them that are taller so there's less hand strain when using the airbrushes. That means taking them apart and replacing triggers.

It wasn't bad to do that. It's always good to know how to disassemble and reassemble your tools.

Except for one of them. That one didn't slide like it should, didn't move like it should, and there were air bubbles around the cap. Fine. I set it aside and didn't think much about it. Then the convention started getting closer and I had two chances at having professionals look at the thing to find out what I did wrong and learn how not to do that again.

The owner of the company was there. He looked at it briefly and told me to send it to the factor for service.

The instructor for the class looked at it and said "Sure. I can take care of that." and started it soaking in a cup of isopropyl alcohol. He also showed me why part of it was sticking ("Just ram it back and forth a few times until it moves smoothly. It gets junked up with whatever they put on it at the factory."). Once he cleaned it out it was working perfectly. Turns out I did reassemble it correctly or when they were mucking around with it the piece went back into place.

The final thing was the kicker. The bubbles that were coming out around the cap? "Those just happen. Ignore them."

So the only thing truly 'wrong' with it was needing to have the factory lube worked off the needle due to the very tight tolerances of that model. Which means nothing was wrong with it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

So You Want to Buy a 3D Printer? - Part 2

In our last adventure I was dealing with a clog, after having taken apart the print head to replace the fan and try to figure out why it wasn't printing as it should.

I left it with the clog and me looking at taking more advanced measures.

I did continue.

The first thing I did was take a piece of piano wire, heat it up, and jam it down the filament path to try to gather up any filament boogers. This is kind of like a cold pull except that it will gather up a different kind of debris. Larger pieces will stick to the wire and be pulled out since it's smaller than the diameter of the tube. I got out some gunk so that looked promising.

Another run of cleaning filament dashed those hopes.

I did a couple more passes of piano wire - cleaning filament before deciding there wasn't anything that was going to get pulled out.

It was back to cold pulls, hoping that the adventure with piano wire had at least moved around whatever was clogging the nozzle.

Two cold pulls later and it was still not working. I was on the verge of taking it apart so I could get to the nozzle more directly.

Now when I do a cold pull I like to make sure I know what's going on. Typically you heat it up to 265, run the filament (or push it down) until it comes out the nozzle, then cool to around 180-190 and pull it back out. I tend to set the temperature for the cool down rather than try to catch it at the right time. I set it to 190 and it works.

This wasn't working.

The next time I set it to 185 when I was going to pull it back out. And I found a chunk of something in the end of the cleaning filament. This is good. This is what you want. Cleaning filament is undyed nylon so it's kind of a translucent cream and you can tell if it gathers up anything in the process.

THIS time the cleaning filament ran nice and clean. It was the thick, smooth extrusion that I needed.

The moral of the story here? That sometimes you have to just keep at it and you'll get it working again. A clog can always be fixed, even if that fix is putting on a new nozzle. This time I could use the standard methods (with the extra kick of piano wire) to clean it out and continue.

Why piano wire? Because it's hardened wire and can stand up to heating and abuse. This stuff is really tough. You need special nippers because it will chip regular ones. It's serious stuff and very handy if you're going to be using it for various things. But if not then I recommend skipping it because while the wire isn't expensive at the hobby store the nippers are.

Let's go onto another thing that happens - twisted filament.

Almost all the time if your filament gets twisted it's user error. You can never let the end of the filament go unsecured. If you do there's every chance it's going to slip under a winding and then you get twisted filament. That will bind up at some point and do something as simple as break or as nasty as pull the filament roll around and screw up your alignment.

There are rare times when you get twists on the roll and they aren't user error. I've had it happen. I've seen the pictures of it from other brands. We honestly don't know how it happens at the factory since it should never be able to happen but it does.

Untwisting filament is kind of an exercise in patience. You can't just unroll it to the twist, untangle it, and roll it back up. That darn twist will keep sliding behind what you're unrolling. There's plenty of instructions on how to do it but I'll simplify here.

Keeping a grip on the end of the filament you back roll it to loosen up the windings. You keep doing that until you've got a nice amount of filament loose, hopefully with your tangle in there somewhere, then slide the whole mess over the side of the spool. It is a mess at this point. And I have yet to do it where there aren't windings on the spool that didn't get pulled off so I need to repeat a couple of times until it's just one piece being unwound. It's not pretty.

Then there's the fun of winding it back onto the spool. Filament is wound while it's still hot and it keeps the curve of the spool. And it's springy. So it's all over the place as you're trying to figure out how to get through the twists and hopefully deal with the tangle. I know most filament is cheap enough that I could cut off the part I've pulled off the spool and I have done that when it kinks or just gets too frustrating. But I like a challenge. Sometimes.

Ok. Clog is cleared! Filament twist gone! Ready to print, right?

Nope. The broken filament in the print head means it won't let me load new filament.

This one worked with the easy fix. Heat it up to cleaning temps, let the filament ooze out and soften, run some cleaning filament until the old stuff is gone. Then lower the temperature and load the new filament.

Except it didn't seem to want to load.

Being patient fixed that one. The load process built into the firmware has it doing a ram (fast load) for a bit then slower as it builds the pressure on the nozzle. The motor wasn't moving filament on the ram. But it was moving on the slower one. So I kept saying the filament wasn't loaded (it wasn't) so the process would continue to push out at the slow speed. Eventually the leftover cleaning filament came out (that could have been part of the issue) and the new filament was in this neat little spiral before extruding clean.

While the spiral looks cool it's not cool. It means there's .. a clog. This time just letting the filament run cleaned it up and I've got the printer going again.

So there's a whole bunch of little annoyances that happen with far more frequency than any of us like. There's far worse ones but clogged filament is pretty much an expected thing no matter how clean you try to keep your nozzle.

I'll detail the next problem when it happens. Because one will happen.