Getting better at painting gaming miniatures

Many of us who play fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying and tabletop miniature games struggle with our ability to paint minis so that they look halfway decent on the table. Getting me to paint my minis is like getting 8-year-old me to eat his broccoli. I'm something of a perfectionist and I look at a lot of pro painted miniatures, in gaming magazines and online. My miniatures never look as good as what I see, so it's an effort for me to even bother. But also being a perfectionist, I wouldn't think of "gaming in the nude" (playing with unpainted miniatures). And so I press ahead, and try to do at least a little painting every night.

My pal, James Floyd Kelly, who I wrote about previously when he launched his new dungeon crafting channel, Game Terrain Engineering, was in a similar boat of not being happy with his painting chops. So, he decided to buy the Reaper Miniatures Learn To Paint Bones Kit and record a series of videos of him painting the three minis that come in the kit. It's really encouraging to watch the series and to see how much his painting improves over the three videos and three miniatures. Bolstered by that improvement, Jim plans on now getting the next kit in the series, the Layer Up Bones Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit and to paint (and hopefully document) those three miniatures.

Also: Here's a list of beginner painting tips that I ran into recently. These are all of the same tips that I share with people. Read the rest

Dungeon crafting red herrings for Frostgrave's Ulterior Motives expansion

Did you know that there's such a thing as "dungeon crafting?" I didn't, until recently. There are a growing number of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching viewers how to craft all manner of terrain and building components to be used in Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying and tabletop games.

My friend, Make: and Geek Dad contributor Jim Kelly, has recently launched a new dungeon crafting channel called Game Terrain Engineering. So far, he has posted videos for such projects as making towers, tombs, crypts, columns and doors, and my favorite, how to make monuments to your fallen D&D characters!

In the latest episode (above), Jim gets to work on creating a set of red herring playing pieces for his (and my) current favorite game, Frostgrave (read my WINK review of Frostgrave here). Osprey Games, makers of Frostgrave, have just released an awesome new expansion for the game, a deck of 40 cards called Ulterior Motives. These cards contain special game objectives that players draw before beginning play. I love this game mechanic of adding individual player objectives to an existing game via a deck of cards. Frostgrave is not an RPG, it's a narrative fantasy skirmish wargame. Adding these individual motives helps to bring more play-depth and narrative flavor to the game.

Some of the objectives in the Ulterior Motives pack are revealed right when the card is drawn. Others remain secret until you make your move as indicated on the card. To get other players off the stink of what you're up to, there are a series of red herring terrain pieces that are called for (a statue, a zombie, a pit, a portal, a sarcophagus, a trap door, an arcane disk, and a runic stone). Read the rest

An impressive collection of circuit diagrams for Arduino electronics

"Oh my god, this is beautiful!," "What IS this?; this is SO cool!" It's not often you get such reactions (especially from non-techies) for a nerdy computer hardware and electronics book filled with esoteric-looking diagrams. But that's what happened when Alberto Piganti sent me a prototype copy of his ABC: Basic Connections book and I left it out on my dining room table. Alberto sent the copy because he's currently crowdfunding the book on Kickstarter (now with only 14 hours left to go!). UPDATE: The book is now available to pre-order on Indiegogo

Anyone who knows Alberto's work on his website PighiXXX knows that he creates gorgeous, free to download, and easy-to-understand circuit diagrams, pinouts, and other electronic schematics for the Arduino user community. His work is laudable for being exceptionally clean and clear, easy for non-techies to understand, and rendered in the most human-readable ways possible. And it's all just too dang purdy!

His ABC: Basic Connections book is a small 2-ring binder collecting (and adding to) the best and most useful schematics from the site. The idea is that the schematics are printed on sturdy pages that you can remove from the binder to use on your workbench (and updates will be available). He describes the impetus for the project:

Back in 2013 I began designing my own and making them available for free on my website pighixxx.com. I have created so far more than 300 high quality circuit diagrams and pinouts that are used by more than 500,000 makers worldwide.
Read the rest

Ladyada and Adafruit featured in the latest issue of Make:

I had the pleasure of writing the cover feature, on Limor Fried (aka "Ladyada") and her company, Adafruit, for the latest issue of Make: (Volume 57). Since a lot had already been made about the company's impressive and popular open source product line and Limor as a successful female entrepreneur, I decided to focus on what I think is another rather unique aspect of the company: the fact that the open source ethos that informs the design of their hardware also informs their corporate culture.

There's a openness, a spirit of sharing, educating, and supporting, that is shot through the fabric of Adafruit Industries.

They open-source many of the details of how the company is run and post the details of what they're learning (as a company) on their Adafruit Learning System and in their newsletters. They use the feedback and ideas from their substantial online social community to crowdsource product development. And they're attempting to create a corporate culture where employees feel respected, cared for, and given room to grow. As the Founder Collective put it on Twitter this morning: "105 full-time employees, $45M in revenue, no venture capital. Adafruit is a great case study in efficient entrepreneurship."

Michele Santomauro and Vance Lewis holding component reels in preparation to load the pick and place machines. Photo by Andrew Tingle

Founded in a dorm room in 2005 by MIT engineer Limor “Ladyada” Fried as an online learning resource and marketplace for do-it-yourself electronics, Adafruit is now a highly successful community-driven electronics company, educational resource, and maker community thriving in SoHo, Manhattan.
Read the rest

Bell, book, and emoji, bewitching emoticons for your phone

My favorite witch, Pam Grossman, editor of the phantastic art and occult blog, Phantasmaphile, and author of What is a Witch, has recently released WitchEmoji, a new messaging sticker pack for iPhone.

The set offers 80 stickers in all, including the typical tools of spellcraft, symbols and sigils, and male and female witches of various skin tones. Pam created the set, with the help of icon illustrator Julia Heffernan, because she wanted to invoke more witchy symbolism in her mobile missives and there weren't many existing stickers that fit the bill.

The response to the set has been extremely positive and Pam says she'd like to expand to Android and elsewhere. Given the success of the Apple set, I imagine we'll be seeing emoji-based spellcasting coming to other phones sooner than later. Read the rest

The strange appeal of Fibonacci spiral shaving

Is there a visual equivalent to the audio tingles people report in ASMR? Because I get a special kinda o' feeling deep down inside whenever I watch videos like woodworker Paul Seller's gorgeous Fibonacci Spiral Shaving. It even sounds like some sort of a fussy sexual proclivity: Fibonacci spiral shaving.

Given the video's comments, where people are talking about how meditative, relaxing, and therapeutic Fibonacci spiral shaving is, I don't think I'm alone. And I second the request to loop it. I could watch this thing all day.

Oh, and by the way, if you're into this sort of eyeball massaging, watching videos of repetitive activity, close-ups of craftwork, strange materials and chemical intereactions, and the like, check out the Oddly Satisfying tag on Instagram. Read the rest

Jenny Nicholson's "Top 10 Reasons I Won't Do ASMR" ASMR

I get a huge kick out of the videos of the always-entertaining nerd whisperer Jenny Nicholson. If you haven't seen her channel, check it out and watch as she sits on her bed, surrounded by sci-fi plushies, and shares her quirky, sometimes labyrinthine, and often convincing theories and opinions on sci-fi and fantasy films, comic books, novels, and other nerd media fodder.

In her latest video, she answers many requests she's apparently had for doing ASMR videos by explaining ten reasons why her answer is no. But she delivers her ten reason AS an ASMR video, right down to tapping, scratching, and scrunching things as she talks. One of her ten reasons made me laugh out loud:

"I just don't know how I'm supposed to take myself seriously when I'm crinkling bags for an hour."

For those unfamiliar, ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is an intense tingling sensation some people claim they experience when they hear certain soft voices, pleasant repetitive sounds, or while watching someone doing a particularly mundane, repetitive activity.

I'm sure Jenny is going to get a lot of grief from ASMRtists for seemingly making fun of them, but I would hope they'd have a healthy sense of humor about it all. Several commenters who claim to experience ASMR said that they laughed at her reasons for not doing it. I do not have ASMR, but I do enjoy listening to some ASMR audio as I'm going to sleep and I'm fascinated by the whole phenomenon and the numerous, surreal, and just plain bizarre videos people are producing in the genre. Read the rest

Primitive Technology: Turn on the closed captions!

It's no secret that Boing Boing (along with over 4 million other netizens) loves the Primitive Technology channel on YouTube. We've covered this channel numerous times (about a guy making primitive tech in the wilds of Far North Queensland, Australia with nothing but the gym shorts on his ass). I anxiously await each episode and am like a kid at Christmas when I get the alert that a new one is up.

But this month, thanks to one of the reader comments, I made a cool discovery. The videos are without narration. The un-named survivalist, who some have dubbed "Prim," is really good at showing you what he's doing so that you can understand it without explanation, and he writes up decent notes that are published along with the videos. But then I saw the comment: "[Turns on captions] That clever bastard has been talking to us the entire time!!" Whoa.

The captions and the notes are pretty similar, but you do get extra content in the captions and you get to see them in situ. I've been using closed captioning on my TV recently and have been delighted to see how much additional information you actually get: background conversations you would never hear, song titles and lyrics, and wonderful sound descriptions like "sexual gasping." So, it's great to discover another instance of CC being useful. Read the rest

A master of miniature model-making shares his hard-earned secrets

I first discovered David Neat’s work via his website where he delves deeply into all sorts of fascinating interests, from furniture design to natural history to art. Mainly what drew me there was his extensive tutorials on all aspects of miniature model-making. The amount of content he’s posted is staggering, as is the quality of everything. Read comments about David’s site (or this book) and you will hear from seasoned pros, surprised by how much they’ve learned from David’s work.

Model-Making: Materials and Methods collects some of David’s best content from the site. While only 176 pages, this book manages to cram in a lot of eye-opening tips and techniques for building miniatures. David comes from the theater set-building world and teaches design and model-making, mainly with theater, TV, and movie models in mind, but the techniques in this book can be applied to all forms of model-making, from dioramas and dollhouses to tabletop miniature games and train layouts. Chapters cover model construction, molding and casting, working with metals, creating surfaces and textures (one of David’s strong suits), and finishing techniques.

I love a book that has so much to offer, you can simply poke your head into it for a few minutes and you’ve added a few more wrinkles to your brain by the time you put it down. Model-Making: Materials and Methods is such a book.

Model-Making: Materials and Methods by David Neat Crowood Press 2008, 176 pages, 8.5 x 0.5 x 11.0 inches, Hardcover $33 Buy on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

A worldwide occult ritual for binding Donald Trump

My friend, the horror writer, Fortean investigator, and educator, Michael Hughes, has been circulating details for a series of occult rituals being planned to cast a "spell to bind Donald Trump and all those who abet him." The basic mission statement of the ritual:

To be performed at midnight on every waning crescent moon until he is removed from office. The first ritual takes place Friday evening, February 24th, at the stroke of midnight. This binding spell is open source, and may be modified to fit your preferred spiritual practice or magical system — the critical elements are the simultaneity of the working (midnight, EST—DC, Mar-a-Lago, and Trump Tower NYC time) and the mass energy of participants.

I had to chuckle at the shopping list for the ritual:

Unflattering photo of Trump (small); see below for one you can print Tower tarot card (from any deck) Tiny stub of an orange candle (cheap via Amazon) Pin or small nail (to inscribe candle) White candle (any size), representing the element of Fire Small bowl of water, representing elemental Water Small bowl of salt, representing elemental Earth Feather (any), representing the element of Air Matches or lighter Ashtray or dish of sand

Optional:

Piece of pyrite (fool’s gold) Sulfur Black thread (for traditional binding variant) Baby carrot (as substitute for orange candle stub)

They had me a "tiny orange candle" and "baby carrot."

Whether you're a believer in any flavor of woo-woo or just see this as Yippie-esque political theater/performance art, a la the 1967 levitation of the Pentagon, you may be interested in participating. Read the rest

The MakeShift Challenge (or what would MacGyver do?)

For its first five years, Make: magazine ran a column called "MakeShift," edited by Lee D. Zlotoff, creator of the TV show MacGyver. The idea was to present Make: readers with a MacGyver-esque challenge in each issue, collect all of the submitted solutions, and then publish an analysis, along with all of the top submitters' notes and sketches, on the Make: website. The "MakeShift" challenge asked readers to ponder such conundrums as how to contain a viral outbreak on a plane, how to charge your phone with nothing but camping gear and a propane torch, how to fend off a zombie attack, and how to get help after a very bad fall.

The reader-responses were impressive. People really put a lot of thought into their solutions, sending copious notes and drawings. And in fully explaining the challenges and ranking the solutions in the follow-up website articles, Lee and Make: editor Bill Lidwell shared a lot of great MacGyvering tips and nutshell science and engineering.

Sadly, years ago, the "MakeShift" columns disappeared when a dedicated magazine area of the Make: site was discontinued. So, a few weeks ago, Make: decided to bring back "MakeShift," now publishing re-constituted columns every Wednesday. Here are the first three posted.

Dead Car Battery You're 50 miles into mountainous woods, your battery is dead, and there's a big snowstorm bearing down. How can you revive your dead battery? On, and it's a automatic transmission. Potable Water You're in a village in East Asia and the water has become dangerously contaminated. Read the rest

Frostgrave, the popular fantasy skirmish game, gets a devilishly-good supplement

Last year, I had the pleasure of exploring “the Frozen City” of Felstad, aka Frostgrave, the ridiculously fun, retro-reminiscent fantasy miniatures game from Osprey. Designer Joseph McCullogh and Osprey have followed up the highly-successful Frostgrave book with a series of excellent supplements. The latest of these is Forgotten Pacts.

Frostgrave is a very psycho-geographical game, where the ancient, ruined, and magic-saturated city of Felstad is really a central character in the game. One of the things each follow-up book does is shine a light into some new corner of that dark and ruined world. And with that light is also illuminated new stories of the city’s past, new wizard and warband types, new magic, treasures to unearth, and new monstrous adversaries.

Forgotten Pacts accomplishes two goals in advancing the game and the setting of Frostgrave. It introduces a new region, the northern reaches of Felstad, and the barbarian tribesmen who have come down from the hills to plunder and explore there. The book also introduces a new magical discipline for courageous wizards to attempt: demonic summoning using pacts. Demon summoning was de rigor in this region of the city during its heyday and the barbarians have re-rediscovered the lost art of it among the temple ruins and incorporated the practice into their way of life. Venturing into this region, players’ wizards get the opportunity to find a demon’s True Name (basically an unpronounceable name rendered as a sigil) among the ruins, and with that name, attempt to conjure and forge a pact with a demon. Read the rest

Kid Koala's "Collapser" featuring Emilíana Torrini and chemical puppeteer Karina Bleau

Yesterday saw the release of Canadian artist, graphic novelist, and scratch DJ Kid Koala's latest record, his fifth, Music to Draw To: Satellite. An ambient concept record, Music to Draw To: Satellite is about a pair of lovers separated by a one-way trip to Mars. Each track is like a sonic love letter, an expression of the loneliness of extended isolation, the wondrous, terrifying void of space, and missing those left behind. Seven of the tracks on the record feature vocals by Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini (known for, beyond her critically-acclaimed solo career, recording with Thievery Corporation, and singing "Gollum's Song" in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).

I have been soothing my restless psyche for the past few days with heavy-rotation listening to "Collapser," one of the first tracks released. This lost in space lullaby features the most wistful and dreamy vocals from Torrini on the record. For the video, Kid Koala teamed up with "chemical puppeteer" Karina Blea whose work is described as "an ultraviolet study of chemical theatrics under a microscope." The slowly changing, minimalist liquid world of colored drips, languid swirls, and chemical reactions is a perfect complement to the insistent rhythms of the music and Torrini's melancholy vocals sweetly swimming over the top.

Kid Koala says that he was inspired to do this project by the go-to records he listens to whenever he's drawing and working on his art. He wanted to create such a piece himself. He and his record company, Arts & Crafts Records, have even gone so far as to release a deluxe version of the CD which comes in an 80-page sketchbook so that you too can draw along to the music. Read the rest

Adam Savage and Peter Jackson nerd out over a CIA disguise kit

Adam Savage visited Weta Workshop in New Zealand last year and has posted videos of him touring various studios within the well-known movie effects and prop studio. In this video, he sits down (on the floor) with Peter Jackson to get a tour of Jackson's collection of John Chambers' makeup kits and latex appliances. Chambers is perhaps best known for being the makeup artist who created Spock's ears and for his work on the Planet of the Apes films.

What most people don't know is that Chambers also worked with the CIA to create special agent disguise kits at the height of the cold war. Adam and Peter look at Chambers' movie makeup kits and some of his molds and appliance from Planet of the Apes, but they spend most of the time going through and discussing the CIA disguise kit. As Adam says, it's the closest we probably get to verification that Mission Impossible was at least based on some type of reality. It's insane to imagine someone actually using a kit like this in a real life-or-death getaway.

As one person on the YouTube page commented about this video:

I love that this totally feels like just two nerds doing "show and tell," but it's actually Adam Savage and Peter-fucking-Jackson!

But isn't that one of the things that we love about nerds? Read the rest

Artist turns Trump quotes into comic book covers

Comic artist R. Sikoryak, known for his Masterpiece Comics and his graphic novel version of the iTunes user agreement, is now creating faux comic book covers using tweets and speech excerpts from our High School Bully-Elect. Sikoryak is known for doing his art in the style of other artists and here he pays homage to the likes of Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead), Jack Kirby, Bob Montana, Chris Houghton (Adventure Time), and others. Here are a few of his covers. See all of the covers to date on his Tumblr blog. Read the rest

New book of seminal essays and ideas from the iconic Whole Earth Catalog

When I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to try marijuana. It took me a while, but I eventually scored some from a high schooler and went to a friend’s house to smoke it. His brother was away at college and allegedly had rolling papers in his room. We needed something to clean the pot on, too, and his brother conveniently had a large book, a floppy, unwieldy beast called The Last Whole Earth Catalog. As I hunched over this mysterious artifact, picking out seeds and stems while scanning the oversized pages, for the first time, I encountered names like Buckminster Fuller, Gregory Bateson, Stewart Brand, and concepts like systems thinking, nomadics, geodesic domes, and countless domains of DIY. I was completely enthralled. We managed to roll a sad-looking, lumpy joint and smoked it, but I was more interested in the book than the dope. When we were done, I asked him if I could trade my nickel bag ($5-worth) for the catalog (which had a big $5 price tag, printed in big Cooper Black type, right on the cover). He said his brother hadn’t seemed tremendously interested and probably wouldn’t miss it. We made the trade. I didn’t know it at the time, but in that transaction, I had just set foot on the path that leads directly to today. My lifelong work in DIY media, tech, and culture (I lived in communes for nearly 20 years) can all be traced directly back to this copy of the catalog and all those that followed. Read the rest

David Bowie, circa 1999, on the "exhilarating and terrifying" future of the Internet

Of all of the accolades that Bowie received after his death last January 10th, there was precious little said about his pioneering work on the Internet and the burgeoning World Wide Web. In 1998, he launched Bowie.net and became the first major artist to create his own internet service, to distribute his songs online, to use the Web to offer things like branded/vanity email (yourname@bowie.net) and exclusive backstage access to Bowie.net subscribers (using crappy late-90s streaming technology), and to use the Web to communicate directly and collaborate with fans.

In this video clip from 1999, he talks with the BBC's Jeremy Paxman and seems to shock him with what sounds like an alarming prediction about the future of the Internet.

Bowie: I think the potential for what the Internet is going to do for society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we are on the cusp of something both exhilarating and terrifying.

Paxman: It's just a tool, though. Isn't it?

Bowie: No it's not, no. It's an alien life form. [Laughs] Is there life on Mars? YES, and it's just landed here.

[H/t Will Kreth] Read the rest

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