Sunday, January 7, 2024

Four Swords for Hire

 I got these a few months ago from Alternative Armies. They looked interesting and I thought my paint challenge buddy might like them for a Christmas gift. Well, I still have not mailed them to him. 





Interesting is that they are metal, but look like that maybe the masters were 3D printed as they have very fine lines on their bodies. The last guy, the one with the axe and dagger, reminded me of Cillian Murphy of Oppenheimer fame.  Mr. Murphy is not blonde, but it seemed to work for me. 


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Its Been Awhile

 My last post was all the way back in August. I have been working on things, but I have not had time to post. Work has really taken up a lot of time as I had a new-ish class that I had to teach. Due to my illness over the summer, I had little time to prep for it. So, it was fly by the seat of my pants. 

Second, I have been involved in my son's school work. This is nothing new, but due to recent changes in the school system, he is now technically in middle school even though he is in sixth grade. A lot more work has been dumped on him and his ADHD does not help. 

Third, after I don't know how many years of no independent research students, I now have two. I have been working closely with them, including taking them back in October to New York to one of my old stomping grounds, the American Museum of Natural History and then two weeks later, to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Cincinnati, OH. I continue to be impressed by their serious attitude toward their work. It really shows in what they have accomplished so far. 

My students and I on the Brooklyn Bridge. 

In front of our poster at the SVP meeting. Very
proud of my students and the hard work they did!

Fourth, pretty much all I have been doing is painting figures for Lion/Dragon Rampant games. I have not felt like blogging about it. 

Besides getting in some painting fantasy figures, I have been dipping my toe in some various other projects:

1. Dungeon adventure. Several of my colleagues have expressed in trying out D&D. Not completely sure that they will fall in love with roll playing so, I put together a one-off adventure. Pretty happy with it. Fingers crossed that its more than one session. 

2. Very generic modern ships. To supplement my various modern campaigns, I have started to put together VERY generic looking modern warships. Being the packrat that I am, I have accumulated a bunch of wooden coffee stirring sticks. These would make nice hulls. There is no plans to be accurate in scale. They will be something like the ships you find in the game Battleship. There are several rules that I might use including Bulldogs Away! among others.

3. 6mm Napoleonics (!). Again, I am buying some to play Black Powder rules. I'm going cheap and painting will be as quick and dirty as possible. Its a long story of why Napoleonic gaming, but that is for a future post. 

That's it. Hopefully, there will be things to post about in the future.  


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Trying Out ChatGPT

 


Being in higher education, the big issue is emerging is students using AI to write papers, and other nefarious activities that amount to plagiarism and cheating. In our annual pre-fall semester faculty meeting, we had a guest speaker who talked about these things. 

So, I went online and signed up for the free version of ChatGPT, which is the online AI that is source of all these issues. I goofed around with it. For example, I asked the AI to generate a teaching philosophy for a small liberal arts biology professor. You have make sure you word things the right way, which is sort of trial and error. The first time around, it thought I was teaching philosophy of science. The second time around, it produced a short teaching statement that wasn't bad. It was very flowery and somewhat full of it. Any of my colleagues who know me, would know that was not me. BUT, it did hit all the points that one would expect. It would not take too much tweaking for an applicant to use to for a college job posting.

Then I used it for gaming purposes. First, I ask it to generate a small scenario for a modern game. This is what I got:

Sure, here's an example of a small battle scenario for modern wargames using miniatures:

Scenario:

A small Special Forces team has been tasked with destroying an enemy communications outpost deep in enemy territory. The team must navigate through a dense jungle to reach the outpost and destroy it while fending off any enemy forces they encounter.

Setup:

The battlefield is a 4' x 4' table with a dense jungle terrain in the center. The communications outpost is located in a clearing on the opposite side of the table from the Special Forces team's starting position. The enemy forces consist of a squad of infantry and a light armored vehicle guarding the outpost.

Special Forces team:

1 team leader with a rifle

2 soldiers with assault rifles

1 soldier with a light machine gun

1 soldier with a grenade launcher

Enemy forces:

1 squad leader with a rifle

4 soldiers with assault rifles

1 soldier with a rocket launcher

1 light armored vehicle armed with a machine gun

Objectives:

Special Forces team: Reach the communications outpost and destroy it.

Enemy forces: Defend the communications outpost and eliminate the Special Forces team.

Gameplay:

The game begins with the Special Forces team entering the table from their starting position on one edge. The enemy forces are deployed around the communications outpost on the opposite edge. The Special Forces team must navigate through the jungle while avoiding detection by the enemy forces. If they come into contact with the enemy forces, they must fight their way through to reach the outpost.

The Special Forces team has a limited number of actions each turn, which can be used for movement, shooting, or other actions like setting up an ambush or throwing a grenade. The enemy forces will react to the Special Forces team's movements and try to eliminate them. If the Special Forces team reaches the outpost, they must set explosives and defend the location until they detonate.

The game ends when either the Special Forces team successfully destroys the communications outpost or the enemy forces eliminate the Special Forces team.

I then asked it to generate some rules for this game:

Certainly! Here's a simplified set of rules for the miniature wargame scenario I described:

Movement:

Each miniature can move up to a certain distance (e.g., 6 inches) per turn.

Difficult terrain, like the dense jungle, may require players to roll dice to determine if a miniature successfully moves through it.

Shooting:

Each miniature has a specific range for their weapons (e.g., rifles have a range of 12 inches).

Roll a dice to hit: On a roll of 4, 5, or 6, the shot hits.

Roll for damage: If the shot hits, roll another dice to determine damage (e.g., on a roll of 4, 5, or 6, the target is eliminated).

Special Actions:

Ambush: A miniature can set up an ambush during its turn. If an enemy miniature enters the line of sight within a specific range (e.g., 8 inches), the ambushing miniature can immediately take a shot.

Explosives:

To destroy the communications outpost, a Special Forces miniature must reach it and spend a turn to plant explosives.

After planting explosives, the Special Forces team must defend the outpost for a certain number of turns before the explosives can be detonated.

Roll a dice to determine if the explosives are successfully detonated on the designated turn.

Reaction:

Enemy forces react to the movement and actions of the Special Forces team during the enemy turn.

Roll a dice to determine the effectiveness of enemy reactions.

Victory Conditions:

Special Forces team wins if they successfully destroy the communications outpost.

Enemy forces win if they eliminate all members of the Special Forces team.

Optional Rules:

Cover: Miniatures in cover receive a bonus to their defense rolls.

Morale: Roll a dice when a miniature is attacked or witnesses a comrade being eliminated. On a specific roll, the miniature may become shaken, affecting its actions.

Line of Sight: Miniatures cannot shoot through solid obstacles, and line of sight is blocked by terrain and obstacles.

Remember, these rules are just a starting point, and you can customize and expand upon them to suit your preferences and create a more detailed and complex gaming experience.

Very simple and not particularly original. This makes sense because its taking information out there in the web and coming up with a very basic set of rules based on collating highlights of whatever it found based on the parameters given..

Finally, I asked ChatGPT to generate a set of rules for fantasy wargames. I did not specify if this was at skirmish level or mass armies level:

Absolutely! Here's a basic set of rules for a fantasy-themed miniature wargame:

Movement:

Each miniature has a movement value (e.g., 6 inches) representing how far it can move during its turn.

Different terrain types may affect movement (e.g., difficult terrain requiring a dice roll to successfully move through).

Combat:

Roll a dice to hit: On a roll of 4, 5, or 6, the attack hits.

Roll for damage: If the attack hits, roll another dice to determine damage (e.g., on a roll of 4, 5, or 6, the target takes damage).

Melee combat: Miniatures engaged in close combat both roll to hit simultaneously.

Magic:

Spellcasting miniatures have access to a list of spells with different effects.

Each spell has a casting value that must be rolled equal to or higher on a dice to successfully cast.

Spells can deal damage, buff friendly miniatures, debuff enemies, or have other special effects.

Ranged Attacks:

Miniatures with ranged weapons have a specific range (e.g., bows have a range of 12 inches).

Different ranged weapons may have varying strengths and effects.

Special Abilities:

Different miniatures may have special abilities that affect gameplay (e.g., flying, stealth, regeneration).

These abilities add strategic depth and unique tactics to the game.

Morale:

Miniatures may have a morale value that affects their ability to withstand certain conditions.

Failing a morale check may cause a miniature to flee or be temporarily incapacitated.

Terrain:

Terrain pieces like forests, hills, and buildings provide cover and may grant bonuses to defense rolls.

Victory Conditions:

Set specific objectives for victory (e.g., control a certain area, defeat the enemy leader).

The game ends when a victory condition is met.

Optional Rules:

Heroes and Leaders: Special miniatures with unique abilities that can influence the battlefield and rally troops.

Summoning: Casters can summon additional creatures to the battlefield.

Area-of-Effect Spells: Spells that affect an area, damaging or hindering all miniatures within it.

Campaign Play: Extend the game into a campaign where armies can gain experience, level up, and acquire new abilities.

Feel free to modify and expand these rules to suit the fantasy theme of your wargame. The goal is to create an engaging and balanced gameplay experience that captures the excitement of fantasy battles.

This one seems even more basic and very vague in details. It is more of an outline or template for what could make a set of rules. It also seems like it starts out with a little more detailed rule mechanics, but then seems to quickly "punt" as we say in the US (American football reference) and give superficial criteria for the various aspects of the rules. It is more of a "here are some suggestions for what a set of rules should have for this genre, now you fill in the blanks." As I said above, I didn't give it that much instructions. It only works with what you ask it to do.

It was an interesting exercise in using AI to produce things related to wargames. I think it does work a little better for scenarios. However, I don't think that at least in the near future, it will replace the creativity and problem solving skills of the human mind.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

15mm Stone Walls

If you have followed past posts, I was spending a lot of time and effort to scratch build stone walls for 1/300 scale. Most of these attempts were less than satisfactory in my view. Having spend a lot of time recently painting up 15mm medieval and fantasy figures, and having made some 15mm structures in the past, I decided I wanted to make a few stone wall pieces at this figure size. 

If you watch any of the tutorials out there on making your own terrain, the number one building material is pink insulation foam. It the modeler's dream material. It can be cut, carved, and embossed. Buy a foam cutter and there is no limit on what you can do.  Unfortunately, pink foam is getting to be rather expensive. If I go to my local home improvement store (called DIY stores in other countries), I would have to buy it in large sheets that cost around $40 and that I don't think will fit in my minivan. In the USA, many of these stores will no longer cut a lot of building material because of potential toxic dusts and work safety concerns. Frankly, I don't really need 4'x8' sheets of the stuff.

What I used for my walls are the foam trays that are used as a sturdy base for packaging food items such as cuts of meat. One of the complaint that I heard about using this material is that it cannot be embossed.  I found that if you use a craft knife or single-edge razor blade, you can shave off a thin layer of the outer surface leaving a squishier surface that can be embossed. There is also different grades of this packing material and some seem to be closer in consistency to the pink insulation foam. The foam I used for my first wall section was more resistant to embossing even when I shaved it. Another foam tray (shown below) was more pliable.  Of course, its the luck of the draw what you end up getting. 

I cut strips of the foam of a more-or-less uniform width. I then embossed the stones with a ballpoint pen. Once embossed on both sides, I then glued them onto thin craft sticks that I bought for another project I'm working on. I rounded off the tops a best as I could using my craft knife and some light sanding. 


In addition to the long, straight sections, I also did some corner sections. I tried to make the ends of the wall sections as flush as I could, but they are not seamless continuations. 


For one of the long sections, I decided to have a gate. I built it out of pieces of styrene plastic. 



Once the glue dried, I sealed the walls with a mixture of Mod Podge, black, and burnt umber craft paint. When that was dried, I went over the stones with repeated dry brushes of gray. The base I painted brown and then flocked.



I was surprised that once I figured out the technique, I could quickly put out a number of walls. I think the whole project took about two nights to complete three long sections and two corner sections, and that was because I wanted to sealant to dry thoroughly. The gate was probably the most time consuming part of the project. Is it a high quality job? No. But it looks fine for the table top. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Fantasy Painting Challenge V: Callie, Female Rogue with Bow, Part 3

 My challenger has sent me his submission. As usual, my photos do not do his work justice. 




I think the two snake men (Yuan-Ti, in 5e D&D) are from Wizards of the Coast. I always seem to paint any snake skin green, but he did his in a brown. I bow to his color choice as he is a herpetologist.

His interpretation of Callie is slightly different from mine. What is notable is the bow. He decided to make the last fourth of each end metallic. 

The scenic base as usual is excellent in my opinion. Nothing complicated to detract from the figures, but gives a nice impression of the situation that Callie finds herself in. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Fantasy Painting Challenge V: Callie, Female Rogue with Bow, Part 2

 I usually have at least three parts to these painting challenges, but I finished the whole thing up. I am not too crazy about Callie. I think I did a better job on her wolf. She is supposed to be a rogue, but she screamed ranger. That is what I made her into. 

But first, a Pathfinder Brain Collector from WizKids Deep Cuts plastic figures. This was a gift from my my daughter from Father's Day of last year. It took me about four months (if we exclude June), but I finally finished it.

The model came with these clear plastic domes that cover the brains, but when I dry fitted one or two, they seem to blur the brains. The model was a pain in you know where to paint. The "deep cuts" made a lot of parts inaccessible to painting. I am sure there are some spots underneath that I couldn't get to. Nonetheless, I am reasonably happy with it. I texted the picture to my daughter and she really liked it. That is what really counts!

Onto Callie:




I'm glad she has her hood covering much of her face because frankly, it is a rather poor sculpt. I painted her Botox-sized lips with a blend of flesh and a little red,  slathered on a layer or two of Citadel's flesh wash, and called her face done. Other than that, she isn't too bad. I guess she looked better on the Reaper site than in reality. Her pet wolf took a lot more time to paint. Animal fur is definitely a "challenge" as we say in the academic biz. Its one thing to paint a wolf in 15mm, its another in 28mm. Despite the name Gray Wolf, at least in North America, they seem to be more brown and tan than gray. I spent a lot of time staring at wolf pictures on the internet.

Since she became a ranger, I though it be cool to make their bases look like she and Wolfie are in a forest. So, I ordered these fake leaves from Amazon. They are made out of birch seeds that have been dyed various colors. The set came with four colors: brown, green, red and orange. I was not to happy with them when I first tried to put them on. The main problem is that they probably work well for larger model dioramas like 1/35 or even 1/48, but at 1/64 scale, each leaf is about this size of Callie's face! Second, they do not lay down nicely the way leaves are supposed to. I had these giant leaves sticking up vertically or at 45 degree angles. It was sort of like breakfast cereal before you pour the milk on it. Unlike most breakfast cereal, these don't get soggy and flatten out. When I pushed one offending leaf down, it popped up other leaves around it. It was a mess. So, for further applications, I mashed them up as well as I could between two fingers. It helped some, but by then, I was too frustrated to continue with them. Finally, I was not happy with the colors of the leaves. I think it shows in the pictures that the colors are too strong even though I mixed the colors together. They detract from the figures. I suppose I could have toned them down with a brown wash, but again, too frustrated to deal with it.

Happily, I am done with this challenge. I hope my friend likes them. Of the four challenges we've had, this was my least favorite as far as how it turned out. It is time to turn to other things. I am done for awhile with painting challenges and the medieval/fantasy miniatures on single bases. There might be some future postings of pictures, but the painting of them has ended. I have other projects that are starting to come together now that I am feeling somewhat better. It is a good sign. For the month of June and the first several days of July, I had little interest in anything other than trying to recover. 


Friday, July 7, 2023

Health Update

 I got the results back from the CT scan. There was still some infections in my lungs but my doctor saw another thing that probably was why the standard x-rays were sort of hard to read. I have blood clots in my lungs. I should have asked but he didn't say how extensive they were. I am supposed to go to have an ultrasound of my legs, but unless there is an earlier cancellation, it won't be until two weeks. I'm not on any treatment other than to make sure my Coumadin (blood thinner) levels are in the proper range. I am now more paranoid than before about any food that has high levels of vitamin K. 

The weird thing is when and really how it happened. I consulted a old friend of mine who had them about three years ago. First, he said congrats! That I had survived it. Usually, it is severe enough to get you to the hospital. Second, he wondered why I didn't feel anything in my legs. Severe and acute pain in the lower legs is that the tell-tale sign that you are developing clots. My left lower leg has been somewhat swollen for several years but I have never had any pain in that leg, certainly not anything severe. So, it is hard to say where these clots originated from or when it happened, unless they developed in the heart. 

I have been recovering. The weather has been horrendously hot and humid, but I continue to go for walks. I did finish my antibiotics (my digestive system thanked me for that), and I have cut way back on the use of the nebulizer. I am not coughing up junk from my lungs anymore. I actually went in to work yesterday. I am a teacher, so I am off this summer. It was nice to get out of the house for a few hours. I did link up with a friend who is also my department chair and had lunch. It was nice to hear about his recent sabbatical as it took my mind off of my health issues.

I have managed to do a few things at the work bench. My current painting challenge is almost done. I would not say it will be my best, but it is not horrible either.  I have a scattering of a few 15mm left to do. I am going to focus on a newish project of making crude but effective scratch built modern ships. They are not going to really have any specific scale, but they will be more-or-less scaled to each other in size.