Category Archives: Tabletop

COM|POST 01/21/21: Painting Progress and Disaster averted

I’ve been enjoying painting minis with my new setup! I’ve been painting my 3D printed mini collection. I decided to start with an adventuring party, and these are the ones I’ve started with so far.

I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked from my original schedule by a new challenge. One of the kids in the family is reading The Hobbit for the first time, and is going to be tracking the movement of the characters on a map that they are going to draw. I’m making miniatures for them, based on how the party gets divided a few times in the story.

Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, and a dwarf to represent the other 12 dwarves.

In random news, either through glitch or user error, my Roomba began vacuuming unexpectedly… and the room was NOT prepared for it. The room that just happens to contain my painting setup right now.

The only thing that was disturbed was the paint table, and the vacuum clearly caught on the thin wire connected to my newly built arch lamp….


Thankfully I had stuck the switch for the lamp to the table with blu-tac, and the cable had a breakaway point, so after being yanked around the room a bit the cable came away from the table without pulling the lamp down or knocking stuff off the table.

WHEW. Crisis averted.

The cable got chewed up a bit, but is still functional, and I didn’t lose any work as far as I can tell.

Sanctum Upgrades: Arch Lamp

I built this lamp as part of my rapidly upgrading painting setup, to provide light from different angles.

Originally I wanted to build a version of this lamp.

LED Bridge Lamp Universal Segment by Opossums on Thingiverse

However, it’s too big for my workspace, and it’s complex enough that I need to study it some before attempting scaling.

It’s a beautiful lamp, but doesn’t work for my original intent of painting on my primary workbench. It also would take a lot of space to store. I also wanted something I could construct quickly so I would have it available ASAP since I had paints coming in soon.

I did find this one, however:

LED Bridge Light Mini by FeedMePi

I ordered the LED strips and began printing.

Assembly, barring some issues I’ll get to further in this post, was rather straightforward. Cut the LED strips to length at one of the marked locations. Slide it through the guides section by section, coming in where you see the wire in the pictures below. Make sure that the LEDs are facing out of the slot. Then do the final attachment of the sections together.

When finished, set the arch upright, and turn the LEDs on. Then you’ll have lighting from many angles at once while working on your projects.

I did run into a couple issues while building this.

Issue 1: Warping

It’s become apparent that I have some warping issues with my 3D printer that is large enough to print these parts.

I ended up working around this by using a chisel to remove one of the pegs in each section, and using a lot of tape. It’s not perfect, but at least it gets it functional for now until I can reprint it properly.

Issue 2: Height

The arch is a bit short to comfortable use with the painting handle that I use for painting. While priming I don’t think that it’s so big of an issue, as I can easily just use the pucks to hold the mini, but for stability I’m going to want more space for both the stand and the brush in my hand.

To fix this, I designed and printed some extenders to raise the arch up approximately 2 inches. This gives me more space to work with.

They are designed to just stack the arch on top, and route the power cables out the back.

If you want to build one of these lamps with the extender pieces, you can find my extenders here:

Base Extender for LED Bridge Light Mini by Ralnarene

My current hope with this arch is that I will not have to use my workbench lamp on my secondary workbench, and can keep my painting and 3D printing workflows separate as much as possible. I also hope this means I’ll be able to see what I’m painting more clearly without having to move a lamp arm and my head around so much.

PAX East Backpacking

This past week has mostly been occupied with prepping for and attending PAX East.

Now for your weekly (cough) dose of content, here’s how I packed my backpack for the con.  I wanted to make sure I had options for gaming with my friends, supplies, and a way to carry a coat so we wouldn’t get anchored to a table watching our stuff.

Here’s the main compartment.


It’s filled with the game organizer, some snacks, my wizard hat and safety goggles (which I kinda ditched after the first day), writing utensils, spare loot bag, name tags, sanitizing wipes, and snacks. The big plastic bag in the middle is one of those vacuum storage bags.  The bag allowed me to stuff my puffy longcoat into it, then squeeze the air out to reduce weight and volume and store it in the backpack.

Here’s my first iteration of the contents in the organizer that came with the backpack.  I packed it with tokens and dice for magic, tokens and pawns for D&D and other tabletop games, and a few small box games for waiting in line or at the hotel.  Before the con I removed one of the games and some of the tokens, as I realized that the pack was getting heavy.


The side pockets were packed with snacks, meal bars, and water that I had shipped to the hotel ahead of the con.  I didn’t feel like having to leave lines, games, or whatever else to go get food if I didn’t have to.

20200227_114156.jpg 20200227_114144.jpg

The top little pouch held my earbuds and chargers.  The battery packs were in the laptop compartment (not shown).


The upper compartment held the magic decks, RPG dice, dice tray, character coins, business cards, and some other odds and ends.


All in all, this backpack worked really well for this con.


But it felt heavy for someone not used to wearing a loaded pack for long durations.  My shoulders are still sore from it!  The upside is that I had fewer circumstances where I felt the need to ask someone to watch my stuff, I was able to keep it all with me and move more comfortably.  Next time I might bring the optional belt, to distribute the load onto my hips rather than my shoulders.  Also, I did try to pare down the contents as the con went on, tailoring them to what the group was likely to do that day.

Still, I could tell we were all much more experienced at attending cons than the first time we went!  Things went much more smoothly this time, we were able to move more freely, and we were able to participate in pretty much everything we had planned to.  It gets better every time.




COM|POST 02/10/2020: A Skypirate’s Life For Me

Forest of Oakenspire Airship:

This past week’s hobby work has mostly been a matter of 3D printing the airship shown at the top of this post. The models are from a great 3D model creator who goes by Ecaroth (he’s on Kickstarter, Thingiverse, Facebook, and Heroes Hoard).  I love using his designs.

I got the STLs for this model as part of a kickstarter campaign a couple years back, but never got around to printing it until recently.  It’s taken me a while to trust a 3D printer to run unattended long enough for the process.

Each section of the hull has taken 8-13 hours to print.  Sadly, some of the pieces are somewhat warped, but it’s only really obvious on one piece (it was printed at a different orientation).


Still came out pretty awesome in my opinion.  It uses openlock clips, so I can connect these modular pieces and even be able to lift it up and move it.

Lifted Airship.jpg


Printer Issues:

My 3D printer gouged itself this past week, so I had been making do with using blue tape over the build tac sheet.  I probably should have turned off the heat, as I think that is part of what has caused the blue tape to loosen and the prints to warp.

Before it gouged, it had some issues with one corner acting as if it’s much higher, which the autoleveling software is supposed to take care of.20200206_093730.jpg

I tried troubleshooting the levelling, but it ended up gouging the bed after a slight change mid print.  As you can see at the beginning of the print, it was showing indications of being way too high, but gouged as I adjusted it slightly while it moved to the problematic corner.


I tried again more carefully, and it gouged at the very beginning of the print!  I’ve been using blue tape to make do over the gouges, but it’s warped them slightly (hence the bow of the ship not being as well fitted as it should be).

I’ve contacted Monoprice tech support, and apparently I didn’t get the same helpful tech support person that I did the last time I had a problem.  I guess with the information overload of extra details that I tried to get help on all at once (mostly minor things that had added up to annoy me), the thought I was trying to get another replacement printer (my first Select Mini Pro had a faulty z-axis sensor).  After emailing back, they gave me a link to replacement parts, so I finally have a place to go to order those on my own!


I’m stocking up on some parts now.  Spares to save me a lot of time trying to get a shipment when things are broken.


Keytar Cyberdeck Upgrades:

I still haven’t gotten around to some of the issues on the cyberdeck build that have bugged me… but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and chatting with the deckers on the cyberdeck discord about various items.  Any guesses on what I plan to do with this new parts order?

Random stuff:
I just binge watched the entirety of the mainline Dragon Ball Z Abridged series…. and then shortly after I finished they announced that they were ending it.  I don’t disagree with them, but it’s just really weird timing.

Dungeons and Dragons Worksheets

So, in playing Adventurer’s League Dungeons and Dragons, I often come across players who are new to the game, and/or haven’t learned the rules very well yet.

Another issue that often comes up is that DMs (myself included) often don’t hand out inspiration much.  We tend to forget that it is even a mechanic that we can hand out to reward people playing in a way the DM likes.

I’ve come up with an idea that might at least help a bit with both.  Technically it’s bending the roleplaying-based intent of inspiration, but would definitely help with people playing in a way that we all enjoy more.


Dungeons and Dragons Inspiration Sheets

Start by creating a series of one page worksheets that ask a small number of questions related to the rules of dungeons and dragons.   Start with the basics.

Early example questions:

1. Which die is rolled to determine success or failure in Dungeons and Dragons (circle below)?

Beginner's Dice.png

2.  Please label the dice above.

3.  If you are told you have advantage on a roll, you roll two d20s and take which result?

4.   If you are told you have disadvantage on a roll, you roll two d20s and take which result?

5.  Who is the final arbiter of rules at the game table in dungeons and dragons?

Each player at the table would be given one sheet each night.

Each sheet of correct answers would be worth an inspiration to the person that completed it.  The sheets would only be given one per night, but I might allow them to turn in two on any given night.  This would allow them to take some home to work on, without allowing them to stack up a lot for boss battles.

The idea of this is to use a reward-based system to get people to actually take the time to learn the game.  This way it would be broken into manageable bite-sized chunks instead of throwing a book at them and telling them to RTFM.  *breathes deeply*

To make it more reasonable to complete in a short period of time, I’d list the chapter and/or the pages that contain the answers.  This would hopefully serve the added benefit of getting the players more familiar with their Player’s Handbook.

Over time, I would ramp up the complexity and specificity.  I would start with basic rules, with a theme for each sheet (physical combat rolls, equipment types, conditions, death saves, spellcasting rules, etc).  Interspersed with those I’d probably put in sheets that are specifically designed around things people get wrong or confused about consistently.


What type of action does it take to drink a potion?

When can you transfer hunter’s mark?

Should you pay attention and try to plan your moves ahead between your turns?

Should you spend at least a little time learning HOW TO PLAY YOUR CHARACTER BETWEEN SESSIONS?!?!?!?

….I’m calm.  I’m calm………

Let’s just say that people have hit some nerves repeatedly and I’m hoping I can convince my group to try some things to avoid that a bit.  *remembers that one guy who never remembers his character’s second attack even though all he really DOES as a character is hit things*  *twitches*


So, since my printer is down for a while pending some work with the manufacturer, I may be working on these sheets for a bit.  I’ll start with dissecting my PHB into bite-sized chunks of questions, and hopefully find a way to make these things look nice with open-source/creative commons artwork and templates.  Maybe I’ll get better at the rules myself (and avoid hypocrisy) in the meantime.

If I can figure out how the licensing works, I may even see about publishing them to DMsguild.


General Updates:

3D printer is still out of commission, I have to get it returned to the manufacturer for replacement.

I’ve decided to replace the title Non-Post with COM|POST.  I think it’s punny and more memorable.  It’s communications, it’s a post, and it might be a random assortment of… stuff that isn’t always so fresh or long-term relevant.

Loot Drop: Unboxing the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game

I was wandering around a used book store recently, and came across one of these in the “rare” section, and was hit with a wave of nostalgia.  One of these kits was my first exposure to the game of Dungeons and Dragons, and it quickly caught my interest.  One of the guys in a kids group weekend outing had brought his copy along, and was teaching the other guys how to play.  I was forbidden by my parents to play (due to the backlash against D&D that was still somewhat present), so I just watched.  I was drawn in by the adventure and heroes, and still have some specific memories of it.

These sets were created to introduce people to very low levels of the 3rd edition game that was recently out.  You could start with this box, but if you wanted to play higher levels you needed to go get the rulebooks.  Seems like a pretty good hook to me, one I’ve seen used in various ways in other editions.  4e had it’s Red Box, 5e had it’s starter set (and now the Stranger Things Redbox, which I need to unbox here sometime).

Anyway, coming to the store reminded me of it.  I looked at their copy, found it was missing some pieces, and decided to hold off and look online.  Sure enough, I found a COMPLETE copy online, with the tokens unpunched.  A few days later, and my copy has arrived.

Box Lid  Box Bottom.jpg


It’s a pretty large (if shallow) box.  Not too heavy, either.  To be expected, it’s only supposed to be paper products and a set of dice.

Box Interior.jpg


Heh. The bubble wrap is mostly pointless, but I guess it keeps the paper from moving too much.  The box is a bit dinged up, but good enough!  Can’t expect a perfect box 19 years after publication and probably at least a decade out of production.

Box Contents.jpg

Contents of the Box

As advertised, this thing had EVERYTHING still in the box.   Especially important to me, all the tokens are there!

Token Sheet Front.jpgToken Sheet Back.jpg

One had popped out of the sheet, but was still in the box.  The tokens were just as I remembered them.  Pictures of all the adventurers and creatures on one side, with their names on the reverse.  The noncreature stuff has two states for a lot of items, which is really useful.  For example, the door tokens showed you there was a closed door in the wall, and flipping them over showed when a door was open.  This was particularly important, as the way the game map is drawn there are no doors on the walls!  This allows you to use the same map different ways, and also to not spoil the layout early.  By the way, here’s the token I remembered most.  The GELATINOUS CUBE!

Gelatinous Cube!.jpg

In Dungeons and Dragons, Jello eats YOU!

I remember the party fighting this, and was impressed with this monster.  I love how the artwork even shows the last guy to tangle with it, still being digested.  As mentioned before, here’s the map.

Dungeon Map.jpg

Adventure Map

It’s got a bunch of numbered rooms on the map, but no doors!  I seem to recall this having been used with the walk down the hallway described, and then a portion of the map used as described by the book to play detailed encounters.  I’m pretty sure the gelatinous cube was somewhere in either room 19, 20, or 26.  The map’s backside is a simple grid.

Map Reverse.jpg

Map Reverse

It’s blank grid could be used for drawing your own dungeons.  I personally won’t be using that side, I don’t want to mess it up, and I have a perfectly good Chessex mat for that.

Next is the general game documentation.

Read This First.jpg

D&D Readme

This page introduces the general premise of the game for people completely unfamiliar with it.


Ancient Tomes of Lore

The box came with a Rule Book for everyone to learn the game, and an Adventure Book to provide the first adventures for the DM to run without having to prepare anything.  I haven’t had time to read through these yet, but I hope to introduce some of my 5E adventuring companions to this edition with this at some point.

Now that we have the rules, we need some characters to play with.  Do we have to learn how to build characters in this set.  No!  We don’t want to get people to play, not get bogged down with character building rules to start.


Character Sheets.jpg

Alternate Characters.jpg

Our Traditional Heroes!

Some of you who’ve played 3.0 or 3.5 may recognize several of these characters, thoughtfully provided to start the game quickly.  These were the example characters mentioned in at least the 3.5 rulebooks as exemplars of their classes.  There are 6 main characters, and 2 optional ones that are buried in the paperwork for the others.  There is also a rules summary cheat sheet to aid quick play.  I was as impressed this time as I was back then with these bright, descriptive character sheets, with a helpful dice guide for new adventurers.

And no adventure is complete without:



Dice!  Gotta have some dice to play the game.  By the standards of many players I know, these would probably be a tacky collection to have.  Why not have a matching set?  Well, if you look back at the character sheets, these are color-coded.  They are all different colors, because as we’ve all seen with new players, people get confused trying to find the correct die for a while when they first start playing.  The sheet will tell you which die you need, and you don’t have to count sides, as the color is the easiest way to identify them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this.  I know I’ve certainly enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane, and I hope to actually get to play this set after almost 20 years since I’ve first seen it.

Printer Back Online

I was having some issues with getting files to transfer to my Monoprice Select Mini Pro, but I finally figured it out… the microSD card appears to have been full for some reason, with a possible glitch with the cache file.  I cleared some space by removing the Cura install file, and removed the erroneous cache file.

Here are some of the things I’ve been printing with it.  I figured I’d start filling out a collection of archetypal minis.  These are all from Valandar’s models on Thingiverse.  I’m running through a few of them.  The gnome bard was the first one, and I’m wondering if I’ve somehow introduced a calibration error, slicing error, or just the filament had been left out too long.  Anyway, I’ve got a bit more cleanup to do on these, but I think they are coming out alright.

Gnome Bard Front.jpg

Gnome Bard

Barbarian Front.jpg

Buzzcut Barbarian


Grumpy Ranger




Minimalist/Budget DMing

I know this is kinda the opposite extreme from the way I tend to do things, but you don’t absolutely HAVE to have a lot to DM.  Fifth edition has greatly streamlined the game, and gives a bit more freedom.  Below I’ve listed what you need, and sometimes the stuff you might want to upgrade to as the next step if you continue with the hobby and have the time and/or funds.  Or you can keep playing minimalist style!


Technically you could probably use a free app on your phone.  I don’t recommend it.  You need at least a set of dice for yourself.  It’s just not the same without dice.


Beyond that, you don’t actually need to buy anything!  The rest can be substituted or skipped.



First off, you don’t absolutely have to have the books.  I highly recommend having the books, but if you’re just getting started, the basic rules are posted online.  It’s enough to help you learn the basics, build your first characters, and run your first campaign.  You can find the rules here:

D&D Basic Rules

Next tiers (in this order):

  • Player’s Handbook
  • Monster Manual
  • Dungeonmaster’s Guide
  • All other books are purely optional



Not sure if you can weave fantasy worlds on the fly?  Hardcover adventures too expensive and unwieldy to learn?  There are many cheap and free modules available online.  The idea of a module is to have a (mostly) self-contained adventure pre-generated and ready for use.  The DM should at least skim it in advance, but there are instructions provided for the DM to use as a basis for the adventure.  Many can be found here:


Next tier:

  • Homemade adventures!
  • Hardcover adventure books



Having started in 3.5, I’m used to playing combat encounters on tactical maps, using wet erase markers on the mat to draw the battlefield, then placing our minis on the map and engaging in battle.  You don’t absolute have to do that.  If you want tactical maps, you can use a 1-inch grid paper.

But you can also forgo the map entirely.

D&D 5E reintroduces the concept of “theater of the mind.”  You can keep the layout of the battlefield in your head, describing things to your players, and letting them use their imagination to envision the battlefield too.  It may take a bit more mental effort, but it allows you to skip carrying around the following materials:

  • Battlemat
  • Markers
  • Miniatures
  • Templates

I’ve tried this a couple of times, and it can be freeing not to be limited to what you can draw or place on a grid.

Next tier:

  • Battlemat or grid paper
  • Markers or pencils
  • Miniatures (there are many tiers and options of these)
  • Templates


DM Screen:

It is highly preferable to keep your notes, die rolls, and minis (if you use them) hidden from your players.  You can easily make your own, or go without.  You don’t have to pay for a fancy piece of cardboard with art and stats on it.  I’ve seen people make screens out of binders, taped pieces of cardboard, and various online non-WotC options.  Or, again, you can skip the screen if you are comfortable rolling in front of your players.

Next tiers:

  • DM Screen or DM Screen Reincarnated (these have artwork and stats on them from Wizards of the Coast)
  • Any of a bajillion fancy screens you can find online or have made


And that’s pretty much it!  Any game store or online store would be happy to sell you all sorts of accessories in various price ranges, but they are OPTIONAL!  You don’t have to buy a ton of expensive stuff to run a good game. Sure, the detailed painted minis are nice, some people develop a dice obsession, and it’s nice to have a great setup, but you don’t NEED them.  GO FORTH AND GAME!

Heroforge Printed and Painted

So, I just got this back yesterday from a friend of mine who painted it for me (I print things, I don’t paint things, at least not yet).  This is a custom mini for one of my wizard characters that I designed and bought from Heroforge.

I never would have attempted this on my old printer, but I managed to do this on my Monoprice Select Mini Pro.  I think it came out pretty dang well.

And then I had to get a small foam-lined case to protect the few printed minis I have.  I don’t want this one’s paint job to get damaged like my dwarf mini.  It should be fine; it has the seal of approval from the Imperium of Man.

Go figure I didn’t get to play him last night, though.  Two wizards and a ranger are not the best mix in the middle of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

COM|POST 04/19/19: D&D Homebrew Prepping

So, yeah, I was hoping to have some normal content today.  This week has been weird, and today I’ve been trying to prep for a D&D homebrew game as a DM.  For a game tomorrow.  Oh, crap.

I am going to have to learn to plan better and manage my own expectations.  Especially when I’m throwing these games together somewhat ad-hoc as I and my players have time for occasional games.  In my head I hear: “I haven’t read through the DMG yet” and “this was supposed to be a tightly woven and cohesive story you’ve worked on for years,” but I’m gonna have to wing it somewhat.  Hopefully things will turn out well, and the players will enjoy themselves.

I have thought about this campaign setting off and on for 10 years or so, and occasionally beef up the world when I think about it.  I want to give the party freedom to explore, which will help me sharpen my improv skills if I don’t flounder too much.  At the same time, I have general ideas of some concepts and story threads I want to work in, but I don’t have them pinned down.  Some of it is a mystery, and I’m afraid it’s not going to connect well if I don’t plan it well in advance, but I don’t have much time now.


Maybe I’ll be able to sketch out more of it in time for the game.

Wish me luck!