Portable Adventure Kit – Campgrounds

Originally Published April 27, 2004

Portable Adventure Kit - CampgroundsThe campgrounds set was inspired by all the times that adventuring parties got attacked during night watch. If they are going to argue about watch schedule every night, the least I could do is make it worth while :). The design is the result of studying books about designing pop-up cards. Like the village set, the hardest piece was a detail piece, the campfire.

From the product description:

Take your game camping with Portable Adventure Kit – Campgrounds! This set of cardstock structures is designed to store flat to be carried with the rest of your gaming materials. When unfolded, the set reveals a wide variety of tents and a campfire.

The set consists of three types of tents (wedge, wall, and pavilion) with different styles for each of them to maximize your campground options. Also included are a campfire, a lean-to and a terrain tile to help you create your own campground. Structures are designed to 30mm scale, making them compatible with most fantasy games and can be printed on Letter sized paper or A4 paper without scaling.


Portable Adventure Kit – Village Set

Originally Published April 8, 2004

Portable Adventure Kit - Village Set 1 Cover

I was receiving good feedback on the Starter Set, so I decided to spend some time working on PAK products. At this point, I was researching pop-up cards for inspiration. The buildings weren’t that difficult to design, but the well was tricky.

From the product description:

Take your village on the road with Portable Adventure Kit – Village Set 1 from Penguin Labs! This set of cardstock buildings is designed to store flat to be carried with the rest of your gaming materials. The set unfolds to reveal three different buildings and a village well.

The village set consists of three buildings, three roof options for each building, optional chimneys for each building, a beautiful well, and an additional terrain tile to help you create your own village. Buildings are designed to 30mm scale making them compatible with most fantasy games and miniatures and can be printed on Letter sized paper or A4 paper without scaling.


Paper Playground – Fire Elemental

Originally Published March 10, 2004

Paper Playground - Fire ElementalThis product was my most experimental product. Commercially, it didn’t do that well, but that is no real surprise. This product, and the T-Rex (coming soon), served two purposes: to gauge customer response to larger products, and to expand my skills as a paper modeller. I had planned on doing a full elemental set, but I moved on to other projects instead.

From the product description:

Bring the power of the elements to your game! Paper Playground – Fire Elemental gives you a beautiful fire elemental to build and use in your game or to guard your desk. Designed for the experienced paper modeller, this model can be constructed to form a towering elemental standing 9 inches tall and standing on a 3″x5″ base or scaled to fit your gaming needs.


Portable Adventure Kit – Doors & Windows

Originally Published February 12, 2004

Portable Adventure Kit - Doors and WindowsThis was a pretty basic creation. I was experimenting with a lot of designs at this time, many of which would not make it into a final product. I wanted to make sure that I was putting out product on a semi-regular basis. I also wanted to expand the utility of the Starter Set so I took some time out and created thee doors and windows to be added onto the walls, I used a temporary adhesive in my games to great effect.

From the product page:

Expand your dungeon with realistic doors and windows!

The first expansion for the Portable Adventure Kit is the Doors and Windows set. The set consists of over 40 realistic doors, windows, and accessories for you to print out and attach to your P.A.K. structures. A wide variety of styles are represented here, giving you the ability to customize the look and feel of your dungeons.

Each feature is presented against a section of the same wall texture used in the Starter Set. This prevents the need of cutting out complex outlines – cut out a simple rectangle, attach it to a plain wall with glue or a removable adhesive and you are ready to go. Of course, experienced modelers can cut the features away from the texture and use them in other modeling projects.


Costume Design “Croquis” – Figure Reference

FigureReference-ForWebsiteA “croquis” is basically a quick sketch of a live model. In fashion design, it usually refers to a simple drawing of a figure. Fashion designers draw their clothing designs on top of these models. When brainstorming, I find it easier if I don’t have to try to draw out a figure each time. A lot of the available croqui are highly stylized which I don’t like. So, I created my own figure reference.

I used Daz3D to create the figures and then I edited the images so that they are easy to draw over. I find the resulting shaded figure more useful to me because it helps me visualize the three-dimensional form and use body landmarks more easily. Each page is a front and back – yes, the figures are nude, but have the anatomical correctness of a department store mannequin. These are presented two to a page, because that’s how I like to work, but if people want a larger version, let me know and I can make it available.

Download Male Figure Reference

Download Female Figure Reference

Paper Playground Terrain Pak 1 – The Fields of War

Originally Published July 06, 2003

TerrainPak1CoverOver the years, I’ve lost track of old files. They either got deleted or are on media that was misplaced.  I was hoping that I could show a close-up of the product, but I don’t have the larger pictures that I took of these products. I hope to find them.

I also hope to find the original Photoshop and Illustrator files that I used to create these products. If I do, I will make the original files available or export the files into higher resolution PDF’s.

This was the second of the Paper Playground products. When I first started releasing products, I wanted to make sure that I had a steady release for a while, so several of the first products were developed almost simultaneously.  For me, the geomorphic hills were the highlight of the product, it gave me the flexibility that I wanted as a gamer. From the product description:

Give your miniatures a field to wage war on with Terrain Pak 1 – The Fields of War!

The newest product of the Paper Playground paper miniatures line is our first Terrain Pak, Terrain Pak 1 – The Fields of War. Your miniatures can now have beautiful, customizable terrain for their battles.

Fields of War includes a set of geomorphic hill sections which are easy to assemble and can lock together to form thousands of hill shapes. The hills are beautifully textured and are marked with 1 inch squares for use in most role-playing games. Several sheets of additional textures are provided so you can create your own fields, rivers, and roads. To go with the hills, there are bridges, hedges, shrubs, fences, walls, and small trees to enhance your miniature battles.

Download Paper Playground – Terrain Pak 1

The Crystal Anvil Review, part 2

Corsair Armor Photo
The Corsair Armor is one of the patterns available.

This is a continuation of my review of The Crystal Anvil, a book on costuming, larp craft, and especially leatherwork. In part one of my review, I discussed the overviews and tutorials.  However, if you are interested in this book, it is probably because you are interested in the leathercraft patterns. So, what do I think? The patterns are a “must have” for anybody who is interested in leather armor or making leather pouches and accessories.

The book contains 50 leathercraft patterns. The patterns are in PDF format, sized for printing on A1 paper. You can either print it out across multiple sheets of paper or send it to a print shop. The files are not locked and are in vector format (not rasterized). This means that you can (and are encouraged to) edit the PDF in a vector image editor (I use Adobe Illustrator). This is a welcome change from either scanned images that are hard to manipulate or copy protections that make the product practically useless.

The patterns cover a pretty good variety of costume pieces and accessories. For costume pieces, it has:

  • Cuirasses (Chest) – Mostly for men, but one piece for women.
  • Paldrons (Shoulders)
  • Belts and tassets
  • Vambraces (Forearms)
  • Greeves (Calves)
  • Helms and headbands

And for accessories, it has quivers, bags and pouches

There are only a few areas that weren’t covered: gauntlets, footwear, and articulated pieces such as full arm pieces with an articulated elbow. They are all advanced projects and beyond the scope of this book, but I mention it only in case you want to buy the book specifically for one of those pieces.

All of the patterns are gorgeous. None of the patterns appear to be that challenging, but precision is required to get the rivet and stitching marks properly aligned otherwise the pieces will buckle when assembled. The instructions are straightfoward, the assembly isn’t that complex so you don’t need complicated instructions. Many of the pieces are made of overlapping pieces. These add dimension and interest to the finish piece, but require patience and precision to assemble correctly. Where needed, the instructions include a diagram of how the pieces all overlap. One advantage to the layered design is that you don’t need large areas of perfect leather. You can lay out the pieces to cut around imperfections in your leather.

The challenge in these patterns is fitting. Most of the costume patterns are made for men 5’10” tall. There is some discussion on how to size the pattern, but expect to make a couple of mock-ups with cardstock before cutting expensive leather. I think it would benefit a beginner to have some of the patterns provided in standard sizes, but a little courage and a lot of prototyping will take you far. I will talk more about fitting in a later post when I talk about my own armor construction. There is one set of women’s armor fitted to a female measuring 37-28-38. Altering female clothing, especially something as fitted as this, is very difficult. I believe future volumes of The Crystal Anvil will discuss this in more detail. Until then, I wouldn’t try the female cuirass unless you have experience in pattern alteration.

Although these patterns are made for leather, you could use craft foam instead. As I write this, it occurs to me that you could make some really cool sci-fi armor with these patterns and different colored foam . . . I may have to try that.

Patterns for armor are incredibly rare. Just studying these patterns taught me a lot about armor design and assembly. Having this book is like having access to a leatherworkers shop and being able to take apart finished pieces to see how they were made. It is a very welcome insider view for those of us who have no other access to a professional costumer. If you are interested in making your own armor, even if it is out of a different material, add The Crystal Anvil to your library. Even if you never plan on making one of its designs, the patterns can easily form a starting point for your own creation.

The Crystal Anvil Review, part 1

The Crystal Anvil CoverI collect a lot of books relating to my hobbies. It is hard to find good books that fit your needs. I plan on reviewing some of my favorites so you can see if they’ll work for you. I wanted to do a review of this book quickly since the author is starting to take pre-orders for the second volume and this is a book that I have found very helpful.

Early this year, a leathercrafting company, Lederkraft, offered the patterns for two of their leather cuirasses for free. Once I snagged the first pattern, I studied it to figure out how to build my armor. I’ll have more discussion on the building of my armor in later posts. The owner of Lederkraft, Alex Agricola, decided to close shop on Lederkraft and publish a collection of patterns, with other LARP crafting tips, in The Crystal Anvil series. While it is available in print, I own the ebook version, so that is going to be the basis of my review.

The book starts with an overview of costume, LARP, and cosplay.  These are fairly broad overviews, and you might be tempted to skip it  and jump ahead to the “meat” of the book. However, the author sprinkles bits of insight that he has gathered over his time working in the field and that makes it worth the time.

The next section of the book is dedicated to three fabrication methods: sewing, leathercraft, and 3D printing. Each section is a broad overview. Although he goes into details about specific techniques, do not expect this book to teach you everything you need to know about these methods. However, I do think that an overview like this is useful for a beginner. It provides enough guidance that you can think about the process of costume making which is a very important piece that many books and tutorials don’t cover. If you are new to costume making, reading this book early will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that you can research further.

The third section is dedicated to specific tutorials, they are:

  • Introduction to Cosplay – Mostly this focuses on the technical aspects of costume design, such as patterning and working with toiles.
  • Making Creature Ears
  • Leather Forming
  • Instructions for Making Leather “Weave” Armour
  • Building a LARP Sword
  • Painting and Modifying Nerf Guns

Some of these articles are written by guest authors. All of them are clear, concise, and well-documented with photos and diagrams. The Introduction to Cosplay covers the basics of design and fitting. This is the best description of it that I have seen outside of specialty books on the topic and is a topic that seems to get overlooked in other cosplay tutorials.

The section on leather forming takes you through the process of wet forming leather (fitting a wet piece of leather to a form so that it will maintain that shape when dry). I have a lot of books on leathercraft and I picked up a lot of ideas from here that I hadn’t heard before.

I have been researching LARP swords and this tutorial covers a lot of the same techniques that other tutorials cover. However, they discuss a sealing technique that is easier to work with and does not have the same problems as Isoflex or Tool Dip. I have yet to try it out, but if it works, it is a piece of golden advice. The rest of the tutorials are outside of my immediate interest, so I can’t speak too deeply about them.

Up until this point, The Crystal Anvil is a solid book. The overviews and tutorials are well crafted and are peppered with little pieces of advice that comes from years of experience. It’s those little nuggets of information that make the book so useful to me. There is a subtle difference between “teaching” and “sharing experience” – while many books do the former, few do the latter as well as this book.

However, the reason that I picked up the book was for the leather patterns. I’ll leave that for the second part of this review, because that is where this book really stands out. . .

Penguin Labs LLC to Close Its Doors

Hello everyone,

Soon, Penguin Labs LLC will be shutting down as a business entity. As a business, it has been ignored for far too long as other obligations and opportunities required my time. I’d like to thank all of you for your support and patronage over the years.

After Penguin Labs LLC closes, you will still be able to download any purchases you made through your library. If you have not yet purchased a product, do not rush, all products will become available on the new penguinlabs.com website for free download. If you have any questions, you may reach me through this website.

Penguinlabs.com is getting a much needed update as I convert it to a personal website. From here, I will be sharing assorted projects that I have been working on. The projects will be eclectic, from papercrafts, to leatherworking and costuming, much of it with a RPG/LARP twist. If you share my love of crafting and gaming, I hope you will stop by once in a while or subscribe to the RSS feed and keep up to date.

Once again, I would like to thank all of you. Since founding Penguin Labs LLC, I have watched e-publishing grow from an experimental business model to a thriving part of the the gaming landscape. Over the years, I have met great people and have had wonderful experiences, and it is all thanks to each one of you.

Thank You,
Kent Dirckx
Penguin Labs LLC.