Thursday 28 May 2015

Viking Tent

A handy little piece of terrain for SAGA or other games, this viking tent comes from Warbases. It's an MDF kit, but I added a layer of cloth to pretty it up; I don't think the straight MDF surface really looks right for a cloth object. I also replaced the end pieces with cloth; same reason. Sadly, the glue stained a little.

The lovely thing about this model is the ends of the frame, which are based on parts of the tent found with the Gokstad ship burial; you can now see these at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. 

This type of ornate wood-carving is absolutely typical of the Viking era -- although of course preservation is a problem -- and something that laser-cutting is very good at. The only note of warning I'll sound is that these delicate pieces are, well, delicate; I knocked mine off a shelf and snapped off the top of the frame on one side. I had to buy another one at Salute this year to replace it. Still, it looks great and I am happy I got it. And since they're only £3.50, it's not exactly a huge hardship!

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Post-apocalyptic Technical!

So, as you might expect, on Friday I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road. Then on Saturday I dug out an old Grenadier resin post-apocalyptic truck that I painted back in high school and made a total mess of. I cleaned it up, gave it a primer coat and bashed on a quick weathering job.

I cut down a spare heavy weapon from em-4 miniatures and then built a little handle rig for it. I then added a shield from Scotia Grendel (it's from the old Void second edition boxed set) as a shield for the gunner. The paint job is very simple -- basic black and a load of weathering. I painted the skull-and-swords logo on the hood; it's a little off-centre, but whatever. The design is inspired by the flag of golden age pirate Calico Jack Rackham. The hourglass symbol in the shield is another pirate flag/gravestone motif. 

As you can see, a gunner fits neatly on the step, although it might be hard to fit another model in there. I don't know if this miniature is widely available, but technicals are super-easy conversions. 

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Simple terrain: Brick walls

Over the long weekend I have been doing some catch-up painting, much of it just to take care of some simple terrain and other needs. My first post is about some brick walls I picked up back when Modelzone was shutting down. These are Tamiya 1/35 brick walls, I believe. I don't think they're 1/72.


 Anyway, this is not all of them -- I think there's another piece in the box which I painted earlier and may have mislaid (or it may be in my terrain box where it belongs).

You can stick the various bits together in different configurations. Mine look like this:

The stepped ends line up so that you can flip them over and link them together: 

I primed them by spraying them grey -- with a brick wall the gaps are actually lighter than the bricks, which is not normally how things with gaps work. I then used torn-up blister pack foam to sponge them with Homebase "bitter chocolate" masonry paint, then again irregularly with cheap "rust red" craft paint, then again with Vallejo something-or-other; some orangey-brown. 

I then went pack and picked out a few individual bricks with the orange and the dark brown. The result was to give the wall a nicely mottled appearance. 

As you can see, the walls go well with these 28mm figures, even though they're nominally 1/35 scale (I think -- unless there's a 1/48 version? I am pretty sure it's the 1/35). I think the blotchiness of the bricks is just right.

So yeah, I bought the thing for like £2 or £3 and now I have a few walls that I can use for Strange Aeons or other modern-ish games.

Friday 22 May 2015

Quick-and-dirty NPC miniatures.

I needed some minis for NPCs for Wednesday night D&D. Well, I didn't need them. I felt like having some. So I dug through the pile of Bones looking for models that fit. The PCs were going to steal a valuable artefact from a crime syndicate, and I wanted some elite-type guards who felt like "named" characters. When you have a group of NPCs, they need some kind of identifying theme, so I settled on giving them hooded cloaks. And lo, there were four models with appropriate cloaks.

Pylea (L) and Azlea (R)

Verthik (L) and Robur (R)
That Robur's actually not a bad model, although his sword is, of course, gargantuan. 

Anyway, I have them all a basic coat of black and a series of highlights, starting with Vallejo German Grey. I decided that each would have a different-coloured cloak lining. I then gave them names that distinguished them based on the colour. 

I couldn't bring myself to give a ninja a bright accent colour, so I decided it was grey and that his name was Goemon. The summoning circle is also new; the ghost is old. I thought I'd try a green wash on the translucent figure to give it more definition, but it didn't come out very well. I have seen it work in the past, so maybe I just didn't thin the wash enough? 

In the end I didn't wind up using the minis this session, but hey, I got five models painted quickly and the guy with the robe will definitely come in handy at the very least. 

I also very much let their figures determine their personalities, which is something I do a lot but seldom see mentioned. Pylea became the leader because she was pointing, Robur was rather gruff and serious, etc. 

Thursday 21 May 2015

More frugal gaming: Poundland terrain!

I was looking for cheap costume accessories in Poundland when I saw this:

This is an "Aliens from the Planet Scardox" toy -- you see them all the time in pound shops, The Works, and so on. This is what you get in it: 

I put the little rockets aside to be used another time -- waste not, etc. -- and gave the plastic insert a bit of a clean. I then took it outside and gave it a couple of coats of good old Halfords car primer, remembering also to spray the inside (the plastic is very thin and a little translucent).

Much more promising. I gave it a few layers of progressively lighter drybrushing, picked out some of the craters with ink (I don't recommend this; the detail is quite shallow and it just looked sloppy) and I was done: 

Not bad for a quid -- heck, if you consider that I'm going to do something with those two little rockets, it was only 33p. It doesn't look perfect, but it looks OK for the price. 

Monday 18 May 2015

Taking stock

This post is mostly for my own benefit. I find it helpful to break my gaming down into projects. Mostly this helps me determine what miniatures I am and am not "allowed" to buy, but I'm also going to apply it to RPGs here. So here's what I have going at the moment:

  • Live games: I'm running one monthly live game and playing in another, plus the occasional special events. This actually involves not as much between-game work as I was expecting it to; my co-GM and I seem to have a pretty efficient system developed. I never feel prepared, but games usually seem to come out OK. Playing in the game I play in involves a bow tie: 
  • D&D: My D&D game runs every other week and has been going for, I believe, about a year and a half. I've been streamlining and refining my approach the whole time (while, simultaneously, the setting gets ever more baroque and complex), and I think it's going pretty well. I switched to 5th edition a few months ago and it feels easier-to-use to me, although there are certain parts of the old system I never used, so I don't miss their lack. 
  • SAGA: I have pretty much finished my Viking and/or Anglo-Danish armies (I need to do some flocking and I may find out that I need one or two more slingers). I've knocked down a unit or two of Normans, but I'm dragging my feet painting these goddamn knights, because I don't like painting horses. I need to get on that. Once I have done that, I'll do a unit of pilgrims and maybe a new warlord to make a Crusader army out of my Normans, and _then_ I'll do some Seljuqs. 
  • Strange Aeons: This project is an excuse to collect cool monster figures and cultists and stuff. I have a pretty good collection so far, and I enjoy this game. This one is just simmering away; I don't feel like I need anything else for it. 
  • Warhammer Sorta Thousand: a collection in search of a system. I need to complete my RBT01 Marines, and I've got a little conversion of a walker I need to sort out, and my Chaos Dreadnought, and ... quite a lot, but I don't feel like there's any pressure here. 
  • 1/72 historical: I haven't even started here. I'm thinking of doing a couple of test models for the paint scheme and speed-painting, but other than that I have not begun. 
  • Dungeon fantasy: I really like using miniatures in my D&D game, but it's not the focus of gameplay. I just like it, and it may be that it's an excuse. 

In fact, I think that you can see that as a trend in my miniatures projects: only SAGA really requires me to paint a lot of the same kind of thing. Modern 40K would require lots of the same damned thing, but Sorta Thousand is a mishmash. Strange Aeons is all individuals, and apart from the odd goblin and/or skeleton horde so is D&D. I like painting quickly and I don't have either a lot of time or a lot of patience, so although these Conquest Games Normans are super cool, painting all of them is a little dull. Still, they will look nice when they are finished. 

So that's what I'm up to at the moment. 

Also I just went to a car boot sale and: 

Wednesday 13 May 2015

I never post about my D&D campaign

I mean, I post about campaign setting stuff, and I sometimes post about rules or products I buy. But I seldom post about how the game is going.

Good. It's going good. 

Early in the game, the PCs' strong motivation to get the hell out of an area before their misdeeds caught up with them meant that sandboxy investment seldom paid off, but it's starting to now; they've just been back to the same port for the third time, only to find that they have to deal with the consequences of their previous shenanigans. In this particular case, they need to steal an artefact from the local thieves' guild (or "the mob" as I like to think of it) in order to present the cabal of warlocks the thieves want to sell it to from discovering that it is a forgery, passed off by the PCs months before after they gave the real one to a cackling old hag. This is, by the way, not my idea at all -- they were inspired to do it as a way of getting out of trouble. 

Also, combat continues to have frantic action feeling and I continue to use car-boot-sale toys as representations in addition to lovingly-painted figures. 

Sharks, water elementals, fishmen, pirates, treasure ...
just another day on the high seas.

Monday 11 May 2015

Void Pirates:

I spent some time this afternoon trying out Void Pirates, an upcoming release from Four-Color Studios, makers of the Goalsystem games. It was my first time playing a Goalsystem game, and I thought it went well. I statted up three crews -- a middle-of-the-road mixture of characters, a two-man wonder team of elite power-armoured commandos and a squad of rank-and-file troops led by a tough officer.

Two-man wonder team!
149th Guards Rifle Division!
The players opted for the two-man wonder team and the mook-heavy soldiers. Turns out mook-heavy soldiery are still pretty good. We only got to play one game (I took too long to get going), so we didn't use the campaign system, but that's one of the most interesting things about the game to me. I will definitely be checking it out in future games.

I cobbled together some scenery out of my old post-apocalyptic pieces and some carpet tiles I had lying around -- it turns out I don't have a good cloth for non-grassy surfaces. Need to get that sorted.

The marines take up cover behind some wreckage. 
Cautious of the enemy's heavy weapons, the soldiers spread out. 
An explosion wounds some of the troops. 
Marine player Angela assigns her Fate Dice. 
Go for the glory! The sergeant uses his jump pack to charge in. 
The enemy captain is wounded but manages to escape.
Less like a fire team and more like a firing squad.
A swirling melee in the centre of the board sees both leaders drop.
The troops fan out. 
The machine-gunner takes up a position overlooking the field. 
Shot after shot flies toward the surviving Marine, but between the cover and his
heavy armour he clings desperately to life. 
Gradually, the enemy begins to encircle his position. 
Until at last he's felled by heavy fire at close range. 
When I get the time (whenever that is) I'm gonna stat up some squads for my long-dormant Warhammer Sorta Thousand project, Space Bastards!

Monday 4 May 2015

Painting binge!

Over the last few days I've been trying to get ready for some upcoming game projects as well as to chip away at the mountain of Bones miniatures I have to do. Here are some models I've painted since Friday, together with a few I finished a week or so ago.

Incidentally, Reaper mentions that Army Painter coloured primers work on their figures, but I have also discovered that so does Halfords car primer. The number of grey and brown models in this update may not be a coincidence.

Utility monsters! That guy on the right is just a test piece, which
is why his hideous mould lines are even more hideous than usual.

Utility monsters II! We have a druid now, so there's going to be a
lot more animal figures getting painted over the next months. 


Imp! I am displeased both with the paintjob -- and not just because
the wash dried glossy -- and with the photo. Hopefully the next
one will look a little better. 

They have a scurvy pirate crew now, so they need some scurvy pirates.
I have no idea where this figure is from -- got him in the sprue exchange.

Reaper Bones warlock. I actually quite like this model!


More scurvy pirates! Look how short that dude on the right's arms are. 

Modern adventurers. 
Words cannot express how much I hate the Bones integral bases -- everyone will get some extra flock and stuff to pretty their bases up; I just tend to wait until I have a bunch of models that need flocking and then do them all at once. 

However, check out Shortarms McBadlyproportioned up there; I just cut him right off his base and stuck his feet on a spare Wargames Factory base. Clearly the way forward. I'll be doing that in future when I can; the soft plastic makes it really easy.

Friday 1 May 2015

Silent Legions: the long-awaited Part Two!

In a previous post, I began my review of Silent Legions, the Lovecraftian-horror sandbox game from Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing. I am a big fan of this type of game and its approach to worldbuilding, so I decided to put it into practice.

Pantheon and cults

Before starting to develop my setting, I created a pantheon, an alien race and some cults. I rolled for the gods and discovered that there were four of them, divided into two pantheons. One of the pantheons came up "monotheistic," so obviously that god, who I rolled as a god of fire -- the Sleeping Flame -- is the only god in its pantheon (I suppose that's not really a pantheon, then, but you know what I mean). The other pantheon has three gods, but they don't fully exist yet: I rolled "forerunners" for them, which means that they are waiting to be born into our reality. They are the Sultan of Cold, the King of Thirst and the Devourer of Pain.

So we have one god -- obviously, your passive, dormant type -- that already exists and three younger gods striving to be born. I'm guessing the Flame wants to make sure the others don't burst into our reality and displace it.

My alien race don't have a name yet, but the dice tell me that they've only been here for one to two hundred years and that they're capable of disguising themselves as humans. During their time on earth, they've created a concealed global network of underground structures to house themselves, and obviously one of these is located in the area where I'm going to set my game. They came to earth from another part of our solar system, and they use humans to incubate their larvae. They influenced astronomy -- I'm assuming to conceal the existence of their home -- until a group of humans banded together to stop them. I'll have to find somewhere discovered in the last few centuries to have them come from; Pluto is probably too predictable.

They fear the outer gods -- I decided to have this mean that they fear the new, yet-to-be-born gods. Perhaps they fled from their home to seek refuge from them?

They live within the human community, and they have the power of mind control, which they use to suborn the local government; they produce or have access to some kind of addictive substance they use to manipulate people. They place the highest value on reproduction -- I wonder if maybe they are dying out back home. In their normal physical form (when not impersonating humans) they are like half-intangible clouds with stalked eyes projecting from them. Their behaviour is ant-like; they have a queen and they obey her unquestioningly. They speak in airy, breathy voices, eat by liquefying and absorbing their food and seem to be motionless until they suddenly move with inconceivable speed.

When they die, they erupt into a swarm of immature larvae which will seek to burrow themselves into a human host. They won't mature, but they can do some damage.

By Luigi Castellani. 

I rolled up one cult, the Circle of the Iron Demiurge. They were founded in ancient history by an artist who received bizarre visions of something huge. They took control of a community in ancient history, recruiting their numbers from among artists; they infiltrated an existing faith and repurposed some of its temples, but they were opposed by a rival faith.

Today, they have embraced their uncontrollable artistic visions to the point that many of them are incapable of functioning in normal society. Each member has a hidden tattoo which they use to identify themselves; the cult is bounded together by a twisted form of familial love. The leader is a mad high priest, but he has possibly untrustworthy second-in-command. The cult wants revenge against someone -- maybe the descendants of the religion that fought them in antiquity? They are masters of diabolical sorcery, which is their chief weapon.

Here are the three major and three minor characters I created for the cult:

  • Seductive femme fatale
  • Merciless crime boss
  • Monstrous entity that resembles a human -- maybe one of the alien species has switched sides to work for the unborn gods rather than the Flame? 
  • Foolish street thug with grandiose plans
  • Sweet old lady carrying on a hideous family tradition
  • Ambitious young academic seeking cult secrets
The second cult I didn't bother rolling up; the alien race description made it clear that the other cult in the mix was going to be the mind-controlled slaves of the aliens. I assume they work in tiers with actual shape-shifted aliens at the top and the addicted thralls at the bottom. 

Basically all of this was generated randomly, I want to point out, and it all fits together into quite a nice little antagonist group. Certainly much more detail than I would probably have created in an hour of just thinking about it. And more importantly, not solely the kind of thing I would think of (and therefore the kind of thing my players would be able to predict). 


I decided to set my campaign right here in Cambridgeshire. The book recommends picking three urban locations, three rural locations and three remote locations, some of which are to be "red herrings," ie locations with no occult tag. I only did eight instead of nine. My locations were: 
  • Cambridge (city)
  • Cambridge (university)
  • Ely
  • Little Stukeley (red herring)
  • Westley Waterless
  • Ramsey Forty Foot
  • Ouse Washes
  • Gallows Hill
For each of these locations, you generate two tags, each of which contains an enemy, a friend, a scheme, a secret and a place. You pick these from a list of suggestions for each one. 

Cambridge City: Foul Faith. A local religion has been corrupted. Enemy: popular demagogue. Friend: concerned relative. Scheme: consecrate a place with an evil rite. Secret: the religion supports social services for the needy, despite its evil nature. Place: secret fane in important building. 

Crushing Despair. The people of Cambridge have lost hope in things ever getting better. Enemy: political machine boss. Friend: Successful expat returning home. Scheme: discredit source of hope. Secret: Constant plans for renewal always disappoint. Place: street with half the houses empty. 

This is an example of a location and its tags; I'm not going to type them all out because there's nine of them, so here's the summary. 

Ely: Horrific Wealth, Creeping Plague. Ely's privileged residents have some corrupt secret behind their wealth -- but can even that save them from the contagion that's about to break out? Are they, in fact, linked? 

Cambridge University: Drug Epidemic, Damnable Saviour. A new designer drug is doing the rounds among students -- it's even being made by students. But the drug has side effects that one of the cults is keen to harness or put a stop to. A wealthy patron tries to battle the problem, but has secrets of her own. 

Little Stukeley: Clannish Silence, Old Grudges. Stukeleians (is that a word?) don't trust outsiders, and anyone who tries to tell people about what's going on gets put down by the brutal clan leaders. Two factions within the village fight, with an unscrupulous gun runner selling to both sides. 

Westley Waterless: Senseless Violence, Buried Power. A local archaeological site has a hidden being beneath it -- a zealous young archaeologist struggles with the local landowner for access. Does the site have something to do with the bizarre rash of violent crimes in the area? 

Ramsey Forty Foot: Depraved Clergy, Entrenched Poverty. In this poor village, a violent strain of old-timey witch-hunting religion has arisen. 

Ouse Washes: Poisoned Ground, Inhuman Masters. Chemical spills are contaminating the area -- they come from a hidden lab run by a rogue scientist. Is it tied in to the aliens' attempt to create a device to communicate with their offworld allies? 

Gallows Hill: Hateful Tradition, Predator Entity. Bigoted locals enact a cruel local rite believed to appease an evil spirit. There is an evil spirit -- but it isn't appeased. Bodies of the locals' victims are believed to be consumed by the monster, but in fact it eats something less substantial -- a part of the soul, or the sanity. 

It's spookier if you know it's called the Devil's Dyke. 
So there you have it -- that's probably a year's worth of sessions, although they're not all developed, and it took me about two hours while watching television. And as you can see, they're not necessarily Mythos-y; the plot concepts are sufficiently broad that they can fit anywhere. I like enough of these plots that I may well use them, and several of them are not what I would have thought of without using the generator. I particularly love the aliens, the cult, all that stuff. 

There are lots of tools for me to quickly create the next steps as well -- I'd start with this level plus local knowledge, improvisation and charm, and then when the players wanted to actually go somewhere in the sandbox I'd quickly whip up the relevant spells, critters, artefacts and so on. Probably the only thing I'd do more of in advance is the cult's sorcery; given that it's important to them I would want to make sure I had some strongly-established visuals and names to act as clues. 

By Luigi Castellani.
I have discovered my first flaw in the game, though! Well, it's not a flaw per se, more like a caveat; it's just that the tags will require a little adjustment to make them work in a wainscot UK setting (rather than a World-of-Darkness-type setting), and of course they'll need even more fiddling to make fit a specific city. The second point is true anywhere; Cambridge is filthy rich; that's its problem, and the idea of a street with empty houses, rather than people paying £200K to live in a shoebox and be beaten with rods, is risible. But I'm the one that chose it; I was shooting for a more WoD-y concept anyway. And that would be true anywhere; a tag that makes sense one way in New York needs a little work to make sense in Muscatine. 

The national point is a little more an artefact of the game itself; it's set in America, and some of the tags reflect that, assuming that guns are everywhere and there's lots of murders and so on. I struggled with fitting some of the tags to really remote locations, also; if I were to do this again I think I would make it a big city and not bother with the remote country stuff; I'd make "village" the lowest level of resolution, rather than somewhere really out in the middle of nowhere. Mind you, I think that some of the crime assumptions would work OK in London or even somewhere like Birmingham or Glasgow or somewhere; you can believe that film-noir stuff in a way that's hard to believe about Cambridge. So maybe my home is just weird. 

I hope this has given you an example of how the sandbox generation works and why I think this game is so great; I'm not rolling to see how many of this or what type of columns are in the lobby or what kind of guns the thugs have. I'm rolling for the narrative elements, and then I'm fitting it all together like some mad game of Iron Chef. You can see how useful this is for modern-horror setting creation. Honestly, it should be in every World of Darkness ST's tool kit; that's probably the closest thing on the market to a modern horror sandbox, and it lacks anything like this, at least as far as I know. 

Seriously, you guys; if you run any kind of modern horror game, get this one. Link's at the top of the post.