Monday 31 August 2015

RPG a Day 2015: Wrap-up!

So, this August was RPG a Day 2015, and I have made a bunch of posts about it. Last year I did a mixture of blog posts and YouTube videos, but this year almost everything I've posted has been on my YouTube channel.

Here's the wrapup video, covering the last three days of 2015's project:

Now, this video had a lot of references, so here are some of the links:

Blogs I am currently enjoying reading or wish would update more include:

Also, one of the nice things about RPGaDay is that it brings out the posts from friends such as Out of my Mind, The Anxious Gamer and others. There are others I should be linking to -- honestly, I should just set up a proper sidebar. 

The writer I mention in the post, Ta-Nehisi Coates, writes about history, politics and comic books. I can't imagine why I like him so much!

Thursday 27 August 2015

More adventures in speed painting!

Remember when I said more substantial posts were coming? I lied. It's been a busy week, but look for something a little more thoughtful once the weekend passes. Today it's going to be a quick discussion of painting. In the meantime, if you haven't been following my RPG a Day videos, you can catch up with them on Youtube.

So anyway, as I've mentioned before, my besetting sin as a painter is impatience. This applies both on an individual-model level and at a collection level; I get bored long before a proper army can be completed. I tend to have a lot of, at most, little forces of a couple of squads each.

This is one of them! Painting-wise, it's shoddy even by my standards, but on the other hand it's a nice little coherent force that was very quick and easy to paint. It could be a bit nicer with just a teeny bit more work.

These guys are my little mini speed-painted army. The two light squads are Reaper Bones Nova Corp Security from the first Bones Kickstarter, and the heavies are old Space Rangers from Grenadier (now available from em-4). In both cases, they are not perfect models. The Space Rangers have soft detail and static poses; the Nova Corp security have some nasty mould lines that are really hard to remove in the soft Bones plastic. So I decided I would just paint them as fast as I could and see what kind of results it produced.

I sprayed the Space Rangers with Army Painter brown primer, but I just washed the Bones and let them dry before directly applying the first base coat. In both cases I put on a first layer of GW Tausept Ochre, then gave the whole model a dark brown wash (Army Painter Strong Tone ink, I think?). Next I went back and added another ink wash, this time only on the spaces between the armour plates, to give the impression of a brown uniform with lighter armour plates on it. After all that dried (the longest part of the process), I just lined the edges of the armour with the original colour. I then painted weapons and gear black and highlighted them with VMC German Grey; visors, idiot lights and weapon glowy bits got a base of GW Regal Blue highlighted up to VMC Sky Blue. It was quick, it was easy and it looks OK at the range in the photo above (although it's a bit rough in the close-up photos below).

I'm not happy with the bases on the Nova Corp guys, which are too tall, but the integral bases were too flimsy to use and I was worried they'd be too fiddly to cut off. These days I would just cut them off, but hey ho.

If I had to add one more thing, I'd go back and add some rank badges, armour markings and so on just to individualise the models a bit. I might also pick out the belts on the light troops just to break up that big solid colour block a little. If I could be bothered, which I can't.

Anyway, one day I'll run some kind of sci-fi skirmish game where it'll be important to have lots of distinguishable mook guards. Until then, they live with a bunch of other wrong-sized forces in a box marked "sci-fi infantry."

More photos:

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Frugal terrain and a few more painted models.

So, another car boot sale find! I suspect this was originally an aquarium ornament. Models fit on it nicely, although I expect I'll get more use out of it in RPGs. Not bad for 50p.

We've seen the berserker model previously, but the guy standing at the top of the bridge is a Reaper Bones ... something or other. Apparently his name is "Eregris Darkfathom," and in my D&D campaign, rife as it is with cultists of Dagon, I think he'll make a rather dandy villain. Like most of today's models, he was primed grey, then progressively drybrushed up to pure white. I went back and added the colours with washes, letting the combination of the wash and the underlying drybrush do the highlighting for me. I picked out a few details and the job's a good 'un. 

Basically, I've been trying to clear a lot of my backlog lately, and that means speed painting. Sometimes -- like with this guy -- I get a result I'm quite happy with! Other times, it doesn't look as good, but it's OK because speed has a virtue of its own. Here are a few other things I've painted since my last painting update: 

This model, by contrast, is everything a Bones mini shouldn't be -- a mess of hideous mould lines all along flimsy parts that will just bend out of the way when you try to clean them up. He looks a little better than this -- this is not a great photo -- but by the time I'd been struggling with him for a while I just didn't give a crap. He got done because I'm nearly done with all the various skeletons that came in the Bones 2 Kickstarter, and he'll probably turn up in D&D but other than that he can go to hell. 

A couple of weeks ago -- while I was at Bring Out Your Lead, in fact -- my wife picked me up a big box of old miniatures at a charity shop. Most of them were the old 5th edition WHFB plastics, mainly Bretonnians, but there were a couple of late-90s metal elves in there too. Sold the elves for a small profit on eBay and now effectively have a couple of dozen free models. That I have no use for. But free! Anyway, this little lizardman (from the WHFP 5th ed boxed set -- was one of them, and he too was tinted using washes and then had some detailed areas picked out to pretty him up. For a cheapo plastic rank-and-filer I think he looks not bad, although there is a dreadful old-timey mould block thing just sticking right out of his back.

Anyway, that is ongoing painting for now. A more substantive update to come!

Friday 21 August 2015

An elaborate idea that'll never go anywhere.

I often say that random systems are more fun. I may mean that they are more fun for the GM. Let me give you an example that does not strictly relate to role-playing games.

I was talking to fellow blogger Happyfett, with whom I write for Bad Movie Marathon, about limitations in filmmaking. Specifically, I was saying that it was easy to admire the pluck, creativity and ingenuity of low-budget filmmakers, even when the movies they produced were not any good. For example, I watched the special features of the Asylum Sherlock Holmes film, and it was clear that the people making the film were youngsters working on a project with no resources and no time, frantically improvising, dragooning local residents and their dogs into the movie and just generally doing their best. They were so clearly enjoying themselves that it was hard to remember what a punch in the eye their piece-of-shit movie was. 

That's why we enjoy reading about Roger Corman (his book, How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood and never lost a dime, is a lot of fun) even though we would generally prefer not to watch a Roger Corman film, at least not without a few drinks.

And it's fun because of the limitations -- but deciding what limitations are is seldom fun. Thus the appeal of randomness for the person making the decisions; I'm never (well, seldom) surprised by my own choices, but I can be as surprised by anyone else by the roll of a die or the turn of a card.

Which is why I think being a B-movie mogul would be a fun card game, computer game or even live megagame.

I realise that's kind of already Deadwood, but that's themed around cowboys and acting. I want to play the hack whose job it is to bring this stinker in under budget and kind-of good.  

I have no idea about mechanics other than that I want time to be a gamble -- the longer you spend making it, the better it'll be but the more likely the kids will get tired of whatever trend you're exploiting -- and that I would like the title to be selected at random, possibly by flipping over cards. (Flip) "I was a ..." (Flip) "... teenage ..." (Flip) "... motorcycle ..." (Flip) "... crocodile."

If it were a live game, you could have people as directors, producers, even stars, journalists, agents, stuff like that. People could write scripts in real time, even rehearse and perform scenes (you'd have to say that the actual film is only about 10 minutes long). Maybe screenwriters get given random stock footage, props and producers' obsessions ("It's gotta have a buffalo! The kids, they love the buffalos!") from which to cobble together their plots. There could be popcorn and the whole thing could end with a screening of some dreadful old movie.

You'd need some kind of additional plot in there, of course -- communists, aliens, gangsters, etc. But I think the idea's got merit, particularly as a con game. In theory you could even treat con attendees as filmgoers and have people try to "sell" their movies to them, but I'm always wary about involving other people at cons in live games. It feels rude.

Anyway, since I'm not likely ever to make a mobile game or a brightly-coloured £35 card game ... ah, who am I foolin', I'm never gonna make a megagame either. So there you have it. Just thinking aloud again. 

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Quick Painting Update

After I got back from Bring Out Your Lead, I was filled with excitement to paint stuff I got there. But I made myself promise to paint some of the stuff on my table before adding anything new to it. I'm not done yet, but here's a little progress.

This berserker is made from -- I think -- a Warlord Games Celtic warrior
with the head and axe of a Gripping Beast Viking. 

These gretchin are from Fox Box; I have another to finish.
They were free miscasts, so they're a little rough, but I quite like them. 

This monster came from em-4; it's originally part of the old Hobby Products Cthulhu line. 

More Reaper Bones undead; pretty handy utility monsters for D&D. 
I have a bunch more nearly completed, so look out for another update coming soon.

Monday 17 August 2015

It's Mashup Monday!

With a lot of projects about 75% complete, I am turning to my bookshelves to provide inspiration for today's post. I'm gonna pull out two books and see where they lead me. I close my eyes, grab at the shelves and what do I find?

Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, a fascinating collection of interviews with Americans who have different jobs. 

... and an issue of Fortean Times in which Ian "Cat" Vincent talks about the idea of Slenderman being a tulpa, a being created by the thoughts of those who discuss him online, which was also not quite the plot of an episode of Supernatural.

Let's get in there and see what we've got. First, an account by a woman who is a homicide detective:

And this is what I mean about these muthafuckas. ... he looks at me and he says, "You know what, Officer Childs?" He say, "I'm not angry or upset with you. Because I just love the way you got me." And then he smiles and he says, "You know? In another time and place you coulda been my woman."
Aggggghh! You know? This job makes it hard on relationships, and whatever -- I ain't even going to go into that -- but that hurt. Like, how do I always get chose by killers? Men who have absolutely nothin' going for themselves? Aggggh! [Laughs] You know? "In another place and time, you could have been my woman!" I just don't believe this. A heroin addict killer old man. That's who's comin' on to me. [Laughs] I just say, "Okay, Mr Boyce. All right."
Our second extract is the tulpa section I mentioned before.

So -- we have a vain murderer who fancies himself a ladies' man, and we have a tulpa originating from the collective belief of credulous young people on the internet. Please note that Vincent is aware that this is not what a tulpa actually means in Tibetan Buddhism, but the David-Neel meaning has (I'm sorry) taken on a life of its own.

And now, a scenario seed for a modern day occult/paranormal game:

Lefty Sloane

Like a whirlwind, Lefty Sloane is tearing through the Heights, taking over rackets, muscling out punks and thumbing his nose at the law. In a few short months, he's become king of the hill. There's only one problem: Lefty Sloane is twenty years older than this new kid, and rotting in a cell to boot. Talk to Kowalski in Robbery, he'll tell you Lefty Sloane was a bum and a junkie with nothing but a big mouth.

It's the big mouth that's the problem -- over years of telling the tales of his greatness, Lefty's actually come to believe them. Locked up in the Gardens with nothing to do but spin tales, silver-tongued Lefty's got the whole prison population thrilling to his tales of the good old days, when he romanced beautiful women, pulled off daring heists, smacked any fool who talked shit to him in the mouth, and fought the cops when they came after him. And now, that Lefty is on the loose in the form of a tulpa. 

But why now? Is it something to do with the drugs Lefty's on -- and how are they getting into the prison anyway? Does something in the Gardens focus these dreams in some way? And how can Lefty's tulpa be stopped, given that part of his whole deal is that he takes shit from no cop?

Thursday 13 August 2015

Vengeance, flaming blades, and the icy peaks of the North

Among the Northmen, it is a shame to any clan for a member to lie unavenged. If the slayer is beyond the strength of a mortal to defeat -- or if the outrage is particularly great -- the gods (or, some whisper, those below) sometimes lend a hand.

A traditional Nornic funeral sees the deceased laid out upon a funeral pyre with his  or her weapons and belongings. A relative who wishes to avenge the deceased may reach into the fire and grasp one of the weapons. If the deceased was killed, and if the slayer yet lives, and if the relative has the strength to grasp the burning weapon and withdraw it from the flames, sometimes the fire remains on the blade, burning without any fuel. 

Such blades are as honoured as they are feared. Almost impossible to sheathe save in specially enchanted scabbards, they are usually kept in display in a family's hall as a reminder that one of the clan lies unavenged. But they seldom wait long before they are used -- and a good thing too. For if the blade does not seek vengeance, it may turn against those who drew it from the fire with false promises. 

The rules are simple: the burning blade must kill the slayer of the person from whose pyre it was taken. If more than one person was responsible, it must kill them all. The gods decide who is responsible, but the gods have a pretty simple view of responsibility -- they don't care about economic causes or earlier wounds; they want the person who dealt the death blow. 

If the burning blade does kill the guilty party, the fire slowly fades. However, the blade retains a flickering glow in the metal, and from time to time it emits a low heat. Henceforth the blade will retain a righteous magic. Such blades are passed down through clans for generations, both as powerful magical weapons in their own right and as symbols of the clan's readiness to avenge slights against it. 

If the burning blade does not kill the guilty party, whether because someone else did it or because the guilty party died through other means, the fire of vengeance has no righteous outlet. It begins to turn inward, consuming the bearer. Anyone who bears such a weapon after its target is dead begins to suffer from the mental effects of bearing it; the rage lacks an outlet, causing the wielder to lash out in unpredictable ways. Alternatively, the wielder may somehow lose the blade. Such weapons often find their way into the hands of clan enemies; no one is quite sure how this happens, but it happens often enough that it cannot be a coincidence. 

Some such blades have been destroyed, although destroying magical weapons is always a tricky process. Others are buried deep in the earth, their fires banked but not extinguished. 

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Unfinished business

So, just as a way of organising my own thoughts about what I've got on my gaming to-do list, here's what I feel like I should be doing.


Develop more detailed ship rules for my D&D game (partly done).
Write up one or more of my D&D scenarios -- The Magonium Mine Murders and Castle of the Hive Queen -- into a usable format (just started).
Write more plotkits and things for the IoD.
Read some of my new RPG books -- I still haven't finished the Dracula Dossier.


Finish SAGA armies: Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Normans/Crusaders (nearly done with the first two)
1/72 ancients army (not even started)
3rd ed. WHFB Norse army (just a thought)
Lots of Warhammer Sorta Thousand figures, including my Chaos and Ork dreadnoughts
As many of these dingdang Reaper Bones as possible (underway)
Early medieval scenery (a project that can never be finished)
Paint up some of these figures I got at BOYL
Start a new Two-Dollar Monster competition

Things I'm not gonna do

Start more live games
Buy Frostgrave
Start running any new tabletop campaigns, no matter how cool Night's Black Agents is.

You know, in my mind there was a lot more there -- I suspect because the Bones and Warhammer Sorta Thousand projects are so open-ended.

Friday 7 August 2015

RPG a Day, Day 7: Our favourite price

Today's RPG a Day topic is Free RPGs, and I'm going to say boring things about them. I've been making videos for a while, but this is such a resolutely unvisual topic that I'm just going to do a blog post here.

My favourite free RPG is probably ... yeah, I think it's got to be Stars Without Number. If you're running a science-fiction game of any kind, I think it's a really useful thing to read. There are even tons of free supplements! Of course, after that I bought loads of supplements and other Sine Nomine games, so it seems like this free-rulebook business is working out for Kevin Crawford, at least as far as getting my personal money is concerned. While you're at the Sine Nomine page, there's another free Crawford title, Exemplars and Eidolons, which I have but have never read. I'll get to it!

I got a free (well, "included in the price") copy of the Victorian Scientific Romance (that's "steampulp" to you) RPG Forgotten Futures in an issue of Arcane magazine back in the day, but you can get it for free as well here. I'm not wild about the system, but the game's supplements provide vast resources for anyone wanting to run a Victorian Science Fiction game.

Obviously, there are umpty-bazillion free scenarios out there, but I strongly recommend Gormand's Larder, a weird little mini-dungeon with no text whatsoever, just illustrations.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

RPG a Day so far

Last year, I participated in Dave Chapman's RPG a Day, and it prompted me to write and think about my gaming habits. Well, it's back, and I've been making videos for each day of the month so far. Here they are for those that haven't seen them.

I turned out not to have a good answer for the first question about games I was anticipating.

On the second day, I was a guest on the main RPG a Day video, talking once again about Silent Legions. It really is very good.

Day 3 was about things I've purchased in the last year, including recent ENnie winner A Red and Pleasant Land. It is also good.

In my next video, I talked about a game that surprised me; there was a cameo appearance by a classic.

And today, on Day 5, I talk about recent purchases including Tunnels & Trolls and Many Gates of the Gann.

Monday 3 August 2015

Bring Out Your Lead 2015

Bring Out Your Lead is an annual, community-organised gaming ... thing. It's not a convention per se, it's just a weekender of gaming and celebration and special stuff, hosted by Wargames Foundry. Gaj of Warhammer for Adults herds the cats, people volunteer to host games and the whole thing turns out splendidly. At least that's what I had heard, because I had never been to one.

I caught the train to Newark and headed over to the Foundry, which is located in the Carriage Court of Stoke Hall. Games were already beginning. I snapped a few photos of the ships for the Oldhammer Ahoy! game. I don't know who made all of them, but some were by Geoff of Oakbound Games.

I think this vessel was eventually crewed by undead.

A close-up of the crew of this goblin/Chaos ship.

A longship full of Fimir.

And the same model ship, but converted to Chaos. 
The Foundry also had displays of classic Citadel figures. I snapped a few shots of particular favourites, especially this Genestealer cult:

Some games were already underway: 

Chainsaw Warrior played with Space Hulk rules. I got to try this on Sunday.

There was a lot of Blood Bowl going on at the event!
My first game of the weekend was a Judge Dredd game based on the storyline "The Day the Law Died." I had brought along a model, Judge Ford, who was a gift from my friend Josh. Since Judge Ford was meant to represent him, I thought it would be cool to include him in a story that featured some other SJS characters.

Judge Ford
Some highlights from the game:

The SJS squad -- Judge Cal, Judge Fish, and a hand-picked team.

Judge Dredd and his few remaining allies turn up.  
Street Judges and protestors exchange fire. 
Judge Quincy takes cover as Dredd's supporters open fire. 

Judge Ford takes cover and returns fire. 

Ford and Quincy bum-rush one of the enemy Judges. 

The loss of most of the Mega Slurp promotional team isn't going to stop Judge Glass getting Slurped ... 
... or Judge Cal, for that matter. 

But killing Judge Cal is still a crime, so Dredd and his boys move in.

The writing is on the wall for the SJS Judges. 

And Dredd finally restores order. 

My last game on Friday was a quick Mordheim game, in which I played a Norse warband. Models and terrain were all provided by my opponent, whose name I am not sure about. Stu? I didn't take a lot of photos because my battery was dying. 

We ran out of time in the evening, but finished up on Saturday morning. 

My main game on Saturday was the Fallout Rogue Trader game, in which I played the forces of the New California Republic. I used Capitol models from Warzone 2nd edition, which I chose for their characteristic Smokey-the-Bear hats. Forum member Legiocustodes hosted the game, which also included blogger JB of Lead Plague.

The caravan guards set out on their long journey. 

A mob of mutants ready to do some mischief.

Rerolls were provided by these bottlecaps.

NCR troops take up defensive positions on the valley floor.

A Brotherhood of Steel patrol escorts a Scribe to the ruins. 

A wastelander tries to hack into the computers of an abandoned Enclave base.

The scavengers take control of the base's weapons!

The caravan proceeds peacefully, keeping a wary eye out for enemies.

Long-range fire from the Brotherhood cuts down a Ranger.

Raiders lurk in the ruined town.

A mutant creature attacks the Brotherhood heavy gunner.
The Responsible One, your revenge is complete!

Rangers and Ghouls exchange long-range fire. 

Cathedral cultists sneak into the town to attack the raiders.
Rangers establish a perimeter in the ruins and exchange fire with the mutants. 
Mutants and cultists clash.  
The veteran Ranger shoots down the Super Mutant with his six-shooter. 
My next game of the evening was Chainsaw Warrior using Space Hulk rules. This was a lovely little game designed and run by Aidan of Warfactory and his young helper; they also played the cultists in the game above.  I didn't get any photos -- dead phone again -- but I won the game with only nine seconds left on its 60-second clock.

One of the amazing things about this day was that Kev Adams was doing custom sculpting for charity -- you slipped the man a fiver and he would sculpt a new face for you on a 28mm model of your choice. I got one of those, and as soon as I get some photos done I'll post it. 

Sunday ... Sunday meant just one game for me: Deathrace 40,000. This game, organised through the Oldhammer Forum by Captain Crooks (who was visiting all the way from Australia), saw each player creating a vehicle and steering it through a racetrack filled with hazards, power-ups and whatnot ... basically Mario Kart in the oddball black comedy of the 41st millennium.

The Tombstone Express, driver Dave Grigger and his loyal mechanic Harry. 

A playsheet. 

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line ... 

Engines pumping and thumping in time ... 

The green light flashes, the flags go up ... 
And they're off! The Freeway Fighter and the Chaos grav-attack take the lead,
with Da Mork 5 and the Gorkinator in hot pursuit. 

The Flyboyz zoom tightly around the curve, a move they'll learn to regret. 

Ramshackle Raider (manufactured, painted and piloted by Curtis Fell of Ramshackle Games) takes the jump. 

The grav-attack blasts the Tombstone Express with a rocket. 

Kills on Wheels goes for the jump. 

When you drift, you're not in control -- unless you're out of control. 

Tombstone Express successful jumps the lava pit while the grav-attack stacks it into the wall ... 

... but accurate fire from the Gnomads on the hillside blows out a tyre. 

Da Mork 5, Redback and the Killdozer 5000 Special Edition land safely ... for now. 

A quick pit stop for Twin Mustang and Mork 5 is lengthened by a spray of fire from Kills on Wheels.
The wrecks start to pile up in the second lap. 

Restored to full speed, Mork 5 gets back in the race, with Tombstone Express close behind. 

Well-placed caltrops from Tombstone Express knock out the Gorkinator. 

The crew bail out!

Killdozer relentlessly pursues Blorko's Bullet. 
Speed Racork and Dave Grigger pelt for the finish line. 
Well-aimed fire from the dismounted Gorkinators takes out the grav-attack!
Damaged but not destroyed by desperate cannon fire, Redback crosses the finish line to complete its final lap. 
Redback and Tombstone Express collide, wrecking both -- but too late. 

I can't tell you how great Deathrace was -- a fun and simple system, beautiful, creative vehicles, and a tense, exciting race. They're already talking about next year's game.

After the cleanup, Captain Crooks and I split a cab back to town -- but having nowhere to go for a bit, we just hung out for a while and watched British gaming legend Bryan Ansell sculpt a hand on a model for Crooks. Artist Tony Ackland, of Realms of Chaos and WHFRP fame, was also there, and we had a good chat about many things; in particular, I learned about the late Brett Ewins' bizarre fashion sense and the fact that Paul Bonner's darkly colourful paintings are watercolours(!). When it came time to get back, there was a brief panic about getting a cab in time -- Foundry boss Marcus Ansell helped us out and even showed us a shortcut to where we needed to go.

Oh, and I got a crapload of miniatures -- more details to come, but a particular mention should go to Geoff Sims of Oakbound Games for providing free souvenir models to the deathracers. Models, in fact, of those stumpy Gnomad bastards who sent my lovely Tombstone Express to the pitstop with blown tyres. He is good people and you should buy his stuff. There are lots of others who contributed, and I'm leaving them out not because I want to diminish their contribution but because of space.

The whole experience was great from start to finish. The surroundings were lovely and the food was nice; the behind-the-scenes look at miniatures casting was very interesting. The games were great, and staged in a spirit of passionate amateurism; every figure on the tables was clearly a labour of love. I was a little nervous because I only knew a few people personally, but everyone welcomed me like an old friend, which was very gratifying. The whole thing was ... enthusiastic and laid-back at the same time, which is one of the things I like about the Oldhammer community and a very tricky balance to achieve. If I can make it back next year, I definitely will.