Thursday 29 October 2015

Some quick painting updates.

So, I have been doing lots of Frostgrave stuff lately, but that isn't all I've been up to:

These charming Gnomads were sculpted by Geoff Sims of Oakbound Games and were given away as a souvenir to participants in the Deathrace 40,000 game at this year's Oldhammer weekend. They come without weapons, so I gave them some shooters from Warlord Games WWII sprues -- they're about the right size! These are charming little models, about halfling-sized.

This is another model from Fox Box -- I gave him a new left hand, weapon and right arm (although the shield is original).

These in-progress post-apocalyptic shanties made from giant foam dominoes are copied from an article by Germy

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Birthday distractions: Frostgrave!

So yesterday was my birthday and I got this!

It's Frostgrave, which is like Mordheim with more wizards. So far I like it, although I haven't actually played it yet. What I have been doing is going through all my miniatures so that I can create warbands without actually buying any new models!

Thaumaturge, Apprentice, Knight, Thug, Man-at-Arms and two Archers.
Perhaps the Thug will end up being replaced by a Thief. 
It turns out that my bad habit of collecting nothing but tiny little squads of dudes for things is finally about to pay off. 

Wizard and apprentice, some fighty dudes, thief. Maybe needs some archers.
Or a leopard serving as a wardog? 
All I'm saying is that there some opportunities among my minis cases ... 

Or among the unpainted figures:

The Tin Bin. 
The Box of Bones. 
Sprue Hell. 
Work in progress. 
So yeah. It seems like it's easy to get started, although spell selection could be time-consuming. I have given literally no thought whatsoever to how spells and tactics interact. Ideally that's what playing the game is for -- although if you have some recommendations for how these things work I'd be interested to hear them.

Friday 23 October 2015

Frugal Gaming: Some cheap investigator figures

It isn't always easy to find civilian models. That's true of most periods, and probably less so of the interwar period than most. But still, if you want to do some Lovecraftian gaming it's nice to find a new source of potential investigator models.

One place you might not have thought about looking is in a board game. In fact, a 1990s version of Cluedo from UK publisher Waddington's contains some nice plastic investigator figures. It's this one:

Look for the images of the figures in the bottom left-hand part of the box art.

I don't believe this is still in print, but I see it at car boot sales and in charity shops all the time. I'm half-tempted to buy them if they're cheap and just resell the figures. They really are ideal for 1920s gaming.

Now, note: I'm not talking about the Mark-Copplestone-sculpted metal models that came in some fancy version of the game. I believe those are the rather tall models you can still get from Moonraker Miniatures. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong. I haven't seen these in the flesh so I don't know how they scale. There appear to be other editions with figures; again, I don't know if they're in a useful scale.

These ones are plastic models (with tabbed feet and small slotted bases) and they look like this:

Not bad little figures -- I have had a bit of a go at their mould lines but nothing else. You can juuuust see a little discolouration on Miss Scarlet's ankles, and it wouldn't surprise me to find that they are rather fragile. Other than that, plastic quality looks like GW monopose models of the 90s, i.e. OK. Note that the plastic colour is much lighter than the colour on the box cover. I don't know if there's any variation.

How do they fit in with the other models in my Cthulhu collection? Let's have a look:

Copplestone, Cluedo, Rafm, Cluedo, Reaper, Cluedo

Metal Magic/Moonraker, Cluedo, Foundry, Cluedo, Copplestone, Cluedo, Heroclix, Cluedo, Rafm
As you can see, they're a trifle on the large side, but not absolutely gigantic. If your collection is all Metal Magic / Moonraker or Rafm, then yes, they'll tower over your models. I understand Murch's later Pulp Figures line are somewhat larger, but I don't have any so I speak subject to correction. They are a leetle taller than most Copplestone models (and my experience is that Copplestone and Artizan are usually around the same height), but not so's you'd notice. I myself don't care much about scale, as you can tell from the gigantic and tiny models in some of these photos, so they suit me -- and I got the lot of them for about £1.50. And I can always actually play Cluedo if the urge ever strikes me.

Anyway, I hope that's useful.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

What the hell am I gonna do with all these Dragons?

A few years ago I got a load of old issues of Dragon magazine on freecycle -- probably about issues 150-200 or so, maybe more. UK editions. I flipped through them, read some reviews, read the miniature articles and picked out a few cool articles (like Ken Rolston's article about 40K RPGs). But then ... 

... most of every article is either stodgy useless "GMing advice" or endless mechanical variation for a version of D&D I have no interest in playing. I can probably salvage some useful articles on Top Secret / S.I. now that I have a copy, and I can always use the articles about Marvel Super Heroes, but other than that ... I just don't know what to do with them. 

Any suggestions? Maybe I should just make some kind of collages out of them or something, or try to adapt their articles to a game I play, or ... I would feel bad just throwing them out, but they're just taking up space. 

Monday 19 October 2015

The long-awaited return of Mashup Monday!

It's been a busy week, but one that has been marked by the acquisition of some new books I'm excited about reading. To celebrate, let's do another mashup exercise.

Lyuba Vinogradova's Defending the Motherland is about female Soviet fighter pilots during WWII and Werewolf Histories, edited by Willem de Blecourt, is a collection of academic papers about werewolf beliefs in (mostly?) medieval Europe. I haven't read either of them yet. Let's open them, flip through a bit, and see what we can find.

"They encountered two German motorcyclists on the road. One was busy repairing his motorcycle and the other pointed at their bundles, where, he was guessing, there would be food. Glafira was distraught, and began very slowly to untie her load, at the bottom of which there was a gun. While this was going on, Sonya pulled out her own pistol, shot the German, ran over to the other one and shot him twice at point-blank range. The women dashed into the bushes and ran away as fast as they could."

OK, that's a promising start. Let's see about the werewolf book. 

"The marginalised family Kramp fitted all too well into the image of rebellious devilish shape-shifters and most horrible villains, who had violated godly and familial order. ... No one could blame the lord of Schmidtheim for rooting out these beasts. Clearly, Reinhard the Younger had two aims: firstly, to gain sovereignty from Blankenheim, and secondly to gain lordly prerogatives in Schmidtheim."
This all sounds quite WFRP-y, or for that matter my-D&D-game-y. So in order to eliminate a family of political rivals -- or just local troublemakers who are making his life difficult -- a jumped-up local lord accuses them of being werewolves, forcing them to go on the lam. The only problem is that they actually are werewolves. Or perhaps in true classic horror-comic style they aren't werewolves, but are merely highly-trained assassins who are cutting the throats of every hapless son of a bitch waving a sprig of wolfsbane at them? If you want to use that angle, vampires is funnier.

Or maybe being accused of werewolfism is like bad-jacketing; if someone accuses you of being a werewolf, you're screwed. So screwed that the werewolves will come along and offer to "help." Either way what you get is two young daughters wandering along the side of the read with their bindles and occasionally ripping the throats out of soldiers. Works for me.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Today's old-timey acquisition

The Cambridge University Roleplaying Society has been liquidating its old library in order to buy some games that its members actually play, which is fair enough. This means that a lot of classic gaming books are being sold off. I missed out on a few bargains in the first part of the sale, so I was pleased to snap up this Deities and Demigods for a very small price.

This is not the famous one with the Cthulhu Mythos section -- they did have one of those, but they opened it up for bidding and it climbed out of my price range in moments. Still, it's nice to have this to go with the other AD&D 1st ed. books I'll never actually use. I should get a Fiend Folio if the opportunity presents itself.

Marcus Burnham, if you're out there ... 

Anyway, as you can see, back in the day the Cambridge University Roleplaying Society was called the D&D Society. 

The book itself is fascinating. I have flipped through it in the past but never really read it. I expect a lot of people first encountered a lot of these mythologies through this book -- and probably encountered some goofy ideas about them, too. But I do like how grounded the older game was in history and mythology, even quite selectively interpreted history and mythology. 

As usual, there is some 70s-type cheesecake. 

Freya's bitch-face game is on point. 

I'm not sure that is a good dog-walking outfit, Hecate. 
There are one or two dubious choices: 

That Chinese take-out font is ... oof.

But anyway, I've got one and I'm looking forward to reading it. It's been a good week for vintage gaming finds, and I'm looking forward to more!

Sunday 11 October 2015

Painting update and more charity shop finds!

 A few things I've painted recently and some great deals I found in a local charity shop.

This is a Reaper Bones model from the second Kickstarter. It is a "Desert Thing," apparently, but I think it'll come in handy in Strange Aeons, D&D, even Warhammer. I don't think it's currently available in Bones, but I'm sure you can find it where things are resold. 

This little fountain is a neat-looking piece of scatter terrain. 2nd ed. Gretchin for scale!

This Metal Magic / Hobby Products Spacelords adventurer is now available through Moonraker Miniatures. I've used my typical dark red colour to tie him visually to some of my Inquisition models, but he'll do as any kind of crook, agent or gunslinger. Sorry for the out-of-focus image. 

I got this lovely old Citadel cleric as part of a trade at this year's Oldhammer weekend. She may have a role in D&D, but I'm also thinking maybe I will play some Frostgrave one of these days. 

Picked up this classic 80s boxed set in a local Oxfam for £4.99. It even has dice, the original maps and card miniatures, and some handouts from another scenario.

It occurs to me that with all my old White Dwarf magazines, I basically have a whole little campaign for this game now.

Same shop, same price tag, same lesson in the history of gaming!

Friday 9 October 2015

Self-indulgent retrospective!

A brief conversation at my Wednesday night D&D game inspired me to look up how long I've been running it. I checked the Facebook group we use for announcements and discovered that the group was created on Halloween in 2013. Since I know the group postdates the actual start of the game by at least a few weeks, I'm comfortable declaring that the game has now been going on for two years. Herewith, then, some nostalgia about it in the form of a recap and maybe, in the next post, some lessons-learned stuff.

One of the things you'll see if you're familiar with the OSR overall is that I swipe and repurpose a lot of things, including scenarios, monsters, placenames, etc., but without any real pattern. Also, I am not totally clear on the order of some of these scenarios.

Unnamed first scenario

In the dank depths of a dungeon in the coastal city of Kamor, four strangers awaken in a foul cell. Charming barbarian skald Eyvind, tough half-orc poacher Tag, confused priestess Frances and self-proclaimed artist of crime Felix must figure out how to get out of the jailhouse before the well-connected cult of Dagon claims them for human sacrifice. Tag proves exceptionally proficient with a brick in a sock.

Eyvind (haltingly): "excuse me, is this the embassy?"

After escaping from the dungeon, the four proceed to Frances' home village, where they discover a party of soldiers accompanying a cleric of Daoloth; the cleric is looking for a religious artefact which he believes Frances has stolen. It transpires that Frances is an exact match for Kastor Lieberrung Zenobia, Pirate Queen of the Thousand Isles! In a dramatic battle, our heroes and the villagers repel the cleric and his goons. The timely intervention of a horse is decisive. Horses in 3.5 are pretty tough!

Tomb of the Iron God!

(Based on the Swords and Wizardry module of the same name by Matt Finch, but much adapted to fit my game.)

A rumour of treasure in the ruins of a monastery attracts the team; they get chased around the place by a corrupt monk transformed into an iron statue, but are saved by the random treasure table that granted Felix a vial of concentrated rust monster digestive fluid.

The House of the Beast!

Together with new recruit Dexter, an itinerant potion salesman, the party are captured by a village of wereboars and thrown into an ancient ruin inhabited by psychic fungus, animated skeletons and a marauding party of little kobold bastards. Much eating of psychic fungus, grossout rot horror and brawling later, they emerge victorious, sabotaging the ancient customs of the beastfolk villages by impersonating a god using a big cloak, some low-level spells and an old skull they found. They also acquire their first hireling, unemployed weaver Albrecht, better known as Torchy.

Me: "Everyone in this party is a scoundrel except for Tag, who is a ruffian, and Frances, who is a weirdo."

The Fane of Chemosh!

An inept piece of bluffing by Felix lands the party in hot water with a local cult, who bully them into robbing a temple devoted to Chemosh the Destroyer, one of the Old Devils. The raid is successful, but Felix is killed by one of Chemosh's clerics! The cult round up the party with all the other riffraff and run them out of town; among the riffraff they encounter would-be fighting pit champion Ike Capstan, who joins up out of aimless necessity. This might also be where army deserter Ovgrod joins up as a hireling.

The Magonium Mine Murders!

A series of mysterious disappearances, a mob scheme to counterfeit important Imperial documents, the assassination of a mine official, a rigged prizefighting ring, and the schemes of a tribe of mole people all combine to make our heroes' lives a misery. Ike chases his dream of prizefighting glory while Dexter tries to help an old wizard-school buddy solve a murder. Tag kills a member of the sinister Veiled Society, thus earning their wrath for the whole party. Spoilers: the old wizard-school buddy did it. I enjoyed playing the mole men, who got to say things like "you lie! All surface-dwellers are the same!" Wannabe prizefighter and elf fangirl Karud joins up as a hireling.

Castle of the Hive Queen!

Staying off the main roads to avoid both the law and the mob, our heroes find themselves guests in a lonely castle under the sway of a mad wizard who wants them as specimens for his bizarre experiments. A big fight ends with the alien queen turned to stone; also, the party investigates a ruined Imperial fort and acquires a new follower in the shape of damaged Imperial war golem Mister Plow, who is convinced that Dexter is the Immortal Buffalo General.

The Bazaar of Ink / Galleries of the Nyctites!

Dexter asks the party to investigate a local bazaar where books and scrolls are on sale. While there, he falls in with a sinister bookseller who offers to teach him arcane secrets in exchange for rare volumes, while Tag agrees to escort a local bonehead on safari. The safari takes them into the mysterious Galleries of the Nyctites, where they discover strange magic and bizarre creatures and also Tag gets killed by a swarm of angry Nyctites after cutting down their leader. Death cleric Aznar Vartsson joins the party after being freed from his imprisonment in a magical painting.

Prison Colony #41 / Curse of the Volcano God!

Eager to end their feud with the Veiled Society, Eyvind agrees to a dangerous undercover mission: the party will infiltrate an Imperial prison colony on a remote island to find Jered Fowderhop, the Gentleman Thief and get him to reveal the location of the swag he is hiding from the Society. Dexter and Eyvind pretend to be new guards, while Aznar is hired as camp physician. Frances and Ike go to jail.

Investigating the mysterious goings-on at the prison colony reveals the workings of the Abyssal Brotherhood, an apocalyptic cult seeking to overthrow the Night-Black Cenacle and also reality. They have a volcano base. Fowderhop and escaped convict Knives join the party as followers, and former Brotherhood enforcer Zylphia Lockwood becomes a party member. Dexter's great-uncle dies, and he returns home for the reading of the will. Mister Plow is sad.

The Eye of Azathoth!

Both the Abyssal Brotherhood and the Veiled Society want the legendary Eye of Azathoth, a twin to the artefact Frances was in jail for having stolen. The party decide they don't want either of them to have it and set out to retrieve it themselves. Along the way Eyvind fights a werebear and Frances and Aznar bond over the idea of vampire-hunting. A deal with a hag leaves the party with a convincing duplicate of the Eye, which they fob off on Veiled Society representative Hugus Keech.

The Wreck of the Antelope!

Eyvind wants to buy a bigger pirate ship, but his pockets are a little short. Hugus Keech suggests a deal: salvage a cargo of fine liquor from the wreckage of a merchant vessel and that'll be enough to make up the difference. The search for the wreck leads them to a remote island inhabited by a tribe of frog people. In single combat with a particularly well-dressed frog-man, Eyvind becomes their king. Also, there are ancient ruins and mummies, and Aznar engages in sacrilege. Island shaman Kaia joins the party, together with her follower, mellow frog-guy Roark.

The Great Eye of Azathoth Heist, Part Two!

Returning to meet Keech, the party discovers that buyers from the Night-Black Cenacle are arriving to take the Eye from the Veiled Society. The experienced wizards of the Cenacle will instantly spot the fake and the party will be properly in the soup. They resolve to steal back the fake that they gave the society to cover up the fact that they already stole the original. All goes according to plan for the first minute or two, but then they realise that the Eye is rather more securely stored than they thought and also that the Brotherhood are trying to steal it at the same time!

Death Island of the Black Armada!

With their new pirate ship, the crew go looking for plunder. Kaia longs to be a bear, but she isn't completely clear on what one is. When they come to the rescue of some merchants, Eyvind invites them to set up shop on Frog Island. The merchants reply that they'll need an investment of 10,000 GP, approximately 10,000 more than the party have after buying the ship. Instead, they decide to raid the base of the privateers who robbed the merchants in the first place. The privateer fortress was once the headquarters of the now-vanished Iron Hawk Legion -- could there be some connection to the mysterious hawk amulet Kaia was found with? They fail to get all the money they need, but the privateer commander, impressed with their daring, offers them a huge reward to discover the legendary flagship of the Iron Hawk, which is said still to wander the seas under a terrible curse.

Down Among the Dead Men!

Still needing cash urgently, the crew decide to kill two birds with one stone by asking the prophetic Bell of Dagon where the Iron Hawk is and then subsequently robbing the temple of the offerings left by bell-consulters. This leads to a big eel-fight, but the crew escape with the gold and the undying animosity of the cult of Dagon, not that they didn't have that already.

Fate of the Iron Hawk!

The search for the Iron Hawk legion takes the crew into uncharted waters; arriving in the distant port of Mahran, they resolve to consult an enchantress who is said to know much of the Iron Hawk's history. However, a time-travel accident and Aznar's hatred of the undead mean that the island is suddenly under siege by the Legion itself! Having resolved that the Peerless Hawk General himself is probably an OK guy for a giant skeletal warrior, the crew concentrate on taking down curse-architect and lich Forenrond, then sending the General to the dimension where he can actually find the object of his quest and break the curse that keeps him undead. Aznar volunteers to go with him and the two depart. Jered Fowderhop gets a job offer from the enchantress (and possibly a more personal invitation from her majordomo Mustafa) and decides to remain behind, but he gives Eyvind the contact details for his nephew Reginald, a promising lad.

The Lockwood Legacy!

With Reginald Fowderhop, the Gentleman Assassin, added to the party, the crew head for scenic New Ejur, where they hope to find Zylphia's long-lost parents. Eyvind gets into a chess tournament in which all the pieces are on fire, while everyone else nourishes a growing hatred for civilisation and its inequalities. Mysterious assassins strike! Kaia turns into a giant bird and goes to the pub! Zylphia comes one step closer to her family! Reginald runs like mad from a dude with a detachable, throwable head!

Wow, that was long! Also needs more pictures.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Another Orktober update!

This Blood Axe Nob was one of a big box of Warhammer models I picked up in a charity shop for £20 -- many thanks to my keen-eyed wife! I sold off the Man O' War models to recoup the cost, which left me with some Orks, a Rapier Laser Destroyer, some nice old AD&D monsters, some barbarians for my D&D game and I forget what else. Definitely a winning purchase.

Anyway, his uniform colours -- WWII Russian army green with raspberry, yellow piping and brass fittings -- are based on my Neo-Sov models, who serve an Imperial-Guard-ish role in my games. I decided to do the blade and piping of the power axe in a light blue partly to be consistent with other power weapons I've painted and partly just for a localised area of contrast!

I love this model, in much the same way that I love many of his contemporaries from the Ork books era -- although the core of my Ork force are the old Space Ork Raiders, I think that's actually not the point where the Orks reach their zenith, which is of course the mature 1st edition period. It's a lovely big, imposing model -- but also covered with fiddly detail and hell to paint (table for the middle of study has not arrived yet, which means the area where I'm painting is in the corner and quite dimly lit).

Looking at him in the photo, I can see that he has some areas that need tidying -- I told myself he was going to work on his medals a bit, which I did not do, and the brass crosses on the hem of his coat need a little tidying. Still, overall I'm pleased with him, especially the face and power axe.

Monday 5 October 2015

Bounty hunters, assassins and scoundrels

So there comes a time in most campaigns where your players have achieved some kind of infamy. Eventually they may find themselves running from the law. But running from the law is usually pretty boring. In a level-type game -- or one in which the PCs start out pretty tough like Vampire -- they can bash their way through swarms of city guardsmen or beat cops without too much difficulty. And if they have any self-respect or sense of fair play, they're not going to enjoy that very much.

So we need some memorable secondary antagonists. They have to be capable enough to be a credible threat, but you can take care of that, sure. But they also have to be distinctive -- either sympathetic or weird and funny or engagingly evil.

As always, the easiest way to develop an interesting antagonist is to swipe one. Media where the hero is kind of a scapegrace scoundrel -- or people think he is -- is a good place to start. I've been listening to Rachel and Miles Xplain the X-Men a lot lately, so comics leap to mind immediately.

For instance, the Punisher originated as a Spider-Man villain, convinced by the Jackal that Spider-Man was a baddie (and, in fairness, everyone thinking Spider-Man's a baddie is a pretty core part of the franchise). He's a fun antagonist because Spider-Man sort of agrees with him. This type of antagonist is probably more fun if your characters have been framed or done something they wouldn't normally do due to outside circumstances. If your characters are dirtbags, this character isn't a lot of fun because he runs the risk of actually becoming the protagonist (which is, of course, what eventually happened to the Punisher). 

Similarly, you don't want your bounty hunter types to be too appealing, because in a lot of games PCs are already your bounty-hunting scruffbag types. But you do want them to be distinctive, and it helps if there are a lot of them. I suggest giving them: 
  1. An old, exotic or exceptionally large example of their favoured weapon. 
  2. A sinister mask. 
  3. A grisly method of killing that serves as a calling card. 
  4. A sidekick or dependent who travels with them. 
  5. Former membership in an organisation to which one of the PCs belongs. 
  6. A vicious animal companion. Not, under any circumstances, a wolf. 
  7. A parent who was a notably righteous person (a paladin, the sheriff, etc.)
  8. A burning desire to hunt down a particular escaped malefactor other than the PCs. 

You can always just make your bounty hunter sort of toughly likable, although this can be difficult to establish when the first encounter is a roadside ambush. In most games, of course, a few suitable ruffians should already be to hand. I know who mine will be in my live game, certainly (for all like four readers who play in it: Doug Grady will take whatever work is going, including that, although if there are bounties to be collected I would assume PCs would take the job). 

One thing I'm currently doing in my D&D game is acknowledging that I own or have read many many more scenarios than I am ever going to run (because there are so many good free ones, bundles of holding, etc.) -- and that goes double when it comes to other fantasy games that aren't set in Glorantha. So as one does, I'm going to cannibalise them for their distinctive NPCs. I guess they left whatever it was they were doing and found work as mercenaries. 

Not that I'm saying that my D&D players have attracted the attention of parties with more money than mercy or anything like that. I'm just thinking out loud here. 

Thursday 1 October 2015

It's Orktober!

I have not yet painted any Orks for Orktober, but here are some photos from a previous, slightly-inept photo shoot of my little RT/2nd ed. Ork force.

Mekaniak to hang out with the Shokk Attak Gun.

Runts for same. 

Nobz mob!

Ramshackle Games scrap tank

The boss, his standard bearer and his personal rokker, Hello Cleveland. 

The Shokk Attak Gun belongs to my friend Alex, as do some of the runts. 
I am not going to SELWG this year because I just bought a house, so I'm going to try to spend the day painting instead.