Monday 30 November 2015

Cool blue monster

In addition to eating lots of belated-Thanksgiving treats, having a little mental health crisis, changing a flat tyre, putting up a new episode of the podcast and tutoring most of Sunday afternoon, I found some time to paint this weekend.

The model I chose to paint was this Reaper Bones bugbear. However, I decided not to use him as a bugbear. The Bones models are pretty cool, but they're absolutely huge, which is a little ridiculous considering that bugbears in D&D, while on the tough end of the humanoid scrub range, aren't that tough. Instead, I decided I would paint him as an Ice Troll for Frostgrave. He might also turn up as some kind of arctic monster in the D&D game, especially if I paint up the rest of his mates.

I kept his palette pretty simple and I think he came out rather nicely. If I decide I have time I'll do something with the skull emblem on his belt. The usual Reaper caveats (foul mould lines!) apply.

I also painted one of those plastic archers from the WHFB 5th edition boxed set, just because more utility archers for Frostgrave would be handy and I wanted to keep practicing painting with thinned paints over a grey-to-white base.

I think he looks rather nice.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Hut hut hut

So I am playing some Frostgrave tonight, which motivated me to finish off a piece of scenery I built in preparation for a scenario that requires six (!) little ruined huts. Crikey.

Anyway, it seems clear that the need for fast, cheap scenery has me going back to those mid-90s White Dwarf days, and honestly I'm pretty happy about that fact. I think that my usual standard of stuff I build is a little higher, but ... probably not much.

The only fanciness at all is the coffee stirrers for door posts, which are way too tall but whatever. I drew some texture on with the tip of a dead pen to give them a little more character.

Eh, I approve of free stuff and this is certainly that.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

One of my better ideas

My love for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness roleplaying game, and in particular its After the Bomb post-apocalyptic spinoff, is well-known. I've been thinking of giving Road Hogs a go again.

But there is a problem -- fundamentally, the system is a bit of a clunker. And as I'm thinking of running it as a one-shot, I don't think my players want to get their heads around its intricacies. So I back-burnered the idea, until the other day. 

What happened the other day was that the PDFs for the most recent Kickstarter from Sine Nomine games, planetary warfare supplement Starvation Cheap, arrived. And as I read through them I got to thinkin' about TMNT.

By Tan Ho Sim, from Starvation Cheap. 
See, I am a big fan of the Sine Nomine games in general, and they have a nice post-apocalyptic game, Other Dust. To run Road Hogs with it you'd have to up the tech level a bit, but you could just do that with Stars Without Number, easy peasy. Maybe add a little more detail to the vehicle rules, vehicle crit tables or something like that. I think I did that for my own SWN game, in fact. You could probably adapt the Road Hogs ones with no trouble. 

The only thing that's really missing is the animal-creation system. The most enjoyable part of TMNT character creation is making your animal guy. You get a pool of BIO-E points that you can spend on different animal abilities like claws, wings and so on as well as features like human hands, appearance, upright posture, etc. In my experience, even went full human everything except no human looks, so I might not even bother with that element. But you can take the mutation list on pp. 33-35 of Other Dust and replicate pretty much any animal feature from the rules using those.

I mean, look at the list: acute hearing, acute visions, aquatic, armoured skin, body weaponry, burrowing, clinging, flight, jumping, night vision, echolocation, stinger, temperature resistance ... I mean, that's a pretty good suite of animal powers. Just take the power off the TMNT character generation menu and pick the Other Dust one that most closely maps. It's not balanced, but who gives a dang? 

Yeah. Mutations and basic rules from Other Dust, weapons and vehicles and stuff from Stars Without Number, settings and BIO-E and prices and stuff from Road Hogs and Bob's your uncle. I think that's actually pretty doable.

Sunday 22 November 2015

A quick note about my new podcast!

So, I've been quiet the last couple of days, but I haven't been idle. Instead, I have been working on putting a new podcast online. I know nothing about the technical side of podcasting, so I'm afraid it's not quite as polished as it might be, but hopefully it'll be fun anyway.

Anyway, it's called Pledge Break, and it's about history (sometimes) and classic Doctor Who (always), and I'm hosting it with my lifelong friend, actor Jesse Merlin.

You can find the podcast on Twitter, on Libsyn, or on its own blog.

Our first episode is the classic William Hartnell story The Crusades.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Psychic visions made simple

I was listening to Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff's discussion of introducing prophecies and prophetic visions into roleplaying games today and was reminded of a game I played recently. 

Mysterium is a board game which is basically like a hybrid between Dixit and Cluedo. All but one of the players play psychic investigators who are investigating a house where a murder took place. The remaining player plays a ghost, who communicates with the detectives through spooky psychic visions but can't otherwise talk to them. The ghost's task is to use these visions to indicate which of a range of possible suspects, murder weapons and locations is correct. 

So far, so Cluedo. The Dixit element comes from the visions themselves -- the ghost player gets a hand of cool atmospheric art cards to use to provide the visions. There's more to the game than that, but to be honest it was the combination of the gimmick and the cards that really worked for me. I think you could do that with prophetic visions in games. 

You could do it either way -- either just throw down some images, let the player decide what they mean and then have that be true, or actually pick a vision, deal yourself a hand of cards and go for it. I would probably use the latter concept with Everway cards, just because I got a complete copy of the game for £2 and there is basically no way in hell I'm ever going to actually play it. And there's some cool Ian Miller cards in there. 

I don't mean a system with a card-based fortune-telling system like the Emperor's Tarot or whatever; I mean some kind of vision-type system a la Changeling: the Lost or the type of visions you might get in any old game. 

In fact, I've got a couple of characters in D&D that could be affected by this. Yeah ... yeah. 

Well, all right. Plan. 

Monday 16 November 2015

Nostalgia overload: rich beyond the dreams of avarice

Way back in the day in 1996, I joined the Cambridge University Roleplaying Society. They were a lovely bunch of folks who introduced me to people I'm still friends with today. They had a library of RPG books, but we mostly played World of Darkness and the library mostly contained other games, so we didn't get much use out of it. Over the years, I believe the library went even more out of circulation until eventually it was barely used.

So when they finally recovered it, they started selling it off to clear out the old D&D stuff and other games people in the society don't play and replace them with games published in the last 15-20 years. I picked up a few items from the library for my collection, but I also received an incredible bonus. 

The society just gave away a bunch of their old magazine, allowing me to expand my run of White Dwarf from the golden age.

Yeah, I got a free Second Citadel Compendium.
I could have got Slaves to Darkness for £3 if I weren't afraid of going to hell.

Just look at it. It's glorious. I'm so thrilled by its very existence.

Back when I lived in California, I used to pick up old White Dwarfs from the used shelf of my local gamestore for like $0.50 or $0.99 each and pore over them. There was quite a lot of Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia, which were my main interests in those days, but the other stuff was an interesting glimpse into another gaming culture. Also pretty pictures, miniatures, etc. 

Reading through these things is absolutely fascinating. Most of the mechanical stuff for AD&D and Runequest and so on isn't really useful to me, but some of the scenarios are quite good; I definitely have a few that I'm going to be using at the table. And the discussions about the state of gaming are compelling; sometimes they're fumbling toward solutions that exist today, and sometimes they're having the same arguments we're having today. 

There are a lot of notable names in here from the world of science fiction and fantasy and so on. In addition to well-known game designers, we've got game articles from people like Charles Stross, Garth Nix and, of all people, chaos magician Phil Hine. Colin Greenland wrote the movie review column. 

With the collection I also got a couple of various magazines including these homemade zines, which were ubiquitous back in the day. They're amazing.

Now, if you're into this stuff, I'm selling off the duplicates! Proceeds go to buy new games for the society. Let me know if there's anything you're interested in. Here's a list: 

WD: 24, 27, 28, 30-32, 51, 55 (x2), 56 (cover torn), 66, 69-76 (two copies of 71), 80-82 (two copies of 82), 84-87 (two copies of 85), 89 (x2), 91, 94

Best of White Dwarf Articles vol. II
Best of White Dwarf Scenarios (x2)

Adventurer: 1, 3

Fugitive: 4, 5

I'm in the UK and can ship them to wherever or hand-deliver them at Dragonmeet. I'm assuming that we'll say about £5 for the compilations or £1 for an issue, but if you think I'm way off base in any direction just let me know. 

Thursday 12 November 2015

Another quick painting update

This mysterious hooded figure from Ramshackle Games was part of a very generous runner-up prize from Ramshackle's Curtis Fell for a story I submitted to the Ramshackle fiction competition. You can find the stories on the Ramshackle Facebook page (the link is in one of the comments to the contest post).

I've spoken about Ramshackle models before, I'm sure -- there's a lovely Ramshackle Scrap Tank in my Ork army, for instance. 

Most folks, like me, probably think of post-apocalyptic and sci-fi models when they think of Ramshackle, but this one isn't necessarily genre-specific. I'm gonna use it mainly in Strange Aeons games. 

So, uh ... come here often? 

Come on, don't be like that. 
I took the quick route to painting this figure; I primed it with good old Halford's grey car primer, drybrushed up in succeeding shades of light grey to white, then put a yellow wash on the robe and a purply-fleshy wash on the tentacle. After that dried (always the most time-consuming part), I went back and re-shaded the deep folds, the joints and the shadow of the hood with a darker sepia tone. Did the base and called it done.

I got some more lovely Ramshackle models in the prize, and I'm gonna use them to make a little squad of Nurgle-corrupted Ad Mech types for my Chaos force. More updates when I knock some of these Frostgrave dudes off the table. 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Frugal gaming find: lots of cheap scenery!

I think this may be my best stuff:cost ratio yet -- well, other than free stuff, of course! I went to a jumble sale on Saturday with my wife, who pointed out a big bag of little card building parts for 50p. It turned out to be one of these -- or more accurately two of them in a single bag.

There are also Hogwarts and spaceships versions, which I did not get. Interested in that spaceship one, though, and the Hogwarts one might well be compatible:

Mine was pretty battered, but I spent a cheerful hour or two putting together all the little bits in various combinations. I think they go rather well with 28mm figures -- better, in fact, than with the classic-toy-soldier scale figure that comes with it.

Here's what I made:

Some of the largest pieces, like this one, are made of separate components
that I can pull apart and stick together in different combinations. 
I'm gonna use these to build the weird scenario-specific terrain pieces in Frostgrave, like the huge tower. 
The way they hold together doesn't make a huge amount of sense, but whatever. 

So how much terrain did I get for my 50p?

Awwwwwww yeah. I think that might be a frugal-gaming first. OK, it's not as nice as handmade or specialist stuff, but Frostgrave plays best with a load of terrain and also did I mention 50p?

But wait, there's more, because what is frugal gaming about if not value? While browsing in Hobbycraft I saw this bad boy:

It's pretty tall, but I think it might have Malifaux applications?

Lastly, if you've read all this way, I should point out that the latest issue of The Undercroft is out, containing a monster article for Lamentations of the Flame Princess by yours truly. If you like LotFP in particular or weird-horror OSR gaming in general, why not check it out?

Friday 6 November 2015

Some games actually getting played.

So I played some Frostgrave at long last with pal and every-other-weekly gaming companion Buzz. I think it went well; we were definitely going faster at the end than at the beginning. I can still see that I have a lot to learn, but I think I was already starting to get the hang of it. 

Table setup. It is a bit mismatched at the moment and not at all snowy, but as I develop
more actually Frostgrave-y terrain, the other stuff will fade out. The base is a set of
Wilkinson's vinyl floor tiles I got at a car boot sale for like £3. 

Two archers, an infantryman and the Necromancer prepare to cross the frozen river on the left flank. 

Meanwhile, the apprentice, accompanied by a brave man-at-arms, a hapless thug
and a trusty giant centipede (warhound), makes his way across on the right flank. 

There be traysure in them thar ruins!

Why do these strange lights burn atop this ceremonial dais?
I'm gonna repaint the green bits in a more Frostgrave-appropriate colour. 

Contact with the enemy, in the traditional form of a brutal slugfest.
I was pleased by the game, even though I didn't have time to prepare as much as I would have liked. I will cut out and sleeve the spell cards I printed for next time; that'll help.

This charming but gigantic Reaper Bones bugbear is going to be a Snow Troll. 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

A very quick post

I have left today's blog post too late, so here is a quick roundup of what's going on in gaming life at the moment:

  • My D&D game continues to go well; tonight's session saw our heroes forge an alliance with a goofy old drunk, plan and execute a jailbreak and go to a big party. They started a fight, but it was getting late so we're going to handle that next session. 
  • I have recently experienced a renewed surge of creativity (or just more things worth swiping coming across my desk) for my live-action Requiem game. I am going into the next session full of enthusiasm and hopefully with fun new things for everyone to do. 
  • My first game of Frostgrave is tomorrow, and I'm very excited about it! As always, I'm late to the party, but I tend to wait to see if a game takes off first. 
  • I am still playing and enjoying my Changeling character -- I didn't have the huge burst of keen that many of the other players in the society seem to have had, but that may just be because I was already quite enthusiastic. 
  • I am working on a couple of gaming projects I don't want to talk about prematurely, but watch this space for future announcements. 
I promise a more detailed post on Friday, with plenty of pictures. 

Monday 2 November 2015

It's another Mashup Monday!

I have a little spare time this morning, so let's see if we can't come up with a mashup post! I pulled two books at random from the shelves, and they are:

Volume 1 of Stan Sakai's classic Usagi Yojimbo, the tale of a wandering rabbit samurai.  

Ronald Hutton's Stations of the Sun, a handy one-volume woo-free history of British ritual and folk custom. 

So let's see what we've got! Opening Usagi Yojimbo to a random story, we get a tale in which Miyamoto Usagi finds himself resting at an inn full of drunken gamblers celebrating.

And in Hutton we've got a discussion of violence on St David's Day in the 16th and 17th centuries (English prejudice against the Welsh was a little more severe back then because there weren't enough Irish people to go around).
To the Welsh, of course, it was a matter for pride, symbolized by the wearing of a leek as a national emblem. It had been associated with St David since the Middle Ages ... the reasons for this are lost. What was always clear was that the sporting of it was always much more common among the Welsh when abroad than at home. ... 
 The same observer also recorded the response of the cockneys, 'not only by calling after them Taffey, Taffey or David, David, but also by hanging out all kinds of dolls and scarecrows with leeks on their head'. Five years later, in the City, Samuel Pepys encountered '(it being St David's Day) the picture of a man dressed like a Welshman, hanging by the neck upon one of the poles that stand out at the top of one of the merchant's houses, in full proportion and very handsomely done;.
Not surprisingly, all this gave rise to a great deal of fighting, so that in 1661 alone on Welsh gentleman stabbed a local commoner near Westminster, while the retinue of another got into a pitched battle with a London crowd.
 OK, so this writes itself, partly because Usagi Yojimbo always has very D&D-able stories -- it's about a dude who wanders from town to town looking for trouble, after all. So our heroes arrive in a big city -- it works best when it's a big city -- which has a minority or faction who are celebrating their special feast day (bonus points if they're cranky and hungry because their feast day is in Lent).

Roll d12:

1 - faction-identifying doodad coincidentally similar to distinctive item worn by PC (amulet, odd-coloured tie, animal familiar, etc.).
2 - drunk mob of Faction A insist that PCs join them in toast to downfall of Faction B, preferably within hearing of outnumbered and resentful B group.
3 - drunk mob of Faction B identify PC most likely to appear like member of their faction and berate him/her for lack of national/ethnic/religious/whatever spirit (e.g. "no real dwarf doesn't plait his beard on Saint Axebeard's Day!").
4 - innocuous charity-collecting process associated with celebration difficult to distinguish from being mugged by band of lunatics.
5 - restful stay at inn disrupted by boozy revelry; boozers interpret complaints as ethno-religious disparagement.
6 - neighbourhood/village bigwig offers prize for best-constructed offensively threatening caricature.
7 - traditional songs and dances performed on ethnic feast day encode legendary/magical knowledge now lost to modern culture but recognisable to e.g. Bard / PC with high Cthulhu Mythos.
8 - seemingly innocuous bardic song understood as containing coded references to ethnic tensions.
9 - embattled members of either faction offer to hire tough-looking strangers to guard / assist with their festival processions. Big fight with antagonists in antic disguises.
10 - wandering swordsman with sore feet has had 9 encounters with drunk faction mobs and will stab a fool at encounter 10.
11 - traditional Faction B festival costumes provide convenient opportunity to infiltrate thing worthy of infiltration but invite assaults from drunken mobs of Faction A.
12 - local muckamuck wants prominent member of Faction B dead/arrested but too cowardly to risk offending on feast day; hires ignorant out-of-town bounty hunters instead.