Friday 29 January 2016

I played me some more Frostgrave.

I think I'm getting the hang of it. Also, the scenario "The Keep," with its teleport doodads, definitely solves the game's main problem, which is the tendency to brush together in the middle, grab three treasures, run for it and call it good.

I'm afraid the light in the study isn't great in the evening, so the photos are a little grainy, but they should give an idea of what a ragtag mess my minis collection is at the moment. I'm gonna get a snowy mat for the table one of these days.

Casting Fog in front of his damn crossbowmen is an important part of my early-game ritual.

A thug grabs some treasure and begins the fleeing. 

Some people say my Warhound is funny-looking but I don't know what they mean. 

His Thug got away with that treasure, but the whims of random teleportation brought it back to me in the end. 

Warhound MVP mauls an Infantryman and a Thief, which is not how math works. 

Elemental Goddamn Bolt leads to yet more Fog-casting. 

Wednesday 27 January 2016

A stereotype: take away this ball and chain

So a common joke among the miniatures community is, like ... someone posts a link to a nice but expensive model, and everyone (which, in the part of the community I associate with is often older, married guys) laughs that they're going to be hiding the credit card statements from their wives. I don't think anyone actually does this; I understand that it's just a trope way of saying "I like this product and I'm gonna buy it, even though I jokingly acknowledge that I probably shouldn't." But I think it's kind of a sad statement and maybe pretty unfair.

I mean, I don't know about the rest of you, but although my wife doesn't play miniatures games she encourages me to spend more time playing them and to paint models; she likes to see what I'm painting. She encourages me to spend money on models. Not money we don't have, of course, and she doesn't encourage me to spend time on painting if I'm supposed to be doing something else, but when we're both relaxing, sure. And, I mean, I love her very much and am glad that she expresses an interest in a thing that is important to me, but ... I mean, that's normal, right? If a person you love is into something, you are at least mildly interested in it because you are interested in them. Obviously, some things are more interesting than others, but in general.

I'm not telling anyone how to be married or anything -- some people are more separate in their interests and that's cool too -- but I do think that gag is kind of played out, because either it's true, in which case yikes, or it's not true, in which case I feel like it's perpetuating kind of a corny, sexist stereotype at the expense of someone who isn't there.

Anyway, that's me. It's just kind of always niggled me and it's been a long day.

Monday 25 January 2016

Catch-up painting

More progress on clearing the unpainted models off my painting table! I don't think I'll actually finish them all before I start on new stuff, but at least I will have a little more free space.

This classic Ork Pulsa Rokkit belongs to my friend Alex, as, I believe, do the Gretchin (which I painted earlier).

These two will probably wind up being used in Frostgrave or D&D. The left figure is a Metal Magic / Hobby Products adventurer from the 80s, while the guy on the right is a Reaper Bones model I'll be using as an Elementalist in Frostgrave. I think he looks OK, although in the photo I can see that my experiment in doing colours with thinned paints and inks still has a little way to go. Still, overall, I think they look pretty good. 

This ruined vending machine is a piece of post-apocalyptic scenery from ThunderChild Miniatures' Wasteman line. They just completed a big Kickstarter, but this is actually from the pre-Kickstarter line. I picked it up together with some other bits at Exilicon last year. I painted this vending machine in ochre and red to suggest that it was a Sunset Sarsaparilla vending machine, in the same way I painted the other in red and white to suggest Nuka-Cola. 

Here are all three Wasteman scenery pieces together with some of my PA figures for scale. As you can see, the bed is a bit big, but I think it looks good. 

This magnificent bastard was a prize from the talented and generous Curtis Fell of Ramshackle Games. I imagine him as an Adeptus Mechanicus type stranded on a remote world who has to make do with the scrap he can scavenge there; or maybe one who has begun to feel the appeal of Nurgle ... alternatively, in a post-apocalyptic setting he could be the King of the Junkyard, a sort of Fagin type that scavengers and raiders sell their loot to. 

With Copplestone Castings (left) and em-4/Forlorn Hope (right) scavs for reference.
Obviously, both are sculpted by Mark Copplestone.
Rear view.
The paint job is a bit rough-and-ready, but it was a morning's work and I'm happy with it.

So that's six models (assuming you count the Rokkit as two) in a weekend in which I also did some book shopping, wrote thousands of words and edited a podcast. Not too bad, and the clutter on the painting table is definitely clearing!

Thursday 21 January 2016

The virtues of brevity

I have been thinking about my D&D game lately, and about how I'm happier with it since I consciously tried to move away from some expectations I was putting on myself -- unwisely, I think. 

Early on in the campaign, I tried to do a "proper" hexcrawl/sandbox game, in which the players just did whatever the heck they wanted and roamed around the landscape looking for trouble. Although I had some successes with the method, ultimately I felt it didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. This was for several reasons -- I was using an edition of D&D that required significant monkeying to make it fit my vision, and I didn't want to put in the monkeying time, for one -- but the most important, I think, was play time. 

My game meets every two weeks, and a typical session probably lasts three hours. Some people start to arrive around six, but by the time everyone's at the table it's half past seven, and we play on a weekday, so people generally don't want to stay out too late. The result is that it's hard to do the kind of marinating-in-the-setting play that involves. I didn't want to weaken the players' freedom of choice by adopting too much of a linear narrative, however. 

The result is a sort of ... series of linked mini-sandboxes, I think. There's a developing overall narrative, but I just abstract a lot of the intervening travel time, resource management between sessions, leaving only big NPC relationships and decisions like "are we going to help this guy" or "where shall we go next," and I try to keep each particular situation to no more than one or two sessions. After all, spending four or five sessions in a given place doesn't seem like a lot, but when that translates into two months, it can wear. 

I think in some ways I'm still finding the balance between the two zoom-levels. But I'm happy with the way it's going. 

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Frugal gaming: Portals and field-y things.

So, I made a list of all the terrain pieces needed for Frostgrave scenarios and decided to try to make everything. You've already seen the first of my statues, but I wanted a quick win so I decided to do the four teleportation portals called for by another scenario.

I made this one but decided I wanted them to look more circle-y and less pool-y.

I used 50mm bases from the Reaper Bones II Kickstarter, then traced a circle on some tin foil ...

... affixed it to the base ...

... sculpted a simple stone border ...

... and painted the border. I then washed the tinfoil with a coloured wash and gave it a double-layer of PVA glue for shininess. It looks a little shinier in real life than in the photo, although I think I may have to add some sparkle.

I did the portals in four separate colours in case I ever want to use them for D&D or something and it'll be handy to know which is which. They also match (approximately) this set of plastic shot glasses I got from Poundland. I figure they'll make good force fields and flying bases.

A mysterious figure appears within the teleport field. 

Kaia in bird form confronts a barbarian warrior. 

Friday 15 January 2016

Running Cthulhu Live

Over on G+, some folks asked about my experiences with running Cthulhu Live, which I have done a few times. I used to be pretty active in that community and even wrote a page or so of one of the books; similarly, there are some photos of one of my games in progress in there somewhere.

Anyway, so here are the games I ran:

Uncle Timothy's Will

No connection to the Blood Brothers scenario of the same name. A motley crew of characters head up to Uncle Timothy's remote ranch for the reading of his will. But is his killer still there?

We played this over a weekend at a friend's ranch in the hills. The venue was excellent because it was already pretty low-tech and old-fasioned in its decoration; no television, for instance. We just took the colour photographs off the walls to help 20s the place up a bit. There was even a player piano. I secreted clues as to the mysterious fate of Uncle Timothy throughout the house. In this game I used the following techniques:

  • Dummy PCs: two of the PCs were in fact NPCs -- one was to die early on day two to scare the other PCs witless and one was secretly the villain. 
  • Set-pieces: driven mad with terror, my utility NPC killed himself at the beginning of the second day, which I staged in a very gory tableau in the tiled shower cubicle. I lay on the lip of that damn shower door for ages with my back aching, waiting for a player to go to the bathroom. 
  • Continual time-in: no breaks in the game, even at night. Characters got up and were sneaking around doing stuff at night. 
  • Monster efficiency: the bad guys could bring dead characters back as zombies, so every PC who died got to come back as a baddie. Since that was ultimately all of them, this was a good choice. 
  • Big open play area: the location was incredibly helpful here. At one point, the traitor character got his hands on a McGuffin and hid it in a pile of hay in the barn; another character hiding there from the zombie spotted him removing it, which is how they knew he was the bad guy. 
I did not attempt a big monster for this scenario. 

The Cybertronic Affair

A modern scenario played in a variety of different locations in my hometown, this one was not as successful as the previous one, maybe because it wasn't continuous; it was more like a series of scenes in different locations, and I think the gaps killed tension. The climax was also not as good as the setup. Stuff we did included:

  • A dream sequence making use of a found location, the then-abandoned children's hospital at Stanford. This monument was the focal point: 

That is a hell of a thing to have on the grounds of a children's hospital. The dream sequence included a giant King in Yellow puppet made from, y'know, a white mask and a shitload of yellow cloth. The players ran like hell when they saw it, so it was a little effective.

  • An IC website created by one of the NPC players, with hidden areas full of weird King-in-Yellow symbolism (this was like 2000 or so, so it wasn't like what you could make today). 
  • A big fancy-pants lab set that was very cool. 

I can't remember the name of this one

Another modern game, in which a group of friends investigate the disappearance of their pal. The main game was only so-so, but the climax, in which they found the guy in a lab where all the lab workers had been poisoned by the presence of an alien being, was superb. This was largely because we had a spooky, atmospheric lab set with lasers and cool signs and a smoke machine, and:

  • Ten Dollar Monster! This little guy was basically a jellyfish puppet made from a wire frame, lots of layers of floaty plastic sheeting and a black handle to move it with. I slathered him with cyalume fluid and controlled him with a black-painted dowel handle that was pretty much invisible in the low-light conditions of the final scene. The player who ran into $10DM turned and fled, throwing himself onto the room's tile floor to slide under a table. 

Dark Continent

My big failure. Good location -- way up in the hills as a camping expedition. A few good set pieces, like an archaeological excavation. Overall plot weak. Techniques: letting the mundane aspects of the camping build tension. Bah, I don't even wanna talk about it.

Some Delta Green game

This was quite a small-scale modern game, and the only thing I really remember about it was that the players tied an NPC to a chair and then completely forgot about him, leaving the guy to roleplay being tied up in my backyard for like an hour and a half. Techniques that worked:

  • Used a cool book I bought at the HPL Film Festival as a McGuffin. 
  • Used a conference room at Stanford to do a briefing from Delta Green superiors. 
  • I guess my document props looked OK. 

The Osiris Club

Kind of a weird hybrid game. Day-long investigative scenario set in 1950s Los Angeles, with characters driving around, interviewing suspects, etc. We had lunch at an old-timey diner, but although everyone had hats we didn't get one of the booths with a hat stand. D'oh! Anyway, what was interesting about this one was that I combined the investigative and party-game formats; at the end, the investigators got invites to an exclusive party full of high-society bastards and went there to find the culprit, so I basically had two sets of characters with their own motivations and so on.

Who Shot Harry Scott? 

Stripped-down game in which player characters got possessed by Yekubian mind-device thingy. Advantages:

  • Good document props. 
  • Very simple gimmick props: a blinky-lights-box and a body under a sheet. 
  • Smart character creation: I said "create any character you want as long as they are the kind of person who would honour a dying man's last request."

In Media Res

The classic Unspeakable Oath scenario, which is much better live than as a tabletop game. I made some changes to the setting to make it fit the venues we were using.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

The week's headlines!

It's been a busy week, so, in grand "three things make a post" tradition, here are a few bits of news from the world of gaming and my own writing.

World of Synnibarr has the reputation of being the worst RPG ever. I actually don't agree with that, but it is definitely one of the craziest. I have written extensively about it, but now you can check it out for yourself in a new edition! I haven't bought it yet, but if reader demand is high enough I could be persuaded. I mean, the corebook's only a tenner.

Only one of these people is a Synnibarr character, but they all could be and that's the beauty of it. 

It is not strictly gaming-related, but over on the blog for the Doctor Who podcast I co-host with my old pal Jesse I have written about Doctor Who comics in the 80s and the oddness thereof.

I have just learned that Salute this year clashes with a game I am running, meaning that I may not be able to make it. Disappointing! Where shall I go instead?

Monday 11 January 2016

More weekend painting

I have decided that I'm going to clear some of these models off my painting table before I add anything new. So far it is not going badly. I am doing some editing over the weekend, and I've got a little system set up where when I finish a section, I'm allowed to add one colour or one area to a model. 
Here are the three models I've completed since instituting this plan: 

The guy on the left is a Fox Box model, although the right arm, pistol and satchel are conversions. He was a free miscast, and the cast quality is therefore a little rough, but I quite like him and who can complain about a free model? I'm particularly fond of his face -- I think he looks rather like Robert Duvall. He's also got some fun detail on the back of his backpack which you can't see in this shot. 

The Viking in the centre is a model I got in a bargain pack from Foundry at SELWG ages ago; he didn't come with a weapon or shield, but pal Chris gave me a bunch of spare Wargames Factory Viking sprues, so I added them. I think he looks OK, and I did more ordinary Hearthguard for SAGA, so whatever. 

The final model is the free figure from the 2015 Oldhammer weekend; he will go very well with much of the rest of my post-apocalyptic collection, since many of them are either the old Grenadier Future Warriors range (now available from em-4 and Forlorn Hope) or the new equivalent from Copplestone Castings

Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with how they're going, although there's still more left to be done.

I have also just gone through my Frostgrave rulebook and Thaw of the Lich Lord and made a list of all the stuff I'm going to need in order to be ready to do all of the scenarios in the books; it's quite a lot, but I don't think it's unfeasible. And maybe I'll finally sort out all these ship models I have thanks to the frozen river scenario. 

Thursday 7 January 2016

Another small painting update

I finished this little rebel Gretchin from Fox Box! He's one of a handful of free miscasts I picked up at ExiliCon in 2015, and the casting is a little rough -- but this I attribute to it being a miscast. He was missing the weapon or pack meant to be slung on his back, so I replaced it with an old metal Ork bolter. He's the guy standing on the thing, with the previously painted ones hanging around in the background.

These photos aren't great (and my paint jobs are a bit shaky), but hopefully you can get the impression.

Here is a size comparison showing these models with other generations of Gretchin:

Left to right, these are Fox Box, RT metal, 2nd ed. plastic, RT metal. I don't really own any more modern grot models.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

First miniature of the year!

I didn't manage to finish a model on New Year's Day, which I had been hoping to do for superstitious reasons, but I did finish this guy, a 1985 Citadel Miniatures Dwarf Lord of Legend. This is Lastro Lupintal, the hill tribe chief, sculpted by the Perry Twins and looking every bit as charming as he did 30 years ago. The late-night photo isn't terrific but I think you get a sense of him.

I found this model in a charity shop for £1 thanks to the recommendation of an alert friend. Well, I say £1 -- I actually spent £42 on all the models there, but I resold the ones I didn't want at just enough markup to cover the ones I did, so he was effectively free. I sometimes feel bad about doing that kind of thing -- after all, shouldn't I be sharing my good fortune with my fellow Oldhammerers? -- but I think that my "finder's fee" is pretty reasonable and no one else seems to be complaining.

So yeah, this guy is both an Oldhammer model and an example of frugal gaming, so I'm pretty pleased. Also I could conceivably use him in Frostgrave (as a thief, perhaps?) or D&D, although I think making him fit into SAGA would be a little more difficult.