Sunday, December 17, 2017

Morale Failure

I've withdrawn from this year's Analog Hobbies Painting Challenge.  I'm feeling a bit demoralized regarding wargaming and miniature painting as a whole, and struggling right now to see it as being worth the time and money I'm putting into it.  The local wargaming "scene" especially, has me despairing a bit - seems like my options are either to buy, paint and play a game that doesn't particularly interest me, or play boring games of "our armies line up on opposite sides of the table and run at each other with no objective but complete annihilation" with people who either outright cheat or at the minimum conveniently ignore rules that would lessen their army's advantage.  I've met a couple good guys who wargame, but trying to work around schedules is like pulling teeth out of a chicken it seems. 

If there's one thing I learned from how little I enjoyed Age of Sigmar in the past year, it's that not wargaming at all is better than wargaming and hating it while you're doing so.  But then, it becomes very hard to look at the armies I've painted or am assembling for Dragon/Lion Rampant knowing that the local wargamers won't touch it because it's not 15mm WWII tank battles or supported by a chain of boutique retail stores catering to that game almost exclusively. 

So I've packed up my tools, my paints and the boxes of figures in various stages of assembly and prep, and put them in the closet for now.  There is, as they say, a season for all things, and right now doesn't seem to be my season for wargaming.  I'm sure the time will come again. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Good Mail Weekend

Gina and I celebrated seven years together back in November, and as an anniversary present she pre-ordered North Star's new Oathmark Goblins for me, along with a box of Fireforge Medieval Russians.  These are going to form the core of my Mordor-knockoff "Coalition of Evil" Dragon Rampant list, with the Russians standing in for Tolkien's Easterlings. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 20

Just a quick write-up for this week.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 5
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 5
Jaeger, Human Fighter 5
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 5
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 5 (NPC'd for this session)
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 5
Lakka Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 5

When we last left our heroes, they were watching three giant "barnacles" on the ceiling of a ruined, alien temple dilate open and start to release something into the room. 

"Whoa, what's that?" Came a voice at Lasair's elbow.  Turning, she saw Lakka, her third cousin twice removed on her mother's side, standing there.  Questioned as to his arrival, Lakka could only shrug.  [DM's Note: We had another player join us this week and he'd coincidentally given his elf rogue the same last name as our pre-existing elf rogue.  I rolled with it.]

The "barnacles" released their contents - three floating horrors, like beaked brains trailing jellyfish tendrils, into the room.  These were soon identified by the party as Grell - extradimensional monsters driven by an uncontrollable hunger.  Having eaten the brains of the cultists that had accidentally summoned them, the Grell had encysted themselves on the ceiling to await fresh food - i.e., the PCs. 

Kholark launched himself on top of the nearest Grell, while Lakka and Mivahl were quickly paralyzed by stinging tentacles.  Shrugging off the paralysis, Mivahl delivered a Shocking Grasp to the Grell that had attacked him, only to learn that these creatures were immune to electrical damage.  Regardless, the party soon made short work of the creatures, varnishing the floor of the temple with their blue-gray ichor. 

Searching the rest of the temple, they soon figured out that it was dedicated to a minor avatar of Yog-Sothoth, the Key and the Gate, Alpha and Omega, The Guardian of All that Is, Was and Will Be Again.  This piqued Dormammu's interest, given that he derives his warlock powers from pacts made with the Great Old Ones, and renewed his desire to see what was in the sealed box they'd found. 

What someone with the Eye might look like.
Breaking the seal, they found a roughly spherical, cut into facets resembling an insect's eye.  The sphere, in the light, scintillated in all the colors of the normal visual spectrum and three other colors that the party had never seen before nor had names for.  Mivahl recognized it as the Eye of Rhynn - an ancient and powerful artifact, literally an eye torn from the face of a Lesser Outer God vigintillions of years ago and cast into the multiverse, forever to be sought and fought over by wizards, said to bring power to any willing to tear out their own left eye and replace it with the Eye. 

No sooner had Mivahl explained the provenance of the Eye, then Dormammu was thrusting the Eye and a dagger into Sylvus' hands, urging him to cut out Dormammu's left eye. 

With his original eye removed and the Eye inserted, Dormammu got the unsettling experience of feeling the Eye rerouting blood vessels and nerve endings to nourish and support itself.  He soon realized he needed an eyepatch - he could only see out of one eye or the other at a time without experiencing overwhelming vertigo and disorientation, as the Eye does not see the in the same spectrum he's used to, instead presenting his brain with a thermal image of what's in front of him.  As his body attuned to the Eye, he got a sense of what it could do - X-ray vision for a cumulative two minutes per day with concentration, the ability to determine if someone is acting under magical compulsion, resistance to psychic attacks, and most excitingly, an ability to, once per week, fire an optic blast that mimicked a Cone of Cold spell.  On the down-side, that half of Dormammu's face is now a spiderweb of varicose veins radiating out from the eye-socket. 

The rest of the party's journey to the Groaning Keep passed uneventfully, and after burning away some Assassin Vines, entered without difficulty.  The party spread out, investigating the castle courtyard, where the remains of the skeletons they had defeated on their last visit still lay moldering on the ashen soil. 

Lakka and Jaeger entered one of the side-buildings lining the north wall of the courtyard, and soon stumbled directly into one of the undead knights of the Groaning Keep.  The knight swung its rusting longsword at Jaeger and then grabbed his face with a bony claw, its necrotic grip burning a handprint into Jaeger's skin. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Challenge Prep - Clearing Out the Project Box

In preparation for this year's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, first things first I needed to work on clear partially-finished figures out of my work-queue.  Which meant, tonight, finishing off three units for Dragon Rampant. 

First up, a Reduced Model Unit of Heavy Foot with an accompanying Wizardling for my "Men of the West" retinue for Dragon Rampant.  Spearmen are Conquest Games' plastic Norman infantry, while the Wizardling is the cleric "Diva, the Blessed," a special edition figure released by Reaper Miniatures for their 25th anniversary this year.

Second, a unit of Lesser Warbeasts (hounds, in this case) accompanied by a handler, again for the "Men of the West." Dogs are Reaper Bones (and far from my best work) while the handler is a Crusader Warlord that I received as a free bonus figure in my most recent order from Gripping Beast - who, I just realized, I managed to miss painting the strap holding his shield in place.  I'll fix that tomorrow.

Finally, Reaper Miniatures #03109 "Kouraneth, Evil Knight," who will be serving as the general of my "Coalition of Evil" retinue for Dragon Rampant.  Accompanying him is his beloved pet, "Lil' Pinchums," a metal scorpion, also by Reaper, that I dug out of my bits box to fill some empty space on Kouraneth's base. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 19

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 5
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4 (NPC'd for this session)
Jaeger, Human Fighter 5
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4 (NPC'd for this session)
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

When we last left our heroes, they were faced with a pair of Hill Giant "toll collectors," demanding every coin the party had in order to be allowed to cross the desert.  Fooled by Dormammu, the giants agreed to let the party pass.  Thirty feet down the road, the party turned around and decimated the giants; Dormammu took a thrown boulder to the chest but other than that the party took little damage and Lasair dealt the finishing blow to both giants with her bow.  The cowhide sacks tied to the giants' belts held a LOT of treasure, which the party helped themselves to.  

Two days of uneventful travel later, Sylvus accidentally led the party into a nest of vipers - specifically, thirty-foot long serpents with venom-dripping heads at either end of their bodies.  No tail, just more venom.  Sylvus was envenomed and knocked out almost immediately, and recurved fangs sank into Jaeger's arm as he tried to pull the druid to safety.  

Dormammu held back to pepper the snakes with Eldritch Blasts and Flora cast healing spells while the rest of the party raced into combat.  The party was in real danger as dose after dose of venom was pumped into everyone in the fight.  Lasair's arrows snuffed out two of the vile reptiles, while Kholark crushed the third under repeated blows from his flail.  

The rest of the trip to the city of Molekh was uneventful; upon arriving, the party was greeted warmly with a feast of roasted wildebeest in their honor; Kholark and the Khan wound up dueling with roasted haunches, a duel that almost ended in Kholark being knocked unconscious.  The following morning, the party were inducted as honorary hobgoblins and granted the right to wear the ironshod boots of the hobgoblins.  They were also given a pair of nine-foot-long mammoth tusks as payment for retrieving the enchanted lance known as the Empyreal Vengeance.

Paid and satisfied, the party set out for the Groaning Keep, intent on avenging their past embarassment at the hand of the undead knights that infest the Keep.

Halfway there, with night falling, the party found a green stone ruin, half-buried in the sand. A quick preliminary investigation revealed splashes of long-dried blood and the scattered remains of purple-robed skeletons - one of which had managed to scrawl "Gods forgive us" in blood before dying.  Every skull had the same injury, like a seven-pointed star punched out of the bone.  The party decided to camp well outside the ruin.

In the morning, the party quickly realized that Dormammu had slipped out of camp during the night.  They found him inside the ruin - a ruined temple, they quickly realized - attempting to figure out how to open the altar, claiming to have detected powerful magics within.  The party looked uneasily at the skeletons scattered around and at the Kali-like idol behind the altar.  The trick to opening the altar was soon found, and inside - an enormous pile of gold and silver coins, assorted jewels...and a small iron casket, like a snuff box, its lid sealed shut with lead.  As Dormammu pried at the lid, Lasair took another look around - and noticed the trio of fleshy, barnacle-like things, each the size of a wine butt, hanging from the domed ceiling of the temple.  As she watched in horror, one of the barnacles began to dilate open, its contents beginning to slither out with a wet sucking noise.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 18

First things first, I am king of the idiots.  I had pulled the folder containing everyone's character sheets from my backpack between sessions 17 and 18 to look up something in one character's inventory, and then failed to put the folder back into my pack.  Thus, I showed up for Session 18 without anyone's character sheets; given that it would have been a half-hour of everyone else's time wasted for me to drive home, get them, and return to the store, we elected to free-form this shit. 

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 5
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Jaeger, Human Fighter 5
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

With the Demogorgon cult extinguished, the party celebrated by feasting on Bawss Hawg, slow-roasted in honor of Kholark's victory over the giant pig, and Kholark himself received all four of Hawg's tusks as a trophy.  Jaeger took Lord Vesper's ornamental saber and broke it, creating the new sign for Cor's new Broken Blade Inn, on which construction soon began. 

In the morning, there was the issue of the Red Brotherhood to address.  While a number of the mercenaries had been slain in the fierce fighting the day before, there were still more of them then there were town guards.  With officers and NCOs sequestered in the dungeons under the castle and the rank and file disarmed and placed under guard in a makeshift prison camp, Ariska the Red Witch (now the de facto ruler of the town by popular opinion, supported by the sheriff Edras and bailiff Borut) asked the PCs their ideas regarding what be done with the Brotherhood.  Turning them loose would just result in there being a large camp of brigands just outside of Craghold, it was swiftly realized. 

Interviewing the prisoners was a lengthy process, but turned up some interesting information; Sir Dorian had begun approaching his officers about joining the Demogorgon cult, suggesting it to them as means of greater personal power and of swifter advancement within the Brotherhood.  Additionally, a percentage of the rank and file had come to the conclusion that they didn't need to hold any sense of loyalty to a dead commander, and were willing to hang up their red cloaks and join the City Guard of Craghold. 

Turning this information and their own suggestions over to Ariska, the party was a little shocked when she coldly called for the officers as a whole, and any soldiers who refused to join the City Guard, to be hanged outside of town.  Reasoning that if they were set free and became brigands, they would have to be hanged anyways, Ariska decided that it was the solution that best fit the safety of Craghold. 

With that out of the way, the party took advantage of the discount the town was offering them for being heroes to get some shopping done.  Mivahl purchased a morningstar to replace the flail he'd given to Kholark, and Jaeger, Dormammu and Sylvus found the local leatherworker to get some new leather armor made.  The tanner, a half-orc named Elgar, made an immediate impression - gruff, perfectionist, a craftsman who took pride in his work and expected his customers to take pride in what they bought from him.  Sylvus was nearly thrown out of the store for walking in wearing a dirty, badly-tanned wolfhide, and Elgar gave Jaeger a bit of an education on the realities of boiled leather as an armor in response to being shown Jaeger's sketches of what he wanted.  Appreciating a customer who knew what he was after, however, Elgar went through the sketches and explained what he could do to give Jaeger what he wanted - leather armor that would allow for increased flexibility and range of motion in combat without sacrificing protection.  Mollified, Elgar even agreed to produce a new, better quality wolf-hat for Sylvus. 

Waiting on production of the armor and taking care of the issue of the Red Brotherhood kept the party in town for a week after the death of Lord Vesper.  Finally setting out for Molekh on the 23rd of Rainmont, the first day of travel through the mountains proved easy until they neared the border of the desert; waiting for them at the end of the road was a pair of Hill Giants. 

"Toll collectors!" one of them bellowed.  "Gotta pay da toll ta cross da desert.  Toll is every coin and shiny jewel ya got!"

"Yeah!" the other chimed in.  "Give us yer cash, or yer heads we will, uhhhh," he squinted at the script written on his palm, "Smash! Yeah!"

"We already paid," Dormammu bluffed, sending the giants into a huddle of confusion.  Jaeger and Mivahl, eyeing the bulging and jingling sacks tied to the giants' belts, recognizing that even if they got past the giants unscathed via deception, the giants would continue to prey on others.  Kholark had his hand on his flail, ready to crack some heads (even if those heads were fifteen feet off the ground).  Lasair whispered to Mivahl and Jaeger that she'd follow their lead. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Men of the White Island

So, funny story.  I had been thinking I would build 24-point and 48-point versions of two or three different armies for Dragon Rampant for demo purposes.  I've got my 24 points' worth of Undead and Men of the West; and a good chunk of my "Coalition of Evil" army is on its way.  While digesting pie, I was weighing options for what I would need to buy to build the second 24 points for the Men of the West.  

And then I remembered that I have a box of Perry Miniatures' Wars of the Roses infantry sitting in my closet from last Christmas, and it makes two dozen archers and a dozen billmen, plus command.  With the right upgrades, that's 18 points of a Dragon Rampant army right there.  Pulling it out and giving the sprues a once-over, I decided that given the differences in armor styles and weaponry between these figures and the Normans I'm using for my Men of the West, these would be a different, potentially allied kingdom, and for simplicity's sake I dubbed it "the White Island." I tend to favor the Hyborian approach when designing a fantasy world and steal as much from history with the names changed as possible.  

Selecting the 10 heaviest-armored bodies off the main sprues, and the two bodies off one of the command sprues, I quickly assembled a unit of Offensive Heavy Foot using the bill-carrying arms, and gave them a commanding officer and standard bearer as well.  

Tomorrow I'm thinking I'll get the two dozen archers assembled and then I can start priming them, holding off on painting them until the Painting Challenge begins.  Colorwise, I'm leaning towards the white and blue livery of Richard, Duke of York as my basis for these; based on my limited research, I believe that's whose banner my own ancestors would have been marching under in the 1450s and I think it'd be amusing - since this will be able to double as a Lion Rampant retinue - to field a retinue raised from the town in which my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents had lived.  

I placed an order with Perry Miniatures just now for a half-dozen foot knights with polearms to complete the retinue.  

In Dragon Rampant, the army roster will look like this:

  • 1x Elite Foot - 6 pts
  • 1x Offensive Heavy Foot - 6 pts
  • 2x Light Missiles (Sharpshooter) - 12 pts

In Lion Rampant, it will look like this:

  • 1x Foot Men-at-Arms - 6 pts
  • 1x Expert Foot Serjeants - 6 pts
  • 2x Expert Archers  - 12 pts
All in all, what I'm looking at painting for the Painting Challenge is going to look like this:

12 War of the Roses Billmen
24 War of the Roses Archers
6 War of the Roses Foot Knights
6 Normans with Two-Handed Axes
12 Medieval Russians with Spears
12 Medieval Russians converted to be carrying Crossbows
24 Goblins with Spears
6 Goblins with Bows
3 Giant Spiders

For a total of 105 28mm figures, putting me comfortably within my target goal.  Granted, I don't know that I'll be able to get all that done, especially as I anticipate having other deadlines to meet and projects requiring my attention, but it's a goal.