Friday, July 21, 2017

On the Painting Bench

In case anybody thought I'd forgotten about figure painting in the heady rush of running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, fear not.  My work bench is actually currently overflowing with the undead.  In addition to the "Men of the West" retinue I'm building for Dragon Rampant, I'm also building an undead retinue for demo games, which will make use of the wraiths I painted back in May.  As you may recall I got a stack of Reaper Bones skeletons back at Christmas time as part of the secret santa exchange; those are going to form the core, with each type of skeleton (swordsmen, spearmen, archers, two-handed weapons) being expanded out to create units of 12.

The other day at Just Games I picked up a half-dozen skeleton swordsmen, leaving me three short of a full unit, and I special ordered through them enough packs of "Skeleton Guardian w/ 2H Axe" and "Skeleton Guardian w/ 2H Sword" to complete a unit of Skeleton Berserkers as well as a Lich to lead them into battle, and an old set of Reaper set dressing, an "Undead Rising" pack, to flesh out the Lich's 50mm base into a little diorama and represent his "Summoner" ability.



So far I've washed and based the Skeleton Berserkers (a unit of Bellicose Foot with the undead "No Feelings" special rule), as well as straightened some of their postures and weapons with boiling water - though I notice some of the paper-thin zweihanders are starting to return to their original bent position.  I also washed the Lich, but didn't glue him down to the base; I did clean and prep the tombstone and emergent skeleton and, once I decided on positioning, glued them to a 50mm square base off a Fireforge sprue, the Lich's position traced on in Sharpie.

The Berserkers I'm saving for the August painting challenge at the Dragon Rampant Facebook group, but I started on the Lich tonight while the sunlight was still coming in the window.  I ran out of black while basecoating him; this has never happened before.  I got the tombstone and the rubble on the base painted, the Lich's robes are done and I made some good progress on the armor, which I'm hoping will end up looking like badly tarnished silver when all is said and done.  I'll post more pics tomorrow, possibly with more done on him; his staff and skin still need to be done, and the armor finished, and then the ring of skulls and the rising skeleton on the base.  I think it's going to look really good.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 2

This past Tuesday we had our second session, and our first full session of play, of the new Dungeons & Dragons campaign at Just Games.  I think the "newsletter" idea of the last post worked out really well, and I'm very excited to see the enthusiasm and investment of the players - Sylvus' player had a "spellbook" printed containing all the spells he has access too, while Dormammu's player was kind enough to bring a cheat sheet of "what you can do during your turn" for everyone.

Dramatis Personae:

 Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 1
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 1
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 1
Mival Shimov, Human Fighter 1
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 1
Lasair Lightfood, Wood Elf Rogue 1
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 1

Lasair found the hiding place - a hollow under an upturned oak tree - of the kobolds that had been caught stealing cheese, and taking pity, turned the pork bones, nuts and a few other scraps she'd gathered into a serviceable stew for them, earning their trust and gaining a little bit more information about the town of Holger.  Granted, they weren't able to offer much beyond a kobold's perspective of the town - the best trash heaps to dig through and how to avoid being seen by the local constabulary.

The group spent an entire day - checking the calendar, it is the 16th of Sowmont, a month analogous to April in Earth's temperate zone of the northern hemisphere - exploring Uncle Oswedge's old house.  They found a number of interesting things, most notably a map of the region, with a number of castles and villages drawn on, with only the immediate vicinity of the Five-Towns labeled.  Also, a small gold statuette of the famed gnomish accordion-composer Gilgamesh von Hohenzollern on a trapped platform; when they carefully triggered the trap, a chute opened in the ceiling, dropping the desiccated remains of a long-dead giant wolf spider into the room.  It seems the trap had been neglected for some time.

Consulting the map and the various bits of news and local gossip they'd picked up at the Whole Hog the night before, they started planning a course of adventure.  If they took the Cursed Pass to the Maw, it would take them past the Groaning Keep, where three hundred years earlier, an entire order of corrupt knights were tortured to death for their crimes.  Skirting the edge of the Maw, they might be able to collect some goblin hands to trade in to Baron Vitellius for the bounty he'd announced.  They could drop off a naming ceremony present for Lord Vesper's newborn son (they decided to give him the statuette of Gilgamesh von Hohenzollern) at Craghold Keep and then circle around the southern end of the Ironspine Mountains to visit the town of Jonquil, curious about the retired war-wizard who had beaten a demon at chess and forced it to compile his memoirs.  From Jonquil it's a short jaunt to Baron Vitellius' castle to collect on the goblinoid bounty, and that will bring them halfway to the Dismal Swamp to investigate rumors of an impossibly ancient stone road through the swamp, the stones carved to resemble dragon scales.

Buying a wagon and enough food to last them to Jonquil, they bid Holger farewell for the time being, tasking the kobolds with keeping an eye on the house for them.

Travel down the Cursed Pass proved easy, and in late afternoon on their first day of travel (the 17th of Sowmont), they came within sight of the Groaning Keep, a foreboding edifice of black stone squatting toad-like over the Pass, crumbling under the weight of time and neglect.  They quickly noticed the complete absence of birdsong in the area; even the buzzing of insects was absent.  Around the Keep itself, nothing grew save a breed of greasy, gray-green vine that clung and tugged at the ruined masonry.  Cor was able to identify these as Assassin Vines, rumored to grow only in the soil of mass graves.  Approaching warily, Dormammu threw an experimental eldritch blast at the nearest growth, and was immediately attacked by lashing, thorny vines that nearly crushed the life out of him.  Pulling back, the party attempted to blast the vines with fire bolts and eldritch blasts, Mival and Kholark wading into the fray with their flails.  Enraged, Kholark brought the head of his flail down on the woody bole of the growth, sending splinters flying as the vines went limp.  Cor collected some samples of the vines' glowing green sap and the group moved through the newly-revealed gap in the wall to enter the courtyard of the Keep.

They soon heard the scraping of something against stone, and the clink of metal.  Emerging from a mostly-intact side building was a humanoid figure, swathed in the charred and moldering robes of a priest, face hidden in the depths of the hood but skeletal hands exposed.  The mortal remains of one of the long-dead cursed knights of the Groaning Keep, the undead thing lunged, hurling itself against Zerin's shield, swinging a rusted longsword with savage fury.  Reaching out with a bony claw, it grabbed Zerin's face, burning him with necrotic energy.  Pushing the creature back, Mival and Kholark moved to surround it, with Sylvus darting in and out to strike at it with his quarterstaff, enchanted with a Shillelagh spell, while Dormammu, Cor and Lisair held back, peppering the thing with eldritch blasts, fire bolts, magic missiles and arrows.  Finally, roaring with the red rage of battle, Mival brought his flail down on the back of the thing's skull, shattering it, with the entire skeletal horror swiftly collapsing into dust and flakes of ancient, blackened rust.

Unfortunately, the sound of battle drew the attention of other undead knights, which began to emerge from shadowy corners and gaping doorways, converging on the adventurers' position.  Kholark, Mival and Zerin swiftly formed up into a shield wall, keeping themselves between the casters and the shambling undead as they slowly backed towards the gap they'd come through.  Cor and Dormammu kept up a steady stream of offensive cantrips, trying to whittle the undead down as they came.  And the sun was beginning to set.

I love being able to end a session on a cliffhanger like that!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

News from the Iron Principalities

Instead of having the players in my weekly D&D game roll every session for new rumors/plot hooks, or just going the route of having a "job board" hanging in the local tavern, I thought I'd take a page from the Hill Cantons' book and put out a "newsletter" for the region the players are in a few days before each session, to give the players a chance to learn about the setting in bite-sized chunks and have a few different things they can consider pursuing.  Here is the first installment (future installments will go up a bit closer to the midpoint in the week between sessions):



Lord Vesper, Master of Craghold Keep, has with great fanfare announced the birth of a son and heir to his throne.  A naming ceremony will be held in the chapel of Craghold on the 23rd of this month.  With great solemnity Lord Vesper has proclaimed that any wishing to bring gifts are welcome to do so, with gifts of gold, ivory or precious stones being especially welcome.  Any who wish to pledge fealty to Lord Vesper during this blessed time are invited to do so, and will be received graciously.  Lord Vesper is quoted as saying, “My need for vassals – especially those with strong arms and a willingness to club someone’s brains out – is always highest immediately after a child is born.  So many wags and gossips claiming my children were sired by devils, so few stout oak branches to crack across their heads!”

Long-time residents of the Five-Towns will recall the series of fires that mysteriously struck the houses of those who made such claims when Lord Vesper’s daughter Julia was born, as well as Lord Vesper’s repeat attempts to enforce his claim to the Five-Towns over that of Baron Vitellius, and the subsequent repeated rebukes the Master of Craghold suffered. 

The ground shook throughout the Ironspine Mountains for three minutes earlier this week. Residents of the Five-Towns are divided as to whether this earthquake was a sign of divine wrath (and if so, which deity requires placating), caused by giant-kind, or an otherwise little-understood natural phenomenon.  Some fear that an earthquake such as this may have disastrous effect on the ruins of the Groaning Keep near Holger.

Fearful that such tremors could result in increased goblinoid activity, Baron Vitellius has announced a new bounty on goblinoids: one silver piece for a goblin, five for a hobgoblin or orc, one gold for a bugbear, five gold for an ogre, ten for a troll or ettin, and fifty for a hill giant.  Proof of extermination in the form of severed right hands to be presented at the Baron's castle for payment.  

The Archbishop of the Church of the Unconquered Sun in Sabaton has announced the dates for the annual Festival of Brilliance as being from Moonsday, the 1st of Sunmont, through Godsday the 6th of the same month.  These are, of course, the same dates that the Festival of Brilliance has fallen on for the past century, but it was determined that it couldn’t hurt to provide residents with a reminder.  Sunites are encouraged to make sure their brass skull-caps are freshly polished and to make travel arrangements early.  Unbelievers are discouraged from partaking in any of the traditional lemon pies until an act of penitence for their disbelief is demonstrated to the local clergy.


Vencel Voros, Imperial War-Wizard (retired), now a resident of Jonquil, has announced with great satisfaction his victory over the demon Prixior Vune in a long-running game of chess.  Having been defeated, the demon Vune must now fulfill the task of compiling and editing the War-Wizard’s diaries, covering more than forty years’ worth of skirmishes and campaigns against the fire-magi of the Crimson Caliphate, into a cohesive and readable two-volume memoir.  “He just left his king wide open during this morning’s session,” Voros has stated, “It’s like he wanted to lose.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Iron Principalities: Session 1

I've begun running a Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition game at my FLGS, a fairly open sandbox game set in a region known as the Iron Principalities (name ripped off from Jack Shear, over at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque), a "Deadwood-meets-Borgias" region of frontier towns and feuding, eccentric petty despots, wannabe warlords and bandit kings, very much a "points of light" kind of region flush with goblinoids and other monsters.  It was going to be Greyhawk, but with so many players I felt they'd steamroller the Greyhawk adventure I'd prepared and didn't know where I could put this sandbox in Oerth.  I'll be doing brief write-ups of each session here.

Dramatis Personae:

Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 1
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 1
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 1
Mival Shimov, Human Fighter 1
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 1
Lasair Lightfood, Wood Elf Rogue 1
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 1

Cor received a letter, and a Handy Haversack clinking with coins, from his Uncle Oswedge, a prosperous tin merchant, announcing Oswedge's impending demise and Cor's inheritance of Oswedge's house and effects in the mining town of Holger, deep in the heart of the Iron Principalities. With a bag of gold to pay their passage, Cor gathered his friends and set out on a month-long journey to see the house.

They arrived knowing only a little about the region - that Holger was one of the Five-Towns, a collection of settlements loosely confederated and run by a council of guildmasters, paying minimal fealty to any local prince, that just over the mountains from Holger was an ashen waste called "The Maw," swarming with goblinoids, and that a swamp to the south held strange ruins.

Arriving in Holger, they stopped in at the Whole Hog, a large and sprawling inn famed for its barbeque.  Ordering a round of dwarven stouts and short-ribs from Marge, the middle-aged dwarven barmaid, they settled in and surveyed the crowd.

A hooded stranger in silken finery caught Dormammu's eye, an affront to the warlock's desire to always been the best-dressed in any setting.  Talking to the stranger, Dormammu learned a bit more about the region; that the Five-Towns are ostensibly the domain of Baron Vitellius, a reclusive ruler content to leave the people well enough alone as long as his sole tax was paid - he asks that the bodies of anyone hanged for horse theft be delivered to his castle in the mountains. Under further questioning, the stranger revealed that Vitellius is a necromancer, and that the position of tax collector is currently unfilled.  Eventually the stranger threw back his hood, revealing a bare human skull; most of Vitellius' servants are reanimated dead.

Having supped and learned a little more about the region, the group set out to find Oswedge's house on the edge of town; what they found was three or more likely four houses that had been linked by connecting passageways and new rooms over the course of the last few decades. Everything seemed in good repair from the outside, and the group began to explore the interior.

this will always be what Kobolds look like to me.
A noise from the basement caught Kholark's attention, and investigating, they found four tiny, dog-like humanoids - kobolds - trying to wrestle a very large wheel of sharp cheddar up on to its rim so that they could roll it up the stairs and out the storm cellar door.

"You leave our cheese alone!" Kholark growled, and shaking, the kobolds managed to insist, "But we're orphans!"

Kholark smashed the cheese wheel to bits with his flail, sending the kobolds - bits of cheese in hand - fleeing out of the basement. Lasair, being an orphan herself and knowing how that feels, decides to follow them and find their current hideout.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dragon Rampant Challenge Day 6 - Complete!

I'm very pleased to report that I finished my Dragon Rampant unit for the painting challenge on the FB group today.  I'm really pleased with how they came out, especially the basing - I picked up a "round" of "Meadow flock" by Gale Force 9 from my FLGS today, not really sure what to expect, but it looks good applied over my usual Army Painter-brand medium brown grit.  Now to wait for the humidity to come down (probably in a few days) so I can varnish them!





If I threw a 2-point fantastical rule on this unit - Mystical Armor or something like that - I could do an 8-point "micro match" against the Wraiths I painted up back in May.  I've got my next unit for this warband lined up - a dozen archers - just waiting to be unpacked, washed and based.  But I think I'll paint a unit of skeletons next to break up the red.  Ultimately I'm going to have two Dragon Rampant retinues, these "Men of the West" types and then the "Legion of Nesuahyrrah," an undead group composed almost exclusively of skeletons.

In other news...

This Tuesday I'm starting up running RPGs at my FLGS again, though instead of Call of Cthulhu I'll be running 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons; demand is higher for the world's original role-playing game and with our rent going up in the new place the store credit for running a weekly game will come very much in handy in supporting my hobby needs.  While I thought about running in a homebrew setting (and may do so once this campaign wraps) for now I'll be running in Gary Gygax's beloved setting of Oerth, exploring the World of Greyhawk.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dragon Rampant Challenge, Day 5

We're now five days into the seven-day challenge over at the Dragon Rampant FB group and despite not getting a chance to paint yesterday, I've made some excellent progress on my King and Bodyguards unit.  In fact, at this point I think all I have left to do is highlight the skin tones, a few touch-ups and the bases to paint and flock.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dragon Rampant Challenge, Day 2

After two days of painting, I'm on good track to have my King and Bodyguards finished within the 7 day time frame of the Dragon Rampant painting challenge.  On Monday I took care of the chainmail, helmets, shield rims and swords - basecoat black, paint Reaper "True Silver," wash Citadel "Nuln Oil" - and yesterday I handled the red of the tunics, hoods, shields and the King's cloak.

Our armor may not shine, but it's not going to rust, either.
Reds have been basecoated Reaper "Deep Red."
"Blood Red" has been painted over the reds in two thin coats.
Reds have been highlighted with "Phoenix Red," then glazed with "Blood Red"
My vacation is over and I'm back to work today, but hopefully in the evening I'll get some work done on their trousers.  After that it's just leather bits, skin, the king's beard and the fur-trim of his cloak, and the gold bits.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Move Complete

Well, with the installation of a Wi-Fi modem in the apartment today, I think we can officially call ourselves moved in.  Sure, there's still the kitchen to unpack, but the cabinets all need a serious scrub-down before that can happen.  But the bedroom is set, the living room is pretty well set, and gosh darn it, I got the first batch of miniatures out of storage to start work on.



The Facebook group for Dragon Rampant runs a monthly painting competition, just for fun, to get people motivated to paint and get their units on the table.  Every participant has one week to paint a unit for Dragon Rampant.  This month, I decided to enter (because I'm a loon, to be sure, trying to get an entry in when I just moved), with "King Denethall and his Guards," a reduced-model unit of Offensive Heavy Foot.  The idea being, as the unit loses Strength Points, I remove guards until just the King is left, and then I use a counter for the last six Strength Points before I remove him.

King Denethall is #2369 from Reaper's Dark Heavens Legends line, while the guards are Anhurian Swordsmen from the Bones line.  I've got a dozen Anhurian bowmen in the closet for next month to paint up as a Light Missiles unit, and then I've got my eye on picking up a dozen Anhurian Spearmen to serve as Heavy Foot and a half-dozen War Dogs to serve as Lesser Warbeasts.  Beyond that I'll still have 6 points to spend to get a 24-point warband, so we'll see where that ends up.