Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Time to Harvest Session 9: Bug Hunt

Last week's Call of Cthulhu session ran long, but things were going entirely too well - for me as Keeper at least - to be willing to end the session at our usual cut-off time.  Things began to really ramp up here, and I think within the next few sessions we'll see the animal waste really start to hit the electric oscillator as far as the player-characters are concerned.  This was also, sadly, Greg's last session with us - his work contract had ended and he's leaving Rochester, so won't be able to be here on Tuesday nights any more.  Don't worry, we gave him one Hell of a send-off!

 Dramatis Personae:

  • Darren Gray (played by Mike), engineering major and member of the fencing team 
  • Perry Webster (played by Dan), journalism major, on assignment for the Miskatonic Crier 
  • Nathanlie Wingate Peaslee (played by Kai), folklore major, daughter of psychology professor Wingate Peaslee, granddaughter of economics professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee 
  • Nick Jackson (played by Greg), private investigator 
  • Roni (played by Katie), Finnish-born history major and member of the swim team 
  • Randall Vhloche (played by Sean), geography major

Despite the untimely death of Abelard, the Federated Oil and Chemical-backed expedition to Cobb's Corners in search of the Outer Ones, or "metch kangmi" as they may be known, has gone forward as planned, now as much, perhaps, of a mission of revenge as anything else.  For Darren and Perry, it was a return to the MacLearan farmhouse where their adventures began, for Nick and Nathanlie, it was all new.  FOC had renovated and reinforced the farmhouse, installing a radio antenna and powerful electric lights around the outside.  Morrison, their security chief, supervised the installation of a variety of traps and snares around the perimeter of the property.

Randall and Roni, having not been brought into FOC, had pursued their own investigation that led them back to Cobb's Corners; reuniting with their old comrades (and joining the FOC expedition), they shared what information they'd encountered - that Blaine and Daphne Devine, the formerly-missing woman whose brain had been installed in Professor Harrold's body, had been in contact with a woman named Emelda Cratchett to acquire her husband's grandfather's diaries.

Once established (and confirming the local presence of metch kangmi when one apparently loses a leg to a bear trap), the team divides up, with Darren, Perry, Roni, the psychologist Drake and security chief Morrison patrolling the sugar maple forest behind the cabin; this was at Perry's suggestion, recalling the unsettling dreams he'd had the last time he was in Cobb's Corners.

Nick and Nathanlie, meanwhile, went into town to size up the local law enforcement and to investigate Darren and Perry's claims of creepy children.  Randall manned an impromptu watchtower atop the roof of the farmhouse.

Darren, Perry and Roni soon realized that something was wrong with the forest, noticing small, mouthless humanoid figures, pinkish gray in color, watching them from the trees - the same as a creature Roni had seen near the outhouse weeks earlier.  Morrison shot one of the creatures out of the tree, sending the others scattering - and the one he shot sublimated into an ozone-scented smoke within the next few minutes.

Coming across a dilapidated cabin in a clearing, they noticed a piggish smell coming from the shack and a faint grunting, squealing sound.  Stealing as close as he dared, rifle at the ready, Perry tried to peer through the shack's single window.  As he did, a porcine head lifted up into view, peering back through tiny, jaundiced eyes.  Clawed hands grasping the window frame, the swine-thing heaved itself through the window towards Perry, but died quickly to a single shot from the Lee Enfield, dissipating into smoke as it did.  Squealing from the forest told them more of these creatures were on their way, and they quickly barricaded themselves inside the cabin.
I have gotten so much mileage out of this image.

Two more of the swine-things died quickly as they approached the window, but an enormous boar, half again as large as its fellows and sporting a pair of wickedly-curved tusks, circled around the other side of the cabin and began to batter against the door.  Ramming its huge, bony head through the rotten wood of the door, the creature began to break through - only to be knocked senseless by a bullet between the eyes from Perry.  The creature stumbled and fell backwards, its breathing wet and wheezy.  Darren decided to toss out a grenade to finish the creature off, judging the distance to throw the explosive to where it would damage the creature without damaging the cabin or themselves.  His aim was a little off, coupled with the rottenness of the wood, resulting in Darren getting a back full of splinters.

In the root cellar under the cabin, they found a catatonic little girl - and realized that the original swine-thing they'd encountered had been trying to get at her when they'd disturbed it.

[GM Aside: Personally, I really dislike mixing material from Lovecraft's "Dreamlands" stories into my Call of Cthulhu games.  I feel like the tones don't mesh at all and I'm just generally not a fan.  So when the campaign called for Zoogs, Men of Leng, and a Moon-Beast, I replaced them with "Dover Demons" and William Hope Hodgson's "Swine-Things" to suit my own preferences.]

Nick and Nathanlie, meanwhile, after assessing Sheriff Spenser as an authoritarian blowhard and Deputy Cutter as hiding something, go looking for Jason Haggerty, the teenage boy seen drawing "creepy trees" weeks earlier.  Talking their way past the school-marm, they managed to isolate the boy.  Nathanlie laid on the charm, leaning in seductively and using the boy's raging teenage hormones as a lever to pry loose information.

It worked, and they soon learned that most of the children in town were part of a group calling themselves "the Young," that Deputy Cutter was their leader (even though he was almost "too old") and that they would be summoning "Mother" to Earth in accordance with her wishes.

As Nick digested this information, Nathanlie opened her mouth and began to emit a strange, subsonic droning, putting the private eye in a hypnotic state and rewriting his memory to erase all evidence of what the boy had told them.

After having the girl checked out by Matherson and Drake back at base, Darren, Perry and Roni took her home to her parents, and then paid Emelda Cratchett a visit; she was at first irritated to hear reference to Blaine and Devine, blaming them for her husband's mysterious demise just days after he spoke with them.  They managed to talk their way into her good graces, however, and even managed to gain access to her husband's grandfather's journals.  From these they learned of legends of a cave network under Broken Hill, in which the Outer Ones lived.

Taking some time alone back at the base, Nathanlie mixed up a cocktail of heavy opiates and lemonade, distributing it to anyone in the base who would take a cup.  Darren, Perry and Roni returned to base and immediately sensed something off in Nick's explanation of what Jason Haggerty had said, their questioning making him begin to question his own memory.

At this point, something big began to set off traps behind the farmhouse.  As they watched through the kitchen windows, a tree seemed to begin to uproot itself from the ground - or rather, to extract itself from the pit trap it had blundered into.  Towering twenty feet tall, the "tree" was a thick, cylindrical trunk of dense black jelly, pocked with drooling, sphincter-like mouths and patches of coarse, dark hair, balanced atop three digitigrade legs ending in cloven hooves.  Crowning this horror was a mass of squirming, greasy tendrils, four larger "trunks" emerging from the mass of smaller "branches." With a hooting bellow, the thing launched itself against the reinforced wall of the farmhouse.

Behind the group, Nathanlie planted herself firmly in the doorway out of the kitchen, the skin on the back of her neck splitting open as she began to molt out of "her" disguise - revealing the Outer One that had replaced her weeks earlier to observe and report on the Investigators.

The tree-like thing outside was too great for Roni's mind to handle, and in the darkness of the new moon she latched on to electric lighting as a safety blanket.  The sight of an Outer One emerging from Nathanlie like a five-foot cicada was more than Nick could comprehend.  Tommy gun in hand, all he could think was that if Nathanlie had been replaced, the rest of them must have been as well.

Perry managed to put a rifle bullet in the thing wearing Nathanlie's skin, but did not manage to kill the creature.  Squeezing the trigger, Nick swept the entire room with the submachine gun, emptying the thirty-round magazine.  Other than placing three bullets into the creature in Nathanlie's skin (finally killing it), the shots went high from the recoil of the gun, sparing the rest of the expedition.

As Nick stood there, breathing hard, barrel of the gun smoking, the tree-like thing outside burst through the wall, seizing him with two tentacles and pulling him into its bulk before retreating into the darkness of the night.

Friday, August 26, 2016

BigLee's 2 Million Hits Giveaway


I met some phenomenally nice people (not face to face yet, but someday) last year during the Painting Challenge, and started following some wonderful blogs to see their work.  Among them was Big Lee Hadley, whose generosity might be the biggest thing about him - his blog has hit 2 million pageviews, a staggering amount, and his immediate response is to do a give-away amounting to a hundred pounds' worth of goodies.  That's pounds the currency, not the non-intuitive unit of measuring weight favored in the United States :)

Congratulations BigLee!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Paint Table Saturday: Frostgrave Additions

Completed a couple additions to my Summoner warband this week - I think this is going to become my primary warband for Frostgrave.  I like the aesthetics of my band (yay limited palette) and I've got a nice variety of figures here - I've got my eye on some more Thugs, and I have a figure in mind for a Captain if I pick up the "Sellsword" supplement.  I think it's a warband with a pretty good degree of tactical flexibility and I love painting demons.  I'm planning on painting up a few more of those just for variety on the table.

The newest additions to the warband are a pair of Crossbowmen and a Thief; the Thief, (Reaper's "Deladrin, Assassin") may get upgraded to a Treasure Hunter later on to better reflect the weaponry sculpted on the figure, but that's down the line once we're in campaign mode.



With her crouching pose and flowing cape, Deladrin is a bit of a pain to try and photograph; it is refreshing to see a female figure sculpted by Werner Klocke who isn't standing with her ankles pressed together and her derriere presented - I really love the posture here.  And Klocke's women all have beautiful faces that are easy to paint - his sculpts are the only ones I can consistently paint the eyes on.  In addition to the dark red, dark gray and leather, I did her cloak black on the outside, red on the inside in honor of another character who hides in shadows and knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men - which reminds me, I still need to finish painting that sculpt of The Shadow that I've got...

Then we have a figure that may be used as an Armored Skeleton in regular play, but will be my representation of the Lich Lord should we play the "Thaw of the Lich Lord" campaign.  Reaper's "Skeleton Champion" has a fantastic supervillain pose going for him, and I love the cackling skull.


This is one of the first figures in a while where I went in with a color scheme intended to say something about the figure; in this case, I chose gold for the Lich Lord's armor (basecoated black, drybrushed Reaper Antique Gold, then highlighted with Reaper New Gold) to suggest the imperishability of the Lich Lord, and went with a Tyrean purple (Reaper Nightshade Purple, highlighted with Imperial Purple) for his cloak to tie him back in to an ancient and fallen kingdom.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Night WIP

I got a little bit of painting done tonight - the high humidity definitely slowed the drying time of my paints, meaning I got less done than I would have liked, but I still made some definite progress.  Four figures, all intended for Frostgrave; a pair of Reaper Bones "Anhurian Crossbowmen" will be joining the Diabolists of Belphegor, as will "Deladrin, Female Assassin" in the role of Thief.  My lineup for that warband, then, will be Wizard, Apprentice, Knight, two Crossbowmen, two Thieves and three Thugs, though I'm debating painting a couple extra Thugs to take the place of the Thieves.  The limited palette of dark red/black/gray/brown/steel/bright red definitely speeds the painting process and allows for assembly-line painting.

 Behind them, resplendent in his golden armor...*gasp!* Could this be the Lich Lord himself? Reaper's "Skeletal Champion" certainly has the supervillain pose and cackling, wide-mouthed skull to be the legendary undead wizard.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow night I'll be able to get down some tarnished steel on the armor and weapons of the Crossbowmen and Thief, pick out trousers and maybe do their various leathers; Deladrin is wearing studded leather armor and the guys have an assortment of belts, quivers, backpacks, and of course boots to be done in Reaper's "Lonestar Leather," a shade reminiscent of GW's "Snakebite Leather" from back when I originally got my start painting toy soldiers.  I'd like to be able to highlight the Lich Lord's skull and paint the rocks he's standing on while I'm at it.

While I won't be meeting Tom for Frostgrave this week, it simply will not do to show up with half-painted figures.  No sir.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Time To Harvest Session 8: Champagne Wishes

Running a little behind schedule in posting this session's write-up, as I've been in giddy wargamer mode since Wednesday, building terrain and tweaking my warband in preparation for a future game of Frostgrave.  It's also been far too humid (it hit 93% humidity the other day...walking outside was like swimming in hot chowder) to do much painting - I know my spray primers won't stick to my ruined buildings in this weather, and I'm a little afraid to apply paint to miniatures for fear of it not drying properly. So I guess I should stop procrastinating and finish this write-up!

Dramatis Personae:

  •  Darren Gray (played by Mike), engineering major and member of the fencing team 
  •  Perry Webster (played by Dan), journalism major, on assignment for the Miskatonic Crier 
  • Nathanlie Wingate Peaslee (played by Kai), folklore major, daughter of psychology professor Wingate Peaslee, granddaughter of economics professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee 
  •  Nick Jackson (played by Greg), private investigator


After listening to the recording of a "metch kangmi," one of these alien Outer Ones, being interrogated, the Investigators came away less than impressed with the scientists at Federated Oil & Chemical, convinced that they have no idea what they're doing in regards addressing the apparent invasion of Earth by the Outer Ones.  Regardless, and keeping in mind the blank check penned for them by Abelard, they continue their firearms training.

The night before they're scheduled to return to Cobb's Corners, the Investigators are summoned by Selena Preston to the conference room on the fifth floor.  Not sure what to expect, Nick showed up armed.  Looking very serious for a moment, Abelard cracked a smile and drew forth an iced bottle of very high quality champagne.  "To our successes," he toasted.  Selena turns on a radio, and everyone begins to let their hair down.

Then, the power goes out.  By the time flashlights are rounded up, someone has slit Michael Abelard's throat, ear to ear in perfect silence.  Those closest to him at the table - David Drake, Nathanlie Peaslee, Peter Murdoch and Morrison, the security chief, were questioned closely, and frisked for weapons - both Morrison and Peaslee had knives in their boots, but these were all clean.  Darren and Nick attempted to search the conference room for invisible assassins by spraying champagne around the area, while Perry and Larry Nekler, the expedition's mechanic, made their way down the stairs to try and fix the power in the basement.

They were interrupted as they passed the fourth floor - from within, they could hear screams, gunshots, and a gutteral, booming croaking sound.  Sneaking past, they were met by opposition a level down - two green-scaled humanoid frogs, standing each six feet tall, still sloughing off the crusty yellow membrane that had sealed them in suspended animation - the "mummies" being rehydrated in the lab.  Perry stumbled retreating up the stairs, but managed to grab a fireaxe off the wall and swing at the lead of the two creatures.  The creature retaliated with a swipe of a huge, webbed claw that almost disemboweled the junior reporter.

Growing uneasy, Nick and Morrison head down stairs to help Perry and Nekler, stumbling into their fight with the two frogs, wherein their firearms made a distinct difference, though Nick's .45 jammed on its second shot.  One frog dead and the other in retreat, Nick helped Perry back upstairs to get medical attention while Morrison and Nekler continued to the basement.  A glance back showed Nick six more frogs emerging from the fourth floor, their claws and jaws bloody, and descending the stairs.

With Perry soon taped up, Nick rallied the group, rearmed, and led the group downstairs to see if Morrison and Nekler were still alive.  Muddy footprints and broken doors revealed that the frogs had left the building and made their way into the Detroit River.  The on-site staff -- security guards, maids, cooks, and lab scientists -- had been torn apart and partially devoured by the amphibious humanoids. And the building's wiring had been torn to shreds at the fuse box.  Nekler and Darren managed to jury-rig a temporary work around to get the building's lights back on.

With Abelard dead and no sign of his assassin (and the looming possibility that one of those present was a double agent for the metch kangmi), the Investigators debated the wisdom of continuing on with their mission to Cobb's Corners, ultimately agreeing that it would be best to launch an attack now, when the metch kangmi expect them to be disorganized and confused.

Friday, August 12, 2016

We Built This City (on Frost and Graves)

Inspired by Tom's buildings from Wednesday night, and wanting to both beat the oppressive heat and humidity Rochester was experiencing today and avoid writing about Tuesday's Cthulhu game twice (I already wrote my write-up for Chaosium today, now I'm procrastinating on the blog post) I decided to start assembling some of my "Ruined Hamlet" from Warlord Games.

The Ruined Hamlet is really just three Ruined Farmhouse kits in one box; taking one baggie of pieces out and opening it, I began dry-fitting pieces together and figuring out what I wanted to create; I decided on one relatively-intact building and two smaller, more rubble-y pieces.  I retrieved my trusty bottle of superglue and set to work.


The biggest struggle I had was with gluing in the wooden loft of second floor; I felt like it wasn't real secure just glued to the wall the way it was, so I decided to reinforce it with a few toothpicks.  Once everything's painted I think they'll blend in nicely and keep the piece sturdily in place.  A Reaper Bones "Anhurian Crossbowman" demonstrates how nicely the loft will serve as a sniper's nest in Frostgrave.





I really like the little piles of rubble Warlord Games included; they're really good for supporting a join where two wall-pieces meet and keep them aligned properly, and likely will make the buildings a little more stable on the tabletop.

One down, two to go!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Batrep: First Frostgrave Match

Last night I played my first game of Frostgrave, against my friend Tom at our FLGS, Just Games Rochester.  A veteran wargamer who hadn't gotten his Frostgrave figures built yet, Tom provided the scenery (a mix of Warlord Games ruined hamlet, some old GW scenery and homemade stuff) while I provided the armies and treasure tokens.  He remembered a tape measure, which I'd forgotten, while I brought a laser pointer (borrowed from my cat) to check line of sight.

Tom took control of "The Undying Host of Sutekh-Ra," an Egyptian mummy-themed Necromancer warband, consisting of a Wizard, Apprentice, three Men-at-Arms, two Thugs and two Warhounds (represented as scarab swarms).  I, in turn, took "the Diabolists of Belphegor," a Summoner warband consisting of a Wizard, Apprentice, two Knights, three Thugs, one Thief and two Warhounds.

Rather than a pitched battle, we decided to dice for a scenario, ending up with "The Complex Temple," in which the treasure tokens are clustered at a central location and guarded by animated columns.

So here's the layout of the table, from my perspective:


I ended up with a bit of a bottleneck to maneuver my troops through, but them's the breaks.  Now, I don't remember the exact play by play, but I can give you some highlights:

Tom took an early lead in pursuing treasure, his Wizard Sutekh-Ra and three Men-at-Arms surging forward to claim the first treasure token on the board while Belphegor led a contingent of his forces through the bottleneck, and his apprentice Bifrons led another contingent over the wall.  The thief Tiviel, accompanied by a Warhound, worked her way east to try and claim the outlying treasure token.


Seeking a little bit of heavier support, Bifrons tried and failed to summon a demon, while Belphegor succeeded (with a natural 20 on his casting roll), calling up a six-armed, snake-tailed Minor Demon.


His jubilation at this summoning was short-lived however, as Sutekh-Ra swept forward and cast Bone Dart twice before the Demon could react, sending it back to the Lower Planes in a puff of smoke.  The necromancer directed his Men-at-Arms to deal with Tiviel, while his apprentice, Skelos-Ptah and two mummified thugs, clambered into the temple, two swarms of scarabs sweeping wide across the battlefield.



In response, Belphegor launched his own assault on the temple, sending Bifrons, two thugs and the vicious albino knight, Lady Cassiatta, over the wall as the remaining thug, warhound and the hellborn knight Vaeloth assaulted their way up the stairs, with Belphegor holding back from the fray.



Swooping forward, Sutekh-Ra silently bashed Bifrons' head in with his staff, sending the young diabolist to an early grave and a place in Hell.  Belphegor responded with an Elemental Bolt, blasting his mummified opponent but failing to destroy him.  Sutekh-Ra replied with a dismissive gesture, and Skelos-Ptah cast "Push," sending Belphegor hurtling backwards.


Vaeloth and Cassiatta entered the fray, with Cassiatta engaging Skelos-Ptah, Sutekh-Ra coming to his apprentices' aid, and then Vaeloth charging in to assist Cassiatta.  In a moment, Vaeloth and Skelos-Ptah were both dead, Tiviel and the Warhound with her had been slain by Men-at-Arms and scarabs, and Thug slew Thug.


Sutekh-Ra's Men-at-Arms converged on Belphegor, and while he made a good accounting of himself, he ultimately fell before their ancient blades.  Sutekh-Ra himself dispatched Lady Cassiatta with a swing of his staff; the three remaining Thugs Belphegor had brought with him shouldered their bundles of treasure and beat a hasty retreat, as Sutekh-Ra and his two surviving Men-at-Arms cleaned up the battlefield.

All in all, we each claimed three treasure tokens, and while we didn't tally up experience points, I imagine killing my wizard and apprentice would put Tom ahead of me this game - but we'll still call it a draw.

I had a blast with this; I've got a set of the ruined buildings that Tom had here, and I'll be assembling them this weekend to be able to bring to our next game.  Between set-up, break-down and figuring out the rules as we went, this game ended up lasting about two hours, which was not too shabby,

What I was not anticipating was how different this experience was from my usual RPG experience; I came away from this game much more relaxed, less spent, than I do from running an RPG session.  Not surprising, really - here I wasn't having to jump through hoops and think on my feet in response to the chaos 4+ players bring to the table, it was just me and Tom engaging in a gentlemanly proxy war.

More than anything, it left me wanting more, more, MORE! I can't wait for a rematch with Tom, and I'm eager to engage some of the other patrons of Just Games who have Frostgrave forces handy.  I've even begun bandying around talk on the store's Facebook page about setting up some sort of Frostgrave league.  Wargaming has proven thusfar to be everything I've wanted it to be since I first set foot in a Games Workshop store in high school, and I couldn't be happier.