Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Iron Principalities: Session 5

Dramatis Personae:

Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 2
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 2 (NPC'd for this session)
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 2
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 2
Mara, Human Cleric 2
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 2
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 2
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 2

Yes, we've added an eighth player to the group, as Zerin's player's girlfriend decided to play.  This is now the largest campaign group I've run for in a decade, but it's going to be (I hope) easier to run D&D for eight players than it was to try and run Call of Cthulhu for eight players.

Setting out from Craghold to retrace their path into the Maw, the party stopped off at Anoroc's cabin, with Kholark announcing his conversion to Bormoism.  The party purchased two more kegs of Anoroc's fiery moonshine, one for Cor's new inn and one as a gift for Borgai, Great Khan of the Hobgoblins.

Moving on, as they were about to make camp for the night, they heard the trumpeting of a furious elephant and a woman scream for help.  Racing to the scene, they found an overturned wagon being systematically crushed by an enraged bull elephant, his hide peppered with crossbow bolts; surrounding the scene were the crushed and mangled bodies of three men.  Underneath the wagon, they could see a woman crouching in terror.

Assessing the situation, Sylvus approached the elephant, hands high and wide, speaking softly, trying to draw the pachyderm's attention and calm it; internally, he was ruing not preparing "Speak with Animals" that morning.  He managed to sooth the great beast, casting a healing spell to ease the pain as he removed the bolts.

While he was doing this, Kholark, Mivahl and Zerin flipped the wagon over, recognizing that it was now mostly scrap wood.  The woman beneath, however, was unharmed, identifying herself as Mara, a seeker of knowledge.  Seeing that her initial plans were scrapped with the wagon and her hired guides, one of whom had thought it smart to try and shoot the elephant for its tusks, she agreed to join the party.

Their first day of travel through the Maw was uneventful, until the party was set upon by a trio of giant vultures towards nightfall, though the party made short work of these.

Their second day proved more eventful, as a Purple Worm surfaced beneath them - A few members
of the party felt a rumbling beneath the ground and alerted the rest, allowing them to dive for higher/more solid ground as the Worm erupted, its mouth slamming into the rear of the wagon.  Zerin slipped and fell back into the wagon precisely as the Worm was lifting it sixty feet in the air.  Managing to dodge falling into the Worm's mouth, he pulled his dagger from its sheath and dug it into the worm's chitin, using that to slow his fall as he slid down the worm's back.

Having destroyed the wagon and eaten one of the oxen that had been tethered to it (the other exploded when the harness snapped and it plunged 60 feet to its death), the Worm departed.

Moving carefully, Lasair sifted through the wreckage of the wagon, managing to salvage enough rations to last the group for six days and the keg for Borgai Khan; Cor was holding on to his keg in his Handy Haversack.

Fortunately, the party was soon met by Erdo the Hobgoblin and eight other hobgoblins, all mounted.  Surveying the situation, Erdo commented that the great worms rarely venture out of the deeper desert, but that rarely is not never.  The party are encouraged to climb onto the backs of the worgs, as their camp is nearby.

Arriving in camp, the party is treated to dinner - scorpion-meat chili, a slice of hard, black bread and a mug of bitter ale, and afterwards, Vekra, one of the female hobgoblins of the group, leans towards Mivahl:

"I like a man who can eat," she grunts appreciatively, "If the night is cold for you, my bedroll is easy to find."

The party also, over dinner, ran afoul of Kargan, Erdo's second in command.  Citing the well-known deceitfulness of the "soft races," Kargan accuses the party of being assassins sent to kill the Great Khan, and calls for their immediate execution.  Erdo silences Kargan, asking if he wants to challenge Erdo for command.  Kargan demurs, losing significant face in the process.  Erdo explains to Zerin that part of Kargan's duties include killing him and taking his position if he ever becomes demonstrably weak.

After two days' uneventful riding (with Vekra giving Mivahl an almost constant dagger-look for turning down her advances), the party arrives at Molekh, capital city of the hobgoblins, entering through the "Gate of Kur, the Head-Taker," a famous ancestor of Erdo's.  Amidst staring guards and civilians, the party are led to a large tenement-style building, where they will be quartered for the night, with slaves assigned to cook and tend to their needs.  Erdo explains that while the party has been granted permission to stand before the Khan, they still need to earn the privilege of doing so, and for that, in the morning they are to fight a monster in the Arena of Molekh.

Before Erdo leaves, Zerin asks about any family crests the "House of Kur" might have, and is told it's three narrow triangles in a row.

Zerin sends a slave out for red fabric and green ink, intent on honoring the House of Kur, and Erdo specifically, for sponsoring their presence in Molekh.  He crafts a set of surcoats bearing a modified version of the House of Kur's crest, meant to show the party's subservience to the House of Kur.

In the morning, the party is brought to the Arena - a 100-foot by 50-foot area, sunken 20 feet into the ground, surrounded by stadium seating.  At one end, a massive hobgoblin sits in a private box under silken tents, surrounded by wives and guardsmen.  The stands are starting to fill with spectators, and the front row all the way around is filled with hobgoblin archers, ready to respond should anything escape from the Arena, or any competitors try anything "funny."

Seated within a waiting area for contestants, the party is offered refreshments - water, ale, battle mushrooms - while they wait their turn.  Everyone but Cor and Kholark, curious, takes a battle mushroom (though I think Mara just took one to study later for possible medicinal properties; she can correct me if I'm wrong though).  Finally, the drums begin to pound and the gate separating them from the sands of the Arena rises.

The party steps out, blinking in the sunlight.  The stands are packed to capacity.  A second gate, on the far side of the arena, below the Khan's seat, begins to rise.  From within emerges an enormous, bull-like creature, half again as large as the largest auroch any of the party have ever seen.  Its skin ripples with dense, iron plates, its horns are two huge sweeping arcs of jagged steel.  From its nostrils pour gouts of yellow-green gas.

The party curses in trepidation.  They're about to fight a Gorgon.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Iron Principalities: Session 4

This session saw a little bit of travel, and a whole lot of wheeling, dealing, and drinking.

 Dramatis Personae:

Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 2
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 2 (played for this session by guest player Cerenity, as Dormammu's usual player could not make it)
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 2
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 2
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 2
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 2
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 2

Setting out from Anoroc's cabin, the party had a half-day's trek through the southern peaks of the Dragonspine Mountains to reach Craghold.  After a brief but ultimately peaceful encounter with a nesting pair of Dragon-Hawks, the party arrived in Craghold - like most of the smaller settlements in the Principalities, Craghold consisted of a labyrinth of buildings clustered tightly around the central castle, and surrounded by a thick defensive wall.

Entering through the single gatehouse, Mivahl was surprised to see, mixed among the regular militia guardsmen, members of the Red Brotherhood - a famed and feared mercenary company, known to turn to piracy and brigandage during times of peace rather than stoop so low as to perform honest labor.  Their presence here as guards was truly startling.

Asking around, they readily found directions to the Whore's Arse tavern, and the party split - Kholark, Dormammu, Zerin and Mivahl went to the Whore's Arse, while Cor, Lasair and Sylvus looked for a place they could rent rooms for the night.

They found the Broken Blade Inn, a place that had recently gained a reputation as having a "bad atmosphere" and thus business was low.  The owner, Tetra, was eager to sell, but not so eager to sell at the prices Cor was offering - five gold to own an entire inn was a bit insulting, even for a woman as desperate to leave as her! She explained that the inn was haunted, and the elves detected a faint, acidic odor emanating from the basement.  Investigating, they found a narrow passageway, barely more than a crack, just wide enough to crawl through, hidden behind a wine butt.  Exploring, they discovered an ancient, brick-built room, encrusted with nitre and cobwebs, apparently abandoned for centuries.  An age-blacked, bronze-bound door on the far side of the room seemed to beckon, and Sylvus opened it, revealing another room beyond.

"We've found a dungeon," Sylvus said.  Wracking his memories, Cor identified the acidic odor - it's the smell of the Abyss.  A demon had been conjured here, possibly recently.  Closing the door and getting out of the basement, Cor sent his hawk familiar to summon the rest of the party.

Meanwhile, at the Whore's Arse... we're switching to a bullet-pointed list because a lot happened here.

  • Dormammu buys a hit of black lotus powder off a cloaked dealer, tucking it between his cheek and gum and letting the low-grade euphoria and hallucinations wash over him.  He gets to chatting up a woman he believes to be Lord Vesper's wife, eventually joining her in a curtained-off alcove.  
  • Zerin, Mivahl and Kholark watch a game of "Sting" in progress in the back corner - a completely nude dwarf is spread over a table with a large, green scorpion (a breed known as "Screamers" because their venom is so potent that it "shuts down your ability to do anything except scream.") scuttling over him.  Bets are placed on where he'll be stung and if he'll call for it to be removed before it decides to sting.  
  • Once the dwarf is stung and rolled off the table, Zerin uses his Lay on Hands ability to relieve the dwarf's pain, and then buys a round of drinks for the four of them - intrigued by what he sees on the blackboard menu, he pays out the necessary gold for each of them to have a shot of "Father Jack's Ultimate Pissup." The bartender retrieves a leaded glass bottle with a pair of tongs and carefully measures out four shots of syrupy purple-red liquid.
  • The Ultimate Pissup doesn't actually taste like anything that the party can tell; this may be due to it killing tastebuds the second it touches the inside of their mouths.  Similar in content to a blend of codeine cough syrup and 190-proof Everclear from our world, Kholark and Mivahl experience tunnel vision and think they hear dead relatives calling to them as they swallow their shots; the dwarf immediately begins projectile vomiting so hard it's coming out his nose, while Zerin loses all bowel control and instantly soils his armor.  
  • Mivahl strips down and goes in for a round of Sting, with Zerin and Kholark betting that he'll get stung on the hand - as happens when Mivahl slaps the scorpion to ensure their victory.  The group is toasted for their ingenuity, but encouraged not to try that kind of thing again.  
  • Feeling pretty good, Kholark stands up and challenges anyone in the bar to a greased wrestling match, finding a challenger in local champion Jagga, a big, shaven-headed bruiser with an eyepatch and a Fu Manchu mustache.  Though Jagga fights dirty (including kicking Kholark in the balls), Kholark not only beats him unconscious and drop-kicks him into a table, but manages to put a dent in the bar itself with Jagga's forehead.  
  • The party soon draws the attention of Borut, the castle bailiff and man they were looking to meet.  Borut is a half-orc, more than a foot taller than Kholark, and dressed in fur and leather.  They quickly befriend him, especially once Mivahl nearly dies competing against him in a "doubles match" of Sting.  Borut declares them "Alright" and encourages them to come by the castle in the morning and he'll introduce them to Lord Vesper if they're looking for work.  
With Dormammu in a narcotic haze and Mivahl half-dead from scorpion venom, the group emerges into the night in time for Cor's hawk to land on Zerin's shoulder.  

At the Broken Blade, Tetra has had enough of Cor's sarcastic comments about her competency and intelligence, and spits on the floor, seizing the pouch of gold coins out of his hand and storming away.  With the remainder of the group arriving and two members out of commission, the group decides that investigating the dungeon under the tavern would be a task best left for another day.

The night passes uneventfully and in the morning, after breakfast and a conversation with a traveling peddler named Oxnard Gorguts (especially regarding his experiments with a substance he calls "dragonpowder," and how it's the reason his hands are bandaged and his eyebrows singed off), the group sets off for the castle.

Lord Vesper is initially unimpressed with the statuette of Gilgamesh von Hohenzollern brought as tribute, but changes his mind when Dormammu and Zerin spin an epic tale of bypassing traps and a terrifying giant spider to retrieve the statuette.  When Zerin proposes an expedition to more accurately map the Maw, and gain military intelligence regarding the hobgoblin encampments therein, Vesper agrees to grant them the use of a wagon and 20 days' iron rations for the expedition, expecting a new map and valuable data in return.  

Realizing that if he wants the Broken Blade to make money for him in his absence he will need a staff, Cor visits another local tavern, the Running Boar, and offers one of the serving girls there money in exchange for her services.  Misunderstanding his offer and believing him to be a pimp, she refuses, but the other serving girl agrees.  "Great.  Go to the Broken Blade Inn and run the place until I get back.  Bye." Cor explains over his shoulder as he walks away.  

With business taken care of in Craghold, the party sets off to make their date with Borgai the Great, Khan of Khans and ruler of all the Hobgoblins.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Iron Principalities: Session 3

Last night we picked up right where session 2 ended in our Iron Principalities game, with the players bracing themselves for an oncoming swarm of the cursed Knights of the Maimed King, an order of fallen paladins exterminated for their crimes three hundred years ago, bound to the site of their demise and the sinister half-life of undeath.

 Dramatis Personae:

Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 1
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 1
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 1
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 1
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 1 (NPC'd for this session)
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 1
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 1

As the six Knights closed ranks on the adventurers' position, the battle swung wildly; Kholark, Mivahl and Zerin all came within a hairsbreadth of death under the hacking swords and gnarled claws of the ravenous undead, which seemed almost impossible to fell.  Finally, Cor dropped a Thunderwave spell, knocking the Knights back and allowing the party to make a fighting retreat.  The Knights of the Maimed King did not pursue past the walls of the Groaning Keep.

The next day as they traveled, hugging the foothills of the Ironspine Mountains at the edge of the volcanic desert known as the Maw, they spotted a lone rider, about three hundred meters away in the desert, pacing them; Lisair was able to determine that the rider was most likely a hobgoblin, mounted on a Worg, and watching them through a spyglass.

Zerin and Dormammu rode out to meet the rider, open hands held aloft to signify peace and parlay.  The rider stopped and removed his helmet, revealing the scarred, red-skinned face of a hobgoblin warrior.  "You are not a merchant caravan," he observed gruffly.

Zerin explained to the hobgoblin that they were cartographers, hired to map the hazards of the Maw, and that while the local rulers didn't like or trust each other, the group had conned all three of them into paying for the expedition.  At this, the hobgoblin burst out laughing.

"You make the princes fight...with gold? Yes? Fight with gold instead of steel.  Very funny! Wait until I tell Great Khan, princes fight with gold!"

After a little bit of further discussion, they learn the hobgoblin's name is Erdo, and he warns them to be careful - the giant scorpions of the Maw had an explosive breeding season last year, and now roam
the waste in unusually high numbers.  He offers to bring them before the Great Khan himself to repeat their tale of making the princes "fight with gold," if they will return to this spot in six days.  Dormammu readily agrees.  Calculating travel, if they drop off the naming ceremony gift at Craghold Keep and turn right around and head back, they can arrive just in time for their meeting with Borgai the Great, Khan of Khans, ruler of all the Hobgoblins.

Zerin gives Erdo a gold piece in friendship, and Erdo gives him a Zuleck - a rectangular iron coin used by the hobgoblins - in return.  They salute, and ride off in opposite directions.

The next day, mid-morning, the group are ambushed by a trio of Ogres; hoping to repeat their diplomatic approach from the day before, this plan swiftly fell apart as Mivahl and one of the horses were impaled on heavy, ogrish javelins.  Dormammu sent one of the ogres running with a casting of Discordant Whispers, as the party laid into the other two.  The ogres barely knew what hit them before they were spilling their life's blood on the ground.  Looting the bodies, they found a large copper-plated belt, set with bits of quartz and fool's gold, apparently of ogrish manufacture (like a big, cheap, badly made Wrestlemania belt), which Mivahl promptly claimed.

As they exited the Maw the next day (so it is now the 20th of Sowmont) and entered the grasslands south of the desert, towards evening they noticed the plume of smoke from a cookfire; approaching, they found a ramshackle cabin, light pouring from its windows, next to an odd shrine; a crude stone carving of a huge, beefy human male with a giant beard, standing next to a bear that was likewise bearded.

The door of the cabin opened, and a shirtless dwarf (his shirtlessness not immediately apparent due to the density of his chest and back hair) emerged, bellowing welcomes and blessings "in the name of Bormo."

Bormo, it was soon learned, was a deified hero of the region from generations past, now largely forgotten, considered the patron deity of bears, beards, manly wrestling and drinking contests.  Intrigued, the party entered the cabin, welcomed by the dwarf, who identified himself as "Anoroc, last priest of Bormo." Here they also met Jaroslav, Anoroc's bear companion - a black bear dressed in an embroidered leather vest and a chainmail hood.

Once the mugs of Anoroc's homebrew whiskey were passed around, Mivahl got into a drinking contest with Jaroslav, which he promptly lost, earning him a hearty thump of approval on the chest from Anoroc.  When asked about Lord Vesper and Craghold Keep, Anoroc responded...emphatically, spitting on the floor with a bellow of "That, to Vesper!" followed by squatting down and farting on the spit puddle, followed by "And that, too, to Vesper!"

Anoroc explained that all the drinks in Craghold were watered down.  Worse, Vesper was a demon cultist, and a very "unmanly" one at that, "if he worshiped Bormo like a real man, he wouldn't need to summon a demon to ah, how you say, put babies in his wife. Bormo make sure you have many fat babies." Anoroc had heard rumors that Vesper, his wife, and various hangers-on at court participated in monthly wine-soaked orgies of sex and black magic, and could confirm that all dogs and wolves went berserk in the vicinity of Craghold.

When asked if he had any idea how they might infiltrate the Keep to look for evidence, Anoroc considered and then said, "Craghold Keep attached to small town.  Find tavern called 'Whore's Arse' - is always open.  Castle bailiff, half-orc named Borut, drink there.  You drink with him, he take you to Vesper.  But seriously, fuck that guy. Fuck Vesper."

[DM's Note: Borgai, Bormo, Borut.  I really need to make sure I don't do that again.]

That night, Mivahl converted to Bormoism, and in the morning, Anoroc saw them off with a huge breakfast of bacon and whiskey, a small keg of whiskey, and a powerful blessing of Bormo: "May your beards stay full and righteous; may your pecs never sag; may your back hair never thin; may you always hold your drink; all this, may Bormo provide."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Welcome Back to the Land of the Living...Now Grab a Shovel and Start Digging!"

I got a lot more done on the commander for my undead retinue for Dragon Rampant than I'd anticipated today.  To wit, I finished him, basing and all.  The Dread Lich Nesuahyrrah is now ready to lead legions upon legions of animated skeletons into battle.





As a reminder, this is Bones #77280, Lich, with a tombstone and emergent skeleton that came packaged together as Dark Heavens Legend # 02043, meaning its been in the Reaper catalog for quite a long time!

Notes on the colors, because I know I'm going to need them again with the rest of this army...


  • Cloth: basecoat black, heavy drybrush "Midnight Blue," lighter drybrush "Twilight Blue."
  • Bone: basecoat black, drybrush with Stained Ivory/Yellowed Bone/Creamy Ivory triad.  
  • Armor: basecoat black, basecoat 50/50 mix Leather Brown/Ancient Bronze, wash Nuln Oil, highlight Ancient Bronze, highlight True Silver, wash Nuln Oil
  • Skin: basecoat black, basecoat Ghoul Skin, highlight Moldy Skin
  • Stone: basecoat black, drybrush Stormy Gray/Cloudy Gray/Misty Gray
  • Staff: Basecoat Dark Flesh, drybrush Dark Highlights
  • Leather: Lonestar Leather
  • Belt Buckle: Antique Gold
  • Base: Earth Brown
  • Eyes: Phoenix Red, Fire Orange


While I can't fault the results, I do kind of wish I'd picked a simpler recipe for the armor, because now I think I need to continue that recipe through the rest of the army for consistency's sake.  It does look really good.

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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

So Maybe I Lied a Little...

So I know last post I said things would be quiet around here due to the upcoming move; this has not stopped me from picking up a figure (my "lead pile" is already packed up, so I *had* to buy a new figure) from Just Games and putting some paint on it to mark the end of the work week and blow off some steam.


This is a "Cave Troll" from Reaper's Bones line, though originally released in metal many years ago.  I love this sculpt and it really defines what a "troll" is to me, in fantasy terms; this is the image that term brings to mind, with the pointed ears, upturned nose and massive underbite.

I tend to see this figure done in shades of gray-green, blue-gray, or dark, slate-y gray; I decided to go more "albino cave monster that wallows in its own filth."

I basecoated the skin in Reaper's "Leather Brown," a good yellow ochre shade; over this, I did a heavy drybrush of a 40-60 mix of Leather Brown and "Aircraft Gray" (50-50 looked too yellow still, not gray enough).  Once that was dry I washed the figure with a thinned down coat of "Wild West Rose" and, once that dried, I gave the whole figure an extra-heavy drybrush of straight "Aircraft Gray," followed by a lighter drybrush of a 50-50 mix of Aircraft Gray and Pure White.

Tusks and nails were picked out in Stained Ivory, and the loincloth was painted Worn Olive.  The troll's scalp and body hair, as well as the loincloth, were then washed with Citadel "Nuln Oil" to grease them up.

Still the base left to do, but otherwise not bad for about two hours' worth of work (quite a bit of which was waiting for the rose wash to dry).

Saturday, June 3, 2017

All Quiet on the Gaming Front

Things are going to get quiet around here again as Gina and I prepare to move into a new apartment on June 30th.  To facilitate the moving process, we've begun packing a lot of "non-essential" things - so while our clothes and such haven't been packed, things like her yarn stash and my wargaming/painting supplies have been.  I don't anticipate having the time to work on anything between now and the 30th, so better to have it up and out of the way - we're planning on doing one hell of a deep clean of the apartment before we leave as a courtesy to the landlady, and having stuff neatly put away facilitates that that much easier.

I'm pretty pleased with myself; I got my craft supplies - glue, knives, clippers, baggies of bases, etc - neatly packed into a single Tupperware container, while another (larger) container has all my unbuilt plastic figures and leftover sprues of parts sorted and contained.  I even got my terrain squared away.

Next will be packing my RPG materials - I'm only running one game this month, and possibly playing in another, so most of my stuff can get boxed up immediately.  All my AD&D materials, all my OSR stuff, and 99% of my Call of Cthulhu stuff can go right in a big plastic tub to await moving day.  I've got I think three separate binders full of graph paper that I should probably condense down, and that's it for that chunk of the packing.

Last big thing is regular books.  I've done a pretty significant cull of my personal library, bagging up books to donate to the library when they're books I know I'm unlikely to go back and reread or that I have duplicates of, so there's not a whole lot left to pack up.  The nice thing is I think Gina and I's collections of books will fit nicely into the two three-tier wooden bookshelves we have, which frees up the six-tier metal shelf to house kitchen appliances when not in use and free up space in our new, smaller, kitchen.

Atticus was a big help organizing the book cull, as you can see:



Once we're settled, I've got a couple things in the pipeline ready to be worked on.  I've got a stack of Reaper Bones skeletons still in blisters from Christmas, and I've backed the Skull and Crown Kickstarter for Renaissance-style skeletons as well, expected to ship in July.  Between these, I'm looking at producing an undead force that I can rotate between different rulesets - Kings of War, Dragon Rampant, and lately I've been looking at Ral Partha's 1986/87 "Chaos Wars" ruleset, resurrected through a series of wildly successful Kickstarters over the past few years by Iron Wind Metals.  The rules are available for free from Ral Partha, and ChicagoWiz's breakdown of the rules allay a lot of my concerns and make it feel a lot smoother than my initial reading of the rules had suggested to me.

There's been some talk between myself and a few local wargamers of my acquaintance about putting together our own wargaming club to satisfy our interests in games like Frostgrave, Kings of War, etc., that aren't supported in the local stores, with my new apartment serving as unofficial clubhouse for once- or twice-monthly gaming get-togethers...I'm hoping we can make that work.

So that's where I am at the moment, hopefully this will all work out.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Alpha Blue 2: Mars Needs Women

This past Saturday we had our second session of Alpha Blue, having decided to expand the single session I ran for my birthday into a full-fledged campaign of sexed up space silliness.

When we last left our heroes, they had just stolen the fastest ship in the galaxy and double-crossed the Templars of the Glass Spider in order to keep it.  Zora, a Templar of the Glass Spider, renounced her faith in light of her order's perfidy, Ajax the space pirate discovered he owes child support, and using a replicator and the ashes scraped out of Ajax's crevice, they've created a cloned copy of David Bowie's genitalia.

They decided to stop off and deal with Ajax's ugly-ass beaked-koala-baby love-child first, setting course for the planet Karbopolis.  Confronting his ex Satara Jo (in all her alien weirdness - looking like a koala with super long, double-jointed arms and legs), he balked at her asking price and asked for a minute alone with baby Bobby Jennerick.  Taking the kid into the bathroom, he chucks the baby out the window (where he lands safely in a dumpster full of discarded sex dolls) and then covers his escape by dropping a thermal detonator into one of the toilets.  He takes off running back to the ship - dubbed the Good Ship Venus by Arden - with the kid in tow.

Meanwhile, Zora decided to try and pilfer a new outfit, rather than continuing to sit naked on the vinyl seats of the Venus or actually buying one.  Carefully lifting a suitcase out of the back seat of a Space Camaro in the next docking bay, she was rewarded with a silver V-neck uniform (deep V - the uniform is open almost to her pelvis), complete with fancy epaulets, a black tactical vest, and a plasma caster with collapsible stock.

Meanwhile, RoBoBot and Trusty Davey Johnson (with Arden riding inside Davey's glass dome) head into town to have Davey's caster repaired.  Davey elects to upgrade to a set of four metallic walking tentacles - only two are covered by his insurance, and he manages to bargain the robo-surgeon down to half-price for the remaining two legs, plus a complimentary buffing of Davey's chrome.

Concerned that the Templars of the Glass Spider will be pursuing them, Zora decides to contact her sister Brynne in the Wyrmslorr Crime Syndicate to see about contracting bodyguards.  Brynne is delighted to see her little sister joining the Syndicate and sets up a meeting with Dreego, a mid-level officer in the Syndicate and a connector of jobs with talent.

A gold-plated carrier ship is dispatched to collect the characters and bring them to Dreego's secret hideout.  The ship's AI is friendly and chipper, and dispenses boozy banana smoothies of the sort known to sorority girls across the galaxy as "Instant Regrets."

Dreego's hideout is soon revealed to be inside the depths of an "Assteroid," with the ship docking
exactly where and how you would expect it to in a game like this.  Emerging into the cavernous interior of the Assteroid, from the opposite end of a corridor they hear the sound of women screaming.  Arden collapses himself into a puddle and slithers under the door to investigate, seeing a trio of humanoid females in cheerleader uniforms being chased around by a squat, ugly alien in a gold track suit wielding some sort of gun.

Arden looms up to engulf the attacker, who, startled, squeezes the trigger - dispensing a spray of Parmesan Garlic Cheez Whiz into Arden's face.  Dreego's "thing," it turns out, is spraying cheerleaders with a caulking gun full of Cheez Whiz.  The mood broken, the girls go to leave, with Dreego cursing that he hired them for a full hour and they shouldn't expect to get paid for the 17 minutes they're leaving early.  On their way out, one of the girls slips Ajax a card.

Dreego
Somewhat disgruntled (and utterly "caulk-blocked"), Dreego tries to salvage the situation by asking if Zora had ever considered donning a cheerleader uniform, "something to, ah, emphasize that, ah, magnificent donk of yours." Zora declined.  Dreego then laid out the job he had for her and her compatriots.

Queqoo Xanood, a high-ranking member of the Wyrmslorr Syndicate, has found religion and run off to join the Alpha-Omegas, a doomsday cult operating out of a compound on some asteroid somewhere.  The Syndicate wants him brought home and deprogrammed before the Alphas can pump him for too much information about the Syndicate that they might use to recruit more members.  Xanood is a turquoise-blue gecko-like creature, about the size of an earthly housecat, but will swell up to human size if given alcohol.  "The Syndicate would be happy to assign you a bodyguard in exchange for getting Xanood home before he writes too many checks to the Bhagwan or whatever they do there."

As a sign of good faith, he assigns Absalom, a Doguloid from Sirius Alpha, to join their crew.  Absalom looks like an oversized bulldog's head on Danny DeVito's body, with a wardrobe stolen from He-Man.  Before turning to leave, Ajax pulled out baby Bobby Jennerick, showed him to Dreego, and said "What will you give me for this?"

Two hundred Blue Bucks and a dozen tabs of "Melting Clock" later, Bobby Jennerick was installed in a gilded bird cage hanging over Dreego's desk.  "Well, that's taken care of," Ajax said happily.
How often am I going to get to reference MOM AND DAD
SAVE THE WORLD in a game?

Receiving coordinates for the approximate location of the Alpha-Omega base, they are returned to the Good Ship Venus and set out on their mission.  Recalling that Xanood's species has a powerful cultural affectation for humanoid buttocks, as well as for watching girl-on-girl action, they call the number on the card Ajax was given, asking to hire the two girls with the biggest asses for a weekend getaway.  After some negotiating, they settled on hiring only one - a pearl-skinned, magenta-haired woman named Galaxy Minaj - and pairing her with Zora, who took the opportunity to come out of the closet and identify as a lesbian.

Investigating the asteroid belt said to house the Alpha-Omega compound, their scanners pick up a weak electromagnetic signal coming from one of the giant floating rocks.  They soon find an entrance into the hollow asteroid and within, a docking bay.  Exploring, they discover a cryogenic freezing chamber, full of glass cases containing frozen Abominable Snowmen.  They also find a locker of blaster rifles sized for the Abominable Snowmen.  Zora can heft one awkwardly, but discovers that Minaj's posterior makes an excellent gunrest.  After some discussion, they decide to leave the frozen Snowmen alone and return to their ship.

Further scanning picks up the energy signature of a cargo ship; as this system is otherwise uninhabited, it must be heading for the Alpha-Omega compound. Following it, they soon find the sprawling, concrete compound, covering the bulk of a large asteroid.

The cargo ship lands in a recessed docking bay and begins to unload dozens of large, stompy robot soldiers.  Realizing that this was an oddity, Arden used his psychic powers to turn two of the robots against their fellows, destroying one of their number and leading the robots to stand around bickering about who shot who and whose fault it is.

At this point, RoBoBot, a Zedi Knight, felt a great disturbance in the Way, and realized that one of the Knights in Black Satin, twisted and evil, was present.  Drawing his laser nunchucks, he steeled himself to confront this evil.

Within the main chamber of the compound, they found the Dark Zedi confronting the leaders of the cult, demanding the "Solarmanite" Bomb.  Turning, they were introduced to Darth Whiskerbiscuit, a woman in the slutty women's Halloween costume version of Vader's armor, the crotchless bodysuit revealing her wild and untamed bush.  RoBoBot challenged her to a duel, with Ajax and Davey Johnson providing distraction; Arden, Zora and Galaxy Minaj slipped past this and swiftly found Queqoo Xanood's monastic cell.

Inside, Xanood was meditating, lotus-position, on the ceiling, unaware of the world around him.  Even the sounds of a hot and heavy makeout session between Zora and Minaj couldn't rouse him, until Zora decided to "Steal the Show" (a game mechanic allowing her to double her dice pool to do something awesome) with a sex act so extreme it has no name in the known universe.  With a squeaky cry of "Yahooooooooo!" Xanood launched himself from the ceiling, planting himself between the buttocks of Minaj and Zora.  Zora grabbed the little guy and wedged him firmly between Minaj's cheeks to keep him from going anywhere.

Meanwhile, RoBoBot scored an early victory in his duel with Darth Whiskerbiscuit, shaving her rebellious thatch of pubic hair off with a measured swing of his laser nunchucks, only to feel the bite of her laser whip coil around his neck and constrict.  In a moment, RoBoBot's body evaporated, his empty blue sash falling to the ground.

With RoBoBot's allies concentrating their fire on her, Darth Whiskerbiscuit decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and turning on her spiked heel with a dramatic flair of her cape (which doubled as mooning everyone present) fled back to the cargo ship, ignoring the still-bickering robots.  Concentrated fire from Zora, Arden, Ajax and Davey blew a directional vane off the ship, sending it spiraling out of the hangar as it tried to fly off.  "Good, I'm sure it will crash into something and explode," said RoBoBot's blue-tinted Way Ghost.

A few days later, the crew of the Good Ship Venus rendezvoused with Dreego's Assteroid to hand off Xanood (prying him out of Zora's crack, where he'd been imprisoned since the end of Minaj's weekend contract) for deprogramming.  Absalom was assigned permanently to serve as Zora's bodyguard, and Dreego concluded the meeting with, "We'll, ah, we'll be in touch, with, ah, more jobs to suit your, erm, skills in the ah, future," giving Xanood a furtive sniff before dropping the lizard-like alien down a pneumatic tube.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Wraiths and Trolls

Just a real quick post to show what I've been painting lately.

First up, I finished those Reaper Grave Wraiths in a single painting session.  I've since flocked the bases, just waiting for the humidity to come down to varnish them.


The Wraiths were basecoated black, then given a heavy drybrush of "Midnight Blue," followed by a lighter drybrush of "Twilight Blue." The glowing sword blades and lighting effect are done with Reaper "Moth Green."

Second, my friend Jess got me a pair of the new Wizards' pre-primed Dungeons and Dragons miniatures for my birthday, a giant "Phase Spider" and a leering, groping Troll. I always forget that trolls in D&D have long, pointy noses.  He's had his skin basecoated in "Olive Drab" and given a wash of Citadel "Nuln Oil" here, and will be highlighted with "Worn Olive" before I move on to his dreadlocks and loincloth.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me

Today marks 30 years so far on this funny little world.  And my mother beginning to introduce me as "my husband's son from his first marriage" - technically correct, as they've only ever been married to each other, but since she doesn't feel old enough to have a 30 year old son...

I'm not going to wax on about getting older or any such stuff and nonsense, I will merely note that I had a very nice day today, including donating blood to the Red Cross and eating a great dinner with Gina.  After dinner we swung by Just Games, I had some nice conversation with good friends, and picked up a few new figures to paint.

I figure I could use a break from the blues and golds of my Age of Sigmar army, and I've been reading over my copy of Osprey's Dragon Rampant again lately.  I'd love to play it but I suspect I'll need to provide demo armies to make that happen.  I've got several packs of Reaper Bones skeletons, courtesy of Thomas of Learning By Doing, from last year's Secret Santa exchange, so an undead army is a no-brainer of a side project.  And not just because there's a lot of empty skulls rattling around!

I know I want skeletons to be the bulk of the army, but not for it to be exclusively skeletons.  So when I saw three Reaper "Grave Wraiths," cast in translucent blue-green plastic, I knew I had a reduced model unit for Dragon Rampant on my hands.

Got them home, got them cleaned, and got them glued to some spare 40mm square bases I had laying around:



I'm thinking these will be a unit of Bellicose Foot with the Flyer and Undead (No Feelings) Fantastical rules added on.  What do you think?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Space Madness

Last night, I ran a game of Alpha Blue for some friends to mark my 30th birthday (occurring this coming Tuesday).  Those who want to continue to respect me as a mature individual are advised to stop reading here, and come back for a future post.

Alpha Blue is a game by Venger Satanis, parodying 1970s and 1980s science fiction films and TV shows, with the sexiness, silliness and sleaziness cranked up to about 14.  Born, as I understand it, out of Venger questioning why RPG characters aren't given rich and fulfilling sex lives, Alpha Blue as written incentivizes characters getting high and laid in the course of their adventures through space, with the titular Alpha Blue itself being a city-sized intergalactic brothel.

I toned down the game a little bit to suit my own tastes and my uncertainty as to how my players would take rolling on a "what's my character's kink" chart during character creation.  As play showed, I probably shouldn't have worried.

Dramatis Personae:


  • RoBoBot: a robot made out of an old typewriter and trained in the ways of the Zedi Knights, following the path of balance and becoming a Knight in Blue Satin.  
  • Arden, about 80kg of psychic alien fluid, poured into a wife-beater and a pair of tightey-whiteys.  He'll kill you with his brain if you're wearing the wrong colors.  
  • Ajax, a mutant space-pirate resembling a skeletal human with a giant toucan's beak instead of teeth.  With a phased plasma rifle in the 40-megawatt range slung over his shoulder, he's unconcerned with the full-scale manhunt on his tail.  
  • Zora, a human mutant with iridescent, hologram-patterned skin who fades from view when not directly looked at, and an acolyte of the Sect of the Glass Spider, an order of Space Templars of the Left-Hand Path.  Much of her family is in deep with the Wyrmslorr Criminal Syndicate.
  • "Trusty" Davey Johnson, a robot made out of an old gumball machine, employed as a drug mule by the Terra Nostra.  Will try to get high off anything he can stuff up his access port and dressed like an old timey soda jerk.  

We find our heroes in a lounge bar on Alpha Blue, tossing back drinks and enjoying the musical stylings of a clone of David Bowie, backed by clones of the original Spiders from Mars.  As the final guitar solo of "Moonage Daydream" dies down, an alien at another table - a creature resembling a tarantula the size of a pick-up truck - flips the table and screams, "You can't call yourselves Spiders from Mars! That's our word!"

Drawing a gun, the alien fires, David Bowie exploding into a cloud of red and gold ash that coats Ajax.  Arden moves to tangle the alien in his pseudopods, Ajax fires a shot at it, RoBoBot cautions the alien that it's upset the balance in the room, and Trusty Davey Johnson finds a shady alien in a trench coat standing outside the bathroom, trading a bag of LS-Triple-D for a baggie of little orange pills the alien identifies as "Thunderfuck Uranus."

Attempting to flow into the alien's airways and drown it, Arden shoves his pseudopod in a little too forcefully, exploding the alien spider's head and showering the room in skull shrapnel and chunks of brain.  

As they surveyed the carnage they'd wrought, the characters' attention was taken by a tall human in black polyester robes and a big cylindrical hat with eight projecting flanges.  Most of the group can identify him as one of the Templars of the Left-Hand Path, with Zora recognizing him as Father Azaxyr, a member of her own order.  Ajax mistakes him for the Pope of All Space, and begins to dance for his Space-Holiness' pleasure.  

Ordering the group a round of Ultra-Grenadine Apple Martini-Hurricanes, Azaxyr thanks them for dealing with the alien spider, noting that he had a price on his head from the Sect of the Glass Spider, and writing the group a check for 1300 Blue Bucks.  "You know," he continues, sipping his drink, "the Sect has a job it needs done right now, by a discreet group of trouble-shooters...if you're interested."

Pulling out his MCCPhone, he texts the characters a link to a job listing on SpaceMonster.com, and urges them to think about it.  Checking the job listing, they find that the Sect is looking for individuals to steal an experimental hyperdrive engine, and the prototype ship it's built into, from a shipyard on the planet Morganthus, in the red giant star cluster known as the Haunted Stars.  The offered pay is 11,000 credits (or about 8,800 Blue Bucks, given the current exchange rate on Alpha Blue).  

Seeing two other listings in their area, they take a quick look - the Egyptologists of Galactica are looking for a team to guard a dig-site from land developers (quickly rejected by Arden's distaste for sand), and the Robot Development Cartel wants a derelict ship orbiting a dead moon investigated.  After considering the second job, they decide to go with the Sect's offer.

Now they just need a ship to get to Morganthus.  

Trusty Davey Johnson puts in a call to his regular fuck-buddy in the Terra Nostra, a human named Jimmy Gay-Legs, offering to split the baggie of Thunderfuck Uranus and the use of a new, ahem, "attachment." Three hours later, Jimmy shows up in a space-limousine, looking like Joe Pesci wearing a Zardoz-style mankini and an orange polyester dinner jacket, his slender, shapely legs encased in thigh-high argyle socks with sock garters.  Davey takes him right there in the hallway, RoBoBot watching and typing encouragement into his own chest, a crowd soon gathering to bet on the outcome of the tryst.  An hour later, Davey rose triumphant, leaving Jimmy passed out in a pool of miscellaneous fluids.  

Piling into the space-limousine, Zora got behind the wheel and set a course for Morganthus.  In between the second and third hyperspace jump, Zora noticed the accelerator getting less responsive, the limo slowing down, and then moving backwards.  Looking in the rear-view, the group can see a trio of Squigs, vacuum-dwelling animals, have tagged the limo with lines of sticky silk, and are hauling the limo in to eat.  

Without space suits, the group can't disembark to fight the Squigs.  RoBoBot pops the trunk and climbs through the fold-down back seat into a gunner's compartment, picking up the limo's only shipboard weapon - resembling a giant tommy gun made by Apple, all white plastic and brushed chrome.  Firing, he blows one Squig off the chunk of meteor it was clinging to, sending it tumbling end over end and knocking into the second Squig, sending it tumbling as well.  Squeezing into the gunner's compartment, Davey awkwardly throws his Ultra-Glaive, lodging the five-pointed throwing star into the remaining Squig's face.  

The limo now slowly moving forward, the last Squig is using its line to pull itself in closer, rather than pull the ship to it.  Waiting until it gets real close, RoBoBot pulls the trigger at the last moment, evaporating the creature's head in a hail of bullets, the Ultra-Glaive returning to Davey's robot-claw.  

Arriving at Morganthus without further delay, they find the planet's atmosphere to be one giant, constant thunderstorm.  Zora maneuvers deftly through the clouds, dodging lightning bolts and looking cool while doing so.  Arden, with his psychic powers, and RoBoBot, with his Zedi training, reach out and find the location of the spaceyard, with RoBoBot even being able to determine that there's five guards watching over the prototype they're here to steal.  

Debating different methods of acquiring the prototype (including backing the limo into the yard at top speed and roasting the guards with the thruster exhaust), they settle on having Davey, Ajax and RoBoBot create a diversion while Arden and Zora, both of whom can make themselves functionally invisible in the pouring rain of Morganthus, sneak into the hangar bay.  

The "diversion" involves flying into the yard blasting techno rave music, and when a guard comes to investigate, Davey affects a Swedish accent and announces that they're lost on their way to a party, and would you like the party with us? Even the robots have to choke back bile as they see how unbearably hideous the natives of Morganthus are - camel spider heads on Wilt Chamberlain's body, dressed in blood-orange coveralls unzipped to reveal their massive pelts of matted chest hair.  Considering the offer, the first guard asks to buy 60 credits' worth of "Pink Floyd" off them.  Davey slips him a few grams of "Peter Frampton" instead - similar enough to Pink Floyd but with a soporific effect.  The guard snorts all three lines off a copy of "Frampton Comes Alive" on vinyl in one go, promptly overdosing, blue foam spilling from between his mandibles.  He struggles to pull his pistol from its holster and, failing, fires a blaster bolt through the bottom of the holster, disabling one of the limo's thruster pods before keeling over.  

Meanwhile, Zora strips naked to be able to go unseen, and Arden slithers across the ground in a flattened puddle.  Slipping under the hangar door, Arden sees the ship they're stealing for the first time - it looks like a chrome-plated velociraptor claw, fifty feet long and hovering in midair, point-down.  Four more guards stand around it, guns drawn.  Trying to telekinetically press the "open door" button to let Zora inside, he instead activates a nearby construction droid, essentially a bulldozer on legs.  As the guards try to keep the droid from walking straight into the ship, Arden trips the guard who races to the control panel to turn off the droid.  Opening the door, Zora sees the dazed guard on his knees and blows his brains out with her pulse rifle.  

The remaining guards, now realizing that the hangar is under attack, race towards the door to defend the ship.  Arden uses his telekinesis to disable the construction droid's Asimov Circuit, turning it into a Killdozer (the orange flashing light on its head now flashing a sinister red and a chainsaw arm emerging from a side panel).  The droid stomps purposefully after the guards.

RoBoBot hurls laser shuriken into two of the guards, and Davey puts on a terrifying display, screaming, whirling his head-dome around and almost erupting in various sexual attachments and mechanical aids.  Seeing this, the three guards turn around and run, blinded by panic to the Killdozer behind them.  Ajax screams and fires his phased plasma rifle, catching one guard right between the shoulder blades, the force of the blast hurling him bodily into the Killdozer's chainsaw.  The chainsaw makes short work of the second guard but jams, the chain clogged with guts and bits of exoskeleton.  Unperturbed, the Killdozer proceeds to stomp the remaining guard into paste.  

Arden goes to reflip the switch and turn off the Killdozer's homicidal tendencies, but hits the wrong button.  Everyone hears the Killdozer intone, "NITRO - INJECTORS - ENGAGED." The Killdozer runs towards the disabled space-limo, sending the characters scattering, Arden tackling a petrified Zora to the safety.  Trying to race past the Killdozer, Davey falls and breaks the single caster-wheel he's been rolling around on and starts pulling himself towards the prototype ship via his robot fingers.  Ajax slides under the Killdozer on his knees, firing up into its undercarriage ineffectively.  

Fortunately, the Killdozer trips as it slams into the limo, toppling over the now-crushed vehicle and kicking ineffectively, unable to get up on its own.  Seeing fuel dripping from the limo's cracked tank, RoBoBot throws a laser shuriken to try and ignite it...but misses, the shuriken embedding in the pavement a foot shy of the pooling space-gas.  

Everyone boards the new ship, with Arden and Zora barely making it aboard before the limo and Killdozer explode.  Zora plants her wet, bare ass on the vinyl pilot's seat, missing the clothes she left behind in the limo.  Getting a text on her MCCPhone (we won't question where she was carrying it), she discovers that Father Azaxyr expects her to kill her compatriots and bring the ship to the Citadel Planet of Arachne Prime.  There, her superiors will take the ship and use it to enter the black hole known as the Eye of S'syrah and commune with the Glass Spider in person.  

Realizing that the Templars of the Glass Spider are less Spider-Jesus and more Spider-ISIS, she makes the decision to defect, informing her compatriots of the intended double-cross.  They make the decision, based on claims in the owner's manual of this new ship being the single fastest in the universe, to set out on their own with it and forge their own destinies.  Feeling lost without the faith she was raised in, Zora finds a new power to believe in when Ajax, sponging the last of the David Bowie ashes off himself, feeds them into the ship's replicator and a perfect copy of David Bowie's genitalia flops out of the dispenser.  

As they're discussing how best to promote the Church of David Bowie's Penis to the masses, Ajax gets a text on his MCCPhone - his ex girlfriend, Satara Jo, has sent a photo of an ugly-ass koala looking baby with a toucan beak and a demand for child support payments.

***

So I have never laughed as hard as I did while running this session, and I've never had so much success with so little prep work; I planned out the job listings (using a Star Wars RPG mission generator), the opening scene in the lounge, and pre-rolled the features of the aliens guarding the prototype ship.  That was it.  Everything else was improvised and spun off of things the players said and did.  This was one of the best tables I've ever run for as well - everyone was engaged, everyone was in on the premise, and everyone got along, nobody felt the need to make the game about themselves or bring drama to the table.  The players had so much fun and enjoyed the atmosphere at the table so much that they've requested this become an ongoing campaign.