Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Believe in Venger Satanis

Venger Satanis of Kort'thalis Publishing, a heavy metal madman if there ever was one, is one of my all time favorite game writers and RPG personalities that I've encountered on this here Internet.  Lewd, crude, unafraid to jab a grimy finger in the face of banality, he's also one of the most generous, supportive and all-around good people I've met in the RPG community.  You may remember him from my reviews of How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss, Liberation of the Demon Slayer and Islands of the Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  I really ought to write up my thoughts on Revelry in Torth and Alpha Blue at some point, especially since I'm going to be running a one-shot of the latter in the near future as a palate-cleanser after running nothing but Cthulhu for almost a year.

His wife let him into bed with her and now they've got twins on the way, so Venger is squeezing out every last little bit of gaming material his brain can produce before the larvae arrive on the scene, hence his latest Kickstarter, the Trinity of Awesome.  Three short adventures, designed for systems of his own design but easily convertible, can be yours for the low, low price of $3.  At that price, even though I'm currently, technically on "hobby diet" and trying not to spend money on my hobbies for a few weeks (a few paychecks, more accurately), you bet your buns I backed this one.

10 days left if you want in on this as well!

A Time to Harvest Session 11: The Doom that Came to Cobb's Corners

Here we are, at what is probably the penultimate session of this campaign.  Here we wrapped up Chapter 5, and Chapter 6, the final chapter of the campaign, is a fairly short one, and I doubt it will require more than a single session to complete, which means the next session, taking place on October 4th, will be the last session of "A Time to Harvest" with my group.  It's been a long strange journey, hasn't it?

Dramatis Personae:

  • Perry Webster, journalism student (played by Dan)
  • Randall McNally, geography student (played by Sean; formerly Randall Vhloche, but Sean decided on a name change)
  • Roni, visiting Finn, history student (played by Katie)
  • Horace Hoadley, local laborer (played by Kai)
  • Levi Hoadley, local laborer (played by Mike)
When we last left our heroes, Perry and Roni had just laid down on alien operating tables, along with soldier Mack Hairpin, to await brain surgery at the claws of the Outer Ones.  Operating leisurely, the two Outer Ones deftly removed the top of Mack's skull and scooped his brain into a jar.  As they made ready to repeat the process on Perry, a third alien, buzzing and changing colors, entered the room.  Flashing and buzzing in response, one of the Old Ones ordered Perry and Roni to "remain where you are - there is no escape.  We will return momentarily."

As the three aliens left the room, Perry and Roni lifted the grate and jumped down into the same underground river that Randall had escaped into.  


Making their way up to the isolated farmhouse they worked at, the Hoadley brothers spotted a trio of bodies floating in the river.  Fishing them out, they quickly discovered them to be alive - Randall, Roni and Perry.  Agreeing to work together to deal with the threat of homicidal children in town, and to rescue the Hoadleys' mother, who lives in town, the five headed up to the farmhouse to "requisition" a steam-tractor and supplies.  Arming up and hitching a wagon to the tractor, they head to town.  

Cobb's Corners is, despite the rain, on fire, with people and tree-monsters silhouetted against the flames as they move back and forth.  Our heroes head first to the sheriff's office, which they find deserted, helping themselves to shotguns and a keg of black powder intended for the town's civil war-era cannon, fired every Fourth of July.  

Heading then to the town square, they find the town deputy, naked, sacrificing people atop an altar made from previous sacrifices, flanked by a pair of tree-monsters, hooting in unison.  A third stands guard over a collection of prisoners, including the sheriff, the school-teacher, and the Hoadleys' mother.  Overhead, darker-than-black clouds swirl ominously.  

Perry, Randall and Roni fired at the deputy, managing to pepper him with shot but not kill him immediately; Horace lept off the tractor, axe at the ready, to rescue his "momma" from the tree-monster; and as one of the hooting sentinels turned and lumbered towards them, Levi threw the tractor into gear and tried to build up enough steam to reach "ramming speed."

Horace sheared through the tree-monster's ankle (one of three, at any rate) and slid under the collapsing beast on his knees, coming out cleanly on the other side as it toppled, sending the prisoners scattering.  The steam-tractor rammed into the second tree-monster, and in its flailings it caught Perry with a tentacle and sent him flying twenty feet through the air.  

Unfortunately, the deputy lived long enough to complete the summoning ritual; the sky dilated open and hundreds of thousands of tons of black, alien flesh, studded with pus-rimmed eyes, salivating, sphincter-like maws and uncountable tentacles, began pouring into our reality, vaster than any dinosaur or whale that had ever lived.  Three enormous legs, each hundreds of feet long, stretched down, planting cloven hooves ten feet deep into the earth, crushing buildings, trees, concrete, anything in its way.  

Perry went violently mad at the sight of the thing, charging at Horace and blasting him away with a shotgun in his insanity; Levi responded by shooting Perry in the chest.  Randall took off running for the river.  Roni got crushed by a tentacle the size of a tanker truck.  Levi rigged the boiler on the tractor to explode and took off running for the river.  

All in all, a good session.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Paint Table Saturday

Nothing much going on here on the painting front; I've been slowly applying base coats to my Foundry Valkyries; I'm trying out basecoating everything on each figure before applying any highlights to anything.  The overall color scheme for this warband is going to be ultramarine blue and white.

The plan is the basecoat everything, do all the touch ups needed, then start highlighting.  I'm spending this weekend alternating between this and a writing project so we'll see what gets done.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I Want War Elephants

You know what doesn't seem to exist in my neck of the woods? Historical wargaming, of the "paint some minis and push them around the table" model.  There are groups who meet to play board games recreating historical conflicts, sure, but I like the pageantry of a table with terrain and collections of painted figures.  28mm fantasy and science fiction skirmish gaming seems to rule the wargaming roost around here, and while I'm certainly not against that (seeing as how I have four Frostgrave warbands), there's an itch that can only be scratched with units, ranked deep, that have a story behind them, a layer of reality behind the painted metal and plastic.

So I got to thinking, and I came up with a plan.  I have no idea yet how well it will go, or if it will prove to be a colossal sink of time and money with no return.  Time will tell.  I want to put on a big demonstration game at a convention, with two big painted armies, recreating a famous historical battle.  I want there to be an element of spectacle, something that draws in passerby - and then I hook them, offering them command of a regiment or two for however many turns they feel like playing, giving them a taste of historical wargaming, that playing with toy soldiers can be fun without pretending to cast spells or fielding mythological monsters.

First step then, is to pick a battle.  I decided to focus on two key elements in selecting a battle to refight: Spectacle and Familiarity.  Spectacle, something about the battle should be eye-catching and lure people in as they walk by.  Familiarity, something about the battle should ring a bell, even to non-historians.  Some ideas I tossed around:

  • Kadesh 1274 BCE: The massed chariots of Ramses II and the Hittite King Muwatallish would be very eye-catching, and Ancient Egypt is a perennially popular subject.
  • "The Trojan War": Mycenean Greeks versus Trojans, perhaps with a big wall ("Troy") along one table edge.  Wooden horse is optional; sieges, I think, are boring to play.  
  • Thermopylae, 480 BCE: Has some cultural cachet still lingering from the Frank Miller graphic novel and its associated film, but I don't know if "OK, you're the Spartans, let's see how many turns you survive" would be fun for anybody.  
  • Plataea, 479 BCE: Almost all the perks of Thermopylae, without the guarantee of "Spartans, you're going to lose, it's just a matter of how long you last."
  • Gaugamela, 331 BCE: Alexander the Great has name recognition value for sure, and I think most people who would be at a gaming convention would be at least vaguely aware of "the Persian Empire," even if they don't know why there aren't war-rhinos and guys throwing bombs on the table.  Refighting the battle that was, historically, the death-knell of an empire and having the opportunity to change history might be a good hook.  
  • Hydaspes, 326 BCE: Alexander the Great again, this time trying to invade India and running into a crapload of brightly-caparisoned war elephants under the command of King Porus, giving a great balance of name recognition and spectacle.  
I think I'm leaning most strongly towards the Battle of Hydaspes; Alexander the Great is well-known enough to be a hook, a line of elephants advancing across the table is a visual hook, plus this was the last big battle of Alexander's career; not long thereafter his men forced him to turn back rather than continue on into India, and the battle was, from what I've read, a very close one.

As apprehensive as I feel about painting the brightly-dressed Achaemenid Persians, if Hydaspes goes well I may refight Gaugamela at a subsequent convention.  Darius fielded not just war elephants, but scythed chariots at that battle, which would be a draw I think.  

Next step is deciding on a ruleset.  I knew I wanted something that's easy to learn and to teach, with minimal granularity and plenty of dice rolling.  This was actually the easy part - Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming is simple and straight-forward, without too many frills or complexities to remember, while allowing for tactics and maneuvering.  Plus, rolling handfuls of six-sided dice!

Because I'm likely insane to be taking on this project in the first place, why not go all in and have custom six-siders printed for the demonstration game? Do a big bag of "Alexander" dice with a Vergina Sun in place of the 6, and then a bag of "Porus" dice with...well, not a swastika, since that's taken on some unsavory connotations in the last century, but maybe a silhouette of an elephant? Big bag of each and then participants can keep one when they leave, because gamers love getting souvenirs from games they play in at conventions.  

Step three is going to be selecting figures, and I think I'm already there.  There's no way I can do this in 28mm and not empty my bank account in the process, plus the difficulties of storing large figures like that.  And 15mm-scale, I'm concerned, will be too small on the tabletop to be properly eye-catching.  Enter the 20mm, or 1/72 scale, plastics.  I've been combing through the Plastic Soldier Review site, and think I'm pretty well settled on HaT Industries' figures - you get 48+ figures per infantry box, the sculpts are good if not wildly exciting, and they have extensive lines of both Macedonians and Indians.  I'll likely be supplementing the Macedonians with figures from Zvezda's line of 1/72 scale figures.  

I've been discussing this with a few people over on the AMW Yahoo! Group, most notably Trebian from Wargaming for Grown-ups, who has done very similar things with the Ancient & Medieval Wargaming rules and 20mm plastic figures.  Because HaT does not supply spears for many of their figures (as it would be difficult to mold things like the 20-foot long Macedonian sarissa and have them come out well), I had been dreading slightly the prospect of carefully trimming florist wire or plastic broom bristles to length, but Trebian has suggested using pins with the heads trimmed off, and as best I can reckon it, a 3" pin would be just about the right length in scale for a sarissa.  

I'm looking at doing the purchasing and painting of figures in two stages; first, getting enough of each to field legal 8-unit armies, the standard for AMW, and use these to strengthen my familiarity with the rules.  Once I'm confident with that, then I can begin expanding; I think I want to run the demonstration game as a double-strength game, with 16 or more units on each side, and a few tweaks to the Indian list - Neil Thomas only allows for bow-armed infantry, while the HaT Indian Infantry box also comes with javelinists, hill tribesmen and a female bodyguard, so I'll be figuring out stats for each of them.

So where am I planning to put this game on? Initially I was thinking next year's Queen City Conquest, but have been worrying about this ending poorly for me - I can imagine putting in the time and effort and ending up sitting alone in a room with the figures I put in ages of work on.  So we shall see.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

Queen City Conquest 2016

This past weekend I was in attendance at Queen City Conquest in Buffalo, New York; this is the show's fifth year, I believe, and my second year in attendance.  This year, like last year, I was there for Saturday only; and again, I ran two Call of Cthulhu sessions more or less back to back, with a dinner break in between.  I'm not going to do detailed write-ups of how the sessions went, because by the end of the second one I'd been awake for going on 20 hours and they're already getting a bit fuzzy to me; instead, I'll do a write up of my overall con experience.

Our story begins with me stopping in at Wegman's, my local grocery chain, to buy snacks to distribute.  When I'm running a game, I see myself as host and my players as guests, regardless of venue, and I think it's a nice gesture to provide snacks.  My plan was to hit up the bulk candy aisle and fill up a bag with gummi candy octopuses; what could be more appropriate for Cthulhu, yes?

I get to the bulk candy aisle, and there's two sorority girls (they were wearing Greek letters; honestly, I'm at the point where everybody under the age of 25 looks like they're 12 to me) emptying the gummi octopus bin into a bag.

Girls, there is nothing you need those gummi octopuses for more than I need them, okay?

So casting about, I grab two packages of Halloween Oreo cookies.  This will do.

The drive in is uneventful; I drive past the Buffalo Convention Center where the convention is being held, heading for the nearest parking lot.  I pull in, and am told by the attendant, "Sorry, the last spot just filled, you'll have to find someplace else to park."

Pull into the next lot; the attendant says it's $5, cash only, to park.  I don't have cash on me.  He says, "Whatever, just park there anyways.  They aren't paying me enough to care." So I ended up with free parking for the event.

Queen City Conquest is not a huge convention, but it feels big to me.  I think about 400 people go through the door over the course of the weekend.  This year, QCC was sharing the Buffalo Convention Center with some sort of crossfit/gym-junkie convention, which was pretty funny to me.

Both my sessions this time around were run under the banner of Rogue Cthulhu, an organization based out of Ohio that organizes convention games of Call of Cthulhu; my friends Rich and Heather, who have been playing in my games at Running GAGG pretty consistently for years, are working to expand Rogue Cthulhu into the Western New York region, beginning with this year's Queen City Conquest, and I was more than happy to work with them on this.

For my first game, from 1pm to 5pm, I ran The Derelict again, Chaosium's Free RPG Day 2016 offering.  Having discussed the adventure not too long ago with Sean, one of my regular players who also GMs occasionally, we hit on something that had felt off to me previously; the monster in the scenario carries a gigantic bow and arrows of unknown manufacture, which doesn't feel very Mythos-y to me.  Additionally, the pregenerated characters provided with the PDF of the scenario have some elements to them that don't quite work with the scenario as written - they've all got military connections and guns, for starters, but the thing that's been a thorn in my side is a note in one character's background - that they were told the derelict freighter would be there, and that they should retrieve the contents of the captain's safe.

There is no reference to a safe in the scenario, much less mysterious contents.

So I decided to do some rewriting, to revise the monster, tie the scenario in more strongly to the semi-connected "Cthulhu Mythos" of the RPG, and create an interesting something in the captain's safe.  After playing around with various slug- and worm-like ideas in my sketchbook, I came up with a revised monster that I felt confident in - a fat, wattled worm-creature that dragged itself along on two stubby, webbed arms with a one-eyed, slug-like face and a tongue it could project like a chameleon's, only tipped in a sharp barb; this would replace the bow and arrow as the creature's primary weapon.

I tied this creature in to Lovecraft's short story "The Temple," and more specifically to "Gloon," a worm-like entity with a strange connection to certain Greek-style statues; Gloon is, as far as I know, wholly a creation of the RPG.  I placed a Gloon-connected piece of statuary in the captain's safe, noted in the captain's log (which the investigators in this case never got a chance to read) the statue's origin, and sent the creature to retrieve the statue and kill the unbelievers handling it.

The scenario moved at a leisurely pace, ratcheting up the creep factor; the players decided to head
my set up for the 1pm game
straight to the radio room upon boarding the derelict freighter, rather than explore as they went, so the creature slept through a good portion of the scenario before rousing itself to menace them; the players worked themselves up over finding the mangled remains of crewmembers and damage to the ship's controls and radio room, desperately trying to figure out what had happened.  They did retrieve the statue, having visions of Atlantis as they handled it, which woke the monster up from it's post-binge eating nap in the hold.

Ultimately, the creature killed four of the six investigators; one got impaled through the chest on the tongue-tentacle, the second survived an impalement through the thigh only to be killed when another investigator dropped a molotov cocktail on them; the third got impaled through the head, and the fourth, now obsessed with the strange statue, was dragged under water and drowned when he refused to release his hold on it.

We had one new player and three who had played in one of my games at last year's QCC; two scheduled players weren't able to make it but Rich and Heather were able to jump in.  I really liked the changes I made, and while the characters never learned the origin of the statue or the monster, at least one of the players looked at me and went, "This is from Lovecraft's 'The Temple,' isn't it?" so the connection was not lost.

I had dinner with my sister and her boyfriend at the Pearl Street Grill, a short walk from the convention center, and I'm pretty sure I had the same thing I had last year - a bacon cheeseburger topped with onion rings, cooked medium, side of fries.  Below the Pearl Street Grill is a wonderful little place called Brawler's Deli - I was treated to lunch there by my coworkers the day I left my job at HSBC bank, the day before I moved to Rochester.  Giant, meat-filled sandwiches.  Unfortunately they're closed on weekends, otherwise I would have insisted on a pastrami on rye from Brawler's.  But I digress.

On the way back from dinner, I stopped at my car and grabbed the Oreos, which I forgot to bring in when I brought all my game stuff; as such, I placed one package of Oreos on my table, and one the next table over, where Heather was running a very dark, somber WWII-era Call of Cthulhu scenario.  This was quite a contrast from my 7pm adventure, "The Haunting of De Morcey House," which began life as an attempt to update the classic scenario "The Haunting" to the modern day.  I used a team of fraudulent TV ghost-hunters as investigators, brought in elements from M.R. James' short stories "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" and "The Casting of the Runes," and replaced the lich in the basement with a Crawling One, a wizard's personality and intellect transferred to the worms that ate his corpse.  Finally, I brought in a few touches from an episode of the TV show "Supernatural," specifically one dealing with the "Ghost-Facers," a group of inept ghost hunters trying to get a TV deal.

Two of my players from the earlier session returned for this one, and I think the other four players were either completely new to Call of Cthulhu or hadn't played it in years.  It ended up being a fairly light-hearted scenario, even as they were attacked by swarms of rats and pelted with exploding china cabinets.  Sanity was nickel-and-dimed away by so many "small" events, and then the final reveal when the Crawling One boiled up out of the ground, plus the discovery of a crystalline idol of the Great Old One Yibb-Tstll, really cracked some brains.  The Crawling One blasted two investigators out of existence with castings of the Shrivelling spell, and a third player, having lost almost half his sanity in one failed roll after being granted a vision of Yibb-Tstll in the flesh, woke up three days later, two towns over with no memory of who he was or how he got there.

As an added bonus, one of the new players had recently taken a cryptography and code-breaking class - and so when they discovered the coded message hidden in the stained glass window, he was able to solve the code without needing me to give any help.  An unexpected use for a class he took as an elective, to be sure.

Both scenarios basically took of their entire time slots, which took me by surprise; I had anticipated them both running about three hours, but The Derelict ran for three hours and thirty-seven minutes, while The Haunting of De Morcey House ran three hours and fifty minutes.

I didn't end up buying anything at any of the vendor tables at QCC this year - nothing really jumped out at me, and I didn't want to buy something just for the sake of buying something.  I was surprised to see no miniatures for sale anywhere - one vendor had a couple boxes of ships for the "X-Wing" fleet battles game, but that was it.  I did get a T-shirt with the con logo on it, but I'm not sure I'll get to wear it - I think Gina has already declared it "soft" and thus claimed it.

The drive home wasn't too bad, but I definitely wasn't caffeinated enough - next year I either need to not do an evening game or make arrangements to spend the night in Buffalo, but I'm not sure I was really good to drive home - my eyelids were dangerously heavy.  But overall it was a good show and I'm looking forward to next year's show.

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Time to Harvest Session 10: Cataclysm!

We had a very eventful session this week, and one that I'm happy to report that players referred to as a "nail-biter" and "tense" - good! That means I'm doing my job as GM.  Things are getting bad in the campaign world, and the players are realizing and reacting to that.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Perry Webster (played by Dan), journalism student
  • Darren Gray (played by Mike), engineering student
  • Randall Vhloche (played by Sean), geography student
  • Roni (played by Katie), history student
  • Mack Hairpin (played by Dave), soldier
The giant, gelatinous tree-horror had just swallowed Nick Jackson whole, and grabbed Drs. Drake and Matherson.  Bullets passed ineffectively through its soft flesh.  With a roar, an on-fire pick-up truck barreled into the clearing, the driver bailing out at the last minute as the truck slammed into the creature.  With a scream of pain, the thing turned and began to shamble away into the woods.  A thrown grenade seemed to stagger the creature, causing it to drop Dr. Matherson.  

A moment's investigation showed that Dr. Matherson did not survive the blast of the grenade and the twenty-foot drop to the ground when the creature released her.  

With the driver of the truck, a soldier named Mack Hairpin from the FOC military camp, joining them, they gave chase to the creature even as the rain began to come down more heavily, following the trail of barrel-sized footprints and puddles of viscous, greenish blood.  They found the creature pacing back and forth over a ten-foot area on the side of Broken Hill, and split up to try and surround it.  Roni stepped on a twig loudly, and the creature began shambling in his direction; Randall used the opportunity to get close to where the creature was, realizing that it was guarding a trapezoidal cave entrance.  Randall dropped four grenades into the cave and took off running.  

When the grenades went off, Mack charged the creature with his Tommy Gun blazing, getting hit and thrown twenty feet through the air by one of its tentacles in the process.  The creature, unfazed, began to march towards town.  Mack revealed that four more of these creatures, as well as a swarm of the Outer Ones, had descended on the military camp right before he fled.

The investigators debated this, and decided to head towards the military camp to look for survivors and supplies.  What they found was a massacre; men torn to shreds, men trampled into the mud, hanging limp from the branches of nearby trees.  Some men were even frozen and shattered into pieces.  They were all disturbed by this scene, Roni especially.  Feeling his skin begin to crawl and feeling trapped and suffocated in his clothes, Roni was compelled to strip down just to be able to breathe.

They found one survivor, a young man named Teddy Hobson, half-frozen, his legs and left arm shattered.  He looked up at Randall, managed to stammer out about the trees coming to life and a swarm of "big bugs" attacking them with guns that froze, and then his gaze drifted down to the fragmentary remains of his legs.  Hollow-eyed, he looked up again at Randall, shaking.  Filling a syringe with morphine, Randall delivered oblivion to the poor man, holding him as he died to give him a comforting final illusion that he would not be alone.

[GM's Note: This was one of the most powerful scenes I've ever run in my career as a GM.]

Debating whether to follow the tree-creatures - of which they know there is at least five, and nothing short of ramming with a truck seemed to injure - into Cobb's Corners, or whether to return to Broken Hill and look for another entrance into the caves, the investigators decided to pursue the second course of action - they knew that the Outer Ones could be killed.

Returning to Broken Hill as the rain increased in intensity, the sky beginning to flicker with the occasional flash of lightning, they began to circle the hill, looking for signs of a secondary entrance.  While doing so, they caught sight of a squadron of five Outer Ones - a stockier, more heavily-built variation then they had seen before - winging towards them.  They tried to take them out with grenades and rifle-fire, but between the swiftly-moving targets and the storm they failed to do so.

Landing, the lead Outer One commanded the investigators to lay down their arms, flanked by a pair of creatures armed with silvery devices that resembled elongated french horns.  The investigators lay down their firearms, holding on to their collections of grenades, and Darren kept the Electric Gun he had taken from "Professor Harrold"/Daphne Devine in his pocket.

Seizing the investigators, the Outer Ones flapped and took off, flying their captives to nearby Round Hill, alighting with them in front of a cave entrance.  The investigators were marched inside and directed to a surgical suite - metal grates over disposal tubes in the floor echoed with the sound of rushing water, the walls lined with racks of strange instruments, a nearby tub in which Outer One limbs and organs twitched with partial life, floating suspended in a pinkish fluid.  A circle of adjustable tables occupied the center of the room, and the investigators were directed to lay down on these.

Panicked, Randall pulled the pin on a grenade (keeping the lever held firmly in place) and made a dash for the nearest grate, lifting it up and diving down, preferring to take his chances in the waters below than in the Outer Ones' control.  Mack tried to wrestle one of the strange "guns" from one of the creatures, and narrowly avoided being beaten with the butt of it.

Darren pulled the Electric Gun from his pocket and tried to activate it, without success.  At the sight of a human holding a piece of their technology, the other armed Outer One turned its weapon on him, firing a blue-white beam.  The blast took Darren square in the chest and enveloped him, freezing him solid in an instant, killing him before he knew he was hit.

[GM's Note: as written, Mi-Go Mist Projectors produce a quickly-spreading line of freezing vapor, five feet wide.  I decided mine would be adjustable.]

At the sight of this, Roni, Perry and Mack situated themselves atop the tables.  "What are you going to do with us?" Roni asked.

"How would you like life eternal?" the creature buzzed in response.


Tomorrow I'm going to be in Buffalo for the day, running two sessions of Cthulhu back to back at Queen City Conquest.  If you see me, come say hi!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Two More Frostgrave Warbands in the Works

Because it's not enough for me to tweak and improve my Summoner warband, right? I need a few more warbands as well.  I look at it as, if we're playing at the club and someone walks up and shows interest, I can hand them some figures and they can hop right in.

First up, the Choosers of the Slain, an Elementalist Warband:

The Wizard is Reaper's Ice Queen, while the rest of the warband is composed of Wargames Foundry Valkyries. I bought the Foundry figures on sale last Christmas, and it took them a month and a half to reach me.  A couple of the figures were miscast as well, with not enough metal entering the molds - I had a couple girls whose swords stopped at the hilt, and one of my fat ladies is supposed to have a spear but ended up with a staff instead.  No matter, really; I salvaged enough to make up my force.  Honestly at that point I was just so relieved to have received them at all that I didn't want to deal with trying to ship anything back!

Also, I'm excited to get to paint a couple of well-fed Scandinavian ladies.  Outside of Hasslefree, there aren't too many "plus-sized" female figures on the market.

Next up, the Cult of Set, which will be a Witch warband:

These figures are all from Dark Fable - I backed their recent Cult of Set kickstarter and got a couple packs of cultists and, as a returning backer, was entitled to a figure that was quite obviously James Earl Jones' character from 1982's CONAN THE BARBARIAN, slightly Egyptian-ized.  He'll be my Wizard, with a cultist holding a book and staff as his apprentice.  The other Cultists will be Thieves, and I bought a pack of Eunuch Guards to give me my Infantrymen.  I still need to get an Archer of some description to round out the band and finish off my points, but I haven't decided on a figure yet; nothing in Reaper's lines is really jumping out at me, it's a bit too pricy to order a pack from Dark Fable for a single figure, and I'm waiting for Crocodile Games' Archer Captain to come back into stock.

So if anyone out there has an extra Egyptian archer in 28mm they can part with, I might be willing to take them off your hands :)

These figures all came with 20mm plastic "slotta bases" - which I utterly can't stand, because the tabs never fit into the slots well at all.  I recently bought a lovely set of sprue-cutters and they clipped the tabs off these figures' feet like it was nothing at all, allowing me to glue them to my preferred Renedra flat plastic 25mm round bases.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Monthly Madness: The Devil is in the Details, Part 1

Saturday night I ran a one-shot at Just Games, a scenario penned by Oscar Rios for Chaosium's now-defunct monograph line.  We actually didn't quite finish the scenario, so we'll be reconvening sometime soon to finish the adventure.  Two players were not only new to my table, but new to Call of Cthulhu entirely, and I'm pleased to report they had a great time.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Professor Hossam Ramsey, Egyptologist (played by Sean)
  • Sherman Rosenbaum, Accountant (played by Katie)
  • Lois Newberry, Secretary (played by Jessica)
  • Malcolm Rhodes, Rare Book Dealer (played by Travis)
Accompanying them, as NPCs:
  • Paul Doucet, Antiquarian
  • Mahira Najii, student intern to Professor Ramsey

Employees of Wallace's Antiques & Collectibles (with the Professor and Mahira being newly-hired consultants), they've been sent on a week-long "working vacation" to Birch Springs, a little summer getaway town in the Catskills.  Here, they're staying at the Davidson estate, a Victorian-style summer home that's been sitting empty for five years until Fred Wallace bought the place cheap, fully furnished, hoping to turn a profit on the contents - the Davidson's were known as collectors of exotic goods from around the world, especially the Near East.  Wallace would be supervising their efforts to catalog and appraise the contents of the house, and their meals would be provided by a hired cook.  If it wasn't February, it'd be a wonderful week.  

Upon arriving, they discovered that Wallace had brought a "niece" with him, the sort that's young, fashionable, and only comes to visit when Mrs. Wallace is away.  After lunch, they get to work; Dr. Ramsey soon discovers evidence of a secret door in the library, while Malcolm notices a concrete obelisk 300 yards from the house, half-hidden in the trees at the edge of the property.  Examination of the obelisk reveals it to be of recent construction, covered in a mixture of Arabic writing and Egyptian hieroglyphics.  Dr. Ramsey and Mahira confirm that the carvings on this obelisk make up about one-fifth of a binding or protective spell; they suspect four more such pillars must exist around the property to comprise the rest of the spell.  They don't manage to open the secret door, and the rest of the day passes uneventfully.  

During the night, Malcolm is awoken by the sound of tiny bells and the smell of honey and sandalwood.  Opening his eyes, he sees a beautiful Arabic woman, dressed in veils and not much else, standing near the foot of his bed.  She beckons to him, and then disappears when he declines.  The smell of honey and sandalwood lingers for about ten minutes after she vanishes.  

The next day begins with "Kitten," Wallace's girlfriend, skipping breakfast to sleep in.  A few hour later, Irma, the cook's daughter, goes missing, and Wallace finds a note from "Kitten" explaining she'd left for New York, having had Irma drive her to Birch Springs.  Irma, it turns out, does not have a license and even if she did, the mountain roads and drifting snow would make for a dangerous drive.  

Lois eventually finds the key to the secret door, in a lock box under a loose floorboard in the master bedroom.  Alongside it are a .32 revolver, a box of bullets, a stack of nude photos, a roll of $20 bills and a battered notebook.  

Reading the notebook, they learn that Reggie Davidson, the last resident of the house, tried to summon something, using a spell found in Arabic scrolls, to avenge himself on the lawyers and creditors that hounded him.  Something went wrong, however, and whatever he summoned attacked him, ultimately being responsible for his death in 1923.  Whatever it is is still in the they come to this realization, the power goes out.

Investigating the generator, they discover the handyman half-decapitated and the gasoline cans emptied down a drain.  Racing upstairs to check with Wallace, they barely have time to tell him what they saw before a purplish cloud wells up behind him, manifesting a series of barbed tentacles.  Wallace is dead before he hits the ground, and the investigators take off running for the secret room.  Terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought at the sight of this thing, Malcolm took off running outside, into the deepening snow.  

[GM's Note: I goofed here.  Wallace was supposed to die before the power went out.]

Locking themselves into the secret room, they surveyed the interior; shelves of jars and vials contained various liquids and powders, bookcases overflowing with occult texts, some sort of chemistry set, a case of scrolls and a workbench.  Dr. Ramsey and Mahira began investigating the scrolls, finding them to be a remarkably intact Arabic copy of the Al Azif, a book better known by its Greek translation - the Necronomicon! Sherman and Lois began poring over a notebook on the workbench, finding it to be Reggie's translation of certain scrolls within the Al Azif.  Cross-referencing them, Dr. Ramsey quickly confirms Reggie's translations to be seriously flawed, and that instead of the harmless "mist spirit" he'd tried to summon as a test of his skills, he called up instead a very dangerous entity known as a Jinniyah.

Malcolm, returning to his senses, reentered the house, realizing the snow was falling too fast and piling up too deep to safely make it back to town.  Joining the other investigators, he began examining some of the occult texts with Paul, discovering some more information on the Jinniyah - including how it could be bound within an enchanted glass bottle.  Using this information, Dr. Ramsey was able to find the spells to create such a bottle, and summon a Jinniyah into it, within the Al Azif.  

As they began discussing the possibility of casting these spells, a purple smoke began to seep into the room, forming itself into a beautiful Arabic woman.  She bowed slightly, and said in Arabic, "I have been listening to you for the past several hours as you've researched.  We can do this the simple way, or the difficult way."

Dr. Ramsey urged Lois, Mahira and Sherman to begin gathering the ingredients to make the ink, and began trying to question the Jinniyah to buy them time.  She simply shook her head and repeated her question.

And then Malcolm, .32 revolver in hand, fired three shots at her in quick succession.  

This is where we had to leave off for the night, as the store was closing and we had to clear out.  We're working on figuring out another time to reconvene and finish off the scenario.