Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chicken Joe!

Ain't this little alien civilian nice?  He's yet another figure.  He was cheap and fun, so he got tossed into the basket of my last fantasy purchase.  He made for a nice palette cleanser after all of this year's fantasy.

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Wizard Time

Nothing like a pair of bright and colorful wizards to add a little flair to the collection. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Kind of Dog and Pony Show

What kind of dog and pony show?  The kind without dogs.  These two packhorses are from  They come one each in their adventurer's packs.  As you can tell, I've got two adventurer's packs to paint.  The thief is from that same pack.

Here is a comparison shot of the same figure with two 10mm pack horses from Pendraken. 

And here is a group shot of all of them together.  My plan is to use all four to varying extents.  The 10mm figures look like ponies or maybe even donkeys or mules.  The larger ones are obviously full grown horses.  With this lot I've got a nice little caravan perfect for those longer expeditions to the lost city of Cynidicea.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hero Time!

In addition to the previously shown mercenaries, players wanting a run through Castle Meatgrinder will have plenty of elves, dwarves, and human heroes of both sexes to choose from.  The painting of these will take a little longer, as I've been painting in groups of two to four at a time, and so we'll take a look at each set as they are completed.
All of these heroes are from's adventurers pack.  You get a dozen figures, plus a pack horse, which you'll see on Wednesday.  The first batch includes four thieves.  From right to left we see a female ranger style scout, a black cloaked bog standard thief, a video-game themed assassin, and a Conan pastiche.  Hey - Conan was the King of Thieves, he counts as one today!

And the back shot, just for completion.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Quick Hit - Last Familiar

The Reaper Bones familiar pack comes with this fun little quetzlcoatl.  He should make a nice little prankster-elf style NPC for the players to interact with.  Probably a wandering monster in the halls.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Little Something From The Closet

The undead inhabitants of Castle Meatgrinder consist mainly of skeletons from  These are really sharp figures that their website just doesn't do justice.  You'll want to check out the big versions of these pictures, these smaller icons lose a lot of their character.
Just zombies and skeletons makes the tomb level of Castle Meatgrinder pretty weak sauce, but the leveling rate of Moldvay Basic is pretty slow, so there will be plenty of time to add in mummies, wraiths, and other fun ghastly things later.

The death cult pack of figures from Rap Partha Europe also includes these three zombie looking fellows.  Since the cult in Castle Meatgrinder is dedicated to the dungeongod and not necessarily to any sort of necromancy, it made more sense to me to throw these into the tomb with the above.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Religion in Castle Meatgrinder

So there you are, five levels deep in the bowels of a physical manifestation of the raw forces of chaos, beset by creatures bizarre and malicious, low on spells with not even a half a pack of cigarettes nor a full tank of gas.  There are no atheists in foxholes of the mythic underworld phenotype, so you need yourself a god on whom you can call.

Ah, that conundrum as old as the game itself.  The default pseudo-medieval/dark age setting calls out for a Christianity analog, but a fantasy world with an explicit visitation by our Lord and Savior potentially raises the fun-killing specter of idle speculation about what Christ Dying on a Fantasy Cross means for the fantasy world and for our world.  The strictly agnostic basic rules allow for everything from paganism to pantheism to polytheism, and of course, monotheism.  It's a great cop out that leaves the concepts of Paladins and holy warriors in general bereft of the deeper magic that gives them such punch and import in the literature.  At the same time, the baseline rules leave in such explicitly Christian concepts as devils and angels and posits a wonky kitchen-sink cosmology that solves the problem with a decidedly non-Occam's razoresque solution that resembles the epicycle explanations of orbital mechanics.  Put more simply, by getting the center wrong, the mechanics of the system become needlessly complex.

Good old Pete, architect of Felltower, uses an appropriately hand wavey explanation of "The Good God", who is God as we know it in all but name and actual practice.  It's a great way of forcing the tone to stay light while steering a course close enough to the historical inspiration for medieval fantasy settings without hitting the Two-Jesuses Icberg.  It solves the problem, but leaves things (at least in Peter's re-tellings) a bit bland.

Castle Meatgrinder uses Felltower's implicit Christian faith, but takes the next step and makes the Christian setting explicitly implicit.

Wait, what?

It's explicitly implicit.

The general faith is called The Faith.  That's perhaps an odd misnomer when you consider that it doesn't take much faith to believe in a god whose followers routinely cure diseases and call forth fire from the heavens.  Oh man, see how easy it is to fall into the overanalysis.  It's The Faith, it just is.  Go with it, already.

As in the real world, there are many names and titles for the guy who gave his life to absolve others  of sun, such as The Great Martyr, the Savior, our Holy Lord, and The Shephard.  The Good Book is also known by its many editions: the Holy Book, the Collected Scriptures, the Word of God, all are appropriately vague enough for a fantasy setting.  And while Christ is never mentioned explicitly, His titles all heavily imply that, yeah, it's that guy.  A few more examples:

  • Saint Suggestimus of the Divine Allusion
  • The Chapel of the Holy Innuendo
  • Blessed Mother of the Implication
  • Sepulcher of the Eternal Elbow Nudge

This open call to puns serves a subtle but important dual role at the table.  It keeps the focus of the game on a medieval/dark age European setting, which saves a lot of time as it guarantees that everyone at the table can approach the game with the same basic default understanding of how religion in the game works.  More importantly, it keeps the setting light - it's an open call-to-pun after all - and encourages the players to jump right in and add to the lore of the Church of You-Know-Who.

You don't have to go that far down the road of explicit implications, if players want to keep things a little more serious, they can just leave it at The Savior and the Good Book.  But this opens the door to keeping something very serious and central to medieval life in the game, something that resonates deeply in our souls and adds some wieght to the game, but it does so in a way that keeps things at the table fairly light-hearted.

It also let's us leave the serious religious discussion where it belongs, and where it can be dealt with using the sort of deep introspection and gravity it deserves.  You know, like Twitter.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Dem Bones

These three chubby and whimsical demons are from Bones' Hordeling Spure (#77335), thank you for the sculpts, B. Ridolfi.  The shading on these guys really came out great; I think I'm getting the hang of washes at this scale.

As you can see, these three brothers are actually taller than most men, or would be if they'd stop that slouching.  You can tell they didn't go to Catholic School or Sister Maureen would have knocked that out of them early. The guy on the left in particular wants to stare at the ground thanks to the soft plastic sculpt, but that's okay.  It adds to the creep factor.

At this point there are no real plans for these guys, they may be summoned by a wandering wizard or guarding something the Mad Wizard doesn't want PCs putting their grubby little fingers all over.  We'll figure something out.

Friday, August 5, 2016

World's First D&D Actual Play Podcast

Have you seen this?  Jon Petersen, of Playing at the World fame, dug up the demo tape for a short, semi-actual play session that was recorded way back in the earliest days of D&D.  It's not really a podcast - such a term hadn't even been invented yet - but more of a radio play slash gaming session.  That description doesn't do it justice; it is a heavily produced and edited radio play that clearly is taken from an actual play session.  Some of the things the characters do could only have been done by actual players sitting at a table doing exactly the sort of things that make a DM wonder if they are serious or if they are just messing with him.

It's short, less than a half-hour, and the quality isn't great, but it's well worth a listen for anyone who enjoyed the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Old Man Looks at

For the most part, the things I review or talk about are those that excite me enough to sit down at the keyboard.  That means most of my posts are about things that I like, and that's a lot of things.  I like liking things.

That's not always the case, though.  At the risk of sounding like a ranty old fuddy-duddy troll, there's a trend I've noticed of games that just don't look at all appealing.  The blandly named Darkness Sabotage is one such game.  Let's get cynical and self-deprecating about it for a bit, shall we?

There seems to be a trend out there for big box co-op board games with enormous figures, massive amounts of equipment, and hefty price tags.  The latest offering to cross my awareness is the beast that is Darkness Sabotage, the Boardgame.  The backstory is something about 4 to 6 pirates(?) looting a chaos-hellship(?).  It's hard to tell from the KickStarter what's going on there, they seem to want the characters to be dark and brooding anti-heroes and heroic attack-the-gates-of-hell types at the same time.

Honestly, with concept art like this...
...and a strong suspicion that none of the figures in the box are built to scale with anything else on the tabletop, it doesn't really matter.  The clumsy poses, the weird balance, the odd choices for detailing, and the general 'feel' of the game just rubs me the wrong way top to bottom.  Even the strangely distended anatomy hurts my eyes, and I'm a guy that likes the impossible bone structure of your standard Space Marine.  The makers of this project seem to be trying so hard for each figure to look awesome, that they forgot to make them look good. 

Then there's the mess of accouterments needed to play the game.  Twenty dice in two different styles, countless cards, counters, and chits, and your bog-standard chaos style enemies with various special abilities seems way over the top.  If you need all those sub-systems to craft a decent game maybe you need to sit down and re-think the game's concept.  It worked in 1970's games because we didn't know any better, and it works in the OSR RPGs because that's a very different play style paradigm.  Here it just makes the prospect of picking up the rules make me tired.  I'm already a tired old man looking up at the chalk writing on the ceiling rafters and mentally measuring the rope, don't encourage me.

Then there's the recent trend towards multi-player, but co-op against the game, style games of which this is a proud member.  So it takes multiple players to beat the artificial system behind the game.  Every co-op game that I've played wound up feeling like I was playing solitaire, but in a way that forced me to jostle somebody else's elbows and wait until flipping over the next card.  This game could break that mold, but that's a hard sell for this grognard.

Especially with a price tag of ninety bucks.  If the game is any fun at all, they should be able to produce a map and counter version for twenty bucks that retains the exact same feel.

Taken altogether, it just seems like one big slapdash disaster of a game to me.  Yet somehow this Homer Simpson Car of a game earned around $150,000 in backing.  And this is just the latest in a series of games I've seen lately.  So somebody must like this style of board game play.  Probably those dang degenerate kids doing doughnuts on my lawn.  If this is what the cool kids are playing these days, pass me my 48-page OSR rulebook and six polyhedral dice, because that's all I need for an evening of fun.  You kids can keep this over-priced box of disaster for yourself.

If you disagree with my assessment, no hard feelings.  To show you it's nothing personal, here's that link to the KickStarter a second time. Now it's time to soak my dentures, drink some ensure, and check the TV guide to see what sort of hi-jinks that Gilligan will get up to this week.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Familiar Figures

As promised Saturday, we're back to dem Bones, this time with a pack called Familiars 2 (#77196), or part of it.  This pack includes six small figures suitable for use as familiars for you over-sized miniatures, but that make for a wonderfully odd little collection of characters in 15mm.  First up is one hot babe (I keel me!) that towers over a man-sized figure and looks like an impish little fire demon or even characterful fire elemental.

These three little guys will make for excellent wandering monsters in the dungeons below Castle Meatgrinder.  The hooded man is some sort of degenerate dark wanderer, the blue fairy would tower over normal men, making her a fearsome, if fickle, encounter, and the small tree-stump-ent will be pressed into service as a caretaker for the Mad Wizard's Garden.

One of the things that I've always struggled with is putting decent role-play encounters into dungeoncrawls.  My interpretation of the mythic underworld is that it is a physical manifestation of an elder god slowing oozing its way into the universe, so why wouldn't everything down there be trying to kill you?
Because Chaos, that's why.
If everything is trying to kill you then it is predictable and orderly, but if a few denizens are there to help you, or be helped by you, then it adds another variable into the mix.  It also prevents the entire game from bogging down into a repeated stab-fest.