Monday, November 28, 2016

Miniature Monday: Twin Fighters

When you order a pair of random packs of adventurers from, you run the risk of finding a few doubles in your bags. Good.  That's what creativity is for. A little paint, scrape off a gubbin here or there, and your twins might look a lot alike, but they won't be identical. Shields are always a joy, especially the flat ones that give you a blank canvas as a starting point.

Some day I'll get the nerve to try weapon swaps on 15mm figures.  They just seem so tiny I don't trust myself to handle it right.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

On Elves: Idle Thoughts With No Conclusion

 Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm grateful you're all along for this ride.  It's been fun.

Part of my decision to eschew post-1985 versions of D&D is the sheer blandness of it's creativity.  The most recent title by Wizards of the Coast, Volo's Guide to Something or other, includes a host of new player races designed to help tables do new and different things with their games.  From what I gather from its fans, the new and different things amount to little more than new collections of stat modifiers with a bit of chrome thrown in.  That is to say, the new races amount to little more than rubber-suited humans with maybe one dominant personality trait.  
I'm not the tabletop cop.  The hobby has enough of those already.  If that brings you joy, then take your mods, zip up the lizardman suit, and go to fantasy-town.

But it's not for me.  One thing that I'd like to see make a resurgence is the idea of truly alien demi-humans.  Not just different looking, but different thinking.  That's why my dwarves are literal creatures of earth.  They aren't just short hairy humans who like wine, women, and song, they are driven by very different needs.  Granted, they love gold, but it's near and dear to their hearts because it is made of the same stuff they are.  They don't identify stone-traps easily because they build them, but because the very stones themselves speak to a dwarf in ways humans cannot even understand, let alone learn.

What to do with elves and/or elfs has been bothering me for a while.  The dominant view of them as tall, placid, tree-hugging humans, leaves me cold compared to the dark and mysterious creatures of raw magic that you see in Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword or Three Hearts and Three Lions.  The most recent IP that I've encountered that conveyed that sense of menace was the Hellboy sequel with its hidden elven kingdom standing in as the main antagonist.  All this talk is inspired by my current read, John C. Wrights Swan Knight's Son.  So far it is hitting the sheer menace and alieness of elfs right on the head.  It also uses the older plural spelling for a collection of elves, which I've become agnostic on and freely switch between out of sheer impishness.

If you need a little more background to understand where I'm coming from, check out this review of the sequel.  It gives more and better examples than I could.

We see a bit of the elven magic at play when Modlvay's elves are given immunity to sleep and charm spells, and their generally better saving throws.  But where's the aversion to iron in the modern Tolkeinian/Warcraftian fantasy zeitgeist?  Holmes Basic forced elf players to choose whether the character would play as a fighter or wizard - suggesting that elfs could use iron or magic, but not both.  That choice was lost with the Moldvay rules, most likely for reasons of playability, but it definitely serves as a way of making elfs play very different from tall humans.  

Adding in an aversion to iron would be a nice start, mechanically.  It would help remind players that their little avatar isn't just an old, willowy human.  It also makes any iron-age race that much more fearsome to elfs.  A kobold with an iron sword might do an extra d6 damage to elfs - that would give any player pause.  A powerful magic weapon that is crafted from iron - the sword of a long-lost ancient king, for example - might be an iron sword, and thus unavailable to elfs.

Another important method of distinguishing between elves and humans is drawing a sharp contrast between a human's trust in an afterlife and an elf's complete lack of a soul.  When an elf dies, he doesn't go to a better place, he goes nowhere, but is destroyed absolutely.  That has important implications in the game world.  No resurrection - there's nothing to call back to the corpse.  No speak with dead - there's nothing to speak to.  The upshot is that any spell that would trap a creature's soul in a gem or jar would have no effect on an elf.  Lacking a soul, they may even be immune to the healing power of God's clerics.

That might also apply to clerical healing, too.  You want to make players get jittery about playing a class, and handle that class differently, take away their precious cure light wounds.  They've got potions still, but that's a pretty big sign that these guys are different from everyone else.

This would also provide an in-game reason for an elf to crawl into dank holes in the earth.  They are looking for immortality of the sort unavailable to them in the afterlife.  Every lich you meet might be a desperate elf clinging to this mortal coil.

At this point the brain needs to cogitate further, but after recasting dwarves as more than short, hairy, men, I'm really leaning towards a more alien and unknowable race of elfs.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Miniature Monday: Barbaric!

Shorty on the right is probably just a vanilla fighter, but next week you'll see why I put him in this photo with the big hairies.  The middle guy just screams Fafhrd, and the guy on the left in full breastplate and fur loincloth amuses me - he straddles the line between civilization and the frontier.  Business up top, party in the basement.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Miniature Monday: Clerical Skills

Holy cats! It's time to show off the holy cats who have dedicated their lives to wiping evil off the face of the dungeon map.

These guys are all a little blunt, so they could serve as fighters who favor maces, hammers, and other impact based weapons.

There's a couple shields with that dangerous iconography I warned you about.  The yellow cross on the black shield is part of the figure mold.  The red cross on the white background is all Warren, baby.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Moving Day, Helping a Friend

There's a new blog on the block that should be of interest to anyone who has been following my own conversion over to the (latest) One True Scale: 15mm Skirmish.  You probably already know Sam Pate from his blog, Wee Blokes.  He has decided to open a blog specifically for his forays into 15mm skirmish gaming.

From the man himself:
One of my plans for 2017 is to push on with my delayed exploration into 15mm Skirmish Gaming. I know it happens but the majority of 15mm posts I find are either figure reviews or larger battle reports\games. Similarly most Skirmish posts I find are in 28mm. Having dabbled my toes in I feel that 15mm Skirmish has something different in its play, more than "the same but smaller". The scale distances and movement seem more open, so (in theory) the tactics could be as well.
Add it to your regular blog feed, because he has some of the best looking games around.  Unlike we eternal planners, he also posts a host of actual play reports.

Note:  I'm not actually a friend of Sam Pate's, I'm really more of a yuge fan of his.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Miniature Monday: Wizards

I may have posted a couple of these guys way back before my fall hiatus. Here is the current crop of wizards available for delving the depths of Castle Meatgrinder.  Players now have a choice of a death mage or necromancer, a starry mage, and a snake wizard suitable for fighting hairy barbarians with Austrian accents.

If this seems like slim pickings, take heart!  There are more spellcasters waiting in the slopes of the lead mountain.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wierdo Beardos In the Lead

Ral Partha Europe's Blighthaven line includes a dwarf pack with ten miniatures, of which I've painted all ten, and here's the first nine of them.  One went AWOL.  Dwarves do that.  Let's just say that I'm keeping one in my pocket as a Castle Meatgrinder surprise for the players.

Once again, I've painted these bad boys in matching colors for skirmish purposes.  For the record, these are the school colors for my son's high school.  It's a great combination that's distinctive, bright, and cheery - just like these dwarves.  There's an in-game reason for it, too.  Gimme a minute and I'll think of something.  Probably something about all coming from the same dwarf nation.

Here's a close-up shot of the shields for these little dudes.  Anvil, pattern, face, axe, and forge fire, just in case it isn't obvious.