Saturday, December 31, 2016

Into the Dungeon: Castle Meatgrinder AP

The kids were kind enough to playtest Castle Meatgrinder over the holiday break, and we found that it needs some serious work.  They had a good time, but I wasn't satisfied with the amount of action, the speed of play, or the organization of my notes.  Most important, I was not at all satisfied with the amount of stuff in the dungeon.  We'll talk more about how I can improve as a DM later.  For now, let's look at what happened.
Seven PCs entered, and seven PCs returned.
Three entrances the players had, a barred door, an open cave, and a strange stone passage whose entry was carved to look like a mouth.  They chose the open cave, and after dropping down a flight of stairs found themselves in a 30-foot room with stairs leading down in all three cardinal directions.  The center of the room held four large columns surrounding a simple well.
After putzing about with the well for a bit, they chose to descend to the right.  A bit of exploration through large, empty halls, and they found a plain chest in an alcove.  Opening it dropped an iron cage down on the thief and cleric sent to investigate.  Together, they managed to lift up the cage enough to free them.  Just as they slipped free, cultists appeared in the distance.
They challenged the party, wary, but not hostile.  When they realized the party was interlopers they attacked!

The party's pyromaniac Halfling lit them up with burning oil, and they quickly dispatched the red robes with little trouble  They scored 25 gp and a strange gold mask the leader had been wearing.

 Further exploration revealed a lot of empty rooms and empty halls.

My wandering monster dice kept coming up sixes, and that meant the only other combat they faced was two tentacles guarding a treasure horde on a small island.  After beating sense into the tentacles and driving them off, they took the loot and ran.

After several hours, two combats, several traps, and even a bit of role-play, it was time to call it a night.  The team enjoyed the miniature heavy version, but at the conclusion suggested that they'd prefer to return to Skull Mountain and see if they can get past the shrieker at the entrance to put some hurt down on the orcs that guard the entryway. 

I'm not much for railroading, so if that's what they decide...I'm up for it.  Even if it does mean shelving the dungeon terrain for the most part.  I'll just have to find a local game convention and run Castle Meatgrinder for some strangers if that's what it takes.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Big Surprise!

After writing up my last post, it occurred to me that I do have a box of odds and ends that might be perfect for Castle Meatgrinder's heavy hitters.  Here are two of them.  (There are a few more that we'll leave in our back pocket for surprises).  Here's what they look like next to a pair of 15mm figures.  

I don't know who manufactured that dragon, but it's been in the collection for decades.  The second one here is an old Nyarlathotep miniature - I think it's an old RAFM figure.  Anybody out there that can confirm that?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Compleat Castle Meatgrinder

Who are we kidding? A project like this is never complete, it just goes into hibernation. As we round out the year of fantasy skirmish here at War In A Box, let's take a look at where the project stands. At the current time we've got over 50 characters in four different races for player pawns.  We've got at least a dozen each of orcs, ratmen, lizardmen, undead, cultists, and frogmen.  We've got creatures from vermin to ogres, flying things, climbing things, swinging things, and tentacled things.  We've got traps galore and puzzles to boot.  As it stands Castle Meatgrinder spans ten dungeon levels, each with ten to fifteen rooms, and a few hidey-holes to allow for future expansions.

That's a lot of stuff, but in keeping with the mission of compact gaming on a budget, let's take a look at how compact you can make a D&D megadungeon if you're willing to game in 15mm.

Every figure in the fantasy collection.
With room for another faction/warband in the case.

The plastic tub contains all of the dungeon floor tiles, and the Old Spice box contains the delicate dungeon dressing.  To give you a better idea of scale, that tub is designed to carry two reams of standard sized paper.

You won't have any trouble carrying this mega-dungeon around a crowded convention hall.

So what are we missing?  A few things:
  • Natural caverns.  There's room for a few more halls and rooms in the tub.
  • Big beasts.  We don't have a dragon or giant or any number of high-level threats.  Right now it's all strictly low level gaming.  Aside from a few minotaurs, we don't even have any of the heavy-hitting humanoids.
  • The Old Spice box is pretty empty.  We can add a lot more dungeon dressing to it, or maybe find a better carrier so that all of the dungeon materials themselves are in a single box.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Children of Mordor

The biggest warband in Castle Meatgrinder must be the ravening horde of orcs.  You can get an even two dozen of these bad boys from Splintered Light for twenty bucks.  And these figures pretty well match the style of those in the Jim Roslof artwork on the cover of B2: Keep on the Borderlands.

The green skins might surprise some readers.  Most old-school painters go with the reddish to ochre skin of later editions.  According to the Moldvay canon, orcs look like "a combination of animal and man," with no mention of skin color.  Not only does the green skin adhere to the color picture on the cover of the B2 module, it's really the best choice from an artistic standpoint.  It provides plenty of contrast against the brown leather armor that dominates the garb of these figures.

And just for reference for those of you who, like me, mix manufacturers, here's a comparison shot of a bunch of different ones.

From left to right you're looking at:
  • Ral Partha Europe Dwarf (15mm)
  • Ral Partha Europe Elf (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Thief (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Orc with Spear (15mm)
  • Splintered Light Orc with Axe (15mm)
  • Pendraken Minotaur (10mm)
  • Pendraken Ogre (10mm)
  • Pendraken Ratman (10mm)
  • Pendraken Lizardman (10mm)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Time for Elfs

Merry Christmas!

Ral Partha Europe makes another appearance in the depths of the dungeons beneath Castle Meatginder.  This time its a full unit of wood elves painted in muted blues and browns. 

This makes for a pretty good range of character choices.  You've got everything from magic elf to bow elf to spear elf to sword elf.  What more could a guy want for figure choices for Moldvay Basic where elf is a class and not a race.

As discussed earlier, I've been thinking of ways to make elves in Castle Meatgrinder more than just tall, pointy-eared humans given to tree-hugging and prancing about.  I think characterizing them as soul-less beings poisoned by iron opens up a lot more possibilities than the current fad of, "They
re people, but you know, different somehow.  Here's a few stat changes."

Some of you may realize that I've been done with this project for a while now.  My wargaming output is pretty sporadic, so I've pre-scheduled a lot of these posts in advance.  The good news is that I want to start 2016 with a clean slate, and that means an upcoming post dump of random things.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

More Heroic Dudes

This last collection represents the last heroes from (plus the second Halfling from Irregular Miniature's 6mm line).  All that's left now is the wild elves from Ral Partha Europe, and we'll have all seven character classes available for the party.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Quick Notes on Random Heroics

Here's a shot with a dwarf so you can see the relative size differences between human males, females, dwarves, and halflings.  As mentioned earlier, the humans here are, the dwarf is Ral Partha Europe, and the halfling is Irregular 6mm.  As you can see, it's a good spread.  The dwarf is a head shorter than the human male, and the halfling stands just waist high.  I'll make sure to add one more once I get the last race (elves) painted up, and they are waiting on-deck.

One other thing that's worth a mention is the shield on that fighter/paladin type.  At a distance, or if you don't know your traditional Catholic artwork, it just looks like some colors thrown down.  When you see it right next to the reference work?

Like the colors for the dwarf clan, this is a bit of an inside joke that works well in the setting.  Hewing as close as possible to the medieval church opens up a wealth of inspirational material both in the paint process and the dungeon creation.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mondy Miniatures: Random Heroics

Still working to get the last of the necessary figures ready for Castle Meatgrinder.  It's going to be a largely procedurally generated dungeon heavy on the wandering monsters and set-pieces and light on the railroad tracks.  This should be the last batch of heroes, aside from the elven warband.  That just leaves the orcish warband, and then we should be able to hit the tables. 

The tiny little guy on the far right is a full-plate mailed halfling.  He's actually one of the heroic single figures available from Irregular Miniatures, but he works great as a half-a-ling.  The rest are from's adventurer packs.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Three Rooms

The map of Castle Meatgrinder has been done for months, but there are enough empty rooms in its halls to allow for a few more rooms with interactive elements.  The crypts needed a little bit of furniture, and makes these nice little crypts:

They also sell blisters with mushrooms that paint up nice.  I added a few wooden furniture plugs to serve as broad shrooms as well.

While I was able to save a few small treasure chests from the 10mm collection, I wanted a couple of stands of generic storage markers.  These boxes, barrels, and spears are also from  They'll add a little more variety to the gray halls of the dungeon.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Miniature Monday: The Bard

He's not Shakespeare, but given the old school rules that I use for my games don't even have "Bard" as a class.  Yes, your thief can carry a guitar, that's a 25 coin encumbrance hit.  He came with the pack, and it adds a nice touch of flavor for somebody wanting a more flamboyant fighter or thief.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

More Monsters

More zombies!  This brings the total population of zombies in the dungeon to seven, not a bad little number.  These guys have great hair, too!
Undead fist bump!
Castle Meatgrinder has a rodent problem.  In addition to the swarms of rats that prowl the halls, the steady drip of chaos into the halls create these lion sized monsters that make ROUS's feel inadequate.  These rats are the weird plastic figures sold under the Reaper Bones line.  They look okay, but for some reason the typical spray primer just makes them sticky.  They are cheap, though, gotta give them that.

This last shot isn't a new figure.  This is a 10mm Ogre from Pendraken, but he's a beast.  He's tall enough to serve as a smallish ogre, so that's what he is.

True buckaroos better buckle up and grab their nuts.  The Thanksgiving break was productive, and Uncle Warren has a whole mess of miniature shots ready to go for the month of December.