BF update: Dyson’s Deathtrap*

The last few Basic Fantasy sessions have bene brutal. A harpy killed the henchmage Brown Julius, along with the torchbearer and pack-bearer. Then the elf was killed by a hell hound — which also brought two other PC’s to death’s door. This week, a medusa surprised the party, stoning the half-ogre, his young ogre apprentice, the gnome MU who was the elf’s replacement, the cleric, and the fighter/bard. Only the dwarf and halfling, and the halfling’s and bard’s retainers, made it out.

This reminded me that there really aren’t any guidelines on the cost of getting spells cast, but Flesh to Stone (and it’s reverse) is damn high level. They do know of a few higher level NPC magic users (the masters of the late elf and Brown Julius, and also Brown’s older and more popular brother Orange Julius) so that is not totally out of the question, but the players seem content to roll up new characters.

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*I wouldn’t really call Dyson’s Delve a deathtrap BTW. It certainly poses some tough encounters but most of the deaths were due to failed saving throws. It’s been fascinating to see how challenging some of these have been, while other encounters that looked like potential TPKs to me were defeated handily. There is definitely a shift in the dangers posed by monsters around the 4 HD mark. Armor Class protected the front line against the lower level foes but area effects, saving throw attacks, and so on make a big difference.

Published in: on September 10, 2021 at 6:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BF Session # something or other: There’s always room for gelatinous cubes

Although the last session report was in June, the Basic Fantasy game has in fact been rolling along on a weekly basis. It’s been great to be back to in-person, but given the state of pandemic I think we’ll be moving the game outdoors, which may be a bit of a shock to my neighbors.

Since the campaign started we added another player, who hasn’t been at the table with us since…I don’t know, 2010? The first Telengard campaign probably? He created a half-elf Druid to join the party. In the meantime since the last report the party hired a a pair of pack bearers and a pair of torchbearers, who seem to related to EVERYONE in town. The sage who IDs magic items, the locksmith, and so on.

They also recruited some henchfolk: the dwarf paladin brought on a human magic user, Brown Julius, and the Bard recruited a half-orc assassin, Clemenza. The druid also befriended a black bear.

So this session the dwarf player was absent, and I teased the group that they better figure out how they’ll survive a foray into the dungeon with the dwarf carrying them.

In the event, the party found a pair of rooms with a “hung ceiling” some 15″ off the ground. It was the lair of 10 kobolds who were mostly avoiding other monsters on the level…like the gelatinous cube that the scout discovered while the party was dealing with the flaming-oil hurling kobolds.

How it went down was: the party probed the hung ceiling, provoking a barrage of flaming oil from the kobolds (who had lots of camouflaged hatches to allow for raining missiles below). This took out both the lantern-bearers and injured several PCs. (An aside: BF rules for flaming oil are pretty deadly. The players voiced a concern that the kobolds were payback for their use of flaming oil in prior sessions but I’m actually following a module. I might look at making oil a little less effective.) The party retaliated by setting fire to the kobolds’ platform, and eventually by sheer force the party of 6 3rd-4th level characters managed to defeat the ten kobolds. Meanwhile the scout found a gelatinous cube, which he couldn’t really see until it was right on top of him. He wisely withdrew, but the cube managed to reach and paralyze him. There was a fair amount of arguing about who should try to rescue him, and eventually the cube too was defeated. Thoroughly whooped, the party retreated to he surface again. They had very little to show for this expedition in terms of treasure or XP, but did find a magical staff inside the cube. Huzzah!

Published in: on August 6, 2021 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Compleat Orc’s Lair

At long last, I’ve finished painting my collection of Grenadier AD&D orcs! I got the original “Orc’s Lair” way back in the 1980s when it first came out, and as I recall the shaman was broken, but it had an extra axeman in the box, so no complaints. An “Action Art” set acquired some time later had another orc captain (which for some reason I remember having a more ostentatious name in the painting guide). Since then, I acquired a few more of each pose secondhand in game shops, in large “job lots” I bought online, in trades, and a few outright gifts from people who didn’t want them any more.  My original crew were painted back in the 80s, and mostly in the bright green used in the box art. For the rest, I decided to paint them in a more muted olive tone, but kept the dominant black and reds used for the originals so they look more uniform.

These orcs are all more ape-like (as drawn by Jeff Dee in modules at the time) than pig-faced (like the Monster Manual illustration), which is also more in line with Tolkien style orcs. They are also considerably less bulky than most orc miniatures. I like the mish-mash of weapon and armor styles, suggesting it is all looted gear.

The crouching short swords men were never my favorite pose. These came in both the boxed Orc’s Lair and separate blister pack of five figures, which may explain why I have so many. They are simply more common than some of the others.

The archers only appeared in the boxed set. I actually have one more who will serve as a crewman on an even older Grenadier war mammoth. 

The two axemen broke fairly quickly after I got them — the axe handle was somewhat thin. The thirc I acquired later was already broken. So all have new weapons grafted on: a plastic axe head, a plastic sword blade, and a broken bit from a later Grenadier goblin figure. The axeman, like the short sword, was both in the box and the blister, so they should be fairly common as well. I have a fourth (also broken, of course) who is also serving as a mammoth crew with a pike.

The swordsmen were in both boxes and blisters, so they ought to be common. It’s a decent pose and would good for wargame stands.

The “captain” should be the most common by far, as he was in the box, the blister, and a large “Action Art” box set of monsters. The one in the center had his axe replaced but the rest are intact. I always liked this pose, and the crested helmet.

The war-club orcs were only in the small box, so it’s surprising that I have four of them. I like the vaguely Aztec theme. One had a broken club and I replaced with a plain, rather than obsidian-studded, club.

The last trooper with a mace appeared only in the blister pack, and is the only one I have just one of. Presumably he’s the rarest of the AD&D orcs. 

The “Command” types are all pretty nice too. The shaman has a skull and some kind of spike club or rattle made from a bone. This club was also break-prone so one has a replacement (on the left) and for the other (on the right), I carved the back of the handle into a a curved knife which you can’t see from this angle. The center shaman is intact.

The standard bearers are both lightly converted. (I was very confused, as a kid, that this fellow was labelled “standard” on the box, since I thought they were saying this what a “standard/tpyical” orc would look. Only a bit later did I learn that a standard was a banner or unit insignia. On the left, I converted the club to a sword for reasons I no longer remember. The club certainly didn’t break off on its own. The other has a standard from a Heritage kit (the Middle Earth orcs with a drum on a cart). I was missing his standard, and this one was superfluous so it was a luck meeting.

Lastly the “leader” types (or in some boxes, he’s labeled the “captain” and the captain above is an “axeman,” and the axeman is a “w/waraxe”). His axe broke on both models as well, so one got a replacement from a Prince August mold and the other has a warhammer from a Ral Partha dwarf (who in turn was converted to hold an axe to match a player’s character in some long ago game). Another very menacing pose despite the relatively small stature of these orcs.

And here’s how they all go into storage in a small bead organizer.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 4, 2021 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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BF Session 2

Undeterred by the PPK (partial party kill) last time, we continued the game this week. At the end of last session, the party began negotiating for a reward on goblins, in addition to the modest reward already offered for rats. They learned that goblin bandits had stolen a tax collector’s proceeds, and the sheriff offered a small sum for its return. The party also decided to hire some lantern-bearers to avoid fleeing in the dark again. Two local youths agreed to tag along. They also met with several adventurers who are new in town — two repalcement characters and a character for a regular who was absent the first session). The group now consisted of:

Gurgi, dwarf paladin (Tom)

Hieronymus Spicywiener, human cleric (Ian)

Dildo, halfling scout (absent this session) (John)

Halitosis, half-human fighter (replacing Cunning Linguist, half-human assassin killed last session, also absent) (Richard)

Alan-A-Dale, human bard/fighter (replacing Urian, human bard/fighter killed last session) (Ken)

The Elf with No Name, elf fighter/magic-user (Seth)

Todd and Rufus, lantern-bearers for hire (NPCs)

The party returned to the ruins of Ballard’s keep, entering through the stairway they found last session. The entry was eerily empty, so the party avoided the wing of the dungeon they know to have hobgoblins and instead pressed deeper into the dungeon, where they encountered two goblins with a leashed giant ferret. The party defeated them and saw a stairway down as well as two doors with ominous skulls painted on them, but wisely chose to clear the first level before going deeper.

This led them to find a passage connecting to the caves they were in last time, and they exterminated the remaining rats, finding a large hoard of copper.

Going back to the goblin side of the level, they got the drop on the sentries posted in the first room, killing them before an alarm could be sounded. They continued deeper and fought some more goblins and hobgoblins — one room had the goblins listening to a hobgoblin play crudely on Urian’s dulcimer. The Elf charmed the hobgoblin and began to disarm him, whereupon the party slew them all. A last room held the hobgoblin boss, who was readily dispatched. He had the tax collector’s strong box, still locked. Feeling a bit bolder the party investigate the doors with skulls on them, which turned out to hold a crypt. The party opened a saint’s tomb, and stole a prayerbook they found inside. They pushed deeper and found a small catacomb, from which a horde of skeletons burst. The party managed to defeat them with no losses due to good tactics. Finally they opened a sarcophagus, which proved to hold an armored zombie. The party dispatched this as well, and returned to the village to count their loot, claim their rewards, and plot their next foray.

Published in: on June 25, 2021 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Weasels ripped their flesh, or, The triumphant return to in-person gaming

This week marked the first day everyone in my gaming group and in my household were fully vaccinated, and we could at last begin to play in person again! I went with Basic Fantasy, an inexpensive and fairly comprehensive old school D&D clone, which feels somewhere in between B/X and AD&D: races AND classes, but simpler mechanics.

I probably should have spent more time reading the rules to familiarize myself with how the rules approach various situations, but it mostly went OK because one player, KO’ed early in the session, helped find the rules as we went.

The party was an interesting mix of rogues: a dwarf paladin, a half-human/half-elf assassin, a human bard/fighter, a human cleric, and a halfling scout. (Of the MANY optional rules available for BF, I decided to just use the Glain Companion, which are optional rules used by the rule’s original author. Hence the nonstandard classes.) They met in a tavern (of course) and were recruited to deal with a giant rat infestation (of course) which lead to a dungeon (of course). No points for originality there, but the players kept me on my toes with unexpected decisions and tactics.

They followed a trail to the apparent rat nest — a cave on the outskirts of the village. There were some larger tracks which alerted them to possible danger, and once inside the cave they were faced with three giant ferrets! The dwarf took the brunt of their assault, as the rest of the party used bows and slings. Two heavy hits from the ferrets (RZZZZZ!) brought the dwarf to negative HP, but the party managed to finish off the ferrets and drag him to safety outside the cave.

The party decided that rather than take the dwarf all the way back to the nearest farm, they’d try to collect some giant rat trophies to turn a quick profit. They tried to smoke the rats out by lighting a brush fire at the cave mouth, which was effective — a half dozen rats escaped the cave, in a panic, to be shot at by the party. Some of the rats escaped but the scout noticed a plume of smoke a hundred or so feet away coming from uphill, and investigated to find some ruins, where a stairway was acting as a chimney for the cave smoke. He went back to alert the party, but was followed by several javelin-hurling goblins. The party returned fire, killing a few goblins and sending the rest into retreat. At this point the party decided to press their luck and descend the stairs.

After dispatching one sentry, the party followed a twisting hallway to find a chamber with several goblins and hobgoblins waiting for them in ambush, firing crossbows. The party fired a volley in answer, and the next round the cleric and scout fled immediately, but the fighter/bard and assassin attempted to stand and fire while the hobgoblins reloaded…except the hobgoblins did not reload and instead charged, swords drawn. Both PCs were injured but not killed, and they decided to flee. Here the simple pursuit rules in BF proved to be the assassin’s undoing, and when the fighter/bard tried to help his companion escape, both were cut down by hobgoblins.

The pursuit rules were fairly simple: when being pursued, roll a save vs Death to avoid any obstacles on your way out (in this case doorways and tight corners). Failing means you are halted/delayed/tripped and the pursuers catch up! The assassin had to make two saves and failed one. Because the bard decided to stay and try to help his companion, both were engaged in the next round of melee and fell.

In fact I was unaware of the pursuit rules, but the dwarf player was helping look up rules as we went since his PC was out of the fray. I have to think the players might not have stood their ground had they know how difficult it is to flee. Lessons learned all around.

The remaining characters took the dwarf back to civilization. Replacement PCs were made, and we’ll give it another go next week!

Published in: on June 18, 2021 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wolf riders

Here’s the second batch of minis I painted for Ral Partha Legacy. They are a relatively more recent vintage — Thunderbolt Mountain minis from the mid 2000s.

Thunderbolt Mountain was an independent venture by Ral Partha’s best and arguably most famous sculptor, Tom Meier. Meier was a sort of ‘wunderkind’ for Ral Partha, starting as teenager and introducing techniques that allowed him to sculpt much more realistic proportions and details than the competitors in the mid 1970s. Only Superior Models really rivalled Ral Partha’s classic ranges from 1977 to 1979, in my opinion. When Meier left Ral Partha around 1988, he started the Thunderbolt Mountain line, which produced several historical and fantasy ranges. Towards the end of Thunderbolt Mountain’s run, he did elves and goblins in a slightly larger scale than his 25mm Ral Partha but in a similar and recognizable style. RPL is recasting these as well as the older Ral Partha lines. I was stoked to be able to get the wolf riders to paint for the RPL armies.

Like the Rakshasas, I painted these beginning with a black undercoat. This photographs pretty well and is very forgiving, although the colors can get a little muted. Truth be told, I spent more effort on the wolves than the riders, because I don’t think I’ve ever painted realistically colored wolves before. I tried to give them a distinctive brown stripe along the back, gray fading to black on the belly and limbs, and reasonably accurate facial markings. The black undercoat makes them look suitable filthy — I doubt these goblins spend much time worrying about their own hygiene, let alone grooming their mounts.

They came with a bonus goblin on foot, wearing a wolf skin. I’m not sure if he simply outlived his mount or ate it.

All the minis came with open hands and assorted scimitars for the riders and clubs for the footman. as well as separate shields. I gave two clubs to the footman because I couldn’t decide between the crude spiked club and the Iroqouis style war club.

The poses are very dynamic, even for Meier, and the details are great.

Jacob at RPL also sent a few extras minis which I’ll start on some time later this summer when I have time to paint again. Right now I’m focusing on getting my house ready to sell and looking for a bigger place, so the figures are getting packed away for a while.

 

Published in: on March 22, 2021 at 8:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Rakshasas

I’m kind of excited to be painting these Rakshasas. They were originally produced in the Ral Partha “The Adventurers” line, a series of small boxed sets. The second monster set had these two poses of an armored gnoll — one with a scimitar and one with a spear. This was the first RP boxed set I bought, largely on the strength of the fact that it listed two skeletons and a minotaur as well. I painted my original pair as gnolls, although they looked a bit small and more feline than hyena-ish; moreover they are kind of short for gnolls, who should stand around 7′ tall, while these are the height of an average human in scale.

Anyway Ral Partha Legacy is setting the record straight and re-releasing these as Rakshasas. D&D players know Rakshasas as supernatural, man-eating monsters. The AD&D Monster Manual does not describe their appearance, but the accompanying illustration of a tiger-headed man has mostly stuck into later editions. I can see some tiger-like qualities to their faces.

I feel honored to have been trusted to paint this set for RPL (full disclosure, volunteer painters get a free set of the same models they paint for the catalog/conventions). They came with halberds for the spearmen rather than the standard piano wire spears that the original had. I like this change. If Ral Partha Legacy is satisfied with these, I’d be happy to try something else for them.

Here’s the progression of how it went.

Bare metal glues to cardboard for painting. That is how I painted units for wargaming when I had my wargaming jag, although these will get more careful detailing and shading than I would normally use for wargames armies.

rakshasas, unpainted

First I primed them black, as requested, and blocked in the steel for their armor (dry-brushing) and the brown weapon hafts and shield backs.

rakshasas, primed and metal

Then I added a dark blue for their shield faces and pants. I decided to paint the boots the same color to suggest a uniform, as they are all standing in a very disciplined pose. Gold details on the armor and maroon straps and belts add some more color.

colors blocked in

Then I applied a dark wash over their armor, some highlighting on the blue clothes, and painted the exposed fur orange. For the fur I painted the areas ivory/white, then applied a thick orange wash.

more color added

Finally I detailed the tiger pattern on their faces (white chin, snoot, cheeks, and “eyebrows”) and added yellow-dotted eyes. Their paws got some white detailing too. There wasn’t really much exposed fur that would have black stripes, but I did add them to their forearms.

back of a rakshasa

Finally I took them off the carboard bases I was using to hold them and touched up any areas I’d missed. Then they got a light coat of Dullcote, as requested. I would normally use a few heavier coats of matte sealer but Ral Partha Legacy will want to base them according to their standards,  which makes a lot of sense as that will help blend all the different painting styles of the volunteers doing their armies. I assume they’ll add another layer of Dullcote after that.

Here is what I’m sending in:

Not the best photo but I hope they’ll approve.

Published in: on February 15, 2021 at 8:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Chaos Army arrayed

I finally finished my whole collection of the Eureka “Chaos Army.” There are a couple of giants that I don’t have, but otherwise this is the whole range. 

The heavy “cavalry” are these three barrel-riders. The pig-man has a spit-roasted pig, surely some kind of statement. The herald on the far left has an assistant holding a trumpet to his arse, and a curly pig tail peeks out from his tights. The one in the center is the strangest; some sort of demon inside a huge melting helmet, and instead of being on sled, the barrel is propelled by whatever is inside.

The giant, “Little Olaf the Unsteady,” has an assistant to help stabilize his schnozz.

“Emperor Rat robed in meat” rides the “flogged horse,” easily the goriest figure in the bunch.

I posted these five imps or goblins on flayed dogs last time.

Pope Simius provides immoral support.

“Brood Hilda” herds the children of chaos: The Flapper Twins, Ugly Betty, and Chick Lewis.

Kaiser Buddha, the Chaos Lord, watches benevolently.

The more monstrous one serve as light light infantry.

 

The humanoid ruffians serve as heavy infantry with assorted weapons, including an outsized table knife, a feather, a huge spoon, and a brass key. 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 8, 2021 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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This Ol’ Dungeon

Just a quick shout out to a new podcast I’ve started following — This Ol’ Dungeon. It’s a podcast that looks at old games and whether they need some updating and renovation, much like the old TV show the title references did with houses. I have enjoyed the episodes so far. When they asked for more information on Lords of Creation (a game published by Ohio’s own Tom Moldvay, and featuring an adventure in a future Akron, Ohio), I was flattered to be asked to appear on the podcast, and you can hear my nasally babbling on episode 7. I share what I can about OmegAkron, an adventure set in Akron, Ohio, after a series of disasters and wars leaving the world a hell-blasted fuckscape suspiciously similar to the hell-blasted fuckscape that was Akron, Ohio, in 1983: the Akron that recently unleashed Devo on the music scene. (It’s a little surprising that with all the Akron landmarks and in-jokes there aren’t any energy domes in the adventure.)

Published in: on January 15, 2021 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft

Did I post about this before? No? I should have. The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick is a hidden gem of Cleveland, Ohio.

The museum represents the personal collection of Raymond Buckland, best known for popularizing Wicca in the US.

His collection includes tons of interesting items, many ritual implements he crafted himself for witchery as well as kitsch and tchotchkes related to the occult revival of the 1960s. I recently went to the museum as part of a COVID-conscious celebration of my second anniversary with my ladyfriend. You can book a private tour of the museum, at a very affordable price. The owner, a friend of Buckland, provides a personalized and socially distant tour, answering questions and giving anecdotes about the items on display. This time I only took a few photos.

Not pictured: lots of cool stuff, including ceremonial items used by Aleister Crowley and Gerald Garnder,

One of the cooler displays is a genuine demon captured in a box. The salt circle around the the sealed box presumably keeps it imprisoned — the story is that Buckland himself exorcised the demon and trapped it in the box as a favor for a friend.

Last summer an artist painted an authentic magic circle on the floor of the museum. At the museum owner’s request, he left out the triangle that any real magician would need to place the censer or brazier that the summoned spirit would materialize in. Therefore the circle won’t actually work, much to the owner’s relief — he worried that otherwise, a visitor or burglar might use the circle to summon something they couldn’t contain.

One wall of the museum is devoted to rotating exhibits of artwork. When we were there, it was an assortment of photos, paintings, and artifacts.

First up, a page from a several centuries old grimoire, apparently signed by Gerald Gardner himself. The inscription on the upper right, which looks a bit like a “666” is more likely a “GbG” for “Gerald Brosseau Gardner.”

Next, an original painting that seems to be copy of, or inspired by, one of Milton’s illustrations for Paradise Lost, although the Satan suggests Dante’s image of the devil eating the worst sinners at the icy center of the Inferno.

The next image I didn’t catch the origins of. I think it’s a demon or spirit of some kind.

Published in: on November 27, 2020 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  
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