How many pits are in a pair?*

There’s a project I’m working on where it is very easy to get lost in the weeds. For example: I’d like to be able to say: the typical feudal baron holds between x manors.

Not being an historian, but being pretty good at finding answers, I’ve found the details of feudalism to be very difficult to nail down. This is partly because “feudalism” is a nebulous term and conditions were different in various places and times within the Middle Ages, and partly because records are vague, incomplete, and often absent. Being fluent only in English, I realized from the outset that I should focus on England just to have easier access to scholarship and reference works, but from what I can tell population and property are only really well-documented by the Domesday Book (after the Norman conquest, in 1086) and a poll-tax lists from 1377-1381. Obviously this leaves a big gap in enumeration because 12th-13th century were absolute boom years in terms of population, due to advances in agriculture and trade, and the 14th century saw a precipitous collapse due to pestilences of crops, murrains of livestock, and of course the Black Death, not to mention the probable beginnings of the “Little Ice Age.” Moreover these sources don’t count paupers — beggars in both cases and mendicant friars in the case the poll taxes– nor women & children under 16 or so. So the total population can only be estimated. But it turns out the exact number of manors is also unknown.

What I have seen repeatedly is an estimate that medieval England had 5000-6000 knight’s fees: units of land considered sufficient to support a knight and his retinue, and generally each manor would be a knight’s fee. That should make it pretty simple. Estimate 5500.

But: each manor would have its own church, representing a parish. But I’m usually finding estimates of 10,000 to 13,000 parishes in Medieval England. This is almost certainly based on the number of modern Anglican parishes, which have the number variously reported as 13,000 and 10,480. A vital piece of missing information I found was that about 1/3 of the modern parishes in England were created after after the middle ages, so depending on which number we trust, there would have been 8,666 (13,000 x 2/3) or 6987 (10,480 x 2/3) parishes in Medieval England. I’m going to guess that 13,000 is the total Anglican parishes including Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, and 10,480 is just England. This is admittedly a guess, since I haven’t seen any specific sources on how those numbers were generated.

The second number fits a lot better with the number of knight’s fee’s. Let’s call it 7000. Supposing about 10% of the population lived in cities, we could pretty readily justify 1/10 of the parishes being urban: that is parishes not on manors but in parts of cities.  This gets me to roughly:

about 5,500 parishes on manors

about 700 parishes in cities (including parishes centered on cathedrals rather than smaller churches)

about 1300 parishes still unaccounted for

But there were also at least 600 monastic communities and 150 friaries in early 13th century England. Each of these has a chapel or church, possibly representing a parish (all those lay brother serfs need somewhere to pray too!). So now we’re down to 550 “extra parishes.”

This is a difference I can tolerate. Maybe I should have used the largest guess, 6000 knight’s fees, so another 500 parishes are accounted for. Or maybe some 10% of the 5500 manors are large enough to have two churches and thus two parishes. (Or: the “service chapels”  that existed on larger manors to serve the more isolated peasants at their extremities should count as second parishes?) These two-parish manors are presumably bigger than a knight’s fee. That’s fine. We know some estates were on lands considerably smaller — one in Oxford, I read, was just 5 acres, which really wouldn’t support any serfs.

BUT, you say, weren’t those abbeys and friaries built on land that used to be enfoeffed or granted to the Church out of those 5000-6000 knight’s fees we counted earlier? Well, I think so. But I looked a little more for the source of the 5000-6000 estimate, and seems to stem from the Domesday Book, which remember was an assessment of England in 1086. England was gradually clearing forests and otherwise reclaiming “waste” land for agriculture, so I think entirely plausible that new estates were created from cleared land and given to knights/barons/earls or the Church.

All this just leads back to saying: Medieval England can plausibly be said to have had around 5500 secular (not Church-held) manors. The Church held an estimated 1/4 to 1/3 of the land, and held many manors. But the Church was likely to send money (scutage) rather than armed men in times of war. I’ll assume that the crown would not want to reduce it’s military potential and maintained the same approximately 5500 knights fees in the hands of knights and barons. Any additional arable land is consumed by freeholders, the Church, and the royal demesne (manors held by the crown), and won’t be held by any baron.

It looks like there were around 2000 barons in Medieval England. So the average baron held 5500/200 = 27.5 knight’s fees. This actually looks like a reasonable number. Some will have much fewer, and some more.

So, there’s my best guess, having scanned a few books and articles. And Googled a lot more than I’d like to admit. And thrown around numbers in an effort to convince myself. I’ll leave to an actual historian or economist to figure out the correct numbers, but this should be verisimiltudinous enough for my purposes.

*You know damn well there’s more than two.


Published in: on March 10, 2023 at 5:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Fool, a new Thief subclass

Fools or Jesters have a fairly long history. The first court jester to be appointed in England dates back to the 13th century, but buffoons, clowns, and similar entertainers seem to go back quite a bit further, and we read of leaders taking in people with various disabilities for their amusement in antiquity. While Thieves and Assassins are perfectly serviceable as character classes for campaign set in the Middle Ages, I have been kicking around other subclass ideas for an eventual follow-up to the Poor Pilgrim’s Alamanack, not least because one criticism I’ve gotten about it was that it so cleric-centric.

The major thieves’ “guilds” I’ve seen in my reading so far (Argotiers and Coquillards, as well as some assorted outlaw gangs) seem to be well-represented by the Thief class more or less as it is. Similarly, the Hashashins are an obvious precedent for the Assassin class. Professional killers appear in a lot of places. Looking for other thief-like archetypes in history, a recurring theme was the scoundrels and rogues who traveled a lot on various pretenses, which ultimately made folks suspicious of all travelers and strangers — by the 14th century licenses were required for pilgrims in England because so many criminals used pilgrimage as a pretense. This is all well and good, but I wanted to add something else that was fun, and started riffing on the idea of traveling entertainers. Oddly buffoons or jesters were not limited to the royal court but also roamed from town to town as entertainers. It’s a bit of a stretch but I liked the idea, the more I thought about it. So here’s a draft.

Laughing jester, unknown Early Netherlandish artist (possibly Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen), circa 1500

A jester circa 1500. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Fools (or jesters) are a subclass of Thief. The Fool class represents an exceptionally capable specimen of the profession, just as a Fighter is an exceptional fighting man, the Cleric is an exceptional clergyman, and so on. Some Fools or jesters were employed by the nobility as entertainment, while others performed for the commoners at fairs and markets. Traveling fools could work both at courts and markets. Fools employed as permanent members of a noble’s household enjoyed relatively comfortable lifestyles, but could be called upon to serve in war, entertaining the troops and antagonizing and provoking foes. Player character Fools would likely be the itinerant sort with no patron, or part of the retinue of a noble on pilgrimage or crusade.

Minimum scores: CHA 9, DEX 9

HD: d6

Fighting ability: as a Thief

Saves: as a Thief

Weapons and armor allowed: as a Thief 

Experience: as a Thief

The Fool class has most of the usual Thief skills, operating as a Thief two levels lower (like an Assassin). However they do not have the ability to Open Locks, Find/Remove Traps, or Read Languages. They also do not have the Thief’s Backstab ability, and do not gain the ability to use spell scrolls.

Fools have the following special abilities, gained at first level unless otherwise noted: 

Acrobatics: Fools gain a bonus of +2 AC versus missile attacks, and a +2 to save versus directed (but not area effect) spells. 

Juggling: Fools attack as Fighters of the same level with thrown weapons, and may attempt to catch weapons thrown at them (such as spears, axes, daggers, and so on; not arrows, bolts, or sling stones). They can also Save vs Petrification to catch a thrown item. Rocks thrown by giants and similarly huge thrown weapons will simply be deflected, landing 10’ away in a randomly determined direction. 

Jesting: This represents a Fool’s clowning and joking. Note that because a Fool uses broad gestures and expressions, having a language in common is NOT necessary to use these Jesting abilities, unless otherwise noted.

Fools can add ½ their level (up to a maximum of +5) to reaction rolls when performing for NPCs or monsters (who have not yet attacked). 

At 5th level, they may attempt to distract an intelligent foe that can understand their language or see them. Have the creature save vs. Spell; if they fail, they lose an attack that round. This is a non magical effect.

At 8th level, the Fool can shift the pertinent Reaction table column to the left or right, as desired, when making a Social or Encounter reaction roll, providing the encountered NPCs or creatures are intelligent.

Note that I’m thinking of reaction modifiers as using 2d10 (like 2nd edition AD&D and using the chart with separate outcomes for friendly, indifferent, threatening, and hostile attitudes. I would invert the table though so that high is good and bonuses are added rather than subtracted.

Busking: A Fool can use story-telling, joke-telling, and sleight of hand tricks to busk like a Palmer — use the Palmer’s storytelling rules in B&B Trinity. [Essentially, this is a way to gain food & lodging while traveling in exchange for entertainment.]

Jester’s privilege: Fools have a widely recognized right not to be punished for what they say in civilized lands, even if they insult nobility or say something treasonous or blasphemous. The fool’s marotte (scepter) and crown (cap and bells) are symbols of this power, and must be carried to invoke the privilege. Wearing the Fool’s crown makes Moving Silently impossible.

The Fool can establish a school at 10th level, and will attract 2-12 students. The Fool who establishes such a school may face the enmity of a rival school, but these conflicts are much less lethal than the similar rivalries between Thieves Guilds, and take the form of rude graffiti or broadsides, mocking ballads, and occasional brawls.


Published in: on February 27, 2023 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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AD&D Monks as desert ascetics

Since my recent revisit of Fantasy Wargaming I’ve been thinking about a medieval setting for D&D some more. My Burgs & Bailiffs projects were kind of aimed in that direction too, though I may have been swept along with the “grimdark”/jokey attitude of the rest of the B&B writers. Having seen several attempts at “medieval authentic” RPGs from the past 10 years I still think there’s room for something interesting, and the next campaign I run will definitely try it out.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with a little is the idea of fitting AD&D (mostly) as it is into a more authentically medieval setting. I’ll have more to say about that later but one thing I enjoyed looking at was whether AD&D classes could be fit into something approximating the High Middle Ages. One of the toughest would obviously be the Monk.

The Monk class seems exceptionally improbable in a medieval European context, but consider that by the 13th century there were contacts between Venetian merchants and China, and it is possible that emissaries or even proselytizers from the East could turn up in Europe. So that might by itself give some rationale for foreigner Monks.

Alternatively, the Monk class could be reskinned as Christian desert ascetics — stylites or hermits whose tremendous piety and discipline have given them miraculous powers. As such, they are really a subclass of the Cleric. Their ability to dodge and catch missiles would be divine intervention intercepting or reversing the missiles; their open hand damage is a supernatural rebuke. Other special powers could similarly be reimagined. Speaking with animals would be similar to St Francis’ sermons to the birds. Their ability to mask the mind from ESP would simply be their intense concentration from meditating in the desert. Immunity to disease, and haste and slow spells would come from purification. The “quivering palm” would be a delayed curse laid upon the impious. Their thief abilities would become uncanny stealth and luck.

St Simeon the Stylite. Source: Wikimedia


The 1e Monk doesn’t have anything too exotic listed as weapons either — only the “bo stick” and “jo stick,” which could be long or short walking sticks pressed into service as weapons.

If the Monk is reimagined as a Western ascetic, the biggest hurdle IMO would be  the limitation on characters above 7th level and requirement to fight them to advance in level.

The best idea have so far is: instead, at 8th level and each level thereafter the Monk will be tempted by demons or devils. The character must retreat to a desert, forest, or waste and fast, awaiting the arrival of one or more demons or devils they must defeat — in combat or in some other kind of trial or contest. The tempters will typically be one demon or devil accompanied by manes, lemures, larvae, or similar sub-demons and lesser devils. Their total HD probably should not exceed the Monk’s.

The temptation of St Anthony. Source: Wikimedia

Straight combat could be a problem for a Monk, given that many demons and devils can only be hit by magic weapons, and 1e doesn’t give monks the ability to hit such beings in the PHB, though I think OA or some Dragon articles introduced ideas along those lines. Of course by that level a Monk could have a magic weapon or two.

A series of illusions and temptations would be better, though AD&D doesn’t have much in the way of mechanics for that kind of thing and it would be more of a roleplaying challenge.

I don’t think I have had a monk in any AD&D party I’ve played in, so I doubt it would necessarily be something I will playtest, but I think it’s an interesting idea.

Published in: on February 17, 2023 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fantasy Wargaming news…it’s kind of a big deal

It’s hard to believe that it was over a decade ago that I decided to revisit Fantasy Wargaming. It all began with a search of a bibliographic database (WorldCat) to see if the authors had written anything else: Bruce Quarrie was a familiar name from his books on historical wargaming, but the rest of the authors were more mysterious. The name “Bruce Galloway” turned up on an intriguing array of titles: some histories, some political tracts, even some guidebooks for hikers. I decided to find out if any of the authors were the same as the FW author, and the journey began.

Since then I’ve learned a lot more about the authors and the larger circle of people who were involved with developing the book in various ways, most of whom were very generous with their time and memories, helping me put together a picture of how the book was written. The blog posts became quite numerous as new bits emerged, and I gave the rules a cover-to-cover read. I concatenated the posts into one page, which has seen a regular flow of visits and even been cited in an academic paper on gaming. Someone even asked if I could edit the posts into a short book, and during the COVID shutdown I took up the task in earnest.

I soon discovered that there was more interest in FW than I realized, with many blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts posting their own revisits and reviews. I also began to find more reviews from the period when it was published, and several other people passed along their finds. The one coauthor of the book who is still with us even found a cache of documents that adds a lot more more information and fills in gaps I thought unrecoverable — letters to and from the main author, notes for a sequel, and more.  The new information I’ve gathered since posting the page has revealed a lot of new information and confirmed or refuted many of the guesses and conjectures I made.

And now the book is here, with a lot of updates, corrections, and additions to what I originally wrote. It might be a book no one reads about a game no one played, but I can honestly and with pride say it will be a contribution to gaming history, covering what I still believe to be a fascinating and singular work in roleplaying game history.

Preparing the book has been a trip. Initially, I was pretty sure that a small academic press would be publishing it, but that press became a casualty of COVID. Nevertheless Heather Ford from that the press went ahead and did an amazing and flattering job of making my manuscript into a gorgeous illustrated book — providing many original illustrations no less. And we found a new home for the book at Carnegie-Mellon University’s ETC Press, a publisher of academic and trade books on entertainment technologies.

The price for the full color hardcover will be commensurate with the markup you see on academic books, partly due to the costs of distribution but also due to the higher quality paper needed for the images to come out clearly. ETC Press is an open access publisher, though, so you can also download the full PDF for free. I’m also looking at options for making another edition that will be more accessible for those using assistive technologies, or for those preferring a traditional e-book. Watch this space.

You’ve read my blog, so why should you buy or at least read the the book?

  • I added a full and as-comprehensive-as-possible literature review with all the reviews, notices and discussions of FW I could find, annotated.
  • I was given access to Bruce Galloway’s personal file of clippings and manuscripts, which answer some questions about the rules and outline the sequel to FW which would have covered the ancient/classical world. Some of that material is reproduced in appendices.
  • Heather Ford’s cool art and graphic design made this into a gorgeous artifact for your RPG research collection. I mean it really looks amazing and could be a coffee table book.
  • Lawrence Heath, who illustrated FW, has allowed me to include some of his artwork from the period, and it’s pretty dang awesome too.

Click here to download the *free* PDF of the book (or buy a hard copy) from ETC Press!

Click here to buy the full color, hardcover book from!

Click here to buy the full cover, hardcover book from 

coming soonish(?): an ebook edition for purchase


Published in: on February 15, 2023 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unexpectedly I heard from an ex-in-law (outlaw?) who is planning to launch a Kickstarter to publish a board game. He’s a bright guy, and has enlisted the help of his sons so I am wishing him the best. It will apparently be a tongue-in-cheek political game, where players attempt to manipulate public opinion. Honestly I know far too many people for whom the current political climate is more of an existential threat* than a laugh fest,** so I had some reservations about the theme. Everything rests on the execution. But, like I said, bright guy, so I think it will be handled responsibly. Have a look here.



*You know, people with uteruses, people of color, LGBTIA+, educators, almost everyone I know really…

**To be fair, I almost laughed myself apoplexic when I saw Mitch McConnell on some news feed saying corporations should “stay out of politics” when a number of companies started divesting from Florida for its anti-human rights policies.

Published in: on January 10, 2023 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The buyer’s guide to Fantasy Wargaming

I’ve posted a lot about my love for Fantasy Wargaming, the (in)famous book that dared to challenge D&D and made it into mall bookstores and the Science Fiction Book Club. The fact that it had such wide distribution means that copies are still pretty plentiful on the used book market, but I’ve noticed that the listings can be rather confusing.

There were three editions of Fantasy Wargaming, each with some interesting features. They vary physically and in content. I’ve included photos of my copies, which you can, as always, click to embiggen.

The UK edition, published by Patrick Stephens Ltd., in 1981, is identifiable by the fact that it has a unique ISBN (international standard book number) — 0850594650. Physically distinctive are the extent (222 pages, 25 cm tall) and the comparatively dark printing of both text and illustrations. The dust jacket also has the most vivid color of any edition.

Cover of the Patrick Stephens (UK) edition

The UK edition

Two editions were produced in the USA by Stein & Day. The US “trade edition” or “first US edition” (I use scare quotes as it is not a named edition) is a bit larger, such that it is about the same size an AD&D book. It also had an ISBN (0812828623) for ease of distribution. The extra height and width meant they could spread the content over slightly fewer pages — xii, 208 pages, 28 cm. The cover boards are printed with the jacket design, and it has the well-known tag “The highest level of all” included on the cover. The US publisher also took the trouble to index it, and introduce a few errors. The text erroneously states that the animal table at the end of the bestiary follows on the overleaf. More importantly the first printing (1982) lacks the second page of the weapons table and instead repeats the armor table; second printing (1984?) corrects this though. Otherwise the content is mostly the same. The publisher did change British spellings to those customary in the US, and made some revisions to the explanation of money conversions which I understand introduces some inconsistency because the editor didn’t understand the references to modern British coinage. From what I can tell, at some point Henry Holt & Co. must have been involved in the distribution, as used booksellers often list them as the publisher.

Cover of the first US (trade) edition

The US trade edition as seen in Waldenbooks, B Dalton, etc.

The “book club edition” also appeared in 1982. It has no ISBN, which is usual for book club editions. It is closer to the size of typical novel, at 300 pages and just 22 cm tall. Like the UK edition it has a dust jacket, and like the trade edition it has an index. There are several internal typos, such as sentences repeated or lines reversed here and there, but as far as I can tell all printings are complete in terms of the tables. The print is noticeably fainter than that of the other editions, and the paper is rather thin. The dust jacket has the title in a box that takes up comparatively more “real estate” on the cover and Baphomet’s horns are covered by it (intentionally, perhaps, to downplay the image’s satanism in a time of Satanic panic?). Many popular magazines carried Sci Fi Book Club ads, and a thumbnail of the cover featured prominently for a while in the two-page spreads next to familiar fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels.

Cover of the Sci Fi Book club edition

The Science Fiction Book Club edition

When FW is offered for sale, the sellers may not be especially careful about which edition is on offer, at least between the US editions. It will be worth your while to ask for the page count or a photo as the speediest identifier. Otherwise note whether a dust jacket is mentioned, which points to the UK or book club edition, and the presence of “Highest level of all” either as part of the title or in the description will tell you it’s a US edition. Note also that booksellers may use the 13-digit ISBN, which technically would not appear on any printing as 13 digits were only adopted in the 21st century. But the US ISBN-13 is 9780812828627 and the UK ISBN-13 is 9780850594652. Most frustratingly, the ISBN may be on listings for the book club edition, perhaps because the seller can’t find an ISBN on it but sees the trade ISBN in some other source. (Here’s where I could write more about the dismal practices of used booksellers but that’s depressing.)

Prices vary widely. Right now the US editions can be had for under $10 but you can pay much more if you want. The UK edition is scarcer, at least in the US, but can be had for under $30 at the time of this writing. [These prices are based on a quick search at Bookfinder, an aggregator of Amazon, eBay, and various larger used book dealers. Depending on how saturated the market is, these prices can easily double or triple, at least temporarily.]

In my opinion the trade edition is nice to have as it uses larger print and some tables are more readable, but the UK edition has the most careful layout of the three.

Published in: on October 25, 2022 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  

The Necromancer’s Bane

I stumbled across this very reasonably priced booklet on Wayne’s Books when I was looking at some other stuff. I’d never heard of it, but I have been getting more interested in the history of fantasy wargames so I figured I’d check it out.

I found almost nothing else about it, apart from seeing that there were two supplements shown on BoardGameGeek: The Necromancer’s Spell Book and The Necromancer Besieged. As pretty much nothing else seems to be recorded about this game online, I thought I’d record what I’ve found out.

The introduction is sparse but claims that the rules were published in 1988 “at the request of Wargamers via Irregular Miniatures,” a company that is still around. It says the rules are meant for battles in a fantasy world like Middle Earth, Hyboria, or other mythical worlds (the text later references Andelain as well), but the army & creature lists are very Tolkien-centric. The main addition to the usual Tolkien-inspired bestiary of elves, dwarves, orcs, and so on is the Unicorn, a singular creature that occasionally joins the forces of Light against the Necromancer’s forces of darkness.

The mechanics of the rules are very calculation-driven, with small “random factors” added at various points in the calculations give variable outcomes. Each race (elves, men, dwarves, orcs & goblins) have a few special characteristics, such as elves never routing from combat. They also have various defense and attack ratings, which are used to determine casualties in combat. The points value of a creature is the defense value, which ranges from 5 (for a lesser orc or a halfling) to 1000 (for wizards, demons, dragons, and the singular Unicorn, more on that later). Being armored adds 5 points to the defense score (and points cost). This is probably ok, though I can’t help but notice that different races have features that vary considerably in power. For example goblins can only fight in two ranks while most others can fight in 3 or 4,  and are much slower to change formation than other infantry, which will put them at a bigger disadvantage than their slightly reduced attack values would suggest. I’ll need to play out some combats to see how hopeless the forces of darkness really are.

The Unicorn is singled out as a unique creature and is in fact the “Necromancer’s bane” of the title. It appears in 10% of battles (randomly determined, with no points cost) on the side of the forces of Light.

The rules give basing conventions for 6mm, 15mm, and 25mm miniatures, noting that Irregular’s 6mm figures are precast on the correct sized base. I checked with Irregular for more information about the rules and their relationship to the company, and learned that the publisher at “Brigade Games,” was Brian Gregory who also sculpted their 2mm figure range. Mr. Gregory passed away a few years ago; Michael C. Thompson, the author of the rules, was a friend of his. I haven’t been able to track down any further information about either. The acknowledgements thank Thompson’s wife Sharron and the Newton Aycliffe Wargames Group who play-tested the rules. (This group doesn’t seem to be around any more, but I did find an announcement of game shop opening in the area called “Brigade Headquarters.” So maybe there is some continuity there?) The “further reading” just lists Tolkien, Howard, and Donaldson — the mythical worlds already mentioned in the introduction and text — and the first expansion, The Necromancer’s Spell Book. No one is credited for the illustrations. The cover is ok, but the internal illustrations are even more amateurish line drawings.

I heard from another collector who has the expansions, and he reports that they add a bunch of spells, rules for single/personal combats, and rules for additional races including the undead (in the case of the Spell Book) and rules for sieges and naval combat, along with a wind spell (in Besieged). These would likely make the game seem more complete.  I only have the core booklet, and immediately wondered why a game named after a necromancer* had no undead troops, and also noticed a lack of chariots and various creatures that are mentioned in the first rule book.

The only other information I’ve gleaned is that the rules are regarded as unplayable. I’m not sure if this is true, but the long lists of factors that adjust melee and morale are daunting. Moreover a great deal is left to the players’ discretion, such as how many spell points a wizard should get, magic items for heroes and wraiths, and most importantly how orders (which are to be written before the game for each unit) are to be interpreted and applied. It’s clearly meant more for friendly games than competitions. The fact that the game was play-tested before publication seems to argue it is in fact playable, but the wargames of today and those of the 1980s are vastly different, and I’m not really tempted to try these out. Although it is just 22 pages long, I can’t help but think the time investment to figure out the rules would be pretty big.

*To be fair, it’s probably more of a reference to the necromancer in the Hobbit — which most readers of LotR identify with Sauron.

Published in: on October 7, 2022 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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A few weirdos

Here a few more things I painted for Ral Partha Legacy, just for fun. Not sure if they’ll ever make it to their web catalog but they were neat minis to paint. They’re from the “Savage and Sparkle” line, originally released by Thunderbolt Mountain. The story appears to be that Tom Meier had his kids design some figures.

First up is “Slug Eat-Your-Face.” I think that’s both his name and what he does. The model is based on an original idea by Meier’s son.

I painted him like a banana slug. They really made an impression on me when I visited Humboldt County, California, years ago.

RPL asks that all their models for the volunteer painting project be undercoated in black. This absolutely improves how they photograph, not least because areas that are inadvertently missed by the paintbrush show as black (rather than white, as is the case with my own figures).

Nest up are a small family of “Woolies.” Unnatural fur colors made sense to me — they remind me a bit of Muppets.

I’m happy with how their eyes turned out, especially the one with an open mouth. Its eyes are kind of rolling back, like a shark’s.

Published in: on September 26, 2022 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chaos horde for Ral Partha Legacy

These were also painted for Ral Partha Legacy. Assorted Chaos Warriors.

Three knights, mounted on elephants.

The elephants were originally used for an ogre/giant rider, but these knights fit nicely.

Jacob at RPL was so happy with their look that he asked me if I’d do more in the same color scheme: black, red, and gold. I made the gold reddish by glazing it with some thinned down Citadel “speed-paint.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite replicate the process and I feel like these turned out a bit drabber. I must have undercoated the elephants’ armor in white, which I did not do for the rest. (To be fair, RPL does ask for black undercoating as it makes for better photos and a consistent look to their armies.)

Most of the figures he sent were Tom Meier sculpts I recognized from the later period of the original Ral Partha, obviously influenced by Tom’s time in England with Citadel and the market trend of scale creep, but still distinctively Meier sculpts.

I have to admit that I never liked the wide stances on some of these, as you can’t really fit them onto standard bases (1″ round or square for RPGs, or 20-30mm deep stands for WRG type games).

The axe-men kind of grew on me, though, and could be perfect Chaos Thugs for Warhammer.

My favorites are guys with the spiked mace and the ones with the horned helmets. The mace-men look like serious villains. The axe-men remind me strongly of Peter Mullen‘s illustration style — stark, angular, and lanky rather than bulky even in armor.

The “command” group are a bit smaller than the knights, but have their own baroque charm.

This pair seems to be loosely based on Frazetta’s Death Dealer. I have the much older “Superhero” that was based on another version of the Death Dealer, though the detail is not very crisp. Beyond Ral Partha’s two versions, I think there are at least a half dozen other figures based on him as well.

This one was a big surprise. The Black Prince, a familiar Ral Partha character, but mounted on some kind of brontothere.

The whole horde arrayed.

Published in: on September 25, 2022 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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New recruits for the Army of Darkness

The very first miniature I remember buying was a skeleton. A hobby shop in town had several of the Grenadier large boxed sets open under the counter, and you could buy a loosey for $1. I picked the skeleton with a sword raised over his head — a very simple sculpt, and, it turned out, very fragile. But I had loved skeleton decorations at Halloween, and was kind of obsessed with drawing them and so on to the extent that my parents briefly thought I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Anyway I have slowly been working getting all my undead figures painted, and earlier this year I hacked away at the cavalry and a few other larger pieces. Photo dump!

These ghostly riders are a pair of Prince August undead riders I cast from a mold and a Heritage undead rider from the Knights & Magick range.

Since I have the mold and lots of metal, I made a handful of riders to fill out the ranks. These are painted more like traditional skeletonmen. The shield for the rider is, unfortunately, where they decided to place the main sprue opening (where you pour in the molten metal) so several of them I just added a plastic shield rather than try to reconstruct the demon face that is supposed to be on the small heater shield.

I also decided to repair and touch up some skeleton cavalry I painted in the early 1990s. These are all Grenadier — the first two from boxed sets and the others from Fantasy Lords blister packs.

This big fellow I painted for Ral Partha Legacy. They sent me another as payment, but I haven’t decided if I want to use undead crew or not. Since this one has skeletons crewing it, I tried to make the mammoth look like he’d been revived from the dead too — hence the bluish skin on the trunk and eyelids and blood seeping from the ear. I probably should have added some gore or ribs poking through the coat, but I didn’t want to aler the model in case they use it in their catalog rather than just for convention games.

These next ones are all Grenadier — two zombie riders and good old Napoleon Boneyparts on the litter. I have a second Napoleon with a bunch of other skeletons added to a large base for use in wargames, but I when I chanced to get this copy I decided to try to leave leave him as cast. Like the Prince August riders above, I went for “speed painting” on these.

The rest of these are conversions and kitbashes. First up, a Dragontooth figure, called “Rictus, the zombie king.” Mine was lacking his sword and head. I gave him a Citadel plastic head and left his hand empty, as if he’s waving his troops onward.

I have very, very few Dragontooth minis in my collection. I never saw them in stores and the company folded in the 1980s. The few I have turned up in assorted job lots. They are certainly crude, but have a ton of personality. Tom Loback, who did most of the sculpts, was a serious artist and worked on all kinds of things after he got out of miniatures, including building driftwood statues that he left, unsigned, along the river near his home.

Next up is a kit bash using a Grenadier horse, Rafm shield, Maurauder rider, and an arm supplied by figure from the Lionheart game. He was also speed-painted and the photos show a lot of imperfections, but at least he’s not a pile of loose bits any more.

The last was a very long term project. The cart driver is a Citadel figure I chanced to pick up in a bag of bits at an Origins convention in 2003 or 2004. I’d been planning to build my own version of the plague cart since I first saw it in a white dwarf in the 80s or 90s, but the kit was so expensive. A year or two ago I realized I finally had all the bits I’d need.

The horse is a Eureka mini from their Chaos Army line. The bottom of the cart was a partial wagon from a Heritage kit for an orc war-drum. I scratch-built the yoke and poles, rather crudely. The sides of the wagon are from a skeletal dragon. I had just the tail, neck, and ribs from a job lot I  bought online.

The banner is from a Reaper kit — it was to be carried by a wraith, who I instead armed with a sword. The additional bits (skulls, heads, etc.) are from Games Workshop and Zvedza plastic kits.

The cargo is a coffin from a Minifigs kit — I built mine using the pile of bones instead, so I had this loose coffin.

I did eventually finish the bases on these with flocking and grass tufts, not pictured.

Published in: on September 23, 2022 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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