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!

D&D

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)  

Bosch in miniature

Eureka Miniatures has a line of figures inspired by Bosch and Brueghel. During the pandemic I’ve been working on some of them.

Some of them are fairly straightforward chaos beastmen–

Most of them have practical weapons, though one just has a head on a stick.

Some of the odder ones include child-mutants and Kaiser Buddha.

Kaiser Buddha is an unsettling mashup of Kaiser Wilhelm and the Buddha, obviously. His buddy the snail-man is harder to explain.

These two mutie kiddos are pretty strange too.

There are a number of armless mutants, ranging from the worm-head (far left) to the walking log.

Some humanoid weirdos: the Baboon Pope, a sort of crab- or spider-man, and Flukey Sue, the Fluke Lady.

Cavalry support is provided by a lance of goblin-types on flayed hounds.

They are somewhat reminiscent of Labyrinth goblins.

More to come.

Published in: on November 26, 2020 at 8:00 am  Comments (6)  
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First impression review: Lion & Dragon

I really like the idea of historically based RPGs. One of the best campaigns I ever played in was a GURPS historical campaign. But I probably like the idea a little more than the actual experience of playing them, because so much of my playing history has been D&D.  Anyway I’m always curious about games that claim any kind of “authenticity” or to be informed by historical research, so Lion & Dragon caught my interest with it’s subtitle: “Medieval Authentic OSR Roleplaying.”

Right off the bat I should admit I am generally turned off by main author, “RPGPundit.” He espouses hateful politics and is the sort of self-promoter who will complain constantly about being mistreated while attacking other people shamelessly. So I definitely wouldn’t want to be around him in real life. But there are lots of people I don’t like. This review will, to the extent possible, bracket my thoughts on the person and focus on the product.

The fact is, it’s a pretty neat game. The rules are relatively concise and the layout is nice. I appreciate games that don’t overdo the graphic design, and this has a mix of new and public domain black & white line art. Nice. The system itself is a mix of ideas, like a heavily house-ruled Moldvay/Cook D&D game. The classes reminded me very much of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, with heavily niched areas of expertise. Instead of regular charted progress in class abilities, each time a level is gained the player rolls for a random benefit — a mechanic I’ve seen on several blogs a good 8 or 10 years ago (for example), but one I always thought was a clever way of keeping characters unique. The magic system is significantly different than standard Vancian D&D, with clerics gaining a short list of miracle-working abilities and magic-users (“magisters”) focusing on summoning, alchemy, and similar pursuits. All characters are humans, with northern barbarians and the Cymric being classes in themselves, while other nationalities may choose from the standard thief, fighter, MU, and cleric classes. This all looks good.

Unfortunately the major problems in the game are where it fails, sometimes badly, to fulfill the promised “medieval authenticity.” According to the introduction, the promised authenticity relies on five pillars:

  1. social status is extremely important
  2. monotheism
  3. magic is rare
  4. life is cheap
  5. civilization is survival

The first point had me thinking this was a promising start. Looking back on what I consider the most important attempt at “medieval authenticity,” Fantasy Wargaming, social class was given extremely detailed treatment in both the introductory essays and the mechanics. In L&D, there are just six social classes listed:

  • ex-slave/serf
  • peasant
  • villain (city-born)
  • knightly nobility
  • lordly nobility
  • aristocracy

Clerics, we are told, roll only to determine their origins, but all considered to be of the knightly class on strength of their office. (This is a pretty big departure from medieval authenticity in itself.) A short, vague discussion of how social classes interact follows, and social class will determine a character’s initial background skill and starting wealth. It does not affect how many siblings one has, or how many of them are still alive, or options for character class. It does appear again in the section on law and trials, however.

The description of the “villain” as “city-born” is flummoxing. A villein in medieval England was a rural dweller, with feudal obligations to a lord, and possibly little more than a peasant. If the intent was to have a middle-class type, perhaps “burgher” or “guild member” would be a better fit. This is something other games (like Fantasy Wargaming) handle better by bifurcating social classes and statuses according to ‘estates’ and hierarchies, so that one might compare conscripted peasant to a lay brother to an urban servant to a rich villein, all of similar status but in different spheres (landed/warrior class, religious, urban, and rural). Failing that, the social classes just need to be expanded to a much larger list. People born in a city could range from paupers to Lord Mayor, after all.

Another factor one might expect to impact characters is gender, but apart from noting that females are excluded from the magister collegiums (schools that teach magisters, or magic-users), gender has little impact on a character’s interactions and status. This is partly explained by the fact that the Church of the Unconquered Sun is egalitarian.

And this is perhaps the most glaring problem with L&D. The monotheism of L&D is not Christianity. There are clearly reasons for this decision (avoiding offense to players, opening up more opportunities for female characters, simplicity). But the medieval period was certainly colored by the peculiarities of Christian doctrine and lore, and it is odd that this would be hand-waved. Similarly, L&D adopts the Law vs Chaos moral-metaphysical order of D&D. While this is also described as a equivalent to good/holy vs evil/unholy, the concept of Chaos in L&D includes not just the Poul Anderson-inspired idea of the indifferent or hostile faerie otherworld, but also the Warhammer world’s idea of chaos as a force for mutation. Chaos cults and mutants, and even skaven rat-men are a part of L&D too. This is jarring and odd, but an enterprising DM could make sense of this with reference to the nightmarish art of Bosch and Bruegel and other grotesques as precedent, and to perhaps casting Chaos cults as pagan survivals. In any event the DM will have to determine what exactly mutations consist of, as the rules simply point the Cults of Chaos book for information on that. So in a way, mutations are not really part of the game at all, or at least not the core game. This is a strange decision, but presumably fits in with a marketing plan that requires purchase of at least one supplement to complete the game.

So. not doing great on the first two pillars. How about “Magic is rare?” The strongest part of the game is the magic system. For clerics, the miracle system is enviably simple. For magisters, the magic system is much more complicated but includes a lot of authentic detail. RPGPundit has often mentioned his interest in the occult and it is obvious that much of this section is inspired by occult literature. It would perhaps be quibbling to note that much of this literature is from a later period than the medieval. Having colleges that teach magic seems a little contradictory to the idea of magic being rare, but on the other hand, Toledo and Salamanca were reputed to have the best colleges for magic in medieval Spain. So the Collegium are not totally without precedent.

The aforementioned section on trials is also quite good. The rest of the rules are interesting variant rules for D&D. The combat rules take inspiration from a number of sources, and at times it looks like house-rules for a more combat-intense LotFP.

The companion volumes Cults of Chaos and Dark Albion provide more setting details. CoC is described as offering more detailed information on heresies and cults, including demon-worshipers, as well as rules for chaos mutations. It would appear that the forces of Chaos in the setting are similar to what the medieval Church and Inquisition imagined as the forces of Satan; presumably all heresies are ultimately devil-worship. DA is said to contain more detailed rules stressing the importance of social status, but as it was actually published before L&D it is unclear if these would supplement or simply repeat what is in L&D. DA contains generic OSR material that overlaps with  or contradicts the things covered in the L&D rules such as character classes and magic, based on what I could discern from reviews.

As I haven’t rolled up a character, let alone played this, I can’t offer a final judgement, but my overall impression is that this game suffers from being over-hyped by the author. It looks like a good system with some great ideas, but it tries to be too many things, in my opinion. It tries to be

  • a game for “medieval authentic” play (whatever that means; it is less clear as one reads the rules) in traditional D&D style adventures
  • a game system to use with the Dark Albion setting (which is a sort of mix of the Warhammer Old World with traditional D&D by way of the 100 Years War, with both “serious” and “dark” content mixed with jokey ideas like France being ruled by literal Frogmen) and
  • a game to perhaps challenge similar adaptations of the B/X rules but shift the focus to other modes of play in more historically-based settings, like LotFP and other OSR games that actually push the boundaries of what D&D is.

I feel like it could be used for the first two purposes readily enough: ignore the mutations and frogmen and the Church of the Unconquered Sun for the first mode. As-is it is suited for the second (though honestly I wonder if even the author uses the bizarre Dark Albion setting). But there is really nothing to support a DM hoping for the third option. The DMing sections give no advice on designing adventures, and the “wilderlands adventuring” guidelines are bare-boned tables with a few suggestions for encounters like “bandits” or “wild animals.” Worse, the explanations for the encounters often add nothing useful, such as: “GIANT. This encounter would be with a giant, of the type chosen by the GM as most appropriate for the area and terrain.” And, of course, an entry for Mutants that again points the reader to another book. More information on social interaction-based adventures (such as diplomatic missions, visiting court, travel, investigating heresy, or incorporating the excellent legal system into an adventure) would be most welcome and might actually make the game seem less like a fantasy heart-breaker. Even so, there are some good ideas that might make it worth the effort to polish this into the game it could be.

Published in: on September 4, 2020 at 8:36 am  Comments (1)  
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The RPG reference bookshelf

I’ve been doing some amateur research on role playing games and in the process have acquired a number of books on them. There’s been some serious scholarship on RPGs in recent years, but I’ll limit this to the early days — the twentieth century. Most of these books fall into one of three categories: introductory type “What is a role playing game?”, guides to improve your play, or studies of RPGs from some viewpoint — possibly academic, but most often religious, and almost all of those are part of the literature of the Satanic Panic. Each listing has a short annotation, but it’s been a long time since I read a few of these.

Albrect, Bob, and Greg Stafford. The Adventurer’s Handbook: A guide to role-playing games. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1984. An introduction to RPGs, with particular emphasis on Stafford’s “Basic Role Playing” system which forms the core mechanics of RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, and other Chaosium games. The reader is walked through making several characters, and given some solo scenarios to play out with them. The book also includes some reviews of the major games available, suggestions for GMs, and a discussion of accessories like miniatures and magazines. The book as a whole is designed like a school workbook, with short quizzes at the end of each section and art that reminded me of my elementary school days in the 70s. Far out. Overall it’s an interesting artifact.

Butterfield, John, Philip Parker, and David Honigmann. What is Dungeons & Dragons? Warner Books, 1982. A guidebook introducing role-playing and D&D to a general audience. The authors were college students, apparently commissioned to write this book to fill a gap in the mass market. The US paperback has a label clarifying “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a federally registered trademark of TSR, Inc. Use of TSR’s trademarks and the contents of this book have not been approved by TSR.” The book outlines the basics of D&D with a glossary of terms, a sample dungeon, an extensive recommended reading list, and some discussion of other the other games then available, including some board games which might inspire D&D settings.

Craun, Joan, and Ludwick, Rick. (Eds.) GamesMaster Catalog: A comprehensive illustrated guide to games. Clifton, Virginia : Boynton & Associates, 1980. Perhaps intended to be an annual, this was the first attempt to be a comprehensive listing of RPGs, wargames, board games, miniatures, and accessories. The board games covered are specialist/hobby games: no Parker Bros. or Milton Bradley. Each company provided samples and information about their games, which were photographed for this catalog. This is far from comprehensive, but covers a lot of smaller companies, and is a glimpse into the market at the time.

Fannon, Sean Patrick. The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible. Prima Publishing, 1996. A reference book that attempts to be an overview of RPGs for novices as well as a source book for experienced gamers. Of note are the extensive glossary, timeline, and extensive notes on gamer culture. The informal writing style may be charming or grating.

Fine, Gary Alan. Shared Fantasy: Role-playing games as social worlds. University of Chicago Press, 1983. A landmark study of D&D and Empire of the Petal Throne gamers from a sociologist’s perspective. At one time this was the ONLY academic treatise on the game and likely to be found in every university library in the 1980s and 1990s. It has garnered some controversy as some of Fine’s subjects say that did not agree to be identified in the book, and felt that their academic reputations and careers were damaged by the quotes.

Galloway, Bruce, et al. Fantasy Wargaming. Cambridge : Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1981. Technically both a game in itself and a treatise, it was noted by Butterfield, Parker, and Hongimann (1982) as one of the only nonfiction works on D&D (alongside Holmes (1981). The book includes both a running critique of D&D and some anecdotes of actual play, along with extensive GM suggestions more appropriate to D&D or T&T than the included game.

Gygax, Gary. Master of the Game. New York : Perigree Books, 1989. Gygax’s book on becoming a better game master, along with suggestions for getting more involved in the industry through conventions, publishing, etc.

Gygax, Gary. Role-Playing Mastery. New York : Perigree Books, 1987. Gygax’s book on becoming a better player and game master.

Hackett, Martin. Fantasy wargaming: games with magic & monsters. Wellingborough : Patrick Stephens Limited, 1990. While the focus is much more on wargames than role-playing, there is some background on RPGs and some of the wargame scenarios presented are really skirmish-level engagements in a dungeon. I’ve always suspect that this was the book Patrick Stephens Ltd. expected Galloway’s book to be.

Holmes, John Eric. Fantasy Roleplaying Games. New York : Hippocrene Books, 1981. Groundbreaking as the first popular work about RPGs, and notable for being written by the editor of the first “basic” D&D boxed set. D&D is not the only game covered, and the extensive photographs of contemporary games, miniatures, and set-ups is a plus.

Larson, Bob. Satanism: the seduction of America’s youth. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1989. Bob Larson was a radio evangelist and now grifts as an exorcist. I remember when this book was new, as I was working my first library job in high school, and we had a sadly large collection of stuff like this. There were chapters on Satanism in pop culture, and the threat of cults, and some hilarious appendices: “A parent’s guide to occult games, ” “A supplemental guide to Dungeons & dragons,” and “A parent’s guide to black metal music.” I don’t remember too much about it after 30 years, so I recently ordered a copy via interlibrary loan. 

Leithart, Peter, and George Grant. A Christian Response to Dungeons and Dragons: The cathechism of the New Age. Fort Worth, Texas : Dominion Press, 1987. An 18 page pamphlet which is a pretty good representative of the Satanic Panic literature. “FRP activity” is linked to “more than a hundred suicide and murder cases” and similar claims are made without citation, although the suggested reading, to be fair, does include two pamphlets published by TSR. 

Livingstone, Ian. Dicing with Dragons: an introduction to role-playing games. Revised American Edition. New York : New American Library, 1983. A sort of popular guide to RPGs, notable for the choose-you-own-adventure type game that fills the first third of the book, with nice illustrations by Russ Nicholson. There are fairly in-depth explanations of D&D, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls, and Traveller, followed by very brief entries on other games available at the time, as well as a listing of accessories like modules for the games. A brief chapter on miniatures has an interesting approach to painting I haven’t seen before. 

Plamondon, Robert. Through Dungeons Deep: A fantasy gamer’s handbook. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1982. A guide for role-playing and game mastering, it also includes a selection of reviews of games. I don’t own this one, but leafed through a copy. It was republished in 2008.

Porter, David. Children at Risk. Kingsway Publications, 1998. Devotes several chapters to role-playing games and their offshoots like Magic: the Gathering and their potential for harm to children. Porter is more “moral concern” than full Satanic Panic, and even recommends games based on Tolkien’s works as appropriate for Christians.

Robie, Joan Hake. The Truth about Dungeons & Dragons. Lancaster, Pa. : Timelee Books, 1991. Another full-throated Satanic Panic screechfest. The cover has a neat looking monster though.

Schick, Lawrence. Heroic worlds: a history and guide to role-playing games. Buffalo : Prometheus Books, 1991. The most ambitious RPG book, period. Schick catalogs every game and accessory that had been produced up until 1990, and gives each a short description. In my other life as a librarian I recognize what he’s doing as an attempt at a comprehensive bibliography, and he even assigns a code to each product. The entries are broken up by occasional quotes from important game designers, ranging from a single line to most of a page on various topics.

Swan, Rick. The complete guide to role-playing games. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1990. It’s fortunate this follows alphabetically after Schick, as it is sort of the corollary to Schick’s book. Not as comprehensive, but much more detailed; no pretense of neutrality, and much more detailed in its assessments, although Swan tends to assess each game without regard to historical context as the ratings are meant to be practical guides rather than an historical review. 

Weldon, John, and James Bjornstad. Playing with Fire: Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Chivalry and Sorcery, and other fantasy games. Moody Press, 1984. A brief book on the occult dangers of playing D&D, and somewhat unusual in that it discusses some of the less well-known games of the time. It at least attempts to cite sources other than the KJ Bible and B.A.D.D. press releases, but is mostly hysterical nonsense fueled by out-of-context quotations.

 

Published in: on August 29, 2020 at 9:03 pm  Comments (4)  
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Big photodump of minis

Here’s some of the minis I’ve finished in the past couple of months.

The smallest one first, a mutated rat that was an extra piece on the sprue for the vampire’s corpse-wagon. Mounted on a penny.

One of Citadel’s stranger mutants were the “Beasts of chaos” series, and none stranger than this “Beast of Nurgle,” which is a sort of giant slug with legs and mass of suckers on its front. In the Warhammer game, the suckers shoot streams of acid. This figure is maybe two inches long.

Here’s the profile.

Nurgle is the chaos god of decay and disease, so he’s all about slime and other fluids gushing or seeping about. Here are two “Nurglings,” imp-like creatures that are tiny images of Nurgle himself. Both are also mounted on pennies.

I especially liked the angry little maggot crawling out of his mouth.

Continuing the demonic theme, here are three Rafm “death angels.”

The “Harbinger of Hell,” which is a bit reminiscent of the flying demon in the movie House. I mounted this one on hexagonal tile I recovered when remodeling the bathroom at my old house. Waste not want not.

The next one is the “Faceless Demon of the Void.” He came with his own pillar to perch on. I went with a more traditional red for this one.

Lastly, the “Specter of Doom.” His base is a bunch of rubble and bones, suggesting a ruined tomb or mausoleum.

Otherworld Miniatures has some great if pricey models. They’re a bit hard to find in the US, at least in my experience. These two are barbed devils, closely modeled on the Trampier illustration in the original AD&D Monster Manual.

And now for something completely different, some Old West figures. These are figures my brother originally painted decades ago, but which had lost a lot of paint to wear and tear, and a couple that were never completed. I tried to retain his original color schemes for the touch-ups, although some were painted with PollyS/Floquil paints that I couldn’t easily match. We’ve been playing a Boot Hill game again, so I was motivated to get our PCs in a finished condition. All are Grenadier “Gunslingers.”

The next group are figures we used in a previous Boot Hill campaign. The two cowboys are from the same Grenadier set while the Native Americans are actually from fantasy ranges: The chap with the big axe and headdress is a Citadel barbarian, and the one with the bow is a Ral Partha ranger. Obviously neither is particularly accurate for any real tribe. Could be worse though.

Back to monsters, here’s one of Julie Guthrie’s trolls from the Grenadier “Fantasy Lords’ line:

These manticores are (l) Maurauder and (r) Ral Partha. A study in scale creep, the once fearsome Ral Partha figure is more of a cub in comparison.

I got the Maruader manticore in a lot of figures sold on eBay as scrap tin! He was missing his wings, so I filled in the sockets with putty and textured them to suggest a continuation of his mane, which was already spreading down his chest anyway.

The oldest figure featured today is this Minifigs fell beast, missing his Nazgul rider:

It was part of their “Mythical Earth” range, absolutely not a ripoff of “Middle Earth.” This figure was actually listed in their catalog as “ME57, Ringwraith and Nazgul.” The publicist must have thought “nazgul” was the name for the beasts they rode. The Mythical Earth range was started in 1972, making this possibly my oldest fantasy figure. It’s hard to say for sure as Minifigs is still in business, and parts of the range are still in production. I think my copy is pretty old though, since it came with a bunch of figures from long-defunct manufacturers.

The last blast from the past are these Ral Partha “trills” — bigger than orcs but smaller than trolls.

The shield design is a total cheat, I cam into some old Citadel shield transfers, which you soak in water and glide onto the surface, where they adhere as they dry. The next two figures are much newer.

The “Umber Cuke, aka Nipper,” a riff on the AD&D Umber Hulk was pretty fun:

This is a much newer figure for the “Lowlife” game designed by Akron artist Andy Hopp.

Slightly less silly is this Wargames Foundry orc mercenary. All business except for the tasseled tail-cap.

Lastly, the largest and most impressive of the bunch. Also by far the biggest pain to finish. I am still noticing details I forgot to paint. Ral Partha’s “The necromancer’s throne of bone.”

A couple of shots taken before I finished the base show some better details.

The skulls and ribcage on the base are spare bits from other kits. The long bones are real bones recovered from an owl pellet I found in my backyard back around the time this model was first produced. Some of the bones from the mole or shrew or whatever was in there grace the bases of several other figures too.

From 1986 or so, and it could be on the cover of any heavy metal album from the period. Bikini-clad chick with a snake, tons of skulls, gross dude in a thong — it’s got it all.

Published in: on February 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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