Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mad Robot Minaitures Sci-fi Cavalry

I finished painting this 5-Horse squad which I bought from Mad Robot Miniatures over the weekend. They round up my WW1 themed sci-fi force, which I will be using to playtest a set of rules by a well-known author that will probably be published in the future.

The great thing about this squad is that Mad Robot Miniatures allows you to customise the figures, so you get to choose from dozens of heads and torsos, and also three variants for the horses' heads.

I painted these in the same scheme as the rest of the force, and also decided to apply the decals which I got from Dom's Decals to the helmets. The resolution on these are really fine, as you can see from the photo below.

I also applied the decals to the rest of the force: the larger ones on the shoulder pads of the infantrymen, and the smaller ones on the weapon crews' helmets.

With the cavalry unit done, I now consider this force complete. Question now is what to do with the 40 Bauhaus infantry figures I still have lying around...

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sorcery! #2 - The Manticora

Fighting the manticore in its lair
Campaign Diary

Our heroes were able to quickly defeat the owlbear that had attacked them, but the rigours of combat and the need to move camp afterwards meant they all got precious little sleep that night.

The next morning Glowulf called upon Fulkra, the god of travelers, to show him the safest path to their destination - for most of the morning they traveled without any trouble.

A little before noon they came upon a hut by the side of the road. Exploring it, they found a woman in a large cage inside it. They quickly learned that she had been locked inside by the elvins, and pleaded for our heroes to free her. Neither spell nor strength could unlock the cage, however, until Morgana remembered the key they had stolen from the elvin's hut the day before; the key fit the lock on the cage, and the grateful woman gifted them with several magical items before she stomped off to repay the elvins a favour.

Continuing the path they had chosen for the day, they arrived at the village of Dhumpus, where they managed to earn enough gold to afford rooms at the inn by digging cesspits. They visited the store at the village, and Valerian noticed that one of the swords on sale was an Analander royal guard sword... how did the owner come by it?

On the third morning of their journey they wasted much time doubling back on their track after discovering that the path would take them to a village stricken by a plague. It was nearly sunset when they came to the village of Birritanti. Once more they found work washing towels, for which they were granted a visit to the crystal waterfalls.

The next morning our heroes continued they journey towards Khare. Just before noon, Goncol noticed that someone had set an ambush in the path before them. They party attacked the ambushers before they were ready. As Goncol demanded to know why their ambushers were attacking them, a familiar voice called out in reply: it turned out the attackers were apprentice-assassins being coached by Flanker, whom Goncol knew from Khare. Flanker apologised for the attack, offered some gold to our heroes as compensation, and admonished his apprentices for their sloppiness.

In the afternoon they came upon another solitary hut by the side of the road. An old woman, introducing hereself as Mama Clay, invited them inside for tea. She laid five cups of tea on the dining table, and as she turned to refill the teapot, Goncol, suspicious of her intentions,switched his cup with hers. As the other heroes drank their tea, they all felt refreshed, but Goncol found his limbs losing all strength, and he fell to the ground, paralysed. Mama Clay chided Goncol for doubting her hospitality, and demanded magical items from the heroes before she would give them the antidote. The party grudgingly gave up two bottles of potion, and left hastily once Goncol was able to walk.

As the sunset our heroes arrived at Torrepani, the final village before the gates of Khare. Here they found the inhabitants in a state of despair, for a man-eating monster - a manticora! - had taking up dwelling in the hills outside the village, making all commerce impossible. The winged creature would swoop down from the sky without warning, and when it faced stiffer resistance than it had expected, it would simply fly away. Our heroes offered to rid the village of the monster, and was given food and lodging for the night.

The next day our heroes put in action the plan they had come up with the night before: Goncol and Glowulf set several traps in the canopy of the forest near the edge of the village, and they started roasting a goat in the nearby clearing, hoping to draw the manticore. Sure enough the smell of the roasted mutton attracted the attention of the manticore. Our heroes retreated into the forest, hoping to drawing the monster in after them. When it became clear that the manticore was a faster and tougher opponent than they had expected, Morgana cast a spell on Valerian, causing him to double in size - but when Valerian swung his sword at the manticore, he found his sword arm caught in one of the snares they had set! Alarmed, the manticore turned and fled to the open ground, where it took flight.

The party chased after the monster, and Morgana called to Pangara, the god of winds, to send a gust upon the it, causing it to tumble out of the air. Now on the ground, the manticore continue to flee on its feet, towards its lair in the hills. The party could not keep pace with the beast, but Glowulf was able to track it to its cave, where after a fierce fight, they were able to slay the beast. Valerian took the head of the beast as proof, and Goncol harvested the venom sac from its tail. Searching the cave, Morgana found a broken staff similar to the one she held - a Analander Sorcerers College staff, and the tattered remains of a sorcerer's robes.

Our heroes returned to the village and were welcomed as heroes. A feast was held in their honour. Tomorrow they would enter Khare, but for now, they would eat and rest.

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was also runned pretty much out of the book, but I did use it to do some foreshadowing, and lay the seeds for future encounters.

The party got a sense that perhaps they are not the first team sent out of Analand for this mission. This will become clearer as they progress.

To add another element of the original gamebook to the campaign, I made each of the players choose a god for their character, and allowed each character to utilise the priestly power associated with that god once per session. I am glad that two of the players have called upon their gods for favours - the more attached they are to their gods, the more fun it will be for me when their PCs are forced to convert!

The next stage of the campaign will see them in Khare. I plan to run this part of the campaign in a more free-form manner; Goncol is a native of Khare, so I plan to let his player know about the various locations in the city, and let him tell the other PCs where they could go to find what they need to find. This will make things less predictable for me as a GM, but I imagine it will be fun for the players, and especially for Goncol's player.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Sorcery #1 - The Elvins

Campaign Diary

It was a cool spring morning when our heroes passed through the Cantopani Gate and entered into the Shamutanti Hills. Following the dirt road to the northeast, they arrived at the village of Cantopani at noon. They were met by the village headman, who offered them some advice for their journey beyond the village, but he was rebuffed. Entering the trader's hut, Morgana spent much of her gold purchasing a bamboo pipe (useful as a spell component) and a glittering jewel set on a necklace. Finding little else of interest in the village, they soon departed.

Beyond the village the dirt road split into two. On the fork to the left, leading down into a valley, Glowulf noticed several figures made from sticks hanging from the branches - it was a way to ward off evil spirits. Ignoring the warning, our heroes continued down that path. A few hours later, they arrived at a clearing with three thatched huts; a fire burned in a pit at the open area in the centre of the clearing.

Our heroes went about exploring the seemingly deserted village, managed to get themselves cursed by a dark spirit found inside a chest in one of the huts, fought and killed two guard dogs inside another, and finally were put into a magical slumber by the music inside the third. When they awoke they found themselves prisoners of elvins, a magical, elf-like race. They were admonished for their intrusion, and were thrown outside the village, with some of their provisions taken.

With the sun setting, our heroes hurried on to try to find a place to spend the night, and arrived at the village of Kristatanti just before sunset. Having spent most of their gold on purchases in Cantopani, they found themselves with insufficient funds for a room at the inn, and decided to sleep in the open just outside the village.

They settled upon a spot beside a stream, and while the others started a fire, Glowulf started fishing, and managed to catch enough fish for two. After dinner, the heroes set a watch, and with Morgana taking the first watch, the others went to sleep.

In the middle of her watch, Morgana heard a rustling coming from the brush near the camp. She quickly roused the others; the party barely had enough time to grab their gear before a large form burst out of the bush with an unearthly shriek - they were being attacked by an owlbear...

Prepping and Running the Game

For this session I stuck pretty close to the script of the module, since at this point it was reasonable that things were relatively linear.

Truth be told I was rather disappointed by how the players played their characters in this session. Three of the four players are from the Terrinoth campaign, and played experienced characters who behave accordingly; put in the roles of new characters, however, they regressed to the typical murder-hobo type, insulting NPCs and breaking and entering as though they were in a video game RPG. To be fair this type of behaviour is par for course for gamebooks, but hopefully after their encounter with the elvins they will be more circumspect.

The owlbear is of course not "native" to the Sorcery! setting, but fg had recently painted the model, and I thought it was as good a stand-in for a skunkbear as any other monster we had.

The best bit of meta-roleplaying in this session was actually when Glowulf's player announced that he would try to catch some fish for dinner. While seemingly innocuous, this actually foreshadows and event that will occur much later on in the campaign.

It was a short session, as we spent the first hour creating characters. During the next session I hope to complete the remainder of the first part of the trilogy.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Sorcery! #0 - A New Campaign


This week, we started a new campaign based on the old classic, Steve Jackson's Sorcery! gamebooks from the 80s, using Arion Games' Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules.

I have wanted to run this campaign for many years, and at one point was waiting for the now defunct Myriador to release the fourth and final module in their conversion of the campaign, but sadly that never happened. I got the Arion Games version of the campaign, which is a faithful reproduction of the plot of the original campaign, which means it had a rail-roady ending which I did not like. I let the whole project stew at the back of my mind for many years, until I decided to set aside a few months this year to finally make it happen.

I wanted to keep the basic plot of the campaign, but not necessarily all the details. This means that the party will be tasked to recover the Crown of Kings, will have to journey through the Shamutanti Hills, enter Khare, find the spells that will let them open the gate to the Baklands, race/defeat seven serpents as they cross the Baklands, then finally enter Mampang Fortress and defeat the Archmage. As long as I kept to this basic structure, I reckoned I could just find suitable modules and slot them into the appropriate places in the campaign.

I also wanted to add something to the campaign... a theme, which I think I have settled on, but which I will not reveal for now.

The Party

As befits the title, I wanted to have a sorcerer in the party. A lot of the fun in the original game was the spells with their funny names and the odd spell components which were required before the spells could be cast, which you found along the way, so I decided to use the AFF rules, which retained the original spells.

At the same time, I did not want a whole party of sorcerers. I decided that one other PC would be a fighter, an escort for the sorcerer. Once these two roles were taken, I asked the other two players what they wanted to play. One wanted to play an elven barbarian, and the other a rouge. Together, we worked out a reason for these characters to be included in the party.

So I present... the party!

Morgana Lefay, Sorceress

Trained in the Royal Academy of Sorcerers, Morgana was chosen to undertake the quest to recover the Crown of Kings and prevent a war that will destroy Analand and the other nations of the Femphrey Alliance.

Valerian the Victorius, Warrior

A sergeant in the Royal Guard, Valerian was hand-picked to accompany Morgana in the perilous quest.

Goncol, Rogue

A native of Khare, the cityport of traps, Goncol was recruited for his knowledge of the city and the spells which will allow the party to open the North Gate.

Glowulf Armstrong-Blackarm, Black Elf Barbarian

A black elf raised by barbarians of the Baklands, Glowulf was employed to guide the party through the wilderness beyond Khare and to their destination.

So there we have it: four characters, each with their reason to be in the party. Over the next few months I will post the adventures of our heroes as they travel towards their encounter with destiny. I hope you will join us on this journey.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Terrinoth #37 - Strongholds and Followers

(image from MCDM Productions)

Running and Prepping the Game

I'll skip right to the Running and Prepping the Game section here, since this part of the session was done mostly OOC.

I was initially a little apprehensive about running this part of the game, as the players have not been the most enthusiastic when I announced I wanted to transition the game to a "domain" game - certainly with a new group I would not have proceeded, but with this group I felt we have been playing together long enough for me to push things a little. Just a little.

I began by asking the players what they wanted to do now that they have their own "stronghold". They talked about establishing trade routes, improving the agricultural productivity (yes, one player did), and setting up an alchemy lab.

I grinned, told them to 'hold that thought', and then played the first encounter.

A dragonkin Knight-Sorcerer named Amran Ambrol turned up at their tower one morning, and challenged Strigoi to a duel to the death. Amran is based on the concept for the B Team character for Strigoi's player; we never did use him, so I thought it would be a nice opportunity to bring him into the story. In his days as a mercenary captain Strigoi had "neutralised" many dragonkin settlements, and now the survivor from one of them had come to avenge his family.

The stats for Amran is based on that of a Retainer from the Strongholds and Followers supplement. He was of course no match for Strigoi, but the orc was impressed by the young knight's courage, and offered to take him as a retainer and train him. Amran agreed, but said he reserved his right to vengeance. Percy thought it was a bad idea for Strigoi to train someone who might one day be able to defeat him, but Strigoi's logic was that as his disciple grew stronger, so would he; and in any case, death in combat was preferred to death in a bed.

I handed Strigoi's playing a piece of paper with the Amran's stats on them, and then passed out more all round, based on what the players said they wanted to do for the village; most were NPCs they have met in their adventures so far.

There was Trystan, the smith who made a scabbard for the magical sword Strigoi found in the first adventure, now come to seek employment.

There was Uth'rul, the dragonkin farmer and his family, whose lives the party saved from a lynch mob; they have come seeking some land to build their new home and farm on.

There was Zach and Brach, the gnomish merchants whom they met on the way to Nornholt; they asked for the right to hold a market at the village, for a cut of their profits, and to help Entana gather information of the lands around them (and spread misinformation, if he so desired).

There was Gartulf, whose inn was burned down when Mondock attacked the PCs when they were staying there; he wanted to set up a tavern at Fulhurst, and offered taxes in exchange for the monopoly on brewing and sale of alcoholic beverages.

There was Glint Khertrason, son of the dwarven metal merchant whom the players met at the inn. He offered his services as a miner for bog iron found in the swamp on the village land.

Two bards offered their services: Wilhem of Woodside, who left his village and began life as a traveling minstrel after the death of his beloved, and Elvahn the Trabadour-warrior, a fan of Gio and the composer of an opera based on his adventures (that closed after a week in the theatres of Nerekhall).

And of course, there was Til Terraghast, the gnomish alchemist-wizard, who was sadly asked to return another day... but I have plans for him, so he will definitely be back.

The NPCs were either retainers, who acted more like henchmen and could go adventuring with the PCs, or artisans, who "stayed at home" at the village, but conferred certain benefits to the PCs, like helping them gain information, or in the form of taxes. Retainers cost (I decided) the party 3 gp per
level per month, while artisans could bring in 10 to 15 gps per month.

To make this list, I went through my notes for the campaign and made a list of all the NPCs who may made made an impression, and who could reasonably offer their services to the PCs. Some of these matched the roles given in the Strongholds and Followers supplement, while others I made up to suit. I feel that offering them choices of NPCs whom the players had a history with made things more real and engaging.

The catch was, each PC could only take on as many retainers or artisans as their Charisma modifier, with the minimum of one, plus one for each level of the tower.

The players spent a good hour discussing which followers to keep, and debated over the wisdom of taking the right to brew ale from the villagers for money. Eventually they settled on taking in the metalsmith and the miner, for the synergy, and because they suspected they would eventually need an army, and these two artisans granted bonuses to troops; Entana granted Uth'rul and his family land, Strigoi took on the Amran, and Percy took on a healer retainer, and Gio took on Zach and Brach. Sadly there was no place for Til, but the players plan to take him on as soon as they upgraded their tower.

With the addition of more people to the household, the party needed to expand the keep. The PCs all chipped in for their share, and I gave Entana's player the task of drawing out the floor plan for their build. All these, I imagined, came together: trees were cut down for use in the construction and for the forge, and the land was granted to Uth'rul. The bog iron could be sold off to Zach and Brach, or be made into items by Trystan, which could then be sold... we got a whole medieval economy going on here.

By the end of the session the players were pretty pumped up at the prospects of getting their own space in the keep.

On my part the NPCs are a source of drama and dressing for gameplay.

I imagine Glint and Trystan would be working closely together. Will they get along? Or will they be at constant loggerheads, necessitating intervention from the PCs?

Amran and Uth'rul would most likely find a common bond, but how will the villagers feel about having suddenly to live alongside so many non-humans (six dragonkin, a dwarf, an orc, and a gnome)?

Amran will also likely share the duty of the guard at the keep, and of course there will be tension between him and Strigoi.

The upgrading of the tower would take about two months in game time. I asked the players what their characters would like to do during this period.

Entana did some spell research based on the rules in Strongholds and Followers, and now has a more powerful version of Magic Missile.

Gio wants to accompany Zach and Brach on their travels to the surrounding villagers and gather intelligence on what is going on in the region, as well as to spread tales of his adventures.

Percy decided to explore the lands around the village, and to get to know the villagers.

Strigoi wants to train Amran, and learn about mining and forging from Glint and Trystan.

It will be around six months in real life before we return to this campaign, and during this time I want to prepare the plot for the next arc, and paint up the figures required for it.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Terrinoth #36 - Fulhurst Moors

The villagers receive their new lord
Campaign Diary

When at last our heroes returned home to Dawnsmoor, Entana found a letter from the University at Greyhaven waiting for him: a village held by the University had need of a new vogt, and the council had decided to offer the place to Entana. Thus together Entana, Gio, Strigoi, and Percy took the long journey north back to Greyhaven again.

(Click here for PC profiles)

At Greyhaven, Entana was met by the council and told about Fulhurst, the village that he would be made vogt of. Located six days' journey to the north, the small village laid at the edge of the Mistlands, and had many years ago pledged itself to the University, paying a tax of money, beeswax, and rare herbs for the University's protection. For many years also the University had been an absent landlord, placing no vogt over it. However, a recent audit had revealed that the reeve of the village had not been entirely honest in the accounts, and so it was decided that another villager would be made reeve, and that a vogt would be placed in Fulhurst. At the same time, the University had been troubled by rumours of strange sightings at the border with the Mistlands, and had decided that a wizard with experience in the field would make a good candidate for the vogt, and Entana's name was pulled out of the hat.

Entana accepted the appointment, and accompanied by the other members of the party and Graenson, son of the University's Bursar and now his steward, they set off to Fulhurst with their possessions and gifts.

It was a warm spring day when they arrived at Fulhurst, a village of some fifty people in thirteen households. The villagers were gathered around a chair set upon a rock in the village common. As the party approached, Elrir, the new reeve, called out:"Who is this that I see coming towards us?"

Enatana, having been coached by Graenson, gave the required reply:

"The lord of the land. I will act as a just judge, and defender of widows and orphans."

The villagers then invited Entana to sit upon the chair, and Graenson handed over the gifts he had brought from Greyhaven, and then they proceeded to the vogt's tower. During the ceremony, Percy felt that the villagers were troubled, and that it went beyond the apprehension of receiving a new lord.

The 'tower' was a strange, hexagonal stone building designed many years ago by a wizard. It had a wooden wall around it, and a guard tower at the gate, but was otherwise a single-storey building. While Annas the chamberlain showed Entana around the place, Percy ventured outside to see if she could learn what troubled the villagers, and found Elrir waiting with a distraught woman at the gate.

The woman, Elrir explained, was Erli, a widow whose son Hansel went missing after going fishing for crayfish at the swamp near the village the evening before. Percy quickly brought the news to Entana, who cut short his inspection of the tower and organised the villagers into a search party.

After a quick search, the villagers found the basket used by the Hansel, but there was no sign of the boy. Hearing of accounts of swamp lights from the other children, our heroes surmised that the child may have been led deeper into the swamp when he mistook the lights for the lanterns held by the other children, and decided to venture deeper into the swamp. They dismissed the villagers, donned their gear, and headed into the swamp.

As they ventured deeper into the swamp, rain clouds moved in, and soon the sky was dark, and a constant drizzle began to fall. They noticed a single swamp light ahead of them in the distant, glowing blue. As they followed it deeper and deeper into the swamp, they realised that it seemed to keep a constant distance from them, not letting them get too close to it, nor moving out of their sight.

After a while the party found that they had lost track of time, and their sense of direction, but at last they seemed to close on the light. Then suddenly Strigoi, at the head of the party, found himself sinking to his thigh in the soft ground. Another swamp light appeared, and together the two lights descended on Strigoi, striking him with arcs of electrical energy.

As the other heroes struggled to reach Strigoi, the ground before him began to swelling, and form began to rise out of the mud, and as it did so our heroes were assailed by the stench of decay. The form rose to man-height, and out of it three tendrils emerged, and they lashed at Strigoi. The orc tried to fend his attackers off as his companions came to his aid. When they had at last reached the form, they felt stirring in the ground behind them - out of the waterlogged ground rose three animated corpses, their skin stained a uniform brown after soaking for centuries in the stagnant swamp waters. The zombies attacked our heroes from behind them, and for a while it seemed the battle would end poorly for them. Then Strigoi pulled himself free from the mud, strode forward, and struck the form with a mighty blow, cutting a great gash in it. Out of this gash, the arm of a child emerged.

Once more the tendrils struck at Strigoi, and as they hit the orc felt its spines inject venom into him' but still he held firm. Percy called out a warning to the others, and Gio, having positioned himself to the form's rear (if such a thing had a rear), gutted the thing, and a boy rolled out.

As the form slumped back into an amorphous mass, the zombies too fell to the ground. Our heroes quickly scooped the boy up, and were glad to find that he was still alive. As Percy attended to Hansel and Strigoi, Gio and Entana searched the area. They found four more corpses buried in the ground, each with a leather cord wound tightly around its neck. They also found several bronze neck rings and silver bracelets, all tarnished, and a single untarnished bronze pipe.

When Hansel at last regained his strength and composure, he revealed that he had indeed got separated from the other children looking for crayfish, and had followed the lights until he became hopelessly lost, but could not remember what happened afterwards. By now the rain had stopped, and Percy regained her sense of direction, and led the party back to the village.

When they emerged from the swamp the party was greeted as heroes, and Strigoi generously decided to pay for a feast for the village, purchasing the food from the tower. Thus ended the party's first day in Fulhurst.

Prepping and Running the Game

As I mentioned in the previous posts, this was the last session of this arc of the campaign, and the transition to the "domain" game.

The scenario above was based somewhat on a Village Backdrop by Raging Swan Press. I was looking for a small village near the edge of civilisation, and the description of Fulhurst Moors as a village near peatlands where ancient human sacrifices were made in the bogs, as well as the presence of Will O Wisps appealed to me. However, Fulhurst itself looked more 'developed' than I liked, and as usual I turned to Lythia.com to find a village that came with a nice map, description of its inhabitants, and a small but unique manor house.

The description of the ceremony was based on an account of the installation of a new duke in medieval Germany. I liked the idea of the player actually saying the oath out aloud. As it turned out that stuck with the party.

The adventure itself was partly a filler, and party a chance for the PCs to show their prowess to the villagers. I had expected them to wait for dark, and raise the whole village in a hue and cry to follow the Will O Wisps into the swamp. This would mean that the final fight would have seen more zombies, and the players having to command the villagers. As it turned out they saw their quest as a more urgent one, and went out in broad daylight, which necessitated the use of clouds to make the appearance of the Will O Wisps more reasonable.

The "form" is based off the Corpse Flower from Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, which I recently acquired. The description of the zombies was based on bog bodies, which I have always found fascinating. In my mind the Corpse Flower must have grown on the site, feeding off the necrotic energy of these human sacrifice, and it had later formed a symbiotic relationship with the Will O Wisps, who lured more victims to it.

The description of the loot they found was again based on an actual historical hoard.

The adventure itself took a little over an hour to play, and we spent the rest of the session playing out the "domain" part of the game, which I will describe in the next post.