Thursday, November 23, 2017

Men of the White Island

So, funny story.  I had been thinking I would build 24-point and 48-point versions of two or three different armies for Dragon Rampant for demo purposes.  I've got my 24 points' worth of Undead and Men of the West; and a good chunk of my "Coalition of Evil" army is on its way.  While digesting pie, I was weighing options for what I would need to buy to build the second 24 points for the Men of the West.  

And then I remembered that I have a box of Perry Miniatures' Wars of the Roses infantry sitting in my closet from last Christmas, and it makes two dozen archers and a dozen billmen, plus command.  With the right upgrades, that's 18 points of a Dragon Rampant army right there.  Pulling it out and giving the sprues a once-over, I decided that given the differences in armor styles and weaponry between these figures and the Normans I'm using for my Men of the West, these would be a different, potentially allied kingdom, and for simplicity's sake I dubbed it "the White Island." I tend to favor the Hyborian approach when designing a fantasy world and steal as much from history with the names changed as possible.  

Selecting the 10 heaviest-armored bodies off the main sprues, and the two bodies off one of the command sprues, I quickly assembled a unit of Offensive Heavy Foot using the bill-carrying arms, and gave them a commanding officer and standard bearer as well.  


Tomorrow I'm thinking I'll get the two dozen archers assembled and then I can start priming them, holding off on painting them until the Painting Challenge begins.  Colorwise, I'm leaning towards the white and blue livery of Richard, Duke of York as my basis for these; based on my limited research, I believe that's whose banner my own ancestors would have been marching under in the 1450s and I think it'd be amusing - since this will be able to double as a Lion Rampant retinue - to field a retinue raised from the town in which my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents had lived.  

I placed an order with Perry Miniatures just now for a half-dozen foot knights with polearms to complete the retinue.  

In Dragon Rampant, the army roster will look like this:

  • 1x Elite Foot - 6 pts
  • 1x Offensive Heavy Foot - 6 pts
  • 2x Light Missiles (Sharpshooter) - 12 pts

In Lion Rampant, it will look like this:

  • 1x Foot Men-at-Arms - 6 pts
  • 1x Expert Foot Serjeants - 6 pts
  • 2x Expert Archers  - 12 pts
All in all, what I'm looking at painting for the Painting Challenge is going to look like this:

12 War of the Roses Billmen
24 War of the Roses Archers
6 War of the Roses Foot Knights
6 Normans with Two-Handed Axes
12 Medieval Russians with Spears
12 Medieval Russians converted to be carrying Crossbows
24 Goblins with Spears
6 Goblins with Bows
3 Giant Spiders

For a total of 105 28mm figures, putting me comfortably within my target goal.  Granted, I don't know that I'll be able to get all that done, especially as I anticipate having other deadlines to meet and projects requiring my attention, but it's a goal.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans.  May your pants stretch and your gravy boat stay full on this, my second favorite reason to get people gathered around a table.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Painting Bench, an Update

Well, with the announcement having been made for the 8th annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge (in which I will be participating), I thought I should show off some of what's been coming off my project list lately:

First up, "Edgwick and his Hounds," a unit of Lesser Warbeasts for my "Men of the West" army for Dragon Rampant.  These guys still need a dusting of meadow flock added to their bases, and I'm not super in love with how the dogs themselves came out, but they'll do for now.  Edgwick himself is a Crusader Warlord from Gripping Beast, which they threw in as a bonus figure with my last order, while the dogs are Reaper Bones.



Next, "The Howling Hordes of Bakarath," A Reduced Model Unit of Bellicose Foot which may or may not end up with the "Cause Fear" rule applied to them, for a "Dark Lord's Evil Coalition" army for Dragon Rampant.  The idea for this army being it's humans, goblinoids and demons, held together by the power and charisma of a villainous warlord; these Reaper "Bakarathi" demons certainly look Bellicose! These are older metal figures from Reaper, from the 02100s and 02200s line, and now I think they're in the 03600s.  A "98" was scratched onto the bottom of a couple of them, telling me they were sculpted 19 years ago.  I've glued a few Wargames Foundry shields and a cut-down Reaper Bones skeleton warrior to a couple of the bases. 





Next, another unit for my "Men of the West" army, a Reduced Model Unit of Heavy Foot with an attached Wizardling.  The spearmen are Conquest Games' plastic Norman warriors, of which I'd ordered a couple sprues.  These went together nicely enough, though I had some problems with their two-handed axes, as you'll see in a minute.  These are still a work in progress; the red needs some touching up on their tunics and shields, and of course the bases remain to be finished.  Accompanying them is "Diva, the Blessed," one of the limited-edition figures Reaper has put out this year to commemorate their 25th year in business.  Like Edgwick and his Hounds, her base just needs a dusting of meadow flock to complete it. 



Following them we have the Black Prince himself, leader of the Evil Coalition army, accompanied by his beloved pet scorpion.  For Dragon Rampant purposes, he is a Single Model Unit of Elite Foot.  I think he's pretty much done except for his base and the leather bits on his armor.  I like how his cloak came out.  Both figures are Reaper metals. 




Finally, we've got the King's Guard, a Reduced Model Unit of Offensive Heavy Foot who will be replacing a set of Bones figures that I was never super happy with.  These will be paired with King Denethall, leader of my "Men of the West" army, and are again Conquest Games' Normans - made using the more heavily armored bodies on the warriors sprue, as well as the two bodies on the command sprue to create a sergeant and standard bearer.  I ended up with some significant gaps where the right arm meets the torso on two of the axe-men (I suspect that some weapons fit some torsos better than others) that I'm going to need to putty up before I can get painting. 



Overall, I'm pretty happy with everything, caveats as noted above.  I'm liking the Conquest figures enough that I'm considering getting a couple archer sprues to replace my Reaper Bones bowmen in this army, and adding another box of Normans when I get around to building a second 24 points of "reinforcements" for this army. 

Next up, however, is going to be the first 24 points of the Black Prince's army; I've pre-ordered a box of "Oathmark" Goblins from North Star, which will produce two units of Light Foot and a unit of Scouts, as well as a box of Fireforge Games' Medieval Russian Infantry, which will serve as humans marching beneath the Black Prince's banner a la Tolkien's Easterlings serving in the armies of Mordor.  Fireforge provides enough spear-arms for the box to produce two units of spearmen, but not enough swords, axes, maces or bows to produce any units with them.  I've got a ton of Fireforge crossbow arms in my bits box from last year's Ordenstaadt project, I may convert a dozen of these soldiers into crossbowmen.  I am going to have to find some replacement shields for the ones I do arm with spears though...

For those interested, the Black Prince's list as I'm currently building it:

  • The Black Prince (Elite Foot, Single Model Unit) - 6 pts.
  • Sorceress and Spearmen (Heavy Foot, Reduced Model Unit, Wizardling) - 6 pts
  • Crossbowmen (Heavy Missiles) - 4 pts
  • The Howling Horde of Bakarath (Bellicose Foot) - 4 pts
  • Goblins (Light Foot, Cowardly) - 2 pts
  • Goblins (Light Foot, Cowardly) - 2 pts


The Goblin Scouts are being saved for inclusion in the second 24 points "reinforcements" list for bigger games.  Overall, however, I think the contents of those two boxes - a total of 55 figures - will form the core of my Painting Challenge entry this year. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 17

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Jaeger, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

When we last left our heroes, Cor was working with a cordon of guards - both regular town militia and the elite soldiers of the Red Brotherhood - to secure a perimeter around the House of Pavel, now known to be the lair of diabolical cultists.  Paired with a Brotherhood soldier named Desrick, a large, placid-looking man, Cor found in him an appreciative admirer.  Unfortunately, a pyrotechnic blast from one of the windows of the House of Pavel caused Desrick to say, "Well, there's the signal.  I'm sorry to have to do this..." drawing his short-sword.

The rest of the group was inside, where they discovered - they thought - Lady Erzebeta about to sacrifice one of her step-daughters to the Demogorgon as Sir Dorian, commander of the Red Brotherhood, looked on expectantly.  An arrow from Lasair dispelled the illusion, and Sir Dorian (not an illusion) ordered the two guards present (also not an illusion) to attack.

Dormammu's entrance was cut short as he passed the threshold and a pair of crossbow bolts struck him - the real Julia and Wanda, Lord Vesper's teenage daughters, were using a pair of raised choir boxes in this desecrated temple to turn the floor below into a shooting gallery.  He fell, but was soon back on his feet thanks to Flora.  Sylvus, still in wolf form, charged Sir Dorian, as did Kholark.

As the battle raged, it occurred to the party - "Where did Vesper go?" His half-elven eyes piercing the gloom of the balcony between the two heads of the Demogorgon painted on the wall, Dormammu saw Lord Vesper and Lady Erzebeta watching the battle with glee.  He called out his discovery to the party.

Stepping into the flickering carmine light, Vesper announced, "Did you not suspect that a Cult of the Demogorgon would itself have TWO HEADS? All would have been fine if you'd just done as you were supposed to and killed that troublesome Red Witch.  Ah well.  Take my secrets to your graves."

He cast Cloudkill on the party, including the still-living Sir Dorian and his men.

Before too much damage could be done by the poisonous cloud, Flora cracked the Elemental Gem of Air that the Red Witch had given her, directing the summoned Air Elemental to funnel the poison gas out of the room and back up towards the balcony.

Flora then caught sight of a towering, unholy creature shambling towards her through the thinning fog, and screamed - but either an arrow from Lasair or an Eldritch Blast from Dormammu [DM's Note: I honestly forget which, and nobody sent me notes this week] shattered Erzebeta's concentration, revealing the creature to be an illusionary Phantasmal Killer.

Jaeger had the Air Elemental throw him at the balcony, but failed to catch the railing, falling 20 feet on to a descending staircase below.  With Sir Dorian and his men dealt with, Kholark raced to those same stairs, and together he and Jaeger found a way up to the balcony, while the Air Elemental simply floated up.  Lady Erzebeta was thrown thirty feet horizontally out from the balcony, while Lord Vesper took a pounding from whispy, unseen fists.  Kholark smashed his flail down on Vesper again and again, and Jaeger, seeing the old man clinging to the barest threads of life, picked him up and PILE-DRIVERED HIM OFF THE BALCONY.

Seeing their father and step-mother (and fellow cultists) dead, Wanda and Julia opted to kill themselves rather than be taken prisoner, much to Lasair's dismay.

Meanwhile, Cor killed Desrick with his dagger and quarterstaff, and looting the body, retrieved some gold and a platinum ring that was too small for Desrick's fingers.  He quickly identified it as a Ring of Protection.  

The death of Vesper caused the mouths of the painted Demogorgon to open and bellow in stereo "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" temporarily deafening Mivahl and Kholark.  The sonic boom also blew out all the windows, causing enough confusion outside for the town guard to overpower the Red Brotherhood and bring them to heel.

Searching Lord Vesper's body, Jaeger came away with an elaborate cloak pin of gold and obsidian - identifiable as a Scarab of Protection.  He also claimed Sir Dorian's single-edged, basket-hilted sword for himself.

That night's scheduled pig-roast proved far more celebratory than originally planned, as the city celebrated the removal of the Demogorgon Cult.  Ariska the Red Witch was called upon to replace Lord Vesper as the ruler of Craghold.

In the morning, a delegation of Hobgoblins arrived, asking for the group.  Zerin, their former companion turned leader of New Dawn, had informed Borgai, Khan of the Hobgoblins, of the party's successful capture of the lance known as the Empyrean Vengeance.  The leader of the delegation demanded that the party turn the lance over to him to deliver to Borgai, which Mivahl gladly did.  With a bow, the hobgoblins withdrew, riding back into the desert from whence they came.

With that, Cor announced his retirement from adventuring, settling in to run an inn and decode the iron-bound Book of Skelos.  The remainder of the party, giving a fresh ear to rumors, decided on their next course of action - they would return to the city of Molekh to claim their reward from Borgai Khan for finding the lance, and then turn their attention back to the Groaning Keep, eager to avenge themselves on the undead knights contained therein.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

WIP: The Bakarathi

So while waiting for the figures I need to finish off my "Men of the West"-style Dragon Rampant warband, I've started work on a third - "Warriors of the Dark Lord" is the theme, and is going to be a mix of evil humans, orc and goblin-types, and demonic types.  I really like Dragon Rampant's tone of "play up the stereotypes - let elves be archers, goblins be sneaky, etc.," and I'm treating this army especially as if it were an evil army out of a high fantasy novel or a D&D campaign. 

At the same time, over on the Dragon Rampant Facebook group, this quarter's contest is up and running, with the theme of "Reduced Model Unit." In the parlance of the game, this is a unit where there are fewer models than there are "Strength Points" in a unit, each model being treated as having multiple "wounds" and being thereby tougher than the average foot-slogging infantryman. 

I took this into account while drawing up my "Dark Lord" list and made sure I had a reduced model unit I could assemble and paint for the contest.  I decided on a reduced model unit of Bellicose Foot, a group of big scary goons with heavy weapons that could rush in and hit hard but lacked staying power.  And I recalled that Reaper Miniatures, in their back catalog, had a number of these lanky, skull-faced creeps called "Bakarathi." I have no idea what they're supposed to be - they don't correspond to anything I've ever seen in a D&D manual - but I always liked the "skinless baboon" look of them and decided to get myself a few.  I bought two each of three different Bakarathi, leaving the archer and spearman sculpts unpurchased.


Clean-up was pretty fast, though being older figures (there's a "'98" scratched into the bases of a couple of them, making them almost 20 years old) there was plenty of flash to trim away. 

With the weather getting colder, I used brush-on primer for these, and the paint-job just kind of perfectly fell into place.'

Skin  is basecoated black, drybrushed "Midnight Blue." Armor and weapons are black then "Tarnished Steel" followed by a wash of Citadel "Nuln Oil." Wood is basecoated "Shield Brown" and drybrushed "Driftwood Brown." Insides of the mouth are "Old West Rose" while the teeth were picked out in "Yellowed Bone" and "Creamy Ivory." Eyes are "Fire Orange," while hair was basecoated "Monarch Purple," given a heavy drybrush of "Royal Purple," then a final drybrush of "Pale Red Violet."


Two of them got Foundry shields (dug out of my bits box) glued to their bases to break up the empty space, and these were done in Tarnished Steel, "Pine Green" and "Leaf Green" and "Deep Red" and "Blood Red." Somehow I didn't think that would come out Christmasy.  A third (and this isn't pictured here) got a cut-down Bones skeleton glued to their base and painted. 

Just finishing the basing left to do and I can call these guys finished.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 16

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Jaeger, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4 (out for this session)
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Stormsday, the 16th of Rainmont.  

The PCs awaken to learn that following Kholark's victory over Bawss Hawg the previous night, the porcine behemoth was given a final keg of beer, washed down and shoved into a smoker.  He'll be ready to eat this evening, at two gold a plate.  They resolve to get a few plates that evening, along with the remainder of Dormammu's medication.

Firming up their plans for the day, they head to the castle to try and sell Lord Vesper on their plan to "bless" his chambers.  Instead, they find the castle in disarray, and their presence called for - Lady Erzebeta has disappeared at some point during the night, and appears to have taken all three of Vesper's children (his daughters Wanda and Julia from his first marriage, and his son by Erzebeta) with her.  Fearing that the rumors of Erzebeta being a sorceress are true, Vesper begs the PCs to find her - and asks to accompany them to help rescue his children.  

Searching Lady Erzebeta's chambers turned up a vial of powdered Devil's Foot Root, confirming her as the murderer of Lady Talia, two years prior.  Similarly, a wavy black dagger, seemingly dropped in haste, was found next to Wanda's bed.  

Cor cast Identify on the teleportation circle in the chimney (something Vesper had been unaware of) and determined the magic words to activate it.  Intoning the words, the group (minus Cor, who agreed to join a cordon surrounding the target site) jumped through, finding themselves on a stone platform with a fountain in the center of it, seemingly in the middle of a forest, with paths leading off to the north and south.  Closer examination, however, determined that the "sky" above was enchanted ceiling, and that this "forest" was in fact growing inside a building.  

"I know this place," Vesper said, "This is the house of Count Pavel.  It's stood empty for two years; he was a loyal retainer of mine, falling to a troll-thrown spear while fighting orcish marauders two years ago.  An empty house on the edge of town...this must be where the cult has been meeting. Tread cautiously; no doubt the bitch has summoned up things to defend from us."

As if on cue, a pair of shadowy, demonic shapes detached themselves from the darkened forest and attacked, their insubstantial claws tearing at the psyches of the PCs; every successful hit forcing them to recall painful childhood memories.  Kholark recalled being laughed at by the other children as they chanted "Fang face, fang face, fang face!" at him, and Sylvus relived his mother drunkenly telling him he was a mistake.  

In the heat of battle, Kholark's flail broke, the chain snapping and sending the ball flying, while Vesper accidentally threw his sword at one of the fiends.  

Handing off his flail to the barbarian, Mivahl summoned the Empyreal Vengeance, the magic lance they'd found in the dwarven crypts beneath New Dawn, which proved much more effective against the creatures.  As Mivahl drove the lance deep into the chest of one of the fiends, bloody skeletal hands erupted from the floor to drag it, struggling and screeching, down into the Abyss - confirming Mivahl's decision that he didn't really want to keep this weapon for himself.  Jaeger drew his flintlock pistol and fired, putting a lead slug through the head of the second demon, vaporizing it.  

Before they had a chance to catch their breath, a scream rang out.  "That's Wanda!" Vesper gasped. Jaeger leaped on to Sylvus (in Dire Wolf form)'s back and they took off running up the path, with Jaeger just barely throwing himself off before Sylvus impacted the giant oak double-doors the path terminated at.  Sylvus had hoped to go straight through the door, but it was too sturdy.

Throwing open the doors, the PCs were greeted with a nightmare scene, hellishly lit by two smoldering braziers; a once-proud chapel of the Unconquered Sun, now defaced with obscene murals, including one of a two-headed, baboon-faced fiend leering down; an altar on a raised dais, where Lady Erzebeta, naked save for a golden tiara, held a knife high, ready to plunge it into the heart of Wanda, bound naked on the altar, with Julia bound (and the baby in a basket) nearby.  Sir Dorian, commander of the Red Brotherhood, looked on gloatingly, while a pair of Brotherhood soldiers stood guard.  

Lasair loosed an arrow, hitting Erzebeta in the chest; the sorceress and the three sacrifices disappeared instantly, while Sir Dorian and his men smiled and drew their swords.

[DM's Note: Initially, Dormammu had declared that he was using Prestidigitation to extinguish the two braziers, plunging the opponents  - all human - into darkness.  We are retconing this because the braziers were not within range of the spell.]

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dragon Rampant Work in Progress

Slowly but surely, the painting continues, and can hopefully continue at a better clip.  The new apartment lacks a lot of the built-in lighting that our old apartment had, and with the shrinking hours of daylight associated with the winter months, I've been limited to only being able to paint when the sun is out.  Tonight I finally bought a desk lamp for the dining room table (aka my painting station) so I can paint even when the sun's down. 



So tonight I got a little work done; a team of five Reaper Bones wardogs (Lesser Warbeasts for my Men of the West Dragon Rampant army) were basically completed, save for flocking their bases.  I also put a coat of brush-on primer on a one-eyed Crusader Warlord from Gripping Beast (a free figure sent to me with an order of Teutonic Knights last year) to use as the wardogs' handler, and took care of his armor (basecoated black, followed by Reaper Tarnished Steel) and put a basecoat of Deep Red on his tunic, axe-grip, shield and cap. 

Likewise, I primed "Diva, the Blessed," a recent Reaper figure released to celebrate 25 years in business, and did her armor (Pure Black undercoat, then True Silver) and robes (Deep Red again). 

Hopefully tomorrow night I'll finish off the red on both of them (coat of Blood Red, highlight Phoenix Red, glaze Blood Red).

I've been really frustrated with the Reaper Bones figures lately; I've had a number recently where no matter how many times I boil and repose them, they revert to bent states, and where paint simply won't stick to the material, beading off.  Given my issues in the past, I won't be priming them, despite what (conflicting) advice may get handed out.  So the last unit of this army, a band of spearmen who will be accompanying Diva, won't be Reaper "Anhurians," but instead hard plastic Norman warriors from Conquest Games; I ordered a few sprues and if I like how they go together and look, I may ultimately end up replacing all my official Anhurian figures with Conquest Normans. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 15

The last paragraph of last week's write-up caused a bit of consternation among my players, who had missed Jaeger's player mentioning it to me as we'd packed up for the night.  This spawned a great deal of discussion over the course of the week, and my biggest take-away was that, with eight players at the table, A) I'm not always hearing everyone clearly and B) in-character and out-of-character speech at the table is not always being clearly defined, and comments made at the table are being taken as being in-character and acted upon when they were not meant as such.  So this week I instituted a simple rule - each player was issued a playing card.  When speaking out of character, the card must be held up and be visible.  Otherwise, whatever they said was to be taken as their character saying it.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4 (out for this session)
Jaeger, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Wiseday, the 15th of Rainmont.

Mivahl is stunned in the morning, waking up to Jaeger throwing his old unit badge at him.  "I can tell when I'm not wanted," Jaegar growled, "And this group doesn't want me." Mivahl called an emergency meeting of the group over breakfast at the Golden Boar.  Jaeger laid out why he felt unwanted, despite Mivahl having vouched for him, and the rest of the group explained their attitudes and reasonings.  A lot of air was cleared, Jaeger was welcomed as a member of the adventuring party without reservations, and to celebrate the former bounty hunter bought the group breakfast. 

The party spent the day in preparation - Cor, to read the strange enchanted scrolls found in the dwarven tomb beneath New Dawn once the full moon rose and revealed their concealed text; Kholark, to wrestle the porcine behemoth known as Bawss Hawg behind the Drunkatorium; Jaeger purchased the tools and materials necessary to assemble a breaching charge of the sort he and Mivahl used to use in blowing open wizard hide-outs; and Lasair drew up plans to meet with Ariska, the Red Witch, that evening at the Drunkatorium. 

That night, Kholark threw his gold piece in the bucket and took his shirt off, downing three beers and allowing the dwarven barmaids to slather him in grease to wrestle Bawss Hawg.  Hawg, likewise, was fed a pony keg's worth of ale and greased up.  Wading into the sty with a bellowing call upon the strength of Bormo, Kholark slammed into the giant pig, grappling the greased grunter.  The sinews standing out on Kholark's arms like steel cables, he heaved the half-ton hog over his head and slammed the mighty beast down into the mud and filth, throwing himself atop it.  Holding the squealing monster down in its own semi-liquid waste, Kholark strained to keep Bawss Hawg pinned.  A count of five was announced, and Kholark stood victorious. 

When Kholark seized the bucket of gold that was his due, the bartender yelled, "Wait just a minute!" and hauled up two additional buckets - three years' worth of entry fees from contenders who had tried and failed.  Kholark had won 376 gold pieces, while the party members who had bet upon his victory each walked away with 200 gold. 

As the moon rose, Cor unfurled the scrolls, watching with glee as the silvery runic script unveiled itself under the moon's rays.  One scroll revealed a map, a section of the Worldsfang Mountains, far to the north, an X marking "The City of the First Masons, Where Fell the Hammers of the Gods."

The second scroll revealed a dire warning from Magister Eckhardt, the dwarf whose tomb had contained the scrolls:

May the gods have mercy on me in my weakness, that I feared to burn this map and the information it contains.  Long have I pondered whether to destroy the information within or to release it to the world.  In my weakness I have done neither, allowing indecision to rule.  I am the last of my clan; when I am gone, perhaps this damning sheet of vellum will go with me.  Let none seek what the map shows; let that first, hateful secret of the dwarves be left buried for all eternity. 

Cor's eyes lit up.  This sounded like treasure!

Meanwhile, in the Drunkatorium, Flora received a letter from Ariska, asking her to come - alone - to the back room.  There, Ariska beckoned Flora be seated after closing the door behind her.  "I am fat, drunk and old," Ariska said, throwing back her hood to reveal a heavyset human woman, her hair still mostly coppery, in her mid-50s.  "I'm neither blind, nor stupid, though I suspect your companions may mistake me for such.  They could have tried to keep their story straight from bar to bar."

Ariska explained to Flora that Talia, Vesper's first wife, was no simple case of illness; she'd come to realize - too late - that Talia was being repeatedly dosed with an extremely rare poison - Devil's Foot Root - likely in the form of fumes off a burning source.  She suspects Erzebeta, Vesper's current wife, as the poisoner, but confessed she's unsure how involved Vesper was in the plot - he was away, fighting orcs, when Talia fell ill.  According to Ariska, whatever the cult or coven operating around Craghold was, it had corrupted the psyche of the region; the bizarrely aggressive dogs and wolves were a symptom of this corruption. 

Welcoming the aid of the party in addressing this threat, Ariska gave Flora a polished oval of quartz, explaining that it was an Elemental Gem of Air; breaking it would release an Air Elemental that would serve her for one minute. She also gave her the first dose of a potion that would help with Dormammu's veneral disease; he would need to take a dose a day, for a full week, to clear up his problem, and she'd bring the remaining doses with her to the Golden Boar tomorrow. 

Returning to the Golden Boar (and with Mivahl asking Lasair to join him for a moonlit scroll later), the party went over what they knew and planned their next move.  It was proposed returning to the Whore's Arse to try and get some information out of Borut, the castle bailiff, since the party - especially Kholark - already had a good rapport with him.  Lasair was annoyed that Mivahl was welching on their walk to return to the Whore's Arse with Kholark, and took her annoyance out on Dormammu, who was trying to talk up a barmaid, informing her of Dormammu's unfortunate disease and ordering him back to his room. 

At the Whore's Arse, Kholark, Mivahl, Cor and Jaeger sat down with drinks with Borut.  Asking him about the Sheriff, Edras, Borut declared his boss a good man who was doing a hard job to the best of his abilities and ran a tight ship.  Seeing a nearby guardsman puking, the party proposed carrying the man back to the barracks to sober up.  Borut, deep in his cups, agreed.

At the barracks, Jaeger perused a series of maps of guard patrol routes and various written orders, finding everything above board.  On their way back to the Golden Boar, Mivahl picked a flower, hoping it would in some measure make up for standing up Lasair. 

Reassembled, the party came up with a plan.  Under the guise of concern for Lord Vesper's health and safety, Flora would "bless" the lord's chambers, and Lasair would check on the well-being of his daughters.  They would use this opportunity to further investigate the teleportation circle and see if they could at least copy the runes for translation, to see if they could figure out where it went.  They considered trying to activate it, but feared where it might take them. 

A plan in place, the party retired for the night. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 14

This was an odd session.  I went in with almost literally no notes, no real plan of how the session would go, and trusted to my own skill and my players' creativity to make things happen.  And happen they did.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Jager, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4 (out for this session)
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Picking up where we left off, the party split in two; Kholark, Flora and Dormammu went to the Drunkatorium to see if the Red Witch they are seeking ever comes and drinks there, while Jager, Cor, Lasair and Sylvus paid a visit to the Fang and Flagon.

The Drunkatorium proved to be almost a "light" version of the nightmare dive bar known as the Whore's Arse, where much of the party has been spending their evening since their return to Craghold, and also largely a demihuman bar - most of the clientele were half-orcs, half-elves and dwarves.  Speaking with the bartender, Kholark learned that the Red Witch would be at the Drunkatorium tomorrow, the 15th of Rainmont, as per her usual schedule.  The bartender also encouraged Kholark to meet "Bawss Hawg" - an enormous, four-tusked pig in a sty out back.  Put a gold coin in the bucket, the bartender explained, and take your chance trying to pin the well-greased (and drunk) Hawg.  Pin the pig for a five-count and win all the gold in the bucket.  No one in the three years Bawss Hawg has been wrestling has managed to pin the monstrous boar.  Tomorrow night was wrestling night, the bartender said, and Kholark enthusiastically agreed to be there to face down the Hawg.

At the Fang and Flagon, they learned that the Red Witch would likely be there tonight, and that at last count, Roz, the half-orc prostitute from the Whore's Arse, had left 11 corpses in her wake from disease and broken pelvises alone.

Exiting the Drunkatorium, Lasair headed to the castle.  Jager, meanwhile, decided he wanted more information on the wolf attacks that the town had been suffering, and made his way to the north-west gate to ask the guards there for more information.  Zeroing in on an ordinary guardsmen (not one of the mercenaries of the Red Brotherhood), Jager began barking orders, berating the man for the supposed state of his equipment, and leading the man to believe he'd been sent on a surprise inspection from the Sheriff.

Unfortunately, Jager decided to mention that if the guard wanted a better review, he better cough up some coin.  Recognizing the ruse, the guard swung his halberd at Jager; in response, Jager tried to do a flashy move while drawing his flintlock, but fumbled the roll and shot himself in the leg.

Panicking, Cor cast Hold Person on Jager while Sylvus wildshaped into a mastiff and, grabbing Cor by the collar, ran off carrying him (as the townsfolk began screaming about werewolves and a mad dog snatching a child).  Paralyzed by magic, Jager was easily taken into custody by the guards, stripped of his armor and weapons and thrown into a cell in the watchtower.

Meanwhile, Lasair gave some basic self-defense lessons to Lord Vesper's daughters, Wanda and Julia.  Satisfied with their progress, Lasair took her leave and, raising the hood on her Cloak of Elvenkind, began to explore the castle, following her nose in search of the same whiff of infernality she'd smelled before.  Her keen elven senses led her straight to the private quarters of Lord Vesper and Lady Erzebeta.  Listening at the door, Lasair heard a pair of chamber maids arguing over whose turn it was to empty the chamber pots, and she slunk into the shadows to await their exit.

Once the maids were gone, Lasair let herself into the chambers and began her search, turning over the room carefully for evidence of foul doings - she still suspected Lady Erzebeta of being the demon summoner.  She found nothing until she chanced to look inside the fireplace - and discovered a series of runes and sigils inscribed on the bricks inside the flue.  Unsure what they said or were for, she quickly made her exit.

Kholark, Dormammu and Flora soon made contact with Cor (now riding Sylvus, still in dog-form, through the town), and learned of Jager's imprisonment.  Debating what to do about that, they settled on going to see about having him freed, and offering to pay for Jager's bail (a simple matter of 55 gold) out of Jager's own pocket.

Reconvening and sharing what they'd learned, the party decided to return to the Fang and Flagon to await the Red Witch.  Instead, they were met by a magically-delivered letter, addressed to the individuals who had been so indelicately asking after her at every bar in town.

The Red Witch - Ariska being her given name - explains that, given the current situation in Craghold, with her being technically banished but remaining nonetheless, she must assume that the individuals seeking her are looking to arrest her or worse.  If that is not the case, she would be willing to deal with them, but will require them to meet her at the Drunkatorium, unarmored and unarmed, tomorrow night to do so.

Lasair quickly penned a response, advising Ariska that they wanted to hear her side of the story of how Vesper's first wife died.

With nothing else to do for the evening, Dormammu sent his imp, Francis P. Mordo, to investigate the inscription inside Lord Vesper's chimney.  Looking through the imp's eyes, Dormammu was able to identify the inscription as being the main part of a teleportation circle, permanently keyed to a single location.  Anyone standing inside the fireplace and saying a trigger phrase would be instantly teleported to this other specified location.  The party debated whether the existence of this teleportation circle was a sign of nefariousness on Lord Vesper or Lady Erzebeta's part, or simply an arcane bolthole created by a paranoid warlord who'd come to power via coup in the first place.

Later, at the Golden Boar, Jager paced his room, angry.  He'd heard the way the rest of the group had spoken about him, how they didn't consider him a member of the team.  Hadn't Mivahl vouched for him? Hadn't he fought that strange, steel-feathered bird by their side? Hadn't he given Cor his freedom on the way to Craghold, and carried Dormammu out of the Whore's Arse when he was dead-drunk? They had accepted Flora into the party without question or hesitation, but if after all this, he was still an outsider? Perhaps he'd never be welcomed.  He took of his badge, the sign of rank and service he'd shared with Mivahl.  Looking at it for a moment, he tossed it angrily on the bed.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wendigo WIP

Last year as part of the Secret Santa exchange, I received (alongside several packs of skeletons) a metal Wendigo figure from Reaper Miniatures, courtesy of Thomas over at Learning by Doing.  This is a really gorgeously ghoulish figure, gaunt, with long limbs, hooved feet, a skeletal face and antlers.  A perfect representation of the cannibalistic "spirit of the lonely places" of Algonquin folklore, a creature born of famine, isolation and desperation in the deep winters of the American wilderness.  I'd gotten it cleaned up and glued to a 50mm square base (a spare from a Fireforge cavalry boxed set) but hadn't gotten past that point.

Yesterday, frustrated with some Bones figures not behaving the way I wanted them to, I resupplied on black primer and matte varnish and took advantage of it being a warm, dry day to put a coat of primer on him.  Once it was good and dry I got to work.

Skin was basecoated with a couple thin coats of Reaper's Golden Shadow, since I wanted to emphasize that this creature was once human.  Over this I did a wash of a 50-50 blend of Nightshade Purple and Deep Red, to give a bruised, postmortem lividity shade.  Here's a pic:


Once that was dry, I highlighted the skin with Golden Skin, then again with Golden Highlight.  The bony ridges of the face, the exposed vertebrae and some exposed ribs got a final highlight of a mix of Golden Highlight and Creamy Ivory - to suggest skin drawn so tightly over bones as to be translucent. 

The hands, feet, ears and area around the mouth were given another wash, this time a 30-60 mix of Nightshade Purple and Deep Red to prepare these extremities to be painted as frostbitten.  Once the wash was dry, a couple thin coats of Pure Black allowed just enough purple to show through to keep things interesting.  Also, don't Google Image Search "frostbitten hands" too soon before or after a meal!

Teeth were picked out in Creamy Ivory, while antlers were given heavy drybrushes of Stained Ivory, followed by Yellowed Bone and finally a light brush of Creamy Ivory to make them really stand out from the pallid skin.  Eyes were given a basecoat of Viper Green, while the patchy fur on its body was drybrushed first with Cloudy Gray, then with Misty Gray.  The furry part of its tattered loincloth was given a basecoat of Muddy Brown, then drybrushed Earth Brown.  At this point I took this pic:


After taking that pic, I basecoated the "leather" areas of the loincloth with Lonestar Leather, but when I tried highlighting with Leather Brown, Leather Brown went on very thinly and I ended up having to go over the entirety of the loincloth with it to get an evenish coat.  I'll probably go back and wash it with Lonestar Leather and give a final highlight of Golden Shadow to the loincloth.  Eyes were highlighted with Moth Green, giving them a sinister, glowing pinprick in the center of each bulging orb and marking my only departure from very naturalistic tones on this figure. 

At this point, Atticus decided to jump in the middle of everything and tell me I'd done enough painting and not enough petting today, forcing a conclusion to today's painting session. 

I've got a couple extra Bones skeleton warriors that I'll be chopping up, painting and gluing to the base during the flocking process to represent kills half-buried in the snow by the Wendigo. 

As for what I'll use it for...

While the Wendigo would make a spiffy Major Demon for Frostgrave, I'm actually thinking he's more likely to see use in Dragon Rampant; having finished my Undead army and wanting a break from Bones given the annoyance I'm having with the last of my Anhurian figures, I've drawn up a "Warriors of Evil" list based largely around Ral Partha Chaos Warrior figures (rereleased through Ironwind Metals) as a "next project" to begin work on, and the Wendigo would be an imposing addition to that list as a "Greater Warbeast."

Or I might throw him at my D&D players if they go up in the mountains...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 13

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Jager, Human Fighter 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 4
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 4
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 4
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Moonsday, the 13th of Rainmont.

After the events of the previous night, Cor sat down with the two mysterious enchanted "blank" scrolls they had discovered in the dwarven catacombs under the Golden Castle.  Casting Identify on the first, he discovered a simple enchantment that rendered the text written on the scroll invisible except under the light of the full moon.  Consulting his star-charts, he sees that the full moon is two days' hence, on the 15th.  The second scroll bears the same enchantment, as well as a secondary spell - casting Dispel Magic to remove the ink-disguising dweomer would trigger an Explosive Runes, destroying the vellum scroll before it could be read.  Cor decides to wait until the full moon to read these scrolls and see what is hidden behind these spells.

This taken care of, the party descends into the burned out ruins of the Broken Blade Inn, curious to see if the tunnel and accompanying dungeon crawl they had observed, but not investigated, on their last visit [DM's Note: 9 sessions ago!] was still extant.  They found that it was, and that a small formerly-sealed crypt was down there, a tomb of some knight of Law, buried 300 years ago.  It was likely then that the tomb had been forgotten long before it had been built over, and had no real connection (other than spatial) to the Broken Blade.  Inside, they found that the sepulcher itself had been recently broken into, and arcane residue suggested that a magic item of not-inconsiderable power, some sort of item of protection, had lain here until very recently.  Untouched, curiously, was a stone chest filled with coins as well as a carved ivory drinking horn, inlaid with malachite and moonstones.  The party helped themselves to the contents, though Flora decided on donating her share to the Church of Law in Craghold.

Emerging from the rubble, the party was met by a messenger from the castle, informing them that Lord Vesper was requesting their presence at dinner that night.  Deciding they needed better than their adventuring clothes for this, and suspecting a trap, the party went to the local general store, where the proprietor, a dwarf named Slambo Stumphammer, as happy to help outfit them.  Cor bought a spare spell component pouch, some antitoxin, and a wide, blue conical hat with arcane symbols stitched in gold and set with a crazy amount of rhinestones; Lasair bought a dagger in a thigh-sheath and a nice dress, though most of the party ultimately decided to go in their clothes from the hobgoblin fete they had attended.

At dinner, the PCs and Lord Vesper were joined by Vesper's wife, Lady Erzebeta; his two daughters from his previous marriage, Wanda and Julia; Sir Dorian Hawkwood, commander of the mercenary company known as the Red Brotherhood; Brothers Bertram and Ambrose, clerics of the Church of the Everlasting Sun; and Sir Edras, the town sheriff, as well as Borut, the bailiff (whom the PCs already knew).  Over an excellent meal, Lord Vesper quizzed the PCs on their experience hunting witches and what they planned to do about whatever they found in town.  He was suitably impressed as Mivahl and Jager described their old exploits as part of a commando team sent out after rogue spellcasters.  Also over dinner, the party learned that there were no dogs left in Craghold - some unknown force over the past six months drove dogs and wolves mad, like rabies without the foaming, and Vesper had been forced to issue an edict calling for the destruction of all canines, even his beloved hunting hounds.  Sir Dorian's men were often called upon to perform wolf culls in the forest north of Craghold as packs of blood-maddened wolves would come down and start attacking outlying farms.

After dinner, Vesper brought the male PCs up to the ramparts for brandy and cigars, while Flora and Lasair followed Lady Erzebeta, Wanda and Julia for "needlepoint" - i.e., more wine and gossip.  Both groups swiftly learned that the rumors of Lady Erzebeta's demonic consortship stem from the fact that Vesper had been carrying on a poorly-disguised affair with her while married to his previous wife, and married Erzebeta swiftly after his first wife had died of a mysterious illness about two years ago.  Wanda and Julia have more or less accepted Erzebeta, if not as a step-mother, then at least as their father's wife.

Both Vesper and Erzebeta proposed that a woman known as the Red Witch, a flame-haired middle-aged woman who had long been the villagers' source for cures for baldness, warts, impotence, constipation, etc., may be the one summoning demons; Vesper had banished her and made dealings with her illegal after she had failed to successfully treat his first wife's illness.  If she was still lurking around, perhaps she is the source of these summonings.

Dinner concluded, the party decided their best course of action to find the Red Witch was to talk to the people who might still be using her services.  They headed back to the seedy tavern known as the Whore's Arse for clues.

Jager struck up a conversation with Roz, a splay-legged half-orc prostitute whom Dormammu was renewing his business relationship with, asking her how she protected herself from disease-carrying customers such as Dormammu.  He learns that the Red Witch comes in to drink at the Whore's Arse on Bridesdays, and should be there in four days' time as per her usual.

Meanwhile, Mivahl targeted Melvin, a schlubby balding guy hunching over his beer at the bar. This proved a mistake, as Melvin launched into an entire saga of his life's misfortunes and failures: "I had my first midlife crisis at 11; I was a real pessimistic kid. Y'know, I really just came in here tonight hoping to find a woman who'd drank her standards low enough to go to bed with me."

Seeing Mivahl's trouble as an opportunity to have some fun, Jager paid Roz to "go over and take care of my friend over there." Roz sauntered over, spun Mivahl around on his bar stool and slammed his back against the bar.  "Looking for a good time, stud?" she growled.  All Mivahl can see are the blisters lining her lips.  "N-no," he squeaks, "But my friend Melvin here is," redirecting Roz's attention to the schlub still droning on about his failures as a living creature.  Roz took him right there on the bar stool as Mivahl beat a hasty retreat.

Cor orders a shot of Father Jack's Unstoppable Pissup, the local favorite that's like a 50-50 blend of Everclear and codeine cough syrup, and after signing a waiver, drinks it down.  He narrowly makes it to outhouses in time before the liquor starts kicking everything Cor has ever had inside him out.

Meanwhile, at the more upscale tavern The Golden Boar, Lasair attempts a different approach; she discreetly inquires where she might acquire a "little blue potion" for a male friend of hers having trouble with his "man-servant." The barmaid, throwing a glance at some nearby off-duty guardsmen, whispers back that the Red Witch drinks at the Golden Boar on Stormsdays, and should be there in three days' time as per her usual.

Justday, the 14th of Rainmont

Reconvening (and pulling Dormammu off the chalk outline erroneously drawn around him in the Whore's Arse), the party discussed what they'd learned, debating whether to wait to meet the Red Witch at one of the establishments they already know she frequents, or whether to see if she's also a regular at the other two surviving taverns in town, the Fang and Flagon and the Drunkatorium.  The party decides to split up and case both remaining establishments today in search of the Red Witch.

Monday, October 16, 2017

First Dragon Rampant Army Complete!

Yesterday, I hit a huge milestone in my career as a miniature painter and wargamer. 

I completed an army.  For the first time ever, (not counting things like a Frostgrave warband) I have finished building and painting an army for a game.  I put the last dabs of paint and flock on the last units I needed to do for my 24 point Undead army for Dragon Rampant, "the Skeletal Legions of Nesuahyrrah." I'm also only two units away from finishing my second army, the Men of Anhur, so I'll be able to start putting on some demo games soon enough - I've got some interest locally already.

I kept my list fairly simple:


  • Lich (Heavy Missiles, Undead - No Feelings, Summoner, Single Model Unit, Army Leader) - 7
  • Skeleton Warriors (Light Foot, Undead - No Feelings) - 3
  • Skeleton Warriors (Light Foot, Undead - No Feelings) - 3
  • Skeleton Berserkers (Bellicose Foot, Undead - No Feelings) - 4
  • Wraiths (Heavy Riders, Undead - No Feelings, Venomous, Reduced Model Unit) - 7
The idea being to keep at least some of the skeletons off the table at the start of game and summoning them as reinforcements mid-battle, and using the Wraiths as real heavy hitters to hammer an opponent's more powerful units.  I've got some ideas of where I'd like to go in expanding this army for larger games as well.  

Everyone together.

The Lich, calling up reinforcements.

Two units of Light Foot.

Skeleton Berserkers.

Wraiths.
I'm not stopping at two armies, however.  Because I've really fallen in love with the Dragon Rampant rules, I'm planning on building multiple armies for variety in demo games as well as for use in larger, multi-player games eventually.  Because I'm a lunatic like that.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 12

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 4
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 4
Jager, Human Fighter 4 (Replacing Zerin)
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Mara, Human Cleric 3
Flora, Half-Elf Cleric 3 (Replacing Mara)
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 3
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 3
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 4

Just after dawn, a posse of five men rode into town, most of them rough-hewn, hard-bitten men with steel loose in their scabbards; the fifth a poncey git with waxed mustache and van dyke, ostrich-feathered hat and slashed silk doublet.  The ponce, identifying himself as Sir Bosch, demanding the surrender of "the criminal gnome," producing a wanted poster from the town of Craghold, declaring a bounty on Cor for "arson, manslaughter, attempted regicide and insurance fraud." It was explained that the Broken Blade, the inn Cor bought for a song in Craghold, burned down right after he left town, which looked very suspicious.  The fact that Cor had invited Lord Vesper to stay at the inn shortly before this had the Lord, already paranoid, very suspicious of the gnome's intentions.

The party refused to turn over Cor, and when Sir Bosch was killed for refusing to stand down, three of his four henchmen just shrugged his shoulders and left.  The fourth, it's revealed, is Jager, who had formerly fought under Mivahl's command up north and whose life Mivahl had saved once, years before. 

like this, but with beefy arms and stork legs.
With Zerin and Mara staying behind to administer to the town of New Dawn, Jager was invited to join the party as they went to Craghold to demand answers.  The three day trip was uneventful, save for picking up Flora, another cleric of Mishakal, and an encounter with a strange, man-sized bird-monster, with shining steel feathers and beak and a pair of big, muscular human arms, ending in weapons instead of hands.  The bird was no match for the party, and they quickly dispatched it, with Lasair's arrow to the brain ending the abomination's life.  They took a number of feathers - primarily long flight feathers from the wings, but Cor took several tail feathers as well - for future study. 

Arriving in Craghold, Jager and Kholark negotiated with Borut, the town bailiff, for the bounty, arguing that the wanted poster just listed bringing the gnome to Borut for the reward.  Borut assented, and handed a bag containing 500 golden suns to Kholark. 

When Cor demanded the opportunity to prove his innocence, it was announced that he would face Trial by Drama; a team of prosecuting actors would put on a play depicting their version of Cor's actions, and then the party would put on a play in Cor's defense.  Innocence would be decided by audience reaction.  Taking a full day to prepare, the party's various spellcasters prepared various illusion spells to make their case more compelling while debating which details to include and whether or not to try and pin the arson on the inn's former owner, Tetra, as well as how much of what they knew about their being a demon in the basement of the Broken Blade to mention. 

Cor was deeply offended by the prosecution's performance; from casting a human achondroplasic dwarf to play him to suggesting that the arson was performed as an outlet for the gnome's deep-seated sexual frustration, Cor seethed through the entire performance.  [DM's Note: I actually got down on my knees and performed a bit of the "Winter of our Discontent" soliloquy from Shakespeare's Richard III to play the prosecution's portrayal of Cor.  ACTING!]

Putting on their rebuttal, the party told a tale of fighting a demon in the basement of the Broken Blade, believing it slain, and it returning to torch the inn out of spite after they left before pursuing them, and that they finally laid the demon to permanent rest in New Dawn.  With an illusion spell cast over Kholark to portray the demon and narration by Dormammu, the party swung the crowd in their favor, eking out a ruling of innocent for Cor. 

Recognizing that Lord Vesper was not happy with this and was itching to hang someone for some crime, the party offers their services as witch-hunters; since someone must have summoned the demon the Craghold.  Given that rumors swirl throughout the principalities that Lord Vesper's wife consorts with demons, and fearing that a cult-cell similar to the one they rooted out in New Dawn may be at play in Craghold, the party wants to get to the bottom of this and managed to bargain Vesper into agreeing to pay 500 gold for the delivery of a witch. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 11

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 4
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 3
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 4
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 4
Mara, Human Cleric 3
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 3
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 3
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 3

Following the memorial service led by Mara, a number of the villagers at the town formerly known as Rodrigosburgh, but now rechristened "New Dawn," approached Mara asking for more information about the worship of Mishakal, and to ask her to take over the Cathedral at New Dawn, making it a site holy to Mishakal.  The townsfolk were very upset to hear that the cathedral had been promised to the Cult of Bormo, arguing that a religion of drinking, wrestling and fornicating was not appropriate to raise their children in.  The adventurers ultimately agreed with the town's reasoning, and it was decided to consecrate the cathedral to Mishakal, adding a shrine to Bormo to the Triumphant Hare, the inn now owned by Cor. 

The party decided to investigate the dwarven catacombs under the Golden Castle again, in search of the hidden treasure chamber the demon had held over them as a bribe.  They found the chamber, behind a trick wall.  Opening the doorway, they found a short hallway leading to another door; Mivahl, entering, stepped on a pressure plate.  Glass plates, two inches thick, slammed down, sealing half the party into the short hallway and half the party outside. A nozzle opened in the ceiling, long-still gears whirring to life. 

Unwilling to wait to be dosed with poison gas, Cor cast Shatter, blasting the glass plates to splinters and destroying the reservoir in the ceiling above - resulting in the long-dormant Black Pudding contained in the ceiling above pouring down on them all at once, rather than being sprayed at them in a pressurized stream. 

The vast blob of inky blackness poured down, spilling over Mivahl as he tried to block its descent with his shield.  The party attacked the slithering shadow pooling around their ankles, with the Pudding splitting twice, forming three attacking slimes - once divided by Zerin's sword, and once by a lightning spell cast by Cor.  The Puddings flailed out with pseudopods but failed again and again to connect, while the party pounded on them with blunt weapons and non-electrical spells.  Ultimately, the Pudding was beaten into so much lifeless slime. 

Beyond the second door, the party found wealth beyond anything the demon had hinted at - 470 platinum pieces, 500 electrum pieces, 1,000 gold pieces, 3,900 silver pieces, and 9,500 copper pieces, as well as a Cloak of Elvenkind and a Brooch of Shielding.  Lasair took the Cloak and one of the casters [I want to say Dormammu, but I honestly forget at the moment as there was a lot of debate over who should have it] took the Brooch.  Ultimately, the party took only a small amount of money for themselves, deciding to devote the remainder of the cash to making improvements to the town of New Dawn. 

The next day, Anoroc, last priest of Bormo, arrived in New Dawn, riding a wagon drawn by his trusty bear companion Jaroslav, carrying the ceremonial items of Bormoism, including his ceremonial head-gear -- the dwarven equivalent of a baseball cap with cup-holders on the side.  He also had the Book of Bormo, a scrap-book of weightlifting advice, protein shake recipes, brewing tips and softcore dwarven pornography.  It's not every holy book that has a centerfold, but the Book of Bormo does - an image of a chainmail bikini-clad dwarf woman bench-pressing a zebra. 

Once Anoroc was situated, the party took stock of their situation and debated their next move.  They decided to return to Craghold to see how Cor's first inn was doing, then zig-zag up the Maw to Molekh to treat with the Great Khan about hanging on to the lance Empyreal Vengeance for the time being, and then try their luck again with the undead knights of the Groaning Keep.  From there they will head west, where Mivahl wants to challenge Duke Beldor to a joust - the Duke having a long-standing offer to name the first challenger to unseat him as his heir.  Once that is addressed, they will head south-west to investigate claims of an ancient road of enormous stone blocks, all carved like dragon scales, half-sunk in the slimy waters of the Dismal Swamp. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 10

This was one of the most emotionally intense sessions I've ever run, of any RPG ever.  Players reported afterwards that their hands were shaking during play.

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 3
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 3
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 3
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 3
Mara, Human Cleric 3
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 3
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 3 (out for the session)
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 3

Picking up where we left off last week, Kholark and Hobgoblin Recruit #1 (honestly, I forget the names I gave them) pretty handily wiped the floor with Magro, the commander of the guard at the Golden Castle, and Generic Castle Guard #14, though Magro left some serious bruises on Kholark.

As Zerin explained to Count Rodrigo the flaws in his delusional belief that he's the deposed heir to
Glabrezu by VegasMike
the Empire and the failures of his military stratagem, a spearblade erupted from Rodrigo's chest, and then the unthinkable - Rodrigo's body, spurting gore, twisted inside-out like high-speed footage of a blossoming flower of raw, bloody meat.  Behind him manifested a 12-foot, four-armed demon, the Glabrezu that the party has known was manipulating events at the Golden Castle and the associated village of Rodrigosburgh (which hadn't been named until this session).  In its hands, the enchanted lance known as the Empyreal Vengeance.

The horror of watching Rodrigo's body turn inside out blasted the minds of everyone watching - Kholark, Mivahl, Mara took off running, their psyches savaged.  The two hobgoblin recruits' heads exploded like in SCANNERS, as did a number of the assembled townsfolk.  A fairly large number.

Scraping the remnants of Rodrigo off the lance, the demon boomed, "He was of no further use to me. The question now is, will you vagabonds serve my purposes? You have eliminated my agents here, and awoken this unwitting dupe to my manipulations. Shall I simply kill you? You were kind enough to desecrate the dwarven catacombs and allow me entrance to find the Vengeance for myself. Let none say that Ygo-Ythorr, Puppetmaster of the Seventh Tier, is without gratitude. This, I offer to you; your lives and freedom, plus the accumulated wealth of the dead dwarves below. An entire hidden room of buried treasure. All this will I give to thee, if you will just bend the knee to Ygo-Ythorr."

A swipe of the demon's claw dropped Zerin to the ground, bleeding and unconscious, while a Power Word: Stun put Dormammu out of commission.  Cor and Sylvus swiftly dropped to their knees.

Transferring the lance to the crook of an elbow, Ygo-Ythorr stalked forward.  "I know you're in there," he smirked at Dormammu, "Will you serve?"

Moving on, the demon picked Cor up off the ground, licking a taloned fingertip and carving a symbol into the gnome's forehead, marking him.  Mivahl took this opportunity to grab the lance from the demon and stab the fiend in the side, but was seized and crushed in one of Ygo-Ythorr's claws, dropping the lance as he lost consciousness. Kholark grabbed the fallen lance and drove the point into the demon's wounded flank as Mara began firing off healing spells.  Conscious and recovered, Zerin charged in, laying a Divine Smite across the demon's back.  Shrugging off the stun, Dormammu began throwing Eldritch Blasts, while Cor, back on the ground, began casting Magic Missiles into the fiend's chest.

Ygo-Ythorr lashed out again and again with his giant claws, sending Mivahl and Zerin flying, and punched Cor in the face with one of its slender, clawed hands.  Surrounded, however, the flurry of attacks being directed at him (especially once Kholark flew into a frenzy) began to wear the demon down, and finally, Kholark drove the lance deep into the fiend's side - a shockwave shook the entire battlefield, and the demon's already lifeless body was thrown back 70 feet, impacting a cottage and blasting it to matchsticks. Cor took off running with unprecedented gnomish speed, undoing his belt as he ran; he managed to clamber on top of Ygo-Ythorr's rapidly-sublimating corpse and drop a victory deuce on the demon before it completely evaporated. 

In the aftermath of the battle, the party healed up and took stock; 180 townsfolk were dead, plus Count Rodrigo.  Mara was the closest thing the town had to a local priest.  The cathedral had never been consecrated in the first place.

While Kholark rested (he had gained two levels of exhaustion from frenzying), the rest of the party led efforts to bury the dead and comfort the survivors.  Deciding to bring in Anoroc to consecrate the cathedral to Bormo, Dormammu sent Francis to deliver the invitation.  Delighted, Anoroc set out on his way to Rodrigosburgh, despite a heavy thunderstorm rolling into the region.

Zerin took some time with a local carpenter, Tavish, crafting wooden holy symbols representing Bormo, Mara's goddess Mishakal, and his own deity, Fharlanghn.  Zerin inquired about Tavish's religious beliefs, and those of the community.  He finds the local population to be more spiritual than religious, offering prayers to agricultural deities and having some vague inclination towards the Church of Law (which is akin to the Catholic Church in my setting, widespread and the official religion of the large empire to the north)

Two days after the battle, Mara leads the surviving community in prayer, conducting a stirring, nondenominational memorial service to honor those who died.  Afterwards, Kholark stood up, and delivered a crude testimonial to how his worship of Bormo, god of bears, beards, drinking contests and manly wrestling, aided him in defeating the demon.  A few people in the assembled crowd nodded thoughtfully.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Iron Principalities, Session 9

I think at this point the Iron Principalities game is the longest-running fantasy game I've run in something like five years, is three sessions away from tying for longest campaign I've run, period, in five years.  Whether it will surpass the Call of Cthulhu campaign I ran in college remains to be seen. 

Dramatis Personae:
Kholark Sunderstone, Half-Orc Barbarian 3
Dormammu, Half-Elf Warlock 3
Zerin of Birdsall, Half-Elf Paladin 3
Mivahl Shimov, Human Fighter 3
Mara, Human Cleric 3
Cor, Rock Gnome Wizard 3
Lasair Lightfoot, Wood Elf Rogue 3
Sylvus Treeshroud, Wood Elf Druid 3

Resuming where we left off last week, the party entered a large, circular room and challenged the two animated suits of armor that guarded the only other doorway.  It was a slow, arduous fight for our heroes; blows that would have sundered armor and crushed limbs of a mortal foe seemed to glance off the enchanted suits of ancient dwarven plate that confronted them.  Finally, however, the party finished off the pair, with Zerin striking the killing blow on both of them.  The suits collapsing into pieces, Cor shoved as many pieces as he could into his Handy Haversack, filling it to capacity. 

Unlocking the other door, within they found a gigantic stone sarcophagus, laying on an even larger dais, the walls covered in intricate bas-relief carvings.  Sending Dormammu's imp, Francis P. Mordo, in to scout, Dormammu is able to read the inscriptions on the sarcophagus, identifying it as the final resting place of Magister Eckhardt, the Sword of Justice, Last of his Clan. 

Francis, acting on his own initiative, tried to lift the sarcophagus lid, wrenching his tiny spine in the process.  As the imp groaned, "My back!" one of the dwarven figures in the bas reliefs detached itself from the wall - a lumbering, 10-foot stone dwarf, lurching towards the imp, fists raised menacingly. 

Already tired and drained from fighting the armors, the party found themselves drawn into a fight against this guardian statue - all except Zerin, who stood back, arms crossed over his chest.  "The imp got himself into this, he can get himself out," he declared. 

The fight against the statue was even harder than the fight against the armors - blades and arrows bounced ineffectively off its stony exterior, though the flails wielded by Kholark and Mivahl were a bit more effective.  Eventually, however, they managed to wear the statue down and Sylvus, in wolf form, dealt the killing blow, chomping down and shivering the battered stone to splinters. 

"Untiring guardians" defeated, the party forced open the sarcophagus, expecting to find the magic lance, the Empyreal Vengeance, inside.  Instead, inside a series of successively-smaller, nesting sarcophagi, the party found the remains of Magister Eckhardt, a scroll case emanating magic clenched in his bony hands and a magical amulet around his neck.  The amulet, Lisair was able to determine, was connected to the statue they had just destroyed; the statue would guard the wearer as long as they wore the amulet. 

Inside the scroll case, they found two sheets of seemingly-blank vellum that radiated powerful magic. 

Recognizing that they'd explored only a fraction of the complex but needed to rest, the party returned to the surface, Lisair burgling the jewels and finery of the dwarven mummies they'd passed on their way in on her way out, netting - by her estimation - over 500 GP worth of jewelry.  Cor, examining the gold and platinum filigree and inset gems on the pieces of armor he'd taken, estimated their value at 500,000 GP.  He may be mistaken. 

Spending the night in the castle, in the morning, refreshed and ready to go, they first went to the cathedral, where Mara was able to determine the site had never been properly consecrated, but was not necessarily desecrated into unholy ground.  The acolyte priest tried to run when he saw them, but was swiftly captured and interrogated, revealing his and Father Markus' involvement in a demon cult broken into terrorist-style cells, working on missions across the land to further the overall goals of their unseen masters.  They turn the acolyte over to Count Rodrigo, who orders him placed in stocks, to be hanged tomorrow. 

Questioning Count Rodrigo to determine the depths of his delusional belief that he is the heir to the Empire to the north, Zerin decides to try and break Rodrigo of his delusions; he proposes a mock-duel, between Rodrigo's bellicose drill sergeant Magro and one of his men, and Kholark and one of Mivahl's hobgoblin charges.  If Kholark and the hobgoblin win, Zerin proposes, Count Rodrigo should give up his mad dream of ruling the Empire. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Still Painting

Lest anyone thing I've abandoned miniature painting for strictly running RPGs, I have been slowly but steadily puttering away at a pair of demo armies for Osprey's Dragon Rampant - the undead "Legion of Nesuahyrrah" and the stalwart "Men of Sabaton."

The fiction I've got in my head has Sabaton as a frontier province, rough and barely-claimed, the Baron and his soldiers working tirelessly to tame and civilize the region and bring it into the Empire.  They don't have enough men, they don't have the best armor and weapons, but they've dug in their heels and refuse to give an inch.  Most of the figures are Reaper "Anhurians," a pseudo-Norman bunch wearing chainmail shirts and open-face helms with nose-guards.

I've previously shown the Baron and his bodyguards:




Now joining them (just bases left to finish) are a unit of archers (Reaper Anhurian Bowmen) and some heavy cavalry - Wargames Foundry's Norman Knights.






Both of these units were slow-going and a bit of a pain.  I think I must not have cleaned the mold grease off these bowmen well enough, something I'm usually very careful about.  The paint has not wanted to stick to the plastic and took every opportunity to pull away from the material.

As for the riders, both men and horses had a TON of excess metal to be trimmed off, especially between the horses' legs.  My can of spray primer was running low too, so the horses especially ended up with a little bit of a spotty coat - especially in the creases of their manes and tails, primer just didn't end up there.  So I had to go over each figure with black paint by hand afterwards.  One of the riders had lost his hand in transit, and I clipped a plastic hand off a Fireforge knights sprue to replace it.  Throughout the painting process I was constantly finding more little bits of excess metal or mold lines that I had missed at every prior point.  Very frustrating.

I'm not a fan of painting horses in the first place (not sure why, they just irritate me to do) so this might be my last cavalry regiment for a while.  I have two more units to do for this army - a unit of Anhurian Spearmen (with an attached priestess providing some magical support) and a unit of war dogs.

Moving on to the Legion of Nesuahyrrah...

These are the undead legions of the Lich Nesuahyrrah, an ancient undead spellcaster.  I imagine the Lich ruling over a swath of territory that the Men of Sabaton are now trying to exert influence over, and he's not having it.  Calling up the bones of long-dead warriors, Nesuahyrrah strikes and strikes hard to reinforce his sovereignty.

(of course, "Nesuahyrrah" is "Harryhausen" backwards, in tribute to the late, great Ray Harryhausen, who animated so many memorable monsters for the silver screen, not least being the seven skeleton warriors in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS)

I've previously shown off Nesuahyrrah himself, as well as the unit of Wraiths he commands.


I have finished their bases since this photo was taken!

Joining them now is a unit of Skeleton Berserkers, armed with big two-handed swords and axes.


I have one more unit to paint for this army, at least in its initial 24-point form, and that's a unit of Skeleton Warriors with swords and shields.  I anticipate adding more skeletons to it in the future, either for larger point games or to sub in place of the Wraiths - which make up a full third of the warband, points wise, being classed as Heavy Riders (for hitting power and speed), with the Fly and Cause Fear fantastical rules added on.  This is, understandably, a big investment in a single unit, so there are going to be games where I just want to have an extra 24 skeletons in their place and overwhelm opponents with numbers.