Saturday 29 September 2012

The Boys Are Back in Town (Part III): The Moral Justification For Saving Your Own Skin

Deciding not to "throw good money after bad" the PC adventurer's party did not run to the aid of the beleaguered 'Keep on the Borderland' guards. Perhaps there had been too much "us and them" and not enough "we're all in this together" during the weeks of the siege. Perhaps it was the notion of a dozen plus Orcs at the top of the stairs and someone remembering that the Caves of Chaos also had a small tribe of Bugbears stunted any real consideration of stopping and fighting it out. The party elected to put as much distance a possible between the them and the 'nasty monsters'. Fumbling their way forward with the Elf and Dwarf at the lead (DM's Note: That 'almost seeing in the dark thing' these races have - was I right about Elves hating being underground?) the party took another meandering side passage out of hope more than plan. Then "ooops" ... your typical party conundrum, a dodgy looking DM style 'trap or encounter'? Do we 'rush' [increasing the danger] or do we play it 'cautious' [wasting time] (see below):   

A large growth of underground fungus with what seemed to be a 'treasure chest' in its midst. The characters were less interested in the notion of the 'treasure chest' than trying to figure a way around it 'quickly'. The Dwarf also thought (as he technically was an NPC I allowed him a helpful reflective moment from his past adventures) they were "Shriekers" in amongst the fungus and recommended the party climb around the danger spot, venturing the fact he saw a climbing route and useful ledge to the wall on their right. Off went the Dwarf to the ledge ready to help the rest of the party (rolling well I may add on his thief ability). The (female) Cleric then stripped off her armour to the embarrassment of her male colleagues apart from the Dwarf how shouted "Nice Rack" (parents can explain to children) in Common Tongue. An now 'angry' Cleric then really badly fumbled her dexterity roll and came crashing down onto the mushroom patch, setting off a green cloud of spores and also causing the "Shriekers" to start to wail (see below):            

(DM's note: Well I laughed!) Four small "Mushroom Men" emerged from the fungi garden to attack the Cleric (see below). She fought one round of combat alone before her comrades in arms rushed to the scene while the Dwarf lobbed the last of the parties oil stock onto the "Shriekers" and set fire to them. The combat was short and sweet for the party, overgrown mushrooms proving no match for these hardy adventurers. (DM's note: I hope you can feel a tang pf my disappointment here, even the hapless Cleric made her saving throw versus the spores). The fire burned ferociously clearing the area revealing .... 

... a hidden secret/concealed exit (a very rough some would say burrowed exit leading "down" - always a bad sign in the dungeon when the only way seems to be down) as well as the charred but unopened treasure chest (see picture below). Now I had/have a reputation as a DM for not 'giving' bundles of money and treasure away. Characters had to earn it in my games, none of this 10,000 GP and a +1 Sword for killing a HobGoblin and his cat (even if it was 2HD, spat fireballs and regenerated .. a story for another time). So the player characters bypassed both chest (dismissively) and secret passageway (as sounding far too dangerous). Whereas the Dwarven Thief lingered and played with the locks, detecting and disarming the traps, finally picking the lock and having a careful 'nose' at what was inside. The party had moved on and he just 'put the things in his leather back pack (remember those) for safe keeping' with a wry smile to himself. Part of the this disinterest can also be explained by the fact that the Ranger had picked up a fresh trail of a solitary human(oid?) that had recently come this way (a small mystery being how he/she/it had cunningly avoided the fungus patch). Could this be the Evil MU they were after? The party set off in hot pursuit.

Some 200' on they came to another sight that made them pause for thought. The doors of a pit-trap hung open, as the PC's cautiously peeped over edge they saw a 'heavily webbed' (as in large spider type) dark, black pit, with the hapless figure of said 'Evil MU' caught in it. Two largish spiders were scuttling near him and he made imploring eye-contact with the party. The two D&D'ers looked at me incredulously and hanging back from the lip of the pit-trap they started discussing what to do. Meanwhile the Dwarf caught up with the rest of the party. Failed a Wisdom test (DM's note: Well after all he was a NPC still) and looked over the edge at the Evil MU. Something along the lines of "I could do with a little help here" was said to the Dwarf, a dice was rolled by me, and the Dwarf replied "You sure do" and popped over the side of the pit, dagger in hand to fight the large spiders. To I may add the incredulity of the two players and rest of the NPCs in the party. They had never seen the Dwarven Thief so brave and then the penny clicked (DM's note: Charm Person spell, see below for the state of affairs).  

It was late and there was a certain cumbersome farce to the combat. The player characters could not dissuade the thief from his heroism. The spiders attacked the thief. The PC's threw rocks and arrows at the spiders and the Evil MU. The result being the Evil MU was hit by a large rock which hurt him and knocked him further down to the pit (out of sight). A large spider was killed and another chased off, but not before it had paralyzed the thief. A fracas broke out atop of the pit as another NPC accused the Cleric of trying (deliberately) to kill the thief when she hit him with a rock by mistake. Emotions were still bruised as the limp body of the Dwarven Thief was pulled up (DM's note: He did at least have the sense to tie a rope around himself before he went down the pit in the first place). Alive but poorly until the poison wore off was the Cleric's verdict. The PC's also started to get interested in the contents of the thief's leather back pack ;)  

To be continued at a future Xmas D&D session yet to be arranged. Note: The Ranger's PC insisted on making the next one. 

PS I suppose post 490 should have been about Marathon ;)

Friday 28 September 2012

A Mine Laying U-Boat Whatever Next (Type VII D)

How about this for a dastardly and cunning idea, the Germans developed the Type VII D mine laying U-Boat. Longer than the Type VII C with a mid-section inserted carrying five static moored mine laying silos. This was a bit like modern ballistic SSBN's, except that they dropped out of the bottom of the hull and were permanently flooded being outside the pressure hull (see picture below): 

Another birthday present, stuck together and glued, I seem to be slipping into a "put it together" mode drifting away from painting and finishing things off.

North Atlantic rendezvous, a Type VII D, meets up with a Type VII C (see below):   

A game idea, a game idea, a kingdom for a decent game idea?

PS: There is no shortage of water where I live currently live as we've had above a months worth of "typical rainfall" for the season in just over twenty four hours (see above, there is usually a good two foot extra space beneath that footbridge).

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Summer Reading Project Completed

This summer I set myself a task of tackling one of the 'big' books of the wargaming library shelf (a metaphorical shelf at that!). I've had it for over five years, probably nearer to ten come to think about it, without having the stamina or minimum background knowledge to try and understand it. I did flick through it a couple of times but bottled out of reading it in full and turned to something with pictures in it (aka various Osprey titles). Arguably it is the first 'History', as in the first modern history book of all time; Herodotus and his "The Histories". Not really one book but a compilation of nine separate tomes, a bargain for sure. Its readability is somewhat restricted as its chapters are acknowledged as being artificial divisions of his writings so that the scrolls would roll up neatly for Alexandrian scholars to shelve away. Nevertheless it is a hotbed of tyrannical intrigue, sex and stomach turning gratuitous violence. A do-it-yourself kit for any would-be tyrant of the ancient world and on reflection quite reminiscent of certain characters that I have I met in the commercial world of business/industry over the last twenty years. Some things seem much clearer to me now ;)

I read "The Histories" in a rather peculiar order (but in hindsight I found it to be a recommended reading pattern). As I was interested in "The Greeks in Peril" campaign I read:
  • Book 7: The Xerxes invasion to Thermopylae
  • Book 8: Sack and ruin of Attica and Athens until the unlikely victory at Salamis
  • Book 9: The told you so ending at Platea
Although a good story in itself you don't get the hang of why the Persians and Greeks were all so highly strung, what was this Ionian business about? Therefore I read:
  • Book 5: Those meddlesome Greeks being naughty on the Mediterranean coast and Black Sea
  • Book 6: It all ends in tears for the Greeks as Darius get angry that is until he meets his match Marathon
But what was this Darius doing so far over in the Western Mediterranean? Further there is hinting of his ambitions over to what is now modern Russia and even more perplexing the Ionian Greeks had been actively helping him? This is all getting too curious and confusing for words. So I read:
  • Book 4: Darius versus the Skythians and the Skythians win hands down, "never, never, never and try and catch a nomadic conglomeration of tribes with no fixed place worth for them to fight over, especially if most of your army is on two legs and all of their army is on four legs, and they have several thousand miles of steppe to run around in" (Hitler should have noted this about the Russians in WWII)
So now I know about the Persian Wars but I don't know anything yet about the Persians. Who were they and how did they become so big and powerful yet somehow were capable of such self-destructing or self-defeating behaviour? Therefore I read:
  • Chapter 1: Who the Persians are why the "Cyrus the Great" was so important in the Persian psyche and how he came to sticky end underestimating the Skythians
  • Chapter 2: Herodotus describes the Egyptians and you suddenly realise how big a part of the ancient world Egypt was, as everybody knew it was really, really old ad everybody feared it. No fighting (and it was a bit of a grind to get through) but it cast Herodotus as the first modern documentary producer. Half way between the National Geographic and the History Channel.
  • Chapter 3: How after the death of Cyrus, Cambyses II (a deranged fellow but nevertheless he still managed to conquered Egypt - hence it was worth Herodotus spending all that time telling us about it in Chapter II) expanded the Persian Empire and how then Darius I after an internal squabble with the Magi (Persian religious hierarchy) who try a fast one to put a Mede back in charge, again expanded the Persian Empire.  
When you finally finish it, fables, myths, sensationalism, geography and history all rolled into one, you get a great appreciation what a life's worth it must have been to compile wandering around the whole wold picking up stories and making sense of them.

And what did I get out of it? A lot of background for my "Greeks in Peril" game for sure! I will read it again (it's one of those books), but I'll also probably go for the Landmark edition with maps to get a better geographical sense of where things are ;)

Sunday 23 September 2012

The Boys Are Back In Town (Part II): The Adventure Begins

The context of the adventure is set so the action can begin ... "First Positions and Action!" (see below). The magically summoned humanoid monsters charge fearlessly at the party. The Ranger and the Elf Fighter Magic-User are torn between popping off missile weapons at the Evil "Big Baddie" Magic User and self preservation. The DM (me) calls for a quick decision or they will automatically lose the initiative (I am a meanie like that) and self preservation wins and they fight what is in front of them (Note from DM: Potentially a very bad call). In the background the Cleric starts Chanting a spell to give her boys a +1 to hit and damage in combat. Meanwhile the Evil MU turns his attention to the door and casts a Knock spell.(Note from DM: If that "Knock" spell works it could be a very short adventure and off to the pub after all!) 

Thankfully there is a lucky/clever chap in the party. Almost as an afterthought the Dwarven Thief (every party should have one) chucks a throwing dagger at the Evil MU, rolling high (19 and unbeknownst to the party the baddie is dextrous and magically protected to AC3 in good old 2nd Edition AD&D terms, so it was a very lucky hit) and hits, does damage and the Evil MU fuddles the spell. Note on the Player Characters (PCs), the party numbered five adventurers, but there were only two players present. Each chose their primary character from the five, a third player was nominated 'there in spirit' (and 'ethereally' commanded the Ranger) as we asked "What would Mr. P have done in the situation?" The Dwarven Thief was technically a trusted NPC who could be "asked to do things" (Note from DM: At which point I would make a roll based on the situation and perceived 'character' of the NPC). The Dwarven Thief certainly bagged a lot of XP for that 'lucky throw'. Meanwhile as the fighters were hacking into the low level monsters and getting to feel quite (over) confident two things happened in quick succession. The Elf Ftr/MU went "urk" and took a nasty cut took losing half his Hit Points (HPs) in one go and then then about two dozen armed skeletons charged into the room from a side entrance (see below). If you remember those red poker counters were meant to indicate noise and danger. The only good news for the party was that the Evil MU was obviously rather vexed at them turning up too! 

The party beat a hasty retreat back down the corridor they came from, leaving the Evil MU to deal with the hoard of angry skeletons and whatever other undead come after them. Last the party saw was a web spell being rather successfully being cast on them, but the sheer numbers probably meany he didn't get them all. The Cleric cleverly spotted a portcullis arrangement at the "T Junction" and together with the non-fighting members of the party brought it down with a tumble and a crash, releasing a rather large angry Giant Bat (see below). Fortunately the bat pounced on the last of the magically summoned creatures, giving the characters a chance to slip away. Part of the DM's glee of the night was: When the Giant Bat randomly chose whom to attack I informed the players the Dwarf Thief was excluded from the list as he had successfully "Hid In Shadows" to their groans. Revenge is sweet for the thief is commonly the "expendable man (or Dwarf) on point duty" ;)   

The party beat a hasty retreat down a side corridor as they heard the last gurgling sounds from the magically summoned humanoid just before the Giant Bat devours it. The sounds echoed down the corridor after them putting an extra spring in their step (see below):

What's this? Sounds of fighting up ahead! The last few remaining defenders of the Keep on the Borderlands seem to be fighting underground now. Which does not bode well for the battle above ground. Three wounded fighters are defending the steps (top right, see below) and a bunch Orcs are lobbing missiles at them (bottom right, see below). It's party decision time. Do they pitch in and help the fighters or use the time cynically to put some distance between the party and the Orcs?   

Tune in next time to find out. Where has that Evil MU got to? Is there another way out from this tunnel complex apart from the way up? In D&D there always seemed to be more questions than answers ;)

At this point I topped up the party's drinks and we settled down for a long night :)

Monday 17 September 2012

Spartan Helots

My DBA Campaign project has been split into two. One a Big Battle DBA game of Platea (for some wargaming virgin friends/family) and then a second more club wargaming orientated "Greeks in Peril" Campaign (which will probably be done using the "Full" Impetus Rules). For the former I need a Spartan Hoard, so courtesy of Xyston my one stand of Hoard (aka Helots) for the DBA Spartan Army (see below): 

Please excuse the fuzzy pictures as they were quickly taken on my BB as I did a circular tour of my ancients collection (see below):

A fair bit of time and effort went into painting them and naturally (those perhaps of very dubious historical authenticity) I let them wear Spartan scarlet red to help spot them easily on the battlefield (see below): 

In the meantime (as a separate birthday treat) I have just received a bundle of Early Achaemenid Persian Immortals for the scheduled Big DBA Battle in October, nothing like a bit of painting pressure/motivation ;)

Sunday 16 September 2012

Birthday Present - Das Boot in 1/350 Type VIIC U-Boat

It can be nice to be surprised. In short I am a happy man drifting through my forties (another birthday down) still making plastic models that I never asked for but when opened are a nice piece of history (see below):

This is the 1/350 scale Revell Type VIIC German U-Boat and it is a lovely detailed kit. Destined methinks to be painted as U-81 which sunk the Ark Royal (boo hiss) in the Mediterranean in 1941.

Once fully completed I will have to find a wargaming use for it ;)

Wednesday 12 September 2012

The Boys Are Back In Town (Part I)

Evey so often the "boys get back together" for a social evening. Childhood friends now in their forties with careers, lives, wives and offspring. We sit back and remember when life was far, far simpler. It seemed to revolve around failing to understand what "O" then "A"-Level Maths and Science homework was all about. Puzzlingly as it seemed unrelated to the interesting "Tomorrow's World" science we saw on the telly. Still you could at least concentrate serious amounts of energy on whimsical past-times (aka D&D) while wondering about what next happens with life next. It was the glorious days before buckets of plastic Games Workshop miniatures and the strange 'little lead men' which nobody knew quite how to paint came from a mysterious planet called "Mail Order".

Pink Floyd music seems appropriate now ...

In honour of such days  I convened a gathering at my house and laid a few miniatures out on the table to see what would happen ... and then started to ramble about the scene (see picture below - yes, I was the DM in days long past).

The DM's Intro:

"The MU is called Baalag (top middle below the big doors), he was considered the court jester of "The Keep on the Borderlands" (B2 to those who remember such things), seemingly incapable of magic and a continuous source of mockery, eccentric in his theatrical dress and a harmless buffoon. Or so everybody thought, but he is really a high level evil MU masking his true alignment with the aid of a powerful magical artifact and is up to mischief.

The characters found this out as the Keep (formerly a safe haven to all) was attacked by waves of humanoids from the nearby Caves of Chaos uncharacteristically bold (weren't all evil creatures cowardly?) and often unbelievably in cahoots with deadly tribal enemies! Orcs, Goblins and Kobolds in an unheard of organized form of cooperation. This troubled everybody. Progressively the defenses of the Keep were being worn down and then breached. Scores of defenders died in the fighting and what few provisions left were running dangerously low.     

Somehow Baalag was orchestrating all of this Chaos, using the confusion to uncover a secret network of passageways underneath the Keep, apparently searching for something. The characters watched and finally trailed him to this chamber fighting off some undead guardians and fell spirits along the way. The noises from outside and above (red counters indicating the level of disturbance and danger) indicated the Keeps defenses had finally failed. That meant everyone was in trouble. Baalag was oblivious and was jubilant at finding this locked door ... then he noticed the troublesome adventurers had caught up!

Magically he summoned a group of small humanoid monsters to delay the characters while holding a glowing crystal aloft crying  "At last .. you are mine". The Ranger had an enchanted arrow knocked in his bow and the Elf Fighter MU was preparing a Magic Missile .. as the familiar sounds of a "Knock enchantment" drifted across the room" ... (see picture below)

Well I had them and just where I wanted them, we stayed in and played on. Just as well I had some more painted figures handy ;)

Tuesday 4 September 2012

WWII Plastic Kit Spotting - S-Model PzII's

I spotted this on:

An online shop is selling them:

Also check out this posting:

S-Models: Will they make it to the High Street in some form or fashion?
(Note: Please put on safe browsing if you type in "S-Model" to Google)

Sunday 2 September 2012

Athenian Men of Substance

From WIP to finished item, my Athenian hoplites, or rather the ten stands (as per the ten tribal divisions of Athens) required for the Early Hoplite DBA Athenian army (see below):

A closer look reveals the superb characters in the Xyston miniatures range (see below):

As well as those lovely shield decals from Little Big Main Studio (see below): 

And they are all democrats to the man, not Ionian pirates as the Persian Empire would have you believe (see below):

My Athenian Strategos debating on an army disposition with his adviser (see below)

Some rank and file in linen armour with lovely shields (see below): 

I am in a serious internal debate with myself regarding the spears. I chose not to go with the Xyston spears (which you had to buy separately) partly because of the expense and partly because to me they looked oversize. So I opted for some small brass wire with superglue stuck into "bluetack" of all things to make a head (see below):   

It seems to work for some but not for others. I may have to attempt a filing operation, but at a wargame's scale do I care?

I can only but apologize for only having my BB camera to hand to not do the figures a better justice ;)