A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Thursday, February 1, 2018

D&D: Lair of the Necromancer

Howdie.  My oldest daughter has been interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Because it was what I gamed as a kid, and somehow I still remembered most of it, I chose to use the 1981 Basic Boxed Set to start her out with...
She probably will graduate onto a later version, but for now this will work just fine.  As no one else is readily available to game, I told her to make up two characters, I would run two characters also, giving her a party of 4 adventurers to rely on.  I would take no part in decisions, but would run "my" two characters intelligently.

She created a Hafling named Demetrius, and a Fighter named Romulus.  I created a Dwarf named Odae and a Magic-User named Bara.

The adventurers traveled through the village of Strossburg (note:  I am not quite sure, but its possible I might run this as a Warhammer themed environment with D&D rules, more or less).  While resting at the end, they can't help but overhear the worried villagers complaining of mysterious noises in the night, missing animals, and now even missing people.  Eager for adventure, the party decided to pursue the rumors.  They narrowed their search to the Strossburg cemetery, learning that there was once Old Strossburg (long since destroyed in a past war and empty) and New Strossburg, which survived and became simply Strossburg.  The cemetery appears to be in the midst of Old and New.  They choose to wait until the next day to investigate the cemetery, seeing no reason to do so in the dark.

 The party begins their investigation, which takes them further away from Strossburg and towards he ruins of Old Strossburg.  They are suddenly beset upon by a trio of emaciated wolves that strangely attack a well armed party in midday.  There are a couple of hasty bow shots before the beasts are upon the party.

Despite a minor wound, the party quickly dispatch two wolves, and the third flees.

About this time, the party notices what appears to be a semi traveled path.  This leads to a shrub covered mound, that turns out to be a long forgotten catacombs system.  They light torches and enter.

Romulus sustains a minor injury as rotten floorstones give way in the long entrance hall.  They enter a corridor connection filled with piles of bones.  Some of these bones rise as animated skeletons that attack.

The fight here is quickly over, but not before the party takes several wounds.  Without a Cleric with healing (a first level Cleric would have had no healing anyway), the party is forced to bind their wounds for minor healing (1-2 points... this is a bit of a DM cheat, but not a terrible idea for beginners with 1st level characters).  The party locates a silver dagger amid the rubbish.

The party chooses to enter a dusty cobwebbed corridor.  They notice whitish mounds of rubble... which reveal themselves to actually be the webbed remains of rats and other small animals..... this is no ordinary bunch of cobwebs, but the hiding place for a large spider.

 The spider itself was about the size of a small dog, with a milder venom than its larger kin. It pounces on Demetrius and delivers a swift bite.  The Halfing's roll against poison saves him from being incapacitated for a day.  He and Odae slice into the arachnid, ending its rule in this off-chamber.
They find a few coins and some pieces of crystal jewelry.

Going back the unopened door, the party continues forward.  They find a short "tee" with three more doors.  They hear loud gnashing and rending noises mingled with growling.  Leaving that one for later, thy go to the right and open a quieter door.  They have found the lair of a foul necromancer (level 3 Cleric) attended to by a pair of armored skeletons (skeletons with an improved armor class. 
The battle is fierce. Demtrius and Odae take wounds, Bara chooses to unleash her only spell,  Magic Missile, at the necromancer, then enters melee combat (she had previously voided melee in the other encounters due to her lack of armor and low hit points.  The party emerges victorious, but by now are starting to show signs of accumulated damage.  They search the quarters, finding two Cure Light Wounds potions and a cache of gold.  Strangely, no one drinks from the potions.

Deciding to save the noisy door for last, they open the other door, finding an unused and dusty catacomb chamber filled with bones which... thankfully... do not rise to attack.

Steeling themselves for whatever lies beyond, they barge through the final door, ready to face whatever horror has been greedily devouring flesh....

Ghouls!  They have interrupted the feast of a trio of Ghouls!  If the necromancer is to blame for the mysterious noises in the night, the Ghouls quite likely explain the disappearances, an quite obviously were in league with the now dispatched necromancer.
This battle proves to be very tough.  One Ghouls is quickly eliminated by a critical hit from Demetrius, and another hacked down by a combined effort... but.... first Romulus, then Odae are felled by the paralysis causing strikes of the third Ghoul.  Alone, it realizes it must keep fighting before feeding.  Bara moves into melee again to support Demetrius...
and she too is struck down with paralysis (and barely escapes being killed outright from the hit).  Demetrius is left alone to face the final Ghoul.  Too bad there were no Elves in the party....

Now, as a DM note, despite cheating with the binding to cure a couple of points of damage, I was fully prepared to allow the party to be killed by the monsters, letting my daughter re-roll new characters for another adventure if she liked.  So in this case, she would have to run Demetrius, her Halfling, to the bitter end if need be.  Also as a DM note, I thought the Cleric and armored skeletons would be the "tough" encounter (well, they were tough).... I had not counted on 3 of 4 party members being paralyzed by the Ghouls!  And they almost killed one character from their hits.

Demetrius is hit... and.... makes his save.  He strikes back on the previously wounded Ghoul... and slays it! 

Unable to carry his three friends to safety, and unwilling to leave them behind, he spikes the door shut, attends to their wounds as best he can, and stands guard until they begin to recover.

They find a mixed variety of coins, and a finely crafted dagger that is a magical weapon +1.  They return to Strossburg with their tale.  The burgomeister sends a party of villagers to the location to burn it out and seal it forever, lest it become the lair for some new horror.  The party must remain in the village for a week or two to fully recover from their wounds.

So, there it is.  A simple, short, and logically designed first time D&D adventure.  There will be more to come....


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Battletech: The Novels, Oh So Many Novels!


So, over the past few months, I have been re-reading (or in the case for a handful, reading for the first time) the series of Battletech novels.  I have owned all of the pre-Dark Age novels, sometimes several times over.... so currently I am missing a few (like The Sword and the Dagger, which I did own, and read twice in the past).  However, I have most of them...
I read them in publication order, which is not exactly in chronological order.  I did read other things in between, as nearly 60 BT novels is hard to digest all at one time.  Lots of non-fiction, lots of historical, after every few BT books. 

Why did I do this?  I am not really sure.  A little immersion, a little bit of trying to create a firm picture of the Battletech-verse as depicted in the novels.  Maybe.  It is somewhat hard to do as there are inconsistencies related to the wide array of authors contributing to the series, and not always even contributions from the major authors.  And its a made up sci-fantasy setting with its own laws of how societies work.


I tried to pick what I thought were the five worst novels in the series.  This is what I went with, your mileage may vary, and there were plenty of other stinkers lurking in the mix I could have grabbed too...

Ghost of Winter... don't buy it.  Its not just a bad BT novel, its just plain bad.  Star Lord... don't buy it, its pretty bad.  Freebirth... I should have liked, I enjoyed all of the other Thurston novels, this one is just kind of a silly (silly in an already silly genre) plot, and I could not really like it.  By Blood Betrayed, ok, not horrible, but representative of a number of other mid-series BT novels that kind of meander.  I found that several authors, even ones that did impressive earlier (and sometimes impressive later) work in the BT series, such as Stackpole, Charrete, Thursont, even Coleman, seem to have written mediocre novels in the middle.  This may in fact represent some editorial pressures, or factors related to the game side of the business that is not entirely the fault of the authors... I don't know.  Anyway, filling out the list is Far Country, which is not terrible for cheap sci-fantasy fiction, just that it is not really a BT novel in many ways.  The biggest is that it introduces a sentient alien race.  It used to be my #1 worst novel, but looks like a best seller compared to Ghost of Winter.

So what are my favorites?  This was much harder as many of them are representatives of linked books, min-series within the BT novels.
This list could change very easily, and I am going to cheat.  Decision at Thunder Rift, the first BT novel I read many many many years ago, and I still like it.  Nostalgia, or just setting up the typical BT overly complicated political betrayals for virtually every plot of every BT novel to follow... but I still like it.  Prince of Havoc... I like the Twilight of the Clans mini-series (yes, Freebirth is in that mini-series), I think this one caps it quite well.  Lethal Heritage, bringing us the Blood of Kerensky trilogy, and changing the BT universe a bit.  Falcon Guard, the cap of the Jade Phoenix trilogy... at one time I did not like this trilogy all that much, but found it to be more compelling this time around.  Threads of Ambition of the Capellan Solution binary.... probably Loren Coleman is my favorite author for BT novels (despite a couple that are so-so... again, those mid range books).  I could easily have included one of the Warrior trilogy, very good books for the BT universe.

Typical plot.... you show up, either the locals or more likely your boss betrays you, you lose someone close to you, fight against adversity, and overcome.  Main character is incredibly talented and able to outperform mere mortal peers. That is like 75% of the novels.  Still, fun to read if you like the background.

The Dying Time.... so basically Gressman is hired to write a book and kill off the entire Grey Death Legion.

Test of Vengeance... not a big hit with me, but interesting to have an Elemental focused novel.

Price of Glory... the most pivotal novel in the series as it impacts the BT-verse.  Loosing all of that lostech on the Inner Sphere.

Blood of Kerensky (yes, I liked this trilogy very much)... so in a very short period of time, a couple of centuries, you create a completely, I mean a completely, different society.  Hunh.

Anyway, taking a major pause before entering the Dark Age series.  Not sure about all of this, curious how the Jihad plays out.  I am sure to enjoy reading some of those, and sure to not enjoy some others.  We will see.

In the meanwhile, I will plan on reading a trio of non-fiction, nature-oriented books... A Walk in the Woods, The Wild (which I have read before), and River Monsters (book for Jeremy Wade's series).  More sunburn and mosquito bites, less man made lightning and betrayals.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Battletech: Infantry, Armor, Plastech

Howdie.  I used some spare time to put together a combined arms package... in the course of this I encountered some problems related to infantry in Battletech, which I will discuss towards the end of this blog post.  First, I need to display the group I painted....
Its a fairly large group, representing a decade of collection (all of the vehicles were purchased at least ten years ago).

First are some tracked tanks, 2x Alacorn (nobody ignores triple mount gauss rifles) and 2x Patton/Rommel.... these are always interesting as they can be more than one thing... and, they have the distinction of being Battletech vehicles that actually look like tanks!
Then there are the hovertanks.... 2x Condor, 2x Drillson, and 2x J Edgar.  Now, for the Condor, because of the great lapse in time since I had opened the blisters, I lost one of the turrets.  I took a spare piece laying around and just glued that on top, hoping to 1) finish the miniature and 2) maybe make it look like the Davion version with 2x AC5s.  (shrugs shoulders)
Overall, I like how the vehicles turned out, I like some of my camo color choices, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I also painted a lance of Plastech miniatures in my mountain camo scheme.... Atlas, Trebuchet, Panther, and Hunchback.  Now, the old Plastech were a bargain in the day.... and some of the sculpts (in my opinion, the Locust and Atlas in particular) are good, where as some (in particular the HUGE Catapult) are not.  These do not paint up the same as metal figures, though as hard plastic are really better than the soft plastic sets that came out at different times.  Anyway, I have a bunch of these laying around from the late 90's, figures I could knock out these 4 quickly, and I was right.

Finally, the infantry.  This is a complete old pack of Kurita infantry.  The stands include a variety of weapons, I really did not know how to split them up.  AFTER I finished painting a few bases I realized I could have organized them better, but what the hell, these will work.  Basing... well, more on basing below.  I created 7 bases of 9 figures, and 3 bases of 7 figures.  Overall, I think they painted up quickly, turned out pretty decent.  Ironically, painting huge numbers of 6mm ancients helped make painting these a breeze.

OK, so now comes the infantry rules ponderings.... as I was organizing these, I realized it was not easy to determine how to base them.  Previously, I had no trouble basing 5 Elementals on a single base, because that works out great.  Infantry, however, in Battletech are organized into 28 man platoons (or 21 for jump infantry), and a platoon is treated as a single entity. 

I came across some pertinent musings on the Paint it Pink blog... I won't link to those, I am not sure of the etiquette of doing so, but essentially there were some very similar ideas being kicked around.  Paint it Pink went with small bases of 3 figures or so, creating going with a 1:1 representation.  I think I will also go with 1:1 representation, but (obviously) I decided on squad basings of 9 (or 7) figures.

On my Battlescape terrain, it is just possible to clump 3 bases together into a hex, though it could get a bit out of hand pretty quickly as they all drift across the hex lines... this method allows the rules to work as is, but also allows a proper 1:1 figure representation, and looks cool.... Paint it Pink pointed out that infantry are the only thing in Battletech not represented properly.

Now, this will not work on the hex maps, if you do not use Battlescape.  If you game miniatures without hexes at all, it would work perfectly as well, but on the maps..... you end up with a squad base in three adjoining hexes.  In this image you can see that, and also the way the game represents platoons, a single base/counter for the entire platoon in a single hex.  It just does not look right.
What I decided to go with, as reflected in how I based the miniatures, is an abstraction where one base is designated (and will have to be marked clearly somehow) as the platoon center.  This means all firing to and from the platoon, and movement, is based solely on this base, the other bases will be in adjacent hexes for visuals only.
In the above image, the forward central base is the "active" base.  This method has the ability to work with hex maps also.  And to continue the abstraction, you can remove a base when the platoon reaches 18 men, and another base when it reaches 9 men.

But why stop there?  It occurred to me that one way to give infantry a little extra oomph in games, and it is a very little extra, is that they fight as full bases regardless of casualties.  For example, the platoon would count as a full 28 men until it was reduced to 18 men... and a full 18 men until reduced to 9 men... and a full 9 men until completely eliminated. Its an idea I have not tried out yet.

Then again, at that point, why not let squads separate and fight independently?  A platoon becomes 3 separate bases of 9 man squads....

As much as I love the Battletech-verse, I admit there are glaring problems.  Number one for me has always been the ranges... I don't care about the excuses, it makes no sense to me, ha ha.  But the arrangement of movement and range makes the game work, so not much you can do about it, and you can squint your eyes and say its abstracted instead of literal (as in, this weapon only has a 450m range... what?!?@!?).

A different glaring problem is that question of infantry.  The armies are a few thousand men, and in game terms the infantry are potentially dangerous to mechs.... so why are the army numbers not more realistic?  I get the idea that most inhabited planets have low populations, so the armies would be small.  But there are worlds that are densely populated, meaning there should be millions of soldiers, not just a few thousand.  A world unable to field mechs would raise a million men armed (on the squad level) with readily producable anti-mech weapons.  Light, certainly, but effective en masse.

Well, I am starting to board the train to Loco City, so I better stop now.  I think I have decided on how to represent infantry in my games.... now all I have to do is convince my fellow gamers to let me try these ideas out.  SO I either have 2 regular platoons, 1 jump platoon, and 1 company command squad (per my ideas)... OR... I have 7 regular platoons and 3 jump platoons (per standard Battletech rules).

Either way, I can't wait to try them out.... and looking forward to seeing how well they do against some Clan Elementals (!!!!!!!!!).

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Battletech: More Jade Falcons... Fast Paint!


I ha today off, so spent a couple of hours hastily painting some previously assembled, based, and primed mechs.

I had a group of 7 Clan mechs and they have now been painted to match my previous Jade Falcon force... included are a Night Gyr, Marauder IIC, Puma/Adder, Glass Spider,  Vulture/Mad Dog, Behemoth/Stone Rhino, and Warhammer IIC...

The Marauder IIC and Warhammer IIC were previously poorly painted in a metallic green by someone else (seen here  ), one small piece of the Maruader is missing.  I don't normally do a lot of repainting, since, I have so much unpainted  to worry about... but, in this case, I wanted a larger, consistent, group of mechs for my "Episilon" force.

Now, overall, these 7 mechs are a tad on heavy side, with only the Puma not being heavy or assault.  So, I think I need to work in a couple more light mechs to help offset the average weight.

Here is the entire expanded group, 18 mechs and 5 stands of Elementals...

So, not sure if I want to bring the force above 20 mechs or not.  I may add a Dasher and a Jenner IIC, both of which I have had for some time, but have not gotten around to painting.  Still not sure if these two should be assigned to my Smoke Jaguars, I would like to bring them up to at last 15 mechs. maybe 20.  We shall see.

Actually, we shall see when my sudden Battletech painting spree comes crashing down.... I guess I will have to ride it out until it does.  Thanks for reading.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Battletech: The Black Widow Company

Howdie.  Natasha Kerensky rides again.... as part of a project I painted the 12 mechs indicated in the old FASA scenario book, all of them 3020's designs pulled from the original set of 14.

Now, not wanting a grey hilight I chose to use a very dark but translucent blue to drybrush these miniatures.  What is interesting is that to the naked eye the blue is not there... but.... when under the flash of the camera, it shows up.  A curious effect, but the black looks pretty good overall.  I tried my hand at painting on representations for Wolf's Dragoons and the Black Widow Company, with less than spectacular results.  I just don't like using transfers.

This early shot shows that blue under the flash....
All of the mechs are original metal.  Most (I think 9 of them) came from a gaming friend's collection, and the plan is to use them in upcoming games against McKinnon's Raiders as per the scenario book.

Here is the entire company....

The command lance consisting of a Warhammer, Marauder, Crusader, and Griffin....

Here is the fire lance consisting of 2 Archers, a Wasp, and a Stinger....
And finally, here is the recon lance consisting of a Rifleman, a Phoenix Hawk, and 2 Stingers...

Overall, I think they turned out well.  When you paint all black mechs, it does seem to explain why its such a popular color... in some ways, its very easy, very forgiving.  But flat black never looks good as you can not note details very well, so getting some kind of hilight is key to the overall effect.   I remember a number of gamers with mechs painted for the Black Widow Company, I find it a bit funny that after all of these years its finally my turn to field Natasha in her trusty Warhammer.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Battletech: Lori Kalmar at Thunder Rift and More


Just some more painting progress.  I painted a few more miniatures for my mountain camo battalion, a pair of mechs for my white Comstar battalion, a pair of SRM carriers, a unique scheme Battlemaster, and a Locust painted to look like Lori Kalmar's Locust on the Decision at Thunder Rift cover.

Here is the assorted group...
Some closer views of the mountain camo, Archer, Rifleman, Griffin, Warhammer, and Catapult...

I tried to pay homage to that old cover.  Its a difficult explanation, but I received a number of old mechs from a gaming buddy who is no longer with us.  The Catapult, Warhammer, and Rifleman in the mountain camo were from him, as was the Locust.  I first intended to paint it to match the mountain camo too, but for some reason decided on Lori Kalmar at Thunder Rift, based on the original novel cover, instead.  Its unfortunate that this sort of washes out in the images, because it is actually quite sharp looking in real life, one of the cleanest paint jobs I have done on a Battlemech in a long time.  Hopefully some of that carries through.

Here are the remainder, a Battlemaster in unique colors (I think its always good to have a few individuals in the mix, instead of everyone in he same colors), with a Lancelot and Catapult in Comstar white.  Finally, there are a pair of SRM carriers, painted differently than my previous pair of "brown" ones.  These "green" ones are not quite as nice, but, they will work... and its good to have these available in two different colors.

Speaking of Catapults, here is a mix of different Catapults I have... newer metal ones, newer plastic one, real old real huge Plastech ones, and old "too tall" metal one.  I think maybe I like the newer metal ones the best, but its only the large Plastech ones I don't like at all.
OK, thanks for reading  Battletech apparently is a decades long project for me, its fun to paint a few once in a while, but maybe I should start thinking about an end game somewhere here.

At this time I am in the midst of re-reading the book series, and am currently at the beginning of the Fed-Com civil war (the only book in the pre-Mechwarrior book era I am missing is Sword and Dagger... used to have a copy which I sold 10 years ago, for better or for worse)... but I think I'd still like to game the Tukayyid proxy-for-Terra battles, and/or Exodus Road/annihilation of Smoke Jaguar Clan.

We shall see.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Battletech: Trees for Battlescape

Howdie.  I have been working on small tree stands to work with Battlescape terrain for my Battletech games.  I started off with a mix of different (and inexpensive) small scale trees, using a hot glue gun to affix them to pennies and (for the larger trees) steel washers.  In some cases, I clumped 2 or 3 pennies together for a larger stand of multiple trees.  Included in this are some rightly colored ornamental trees... I thought putting a few out would make the woods more "alien", or at least more "festive"....

Afterwards, I affixed a mix of sand and white glue, something to give the stands more texture.  Also, this surface is more accepting of paint.  This also helps harden the stand.  Notice I have been using sheets of paper or plastic grocery bags as this process leaves a lot of little bits of residue.
After this was dry I painted the bases with a wash of dark brown paint thinned with water.  Once this dried, I applied a few different flock... starting with some earth blend turf, then different colors of foliage, making each stand more of a tiny vignette, hoping this helps sell the "woods" look.

The Battlescape terrain is a bit of work to set up, so i went with some sample shots just to demonstrate the finished look.  Appears some Inner Sphere types are tangling with Jade Falcons....  One last part I have not quite decided on is marking the woods hexes so that trees can be removed for the insertion of moving Mechs (like the Banshee in these images), and removed to be able to draw lines of sight (for just about every thing in these images).  I do have some battescape terrain sheets that you cut out, which are already marked, making this task very easy.  But I don't have a lot of that.  I think I will be using small pieces of felt which I can place in the middle of each hex, so that when a tree is removed, it will be easy to see which hex(es) it foes back on.

Of course, these trees, while on the smaller side, will still work with all larger scales of miniatures, either as full sized trees in 15mm, or understory thickets in 28mm.

Not sure when I will get to test these guys out in a game, but I will be sure to post about it when I do.

Thanks for reading, and remember, only you... and your Stalker... can prevent forest fires!