Aramise Del’Arco; Arbiter of Disputes

Well, I’m not off to a good start with my 2021 Resolutions. I’m already a month behind on my Character of the Month. For Fem-bruary’s character I chose a to paint a fighter; and here she is, better late than never. Nevertheless, being late doesn’t get me off the hook for another character this month, so watch this space for my official submission for March. In the meantime, this miniature is Rhaine, Rogue; from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Werner Klocke. At least, that’s what she’s called now. My blister said “Rhaine, Duelist”; so I decided to stick with that concept for her backstory.

Among the rich and powerful nobility of Evalaux, disputes are often settled at swordspoint. Despite this, most nobles barely know which end of a dueling saber or pistol to hold, never mind how to employ one for its intended purpose. The richest noble houses have fencing masters on staff, ready at a moment’s notice to avenge an insult or satisfy the slighted feelings of their patrons. If, however, yours is not one of the richest houses; or if you have recently suffered the inconvenient (yet permanent) loss of a fencing master due to poor job performance, then you must hire one; else be at the mercy of the social jabs and thrusts of the aristocracy.

Aramise Del’Arco is the most sought-after duelist in Evalaux. She has been offered fencing master positions at the most prestigious and wealthy houses; positions she has declined. Some of the masters of these houses saw her refusal as an insult and made the poor decision to hire a duelist of their own to seek redress. Aramise Del’Arco killed every one without compassion or apology. Thus, the nobility of Evalaux must content themselves with never having the best duelist under permanent retainer; and they must fear that Aramise Del’Arco may one day show up on their own doorstep in the employ of a rival.

Aramise Del’Arco does not work solely for the nobility. In the crowded streets and back alleys of Evalaux, crime lords, cults and other nefarious organizations have all used her talents. Provided you can afford her, Aramise Del’Arco is for hire. But be certain you pay the bill when it comes due.

You may ask why. An illustrative example: before he was known as “No-Nose, One-Eared, One-Eyed Rickard”, Rickard the Butcher was a man to be feared in the dark underworld of Evalaux. When he decided to send three bravos after Aramise Del’Arco rather than pay her fee for her elimination of a rival, Aramise Del’Arco gave him the visually-appropriate nickname he enjoys at present.

As for the bravos, they didn’t get nicknames. They just got dead, and Aramise Del’Arco got her money.

Aramise Del’Arco is a mystery. No fencing master in Evalaux can say she was their pupil or their classmate. No one knows where she came from or how she became so skilled with a blade. All that is known about her is that she is quite possibly the finest swordswoman alive; and that she will work for anyone who meets her price. Once hired, she will work until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. She cannot be bought off or bribed; but make no mistake: she is no assassin. If an opponent dies in the course of a lawful duel, then so be it; but she will not murder for hire, and sad indeed is the person who would make the mistake of assuming so.

I instantly fell in love with the “unofficial” duelist character class when I saw it collected in Best of The Dragon (magazine) Vol. 4, and promptly made one of my longest-running AD&D characters ever: a half-elf duelist who constantly found himself embroiled in political games with players much bigger than he. I used him as an inspiration for this Character of the Month.

Check back soon for March’s submission!

Fem-bruary: Under the Sea…

Got the song in your head? good. I’d put a picture of Sebastian the crab here, but the Mouse is known to be one litigious rodent…

Anyway, it had to happen eventually. I made a diorama. I’ve never done one before. While I can marvel at and enjoy a good scene as much as the next guy, I’ve always been more practical when it comes to painting miniatures. I do so assuming I will use them in a game someday (see how that has turned out), so keeping miniatures locked in place holds little utility for me. That, coupled with my ambivalence towards scenery-making, has pretty much kept dioramas off my personal hobby list until now.

Behold: The Mermaids’ Grotto. I actually had the idea to do this a few years ago, but shelved it because I couldn’t get excited about making a diorama. I pretty much followed the tutorial from Eons of Battle for constructing underwater bases. The seaweed is made from twist ties; the shells are from a novelty candle that was full of pink sand (don’t ask), and the “rock” is pink XPS board.

All the miniatures are from Reaper’s Dark Heaven line. This one is Children of the Zodiac: Pisces (03300), sculpted by the legendary Sandra Garrity. She was the first one I painted.

This is Pearl, the Mermaid (03078), sculpted by Werner Klocke.

And finally, Coral, the Mermaid (03554) sculpted by Gene Van Horne. This miniature required some cutting and repositioning, as her original pose was this:

As you can see, her tail disappears for a while under the surface of the water. This wasn’t going to cut it in a scene that’s supposed to take place on the ocean floor, so out came the nippy cutters and the green stuff. It’s not a perfect join, but it looks ok.

The octopus and the eel were from Familiar Pack VII, which features a bunch of aquatic critters.

Here’s another shot of Pisces.

Halfway through making this diorama, I realized that my first Fem-bruary submission shows a lot of boobs. Don’t get me wrong, boobs are great; it just wasn’t really my intent to focus so much on them in a month celebrating female miniatures. (I’m not a teenager. It’s just that most mermaids aren’t particularly modest.)

I’m hoping to get a couple more female miniatures done soon, one of which will be my D&D Character of the month; so watch this space.

Fem-bruary is upon us!

Ever since Roger from Rantings Under the Wargames Table lent his dulcet tones to the Imperial Rebel Ork Podcast; I’ve been hooked. In fact, I’ve binged all of IRO’s excellent podcasts over the last couple of weeks (yes, that’s right, yet another thing to blame Roger for). It was through listening to IRO’s musings and hobby spotlights that I recently was made aware of a painting challenge heretofore unknown to me: Fembruary, the brainchild of one Leadballoony, a hobbyist also heretofore unknown to me; but one I will certainly follow now.

The rules, such as they are, appear quite simple. Paint at least one female miniature in the month of February. That’s it.

Well, I can do that. In fact, I’ll go one step further and paint ONLY female miniatures in February. Not because I’m an overachiever; but because I have a lot of female miniatures that need paint. (I’m in the middle of working on a diorama that features only female miniatures anyway, so I can count that, too.)

Of course, as cool as Fembruary is, it doesn’t excuse me from my prior obligations (read: Resolutions): like painting a Dungeons and Dragons character class for February. Only this time, she’s gotta be female.

No problem. I got this.

So, fair warning: although as everyone knows Dead Dick’s Tavern is usually a bastion of testosterone and sheer, unbridled masculinity (because of ME), next month I will showcase some badass lady miniatures that have waited far too long for paint.

I encourage all of you to do the same.

Kurn Velden, High Priest of Yevona

For my first character of 2021, I created a cleric. The miniature I chose is the War Priest kit from Avatars of War. I picked this miniature for three reasons: one, because he’s awesome; two, because I have had him for at least 8 years; and three, because he was sitting in my side pile, and I didn’t get to him (or anything else in the pile) like I wanted to in December.

Like most Avatars of War miniatures, this kit offers choices when it comes to assembling your hero. I chose two hammers, but I also had the additional options of giving him a holy symbol or a shield. If you have to ask why I would choose two warhammers over these other options, then welcome to Dead Dick’s Tavern, because you’re obviously new here.

While I painted him, I thought up a back story. Here it is:

Yevona is the goddess of purity and virtue, healing and knowledge in the service of good.  Yevona’s clergy are many, and are primarily clerics, although many monasteries and knightly orders serve the goddess as well. Priests, mendicants, friars, and healers revere Yevona, as do all good-aligned beings. Several orders of paladins and warrior-priests protect her Faithful and bring her light where it is needed most (and often welcomed least).

Kurn Velden is one of the goddess’s most devout and zealous faithful, raised as a foundling by the Sisterhood of Chadirra; a female monastic order devoted to healing and wisdom. Although the order is peaceful and pacifistic, there have been times in the Sisterhood’s past when they came under threat. As a result, they created the office of Champion of the Order; a position traditionally filled by the most qualified sister, most often a former warrior or soldier retired to the cloistered life. Kurn Velden is the first male to ever hold the office; because, despite the peaceful teachings of the Sisterhood, Kurn Velden has a talent for war.

Velden wields the Strikers of Undjask; twin magical warhammers forged in centuries past, once borne by one of Yevona’s greatest paladins and imbued with the power of the goddess herself. These divine artifacts are potent against the forces of darkness, especially the undead. (D&D 5E: On a critical hit against any undead creature, the Strikers automatically cast Divine Smite at Velden’s current level. This does not use a spell slot.)

While some in the order disapprove of his zeal for combat, others recognize him as a gift from the goddess; a bulwark against those who would do the order harm. Those who would threaten the Sisterhood will find Kurn Velden all too ready to meet them, singing a song of praise to the goddess with hammers in hand.

These pictures were taken with my new iPhone, which seems to work just fine with WordPress now. I use the same camera for my Instagram photos. The resolution is insane, so any flaws (and there are many) stick out like a sore thumb. Less work for me, but more unforgiving. Good and bad, I guess…

Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task: Conclusion!

“HULK…SMASH…HULK…SMASH…” The robotic Hulk grabs a nearby crate and hurls it at the heroes.

“I’ll say one thing for Machinesmith,” says Hawkeye, ducking, “he really nailed Hulk’s personality.”

“Relax,” says Spider-Man. “It could be worse. We could be fighting the actual Hulk.”

“You fought the…?” asks Power Man, circling the green behemoth, awaiting an opening.

“Yep,” says Spidey. “It was very un-fun.”

“Time to introduce this robotic wannabe to my steel-hard skin…” begins Power Man.

“…and 300 lbs. of solid muscle,” finishes Cyclops, distracting the robot with a full-force optic blast. “Yeah, we know. Go for it.”

Power Man charges the Hulk robot, giving it his best Sunday punch. He connects solidly, knocking it back a full ten feet, splintering crates and dropping it to its knees. Sparks fly from the exposed robotic “brain” as it slowly stands upright. “Nope,” says Hawkeye firing an incendiary arrow. “Definitely not the Hulk.”

Daredevil’s radar sense reveals something odd. “This room is a lot bigger than it looks,” he says.

“One thing at a time,” says Cyclops, firing at the Hulk robot again. The green machine seems to be shrugging off most of the damage, until Spider Man decides to attack the head directly. Unshielded, the delicate mechanisms that animate the robot begin to fail. All five heroes concentrate their attacks on the head, until a few minutes later when the robot suddenly stops moving and falls over stiffly, managing a final “HULK…SMASH…” before falling permanently silent.

With the help of Cyclops’s optic blasts and Power Man’s fists, the heroes break through a series of false walls that lead into what was, until recently, the Machinesmith’s secret lab. Scattered among robotic schematics and diagrams are several unfinished robotic frames and one robotic head bearing the likeness of Machinesmith himself. Hawkeye picks it up and stares at it.

“Alas, poor Machinesmith…” he begins, before Cyclops snatches it from him irritably. “There’s a camera in here, recording everything, ” the X-Man says.

“That explains why they were watching us,” says Power Man. “Machinesmith is making movies. Why would he do that?”

“Someone paid him to, it seems,” Daredevil says. “Stands to reason it would be the same person who hired the Circus of Crime to attack you and Hawkeye. Machinesmith is long gone now. His consciousness could be anywhere, in any robotic body. How are we going to find out who’s really behind this?”

Spider-man, hanging upside-down on his webbing, slowly descends into the midst of the group. “I think I know where to look,” he says, holding up a map of Coney Island, circa 1945.

“Coney Island?” asks Cyclops. “Why there?”

“Because some fool circled a warehouse here with a big, fat, red magic marker,” says Power Man, pointing at the map. “Looks like a clue to me, Scoob.” He turns around, coming face to upside-down face with Spider-Man. The two stare at each other for a moment.

“You want to kiss me, don’t you?” asks Spider Man. “It’s ok. I get that a lot when I’m in this position.”

Cage grins. “It’s gonna hurt real bad when I hit you, wall-crawler.”

“Coney’s not that far away,” Cyclops says. “Let’s go.”

About half an hour later, the heroes arrive at the address in Coney Island to find yet another warehouse, one that was once converted into a factory. It looks to be condemned, but some bricks have crumbled on the facade, revealing an old faded marquee for Cheezo the Clown’s Coney Island Circus Show. Seems the Circus of Crime used the name deliberately.

“Should we knock?: asks Hawkeye. Power Man tries the security door. It opens easily. Inside, all is in darkness. Daredevil senses mostly open space. Hawkeye is about to fire off a flare arrow when the lights suddenly come on, revealing the main factory floor has been converted into a three-ring circus ground! A series of raised catwalks crisscrosses the floor, forming a mazelike upper level.

Cyclops barely has time to notice that his portable Cerebro unit is active; indicating there is a mutant of significant power nearby, before a gravelly voice comes over a hidden loudspeaker. “Hawkeye. Power Man. Good to see you again. I have been watching your performances with great interest, as well as that of your friends. But I have friends too! Meet my star performers!”

One by one, a spotlight illuminates each of the rings, revealing a figure standing within.

“Blacklash! Master of the bullwhip!

“Huh.” Power Man cracks his knuckles. “I slapped this fool silly once already,” he says.

“I did it first!” says Spider-Man.

Oddball! The deadliest juggler in the world!

“The ‘deadliest juggler in the world’? Seriously?” says Cyclops. “You know I’ve fought Magneto, right?”

And last, but certainly not least: Trick Shot! The greatest of all archers. But wait…isn’t that supposed to be you, Hawkeye? Ha Ha Ha!”

“Friend of yours?” asks Daredevil. Hawkeye scowls at the sight of his former mentor, but says nothing.

Suddenly, another spotlight illuminates the catwalk network above. Standing high overhead, the skull-visaged face of Taskmaster leers down at the heroes in triumph. “By all means, fools, let us fight,” he says, “as gladiators did in circuses of old. This whole arena has been wired with cameras. Upon your defeat I will be able to study every move you make, so that my photographic reflexes can ensure that your skills become mine!”

“You have to beat us first,” says Hawkeye, nocking an arrow. Before he can fire, however, he is struck by a razor-tipped arrow fired from Trick-Shot’s bow! A few inches to the right, and it would have been curtains for the Avenger! Spider-Man bounds up to the catwalk to face Taskmaster while Power Man charges Oddball!

Daredevil leaps into action, hurling his billy club at Blacklash and following up with an acrobatic flying kick that knocks the villain clear out of the ring and into the darkness beyond. Some would hesitate to pursue; but darkness is no hindrance to a blind man, and so Daredevil follows him as he does all things…without fear!

Power Man doesn’t quite reach Oddball before the evil juggler tosses an explosive ball directly at him. Not missing a beat, Cage catches the ball and hugs it close, containing the blast as best he can. It stings, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. A moment later and he has hold of Oddball, crushing him in a bearhug that robs the juggler of his breath! He collapses, colorful balls falling to the ground around him like…well, like a lot of balls falling to the ground at once.

Spider-Man takes a swing at Taskmaster, but the mutant mercenary easily avoids it. “You forget, Spider-Man…I’ve studied you already. I know your every move. Much like Captain America!” He hurls his steel-alloy shield at the wall-crawler, who manages to catch it. “You can’t possibly beat–ARRRRRGH!” Taskmaster screams as Cyclops opens up with an optic blast from the ground floor. He wasn’t expecting it, and that leaves him vulnerable. Spider-Man promptly smacks Taskmaster with his own shield!

Meanwhile, Hawkeye decides it’s time to put down Trick Shot for good. Unfortunately for him, Trick Shot thinks the same about Hawkeye. The two trade explosive arrows, and both hit! If Hawkeye wasn’t already wounded, he may have been able to withstand the blast; but instead both hero and villain are knocked unconscious! Somewhere in the darkness, Blacklash is trying desperately to see Daredevil. But he can’t whip what he can’t see; and he soon falls beneath the merciless fists of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen!

That leaves Taskmaster alone, and quite outnumbered. The canny mutant knows he has lost, and knows the time has come to flee. He whips out his sword and lunges at Spider-Man, hoping to force the web-swinger to retreat. It doesn’t work. Spider-Man dodges easily, and, still holding the Taskmaster’s own shield, uses it to knock the villain out cold and off the catwalk in one smashing blow!

Later, after the NYPD has been called and the villains have been carted off, the five heroes regroup outside what was once Cheezo the Clown’s Coney Island Circus Show.

“Not bad for a day’s work,” Hawkeye says, sighing.

“Yeah?” asks Power Man. “I get paid when I work, Avenger. Doesn’t look like anyone’s paying me today. Only one who looks happy is web-head over there.”

“Wealth and fame, he’s ignored,” says Daredevil. “Action is his reward.”

Cage nods. “To him, life is a great big hang-up.”

And wherever there’s a hang-up, True Believers, you’ll find the Spider-Man!

END

Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task Part 2!

“Ok, fellas,” Spider-Man says, “I’m gonna see if I can get a fix on our bearded, junk-food loving friend. Try to keep up.” Spider-Man leaps a full 30′ straight up, then fires a web at a nearby flagpole, zip-lining across the street.

“Sweet Christmas!” says Power Man. “How are we supposed to keep up with that?”

“Easy,” says Daredevil, grinning. “I’ll follow him, and you can follow me.” Without waiting for an answer, he nimbly scales a nearby fire escape, landing on the roof seconds later.

“I knew I should have brought my skycycle,” Hawkeye sighs.

Meanwhile topside, Spider-Man quickly homes in on the buzzing of his spider-tracer. A few minutes later, he catches sight of his quarry: the same bearded, trenchcoat-wearing man he saw earlier, still holding a stick of what was once ice cream in his hand, now-completely melted. The man is walking away from the CTB Center grounds; not rushing, but definitely moving with purpose. Spider-Man follows for while, keeping out of sight on the rooftops. Daredevil uses his radar sense to keep tabs on Spider-Man while keeping in sight of the other three heroes, who follow along on the ground as fast as they can.

After a few minutes, the man suddenly stops, turns and stares directly at Spider-Man; then takes off at a speed far beyond that of a normal human. Were it not for his spider-tracer, Spider-Man would be left in the dust. The mysterious man makes a beeline southeast, quickly reaching speeds of almost 40mph at a run with no sign of tiring. It’s all Spidey can do to keep up as the man runs parallel to FDR drive, heading through Midtown to the Lower East Side before crossing the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn some 20 minutes later.

“I guess you can travel faster on foot than I thought,” says Spider-Man, coming to a rest on one of the bridge pylons to wait for the others. Once they are all together again, Spider-Man follows the tracer to a warehouse in Red Hook, where the heroes find the man and three others who look just like him awaiting them on the roof of a warehouse that looks to be abandoned. All of the men remove their overcoats and hats, revealing one-piece coveralls underneath.

“Check out those beards. Those are serious facial accessories,” Hawkeye says aloud. Daredevil has no comment. Three of the men spread out in a triangular pattern, each fixating on one of the heroes, while the fourth moves quickly to the rooftop door into the warehouse. “We’ve got a runner!” Cyclops says.

“I’ll head him off at the pass,” Spider-Man replies, bounding off the side of the building.

“I don’t like how they’re just staring at us,” says Power Man. “Gives me the creeps.”

“I’ll lay down some modesty for you, big guy,” says Hawkeye, loosing a smoke arrow.

As the purple vapor begins to billow throughout the area, Daredevil notices something peculiar with his enhanced senses: none of these men have a heartbeat! “They’re not human!” he exclaims. “They’re robots!”

“Then that makes things a lot easier,” says Cyclops, adjusting his visor and letting fly an optic blast.

“Time to introduce these turkeys to my steel-hard skin and 300 lbs. of solid muscle!” says Power Man, moving towards the trio.

Behind his hand, Hawkeye theatrically whispers to Daredevil: “He really needs to work on that battle-cry.”

The battle on the roof is brief, and the heroes pull no punches. Daredevil accounts for one, while Luke Cage and Cyclops both battle the others before Hawkeye puts them both down for good with electro-arrows, short-circuiting their systems. Once again, Daredevil’s senses alert him of danger just in the nick of time; and he exclaims “They’re going to explode!” mere seconds before they do…

Meanwhile, the fourth man rushes into the rooftop entrance to the warehouse and down the stairs, barely having time to reach the second floor catwalk before Spider-Man crashes through a boarded-up window on the side of the building!

“Hiya, Baldy!” Spider-Man says, “Miss me?” Inside, the warehouse looks disused and mostly abandoned; although there are crates and boxes covered with dusty tarpaulins scattered about the ground floor, some of them quite large. Both Spider-Man and the mysterious man face each other on a second-story catwalk that runs the perimeter of the interior. Spider-Man’s spider sense warns him just before the man lunges at him. Spidey evades him easily and gives him a light smack in return, which is when he notices the man’s skin is harder than normal; in fact, it’s completely artificial.

“Heeyyyyy….” he says, “you’re one a them there robots, a’int ya?” Armed with that knowledge, Spider-Man makes quick work of him, putting him out of commission just as a huge explosion blows a whole in the ceiling, tumbling The remaining four heroes inside. Sizing up the situation, Cyclops blasts the prone body of Spider-Man’s opponent, reducing it to debris before it, too, can explode.

The heroes barely have time to catch their breath when a mechanical voice is heard from a hidden loudspeaker:

“Well, well…I must commend your resourcefulness, heroes…I truly didn’t think you’d make it this far. But where others may panic, I see further opportunity for profit!”

“The Machinesmith!” Daredevil exclaims. “I recognize the voice!”

“I remember, now,” says Hawkeye. “He’s in the Avengers’ files. Captain America told me about him. How come you didn’t recognize him from all his robots?”

“I…uh…didn’t get a good look at him,” says Daredevil.

The voice continues. “Unfortunately, I must depart, as my benefactor now has his merchandise. In the meantime, I’ve arranged to broadcast this bonus material to him, so be sure to put on a good show! Mu hu ha ha ha ha ha!”

Suddenly, one of the large crates bursts open to reveal the unmistakable form of the Incredible Hulk! Or it would be unmistakable, if it had an actual head instead of two visual diodes suspended on a robotic frame. Apparently this particular robot is unfinished. A bestial roar erupts from where the green giant’s throat would be as he lunges to attack!

“HULK…SMASH…HULK…SMASH…”

Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task: Part 1!

It’s a bright, sunny July day in Manhattan, a good day for a celebration. The Cyrus Theophilus Bartlett Community Center is finally open. Made possible by a grant from the Rand-Meachum corporation, the CBT Center promises opportunities for growth and outreach among those residents of Harlem who most need the services. The CBT will offer adult education classes, child care and social services; as well as a free clinic that will provide the uninsured access to health care and preventative medicine. Nelson and Murdock, PC will also offer pro-bono legal services to those who qualify. The residents of Harlem have turned out in droves for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, which features music, free food, entertainment and appearances by prominent community professionals, including Hero-for-Hire Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man; lawyer Matt Murdock; and Daily Bugle editor and Harlem native Joe “Robbie” Robertson; who is the featured keynote speaker.

To keep the crowd contained, an entire city block has been cordoned off; the perimeter manned by NYPD police, some from on horseback from the mounted division. Most of them are holding coffee cups, munching on fried dough and street food. It’s a festive atmosphere, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

Much of the entertainment is being provided by Cheezo the Clown’s Coney Island Circus Show; which has erected a scaffolding and a makeshift Big Top on the main stage. It features aerialists, a fire-breather, a strong man (who seems a bit self-conscious with Power Man here), and, of course, Cheezo the clown himself. But the real main event of the day is an appearance by the Avenging Archer, Hawkeye; who has promised to entertain the crowd with his amazing marksmanship, and even sign autographs afterwards!

Both Luke Cage (in costume) and Matt Murdock (not) share the stage with “Robbie” Robertson and the Reverend Placide Puree of the 138th St. Baptist Church. Robbie is supposed to be the keynote speaker of the event, as he is the only one who actually knew community activist Cyrus Bartlett; but the Reverend Placide Puree and his epic jheri curl has hijacked the dedication for his own self-aggrandizing purposes. Meanwhile, Cheezo the Clown and his Coney Island Circus Show await backstage with Hawkeye, going over their plans for the entertainment soon to follow. Hawkeye will dazzle the crowd with some trick shots, while the aerialists, the cowboy and the strong man all do their thing. Cheezo himself will juggle while riding his unicycle; he’ll throw some bowling pins high in the air so the Avenger can shoot them and make the kiddies laugh.

In the crowd, meanwhile, Scott Summers, a.k.a. Cyclops, regards his portable Cerebro device. Professor Xavier told him there was a good chance Angela Ivers, a teenager who has recently demonstrated some mutant abilities, may attend this event. Professor X knows her newly-manifested powers have frightened her and he wants to be sure she receives some guidance and support from the X-Men. So far, Cerebro has been quiet. (Unbeknownst to Cyclops, Angela got grounded yesterday and has not been allowed to attend the ceremony.)

Peter Parker is also in the crowd, on assignment from the Daily Bugle to get some photos of the opening of the CBT center and his editor Robbie’s speech. A man jostles him, ruining his shot. The man heads off into the crowd with a mumbled apology. Since Peter failed his Intuition roll, he takes no notice of how the man is dressed in an overcoat and hat; odd considering the warm weather; or how he’s holding an ice cream bar that has melted all over his hand, and doesn’t seem to care. He does notice the man’s old-fashioned facial whiskers, but quickly forgets about them.

The Reverend Placide Puree introduces Hawkeye while back-handedly apologizing for the absence of the Human Torch, who was the first choice for the event’s headliner. The Human Torch along with the rest of the Fantastic Four is busy, says the Reverend, but Hawkeye the Avenger will certainly do his best to entertain the crowd.

And entertain them he does; briefly, at least.

Spider-Man’s spider sense barely tingles before suddenly, the cowboy dazzling the crowd with rope tricks loops his lariat over Power Man, pinning his arms to his chest! Power Man has just enough time to chuckle in surprise, thinking it’s all part of the act, before 40,000 volts of electricity surge through the cable. If it wasn’t for his steel-hard skin and 300 lbs. of solid muscle, Luke Cage would be toast! Meanwhile, the twin aerialists leap from the scaffolding and maneuver a huge cannon to point at Power Man, while the clown blows a comically-large horn, discharging a cloud of high-potency knock-out gas directly at Hawkeye! The Avenging Archer begins to sputter and cough; but manages to fight off the effects of the gas as the Strong Man heads towards him with malicious intent and the clown follows up with a weighted tenpin, beaning Hawkeye off the noggin!

Peter Parker’s spider-sense is blaring klaxons now; so he takes the opportunity to duck under the stage to change into his Spider-Man costume. Cyclops likewise finds an out of the way corner; but Matt Murdock, on stage with Power Man; has nowhere to go. Instead he “accidentally” blunders into the cowboy, smacking him with his blind-man’s cane hard enough to hurt!. Power Man is shocked again by the electric lariat; but he soon has bigger problems than that: the cannon booms, and a brightly-costumed man with a bullet-shaped helmet rockets into Power Man with incredible force! Sadly, the Human Cannonball didn’t reckon on steel-hard skin and 300 lbs. of solid muscle. He ricochets off the Hero-for-Hire, barely managing to budge him. but definitely making him mad!

The Strong Man tries to grapple Hawkeye, but the Avenger evades him long enough to put a blunt-tipped arrow directly into the clown’s breadbasket at point-blank range, knocking him clear off his unicycle! Power Man flexes his muscles, loosening the lariat and slipping free! Matt Murdock swings his cane wildly, “accidentally” knocking the cowboy completely out cold as Power Man charges the Human Cannonball and grabs hold of him! The twin aerialists leap once again into the scaffolding above, as Hawkeye fires an explosive arrow at the Strong Man’s feet. The resulting blast puts the Strong Man down for the count! Matt Murdock takes the opportunity to slip offstage, but not before he notices that someone in the crowd is acting strangely: his radar sense picks up one man standing stock still, watching the action; while all around him, a sea of spectators is milling about in excitement and the beginnings of panic as they realize what they’re seeing on stage isn’t mere entertainment!

Luke Cage swings the Human Cannonball like a club, connecting solidly with one of the aerialists. Both villains careen wildly offstage, while the remaining aerialist reaches the rafters. Spider-Man and Cyclops emerge from their hiding places just as a disturbance parts the crowd. A sultry woman throws off her cape, revealing a slinky costume that barely covers enough to keep this event family-friendly. Coiled around her as she undulates towards the stage is an enormous, 20′ long python! Standing next to her, a man in an old-fashioned, vaudeville suit with an oily, handlebar moustache places a large top hat on his head…

“Wallopin’ Websnappers!” exclaims Spider-Man as he leaps into the rafters after the remaining aerialist. “This is no Coney Island Circus Show…it’s the Circus of Crime!”

“The Circus of what, now?” asks Cyclops. At least the villains the X-Men face usually have cooler names, he thinks, as he notices a red-whiskered man in the crowd staring fixedly at him, loosely holding a bag of popcorn, almost as an afterthought. In fact, most of it has spilled on the ground in front of him.

“The Circus of Crime,” says Daredevil, seemingly appearing from nowhere. “Ringmaster, Princess Python…and, uh…the rest of them.”

“Buncha low-life turkeys!” says Power-Man. “Picked the wrong party to crash!”

Hawkeye wastes no time and fires a bola arrow at Princess Python, completely entangling her and her snake; while Cyclops unceremoniously optic-blasts the Ringmaster, blindsiding him and knocking him out before he can even fit the hat on his head. Faced with overwhelming odds the remaining aerialist, Luigi Gambonno, surrenders.

While the NYPD rounds up the Circus of Crime, the five heroes meet in the midst of the trashed stage amidst resounding cheers from the crowd. Before he can protest, Hawkeye is quickly led away on the arm of Reverend Placide Puree to sign autographs. Spider-Man waves to the crowd and begins bowing theatrically, but stops short when he sees that same red-whiskered man in the crowd that jostled him before, still holding a melted ice cream bar, staring directly at him. His spider-sense is quiet. Still, he decides it might be a good idea to see what’s up.

A leap and bound later, and Spider-Man stands in front of him. “Hey, buddy,” Spidey says, “a bit warm for a coat, don’t ya think?” Immediately, the man turns and begins to walk away. Spidey watches him go, but not before he tags him with a spider-tracer. Best to keep an eye on this guy.

Back onstage, the heroes interrogate the Circus of Crime, now handcuffed and awaiting the paddy wagon. A hatless Ringmaster, hands cuffed behind his back, stares with unconcealed hatred at Spider-Man.

“You,” he spits. “Always it’s you, wall-crawler.”

“Oooo,” Spider-Man says, “you really should twirl your moustache when you say that, Ring-o. It’s so villainous! Here,” he says, “lemme get that for you.” He reaches out and twists Ringmaster’s moustache, while Daredevil, casually leaning against the scaffolding nearby, chuckles audibly.

“Curse you!” sputters Ringmaster. “You weren’t even supposed to be here!”

The heroes exchange looks. “Who wasn’t supposed to be here?” asks Cyclops.

Ringmaster stares defiantly at Spider-Man, ignoring Cyclops. “I’ve got nothing else to say.”

Luke Cage steps closer, loudly cracking his knuckles. “Hey, web-head…how many punches does it usually take to get this pigeon talkin’?”

“He’s a stubborn one,” says Spider-Man, sighing. Ringmaster stares at Power Man in abject terror. “Might take a few. Plus, once you start, you just can’t stop.”

Ringmaster slumps in defeat. “What do you want to know?”

“Well, we already know you’re an idiot, Ringmaster,” Daredevil says, ” so you can skip that part. Someone put you and the rest of these clowns (pardon the expression) up to this. Who was it? And don’t lie. I’ll know.”

“I don’t know who he was. We were just supposed to attack Power Man and Hawkeye, then leave after a little while. He never said anything about three more heroes! It’s his good luck we got caught. Now we can’t collect, and I’d demand more money now!” Daredevil listens for the telltale skip in heart rate that would indicate a lie, but there isn’t one. Ringmaster really doesn’t know.

“You mean you ain’t even been paid yet?” Power Man says, laughing aloud. “Man, you’re just sad.” Ringmaster flushes scarlet, but stays silent.

“What did he look like?” asks Cyclops, scanning the crowd.

“Bald. Red whiskers,” says Ringmaster. “But not a full-beard, just side-whiskers. He looked ridiculous.”

“Listen to Oil Can Harry with the handlebar moustache, here, giving out fashion advice,” says Hawkeye, having disengaged himself from Reverend Placide Puree for the moment.

“I saw that guy,” says Cyclops. “He was standing over there, just staring at me. Stared so hard he spilled his popcorn everywhere. Guess I’m an interesting fellow.”

“I saw him too,” says Spider-Man. “But he was over there, and he had ice cream. It was melting all over his hand.”

“The same guy can’t be in two places at once”, says Power Man.

“Make it three,” says Daredevil. “I noticed someone watching me too, but I didn’t get a good look at him.”

“Let me guess,” says Power Man. “Funnel cake?”

Daredevil grins. “I didn’t notice.”

“So someone, probably these guys, hires these idiots to attack me and Power Man,” says Hawkeye. “Why? I never even met you before today.”

“It ain’t like we travel in the same circles, Avenger,” agrees Cage.

“I think we can find out pretty easily,” says Spider-Man. “It looks like the NYPD can handle things from here. I can follow Ice Cream Man’s trail. You all can follow me.”

“That’s if you’re done signing autographs, archer,” Cyclops says with a smirk.

Hawkeye glances apprehensively at Reverend Placide Puree, who is looking in his direction, and nods. “Let’s get out of here.”

Old-School Roleplaying: Marvel Super Heroes: Taken to Task

As faithful readers of this blog know, during the pandemic, I have been a regular player in a friend’s D&D 5E game over Roll20. I’ve also managed to run some Star Trek Adventures, too. But Star Trek Adventures, while a lot of fun, is a complex game with a lot of moving parts. I love running it, but it takes some preparation to do so. So when my friend unexpectedly said he needed a couple of weeks off from running D&D, we needed something quick and easy to fill the gap. It wasn’t gonna be Star Trek.

I suggested TSR’s old Marvel Super Heroes game. Why, you ask? First of all, I love it. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Second, it takes little preparation to run, as everyone takes the role of an established super hero. Third, even though it was last in print in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it’s quite accessible to everyone. You can get the Basic and Advanced sets, as well as pretty much everything ever published for them, at Classic Marvel Forever for FREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! Last, we’ve all played it before. Sure, it was decades ago, when we were in high school; but who cares? It’s not a difficult system to learn, or in our case, remember.

It’s not a particularly great system, either; but neither were any of the old TSR percentile-based boxed games. Still, I was eager and willing to jump back into the four-color comics of my youth. I hastily wrote a quick adventure for some low-power heroes (no Thor or Hulk here, sorry). Although I gave them a choice of several heroes including Black Cat, Iron Fist and Dazzler (one of my friends insisted on her, don’t ask); my friends chose to play Spider-Man, Daredevil, Power Man (Luke Cage), Hawkeye and Cyclops.

It’s set in the early 80’s comic book continuity; so Luke Cage is wearing a yellow, open shirt and a chain belt; Peter Parker carries a camera with actual film in it; Hawkeye is just thinking about starting an Avengers team on the West Coast; Matt Murdock is a lawyer and Cyclops is sad that his girlfriend turned into an evil super-powerful cosmic entity and then died; and then he then fell in love with a clone of her that was really a demon queen; and that he has a really shitty relationship with his brother; and that his father would rather jaunt around the galaxy with a bunch of misfits rather than spend one minute with his kids; and that maybe that it would be nice to take his friggin’ visor off every once in a while without blowing big holes in anything he looks at. (He doesn’t know that his own son from an alternate future timeline is a cyborg who is also a colossal douchebag. Not yet, anyway.)

So, gather ’round, True Believers, and get ready for the first Marvel Super Heroes game I have run this millennium, and probably (but hopefully not) the last: Taken to Task! In two days!

2021 Resolutions

Today, I thought I’d try to get things back to whatever passes for normal around here.

Usually I would do a post like Mark A. Morin and many others did; where I first rate my performance against last year’s resolutions before making new ones. I did that last year, but when I went back and looked, it doesn’t seem like I actually made any resolutions for 2020. I think I forgot to; but somewhere along the way, I must have silently resolved to finish all my Star Trek miniatures, because that was one thing I did manage to do!

Mostly, anyway. I would have succeeded completely, if it weren’t for that meddling Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop, who just had to make some awesome Trek-themed computer consoles and bridge chairs which of course I just had to buy. They’re not done yet. Bummer.

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided not to focus on too much. That’s because every year I resolve to start a new project and/or army, and that never gets done. (I’ve been saying I would start my Old West scenery for years now.) I think in 2021 I will keep it manageable and realistic. I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines. With that in mind, here are my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2021:

1: More Roleplaying Stuff. The response to my RPG write-ups has been pretty positive, both on and off Dead Dick’s Tavern. I have some Instagram followers who particularly seem to enjoy them. They correspond with me about my blog, but never leave comments here. (You can do that, guys. Really!) Anyway, expect to see more exploits of the USS Adventure, as well as some other games I run. Expect to see something new soon.

2. One character a month. I came to miniature gaming through roleplaying games, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. With this in mind, I’m going to set a fun challenge for myself: each month, I’m going to paint one model based on a classic character class from Dungeons & Dragons. So, I may do a cleric in January, a fighter in February, etc… I’m not going to officially limit myself by assigning classes to months (whatever I feel like painting, I will paint, remember?); but by the end of the year I should have 12 different characters painted. This will give me an excuse to paint some of my Reaper miniatures that have been sitting around for years in their blisters. Watch for the first one soon!

3. Painting challenges. I like them. In May, I’ll be hosting Monster May(hem) again (blame Roger for the name); so get your monsters ready by then if you want to take part. I will most certainly be participating in Forgotten Heroes again in June, because it’s so much fun. (I expect to see Big Wheel, Jeremy.) If Dave hosts the Summer of Scenery again, I’m in; I never would have got my sludge pool done last year if it weren’t for him. I’d also like to do Fem-bruary for the first time this year, after learning of it by listening to the Imperial Rebel Ork podast. I gather it involves painting at least one female miniature in February; I’ll go one better and paint ALL female miniatures in February (I have a lot of them to paint).

4. More After Action Reports. I love playing games, and I love blogging about them. Expect to see more; a pulp game that’s been set up for months (but sadly unplayed as of yet); and likely more Star Trek games down the road (which should please Dave).

Santa brought me this stuff, and I just wanted to share it with you all. First, some 5/64″ wire, perfect for pinning pesky models that don’t want to cooperate. I was running low, and it’s amazing how St. Nick just seemed to know what I needed. Second, some Gorilla Glue gel; a perfect stocking stuffer for any miniatures enthusiast. Lastly: this magnifying visor that has CHANGED MY LIFE.

I’ve been using reading glasses to paint for a few years now, as I can’t seem to see shit anymore. This visor is so much better. First, it has a selection of magnifying lenses you can swap out or flip up, which is quite helpful. Second, it has a two-setting LED light right on the front, which illuminates areas on the miniature like the face, which can be problematic to paint when you can’t see shit. Third, it doesn’t take batteries: it’s rechargeable with a USB port. Last and most important, it’s comfortable. It fits snugly around my head, and doesn’t annoy me. I love this thing. I recently used it to help me assemble some Cruel Seas ships (I hate assembling plastic models).

Although I don’t ask Santa how much she pays for stuff (that would be gauche), I found these on Amazon for $30. (Worth it!)

That’s about it for now. I’m off to choose my first character class for my new challenge!

What the actual fuck.

This was supposed to be a post about miniatures. Really. But, well…that was some fucked-up shit yesterday, wasn’t it?

Several years ago, I watched a movie starring Gerard Butler called “Olympus Has Fallen.” The plot is simple: North Korean terrorists take control of the White House, hold the President and his Cabinet hostage, and threaten the world with America’s nuclear weapons. Gerard Butler is a secret service agent who single-handedly saves the President and restores order to the world. The first ten minutes of the movie show how the terrorists get control of the White House: they basically crash a plane into it, and drive vans up onto the lawn and storm the front door. All the secret service agents who are not Gerard Butler try to stop them; but they’re only armed with 9mm pistols, so it doesn’t go their way, and the North Koreans soon have complete control of the United States government and its nuclear arsenal.

I remember laughing so hard I started tearing up at the sheer absurdity of this premise; but believe it or not, it wasn’t the stupidest part of the movie. That would come later, when President Aaron Eckhardt freely surrenders the nuclear launch codes because he doesn’t want to see the VP or Secretary of State get shot. (I forget which one, but she was female, of course, and therefore needed to be saved.)

Then yesterday happened, and I wasn’t laughing, because I realized that things get a lot easier for terrorists (in this case: white supremacist fascists, not North Koreans) when “security” opens the fucking door for them and waves them in. then lets them just fucking leave after they’ve trashed the place.

As an American, I am humiliated and more than a little concerned. I’d say this isn’t who we are, but it sure seems like it IS who we are now, at least a disturbing percentage of us.

Yesterday was the first time in our country’s history that the Confederate flag flew in the Capitol building. (The Confederate flag is recognized by everyone who isn’t an unrepentant or ignorant racist as a symbol of unrepentant and ignorant racism.) The people responsible for yesterday’s attack on their own country are either easily-led, racist homophobic morons who are too fucking stupid to understand they’re attempting to destroy Democracy and install an idiot king in its place, which is frightening; or they’re not stupid at all, this is exactly what they want, which is much more frightening. What is crystal clear is that they were incited by an unhinged egomaniac who has been enabled by his own party for the last four years; a party all too willing to either ignore or tacitly endorse his racist, misogynistic, nationalistic, deplorable and often blatantly criminal conduct in order to remain in power at all costs, and who now is desperately trying to backpedal and deflect blame.

But make no mistake: we are here because of you fucking assholes. What happened yesterday is humiliating, but sadly, it’s not surprising. This has been coming for a long time. And isn’t it always convenient that it’s “time to move on; no need to assign blame” when you’re clearly the fucking one to blame? Fuck you.

Anyone, Democrat or Republican (but let’s be honest, it won’t be a Democrat) who does not think this is a reason to invoke the 25th Amendment should be publicly condemned. The president should be removed from office immediately. Although there have been many (literally thousands) of instances over the last four years (and over the course of his life prior to that) that demonstrate his unfitness for office, none is more glaring than this. This was an insurrection attempt by a sitting president. There need to be consequences.

Every security officer and official who stood by, who took selfies, who opened barricades, who willfully understaffed Capitol security knowing this could happen; every asshole who is on video breaking a window and was too stupid to wear a mask to hide his/her face; every shithead who broke into the offices of elected officials and subverted the Democratic process; every prick who vandalized public property and who is now bragging about it on social media…should be charged with domestic terrorism. Their actions disrupted the Democratic process and were undertaken with that specific goal. They are not patriots, and not (merely) vandals. They are terrorists and should be charged as such.

They won’t be, of course. And he’ll stay in office for another two weeks.

Because that’s who we are now. Or a disturbing percentage of us, anyway.