Category Archives: Miniatures

2022 Resolutions

Well, it’s that time again: time to rate how faithful I was to my hobby resolutions from last year, and time to make some new ones for 2022. Last year I decided to keep it simple and not set too many lofty or unrealistic goals for myself (including goals that just seem to be set every year and never started; like my Old West scenery or my Wargames Factory Shock Troopers). In fact, this what I said: “I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines.” Sound advice, and it will be more of the same this year.

So, how did I do last year? I only set four goals for myself. They were:

More Roleplaying Stuff: Goal met! I posted some write-ups of a Marvel Super Heroes game I ran way back in January. The game was much more fun to write up than it was to play, because two of my four players didn’t exactly enjoy a return to the old 1980’s TSR system, (One really didn’t enjoy it, but that’s another story. ‘Nuff said.) Still, for myself and the other two, it was a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to write up any further Star Trek Adventures games, although we did play a few times. I hope to return to running both these games again this year, although likely with a new group of players (see below).

One Character a Month: Goal met! You can see the results here if you want. Some were late for their respective months, but all made it in by year’s end.

Painting Challenges: Goal Met! In addition to the one I set for myself, I hosted my now-annual Monster Mayhem in May, and I took part in no less than six other painting competitions: Leadballoony’s Fembruary (although I posted my miniature in March), Carrion Crow’s Forgotten Heroes (my favorite painting challenge!) in June, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery (July-August) and Apocalypse Me challenges (October, although I posted her late), Orctober (October), and, although I didn’t “officially” enter, I painted a miniature for Deadcember, an Instagram challenge.

More AARs: Goal met! I posted After Action Reports with original scenarios for two games: a couple of Green Hornet .45 Adventure games, and a return to Super Mission Force, featuring The Crimson Hound!

So,I grabbed all the rings, despite being annoyingly late a few times. I also got two more personal projects completed: all the Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures in the Twin Shadows expansion, plus the accompanying Ally and Villain packs; and all the miniatures for the Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps game, including the Ultimate Badasses expansion. Not too shabby!

So what about this year? Well, these goals should look somewhat similar.

More Roleplaying Stuff: This year, Dead Dick’s Tavern will feature even more RPG content. Roleplaying games were my first love and my initial entry point into the miniatures hobby. I love playing RPGs, I love running RPGs, I love talking about RP games and game systems. We are in a golden age of RPGs; with tons of small-press and creator-owned content sharing the market with amazing companies like Free League Publishing and Modiphius. I will (hopefully) discuss RPGs old and new, post some game write-ups and reviews; and if possible, maybe even get to play in more games as a result.

Through Instagram and Discord, I have been fortunate to meet some roleplaying gamers from all over the country and play games with them. It’s been a pretty fun experience, and one I plan to continue this year. If you look at the top of this blog, you will see there is more than one page. (Yeah, I know. I didn’t realize that either for the longest time.) Anyway, a new page will soon be up there, talking about which RPGs I hope to run in 2022. If you are interested in playing anything I list (remotely, of course), then by all means contact me for the particulars!

One Character a Month: Maybe more, actually. As I said, I won’t be hosting this challenge, but it’s open to anyone who has an Instagram account and wants to participate. It’s essentially the same challenge as mine (though no backstory required): paint a D&D character class each month. I’m using this as an excuse to paint some classic lead: Grenadier, Ral Partha, RAFM…I will post my submissions here, too!

Painting Challenges: I’ll be paring it back a bit this year. Aside from the above Character of the Month, I will absolutely be hosting Monster Mayhem again, and I will always do Forgotten Heroes for as long as Jeremy hosts it. I can’t say no to Dave’s Season of Scenery, either; he’s so accommodating by giving us two months, and it’s pretty much the only time I force myself to build and paint scenery. Other than that, we’ll see what comes my way.

More AARs: Yes! This year will see a return and conclusion to the Green Hornet adventure. I would also like very much to do some more Star Trek skirmish games; perhaps this time using the TNG crew; and of course, Super Mission Force.

Personal Projects: I don’t like to make promises to myself that I don’t keep (although it happens often)…BUT…I’m going to be focusing on getting all my Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures painted this year. Will I be able to get through 3 more boxed expansions and 20 + blister packs, a total of 63 miniatures? Probably not. We’ll see. I have some other things I keep looking at, thinking I should start or finish them. As always.

Get Back Out There: I’ve been neglecting the blogs of others for a while, as real life has reared its ugly head. I hope to be once again be more of a nuisance to hobbyists everywhere.

Well, that’s about it. Keep watch for that new RPG page, if interested. (I have no idea what I’ll be posting next, but it’s a good bet it will have something to do with the miniatures hobby.)

Character of the Month 2021 Review

Well, I did it. I wasn’t always on time, but I managed to get all 12 Dungeons & Dragons character classes painted, along with backstories (mostly), over the course of 2021. I figured I’d do a quick recap with handy-dandy links to review all my characters before my next post, in which I will discuss my 2022 Resolitions and my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in the coming year.

While all the core classes are here, I opted only for “classic” D&D fantasy races. Upon looking at these, I see that Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Half-Orcs are all here. (I can’t believe I somehow forgot to include Gnomes and my favorite fantasy race of all, Dwarves. How’d that happen?) Newer gamers may notice I ignored most of the current races utterly. Thus there are no Aarakocra, Aasimar, Dragonborn, Genasi, Goliaths, Kenku, Kitsune, Tieflings, Tortles, Tabaxi, or fucking Warforged represented here, among others. That’s tough shit. I chose what I chose. The reason for this is simple: I don’t like them.

If you like the abovementioned races and any I didn’t mention, and feel that my exclusion is an injustice and affront, feel free to make or submit your own Character of the Month (see below). I get it. I’m old. I dislike the new stuff. I don’t understand the youth of today. You may even think I’m a racist because I don’t like Harefolk. But, since none of the races above, including Harefolk, actually fucking exist, I’m not too concerned about it.

Anyway, here’s the recap, month by month:

  1. January: Kurn Velden, Cleric (War Priest; Avatars of War) Shortest backstory. I was finding my voice.

2. February: Aramise Del’Arco, Fighter (Rhaine, Duelist; Reaper Miniatures) First late entry. Not off to a good start.

3. March: Raphinfel “the Adored”, Wizard (Lamann, Sorcerer; Reaper Miniatures) Not my character; he’s from Tale of the Manticore, a podcast you should absolutely be listening to if you’re not.

4. April: Doval Lakatos, Bard (Rupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord, Privateer Press) Probably my favorite miniature of the year, for obvious, bagpipe-related reasons.

5. May: Darl Mandos, Sorcerer (Del Briarberry, Halfling Wizard: Reaper Miniatures) One of my favorite stories, featuring the dastardly Tom the Winker.

6. June: Berjotr Skaldisson, Barbarian (Barbarian Axeman of Icingstead; Reaper Miniatures) Based loosely on a friend’s character, also a fun story to write.

7. July: Sarapen Moonsilver, Druid (Juliana, Herbalist; Reaper Miniatures) I get the most compliments on this one, probably because of her base.

8. August: Reverend Mother Mara, Paladin (Mother Superior; Reaper Miniatures) I took the inspiration from her backstory from an article I read (in Dragon, I think) about a character who evicted undead from a family manor by posting the eviction notice on her shield and clearing house. Always thought that was fun.

9. Chloe the Rat, Ranger (Vermina, Rat Queen; Reaper Miniatures) My least favorite miniature and backstory. Just didn’t seem to come together for me. YMMV. She was also late.

10. Bak Mai, Monk (Ogre, Wizards of the Coast D&D Silver Anniversary Collection) The backstory wrote itself. I like the miniature, too.

11. Karsa the Unbound, Warlock (Dark Elf Sorceress, Games Workshop) Another late one. Painted on time, but the backstory was a tough slog.

12. Braska Triskelion, Rogue (Deadly Gamesman, Black Scorpion Miniatures) One of the miniatures I’ve owned the longest; I was glad to get him done. Painting black and white is kind of boring and tedious, though.

The biggest challenge I ran into with this…uh…challenge was writing the backstories in time. Sometimes they came pretty easily (Aramise Del’Arco, Bak Mai); others weren’t so easy (Sarapen Moonsilver, Karsa the Unbound). Lucky for me, this isn’t going to be a problem going forward.

Turns out my buddy Tom (who used to have a blog but doesn’t anymore) is going to host this same challenge on Instagram this year. I told him I will take part, of course; but that I am going to use it as an excuse to paint some old-school lead. I will post my submissions here as well, so expect a lot of Grenadier and Ral Partha miniatures to show up at Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2022. The character backstories are a pain in the ass, though, so I’m not going to bother with them. I know this may make some of you sad (which is actually quite flattering), but the time spent on them is a factor; and I just don’t have it.

Anyway, hope this recap allows you to quickly revisit your favorites or check out any you may have missed. New post soon on plans for 2022!

Braska Triskelion, Gamester

No one ever enjoyed playing games with Braska Triskelion; but everyone hated playing against him. That’s because no matter how much grace one may possess, no one likes to lose all the time, especially to the same opponent. Braska had a hard time keeping friends, but he acquired enemies easily; or as he preferred to call them, “sore losers”. Easy enough for him to say, because he didn’t really know what it meant. He didn’t understand how it felt to lose, sore or otherwise; because Braska Triskelion never lost at anything.

From early childhood, Braska Triskelion had an obsession with games. He preternaturally grasped and mastered the rules of any puzzle, riddle, contest or match; whether of skill, wit or cunning. Though possessed of extraordinary agility and coordination, Braska was not robust. Despite this, he occasionally played at sports and other physical pursuits, though he did not enjoy them. He was nevertheless always able, through his disciplined mind, to employ superior tactics or devise some winning strategy for his team.

Vast wealth came quickly and easily to him. With his abilities, he was able to make a killing in both the gambling houses and in professional contest circuits around the world, all in record time. By the age of twenty, Braska Triskelion was fabulously rich, with more wealth than any one of the sovereign rulers of the land; and more than many of them combined. But, as is the case with those who breathe the rarified air of being the undisputed best at what they do, Braska Triskelion was bored. He decided to get a job.

He hired himself out as a gamester and puzzle-solver extraordinaire. No opponent was too skilled for him to lay low, no riddle or conundrum was above his talents, no trap beyond his ability to defeat. He charged exorbitant prices to those who could afford them, but he was known to apply his skills and wits to any problem or challenge, free of charge, if it interested him enough.

In Evalaux, he negotiated the Puzzle Maze of Durwald D’Orsay, a trap-filled abattoir of mythic renown responsible for the deaths of countless daring adventurers; and claimed the fabled Ruby of Carmina from within. It took him less than one hour. In Mornellorn, he bested the Gynosphinx Volira in a riddle battle that lasted two days, most of which were spent in silence as the monster contemplated (with increasing frustration) the solution to Braska’s opening (and only) riddle. She guessed wrong. In Isoq, Braska stunned the Sultan and his entire court when, after a sumptuous welcoming feast, he opened the fabled Tomb of Ab-Vorath after gazing at the complex diagrams on the door for less than five minutes. The tomb had defied the wisest of Isoq’s viziers, the most determined tomb-robbers and the bravest of adventurers for centuries. In Thord, Braska Triskelion played Hnefatafl with the Storm Giant Gymir, rumored to be the most cunning and skilled ever to play the game, and defeated him five times.

In a row.

By the age of forty, Braska Triskelion had enough quatloos in his treasure hoard to be the envy of dragons everywhere. His name and fortune were known across the Ten Kingdoms, and naturally, there were attempts to take what Braska Triskelion had won for himself fair and square. Although he didn’t care much for his fortune (how much can one man spend, really?), Braska did care about fair play. He never cheated at any game or contest he took part in, and he felt that if anyone was going to take his treasure, they would have to get it the same way he did. By winning it.

Thus, he took measures to protect his hoard.

Braska’s private Island, Windisle, was an early prize he had won by betting the famously-dour Duke of Cornedayl that he could urinate all over his throne room and make the Duke thank him for it afterward. There is no record as to how Braska accomplished this; but his ownership of Windisle, long a territory held by the Royal Family of Cornedayl, proves that he did. Windisle is an inhospitable place encircled by the Reef of Shattered Ships. There, high upon the Cliffs of Vexation, Braska constructed a vault which he named the Toy Box; a multi-level dungeon filled with traps and deadly monsters, summoned guardians and magical wards. He hired the best guards: veteran warriors, mighty magic-users and cunning assassins, and paid them handsomely. And he placed his treasure within its walls.

Now, any who want the fabled wealth of Braska Triskelion have only to take it; either by braving the death trap that is the Toy Box, or, if one doesn’t wish to risk almost-certain death, by beating Braska in a fair contest. Any game will do, but you only get one try.

Take your shot. Braska Triskelion hopes you succeed.

He’s genuinely curious to know how it feels to lose.

For my final Character of the Month for 2021, I chose to do a Rogue. Of course, I didn’t have much of a choice, as it was the only character class I hadn’t done yet. Braska Triskelion is, of course named after the classic Star Trek episode, The Gamesters of Triskelion, in which Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are forced into gladiatorial combat for the amusement of a trio of disembodied brains, who wager quatloos on the outcome of the contests. It is unclear (and never explained) how disembodied brains would enjoy winning (and presumably spending) money.

Angelique Pettyjohn is also in the episode.

“Braska Triskelion” is the Deadly Gamesman from Black Scorpion Miniatures. I’ve had this miniature for almost 12 years. I was going to use him as a crazed, game-obsessed nobleman in my D&D 3.5 campaign; then I was thinking he’d make a cool supervillain for Super Mission Force. Either way, I never got around to painting him until now.

That’s it for my Character of the Month challenge, and that’s it for 2021! Up next, my 2022 Resolutions.

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’m Dreaming…of a RED Christmas! A Crimson Hound AAR, Part 2

Note: for the first part, including the scenario rules and character builds, check the previous post here!

The Crimson Hound crept stealthily along the wall to the old courtyard. He could hear the sounds of strange activity from within. He knew that Santa Claus had likely already made use of the stolen blasphemous tome known as the Malificarium Infernus to summon some otherworldly horror to Glumengrad, but nothing could prepare him for what he saw when he rounded the wall and gazed fully upon the hideous, writhing form of Savirax the Unclean.

“The promised sacrifice has arrived,” said Savirax the Unclean, in a voice like screeching fingernails on a hellish chalkboard. So much for stealth, thought The Crimson Hound.

“HO HO HO!” laughed Santa. “Right on time!” Santa stood, surrounded by some rough-looking men, all of whom were casting nervous glances at the undulating, viscous thing that was Savirax the Unclean. “I knew you’d show up,” said Santa. “Counted on it, in fact! Now, I can sacrifice you like I promised, and get my reward!”

The Crimson Hound’s eyes narrowed. Something didn’t make sense. This sounded personal, and The Crimson Hound couldn’t recall ever running afoul of Santa Claus before. He was pretty sure he would have remembered.

“Why me?” asked The Crimson Hound.

“Because,” answered Santa, “I promised Savirax the Unclean the soul of a supernatural creature in exchange for my heart’s desire. Isn’t that right, Savirax the Unclean?”

“Yes,” said Savirax the Unclean, because it would have been rude not to answer.

“And what’s that?” asked The Crimson Hound. “Your heart’s desire, I mean.” He was genuinely curious.

“Finally, someone asks!” yelled Santa, opening his arms theatrically wide. He glared at his henchmen. “Not one of you assholes ever gave a shit enough to even ask. This guy,” Santa pointed at The Crimson Hound, “THIS GUY asks, and he’s the one who’s going to die!” One by one, Santa’s henchmen muttered and looked at the ground sheepishly. “Fine!” Santa bellowed. “I’ll tell you. I want to live out the rest of my days on a tropical island in the sun, some place like Tahiti!”

“That’s it?” The Crimson Hound blinked in confusion. “That’s all you want? Why not just go to Tahiti? You have a flying sleigh!”

“Fuck you!” yelled Santa. “It’s not about Tahiti! I want to have a new island full of naked, voluptuous women, all for me! My island is gonna look like a fucking never-ending Russ Meyer movie! That’s what I want! And I’ve earned it, damn it!”

The Crimson Hound thought that Santa’s heart’s desire lacked imagination and was kind of sexist, but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at Santa Claus while Savirax the Unclean writhed and twisted nearby.

“Screw this,” yelled Santa, pointing at The Crimson Hound with a green-mittened hand. “Get him!”

Turn 1: Cue the Wilhelm scream!! The first henchman, Bob, is grabbed by the slimy tentacles of Savirax the Unclean and swallowed whole! (In fact, this AAR may be best enjoyed by playing the Wilhelm scream effect at the start of every round. You can find it here.)

Poor Bob. He was a henchman by necessity, not choice. Until recently, he was the manager at a national auto parts chain store; but he was the victim of corporate layoffs. Although he’d laugh to hear anyone say so, Bob apparently made too much money for the company’s bean counters. The company was looking to hire some millennial at half the salary. You try to do what’s best for your kids, but you’re not made of money, you know? Bob had saved and saved to send his daughter Candace to college, and he had enough for the tuition and room and board. But it’s the books, man. The cost of books fucking kill you. Bob was only working for Santa for the book money for Candace to go to school and realize her lifelong dream of becoming a marine biologist; something she vowed to do at the age of six, when one of her pet goldfish met an untimely end due to incorrect fishbowl ph.

Anyway, Bob’s dead now; which makes Candace’s marine biologist aspirations a bit unrealistic to say the least.

On the first turn, nothing much happens. The Crimson Hound wins initiative and bolts over to the stack of presents on the lower right, using his action to hide. The henchmen group closest to him (minus poor Bob) fails to spot him; but the other henchmen group and Santa both see him and open fire! The henchmen shoot like henchmen and fail to hit, but Santa’s big shotgun blows a hole in the presents, clipping the Crimson Hound for 1 damage!

Turn 2: (Wilhelm scream) Savirax the Unclean helps itself to another henchman. This time it’s poor Moe! Moe ran a successful insurance business; but then had a mid-life crisis, bought a motorcycle, got an earring and decided he missed his calling as a tough guy, so he joined Santa’s crew for kicks. Bet he regrets it now!

The Crimson Hound wins initiative again, and he wastes no time. He leaps atop the stack of presents, bares his fangs and charges into the group of four henchmen, dealing swift death!

The Hound drops in their midst, landing atop one thug with a sickening crunch as his rib cage shatters beneath the Hound’s weight! Another goes down fountaining blood as the Hound swiftly drags his razor-sharp, magical shortsword across his throat in a vicious backhanded slash!

The remaining two thugs attack the Hound, but they are severely outclassed! The Hound snatches a baseball bat from one and breaks it over the man’s head, splintering the wood; then drives the splintered end through the remaining goon’s throat for good measure. Don’t fuck with the Crimson Hound!

(In game terms, the Hound dealt two damage on the charge, dropping two henchmen. The remaining two thugs responded but failed to do any damage, which activated the Hound’s “Reflection” power. As part of his “Scrapper” major power, the Hound has a chance to inflict 2 damage on any attacker who misses a melee attack against him. He succeeded, and did two more damage, dropping the remaining henchmen!)

Unfortunately, this leaves the Crimson Hound out in the open. In response to his brutal assault, both Santa and the remaining henchmen group open fire! The henchmen, perhaps distracted by the amorphous, otherworldly thing that just devoured two of them, miss horribly. But Santa’s shotgun nails the Crimson Hound squarely in the chest for a whopping 4 damage! This drops the Crimson Hound’s Body to 2! The Hound is hurt!

“YEEEARRRGH!”, screamed the Crimson Hound as he took the full blast of Santa’s shotgun. He ducked behind the stack of presents, gasping for air.HO HO HO!” laughed Santa. “Hurts, doesn’t it? Remember, I’m Saint Nick, bitch! All my weapons are holy! HO HO HO!”

“I’m coming for you, asshole,” cursed the Crimson Hound through gritted teeth. But he received only more mocking, jolly laughter in return.

Turn 3: (Wilhelm scream) Say goodbye to Linus. Savirax the Unclean devours him, and he seems oddly resigned to it. That’s because four years ago Linus decided to do something about his perpetual loneliness by procuring a mail-order bride from Belarus. She looked nothing like her picture, gave him chlamydia on their wedding night, immediately started cheating on him and then proceeded to bankrupt him through her frivolous spending and terrible gambling habit. Linus has been working as a goon just to make money to keep the loan sharks at bay. He’s better off this way. Trust me.

The Crimson Hound retains initiative, and it’s a good thing. He runs away, trying to gain enough ground to put some cover between him and that cannon Santa is wielding. He ducks behind a cement planter and hopes for the best. The henchman group and Santa pursue him, opening fire on his position; but the hard cover afforded by the concrete manages to save the Crimson Hound from any further damage!

Turn 4: (Wilhelm scream) Savirax the Unclean snatches up Phil in its slimy pseudopods and drags him screaming into its mouth. Phil has managed to lead a life completely devoid of anything even remotely significant; getting devoured by Savirax the Unclean is the single noteworthy thing that Phil has ever had happen to him in all his 43 years. Rest in peace, Phil.

The bad guys get initiative, and the henchmen group sends another ineffectual volley of fire at the Crimson Hound. The Hound vaults the planter and charges the group, shredding them like tissue paper on Christmas morning (or so he’s heard; no one has ever given the Crimson Hound a Christmas present to open). He rams his sword through the first goon’s sternum and slices downward, slitting him open like an envelope; then grabs the second and, using his dreadful fangs, tears the man’s throat out in a bloody, tattered mess. Then, the Crimson Hound does what he does best (and what he does best isn’t very nice). In a few seconds, both men are completely drained of blood. The Crimson Hound feels invigorated as his wounds began to knit together!

In game terms, the Crimson Hound scored a whopping 9 goals on his attack, which was impossible for the remaining two henchmen to ever resist. He effectively obliterated them. Then he rolled his vampiric healing power, and this is what he got:

That’s six goals, enough to heal 3 boxes of damage. The Crimson Hound is back up to 5 Body. He’s still in the fight!

Santa moves into position and opens fire. Although he scores 3 goals of damage, The Crimson Hound resists it all! His mouth still dripping the blood of his victims, the Crimson Hound smiles and prepares to charge…

Turn 5: There are no more henchmen left! Savirax the Unclean turns his attention to his promised sacrifice, The Crimson Hound! It attacks with a snaky tentacle, attempting to grapple the Crimson Hound; but the Hound easily evades it. He gains initiative, and charges Santa Claus, moving too fast for Santa to bring his shotgun to bear. The two men crash together and the Crimson Hound deals a savage blow to jolly old St. Nick, slicing through red suit, skin and fat into the muscle beneath! Despite his natural armor, Santa is hurt badly; but he’s not helpless! Santa swings his shotgun like a club, intent on crushing the Crimson Hound’s skull like an egg; but the Hound ducks at the last second and it smashes against his shoulder. The Hound, still enjoying the euphoric effects of the blood he drank, barely feels a thing!

In game terms, The Crimson Hound dealt a respectable 4 goals of damage to Santa, and Santa rolled like absolute shit and failed to resist any damage. HIs Armor power lets him soak 1 box of damage, though, which means he only took 3. That’s still enough to drop Santa to half his Body in one shot. The Crimson Hound could have knocked Santa back 3″, too; but he wanted to keep him close. That would have given Santa the opportunity to fire his shotgun or to make a return charge, and that doesn’t make tactical sense! Santa attacked back, but the Crimson Hound was able to resist the damage.

Turn 6: Savirax the Unclean is officially hangry! It attacks the Crimson Hound again, trying to grab him and hold him so that Santa can make good on his sacrifice. The Crimson Hound is once again able to avoid the tentacles of the monstrous entity!

Santa seizes the initiative and attacks the Crimson Hound once again. This time, he misses horribly, but manages to avoid the Hound’s reflexive counterattack. The Crimson Hound scores a hit, and although Santa shrugs some of it off, he manages to inflict 1 more box of damage on the jolly old elf! This drops Santa down to 2 Body!

Turn 7: Savirax the Unclean has decided it’s going to try one more time; then fuck it, it’s just going to destroy the world. It attacks the Crimson Hound again, trying to flatten him against the ground. The Crimson Hound tries to roll out of the way, but gets clipped for another box of damage, dropping him to 4!

The Crimson Hound gets initiative. It’s all or nothing! The Hound leaps on Santa and buries his fangs into Santa’s shoulder, doing a net 1 goal of damage! Not enough to put down Santa for good! Santa still has 1 Body left!

Santa attacks back, but fails to do any damage. The Crimson Hound desperately ripostes with a flurry of bites, causing 2 goals of damage! Santa manages to soak one, but the last bite drops Santa to the ground as his blood sprays skyward!

In game terms, Santa fell to the Hound’s Reflection ability! After failing to damage the Hound in melee, the Crimson Hound was able to make his roll to reflect, causing 2 damage. Although Santa’s Armor reduced it to 1, that was all he had left! Santa failed his KO roll and was out; just in time to stop Savirax the Unclean from destroying the world!

The Crimson Hound lifted Santa by the fluffy, white trim of his red suit, grinning at him through bloodstained teeth. “You know what?” asked the Crimson Hound. “I just realized something. You visit every kid in the world in one night. You can make reindeer fly. And, fat as you are, you can squeeze up and down chimneys with no problem. If that’s not supernatural, I don’t know what is.” And with that, the Crimson Hound lifted Santa over his head and hurled him straight at the gaping, ravenous maw of Savirax the Unclean. With a mighty gulp and a horrid (Wilhelm) scream, his offering was accepted. Santa Claus was no more!

Savirax the Unclean spit out a shiny, black boot. The Crimson Hound wondered if there was still a foot in it. “You have earned your heart’s desire,” said Savirax the Unclean. “Do you want the same thing?”

The Crimson Hound considered the offer. Sexism aside, there wasn’t much not to like about it. An island paradise surrounded by women of generous proportions was definitely not the worst place to spend some time. He had to admit that as retirement plans went, it was pretty fucking sweet.

But no. He had responsibilities here. Besides, if he accepted, nothing was stopping Savirax the Unclean from sticking around and eating everyone in Glumengrad, then destroying the world. Demons were dicks like that.

“I don’t like the sun much,” said The Crimson Hound, “so how about for my heart’s desire, you just fuck off back to wherever you came from, and take that book with you so no one else can use it again?”

Savirax the Unclean looked disappointed, inasmuch as it is possible for amorphous, squamous, blasphemous, unholy entities to look disappointed. “Very well,” it said, coiling one pseudopod around the Maleficarium Infernus. “I’ll leave, I guess.” It hesitated for a moment.

“Well?” asked the Crimson Hound. “Forget something?”

“Uh…Merry Christmas, ” said Savirax the Unclean. Then it disappeared, taking the book with it.

The Crimson Hound smiled. He was touched. No one had ever wished him a Merry Christmas before. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Savirax the Unclean,” he said. Then he turned and disappeared into the night.

God bless us, every one!

Analysis: This AAR reminded me how much I love Super Mission Force. It’s such an easy and fun rules system and I can’t recommend it enough. Not sure if Scott Pyle still drops by the Tavern; but if so, Scott, thanks again for creating such a fun game! This was an absolute treat to play, and it really flew by. The game took only 15 minutes from the first roll to the last; and it really DID come down to the wire. Technically, if Santa hadn’t attacked the Hound at the end, he wouldn’t have gotten killed by the Hound’s Reflection ability; but then again, Savirax the Unclean would have destroyed the world at the start of the next turn, so Santa didn’t have a choice. He had to take the shot if he wanted his heart’s desire!

The Crimson Hound’s Fear power didn’t really come into play because things happened too quickly and too far away from any of the other models. Santa’s Super Strength likewise never saw any use, mainly because Santa never did any damage to the Hound in melee. If he had, the Crimson Hound would have gone flying!

At the end of the game I had the idea that rather than just defeating Santa and saving the day, why not have the Hound sacrifice Santa instead? So, I went back and re-wrote the prose accordingly. Hope you liked it!

To Bruno (the Crimson Hound himself) and to all the readers and visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (And if you don’t celebrate those holidays, then just have a nice couple of weeks.)

Up next…can I get my December Character of the Month up by the end of the year? guess we’ll see!

I’m Dreaming…of a RED Christmas! A Crimson Hound AAR Part 1

From a gargoyle-encrusted rooftop, The Crimson Hound looked out over the neon, gothic city of Glumengrad. At his feet, facing the short wall that ran the length of the roof’s edge, knelt three diminutive forms dressed in bright green, hands bound behind their backs. The Crimson Hound stood behind them, his heavy pistol in one hand, his magical blade in the other. The rooftop was freezing, but the three small men quaked more from fear than cold.

The Crimson Hound took a deep breath, watching as it clouded in the freezing air. “I’m only going to ask this once,” he said, his gravelly voice cutting through the sound of the wind, “and the only thing I want to hear back from you is an answer to my question. Why did Santa steal the book?”

The first elf, for that is what the three men were, began to giggle. “You’ll see! Hee hee hee! Oh, you’ll see! You’re going to die, Hound! Santa has plans for you…urrrghhhh!!” The elf’s voice choked off as The Crimson Hound casually inserted the magical blade into his back, slicing through the elf’s ribcage and bisecting his heart with ease. HIs lifeless body slid off the point of the sword to flop unceremoniously onto the cold rooftop.

The Crimson Hound sighed, stepping behind the second elf. “Please follow my instructions,” he said.

“Wait!” begged the elf, “Don’t kill me! I…” The gun kicked in the Crimson Hound’s fist. Blood and brain matter exploded onto the roof like a Pollock painting, adding to the already-considerable pool still leaving the corpse of the first elf. Blue blood, the Hound noticed with curiosity. Perhaps that was why he had no desire to taste it. Interesting.

The Hound moved behind the final elf. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It seems I have been unclear. Please respond only to the question that was asked of you.”

The third elf straightened up as much as he could, staring directly ahead and trying to ignore the bloody mess his friends had recently become. “Santa wants to destroy the world,” he said.

The Crimson Hound did not expect this answer. He raised the barrel of his gun, aiming it away from the back of the elf’s head. “Explain,” he said.

“I don’t know, man,” the elf said. “Santa just fucking lost it a couple of weeks back. We were all working our asses off in the workshop, as usual, and he was sitting in his big chair, reading a pile of letters. You know, the ones kids send him telling him what they want for Christmas.”

The Crimson Hound nodded. He did not understand children overmuch; but he had heard of this custom. “And?”

“And I guess Santa read something he didn’t like. Some kid bitching that he didn’t get what he wanted last year, telling Santa to get it right this time. Santa just folded up the letter, took off his glasses, and said, ‘Fuck these ungrateful little shitbags! I quit! I’m done with this entitled, piece-of-shit world! I think I’ll destroy it! Christmas is cancelled, assholes!’ Well, we were all pretty shocked, but we weren’t exactly sad about it. Our job sucks, you know.”

Hmm,” The Crimson Hound said. It is unlikely that anyone could mistake it for a sound of sympathy.

“One thing’s for sure: there’s gonna be a lot of kids on the nice list who will be disappointed this year,” said the elf.

Never in his entire life had The Crimson Hound ever been on a “nice list” of any kind. The Crimson Hound considered that. He realized he didn’t care. One thing was certain, though. If Santa stole the Maleficarium Infernus, he wasn’t doing it to spread holiday cheer. Whatever Santa was planning, he had to be stopped. He had to know The Crimson Hound would come looking for him, though…so what was his game?

“So, uh…can I go now?” asked the elf.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah. Sure,” said The Crimson Hound. He sheathed his weapons, picked up the elf, and tossed him over the side of the roof. The elf screamed all the way down.

It was a long way.

It’s been a long time since I played some Super Mission Force, and I thought that Christmas is the perfect occasion for a Battle Report. Longtime visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern may recall The Terror of the Toyman a few years back, in which Superman was beset by diabolical toys. It was a lot of fun, so go check it out if you are so inclined.

This time, though; I wanted to do something different. I converted and painted the Crimson Hound for Forgotten Heroes, back in June, and I thought he’d be perfect for a quick game using my favorite Supers rules. The Crimson Hound is, of course, the eponymous star character of the Chronicles of the Crimson Hound YouTube Channel, and the creation of my friend Bruno. You should absolutely check out the Crimson Hound’s adventures if you get a chance.

That being said, I hold no legal rights to the Crimson Hound and I haven’t told Bruno I’m doing this; so I sincerely hope he receives this AAR in the spirit it was intended: written in fun, with good-natured bonhomie and strictly platonic affection. (Please don’t sue me, Bruno.) It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that this particular Crimson Hound adventure is certainly not canon; you should check out the Crimson Hound’s adventures on YouTube and on The Chronicles of the Crimson Hound Blog for that. This is just my (somewhat twisted) interpretation of Bruno’s character, and it is almost certainly different in many ways from the character as “officially” written so far.

So, without further ado: The Crimson Hound in…Dreaming of a RED Christmas!

Scenario: Santa Claus is coming to town…and he wants to sacrifice the Crimson Hound to an antediluvian, bilious, chaotic, dreadful, effusive, festering, gibbous, hellish, incongruous, jellified, Kafkaesque, loathsome, membranous, non-Euclidean, odious, pseudopodal, querulous, rugose, sepulchral, tentacled, unspeakable, vaporous, wailing, xenophobic, yammering and zymotic monstrosity called Savirax the Unclean.

Why? Because if he does so, Savirax the Unclean has promised Santa his heart’s desire. Santa has lured the Crimson Hound to this very spot, where he has summoned Savirax the Unclean in preparation for the sacrifice!

What is Santa’s heart’s desire? Who the hell knows? No one, including you, has ever bothered to ask Santa what HE wants for Christmas; and he’s fed up with your selfish entitlement!

Victory Conditions: Santa must defeat the Crimson Hound and sacrifice him to Savirax the Unclean in order to claim his reward: his heart’s desire! The Crimson Hound must defeat Santa and banish Savirax the Unclean before he is sacrificed. If time runs out before either Santa or the Crimson Hound can achieve their goals, then Savirax the Unclean destroys the world in a horrid, blasphemous, squamous orgy of Lovecraftian adjectives, and they both lose!

Forces: The Hero player controls The Crimson Hound, vampiric vigilante and stalker of the night! The villain player controls Santa Claus and two groups of five street-level henchmen each.

Setup: Play is on a 24”x24” surface, representing a courtyard in Glumengrad that some poor, deluded soul has taken the time to decorate for the Christmas holiday. It would normally be a pale light in the darkness of despair that is Glumengrad; but Santa has seized it and corrupted it for his summoning ritual. There is a large Christmas tree in the courtyard, surrounded by Christmas decorations. There are stacks of containers stacked around the yard, painted and decorated as Christmas presents, providing cover and spots to hide.

Savirax the Unclean is deployed in the center of the courtyard, having just been summoned by the evil Santa Claus. Santa is deployed on one side of the courtyard; the Crimson Hound on the other. Scattered loosely throughout the courtyard are ten henchmen models forming two groups of five each.

Special Rules

The Endless Hunger: Savirax the Unclean is not known for its patience. While waiting for its promised sacrifice, Savirax the Unclean will help itself to one hapless henchman at the start of each turn. Simply remove the model as Savirax the Unclean snatches the closest henchman model with one of its snaking pseudopods and deposits the screaming henchman in its stinking hole of a gullet. Over time, this will thin the herd a bit for the Crimson Hound, but it will also hasten the end of the game. If Savirax the unclean has no henchmen left at the start of the a turn, it starts attacking the Crimson Hound directly, instead (see below).

The Thing that Should Not Be: Savirax the Unclean cannot be attacked and/or damaged. Thus it has no statistics. It can (and will), however, attack the Crimson Hound if it has no henchmen left to devour. Savirax the Unclean attacks with a 6D attack at the start of each round if there are no henchmen left. It’s pseudopods can reach anywhere on the board and are unaffected by cover. (There is no hiding from Savirax the Unclean!) Note that Savirax the Unclean will not wait for its promised sacrifice forever. It will only attack the Crimson Hound for three rounds before it gets annoyed and destroys the world.

The Red Thirst: Although he’s a “good guy”, the Crimson Hound is, at heart, a bloodsucking vampire. If he defeats a model in melee combat, the Hound may take his next action to feed on the blood of his opponent. This allows him to roll 4D, and for every 2 goals scored, he heals one box of Body box damage as he sucks the poor soul dry. It also has the additional effect of causing fear to any enemy model within 6″, as they look on in horror at the Hound’s monstrous predations. On the following turn, any affected model must win an opposed Psyche roll or be unable to attack the Crimson Hound for one turn. (Note: this is a variation on both the Parasite and Healing minor powers.)

Character Statistics:

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for the characters:

The Crimson Hound (Brawler) Major: Scrapper Minor: Melee Specialist, Resistance (Special: Vampire, Cause Fear); Move 7, Body 7, Psyche 6

Santa Claus (Wild Card) Minor: Armor, Power Blasts, Super Strength, Resistance; Move 6 Body 6 Psyche 6

Henchmen (10) Firearms, Close Combat Weapons; Move 6

Be here in a couple of days, when I post the full After Action Report!

Karsa the Unbound, Warlock

Man, I need to hire a cleaning crew.

Dead Dick’s Tavern is a sight. Looks like I left the tap dripping, and the scent of stale beer has mingled with the smell of cobbler’s wax, sarcasm and vomit. Looks like someone threw up in the corner. Wasn’t me (this time). I’d say I must have overlooked that on my way out; but TBH I didn’t really feel like dealing with it back then, and I didn’t expect to be gone for over a month. Guess what? It’s still here.

It is nice to be missed, though; and apparently my uncharacteristic absence from the blogosphere was concerning enough that a couple of you reached out. Thanks for that. I am fine, just buried and beset at all sides by real life stuff.

I’m back now, though; with a new Character of the Month. This time, it’s a Warlock.

Put simply, she would not be owned.

Karsa was six when the armies of the human Duke invaded her forest, destroyed her home and enslaved her people. The Duke put most of the elves to death, as he correctly feared they would never stop resisting the yoke of bondage until they were free. Elves were magical, ancient, and quite dangerous; and they live very long indeed. Why take the chance? The children, though; that was another matter. Most were sold into slavery. A few were given as gifts to other nobles. Others died, either from neglect, starvation or from an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. But not Karsa.

Karsa found herself the possession of Melek, a wizard; one who had done the Duke a service once and asked for her as payment. The Duke acquiesced, assuming Melek wanted Karsa for the usual, depraved reasons old, evil men want young girls. But Karsa was spared that much, at least; for whatever dark magics Melek practiced had left him unmanned, if not physically then practically. He had no base interest in her, even as she grew to be uncommonly beautiful, even among a race as known for beauty as the elves. For several years, Melek used her as a mere house servant. She chafed and rebelled as best she could. Each time she did, he made her suffer for it; but in her mind, at least, she was her own master.

Although he used her as such, Melek did not require a servant. His true intentions were quite specific: it was her blood he wanted. The blood of an elven maiden is a powerful arcane reagent; one used in magics and rituals most foul. Melek bled her regularly to obtain it; and, although he could have done so painlessly, he made certain to make it hurt as much as possible, for such was his cruelty. Karsa endured this and all his other petty torments, vowing one day to be rid of the old man one way or another.

Melek was always keen to acquire more power at any cost; thus his experiments and rituals turned from the hermetic, which he found too slow, to the demonic, which promised quick (if costly) reward. In preparation for a grand summoning, Melek bound a lesser demon–a quasit named Raze– to his will. For a time, Raze joined Melek in tormenting Karsa; for Raze had no other diversion when not assisting his master. Like Karsa, he was Melek’s creature and he could not strike back at the wizard directly; but Raze soon formed a plan to free himself from Melek’s control. For that, though, he would need Karsa.

It was quite simple. Melek was to summon Belphegor, Lord of the Pit, to bargain for more power. The circle was drawn. All that was left was to anoint it with Karsa’s blood; freshly acquired; something he would do the following night, at the time of summoning.

If Karsa was no longer a maiden by then, Melek would not likely notice. But Belphegor certainly would.

Raze put the proposition to Karsa. If the summoning ritual was sabotaged, Melek would meet a grisly fate; freeing both Raze and Karsa from the wizard. Although the thought of Raze touching her horrified and revolted her, she would endure that and more to be free. She agreed. “Then, it is done.” said Raze, practically dancing with joy. Karsa prepared herself for the worst, but Raze looked at her with amusement. “Be assured, elf-girl,” the quasit said, “the mere thought of us coupling is as repugnant to me as it is to you. Mercifully this bargain of ours has no need for physical consummation. It is enough that you consented willingly. You are no longer of any use to Melek.”

It may seem that Karsa had made a bad bargain; that with Melek’s death, Raze would be released from bondage. When that occurred, what was to stop him or Belphegor from doing what they wished with her? The grinning demon thought he had hoodwinked her; that the miserable elf-girl knew no better.

But he was very wrong. Karsa was no fool, and she had a plan of her own.

The next night, all went as planned. So intent on his ritual was Melek that he didn’t take the customary pleasure in bleeding Karsa as was his wont, nor did he notice anything different about her that would give him pause. Anointing the circle with her now-tainted blood, Melek summoned forth Belphegor, Lord of the Pit. And he paid dearly for it.

Melek had no time to realize his mistake before the summoning chamber was showered in his own blood. His body died quickly and brutally, consumed in seconds by the ravenous demon lord. His soul, however, was doomed to eternally suffer all the tortures a Lord of the Pit can devise; and those are many indeed. Still, Belphegor was far from sated. Ignoring the cackling quasit, it saw the elf-girl for the first time. But something was wrong. She was not cowering in fear as expected. Rather, she met it’s gaze defiantly, without flinching. She wanted something of Belphegor.

The demon lord was intrigued long enough to stay its hunger. “Ask,” said Belphegor.

“What was Melek’s bargain?” she asked.

“Melek pledged to serve me body and soul until his death, in return for the powers I will bestow. Then, he was to be mine.”

“I will make the same bargain with you as Melek sought. With one provision.”

Belphegor considered. It was free and uncontrolled. There was nothing stopping it from simply devouring the elf girl here and now. In fact, the thought was somewhat appealing. But she would live much longer than that fool Melek would have; and they could do so much together over so many years. In the end, she would be Belphegor’s, too. There seemed no good reason to refuse.

“Name your condition,” it said.

Karsa turned and stared at Raze coldly. The quasit had been watching this exchange with interest, but now realization dawned. In a split second, he remembered every insult, slight and suffering he had inflicted upon Karsa.

“Wait! Raze started to beg.

“Done,” said Belphegor. Then the quasit was no more, his existence utterly obliterated by Belphegor’s will. “You are mine, now, Karsa. Body and soul.” With that, the demon lord disappeared.

Karsa took a deep breath. It would appear she had traded one form of bondage and servitude for another. Why, then did she smile?

Put simply, she would not be owned.

Karsa was no fool. In exchange for great power, she was bound to Belphegor for the next several hundred years, until her death, when she would be eternally at the demon lord’s mercy. That meant she had several hundred years to use the power to find a way to destroy Belphegor, or perhaps some way not to die.

Lichedom, perhaps…

Karsa is a pretty famous miniature: the original Dark Elf Sorceress from Games Workshop, circa 1998 or so. I never played Dark Elves, and I never bought this miniature. Rather, it was a gift to me from a relative who lives in England. She came across it in an estate sale, of all things. It was still in the blister when she sent it over the water to me.

Astute observers may note that once again, I am late for my Character of the Month. Rest assured, Karsa was painted back in November with days to spare, but I had no time to write her backstory before the end of the month. November stretched into December, and here we are. It’s a good thing I don’t miss deadlines like this in my professional life, or I’d be out of a job.

So, what’s to come? Well, I have one more Character of the Month to do before the end of the year; and it’s one of my favorite D&D classes, to boot. Plus, I’m gonna try to do a very special Christmas AAR, just because I haven’t done one in a while. Traditionally, December is my month to clean up the Side Pile; but to be honest I’ve been so busy with other stuff I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that this year.

Oh, and I’m turning 49 soon. Imminently, in fact.

I asked one of my (younger) employees today: “Remember when Amazon only sold books?” Then I asked her, “Remember when Amazon was a rain forest in Brazil?”

Times have changed, and I am old.

Apocalypse Me: Hungry Bertha

I’m used to storms here in New England. Unfortunately, sometimes they screw with my painting time. Since I had no power to Piper’s Painting Pit on some key days last month, I was unable to get my entry for Dave Stone’s “Apocalypse Me” challenge done on time. Here she is, better late than never; and no, she doesn’t look like me at all.

This lovely lass is “Hungry Bertha”, an OOP Horrorclix miniature from the Freakshow set. As many of you know, repainting and rebasing Clix is something I quite enjoy. So I decided to make Bertha look a little better, paint-wise, and a little more zombified. That way she could (theoretically) be my entry for Zombtober, too.

The lollipop stuck to her backside is a nice touch, as are the mysterious and loathsome slime trails emanating from her various folds. Lovely.

Anyway, I decided to add some gore to her base…a few GW zombie bits, some green stuff intestines…you get the idea.

Add copious layers of Blood for the Blood God, some gloss varnish on her lollipop and slime trails, and here is the result.

This close up shows that I should clean up her eyes a bit, methinks.

Upon reflection I thought it might be fun to make a diorama out of Bertha here, with her teetering upon a veritable mound of body parts and gore; but I was under the gun as it was. This will have to do for now. Still…it’s a thought for later.

Apologies for being late, Dave!

Bak Mai, Monk

Master Leung, head of the Brotherhood of Long Winter, had reached his eightieth year, and tradition held that a new Master must be selected from among the most skilled monks of the temple. Although a great tournament would be held to determine the new Master, Leung was certain it would be Pupil Wu, his most senior student, who would receive the honor. Pupil Wu would receive the sum of Master Leung’s knowledge; would read the secret sutras and learn the final, hidden techniques of the Brotherhood of Long Winter. Pupil Wu would become Master Wu, and would carry on leadership of the Order in the traditions of the centuries of monks that had come before. Of this Master Leung had no doubt.

Yet, before that, a tournament must be held; for so it is written in the sutras that prospective applicants must pass the trials and prove their worthiness to become Master. Thus, in accordance with tradition, the Temple gates were opened to receive visitors; those who would serve as spectators to perhaps the greatest display of martial prowess in all the land.

Everywhere there was a palpable sense of expectation and excitement for the coming contest. For days prior to the tournament, peasants, nobles, warriors and monks from other traditions all arrived at the temple, braving the mountainous terrain and the bitterly cold winds. Just before the closing of the gates, one final traveler arrived. His features were hidden beneath cloak and hood, but that did nothing to disguise his great size. In a soft, yet firm voice that belied his massive bulk, he demanded to take part in the Tournament of Long Winter. He would compete to be the new Master.

Master Leung frowned. Although there had been instances of monks from other monasteries competing in the tournament, it had not happened in many generations. Besides, this man did not look like a monk. Leung ordered the traveler to remove his cloak and hood, and the traveler complied; much to the shock and outrage of all assembled. The traveler was an Uroku, one of the savage half-men of the mountains! In times past, the monks of the Long Winter had hunted the Uroku and driven them deeper into the lofty peaks and crags. Old as he was, Master Leung had never seen an Uroku. He was shocked to learn one could even speak.

“My name is Bak Mai,” he said, “and I demand the right to compete in the Trials of Long Winter.” Nervous laughter and gasps of outrage greeted this announcement from the throng of spectators. This…thing…was not a monk. It wasn’t even human! How dare it demand anything? The Uroku was immediately set upon by the monks of the temple. He knelt calmly and bore the blows of their staves without resistance, all the while staring defiantly at Master Leung.

Master Leung was nothing if not familiar with the traditions, and nowhere in the sutras did it say that a competitor must be a monk, or even human. With obvious reluctance, Master Leung told the monks to cease their assault. He allowed Bak Mai to enter the tournament of Long Winter, much to everyone’s astonishment.

After all, thought Master Leung, entering is not the same as winning; and there was no possibility of this beast winning the tournament.

After the first day of the tournament, Master Leung began to feel a sense of disquiet. Bak Mai easily placed first in all the Trials of Endurance. Although two monks lost their footing and plummeted to their deaths, Bak Mai was first to scale the Cliff of Woe, and did so with startling ease. He remained under the frigid waterfalls of Tessen Lake for far longer than the other monks, three of whom froze to death in the icy waters rather than concede defeat. He knelt on hot coals without complaint or injury for a full hour while they piled heavy stone weights upon his lap and shoulders; even though twenty-five minutes was the most any of the monks could endure; and several would forever carry horrific burns that might never fully heal.

The Trials of Combat were held on the following day; and the outcome was not even close. Bak Mai chose no weapons with which to complete. Instead he dressed in bits of the armor and raiment of the soldiers and monks that hunted and harried the Uroku in years past. The monks and spectators were outraged by Bak Mai’s affront, but their mutters and protests were quickly silenced as Bak Mai soundly defeated every monk who stood against him in combat. The force of his blows was terrifying, like a thunderclap atop a high hill. Many monks were killed, many more forever crippled. There seemed no way to defeat the Uroku, and Master Leung began to feel something he had not felt in decades: panic.

That night, Master Leung meditated upon his dilemma. Tomorrow was the final Trial: the Trail of Wisdom. Traditionally it was a test of the monk’s problem-solving abilities, knowledge of the sutras and creative thinking. It was always held as the last trial of the Tournament of Long Winter; when the monks would be at the limits of their physical and spiritual strength. Only Bak Mai and Pupil Wu remined to take part in the competition. One of them would be the new Master. Leung repressed a shudder at the thought of the Uroku leading the Brotherhood. He had to ensure Pupil Wu won.

Master Leung considered the problem of Bak Mai. There was no way the Uroku could know the sutras as Pupil Wu did; and yet, he would have said there was no way an Uroku could have placed first in the Trials of Endurance and Combat, defeating every monk that opposed him. Bak Mai was an enigma; worse, he was a serious problem. He threatened centuries of tradition. Master Leung had to make certain that whatever test he set tomorrow, Pupil Wu’s victory was assured. He meditated for hours, until the once-tall candles were guttering pools of wax. Then, he permitted himself a smile. He knew what he would do.

The next morning, Pupil Wu and Bak Mai knelt on tatami mats in the main courtyard, surrounded by crowds of spectators and those monks who remained. Small writing desks had been set before them along with brushes and ink. Master Leung spoke from atop his dais. His voice rang out loud and clear in the early morning air. “The Trial of Wisdom shall consist of but one task,” he said. “Draw a snake.”

Here was a task any child could perform, thought Master Leung. He had no doubt the Uroku could draw a snake; but it fell to Master Leung to decide who drew the best snake. It was a matter of opinion: his opinion. No matter how artistic Bak Mai may be, he had already lost.

Bak Mai reached for his ink brush and selected a sheet of paper. Pupil Wu blinked in confusion, then did the same. He watched as the Uroku hunched over his sheet and began to draw. Pupil Wu did the same. He drew a basic squiggle with a head. He was finished, he thought; but then he looked over and saw Bak Mai was still drawing. What could the Uroku be drawing? Perhaps he was adding scales, or coils. Perhaps he added the flicking tongue, or the poisonous fangs. His snake was probably far better than Wu’s. Sweating, Wu began adding all these details, only to find Bak Mai was still drawing. Desperate, Pupil Wu added more and more…

“Enough!” called Master Leung. “Present your drawings!”

Bak Mai held his picture aloft. It was a basic drawing of a curved line in the shape of an S, with a circular head. A child’s drawing of a snake; but an obvious snake, nothing more.

Pupil Wu felt ice on his spine as he realized that Bak Mai had certainly drawn this in seconds. There was no reason for him to labor so long on a drawing so crude. He was pretending, hoping that doing so would provoke Pupil Wu into making a mistake.

And it did.

Flushing with embarrassment, Pupil Wu revealed his drawing. It was an extremely detailed snake; or it would be, if not for the tiny legs Wu had added. He had seen Bak Mai drawing for such a long time, he panicked and began adding all manner of embellishments and details. Unfortunately, he added too much. Not even Master Leung could pretend that snakes had legs.

A silence settled over the courtyard. Everyone waited to see what Master Leung would do. Everyone except Bak Mai. He leaned over and regarded Pupil Wu’s drawing critically.

“That’s not a snake,” he said.

Bak Mai is an Ogre from Wizards of the Coast. I found him in a plastic bag along with a bunch of other miniatures I acquired in a Craigslist buy several years ago. To be honest, I forgot I even had him. He was not easy to identify, but thanks to R Strickland on The Miniatures Page for the assist.

I wish I could take full credit for writing Bak Mai’s Trial of Wisdom; but it’s a variation on a legendary martial arts fable: “Don’t Paint Legs on a Snake.” It means don’t waste time adding useless embellishments to something that is perfectly adequate as it is.

As some of you may know, a big fucking storm blew through New England a couple of days ago; leaving half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Guess who was in that group? While putting a standby generator on my house was one of the best things I ever did, I had it wired to power necessities like my furnace and my well (heat and water are nice to have). Sadly, the painting cave didn’t make the cut, so I lost a few days of painting time. That means my entry for Dave Stone’s Apocalypse Me challenge might be a tad late…

The good news is that this guy serves as both my Character of the Month for October (not late, like last month) AND my entry for ORCtober! Sure, he’s technically an ogre, but I painted him as an orc (in case my clever use of “uroku” went unnoticed) ; so does that count? I say yes.

Up next: playing catch up!

Imperial Assault, Twin Shadows Part Two: The Heroes and The Hunter

Part Two of my Imperial Assault: Twin Shadows painting is complete, which means I have finished all the miniatures from the boxed expansion and the ally and villain packs released along with it.

There are two rebel heroes in the Twin Shadows boxed set. This is Saska Teft, a combat engineer. As far as I can tell, she makes things blow up pretty good.

The other hero is Biv Bodhrik, the stereotypical “heavy weapons guy.”

Looks like he has some skin problems. Chalk it up to poor layering on my part.

Next, an Ally Pack featuring some familiar faces: R2-D2 (does he even HAVE a face?) and C-3PO.

Another fun fact: I bought this pack twice, because I purchased the first one from “Amazon World Marketplace”. The description said that was based in Great Britain, but the package shipped from Spain, and I got this in the mail: the Italian version. Although the miniatures are the same, all the game materials are in Italian. This is useless to me as I don’t speak or read Italian. So, I put this on eBay, thinking someone else must need it. So far, no one needs it.

Between the primer fiasco and the duplicate droids, this Twin Shadows project was getting fucking expensive.

Like many of my Imperial Assault miniatures, I painted these by following Sorastro’s tutorials on YouTube. I like his tutorials because I often learn new ways of doing things. For example, the gold base color on C-3PO is not gold paint. It’s GW’s Leadbelcher washed with GW’s Seraphim Sepia, then highlighted up. This provides a nice depth of tone and it’s a trick I will absolutely use again, whether I’m painting shields or armor.

Finally: Boba Fett, a bounty hunter who is even cooler than Dog, the Bounty Hunter (didn’t think that was possible, did you?). He’s featured prominently on the box cover and in several Twin Shadows missions; so naturally he’s sold separately. Thanks, Fantasy Flight.

Boba Fett is a great-looking miniature, especially for Imperial Assault, where some of the miniatures are pretty lame (just wait until I get to Ahsoka Tano). Of course, the Star Wars Legion version of Boba Fett is so much better-looking, I try not to think about it lest I get depressed.

That’s it for Twin Shadows, but I have many more Imperial Assault miniatures to go. I’d like to collect the entire run of the game, but that doesn’t seem likely. Two days before I wrote this post, a Grand Admiral Thrawn villain pack sold on eBay for $152.50.

That’s one hundred fifty-two dollars and fifty cents for one plastic miniature. That’s fucking stupid.

It’s ok. I can live without Thrawn for sure. In addition to two more boxed expansions (Return to Hoth and Bespin Gambit), I have 18 more ally and villain packs waiting for my paintbrush. When will I ever get to them all?

That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for…

Chloe the Rat

This is a tale of two women; one, a loner, a creature of the wild; with but one friend in the world. The other: a princess, cruel and spoiled, with no friends at all.

The girl Chloe was a child of the forest, a foundling. She was raised in the ways of the Pathfinder by Keeler the Guide, a ranger of Rowanwood; and Sarapen Moonsilver, the Barkwarden. Chloe was a peculiar child who grew into a peculiar woman. She took to the teachings of the ranger and druid well enough, but neither could call her daughter or friend. Something was different about her. It was as if she felt no kinship to the forest at all, or to those who lived within. Except for one.

Chloe met the dryad Briarose one day while traversing the Rowanwood alone. Eager for company, the dryad invited Chloe to stay for a while and trade news of Rowanwood, for Briarose could not venture far from her ancient oak and wanted to hear of the forest beyond her reach. Chloe obliged, more from a sense of boredom than anything else; but she soon found herself returning to the dryad’s tree more often, sometimes planning her travels to include Briarose’s grove as a stop along the way. The two became friends, though they could not be more different.

Chloe’s travels took her far throughout the Rowanwood, and she was only able to meet with her friend Briarose once every few months or so. It was during one of these meetings that the dryad told Chloe she had met another girl from the land outside the forest. Her name was Circa, and she was a princess. Princess Circa had stumbled into her grove while hiding from her royal guard, who had accompanied her on what she called a “terribly boring” hunting trip. They spoke for a while and Circa told her how hers was a life of luxury and privilege. She had many servants and everyone obeyed her commands. She invited Briarose to come visit her in her castle. Of course, Briarose had to refuse, as she could not leave her tree. When she told Circa this, the princess got a strange look on her face. A few minutes later, the two heard the sounds of the princess’s hunting party calling for her. Circa left to join them, but told Briarose that they would see each other again soon.

Something about this made Chloe uneasy, but she said nothing. When she returned to the grove several weeks later, she found it uprooted and destroyed. Briarose’s tree lay on the ground. The ancient oak had been ravaged for lumber. She found the body of her friend beneath it, still clinging to the trunk, and she imagined the scene as her friend must have begged and pleaded with those responsible to stop hurting her tree. To stop murdering her.

Chloe knew who was responsible, of course: the spoiled princess, Circa. She wanted Briarose and did not care that the dryad could not come to her court even if she wanted to, for she was bound to the tree. Bring the tree, then, Chloe imagined her saying. Chloe followed the tracks of the princess’s guards to the edge of the forest, where they passed into the plains beyond. She tracked them all the way to Malfort, the capital of Evalaux; and could have tracked them to the castle itself, but there was no need. Chloe knew she could not get to the princess directly. Better to spend her efforts elsewhere.

And she did. Chloe had no friends in Malfort. She had no friends at all, since the death of Briarose. Her first task, then, was to make some. She did not like people, so instead she made friends with the rats of Malfort. All of them.

Within months, Chloe and her rats controlled the entire underworld of Malfort; easily wresting it from the grip of the Thieves’ Guild that operated in the sewers and shadows. Chloe’s legend grew. Rats bred unchecked, spreading disease and pestilence in the city above, spoiling foodstuffs and fouling wells. The people of Montfort cried out to the palace for help. They were suffering. They were dying. Unrest stirred, and the power of the royal family began to shake. Surely the king would do something?

The king could do nothing, because the king was dead. His seneschal found him in his chambers one morning, or what was left of him, anyway. He had been devoured by rats in his sleep. There seemed nowhere Chloe’s rats could not reach.

Princess Circa found herself suddenly in charge in a palace overrun by rats. She barricaded herself inside and hired as many rat catchers as she could from the surrounding towns and cities of Evalaux. She paid them extravagant sums to ply their trade, with promises of riches untold to the one who could rid the palace and the city of the rats. The rat catchers all died horribly; some devoured by rat swarms like the king, some made to ingest the very poisons they employed in their trade. They died, the people despaired, and Chloe’s grip tightened around the princess’s throat.

Over the course of the next several months, Chloe squeezed.

Today, Princess Circa still lives in the ruined palace, though her servants and guards fled long ago. She wanders the halls, incoherent and bedraggled and quite mad, attended only by rats. Outside, life has returned to normal for the people of Malfort. The tides of vermin no longer plague the city as they did. The disease has been checked, commerce and trade has resumed. The wells run clean and the storehouses are safe. All is well again.

But the people know, and they will not forget. Chloe the Rat is now princess of Malfort, and her palace is below the streets.

September’s Character of the Month is a Ranger; albeit a pretty unconventional one. This project has been pretty light on evil characters so far (only Rafinphel the Adored is expressly evil, and he’s not MY character), so I thought it was time. I imagined a ranger so obsessed with vengeance that she usurped nature for her own ends. This is the result.

For Chloe, I used Reaper’s Vermina, the Rat Queen, from their Chronoscope line. There are two versions of this character. This one, sculpted by Werner Klocke, has an anime-vibe to it. The other one is much more Victorian-looking and is sculpted by Patrick Keith. I’ve had this one for many years. She was supposed to be a non-player character in a D&D 3.5 campaign; but the game fell apart before I had a chance to paint her and she’s languished under chipped black primer ever since.

Since it’s obviously not September anymore, Chloe is late. But that’s ok. I have another Character of the Month for October coming by the end of the month; and hopefully more Star Wars, too.