Buried on a Sunday…Born on a Monday…

I never heard, or even knew of, the Solomon Grundy nursery rhyme as a child. I think perhaps this is a more common nursery rhyme overseas than here in the States. It wasn’t until I got older, fell in love with Celtic music and started listening to the Pogues that I heard it for the first time, at the very, very end of Billy’s Bones.

As a comic book fan, though, I knew who Solomon Grundy was very early on. The guy was in the Legion of Doom on Superfriends (a cartoon that absolutely does NOT hold up). Later, I remember seeing a Bernie Wrightson portfolio with a couple of plates depicting Solomon Grundy, but that was about the extent of my exposure to him.

Now, of course, EVERYONE knows that Solomon Grundy was born on a Monday… et cetera, et cetera. He was a significant character on TV’s Gotham, and I remember cackling with glee the first time I realized that…

SPOILER ALERT

…Butch’s real name turned out to be Cyrus Gold.

Anyway…Grundy has about 12 different origin stories (look it up if you don’t believe me), but a common thread throughout all of them was that he was once a man named Cyrus Gold, who was murdered and dumped in Slaughter Swamp, the location of which changes but is usually outside of Gotham City. Something in the water reanimates him, so he is basically an indestructible zombie. He’s super strong (he can go toe-to-toe with Superman), nigh-invulnerable and impossible to permanently put down. He doesn’t have to breathe and he doesn’t bleed. He’s also usually, but not always, really dumb.

He started out as a villain for Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, but now he’s more of a Batman villain. The thing is, I can’t figure out why he’s a villain at all. Most villains have schemes and plans, things they wish to accomplish. Grundy just usually shows up and fights whoever happens to be around until he gets beat up or killed. Then he rises again some time later and starts all over. Not really a “big picture” kind of guy.

I bought this Knight Models Solomon Grundy because it’s AWESOME, and the Heroclix Grundy looks laughably small next to him.

I primed him black and drybrushed some Citadel Celestra Grey on him to pick out the details. Then I painted his skin using Citadel’s Rakarth Flesh, followed by a wash of Agrax Earthshade, then highlighted with Flayed One Flesh and finally, Pallid Wych Flesh. For the suit, I did a thin layer of Coat D’Arms Deadly NIghtshade, followed by an even lighter coat of Army Painter Dark Sky. This covered the Celestra Grey and provided some nice highlights to the clothing. His shirt was based in Citadel Tau Light Ochre, washed with Agrax Earthshade and highlighted up to Dorn Yellow. I used GW’s Stirland Mud to texture the base and stuck an old Armorcast broken tombstone on it before flocking the whole thing.

And that was the end of Solomon Grundy, and of Supers Month here at Dead Dick’s Tavern.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 58

Miniatures Painted: 122

Total: +64

Forgotten Heroes 2019: Viva La Bandera!

I must thank my friend Carrion Crow for coming up with Forgotten Heroes. It is a challenge in more ways than one. For example, last year I converted my very own Wundarr the Aquarian, who I consider to be one of the worst Marvel characters ever. Even though my results weren’t great, I was pretty proud of myself for converting such a terrible character. The Aquarian was  met with much amusement, and I thought I would never find another character so lame.

Until now, that is. May I present: La Bandera!

Some background. Once upon a time, Wolverine (along with the rest of the X-Men) was supposed to be dead, so he ditched the superhero life to open a bar in seedy Madripoor. He took the identity of “Patch” (Logan with an eyepatch, get it?) which shouldn’t have fooled anyone with vision better than Mr. Magoo, considering he kept popping his claws all the time. To make matters worse, Wolverine soon started dressing up as fucking WOLVERINE, and everyone sat around scratching their heads at the strange short guy in the Wolverine costume. No one seemed able to put  two and two together and come up with “Hey…that guy is Wolverine.”

Anyway, at one point, Wolverine travels to the South American dictatorship Tierra Verde, hot on the trail of Roughhouse, a Madripoor-based bad guy he beat the shit out of a few times. Roughhouse was kidnapped by a guy named Geist, who was a Nazi “scientist” who was working for Caridad, the mustachioed dictator of Tierra Verde. Geist was experimenting on people in the hope of creating a superhero for Tierra Verde at Caridad’s request.

Sigh. Enter La Bandera,  a teenage girl who was born in Cuba to Castro revolutionary parents, who then moved to Miami, where her father became a drug addict and died of a drug overdose. When she got to be a teenager, she manifested her mutant power, inspiration. She can influence the emotions of others, so she used this to inspire the common folk to fight drug dealers in Miami. Oh, and she can also shoot power blasts through a stick she carries, but these seem to be dependent on how may people she is currently inspiring. When their morale tanks, she loses this ability.

Yawn. Moving on, La Bandera pissed off the Kingpin, because her rabble-rousing started fucking with his bottom line: his Miami drug profits. So he hired Tiger Shark to kill her. But before Tiger Shark could, she traced the drugs to Tierra Verde, and traveled there to inspire the populace to overthrow their evil dictator, Caridad. Wolverine saved her from Tiger Shark, who was in the process of removing La Bandera’s head from her shoulders. Then he saved her from Geist, who, in addition to a Nazi scientist and expert barber, turned out to be a giant, evil fungus. Then they overthrew the dictator together and saved Roughhouse.

Yaay.

This all took a very long seven issues of Wolverine. There was more to the story (Caridad suffers from migraines and his ex-wife, a nun named “Sister Salvation”, is the only one who can soothe his pain) but just forget it.  If you’ve never heard of La Bandera, you have missed nothing. But the reason is because she, and the story she rode in on, sucks out loud.

La Bandera is one of those annoying, purposeless characters that festooned the X-books throughout the late eighties and nineties. She’s a stereotype (a Cuban-born revolutionary), but at least we are spared the “Claremont-ization” of her speech patterns (a la Black Tom Cassidy, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Moira MacTaggart, Gambit and countless others…) because she was created by Archie Goodwin, not Chris Claremont; but although there’s nary a “Madre de Dios!” to be found, she’s still pretty damn lame.

Perfect for Forgotten Heroes. Although her national allegiance isn’t clear, she’s definitely a patriotic character, as she inspires feelings of nationalism in others. so, she’s kind of a patriotic everyman. And she has a colorful costume. That’s about all I got.

As my base figure, I used a Heroclix Nikki. I have no idea who the hell Nikki is, but she’s apparently affiliated with the Defenders. She’ll do.

I removed her from her dial and took her arm off at the shoulder. I considered just clipping off the gun, but her arms are so thin I was worried about attaching a staff to both sides of her hand. So I opted to just remove the hand and replace it with this GW skink spear hand. I removed the spear head and hoped no one would notice that La Bandera has a freakishly-large right hand, and that it only has three fingers.

Then I started applying green stuff and magic sculpt to build up her poofy sleeves. Although I suck at sculpting, I took my time. I built it up in several sessions rather than trying to get it all done at once.

Finally, I sculpted her mask and her flowing belt and mask ties. This took a while. I rolled out the magic sculpt in a long ribbon, flattened it out, twisted it and let it dry. Then I clipped it and super-glued it to the miniature. A final dab of putty secured both belt and mask tie in place.

Finally, all that was left was to paint her. You may notice that my paint job doesn’t match the artwork above. That’s because throughout that excruciating seven-issue run, La Bandera’s costume lacked a consistent color scheme, which may have been a printing error, or may have just been indicative of how much anyone working on her story gave a fuck. I went with the one that was shown the most. I’m not happy with her mask. Perhaps I should have just painted her face instead of sculpting a mask, as it looks a little weird. But I take comfort in the fact that although I’m probably one of the only people in the world with a La Bandera miniature, I will, in all likelihood, never have to use her in a game.

Unless she teams up with the Aquarian. Damn. Now I’m thinking about it.

That brings my Forgotten Heroes submissions to an end for this year. I really wanted to do General Glory from the post-Legends JLI, but I didn’t have the time. Maybe next year, although I’m pretty sure the Crow will have a new challenge by then…

My Name is Mud!

A local comic shop had a pretty spectacular sale on gaming items recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a few of the original metal Knight Models Batman figures on the shelf. I couldn’t resist picking up a few (at a deep discount), and so I present…Clayface!

At last count, there are about 72 different Clayfaces running around the DC universe. (I may be off by one or two, but suffice it to say there are a lot.) The original was Basil Karlo, a B-list actor who went crazy when he learned he wasn’t going to be in a remake of a horror film he starred in, so he wore a mask and tried to kill all the other actors who starred in the remake. The second Clayface was Matt Hagen, an Indiana Jones-type adventurer who was exposed to some kind of weird protoplasm that made him malleable and able to assume any form. The third Clayface was a guy named Preston Payne, whose touch dissolves flesh, so naturally he goes crazy and falls in love with a mannequin. The rest of the Clayfaces don’t matter. Trust me. They just don’t fucking matter.

My favorite version of Clayface is from the Batman Animated Series. That Clayface was based a combination of the first and second Clayface, i.e. he was Matt Hagen, who was a great actor who became disfigured in a car crash. He began using an experimental, protoplasmic face cream developed by Roland Daggett, an unscrupulous big-pharma type who used Hagen to commit crimes in exchange for more of the cream (kinda like a heroin dealer, or so I’ve heard). Finally, Daggett’s men poured a ton of the protoplasmic cream on Hagen, thinking it would kill him. Instead, it turned him into Clayface. (This version of Clayface was also voiced by Ron Perlman, which pretty much ensures he’s the coolest version of Clayface that was, is, or will ever be.)

As far as the miniature itself: it’s BIG. And metal, and all stretched out in a lunge, which means he’s unbalanced. I immediately tossed the ridiculous 40mm slotta base he came with and rebased him on a 40mm MDF base. Unfortunately, that was too small and the model kept tipping over. So, I based the 40mm base on a 60 mm base for stability. Then I set about painting him.

There’s really not a lot to this model, paint-wise. Aside from his face, he’s all brown. I used various brown paints and washes to make him look as he does, which is pretty much like a turd. I considered applying some gloss varnish to make him look like wet clay, but decided not to.

To give you an idea of how big he is, here is the Knight Models Clayface next to a Heroclix Clayface.

And here he is next to a Heroclix R’as al Ghul. (Weird that I don’t have a repainted ‘Clix Batman yet.) The KM version seems much more true to scale when compared to a normal-sized human (R’as). As with Killer Croc, the ‘Clix version looks kind of puny by comparison.

I have other Knight Models to paint, and I am still laboring away on another Forgotten Heroes entry before month’s end. Returning to true Piper form, I will be submitting another hero who absolutely should be forgotten.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 58

Miniatures Painted: 121

Total: +63

Forgotten Heroes 2019: “I AM THE RED CYCLONE!”

It’s June, which means it’s time for Forgotten Heroes. This year is a bit different from what has come before. This year, the theme is “Patriot Games”; all submissions must be “patriotically” themed, i.e. wearing a costume that reflects their country of origin.

With that in mind, I have decided to make a miniature for my favorite Street Fighter, Zangief.

Follow the moving forehead spot…

From the Street Fighter Wiki: Zangief , also known as the “Red Cyclone”… is a national Russian hero who is always seen fighting for the glory of his country. Zangief is a massive fighter, weighing 400 lbs and standing slightly over 7 feet tall, placing him among…the tallest characters in the entire Street Fighter roster…Zangief has been portrayed with a beard and a mohawk, along with a uniquely-shaped formation of chest hair on his torso and on his shins. His massive frame is almost entirely covered in scars from his bouts with brown bears in the barren and remote area of Siberia.

Yeah, that’s right. When not utterly crushing his enemies, Zangief wrestles bears. For fun.

Zangief doesn’t have a patriotic costume, opting instead for wrestling tights. BUT, anyone with even a passing familiarity with Zangief knows he’s from Russia. Plus, his wrestling moves all have Russian names, like “Borscht Dynamite” and “Siberian Express”. I guess this is cheating a little, but I’m going for the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules.

Zangief’s first appearance was in the classic Capcom arcade game, Street Fighter II: The World Warriors (1991). Since then, he’s been a playable character in 14 other fighting games, and even showed up in the Street Fighter anime cartoons and movies, the (horrible) Van Damme Street Fighter movie, as well as a cameo in Wreck-It Ralph. He’s also made it into various Street Fighter comics (published by Malibu and Udon).

via GIPHY

Zangief is a bit different than your typical fireball-throwing street fighter. For one thing, he’s slow. He likes to get up close and personal, grabbing his opponents and administering his signature move, the Spinning Pile-Driver (seen above). Once he gets close, you’ll wish he wasn’t. Zangief does the most damage of any fighter by far.

Zangief’s far from forgotten, and he’s technically not a “hero”. But he’ll always be my hero. The Red Cyclone taught me all I know about fighting. Just last week I head-butted a guy and gave him a spinning pile driver (again, see above) just because he fucking annoyed me. He’ll know better next time, once he gets out of traction.

There is nothing good about this miniature. Nothing.

There has been a miniature of Zangief issued already for the Heroclix Street Fighter line. But as you can see, it really sucks. So I decided to make my own.

I started with a Heroclix Blockbuster miniature, from the Uncanny X-Men series. He’s big, and he has wristbands and boots like Zangief. They’re not perfect swaps, but they’re certainly close enough.

After I removed him from his base dial, I did a quick application of some green stuff and magic sculpt. I was able to sculpt his mohawk, beard, chest hair and his (really fucking weird) shin hair. I’m no Dick Garrison, but I can handle sculpting messy body hair and a mohawk. (I still wish I could sculpt better.)

Here’s what he looks like. I’m mostly happy with him, but it’s easy to see his beard and chest hair and think it’s just a huge beard. I sculpted a square-ish beard rather than a pointy one (Zangief’s beard changes depending on who draws him). I think if I had sculpted a pointed beard (or just got a ‘Clix Zangief and did a head swap) it would make it easier to differentiate between beard and chest hair, but who cares? (I do.)

Here’s the Red Cyclone about to deliver a Soviet beatdown to E. Honda (Hasslefree’s Tetsuhara)…

…and here he is, about to ruin Ryu’s day (Heroclix Ryu).

MUSCLE POWER! Horosho!

I’m going to try to get another Forgotten Heroes submission in by the end of the month, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it off as it requires much more sculpting. Other than that, I have decided that June is Superhero month here at Dead Dick’s Tavern. In addition to Forgotten Heroes, I’m going to paint my steadily-increasing collection of Knight Models and repaint more Heroclix!

A Hound, A Mound, and a…uh… a Carrion Crawler

Monster month was a bit underwhelming this year. The first half of the month was taken up with work problems that, to put it bluntly, fucked up my hobby focus.  After that, I took a much-needed week off, during which you would think I would double down on my painting. However, when I paint, my mind wanders, tending to fixate upon things that vex me (like work). So instead, I played Spider-Man on PS4, which allowed me to “check out”, and not think of anything not related to being Spider-Man for a few hours every day.

Nevertheless, I managed to paint a few more monsters to finish out the month. I’m considering making this an annual event over here at Dead Dick’s Tavern, and perhaps soliciting participation from other hobbyists, much like the imminent Forgotten Heroes challenge hosted by Carrion Crow, starting in just a few days!

First: a Reaper Bones Hell Hound. In AD&D, Hell Hounds are the dogs from the plane of the Nine Hells. They’re emaciated, rust-brown dogs that breathe fire, and they’re often summoned by sorcerers with less-than-good intentions. (This miniature was an impulse buy; I saw him and realized I didn’t own any Hell Hound miniatures.) My first cursory look at the unpainted miniature made me think his back was on fire, but upon closer inspection it’s fur and spines, not flames. I painted him mostly in Vallejo Red Black and Reaper Rusty Red. Not much else to say about him except I’m not thrilled with his base. Oh, well…

Next, this big fellow is a Shambling Mound, from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures. You get a pretty hefty chunk of plastic for his $4.99 price tag; a real bargain! You can get a sense of his scale compared to the human-sized skeleton in the foreground.

From the AD&D 3.5 SRD: Shambling mounds, also called shamblers, appear to be heaps of rotting vegetation. They are actually intelligent, carnivorous plants. A shambler’s body has an 8-foot girth and is about 6 feet tall when the creature stands erect. It weighs about 3,800 pounds. This miniature is scaled much bigger than it’s description would indicate. Despite its AD&D origins, I will most likely get more use out of the Shambling Mound as a minion for either Plant Man or Poison Ivy. I’m pretty happy with how he turned out. I basically used a ton of green and brown paints and washes before finally highlighting with some yellow wash.

And finally, another classic AD&D monster: the Carrion Crawler. From the Forgotten Realms Wiki: carrion crawler was a burrowing aberration that scavenged the dead and occasionally preyed on living creatures.  Carrion crawlers were large, pale yellow, and greenish aberrations whose appearance was akin to a three- to four-foot-long centipede. Crawlers possessed eight long tentacles protruding from the sides of their heads, allowing them to stun prey.

This is another Nolzur’s miniature that I bought specifically for Monster Month. I based the carapace in Coat D’Arms Goblin Green, then highlighted up to Vallejo Green Sky, washing him with Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade. His underbelly was based in Army Painter Necrotic Flesh, washed with Citadel Seraphim Sepia, then highlighted with Reaper’s Moldy Skin. The base was given a layer of Citadel’s Stirland Mud for texture.

Here’s a picture of him with a 28mm Privateer Press Cygnar guardsman for scale. Once again, Nolzur’s doesn’t seem too bound by the descriptions of these monsters, as, much like the Shambling Mound, this particular Carrion Crawler is a lot bigger than the standard size given in the description.

That about does it for Monster Month this year, although I may have a few stragglers still to come. Next month is Forgotten Heroes, over at Carrion Crow’s Buffet. This will be my third year participating and I’m very happy to take part!

Insanity Pile Progress:

Miniatures Purchased: 58

Miniatures Painted: 120

Total: +62

Behold! The Eye-Beast!

May is Monster Month, and I’m getting a bit of a late start because I’ve had a hellish few weeks at work. (I had to finish painting some more cowboys, too.)

But enough about that. I bring you…the hideous BEHO-uh…the EYE BEAST!

Ah, who am I kidding? Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Dungeons and Dragons can identify this handsome fellow as a beholder, no matter what Reaper calls him. (At least I assume it’s a him. I don’t claim to understand the gender identity of beholders.)

From Wikipedia: The beholder is a fictional monster in the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Its appearance is that of a floating orb of flesh with a large mouth, single central eye, and many smaller eyestalks on top with powerful magical abilities.

I was going to paint him last May, but I didn’t get around to it in time. After priming him black, I added a layer of Vallejo Red-Black, followed by highlights of Privateer Press’s Skorne Red and Citadel’s Wild Rider Red before applying a glaze of Citadel’s Bloodletter. The eyes were undercoated in Reaper Vampiric Skin, with various colors for the irises.

The focal point of the model is its mouth and big, pointy teeth. The mouth was painted with Citadel Daemonette Hide and highlighted with Bugman’s Glow, then a final highlight of bright pink. The teeth were undercoated with Citadel’s Steel Legion Drab before getting the full Reaper Ivory triad treatment. The main eye’s iris was done with yellow ink. I’m not really thrilled with how it turned out; I feel like something’s missing.

I gave the teeth, mouth and eyeballs a coat of gloss varnish to look wet, and that’s about it.

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 58

Miniatures Painted: 117

Total: +59

Yeoman Rand

One of the characters I missed in the Modiphius TOS Crew set was Yeoman Janice Rand. Although she only appeared in eight episodes of TOS, I always felt like the character had a lot of potential beyond what she was allowed to do, which was mostly be “eye candy”.

Sadly, Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who played Yeoman Rand, passed away on May 1, 2015 at age 85. She didn’t have an easy life, particularly after her departure from Star Trek; but she returned to play Janice Rand in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). She was also a regular on the Trek convention circuit. A recovering alcoholic, she spent the last 3 decades of her life carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers, helping others with alcohol and substance abuse issues as a counselor in California.

I discovered Heroclix makes a Yeoman Rand (above), so naturally I bought it to repaint and use with the Modiphius miniatures. (Not having any use for the dial I rebased her, too.)

Here is my finished repaint. Hardly perfect, but better than factory direct. I had a hard time getting the black nylons to look right, so I just went with bare legs instead. For some reason, her eyes look much more pronounced in this picture than in real life.

Heroclix is due for another Trek release later this year, and I have to say some of the miniatures look very promising, particularly as the Modiphius TNG bridge crew was such a letdown. I’m hoping the ‘clix set has better versions of some of those characters.

Up next: Monster Month returns!

No Patience for Plastic

In preparation for this post, I was going to count all the unassembled plastic troops I still have on sprues for various armies/projects I have yet to start. I meant to count just 28mm foot soldiers, not vehicles and/or other models (like terrain). I came to my senses and decided not to, both because it was too much effort and because the number would be quite depressing..

Put simply, most of the unassembled plastic currently awaiting my attentions is never getting assembled, at least not by me.

Like many wargamers, I have put together more than my share of plastic soldiers over the years, most (but certainly not all) from the manufactorums (manufactora?) of Games Workshop. I have also put together Wargames Factory zombies and shock troopers, Mantic dwarfs and Dreadball teams, and most recently, Modiphius Star Trek miniatures, among others. Plastic figures (unless made by GW or Modiphius) often cost less than metal or resin; most hold detail quite well; and they’re light and easy to transport and repair, should that become necessary.

And yet…I now realize with absolute clarity that I fucking hate putting together plastic models. As I get older, I simply don’t have the patience for it any more. “Well, gee, Piper,” you may be saying, “you sure picked the wrong hobby.” To which I reply: “Hunh.”

As you may recall, Santa brought me the TANKS game for Christmas last year. This week (at work), I finally got around to assembling the three tanks (2 Sherman, 1 Jagdpanther) that came in the starter set. (Being self-employed has many disadvantages; sleepless nights, probable alcoholism and a crippling sense of responsibility for those I employ, to name but a few. But one of the good things about being my own boss is that no one can tell me that I can’t put together my toys at work.) It took me about an hour and a half, just long enough for me to realize a couple of things.

First, the tanks are small, about the scale of a Matchbox car. Which means you could easily buy any number of painted, ready-to play tank variants  without the need to assemble and paint anything, simply by visiting the toy car aisle of your local dollar store. (From left-right, Sherman 76mm, Sherman 75mm and Jagdpanther, all from the TANKS game; a Corgi Panzer from the toy aisle, which cost $3.00, no painting or assembly necessary.)

Second, as evidenced by games such as Space Hulk, high-quality, single-piece sculpting is possible. If they can sculpt a Terminator that looks like this and mold it out of a single lump of plastic, I’m 100% positive they can sculpt a tank that requires ZERO assembly.

This is vastly preferable to me at this stage of life.

Let me be clear: I don’t hate plastic models. I just hate assembling them, which is not the same thing. I don’t know if it was ever fun, exactly; but it’s definitely not fun for me anymore. As I get older, I just don’t have the time or inclination to clip, file, sand, fill, fit and glue miniatures together, especially if (as in the case of the Modiphius Star Trek miniatures) they’re fiddly as hell and don’t seem to WANT to fit together. I just don’t enjoy the headache of countless hours of assembly, along with the glued-together fingers I will certainly have to endure.

The point is certainly valid that model-building is part and parcel of the miniatures wargaming hobby, as much as collecting, painting and playing games is. It’s just not the part I enjoy anymore. I think I might have enjoyed it once upon a time, but nowadays the inverse correlation between my age and my overall patience level has made that no longer true. (I also can’t see shit anymore, which has made the wearing of reading glasses a necessity for painting and, well, reading.)

Painting, as opposed to gaming, has now become my primary hobby. I play far fewer games today than I used to (like when I regularly assembled plastic armies). While there are exceptions, I am unlikely to ever use most of my miniatures for gaming anymore. Am I really going to ever build and paint an entire 40K Ork army, at this point in my life? Probably not. What would be the point? It might be fun to paint them, but it certainly won’t be fun putting them together first.

I guess at this point I prefer my miniatures to require as little assembly as possible, and I prefer my games require fewer miniatures to play. This is why I prefer skirmish games, and why sprues of plastic soldiers are becoming less and less attractive to me.

If only I could bring myself to part with them…

Classic Dragon Lords Dwarfs

In keeping with my 2019 Resolutions, I recently painted more old school miniatures! This time, it’s a classic Grenadier Dragon Lords boxed set: Dwarves of the Gold Mountain.

As anyone even casually familiar with me or this blog knows, I have a disturbing obsession with all things dwarfish. These stocky fellows were sculpted by Nick Lund, venerable artisan and famed sculptor of Dwarvenkind. Mr. Lund is my second favorite sculpteur des nains (Bob Olley is number one, IMO), so I was happy to finally paint up this set.

These fellows have uninspired names, i.e. “dwarf with spear, dwarf with warhammer”, etc. Unfortunately for me, my “dwarf with mace” is an annoying miscast, so without him, this is only a 9 dwarf set. Bummer.

These Dragon Lords sets came out during the later Grenadier heyday, so they’re not quite as old as the “Gold Line” boxes I love so much. I think one of those is next in my “old-school” painting queue. I just need to decide which one…

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 53

Miniatures Painted: 109

Total: +56

Star Trek Adventures RPG: The Vanished

Throw another of my 2019 Resolutions in the “done” pile. I got my friends together and we played an actual game!

One of my best friends lives on the other side of the country and doesn’t come back here very often. Usually he makes it home for the holidays, which doesn’t leave much time for gaming. But this time he made it back for a vacation. We made a point to set up a game night, and I managed to get three other guys together too! The game: the new Star Trek Adventures by Modiphius.

Being the Game Master, I decided to set the game during the Original Series era, and the players would take o the roles of Kirk and the Enterprise crew. Since we only had a few hours to play and only one copy of the rules, making original characters would have been silly and would have eaten up a huge chunk of our time. With this in mind I also decided on using a published adventure…but rather than use any of Modiphius’s adventures (many of which are quite good), I chose to adapt an old FASA Star Trek module to suit my purposes.

I chose The Vanished, by Guy McLimore and Greg Pohlein (credit where credit is due) which was actually designed with the Enterprise crew in mind. To my knowledge, none of my friends had ever played this adventure (we never played the old Star Trek RPG back when), so they would be unfamiliar with it.

Here’s the plot as originally written: The Enterprise passes by FDR 39, a deep space research station in the midst of a magnetic storm. They hail the station a a courtesy and get a bored response. In the middle of the conversation, communications abruptly cease. But the call isn’t dropped; the person who was speaking just…vanishes! Naturally, the Enterprise goes over to investigate…

What happened? Well, one of the corporations aboard the station was doing some research on a brand new kind of transporter. It just so happens that during a test of the transporter beam, some unknown aliens with an unpronounceable name (let’s just call them space amoebas, because that’s what I did) gained access to the station and caused a power short. This resulted in the transporter beam sweeping through the entire station, disintegrating all the people aboard. Lucky for them, their transporter signatures are still contained in the computer, so they can be restored…if the Enterprise crew can figure that out and deal with the aliens…

While this gives the landing party some clear objectives (investigate the station, deal with the amoebas, restore the transporter patterns), there’s not really much for the crew aboard the ship to do. At least not as the adventure was originally written. So I decided to add some of my own touches. First, the magnetic storm increases, making transport and communication between the ship and the landing party impossible for part of the adventure. This happens right around the time the landing party first discovers the aliens. (Too bad they can’t warn the Enterprise…)

To make matters worse, another ship arrives, filled with Orion pirates disguised as corporate employees. They’re here to steal the transporter tech with the help of an inside man, but they weren’t expecting to find their man disintegrated and the Enterprise in orbit around FDR 39. Still, they try to bluff the Enterprise while sending their own team to the station to retrieve the tech.

Once aboard the station, the landing party and the Orions have to deal with the aliens. But the Orions only want the tech, and seize the first chance they can to steal it and get away. Without it, the transporter patterns of all the people aboard the station can’t be restored, so the characters need that tech too…

Meanwhile, in orbit, a couple more of the aliens gain access to the Enterprise. Since the crew aboard have no idea about the aliens, they’re in the dark about how to deal with them. While the ship’s crew tries to repel the space amoebas, the Orions on the station either get control of the transporter tech and make a run for it (cue starship combat), or fail to get the tech, but still try to make a run for it (cue starship combat).

So how did it turn out? Obviously, I’m not going to blog a seven hour rpg session, that would just be dumb. But I will share some highlights…

The landing party was made up of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and two uncontrolled supporting characters, Lt. Suvek and Crewman Ramirez, both security officers (redshirts). This left Sulu in command of the Enterprise, along with Uhura, Chekov and Nurse Chapel, as well as several supporting characters, most notably Chief Specialist J’Zhara, an Andorian female engineer.

As you might expect, the security officers met with misfortune. Lt. Suvek wandered off to investigate a noise and fell prey to one of the space amoebas early. This prompted the crew to investigate, and in so doing they discovered the aliens for themselves. While fighting off a bunch of them, one of the amoebas was about to engulf Spock, when Crewman Ramirez somehow got in the way…

Of course, Kirk and the Orion pirate leader (disguised as corporate employee) had a romantic flirtation pretty much throughout the entire evening, which annoyed Bones and made Spock’s player delight in ruining the moment by constantly interjecting his scientific observations and theories at inopportune times. (I suppose I should clarify that the Orion pirate leader was female, but not an Orion. Still, she led a bunch of Orions.) Fun stuff.

The most surprising moment of the night was when the Orion ship finally fired on the Enterprise and made a run for it, Kirk and the landing party was still aboard the station and Sulu was dealing with the aliens in the Enterprise shuttle bay. This left Lt. Uhura in command of the Enterprise, as she was the ranking officer on the bridge! She wasted no time in pursuing the Orions and locked a tractor beam on them, preventing their escape! Considering she never did anything remotely as interesting on the TV series, this was pretty awesome!

Speaking of the shuttle bay, Sulu and company were having a hard time with one of the space amoebas. They opened fire on it and failed to do any damage at all. Then Nurse Chapel, of all people, stepped up and vaporized the alien without any problem whatsoever.

Finally, as any GM knows, your players will throw a wrench into any plans you are foolish enough to make. In this case, you would expect the story to unfold something like: board the station; discover the transporter accident; deal with the aliens; deal with the pirates; fix the broken power relay; save the station personnel by restoring their transporter signatures; capture the Orion vessel. The end.

Instead, it was: board the station, encounter the aliens, flirt with the Orion pirate captain, fix the power relay, inadvertently help the Orions steal the transporter tech from right under your nose, discover the transporter malfunction, chase the pirates, capture the Orion vessel, get the transporter tech back, and (eventually) save the station personnel by restoring their transporter signatures. The end.

I like Star Trek: Adventures, although I will say there’s a lot to keep track of. Seeing how it was my first time running the system, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do everything right. It was a fun time, and it was great to see some of my old friends around the gaming table again. (One of our players hadn’t played a game in over twenty years!) I’m hoping we get to play more often, possibly with original TNG-era characters. Fingers crossed!

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