Grognard? Me? Guess so.

What is a grognard?

The term “grognard” has traditionally been used to denote an “old soldier”; but has become a pejorative term that, until recently, was used (usually in a good-natured manner) almost solely in the wargaming hobby. It means a “crusty old wargamer-type”; someone who is likely to grumble and complain about new versions of rules and/or miniatures; or about historical accuracy (or more likely, lack thereof); how much better things used to be, like when H. G. Wells’s Little Wars was the only wargame rules in town.

A grognard is a stereotype. This is important to know, because like any stereotype, it is never universally accurate. Most grognards likely arrived at miniature wargaming via the old cardboard counter-filled, massive bookshelf wargames like those put out by Avalon Hill or Victory Games; games that could (and did) often take days or weeks to play. They will happily argue ad infinitum about the brilliance or stupidity of the tactics and strategies of historical generals; or about the differing outcome of historical battles had the terrain or force composition been different, or if something like dysentery hadn’t played a part; or about the correct color of the straps on the uniforms of Hessian mercenaries employed during the American War of Independence (I said the correct color, not the one you painted on your miniatures). They’re also stereotypically frugal (i.e. cheap), especially where miniatures are concerned; most favor the smaller scales (10mm-6mm) because of the relatively low-cost of the miniatures, and also because to a grognard, the actual miniatures are far less important than the game itself. Grognards will play the same historical battle over and over and over again, with little to no variation. They consider this fun. They are notorious gatekeepers to the wargaming hobby, so as you would expect, grognards really only get along with other grognards.

So: am I a grognard? No. Not in the wargaming sense, anyway. (Although I will admit to some frustration at the “new rules every two years” trend in wargaming. But I don’t bitch about it much. I just don’t buy the new rules. I don’t get to play wargames very often nowadays anyway.) However; lately, the term “grognard” has been broadened to include roleplaying gamers. It has been applied in this manner by younger, newer gamers; and it is most certainly meant to be insulting.

This week I’m turning 48. You think I’d have a thicker skin by now, but no. I recently listened to a Technical Difficulties podcast (or perhaps it was The Roleplaying Exchange; they are pretty closely enmeshed with regard to rotating players), and one of the regulars used the term to generalize gamers older than he, implying we were all cut from the same cloth. I felt a knee-jerk resentment to being categorized as a roleplaying grognard because of my age. That’s because I still associate the term with hobby gatekeeping, and I’m not a gatekeeping kind of guy. I like to think I encourage everyone I can. The fact that I find this particular guy smarmy, annoying and a colossal douchebag at the best of times is only part of the reason I immediately wanted to punch him in the fucking face (a sure sign of grognardism if ever there was one).

As near as I can guess, to assholes like this genius, a RPG grognard is defined as a combination of any and/or all of the following:

  • a gamer that was born at any point in the prior millennium; and/or
  • a person who has run or played in a roleplaying game that was published prior to 2010; and/or
  • a person who is old enough and/or educated enough to know the actual definition of the term “grognard”; and/or
  • a person who is aware of who E. Gary Gygax was, who understands that roleplaying games were a thing that existed prior to Critical Role, and that (despite his admitted awesomeness) Matt Mercer didn’t create them; and/or
  • a gamer who remembers a time when roleplaying games, comic books, science fiction, action figures and miniature wargames were all considered nerdy, and it was far from cool to be a nerd; and/or
  • a gamer who remembers there was a time where there was no such thing as the Internet, and rulebooks existed in a form other than pdf, and who perhaps still prefers physical media to electronic; and/or
  • a gamer who doesn’t want anyone new in “their” hobby, because anyone new isn’t doing it right.

I meet all the above criteria except for the last one, plus I want to punch that guy in the face so fucking bad; so I guess, by his standards, anyway, I’m a roleplaying grognard.

But…with a little word-switching Hocus-Pocus, I’m gonna blow your mind and show that gatekeeping isn’t solely a grognard thing to do. (Fun facts: Hocus-Pocus is an olde-tyme word magicians used to use when pulling off tricks, and also the title of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Also, Kurt Vonnegut was a brilliant and transformative writer, in case that wasn’t apparent for all the young’uns out there. See? I can be a dick, too.)

Let’s look at that last criterion there, and let’s switch the word “new” with “old”. Anyone “old” in the hobby isn’t doing it right; so say those new gamers in the hobbies we enjoy who complain most vociferously of grognardism. Hypocritical? Yes. Ironic? Indeed; certainly by Alanis Morrissette’s dubious definition, anyway (Alanis Morrissette is a musician who actually plays musical instruments in addition to singing her own songs, for all you young’uns out there). Gatekeeping? You bet.

So, I’m not doing it right because:

  • As a GM, I prefer roleplaying to roll-playing; but I most often run games in which players roll actual dice to determine the success or failure of their characters’ actions; in other words, there’s a definite game mechanic;
  • As a GM, I will apply appropriate consequences to stupid or ill-considered character actions (e.g. “I kill the wizard’s cat to show him I mean business”);
  • As a GM or a player, I don’t want your ambiguously-aged (but probably too fucking young) anime-inspired “cat-girl”; your sparkly vampire; your over-the-top evil psychopath; your personal kink proxy or your stupid homebrewed were-scorpion character (yes, that actually happened) in my group, regardless of whether you believe it limits your personal expression;
  • As a GM or a player, I will never, regardless of your gender or the gender of your character, roleplay a sex scene with you, whether you think that makes me inhibited and/or intolerant or not (again, yes, that actually happened);
  • As a GM, I prefer you put your fucking phone or tablet away for the duration of the game session; checking it only during breaks or in emergencies, because I consider it rude and disrespectful to your fellow gamers (I know, crazy, right?);
  • As a GM, unless it’s a one-shot or the first time in a new system; I expect you to be somewhat familiar with the setting, the basic rules and your character’s capabilities (e.g. you don’t need to know every episode of Star Trek, but you should at least know what a Klingon is).

The above list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just what I could think about before my Zoom meeting. To the “new” gamers who subscribe to this viewpoint, i.e. that all the above means I’m doing it wrong and therefore am a grognard (especially that asshole on the podcast), I say, loudly and proudly:

Get off my fucking lawn.

My Latest Dumb Idea

Few of us get to be what we wanted to be when we grow up. When I was 5 years old in 1977, I saw Star Wars. I wanted to be a spaceship driver. (My father still has my 5-year-old voice on tape saying so.) Then a few years later, I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark; and I wanted to be an archaeologist. Not because I had any interest in the ancient world or the people that lived in it, but because archaeologists used bullwhips to swing on things, and that was what I knew I was meant to do.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll turn 48 years old. There’s still time.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve re-watched all the Indiana Jones movies before they’re due to leave Netflix at the end of the year. I haven’t seen some of them in a long time. Raiders is still the best, followed closely by Last Crusade. Temple of Doom wasn’t bad; and it was better than Crystal Skull for sure. As far as that one…it wasn’t as terrible as I remember it; but it sure wasn’t great, either.

Throughout this re-watch, I began to wonder…how much does a bullwhip cost? Well, settle down, amigos, because this is one rabbit-hole I went down so you don’t have to. Here’s what I discovered about bullwhips.

Bullwhips come in lengths from 6 feet to as long as 16 feet or more. The shorter the whip the easier it is to crack; the longer the whip the tougher it is to handle. Nowadays, the best whips are made from kangaroo hide (whip-cracking is pretty big Down Under); but they still use cowhide, too. Many modern whips are made from paracord. My eyes glazed over while reading about plaits and the “belly” of the whip; I gather it’s important stuff but I didn’t really care. The more plaits a whip has, the more pliable and responsive it is. In other words, the better the quality; kind of like a thread count in sheets. 16 plaits is better than 12, is better than 10, etc.

The general consensus is you get what you pay for, and a decently-made beginner bullwhip will likely cost you around $150 USD for a 6′-8′ whip, $250 for anything over 10 feet. (One thing is certain, the cheap whip I use when I dress in my Catwoman costume won’t work. Enjoy that image.)

So, I got to thinking about the practicalities of buying a whip.

I’m 6’1″ tall and I have plenty of backyard space, so I would likely try my hand at an 8′-10′ whip. Anything smaller and I would probably whip myself (which is apparently something you better get used to doing, especially in the beginning); anything larger would require Herculean strength that, at my advanced age, I sadly no longer possess. As a general rule, I don’t believe in buying cheap shit; for example, when I needed a reciprocating saw a couple of years ago, I bought the good one. A worker is only as good as his tools, after all. (In my case, my tools are usually much better than my level of skill would require.) In other words, I’m looking at spending about $250.00 USD to start this new hobby of mine; i.e. the hobby of whipping stuff.

I began to look at whips, and research whip manufacturers. Based on my recently acquired expertise and on the opinions of anonymous (but no doubt wise) Internet whippers all around the world, I dismissed inferior (or what I considered inferior) whips outright and homed in on the good quality bullwhips; the ones that must be better because they cost more. If I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right, damn it.

As my collection of unpainted miniatures proves, resisting impulse buys has never been a strength of mine. But I generally pause when I’m about to spend over 200 bucks on anything. I decided I’d sleep on it. I did, and by the next morning I had pretty much forgotten about my whip obsession completely.

At least until about a week later, when I was shopping on Amazon, and this blue paracord bullwhip popped up in my “suggestions for you based on your browsing activity” window. I thought nothing of it, believing I was alone. Until…

“What’s that?” I heard from behind me.

“Nothing,” I said. I suddenly felt like I got caught watching porn.

“Why are you looking at whips?”

I shrugged. I resisted the urge to turn around. The silence was deafening. It seems an answer was expected. I began to wish I had been caught watching porn instead.

I sighed, and it all came out of me. I confessed the whole thing. I blabbed about how my re-watch of the Indiana Jones movies led to my new bullwhip obsession, which led me to research buying a bullwhip, because I know could get really good with one and that would be cool, and I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist and…”

“Oh, please.”

Two words. That’s all it took.

That was when I began to reconsider the whole bullwhip purchase; to think about a better way to spend $250.00.

I thought about the utility and practicality of becoming a bullwhip adept. What do you use a bullwhip for, really? I mean, Indiana Jones is quite skilled with his; but I suppose that there may be a bit of creative license there. Am I going to whip someone? No. It’s not exactly a weapon ideal for home defense. You can’t swing a bullwhip in the house (I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to, even if I could); and unless I’m attacked in my backyard by someone who is taking their sweet time approaching me, it’s not a good option there, either. Can you really swing on a whip? Probably. The initial swing would be fun, but getting your whip untangled from the ground is probably going to be more of a pain in the ass than the trip was worth in the first place.

Whips make a loud noise. That’s about it. I have to assume the novelty of making a loud noise will wear off quickly, probably the first time I injure myself. And self-injury is pretty much assured. Whips hurt; that’s why being flogged is generally considered an unpleasant experience.

So, knowing what I know about me, here’s what would have likely happened had I gone ahead with this:

I would have gleefully uncoiled my new whip and tried to crack it. I would do this until I cracked it successfully, or more likely until my arm got tired or I cut my own flesh. Then I would either get bored or get upset, depending on whether I cracked it or cut myself. I would put the whip down and not pick it up again. Occasionally, I would glare at it, remembering that I spent two hundred fifty dollars on it.

That would be a really fucking stupid thing to do, so I’m not doing it.

Theatre of the Mind

Irony. I has it.

This whole COVID-19 pandemic really sucks. I am extremely fortunate. I know this. My pandemic experience is not typical; here in the US or around the world. Throughout this crazy time I’ve been getting paid. I have a personality that does not suffer much from isolation. I have hobbies and interests that keep me occupied. I am lucky.

One of those hobbies is gaming, specifically roleplaying games. Back to the irony: I have played RPGs with friends more often during the pandemic than I did pre-COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, I couldn’t get my friends to commit to a game night if I gave them three months advance notice. Now it seems when everyone is stuck at home, they have more free time; or at least more discretion in how they use it. We’ve been using Roll20 and other free apps to run roleplaying games over the web, and it’s worked well, for the most part. It’s even allowed me to reconnect with one of my oldest and best friends who lives all the way across the country and play games with him, which is a very good thing.

The upside: since March, when everything started to shut down (at least where I am, in a state with a governor who isn’t a spineless suck-ass who puts loyalty to a fucking political party above a public health emergency…sorry, don’t get me started), I’ve run Star Trek Adventures and Slasher Flick, and I’ve been a player in a steady D&D 5th edition campaign. Like clockwork, I have played a game every week with 4-5 friends with no problems. We made a schedule and stuck to it. You know: like adults do, when apparently they don’t have the freedom of not being in lockdown to hold them back.

I hear you. Shut up, Piper. You’re getting what you want: you’re playing games, right? Why are you still complaining about it?

Because I miss gaming more than ever. Real gaming. I miss being around a table with my friends. I miss rolling dice. I miss passing the potato chips and ordering pizza. I miss the digressions and the jokes, and the bullshitting and catching up that takes time away from the game. I miss the pantomimed actions and the facial expressions, neither of which really come through well over a webcam. I miss a game free of technical difficulties. I miss having the need for a GM screen.

I miss my friends. Don’t tell them I said that. I’ll deny it. None of them read this blog anyway. But it’s true. I miss those fucking assholes with all my heart.

Because I am old, we have traditionally played games that are more “theatre of the mind” than actual map-and-miniatures games. Again, ironic; considering I’ve collected miniatures since I started playing rpgs, and since I (at least) am certainly a full-blown miniature wargamer as well. However; when running or playing in a roleplaying game I prefer to imagine the action and the setting, only resorting to hastily scrawled maps or pictures should they be needed to convey vital information or remove confusion.

Why do I prefer this? Because theatre of the mind forces things into a first person perspective. Things are happening to and being imagined by you, the player, not observed from a godlike, top-down strategic map that shows exactly how many 5-foot squares are between you and that bandit over there and what his initiative score is.

Let’s talk about that bandit. The bandit scowls at you, gripping his hand axe, his knuckles white. The once-fine weapon has been used as a tool, its blade notched and worn. He is lanky, malnourished, and unwashed; and does not have the look of one who enjoys his work. His leather armor is surprisingly-well cared for save for a shiny patch on his left forearm, where it is obvious he has often stropped his knife. Perhaps he, like so many in this war-ravaged land, was once a guardsman or soldier; now reduced to the life of a road agent, robbing and stealing to survive. The bandit stares through the eyes of a man with nothing to lose, for he has lost everything already.

I’d be willing to bet you have a pretty good idea of what that bandit looks like in your mind now. Guess what? I bet it’s not exactly the same as what MY bandit looks like. Sure, I provided all the necessary details (perhaps too many) to form a picture, but the picture was YOUR formation. What colors is he wearing? What color are his eyes? His hair? His skin? How long is his hair, if he has any? Does he have any scars? I never described any of those things.

In the tactical environment of online roleplaying, none of that matters, because as soon as you encountered the bandit the DM plopped down a virtual token with a generic picture of a guy who likely looks nothing like what anyone pictured from the description; but now becomes what the bandit looks like for everyone. Congratulations. Your menacing bandit has been reduced to a crappy piece of clip art. (And yes, I know you can make your own tokens and you’re not reduced to clip art; but once again, a token is a token; not a bandit, or a Deep One, or a dragon.) Your thrilling, imaginative combat has now degenerated into a strategic, turn-based board game. Which would be fine for me, if I was playing a board game.

My gripes are in no way reflective of the quality of the games I have participated in. We’re all working with what tools we have. I miss being around an actual table, although I would much rather play over Discord than not play at all. I’m playing in a few hours, as a matter of fact.

I just can’t wait until we’re all back together again.

Star Trek Adventures: Outpost 51; The Inquiry

The crew returned from the Shakedown Cruise of the U.S.S. Adventure two months ago. Since then, the vessel has been docked at the Denali substation at Outpost 51 pending an inquiry into the loss of Captain Boardman and the subsequent actions taken by Commander Logan, particularly those that caused a diplomatic incident with the Cardassian Union and the Ferengi Alliance. The ship received minor repairs, mostly cosmetic; while the data collected on the mysterious alien vessel was analyzed and processed. The Maquis agents discovered at the mining colony were sent to Security for interrogation.

The Adventure‘s captain’s chair remained vacant while Starfleet conducted an inquiry. Over the next few weeks, all senior staff and department heads were interviewed by a panel of four of Starfleet’s top brass. The panel was chaired by Admiral Alynna Nechayev, and consisted of Fleet Admiral Shanthi, Admiral Owen Paris, and Captain Tomek.

It was not a trial, at least officially; but it sure felt like one. One by one, the officers were all called before the panel to give statements on their role during the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. Adventure. They faced some hard questions, particularly from Admiral Nechayev, who lived up to her reputation for being no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, and–quite frankly–scary.

“So, to be clear,” she said at one point, “On her very first mission, the Adventure lost her Captain and her Chief Science Officer, both of whom seem to have been mentally unbalanced; and managed to provoke and antagonize both the Cardassians and the Ferengi, both of whom are demanding concessions and satisfaction from the Federation. Sounds like a resounding success.”

Despite this, Admiral Nechayev seemed mostly concerned with the Cardassians; what they were doing, why they crossed into the Neutral Zone, and what the crew’s opinion was of the Cardassian officers they interacted with: Legate Jabrel and Gul Drazel. Fleet Admiral Shanthi and Admiral Paris questioned Commander Logan’s decisions and the decisions of Captain Boardman, up to and including his rash decision to abandon ship on a seemingly suicidal mission. They asked if there was any warning of Boardman’s tenuous mindset beforehand; any indication that he should have been relieved of duty by his First Officer ( Commander Logan) or by the Chief Medical Officer. They also asked about Chief Science Officer Shazak Fulexian; wondering aloud how anyone so unstable could be tapped to lead the science department on a Federation starship.

Throughout the proceedings, Captain Tomek said very little. In fact, he seemed to accept the official version of events presented at face value.

Eventually, the discussion turned to who would captain the Adventure now that Boardman was gone. As a new, Akira-class vessel; the Adventure would need a strong captain. Although Commander Logan assumed command under dire circumstances, was she the right person to sit in the captain’s chair permanently?

Admiral Nechayev made the case that Commander Logan is known to the Cardassians now; that putting her in command of the Adventure may be sending a message to the Cardassians that “cowboy diplomacy” is an option that is on the table, should it be required. This term elicited a collective chuckle from the three admirals; but predictably, Captain Tomek, a Vulcan, showed no reaction. Rather, he began to speak.

“I feel it is necessary to remind everyone that I never supported the decision to give Captain Boardman command of the Adventure.”

Fleet Admiral Shanthi sighed. “Gloating doesn’t become you, Tomek.”

“Gloating is something humans do,” said Tomek. “It is illogical to take pleasure in the knowledge you were correct when your counsel went unheeded, nonetheless. Rather, it is more productive to consider a future course of action in light of past lessons. I merely state that I believe now, as I did then, that there are better candidates for command of the Adventure. Commander Logan has exhibited sound judgement and has performed her duties competently. But she is not the best choice.”

Admiral Paris spoke up: “I feel like we’ve discussed this before.“

“That is because we have discussed it before,” Tomek said. “Ronan Lyko should captain the Adventure. It is only logical.”

“Captain Lyko commands the Ostrander,” said Admiral Nechayev.

“An antiquated, Cheyenne-class vessel, well past its prime,” said Tomek. “His abilities and experience would be better utilized in command of the Adventure.”

Fleet Admiral Shanthi cleared her throat. “After Wolf 359, Captain Lyko was offered his choice of vessels. He has made his feelings on the matter clear. He wishes to remain in command of the Ostrander.”

Tomek looked at each of the admirals in turn. “It is my understanding that Captain Lyko’s is still a Starfleet officer, and thus subject to assignment, regardless of his personal wishes.”

“Might I suggest we table this conversation for now?” Admiral Nechayev rang the bell to adjourn the inquiry. “This inquiry has concluded. You will be notified of our findings within a few days.” Everyone slowly filed out of the room.

The Adventure was docked for the duration of the inquiry; thus the senior staff was assigned to other duties around Outpost 51 and the Denali substation until it was concluded. Lieutenant Kl’rt Beta, Helm Officer, had to content himself with piloting shuttlecraft between the outpost and the substation, carrying personnel and cargo back and forth. It was a big step down from being at the conn of an Akira-class starship. Since all he really did was pilot the Adventure, his actions weren’t in question as far as the inquiry panel was concerned. His testimony was brief, merely verifying the version of events as presented by Commander Logan and the ship’s own combat data.

Chief of Security Daris Pak had a bit more to account for. She was in charge of the tactical station; so it fell to her to explain every phaser blast and photon torpedo launched during the course of the Adventure’s clash with the Cardassians and Ferengi. Until the Adventure was flying again she was assigned to menial duties aboard the Denali docking substation; cargo inspections and routine security details: a complete waste of her talent and ability. She supplemented her time by teaching self-defense classes to enlisted personnel who would likely never have need for her training. One of her classes was disrupted by a few rowdy Klingons who scoffed at Starfleet security training, since it emphasized de-escalation and non-injurious conflict resolution. Commander Pak took the opportunity to instruct one Klingon in particular about the danger of underestimating an opponent.

Chief Engineer Suvak was most worried about retaining his post aboard the Adventure; not because of anything he did or failed to do; but rather because he never would have been assigned to the Adventure in the first place if it wasn’t for Captain Boardman. Boardman was a strong advocate for the Vulcan, despite the fact the Suvak had spent decades in an alternate dimension. As a result of a transporter accident, he was now somewhat behind as far as current Starfleet technology was concerned. Nonetheless, Boardman saw something in Suvak that made him pass up more qualified candidates in favor of the Vulcan. In light of his obvious mental instability, would Boardman’s favor ultimately harm Suvak?

Suvak decided to spend his time as productively as possible. He proposed some modifications to the Adventure: remove the extensive shuttle bays in favor of improved power systems. After all, the Adventure didn’t need two runabouts and six shuttlecraft. It seemed destined for a more martial role; improved power systems would ensure the ship had power to phasers when it needed to fight, or power to warp drive when it needed to flee; and it would still allow Adventure to carry one runabout and three shuttlecraft. HIs proposal was accepted. He and Chief Station Engineer Malcolm Khofi spent most of the two months overseeing the modifications.

Commander Logan, meanwhile, was temporarily relieved of command duties while the Inquiry was ongoing. When not answering the panel’s questions, she spent most of her time in her quarters, wondering if she made the correct decisions in light of what had occurred. She was confident she had; in hindsight, she would not have done anything differently. She did not know either Captain Boardman or Commander Fulexian well, nor was she a counselor. She had no way of predicting their aberrant behavior.

She received an unexpected visit from Captain Tomek, who came to her quarters to inform her that the Maquis operative, Hoddek, had finally cracked under interrogation and was giving up some valuable information. Tomek was on his way to the Denali substation to meet with Kalar Duren, the Betazoid interrogator who was questioning Hoddek, and wanted Logan to accompany him. Duren was both Counselor and Chief of Security aboard the substation, dividing his time between the two positions as needed. Tomek seemed to hold him in high regard.

Tomek and Logan met in shuttle bay 3 an hour later to find Lieutenant Beta awaiting them. It was the first time Logan had seen her helm officer since the Adventure’s return. Beta flew the two senior officers to the substation, where he left them to pass some time playing dom-jot with Master Chief Engineer Holt Belmont, a likeable enlisted man whom everyone–including Beta–seemed to owe a favor. Along the way to the interrogation room, Logan picked up Commander Suvak, who took the opportunity to brief Logan on the modifications to the Adventure as they walked. All three arrived at the Security Office to find Lt. Commander Pak was there already, checking her duty roster.

Suvak, Pak, Logan and Tomek met with Kalar Duren to hear the results of the interrogation. Hoddek revealed that a high-ranking individual operating around Deep Space Nine was a key Maquis agent. He claimed not to know the person’s identity, and Duren believed him. Still, it wasn’t long ago that Lieutenant Commander Calvin Hudson had deserted Starfleet to join the Maquis; causing a significant amount of damage and security risk. Tomek recalled that Hudson was a personal friend of Commander Benjamin Sisko. Now, news of another high-ranking Maquis operating around Deep Space Nine was of great concern, and a bit too coincidental for the Vulcan’s liking.

Upon leaving the Security Office, Tomek pulled Logan aside. “I see no need to draw this out. The panel has decided that you are to retain command of the Adventure. Congratulations, Captain Logan. Unfortunately, there will be little time for formal recognition. Please ensure the Adventure is ready to depart, and make any changes to your personnel as you see fit. We leave for Deep Space Nine in three days.”

Logan saluted Captain Tomek, who returned the gesture solemnly. “Thank you, Captain.” She said. It sounded odd to her, not having to call him “sir” any longer.

Word of the Adventure’s destination spread rather quickly as Logan assembled her crew. Over the dom-jot table, Holt Belmont grinned at Lieutenant Beta. :So,” he said, “I hear you’re back behind the wheel, headed to DS9.”

“That’s what they tell me,” said Beta.

Belmont’s smile widened. “Beta, buddy…I was wondering if you could do me a favor…”

Svala

First off, check out all the amazing entries for Old Man Paint’s #oldorcs challenge, over on his blog. There are some really talented painters that took part; some of their work is truly stunning! (You can also see my entry: it’s the one that looks like shit compared to all the others! 🙂 )

Another year, and another missed opportunity to again host Dwarvember. I keep telling myself I should bring it back each year, but I was kind of busy last month between #Oldorcs and The Vamp for Vampifan stuff, and I plumb forgot about it. Maybe I’ll bring back WizarDecember next month instead. Subconsciously, though, Dwarvember must have been working on me, because the first miniature I painted after the Red Duke was this one: Svala, from Hasslefree miniatures.

Regular visitors to this blog will be familiar with my love of all things Dwarvish; but for those who are popping over from Instagram or who happen to have come here accidentally, suffice it to say that I find two things coolest above all else: dwarves and bagpipers. And if you put both those things together, you may very well bring tears of joy to my eyes.

Anyway, I like Hasslefree miniatures a lot; but I usually purchase Kev’s Modern adventurers and martial artists rather than his Fantasy miniatures (even though they’re really good). That’s when I purchase Hasslefree at all; shipping rates are utter bullshit right now and have been for quite a while, so I don’t often “buy British” nowadays. That sucks for me, as there are some great miniatures to be had from companies like Crooked Dice and Heresy (not to mention Wargames Terrain Workshop, a company I just discovered I am powerless to resist, shipping be damned. Hi, Dave!). While looking for something fun to paint, I stumbled across Svala here. I must have tacked her on to an order somewhere and forgot. The last time I ordered from Hasslefree was at least four or five years ago.

Anyway, I decided to paint her up as an older, experienced Dwarf woman; someone who hung up her adventuring gear and now spends most days at the forge. Of course, she’s still a Dwarf; so her warhammer is never very far away.

She seemed like a good enough reason for a post as any. Hope you like her!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: +49

Miniatures Painted: +55

Total: +6 ( I went on a bit of a spree, as I usually do this time of year. Better make up some time!)

Star Trek Adventures: The Big Sleep Conclusion

After a brief hiatus to play some D&D 5th edition, I have started up my Star Trek Adventures campaign again. While preparing to document the continuing adventures of the U.S.S. Adventure, I realized I had left the story hanging several months ago, and never returned to it. Sure enough, in my unpublished WordPress posts, there was this account of our last gaming session: the end of the “Shakedown Cruise” of the U.S.S. Adventure, The Big Sleep: Conclusion. If you need a recap, the story immediately preceding this can be found here.

So, to resume:

Aboard the alien cylinder, Commander Fulexian was losing his patience. Despite his best efforts, the hatch to the interior of the object remained inaccessible. To make matters worse, the Cardassian boarding party was on its way to the away team’s location. Soon they would be trapped between them and the hatch. The Andorian was the Adventure’s science officer, not security chief; but even he could see that this was not a strategically advantageous position to maintain.

He ordered the team withdraw to avoid contact with the Cardassians. They would likely have no more luck accessing the hatch than he had, anyway. The Cardassians pursued the away team, pausing just long enough to vaporize the helpless Ferengi salvage crew in retaliation for the attack on their ship, when a stroke of luck occurred: the outer walls of the cylinder shifted suddenly, cutting of the Cardassians from the away team. With a little more room to breathe, Fulexian ordered his team to resume their exploration.

Meanwhile, aboard the Adventure, Lieutenant Beta informed Commander (now Acting-Captain) Logan that the Cardassians had some reinforcements on the way…three Hideki-class cruisers were entering the system, course uncertain but probably bound for the cylinder. The odds were changing, and Logan knew she needed to protect the science outpost as her primary duty. She ordered Beta to lay in a course to intercept the Sindral before Gul Drazel could reach New Coriolanus.

The conflict was swift and decisive. Gul Drazel was not inclined to further discussion, especially since once the Adventure gave chase, the Ferengi took the opportunity to destroy the helpless Cardassian ship. The Sindral fired on the Adventure, but the shields held. In response, Lieutenant Commander Pak targeted the Sindral’s weapons and engines with the phaser arrays. The shots blew through the Cardassian shields, disabling the vessel and leaving it adrift. Commander Logan berated Daimon Nogrix (who had returned to the bridge) for the cowardly actions of his crew and banished him from the bridge once again, while the crew of the Adventure took the brief respite to restore power and repair the shields before the Cardassian reinforcements arrived.

It was then that Lieutenant Beta informed Commander Logan that there was another Cardassian vessel on a course to the system, Legate Jabrel’s ship: the Ma’bran, a Keldon-class destroyer, bigger and more heavily-armed than the Sindral. To make matters worse, some kind of dimensional disturbance was forming several million kilometers away from the cylinder’s present position, directly in its path.

Aboard the cylinder, the away team discovered a strange anomaly of thier own. There was some kind of portal opening in the very corridor they were presently exploring. Wasting no time, and in accordance with his value “Defeat Ignorance”, Commander Fulexian ordered the away team through the portal. They arrived in the vast expanse of the interior of the cylinder, somehow separated from where they were by a dimensional barrier.

The away team found themselves surrounded by crisscrossing lattices and struts containing row upon row of smooth, ovular pods made from the same alien metal that seemed to defy tricorder classification. Although there were no life signs present, both Lieutenant Suvak and Ensign Tamral could sense the pervasive presence of a great many consciousnesses, all utterly alien and incomprehensible. Scans of the pods revealed there was indeed organic matter inside; but matter that showed no signs of life or decomposition. After several more scanning attempts, they were able to determine the pods contained vaguely humanoid forms, roughly 2.5 meters tall, with long limbs and featureless faces.

There was no power to any of the pods; or indeed, to anything in the cylinder, so far as they could tell. If these were stasis pods, they were not being maintained by any conventional means. The away team was metaphorically and literally in the dark.

Repeated attempts to reach the collective consciousness, either telepathically or empathically, had failed. Commander Fulexian, thoroughly frustrated, made the decision to open one of the pods, heedless of the possible consequences or ramifications. He simply had to know…

Meanwhile, the Adventure’s readings of the alien cylinder showed something alarming: it was beginning to accelerate, heading straight towards the now fully-formed dimensional rift. It would pass through it in a little under ten minutes, taking the entire away team with it unless Commander Logan could get them back aboard Adventure in time. The Sindral was disabled, and the Prized Possession was soon to have its hands full with the Cardassian reinforcements. For the time being, New Coriolanus was out of danger. She ordered the Adventure to close with the cylinder and beam the away team back, once they were in transporter range.

“Open it up,” ordered Commander Fulexian. The rest of the away team exchanged glances.

“But, sir…” protested Ensign Tamral, “we don’t have enough information..”

“I said open it!” yelled Fulexian, his Andorian antennae quivering. But before anyone could do anything, the entire away team was beamed back aboard Adventure to be met by the smiling face of Transporter Chief O’Malley.

“I got ’em, Commander..er, I mean, Captain,” said O’Malley.

“Good news,” said Logan. “Away team, report to your posts.”

The away team filed out of the transporter room. All except Commander Fulexian. He pulled his phaser and shot O’Malley, stunning the hapless transporter chief. Then he hurriedly set the transporter controls to beam himself back aboard the cylinder.

He had to know.

By the time Commander Logan got word of Fulexian’s actions, it was too late. Defying physics and logic; and seemingly without any known propulsion system; the cylinder accelerated to warp speed and entered the rift. It closed seconds later, taking both the alien cylinder and Chief Science Officer Shazak Fulexian with it.

All that was left was to mop up. Daimon Nogrix was beamed back aboard his ship, the Prized Possession. Since there was no profit to be had now that the alien cylinder was gone, and since he was soon to be facing three Cardassian corvettes and a Keldon-class destroyer on his own (Commander Logan made it clear he could expect no further assistance from the Adventure), he made the tactical decision to withdraw, vowing to report the actions of Captain Boardman and Commander Logan to his government. Legate Jabrel’s ship, the Ma’bren, went to the aid of Gul Drazel’s ship, the Sindral; while the three corvettes pursued the Ferengi. The Adventure took up a protective position around New Coriolanus, warily watching the Cardassians; but once repairs were complete, the Cardassians left the system without a word. Strange.

The Adventure remained in orbit around New Coriolanus until a small detachment of Federation ships arrived. These ships would maintain a presence in the system to ensure the Cardassians didn’t return. With the safety of the science outpost sorted, Commander Logan ordered the Adventure to break orbit and return to Outpost 51.

She was not looking forward to making her report…

A Vamp for Vampifan Part 2: The Red Duke

Well, it took me long enough, but I finally finished my vampire miniature painted this month in honor of Bryan Scott, a.k.a. Vampifan; a gamer who sadly passed on earlier this year. I chose The Red Duke from Games Workshop, a classic Vampire Counts miniature that I have had since its release in the late 90’s. Had I known Vampifan better (or at all), I probably would have chose something different, i.e. one that looked a bit more like Ingrid Pitt rather than Christopher Lee.

No one tells me anything. I blame Roger.

Anyway, once I got him positioned how I wanted, I gave him another coat of Vallejo black surface primer and did a quick drybrush of Citadel Celestra Grey to underpaint the model and highlight everything I needed to see in order to paint (my eyes ain’t what they used to be). Then I got to work.

Behold the results of my efforts. I have to say, since I started using Instagram and was forced to begin using my iPhone to take pictures, I have noticed that pictures taken with my actual camera really suck in comparison to anything I take with my phone. For some reason, if I try to load my iPhone pictures into WordPress, it doesn’t work. Normally I would blame Roger for this (and everything else); but it’s far more likely that WordPress is to blame.

Please forgive the shitty quality of these pictures, is what I’m saying.

I followed Duncan Rhodes Jr’s GW recipe for vampire skin: Rakarth Flesh base; followed by an Agrax Earthshade wash; highlight with Flayed One Flesh and finally with Pallid Wych Flesh. Of course, the only skin the Duke is showing is his face; but I think it looks suitably vampiric. The armor is a mix of four or five red washes and paints from different manufacturers (please don’t ask me what I used), as well as the same number of gold metallics. The one thing I’m unsure of is the purple…the more I look at it, the more I think it should be black. But I wanted to add a bit of color to the Duke besides red. What do you think?

Speaking of purple, THIS happened while I was in the midst of painting: I spilled my Druchii Violet wash all over the place, because I accidentally swatted the shitty GW flip-top bottle cap and knocked the whole pot over. Fuck you, GW. Between your paints that dry up far too quickly and your fucking stubborn resistance to dropper bottles, I’ve about fucking had it with your planned obsolescence business model. Know what I’ve never accidentally spilled? ANY PAINT IN A FUCKING DROPPER BOTTLE. Like Vallejo. Or Army Painter. Or Reaper. Or any cheap-ass craft paint I can buy at Wal-Mart. All these paints seem to last a hell of a lot longer, too. Coincidence? DOUBT IT.

Sorry. I’ve been drinking.

One thing I am really happy about is using the cape from the Heroclix Hobgoblin. I did this out of necessity, because I somehow lost the Red Duke’s own cape over the years. (Very unlike me. I’m sure it will turn up somewhere.) I think it looks a lot better than his “official” cape would look; and it adds a bit of realism to the motion of the rearing skeletal steed. (Also, it turns out I didn’t need to sculpt any reins, so…yaay me!)

As a small bonus, I also repainted this Horrorclix Nosferatu. Unlike the Red Duke, it took me about 30 minutes in total to rebase and repaint him, so it’s hardly a huge accomplishment. Still, I thought I’d include him in my Vampifan tribute.

True to form, I waited until the last possible minute to post these miniatures. I hope Vampifan would have liked them. It’s Halloween, and if there wasn’t a pandemic, I’d be expecting trick-or-treaters at my door in a few hours; but it’s looking like it’s going to be a quiet night.

Perfect night, in fact, for a vampire movie…

#oldorcs finis

My #oldorcs submission took me longer than anticipated; after all, it’s just one orc model. I should have been able to complete that in an hour or so. But the more I looked at it, the more I put off actually beginning to work on it. I really wanted to capture the Oldhammer painting style; a style I haven’t used since, well, since the Oldhammer days of my youth. I painted the basic green skin tone and left the model to sit for a bit while I prepped my Vamp for Vampifan, the Red Duke.

I’ve been having an odd sleep schedule lately, and I found myself thinking about him at 3 am. It was a night of soaking rain here. Usually that helps me sleep, but I had Ork on the brain. I got up and went to my painting table, and I stared. I stared at the Ork for 15 minutes or so, while the rain came down on my bulkhead. I stared, and he stared back. And then I knew what I was going to do.

I decided to make him a Death Skull; because I’ve always been partial to their blue facepaint. Once I did that, the rest of the model came pretty quickly.

When I painted my Warhammer Orc and Goblin army decades ago, I used the same orc skin recipe on almost all the models: Snot Green base, Goblin Green tone, Scorpion Green highlight (all are avialable through Coat D’Arms nowadays). I didn’t want to do that here, so instead I used a base of Citadel Caliban Green, followed by Reaper’s Turf Green and Meadow Green. This resulted in a slightly darker skin tone than I liked, so I once again added some Scorpion Green highlights. For the blue face paint, I based it in Vallejo Prussian Blue, highlighted with Reaper’s Dragon Blue, and then a final highlight of Vallejo Andrea Blue.

The rest was pretty easy: I just went back to the brightly-colored John Blanche/Mike McVey Oldhammer palette that was the norm when I first started playing. You can see plenty of examples of it in old White Dwarf and Dragon magazines, if you have them; or of course any old codices, catalogs and army books of the time. Barring that, there’s always the Internet…

This was a fun little diversion and my first Instagram painting challenge. Thanks to Old Man Paints for hosting it! There are prizes to be won, but they weren’t my motivation. I really just needed the kick in the pants to get back to hobbying.

Now, back to the bloodsucker…

A Vamp for Vampifan: Part 1

Roger from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table has organized a tribute to fellow blogger and miniatures enthusiast, Vampifan (Bryan Scott), who sadly passed away earlier this year. I knew Vampifan from his blog, Vampifan’s World of the Undead, and from Painting Challenges like Zomtober and Forgotten Heroes. We tread the same internet and blog byways, but I can’t recall ever corresponding with him directly. I wish I had. By all accounts, he was a great guy, a veteran gamer generous with his advice and encouragement; a good friend, a real credit to the hobby, and a man who will be missed.

This month, to honor an absent friend, Roger has proposed painting a vampire miniature in lieu of simply raising a glass in Vampifan’s memory (although feel free to do that, too). I’ve got a vampire miniature, so count me in.

The miniature I have chosen is one I have had for about 25 years: The Red Duke, by Games Workshop. I bought him right around the time GW split their Undead army into Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings. I chose to go with (though never played) Vampire Counts; the Red Duke was to be my general.

As you can see, he was primed black some time ago, and 25 years of being knocked around in a box has worn some of that off. He also had a cape at one point, but I seem to have lost it. No matter. This Heroclix Hobgoblin shall donate his. You may recall this particular Heroclix has already donated his left arm to my Nexus Forgotten Heroes submission earlier this year. I’ve also removed his head and cut him off the glider. Waste not, want not.

You never know when you’ll need an empty goblin glider. Ask Norman Osborn how dangerous they can be…

Anyway, I don’t want him to go on a boring cavalry slotta base. I’m going for a more dynamic pose: I want him on a rearing skeletal steed! The billowing cape should help the overall effect. I chose a 60mm round base, then added a 30mm base for height and applied some Magic Sculpt to level everything out.

A bit of green stuff, drilling and test-pinning, and I think I’m ready for a re-prime. I’m going to paint the Duke and the steed separately before fitting them together. It seems I may have to use more of the dreaded green stuff to sculpt some reins, as his new, more dynamic pose doesn’t “sit the saddle” the way it was intended.

At this stage of the game, I’m happy with what I have. It looks like this could be a good-looking miniature when I’m done, if I don’t fuck up the paint job. Fingers crossed!