Well, I’m not off to a good start with my 2021 Resolutions. I’m already a month behind on my Character of the Month. For Fem-bruary’s character I chose a to paint a fighter; and here she is, better late than never. Nevertheless, being late doesn’t get me off the hook for another character this month, so watch this space for my official submission for March. In the meantime, this miniature is Rhaine, Rogue; from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Werner Klocke. At least, that’s what she’s called now. My blister said “Rhaine, Duelist”; so I decided to stick with that concept for her backstory.
Among the rich and powerful nobility of Evalaux, disputes are often settled at swordspoint. Despite this, most nobles barely know which end of a dueling saber or pistol to hold, never mind how to employ one for its intended purpose. The richest noble houses have fencing masters on staff, ready at a moment’s notice to avenge an insult or satisfy the slighted feelings of their patrons. If, however, yours is not one of the richest houses; or if you have recently suffered the inconvenient (yet permanent) loss of a fencing master due to poor job performance, then you must hire one; else be at the mercy of the social jabs and thrusts of the aristocracy.
Aramise Del’Arco is the most sought-after duelist in Evalaux. She has been offered fencing master positions at the most prestigious and wealthy houses; positions she has declined. Some of the masters of these houses saw her refusal as an insult and made the poor decision to hire a duelist of their own to seek redress. Aramise Del’Arco killed every one without compassion or apology. Thus, the nobility of Evalaux must content themselves with never having the best duelist under permanent retainer; and they must fear that Aramise Del’Arco may one day show up on their own doorstep in the employ of a rival.
Aramise Del’Arco does not work solely for the nobility. In the crowded streets and back alleys of Evalaux, crime lords, cults and other nefarious organizations have all used her talents. Provided you can afford her, Aramise Del’Arco is for hire. But be certain you pay the bill when it comes due.
You may ask why. An illustrative example: before he was known as “No-Nose, One-Eared, One-Eyed Rickard”, Rickard the Butcher was a man to be feared in the dark underworld of Evalaux. When he decided to send three bravos after Aramise Del’Arco rather than pay her fee for her elimination of a rival, Aramise Del’Arco gave him the visually-appropriate nickname he enjoys at present.
As for the bravos, they didn’t get nicknames. They just got dead, and Aramise Del’Arco got her money.
Aramise Del’Arco is a mystery. No fencing master in Evalaux can say she was their pupil or their classmate. No one knows where she came from or how she became so skilled with a blade. All that is known about her is that she is quite possibly the finest swordswoman alive; and that she will work for anyone who meets her price. Once hired, she will work until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. She cannot be bought off or bribed; but make no mistake: she is no assassin. If an opponent dies in the course of a lawful duel, then so be it; but she will not murder for hire, and sad indeed is the person who would make the mistake of assuming so.
I instantly fell in love with the “unofficial” duelist character class when I saw it collected in Best of The Dragon (magazine) Vol. 4, and promptly made one of my longest-running AD&D characters ever: a half-elf duelist who constantly found himself embroiled in political games with players much bigger than he. I used him as an inspiration for this Character of the Month.
For my first character of 2021, I created a cleric. The miniature I chose is the War Priest kit from Avatars of War. I picked this miniature for three reasons: one, because he’s awesome; two, because I have had him for at least 8 years; and three, because he was sitting in my side pile, and I didn’t get to him (or anything else in the pile) like I wanted to in December.
Like most Avatars of War miniatures, this kit offers choices when it comes to assembling your hero. I chose two hammers, but I also had the additional options of giving him a holy symbol or a shield. If you have to ask why I would choose two warhammers over these other options, then welcome to Dead Dick’s Tavern, because you’re obviously new here.
While I painted him, I thought up a back story. Here it is:
Yevona is the goddess of purity and virtue, healing and knowledge in the service of good. Yevona’s clergy are many, and are primarily clerics, although many monasteries and knightly orders serve the goddess as well. Priests, mendicants, friars, and healers revere Yevona, as do all good-aligned beings. Several orders of paladins and warrior-priests protect her Faithful and bring her light where it is needed most (and often welcomed least).
Kurn Velden is one of the goddess’s most devout and zealous faithful, raised as a foundling by the Sisterhood of Chadirra; a female monastic order devoted to healing and wisdom. Although the order is peaceful and pacifistic, there have been times in the Sisterhood’s past when they came under threat. As a result, they created the office of Champion of the Order; a position traditionally filled by the most qualified sister, most often a former warrior or soldier retired to the cloistered life. Kurn Velden is the first male to ever hold the office; because, despite the peaceful teachings of the Sisterhood, Kurn Velden has a talent for war.
Velden wields the Strikers of Undjask; twin magical warhammers forged in centuries past, once borne by one of Yevona’s greatest paladins and imbued with the power of the goddess herself. These divine artifacts are potent against the forces of darkness, especially the undead. (D&D 5E: On a critical hit against any undead creature, the Strikers automatically cast Divine Smite at Velden’s current level. This does not use a spell slot.)
While some in the order disapprove of his zeal for combat, others recognize him as a gift from the goddess; a bulwark against those who would do the order harm. Those who would threaten the Sisterhood will find Kurn Velden all too ready to meet them, singing a song of praise to the goddess with hammers in hand.
These pictures were taken with my new iPhone, which seems to work just fine with WordPress now. I use the same camera for my Instagram photos. The resolution is insane, so any flaws (and there are many) stick out like a sore thumb. Less work for me, but more unforgiving. Good and bad, I guess…
First: Thanks to everyone who took part in Monster May(hem), formerly called Monster Month, but now irrevocably changed, thanks to Roger. You guys are awesome, and there were many impressive and inspirational submissions. It’s my hope to continue this annually. I’ve hosted some challenges in the past, but this one seems to be the one that resonated best with people. In addition to my good buddies Roger (Dick Garrison) and Jeremy (Carrion Crow), I got to meet some new hobbyists, like Matt from PM Painting and Ken from Blue Moose Arts; as well as deepen my acquaintance with Dave from Wargames Terain Workshop, Harry from War Across the Ages, and returning participant Coyotepunc, who once converted a Toob tapir into a wizard (still love that). So, bring on Monster May(hem) 2021!
One of the great things about Zoom meetings where I don’t need to be on camera is that I can do whatever I want while “listening” to whatever drivel someone spouts off. This morning, I decided to paint one of the two monsters I didn’t get to by the end of the month (i.e. yesterday).
This is the “Dung Monster”, by Reaper. It’s their version of the Otyugh, a classic (if somewhat disgusting) Dungeons and Dragons monster. Otyughs live in filth, mostly trash and shit. This is what they usually eat, too (unless some tasty adventurers are doing a dump dive); so you can imagine the smell coming out of that massive cakehole must be pretty horrific.
This miniature came together quite by accident. I wasn’t planning on painting him for Monster May(hem)…in fact, I forgot I even had him. That’s because he was part of that same Craigslist lot that gave me the Marauder Giant I painted yesterday (2 posts in 2 days. BOOM.). I accidentally mixed too much Magic Sculpt while filling the gaps in the giant, so I had to use it lest it dry out (that shit’s not cheap). I rooted around in my insanity pile…kind of like an otyugh roots around in well, shit…and found him. I put him together and thought…”well, if there’s time this month…”
I decided there was time. This thing wasn’t gonna sit on my desk for another year, not when I had an interminably boring Zoom meeting to sit through. So I painted him.
This guy is actually a pretty old Reaper miniature, and he’s all metal, as his current price tag will attest ($12.99!) For those of you who want your own shit monster but don’t want to pay that much, you can find a different version in the Bones range for about 4 bucks. It also looks quite good, but different.
So, how did I achieve this particular shade of putrescence? I gave him a base coat of Vallejo Brown Violet (the violet part of which eludes me), then highlighted him with Army Painter Hemp Rope, followed by Army Painter Sulfide Ochre. Then, I gave it a final highlight of Citadel Zamesi Desert before washing the whole thing in Citadel Athonian Camoshade. Not bad for a couple of hours work, and certainly preferable to sitting through a Zoom meeting without painting anything.
I still have one monster on my desk that I didn’t get to last month. You can expect to see it soon, because like this ugly fellah here, that guy isn’t sitting on my desk for another year, either.
A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I got a notification from Amazon that my package had been delivered, which I found odd because I did not recall ordering anything. I ventured outside and lo and behold, a mysterious box was resting comfortably on my doorstep. I opened it up and found this:
I checked my order history and sure enough, I had ordered it the night before, but I had no memory of doing so. I opened up the liquor cabinet and regarded the level of gin in the bottle with a critical eye.
Well, that one look explained a lot.
My first impression of the game is that it looks like a lot of fun. With rules for running both cinematic games (where you’re likely to die) and campaigns (where you might live), it’s a comprehensive system that’s very true to the source material. The book itself is beautiful, but to be honest it could be about half the size; much of the pages are light on actual text, taken up instead with (beautiful) illustrations and lots of empty space. It’s a design choice, but it also contributes to the cost of the finished product. I don’t know if I’ll ever run it or play it, but it’s a great read nonetheless and it has inspired me to dig out my Dark Horse Aliens comics for some re-reading.
I have been on a RPG buying spree lately. It started before Christmas (when I was supposed to be shopping for others) and hasn’t really let up. In addition to my unexpected Alien purchase, I bought all of these:
Not to mention several supplements and sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures and Red Markets not pictured here. (Addiction is a disease, people, and it’s real. Sadly, one addiction often feeds another, as in the case of my gin-fueled Amazon binge that made me the owner of a hardcopy of the Alien RPG.)
The keen-eyed among you may notice I haven’t even opened my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons set or my Delta Green set yet. This is because I have been all-in on getting my Star Trek Adventures game up and running (more on that soon ) and delving deeply into Red Markets, which is a 400+ page hardcover I had printed at Indie Press Revolution. (I just can’t seem to navigate PDFs very well. I prefer books.)
What do these games have in common? Well, all of them have received stellar reviews, and all of them are extremely well-produced. I became aware of some of them from listening to various podcasts and watching YouTube videos. The small press is king nowadays, and Kickstarter has a lot to do with that. Otherwise it’s unlikely games like Red Markets would ever get made, and that is a shame indeed, because it’s pretty damn cool, with a system that is unique, innovative and often very harsh.
I have been a Call of Cthulhu player since I was in high school, and D&D since well before that. So why buy into new editions? Put simply, because that’s what people play nowadays. My last edition of CoC was the d20 OGL edition, which was great (at least I thought so, but I like the d20 system). Previous to that it was 5th edition. Now I can’t hear enough great things about 7th edition, and it’s what my friends play. If I want to run a game (and I do), then this is the way to do it. Ditto with Dungeons and Dragons. My last edition was 3.5. I skipped the horror of 4th edition entirely, and would have been happy to play 3.5, Pathfinder or even go back to 2nd edition for the rest of my life. But once again, I hear the buzz, and it’s pretty universally great. I picked up the core rulebooks to give it a shot.
I never played Delta Green in its earlier incarnation. Listening to actual play podcasts has given me the fever to run a few games of this, as it’s pretty much made for the one-shot scenario (and that’s about all I can seem to get going nowadays). This current edition has received almost universally positive press. Much like Alien, I don’t know if I’ll ever actually play it, but I know I will enjoy reading it.
Finally: Savage Worlds. I’ve been hearing about this system for years now. Much like Fate and GURPS, it’s a universal roleplaying system that gives players a lot of agency in how they create and play their characters. I haven’t had much time to look these rules over and it’s unlikely that I’ll run a game using them, but I collect rules sets, and always like to see what various systems offer.
I mentioned I wouldn’t have even heard of some of these games if it weren’t for my new love of actual play and gaming podcasts. (Since I don’t get to play very often, I can at least listen as others do.) I’ll list my favorites here, along with my pithy commentary. You can obviously find them anywhere you get podcasts, but I’ll link to their respective homes on the web.
The Roleplaying Exchange: These folks play a lot of games I like, like Star Trek Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Slasher Flick. This is the first podcast I found, and through it I discovered many of the small-press games I’ve bought since. They share the Red Markets 10K Lakes campaign with Technical Difficulties, so you can find episodes crossing over on both podcasts. In addition to actual play, they do a lot of interviews with game creators and discuss topics related to the roleplaying hobby as well.
Speaking of Technical Difficulties, they play a lot of Red Markets (among other things). I have mixed feelings about this podcast, good and bad. The good: They play small press games. They have a handle on the rules and illustrate them well during the podcast. They have interesting ideas for game scenarios. The bad: they’re mostly annoying people to listen to. You will lose track of how many times someone utters the sentence “That’s fair”, often when there was never any question of the fairness of anything. (It’s like a shared nervous tic.) Not everyone is insufferable; some regular players are funny and interesting in spite of the podcast’s shortcomings. But sadly, it’s often true that there’s always at least one huge asshole in every gaming group. (If you don’t think there is one, then chances are it’s probably you.) This group has more than one. I won’t name names, but let’s just say there’s a guy who has to correct everyone all the time, another guy who only plays asshole characters because “that’s what I like to do”, and another guy who always wants to start some player vs. player bullshit. Luckily, not all of these people are on every podcast. Assholish behavior is generally not my cup of tea (YMMV, of course), but I can grit my teeth and enjoy what they do offer, which are some good examples of various games’ rules in play. I learned of several games I would have otherwise missed through this podcast. And I DID subscribe to it, so obviously I feel there is some value in listening.
Terrible Warriors: This is hands-down my favorite actual play group to listen to. The podcasts are all about an hour or less, the pacing is top-notch, they play REALLY interesting games, and the players are fantastic. I would love to play in this group. Unfortunately (for me), they’re based in Toronto. They play a lot of Star Trek Adventures (which is how I found them), but they play a lot of Kickstarter-funded games as well. It’s through them that I discovered so many indie games I would have otherwise never heard of. Recent highlights are Bluebeard’s Bride, a feminine horror game in which the players all play a part of the Bride’s persona (an awesome concept I wish I thought of) as they explore her new home and create their own version of the classic fairy tale; and Zombie World, a diceless card-based rpg that plays so smoothly, I’m dying to try it out. Both of these are from Magpie Games and use the new Powered by the Apocalypse Engine. Well worth a look, and I can’t recommend the podcast enough. Sometimes they get the rules wrong, but they always manage to have a lot of fun nonetheless.
The Lovecraft Tapes: This is an actual play 7th edition Call of Cthulhu podcast that uses Roll20. (It doesn’t look like they’ve done anything for 2020 yet, so maybe they’re on a break.) Although it’s a horror game, it’s often quite funny rather than scary, and the amount of time they put into editing it is apparent. Once again, each session is usually about an hour long. Great fun, with a talented GM.
One Less Die: I became aware of this actual play podcast through the creator’s appearance on the Roleplaying Exchange. It’s still in the early stages, with the beginning episodes focusing on the latest edition of Shadowrun. The Shadowrun campaign is still ongoing, but I started listening when they began a Call of Cthulhu campaign. I got annoyed because one of the players is playing a Russian investigator and he insists on talking like the most over-the-top Pavel Chekov you can imagine, so I bailed on it for a while. It sounded promising, so I’ll probably give it another shot at some point.
Coming next: the conclusion to my Fantastic Worlds Star Trek campaign: Hubbard’s World!