Dark Lord

It has been a hellish couple of months, both personally and professionally. I have had little time to do anything hobby-related; but hopefully that’s behind me now. One thing I have managed to keep up with is my Character of the Month for my buddy Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge on Instagram. It’s a good thing it’s only one miniature a month; because that’s about all I’ve done in September.

This old-school miniature comes from Superior Miniatures, from their Wizards and Lizards line: Dark Lord (a.k.a. “Wizard with Dragon”), sculpted by Ray Lamb. I purchased and painted him long ago (in the 80’s, in fact), but stripped him of his Testors enamel some years back, always intending to repaint him, And now I have.

There’s no way you could make this guy look like a good guy; so I’ve decided he is a good representation of a Warlock, a magic-user who gets his power from a pact with something infernal. I decided on a pretty simple palette, since everyone knows bad guys wear black.

This is one of my all-time favorite miniatures. I absolutely love this sculpt, and taking a new look at Superior’s line has really opened my eyes at how good these miniatures are. I have quite a few of them (another may be showing up here soon), and I count myself pretty fortunate.

Hopefully this marks a return to more regular posts; and an overall return to the blogosphere. I’ve missed you guys.

Bard with Bagpipes

For my Character of the Month, and for my submission to Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge on Instagram, I chose to do a bard: specifically, this old-school Grenadier “Bard with Bagpipes”, sculpted by the great Andrew Chernak as part of one of the original Grenadier AD&D boxed sets.

Sadly, I don’t own the boxed set; but I picked this guy up loose on eBay a few years ago, since he was, up until then, a bagpiper miniature I did not own.

This guy has some bizarre fashion sense: a conquistador helmet, billowed sleeves, hose, toe shoes and some weird diaper-thing. I decided anyone who would dress like that would be looking for attention, so I painted him up as a troubadour in garish colors. A friend pointed out that his highland bagpipes have the traditional three drones and that his hand positioning on the chanter is pretty good–two things that are often sculpted incorrectly on bagpiper miniatures. Chernak did it right!

Only four more character classes to go until the end of the year (did that fly by or is it just me?): Monk, Wizard, Warlock and Paladin.

Apologies to all who have noticed my conspicuous absence from this site and from the blogoshere this month. Some family health problems have occupied my every waking thought lately; and I am way behind on hobby stuff. Still hoping to get something done for Dave’s Summer of Scenery by the end of the month, although it won’t be the AMT Deep Space Nine model as I originally planned. That turned out to be a bigger project than I anticipated.

I hope to be back in full form soon.

Swiping a system

Those Dark Places is a game the evokes the theme and mood of great classic sci-fi/horror movies like Alien, Outland, Event Horizon and Saturn 3. It’s got a simple system and easy game mechanics that don’t get in the way of roleplaying in an atmosphere of isolation and horror. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Those Dark Places is one of the best games I’ve played in the last decade; and the best part is it’s all contained in this one little book.

Characters have four attributes, Strength, Agility, Charisma and Education, each with a unique value of 1-4. In addition, they have both a primary and secondary job aboard the ship; things like Security or Helm Officer or Engineer, etc. You use a single six-sided die to resolve everything in the game, and you usually roll one die, add your relevant attribute score and add a bonus from your job (2 for primary, 1 for secondary) if applicable. If the total equals 7 or more, you succeed. If it ties, it’s a partial success. If it’s less, you fail.

So, let’s say your character is the ship’s engineer and you want to cut open an airlock door from outside the ship. You would roll a single die, add your education score (let’s say your education is 3), and another +2 from your primary position as engineer. If the total is more than seven, you succeed.

Ranged combat is very much the same. Roll a die, add your Agility and any bonus from the Security position, if applicable. The target to beat is a 6 for short range, a 7 for medium and an 8 for long, with an additional +1 added if the target elects to dodge, losing his next action but making it harder to be hit.

Hand-to-hand combat is an opposed roll, meaning both you and your opponent roll a die, add your strength, plus any relevant bonus from the Security Officer position. Compare results and whoever has the highest wins, doing damage to his or her opponent. In the event of a tie, nothing happens (they just feint and jab, grapple or block…whatever).

Then there’s pressure, a measure of how much stress you can take under duress. You make a pressure roll any time the game master thinks it’s appropriate. Roll a die, add your pressure bonus (the sum of your Strength + Education scores). If it’s more than 10, you pass; anything less and you get to increase your Pressure Level by 1. The higher your Pressure Level, the more likely you are to crack under the stress and suffer an Episode; anything from fatigue, to freezing, to all-out panic. Returning to the example above, let’s say you’re the engineer and you don’t just want to cut through the airlock from outside, you NEED to because your spacesuit is compromised and you’re leaking air like a punctured balloon. Time is of the essence. Sounds like a good time for a pressure roll before you roll to see if you succeed in your task.

Like I said, I like this game a lot, and a big reason is the system mechanics. It’s quick, easy and fun. Just what I needed for my 1970’s street crime RPG: The Hub.

I’ve wanted to run a 1970’s crime game like this for a while, ever since I came across the RPG Dog Town, by Cold Blooded Games. From the official description: Dog Town is a realistic role playing game set in a New York City ghetto in the mid to late 1970’s, think of films like “Donnie Brasco”, “Goodfella’s”, “Shaft” and “Carlito’s Way” and you’ll get the picture. It’s about attitude and swaggering machismo, about being a “bad ass” like gangsters portrayed on the big screen. There are no heroes trying to save the world from evil forces, just at best anti-heroes trying to profit from it. In Dog Town it is the people that are the animals and your own dark destructive motives, which you have to be careful of. Life often is short and brutal starting and ending in the gutter. That’s just the way it is.

Dog Town is a true labor of love by the game’s creators. You can see in every page how much they respect the source material. The core rulebook and its various supplements are a treasure trove of information about this time period and subject matter. The artwork is awesome and the production value is high. It’s really exceptional.

It’s also free on DriveThru RPG. All of it. Lately, I have a hair across my ass about DTRPG, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to shop there. But like I said, it’s FREE, so DTRPG isn’t making money off them. Not that they’d want to anyway: this game definitely contains “potentially offensive content” and “acts of criminal perversion”, two things DTRPG says are against their selectively-enforced content rules. Better get over there now and grab it while you can, before someone gets offended and complains.

Unfortunately, Dog Town’s game mechanics are fucking incomprehensible to me, and I’m no dummy. They’re clunky, to say the least; and it requires a lot of math and chart referencing to resolve most actions. I’m not a fan of the rules; but once again, I can’t say enough good things about the setting and the work these guys put into it.

I knew I wanted to set my game in Boston, because it’s a city I’m familiar with and it has a long history of corruption and violence. I had several scenario ideas, I just needed a good game system. I briefly considered Fate, because I really like it; but Fate is definitely a “heroic” roleplaying game. Player characters have a high chance of success in almost everything they do, and they are able to perform feats and stunts that normal folks can’t. I don’t want that. I want gritty realism, not John Wick.

Those Dark Places has exactly what I need. Simple mechanics, deadly combat, fast resolution and the pressure mechanic all foster great roleplaying opportunities and fit exactly into the atmosphere I’m trying to create. Once I decided, it was easy to adapt.

Attributes remain the same. I just replaced the ship positions with criminal types; so instead of things like helm officer, engineer and medical officer, I have things like heavy, thief, grifter, etc. Each one of these gives primary and secondary bonuses as applicable. Pressure is the same; except you roll a pressure test for things like getting chased by the cops or getting threatened by a gang boss; or, you know, getting shot at. I went a step further and added some basic skills that give bonuses in specific circumstances, like “Manson Lamps”, which gives a +1 bonus to Charisma when trying to intimidate someone, or “Wicked Smart” which gives a +1 bonus to assess unfamiliar situations. Characters get to choose one skill.

I’m happy to say it has worked perfectly so far. My first playtest of the game was Sunday, and everyone seemed to have a good time. The players really embraced the setting and made some cool characters that would be at home in any 70’s crime movie. Combat worked exactly as I wanted and there weren’t any game-breaking flaws (yet). Both characters survived, too; which is always a plus!

I’m always looking for players; so if this setting intrigues you, let me know! Or check out all the other games I will get around to running eventually. You can find them here.

The Hub

Well, like many things this year, my plans for 2022 Gaming have largely failed so far. I haven’t run any of the stuff I said I was going to. There’s still time to run some of them (maybe); but I have decided I am definitely going to run a game of my own design next week, on Sunday, August 14th. I just need 3-5 players.

My game is called The Hub, and it is a street-crime roleplaying game set in the city of Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1970’s. Boston in the 1970’s was a particularly deep cesspool of crime and corruption. The Winter Hill gang ran the underworld under Howie Winter, setting the stage for James “Whitey” Bulger to take over by the end of the decade and unleash hell on the streets of South Boston. The Boston Police, the FBI and the Department of Justice all shielded and protected Bulger, allowing him to benefit from his status as an informant while running a criminal empire of drugs, racketeering, extortion and murder.`

This is that city. Kinda. Rather, it’s a fictionalized Boston of the time. All the crime and corruption are there; but you won’t run into Whitey Bulger or any real-life people. What you will do is take on the role of a street-level criminal. If you like movies like Mean Streets, The Departed, Black Mass, Super Fly, Death Wish, Carlito’s Way and Taxi Driver; this could be right up your trash-strewn and rat-infested alley.

As far as content warnings go, take a look at that list of movies. That gives a pretty good idea what to expect in my game. There will be bad language. There will be drug use. There will be copious amounts of violence and gritty and realistic depictions of street life and organized crime. You will be playing a character who is not very nice, and you will be interacting with not-nice people.

What you won’t find are any racial slurs or depictions/descriptions of sexual violence. Everyone has a line, and that’s mine.

Combat will be realistic and dangerous, because when people get shot in real life, they tend to die. You won’t be able to go to sleep for 8 hours and wake up good as new. There are no saving throws here; and certainly no potions of healing. Your characters are not superheroes and there is the very real possibility of character death.

My goal with the game next week is to test out the system I’m using to see if it fits the theme. I assume the game will run about 3-4 hours or so, including character creation. (You can create your character in about 5 minutes.) It’s a straightforward scenario to see if I want to go further with it.

I said this on the gaming page, but it bears repeating here: Please note: I live in the Eastern United States, very close to Boston, where this game is set, which is the EST time zone. I don’t care where you live, but you need to keep that in mind as to when the games will be played. For example, California is 3 hours behind me, England is 5 hours ahead of me and Australia is 16!! So, if I start a four hour session on Sunday at noon my time, someone in California will start at 9 am; England at 5 pm, and most of Australia will be at 4 am on Monday! Once I have a group of players I will schedule a time that is best suited for the majority.

This game will be run on Discord, with a die-rolling app or site. It doesn’t require much.

I am also planning on running Slasher Flick on the 30th of October this year. I already have one player from Canada (assuming he’s still interested), but I’m always looking for more so drop me a line if interested in that or any of the other games I intended to run. Who knows? I might get to another one before the end of the year!

“He ain’t a hard man to track. He leaves dead men wherever he goes.”

Time for another entry in my Year of Pop Culture. The Outlaw Josey Wales is, of course, one of Clint Eastwood’s classic Westerns; one I have seen many times and one I return to often. It’s the story of a Confederate farmer whose family is murdered by Union troops, so he joins a militia to kill Northerners. Eventually, the militia is convinced to surrender. Josey refuses, of course, and his fellow militia men are all massacred after laying down their arms.

Josey becomes an outlaw; the target of bounty hunters and the duplicitous Union regiment known as the “Redlegs” that was responsible for the massacre of his men. He finds a woman, settles down on a ranch…but only for a little while. Eventually, the Redlegs arrive and lay siege to the ranch in a bloody climactic battle.

The Outlaw Josey Wales has some of the best lines in bad-ass movie history, from “You gonna pull those pistols, or just whistle Dixie?”, to the iconic “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.” It’s one of my favorite Westerns of all time, and if for some reason you haven’t seen it, you should.

Reaper does this “Jeb Lawson” miniature in their Chronoscope line, and it’s a pretty good likeness, almost as if they did that on purpose. It’s sculpted by James van Shaik.

Here’s my paint job.

And that’s one more for the Pop Culture theme of 2022.

I guess that’s a good thing, because I haven’t done shit on my Deep Space Nine model for the Season of Scenery yet…

Fantastic Four Job Interview: The Crimson Hound

Mr. Fantastic (MF): Hello there! Welcome. Thanks for coming in.

Crimson Hound (CH): Thanks. Glad to be here. I…uh…thought there were four of you.

MF: The Invisible Woman isn’t here at the moment.

Human Torch (HT): Or…IS SHE??? Ha ha ha!!!

MF: So…Crimson Hound. We’re looking for a fourth member, someone who can fill in for Ben here when he takes one of his sabbaticals.

HT: Like when he gets all whiny and leaves the group to sulk.

Thing (T): Whatever. It ain’t easy bein’ me.

HT: Or when he needs to go “find himself” on some alien planet.

T: That happened once. Sue me.

HT: Or when he wants to follow his dream and be a professional wrestler…

CH: Ha! You guys are cute together.

T: Whaddya mean, “together”?

HT: Yeah, what’s that supposed to mean?

CH: I only thought…

T: Think again, bozo!

HT: Yeah, think again!

CH: Look, there’s nothing wrong with–

T: Shuddup and get yer feet off the table! Ain’t ya got no manners?

CH: Oh. Sure. Sorry.

MF: Let’s focus on what’s important: Ben’s replacement.

T: REPLACEMENT?!

MF: Usually, we ask She-Hulk to step in, but…

T: She got too big fer us.

HT: Stopped answering her phone when she got a TV show.

CH: Huh. Right.

MF: So, assuming we get this vampire business cured, when can you start?

CH: Cured? You can cure me?!

MF: Undoubtedly. I’m pretty sure I have already figured out how. I am embarassingly intelligent.

CH: But the vampire thing is what gives me my powers!

MF: Oh. I see. Well, we can’t have you feeding on people’s blood. I own the patents on several dozen formulae for synthetic plasma, both terran and non-terran. I’m sure we can find something suitable.

T: Welcome to the team!

HT: Don’t touch my stuff.

CH: Wow! Thanks! I really need this job…

MF: We’ll get your hiring bonus, health and dental package squared away and show you to your luxury penthouse quarters here in the Baxter Building. There’s just one more restriction.

CH:…what’s that?

MF: You cannot, under any circumstances, make any jokes, implications or double-entendres about my powers and how far I can stretch my…well, I’m sure you know. Understood?

CH: Wait…not ever?

MF: Never.

CH:

CH:

MF: Well?

CH: Nah. This isn’t gonna work. Thanks for your time.

Bruno still hasn’t posted any new Crimson Hound content. He deserves this.

Mistress of Darkness

Not to be confused with the Mistress of the Dark who recently made an appearance on Roger’s site, this is an old (1989) RAFM miniature that is no longer in production and doesn’t seem to be available anywhere anymore. She is my Character of the Month for Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge over on Instagram. I’m calling her a sorceress.

Here’s a secret: I didn’t paint this miniature: I REPAINTED her. Way back in 1990 or so, I painted her using those wonderful Testors enamels I still have nightmares about. She actually didn’t look too bad, all things considered.

I remembered to snap a picture of her before I repainted her; but not before I added her to this base.

As you can see, I went with a more “Egyptian” theme to her this time around as opposed to the Frazetta-style in which she’s so obviously sculpted. I was likely inspired by all the Egyptian goings-on in The Old Ways Podcast’s Masks of Nyarlathotep game.

Only five more character classes to go for the year: Bard, Monk, Wizard, Warlock and Paladin. Which one will be next?

Guess what? I know the answer to that.

Droogs

Continuing the Year of Pop Culture (thought I forgot about that, huh?), may I present Alex and his three droogs: Pete, Georgie and Dim; the protagonists of A Clockwork Orange (the book) and Clockwork Orange (the film). Clockwork Orange is best known to the general public through the infamous 1971 Stanley Kubrick film starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a role that would forever typecast him as a psychotic villain (although Caligula didn’t help his career much in that regard, either). Erudite folks like me have also read the novel by Anthony Burgess. Watching the film is difficult for many people as it originally received an X rating due to the violence and strong sexual content. Burgess himself seems to have hated it; I can only speculate the reason may be because there was not enough distance between the character and the audience. We were able to watch, in graphic detail without the shielding of words, every horrific act Alex and his friends visited upon others. Despite Burgess’s feelings, the film is quite faithful to the book; at least to the version of the book that was, until about 25 years ago or so, the only version available in America. Until then, to the rest of the world, A Clockwork Orange ended quite differently. Now the American versions contain the elusive “twenty-first chapter”, which finally offers the complete tale of Alex.

In an unspecified future just around the corner, Alex and his small band commits acts of astounding depravity and atrocity on a nightly basis: rape, robbery, assault and battery are all activities they enjoy. They’re really not nice guys. Eventually, their crimes lead to murder, and Alex is sent away to prison, where he undergoes aversion therapy to cure him of his savage impulses. Alex is given a slow-acting drug in his food and then made to watch pornographic and/or violent films depicting the kinds of things he enjoyed; i.e. rape, beatings and general mayhem. The drug makes him severely nauseous; soon he begins to associate the sickness with the activities he watches on film. After a while, Alex can’t even think about the things he used to enjoy without becoming sick. He is pronounced cured, and set free.

The weird thing is that although we (hopefully) deplore Alex’s behavior, we eventually come to care about him and identify with him. Alex actually becomes likeable; no mean feat considering his character. And so, after his release, it’s with something like sympathy that we watch the “new” Alex receive his comeuppance at the hands of those he has wronged, powerless to fight back against they who would have their revenge.

The question at the end of both the book and the film is, “Is Alex cured?” The Kubrick film leaves that open to speculation, but the clear implication is no. The complete book, on the other hand, gives a definite answer. If you’ve only seen the film, you haven’t got the whole story.

The appearance and outfits of Alex and his droogs differed a great deal between the book and the movie. In the book, the gang wore black outfits with white cravats, and each one wore a unique novelty codpiece. In the film, they wear white boiler suits with unique hats. In addition, three of the droogs wear some kind of makeup: Dim wears lipstick, Pete wears eyeshadow under his left eye, and Alex has his iconic false eyelash on his right eyelid.

These miniatures by Crooked Dice are clearly representations of the character depictions in the movie, and like most Crooked Dice miniatures, they’re awesome. Painting them was very easy, as you might expect. Prime the boiler suits white, wash black and highlight. I I tried to include the makeup as well.

Despite the subject matter, Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite films with one of the greatest soundtracks in movie history. I first encountered it in college as a Psychology student; I had to watch it (and other highly controversial films, like Titticut Follies) while studying aversion therapy and negative reinforcement techniques. I’ve probably seen it about a dozen times, with the most recent viewing a little over a year ago on Netflix.

Up next: More Pop Culture!

Avengers Job Interview: The Crimson Hound

Captain America (CA): Welcome! Come in! Sit down.

Crimson Hound (CH): Thanks. How ya’ doin’?

Iron Man (IM): We ask the questions here.

CA: Don’t mind him. I understand you interviewed with the Justice League recently?

CH: Yeah. No luck. They’re a bunch of dicks. No offense.

CA: Uh huh. None taken. So, we’ve been looking at your resume…

CH: I’ve been uh…on vacation, recently.

IM: Hey! Aren’t you the guy who killed Santa Claus?

CH: Well, not “officially”…that guy was kind of a dick, though.

Thor (T): Remove thy feet from yon table.

CH: Sorry.

CA: Vacation, you say…well, that explains the empty space on the page here. No problem. I believe it’s important to refresh and recharge from time to time.

Hulk (H): STUPID FLAG-MAN LIES! FLAG MAN NEVER APPROVE VACATION FOR HULK EVEN WHEN HULK REQUEST TWO MONTHS AHEAD PER EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK!

CA: Says here you’re a vampire. Is that true?

CH: Well, yeah…kinda. Technically. I guess.

IM: You “guess”? You either drink blood or you don’t drink blood. Do you drink blood or not?

CH: Uh…yes…

T: Vile monster! Begone! Thou art a fiend from the very depths of Niflheim!

CH: I’m from Cleveland.

CA: Look, I’m sure you’re a great guy, but this maybe isn’t the best fit.

CH: Really? You’re turning me down? This is the same team that took Starfox? That guy’s a fucking HR nightmare! And Dr. Druid? I rate lower than Dr. Fucking Druid??!

CA: Now see here, buster…there’s no need for profanity…

T: Methinks he doth make a compelling argument, though…

H: DON’T LOOK AT HULK. HULK NOT INVOLVED WITH THAT DECISION. HULK LEFT TEAM WAY BEFORE DR. DRUID JOIN.

CA: Well, let’s just put it to a vote, then.

IM: I like this guy!

T: I say thee nay!

H: HULK NOT CARE. HULK ABSTAIN.

CA: Well, I vote no. Sorry. But thanks for coming by.

CH: Whatever. Assholes.

I have a lot of Heroclix, Bruno. I can do this for a very long time.

Justice League Job Interview: The Crimson Hound

Superman (S): Hello, come in. Please, sit down. The Crimson Hound, is it?

The Crimson Hound (CH): Yep, that’s me.

Wonder Woman (WW): Greetings. Thank you for coming in.

CH: No problem.

S: So, er…uh…Mr. Hound…you’re applying for League membership.

CH: That’s right.

Batman (B): Take your feet off the table.

CH: Oh. Sorry.

S: We’ve reviewed your resume, and we have a few questions.

CH: Shoot, Supes. I’m an open book.

WW: Well, it seems as though you haven’t been active in some time. You last superhero job was…well, almost a full year ago.

CH: Yeah. Well, there was that stuff around Christmas, but that wasn’t “official”. Anyway, I’ve been taking it easy. You know, having a nice long soak in the bubble bath that is me.

B: “…What?”

CH: Yeah. A vacation. I mean, everyone needs a break now and then, Bats. You can’t expect to be a force of vengeance and justice every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’d have to be batshit crazy–a really obsessive asshole– to do that. Am I right or what?

B:

WW: Um…anyway, what do you think you bring to the team? How do you usually deal with evildoers?

S: We encounter a lot of evildoers, you know. It’s important we can work as a team.

CH: Yeah, I assumed. Well, I usually strike terror in their hearts, then I beat the living shit out of them.

S: Right…ummm…ok…well…that’s great, but…

WW: It’s just that…uh…

B: That’s what I do. That’s my thing.

CH: Oh. Sorry. I should have explained better. By “beat the shit out of them”, I mean I rip off their heads with my bare hands, then I drink their blood.

S:

WW:

B:

CH: So, do I get the job?

It’s been a while since my buddy Bruno has published any new Crimson Hound content on YouTube. This is me, slapping him in the face with the metaphorical glove.

I love ya, Bruno.