Category Archives: Horror

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!

Not-Great RPG Adventures: Trail of the Loathsome Slime (Call of Cthulhu)

As many of you know, I am an avid roleplaying gamer; by which I mean I have played many, many roleplaying games over the last forty years of my life. When I run games, I tend to run my own adventures and campaigns rather than published modules and/or scenarios; but there are some notable exceptions, and I own many hundreds of published adventures for dozens of different game systems. While some are exceptional and fit to be run as-is or with little modifications (I’ll do posts about them, too), others are useful sources of ideas; providing inspiration for new scenarios. Failing that, one can often find characters, monsters, traps, story elements and the like to unabashedly steal for your own games.

Some, though, are just bad.

Please note that this isn’t meant to tear apart published adventures or shit on someone else’s work. Many of these adventures were written in the early years of rpgs, many were written by inexperienced writers, and some just haven’t aged well. Even the most poorly-written adventure might be salvageable; or at least may contain good elements that can be used elsewhere.

In this series of posts, I will focus on some of these bad adventures; providing a summary of the adventure as-written, why I think it sucks, and what I would do (or in some cases, have already done) to fix it. I will be highlighting adventures that have been published in hardcopy by a gaming company as opposed to the current trend of community-created content available in electronic PDF form; not because I have anything against that stuff, but because I don’t own as much of it. What you will find here mostly are classic adventures for a variety of game systems, most likely published during the 80’s, 90’s or the first ten years of the new millennium.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I will be spoiling the shit out of these adventures, so don’t read my post if you’re going to play in one of them or want to read it yourself.

Let’s kick things off with a pretty bad adventure for one of my favorite games: Call of Cthulhu.

Trail of the Loathsome Slime (1985); by Marcus L. Rowland, published by Games Workshop

Synopsis: The year is 1983, and the investigators are contacted by “their good friend” and occultist, Walter Corey, who says he’s found something that will blow their minds; but of course won’t tell them what it is over the phone. The investigators show up at Corey’s house to find him murdered.

The previous year an ornithological expedition ship disappeared somewhere near the Falklands and it was assumed it was a casualty of the British-Argentinian Falklands conflict. Corey started dreaming about the ship and its crazed crew and published articles on his dreams. Then he bought a diary at an auction; a diary of a cultist who was executed back in 1927, who buried a chest on an island somewhere in the south Atlantic. Apparently, the mere purchasing of a diary is a newsworthy item, because news of the purchase appears in the papers and is seen by Arnold Rothman, the grandson of a fellow cult member from way back. Rothman had been serving aboard the missing ship for years, looking for that chest every chance he got. Last time, though, he broke his leg and couldn’t make the voyage where the ship was lost, so now he’s going to join another ship. He thinks that diary might hold the clues to finding the chest once and for all, so he broke into Corey’s house and killed him for it.

The investigators are supposed to discover Corey’s notes on the deciphered diary, drop everything and immediately book passage on a new ornithological survey ship to the Falklands. This new survey ship is a replacement for the old ship, because birders gotta bird. The PCs have to interview for the positions, either as scientists or crew, and there’s a decent chance they won’t be accepted. Oh yeah; this happens to be the same ship that Arnold Rothman is now serving on as second mate, too; although the investigators have no idea he’s the murderer of their “good friend”.

On the way down to the Falklands, there is an outbreak of ergot poisoning that drives most of the crew into a homicidal rage. The science team (presumably including most of the investigators) is unaffected, but they have to fend off seven crazed and murderous crew members. There are a couple of rifles and shotguns aboard, but not much else; and many of the crazed crew will try for those. Since this is for the original version of Call of Cthulhu, there’s a pretty good chance that some investigators will die before they reach the island. Whatever the case, Rothman isn’t affected either; and he runs the ship aground on Griffon Island, the site of the lost chest. Once there, the investigators and any surviving, non-crazy NPCs soon find that someone smashed the emergency radio and all their food supplies were stolen somewhere along the journey. The island is deathly quiet and mostly deserted. The reportedly huge penguin population has been decimated, and slime trails crisscross the island.

Seems like their “good friend” Corey wasn’t dreaming about the past…he was having visions of the future!

The investigators can go exploring, either on foot or using the ship’s unarmed helicopter; but it only has a range of 160 miles. (Griffon Island is 600 miles away from the nearest land, which is the Falkland Islands, so they can’t just fly away to safety.) They can also follow Rothman, who leaves the ship on his own to go looking for the chest. Either way, they soon discover a series of caverns beneath the island that were used by the former cultists. The chest is here; it contains a blasphemous mythos tome and a couple of magic swords, not the treasure Rothman was hoping for. The caverns are filled with loathsome slime (hence the name of the module), which is a by-product of the guardians of the chest: two shoggoths.

Yes, that’s correct. Two.

The investigators are now free to leave the island. assuming they can deal with a stove boat, a crazed second mate, a mostly-dead crew, no way to radio for help, a helicopter that won’t make the flight, no food and two–yes, two– shoggoths.

Commentary (why I think it’s bad): Ok, let’s start at the beginning. There’s no reason for their “good friend” Walter Corey to be in this adventure at all. He’s there to get killed and vaguely point the way to the island. That’s it. The big reveal that his dreams are precognitive and not dreams of the past doesn’t add anything to the story.

Second, the outbreak of ergot, at least as written, carries the very real possibility of a total party kill (TPK) outcome before they even reach the island. Since it’s Call of Cthulhu, most of the investigators are likely to be academic types with poor combat skills (if any); going up against manic crewmen with limited (or no) weapons is likely to result in multiple PC deaths.

Third: Speaking of the investigators, if, in keeping with early Call of Cthulhu, they are predominantly academics and “regular people”, they really have no opportunity to use their academic skills other than the beginning of the adventure to track down clues in Corey’s apartment and find out a bit about the cult. Once they’re on the boat, there’s not much to do except get killed by the crew, or get to the island and get eaten by the shoggoths.

Finally: TWO shoggoths?! It’s official: no one is supposed to survive this. It’s just not possible. There is very little on the boat or on the island that could even significantly harm a shoggoth, never mind kill it; and once again, there are TWO of the monsters on the island.

Sandy Petersen himself did a phenomenal YouTube video on why shoggoths are so dangerous. It’s well worth a watch. To summarize: they’re fast, massive, indescribably strong, almost indestructible and they’re as smart as the average human. They’re also very capable of one-shot killing any player character (or group of investigators) with ease. Some of them even know spells. In this adventure, there are a few drums of helicopter fuel that the investigators can use to make Molotovs (or detonate the drums). Those are probably their best bet, but hardly guaranteed to work. What guns they have are effectively useless, and the magic swords, while capable of causing damage, would require someone to get close enough to a shoggoth to hit it with a sword. (Good luck with that.) Unless the players are using established investigators with access to damaging spells, they might as well just let the shoggoth roll over them and get it over with.

How I’d fix it: There are some modification suggestions included at the end of the adventure. I’ll cover them at the end.

What would I do?

  1. I’d use pregenerated characters with relevant skills, or make sure my PCs had them if they were using their own investigators.
  2. Forget the whole Corey character. He’s a useless plot device. Why not just make the investigators start on the boat, perhaps on an unrelated expedition of their own? This means no auditioning for berths aboard the ship, which is a process they can fail, grinding the adventure to a halt before it starts. One of the NPC crew (Rothman) then steers the boat off-course in pursuit of his own treasure hunt; or perhaps the rest of the crew is in on it, too. They just needed a boat, and now they have one thanks to the academic expedition they signed on as crew. “Stay out of the way, eggheads; and you won’t get hurt.”
  3. If you want to keep the ergot poisoning (I wouldn’t, but YMMV), then give the PCs a fighting chance against the crew by giving them weapons; or at least an opportunity to reverse the effects of the poison. (Yes, I know real ergot poisoning has no antidote, but real ergot poisoning doesn’t happen overnight and turn you into a crazed murderer, either.) To continue the above example, maybe the PCs can try to regain control of the ship somehow, which may result in them running aground on the island; or maybe convince the crew they can help find the treasure; maybe by reading a manuscript or map in a language none of the crew can understand.
  4. Either use a different threat entirely or lose at least one of the shoggoths. One shoggoth is more than enough challenge for ANY group of investigators, never mind a group that has poor weapons and is probably already missing a few members because they fell victim to a homicidal boat crew. I can’t imagine any group of investigators in similar circumstances who could survive an encounter with two, so unless going for the almost-certain TPK is your intent, give your players a chance.

The suggestion given at the end of the adventure is to include a crashed Argentinian fighter jet that the investigators could conceivably repair and fly, or strip for missiles to combat the shoggoths. Dumb.

Another suggestion: in the event the party is exceptionally strong and has no problem defeating the shoggoths (!), have another outbreak of ergot on the return trip, assuming they can refloat the boat, or they get rescued somehow. This seems unfairly harsh in a series of unfairly harsh events. In other words, it doesn’t sound like much fun.

Trail of the Loathsome Slime isn’t a horrible adventure; it just needs a bit of streamlining and balance. It’s worth noting that this was published in the very early years of Call of Cthulhu; and would have been seen as something of a novelty as it was a modern adventure (for the time) and not set in the 1920’s. Making it a Pulp Cthulhu adventure would increase PC survivability (by a lot); it would also be interesting to update it to the modern 21st century.

What do you think?

Monster May(hem) 2022 Roundup!

Well, another Monster May(hem) has come and gone; and once again, I am so happy to welcome everyone who participated, both out here in the blogosphere and on Instagram! After a glacial start to the month, I managed to crowbar in a few more monsters at the eleventh hour. Not the way I like to work, but it’s what life dealt me this month…

It was a Nolzur’s kinda year for me, as 75% of my submissions this year came from that exceptional (as far as monsters are concerned, anywway) line of miniatures. I posted my Manticore previously; but since then, I’ve completed three more miniatures, starting with this Cave Bear.

What’s that? Not a monster, you say? Merely an animal? Well, my Lamentations of the Flame Princess players might disagree with you, as they recently came face-to-slobbering-face with one of these, which happened to be rabid, to boot! That could have ended in a very different way, but they managed to drive it off in a hail of black powder and lead bullets!

I used mostly Citadel paints on this. The bear was primed black, then painted Mournfang Brown,, highlighted with Deathclaw Brown, then washed in a 50/50 mix of Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil, then drybrushed with Vallejo Ivory. A final wash in the recesses with some straight Nuln Oil and it was done. I used some Woodland Scenics leaves on the base and I think he looks ok (although not as fierce as the one in my game, perhaps).

Up next, this Venom Troll; the submission of which I have the most pictures, but the least to say. I actually bought this months ago because I thought it would look good as a boss zombie. I was going to paint her (?) with mottled, zombie-like flesh; but I decided to go with a standard-looking greenish troll instead.

Her skin tone was achieved by using two types of Vallejo greens washed in old GW yellow wash, then the recesses were done in Athonian Camoshade. Her gross pustules are dripping GW’s Nurgle Rot, but you can’t really see it against the skin. Oh, well.

Finally, I repainted a Wizkids factory paint job on perhaps my favorite Lovecraftian monster: The Great Race of Yith. Why should Matt hog all the Mythos monsters?

Here is what it looks like out of the box. (Of course I didn’t take a picture of my actual miniature first; but this is what they ALL look like.) Big surprise: the miniature is great, the paint job sucks. Pretty bland, and a far cry from Lovecraft’s description, which is: They seemed to be enormous iridescent cones, about ten feet high and ten feet wide at the base, and made up of some ridgy, scaly, semi-elastic matter. From their apexes projected four flexible, cylindrical members, each a foot thick, and of a ridgy substance like that of the cones themselves. These members were sometimes contracted almost to nothing, and sometimes extended to any distance up to about ten feet. Terminating two of them were enormous claws or nippers. At the end of a third were four red, trumpet-like appendages. The fourth terminated in an irregular yellowish globe some two feet in diameter and having three great dark eyes ranged along its central circumference. Surmounting this head were four slender grey stalks bearing flower-like appendages, whilst from its nether side dangled eight greenish antennae or tentacles. The great base of the central cone was fringed with a rubbery, grey substance which moved the whole entity through expansion and contraction.

I didn’t have the time to do much about the four slender stalks surmounting the head, but I could sure do a better paint job. Here it is, with a Pulp Figures reporter (a.k.a. hapless Mythos investigator) for scale.

I fell back on my old-school Tyranid scheme for the body. For the snakelike appendages, all I had to do was give him a thorough wash of Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil. The head was colored with Yellow Wash and the eyes painted black and given a coat of gloss varnish. I painted the claws black and drybrushed them crimson, and added some highlights to the pink trumpet thingy.

Inscrutable, isn’t it?

This is technically a repaint, but I’m calling this a submission, because it’s my challenge, so nyah nyah.

Here are the wonderful hobbyists who took part this year, along with a list of their impressive achievements. I will update this list over the course of the next week or so as the inevitable straggling entries make their way onto the web.

Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow; from Carrion Crow’s Buffet, has finished his Straw God from Crooked Dice miniatures! It looks smashing and boasts some impressive base work. Jeremy is hosting his own challenge this month, one I look forward to every year: Forgotten Heroes! Drop by his blog to check it out and join up! It’s a blast!

Roger from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table, sculpted Jason Voorhees from scratch; then did an amazing job and lavished much attention on the bony growths of a “Generation 1 Mutation” from Deadzone. I was unaware of this figure, but it’s awesome. I don’t play Deadzone, but I’m already thinking of a ton of uses for this beast in Supers or Scifi games. Well done, Roger!

As usual, I found it impossible to keep up with Matt from PM Painting. The guy never stops painting monsters (at least not in May). In order, Matt completed a Queen of Hell, an avatar of Hastur, some Hell Hounds, a Tomb Tapper, a Rock Troll, a swarm of Muccins, a Chaos Dragon Ogre, a Reaper Bathalian Centurian, an old-school Chaos Slaanesh rider and a Keeper of Secrets. I can’t say enough good things about them here, so I’ll just point you in the direction of Matt’s blog. Trust me, every one of them is worth a look. And a hearty thanks to Matt for really rolling up his sleeves (as he does every year).

Edit: Not content with letting his impressive tally stand, Matt also completed another submission after zero hour: a possessed Chaos Dreadnought for Warhammer 40K. It’s both a paint job and a conversion; Matt turned an old-school Space Marine Dreadnought (and I mean OLD SCHOOL, i.e. Rogue Trader-era) into a demonic war machine. It looks so cool!!!!

Azazel from Azazel’s Bitz Box is another inspiring overachiever; he started with a Burrowing Horror; then moved on to a Byakhee, some Earth Elementals, a Spawn of Ungoliant ( I love this one), a couple of Yetis and some Citadel ogres from one of my favorite sculptors, Bob Olley! He also managed to find time for a Chaos Minotaur and a Mordor Troll; but not before he did some incredible work on some Ghostbusters stuff: Gozer, Slimer, the Demon Dogs and yes, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. (Jeremy, if you haven’t checked this out yet you’ll love it!) Thanks, Azazel; for showing up again this year and for really bringing it!

“Mr. Star Wars”; a.k.a. Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop (I think that might stick, Dave) once again displayed his sculpting skills to great effect this year. Last year’s Krayt dragon was so incredible it deserves another mention here; but this year Dave scratch-built a TON Star Wars monsters (not in order): a purrgil (space whale); a blurrg, a sand ape and a sand bat, all from Tattooine; and a krykna (giant space-spider) that I think I saw on The Mandalorian. He also scratch-built and painted Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s somewhat effeminate cousin who sounds like he’s from Louisiana. (I hear it, anyway.) And that’s just what he sculpted himself. He still found time to paint a pair of Wampas, gibbering horde and a chaos spawn. Dave: as always, lovely and inspirational work.

Tom from over on Instagram was back for a second year, contributing several monsters from various miniatures games: a “corrupted were-deer”, a werewolf, a gibbering mouther, and a (really disturbing) bug person. Check out Tom’s Instagram account; he’s another guy who never stops posting miniatures!

Thanks to all the newcomers this year! Jon from Jon’s Hobby Desk painted a big, gross Nurgle-thing called a Glottkin, and surprised us with a half-dozen giant spiders! That’s NINE monsters for Monster May(hem)! Think my math is wrong? Go visit Jon’s blog!

Simon, aka Blax the Kleric, from Fantorical Wargaming, completed a bevy of cool Crooked Dice miniatures, further rubbing my nose in how unfortunate I am to live in a country with no Crooked Dice stockist! In between various other projects, Simon painted a massive Mighty Simian, the popular-with-good-reason Straw God, and two Harryhausen-esque Bronze Titans! Lovely work, Simon! please come back next year!

And finally, Malcolm, also from Instagram, painted a Reaper basilisk and a Nolzur’s wyvern. Malcolm is a gaming buddy of mine who lives in far-away lands (i.e. the Midwest). I have a feeling we’ll see him around these parts again…

Please support these hobbyists by visiting their sites (or IG accounts; you don’t need an account to have a look) and leaving a comment or two. I count myself fortunate to know so many talented and welcoming people in our hobby!

So, what’s next here? Well, if all goes as planned, June will include a return to Star Trek to find out the fate of Lieutenant Barclay, as well as more Pop Culture. Oh, yeah…and there’s one more thing…

Forgotten Fucking Heroes.

I’m giddy. Giddy, I say!

Character Studies: Milton Blish (Call of Cthulhu Modern)

Over my roughly 40 years of roleplaying, I have made a fair few characters for many different RPGs. Some I played for a long time, others maybe only one game; some achieved greatness, others didn’t survive long enough to reach second level. I’ve decided to share some of them with you, so every once in a while, I’ll post one of my characters from one of my roleplaying games from years past. (And yes, I complained making up backstories for my Character of the Month challenge was too time-consuming. I know.)

I’ll start with one of my most recent characters, Milton Blish; a character I created for a friend’s Call of Cthulhu Modern game. Although Milton survived his first outing against the Horrors of the Cosmos, I won’t be playing him again. My Keeper wanted to turn him into part of a ghost hunter team with their own TV show. I’m not having it, and neither is Milton.

Milton Blish

Milton embodies the most negative stereotypes of Gen Z. He’s selfish, lazy and generally socially awkward. He spends most of his time in front of a screen; whether it’s his phone or laptop. He has almost no ambition and assumes the world is terrible, so there’s nothing he can really do about it except exist in it until he dies. If stereotypes were true, then Milton would assume (like many of his generation) that the world owes him a living and that he’s entitled to a safe space and participation trophy for everything; but Milton’s parents never gave a shit about him at all, and he never got even the slightest bit of recognition or praise from anyone in his life.

He works in a dingy store that still (in 2022!) inexplicably sells pornographic magazines and videos. MIlton has little interest in porn himself and despises the customers, partly because they’re too stupid to understand they can get all the porn they could ever want on the Internet for free; and partly because he has to endure their questions about porn and requests for whatever their particular kinks are. To top it off, the store is one of the only places in the state that still has spank booths (they’re grandfathered in), where customers can pay to watch porn on the premises. It’s Milton’s job to clean them out and make sure no one uses them for prostitution, which of course they do; otherwise Milton would probably be out of a job and the patrons would just jerk off at whatever squalid hovel they call home. 

Milton firmly believes the government is watching everything we do. He jailbreaks all his cell phones and owns two laptops that he has built himself; one of which is air-gapped. He tries to pay cash for almost everything, including rent, and pays his utility bills (under an alias, of course) at the corner convenience store. He spends most of his evenings at home. When he does go out it usually for necessities only. HIs apartment is pretty sparse with almost no furniture beyond a huge couch that doubles as his bed and a kitchen table he uses as a workbench and writing area. HIs trash is often overflowing and his bathroom is best left to the imagination. He eats a lot of junk food and takeout, and the results of this diet are obvious. He’s a big guy, but he’s not in anything like good shape. Still, his large physical presence has served him well in ejecting lingerers from the booths.

Milton is really smart. Smarter than you, that’s for sure. Although he won’t say so (why state the obvious?) this attitude comes through fairly strongly in most social interactions. It’s no surprise that Milton has few friends. Well, none, really.

Last Wednesday was a slow night. Maybe it was the snow: six inches on the ground and a foot and a half more forecast before Thursday evening. Milton barely looked up from his laptop at the tinkling of the door bell; but the blast of cold air got his attention. It was Amber, one of the girls he regularly had to eject from the booths for plying her trade, or for falling asleep back there. She looked like shit, was hardly dressed for the weather and was obviously dopesick; in other words, nothing new for Amber. She was leaning heavily on a shapeless man in a huge overcoat, who half-dragged her towards the entrance to the booths.

She pulled away long enough to fish a ten-dollar bill out of her bra and put it on the counter. “Don’t be a dick about it, porn guy,” she said.

Milton looked down at the Hamilton, the back up at Amber. He looked over her shoulder at the man, but he was already entering the darkened back rooms where the booths were located. Milton slid the ten off the counter and pocketed it. He didn’t bother giving her a code to activate the video screens in the back, since she wasn’t there to watch porn. “Make it quick,” he said. She flipped him the bird on her way to the booths.

Milton went back to his surfing. Five minutes later, he heard something.

Milton had worked in the porn store long enough to be able to block out the usual sounds coming from the back area, some from the movies, some from the patrons. This wasn’t that. It sounded like a drain backing up; a sick, wet gurgling sound. But the only drain in the store was in the bathroom sink, and that was behind him. It wasn’t coming from there.

Milton stood up and grabbed the cut-down baseball bat from behind the counter. As he warily approached the entrance to the booths, the sound got louder; the strange squelching now punctuated with sharp, cracking sounds, like someone stomping on bubble wrap. He stepped over the threshold to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness and looked down the corridor to where he could see the industrial switch that would illuminate the entire booths area in an instant. He started towards it, hitting the bat against the wall a few times. “Time’s up, Amber,” he said loudly.

That’s when the smell hit him. Something like burnt circuitry mixed with soiled diapers. It was revolting. The sounds got louder and somehow wetter. Milton felt ice down his back as he stared into the darkness at the line of doors on either side, wondering which of the booths was occupied and knowing he would have to walk between them all to reach the light switch.

“Milton,” Amber’s weak voice came from somewhere in the dark, pleading. “Help me.” The gurgling sounds continued, louder now. Wet sounds. Eating sounds.

Milton turned and bolted out of the shop and into the blizzard. He didn’t bother to get his laptop or his coat and didn’t stop running until he got to his apartment two blocks away. He collapsed on his couch, chest heaving and throat on fire from his mad flight through the darkened, snowy streets.

When the panic finally subsided, Milton knew he was right to run.

Amber never called him Milton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why me?” asked The Crimson Hound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us, every one!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, uh…can I go now?” asked the elf.

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

It was a long way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Rules

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

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

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

Character Statistics:

Here are my Super Mission Force builds for the characters:

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

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

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

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

Apocalypse Me: Hungry Bertha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies for being late, Dave!

“Game over, man! Game over!!”

For the past few months, this has been my main project: Painting Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps, by Gale Force Nine. It’s done.

First: the Xenomorphs. These guys were super-easy to paint. All 16 took me about 2 hours and I think they look great, especially for table play. I used The Esoteric Order of Gamers method, which couldn’t be simpler; but I decided against using any gloss finish. YMMV.

Of course, the Alien Queen doesn’t come with the core set; she’s only available in the “Get Away From Her, You Bitch!” expansion. I bought that too (see below), so here she is.

On to the Colonial Marines. The core set includes (L-R) Vasquez, Frost, Ripley, Hudson, Newt, Gorman and Hicks. Fun fact: not only do I hate painting camouflage, I really hate Colonial Marine camo. It’s fucking weird; and no two people paint it the same.

A couple of close-ups of Frost and Vasquez, then one showing Hicks, Hudson (Game over, man!) and Newt.

Closeups of Ripley.

This is the “Ultimate Badasses” expansion. (L-R) Drake, Wierbowski, Burke, Crowe, Apone, and Dietrich. Spoiler Alert! With the exception of Burke, all these marines were dead by the first 30 minutes of the movie, so calling them “ultimate badasses” is a bit of a stretch…

Closeups of Carter Burke, Weyland-Yutani douchebag.

Finally, Bishop, “Gooey” Bishop, Enraged Ripley and Ripley in the Power Loader. Gale Force Nine sells these miniatures (and all the others, too) in a separate sets containing only the miniatures. This one was called “Sulaco Survivors”. I bought it thinking I got a great deal before I realized it’s ONLY the miniatures and you don’t get the stuff you need for the actual game. For that, you need to buy the “Get Away From Her, You Bitch!” expansion, which also includes these miniatures (and the Queen). Confusing and annoying, since now I have two sets of these (one of which is still on the sprue).

I really like the Bishop models. The Ripley sculpt is pretty iconic, but I’m pretty “meh” about it. Do I really need three versions of Ripley?

Finally, Ripley in the power loader. This one wasn’t fun, either. I hate painting yellow, and this miniature wasn’t easy to paint. Although I was wise enough not to fully assemble it before painting, I should have assembled it even less. It was tough to get the brush everywhere it needed to go. Compounding that with the color yellow (which is a notorious asshole) meant I needed to do a lot of repainting of the same areas to cover accidents. Still, it does look pretty cool…

Now, I’m ready to play! Just in time for another (likely) lockdown!

I can play this one solo, at least…

Forgotten Heroes 2021: The Crimson Hound

Visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern may recall me lamenting the fact that I don’t get to play many games any more, especially roleplaying games. Since I opened an Instagram account about a year ago, I’ve met some pretty cool hobbyists and gamers, many of whom live much too far away from me for us to ever be able to sit around the same table. Because of remote play during the COVID pandemic, that hasn’t been as much of an obstacle, and I’ve been able to get some gaming in with some very cool people.

One of them, my friend Bruno, has a YouTube channel called The Chronicles of the Crimson Hound, and through this, he has come up with something truly ingenious that all but guarantees he gets to play a ton of games. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy the guy.

Bruno created a character: the Crimson Hound, a vampiric vigilante super hero in a cyberpunk-style city. Bruno’s brilliance is that he gets other people to GM games for the Crimson Hound, using whatever rules system and running whatever story they like; then he puts the game sessions up on YouTube. So far, the folks running the games have mostly been gamers who have websites and podcasts of their own; so viewers get to see a variety of game mastering styles and get a feel for diverse methods of storytelling and gaming. The serials are broken down into sessions of about 15 minutes each, so they’re great to listen to while you’re…oh, say, cooking dinner or painting miniatures. Check them out!

Anyway, Bruno asked me to GM a game for the Crimson Hound, which made me feel immensely flattered. Run a game for a vampiric vigilante in a pulp/cyberpunk setting? Yes, please! On YouTube? No, thank you. Some folks, like Bruno, are handsome and charismatic enough to be on YouTube. Others, like me, are far too handsome for YouTube but lack any charisma whatsoever. Sad, but true.

Still, I felt bad because Bruno was kind enough to playtest one of my Call of Cthulhu adventures that I am planning to submit to the Miskatonic Repository. In other words, when I asked, he said yes; while when he asked, I declined. Kind of a dick move on my part. (See? No charisma.)

So, as a way to say thanks, I decided to immortalize Bruno’s creation, The Crimson Hound, for Forgotten Heroes. The Crimson Hound isn’t “forgotten”, of course; his legend is only just beginning! But this challenge gave me all the excuse I needed to practice my green stuff kung-fu. (Special thanks to Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop for the quick assist in answering my noob sculptor questions.) Besides, Carrion Crow is usually pretty lenient when it comes to enforcing the rules.

The base miniature was Captain Griffon, by Reaper, from their Chronoscope line. (If I remember right, Bruno wanted to use this miniature himself for the Hound, once upon a time.) I couldn’t find anything better in my rather extensive pile of Heroclix. I had considered using a Robin miniature as a base, but I picture the Hound is bigger (and cooler) than Robin.

In his single-minded pursuit of vigilante justice, the Crimson Hound has used stun batons, handguns and even an enchanted short sword. I considered giving him one or more of these, but in the end I decided just to stick with his bare hands. The Hound is a brute, after all. He’s not too subtle when it comes to kicking ass.

I added some green stuff to bulk out his shoulders and his collar, and sculpted his mask and his knee pads. Then I let him dry and sanded him down with an emery board, because Dave said to.

Of course, unbeknownst to Bruno, while I was IN THE MIDDLE OF sculpting and painting the Crimson Hound, Bruno put up a new Instagram post, showing the Hound’s upcoming NEW COSTUME. In other words, not this one anymore.

D’oh!

Here he is, all painted up. I tried to be as faithful to the top picture as I could, but there was no way in hell I was going to even attempt that belt. It’s way beyond my green stuff skillz. As it is, looks like I could have done a better job sanding him down. Hope you like him, Bruno!

Here’s a funny little anecdote: for my final touch, I decided to give the red parts of the costume a light wash of Citadel’s Bloodletter glaze, which really does a good job of highlighting and tying together the different shades of red. It was supposed to be the very last thing I did, but shortly after the application, I noticed a bunch of mysterious white spots all over the model, wherever I put the Bloodletter. Seems my glaze went bad somehow, and I had to redo all the red. Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha.

Ha.

That’s probably it for my Forgotten Heroes submissions this year, although I could still pull something out last minute. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime, I will continue to watch the other participants with great interest!

Monster May(hem) 2021: The Baba Yaga

Lately I have become fascinated with the many tales of The Baba Yaga. I’m not sure why. I have no Slavic or Russian heritage of which I am aware; and I’m not particularly into folklore. In fact, the first I ever heard of the Baba Yaga was in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, by Gary Gygax; in which her Dancing Hut appeared as an artifact of great power. For many years, this was all I knew of her. She was a witch. She had a hut. It walked around on chicken legs, and it was much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The Baba Yaga featured prominently in the backstory of last month’s Character of the Month, Doval Lakatos, right around the time I became aware that Reaper miniatures makes a Baba Yaga’s Hut kit in the Bones Black line. It retails for $60.00, which is pretty fucking steep considering it does not include the Baba Yaga herself. (She’s a metal miniature sold separately.) I did not pay the 60 bucks; I paid a third of that on eBay from a guy who must have bought it, assembled it and then decided it was too much of a pain in the ass to deal with. I sympathize. It IS a pain in the ass, that’s for sure. I have some significant problems with this model.

First, it doesn’t stand up straight. When assembled the house leans so far forward you can’t see the front, and the chicken legs don’t sit level. I assumed this was because the guy I bought it from assembled it incorrectly, but that’s not the case. A quick look online shows that that’s how it’s supposed to look. Well, I wasn’t having that. I figured I would sculpt a base so the hut could stand up. Normally I use Magic Sculpt for that, but on a base this size, that’s a lot of Magic Sculpt, and it’s not cheap. I needed another solution.

This is Crayola Model Magic. It’s kind of like clay, but it’s spongy and a little weird. It comes in different colors (which doesn’t matter since I was going to paint over it anyway) and dries without baking. I picked up this package at the dollar store for a dollar (surprise) and smeared it all over a square base big enough to fit the hut, let it dry partially; then stood the hut into the stuff, creating these footprints. Then I let it dry fully. It cracked a little, so I filled the crack with some Magic Sculpt.

As you can see, it stands up just fine now, and it fits so snugly I don’t even need to glue it down. Being able to remove it allowed me easy access to work on the base, so that’s what I did; coating it with craft paint and sand, adding a Nolzur’s wood pile, a campfire from Johnny Borg and a stump sculpted from leftover Magic Sculpt.

With the base out of the way, I was free to concentrate on the hut. I’ve seen some pretty amazing paintjobs on this kit over on Instagram; one in particular by @lyresforhire is really cool with the light streaming out from the windows and cracks in the door. But I wanted the hut to look abandoned and run-down; the kind of place a hag would live.

I decided on a pretty straightforward brownish-gray to represent the weathering of the wood slats and shingles. I used mostly craft paint. I added a little green here and there to represent the damp mold and fungus that has taken root in the wood. I painted the glass panes a few shades of gray before giving them a final highlight of white.

The chicken legs were based in GW’s XV-88, then highlighted with some Tau Light Ochre before a final highlight of Golden Yellow. Believe it or not, I had a hard time deciding how to paint the legs. I found out way more than I ever thought I would about chicken legs while researching this. Turns out they come in all kinds of colors.

So, what are my other problems with the hut? Well, I’m not an expert on her by any means, but I have read a fair bit about the Baba Yaga and her hut; and this doesn’t look like Baba Yaga’s hut. This looks more like Baba Yaga’s dilapidated condo. In traditional folkore, Baba Yaga’s hut is circular, about 10-15 feet in diameter (on the outside), and has no windows or doors (unless she wants it to). This thing here has eleven windows, two doors, a side porch with an enclosed balcony, a cupola and front steps. That’s some hut!

Finally, the kit comes with a skeleton in a cage that I didn’t use. I gather it’s supposed to hang from the eave to the right (our view) of the door. The problem is the scale. The skeleton in the cage is so big that if he was standing up straight he’d be significantly taller than the front door of the hut. I opted not to use it, and I forgot to take a picture. You can see it online if you care to look for it.

What about the hag herself? The Baba Yaga miniature is ok. Baba Yaga is often described as an ogress, so the miniature seems a bit small to me. When she’s not in her hut, she flies around in a magical mortar she steers with a pestle. It might have been nice to have that instead of a skull-headed broom and a bundle of sticks.

Anyway, now you can see why I couldn’t very well tell Mark A. Morin that his sacrificial temple didn’t count as a monster when I planned on submitting a house on chicken legs myself!

Monster May(hem) has been HUGE this year and there are still 9 days left! Here is the blogroll:

Matt from PM Painting continues to dominate the submission list. So far he’s done a ton of miniatures from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game: an Elder Thing, a Shoggoth, a Byakhee, some Ghouls and Deep Ones, a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu , some Hunting Horrors, a Cthonian, Yog-Sothoth itself, and some Fire Vampires! The man is unstoppable!

Roger from Rantings from Under the Wargames Table did some Prehistoric Cats, then sculpted a horrible Creeping Eye from a 1958 horror film! If you want to see how to sculpt a monster from a ping-pong ball and Roger’s trademarked “support sausages”, check it out! Can’t wait to see it painted!

Carrion Crow has started his Wendigo miniature from ParagonStar, and he may just change my opinion of 3D printed models!

Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop sculpted a Krayt Dragon (seen on The Mandalorian) and a Joopa (from Star Wars: rebels) from scratch and painted them both. Guys like Roger and Dave who scratch-sculpt their own stuff really blow me away. Fantastic work!

Azazel painted a Coral Golem, an Umber Hulk, a Sand Kraken and a Harbinger (truly terrifying beasts from Shadows of Brimstone), and a Balor demon! Azazel’s painting is out of this world.

Tom from The Good Ground has jumped in this year and painted a Red Slaad and Siren Head, a cryptid I’d never heard of before! Tom’s just kicking his new blog off, so drop by if you haven’t done so already!

As stated before, Mark A. Morin painted this amazing Aztec Temple Sacrificial Altar; and now he’s added another terrible monstrous Aztec structure: the High Throne! Mark’s hobby project focus is the stuff of legend; the dude never seems to get distracted by anything else. Check out his current Aztec project on his blog!

I’m hoping to get one more miniature done before the end, but it’s also a big one with a lot of base work. At least I found a use for the rest of the Model Magic!