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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
I’d use pregenerated characters with relevant skills, or make sure my PCs had them if they were using their own investigators.
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.”
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.
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.
This is a long one. As such, I don’t expect it will get read by anyone born this millennium; so for those of short attention span: TLDR: I hate double standards.
Although I can’t believe anyone who reads this blog wouldn’t know this already, DriveThruRPG is one of several sites (through the parent company of OneBookShelf, Inc., or OBS) that make up a huge archive of downloadable and print-on-demand RPGs, miniature games and game aids. In addition to hosting the DM’s Guild (for all things Dungeons & Dragons) the Storyteller Vault (for all World of Darkness stuff), and Wargames Vault (for miniature wargames), DriveThruRPG allows anyone to create, market, publish and sell their own games, and/or in many cases (such as through the Miskatonic Repository) create content for established games, subject to licensing restrictions. Many, many independent creators use DTRPG to market and sell their work, and many of the most creative people in the industry rely on it to make a living. I shop there quite often.
Without question, OBS has a monopoly on electronic RPG sales and distribution. This makes them extremely powerful. Last week, DriveThruRPG has released some new product standards and publisher conduct requirements, and boy, do they suck. These new standards and practices will severely curtail creativity and will almost certainly result in many creators having their content edited, restricted or outright de-platformed based upon vague requirements put in place specifically to limit the use of the site by creators DTRPG doesn’t like. Take a look:
Neither your Work, description, nor any promotional material, including blog posts or press releases, may contain racist, homophobic, discriminatory, or other repugnant views; overt political agendas or views; depictions or descriptions of criminal violence against children; rape or other acts of criminal perversion; or other obscene material without the express written permission of OneBookShelf.
You may be thinking: sounds good! I dislike all those things! They have no place in our hobby! Right? Sure, on the surface. But think about it. Those are some pretty fucking vague product standards. What are “other repugnant views?” What is “other obscene material?” What is the definition of obscene and/or repugnant, and most of all, who decides what meets this criteria?
What if I want to make a US Civil War RPG, or even an adventure for any game that is set during the Civil War? How do I avoid “overt political agendas or views” in that work? How about racism? What about if I set it during the civil rights era? Or the Crusades? I would think racism would be a topic that would figure prominently in those settings. Can my pulp adventure have a Nazi villain? If a gay NPC gets murdered in my Call of Cthulhu investigation, is that homophobic? What about if a kid gets bullied in one of my games? Is that criminal violence against children? Apparently, I need written permission from OBS to even consider including any of these if I hope to sell on their site (which, again, is the only game in town); and I can’t even talk about it on MY OWN FUCKING BLOG.
It gets better:
Hostile Marketing: Our policy regarding potentially offensive content (see Product Standards Guidelines) reported by customers is to deactivate such titles while they are being reviewed. Publishers who deliberately court controversy by making public declarations or accusations of censorship resulting from this process in order to draw attention to their products will be considered to use hostile marketing.
Publishers who direct or support public accusations of impropriety or censorship toward OneBookShelf when their controversial titles are rejected or removed from our marketplace will also be considered to use hostile marketing.
This behavior will not be tolerated. We have adopted a strict one-warning policy for those who engage in hostile marketing: The first incident will prompt a warning, and after a second incident, their accounts will be removed from our site permanently and immediately.
In other words, if DTRPG pulls your stuff for review after “reports by customers”, you can’t complain about it publicly. If DTRPG bans your stuff, you can’t tell anyone about it or bitch that it’s unfair, because doing so might draw increased interest to your product, and DTRPG doesn’t want that because they think it’s bad and they don’t want you to sell it. If you think DTRPG’s policies about censorship and their arbitrary enforcement and definition of same are unfair, shut the fuck up and take it; because if you talk about it on DTRPG or anywhere else, like on your personal blog, YouTube channel or Facebook page, they’ll warn you once and then you’re out on your ass. You are officially de-platformed.
Let’s apply an example with DTRPG’s new guidelines in mind. DTRPG makes mention of “potentially offensive content reported by customers”. Let’s say I write an adventure that someone doesn’t like because it contains something they find offensive. Or, better yet: let’s say I write an adventure, and someone who doesn’t like ME (hard to believe, right?) for whatever reason (maybe I fucked their mom) finds out about it. They complain to DTRPG and say my adventure contains “repugnant views”; so DTRPG pulls my adventure for review.
Here’s what happens next: While DTRPG is reviewing my product for undefined “repugnant views”, it’s not available on the site, and it’s not getting sold. If this is in the first week of release, this probably has a catastrophic effect on my profits (most products on DTRPG sell most during their first week of release, when they’re still considered “new”), regardless of whether or not DTRPG eventually decides that it contains “repugnant views” or not. So, that sourcebook or adventure or game I spent the last 6 months or two years or decade writing might turn into wasted time and no money.
DTRPG supposedly reviews it. I have looked, but I can’t find anything anywhere about how long this takes or whether they even have to look it over in a timely manner; so I guess it takes as long as it takes. In the meantime, I can’t complain publicly about how my product was pulled or publicly question why it was pulled. I can’t protest that I’m being targeted or that DTRPG is censoring my content. I can’t even use the fact that it was pulled or rejected as a mark of infamy (i.e. “Banned from DTRPG!”; bad publicity is still publicity) to drive sales elsewhere (even if I’m selling it ON MY OWN SITE). I have to shut the fuck up and take it, or risk being de-platformed forever from the only real market in town.
Quick reminder: this decision is based on feedback as “reported by customers.” Well, let’s imagine for a moment that people are assholes, and that they do asshole things like abuse social media to review-bomb a product and/or service because they dislike the person who owns it or who is responsible for its creation. Never heard of this? Go visit Yelp and take a look around for a few minutes. I’ll wait.
These policies were allegedly created in response to a creator named Venger Satanis, who apparently espouses some right-wing stuff in his work (like anti-abortion views) and supposedly often complains about DTRPG censorship as a way to promote his material (or as DTRPG calls it, engages in “hostile marketing”). Despite him having some degree of fame in the hobby community (certainly more than what little fame I have), I am not familiar with Venger Satanis, nor do I give the smallest shit about his viewpoint on anything; but the brass at OBS seems to lean pretty far left, and thus these “anti-repugnant” policies have supposedly been enacted due, at least in part, to his purported chicanery.
Regardless, this is censorship, plain and simple; and whether Venger Satanis is guilty of what they claim or not, it affects more than just him. It affects every creator (though not equally, see below); but it’s aimed squarely at “problem” creators (like Venger Satanis) and people who write what they want, who don’t feel like they need to hold your hand if you’re an adult and who defend the right of others to do the same; guys like James Edward Raggi IV (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) and “Grim Jim” Desborough (PostMortem Studios), to name but two. Both of these guys recently and immediately took a public stand against these policies, both have a lot to lose by doing so (since criticizing DTRPG publicly is now against the rules), and both have my support and admiration (whatever that’s worth) for standing up and saying that this is bullshit, even at the risk of being excluded entirely from the DTRPG market.
Book-banning and limiting free speech has traditionally been the domain of right-wing, often evangelical assholes (at least for most of my life), but the pendulum has well and truly swung. How about that double standard? Here’s an example that’s getting a lot of traction at the moment. Thirsty Sword Lesbians is a newish game published by Evil Hat Games (creators of Blades in the Dark) about thirsty sword lesbians; and they unequivocally and unapologetically state in their book that there is no such thing as an apolitical game. I certainly agree. All games push an agenda to some extent. It sure seems like the folks at Black Hat are promoting overt political views through this game, and not the conservative, evangelical kind. But it seems they don’t have anything to fear from OBS. No one is censoring Thirsty Sword Lesbians. Why the fuck not? OBS’s new standards state clearly that any work must be free from overt political beliefs or views, and this game isn’t hiding its agenda at all. What would they say if OBS told them they COULDN’T sell Thirsty Sword Lesbians on DTRPG? I’m betting they wouldn’t be happy, and they’d likely rail against the censorship. Guess some overt political views are ok, though. Since OBS’s policy is so fucking vague, make sure to ask their permission first to make sure you hold the right ones.
Evil Hat Games goes on to say that if you don’t like their politics, don’t buy their games. Once again, I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. This is exactly how I would handle material made by creators who espouse beliefs I find repugnant, or people I can’t abide. I won’t support them by turning my money into their money. But I am not in favor of censoring them–that’s someone else deciding for me.
To be clear, I’m not calling for anyone to censor Thirsty Sword Lesbians. This is not an indictment or criticism of that particular game (I’ve never played it, so how can I criticize it?) or its creators, or their agenda. I won’t buy that game (or games like Monster Hearts, Tales of Equestria or Mouse Guard) because I have zero interest in playing it; not because I disagree with Evil Hat’s political views. I have nothing against lesbians, be they of the thirsty sword variety or otherwise, but neither am I interested in roleplaying a swashbuckling lesbian. I don’t disagree with Evil Hat’s political views, I disagree with OBS’s selective enforcement of their own rules to promote a one-sided agenda and exclude creators who may not agree with it.
I am all for the creation and development of independent and small press games. I think it’s a good thing that diversity, inclusion and BiPOC and LGBTQ issues (and players) are enjoying more and better representation in our shared hobby. It’s long overdue; and I should know, because I’m fucking old; but even if I disagreed with the political views of the game’s creators (which, one again, I don’t), it doesn’t mean I think the game should be censored. Who the fuck am I to say that?
Here’s what I think should be censored: anything defined as illegal; and anything that spreads misinformation that is a clear danger to society, like saying that bleach injections are a good way to fight COVID and not an absolutely certain way to kill yourself. That’s clear. That’s not vague or arbitrary. That consideration should go both ways; but that overt double standard is there, and it is hypocritical, as all double standards are. (Certain people have been trying to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess out of business for years, using actual hostile marketing, not that bullshit DTRPG defines as hostile marketing; but that’s another story that you can look up, if you want.)
Like I said, I don’t know Venger Satanis or his work; but if he’s really that far to the right in his views I likely have nothing in common with him other than the fact that we both play games. Just because I’m liberal-minded doesn’t mean I think only those of like mind should have the right to publish creative works that must reflect similar views; and just because DTRPG seems to lean the same way I do doesn’t make what they’re doing right. Censorship is the death of creativity, and arbitrary censorship is the nail in the coffin; which is something I said in a recent YouTube comment and something I firmly believe.
Would saying these things get me banned over at DTRPG? Maybe so, because someone will be offended that, although I’m supportive of “their” cause, I’m not supportive enough. Yeah, I consider myself pretty liberal; but there are fucking limits. Just because all orcs are evil in my D&D game doesn’t mean I’m a racist. That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. Why? Because, at the risk of offending orcs everywhere, orcs don’t actually exist. I don’t equate fictional monsters with real-life racial groups, because THAT would be racist. Just because I would rather play Lamentations of the Flame Princess than Monster Hearts doesn’t make me anti-queer; it means I like OSR games and don’t particularly like Powered by the Apocalypse games; and that I’d rather play a gritty character like Solomon Kane than play an angst-ridden, sexually-conflicted teenager who has no control over who or what turns him on (and no, that’s not an ignorant stereotype of queer people, that’s an actual fucking game mechanic in Monster Hearts). Just because I don’t find men (other than Roger) sexually attractive does not make me homophobic, it makes me (mostly) heterosexual.
I lean pretty far to the left, sure; but everything is so polarized nowadays, you are the enemy unless you are completely on-board with someone’s viewpoint, regardless of any other common ground you may share. Example: after I posted this, a hobbyist whose work I (still) greatly admire sent me an immediate email in response. He said if I actually believe that stuff really happened as it was shown on TV, he couldn’t help me. He also said that because of my views he would never visit my blog again, despite, up until then, finding my blog entertaining and enjoying my work.
Naturally, I was devastated and cried for weeks. (Not really.) In truth, I got annoyed (it doesn’t take much) and thought: go fuck yourself, you pompous, patronizing asshole. I never asked for your help. Yes, I believe it really happened as it was shown on TV, because I have eyes. A year and a half later we’re finally having hearings about it and it was way worse than most people thought. Of course, you likely watch nothing but Fox News; so you probably don’t even know there are hearings going on. Pay attention instead to the slow death of sports due to transgender athletes and rail against the injustice of it all, because that’s the really important stuff. (And yes, because someone out there will be offended because they think that I think that transgender athletes are more important than the death of Democracy, that last sentence was fucking sarcasm.)
Sorry. Got off on a bit of a tangent there. That’s been simmering for a while. Of course, that guy doesn’t come here anymore, so he won’t see it. (Right.)
Anyway…folks may say that DTRPG is not a guaranteed free-speech forum, it’s a private company, and they can do whatever they want. They’re right. Just like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby can (and do) support anti-LGBTQ legislation, as is their right. If you don’t like their politics (I sure don’t), don’t give them your money. There are other places to buy a fucking chicken sandwich and a box of crayons. In this case, though, OBS is pretty much the only game in town if you want electronic distribution for your gaming product, or if you want to buy digital RPG content. There’s no significant competitor, and they are a site whose entire business model is based upon soliciting the creativity of gamers and game designers. Now they’re saying “feel free to create, but only create what we’re ok with. We won’t concretely define what that is, so ask us first to make sure it’s ok. Make sure you don’t offend us, and God forbid you complain about us anywhere.”
They can do that, because they’re a private company. But they’re also pretty much a monopoly. They ARE the market for electronic and community-created gaming content. If you want to sell your stuff successfully, you’re gonna have to deal with them, and kiss the fucking ring.
That’s kind of bullshit.
UPDATE:So, it’s already starting. Miguel Ribeiro, a talented game creator and reviewer from Portugal and co-host of The Red Room YouTube channel has had one of his products removed from DTRPG already, because it received ONE complaint “from a customer”. Someone doesn’t like the title and/or content of his game; but they had to really go looking for it to find it in the first place, as it’s labeled as adult content already. More likely, they don’t like Miguel, as he’s a pretty opinionated guy who…surprise!…doesn’t tow the line.
He has posted this video about the DTRPG situation, and he’s effectively breaking their rules by talking about it at all. Nonetheless, he has my wholehearted support for doing so. Fair warning: Miguel may be a gifted and prolific game designer; but he needs to reign it in as a broadcaster. He has the SUPREMELY ANNOYING habit of interrupting and talking over his co-host all the time.Don’t let his message get lost.
A brief interlude from Star Trek for my Character of the Month, and to show off my mad organization skillz, brah!
For Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge over on Instagram, I present my Character of the Month from Ral Partha: The Cloaked Assassin, by sculpted by Bob Charrette, from their Fantasy Adventurers range (03-058).
I’ve had this fellow for thirty years or so; another occupant of my pile of shame that I never got around to painting. He was, however, primed white, so I must have at least intended to paint him at some point. I primed him black over the white before I painted him this time, however.
I’ve never been a big fan of putting assassins in adventuring parties. In my mind, assassins should be either adversaries to the PCs or something else entirely, not a character class. Why would an assassin go on an adventure? They have a pretty limited skill set: they know how to kill people. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to stick to what they’re good at? Garroting someone in an alley seems far safer than kicking down a door in a necromancer’s crypt and fighting his undead minions, doesn’t it?
So, let’s call this guy a thief instead. Or rogue, if you prefer the current nomenclature of D&D 5E.
This was my painting desk up until a couple of months ago. Although you can’t really see them, most of my paints sat on a pair of old spice racks. These cheap plastic racks were not designed for paint (duh), and I often had the annoying chore of picking up paints from the floor, where they had fallen between my desk and the wall after being knocked over or jostled from their precarious perches on the too-narrow racks.
Something needed to be done, so a new rack was constructed from XPS foam. This one measured the entire length of my desk and was designed to fit flush along the wall. The shelves were intentionally made wide enough to accommodate multiple rows of bottles of all different types, from dropper bottles to pop-tops to even the dreaded (and hated) old-style Citadel twist-off paint pots.
Here’s what it looks like now. Although I would have been content to just slap together some pink foam and use it as-is, my better half flatly refused to even consider such a stupid idea and wouldn’t allow it. She painted and wrapped the whole thing in adhesive shelf paper, so now my paint rack looks like it’s made of solid marble.
I love it. No more falling paint pots. Room for all may paints and then some (which just means I will fill the space eventually). Naturally I took photos because I know it will not look like this for long. So far I’ve managed to keep it tidy.
But wait, there’s more! I decided to take this opportunity to organize my gaming closet, too. So, here it is!
Thirty-plus years of roleplaying games on the left side.
Board games and RPG boxed sets in the middle.
More board games, miniatures games and terrain (including a Mighty Fortress!), and collectible card games on the right (last played circa 2004 or so).
Last but not least: the pile of shame; or as I like to call it: the Insanity Pile. Old miniatures, new miniatures, abandoned projects, projects I know I will never get to but won’t say are abandoned, projects I intend to get to one day, and projects I will actually work on. The plastic cases at the bottom hold Owen’s miniatures; the white boxes on the second shelf are mostly Heroclix, and all the shit you can’t see behind what you see here is mostly bitz on sprues and unopened armies and units for 40K and WFB. On the Naya rack is unpainted Plasticville scenery and most of the High Elf Army I’ll never get to. And of course, on the top are all my old-school miniatures, some painted, some not. The plain cardboard boxes hold various projects, including what I have left from last year’s order from Wargames Terrain Workshop!
Gotta say, I like this organization thing a lot. This stuff was all over my basement, and I got tired of hearing about it. I took these pictures to remind me what it’s like to be responsible and put away my toys.
They also make it clear that I really need to get rid of stuff.
I can’t resist a huge sale. Modiphius’s US store had a sale at the end of last month; and there were some ri-fucking-diculous deals to be had. Here’s what $70.00 US got me:
The John Carter of Mars RPG Slipcase set: contains both the Core Rulebook and the Phantoms of Mars Campaign Guide: $21.00. Regularly $105.00!
The John Carter of Mars Narrator’s Toolkit and GM Screen: $7.00. Regularly $35.00!
The John Carter of Mars Player’s Guide: $6.00. Regularly $28.00!
In addition, I picked up the Helium Dice Set and the Landscape Location Deck. Usually, I’m not a fan of special dice and/or add-ons like this deck, neither of which you need to play. But, at $4.00 and $5.00 respectively (regularly $17.00 and $21.00), I figured what the hell.
While I was at it, I picked up some Achtung! Cthulhu fiction for $3.00; and EIGHT Deep One metal miniatures for the low, low price of $6.00!!!! (Regularly $14.00 and $28.00!)
That’s a total of $52.00, regularly $238.00! That’s 78% off the total! Makes the $18.00 shipping charge seem pretty worth it, considering I ALSO get the digital PDFs of everything (except the dice and the miniatures, obviously)!
Of course, like most of the games I buy nowadays, I doubt I’ll ever play this. The Achtung! Cthulhu fiction will definitely get read, and I will certainly paint the miniatures; but I don’t have high hopes for playing a John Carter game. Most of my friends aren’t familiar with the characters and setting, and those that are familiar are not particularly interested. Still, I’m a huge Burroughs fan, and, like most Modiphius stuff, these books are simply gorgeous. They are laid out in landscape orientation, and the artwork is some truly stunning stuff.
Time for a visit to Barsoom…even if it’s just to find out what Carrion Crow‘s been up to on his periodic jaunts to Mars. I have a feeling this is going to make me want to dust off my copy of A Princess of Mars…
I want to play games. These games, to show but a few:
As you can see, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of new RPG stuff, through both purchases and gifts, during this interminable pandemic. That’s some of it, up there. I acquired it with the intent (always the intent) that I would eventually play and/or run these games; and in some cases, I have managed to do that. But not enough.
The problem is that I listen to too many gaming podcasts. I watch too many YouTube videos. All this new stuff sounds awesome, and I want to try everything. When you add the fact that Modiphius and Free League have acquired the licenses to some of the best licensed properties out there (Star Trek, Alien, Dune, Conan, Blade Runner,) and that their stuff is both gorgeous to look at and fun to play, you can actually watch and see what little willpower I possess fading away. I cannot resist the pull. I wants it, my precious.
It’s a lot of stuff, and it would be nice to use it rather than just look at it. When you pile it all up like that, it’s a bit sobering, because my regular gaming group (the guys I’ve played with for decades) don’t want to play most of these at all. For one reason or another, my group can’t agree on shit lately. It’s fucking aggravating.
One great thing about remote gaming is that it’s remote (duh). I have been fortunate enough to play some short games over the course of this pandemic with some really cool people from different parts of America and Canada that I would likely never have met in person (and probably never will). Some of them play-tested my own Call of Cthulhu project (still working on that, BTW); and some have gamed with me outside of that. I had fun each time, and I’d like to think they did too. They keep inviting me back, so I must be doing something right…
If you check out THIS PAGE RIGHT HERE, you will see my plans for running some classic games over the course of this year. I’m looking for new players, so if you’re interested in playing then let me know. You never know what could come of it!
Finally, if you are running any of the games shown in the picture above and are looking for a player, I’m your man; and I already have the rulebook.
Well, it’s that time again: time to rate how faithful I was to my hobby resolutions from last year, and time to make some new ones for 2022. Last year I decided to keep it simple and not set too many lofty or unrealistic goals for myself (including goals that just seem to be set every year and never started; like my Old West scenery or my Wargames Factory Shock Troopers). In fact, this what I said: “I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines.” Sound advice, and it will be more of the same this year.
So, how did I do last year? I only set four goals for myself. They were:
More Roleplaying Stuff: Goal met! I posted some write-ups of a Marvel Super Heroes game I ran way back in January. The game was much more fun to write up than it was to play, because two of my four players didn’t exactly enjoy a return to the old 1980’s TSR system, (One really didn’t enjoy it, but that’s another story. ‘Nuff said.) Still, for myself and the other two, it was a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to write up any further Star Trek Adventures games, although we did play a few times. I hope to return to running both these games again this year, although likely with a new group of players (see below).
One Character a Month: Goal met! You can see the results here if you want. Some were late for their respective months, but all made it in by year’s end.
Painting Challenges: Goal Met! In addition to the one I set for myself, I hosted my now-annual Monster Mayhem in May, and I took part in no less than six other painting competitions: Leadballoony’s Fembruary (although I posted my miniature in March), Carrion Crow’s Forgotten Heroes (my favorite painting challenge!) in June, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery (July-August) and Apocalypse Me challenges (October, although I posted her late), Orctober (October), and, although I didn’t “officially” enter, I painted a miniature for Deadcember, an Instagram challenge.
More AARs: Goal met! I posted After Action Reports with original scenarios for two games: a couple of Green Hornet .45 Adventure games, and a return to Super Mission Force, featuring The Crimson Hound!
So,I grabbed all the rings, despite being annoyingly late a few times. I also got two more personal projects completed: all the Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures in the Twin Shadows expansion, plus the accompanying Ally and Villain packs; and all the miniatures for the Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps game, including the Ultimate Badasses expansion. Not too shabby!
So what about this year? Well, these goals should look somewhat similar.
More Roleplaying Stuff: This year, Dead Dick’s Tavern will feature even more RPG content. Roleplaying games were my first love and my initial entry point into the miniatures hobby. I love playing RPGs, I love running RPGs, I love talking about RP games and game systems. We are in a golden age of RPGs; with tons of small-press and creator-owned content sharing the market with amazing companies like Free League Publishing and Modiphius. I will (hopefully) discuss RPGs old and new, post some game write-ups and reviews; and if possible, maybe even get to play in more games as a result.
Through Instagram and Discord, I have been fortunate to meet some roleplaying gamers from all over the country and play games with them. It’s been a pretty fun experience, and one I plan to continue this year. If you look at the top of this blog, you will see there is more than one page. (Yeah, I know. I didn’t realize that either for the longest time.) Anyway, a new page will soon be up there, talking about which RPGs I hope to run in 2022. If you are interested in playing anything I list (remotely, of course), then by all means contact me for the particulars!
One Character a Month: Maybe more, actually. As I said, I won’t be hosting this challenge, but it’s open to anyone who has an Instagram account and wants to participate. It’s essentially the same challenge as mine (though no backstory required): paint a D&D character class each month. I’m using this as an excuse to paint some classic lead: Grenadier, Ral Partha, RAFM…I will post my submissions here, too!
Painting Challenges: I’ll be paring it back a bit this year. Aside from the above Character of the Month, I will absolutely be hosting Monster Mayhem again, and I will always do Forgotten Heroes for as long as Jeremy hosts it. I can’t say no to Dave’s Season of Scenery, either; he’s so accommodating by giving us two months, and it’s pretty much the only time I force myself to build and paint scenery. Other than that, we’ll see what comes my way.
More AARs: Yes! This year will see a return and conclusion to the Green Hornet adventure. I would also like very much to do some more Star Trek skirmish games; perhaps this time using the TNG crew; and of course, Super Mission Force.
Personal Projects: I don’t like to make promises to myself that I don’t keep (although it happens often)…BUT…I’m going to be focusing on getting all my Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures painted this year. Will I be able to get through 3 more boxed expansions and 20 + blister packs, a total of 63 miniatures? Probably not. We’ll see. I have some other things I keep looking at, thinking I should start or finish them. As always.
Get Back Out There: I’ve been neglecting the blogs of others for a while, as real life has reared its ugly head. I hope to be once again be more of a nuisance to hobbyists everywhere.
Well, that’s about it. Keep watch for that new RPG page, if interested. (I have no idea what I’ll be posting next, but it’s a good bet it will have something to do with the miniatures hobby.)
It’s been pretty desolate lately over at Carrion Crow’s Buffet, with nary a word from our thick-thewed, swarthy hero for nigh on two months. Of course, the Crow has been known to take extended absences before (he has a house on Barsoom, I hear); but we are living in “challenging and uncertain times” (I swear if I hear that one more time I’m going to kill someone), so I grew concerned. I reached out to my friend to see if all was well.
Contacting the Crow is never easy. Through a series of dead-drops, codes left on dead Cold War-era radio broadcasts, packages carried by unwitting agents and clues left in Internet Alternate Reality Games, I finally succeeded. In short, I wanted to know if he was ok.
He responded, but I got the feeling he was pressed for time, as he only sent this one folded photo of himself showing what he’s been up to over the last two months.
I breathed a sigh of relief. As you can see, he has remarkably smooth legs. He also seems to have everything well-sorted and under control. Business as usual.
Been a long time since I did a product review. This time I thought I’d share my thoughts on the “Big Three” wargaming mags: Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy; and Wargames Illustrated; as well as some cool plastic miniatures: Halfling Militia from Wargames Atlantic.
I didn’t buy these, I got five of them for FREEEEEEEEEEEEE! with my copy of Miniature Wargames magazine. MW has taken to attaching free sprues of miniatures with some issues, which makes the $15 per issue price tag a bit more bearable for me. (Skip down below to read my thoughts on the “Big Three” Wargaming magazines.)
These halflings look pretty cool, as you can see. They have a nice level of detail, come with several options for heads and weapons (bows, halberds, spears and a sword), and fit together nicely. They’re versatile, too. You could easily use them for any fantasy game; or, if you still play Warhammer Fantasy Battle, they’d fit right into an Empire army as a spearman regiment or archer unit. (These guys are from Stirland!) They’re also fun to paint.
The one quibble I have is the length (and strength) of the spears and halberds. They’re too long. Don’t get me wrong: if I was keeping a huge spider at bay (as pictured on the cover), I’d want my spear to be as long as possible; but they’re a disaster in the making, as they stick so far out they’re easy to snag. So far they’re bendy enough not to snap, but I’m not what you’d call an optimist. They’re also somewhat inconvenient to store and ship because of the length of the spears. Other than this relatively minor complaint, color me impressed with this set, considering I hate assembling plastic miniatures.
Onto the gaming magazines.
First off, I’m not including White Dwarf, because White Dwarf is not a wargaming magazine. It’s a Games Workshop house engine that only covers GW products and has been primarily functioning as a product catalog for the last twenty years. Also, I don’t buy it.
The actual wargaming magazines–Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy and Wargames Illustrated–have quite a bit in common. They cover a wide variety of wargaming and hobby news, they’re all very well-produced and pretty, they’re all published in the UK, and they all cost $15 here in the States. So what are the differences, at least the ones that matter to me?
Wargames Illustrated is fantastic to look at. It has a good variety of wargaming articles for all genres; showcases new games regularly, and sometimes comes with free sprues of miniatures. (I got most of my Cruel Seas ships from this magazine.) It has some good modeling and painting articles, too. It also devotes a lot of pages to covering game shows and conventions in the UK and Europe; which, although cool, is not something I really give a shit about, considering I don’t live there and am not likely to attend any of them. I would rather have more articles and scenarios for games I like.
Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy is another beautiful magazine that is heavily weighted towards the historical wargamer, which makes it of limited use to me. I rarely buy this magazine as a result; but the issues I do own are very nice. WS&S generally focuses on a monthly theme (The Carlist Wars, for example) and then devotes several articles and scenarios to the topic, including a compendium of miniatures for the period/conflict in question, presented in a variety of scales by different manufacturers. It’s a wonderful reference, and also regularly features articles by some big names in wargaming (Rick Priestly, Henry Hyde, etc…) What it does it does very well; but it’s just not for me.
Miniature Wargames, finally, is my UK wargaming mag of choice. I’ve collected it for a couple of years and it’s always been good; but since John Treadaway took over as editor it’s really been great to see the shift from a traditional historical focus to include other genres of wargames. Now, there is a center section devoted specifically to fantasy and sci-fi wargaming in each issue, which is much appreciated. MW also features product reviews, modeling and painting articles and occasional convention and wargame show coverage that doesn’t monopolize the pages. It often gives away free sprues of miniatures, too (like the halflings above). For me, Miniature Wargames is the best fit.
Here in the States, we get all of these magazines a month or two after they are published in the UK. COVID-19 disrupted the shipping schedule and so now I have months of missed issues. Print publishing is getting insanely expensive at $15 a pop and it may just be time to cut the cord. (MW doesn’t offer discounted subscription rates in the States, so I’m stuck paying full cover price.) Since I hate reading electronic media, I will likely just learn to live without it rather than purchase an online subscription.
Today, I thought I’d try to get things back to whatever passes for normal around here.
Usually I would do a post like Mark A. Morin and many others did; where I first rate my performance against last year’s resolutions before making new ones. I did that last year, but when I went back and looked, it doesn’t seem like I actually made any resolutions for 2020. I think I forgot to; but somewhere along the way, I must have silently resolved to finish all my Star Trek miniatures, because that was one thing I did manage to do!
Mostly, anyway. I would have succeeded completely, if it weren’t for that meddling Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop, who just had to make some awesome Trek-themed computer consoles and bridge chairs which of course I just had to buy. They’re not done yet. Bummer.
Anyway, this year, I’ve decided not to focus on too much. That’s because every year I resolve to start a new project and/or army, and that never gets done. (I’ve been saying I would start my Old West scenery for years now.) I think in 2021 I will keep it manageable and realistic. I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines. With that in mind, here are my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2021:
1: More Roleplaying Stuff. The response to my RPG write-ups has been pretty positive, both on and off Dead Dick’s Tavern. I have some Instagram followers who particularly seem to enjoy them. They correspond with me about my blog, but never leave comments here. (You can do that, guys. Really!) Anyway, expect to see more exploits of the USS Adventure, as well as some other games I run. Expect to see something new soon.
2. One character a month. I came to miniature gaming through roleplaying games, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. With this in mind, I’m going to set a fun challenge for myself: each month, I’m going to paint one model based on a classic character class from Dungeons & Dragons. So, I may do a cleric in January, a fighter in February, etc… I’m not going to officially limit myself by assigning classes to months (whatever I feel like painting, I will paint, remember?); but by the end of the year I should have 12 different characters painted. This will give me an excuse to paint some of my Reaper miniatures that have been sitting around for years in their blisters. Watch for the first one soon!
3. Painting challenges. I like them. In May, I’ll be hosting Monster May(hem) again (blame Roger for the name); so get your monsters ready by then if you want to take part. I will most certainly be participating in Forgotten Heroes again in June, because it’s so much fun. (I expect to see Big Wheel, Jeremy.) If Dave hosts the Summer of Scenery again, I’m in; I never would have got my sludge pool done last year if it weren’t for him. I’d also like to do Fem-bruary for the first time this year, after learning of it by listening to the Imperial Rebel Ork podast. I gather it involves painting at least one female miniature in February; I’ll go one better and paint ALL female miniatures in February (I have a lot of them to paint).
4. More After Action Reports. I love playing games, and I love blogging about them. Expect to see more; a pulp game that’s been set up for months (but sadly unplayed as of yet); and likely more Star Trek games down the road (which should please Dave).
Santa brought me this stuff, and I just wanted to share it with you all. First, some 5/64″ wire, perfect for pinning pesky models that don’t want to cooperate. I was running low, and it’s amazing how St. Nick just seemed to know what I needed. Second, some Gorilla Glue gel; a perfect stocking stuffer for any miniatures enthusiast. Lastly: this magnifying visor that has CHANGED MY LIFE.
I’ve been using reading glasses to paint for a few years now, as I can’t seem to see shit anymore. This visor is so much better. First, it has a selection of magnifying lenses you can swap out or flip up, which is quite helpful. Second, it has a two-setting LED light right on the front, which illuminates areas on the miniature like the face, which can be problematic to paint when you can’t see shit. Third, it doesn’t take batteries: it’s rechargeable with a USB port. Last and most important, it’s comfortable. It fits snugly around my head, and doesn’t annoy me. I love this thing. I recently used it to help me assemble some Cruel Seas ships (I hate assembling plastic models).
Although I don’t ask Santa how much she pays for stuff (that would be gauche), I found these on Amazon for $30. (Worth it!)
That’s about it for now. I’m off to choose my first character class for my new challenge!