Monster May(hem) 2022 Begins!

Just a short post to let everyone know that Monster May(hem) 2022 has officially begun! Here is our list of participants this year, in no particular order:

Jeremy, aka Carrion Crow; from Carrion Crow’s Buffet

Roger from Rantings From Under the Wargames Table

Matt from PM Painting

Azazel from his eponymous Azazel’s Bitz Box

Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop

Tom from over on Instagram

and a couple of newcomers to Monster May(hem) this year:

Fellow Super Mission Force enthusiast) Jon from Jon’s Hobby Desk,

and Simon, aka Blax the Kleric, from Fantorical Wargaming!

And me, of course. As usual, I will update my blogroll as I post my own contributions, to point the way towards everyone’s great work! I have a few miniatures planned; but I’m not certain how many I will get through!

It’s not too late to join if you’re on the fence. Here are the rules, such as they are. Just let me know if you’re interested and I will add your name to the roster of painting heroes, and link to your site/account/ blog (ass appropriate).

Happy painting!

The Cimmerian

For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men. Not women. Not beasts. This you can trust.”

Conan’s father was right, of course. Blades before bros, babes and beasts every time. Sadly, he was just another wise man who was torn apart by dogs. Such is life.

The year of pop culture continues! For my character of the month, painted for Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty over on Instagram, I decided to paint a barbarian. Not just any barbarian: THE barbarian. I present: Conan of Cimmmeria, born on a battlefield, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow.

This is “The Cimmerian (FTF07)” (also labeled as “barbarian with sword”), a classic Ral Partha sculpt from 1984. I have probably had it since then, but I never got around to painting him until now. Wish I knew who sculpted it. My best guess would be Dennis Mize.

I could have just painted him bare-chested (as is the barbarian’s wont); but I was inspired by the body paint from Conan’s raid on Thulsa Doom’s temple, arguably the coolest part of the Conan the Barbarian film (a movie with a LOT of cool parts).

One of the best things about the movie is the amazing soundtrack; which I absolutely listened to while painting the miniature. It’s so great!

I made sure to add the blood splatter from Conan’s many kills; but I seem to have forgotten to add blood to his sword. Maybe he oiled it just before the slaughter.

Here, Conan explores a temple and discovers a strange inscription. What could it mean?

So, to recap: this miniature ticks a lot of boxes for me: he’s my character of the month, my entry for Tom’s IG challenge, he’s a pop culture miniature AND he’s old-school lead!

(Drops mic)

The Pawn: Part 6

Captain Picard, Lieutenant Worf and Chief O’Brien escorted the three Klingons and a visibly-nervous Lieutenant Barclay to transporter room three. Although the trip to deck six was not long, it was awkwardly silent. Once they arrived, O’Brien slid behind the console while the Klingons and Barclay prepared to ascend the platform to the transport pads. Dresa turned to Captain B’rul and spoke quickly in Klingon. B’rul looked surprised, then nodded once. “My first officer would like to remain aboard your vessel, Captain,” said the Klingon captain, “to assist in your search for the Romulans. Is this acceptable?”

Captain Picard smiled. “I already have a first officer, Captain B’rul. But Commander Dresa’s assistance would be most welcome.”

“My loss is your gain,” B’rul said, stepping onto the transporter pad. “Q’pla!

“I feel the same way, Captain,” said Picard. “Farewell. Mr. Barclay, we shall see you soon.”

“Don’t be so certain, Picard,” sneered Gr’val, gripping Barclay’s shoulder for emphasis. “You have a saboteur to find, first.”

Picard looked at O’Brien and nodded. The transporter hummed and a curtain of shimmering light appeared to envelop the the Klingons and Lieutenant Barclay. A moment later, they were gone.

Picard turned to Dresa. “I won’t belabor the point, Commander; but I fear it must be made. While aboard Enterprise, you will be subject to the chain of command. In addition to myself, you will follow the orders of my senior staff, including my Chief of Security, Lieutanant Worf; regardless of whatever personal feelings you may harbor. Is that clear?”

Dresa regarded Worf silently. He stared back. “Perfectly clear, Captain,” she said. “I’m here to advise; not to take over your ship.”

Picard straightened his uniform. “Good. We will rendezvous on the bridge in one hour. Mr. Worf will show you to your quarters.” The two Klingons were still staring at each other. Picard glanced at O’Brien, who returned a questioning look.

“Dismissed,” Picard said. That seemed to do the trick.

“Please follow me.” Worf turned on his heel and exited the transporter room. Dresa followed behind, her expression unreadable.

The pair walked in silence to the turbolift. “Deck eight,” Worf said. The doors closed and the lift began to move.

“Are the stories true?” Dresa said, speaking Klingon. “That you’re a traitor?”

Worf stiffened at the insult. He should be used to it by now, but it was still a raw subject. He waited until the turbolift stopped and the doors opened before replying. “I have accepted discommendation.”

“‘Accepted discommendation’,” Dresa echoed. “Interesting. Words chosen carefully. Gowron must owe you a great deal.

Gowron owes me nothing,” said Worf. He stalked down the corridor, his anger obvious. Starfleet personnel quickly made way for his passage.

“So it’s true, then. Your father was a traitor. Mogh betrayed the Empire to the Romulans at Khitomer.”

Worf knew he was being baited, but it didn’t make him any less angry. “These are your quarters.” He thumbed the access panel much harder than he needed to. The doors slid open.

BaQa’!” Dresa cursed, ignoring him. “You aren’t a good liar, Worf. I’d sooner believe a Ferengi.”

Worf turned and glowered at her, his eyes blazing. “I do not care what you believe! You know nothing of my father, or of me.”

“I know you were K’Ehleyr’s mate. That is enough. And that you killed Duras. Thank you for that.”

Worf was speechless. Whatever he expected to hear, this was not it. Finally, he found his voice. “You…knew K’Ehleyr.” It was not a question.

“Knew her and admired her,” Dresa said. “It takes a great deal to earn my respect, Worf; even more to earn my friendship. K’Ehleyr had both. When she spoke of you, it was always with pride.”

Worf said nothing. He did not know what to say. Dresa suddenly stepped closer, her posture challenging, her gaze critical and appraising. Many men–many Klingon men– would have reflexively stepped back. Worf did not.

“I do not believe you are a traitor, Worf,” she said. “Why is it that you wish us all to believe so?”

I have said all I will say on the matter,” Worf said.

Dresa nodded as if this confirmed a private suspicion. She entered her quarters, then turned back to face Worf. “K’Ehleyr did not speak highly of many,” she said. “See you in an hour.”

The door hissed shut between them.

The Klingon research station on Varuna three was every bit as inviting as Barclay imagined it would be. He was doing his level best to hold it together; but he was still trembling from a combination of the cold, his captivity and from having to beam down from a Klingon ship. Barclay hated transporters and felt he’d spent entirely too much time in one today. The other Klingons had found his disquiet amusing; but Gr’val seemed even more annoyed than usual. Meanwhile, the adjutant was barking orders to the three Klingons that had accompanied them here from the Vor’kag.

Captain B’rul had departed orbit almost as soon as they had transported down to the research station. The station was running on minimal power, which meant there was no heat and the air was stale. Gr’val had detached two of the Klingons to bring the main power back online while the third scouted the abandoned facility, looking for supplies and for an appropriate room to serve as a jail cell. He told Barclay to sit down and be quiet, so that’s exactly what he was doing.

Twenty minutes later, the air was no better and Barclay couldn’t feel his fingers. Gr’val was visibly angry; more angry than usual, anyway. The two Klingons still had not managed to get the power back online, and had removed several panels to access the interior of the command console. The third had found a storeroom and was clearing it for use as a cell.

Gr’val cursed and turned to Barclay. “Do you believe you can get the power online, engineer?” Barclay nodded. “Good,” the Klingon said. “Then do so, before we both freeze to death.”

Gr’val shouted at the two Klingons, who moved away from the open panels as Barclay took their place. Barclay quickly identified the problem and a few minutes later, power was restored. The lights brightened and the room soon grew noticeably warmer. The other Klingons made sounds of appreciation and wandered over to Gr’val, who casually drew his disruptor and shot them both.

Barclay almost jumped out of his skin. The disruptor shots brought the last Klingon running into the room, his own pistol drawn, instinctively pointing it towards the prisoner. Gr’val shot him before he could realize his mistake. Then he pointed the disruptor at Barclay.

“You killed them!” Barclay exclaimed.

“No, I didn’t,” said Gr’val with a smile. “YOU did, lieutenant, when you tried to escape. It’s a good thing I was here to stop you.”

Just then, the air shimmered as the forms of four Romulans materialized in the room, three men and one woman; a commander by her uniform. One of the men looked suspiciously like the Vulcan saboteur aboard the Mok’tagh. They quickly drew their own disruptors and scanned the room. Gr’val smiled broadly and holstered his weapon. “No need for those,” Gr’val said. “Everything is contained.”

“So I see,” said the woman, barely glancing at the bodies, but looking around the rest of the Klingon facility with undisguised disgust. She had uncharacteristically blond hair, for a Romulan. Had Reginald Barclay ever served with Lieutenant Tasha Yar, he would have been struck by the uncanny resemblance between the two women; but Yar was killed in action the year before Barclay transferred to Enterprise. He never knew her.

“When can I expect my payment?” asked Gr’val. “My house has suffered much since the Klingon succession.”

“The plan failed,” the woman said, “and now the Klingons and the Federation are united in their mission to find the saboteur.”

“And there he is,” said Gr’val, pointing at Barclay. “It was Lieutenant Barclay all along. He will be killed trying to escape, but for now there’s no reason you can’t interrogate him yourself.”

“When will the Vor’kag return?” the commander asked.

“Four days. Plenty of time to ask your questions and leave; then I’ll kill him and explain to my people what happened: he got hold of Klag’s disruptor and started shooting.” He kicked one of the Klingons at his feet. “Klag always was inattentive.”

“Four days…” the commander appeared to consider this. “We can work with that.” She looked over at Barclay, but the Starfleet engineer was nowhere to be seen. He must have taken the opportunity to flee.

She sighed. “The Romulan Star Empire thanks you for your service, Gr’val,” she said, nodding to her uhlans. The three men raised their disruptors and fired, vaporizing the Klingon before he could react.

“Find the engineer,” she said. “He can’t have gone far.”

.

Monster May(hem) 2022

It’s that time of year…

Here at Dead Dick’s Tavern, Monster May(hem) kicks off the annual painting challenges that I look forward to most: Monster May(hem) in May, Forgotten Heroes in June, and the Summer of Scenery in July and August (Dave gives us an extra month so we really have no excuse). Participation in my humble challenge has grown steadily over the years, and last year Matt and Azazel in particular really showed us what can be done in just thirty-one days! I look forward to hosting this challenge every year!

Anyway, what is Monster May(hem)? Why, it’s the month you paint monsters, of course. Any monster will do, although it should be a proper MONSTER; no skeletons or orcs. I mean something truly beastly; like a wyvern or a shoggoth or an owlbear. Your monster(s) doesn’t have to be strictly a fantasy miniature, and it may be any scale and from any manufacturer. Wanna see past Monster May(hem) stuff? Just check the archives for May; staring in 2018. or, if you’re too lazy to do that, you can get a pretty good idea what I’m talking about by looking at this post and this post. Everyone is welcome, of course. Just inform of me your intent to participate in the comments below. I will link to your stuff throughout the month, and (if it’s not there already) add your blog/website/social media to the blogroll on the side! If you don’t have a site of your own and still want to participate, I’ll happily host your pictures here and ensure you get proper attribution!

I’ve got a few plans already for this year; but as usual I’m not sure if I’ll get to all of them.

So…who’s in?

“Would you kindly…?”

It’s pretty tough to overstate how much of a big deal Bioshock was when it was released back in 2007. It still holds up today; both graphics and gameplay, and as for the story, forget about it. Your plasmid-fueled trip through the failed, Randian underwater dystopian city of Rapture is a tale well worth revisiting and replaying, even fifteen years and two sequels later. Scary, thrilling, darkly comic and somewhat grotesque, Bioshock is art.

Among the many adversaries you will face as you traverse the leaking, seaweed-choked halls and passages of Rapture, the most iconic (and deadly) are the Big Daddies. There is no escaping them. You will meet them, you will kill them; and you will most certainly be killed by them. Many, many times.

The Big Daddy’s sole purpose is to protect the Little Sisters, who are the main source of ADAM, the raw material substance which allows genetic alteration. In game terms, this is how your character gets cool abilities and powers. Little Sisters were once normal young girls who have been altered to reclaim ADAM from the corpses of genetically altered people. When meeting a Little Sister (after killing her Big Daddy first), you have the option to either Save her or Harvest her. Saving her returns her to normal and grants you some ADAM; harvesting her kills her and grants you a lot more.

I’ve been called heartless before; but I save all the Little Sisters. (I’m not a fucking monster.)

The Little Sisters call the Big Daddies “Mr. Bubbles”. For my “Mr. Bubbles”, I chose this “hardsuit” miniature from Recreational Conflict. It’s about as close to a Big Daddy as you can get.

After priming it black, I based it with Citadel Tin Bitz before layering on Vallejo Bronze. I didn’t like the look of it (too uniformly metallic), so I washed it in Vallejo Sepia Tone. This gave it a really nice, warm color. I highlighted up with more Bronze and finally, Citadel Shining Gold. I also used some Brown Ink to line the seams, and some Citadel Typhus Corrosion to grime it up a bit.

I fucked up on the base, though. I should have mounted him on a Tech Base, but instead I based him on a 40mm MDF disk, which I then covered in sand. I couldn’t remove him without having to assemble him all over again (screw that), so I did what I could. Big Daddies can go underwater just fine, so I added a starfish made out of Magic Sculpt (I stole the idea from Matt’s zombie shark base; thanks, Matt!). The seaweed is the remains of a Heroclix cape from a DC Hypertime Hawk model. I used the main body when making Blue Diamond for Forgotten Heroes, way back in 2017! I never throw anything away. ( Looking back on those Liberty Legion conversions, I realize I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I can’t see shit anymore. If I was doing them today, I think they’d look a lot better, thanks to my magnifiers. Maybe I should revisit them…)

For the seashell, I took a trip to Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts. Actually, it’s not much of a trip, considering I live within spitting distance. Going to the beach just to get a shell reminded me how much I take living near the ocean for granted. Although I’ve lived here all my life, I hate going to the beach in summer, because I hate people, I burn easily, and I don’t like to swim in salt water. Horseneck Beach is also good for a great white shark sighting or two every couple of years; but just because you don’t see any on a given year doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. (They are.) I usually get bored and annoyed very quickly when I’m forced to go to the beach; but days like this, when it’s overcast and windy and I’m the only one in sight…I could get used to this.

Up next, a return to Trek!

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.

The Pawn: Part 5

In the observation lounge, Chief Miles O’Brien stood dumbstruck, his confusion obvious. He had been summoned to the meeting and had just heard his own voice requesting a second transport to the Mok’tagh. “I don’t understand,” he said to Picard. “That wasn’t me, sir.” His gaze swept the assembled senior staff and the Klingons. “I swear it. I never said that.”

“And yet that is your voice,” said Captain B’rul. “How do you explain this?”

“I can’t,” said O’Brien. “There was only one transport. A full pad. An engineering crew of five, and Lieutenant Barclay.”

“Yes, yes…and then a Vulcan, alone,” said B’rul, scowling. It was clear he was losing patience.

“No, sir. There were no Vulcans,” O’Brien said. He looked at Barclay for confirmation. Barclay shook his head. “But you don’t have to take my word for it, Captain,” O’Brien continued. “We can check the transporter logs easily enough.” O’Brien looked at Picard. “With your permission, sir?”

“Granted,” Picard said. O’Brien moved to the wall panel and tapped a few buttons. “According to the records, Dr. Selar was the last Vulcan to use a transporter aboard the Enterprise. She was returning from the medical conference on Starbase 67.”

“That was two weeks ago,” said LaForge.

“Transporter logs can be faked!” shouted Gr’val, apparently forgetting he wasn’t supposed to speak. “Your man lies!”

O’Brien’s face hardened. “Now, wait just a bloody minute–“

Picard raised his hand and O’Brien fell silent. “I have never known Mr. O’Brien to lie, Gr’val. I trust him implicitly.”

B’rul wasn’t the only one losing patience. “Why would we seek the destruction of the Mok’tagh?,” Riker snapped. “Why would we risk our alliance with the Klingon Empire for no good reason simply to destroy one single Bird-of-Prey? What sense does that make?”

“None,” said Dresa. All eyes turned to the tall Klingon woman. It was the first time she had spoken. “It doesn’t make sense. In fact, it makes no sense at all.”

“What?!” Gr’val stared at her in disbelief. “The reason does not matter! You require more evidence? Look there!” Gr’val pointed at Worf. “We sit at the same table as a traitor to the Empire! What does that say about them, that they would dishonor us so?” Worf set his jaw and bore the insult stoically, staring straight ahead.

“For once in your life, try not to be an idiot, Gr’val.” Dresa said calmly. She turned slightly in her chair to address B’rul, leaving the adjutant sputtering in rage. “Captain, this is a waste of time. It’s obvious they didn’t do this.”

B’rul stared at Lieutenant Barclay. The engineer was fidgeting nervously. He certainly didn’t look like a saboteur. His gaze shifted to Picard. Although he would never say so, B’rul admired the Federation captain. He had heard that when Picard served as Arbiter of Succession, he performed his duties in strict accordance with Klingon law. He would not be swayed by Gowron or Duras; though reportedly both tried to influence him. In some ways, although not a Klingon himself, Picard had more regard for honor than those who served on the Klingon High Council. B’rul did not believe Picard would be a party to treachery, nor would he knowingly shield one who was. As for Worf, the so-called “traitor”, there were still too many unanswered questions about his discommendation for B’rul’s liking.

B’rul let out a long breath. “Very well,” he said, smiling grimly. “I tend to agree with my second. Dresa is usually wiser than me.” Gr’val looked like he was about to speak, but B’rul silenced him with a look. “Still,” he continued, “the fact remains that a Vulcan saboteur beamed aboard the Mok’tagh and was likely responsible for its destruction. If he didn’t come from Enterprise, where did he come from?”

“I believe there is a Klingon research station on Varuna Three,” said Data, “roughly thirty-nine thousand kilometers from our present position. That would appear to be the most likely point of origin.”

“Your intelligence is out of date,” snorted Gr’val. It’s been abandoned for decades.”

“Are you certain?” Data asked.

Thirty-nine thousand kilometers is almost at the limit of transporter range,” said LaForge, before Gr’val could answer. What do you think, Chief?”

“Why should his opinion matter? asked Gr’val.

“Because Chief O’Brien here has forgotten more about transporter technology than most of us will ever know,” said LaForge, smiling. “Except me, of course.”

“At that range, you’d have to be very sure of your coordinates, sir,” said O’Brien. “I wouldn’t try it. Not if there was another way.”

“Something closer, then,” Picard said. “What else is nearby?”

Data shrugged. “Nothing that I know of, Captain.” B’rul shook his head. “Nothing,” he agreed.

“Perhaps a cloaked ship,” Worf said.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon the observation lounge. Uneasy glances were exchanged. Suddenly, Dresa laughed; a short bark of amusement. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll say what we’re all thinking: Romulans.”

Data appeared to consider it. “The Romulans would likely possess the technology necessary to fake the Chief’s voice, and to beam someone aboard the Mok’tagh and make it appear as if they came from the Enterprise.”

“Then they might still be out there!” B’rul exclaimed, standing.

“If it is the Romulans, it’s more likely they took off soon after the Mok’tagh’s destruction,” said Riker. “Why would they stick around and risk getting caught? They’ve got a decent head start now.”

Picard stood up and straightened his uniform. “Mr. LaForge, scan for the quantum singularities indicative of Romulan warp signatures and coordinate our findings with the Klingons. Captain B’rul, I assume you will wish to return to your ship.” B’rul nodded.

The other two Klingons stood. “Captain,” Gr’val addressed B’rul, “this will not be acceptable to the High Council!”

B’rul sighed. “He is right, Captain Picard. A Klingon vessel was destroyed, and although I do not believe you or your crew had anything to do with it, the Council expects we take action. I must insist Lieutenant Barclay come with us for now. As a gesture of good faith.”

“But he doesn’t know anything!” Troi protested. “You know that!”

“Perhaps not,” said B’rul. “But we must have something to show. We will hold him only until this matter is resolved. I give you my word.”

Picard looked about to refuse, but Barclay spoke. “It’s all right, Captain. I’ll go with them, if it will help.”

“Where are you taking him?” Riker asked.

B’rul shrugged. “I see no reason to bring him all the way back to the Empire. The outpost on Varuna Three is as good a place as any. Although abandoned, it should still be serviceable. Lieutenant Barclay will be our guest there for the time being, until our investigation is concluded. Gr’val, see to it.”

Picard walked up to Gr’val, locking eyes with the taller Klingon. “I expect that my officer will be treated with respect, adjutant.”

Gr’val sneered. “He is a prisoner, Picard. His comfort is hardly our concern.” He caught sight of B’rul. The Klingon captain was glaring at him. “But,” he conceded quickly, “though he may not be as comfortable as he would be in a Federation prison cell, neither will he be mistreated.”

Picard turned to Barclay. “Are you certain of this, lieutenant? I will not order you to go.”

Barclay nodded. “Yes, sir. But…uh…the quicker the better, sir. If it’s not too much trouble, maybe tell everyone to work fast.”

“Arioch! Arioch! Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!”

Continuing the year of Pop Culture, I figured I’d dip in the world of Fantasy Literature; a genre that grabbed me tightly as a kid and has never once let go.

Of all of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion material (and there’s a shitload of it), the only tales I read were his Elric stories. I just reviewed the chronology, and it seems I’ve read most of the main sequence of tales up until the end; but I didn’t read much of Moorcock’s later Elric works that took place at uncertain points in the main timeline. I have a weird relationship with Elric of Melnibone. I read the stories at an age where I didn’t have the maturity to fully appreciate them. I recall loving almost everything about the character of Elric (albino sorcerer with a soul-sucking sword) but hating every story he was in. I found them incredibly boring. (I think I need to reread them, but I got rid of my old paperbacks a long time ago. I just found out they’re going for $75 bucks each on eBay. What the actual fuck?!)

Elric is by far the most famous of Moorcock’s characters; the original emo anti-hero. He was angst-ridden and emotionally tortured long before it was cool. He’s the disaffected prince of a dying race who sees the end coming and laments it. He’s a drug-dependent sorcerer who makes deals with demons because…why not? Eventually, he finds Stormbringer, a magical sword of great power that gives him vitality and formidable fighting skills and feeds upon the souls of its victims. Carrying a sword like that is never a good idea, and (spoiler alert) Stormbringer is ultimately responsible for the destruction of everything Elric cares about.

I’ve had this miniature for a long time. It was in one of the first orders I made when I got back into miniature painting around 12 years ago. Bronze Age had the John Carter stuff, so I added this figure to it and it’s sat there in the blister all this time. This is the “Elf Anti-Hero”. He (deliberately, I think) looks a bit like a certain albino Eternal Champion, so that’s who I painted him as.

As stated above, he’s also only one incarnation of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion archetype, which is so fucking confusing I’ll just reproduce what Wikipedia says about it here: (The Eternal Champion is…) an appointed paladin of Balance who is bound to exist in each and every world and age of the Multiverse, so that Law and Chaos are perpetually kept in check. There are about thirty different Eternal Champion characters, and I couldn’t give a shit about any of them. I get the feeling it’s probably somewhat incomprehensible, and although I would give Elric another go to see if my opinion has changed with maturity, I just don’t have the energy to really get into anything else. To be honest, looking at the sheer volume of characters and series, I’d have to be way more of a Moorcock fan than I am (which is to say not much) to even attempt it.

Still, the fact remains that Moorcock has influenced a lot of writers who have come after; and was a huge influence on the development of Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, the characters from Elric were originally included in the very first printing of Deities & Demigods, along with Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian entities, before Chaosium got the rights to both and put out their own games (Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu, respectively).

He’s definitely pop culture, that’s for certain.

I’m trying to publish a bit more regularly; so if you are a casual visitor to Dead Dick’s Tavern, don’t be surprised to find more than one post waiting for you on your next visit. I make no promises about how long that will last; but for now I have a few things in the pipeline to get to. Up next is likely a return to the Enterprise-D, for what I hope will be the last prose post before I actually start the gaming part…

The Pawn: Part 4

Lieutenant Worf stood in Holodeck 4, watching LaForge and Data as they wandered through the three-dimensional holographic recreation of the interior of the Mok’tagh. The isolinear rod had provided enough data to make this simulation possible, and LaForge thought it was the best way to determine what had happened and why. Worf looked around, noting how different the interior of the Mok’tagh was compared to the Enterprise; spartan and cold, with no thought given to aesthetics. He felt his Klingon blood stir. What would it be like to serve aboard a ship such as this–a warrior’s ship–rather than a ship of exploration like Enterprise? He glanced at the PADD in his hand and growled in exasperation.

Data looked up from the holographic EPS conduit he was examining. “Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”

Worf’s eyes narrowed. “Commander, we are wasting time. The Klingons will have little regard for–” he gestured at the simulation, “this.

“We are using our most effective method of determining the cause of the accident aboard the Mok’tagh given the data we have at our disposal. I fail to see how that is an inefficient use of time.”

“The Klingons have already decided Lieutenant Barclay’s guilt. They will not be swayed by holograms.”

“Maybe they won’t have to be.” LaForge sounded puzzled. “Worf, besides Barclay, who else was on the engineering detail?”

Worf regarded the PADD. ” Enisgns Mokta and Ramirez, Crewmen Steinway and Cortland, Specialist J’zhara.”

That’s six,” LaForge said, “and they’re all here. But that makes no sense. The conduit that exploded was one level down. None of our crew were anywhere near there.” Geordi regarded his tricorder. “Wait a minute. This shows some modifications were done from the engineering deck.”

Data spoke. “Computer: please display the engineering deck of the Mok’tagh, same time stamp.” The room shimmered and the EPS conduit tubes were replaced with the environment of the Klingon engineering deck. Several Klingons were manning their positions. All seemed calm and in order, except for one thing.

“Guys,” said LaForge, “who the hell is that?”

“A Vulcan?” Picard asked. “Explain.”

“We don’t know, sir,” answered LaForge. He regarded the display screen in the observation lounge, where the image of a tall, middle-aged Vulcan man in a Starfleet engineering uniform was pictured. He looked around the room at the senior staff, seated once again at the conference table. “One thing’s for sure, he’s not an engineer on this ship. I’ve never seen him before.”

“Someone not in Starfleet, then?” asked Troi. “There are plenty of civilians aboard.”

“Computer,” Picard said, “How many Vulcans are presently aboard the Enterprise?”

“There is a total of 84 Vulcans aboard,” the ship’s computer answered.

“Are all accounted for?”

“Affirmative.”

“Identify this person.” Picard commanded.

“Identity unknown.”

“We inquired already, sir,” Data said. “There is no record of this individual ever setting foot on the Enterprise.”

“Near as we can tell, he must have split off from Barclay’s team and went to the engineering deck on his own,” said LaForge. “That’s probably where the sabotage occurred.”

Barclay protested. “But he didn’t split off! He was never with us, Commander! I’m sure of it!” He seemed to realize he was shouting, and lowered his voice. “I think I would have noticed someone I don’t know on my team…”

“As you were, Lieutenant,” Riker said. “No one in this room doubts your word.”

“That is about to change,” said Worf, as the doors to the observation lounge opened, signaling the return of the three Klingons.

“Well, Picard?” asked B’rul. “Are you ready to hand your officer over for interrogation?” Picard gestured to the empty chairs again. After a moment, B’rul sat, the others following suit.

“It seems, Captain,” Picard began, “that we have something of a mystery on our hands.” He briefly explained the situation to the Klingons. “We strongly suspect this man,” Picard indicated the image of the Vulcan on the screen, “is our saboteur, but we have been unable to identify him.”

“Not surprising,” laughed Gr’val. “One Vulcan looks much like another.” His remark was met with stony silence. Even B’rul looked disgusted. “Shut your mouth, you ignorant fool,” he said in Klingon. Gr’val flushed and stared at the table.

“What are you playing at, Picard?” demanded B’rul. “This Vulcan transported to the Mok’tagh from the Enterprise. He’s one of your engineers!”

“I assure you, he is not,” Picard said. “We have no record of this individual ever being aboard this ship.”

“Lies!” shouted Gr’val, pointing at Picard.

B’rul turned to him slowly, his eyes flashing. He did not bother to address his adjutant in the Klingon language this time. “If you dare to speak without my leave again, you will not leave this room.” Gr’val clamped his mouth shut. Dresa smirked.

B’rul stood up and approached the viewscreen console. He stared at the unfamiliar interface for a moment, then began to access the data from the isolinear rod. “These are the transportation communications between the Mok’tagh and your ship,” he said.

Everyone listened as the logs began to play. “Enterprise to Mok’tagh,” came the voice of Transporter Chief O’Brien. “Six to beam aboard.”

“Acknowledged,” came a gruff Klingon voice. A moment later, the whine of the transporter could be heard.

“Transport complete,” came the Klingon voice again.

Barclay began to speak. “Yes, that was when we beamed over. But there was no Vulcan with us. Specialist J’zhara is Andorian and Ensign Mokta is Tellarite, the rest of us are human–“

“Silence!” B’rul said, holding up his hand, as O’Brien’s voice began again.

Enterprise to Mok’tagh: looks like we forgot one. He’s on his way over now.”

Cloaked Assassin

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.

Next: back to the Enterprise-D!