Tag Archives: Call of Cthulhu

Monster May(hem) 2022 Roundup!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inscrutable, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgotten Fucking Heroes.

I’m giddy. Giddy, I say!

Character Studies: Milton Blish (Call of Cthulhu Modern)

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

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

Milton Blish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amber never called him Milton.

The New Golden Age of RPGs

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I got a notification from Amazon that my package had been delivered, which I found odd because I did not recall ordering anything. I ventured outside and lo and behold, a mysterious box was resting comfortably on my doorstep. I opened it up and found this:

I checked my order history and sure enough, I had ordered it the night before, but I had no memory of doing so. I opened up the liquor cabinet and regarded the level of gin in the bottle with a critical eye.

Well, that one look explained a lot.

My first impression of the game is that it looks like a lot of fun. With rules for running both cinematic games (where you’re likely to die) and campaigns (where you might live), it’s a comprehensive system that’s very true to the source material. The book itself is beautiful, but to be honest it could be about half the size; much of the pages are light on actual text, taken up instead with (beautiful) illustrations and lots of empty space. It’s a design choice, but it also contributes to the cost of the finished product. I don’t know if I’ll ever run it or play it, but it’s a great read nonetheless and it has inspired me to dig out my Dark Horse Aliens comics for some re-reading.

I have been on a RPG buying spree lately. It started before Christmas (when I was supposed to be shopping for others) and hasn’t really let up. In addition to my unexpected Alien purchase, I bought all of these:

Not to mention several supplements and sourcebooks for Star Trek Adventures and Red Markets not pictured here. (Addiction is a disease, people, and it’s real. Sadly, one addiction often feeds another, as in the case of my gin-fueled Amazon binge that made me the owner of a hardcopy of the Alien RPG.)

The keen-eyed among you may notice I haven’t even opened my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons set or my Delta Green set yet. This is because I have been all-in on getting my Star Trek Adventures game up and running (more on that soon ) and delving deeply into Red Markets, which is a 400+ page hardcover I had printed at Indie Press Revolution. (I just can’t seem to navigate PDFs very well. I prefer books.)

What do these games have in common? Well, all of them have received stellar reviews, and all of them are extremely well-produced. I became aware of some of them from listening to various podcasts and watching YouTube videos. The small press is king nowadays, and Kickstarter has a lot to do with that. Otherwise it’s unlikely games like Red Markets would ever get made, and that is a shame indeed, because it’s pretty damn cool, with a system that is unique, innovative and often very harsh.

I have been a Call of Cthulhu player since I was in high school, and D&D since well before that. So why buy into new editions? Put simply, because that’s what people play nowadays. My last edition of CoC was the d20 OGL edition, which was great (at least I thought so, but I like the d20 system). Previous to that it was 5th edition. Now I can’t hear enough great things about 7th edition, and it’s what my friends play. If I want to run a game (and I do), then this is the way to do it. Ditto with Dungeons and Dragons. My last edition was 3.5. I skipped the horror of 4th edition entirely, and would have been happy to play 3.5, Pathfinder or even go back to 2nd edition for the rest of my life. But once again, I hear the buzz, and it’s pretty universally great. I picked up the core rulebooks to give it a shot.

I never played Delta Green in its earlier incarnation. Listening to actual play podcasts has given me the fever to run a few games of this, as it’s pretty much made for the one-shot scenario (and that’s about all I can seem to get going nowadays). This current edition has received almost universally positive press. Much like Alien, I don’t know if I’ll ever actually play it, but I know I will enjoy reading it.

Finally: Savage Worlds. I’ve been hearing about this system for years now. Much like Fate and GURPS, it’s a universal roleplaying system that gives players a lot of agency in how they create and play their characters. I haven’t had much time to look these rules over and it’s unlikely that I’ll run a game using them, but I collect rules sets, and always like to see what various systems offer.

I mentioned I wouldn’t have even heard of some of these games if it weren’t for my new love of actual play and gaming podcasts. (Since I don’t get to play very often, I can at least listen as others do.) I’ll list my favorites here, along with my pithy commentary. You can obviously find them anywhere you get podcasts, but I’ll link to their respective homes on the web.

The Roleplaying Exchange: These folks play a lot of games I like, like Star Trek Adventures, Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green and Slasher Flick. This is the first podcast I found, and through it I discovered many of the small-press games I’ve bought since. They share the Red Markets 10K Lakes campaign with Technical Difficulties, so you can find episodes crossing over on both podcasts. In addition to actual play, they do a lot of interviews with game creators and discuss topics related to the roleplaying hobby as well.

Speaking of Technical Difficulties, they play a lot of Red Markets (among other things). I have mixed feelings about this podcast, good and bad. The good: They play small press games. They have a handle on the rules and illustrate them well during the podcast. They have interesting ideas for game scenarios. The bad: they’re mostly annoying people to listen to. You will lose track of how many times someone utters the sentence “That’s fair”, often when there was never any question of the fairness of anything. (It’s like a shared nervous tic.) Not everyone is insufferable; some regular players are funny and interesting in spite of the podcast’s shortcomings. But sadly, it’s often true that there’s always at least one huge asshole in every gaming group. (If you don’t think there is one, then chances are it’s probably you.) This group has more than one. I won’t name names, but let’s just say there’s a guy who has to correct everyone all the time, another guy who only plays asshole characters because “that’s what I like to do”, and another guy who always wants to start some player vs. player bullshit. Luckily, not all of these people are on every podcast. Assholish behavior is generally not my cup of tea (YMMV, of course), but I can grit my teeth and enjoy what they do offer, which are some good examples of various games’ rules in play. I learned of several games I would have otherwise missed through this podcast. And I DID subscribe to it, so obviously I feel there is some value in listening.

Terrible Warriors: This is hands-down my favorite actual play group to listen to. The podcasts are all about an hour or less, the pacing is top-notch, they play REALLY interesting games, and the players are fantastic. I would love to play in this group. Unfortunately (for me), they’re based in Toronto. They play a lot of Star Trek Adventures (which is how I found them), but they play a lot of Kickstarter-funded games as well. It’s through them that I discovered so many indie games I would have otherwise never heard of. Recent highlights are Bluebeard’s Bride, a feminine horror game in which the players all play a part of the Bride’s persona (an awesome concept I wish I thought of) as they explore her new home and create their own version of the classic fairy tale; and Zombie World, a diceless card-based rpg that plays so smoothly, I’m dying to try it out. Both of these are from Magpie Games and use the new Powered by the Apocalypse Engine. Well worth a look, and I can’t recommend the podcast enough. Sometimes they get the rules wrong, but they always manage to have a lot of fun nonetheless.

The Lovecraft Tapes: This is an actual play 7th edition Call of Cthulhu podcast that uses Roll20. (It doesn’t look like they’ve done anything for 2020 yet, so maybe they’re on a break.) Although it’s a horror game, it’s often quite funny rather than scary, and the amount of time they put into editing it is apparent. Once again, each session is usually about an hour long. Great fun, with a talented GM.

One Less Die: I became aware of this actual play podcast through the creator’s appearance on the Roleplaying Exchange. It’s still in the early stages, with the beginning episodes focusing on the latest edition of Shadowrun. The Shadowrun campaign is still ongoing, but I started listening when they began a Call of Cthulhu campaign. I got annoyed because one of the players is playing a Russian investigator and he insists on talking like the most over-the-top Pavel Chekov you can imagine, so I bailed on it for a while. It sounded promising, so I’ll probably give it another shot at some point.

Coming next: the conclusion to my Fantastic Worlds Star Trek campaign: Hubbard’s World!