Monday, 10 December 2018

An ogre and some more orcs

This is an old Chronicle ogre from the early 80s. The most celebrated 1980s ogres were the Citadel ones designed by Jez Goodwin, but much as I like those, I prefer the Chronicle ones. That's because they're less concerned with being shamans or gladiators or priests, but much more about the simple business of being ogres.

I painted another Chronicle ogre almost three years ago. I was pleased with him at the time, and he's been a mainstay of our skirmish games, but I'm beginning to wonder whether I might repaint him to match the one above and my recent orcs. At the very least, I'll rebase him to match. He's more subtly painted, but the end result is inferior to the more recent one, despite taking at least twice the time.

Here's a shot of the earlier Chronicle ogre with a Jez Goodwin ogre from the Golgfag's Regiment of Renown. There's no doubt that the modelling of the Goodwin ogre is technically better (and I think he's a great miniature), but there's something about the unabashed brutality of the Chronicle chap with the spiky shoe that gives him the edge, I think:

Anyway, the fate of the spiky-shoed axe-ogre will be decided after I've painted up all the remaining Chronicle and Grenadier orcs, goblins and ogres. I'm making no distinction between the various types: they work nicely alongside each other, in that the ogres look like outsized versions of the goblins, who are the same size as most of the orcs, and the largest orcs are bigger than the ogres.

These two orcs are from the N11 range: giant black orcs ("warlord" and "hero").

I got the bare-headed hero as a small child; his left leg was miscast and missing, so I replaced it with green stuff. This is its second time of painting; it survived the Biostrip intact:

The fourth orc is a large Grenadier one, and definitely the least interesting of the bunch. But he fills out the swelling ranks.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Down in the dungeon with Song of Blades and Heroes

I got back into gaming through Ganesha Games' Song of Blades and Heroes, which I bought to play with my kids. Since I gave my son a batch of painted miniatures for his birthday a few years ago, we haven't looked back.

We hadn't played SBH for a few months, but last night, we got a dungeon-based skirmish going. My son laid out a quick dungeon using D&D tiles, and then we identified a couple of areas (a temple and a sorcerous circle) as objectives. We assumed a god's eye view, just to keep things simple, and marked out a few areas for wandering monsters. Then battle commenced.

Wandering monsters are a regular feature of our SBH games, reflecting creatures drawn by the noise of battle or the prospect of carrion. What we usually do is have each player roll a d6 at the end of their turn. If it's a six, a monster turns up. Before each game, we set up a row of six monsters, so when one appears, we roll a d6 and take the appropriate one (rerolling if that monster has already been used). A 'monster' could be a wandering owlbear or a band of goblins or anything else from the deepest recesses of the Cabinet of Shame. They typically attack the nearest player-controlled characters, with the other rolling for them. Each monster (or group: they act as one) rolls activations on three dice; two failures does not end the monsters' turn, as each individual or group is treated separately. The monsters are generally inimical to each other.

This works pretty well - especially with the more spectacular monsters. In the past, we've had some climaxes reminiscent of Harryhausen films in which two monsters fight to the death. In one memorable game, these monsters had killed or driven off all the player-controlled characters, so what began as orcs versus lizardmen ended as griffon versus tyrannosaur.

In last night's game, though, we decided that all the dungeon monsters would be on the same side. As the game progressed, we got through the whole batch: a mindflayer, a demon, a gorgon, an alzabo, a flesh golem and a meriod. As the mindflayer ("brain eater" in the Song of Gold and Darkness book) had the Leader trait, the other monsters benefited from his presence when they were nearby.

In the battle between orcs and snakemen, the orcs eventually prevailed, helped by greater numbers and the presence of two leaders. But it was a close-run thing - and a nice way to dust off a superb ruleset again.

Chronicle orcs

Here are some more Chronicle orcs to join my growing horde of speed-painted monsters. The middle one, shown in an earlier post, is a solid-based orc champion. He's flanked by two "giant black orcs" from the later and larger slottabased line. This range, along with the two accompanying Eeza Ugezod sets, were the very best of Nick Lund's orcs, I think.

One thing I particularly like about the Lund orcs is how well kitted-out they are. Their clothes may be tattered, but they wear shirts and trews as well as animal hide and hauberks. They always carry auxiliary weapons, and their belts have all sorts of accoutrements attached - from flasks and pouches to severed or shrunken heads.

Monday, 3 December 2018

The knowledge economy

Back in August, I mused a bit about correlated stats - the idea that strength, size, constitution and hit points, for example, are often very closely related in real life in a way that they aren't in RPGs (where a character might have STR 18, SIZ 3 and CON 15, for example). I think Into the Odd's use of STR as hit points is an interesting bit of game economy that may also add realism. It's hard to think of anyone exceptionally strong who wouldn't be at least a little harder than average to beat to death!

Into the Odd has just STR, DEX and WP (willpower) - half the normal game stats and with just one mental attribute. Given that the player - rather than the character sheet - generally provides a PC's real intelligence, I think there's a very good case for boiling down mental attributes in particular, to encourage role-playing rather than rolls. 

Idle Doodler has been discussing his ideas for an RPG stat-line in a couple of recent posts, so I thought I'd get my main idea down here. I'm toying with the idea of replacing INT, WIS and (maybe) CHA with a single KNO stat representing knowledge

Why? Well, on most of the occasions that I have players test a mental attribute in Whitehack or The Black Hack, the roll hinges around knowledge to some degree. Does the wizard understand the runes on the tomb door? Can the lizardman make anything of the troglodyte language? Can the thief come up with a plausible explanation of why he's in this room? So I think knowledge covers those rolls better than intelligence (which might come with otherworldliness) or wisdom (which seems to cover common sense or an understanding of human nature rather than learning or general knowledge). 

And I think KNO might replace CHA fairly well too. Charisma often seems a slippery concept in games as it can cover persuasion, intimidation, distraction and seduction, among other things. A hulking brute who's tongue-tied but heavily armed and armoured might not need eloquence to persuade the goblins to let him past. And the silver-tongued sweet-talker might charm a tavern server but struggle with skeptical guards. Using a knowledge stat throws the sweet-talking or intimidation back onto the player, but would allow the GM to provide prompts for a successful KNO roll when inspiration falters.

It might go something like this:

Player: I shout at the guards."This is an impertinence! I demand to be let in!"

GM: They shrug ..

Player "I'm ...". Can I roll a knowledge check?

GM: "Sure"

Player: Success!

GM: Verlan Ottuk, the Duke of Yelt's right-hand man, is in town. He's known for his brusque manner and unassuming dress ...

Player: "I'm Verlan Ottuk. Your master shall hear of this!"

GM: The guards look uncertain and stand aside.

Of course, the GM could also have the guards make an KNO roll to see if they swallow it. And you could have opposed rolls Whitehack style - the higher wins, as long as it's equal or below the KNO stat. And you could apply advantage and disadvantage to reflect local conditions. Also, vivid roleplaying might entail advantage too.

There would be lots of fun to have with fumbles and criticals as well. A 20 on the player's part might mean that the real Verlan Ottuk is already taking tea with the guards' master. Or, more in a more subtle yet insidious twist, it might mean that he is expected, and so the PC is ushered straight into the master's presence (assuming that that isn't what the PC wants). A critical (the stat number itself in Whitehack) might mean that the PC is expected and shown to "their" rooms.

One thing KNO doesn't cover is spell resistance. But I don't really see how INT or WIS do that either. Into the Odd's WP obviously does. I'm tempted to see spell resistance as physical (i.e. it's harder to mind-control an ogre than an orc), but there's certainly something to ponder here.

Another positive for KNO is that it's natural for the stat to increase as players see more of the world. I almost wonder whether PCs start with 3d6 but non-adventuring types (local guards, villagers, monsters, etc.) might generally be assumed to have 2d6 - so an average of 7. Or perhaps everyone starts with 2d6 and PCs gain an extra point per level. Wizards might get a 3d6 roll, I suppose. Such assumptions might boost the ability of players to attempt more scams, ruses and mountebankery. And I'm all for that.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Orc general and champion

These early Chronicle miniatures are a little smaller than the later Chronicle and Grenadier orcs that followed, but they fit in well enough.

I plan to use the mounted general as a warlord in Saga, and he strikes me as a good recurring villain for RPGs; his fleet-footed mount should allow plenty of fist-shaking escapes.

I decided not to add the champion to the early Chronicle orcs that I use as 15mm ogres because he's stylistically closer to Nick Lund's later orcs as he's less "flat" and more dynamic. His face is also closer to the later orcs, and he has severed human heads on his belt, which make him less transferrable scale-wise.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

A wolfrider

This is the first of a batch of Nick Lund wolfriders that I have on the painting table. This one's a Grenadier figure, but most of the others are the earlier Chronicle wolfriders. I prefer the Chronicle ones, which are a little smaller but quite a bit more menacing and have better wolves. But I'm happy enough with this chap - and with how his mount scrubbed up.

As with the Grenadier orcs I've been painting, I used a minimalist two-tone approach here: base colours and only a single highlight for most areas.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Skaven and Lizardmen

Heirs of the lizardmen?

I was reading Joseph Manola's absorbing posts on the history of Warhammer when a thought struck me about that the Skaven. They weren't the first species to scuttle under the surface of the Old World. No - that was the lizardmen. Here's what the Battle Bestiary for the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle has to say about them:
Lizardmen are curious in that they appear all over the world, wherever there are mountain ranges with deep caverns. Perhaps these are all linked up far below the earth.
By the third edition, lizardmen were still associated with deep caverns and still attacked the underground dwellings of orcs and dwarves from below. But the notion of the global linkage of their lairs had gone. That had now been transferred to the Skaven (introduced to second-edition Warhammer in the Citadel Journal of spring 1986). The third-edition rulebook has this to say:
Skaven are widespread throughout the entire world, but their presence is rarely felt. A web of tunnels crosses from continent to continent, leading to burrowings far below the cities of men, and eventually into the sewers and drains of the cities themselves. 
In the 1986 Citadel Journal, the Skaven's origins are linked to the Slann: they are the descendants of giant rats that gnawed on warpstone in the ruins of Slann civilisation. Their global presence is there from the start, but the idea that their tunnels connect the continents isn't explicitly stated. As far as I know, none of the early material posits the idea that Skaven and lizardmen tunnels might intersect. I suspect one had to be repositioned in the background to make room for the other.

From the third-edition Warhammer Armies book onwards, the lizardmen were reduced from independent subterranean raiders to slaves of the Slann (in those army lists, they appeared only as auxiliaries of the Slann armies). In later editions, they became the Slann armies as the latter went from amphibian warriors to bloated, solitary magicians. And their globe-spanning tunnel network was no more - or was left to the rats.

The original subterranean globe-trotter?