Thursday, 15 March 2018

CLXIV. Volmar Duardin

Yet another converted Shadespire warband is in the works. The Chosen Axes fell into my paws last week, and I immediately started hacking them up. The first of their number is finished (bar the base, which will get done at a later date because I'm considering a display base). 


I really don't like the look of AoS Fyreslayers. The axes that are braziers, the headgear, the golden runes implanted into their skin... All of that is inextricably linked with their backstory, so if I was to transform them away from those elements, they would no longer be even remotely Fyreslayers. But that's fine by me, I love coming up with my own factions. So the mountain kingdom of Volmar was born. It's waiting to be populated by a mixed people: Duardin, Kobolds, Humans and Half-Dwarves. I'll delve deeper into their country and culture when the warband is done. They look like this at the moment:  

I've shown the first dwarf earlier on social networks, and people seem to pick up both Norse and Mesopotamian vibes from the helm. I'm very happy to hear that I've successfully blended those. The design was most heavily inspired by one particular illustration Paul Bonner did for Trudvang:

Art by Paul Bonner. © RiotMinds

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In other news, the village of Dol, the designated battlefield for the Legen event, got a few more people to inhabit it. Converted and painted another fleeing peasant from the plastic giant kit. Two boys who foolishly wish to fight the attacking gargants with sticks were converted from LOTR Hobbit Shirriffs. The panicked soldier attempting to hide under a discarded ox skull is a characterful conversion of an older metal model, done by Florian Gand from Germany. Thanks again for sending the conversion over, it's perfect for Legen.   

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

CLXIII. Legen: A Willow Tree

Time to slowly begin working on the board on which we'll be playing in July. I started off by making one of the smaller pieces: a willow tree.

This terrain was built entirely from scratch. The tree's trunk was sculpted in DAS air-drying clay, and the branches made from wire and natural roots. Experimenting with creating texture was fun.

It was primed grey and white, and painted mostly with glazes.

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Friday, 2 March 2018

CLXII. Abhorrant Ghoul Queen's Court: Crypt Ghast Courtier and Ghouls

These are all conversions of Spiteclaw's Swarm models, a recently released five-rat set for Warhammer Underworlds:  Shadespire. I wanted to make ghoul versions that will fit with the rest of my FEC, and that I can still use for Shadespire if I want. They make four Crypt Ghouls and one Crypt Ghast Courtier. 

Arzu, Crypt Ghast Courtier (Skritch Spiteclaw)

Ghasts are Ghoul characters, and this Skaven hero was a great starting point for my conversion. 

First step is cutting off the parts of the model I don't want. I do this before assembly, because it's easier. In this case, I got rid of the head and tail (for being what identifies him as Skaven), the weapon head (didn't like the design), clipped the cape a bit (GW has developed an excessively fluttering oddly shaped cape issue). After assembly, I usually take my dremel and get rid of all the detail I couldn't cut off or file down with a file. This is followed by gluing replacement and extra bits in place, and then, finally, I whip out the putty and sculpting tools.

Arzu's face came from a Hobbit Goblin, like with most of my FEC. Her weapon got a halberd blade from Empire State Troops. The greenish parts in the above image are putty - mostly 1:1 hybrid of green stuff and Milliput. The sculpting of the crazy hairdo had to be done in several layers. There are minor modifications on the face, and the rest of my interventions were just fixing parts that got damaged in previous steps, and filling gaps.



Crypt Ghouls (Krrk the Almost-Trusted, Lurking Skaven, Hungering Skaven, and Festering Skaven)

Four footsoldiers to add to the existing bunch. None of the previous Ghouls were converted from a Skaven model, but I was pretty sure these would fit in well after a head swap and matching paintjob. 

This one was Festering Skaven. I really dig the pose, would be excellent for making a Skaven assassin model. Anyway, the tail and the head had to go, and I messed with the dagger handle a bit. This was the least difficult of the bunch.

Krrk is one of the two named characters in the box. In my version he is just another no-name Ghoul. 

He lost his head and tail, and later the weapon, too. I left the pet rats on his shoulder be because they're kinda cute. 

Hungering Skaven came with a flail and shield.

The flail became a mace, and the triangular shield got a change of shape. Added some laces sticking from between armour plates.

Finally, the Lurking Skaven. This one is the most problematic, because I had to do a weapon swap that makes him too unrecognisable, I think. But I simply don't envision my ghouls wealding katars or anything similar. 

I did sculpt him some Wolverine sideburns to make it up to him.

All Shadespire warbands come with very nice sculpted bases. I considered maybe using them for something else, but then I realised that some of the models have parts of their feet modelled on their base. I could have gone around this, but it just didn't seem worth the trouble. I used the bases from the box, and added some soil, grass and leaves to blend them with the previously existing members of the faction.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

CLXI. Legen: Sir Pelial and the Two Ravens

Two men went to hunt in Tall Dun Wood. 

One alone came back.

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Sir Pelial was riding through a forest again, on his quest to slay giants in the North. The Aelf followed, with her bow on her back. As they passed a hawthorn tree, Sir Pelial noticed a pair of black ravens perched on its branches. And he heard them talk. 

The first one said, "Where shall we go and dine today?" 
"In a hollow behind the old stone wall, I know there lies a new-slain knight," replies the other. "No one knows that he lies there, but his hawk, and his hound, and his lady fair. His hound is to the hunting gone, his hawk to fetch the wild-fowl home, his lady loves another knight; so we may make our dinner sweet." And the ravens flew away. 

Sir Pelial said to the Aelf, "Those carrion birds shall have to find some other dinner today. Quick, let us follow them." Soon they reached that place where the murdered knight lay. The ravens were already at it, pecking out the dead man's eyes. Sir Pelial scared them away, picked up the lifeless body and tied it to the back of his horse. The Aelf watched this in disbelief. "What do you want with that thing," she asked Sir Pelial. "You shall find out soon," he replied. "We are going to call on Iulia Docta-Sophosse."

They took their dead man to Iulia Docta-Sophosse, who was a master reanimator from the land of Turm. Sir Pelial gave her a bag full of gold, and then Iulia shook his hand and had the corpse carried to her cellar. There she had her servants peel off its skin, and scrape all the meat off the bone. The bones they then boiled and bleached in a vile brew, whose preparation is a well kept secret of the necromancers. The clean white skeleton was then laid out on the ground, and Sir Pelial and the Aelf were sent away. What was to happen next, they were not allowed to observe. So Sir Pelial went to a smith with the fallen knight's suit of armour. He handed him too a bag of gold, and the craftsman set to work. When the suit of mail was remade to Sir Pelial's satisfaction, they went back to the house of Iulia Docta-Sophosse.

Their new companion was waiting for them there. A man of bone stood silent and still in Iulia Docta Sophosse's yard, with his empty eye sockets, bare ribs and long gaunt fingers. Iulia instructed Sir Pelial on what rite to do every day to keep the skeleton animated, and to the Aelf she explained how it should be cleaned and repaired. Then they put his black armour on, said farewell to the reanimator, and went back on their way.

As she marched next to the eerie figure, the Aelf wondered for a moment what his name was, and what had ended him. But that moment passed, and she thought no more of it. 

The Aelf hoped the next person they met would have more spirit than humourless Sir Pelial and the hollow Murdered Knight...

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The Murdered Knight, the second member of the retinue, is here. Conversion is based on one of the old citadel skeletons. It got an arm and head swap from Empire Knights, and a shield from plastic Giant bits. The helmet was heavily modified with green stuff.

The story is this time partly based on the Scottish ballad Twa Corbies. It's a grim song and I absolutely love it. This is my favourite performance of it I've found so far:

Friday, 9 February 2018

CLX. Legen: Nerod

Work on my knight's retinue is well underway, but now it's time to show some love to the opposing side: the attacking gargants. Meet Nerod, the inciter and leader of the giants' crusade:

Legen was a stone castle of sublime proportions, built by gargants long, long ago. In ancient times, from there they ruled Erebos. There is a huge ruin on a mountain in the north of the island, crumbling and abandoned for centuries. They say this is what was once Legen, but due to inaccessibility and roosting griffins nobody bothers to venture there.
The ancient giants were gradually pushed further and further north-west by the little-folk, and ultimately defeated, broken and scattered. The greatest of gargants, and their ruler at the time, was Legen-King. In a spectacular and bloody battle, the king was slain by heroes of old, and his body cut up into pieces.
The body parts were then buried separately all over the islands. This was done to forever prevent the king’s return, because it was rumoured he had magical regenerative powers. Although people enjoy telling it, that story is generally not taken seriously, and is believed mostly by children and fools.

There are gargants on the islands to this day. They are roaming monstrosities of slow mind and great appetite, but they normally roam alone. A single gargant is able to do plenty of damage to peasants, but can be taken down by a well armed and trained party of soldiers. A herd of giants in the kingdom (fortunately a rare occurrence) is a threat that cannot be ignored by any sensible ruler.
As it turns out, the story of Legen was all more or less true. And only a while back, a gargant named Nerod happened to find the still rotting head of Legen-King. The head spoke to him. It gave him a quest. First, Nerod carried this enormous head to the cold ruins of ancient Legen, where now gryphons roost and winds howl. The head said that the time for restoration of Legen had come. He must be made whole again and gargants must rule the island once more. The little-folk are weak now. They are not united. If the giants gather together they can crush their feeble kingdoms one by one. So, Nerod set off southward, to seek the king’s hands and feet, heart and intestines, muscle, blood and bone. And he preaches to every giant and giantess he meets of his sacred quest and restoration of Legen’s might. Some of them listen, and follow. The gargants are marching south…

I wanted to base this model on the Forgeworld Curs'd Ettin, but since it got discontinued it's become impossible to come by. So I was left with the option of using the plastic giant kit to build something similar. The custim legs and arm extensions make him a taller and much more imposing monster. 

This size comparison will give you the sense of his relative size:

Next up, we have the severed head of Legen-King. Nerod found it and took it to the cold ruins of Legen. From there he set off to gather followers and lead them south, to crush the kingdoms of little folk and put the king back together.

As you can judge from this head, the ancient king of gargants was truly colossal in size. The tales of his regenerative abilities must have been true, as centuries have passed and the head looks like it is only beginning to decompose.

The head is a resin base from Scibor Miniatures. The bushy eyebrows were added after painting, and they were meade from small chunks of cotton swab dipped in mix of water, paint and PVA. I'll need this piece as a prop for when I write and illustrate the gargants' half of this saga.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

CLIX. Monstrous Births: Final Commentary

I have a few final things to show and tell in regard to this project before I put it down for good. Here they are.


Story, campaign structure and themes

Monstrous Births is a crime investigation, where the mysterious culprit is a supernatural creature. This story is here to frame three miniature battles. And the battles need to matter.

During the first one, we have our inciting incident. Monstrous births appear twice: in the deer that wanders onto the scene, and in the wolf young that are discovered if the wolves are defeated by the Countess. This establishes something is wrong in Glassfog County, and makes our protagonist begin investigating.

The start of the investigation does not involve any opportunity for miniature fights, and had to be conveyed through text alone. However, in the RPG version Witold and I have written, this actually makes up a huge chunk of the adventure. Just as it would if this were written as a short story. Anyway, the second battle can happen when the Countess learns through interviews that there is a being causing the trouble, and ventures into the woods to look for physical evidence of it. Here she is ambushed by the brethren of that deer she encountered in the first battle. Depending on her success in finding clues, she learns more or less about the culprit. I'm really curious what kind of image the clues painted in your heads before you found out what the monster was, so if you feel like it, please share it in the comments.

The information she has makes the Countess more or less prepared for the final battle, which is a showdown with the main boss. Here Tomislav, my player, had a choice: he could have gone for capturing the unicorn so the Countess can make a show of it later, or he could have played it safe and just gone for killing it there and then. The story can resolve in multiple ways, the most satisfactory one being that the unicorn is captured and the Countess alive and well. The fact the ending of the story depends on the game's outcome is what makes it worth playing... In the RPG version, which has a lot more characters and actual subplots, there is at least one other party involved in the final encounter, too.

For me personally, this monster is more horrifying than the more commonly found kind, one that only kills its victims. Rather than take it, the unicorn's deplorable acts of violence create life. There's an interesting thought... But  I won't go any further in analysing and interpreting this, that's meant be the reader's job.


 Monstrous births

It is a real-life phenomenon, as you surely know. Monstrous births, human and animal, were explained in various ways throughout history: as omens, warnings from God, errors in conception process. 

The Papal Ass and the Monk Calf, 16th century monstrous births.

There was this, rather charming, theory that a monstrous birth is the result of the mother seeing or imagining someone/something other than her husband in the moment of conception, which then results in the baby not looking like its father. At some point maternal imagination was believed to be responsible for the form of the child, and this was the explanation for the usual likeness of the progeny to its parents. This idea changed and evolved over time, and it is fascinating to follow that process. If anyone happens to want to dive into that, check out Monstrous Imagination (1993) by Marie-Hélène Huet. Another book I can recommend, that deals with the phenomenon from a different perspective, is Jennifer Spinks: Monstrous Births and Visual Culture in Sixteenth Century Germany (2009). 

There was nothing ever about unicorns; that was entirely my own take on inventing the cause of these unfortunate happenings.


The Unicorn

[This section might contain a few spoilers for a Discworld novel and some NSFW images.]

In the world of Gardens, unicorn is a species of abominable animal from the underworld where faeries dwell. Long, sharp horn on the male's forehead is a deadly weapon. Females have no horns. Like all fae, unicorns radiate fairy taint and have particular aversion to iron. They are omnivores.

Male unicorns are completely wild creatures that force themselves on females of all species and kill any males that stand in their way. The victim, if they survive, has no memory of the attack. Any offspring a unicorn produces with non-unicorn mates are monstrous births. The pregnancy lasts only a few weeks. The children are deformed versions of their mother's species, often not surviving past infancy. Those that survive reach adulthood rapidly. Members of some species manage to survive better than others. It also depends on the particular nature of the deformity. The children, like their fathers, radiate fairy taint (but not as strongly as pure fae). Fae nobles will keep unicorns as pets. The males are very difficult to train and are not suitable for riding (it's not unheard of, though). Females are more managable in that respect.

The base for the model is Sisters of the Thorn mount, only I broadened the body by adding material between its left and right half. The head comes from some horse model from Reaper. His horns, extra hair and tail were sculpted by me.  

As I've mentioned before on the blog, my fae are definitely influenced by the elves in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. They feature heavily in Lords and Ladies, where the plot revolves around the elf queen from a 'parasite universe' attempting to take over Lancre. There is a unicorn on the loose there, too. But it is not a serial rapist like the one in Monstrous Births.

But why a unicorn, you may ask. Well, I don't like the buggers. I can't identify any particular reason, they just rub me the wrong way. In Western tradition the unicorn is a symbol of purity and grace, and can only be tamed by a virgin. I just went and flipped that on its head.

In regard to appearance, I did not wish to make him look overtly wicked, with spikes and the like. Christian Schwager's Vnicorne (2013) is a really neat twisted unicorn, but is an example of this spikiness I wished to steer clear of. Mine should be a light-haired, relatively elegant thing, but with a few details that are off. So there are the red eyes and the visible dong.  

The Marriage of the Unicorn. Ernst Fuchs. 1952.

The Temptation of the Unicorn. Ernst Fuchs. 1952.

Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn. Albrecht Dürer. 1516.
Detail from an illustration in The Brave Little Tailor book by Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina. 2000.


The Rules

As stated many times before, the ruleset I used was Malifaux 2E. I wrote my own stat cards for the characters, often using existing ones as a starting point. The suits in my decks have different names and symbols, but otherwise work the same. I call Soul Stones Fate Points, because there is no such thing as Soul Stones in my universe. Since each Encounter has its own predetermined objectives, there are no Strategies or Schemes to choose. There are no Scrap, Corpse nor Scheme Markers. The faction system of Malifaux and all that jazz does not apply here for obvious reasons. The Countess had a limited pool of models she could choose from. Since I was the one playing the Countess' enemies and game-mastering at the same time, I did not have to have everything programmed and could improvise a bit during the game.

Act I


Tomislav in control of the Countess could assemble his crew of up to 30 points. He chose the following: the Countess, a Crimson Sphynx, 3 Custodians, the Ubergheist, and a Ravenous Bloodfiend. His Fate Point Pool thus only had 3 FP to spend during the game. The Wolf Herdsman's crew was fixed. It consisted of him and 6 Wolves, and the Herdsman had a Fate Point Pool of 4.

Board and Terrain:
Board size was 100cm x 100cm. I used my Wilderness scenery: forests, trees, rocky outcrops, stone fence. Special features in this encounter were the cave and the well.

Deployment: Corner.

Special Rules: 
The Deer Event.
In Turn 3, a Misshapen Deer appears at an edge of the board, placed so that it must pass near the two crews on its path towards the well. The Deer does not activate like normal, and the information on its stat card is secret to the Countess player. After each activation of any model, randomly determine whether the Deer makes an Action. If it is not engaged with an enemy model, it makes walk actions, if it is engaged it makes attack actions or attempts to disengage. The Misshapen Deer makes 2 actions per turn. It is meant to walk the shortest route to the well terrain piece, and when it comes in base contact it is immediately sacrificed. The Wolves should avoid coming near the Misshapen Deer.

Before deployment, three Herb Markers are placed by the GM on their half of the board.

The Countess: Control the cave terrain piece at the end of Turn 5 by having more non-peon models in base contact with the terrain piece than the opponent's crew. Additionally, gather at least two out of three Herb markers present on the board (picking it up takes a (1) Interact Action). If successful, the Crew will get a one-use Healing Potion upgrade for the next two games.  

The Wolf Herdsman: Stop the spirits from coming near the cave.  

Act II

The Countess could again assemble her crew of up to 30 points. However, in this game the Countess is not deployed on the table, and The Beast model is deployed at the start of the game. Tomislav chose the following: the Countess, a Crimson Sphynx, 3 Custodians, the Ubergheist, and a Ravenous Bloodfiend. He again had 3 FP to spend during the game. 
There can be up to 5 Misshapen Deer on the table at any time. Only one Misshapen Deer deploys at the beginning of the game.

Board and Terrain:
Board size was 100cm x 100cm. I used my Wilderness scenery: forests, trees, rocky outcrops, stone fence, fairy ring. Special features in this encounter were two forest bases, which served as spawning points for Monstrous Deer.

Deployment: Close.

Special Rules: 
There is a fog on the battlefield that impairs visibility. On Turn 1 models cannot draw line of sight further than 10''. At the end of each turn, GM flips two cards. The first is to determine whether the LoS went up (on Blood and Flesh suits) or down (on Bone and Spirit). The second card determines for how much (1'' for 1-5, 2'' for 6-10, 3'' for 11-13, Jokers reflipped). 
Misshapen Deer. 
One is placed in base contact with the nearer of the two spawning forest bases whenever a Countess' model ended a move or activated within 3'' of any Clue Marker. This rule is not revealed to the Countess player at any time.

Fairy Taint. 
The Countess' crew will in all probability end the game with the Fairy Taint condition on its models. Note the value of the condition on each model at the end of the game. Each model will start the final Act of the campaign with the Fairy Taint condition whose value is equal to half the value it was at the end of Act II, rounded down.
Clue Markers. 
Before deployment, the GM places four Clue Markers on their half of the board and in base contact with a piece of terrain. For each marker controlled at the end of the game, the Countess player flips a card and consults the following table:
Bone - the droppings - BEAST, Wd, Ht, FAIRY TAINT, ABSORB TAINT.
Blood - the slain boar - HORN, HOOFS, TERRIFYING.
Spirit - the hoof prints - BEAST, Wd, Wk, Cg, NIMBLE.

Reflip the Jokers and any suits that have already been flipped. In the table, each suit has certain information assigned to it. Before the final game, the Countess player is given the Monster of Volovska Weald stat card, with all information (including the illustration) expunged but that which matches the suits flipped. If the player flips all four suits, they are given access to all information on the stat card.

The Countess: Control the four Clue Markers at the end of Turn 5. The crew controls a Clue Marker by having a non-peon model within 3'' of it.

The Misshapen Deer: Exterminate the enemy crew.



This time, the Countess had 35 points to spend. This was Tomislav's list: the Countess, a Crimson Sphynx, 2 Custodians, the Ubergheist, and 3 Ravenous Bloodfiends. This time there were 5 FP to spend during the game.

The opposing crew was again preconstructed, and it consisted of The Monster of Volovska Weald and five Misshapen deer.

Board and Terrain:
Board size was 100cm x 100cm. I used my Wilderness scenery: forests, trees, rocky outcrops, stone fence, fairy ring.

Deployment: Standard.

Special Rules: -

The Countess: Either to kill the The Monster of Volovska Weald, or to have it within engagement range of at least one friendly model and no enemy models at the end of Turn 5.
The Monster of Volovska Weald: Kill The Countess, evade capture.

How the photos were taken

It's obvious that the photos illustrating the accounts of the three battles were not taken during the games. The reason for that is twofold. First of all, halting the game all the time to take detailed photos of what is going on is distracting and ruins the experience for the players. Secondly, the photos come out much more aesthetically pleasing when I can take my time to arrange the scene and backdrop. So, while playing, I just took snaps with my phone and short written notes, which I then used to recreate the key events in image and word. That may not be 100% accurate to what it looked like during the game, but that is not what this is all about, anyway.
The fog and rain were edited in. I had no idea how to do that until I needed it for this project. I simply googled for tutorials and tried them out. Used this one for fog: FOG, and this one for rain: RAIN

Music is important

...for atmosphere. I invested in some dark ambient music. The titles I used are mostly very affordable and can be purchased as mp3 downloads. It works like a charm. I will list all the albums again here:

Flowers for Bodysnatchers: Aokigahara (2015)
Paleowolf: Primordial (2015)
The Witch (2015) OST
Diablo II 15th Anniversary Soundtrack
Asath Reon: Buried Visions (2017)
Ugasanie: The Dark Side (2016)

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Somewhere in the left sidebar you can find an icon that says Monstrous Births. If you click on it, you'll end up on a page that has the entire three-act story from beginning to end, with all the pretty pictures. This is there to stay. The events as they happened in this playthrough are canon.


Aaaand we've reached the end of this lengthy post, and of coverage of the campaign. Thank you for following the Countess on her adventure. See you again soon.