Tuesday 30 August 2011

8 Thaumont 1000AC - A Rainy Day

With the Tor cleared and confirmation of the reward for dealing with the castle,the group kicks back for the afternoon of the 7th in readiness for an early start on the 8th.

The following day dawns overcast and very quickly turns into an early spring storm. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes and the group decides to stay by the fire in the common room of the inn for the day. The only exception is Callinicus, who joins the group ready to travel but returns to the temple when the group tells him that it is not a good day for adventuring.

The common room has a wet fug in it today as newcomers enter and dry off with ale, pottage and the fire. A group of four such, three humans and an elf, enter about mid-morning. Soaked to the skin and muddy, they nevertheless contrive to appear satisfied with themselves. Clearly they have done well this morning. Their clothing is mostly new and each wears a scarlet cloak that is ragged at the base, a clear indicator that they have recently been Sheared. As they seat themselves in a corner, they talk excitedly among themselves and look around, their eyes pausing as they alight upon the group and then moving on. Two of their number are spectacularly ugly, although it is unlikely that many would say this to the face of the tallest, a man who is as high as he is wide and not in the slightest fat. The other ugly one has a sly look about him. The elf, by contrast, is very pretty, but the longsword at her side might deter some from getting to know her better. The last human is a cleric in the Church of Karameikos. She bears their symbol on the shoulder of her cloak and wears another on a leather thong around her neck.

With the hubbub of these newcomers' arrival dying down, the common room settles in to the low hum of conversation that preceded their arrival. Shortly after lunch another notable newcomer enters the common room. This time the newcomer is a male elf. He is dressed in rich clothing, is clearly wealthy and is carrying a small, black, wooden chest that is padlocked with a brass lock. He looks around and pauses as he does so. The elf in the red cloak shouts across to him, "Sindar, over here." Sindar, for presumably that is his name, quickly goes over to the group and hands them the black chest. He talks to them quietly but urgently and hands over a pouch before leaving.

The day progresses quietly once more until early evening when another elf enters the inn. He is drenched from the rain and covered in mud from the road. As he enters he takes he looks around for a while undecided. Then he strides over to where the group is and parks himself in a chair as close to the fire as he can get. He looks over to the group and says in their general direction, "Blasted awful weather. A person could catch their death of cold in it." Without waiting for a response he continues, "You've the look of a hardy company. Would you be looking to hire a companion for your journeys? If so, I am the elf you need. My name is Shalander Feadiel and I am newly come from Alfheim in search of adventure. My skills include this longsword at my side, the longbow and some arcane ability. I'm planning to be around for a few days should you decide I may be of help."

The rest of the day passes uneventfully and the group retires to bed hoping for a better day on the morrow.

My Love-Hate Relationship with GHQ

It cannot have escaped the keen-eyed reader's notice that I use GHQ Terrainmaker tiles in a lot of my games. These are 4" across flat-to-flat polystyrene tiles of varying thickness according to need. The basic tile is 1/2" thick. Negative features, such as rivers, streams and ditches are constructed using two 1/4" tiles, while hills are constructed using 1" tiles. The whole system provides a fantastically flexible terrain system that is perfect for my normal games, which are fought on a 4' by 3' table for the most part.

I love this flexibility and I love the facility for making my own terrain as needed. You can do as much or as little with the tiles and they generally look fairly good even at the basic level of terrain-making that I do. Some people out in internetworld have done fantastic things with their tiles and make them look really good. For an example of this, check out Tom Stockton's website. His work is brilliant and an inspiration to me. Now if only I had the patience to do all that sort of work myself, but I do not, because I am a gamer more than I am a modeller.

However, I also hate the system. Why is GHQ's quality control so poor? The hexes I bought from Chiltern Miniatures when they were manufacturing them under licence over here were great. They were exact and fitted together well. The GHQ hexes that I have are occasionally squashed on the corners. They are not true hexagons and are often not precisely 4" across as they are meant to be. Some of the hexes I have are an eighth of an inch out in one dimension. It's a pain in the bum and ensures that my terrain often has fairly large gaps in it. I noticed this when photographing the Vikings earlier today. The 1/4" tiles that form an iced over river are smaller than the normal land tiles. They don't feature in any of the photos because of this problem with means that I had gaps in the terrain of 1/4" and more. Worse yet, those tiles then swum around within the terrain frame I was using because of the gaps. Bah! And Grrr!!

If only someone produced individual tiles like this that were precisely 4" across and were always perfect hexagons. Until then I shall soldier on, because I have rather a lot of the GHQ stuff and don't like the idea of all that wasted effort if I get rid of it. Of course, I suppose I could see about setting up producing stuff like this myself and trying to sell it. Might be a laugh. Anyone care to give me the start-up costs? I doubt I could manage it with the pittance I currently have in the bank.

There, I feel better for that whinge.

Some 6mm Vikings

This is the first part of my Baccus 6mm Viking army. These are enough stands to cover their use in our Rally Round the King campaign. All units are based on 40mm frontage by 20mm depth while the heroes are on 20mm by 20mm stands. This means I can easily use the same forces for Warmaster Ancients, should I choose to expand the army that far. At present I am undecided and shall probably just crack on with producing a 6mm Viking army for Impetus based on 60mm by 30mm stands. Perhaps I shall produce the full WMA army in the future or it may just happen naturally if the Rally Round the King army is successful in the campaign and expands to that size.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Castle Caldwell - a couple of CC3 images

I've been playing some more with CC3 and came up with the following image of Castle Caldwell (Basic D&D module B9). It is based on a revised floorplan that I found online somewhere.

The adventure map:

The castle on a bright spring morning:

I forgot to switch off the text from the player's plan of the area, but that is not too much of a problem. Time to switch to a scale bar, I reckon. I've also just noticed that the trapdoors on the towers are casting shadows so I shall have to move them to a different sheet from the rest of the symbols I used, but overall I am rather pleased with the effect and usefulness for our Labyrinth Lord game. I reckon I am going to get some nicely atmospheric maps out of this package. Yay! Money well spent, and I don't even have to paint it!!

I have produced maps of the interior and the dungeon beneath the castle, but I shall not post those until my players have battled through them, just in case they actually read this blog.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Antilles Castle

Antilles Castle is a fortified manor rather than a castle. The Antilles family owned it from its construction in the reign of Queen Katarina Radu in the early eighth century AC until their demise in the mid tenth century AC. At the time of its construction the Antilles family had a controlling interest in the settlements, mining and logging operations of the area. Their demise was not the result of enemy action but rather a simple matter of lack of fecundity. The family produced no legitimate heirs and just died out. Since the death of Vaclav Antilles, the last of the Antilles line in 947 AC, the castle has lain vacant. Duke Stefan Karameikos took control of it, once the lack of heirs had been established and sought to sell it to raise funds for his other ventures. Unfortunately the area is no longer as prosperous or as safe as it was under the Radu dynasty and few have even considered buying the castle. That is, until an outlander merchant called Clifton Caldwell bought it in 999 AC. Since buying the castle he has realised that it is in need of repair and that it currently has unwelcome denizens in residence. He is seeking to have the residents evicted and plans to settle in it near his main mercantile interests. 

Antilles Castle in the morning sun:

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The Old Antilles Castle - Plan View

Here is a top-down view of the Old Antilles Castle. Each square is 10 feet across. The castle stands two storeys high (ground floor and first floor) and is clearly roofed. The double doors at the front are open, as is the single door at the back. 

Click the pic for a larger version.

A Map of Northern Karameikos - More Adventures with CC3

Ok, spent a bit of today fiddling with a map for our Labyrinth Lord game. The end result is this map of the area around the town of Threshold (Click for a larger version):
Looking at it displayed on the screen I notice some areas where I need to 'feather' the edges of the woods to give a less blocky feel. I could probably get away with fewer mountains in the mountainous areas too and the glow around the edge of the text needs fettling slightly to make the text more readable. Still, it gives the adventurers a visual aid, and I can fettle the map and add things they discover as I go along. The more I play with CC3, the more I wish I had this sort of technology in the late seventies when I first started playing Basic D&D.

Beyond the Threshold - A Map

Through his contacts with the merchant Caldwell, Miroslav has been able to obtain a map of the area (click the image for a larger version):

Miroslav warns that the map may not be wholly accurate. Much of the area is still wilderness and the cartographers probably did not actually venture into every place depicted.

I picked up Campaign Cartographer on Sunday and have been experimenting. You lucky adventurers get to benefit from this.

Wargods and CC3 - Version 2

Ok, a couple of instruction videos down the line and I think I am beginning to understand a few more things. Here's the next version of the campaign map. Have I made any progress? I think so. CC3 seems simple enough to get the basics quickly but probably has a lot more subtlety to it that I may well manage to learn later. Hmm, Steve's a CAD wallah. Perhaps I should just point it in his direction and see what he makes of it.

Monday 15 August 2011

Mapping Aegyptus with Campaign Cartographer 3

I have been considering putting together a Wargods of Aegyptus mini-campaign recently. It would be the first episode in a series that ideally would see the harbingers rise from lowly Ka1 wannabes all the way to Ka10 and possibly one of them becoming Pharaoh or restoring Osiris to the throne. The basic campaign idea is a simple one. The Harbingers must find the clues, which are located at significant named spots. Once all the clues have been found there is a climactic big battle. Each clue will add a bonus to the warband that finds it, so finding lots of clues will give an advantage to the warband that does this. So, I wanted it to be a map campaign and had drawn up a simple grid on paper. Then yesterday I weakened and bought Campaign Cartographer 3, primarily for mapping my Labyrinth Lord campaign but I produced an Aegyptus map first. This is the result, my first warts and all CC3 map using the basic package and no add-ons.

I was very surprised at how easy it was to produce this map. A quick whizz through the basic tutorial followed by a quick run through the CC3 Essentials pdf manual. A trip to the forum yielded a couple of clues about approaches and techniques too, as I read a few posts by first-timers getting their own work checked out, followed by looking up the topics in the main manual. So, that was Sunday afternoon filled up. I then spent an hour knocking this map together in the evening. I've tinkered with the settings a bit more today, in between running errands for my wife, but a small investment of time has yielded a perfectly usable map. It's not brilliant but I am quite pleased with it as a first effort. My next task is to try the same map using a different basic map type and see how that works. The range of icons available in the standard Vector style map is not as great as in the standard bitmap fill map, so let's see what I can do with the latter.

Overall I am very pleased with the basic CC3 package and how easy it is to use. I am not a great digital artist and have only sporadically used CAD packages in the past, so I am not an expert there. I use Photoshop Elements a bit, but this is not the same style of package and I am no great digital artist with PSE either, but I reckon that with a little bit more practice and thought I could be churning out competent maps for my games quite happily using CC3. I also suspect that I shall be spending a small fortune on the add-on packages too once I really get going!

Friday 12 August 2011

6-7 Thaumont 1000AC - The Old Antilles Castle

With the Tor cleared of monsters and treasure, the group decides to scout the Old Antilles Castle. It is but a few miles to the south-west and a quick look could yield valuable intelligence before finalising the agreement to clear it. 

The march to the castle is easy enough through the rolling hills of the area. As they crest a rise, suddenly the castle lies before them. It lies atop the tallest hill in the immediate area and shows few signs of having been maintained properly. The trees and scrub on the hill around the castle are evidence of that. Clifton Caldwell will have to spend a lot more money if he wishes to restore the castle properly.

The castle is a square structure some 200 feet on each side. It rises to two storeys with circular turrets on each corner. The main entrance is reached by a steep ramp and the large double doors that once closed this entrance lie on the ground in front of it instead.

There are few windows in the ground floor. Those that are present are mere arrow slits, while the first floor contains more and larger windows. The obvious route in is through the front door.

Observing the castle for an hour or so reveals no obvious guards and there is no movement observable at all. Certainly no one enters or leaves in this time.

After this the group returns to the Tor where they make themselves comfortable for the night. Guards are set but the night is uneventful and the following morning the group returns to Threshold and to their rooms in Janacek's Inn. They arrive just in time for lunch.

Miroslav quickly confirms that the fee for clearing the castle will be 100 Royals and any treasure still in the castle and then retires to his room, announcing that he will not be accompanying the group on this mission, but that he will require 10% of the reward for brokering the deal.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

6 Thaumont 1000AC - What's more superlative than deadest? Deaderer?

Having examined the sarcophagus for traps, and being satisfied that there are none there as far as they can tell, Elias moves to the doorway and loads his crossbow. While he does this, the others question Callinicus about the sarcophagus. 

I'm sorry," says Callinicus, "I know nothing about this symbol. I can only presume that it is a representation of mortal remains left behind while the soul flies to the lands of the immortals, but I cannot be sure. Perhaps it means that the deceased in the sarcophagus was a particularly evil person. Who knows? I'm only a novice in the Church of Karameikos and am here to learn as much as to help you. I could pray to the immortals but they do not speak directly to me, so I doubt that I would get a suitable answer."

Lacrimos and Miroslav move to the ends of the sarcophagus and prepare to lift the lid off while Breccia steps back to join Elias. Callinicus moves to the side so that he will not be in the line of fire but is ready to smite should smiting be needed.

Lacrimos and Miroslav count to three and then heave. The heavy stone lid slides slightly. They strain against its weight again and suddenly it is sliding free, crashing to the floor with a thunderous thud and raising a huge cloud of dust that makes everyone's eyes water. Had the group not been holding their collective breath, they would be choking now.

The silence after the lid falls is deafening, as everyone grabs their weapons just in case. As well they did, for a skeleton rises from the sarcophagus with a sword in one hand and an old rotting wooden shield in the other. It is dressed in rags that must once have been fine clothes. Reacting instantaneously Miroslav swings his axe at the creature, cleaving and smashing bone as he does so. Elias then fires his crossbow barely missing Miroslav. The bolt smashes against the wall behind the skeleton. The skeleton then launches a flurry of blows at Miroslav but he is able to fend them all off. By now Lacrimos and Callinicus have joined the fight. Lacrimos' sword smashes into the skull of the skeleton, crushing the bone and causing the creature to fall, lifeless and unlifeless to the floor. Callinicus practically sprains his wrist as his mace thumps into the floor nowhere near the now completely dead skeleton.

With no further threats, there is time to search the room. It is empty. The only saleable items are the skeleton's sword and a small silver ring that it is wearing on its finger. These are quickly stowed in Pushka's pack, along with the other items that were found. Further investigation of the Tor shows that the whole tunnel system has been explored. It is now mid-afternoon and any journey back to Threshold will see the group camping outside the town walls, because they have arrived too late to be let in.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

6 Thaumont 1000AC - Dead, Deader, Deadest

Lacrimos moves into the room and takes a quick step to the left, keeping his back to the wall. Miroslav does the same but steps to the right.Elias and Breccia take cover in the entrance to the chamber with Callinicus just behind them. As the group moves, the body on the plinth stirs and sits up. Lacrimos and Miroslav react simultaneously and without hesitation, both charging forward to attack the slow-moving creature. Disturbed by the nature of the undead creature, both warriors miss. Breccia throws one of his daggers at the creature and also misses, while Elias looses a crossbow bolt that tears a large hole in the creature's throat. Callinicus holds up a twelve-pointed star that he wears on a chain around his neck.

"In the name of Zirchev I command you to rest again, creature," he bellows. 

The creature hesitates briefly before drawing the sword at its side and attacking Lacrimos. However, it is too slow and the shining steel of its blade just scratches Lacrimos' shield. Breccia throws his second dagger at the creature striking it a glancing blow, while Elias hastily reloads his crossbow. Miroslav grits his teeth and puts all his strength behind his swing. His axe carves into the creatures neck and takes its head off. Its body slumps to the ground. A quick survey of the room shows no further immediate dangers, so Elias and Breccia have a quick look around. The room and its contents do not appear to contain any traps, so the group searches the room. While they do this, Callinicus places the body back on the plinth and puts its head between its knees before saying a prayer over it.

There are six clay pots at the foot of the plinth. Five of them are empty, but contain traces of old wines or foods that would have sustained the creature on its journey into the afterlife. The sixth contains treasure and the group counts out 90 tarnished silver coins of an unknown king, whose face resembles the bearish cast of the creature. Also in that same pot are three golden arm rings, a small gold torc, a silver finger ring and several hammered strips of silver. The sword that the creature was using also seems serviceable. Despite its age it has not rusted, but it is unremarkable in any other way, being a well-used shortsword with a few nicks along the edge that attest this usage.

With this treasure stowed in packs, the group returns up the passageway to investigate the one remaining passage. It leads to a single chamber containing a sarcophagus. Carved into the lid of the sarcophagus is a death's head design with bat's wings extending from the skull. There is no other ornament or decoration surviving in this chamber. Elias and Breccia check the room and the sarcophagus and are certain that there are no traps present.

The Chambers under the Tor:

Friday 5 August 2011

Bwendi Aerospace Navy Gets New Fighters

The Bwendi Bugle
Blowing the Bwendi Trumpet Since 1984 Old Earth Time

Gladcorp is very pleased to announce the development of the new Dendrobates Fast-Strike Interceptor. The Colonel's own Azureus Squadron took delivery of the first of these new fighters and may be seen here testing them above the Bwendi night sky.

Colonel Throckmorton P Gladiolus himself leads this squadron into battle and it is reported that he is very pleased with this new interceptor: "The flight was so smooth that I was able to perform combat manoeuvres while drinking my tea and I did not spill a drop. I can't wait to take a pop at the ADF in this beauty."

Figures: 1:300 Amrep Eagle by Brigade Models

Wednesday 3 August 2011

6 Thaumont 1000AC - Return to the Tor

As dawn breaks the group are on their way to the Tor once again. Breccia's optimistic desire to be there at breakfast time was just that: optimistic. It is half a day's travel to the Tor and the group breaks its fast about half way there, arriving at mid-morning outside the entrance to the cave. The day is overcast but not raining. Quickly the group prepares to enter the Tor. Armed with torches and lanterns for light they quickly progress to the chamber at the end of the long passage. It is clear that there has been little disturbance, although the bodies left by the group's previous foray have been chewed upon by various creatures but there is no sign of these creatures at this time. 

The room where Breccia smelt gold lies just ahead. The light from the torches reveals a chamber with a large stone plinth in the centre about eight feet long by five feet wide. A large humanoid creature lies in its last rest atop the plinth wearing the rotten remnants of clothing resembling a modern knight's. It's tabard is brown with age and disintegrating and it has dry leather belts around its middle. A scabbarded sword lies on its chest and a rusty shield by the plinth itself. This was clearly once a person or creature of status. However, they are now just as clearly dead, with dried flesh being all that clings to their bones.

The creature looks familiar to Breccia but he cannot quite remember.

At the foot end of the plinth there are several sealed clay jars, probably grave goods for the creature. Other than these there are remnants of wall-hangings that have crumbled and browned with age but little else of interest in this room.