Friday, April 30, 2010

So a cleric walks into a club...

Question for all you old-school DMs out there: How would you handle this scenario?

My 1st level cleric's mace breaks, so he drops it, draws a dagger, and attacks a charging orc.

What happens? Does the cleric auto-miss? Does his dagger break? Does he instantly forget all his spells for the day?

See, clerics are prohibited from using anything but blunted weapons—which I find to be a very "gamey" decision foisted onto the cleric class for no other reason than to balance clerics against fighters. The idea that holy warriors can't bring themselves to spill the blood of their enemies—yeah, that's crap. If you've got a job to do, you'll hardly turn up your nose at the most common weapon in the entire game (sword) to get it done. Or something.

But still, within the paradigm of "imagine the hell out of it" old-school gaming, how would you referees deal with a cleric player who insists that his character tries to attack with a sword? Or uses a dagger to cut the bonds on a captured prisoner? Or picks up a cursed sword and puts it in his backpack?

I'm genuinely curious, because Mike/Chgowiz and I came up with a neat little workaround to deal with this scenario in his Dark Ages campaign. It removes the gamey aspect of the restriction that I find distasteful, while not overpowering my cleric character. I'll post the details on that later, but I wanted to hear DMs' responses first.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Miniatures review: 6d6 Fireball's Quorakons

Recently I painted up three Quorakons kindly provided to me by Chris over at 6d6 Fireball, a publisher of old-school-themed miniatures and adventures. Quorakons are a race of four-armed simians that use primitive weapons and enjoy a tribal lifestyle. Adrian Wood (also part of the 6d6 Fireball team) actually put together a free 10-page PDF detailing their entire culture, including its social composition and battle capabilities. The stat block is a bit dense for me, but it's easy to jettison the extra baggage to get down to the old-school essence of these humanoids.. It's definitely worth checking out if these miniatures pique your interest.

The PDF is packed with story ideas, some of which occurred to me while I was assembling and painting these figures. The Quorakons use stone weapons, right? So how would they react if the PCs arrive and are willing to trade their steel and iron hardware for access to the Quorakons' tribal mystics?

The figures themselves were a ton of fun to assemble. They arrived with empty hands and two extra sprues full of primitive weapons (clubs, spears, javelins and stone axes). I started putting weapons in hands, and before I knew it, each of these Quorakons were holding three weapons. Overkill, you say? Well, if you've got four arms, why not use 'em?

The one on the far right in the photo above is also holding a dead rabbit—a little treasure I had kicking around in my bits box, waiting for the right miniature to pin it on.

Anyway. As far as the paint job, I wasn't all that pleased with how the fur turned out. I got impatient while painting them and rushed through my typical fur painting process (slowly building up lighter and lighter colors). So that's why the fur might look a little garish.

The best part about these miniatures are the simian faces. Designer Rob Grimly did a superb job capturing the ape-like characteristics of these fellows.

As far as criticisms, the chieftain arrived with a small chunk of metal missing from his ornate feather headdress. Chalk it up to casting issues, I guess. You can see it missing in the second photo. He also had a rather odd hole or gap in his chest, where all four arms would sort of come together in his torso, which I can also only assume is the result of some casting problems.

Really, though, these guys were a lot of fun to paint up. The PDF is icing on the cake, as it really makes the Quorakon culture come alive. Even if you don't use 75% of the stuff that's included in the free supplement, there's still enough added value from 6d6 Fireball to make these guys several steps up from your average Monster Manual denizen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Check out the packaging on 6d6 Fireball's minis

I'm going to be reviewing some miniatures that were sent to me by Chris at 6d6 Fireball. They arrived last weekend, and while I've not been able to paint them up yet, I did have a chance to admire the cool packaging. Check out the box for the Quorakon War Party.

And how about that one-sentence descriptor: "Four-armed, stone-weapon using apes with a rich culture." That's brevity that even the most old-school of referees couldn't help but admire.

I really dig little boxes and storage units, for some strange reason. So doubtless this box will get put to some shrewd use long after I've painted up the Quorakons and posted the photos here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dogs with Laser Eyes Eat Pat's Minis

Pat's recently been showcasing his miniature painting and construction skill, much to the delight of our readers. As his sometimes GM, it seemed appropriate to remind him that his characters can't always experience success. So, Pat, this is what the cruel universe will surely do to all the armies you so painstakingly create.

(Many thanks to my brother-in-law, Pear Bear, who photoshopped this pic! There's clearly a reason he enjoyed his first foray into rpgs so much, that big nerd. FYI, the dogs are Pear Bear's, and are lovingly named Athena and Megatron.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

That's a seriously ostentatious helmet crest

When I first picked up that box of Grenadier Fighting-Men, I was probably the least excited about painting this guy. His sword looked like a half-cooked noodle, and his helmet crest was... well... uninspired. I mean, I understand that miniatures casting back then wasn't the same as the techniques companies use today. And he's made of pure lead, which is much softer than the pewter and white metal used today for your typical Warhammer 40k dude.

But ... inspiration struck over the weekend. I've got a huge collection of spare bits, helmets, weapons, shields, laser guns, etc., from my years collecting and painting Warhammer armies. And it just so happened that I had the biggest, most ostentatious helmet crest in the world, along with a freakin' spiked mace that would put a 10th-level cleric to shame.

Take a look at the finished product. On top of his helm: that's a unicorn, with a pennant, topped by a fleur-de-lis. It's probably bigger than his actual helmet. And that's totally fine—this guy isn't going to be hiding behind doors or slinking through dim passageways. He's going to announce his presence with a ringing challenge to the agents of chaos lurking in the depths of the dungeon. Good stuff! I have just 3 fighting-men left to paint before I've completed the set.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Adiken's miniatures and the fall of a gaming company

At last month's gaming auction, I picked up a bag of loose fantasy figures—mostly orc-lookin' dudes and some adventurers. I just finished painting five of the orcs above (although in my campaign, they'll be hobgoblins, because I never cared for the Asian-themed old-school hobgoblins, and these guys seem vicious, and I already have enough orc figures).

Anyway, these miniatures were marked "Adiken 2003" on the bottom. I wasn't familiar with the company, and that seemed odd given that they were produced just 7 years ago. It's hard for a gaming company to rise and fall in the age of the Internet and not have anyone know about it. Upon cursory examination, all that existed about Adiken was a cryptic Wikipedia stub.

So I did a little digging—and found a fascinating account of the frenetic rise and fall of the company, as chronicled by Paul DeStefano, a member of the Board Game Geek online community. Paul was a freelancer who landed what sounded like the job of a lifetime working for Adiken a few years ago. The company had massive financial backing, a team of talent, and the mechanical capabilities to make the game (a dungeon crawl board game called Nin-Gonost, which those minis are for) into a big hit.

Paul wrote:
[T]hey are so floored by the work I have done that they give me complete creative control of the project. Whatever I want, I get.

Stories I write get painted into beautiful paintings by famous D&D artist Jeff Easley. I swear I am brought to tears.
Shortly thereafter, it all fell apart. The company's financier lost his father, and it appears he also lost his will to head up the company. Paul was left with crates of miniatures sitting in his garage, but no finished product to sell them for.

It was a riveting, tragic account of the company's short life. As someone who's done work for RPG companies—and has gotten paid promptly—I was heartbroken to read that Paul was apparently never paid for his work on Nin-Gonost.

Anyway. I thought this was a really fascinating bit of reading that ties into the new miniatures I just finished painting up. Perhaps Paul will take some heart in knowing that Adiken's miniatures will once again stalk the dim halls of my dungeons.