Discworld – The Luggage

Back in the early 1980’s an interesting bloke defined the colour of magic as Octarine. (A sort of fluorescent greenish-yellow-purple.) I think this was the first novel I ever read that regularly used footnotes. The Colour of Magic eventually became part of a series of books – I’ve just recently finished reading No.40, Raising Steam. I have also strayed into his other short series and stand alone novels.

Colour of MagicAll in all, Terry Pratchett became one of my favourite authors – especially for fantasy mixed with comedy. His books often make me laugh out loud. As the Discworld series has grown, his characters and writing have developed, and he manages to regularly poke fun at real-life issues, culture/society, even other fantasy. He’s tackled music, war, politics, religion, feminism, theatre, movies, vampires, fey-folk, Australia, truth, and a lot of other things. He likes to twist words and meanings, looks at traditional legends and myths in different ways and seems to have a lot of fun. [If both male and female Dwarves have beards and wear chain-mail, think of the confusion in trying to meet the other sex.]

Where is all this going? There are regular characters who pop in and out of novels, sometimes as a major character, sometimes on the sidelines. One of my favourites right from the first book was the Luggage. (Closely followed by DEATH and the Librarian)

A large wooden chest made out of sapient pearwood (extremely rare and expensive), that follows its owner on lots of little legs. “So great was the ability to follow its master anywhere, the grave goods of dead emperors had traditionally been made of it…” It’s bigger on the inside than the outside, cunning, very fast and known to eat thieves.

At least a decade ago, my sister found a miniature of the luggage for me and it’s spent nearly all that time riding on the dashboard of whatever car I’ve owned… well, until last week. I decided it was time it got painted! It’s a metal miniature, about 18mm high and was fun to paint. Eventually, it will go back into the car.


Painting 7 – The Mummy’s curse

“Even now the fearful eyes of that hideous Mummy seem to glare upon me; and even now I feel the gripe of its horrid bony fingers on my arm!”
The mummy’s eyes still pursued him with their ghastly brightness; they seemed to possess the fabled fascination of those of the rattle-snake, and though he shrank from their gaze, they still glared horribly upon him.
– Quotes from The Mummy, Jane C. Loudon, 1827.


I had fun with these two. They are plastic Games Workshop figures from Hero Quest. I much prefer them to my D&D pre-painted mummy figures, because they have a more solid look – the D&D mini’s are very “thin”. These were started on my second painting day with Azazel, who had demonstrated a dry-brushing method for applying “wear” to figures/clothes. This was a perfect effect for the mummies bandages.

They’d been spray primed in white and got a mustardy brown-yellow base coat. Then a “bone” dry brush to lighten the bandages and make them distinct from the base coat. This looked really good. A dark sand textured paint went over the bases. (I later added a little yellow ochre in splotches and edging.)

This weekend I mixed some flesh, grey and a hint of green for the skin areas(face, shoulder, hand, toes). A bit of viridian (green) over the eyes and later some fluro green over that. Then they got a wash with soft tone (Army Painter, light brown Ink) to pick out bandages. it hasn’t hidden all the yellow which I happy with. I’ve done red eyes on so many undead previously and wanted a change. The green has come up nicely.


HISTORICAL NOTE: Egyptian mythology has NO animated mummies. This sort of horror came from Victorian/Edwardian England and started with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Jane Loudon’s The Mummy! (1827).


D&D Campaign Diary updated…

Hooray – I finally spent some time to transfer most of my “diary” onto my blog. (D&D, 3rd edition)

Nearly everything, from the first adventure my group has played (June 2003) up to the “war” against the Giants (2011-2014), has been added to the Campaign page. The giants saga was a conversion to 3rd edition that I did – the original modules are 1st edition – mostly based on the Silver Anniversary edition of “Against the Giants“, with material from “GDQ Queen of the Spiders“.

Mid last year, we started on “Expedition to the Demonweb Pits” and I’ve yet to add that into the diary online. We haven’t played this year, but its time to get together again and they can have their first foray into the demonweb itself.

Painting update…

A second painting afternoon has re-based my plastic minotaurs and touched them all up to a very pleasant finish.


The one that looked a shade orange is centre rear – he’s got a better overall skin colour now!

I also got a start on two mummies and “the luggage” from Discworld. If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett, then you’ll know what I mean – this 18mm high metal miniature has been sitting on my car dashboard for at least ten years. I’ll be very happy to put it back in full colour!

Painting 6 – Not a maze in sight…

Last week’s painting afternoon produced one excellent Minotaur. He’s a metal Games Workshop figure and almost entirely painted by Azazel. I followed this up over the weekend by copying his technique and doing three plastic GW Minotaurs – from the “Warhammer Quest” board game.


Unfortunately, the plastic figures don’t have the same level of detail. I don’t play Warhammer Quest any more, and the metal figure has always been my choice if I want a Minotaur figure for anything else (usually D&D), so I like that fact that he looks professionally painted. Touch-ups tomorrow to finish him off as well as any suggestions Azazel has for the others.












I still can’t get consistent lighting when I’m taking photo’s, so one Minotaur looks “orange” when he’s really a reddish-brown. There’s also a lot of reflection of the plastic figures – their flesh looks a bit blotchy in some of the pictures. Their base coat didn’t go on evenly, so I’ll have to pay more attention to that and make sure my paint’s not too thick/thin when I apply it. (But it’s not as bad as the pictures make it seem.)



Painting 5.5 – He said: ‘I am the Mouth of Sauron’

At its head there rode a tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse. The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man. The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: ‘I am the Mouth of Sauron.’ But it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that are named the Black Numenoreans. – The Black Gate Opens [Book 5, The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien]


"Is there anyone in this rout with authority to treat with me?"

“Is there anyone in this rout with authority to treat with me?”

This is a metal Citadel miniature. Like a more recent version I’ve seen (based on the movie), the figure doesn’t match the actual book text. Numenoreans (Black or Dunedain) are human, and shouldn’t have skeletal faces with large or overexposed teeth. But if I was following the text, he should have tanned skin and not red eyes! I also felt that completely black armour would be a bit boring. I wasn’t sure what colour scheme to follow, but was originally thinking of a range of greys.

I’d previously painted hands and face, so I started with a light grey over all the armour, helm, pants and boots. I experimented a little with some other grey on sleeves and wasn’t satisfied. Then I decided to treat his pants like leather on some of my skeletons and so they got a brown (Burnt Umber) with a black wash. Later I went a bit darker brown on the bottom of his “jacket” (okay), then a hint of purple (not so good), and after checking LotR this morning added some black.

Recent painting with Azazel has shown me how “inks” work. (I’d heard about them, but never used any) Soon after that I knew what I was going to do here – he got a “wash” with (‘the Army Painter’) Dark Tone ink. This brought out the lines (and especially the ‘eyes’) on the armour and detailed his hands and face very well. It also helped pick out the parchment. A bit of purple on the sword scabbard and green on the hilt. White skulls, his real eyes in red, black on the helmet and arms. Most of the ‘eyes’ on the armour are too small to properly detail so I went with the large eye on front and back – white base, yellow, red centre, then some orange over the yellow. The larger of the small eyes are all just yellow with a bit of red in the middle – 3 at the front, 2 at the back, 1 on helm, and 1 each shoulder. A hint of yellow and red for the eye on the parchment and some red for the ‘M’ rune on it.



I’ll come back and touch up the rest of the parchment – I want to remove some of that red running across the front, and have it less grey. There are two small skulls on the helm that for some reason have a protruding spiked ‘nose’. I’m not impressed by their look and may take the nose off and make them a standard skull, like the belt buckle.

For completeness: I have counted 63 visible ‘eyes’ on this figure. That’s not counting on the sword or parchment!

So this is it, we’re going to die! (Game Review)

It’s always fun when I get to use one of my favourite quotes. (Arthur Dent, from “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”)

It’s quite remarkable in a game when you have a player prepared to die in the hope that the other players might win. Co-operative games don’t always mean that players co-operate. In Zombicide, unlike most other zombie themed games, it isn’t every man-for-himself and generally every-one sticks close together and thinks about what they are doing and how it will effect other players. It’s also a game where charging out and killing everything because you have a shot-gun with extra ammo is NOT a good idea.


Last weekend a group of five of us got together and played two games of this. It was the first time I’ve played this game; the others have played a number of missions together previously.

Game One: By the end of what I think was only the first turn, we had one player declaring that we were all dead and there was no way to win. As it turned out, three people died in the next two turns and that left the last two of us running through (different) buildings trying to avoid zombies and get out the other end of the building. We managed to collect four of the seven objective tokens and I was the last to die. That’s my figure (purple) in the car…

“Today is a good day to die…”

Game Two: This time I died first and early on. The other four players got a police car, spent time searching for weapons and driving up and down the street mowing down zombies until able to open doors safely and send people in to recover objective tokens. Then we got back down near one of the “spawn” points, grabbed the last two tokens and won the game! I still say “we” because even though my character died and I was mostly moving zombies, I was still part of the discussion on tactics and suggestions and part of the team – it was a TEAM win, not an INDIVIDUAL one.


Each player gets a Survivor card, a figure that matches the survivor picture, and one piece of equipment. Starting equipment is mostly frying pans, but there’s an axe, crowbar and a pistol too. Each turn consists of firstly the Players Phase: each player takes their allowed actions in clockwise order. Then Zombie Phase: attack or move every zombie on the board, and lastly taking a “zombie” card for each “spawn point” to see if zombies (and what type) appear. When you start the game, you choose one player to act first. You pass a “first player” token around (clockwise) at the end of each turn, so that a different player acts first in each new turn.

Each player starts with three actions and a skill. An action can be: move (one “zone”), open a door (if you have the skill or equipment to do so), reorganise your limited inventory, ranged combat, melee combat, get in/out of a car, make noise (purposefully!) or search. You can only search once (in a building or car), other actions can be done more than once. Searching means you take an equipment card – often cans of food, but also ammo, shotguns, pistols, rifles, axes, machetes, etc. Skills include: free combat or move actions, damage bonuses in combat, re-rolls, being able to avoid damage, or get bonuses with certain equipment. Some actions make noise – you place a token each time.

For each zombie that you kill, you gain 1 experience. 7 experience puts you at Yellow Danger level and gives you another skill. 19 is Orange level and you choose 1 of 2 more skills, 43 (the highest) is red level and you pick 1 of 3 skills. Skills available depend on the character card. Image shows a character from the game, with some equipment.Zombc card2 The danger level is very important. The number of zombies (and type) that spawn at the end of each turn increase according the highest danger level of each survivor still in the game. So you don’t want one player to race ahead of all the other players!

Each time you open a door to a previously “sealed” building, you take a zombie card for EACH room in the building and spawn zombies according to the current danger level. This means opening doors early in the game gets you less zombies and less powerful zombie types, than later in the game. Of course, if you have a large building, this can mean a lot of zombies when the characters are still “weak” or under-equipped, but you can only search for equipment IN a building.

The Zombies come in four types. Walkers, Runners, Fatties and (generally) a single Abomination. Walkers, Fatties & Abomination: They get 1 action: Attack or Move. Runners get 2 actions. Any zombie in the same zone as a character attacks and causes 1 damage. (You die if you take 2 damage. Look at the image with my character in the car again, there are about 20 zombies in my zone and about the same in the next zone.) It takes 1 damage to kill a Walker or Runner, 2 damage to kill a Fatty, and 3 for an Abomination.

Weapons: Each has a range (0 to 3 zones away), the number of dice (d6) you roll when you attack, and the number you need to score a hit. Most weapons cause 1 or 2 damage to a single target. With enough actions (or skill bonuses) you may be able to hit and kill multiple zombies. You can’t wound zombies – so you MUST have a 2 damage weapon to kill a Fatty. cars only do 1 damage, but you get an attack roll against every zombie in the zone you drive in!

The game mechanics are quite simple. There’s no dice rolling for the zombies – they simply move (firstly) towards any survivor they can see, or else towards the greatest source of noise, by the shortest available path. As a player, you have to work together and think about what others can or want to do. You have to watch where the zombies are – you really want to kill any in an adjacent zone – not give them a chance to move close. In later stages of the game, if you can’t place a required zombie, ALL zombies of that type get a immediate free action – so even a slow moving walker can suddenly be on top of you. You have to balance out killing zombies, with hiding or searching for better equipment. You need to protect each other and try to keep your survivors at similar danger levels. It’s a lot of fun, but/and it gets intense!

It’s a great game – play it if you have a chance. You don’t have to be a “zombie” fan, but if you are you’ll probably enjoy it a bit more.

The facts:

This is a collaborative game by Guillotine Games, for 1-6 players of age 13+. Each game will be very different and can last from 30 minutes to a number of hours, depending on the type of mission chosen and the number of players. The website has great images of all the game components – boards, cards, characters & figures – and you can download the rules, missions and F.A.Q. – all free.

You need a basic pack to play (Season 1 or 2), which costs around $90. There are a lot of expansion packs that include more game tiles, zombie figures, more types of zombies, more survivors, etc.

The car in the image shown didn’t come with the original game – this was just a model car that’s the right size. Everything else pictured is actual game product. We had more than one expansion pack, so we can have a lot more zombies than the basic game, and a greater choice of survivors.

The basic survivor cards are all the typical characters you see in zombie movies. The “promo” survivor cards are based on people/characters from TV and movies, such as: Simon Pegg in “Shaun of the Dead”, Shaun Connery from “Entrapment” (or James Bond), Beyonce in “Austin Powers”, John Cleese, Chuck Norris, Jack Nicholson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russel, etc.

A pleasant afternoon

I had a very enjoyable and instructive afternoon painting with Azazel this afternoon. Mostly we were touching up or repainting the three Dragons I finished about this time last year. They are all looking good, but the blue in particular is greatly improved. He has much more painting experience than I have. Watching someone use a particular medium or technique is much better than just reading about it or seeing pictures.

We also have an Warhammer Orc Warrior started and a Minotaur nearly finished. No pictures yet – probably next week when we finish.

I’ve been writing a book series review that is nearly done, and will review a game I played last weekend… so there’s posts to come over the next week!

Anne McCaffrey – The Tower and Hive Series

I have said before that Anne McCaffrey is my favourite writer. I love her interesting plot-lines and well developed characters. While I’m sure that “The Ship who sang” (1969) was the first book of hers that I read, “Dragonflight” (1968) and Crystal Singer” (1982) weren’t far behind. All three were discovered in my High School library in the early 1980’s. By that time there was a lot of her books for me to find! After I finished the 8 books by Julian May (see previous post) I went onto the similarly themed ‘Tower & Hive’.

Get off the Unicorn – short stories:

When I read “Get off the Unicorn” (1979) recently – a collection of early short stories – I was delighted to read the introductions in which Anne talks about when and where the stories were published and insight into why she wrote them or what inspired them.

While she had written a short story for a SF Magazine in 1952, she prefers to acknowledge as her first “The Lady in the Tower” (1959). This is followed by “A Meeting of Minds” (1969). Anne writes “These two stories were supposed to be part a novel I’d tentatively entitled The Bitter Tower. But, when I got started on the story ‘A Womanly Talent’, I got interested involved with Dai op Owen and wrote the four stories which comprise To Ride Pegasus. So these two stories never became part of a novel. But the Raven women are good strong characters, and who knows when I’ll write about that third generation of Ravens.”

I read this with delightful amusement because I have the complete novels that those two stories resulted in a decade later. (Rowan & Damia)

TalentsBackground – Pegasus/Talents:

To Ride Pegasus” (1973) is the first book in the Talents trilogy. It is followed by Pegasus in Flight (1990) and Pegasus in Space (2000). The first book is set at the end of the twentieth century and is concerned with the establishment and operation of the first Centre for Parapsychics. The centre employs, trains and protects those it finds or are drawn to it. Anne includes in her range of Talents: empathy, finding, healing, precognition, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. From the Prologue of “The Rowan”: The Centre was to formulate the ethic and moral premises which grant those with valid, and demonstrable, psionic talents certain privileges, and responsibilities, amid a society basically skeptical, hostile, or overtly paranoid about such abilities.” Space exploration, and the discovery of a teleportation talent who could machine gesalt (Peter Reidinger, Pegasus in Flight) to push things much greater distances than ever before sets the scene for the Talent and Hive Series.

Tower and the Hive:

Tower and the Hive is set rather forward in the future where Earth is part of the Nine-Star League. (Planets/stars referred to are: Earth, Altair, Betelgeuse,  Callisto, Capella, Deneb, Iota Aurigae, Procyon.) Talents are given a “T” rating from 10 (lowest) to 1 (highest). It is mostly concerned with the FT&T (Federated Telepath and Teleport) T-1’s, or Primes, who can gestalt (link mentally) with generators and with other Primes. They operate with a support staff to import and export material between Towers.  The main characters are nearly all part of the Rowan/Raven/Lyon family. The books follows the lives, relationships, work and travels of the main characters. In particular it follows their contacts with two alien species – the Beetles, a hive-minded insectoid race, and the Mrdini, furry humanoids who have been fighting against the Beetles. This series is composed of five books:

  • The Rowan (1990)
  • Damia (1991)
  • Damia’s Children (1992)
  • Lyon’s Pride (1994)
  • The Tower and the Hive (1999)

Tower and the Hive

The Rowan is discovered on the planet Altair as an orphan who has very strong telepathy. With the expectation that she will become a Prime, she is learns to develop her telepathy and telekinesis as a child and ward of the planet, then in a Tower under the guidance of Siglen, the Altair Prime. As a young woman she gains her own Tower at Callisto (Jupiter’s moon) and meets Afra Lyon, a T-4 who becomes her friend and main assistant. She first encounters Jeff Raven (Deneb’s Prime) when he requests assistance after Deneb (a newer colony) is attacked by an alien force that seems determined to wipe out life on the planet. The attacking aliens don’t communicate and two ships are destroyed by a gestalt of the Primes under the Rowan’s leadership.  The third is pushed out into space. Debris from destroyed ships and the observations from the talents suggests the Beetles are a large insectoid hive-like alien led by a ‘queen’, similar to ants, in the way the function. The Rowan begins a romantic relationship with Jeff and they commute between the their two Towers/planets. Three years later, emerging Talents on Deneb detect the approach of another Beetle ship. Jeff is sent with representative of the Fleet (the Leagues military arm) to scout and locates a huge asteroid ship approaching with multiple queens on board. When Fleet proves powerless to stop it, all T-3 ratings and above through-out the League are linked through their Primes and while the Rowan leads one gestalt to neutralise the queens, Jeff leads a second to swing the ship out of Deneb’s orbit and into the sun.

‘Damia’ begins by telling of Afra Lyon’s upbringing and how he came to work with the Rowan. The Rowan and Jeff Raven have four children – Jeran, Cera, Damia and Larak. Damia, even as a child, proves to be a powerful talent and difficult to raise. Afra has become greatly involved in supporting both the Rowan, Jeff, and their children. Jeff takes over as Earth Prime and head of FT&T. Their children are sent to Deneb to be raised by Jeff’s talented (but untrained) mother Isthia and to be part of a newly established training program for the young talents emerging on the colony world. Much later, as adults, Jeran becomes Deneb’s Prime and Damia is sent to Iota Aurigae to be Prime for the mining colony there. All the worlds have been concerned about possible beetle attack and so there is great concern when she becomes aware of a alien aura approaching. Afra and her brother Larak assist her in learning more of this approaching ship, of which the only thing they are certain is that it is not beetle. Later, Deneb becomes a the point of a first-contact between talents there and another alien species. This species, the Mrdini had been tracking the huge beetle ship that was destroyed at Deneb. They are looking for an alliance to track and fight the beetles.

Further books concern Damia’s children (primarily) as they take positions as Tower Prime’s or mobile Primes with Fleet ships as they work with the Mrdini. The eldest daughter Laria goes to Clarf, a Mrdini world, to learn and teach language & culture, (eventually becoming it’s Prime); son’s Thian and Rojer, serve with Fleet tracking three beetle ships. A live hive queen is captured, and a number of beetle colonies are discovered. Zaria tries to understand and communicate with the hivers. Tensions have also begun to rise on Human and Mrdini worlds – resentment over the power of certain Talents and the division of potential colony worlds discovered by those exploring space.

Final notes:

I’ve given the most detail on the first book and a little less on the second. I won’t give an in-depth summary of the whole series. That would give away some of the developments – if what I’ve written gains your interest – then read the series yourself!

The characters are well defined and realistic. They make relationships, travel, learn, make mistakes and suffer loss. Anne is not afraid to have her characters suffer, be attacked or even die. They live, love, have regrets and find fulfilment. Their worlds are not perfect – there is abuse, resentment, jealousy, prejudice, ethics and morals – on a small and large scale. Her aliens are alien – the humanoid Mrdini are human-like, but even with human telepathy – there’s no universal translators or fast communication. The captured Hiver Queen doesn’t make noises, rarely moves and completely ignores humans near her as if they don’t exist. One theme in the books is trying to find out how the hivers communicate between themselves. The humans and Mrdini have ideas about the technology in the Hiver ships, but no idea how to make anything work. There is intelligent use of science, which is common in Anne’s books – she consults experts to make sure that the science in her fiction is based on real knowledge.

I highly recommend this as a series. The first two novels could be read as stand-alone books, but I would not suggest picking up the last three if you hadn’t at least read ‘Damia’, and planned to continue in sequence.