Painting: Goblins at last!

My last set of Citadel “Lord of the Rings” figures has been completed! Back in the middle of last year I started to clean these six figures in preparation for a complete repaint. They didn’t get much further than that until last week.

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“Orcs of the Red Eye” and “Snagga: Goblins”

They will primarily be used in D&D games so I wanted to change their skin tones from green (Warhammer influence back when I first started painting) to a yellow/orange more in keeping with D&D goblins. They were in such poor shape that repainting them entire seemed better than touch-ups. The three on the left are “Orcs” and the three to the right are “Goblins”. Two of the “orcs” have slightly thinner bodies, and the “goblins” seem to show more teeth. Apart from that, size, clothes/gear are all alike, and they are obviously sculpted in the same style. If I didn’t have a visual reference for the original sets, I’d never pick which were from which set.

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Rear view

Their skin colour is oriental flesh which came out well after a second coat and some brown ink at the end. Their chainmail is antique copper and clothes mostly in browns, greens and a touch of red. Weapons, helmets and (metal) shields mostly gunmetal and black ink. I tried bright bronze on a small shield and a helmet. The shield has been dulled to suggest wear and the helmet looked so out of place it was redone with silver and then also dulled down. Two of the “orcs” have small eyes (of Sauron) on the front of their helms and the third (left-most archer) has an eye-outline marked on his shield – half covered by his cloak and not very visible in my photo. I found a “eye” decal in my warhammer bits and a touch of red paint on that has made a nice shield decoration for one of the sword weilders, in keeping with their LotR origin.

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“Capture those hobbits!”

I’ll use them as elite goblins for D&D – they are a bit small for orcs. They are slightly bigger and bulkier than a typical WH goblin and a little smaller than a WH orc. Here’s a size comparison. An orc and a goblin from Warhammer, one of my Citadel “goblins”, and Frodo and Boromir from the same range.

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That’s all of my Citadel LotR collection painted, except for one piece. When I first posted my idea to work through them all, I didn’t know what to do with Sauron’s throne. Azazel gave me some suggestions, then stated “Damn. I want to paint it myself now.” So gave it to him. Considering how much he complains about what is already on his painting desk, this was probably a mistake – so I think it’s time I got it back. With his suggestions and a site I found on painting marble effects, I should come up with something worthwhile.

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Miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons, and not meeting expectations

Way back in High School, when I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons, I loved most of the fantasy figures that I saw and was pleased to be able to collect a few. I had figures for all the characters in my main campaign during University, but they weren’t used for much more than decoration, or with tokens in a few major adventure finales. Speed, position and things like flanking weren’t important in early editions.

It wasn’t until 3rd edition and d20 that my D&D games went much beyond drawing a general map for the players to show where they were going. I started using altered copies of the DM maps (easy access to printers and photocopiers never hurt) and marked pins to aid our games. Then about 2008, I discovered the Wizards of the Coast range of minis and started making card floor plans and collecting figures. I’d already been into Warhammer Quest in a big way and had plenty of figures for that, so I already had a good set of basic humanoid monsters and some undead to use as well.

I now have over 500 monster figures – that’s not counting PC or NPC figures. They are primarily Wizards (some Paizo/WizKids) plastics and whatever figures I’d previously collected from various sources. Some of my early figures look great, but weren’t to any proper scale. The best thing about the Wizards DDM figures to me was scale – both a specific base size (1″ = medium, 2″ = large, etc) and a figure height that was mostly accurate to the creature descriptions in rule books. Occasionally a mini doesn’t come with a great paint job, but if it really bothers me then I can touch up the figure or repaint it.

With so many years of producing minis (2003-2011 for the original DDM) it is such a disappointment when a mini comes out that just doesn’t look right for some reason.

  1. Here’s a lesser example: the Celestial Giant Owl from Unhallowed.

Giant Owl 2

 

This figure has outstanding detail and comes on a 2″ large base. I have a blog post before when I said I didn’t actually expect the Owl to be this large. My problem with this figure is that it’s mounted on a very short post. The stock image used all over the internet (above) looks nice, but on my figure the owl’s tail hit the base and pushed the whole figure forward. There was no way my mini was going to “stand” straight without clipping the tail feathers and trying to straighten the column. I solved this by cutting off the base and column, drilling a small hole and fixing a metal rod to the owl and a new base. (The thread on the rod is obvious in the photo but not so obvious when looking at the mini on a table/shelf.) My owl is now tilted slightly forward and much higher off the ground which I think looks so much better!

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Celestial Giant Owl v2

2. Large Blue Dragon, Deathknell.

Blue Dragon 3

This is meant to be a “large” dragon, which means a 2″ (50mm) base. The size of the figure itself is correct and I like the sculpt and colours. For some strange reason, this mini is produced on a 40mm base. It makes the dragon look a bit bigger – until you put it next to something else, but why the smaller base?? Every other large figure I’ve bought is on the proper 2″ base! This has bothered me since I bought the mini – I’m slightly OCD. Over my January break I took the large base from the Giant Owl and glued the two together, then added some more rocks, sand, etc and repainted it. I could still tidy it up a little before varnish. Like my Dracolich, I think the larger base with extra detail is a great improvement over the original.

Dragon

3. Gnoll Sergeant, Giants of Legend.

Worst saved for last! I have two other Gnoll minis (in multiples) and this sole figure was bought to add some variety and be a leader for the others. I’ve laughed over it many times and since my group use Paizo’s gamemastery cards for criticals and fumble, I maintain that this Gnoll has just fumbled his flail attack. It’s a nice sculpt, colours are okay, but the chain of his flail goes over the shoulder, flat across his back and takes a right angle to stick out at his waist. WtF? What happened to quality control? Surely this isn’t the approved concept that went to the factory for production!

Gnoll

 

One of my next projects is likely to be this guy. I want to cut off the chain and flail head, and either give him an entirely new weapon, or attach a new chain to the haft and flail head and let that hang loose or glue it in an arc over the shoulder.

 

 

Game Review: Zombicide – Black Plague

First post for the 2016! I didn’t do much painting during my holidays, but I did play the new Zombicide: Black Plague game.

I’m one of many who supported this Kickstarter by “Cool Mini or Not” (with Guillotine Games) and I don’t think anyone was surprised when they beat their target. (Four million dollars received, with a $125,000 goal.) I think they have some great games and a very good reputation by now.

So far, four out of six games have been won. The first loss was in the Quest #0 – the tutorial. One of my mates was firing a crossbow at zombies and missed – hitting me twice for 4 damage. Dead! He re-rolled (plenty of bolts) and missed twice again – still dead! The objective was to reach the exit with all survivors – so that was a group loss. (We restarted and didn’t let him near a crossbow.)

Black Plague is very similar to the original Zombicide – essentially the rules are the same for actions, combat, and zombie behaviour. It’s a fantasy version of the “modern-day” original.

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Dashboard, with “Baldric” the Wizard

First off – the game board and pieces are excellent quality. Very thick card stock. Colours, images, etc are wonderful like in the original and the zombie figures are all different sculpts. The new “dashboard” for survivors is excellent – meaning survivor cards can be smaller, you can see all your cards better than before, and the slightly flexible pegs (I don’t see these breaking, and they give you spares) make marking your wound status and skills much easier and clearer than in the original. You shouldn’t lose the built-in experience tracker and it’s not going to damage your survivor card.

Differences: Each survivor has three wounds, not 2. Ranged combat doesn’t automatically hit survivors first – you only hit a survivor if you roll a miss. Each survivor can potentially hold 8 equipment cards, up from 5. (Basically two hands, a body slot and a five-card backpack.) Many of the skills are the same, but there are many variations or new skills. (Total 80 skills!) For example, “Bloodlust: Combat – As 1 action, move up to 2 zones to a zone containing a zombie and get a free combat action.” Fatties spawn on their own!

Necromancers: Necromancers have 1 wound and 1 action just like walkers. (There’s only 1 in the basic game.) When one spawns you immediately put down a necromancer spawn zone and draw a spawn card to see what friends he brought with him. Then – he RUNS AWAY from the survivors. Necromancers try to escape – moving to the closest spawn zone that isn’t where they arrived. If you kill one before he escapes you remove a spawn zone and it doesn’t have to be the one where he arrived. This can give some control over where zombie will spawn, but if a Necromancer escapes and there are six spawn zones on the board that’s instant game loss.

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So close…

Above is the end of the second game that was lost. We had cleared a path through to the exit chamber and could have had everyone out in two turns. What defeated us was our initial thought of concentrating zombie spawns in one area. This made it easy to move around without running into many zombies until we were ready to, and our first “Dragon Fire” (3 damage, kill everything in one zone) scored 19 experience: 1 Abomination, 3 Fatties, 2 Runners and 9 Walkers. The first necromancer spawn had been in a building and as we killed necromancers we removed the outer spawn zones. This rapidly became a problem as each new Necromancer escaped the board the following turn. The moral of the story: keep at least two spawn zones well apart from each other!

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Too many zombies knocking on your door? Throw out a flask of Dragon Bile.

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…and follow it up with a Torch!

It’s a fun game that makes you think and plan. It doesn’t play out the same way as the original – yes, it’s quite similar, but there are enough differences to make it distinct. If you have played the original a lot, then nearly all of the strategy that you have learned from that will apply to Black Plague. Overall, I’m very impressed with it from all aspects – components, rules, & game-play.

I’m looking forward to getting some of the extra survivors to try some of the new skills, and alternate necromancers! I plan to paint all the survivors (they’ll be great in my D&D games) but I don’t know if I really want to paint the dozens of zombies.

 

 

D&D Finale – Expedition to the DemonWeb Pits

Over the last few months of 2015, my 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons group was able to get together for three sessions to enjoy the tremendous climax to the adventure “Expedition to the DemonWeb Pits“. It’s taken us a year and a half of irregular gaming to play through the adventure. Four actual years (or half a Greyhawk year game time) has passed since we began the whole Giants – Demonweb series. I’m not entirely sure where things will go with the group now – I expect we will continue playing, but I’ll aim to run single session adventures, and if a player can’t attend then his character will not be a part of the party.

The Grand Council Chamber:

The book notes that players have a number of options open to them once they reach this point – stealth, diplomacy, golden council pass (obtainable within the adventure), combat, or a combination of these. It gives some details and suggestions for how these can be done and has a passage titled “The Battle Royale” for those who fail at other options or for the party that “might decide to fight the Demon Council. All of it.”

I was expecting my group to fight, and it initially looked like they were going to try and take on everyone at once. Since all the (chaotic evil) demon lords (or their ambassadors) distrust or even hate each other, a group can get away with fighting “individuals” to a point. Also, two items that the party carried, each triggered an attack by an ambassador/demon as the group moved into the hall. I expected the players to over-estimate their opponents (they did), since the demon lords as presented are only avatars/aspects (not full powered) and they did very well until the very end of things when the council hall became a free-for-all. I was impressed that they first pulled-back and planned instead of charging in.

SESSION 1: The party continued along a web tunnel until reaching a secret door. This led into a large hemispherical hall with four other exits and an ornate mosaic floor. Khufu determined there was another secret door across the hall and Levallious realised that the “abstract” mosaic actually portrayed a current map of the demonweb and was able to determine general layout and the party’s current position. A female Drow strode out of the darkness into the hall, followed by five male warriors. She seemed amused to find “mortals wandering the Spider Goddesses web” but was quite surprised when Figjam produced the council pass and stated they were Orcus’ ambassadors to the Council Meeting. She teleported the group to the Black Gate using a “key” and floor inlays and then left saying their were other ambassadors that hadn’t shown up yet.

A huge demon glared at them and demanded they open the Gate. Pyro cast “Dread Word” on the Gate, opening it. Two male drow on the other side pointed towards one of two tunnels. Ignoring a side branching that wasn’t on the map, they followed the curving tunnel to a chamber where they were attacked by three large harpoon spiders. Past this they came to a second side branch, which was investigated. A chamber with alcoves and statues brought attack from a drow assassin and a phase spider. The drow attacked Khufu (who saved against a death attack and poison) then failed a save against Myste’s curse and stabbed himself with his weapon – the poison on the blade knocked him unconscious and he was coup de grace’d in the next round. The spider bit Levallious and flung him across the chamber, phasing out and leaving. Avoiding a petrification traps, they took a secret door which proved to be a short cut along the main spiraling tunnel bringing them almost directly to the council foyer. This very large room had huge mirrors and a spider shaped stone golem blocking the archway into the main council chamber. Figjam held up the council pass and the golem shifted its legs to allow entrance.

First look into Council Hall

Laying out my hand-drawn gaming map and putting figures on it had everyone on their feet to watch: Approx 200’ long, 110’ wide, 50’ high ceiling, dimly-lit and containing three Vrocks (vulture demons), a Frost Giant, an Occulus Demon, three 1/2-Fiend Minotaurs, two 1/2-Fiend Gnolls, four Giant Hyenas, a trio of Succubi, five Drow, a Bebelith (Demon Spider), six Demon Lord aspects (Yeenoghu, Baphomet, Demogorgon, Obox-Ob, Malcanthet, Pale Night), and an empty throne.

The Vrocks close to the entrance appeared to have just killed two male drow. The party immediately pulled back to the side of the foyer and discussed tactics while casting protective and enhancement spells – Bless, Mass Aid, Mass Fire Shield, Divine Protection, and Mass Resist Fire. Myste summoned a Spider and 2 Large Beetles. While this occurred, the Vrocks performed a dance of ruin causing huge explosion of energy. Thankfully, the party were sheltered from the effect.

The “plan” (I tried not to pay attention while everyone discussed this) was to sneak some of the group in and set off powerful area-effect items/spells amid the lesser monsters and hope to pass-the-blame to another group. This fell apart within the first round or two, when Khufu (try to sneak across one side of the room) and Myste (flying invisibly) realised they were being tracked by the Occulus Demon. The main party moving around the Vrocks on the other side also ran into trouble when the Frost Giant ambassador saw Figjam carrying a Demon-Slayer sword (stolen from Frost Giants), called him a thief and threw a rock at him. During this combat, the Occulus demon saw Levallious using Thaas (Weapon of Legacy, demon-bane bow) and attacked him. This was all made more interesting when Pyro fumbled a touch spell and created a 20’ radius Stinking Cloud around the Frost Giant, himself, Figjam and Brolith.

Fighting the Frost Giant ambassador of Kostchtchie

The giant died quickly. The Occulus demon lasted about two rounds (with Levallious hit three times each round by negative energy eye rays, and miraculously making saves against sickness, panic and unconsciousness) and Obox-Ob moved to the remains. It demanded they declare fealty to it, and was of course attacked in return. As it took damage, it released demon-wasp swarms, which Myste blew (Gust of wind) across near the minotaurs. The rest of the group had started on the Vrocks. After seven rounds of combat all of these foes had been defeated. Most of the party had minor damage. Baphomet  (who had previous been impressed by the upstart mortals dealing with the giant & Occulus) weren’t looking so happy. Demogorgon was returning from an audience with Lolth upstairs. The drow all look concerned.

You notice that the beautiful demon Lady of the Succubi (Malcanthet) is now leaning over the balcony. She addresses the Council. “Listen to me, O Aspects of Our Greatness!” But something’s wrong; it’s not the Lady of the Succubi after all. Her voice and her shape suddenly change; the figure in front of you is male, not female, a black-skinned demon with fine features, rich black robes, and six-fingered hands. (Grazz’t) He continues speaking, his voice echoing through the council hall. “These mortals are servants of Orcus, brought here among us to turn us against one another. Lolth says we must not fight each other—but surely that does not mean we cannot destroy a few worthless mortals.” A murmur goes up around you.

A few of the demon lords hesitate, perhaps considering whether it is worse to annoy Lolth or to annoy Graz’zt, the Dark Prince. For a moment it seems like the whole room is against you, and then another voice answers him with a sneer.

“If these mortals are as ‘worthless’ as you say, surely you can deal with them yourself.” Demogorgon looks as pleased as a demon lord possibly can . . . an immensely disturbing expression.

The demon lords await…

SESSION 2: Grazzt moved towards the top of the stairs. Khufu strode across the floor challenging Grazzt. Levallious discovered Grazzt has an Aura of Sanctuary (Will save or you can’t attack). Myste cast dispel to remove the aura. The three Succubi launched into flight across the room – but they didn’t last very long – Levallious could target them! Grazzt reinstated his aura and Brolith and Khufu began to engage him in combat. Figjam had also moved forward, and not being able to reach Grazzt decided to attack the male Drow Commander. This triggered the remaining drow to act against the party. The two warriors began to move forward around the other Demon Lords, while the Drow Priestess started casting spells and the female warrior vanished. Both Grazzt and the Drow commander were defeated fairly quickly and the invisible drow female attacked Levallious. She was in turn attacked by Pyro.

The defeat of Grazzt disrupted the Council completely. Yeenoghu (Gnoll Demon lord) ordered his group to attack Baphomet (Minotaur Demon lord). Pale Night disappeared (teleporting or plane shifting out, even against Lolth’s restrictions) and Demogorgon looked down from the central stairs at the mayhem. Once the central combatants moved in against each other, Pyro and Myste both cast maximised Cone of Cold across them (144 cold damage) – this killed all four large Dire Hyenas, one of Yeenoghu’s gnoll attendants (the second was invisible and flying away from the melee), the three half-fiend minotaurs and moderately wounded both Demon lords. Figjam was confused by the priestess.

The party moved into the melee. The Drow priestess ran out of worthwhile spells and came down the stairs mace in hand. Demongorgon skirted everyone and exited the Spider golem door. The flying invisible Gnoll warlock fired eldritch blasts at the party while moving slowly towards the exit. The bebelith (demon spider) jumped off the balcony stairs into the fight. The two demon lords were defeated and then it was realized that Lolth’s aspects had left the audience chamber above. A large Giant Spider with female drow head (the Hammer of Lolth) dropped from the ceiling to attack while the Envoy (10’ drow female sorcerer) moved to the top of the stairs and cast Feeblemind on Pyro.

Myste rewound time (going back most of a round) and while most things happened the same way, Pyro wasn’t left with one point of intelligence. The Spider aspect got tripped by the wolf and wasn’t able to regain its feet before being killed. Both the Drow Priestess and the Gnoll Warlock were killed, the Bebelith had been knocked unconscious and was healing but didn’t get much chance to do anything more. The Envoy (high AC, Fly, Mage Armour & Shield active) proved much more difficult than any Demon Lord – it tried to Charm Levallious (failed), Confused Myste, Feebleminded the confused Figjam and then Brolith, before some of its protective spells were cancelled and the active characters were able to kill it.

The group quickly checked fallen opponents, making sure they were dead. Caranthir cast two Heal spells to restore the feebleminded, and the group dispelled (or restrained and waited out) confusion. Many of the group used what healing options they have available. The party then headed up the stairs to the audience chamber. This ellipsoid room (about 100 x 140 ft) had glossy black walls, and a spider-web floor across the middle. There was no sign of any other exit or portal. Caranthir recalls the prophecy that brought them here: “Near the throne a fourth gate – home”.

SESSION 3: The party head back into the main hall and to the throne. Levallious realises that there is a secret door behind the throne. They also note that ten drow – a priestess, two knights and seven warriors are moving quickly across the floor of the hall to attack.

Both Drow Knights issue challenges in an attempt to focus the party’s attention on them, but only Pyro is affected. The drow warriors are killed quickly. The Knight and Priestess last a little longer. Khufu finds the opening mechanism for the secret door on the throne and the group enter a long web tunnel. While they move along Figjam reports odd rustling sounds from behind them. The tunnel ends in a roughly circular cave. A faint light glows from a portal in the centre of the chamber and a figure steps forward to where the rough stone meets webbing. For a moment it looks like a woman, then that image fades and all see a blank-faced creature gazing with hate at them. Most of the group feel a chill, but Khufu’s heart stops and he collapses to the ground – dead! The party does it best to avoid the gaze of the Bodak and strike it down. Caranthir quickly casts Revify – returning Khufu’s spirit to his body, and then healing spells. Pyro examines the portal and learns how to open it. It leads back to Oerth – to what appears to be a large courtyard in a castle or fortress, that Pyro is sure is in the western Flanaess. Most of the group are aware of the rustling, clicking sounds growing louder in the tunnel behind them. When Figjam reports thousands of spiders flooding the tunnel, they quickly activate the portal and hurry through.

The group stand in a huge courtyard. Before them are horses, wagons and training soldiers. Behind them stands a palace. Shouts of alarm and warning are raised all about them. A horn sounds, and Myste and Pyro note both the spark of a fireball shooting down towards them from a tower and a mage to one side casting prismatic spray

 

There is a burst of bright light around them and time stops: A muscular eight-foot tall human with magnificent feathered wings floats above them. His forearms transform into flaming swords. On either side of the group, a large armoured bear-like humanoid has stepped through a split in the air. While one winks at Figjam, the other closes and seals the portal to the Demonweb. The celestial warrior above the group announces that there will be no hostilities here today – these heroes have confounded a grand plot between the forces of the Abyss and stopped a demonic invasion of the Flanaess.

After escorting the group into the presence of King Skotti of Keoland, the Sword Archon returns to Celestia. (The portal opened into his palace in the capital city of Niol Dra.) The Warden Archons from the Temple of the Eye in Sigil, tell everyone that the Celstial Eye told them to be here following the fulfilment of the prophecy given to these heroes – that they had defeated a plot between Lolth and Grazzt to lead a unified force of demon lords and their armies into Oerth and later against the Upper Planes. King Skotti declares them all “Champions of Keoland”. Each are entitled to use the title Lord (or Lady) and claim hospitality anywhere within Keoland or the lands of its allies. (Geoff, Sterich and the Ulek states) Over the next week they are treated royally – given gifts (clothes and new horses), their equipment repaired or replaced and hosted at many feasts and celebrations.

The group have been away from Oerth for about five weeks. Istvin is being repaired following its devastation, and the armies of Keoland, mercenaries and adventuring groups are hunting remaining giants in Sterich. The people of Sterich are slowing returning to their land. Keoland and the neighboring states will support the country in its rebuilding and resettlement. The King offers a small monetary reward, stating that there is little to spare for even heroes, considering how much is required to be spent to aid Sterich. A final gift from Celestia for the party’s achievements is the granting of a bonus feat.