Monday, 6 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016

All the people and a bus
I went to the UK Games Expo at the NEC Birmingham, and this is my after action statement.

TL;DR unless you only play Games Workshop war games, why weren’t you there? It was awesome.

A couple of months ago I decided to go to UK Games Expo on a ‘whim’. The line-up looked great, and having had such a good day running HATECON ONE, I thought I’d try a games convention purely as an attendee. I’ve not been to one without being sat behind a stall for 15 years and reckoned I owed it to myself. I also made the conscious decision to not particularly organize a group visit, mostly to push myself into being more proactively social.

Since I was late in booking, I missed staying in the Hilton where most of the gaming was occurring, and stayed in the very comfortable Crowne Plaza, 5 minutes walk from the venues and which serves the best morning filter coffee I’ve had in a UK hotel. It was not a cheap hotel though.

Arriving on Thursday, I explored a bit, picked up my pre-paid ticket and then went and had a pint and chat in the main bar with another ‘solo’ who had posted on Twitter that they were also foot-loose. This was a great start. Tick the being social box.

Otherworld miniatures *heart*
Square Hex *auto kickstarter back*
On Friday I waited for the queues to die down before going into the main hall, where I immediately fell into the traders pattern of running around, not really taking anything in and being in a rush. Dumb. But I did immediately pick up a copy of The Cthulhu Hack, so not that dumb. After reminding myself I was in no rush, I started to wander and started to take in the huge scale of the trade floor, which is similar size to Salute but with wider spacing between the stalls. The variety of board game stalls, demos and traders was really impressive, and several of my favourite companies were there including Otherworld miniatures, Osprey, Square Hex, James Raggi, Leisure Games, Oathsworn, and All Rolled up. There were quite a few non-GW miniature games being rep’d including a huge Star Wars Fantasy Flight area, but I think it was the Meeple People with their boardgame library and play area that really stood out. Honestly, if you’re a board gamer you could play 24hrs a day here quite easily, with the right drugs.

I played two organized play games, an Adventurers League Strahd side quest which was a lot of fun, although I had to reign in my noble lawful good paladin roleplaying, cos it would be easy to grandstand and become THAT dysfunctional player. The second game was meant to be A Shadows Of The Demon Lord game, but it wasn’t where my ticket said it was and nobody could find it, so I (very easily) joined a Call Of Cthulhu game instead. Definitely not the worst way to spend 4 hours but the group was a slower pace than I’m used to, and I was reminded why Trail Of Cthulhu is the better system for investigative roleplaying by the very example I use to sell it. The Alienist with a 78% Library Use skill couldn’t make the roll over and over again.  

Some HATE (James, Dee, Greg & Tim) members came up on the Saturday and after shopping and chin wagging, I ran an improv impromptu game of The Black Hack for them, with a vague Moorcockian Eternal Champions theme. I continue to be impressed with how good The Black Hat is for theatre of the mind D&D, and I had a huge amount of fun running it.

Much beer was drunk, at slightly frightening hotel bar prices. It was great catching up with old and new friends (Colette, Ian, Bruce, etc), and it really is a big part of the reason to go for whole convention rather than just a day.

Ralph and me
On Sunday afternoon I booth sat for Ralph Horsley for awhile, and then just hung out with him which I’ve not had a chance to do since the early days of Dragonmeet. Top dude.

In summary I’d say you’d be absolutely crazy not to go to UK Games Expo next year if you’re a board or miniature gamer who likes cons. If you’re a roleplayer who enjoys convention games then it’s also a must, but book your games early as you’ll want a least one game a day and while there maybe lots of lots of games being run, there are over a thousand roleplayers also wanting to play. The only people I suspect wouldn’t get much from it are GW only war gamers, as neither GW nor FW were there, and there was no hardcore war gaming space that I saw. If you like X-Wing or similar model based tabletop games, you’d be in heaven though. The atmosphere was very relaxed, very friendly and I didn’t see any fuckwittery at all.

For things that might improve the experience even further I’d say would be to improve the tannoy system so that it didn’t deafen. Move the talks out of the trade hall, as they were understandably loud. See if the Hilton has temporary partitions to break up some of the sound in the play rooms, where it was quite noisy at times. Have a code of conduct front and centre in the programme. Maybe bunch up birds of a feather stalls so that, for example, the RPG companies are closer together. And as ever, get the bars to stock good tequila.
Jame Raggi and me, all the metal


Osprey Joe and me  

The one and only Bez (and Dan, is also one and only)

Oathsworn / Sensible Shoes

The Cthulhu Hack & it's genius Flashlight / Smokes mechanic

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Dwimmermount Session 22 - Frost Giant Ate The Donkey

(It's been awhile since I posted - work meant I had little time to write up sessions, then holidays meant we didn't play, so the session diary is behind)

After defeating the evil mage Varazes and his minotaur bodyguard Bok last session, the party started searching the rest of the area. A hermetically sealed chamber nearby was too tempting for Calphis the mage who used a precious charge from Rod Of Opening to gain access to what lay beyond. The party were disappointed, as all that was behind the door were stasis chambers, two of which were occupied by a man and woman wearing unusual but non-descript clothes. A debate formed around trying to release them, with Bittersalt suggesting it was too dangerous to the inhabitants and Grigor feeling it was too dangerous to the party. Brother Spenzar, was overcome by knowledge-lust, started pressing buttons on the devices and quickly hit the right combination to drain and release the woman.

After a few moments of confusion, the woman named Arethusa, who appeared to be in her late thirties starting speaking in archaic High Thulian. The party were wary, they knew that she might be a Termaxian and so tried to ascertain when she had been frozen, which turned out to be about 300 years ago, around the time Turms Termax was coming into power. She claimed that she maintained the machines within the fortress-dungeon and that she was something called a technomage. Lots of questioning ensued, and eventually her assistant Colluthus was also released.

The pool of life, as she called the room Varazes had been hold up in, wasn’t initially intended to be used to create beastmen, and that in her time the device that did so wasn’t there but she had heard some of the biomancers talk about it. She said she could turn the beastman maker off if she could get something called an environment suit, and that such a suit might still be in one of the panic rooms north of the party, since they were well hidden.

The party decide they needed to rest, but not before retrieving some supplies from their pack donkey, left outside the dungeon. So they return to the surface, quite a horrific trip for the two maintenance mages due to the damage and changes that have happen in the last 300 years. Finally the reach the the surface only to find the donkey has been attacked and the camp destroyed. Huge foot prints in bloody mud suggest the frost giant found and destroyed their belongings.
Reluctant to go back to Muntberg with a still working beastman machine, the party holed up in one of the rooms they’d rested in before and then went and retrieve a pair of environment suits. Also in the panic room were some healing potions and a dirk designed to fend off the hobgoblins, should they ever rebel, which at the time was a concern according to Arethusa.

The machine is switched off, and the party start pushing on through unexplored areas. They reach a chamber that still has a working glowglobe to find it full of thorny bush, which immediately animate and attack the party. They dispose of these blood sucking plants quickly, thanks to several natural 20’s and move to the next room which is filled with cactus that shoot off large spines in their direction. The liberal use of burning oil puts pay to these floral menances. At this point Mags, our friendly barlady at Bethnal Green Working Men’s club called time, so we finished it there.

It was fantastic to get back into the regular game, and I’m almost sorry I have to skip a week due to my Snowboarding holiday that coming up. Can’t wait for the next session, and I have a pile of models that need painting as the party start thinking about going down to the 3rd level, known as The House Of Portals.    

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dwimmermount 5e D&D Session 15 - Reach out and touch faith

After a brief discussion on the merits of using the stairs the Orcs guarded, returning to civilisation and using the stairs where they stood, the party felt there would be more treasure somewhere the Orcs had not been and that they weren’t yet ready to return to Muntberg. So they took the dark stairs down, noting the carved sign saying ‘Reliquary’ above the entrance way. The most immediate change they found was that the walls and floor were fair smoother and uniform than the rock carved passages of The Path Of Mavors. Errol the dwarf remember a legend that spoke of mixing alchemicals together with stone dust to make something called concrete, and suggested that this might be that material.

The chamber at the bottom of the stairs presented four exits, and so they took the nearest one which appeared to be a corridor in parallel to the stairs. It ended in a door that had a faded green wooden panel nailed onto the sturdy oak with brass studs. Since no sound came from beyond, Bittersalt pushed the door open and entered. The chamber beyond was very dark, and apart from a door, and a carved triangle symbol in the centre of the room it was empty. The party filled in to examine things a little more closely. Out of the four corners of the chamber coalesced cloaked beings made from the shadows. Brother Spenzar recognised these fell things as Shadows, creatures from the plane of shadows and very closely related to undead. Thankfully the party weren’t surprised, but still the Shadows were fast and resistant to normal weapons. Worse still their touch not only rotted the flesh but drained the strength and energy of it’s victim, and party felt this chill touch almost immediately. Zoilus’ magical sword did cut through things, as did the combined magics of Brother Spenzar, Calphis and Flandar. Bittersalt’s parrying saved her withering damage, and her blade did still chop away at the Shadow that attacked her. Paulo, in tremendous fear at being surrounded by these creatures of undeath shot through the door and ran off down the corridor. Once Zoilus had defeated his foe, he moved to help the others, which combined with well aimed magical attacks defeated the Shadows, that dissipated back into shadows of the empty chamber. Bittersalt went running after Paulo, following vague dusty tracks, only to come to large chamber where they ran out with no sign of the boy. Calling out to no avail, Bittersalt feared the worst and went to fetch the rest of the party.
Shadows appear

The chamber where the tracks ended was unusual in itself, having several columns and a bizarre statue, but the party were more concerned with Paulo’s safety than exploring and decided to press on. Flandar’s invisible familiar was sent off to the east along wide 20 ft passage. It passed a door and then the corridor turn at angle, at which point the familiar returned.  

Deciding to investigate this first door, the party walked in on a group of five tall goblinmen, all of whom carried themselves in a militaristic, and clearly well trained fashion. They formed a line immediately, with the halberdiers protecting the their bow men but held off attacking. They demanded the party reveal what they were doing here, who in return demand to know if they’ve seen Paulo. The hobgoblins confirm they’ve taken the boy captive, for questioning and that he won’t be hurt if he is cooperative. The party are at boiling point, and tell the hobgoblins to go a get him but the hobgoblin’s refuse and want to know what the party are doing on this level. A standoff develops, but on the insistence the party one hobgoblin leaves by a second door. A few moments later the a larger unit of hobgoblins run into the room, lead by a red robed goblinman. The party were massively outnumbered, but the hawks in the party were itchy to try their mettle against these foes. Fortunately calmer heads prevailed. The robed hobgoblin ask the party what year it was, once again asked them what they were doing here and why they’d come. The party were evasive and talked about exploring, which for the moment seemed enough for the leader. He told them that Paulo was with their captain, and confirmed he was unharmed. He said they surrender him to the party if the party rid the western areas of the Reliquary of the undead menace that had sprang up. Without much choice, they party agreed. They learnt that the black metal coated Eldritch Dead that had so plague them on the first level were tomb guards, and not considered a threat or enemy by the hobgoblins, but all other undead were and to be destroyed on sight. Without any other obvious options the party agree and left, heading back to the chamber that Paulo had be snatched from.
A cohort of hobgoblins

Here they investigated the chamber more thoroughly. Seven columns lined the room, while statue of geometric shapes stood against a far wall. The columns had an Old Thulian letter carved into each one of them, and Bittersalt quickly released they spelt out the Old Thulian for truth. Once she said it aloud, she had a vision of a strange featureless figure, who tells her she is not worthy. On hearing this from her, Calphis also speaks the word ‘truth’. His vision is of a silvery egg and he is told he is worthy. Upon coming around, he releases he can channel the power of gods and use it to detect poisons and disease.

Fearing this strange magic, the rest of the party fell silent and the party left the room, pushing north and west.

The next chamber contained four columns, made from the perfect glass material they’d seen on the 1st level. Each column contain an element - one was filed with rock, another was green and had bubbles floating up from time to time, the third contained a rich red flame while the last appeared empty. On the floor was a mosaic map, that may well have been of the whole world. Something the none in the party, not even Bittersalt, had seen before. The mosaics meant the maps was fairly basic though.

This chamber lead to another closed to door, beyond which was ancient carpenter's workshop, covered in dust and with many rusted tools. Two simple coffins were lent up against a bench, and as the party entered one of the coffins started shifting slightly. A crossbow was fired a near point blank range into the coffin, and out burst a howling wight, screaming wordless curses and clutching a gladius. The party leapt into action, attacking the undead thing. The second coffins rocked furiously and a second wight smashed it’s way out of it’s rotting tomb. The party’s martial abilities showed off here, and apart from a horrible wilting wound on Errol the dwarf the party managed to destroy both wights, taking their heads as proof of their questing. Brother Spenzar’s powers against undead are brutal, when they work.

Another chamber, again with pillars presents itself next. Each pillar appears to made from one of the six fabled magical metals, and represents a fortune in gold. The columns are adamant (dull gray), areonite (reddish copper) azoth (silvery black), moonsilver (silvery white), orichalcum (golden bronze), and starmetal (silvery grey). Bittersalt is impressed by the display of wealth and power it represents. However since the party is reluctant to linger anywhere too long, and don’t have the easy means to take any of the metals they press on through doors and corridors until they reach the next room.

This area contains a number of strange devices made of metals and vitreum glass. Copper dials are attached to this tall devices, and within four hobgoblins, completely unmoving and lifeless. A dull hum resonants with the chamber. The party stare in wonder, and discuss what these machines represent. The don’t however tinker with them.

After deciding to start heading east, the party find what appears to be an alchemist's laboratory, still filled with odd glass bowls, tubes and pipes. Bottles of liquids line the counters, and cabinets hold containers of chalky tablets. Since there are no further undead here, the party return the way the came and north, rather than going even further east, where they suspect the hobgoblins are based.

A room with tall strange devices is discovered. These devices however more numerous, do not contain anyone inside, and is ignored. Yet another empty chamber lies beyond that, before the party find a odd room, with nothing but a huge tapestry in it. The tapestry depicts Terms Turmax, the thrice-blessed, stood nobly but with a fiery, winged version of him behind, as if in ascendance. Bittersalt sees a small fortune, while Brother Spenzar sees heresy and sets about igniting the wall hanging. As smoke starts to fill the room, the party notice that it billows further out into the room from one spot, and once the tapestry has been destroyed search successfully for a secret door. A small circular safe-room lies behind it, filled with nothing but wooden carved heads and a single stone statue head, that of the god Mavors.

We left it here. The group had raced through a good number of locations, and I’ve probably missed out some important details, so if anyone from the group remembers something, comment and I’ll update it.
The gang, and one of the other RPG groups in the background

A very enjoyable session, with a good mix of fighting, talking and wonder. There is plenty more of all three coming up. 

Otherworld Skirmish Game Review

I have to admit that when I read the eagerly anticipated fantasy skirmish rules from Otherworld Miniatures I was a little disappointed. The rules seemed just a little bland and I couldn't see the hook. After playing it last night, I can say that it's a fantastic game to play and I'm really excited about giving it another go.

Since I'm not very good a learning rules from a book,  I was lucky enough to play against one of my regular D&D'ers, Jon, who has always had a keen I for the minutiae of rules and that certainly helped speed up our understanding. I brought to the HATE Club a set of pig faced orcs, some undead and four really old Games Workshop Disciples of Red Redemption to use a cultists.

I quickly made up two very basic 120gp factions, using a companion in each, with 4 orcs with halberds, 3 with crossbows and a shame for the orc faction and 3 cultists, 3 ghouls, a wight and a shadow for undead faction.

Undead Faction
I'd set up some dungeon terrain - parts of which I been given on the night (did I mention, I love the generosity and spirit of HATErs?). Then we got started. The shadow needed to be summoned, so I gave the Wretched Priest undead leader magic(2) and +1 Intelligence to ensure he/she got it off. My Monstrous Myrmidon had +1 hits, for 3, light armour and leader(1) for extra activation - which I kept forgetting.

Pig Faced Faction

I think we pretty much misinterpreted a least one rule a round, which is great because it meant we were definitely learning and discovering. It quickly became apparent that the damned status of undead is very nasty, and is something we need to dig into more online as it's very easy to lock down a faction using it. Weakened is also vicious, but since ghouls aren't too tough it didn't feel unbalanced in the end. I think I felt for awhile completely outgunned, but actually a few lucky armour saves kept me in the game and meant we ended on a draw, one model each both of who fled after failing morale checks.
Initial setup

Orcs turn one

My lone Orc crossbow man tempts the ghouls from their lair. 

He actually survives the charge attacks.

All undead cause fear, and orcs have a 50% chance of being scared.

More undead and their cultists emerge

A couple of rounds later, there isn't much left in the forgotten chamber.

The activation system, which means that generally you can only use half you models a turn is brilliant at creating internal tension, forcing you to really think about what it is you want to achieve each round. The statuses are a little brutal, in a fun way. I did think that a gentleman's agreement to tell your opponent what types you're taking i.e. men, monster, humanoids, undead, demons, etc, might be in order because I can see that a undead list with lots of ghouls would be very nasty.  The luck and fate systems definitely help give you a just a little more tactical ability, and stop the game being solely about dice arbitration.

I think £25 for the rules is a decent price. It's full colour scenic pictures of their model range is glorious, and works as intended, as you definitely want to go a buy so more of them. The tokens and cards aren't essential, but I think to you'll want them to make things easier. I suspect I'd use glass beads for activation in future though. I suspect, and hope, that they'll produce a monster manual for the creatures not covered - carrion crawlers for example. I'm also looking forward to trying a game with the adventure cards, which we didn't use to help speed things up.

So the game goes into my mainline game systems, to play repeatedly and so I hope a few more people at the club give it a try.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

Hobby Holiday Day 4 - Rain stopped play

It was a miserable windy day with vast quantities of rain falling from the sky. This meant I didn't get very far with painting the dungeon terrain at all, and packed it up to stop the moisture damaging the primer.

Since this left me rather deflated, and I do need to chill out before the new job, I spent the day watching TV and cooking. Since cooking is a hobby in my book, it very much counts. I marinaded some chicken wings in dry jerk seasoning mixed with everyday seasoning, vegetable oil and a little water to make a thick paste. This isn't a blistering hot jerk, but is incredibly flavourful. I fried them in batches, in a wok with the oil covering about half the chicken. They turned out like this.

I also made an apple and blackberry crumble, using vegan margarine since I've a few friends who are vegan that pop round from time to time and it's nice to offer something tasty for everyone. The blackberries are from the garden and we've had a bumper crop this year.

Since day 4 was technically the last day of my hobby holiday, I spent an hour (at least) tiding the hobby room. I bought a nail display stand for £5 on Amazon, thinking that it would hold most of my paints. It really doesn't, I've got fair more than I think and it's one of the reasons I want the stand, so that I use more of my colours. I'm definitely ordering another one, as it's already incredibly useful.

Finally I thought I sort through and clean up the 2000AD Judge Dredd models I've accrued, through gifts and a kickstarter. It turns out I've got more than I thought, and two sets of Dark Judges. Infinity is increasing in popularity at the club, so maybe I can use them for that. I also reckon they might make a fun Mega Hive One Adeptus Arbites Inquistor team for 40K. They really don't look difficult to paint.

Tomorrow my wife has a day off and we've driving to Margate to see the sea and Perry Grayson exhibition there.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Hobby Holiday Day 3 - practice what you preach.

Todays goals were to get some paint onto the terrain, finish off the Gnolls and varnish a bunch of models that have been waiting to go into my RPG KR case, which doesn't now nearly have enough room for all my fantasy stuff. And then to head down to the HATE Club, set up and try out Dungeon Saga that Ronnie Renton from Mantic Games had kindly agreed to demo.

Once again my planning was sub-par and I hadn't counted on my tube of black acrylic paint not being anywhere to be found. I suspect I threw it out as it had dried up. There isn't much point using GW black on the scale I need it for for the terrain, so I went once again into Wood Green and found a large tub of Windsor & Newton black acrylic with really high pigmentation. The weather wasn't great, and started to drizzle, so I retreated back to the hobby-cave and finished painting the Gnolls, which have come out really well. I've been using fine gravel and PVC glue on black round bases for most of my RPG stuff, as it neutral enough to work for dungeons, caves and outdoors, and this worked very well for the Gnolls and Carrion Crawlers I needed doing.

Since it had dried up, I went and made a start on the terrain, using a mixture of black, white, dark brown, straw and occasional splashes of bronze. I've found this works really well for my Executioners Chapter Space Marine bases, that use the same scheme as the terrain. It generally creates a good dungeon stone feel, but with hints of warmth and interesting metallics. I use blister pack packing foam to sponge on the colour, in three layers - dark, lighter and highlights, one at a time. This means that there are four layers to the terrain, which might seem like over kill but it's very effective and since the resin is so nicely done it would be a shame to not take the extra time. There will be some time spent picking out detail and apply airbrush candle glow later.

The weather and having to leave the house meant I was running out of time though, so quickly got some dark layers on about a third of the terrain, did a lighter layer on a subsection for fun and matt varnished the models. All in all not a bad days hobbying.

Gnolls attack!

Dungeon dwellers!

Gauntlet-style view

After packing up, I went drove down to the club. While driving would have been a perfect opportunity to take some of my larger models for a big 40K game, I spotted that Mantic were demoing at the club again, and this time running Dungeon Saga, which definitely has caught me eye. So after doing my committee member duties - aka lugging heaving gaming boards around and collecting the fees and managed to get a game in. Even in the beginner game, which admitted was made harder by the addition of an elite dwarf zombie, it was clear what a tactical game it is, how fast the basic stuff is and how relatively easy it is to pick up, and at £50, I will be picking it up! EDIT - And I just heard Ronnie has offered Club goings a discount! On a side note, we had 19 roleplayers, in 3 groups playing 5e D&D, DCCRPG and Dark Heresy last night, which is a club record and means the RPG room was full. All in all I think 70 people attended, which isn't bad a for Wednesday night in East London.

Ronnie from Mantic with the Necromancer's (GM) rulesheet. 

In game action. This is the smallest map for the introductory adventure.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Hobby Holiday Day 2 - environmentally unfriendly

So yesterday was day two of my hobby holiday. I set out to base coat all of my Malice RPG dungeon terrain, and try and get a base colour tone down too. To start with, it all needed a wash, using warm water and washing up liquid, I fairly roughly removed any mould removal agent still on the resin. While doing this I discovered that some of the smaller doors hadn't had all of their pouring tracks removed. In general these terrain pieces are extremely clean and bubble free. They're really good quality, far better than is forged at a certain world renowned resin maker. So while the pieces dried I took off excess resin and started tinkering with hobby project #13747 - more on this later.

Drying terrain

Giving it 45 minutes, it was overcast so not ideal drying weather, I started using Halfords Matt Black car spray. This is a good primer, as long as the models have been cleaned. It gives a uniform base, rarely drips and is cheaper than modelling black primers, which I often find aren't as good anyway. I hadn't planned particularly well here, as one can did about 70% of the first run, and I had many more runs to do. Thankfully I also had most of a can of GW black primer, and most of can of Army Painter black primer. Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that this wasn't going to be enough either.
Half way through the action
Thankfully Wood Green near where I leave has a Halfords, so after lunch I went down and picked up two more cans, and of the course of another couple of hours I finished off spraying the dungeon terrain. I probably ended up using three and half full cans of spray.
I think I need to order more corridor sections. Customs duty is a pain.

All finished.
At this point is was beginning to drizzle, so I covered the spray table with a waterproof ground sheet and went inside to go and paint some more on my Gnolls. I didn't get to get any colour on the terrain, maybe tomorrow will be better weather.

These Gnolls are lovely models, but I really struggled connecting with them initially and wasn't particularly impressed with my test model. However experimenting with their skin colour and using a wet palette has produced results I'm much happier with. They look a lot more animalistic and menacing now. I hope to finish them off tomorrow.

Gnolls phase 2
So back to hobby project #13747. I recently picked up a two player set of cheap arcade buttons and joysticks as well as a Raspberry Pi 2. I've been fancying making an arcade emulator for a long time, so thought I'd get some bits together to give it a try. I also found a Raspberry Pi arcade emulator install image called PiPlay, making it all almost too easy. However it's early days for the emulator and did need some of my creaking old Linux knowledge to get working properly. Anyway, screen shots from my fledgling home arcade!

Home screen


Super Mario World, I'm already beginning to understand that the rom scene is very chaotic.
And finally, this one is also taking up some of my time, in a good way. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hobby Holiday Day 1

I've a week of holiday, between jobs and since my wife can only join me for a day, I've got four days of hobbying. Day one was a slow start, as had a dentist appointment, did some shopping prepared dinner. Since cooking is definitely hobby and some of the shopping was geek stuff, I still consider it productive. However I did manage to paint my second Otherworld Wight, make a start on the four more Gnolls and a tiny bit on my non-Otherworld Pig-Faced Orc.

There is another reason I'm going to be distracted this week, as we have a new member of family who joined us from Wood Green Cat Sanctuary on Sunday. She's without a name while we figure out her personality, which so far seems to be mostly cuddling and play fighting.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

In defence of the failed Kickstarter

Table flipping considered harmful
I’ve read thoughtfully written blog posts and articles on failed kickstarters, how they ruin the reputation of talented people and talk almost in terms of fraud. These have convinced me that I approach Kickstarters differently to the authors.

When I back a kickstarter, I don’t assume it will deliver. I’m prepared to live with the disappointment that I may never get anything for the money I spend. It’s a risk I think worth taking. This isn’t from the experience I’ve had backing sixty three odd projects. Three of those projects failed to raise the funds, and several have been very late but not a single one yet has failed to deliver at all. My experience comes from twenty five years of software engineering where I’ve seen millions and millions of pounds spent on projects that don’t deliver. It the ‘real world’ projects fail often.

There is a huge debate about what Kickstarter is, and it doesn’t in reality matter what I think it is, except to me. And since I’m the consumer, it’s also all that matters to me. Kickstarter is a place to help kickstart, there is a clue in the name, cool projects. It’s not a online shop where I can get a discount for early adoption of finished products. That means there is always a journey for the creator to get from where they are now to getting something in my hands and that means there is risk.    

Kickstarter projects which are said to fail are also often criticised for poorly communicating when things aren’t working out as planned. Again, I turn to my job and I look at every single staff survey, HR report or management retrospective I’ve ever seen and I remember they all say that poor comms is the number one complaint, the number one issue to tackle. Humans it seems aren’t good, unless they are well-trained, at delivering bad news when they are personally under pressure. Having run a Kickstarter (£33,641 raised against a goal of £8,000, delivered two months late - here) I know how much emotional commitment it takes, which can only amplify the problem. So when people fail to communicate properly, I’m disappointed, but not surprised and not angry. I know that the creators are beating themselves up plenty, and pouring oil on that fire won’t make things better. 

On a final note, creatives fall into two broad camps, artists and illustrators. Artists create for themselves and hope that others will like their creation enough to spend money on the idea, while illustrators use the seeds of ideas that others have previously said they are willing to pay for to create great works. Neither is better, neither is more creative and I’m lucky enough to know both very talented creators and illustrators. Several of the artists wouldn’t go near Kickstarter, despite it being an ideal way for them to live, because they know they’d be harangued by backers demanding that the artists follow their vision and not her own. And several of the illustrators I know wouldn’t go near it again, because they couldn’t please all of the people all of the time. This worries me personally because it moves Kickstarter away from the thing I think it is, and towards the thing I don’t want it to be. 

So be supportive of the honest kickstarter creator, whether they fail or succeed. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

5e D&D Dwimmermount Session 14 - One rules lawyer to rule them all.

The group have been effortlessly dealing with missing attendees by blaming the memory loss on the effects of the spider venom, so Calphis’ player returned and roleplayed it out. I see this autonomy a real strength, and since I think my players now ‘get’ the thematic style of Dwimmermount I’m delighted when the do it.

The first order of the day was to go and revisit the game playing apparitions, since Calphis had spent some time reading the High Thulian book on the Dragonchess precursor game, popular 200 years before. After consulting their own maps, they correctly figured out the route and quickly made their way to the chamber. Calphis tentatively moved the chess pieces to their correct pieces, satisfy whatever ancient rules argument the apparitions had. They gently faded into nothing. With them gone, the whole party sensed a warm and appreciative glow enter their form and felt the blessing of the Asana, goddess of strategy, heroism and science.

Looking at their map they realised the set of double doors at the south end of the main corridor section hadn’t been explored. These doors were made from red areonite metal and were very impressive. Opening the doors they found a sacked barracks, with weapons racks and armour stands, cots and smashed tables littering the large round room. Movement caught Paulo’s eye and out scuttled massive centipedes. Then warm red glows appeared from giant fire beetles that also pushed themselves out from behind the mouldering woodwork. Erroll summoned fire with his burning hands spell and took out a couple of centipedes. The rest of the party rushed in and quickly put pay the giant insects, with very little injury, despite one of the beetle belching biofire. The room was search, and all that was found were air vents that must have enabled these critters to travel into and out of their lair.

The absence of the Orcs that had been so prevalent in the south made the party pause and decide to check the room the beastmen had made their station. They had spotted a door that they’d not looked into, and upon approach noted it was in remarkably good condition with the oak seemingly recently oiled. Without any sign of traps they entered to find an immaculately clean and tidy officers quarters. A solid pine desk with a leather writing cover also held parchment, strange wooden quills and fresh ink. Brother Spenzar used some charcoal to take a rubbing from the parchments and discovered a set of orders in High Thulian, ordering the deployment of Hobgoblins to disrupt the flanks of the rebels. Bittersalt takes the pristine blank found on the bed and the room is given a thorough search but reveals nothing further. It’s only when they leave the room that Calphis realises that his Light spell hadn’t diminished the whole time they’ve been in the room. They attribute the immaculate condition of the room to some sort of timelessness, but why it hasn’t been ransacked by orcs or other inhabitants can’t be explained.
Bittersalt suggest that the party go and collect some Azoth from the bubble room. She’s been carrying some clay pots and thought that if the bubbles were safely burst, Azoth might be collected in them. This plan works well, and the party have a clay pot full of the magical silver-black metal liquid. They investigate the doors off the bubble room, finding a latrine room, a dining room and a kitchen. Paulo spots a secret door in the kitchen, and the party push the wall section that must be on some sort of rollers along to the side. This reveals a blank chamber, except for another door and vicious red demon, with daggers for claws and spikes crowning it’s head and shoulders. It immediately launches itself at them, but the quick thinking wizard launches magic missiles into it, causing it to disappear immediately with none of the dragging back to the abyss sorcery they’d seen in their previous two encounters with demons. Warily they push into the room itself and open the second door, revealing a chamber with a single table in it on which lies hundreds of silver coins, several rock-gems and a strange triangular metal rod. Calphis recognises the ruins as been symbols of transmutation, and suspects this may be a magical rod of some kind.

Once they’re done the party decide to try their luck with the main corridor eastern doors. These are even more unusual. Made from a white material, with an almost pearl-like finish, it didnt sound like metal when struck and had a perfect door seem. On the side of the door was a square of metal with three pieces of the white material, two triangles above and below a circular section. The party tried to force the doors open using their combined strength to no avail. They also tried pushing the circle and triangles, but nothing worked. The triangular rod was pushed against the triangles with no result. Frustrated the party moved on to the next set of double doors in the far north of the dungeon. Behind these they found another barracks much like the room in the south but without the giant insects.

Finally they explored beyond the last door they had on their map. They found the room beyond had more apparitions in it, this time with Thulian soldiers, wearing solid leather armour, standing over human remains. The soldiers seemed to be taking orders to go and reinforce some part of the dungeon. Brother Spenzar decides to sprinkle holy water over the remains and give them the last rites on the bones, successfully releasing the apparitions and giving the party the blessing of Mavors, lord of the first level of the dungeon.

The Eldritch Dead
This guardroom also contained another door, which the party took. The chamber beyond was a large L shaped room with ten Eldritch Dead, These azoth encased skeletal warriors immediately formed up ranks as the party attacked. Once again magic was hurled in the party’s opening salvo. Zoilus entered a furious rage, while Flandar activated his dread Armour Of Hadar made powerful by his consumption of the waters of the moon pool. The backlash against the skeleton that attacked him disintegrated it on the spot. Brother Spenzar manages to turn three of them, despite their resistance to clerical powers. But their newfound prowess meant that this time the party dispatched skeletons very quickly.

However the warriors who had advanced into the further reaches of the room became overcome with false memories that flood their heads. A battle between Thulian warriors and hordes of beastmen led by red skinned elves, fighting within the dungeon against chaotics creatures, Guardsmen torturing wizards, a noble bearded man be led towards a headsman, other magicians leading warriors into battle against a ragtag army.
As these memories dim, the party realise that this final room contains another stairwell down, going further into the depths of the mountain.

It was here we left the session. The party had done a huge amount of exploration this session, and have now been everywhere on the first level. So, the question is what next. They have a number of magical items they have yet to identify. They’ve got a set of gems and some treasure to dispose of. And of course two different stairs going down.

The session was great, with lots of opportunity to embellish the text and reveal further history. I had driven down, which gave me the opportunity to take my 3d dungeon floor parts, and leave a box of RPG stuff at the club. This should reduce my load when I’m travelling from work, which is a very good thing. A box of miniatures, dice, a PHB, the dungeon itself, cardstock floor plans and pens weight a far amount, usually more than a 1500 pt Warhammer 40K army and rule books. As usual, I’m left really looking forward to the next session. I had half expected I’d want to take from DMing or 5e at this point, but that’s not materialised at all, and I wish we could play more often. We’ve talked about playing for a day one weekend, and I love the idea. However I’ve got a lot of painting to do now that the 1st level is done. I have to admit to a certain amount of pride in having every single model for a 68 room dungeon level painted, and many of them to a pretty decent standard.