Thursday, 26 December 2013

Re-writing History

So, the Quest of the Dungeons and Dragons continues, with a little help from the White Dwarf.

No firm date yet for the start of the campaign, but I've been trying to reconcile various things, including the three two-part scenarios from WD that I have: WD49-50's 'The Key of Tirandor' (the first issues of WD I bought, back in 1984 I think); WD56-57's 'The Sunfire's Heart' (with its sketchy history of the Solarian Empire going back 1700 years); and W80-81's 'Ancient and Modern' (with its setting in Theem'hdra going back thousands of years).

So... the narrative we are given of Tirandor (its fall 1000+ years ago and the end of Magelords) is not quite all. Mylakhrion, the Theem'hdran sage, was also a Mage of Tirandor, one of very few to escape its fall, 1700 years before the time of the PCs. Following the Fall of Tirandor (which co-incides with the destruction of the City of Ell/Pii from the Theem'hdra setting), the Solarian Empire is founded - to then collapse itself a little more than 500 years ago.

Kluhn, the city of Teh Atht in 'Ancient and Modern', more or less corresponds in this rationale to Brontir, the city where the action begins in 'The Key of Tirandor'.

All of this is piled onto the bones of the Mystara setting that I have from back when I got the Expert Set one Christmas in the 1980s. None of the Gazetteers - just the basic info in the Expert Rulebook and X1, the Isle of Dread. Instead of Shem and Yhemnis, that corner of the continent is covered by the Empire of Thyatis (one of the successors to the Solarian Empire, which is fitting as the description of the Empire is that it is similar to the Byzantine Empire, the eastern successor to the Roman Empire). Humquass in the Theem'hdra setting becomes Cynedacia, the site of the Lost City (B4) and home to King Alexander, who becomes a monarch of the Solarian Empire, and a successor of King Morgath who features in the tale about the Usurpation of Exior K'mool. B4 is set in Ylaruam, another state founded on the break-up of the Solarian Empire, by a local governer-turned-emperor, in much the same way as Alexander the Great's Empire fractured after his death.

This is neither the 'official' Mystara, nor the canonical Theem'hdra. And only the barest bones of Tirandor are left. The connection to the Solarian Empire is a bit stronger, but that polity is in the scenario an imperial archipelago; in this campaign it is a substantially continental empire with some relatively unimportant island territories - corresponding to the islands of the Empire of Thyatis and the Minrothad Guilds.

There are other tie-ins. Along with the first part of 'The Sunfire's Heart' (which requires scanning and re-printing as its text is substantially black-on-purple and murder to read), WD56 also features a short article on using the setting of 'The Belgariad' for D&D games. I'm using as much as I can of course. Not the map, obviously, but the serpent-animated Mud Men, Algroths (mountain-dwelling troll-yetis), Belgarath the Sorcerer (another Tirandorian Mage, or perhaps a little more likely, like Teh Atht a thoroughly modern mage who has studied all he can of the arts of Lost Tirandor?) and the evil god Torak. Also included are two scenario outlines, one concerning a mountain expedition to find a powerful magical artefact, and the other to do with the secretive Ulgos, a mountain-dwelling race of albino separatists. Hmm, perhaps the lost Marags, and almost-lost Ulgos, of the Belgariad are beginning to sound a little like the Anaks of the mountains of Tirandor... perhaps not all of them are lost? The rest inhabit the mountains where Rockhome now is in Mystara, which once upon a time was the location of Tirandor.

Of course, how this could work if the lads decide they want the campaign to be set in Middle Earth, I'm not so sure. Perhaps the Solarian Empire could become Gondor, but it might be a little difficult to shoe-horn Tirandor into the history of the Third Age. Somewhere in the White Mountains, perhaps? It might be just about possible...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

OD&D campaign to begin?

This may be it... the campaign that I have been working and re-working and tweaking and re-combining, and occasionally even playing bits of, may be about to begin again.

Of course, I can't play the campaign with people my own age (not anyone who's interested in D&D anyway) because, well, they're the same age as me, and interested in D&D. They've already read all the WDs from 48-98 and the Imagines from the same period (as long as they lasted anyway), they know what the Key of Tirandor and the Tower of Mylakhrion are, they know that 'Bree Yark' isn't Goblin for 'I surrender' and they know that under no circumstances do you put a chip of the stone from Zelligar's dungeon in your mouth. But...

My teenage son and some of his mates have expressed an interest in playing some D&D. Now, while they might have something like 4th Ed in mind, I don't know what 4th Ed is all about. If they want me to DM I'm happy to, but what they're gonna get if they do is an OD&D mash-up - a combination of the early 'dungeoncrawl' style with the slightly later 'ecological dungeon' approach. Because that's what I played when I used to do this back in the early-mid 1980s.

There are some things to be worked out. What is the campaign world actually going to be? There are four main possibilities, with some subsidiary questions depending on the first results. Will it be the homebrow-of-Mystara (of course, I didn't know it was called 'Mystara' at the time) world that I originally attempted to place all of these adventures in, or perhaps the slightly later homebrew world of my own devising that didn't have Arabs and Mongols and Greeks and Venetians all living next to each other? Or, perhaps, Middle Earth (but then, the ICE TA1600s setting, or the War of the Ring period, or into the Fourth Age?) Perhaps a cod-Arthurian campaign, with Orcs and Dragons in Dark Age Britain (with, at the same time, knights in plate-mail?) Then again there's always Discworld as option.

All present certain challenges. Well, we'll see, perhaps...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Raising the Standard - as far as it goes to Day 25

Well, I have three things to announce.

The first is that the painting (and building) challenge is over. Thursday evening was my deadline for the game arranged on Friday lunchtime.

The second thing is that not everything was finished in time. A lot of things were finished to an acceptable (if not brilliant) standard, but there were other things (especially musician and banner figures) that really didn't get there.

The third thing is that I've been given a few days' grace as we had to re-arrange the match anyway. I wasn't sure I'd be able to make Friday (turns out I could have done, of course) so we agreed to postpone our match until later this month, so there are a few evenings yet to get things a bit more finished.

So without further ado, here are the pics of the force as it exists so far:

Yellow Moon Orcs - the whole bally lot of them (note, no banner on that home-made flagpole, but at least the musician has a drum of sorts )

Red Skull Orcs - a whole ax horde

Harboth's Black Mountain Boys - with a few friends hanging round the back as these fellahs came 9 to a box

First of the 'Sniff' (scout) units

Second of the 'Sniff' units - not painted by me, they're too well done, but also too garish for my taste

'Morax' (2x hand weapon) unit, with temporary banner made from the foil seal from a bottle of wine - apparently from the 'old field' (old camp? old land?) - most of these weren't painted by me either

Black Spider Goblins with spears - didn't manage to get that drum made unfortunately, nor get a banner, as I was planning to print one out and my printer's being very temperamental at the moment.

Grom's Goblin Guard - Goblin 'Rabble' (though they look pretty organised to me); again I'm short a drum and a flag

One of the two units of Night Goblin Archers

Various characters - at the back, two Orc Krudgers; at the front, a Goblin Wiz (wizard), a Flaggit (Goblin banner-bearer), a Biggit (Goblin hero with bow, who will be gradually transformed into an armoured monster), and another part-built Wiz

More characters - Wip Half-Cast (Orc wizard, the old Half-Orc Cleric); a Krudger on a Gore-Chariot; a Flagger (Orc standard-bearer)

Last of the characters, an old Goblin shaman as another Wiz

My version of the Rock-Thrower, with a crew of various Snotlings

Two of the 'Sharpstick Throwers' (Bolt-Throwers) crewed by 'Very Tall Goblins' (the old Bolt-Throwers from Citadel were crewed by Orcs)

Five of the 'Fleabag' (Wolf) Riders - yes I know some of them aren't wolves, but I had to improvise

Five 'Fleabag Riders' - the rest of the unit that includes the boars

Two units of 'Fleabag Sniffs' - wolf-riding Goblin scouts with bows

For some reason, four of the shots haven't come out. There's another unit of Night Goblin Archers, and a unit of Common Goblin Archers; there's also a shot of more of the Bolt-Throwers; finally there's a Troll too. Perhaps, when we actually get round to playing the game, I might get something like the entire army on the table and take a group shot. Perhaps...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Raising the Standard - further progress on Day 13

This is the state of play as of yesterday afternoon - with the Orc archers getting substantially more paint on them, the Goblin cavalry sadly in need of something to save them, one of the planned Goblin wizards coming along well enough and some paint on my Goblin banner-bearer, the bolt-throwers and crew at least started, and my unit of spearmen coming on OK - getting some more shields, and painting the bases, is next for them.. Oh, and because I forgot to photograph him last time, I've included a few shots of my Orc 'Krudger' (a hero-type excelling in close combat).

'Sniff'' (scout) unit close to completion

Yes the guy in the middle does have a arm somehwhere, and I need to do something about the boars being wider than wolves: the riders really don't 'sit right' on their backs...

Wizard made from a spear-goblin, with some shield decorations to make a staff-top; and 'Sourgutt', from the old Citadel 'Goblin King's Battle Chariot', as a banner-bearer

Old 'Notlob's Orcish Bolt-throwing Engines', with base-coated crew

Unit of 'Sharpsticks' (spear-using Goblins) including a few 'red' (purple-brown) ones. And I still need to build a drum...

Krudger for my 'Red Skull' Orcs

He's a bit of a monster...

... in quite a strange pose. I woner why he doesn't fall over?

Heads down and I'll see you at the finish, lads...

Friday, 24 May 2013

Raising the Standard - some more paint on day 11

The Red Skull Orcs assembling - shields to follow...
The Yellow Moon Orcs, likewise, though more have shields

Goblin 'Sharpsticks' about to get painted...

Eagle-eyed viewers will see that a few of the Orcs have purple or brown skins. This is because I see no reason to follow Games Workshop's painting conventions; as long as I've had Orcs I've had a few that were purple or other colours. Even going back to when I was about 13 and first starting to collect them, I planned that some of them would be purple; this was of course the time when Orcs were generally painted brownish anyway, and as far as I'm aware, Orcs aren't racially-prejudiced. So there's no reason why 'Red Orcs' (yes indeed) wouldn't be welcomed into the tribe, is what I reckon.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Raising the Standard - before and after (WIP shots, Day 8)

It's now day 8 of the challenge I set myself (well it's really day 9 now, but this was the state of play at end of day 8) - apologies for the poor state of some of these pics, the light's not very good today.

The as-yet unpainted Goblins (including the 'Very Tall Goblins' who crew the warmachines), and some Orc archers, ready to get their spray of black...

And the very same having been sprayed:

I'm beginning to think that it may even be possible to complete this! I wrote a little list of the units I need to build and paint which looks like this, as of Monday evening (20th May - 17 days to go):

G1: 19 Goblin spearmen (paint); 1 Goblin musician (build, paint) - all undercoated; need to build drum for musician

This will be the musician for the spearmen - need to make his drum

G2: 5 wolves and 5 Wolfriders with spears and shields; (find/build and paint all) - 3 wolves and 2 boars found (wolves already undercoated, boars painted), 5 riders (basecoated)

This lot will be five wolf-riders (more or less), honest

G3: banner-bearer and musician for Rabble (build and paint both) - banner bearer built (need to source banner) and painted; drummer undercoated, need to build drum

Musician and banner-bearer for the Goblin Rabble

G4: 2 Wizards (build and paint); 1 hero ('Biggit') with bow (build and paint); banner bearer ('Flaggit') (build and paint) - Wizard 1 sourced and substantially painted, need to add staff-top and accessories; need to source/build Wizard 2; Biggit built and undercoated; banner bearer sourced, need to paint

Chap on left is a hero ('Biggit') with bow, chap on right is destined to be a wizard (his staff needs something on the end)

G5: 2 bolthrowers, 4 crew - undercoated

O1: 14 'Chaos' Orcs (need new shields and painting) - basecoated, have spare shields if necessary

The Red Skull Orcs get some basecoating at least

O2: 14 'Yellow Moon' Orcs (shields and painting); musician (build and paint); banner-bearer (build and paint)- shields sorted, minis substantially basecoated; musician basecoated, need to build drum or gong; banner-bearer, basecoated, banner-pole built, need to make banner

Yellow Moon Orcs - getting there...

O3: 'Krudger' (Orc hero), build and paint - complete, I had a nearly-complete mini for this lying around so I stuck an arm on and repainted his shield

Somehow, I forgot to take his picture...

O4: 10 archers (Orc scouts or 'Sniff'), paint - undercoated

2 'Sniff'' - Orc Scouts with bows: the rest of the unit is undercoted

Feeling good about this, beginning to see the light at the end of the (Goblin) tunnel...

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Raising the Standard - the Goblin forces

Unit of Goblin Spearmen ('Sharpsticks') which are 20-strong, though the chap in front, who is a Heroquest Goblin with a broken weapon, will be the drummer for this little unit. The standard-bearer will get a flag - hopefully, a yellow and black one with a spider on it - to fly from his spear.

This will be the banner-bearer for my Goblin Rabble, again a flag flying from his spear is in order, this time a red one I think as the regiment has red shields. Mostly these are from Grom's Goblin Guard, an old Citadel regiment of Reknown. Not this guy though.

Various ne'er-do-wells that will serve as heroes, Shamen, musicians and whatnot, as well as some 'tall Goblins' that are the crews for the warmachines. Back in the 1980s, Citadel made warmachines crewed by Orcs; but now, even Mantic's rules have them crewed by Goblins. So the two 'Notlob's Orcish Bolt-throwers' will be painted up, with Orcs for crew, that will then stand on small bases as 'tall Goblins'.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Raising the Standard - first pictures of the Orcs

Some of the existing Orcs, in need of shields, that are currently part of my Orc force. They'll be given suitable shields as soon as I decide what colour to paint them, and moved into my new Orc 'Ax Horde' that I'm thinking of as the 'Chaos Orcs'. Probably, as I think about it, their shields will have red skulls on ... I dunno, black maybe?

This is the rest of what will become the 'Chaos Orc Ax Horde', which might be already morphing into the 'Redskulls'. Perhaps I should paint all the skulls on their belts red as well. This lot, with their brethren above and the 10 of their comrades not pictured, with the drummer and standard bearer I have for them, will be the 'O1' unit mentioned in the first part of 'Raising the Standard'.

These are the Orcs that will make up the second 'Ax Horde' - the 'Yellow Moon Orcs'. I have 14 of these guys already - they're currently in a unit with the 14 'Chaos Orcs' I have painted up, but want them to be transferred into their own unit. In the front are the minis that I hope I'll be able to transform into a drummer and a standard bearer. This unit is the 'O2' unit in the lists.

This is the 'Sniff'' (scout) half-regiment. Very little painting done on these chaps but I plan on trying to use what has already been done - though it's a little garish for my tastes and it might just be easier to overpaint everything. This is 'O4' on my list.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Raising the Standard - putting together an army in 25 days, Day 1

Well, I have a game of 'Kings of War' coming up and need some new units for my Orc and Goblin Army (armies really, as Kings of War uses different army lists for Orcs and Goblins... and I've just realised I'm using the last iteration of the rules, so I'll have to check what's going on with 3rd edition).

I'm hopefully going to be playing two encounters - one a small engagement at 1,000pts, the other a big battle. At the moment, I'm discussing with my opponent ideas about making the two battles tell some kind of story.

There's no way I can get everything properly painted and based but I would like at least to get some paint on the minis. I'd like to be able to get the following units painted up - and indeed for some of them, built - in time for the battle:

G1 - 20 Goblin spearmen ('Sharpsticks'), including banner bearer (a flag attached to a spear is fine for this, I'm looking for one with a spider on it to match some of the unit's shields) and a musician - I'll probably using a Heroquest Goblin and converting him to make a drummer.

G2 - five wolf-riders ('Fleabag Riders') with spear and shield, to add to the five (including banner and musician) I already have. These additions will I hope make the unit much more resiliant. They all exist, luckily, it's just a question of painting them (maybe gluing some spears back together) and finding some bases for the wolves.

G3 - a banner and musician for my 'Rabble' unit of close-combat Goblins. Again, I'll have to make these somehow. Another Heroquest Goblin for a drummer I think... do you see a pattern emerging? I have a banner-bearer that might serve here, but again he needs painting.

G4 - a selection of Hero figures; perhaps a couple of Wizards, a hero ('Biggit') armed with a bow and another banner bearer ('Flaggit') might be in order here.

G5 - two bolt-throwers ('Sharpstick Throwers') using the old GW Orc Bolt-thrower models. So sharpstick throwers with 'Very Tall Goblins' as crew.

That little lot should give me plenty of options for my Goblins, increasing my potential force from 825 to 1200 points.

For my Orcs, I think I need:

O1 - 14 Orcs that need painting, to add to an already-existing unit to make a new 'Ax Horde' of  'Chaos' Orcs.

O2 - 16 Orcs including banner bearer and musician (I'm going to be using a converted Heroquest Orc as a musician... bet no-one saw that coming) for a second 'Ax Horde' (I'm planning on splitting my existing Ax Horde into two groups, and adding these new troops to make two new Hordes). Some of these will require assembly I'm certain. These guys will be the 'Yellow Moon' Orcs, as the existing ones have yellow moons on their shields.

O3 - a Hero ('Krudger') which I can make out of some Black Orc bits I have lying around. He's dependent on getting the 30 Orcs from O1 and O2 sorted - can't unlock another hero until I can field another full unit. He's the reward for painting 28 Orc warriors and building a standard-bearer and musician.

O4 - 10 archers ('Sniff') to give me some much-needed firepower, as Orcs are the only army that can't unlock war machines.

That's 305 points of Orcs that I can add to my currrent 880 points. At a combined total of 2,385 points, that should give me a certain flexibility when chosing the 2,000 I need for the big battle.

So, between the two armies I'm trying to add 700 points in 25 days. More than I can chew? Quite possibly... we'll have to see.