Monday, 15 December 2014

Warhammer: Age of Retconning

It’s both interesting and exciting to see Games Workshop (or G-Dubz, if you’re keeping it real) venturing into new territory with their series Warhammer: The End Times, but this leaves the Beard Bunker’s Hochland campaign setting in a weird place.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Warhammer setting, the last big event in its chronology was the Storm of Chaos, and we decided to set our own story immediately after it. The most recent edition of Warhammer dialled the clocks back to the years just before this event, but they never officially retconned it.

That changed with the release of Warhammer: the End Times.

Nagash and his top had get right up in someone's shi.

Our little cul-de-sac of the Old World is now not only beyond Warhammer’s timeline, but mutually exclusive with it. For some reason, this made me feel weird. Apparently I have some deep-seated nerd phobia of doing anything that contradicts the official canon. This is pretty dumb, since said canon has been changed more times than an incontinent pensioner’s Y-fronts.

In a weird way, this ousting from canon-friendly land has given me the shove I needed.

Since we can’t integrate the studio’s output with our setting, we’ll have to just cherry-pick whichever bits of the End Times seem like fun. The return of Nagash? Fun. Bringing back Archaon? Nah, dude’s already been defeated in our story.

Nagash in his evening wear. I e-mailed the GW studio with my manuscript for
Warhammer: the Spirit of Jazz, but they haven't responded at time of writing.

Another added bonus of this enforced freedom is that I feel free to fix things. Not that many things, but still... stuff like the orc and vampire involvement in the Storm of Chaos? Gone, as far as I’m concerned. Never made much sense anyway.

The Hochland campaign itself has now been running for about a year and a half. Well, I say campaign... the phrase ‘persistent storyworld’ still feels more appropriate, since there’s no specific end goal-- I digress. The important thing is that it’s up to each player to decide what they want to do in the sandbox. To this end, there are two excellent things on the horizon:

The Coven
Maisey’s long-term goal for his vampires has always been to take the Brass Keep out of Norse hands. That’s why he captured Hovelhof up in northern Hochland (to use as a base of operations) and that’s why Phillippe spent months exploring the Middle Mountains. Centuries ago the Keep was home to a great necromancer, and if you’re going to be the big bad, you need a big bad castle (Hovelhof just isn’t plush enough apparently).

For ages, we all wondered how Maisey would do this. No other faction had an interest in the Brass Keep, and sure, there were Chaos players (both Emma and Nick) but neither of them laid claim to the fortress. So who would Maisey fight? Himself? “Well played, me, looks like I won.”

Well if a wargame isn’t the right way to tell the story, he figured we could use another method. He’s planning to GM a roleplay scenario for three of us, each playing one of the vampires in the coven, in which we have to try and complete some eeeeevil ritual he’s concocting. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be glorious. How could pretending to be a French vampire not be glorious? My only worry is that GCSE French has not adequately prepared me for this role.
“Philippe, I want you and Etienne to find me the Dagger of Wounded Souls.”
“Ou est la piscine?”
“Et aussi la bibliotheque?”
“Just get me the ----ing dagger.”
“GĂ©rard Depardieu.”

[sings:] Siege on my face and tell me that you love me
Nick’s general, Volgin, also has castle envy. Which would be fine, except he’s planning to take one of mine: Fort Schippel. Well sod off, Nick! It’s the last thing the Imperial forces still hold in the East, and losing it would mean a real change in Hochland’s... oh wait, yes, that’s narrative juice right there.

The current campaign map. For Schippel is right in the middle of the Weiss
Hills, looking all ronery. No-one's even tried to attack it before, because cannons.

We’re planning to do the siege sometime in early February, which gives us time to build up our forces in preparation. This has the added benefit of clearing some things out of my to-do pile, like this cannon, which until recently had sad unpainted in my cabinet for the better part of three or four years:

I made a few mistakes – it’s been a while since I’ve done my varnished wood method, and I got a bit slap-happy with the chestnut ink – but whatever, it’s finished! Yay boom-sticks.

I’ve called it Spitting Lizzie, because of the lizard-things cast on the barrel. If it doesn’t manage a turn one misfire in its first game, I may consider eating my hat.

Anyway, yes. Things! Coming! Very exciting. What scares me is, what will the vampires do once they control the Brass Keep? There’s a big, foul-smelling what next hanging over Hochland, je pense.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Hochland Gazette [Issue 2]

Almost a year ago, I wrote issue 1 of the Hochland Gazette. Mainly because I fancied a bit of a giggle. I've now written issue 2 in the wake of a particularly stupid battle between Maisey and I. You see, I accidentally won a 3,500-point game after a regiment of flagellants failed their frenzy check. Yes, really.

If you want the 'authentic' medieval paper-reading experience, feel free to do so by clicking on the image above. If you're less of a masochist and/or gothic font fetishist, here is the legible version:

Published by Ernst Drucker & Sons of Tussenhof on 20th Vorhexen 2255 I.C.
Containing the surest news and firmest advice every Angestag & Aubentag
[ Price: 4 shillings ]

Fanatical cult slay zombie dragon!

Gruyden village safe; Hochland’s army “on top form,” says Ludenhof. The village of Gruyden, famed for having shrine to all the gods (old and new), has once again come under attack by the restless dead. Konrad the Bastard, infamous for destroying the beautiful town of Krudenwald, made his second attempt on Gruyden (the first attempt having been held off by the noble sacrifice of the town watch).

The Bastard’s minions were seen to be converging on Gruyden by a Kislevite scout, who sent word to Fort Schippel. General von Hess rode out in force, and it was just as well, for when the dead emerged from the forest, it became apparent that Konrad is but a minion of a greater evil: a queen of the night emerged, sat astride the rotting neck of an undead dragon!

Many among the army were said to be dismayed upon sighting the beast and its rider, but von Hess ordered the line to hold whilst the cannons did their work. Naturally, the soldiery had no difficulty in doing as they were told.

The same could not be said of the Real New Church of the Truth, a rabble of flagellants who had attached themselves to the army despite being ordered to return to their homes.

Shortly after the first cannon volley, observers say, the flagellants burst forward in great excitement, making for the zombies advancing before the dragon... thus putting themselves twixt gun and target. Most expected the cult to disappear into the enemy ranks, but to the shock (and delight) of all, they battled through twice their number, reached the dragon in short order and, calling upon Sigmar for guidance, threw themselves upon the beast, overwhelming it with flails and suicidal zealoutry.

The gazette humbly approached General von Hess for comment. “We are of course very grateful to this religious group for their sacrifice. Their self-appointed prophet has survived the battle, and is somewhat disorientated by the world’s failure to come to an end. He has informed me that he is to return to his previous occupation as a cabbage farmer, and frankly, I’m glad to hear it. Hochland needs all the food it can get.”

Some commentators have suggested that without the flagellants’ aid, the army would surely have been defeated. Count Ludenhof himself has publicly rejected this claim.

Writing to the Gazette, our Elector Count argued, “hardened by two long years of combat, the army’s troops are on top form. In the absence of this cult, the cannons would have got the job done. Much as I admire the group’s bravery, their self-sacrifice saddens me given that another two cannonballs would have had the task well in hand. I second General von Hess’ suggestion that the production of food should be the priority, rather than leaving one’s home to join one of these fringe cults roving the countryside.”
The Gazette holds this to be sound advice indeed.

Over the page: we sit down over a well-stocked cheese board to talk to Magister Thaddeus Krey of the Light College to discuss his part in the battle, and how he made Konrad the Bastard suffer.

Amelia von Lessing missing (again)
The amethyst wizard has once again been abducted, although the army are remaining tight-lipped as to the details. There are rumours that it has something to do with the beast-men of Hergig, but the court in Tussenhof has refused to comment. More on this story as we learn it.

Priesthood of Morr refuse to condone cremation
With the plague of undeath in its second year, many have argued that continuing our tradition of burying the dead is merely providing our enemy with new recruits, but the Priesthood of Morr have refused to preside over any funerary rites that involve cremation. The spirit needs a body if it is to travel safely to Morr’s realm, they tell us, and the unsupervised burning of loved ones may result in hauntings and other such phenomena. If you wish to avoid such horrors, make sure you are paid up with your local priest today!

Elsewhere in this edition...
+Removing the head, or destroying the brain, page 5: a guest author from the Order of Witch Hunters provides advice for defending your home against a zombie attack (the good news is that woodcutter’s axes are most effective against frozen heads).
+Growing winter vegetables? Turn to page 9 for new ways to cook turnips.

+ + +

And now for some hideously incompetent photos of said battle:

Initial deployment
The Real New Church of the Truth are on the left.
They are about to fail a frenzy check.

The flagellants' unexpected charge meant that suddenly, I was committed. On turn two. I had to make them last as long as possible, and to that end, I threw in a long-range Wyssan's Wildform from Febe. She miscast, and wounded both herself, my wizard lord, and two warrior priests, but I can't complain, since it resulted in the flagellants killing 35 zombies on the charge for negligible losses. The remaining zombies crumbled, and the flagellants overran into the zombie dragon, meaning they got to fight the dragon during Maisey's turn two.

The dragon was killed before it even got to strike, and the undead army - once they lost their necromancer thanks to Thaddeus' Net of Amyntok - started to crumble. We called it at the end of game turn three, because we'd gotten to the point of mop-up combats like the one below, which shows a horde of greatswords about to charge twenty zombies.

To be fair, the vampires' left flank was still going strong, with a vampire, a varghulf and a regiment of black knights doing what they do best, and Maisey gets serious kudos for being incredibly gentlemanly about the whole thing (probably because both of us knew it to be a complete farce). Hopefully there'll be a rematch before long, and he'll have a stab at revenge. Lord knows I deserve it.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Soopa speedy Imperial Guard paint scheme

As much as I’m not that keen on the current edition of 40K, our recent foray into Inquisitor means that my enthusiasm for the 40K mythos has crept back in, like a nervous and recently-evicted lover, scared that they’re only going to be inside the nice warm house for minutes rather than years.

Part of this enthusiasm is contingent upon not being subjected to endless numbers of Spehs Mahreens. As such, I found myself contemplating the Imperial Guard (or Astra Vauxhaulius, depending on which bit of the Imperium you're from). Those of you with an elephant's memory may remember the test model. Finally, I’ve had a go at some more.

Now, everyone who’s ever tried to make a Guard army will remember the slog. You need a lot of little plastic dudes. As usual, one must strike a balance between speed and quality... the speed in this case being less than two hours to paint a tank.

The tracks were weathered with a light brown drybrush followed by
Typhus Corrosion, because paint + texture = amazeballs.

If G-Dubz had never brought out Caliban Green spray, this army couldn’t exist. I’m just too lazy. But with said spray? It’s on. It’s on like 0.3 standard Imperial units of Donkey Kong.

The matte effect the spray provides is perfect for spray-painted metal plates, which means that my priming spray is also half the work done. Well, I say half... more like a tenth. But still, it’s a bloody quick tenth!

After spraying, the fatigues are painted Vallejo olive green and the webbing’s painted Vallejo Green Grey, after which Athonian Camoshade gets sloshed over both. The black parts of the gun are painted with black ink (so it’s a little shinier than paint would be) and then the guns and armour get weathered with silver. All that’s left is to paint the boots black, plus skin and bases. Another advantage of the green undercoat is that the black on the boots doesn’t look as dark and harsh as it would over a black undercoat.

Remaining challenges include finding a quick method of painting dark skin that doesn’t look lifeless. Further research required... this is, I’m sure, one of the reasons why dark skin is so uncommon in wargaming models – it’s hard to do as quickly and effectively as lighter skin tones. I’m willing to put up with this in most Warhammer armies because it’s meant to be like medieval Europe but with more skullzz, but when it comes to 40K there’s no excuse for the relentless whitewash. In the finished Guard project I hope to have a fairly even spread of skin tones... and a relatively even spread of gender. Some of you may be wondering how I’ll manage the gender. I do have a plan on that front; you’ll just have to wait and see!

When sliced up into individual pouches, it turns out those trios of pouches
you get on the space marine sprue work really well on Guardsmen.

So, what do you think? A bit too lazy, or serviceable? If you’d do anything differently, drop a comment down below. It’s not too late for me to take any solid suggestions on board.

And finally, a (very brief) update on how things are going for the Empire in our Hochland campaign:

My state troops needed 4+. Poor sods.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Space pixies... evil ones.

Dark Eldar are famous for many things: spikes, pain, spikes, topknots, spikes... the list goes on. What they are not famous for is being conducive to last-minute paint jobs. It’s all those smooth, crisp lines. Most experienced hobbyists would not, therefore, try to paint a squad of five of them and a six-man hive gang and a character model the night before they’re due to be used.

To do something like that, you’d have to resemble the end of a bell.

Konk, konk.

I spent hours and hours on that bloody character development pack, and hours more on painting one of the agents participating in the Inq28 scenario. The other twelve models got an evening (and a good chunk of the next morning whilst waiting for everyone to arrive).

The added challenge? The Dark Eldar were a secret. It’s not easy to keep a secret when you’re painting at the dining table and live with two of the people playing in the fudging scenario. Bless ’em, they did a fine job of looking the other way when told to, and my hands were frequently used as a shield too.

In case you’re wondering how I painted the armour, it was drybrushed chainmail and then given a glaze of equal parts blue ink, green ink, and Lahmian medium. That's it. I had no time for highlighting, so just moved straight on to the other details.

They were also good fun to use in a roleplay scenario. By way of example, the leader’s phantasm grenade launcher covered the area in inky black hallucinogenic smoke, which made it a little tricky for the protagonists to keep track of where she was. It ain’t a fight with Eldar unless they’re right proper gittish.

I might go over the actual scenario when I’ve finished basing the agents (and thus can accompany said description with pretty pictures). Rather than running a big long narrative, we’re taking it in turns to GM single, day-long standalone missions. Much easier to manage when some of the players have to travel big distances to play, see.

It’s nice to have finally done something with the Cetus sub-sector setting that Jeff designed aaaages ago. I just need to remember to update the wiki with the new stuff I just pulled out of my brain-meats, so that the setting can grow. Organically. Like a tumour.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Character Creation for Inquisitor

Aside from shooting stuff in the face with my shiny rusty new second hand ork fleet, I've primarily been preparing for a few role playing games. Specifically, I'm running a one-day Inquisitor scenario in the next few weeks.

I say 'Inquisitor'... that's not technically true, in that we're not playing a narrative skirmish wargame. It's more like the 40K roleplaying game Dark Heresy, in that the gamers are each playing an agent in the employ of an Imperial Inquisitor, but then... it's not Dark Heresy because whilst its production values and content are excellent, I find the game mechanics long-winded.

Instead, we're using 20Eight (i.e. the barebones game engine I've been working on for the last year or so). I'm excited to use it in a futuristic context to see how well it holds up. We've hitherto played plenty of fantasy, and that's been great, but fantasy doesn't have guns, spaceships, and them funny-looking spehs ayliurrrns.

The original Inquisitor cover art.
Because yes.
Having put myself in GM mode, the first port of call was to send everyone a character pack. This is essentially a questionnaire to help people come up with an interesting character. In this particular case, though, I had a problem: three out of five players have no real experience or knowledge of the 40K universe.

Oh, crap.

40K is not a setting whose appeal can be got across in a single sentence, at least, not the flavour of 40K I like. One fan might summarise it as 'baroque dystopian pastiche' whilst another might say 'CHAINSWORDS FOR THE CHAINSWORD GOD.' In both cases, you have to be a fan already for that to mean much. Although chainswords are pretty hilarious, to be fair.

Either way, this meant I had to come up with a character pack that'd give people enough flavour to create something, without trying so hard to explain everything that it's 59,239,832,892 pages long.

Then I remembered that pictures tell between 750-1,250 words apiece. At this point, it's possible I got a little carried away. Here's a screenshot of the completed pack:

Having finally finished it, a thought occurred to me: that this could be a useful resource for anyone else running Inquisitor, Dark Heresy or of course Inq28. For one thing, I've collated a lot of very pretty pictures, many of them from Fantasy Flight Games, who make excellent stuff. For another, it contains a questionnaire which is designed to help players create an interesting character.

Thus, I shall transpose said character pack onto this blog. I've taken out references to 20Eight within the descriptions, since a) the rules aren't ready for public release and b) in no way is 20Eight affiliated with any particular game system, so whilst I'm combining someone's IP with my game in the privacy of my own home, I'm not crazy enough to release such an adaptation on the Internet!

As you might expect this character pack is lengthy, so if you wish to read on, you'll have to hit the jump. I'm afraid I can't do nice pretty layout like I did in the pack my players got, because Blogger's a bit more basic than Word. I'm sure you'll get over it.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Battlefork Goffic

We’re not dead! Two and a half years of weekly posting followed by almost two months of total silence... it probably seemed a bit out of sorts. And, perhaps, that’s because things were out of sorts (we all have our moments). But don't worry, this post isn’t about deep emotional stuff, it’s about orcs, and paint, and, and... spaceships.

Yeah that’s right. Spaceships.

Some of you will never have heard of Battlefleet Gothic, whereas some of you will, quite rightly, know it as Games Workshop’s Most Awesome Game. There may be people with other opinions, but they’re wrong.

It’s been years since I played BFG properly, mainly because there ain’t that many folks who realise that it’s the best game ever, and moreover it’s bloody hard to buy something that’s been out of print for ten years. That eBay still features over 160 listings for the game in the UK, though, speaks to its longevity.

Anyway my housemate Jon and I have been checking it out. Overcome with enthusiasm, I have scraped an ork fleet together. Oh my god, I’d forgotten how quick it can be to paint a fleet. This lot got done last weekend:

I haven’t used them yet, although I expect it will be amusing, what with ork ships being flappingly useless at anything other than flying straight forwards and hitting like a brick. Moving left? Nah. Engaging at range? Nah. Passing leadership tests ever? Zog it.

They’re going to get mashed, and frankly, I’ll deserve it after the hobby-ruining hurt I lay down on people with my eldar fleet as a spotty teenager.

If you’re curious to know how these dudes were painted, I just drybrushed them with chainmail and then threw in three different shades of rust weathering powder before drybrushing black soot onto the tails and painting the glowy rokkitts/go fasta holes/endjinns in orange (I know, I know, they look yellow in the pics).

You may also be wondering why they're all so rusty, since space isn't famous for its high oxygen content. Well, (a) I like orange, (b) ork escorts go down planetside to drop off troops, (c) I imagine orks do a good deal of building planetside, since I imagine ork space suits aren't up to much.

Fearsum Endjinns

How are the engines so bright? Because they were painted white first and then tinted with orange and yellow. If you want it to be bright, no amount of basecoating over black will get the same effect.

Now as much as I’ve sung its praises, BFG does have one pitfall: spaceships are inherently less relatable than little dudes, a problem which Jon and I are countering by creating characters for our leaders and captains just as we do for the Fantasy campaign we’re playing. So far it’s made things much more juicy.

Many, many thanks to James, whose models these used to be. I hope you approve of what I’ve done with them. I’ll shortly be adding 9 more escorts and another kroozer, because yes.

It's big, it's killy, and it's got extra boosters on the side. My inner speed freak
is getting foamy with anticipation.

Finally ,and perhaps more spiritually, I shall leave you all with an orkish space chant lifted straight from the BFG rulebook (to be intoned when hitching onto space hulks):

’Ere we go, ’ere we go, ’ere we go,
’Ere we go, ’ere we go, throo the cosmos.
’Ere we go, ’ere we go, ’ere we go,
’Ere we go, ’ere we go, throo infinity.

 ’Ere we go, ’ere we go, ’ere we go,
’Ere we go, don’t know where ’til we get there.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Improbable Mission Force (part two)

'Allo again Bunker dwellers! 'Tis I with more tales of Dwarfy derring-do and covert sneakiness. In part one we met the first, and most normal, half of Dwalin's Dirty Dozen. In part two we'll meet the slightly madder half in the form of the Odd Squad:

Something of a theme running through the Odd Squad is that a lot of them are criminals. Now some of you will be saying "but Jeff, when a Dwarf disgraces themselves they can't stand it and become a trollslayer". To which I reply, ah-hah! But those are the good Dwarfs, the proper Dwarfs who follow societies laws. The Dwarfs of the army book backstory are the ideal of Dwarfkind. There will always be wonky people. Monocultures are boring, if ever single Dwarf behaves in the way described in the book then they would be awfully bland. Instead I grant license for Dwarfs to be as nasty, backstabbing, thieving and generally naer-do-welling as any other race. They're just rarer. I went through the backstory of the 'Dozen last time so we'll just plunge on into the Odd Squad. Just like last time, it is gaming and fluff info here, painting and modelling info (and lots more pictures) over on Pirate Viking Painting (otherwise this post would have been about nine miles long).

Dofur Wayfinder and The Malkin
Dofur Wayfinder is a ratcatcher. In most societies a low status sort of affair, but in the closed subterranean world of the Dwarfs rodent control is a big deal. Ratcatchers aren't high status but are accorded a measure of respect. Dofur was good at his job and had risen to deputy head ratcatcher of all Barak Varr before the exodus. Sadly, Dofur also always had a couple of screws loose at the best of times. Gradually, over the years, Dofur became obsessed with the idea that the skaven - who all Dwarfs hate - grew from normal rats and this was how they infiltrated Dwarf holds. He took to secret experiments to prove his theory, his chambers filled with jars and vials containing the rodent wreckage of his failures. His obsession grew and others began to notice that the ever-twitchy Dofur was becoming properly unhinged. Something of an intervention among ratcatchers was planned, but when they entered his chambers to share their concerns his colleagues instead stood open mouthed in horror at the stinking, dissected remains of his "research". Rather than disgrace their friend, and realising that his mind really had gone, they tactfully suggested that should the Stormbournes find Karak Hoch they would need a really good ratcatcher to clear the hold and parcelled him off with the exodus.

The Stormbournes didn't really want this lunatic along but Stromni noticed that his talent for tracking rats back to their nests extended to all forms of tracking. Dofur found himself absorbed into the rangers - who didn't mind the smell of his ratcloak so much in the open air - and serves as their tracker. Along the way he has picked up a foul smelling cat of indeterminate gender and feral temper. Dofur believes the cat to be some spiritual ally in the war on the rats and refers to it as The Malkin. None of the other rangers can get near it without being clawed half to death so they just add it to the list of things that you need to tolerate about Dofur...

Dofur Wayfinder is a Dwarf Ranger. He lacks a crossbow but has an extra S2 attack at I3 for the Malkin savaging his enemies. He can follow trails and tracks, we usually use Initiative for this kind of thing but with a Dwarf's "I" he would be a rubbish tracker. Any suggestions gratefully recieved :) Considering inflicting him with frenzy vs skaven too...

Klaut Copperthumb
Klaut, and his daughter Lynta, are rather reluctant members of the Dozen. They are thieves and housebreakers, damn good ones too but with the misfortune to get caught just that one time... They had fled building trouble and suspicion in Barak Varr before it crashed down on them. Joining the Stormbourne Exodus, they had seen this as a secure way to relocate in the Empire and restart their careers there. Unfortunately, they were seen fleeing the scene of a quick smash-and-grab on a riverside tavern that the barges had moored near on the journey north. The proprietors complained to Hafnir of two Dwarfs robbing them, Hafnir in turn promised to find them. Following the suspicions still clinging to them from Barak Varr the Dwarf investigators quickly, and correctly, pinned the crime on the Copperthumbs. Dwalin Gravenrune (runesmith of the clan at that time) convinced Hafnir that indentured servitude would be an effective punishment - lacking as they did any form of prison and death seeming a little extreme. Dwalin was already thinking of the need for effective intelligence gathering and recognised that people who could break into homes (mostly) undetected could be useful. The pair have been given to Stromni as rangers and have proved useful in the often urban ranging the 'Dozen get up to.

Of the two, Klaut is the trapsmith and brains of the outfit. He excels at disabling alarms and traps without destroying them, leaving little evidence of the pair's passage. With his throwing axes and sharp dagger he covers Lynta while she deals with the more tricky locks...

Klaut is a Dwarf Ranger armed with hand weapon and throwing axes. He can test on his WS (manual dexterity) to disable traps that they find, failure sets them off instead.

Lynta Copperthumb
Raised by her Fagin-esque father, Klaut, to the vocation of thieving from birth, Lynta's sails were always kind of set. Her mother died during her birth so it was only her father's influence that guided her. To be fair, Lynta Copperthumb is a gifted and gleeful thief, she has had many opportunities to turn from the path but is just hooked on the thrill of being "on the job". She excells at the light, delicate tasks, those of the cutpurse and the lockpick. Since being dragooned into the rangers she has taken to using their signature crossbows to back up her father's axes. The pair's natural weapons though are stealth and caution. Lynta, more than her father, is taking to the life of the spy/ranger well and has no intention of leaving when their indentured service is over. She just hasn't told him that...

Lynta Copperthumb is a Dwarf Ranger with hand weapon rather than great weapon. She can use her WS to pick pockets and cut purses if necessary (failure means discovery) and can also pick locks in the same way. Failure just means a wasted turn.

Kowen Shadowfriend
In every military force, unless stringent measures are taken, there creeps in an element who are joining up because it is the only place they are allowed to kill people. Kowen Shadowfriend is one such as this. He joined the rangers in Barak Varr long before the exodus and followed Stromni north seeking more action. He's a dark and dangerous sort, tight lipped and withdrawn around the camp fire. It is only when deployed in his natural role as forward scout that Kowen comes alive. The other Rangers know this, see his bright eyes and feral grin when they go in to battle and try to corral his interests and natural talent where it will do some good. Kowen is usually used to silence sentries and clear the way for the main body of the rangers. While some might disable and gag sentries, Kowen somehow never finds the opportunity to do so. Everyone he is sent against ends up dead, usually with multiple precise and elegant knife wounds. Kowen is one of those people who you just don't talk about out of the field...

Kowen Shadowfriend is a Dwarf Ranger armed with two hand weapons instead of the normal greataxe and crossbow. His speed and reflexes grant him I3, few humans get more than a single slash at him before the end...

Morta the Fell
Wheras Kowen Shadowfriend found an outlet for the evil within him. Morta had no such luck. Until recently Morta was the landlady of a very rough tavern in the poor quarter of Barak Varr. Fights were common there and Morta was never afraid to wade in with a blackthorn club or a barstool to break it up. Then, one fatal night, she wrestled a dagger from a patron, one thing led to another and it wound up in the neck of it's former owner. The constabulary dismissed it correctly as self-defence but a dark, broken part of Morta's brain had awoken at the moment the knife bit flesh. From that point on, fights in the tavern seemed to get more and more violent, patrons were regularly knifing one another or killing in other ingenious ways, often both participants would die of their wounds before the constabulary could break it up. Somehow, Morta was always at the centre of it all, having "tried her best to stop them". The truth, of course, was that in Morta, the sick, black soul of a serial killer had awoken and worse, she had seen a way to get away with it. She might have kept it up for years had an off duty constable not been drinking in her tavern one night when a fight broke out. The constable didn't see any weapons on the patrons but somehow they both ended up dead. Questions started to be asked. Morta, seeing the writing on the wall, fled the city, joining up with the Stormbourne exodus that was in it's final stages. History may have repeated itself in Karak Hoch but for a chance meeting of like-minds. Morta met Kowen. Kowen recommended her to Stromni as another good blade to support him. The two are forming a dark and disturbing relationship that bears watching closely.

Morta the Fell is a Dwarf Ranger armed with two hand weapons instead of the normal greataxe and crossbow. Her talent for getting the critical hit in before her opponant grants her I3, few foes see Morta's blades before their blood is one them...

Roin ibn Korik ibn Altrek al-Wavefarer
The final member of the 'Dozen is certainly the oddest of the Odd Squad. Roin ibn Korik ibn Altrek al-Wavefarer (or Roin Wavefarer, son of Korik, son of Altrek to use the more normal Dwarven form) is an old, old friend of Braelin Barelip's. Roin was a sailor out of Barak Varr for years following a trade route from the dwarf lands to Araby. He liked Araby and eventually resettled there as a trade envoy of Barak Varr... and went a bit native. Worse, he always had a bit of a roguish air (he was friends with Braelin after all) and saw an opportunity to make a bit of easy coin. He raised a small crew and took to highly targetted piracy of ships leaving araby for the old world. This worked for a short while but ships come back to port eventually and word began to spread of a dwarf in Arabian dress and manner leading a pirate crew and, well, there weren't all that many suspects. Roin fled in his ship back to Barak Varr but just couldn't fit in there any more. His friend Braelin suggested that he abandon a stuffy old hold and come north with him and the Stormbournes. Sadly, even amongst the refugees of the Stormbournes he couldn't fit in and wound up where all the oddest Dwarfs end up: the rangers. Stromni saw the impressive skill Roin had with a blade but also his fast talking and disarming appearance and saw an opportunity. Roin often works as the "face" for the Rangers, drawing attention with some apparent business deal while the rangers do their work. In battle, his flashing blade is as useful as any other's but his devil-may-care attitude to armour makes the others shudder a bit.

Roin is a Dwarf Ranger with a hand weapon (scimitar) rather than the normal great weapon and crossbow. He wears no armour at all. Fortunately, his skill and the unfamiliar fighting style grant him +1 WS so he is tricky to hit, he also has a parry save despite not having a shield, so skilled a swordsman is he.

And with that, Dwalin's Dirty Dozen are all done! There are a couple of honorary members that we haven't mentioned yet, these two:

Braelin Barelip and Cedric the hapless halfling are often to be found amongst the rangers but aren't permanent members.

I've loved creating these guys, their stories are now ten times more interesting than they would have been as "just rangers" and I look forward to their antics even more. Hope you've enjoyed it. Remember, more pictures and nattering about painting and so on over at PVP.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Improbable Mission Force (Part One)

Greetings bunker dwellers! Lordy, three months have passed since I last posted here. I’ve been focusing rather on the last bits of commission stuff I was working on (before wrapping up that whole thing) rather than my own hobby. Fortunately, even in the busiest times I can find space for a dwarf, or twelve…

This motley crew are an upgrade to my Dwarf Rangers, a sort of Impossible Mission Force. Remember last time when I was talking about fun things that develop during narrative campaigns? Well Stromni’s Wanderers – the name for the Rangers in my army – have grown far beyond their battlefield role. We’ve mentioned before how we’re mostly all roleplayers as well as wargamers and thus have fun doing small, story-driven missions where we can achieve goals that don’t belong on the field of battle. When I was trying to figure out which unit would be best for covert and highly secret intelligence gathering and concealed naughtiness against my allies (ahem) enemies, one group kept coming up. The rangers, they already do the intelligence gathering, they’re seen as a bit weird by the rest of the Dwarfs – they actually like being in sunlight – so tend to keep themselves to themselves and they are fantastically versatile troops able to switch from missile to devastating close combat punch in a moment. Perfect, thought I! So, as is my want, I gently rewrote my Dwarf backstory again and made rangers something between MI5 and a gang of heavies putting the squeeze on people. I then realised how much fun it would be if there was a hard core within the rangers; a squad of individuals who would take on the toughest missions; do the unspeakable without complaint; for whom no task is too low and “for the good of the mission” is their creed; there could be twelve of them; doing the dirty work… a Dwarfish Dirty Dozen perchance…

the more normal half dozen
Now this is something of a collaborative effort. In order to prevent this post being nine miles long I am splitting it between here and Pirate Viking Painting. I’ll waffle on about models and paint choices over at PVP and here? Here we will meet the little devils, find out what they do, what makes them tick and the few little rules tweaks (there are more in the odd squad than the normals) that we’ve made to give them a bit of an edge in their chosen fields. Also, given that there are twelve of the little blighters I’ll split the post in half along a rather natural break line, see, there are 6 fairly normal rangers… and then there are the odd squad. We’ll meet them next time, today? It is the turn of the rangers of the DDD. And where better to start than with their fearless, taciturn leader Stromni Skystride:

Stromni Skystride
Like most of the Dwarfs of Karak Hoch, Stromni hails from Barak Varr, that great Dwarf seaport. The Barak Varr Dwarfs are considered odd by other holds for their seafaring ways so rangers are not so uncommon there. Life in sunlight is a part of the nautical life after all. Stromni though, even as a Beardling, was a natural ranger. He was always uncomfortable underground (indeed, it is a great secret of his that he is claustrophobic) and took every opportunity to slip away to the artillery ranges coving the approaches to Barak Varr and enjoy the bright landscape beyond. He joined the Rangers as soon as was proper and distinguished himself ever since. When the Karak Hoch reclamation mission was being assembled, Stromni jumped at the chance to journey the empire. Impressed by his taciturn manner and sharp eye for intelligence gathering, Dwalin Gravenrune (runelord of the Karak) requested that he form the small band of highly motivated rangers to undertake... special tasks for him. 

Stromni is a normal Dwarf Ranger Champion with all the normal rules, he needs nothing else. He is a cautious soul though and so in place of the usual great axe and light leather armour of his fellows he totes a handaxe and shield and the dull gleam of heavy Dwarven scalemaille gleams beneath his bearskin cloak.

Hourfall Giantbane
Stromni's strong right arm is Hourfall Giantbane. Named for the mighty deed of felling a hill giant single handed, Hourfall is the Champion of the Stromni's Wanderers regiment. Stromni may be their leader but his dour, quiet manner is not suited to the "fire the blood" requirements of the battlefield. That falls to Hourfall. The two men have been friends since their earliest days in the rangers and are thick as thieves when off duty. Hourfall is the only one who knows Stromni's secret and covers for him should he need to withdraw because of it. He has his own oddness - as do most rangers - a fondness for Cathayan and Indish teas over good Dwarfish Ale (the model has a charming tea kettle on it's pack) but as long as he's fighting with the sort of fortitude that he does the others don't mind.

Hourfall is a Dwarf Ranger Champion with no other alterations.

Forkin the Fat
Forkin is the teams support weapon. Short even for a Dwarf and somehow remaining fat even on the levels of rations and exercise that the 'Dozen get he isn't suited to the quick insertion or the stealthy run. He is, though, a genius at mechanics and only failed to become an engineer through a series of unfortunate and embarrassing accidents that got him tarred as a liability. Finding kinship with other "failures" in Dwarf life in the Rangers, Forkin never really excelled. Crossbows weren't his thing and he tended to be at the back of a charge. That all changed when he found the corpse of an Empire marksman in the field, clutched in his lifeless hands the smashed remains of his repeater hand gun. Forkin spent weeks tinkering, cleaning, repairing and improving the weapon until it was once more functional. While it is a poor choice for some of the missions the 'Dozen get chosen for - a near silent crossbow is much preferred - Forkin has found a role on overwatch. He joins the snipers and watches the flow of the mission. He's become adept at reading that moment when stealth and surprise are about to be lost. Forkin's bellow of "Go Loud!" has warned many a ranger that they are about to be discovered and if not, the devastating psychological impact of a hail of lead and the thunderous noise certainly changes the game.

Forkin is a Dwarf Ranger with a Dwarf-crafted repeater handgun.

Fibor Hawkseye
While most of the Rangers on the battlefield are dual weapon specialists with greataxe and crossbow, some make a special study of one or the other. Within the 'Dozen, there are a trio of crossbow specialists who act as snipers and fire support covering retreats (as well as keeping Forkin calm and quiet). Their leader is Fibor Hawkseye. Fibor is calm, paternalistic to the other snipers and tries to keep a lid on the competitiveness of Vierlin and Azrik, "Mission first, glory second" is his motto. He also tends to be the point defence-man when the enemy get too close. With an axe blade fitted as a bayonet and a dagger to back it up he is more than a match for most common foes.

Fibor Hawkseye is a Dwarf ranger, his armaments grant him a crossbow and two hand weapons.

Vierlin Sureshot
Vierlin Sureshot really shouldn't be in the Empire. As far as her family back in Barak Varr know, she has simply disappeared. Vierlin is the only heir of a wealthy and powerful maritime trading family - her real family name is Vierlin Ironkeel - who were instrumental in the destruction of the Stormbourne legacy and fortune. Disgusted at her father's dishonourable tactics and glee at Hafnir's fall, she decided to punish him by robbing him of a useful political tool of her hand in marriage. Hearing of the Stormbourne exodus - again from her mocking father - she slipped away and joined the barges. She turned out to be an excellent shot and found herself increasingly falling in with the rangers, a more different group to her normal social circle you would never find. She has since been inducted into the dozen and has a not-so-friendly rivalry with Azrik for kills in the field.

Vierlin is a Dwarf Ranger with hand weapon rather than great weapon.

Azrik Deadeye
Azrik Deadeye is the medic of the 'Dozen, he trained with the priestesses of Valaya and is devoted to the Goddess. Indeed he would have been a priest of Valaya had he not been born a man. This chip on his shoulder he carries with a grumpy and combative air. The dozen tolerate him though as there are many of them that would not be there but for his quick needle and knowledge. There are others still who have been saved by his keen eye and sure shooting. Azrik takes himself very seriously and is proud of his talents. Vierlin, who enjoys "poking the bear" a little, started a rivalry for their shooting and while she sees it as a bit of fun, Azrik is deadly serious about being "the best".

Azrik Deadeye is a Dwarf Ranger with a hand weapon instead of greataxe. If Azrik is not removed as a casualty during a mission then any injury rolls for casualties can be rerolled if wished.

And there you have it, the first part of Dwalin's Dirty Dozen (as I've been calling them in lieu of a better name). Part two is later in the week and you can read more about the painting and modelling side of things over at Pirate Viking Painting. Next time, we meet the real weirdos: The Odd Squad.