Friday, 24 February 2012

A Brief Call of Cthulhu Retrospective.

I was idly re-arranging the specimen cabinets this evening when I came across this motley bunch:

Being in this case the player characters from a Call of Cthulhu campaign I ran for a couple of friends in 2007/2008. They are from left to right: Somers Lovell Badcock (Bart), Francis Horabin, Felicity Winters & Harvey Jones; their respective professions being tea importer, archaeologist, parapshychologist & private detective. The bearded gentleman in the background is Ibrahim, their middle eastern fixer & general man about the bazaar.
This was a bit of a renaissance for me roleplaying wise as it was the first time since polytechnic days that I had been able to pull together a prolonged campaign of any significance and perhaps more remarkably with a game that I had previously paid little heed. That is not to say I was unfamiliar with Call of Cthulhu previously: on the contrary, through the agency of White Dwarf I was well exposed to its influence but for whatever reason it passed me by as a younger man. Unusually( perhaps) it was reading H.P. Lovecrafts fiction that drew both my players and I into trying Call of Cthulhu. Enjoying Lovecraft's work didn't prevent us from playing in a slightly pulp manner however. Although after some narrow escapes from the Grim Reaper my players did become a lot less gung ho in their approach to their investigations.
Most of the action took place in the East End of London* in the year of the General Strike and variously featured opium dealers, night club owners and union activists many of whom were there simply for the purposes of confusion. Eventually the activity moved up West where the true rot was found and rather bloodily expunged. After this the characters retired back into what one hopes would be a quieter life but in the vernacular of Ian Fleming, never say never.
* Although a brief sojourn to the Levant was involved to help out a pair of Jewish archaeologists they met whilst investigating The Surrey Enigma.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bigger but not necessarily better.

Managed to get in a bit more painting time this week; adding a few more elements to the Retro Dungeon project despite not yet having a clear idea of which way to roll with regard to rules system, setting etc.

Anyhow below are two of the 1994 Ral Partha City Guard that I picked up of Ebay:

As things go they're not bad figures and will be useful as cannon fodder/ henchmen. The only problem is:

They're @£$%king giants compared to their earlier henchman brother from the brigands treasure caravan,  which is a great pity because that particular pack comes with some nice beasts of burden, such as this pack mule:

I think this also illustrates how the quality of sculpting had fallen somewhat since Ral Partha's glory days when they still had the services of Tom Meier et al.
This problem wasn't just restricted to Ral Partha, a large number of the Citadel Miniatures produced around this time weren't that good either and even today when the general standards in the industry have improved immeasurably Games Workshop still insist on producing some fairly grotesque caracitures, particularly their Goblinoids and Dwarfs.

Moving onto brighter news, I found this hopping monstrosity in a box this morning:
For the un-initiated amongst us he's a Runequest Fachan produced by Ral Partha in 1986 and regardless of what form my Retro Dungeon takes his place is already reserved.
I've also completed another player character miniature that had been languishing in the pending section of the Workbench of Doom for a few months:
Can't remember where or when I bought him but he'll make a useful thief /assassin type.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Handgrenadealien's Roleplaying career. Help Required.

So far the majority of posts on this blog have concentrated on my efforts in modelling and collecting retro dungeon terrain and the various denizens therein, which accurately reflects the current state of affairs regarding my roleplaying activity.
This is mainly due to the lack of a regular gaming group, a state of affairs that has existed for several years now; in fact the last time I actually participated in a game was last July when I G.M ed a Call of Cthulhu game for two of the lads from my regular boardgaming club. The last time I actually participated as a player was 3 years or so back when I joined a D&D 4e campaign set up by another chap from the boardgame club, but that fizzled out fairly quickly when we collectively discovered that none of us liked the system. Looking back this is the likely point of origin of my re-newed interest in old school RPG's, I can quite distinctly remember going home on the Saturday evening following a game of 4e and pulling out all my old RPG stuff and seriously contemplating starting up a campaign using the Moldvay Basic set. I did in fact get as far as setting up a small dungeon , painting miniatures and sourcing terrain, but try as I might I couldn't induce any of my friends or associates to take part, lack of time or lack of interest seemingly the reason.
Now that is quite understandable, finding time to commit to such a long term undertaking as a roleplaying campaign when we are already busy with families, work, other hobbies etc is difficult, plus many of us have already run the gamut of roleplaying through our college and university days and probably have a suspicion that it won't as much fun second time round. This is one reason why I started to collect more gaming paraphenalia in the hope that a visually attractive game might prove more appealing to the stubborn masses, but in retrospect this may be missing the point. When I look back at the successful games that I've run and participated in down the years the ones that stand out are the ones with the best narrative thread running through them.
Now this obviously wasn't the case back at the beginning of my roleplaying days, our efforts running very much along the lines of kicking in the doors, killing the bad guys and stealing their treasure. To this day I still ( rightly or wrongly) associate this style of play with D&D and Advanced D&D.
A change in style coincided with the purchase of 3rd Edition Runequest published here in the U.K. by Games Workshop under licence from Avalon Hill.

I couldn't say whether it was the different approach to roleplaying presented by Runequest or simply maturing as a G.M. bearing in mind I'd turned 18 the year this was released, but from here on our gaming began to take on a more cohesive form. The first Runequest campaign we played was based around a city called Palathar which I've touched upon in an earlier post and subsequent one off adventures and small campaigns were based in the same region though at different times in its history. This all helped build a cohesive feel to the world despite the games often being set many hundreds of years apart and actually played over a period of 7 years. The fact that as a player you were presented with more ways to interact with your world helped, heres a couple of character sheets from those games that illustrate the fact:

 Here is the first character, an adventurer from a civilised background equally skilled with blade or musical instruments. I can't remember why he had these musical skills but they illustrate my point well enough- here was a person with a back story and skills to cope with living in society not just adventuring through dungeon environments.
As a contrast the character below from the barbarian society that was a basis for a later campaign:

A very different character from a different society but still with skills appropriate to his background.
Its interesting to remember that we never played Runequest with miniatures or terrain of any kind, it was pure pen and paper and better for it.
I think those years between 1987 and 1994 marked a high point of roleplaying activity for us, after that for various reasons it fell right off.
It was only fairly recently that I picked up the G.Ming baton again, a chance conversation with a newly married friend and his wife over a game of Arkham Horror sparked off a brief but intense period of playing Call of Cthulhu. Our first campaign was run in 1920's London and the South-East with a brief trip to the Middle East also involved, what really bought this to life was the fact that we were all interested in the 1920's and the Cthulhu Mythos in general and as a consequence had a good feel for the period. The other thing to mention here is the amount of background and pictorial material that was available via the internet, really important for a game which demands good quality props as part of the inherent investigative processes in the game.

So there you have it, the essential dilemma faced if I want to run an old school game again, the essential ingredients being the use of lots of tabletop terrain & miniatures plus a strong narrative theme. Does such a creation exist. Any Suggestions.

More Denizen Miniatures.

After a relatively quiet week on the painting front managed to get these finished this morning.

First up a swordsman from The Legion of the Damned, a recent acquisition from France.

And a pair of rather nice multi-part Dwarfs, unusual in that they have knees and have bucked the trend of dressing like short arsed Vikings embracing instead the utility and comfort of more up to date equipment, albeit modestly in the crossbowman's case. Other manufacturers take note.
As a slight aside I emailed Denizen Miniatures last week to see if these miniatures are still in production and was delighted to receive a reply in the affirmative from Chub Pearson. No more chasing around on Ebay for me, the gaps in my collection can now be filled in one fell swoop.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Work Abandoned. Painted a Wizard Instead.

Which is arguably a much better way to spend a cold and sleety afternoon. Here he is in his Mary Quant inspired parti colour glory.

The miniature is an old ( 1979 stamped on base) Ral Partha offering that came in the Brigands Treasure Caravan pack that I acquired last year and is currently on the workbench of doom. He'll be fitted into the retro dungeon campaign somehow, either as a player character or maybe the players patron.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Spawned from the loins of Yeenoghu.

Three more Ral Partha AD&D Gnolls painted.

Really pleased with the way this trio came out, though picking out some of the really fine detail was a little hard to discern at first. A very light drybrush over my dark brown basecoat solved that problem though. Its probably been mentioned before but I really do like this particular version of the Gnoll, some of the animation is a little cranky ( the gnoll with polearm being a case in point) but they do at least avoid the evils of OTT armour and huge weapons that seem a feature of many manufacturers figures in general. I know its fantasy but I do like to see weapons and armour that actually look like they could be worn and used with comfort, not the ridiculous ploughshares or anvils on shafts that some sculptors think are necesary.
Anyway small rant over, here are a couple of old Citadel Miniatures Elementals that came to light when I was rooting through some boxes of figures the other night:

These are deserving of a mention as they were my sole foray into painting figures in oils, the results aren't too bad but the mess and knackered brushes put paid to any further attempts. Such is the  folly of youth.