Sunday, July 19, 2015

Way of the Wicked pt. 3: I see trouble on the way

When we left the villains, they had just completed their basement-challenge and were told by Tiadora that their real task was about to begin. They were brought before Cardinal Thorne once again, and the dark master was most pleased with their progress. He asked them to sit and carefully explained that the upcoming task for the ninth knot would require all of their skill and guile, for it was of the utmost importance.

The Cardinal told them that not far from the mansion, a ship was moored. Called 'The Frosthamar' and captained by a certain Kargeld Odenkirk, this vessel was to be their home for the upcoming weeks, as they would journey far north, beyond the wall, and make landing in a newly constructed camp of war. With them, they would bring a not insignificant amount of crates containing armor and weapons, that were to be delivered to a strike force of bugbears. This army was to be the first move, at least overtly, of the Cardinal's glorious plan. Once the bugbears, commanded by the villain Sakkarot Fireaxe, struck against the northern border of Talingarde, it would strike the doomsday clock for everyone to hear. From there, the villains were to contact him for their next assignment.

They were warned, however; this wasn't a simple bash-in-and-slaughter mission. The fortification along the wall were not to be trifled with, and the bugbears were unable to bring them down on their own. This was were the villains entered the picture.

He may look like something out of Asterix, but he can sail
So off they took; Grumblejack being most grateful for finally being away from the glares of Tiadora, and made way towards the Frosthamar...

Oh yes, one more thing; of course the good captain and his crew already knew too much. Once the weapons were delivered, they were to be terminated.

(This is my favorite part of the adventure, starting right here. While the first one is really fun, this is where it picks up and starts becoming truly interesting and challenging)

I'm on a boat!

The villains met up with the captain who turned out to be a sour old man with a big bushy beard. He was much in line with his ship, which was nothing more than...well, a viking-ship. It sufficed well enough for the cargo, however and the villains were soon aboard with their pet-ogre. Not bothering to stay for any goodbyes, Tiadora left them as soon as they were aboard and disappeared into the swamp like a white dot soon after.

Kargeld didn't waste much breath on the villains. After a couple of questions about the cargo he gruffly explained them the rules, which boiled down to 'keep your nose clear of my men and we'll get you girls there in one piece. Food at six, toilet is over the railing. Now sit down and shut up.”

And thus the ship moved on north...

(The journey north is foremost an opportunity for more roleplay within the group and with the sailors, depending on the preference of your players. It's certainly possible to play Captain Kargeld as an asshole who's getting what he deserves. I decided to go in a different direction and instead made him kind of likeable, curious and still a pirate at heart. He asked questions about the villains, their cargo and the ogre.
It certainly made his demise more powerful later on.

Of course there are a couple of encounters for people who'd rather rollplay. As written, there's an enemy boat from Talingarde, some mephits in a storm, some Yutak hunters and a seal-hunt. I moderated this a bit and skipped the mephit and enemy boat; instead I went on and modified the seal hunt a bit, and turned it into a Grumblejack encounter!)

Event: Grumblejack is on a boat. And hungry.
This event happens halfway into the journey; the villains wake up to a loud yell from the captain. On the deck they see gory trails, empty barrels that once held rations and a very guilty-looking ogre. It is quickly revealed that Grumblejack went for a binge-midnight snack and didn't leave much for the rest. In fact, he didn't leave anything.

Kargeld is furious and demands for someone to do something. Even if the villains offer their own rations it's nowhere near enough. To make matters worse, the ogre decided to also eat the watchmen as an appetizer so they're one man short as well.

Kargeld decides to make a stop at a nearby island populated with seals. In a rowboat, he goes ashore, demanding the villains to help him hunt down the little critters. Needless to say, most of these seals are baby-seals and some cruel hunting is in order now. Allow the villains to go crazy and feel like truly evil savages clubbing baby-seals for funzies. Then something happens;

 The villains hear the sound of a horn, and not long after a group of merfolks emerge from the waters. Their leader; Gwennebron Greenwave, orders the evildoers to stand down and cease their actions at once. If the villains refuse, the merfolk call to the seals while hurling nets and spears at the villains from the water.

Make a challenging encounter for your group and roll initiative for the seals and merfolk. It's up to the villains to not only defend themselves, but also butcher as many seals they can before they head off into the ocean. It made for an alternative, interesting encounter.

Oh, and if you're in doubt, yes, I was pretty heavily inspired by this (at 7:45)

Now, with the seals done; cultural imperialism!

The villains butchered enough seals to make it worth, and Gwennebron had his head chopped off by a good strike, so the ship headed on north along the coast. Everyone noticed how the weather slowly grew colder over the following days; the villains scuttling together on the deck and keeping an eye on the cold, lonesome, dark waters. Minor icebergs started moving by and for a long while they felt so alone as they moved northwards towards the grand river that would take them behind enemy lines and towards Sakkarot's camp.

Three days before reaching their destination, they were greeted by a strange sight. Three canoe-like boats approached them and gestured to them, asking whether they could come aboard. Their common language was crude, but they were brought on deck and asked about their purpose. The leader presented himself as White Tusk, a young chief of the Yutak tribe to the north. They were heading south to trade their valuable ivory-statuettes for iron tools.

(The Yutaks play a strange and little role in this entire campaign from what I understand. It's just a nomadic Greenland-like cultural society far up north that doesn't really do anything...for the very same reason, my players decided to act accordingly...)

Really, how I perceive most players..
The young chieftain set down and presented his statuettes of animals, and a strange old ring he'd found and was willing to trade. The villains tried offering him some metal, a dagger and the like, but when he refused, he was struck down by a dagger through his head. His entourage was butchered the following seconds and thrown overboard.

(The ring isn't part of the adventure; I decided to throw it in there. It was a ring of protection. From a D&D Next perspective, there aren't really that many magical treasures in this part, but the villains get to make more than up for it later on, through crafting)

Yeah, you and what army?

The villains later sailed inland and soon ended up in the inner sea from which they had a spectacular view of the southern shore, in which beautiful Talingarde stretched out with its mighty walls. And there, to the far north, they could glimpse the columns of fire from a camp. Not just any camp, but one of considerable size.

Kargeld warned them of Fireaxe on the way. He grumbled that a bugbear shouldn't be so intelligent and calculating. Something was off with him, he knew that much. He urged the villains to be cautious around the camp, and especially the boss.

The captain's warning turned out to be true. As they docked, they noticed how far the massive camp stretched northwards into the savage landscape. Several tents, buildings and fires decorated the bare rock; thunder from marching feet bellowed in the air along with savage orders. Regiments of undisciplined bugbears marched back and forth; even a couple of giants made their way around the edges and occasional groups of giggling goblins skulked from tent to tent. This was an army bred for a single purpose...

" advance the plot of this campaign"

They'd barely made it ashore before a group of bugbears confronted the little puny ones. Asking about their business here, these guys were really just there to push them to the limit (and yeah, this is a fight I can understand, it has a purpose, it adds tension and dram; feel free to ham it up here and make it a memorable fight, seeing how the villains have a whole camp to impress. Surely, they'll have plenty of spectators!)

So yes, a fight did indeed break out and the villains ended up butchering the bugbears with gory ease. Only then did they hear the heavy footsteps in the snow and saw the towering mass of a male bugbear look down on them. He wielded a mighty axe that burned with fire and glared at them for several seconds. Then he noticed the crates on the ship and roared out in triumph, bidding the villains welcome to his camp.

The crates were torn open and the morale went through the roof as the bugbears started equipping themselves. The armor even had the sigil of a burning axe on them.

That night, Sakarot held a grand feast to their honor and started explaining the next step of their journey. It seemed as if their trials had just only begun, for the next step on their journey wasn't one to be solved by force...

Age of Sigmar Painting Guide 1

Back with more painting-news. Recently, my local hobby store (just like so many others) got their stack of boxes with the name 'Age of Sigmar' - Unless you've been living under a rock the last couple of months, you'll remember this as the result of the End Times that happened to our beloved old WFB universe.

Now, this is not a review post. I'm yet to play my first real game of AOS and I don't feel confident enough to make judgement based solely on four pages of rules and some battle scrolls. The game is still very young and needs to rise, despite what most angry nerds are currently yelling.

The store wanted to make a display for the models and thus asked me to provide the paint. I kind of wished this could've been done at commission, but publicity is nothing to scorn at. It just means the process will be slower, seeing how I can only spend whatever time I pick up here and there.

Today I finished the first two Sigmarines forces of good. Honestly, I'm not down with their names, I just paint them. I look forward to get started on my Vampire Counts when it's over.
I thought I'd post some pictures of the results, and share a quick mini guide on how I got there. Enjoy.

Step 1) Assembly
I didn't assemble these guys, but my colleague at the store told me the fit was very neat. This doesn't surprise me; the GW guys are awesome in this regard.
You can either paint them before or after assembly. With the exception of the banner-guy, it doesn't seem to make a difference.

Step 2) Undercoat
The minis were undercoated with black. There aren't that many small details on them, really.

Step 3) First layers of paint.
- Base all the gold parts with Tank Brown (Vallejo Air)
- Follow the Tank Brown with a layer of Retributor Armor (Citadel)
- Paint the blue parts with Azul Real (Vallejo)
- Paint the metal parts with Runefang Steel (Citadel)
- Paint the wings with Ice Blue (Citadel)
- Paint the plumes with Red Gore (Citadel)
- Paint the scrolls with Bleached Bone (Citadel) - Since you're painting directly on black, you'll need two layers at least. Don't worry too much about blocking out the printing on the scrolls; the wash will take of that.

Step 4) Washes
- Wash all gold areas with Reikland Fleshshade (Citadel) Be liberal here.
- Wash the red, blue and metal parts with Nuln Oil (Citadel)
- Wash the wings twice with Asurmen Blue (Citadel)
- Wash the scrolls with Agrax Earthshade (Citadel) Maybe use two layers here.

Step 5) Layers
- Highlight the golden parts with Retributor Armor (Citadel) Make sure to let the shades in the recesses show. Use less paint on the brush when doing small, fine parts like the face.
- Highlight the blue parts with Azul Real (Vallejo) Again, let some of the shade show at the edges.
- Highlight the wings with Ice Blue (Citadel) from the tip and inwards, not going all the way. It helps to thin the paint with water and apply several small layers.
- Highlight the plumes with Red Gore (Citadel) at the edge.
- Drybrush the scrolls with Pale Sand (Vallejo) - be careful about not having too much paint on the brush here.
- Drybrush the metal with either Runefang Steel or White; the former makes the weapon more flat and natural, the white makes it more sparkly and cartoonish, like the flying model on the picture. You decide.

Step 6) Bright layers
- Highlight the golden parts with Liberator Gold (Citadel) - only apply to the edges and highest rises of the plate. The great thing about the new GW gold paints is how well they blend together; it's kind of hard to screw up. I almost believe you could drybrush it.
- Highlight the wings with a mix of Ice Blue and White (2:1) and thin it well, till it has the consistency of milk. Apply at the edges and wait for it to dry. You can add more white if you wish and keep at it till happy.
- Highlight the blue shoulder-pads and loincloths with  a mix of Azul Real and White (2:1), again, keep at it till you're happy. Keep just a little bit on your brush here and have patience.
- Highlight the plumes like you did with the wings, just mix a 2:1 of Red Gore and White.

Step 7) Bases
Apply glue and dirt. Wait for it to dry and wash it thoroughly with Agrax Earthshade (Citadel). Once dry, drybrush it with Baneblade Brown (Citadel) followed by a drybrushing of Bleached Bone (Citadel)

Then apply a little flower.

Enjoy! : D

Monday, July 13, 2015

Painting the Khador Spriggan

Hey guys and girls, not too much to say tonight, except that I wanted to share some pics of the Khador Spriggan I recently finished for a friend. Enjoy! : D

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Nerd in Fitness 7: A MINOR SETBACK!

Nobody warned me about illness and how it clashes with an active lifestyle.

Nobody said how fucking annoying it is, when you're in a really good spot and eager to push on; then suddenly it strikes like a meteor from a clear strike.

That one Fortitude Save that you botch. In this case, it was the flu.

This Saturday, things turned sour when I woke up with a sore throat and enough snot to power a small country (I don't even know what that means..) - add on top of that the fact that my lungs have a natural hard life, due to a pseudo-asthmatic and that I used to smoke half a year ago or so. I know; it's bad, and I'm paying the price.

Suffice to say, I've been chained to bed ever since, and even though I'm up and going today (Wednesday) my lungs still take a while longer to recuperate. Meaning, I've decided to go back one week of the program, and restart from 5+4 minutes of running. It worked out rather fine today, I managed to run the distance without too much fuzz, but the lungs did complain a bit afterwards.

On top of that comes that I'm going back to the gym soon; which I've skipped out on for almost a week (was supposed to go Sunday) - so here's to that.

Sometimes you just need to remember the words of Dr. Claw...

Speed painted Cairn Wraith

Age of Sigmar is upon us, and while I'm yet to form an opinion from a real game, I'm more hyped about it than expected. For now, I'm down with a summer-flu, however, so I decided to take a spare base from Warmachine and paint some Warhammer again. It's been way too long since I tried that, and since I plan to play Vampire Counts in the new edition (HUSH! It's NOT a new edition!!) I went for a speed-painted Cairn Wraith on a round base. Neat, huh?

Base-size apparently doesn't matter much in AoS, but I remain skeptical. In this regard, the Cairn Wraith is a solo, so this seemed fine. I believe you're shafting yourself by putting all of your models on round bases, even though it sure looks way better than the square ones. Round bases don't tend to make as much contact as the square ones, so unless your units have reach, piling them up doesn't seem like a way to go with round bases. I imagine zombies and skavens especially will feel the hit in this regard.

Ah well, we'll see.

As said, I speed painted this guy. Not really sure what the official timer for speed painting is, but this one took two hours. I think that's fair.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Way of the Wicked pt. 2: Bad boys, bad boys...

The last time we left the villains, they were in Brandenscar Prison, nicely tucked away in their cell. What looked like a dead end for them, suddenly took a change, as they had a visit from the lovely and mysterious woman, Tiadora. She told them her contact was eager to meet them, and all they needed to do was break out of prison, cross the marshes and find the old mansion at the edge of the swamp.

Before she left, she handed them her handkerchief, which turned out to be a veil of useful items. Now, things weren't looking so gloomy anymore...

Prison Break!
From the very beginning, Way of the Wicked shows off one of its cardinal traits: freedom. Freedom to chose and do as you please, not really railroading you into a certain plan or way of doing things. While it can certainly be argued, that the main plot as a whole is set in stone, there are so many ways to handle things as things move along.

As a GM, you'll have a lot of information on your hand regarding how you run Brandenscar Prison. There is a small handful of viable ways for the villains to escape, and they'll likely come up with some info on their own. I recommend having a journal of some kind, in which you note down the names of the prison staff and where they are at different times of the day. It looks massive, initially, but when you break it all down, there really aren't that many guards left in the prison. So basically, you'll boil it down to the warden, the sergeant Blackerly, the three servants and the various no-named guards. Compared to the later upcoming town of Aldencross, this is a breeze.

And remember, this is supposed to be somewhat easy for the villains. They're supposed to get out with high spirits, so reward creativity. Don't be a dick; you'll have plenty of time to play it rough later on, I guarantee.

The villains decided to wait it out for now and hid the veil in their cell, before they went out to work on the following day. There, they had the chance to see the prison in daylight, as they worked away in the gardens and listened to rumors and noticed the comings and goings of various persons. They were introduced to the servants, heard more talk from the guards about the nightly gamblings and came to realize that Brandenscar was indeed in a poor state.
As they tended the gardens, they were able to snatch some poisonous herbs as well.

They arrived back at their cell at night and after some time, the drow rogue extracted a lockpick from the veil and made his way out to scout the complex. He noticed some nearby stairs and the sound from the guard room and then unlocked the door to the massive ogre, who introduced himself as 'Grumblejack'.

The remaining villains started making a riot from their cell, with the rogue hiding in the unlocked ogre-cell. As soon as the guards entered, their heads were smashed in by a pair of massive ogre-fists, a dagger in the chest and unholy magic by touch. They splattered, needless to say.

The villains made short introduction with the ogre, who was furious for letting himself be captured by the little ones. He swore he'd aid the 'good little ones' in their quest, and that he could easily be just as stealthy. After all, he once yelled at a peasant that he had seen nothing, after he'd eaten one of his sheep. The peasant had pissed himself and cried out he'd seen nothing indeed, therefore Grumblejack was indeed quite stealthy!

(Again, I strongly advise you to get your hands on the seventh book, Tales of Talingarde, before you start running Grumblejack. It has a lot of scripted events, such as this one, when GJ has to be stealthy for the first time. You can make him a truly memorable character if you play him right.)

Don't go out tonight...
From there, it was pretty much a march of death out of the prison. The troupe of death made their way downstairs, where they met little resistance except a few drunken guards who were quickly dispatched with a dagger and some good stealth rolls.

They even managed to wake up a group sleeping in the barracks, and butcher them before any of them made it outside to yell for alarm. Knowing they would need some supplies for their escape, the group made it into the kitchen, where a servant maid was busy working, while and older man enjoyed a late night snack. Swiftly, they were turned into snacks themselves.
The villains made some rations out of the food, whereas Grumblejack eyed them with curiosity and then chopped up the servants and put the parts into a little basket he brought along. “See,” he said, “Now Grumblejack is ready for travel, just like little ones!”

Time to break out of this shit-hole.... Player-character style!
 They managed to find Blackerly's personal brewery inside his quarters and true to the old notion; whenever you're in doubt, put something on fire, that's how it rolled. (Again, this part is all about putting on the heavy rock music in my eyes and let them have a go. Being extreme and watching the world burn is good right now. There are some nice little details you should absolutely try to include, such as the guards having various things in their lockers. My players found a wedding ring a dead soldier was about to bring home to his girlfriend. Another had a healing potion with a nice message from his mum and so on.).

With the main building suddenly on fire, the villains crept out of the backdoor and waited for the prison staff to enter in panic. Then they ran for the gate, used the portable hole from the veil and made a sprint for it down the road outside. The guards on the way were butchered and soon after, they were heading deep into the swamp and into the darkness.

Yes, my master...
The journey through the swamp was uneventful (as written, the villains are supposed to clash with a giant toad out in the swamp. Since we use progression-based leveling, and I loathe encounters just for encounters' sake, I skipped this).

They soon found the old manor, which lay discretely on the shore of the swamp, with a small lantern burning from the top window. Grumblejack admitted he had a bad feeling about this, but during the travel he'd heard much about this 'Asmodeus' person and how he was clearly showing them his favor. The ogre admitted he wanted to hear more about this dark denizen later.

Tiadora greeted them with barely a gaze, as she opened the door and asked them to enter. All they saw was a long hallway with doors, and enthralled servants with zombie-looks, ready to take care of all their needs. The white maiden told them their common master would meet them in an hour in the library; till then, the villains were to be cleaned up and attended to. Besides from that, they could do whatever they wanted to with the servants.

(This is the part where the players have their gear and whatever else you decide will apply. It's a good psychological entry to the Cardinal, especially if you allow them to just pick among the common items from the Player's Handbook. Don't worry if they go for the Full Plate, it matters little in the tasks they are about to undertake, and it makes the Cardinal seem like a really nice guy).

They were brought to the library where a dark being greeted them in a pleasant voice. He introduced himself as Cardinal Thorne, the last highpriest of Asmodeus in Talingarde; a man who'd had a close interest in them for quite some time. He told them that he had an offer for such talented people such as them.

Thorne told the villains, that a new order was rising in the lands, and he, along with them, were to bring it to its fullest, and the realm to its knees. For this purpose, he had designed nine groups; 'Knots', reflecting the layers of Hell, who all had a unique purpose in this grand plan. They, the villains, were supposed to be the ninth knot and undertake a mission of central importance for the Cardinal.

(This is a crucial stage of the adventure; the players are pretty much supposed to say yes. If they don't, they're torn to shreds by Tiadora and everything ends here. Some have a huge issue with this, but if you're offended/put off by that, you likely shouldn't be playing D&D / Pathfinder published adventures in the first place...

It's important that you try and make the cardinal come across as a nice guy, but also truly frightening. To me, he was heavily inspired by Constantine from the old game 'Thief'. Watch the cinematic below to see how I tried to play him.) 

The villains agreed and the Cardinal happily asked them to sign an infernal contract that would bind their infernal work. (At this time of writing, I've only read the first couple of books, but from I see, this contract is basically just a “I promise not to be a fucking douche bag towards the other people in the group, even though I'm finally allowed to play an evil alignment and fulfill my deep fantasy of being an asshole towards everyone around me”-promise. It certainly has a place in many groups, I'm sadly sure. Luckily, in my group we had a solid talk about this beforehand so it was more a fluff-thing for us).

They signed the contract and all received the unholy mark on their head; written in blood they all had a blessing from the infernal lord, and a gift. Each had a silver bracelet that allowed them to change their identity and looks, as they would head out into the hideously good world of Talingarde. (Basically, they're allowed to spam Change Self spells as they please; in D&D Next terms, it doesn't change that much, except that I ruled it didn't take concentration to keep the spell going and the bracelet didn't require attunement. The adventure doesn't mention anything about whether it shields them from detection from evil-spells and so on, which I ruled it didn't do.)

Once done, the villains were told to return to their chambers and prepare themselves for a little test. Not long after, they were told to enter the basement of the mansion and fetch an emerald idol for the master, before 24 hours had passed...

Inspired by Thief, this is the picture I always use for Cardinal Thorne

The Cellar Adventure
(I'm not going too much into details about this one, because there is very little to say. Basically, this was the passage that seemed slightly odd to me, but now, later on, it makes sense. The heroes go through a series of rooms in which they're greeted by a cryptic, and yet kind of obvious, message about what to do. Mostly they're blatantly simple, such as “Don't follow the masses, make your own road!” and you're supposed not to take the door to which all the footprints go. Derp.
Again, there are a couple of encounters here that I didn't bother with, such as the dark room. Instead, the villains met up with a lost squire, who yelled and begged for his life, telling them he was abducted from the north. I rewrote this a bit, letting him be the former squire of Sir. Thomas Havelyn, as the test was about showing mercy for the right one. Needless to say, my players just killed him.

Later on comes the juicy part; the villains meet up with the notorious witch hunter who put most of them behind bars; Sir Balin. This is a small gift from Cardinal Thorne, and it just so happens that his holy symbol is the item they seek. This is the time for revenge, and letting your players be creative about it. In my case...they killed him. Sort of, just like that. Ah well.)

They returned to the hall in which a rather bored Tiadora greeted them and told them to keep the prize. “Come,” she said lazily, “your real task begins now...”

Tiadora - Still a mystery

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Nerd in Fitness 6 - Dem gym-scores

Last time I blogged about going to the gym, I deliberately became a bit more academical about its denizens and visitors. What I didn't do, was providing anyone with any results of my accomplishments. The reason for this is simple, I didn't have any. During my first month or so, I was way too occupied surviving and finding my place in that crazy world, and my initial labels for the exercises were such colorful terms as “The thingy that hurts your legs”, “The rope you pull down” and so on.


So here I go, deciding to post my actual status for the various activities. Bear in mind that these represent a very early stage, for someone who hasn't done any of this...well, his entire life.

Data from the 30/6/2015:

Overhead Press:
Initially, I loathed this exercise. But slowly, as I pressed on and actually started to lift the bar alone, with relative ease, it became a lot more fun!

Current status: 25 kilos (with bar)
2 sets of eight lifts. One set of five.

Bench press:
I'm still not on good terms with this one, even though I'm performing slightly better.

Current status: 30 kilos (with bar)
3 sets of eight lifts.

I like this one. Its effects are clear and straightforward.

Current status: 8 kilos
3 sets of eight lifts with each hand

Reverse Curls:
Like Curls, just more fun

Current status: 7,5 kilos
3 sets of eight lifts

Forearm Flex:
Current Status: 8 kilos
Three sets of eight lifts for each hand

Current Status: 14 kilos
3 sets of eight lifts

Rotary Calf:
Current status: 45 kilos (this could likely be set to way more)
3 sets of 15

Leg raisers:
Pretty much as it says. Lie down, lift up your legs as high as you can.
3 sets of 30.