A New Adventure Begins...

After a bit of a break from DMing, I've started back with a new adventure for our lovable bunch of rapscallions....

The Seven Brides of Vecna*


The session logs are at http://mojobob.com/roleplay/campaign/eyeless05BridesOfVecna.html

The first episode is related here. It.... did not go as smoothly as it might have.

* Seven Brides For Seven Liches will be a title for another time, but that could be a good adventure hook too.

Bases Galore

These just arrived for me today — a box full of laser-cut MDF sabot bases, from a guy I know only as Catweazle, in Australia. I sent him some vector files for cutting the bases, and he sent me this lot in return. Score!

I haven't sorted them yet, but I imagine that this should be as many bases as I'm likely to need any time in the foreseeable future, unless I really go berserk and start playing gigantic mega-games.

PSC A9/A10 Cruiser (15mm) — WiP

 Some new toys arrived for me today from PSC, two boxes of 15mm (1:100) tank kits. I got some Stuart "Honeys", for future use when I get around to building up my Western desert forces a bit, and this one, the A9 or A10 cruiser, to pad out my B.E.F. force.

I already have a troop of A9, so this box will go to making me a troop of A10 gun tanks, and one each of an A9 and A10 CS (close support) tank.

Options
The sprues provide optional parts to complete  five variants: hulls for European or desert versions of the A9 or A10, and turrets for gun tanks of various marks (distinguishable by the different gun mantlets) or the close support tanks mounting the 3" howitzer.

Note that the hull tops for the desert variants have symmetrical track guards, which wasn't the case on the original vehicles — they were actually deeper on the port side than the starboard to accommodate the vehicle's cooling system. If that sort of detail is important to you, you'll have to do a bit of trimming.

Regrettably there aren't enough running gear pieces to build more than one tank from each sprue, nor enough turret components to be able to just make a spare CS turret. Still, I can't really utterly condemn PSC for that. At about twenty quid for five tank models, they're already pretty good value for money.

Instructions
Construction is pretty straightforward, though instructions are provided for only one variant — the A10 Mk.IIa for the European theatre. You'll just have to guess and hope for the others. The main thing is to make sure you're actually getting the right parts off the sprue for the variant you want to build, and with so many optional pieces it pays to double-check. The colour-coded layout shown on the other side of the instructions is useful for this.

The instructions given are very simplistic, but adequate (for the single tank variant shown) except for one part: Step 3 (highlighted here in yellow). DON'T DO THIS. Go straight to Step 4. It might be possible to force the running gear into place after the top and bottom hull pieces are glued without breaking something, but I doubt it.

I wasn't timing myself, but I'd guess that putting this first one together took me about half an hour.

Flying Carpet

I needed a flying carpet for my up-coming AD&D scenario, so I made one. It's bigger in real life than it would be if it was truly to scale; it's supposed to seat six people comfortably at about 7' by 10' long, so I need to accommodate six figure bases. I very much doubt that the scale differential is ever going to matter at all.

The carpet is just a print of a photograph from the internet, stiffened with epoxy and some cotton gauze, and the flying stand is chopped from a soda bottle neck. The rocks are made from rocks.

The figure is an old Grenadier wizard, and the most appropriately Arabian Nights-ish one I own, but quite a bit smaller than the Reaper figures I mostly use these days.

Enhanced Interrogation Client Containment Module

Amongst the Reaper Bones Kickstarter III offerings is a set of pieces to dress up your friendly local torture chamber.

One of them is this one, an iron maiden.

I've used a couple of Vallejo's GameEffects rust paints on it, and I quite like the effect they give. You can slop them on straight from the bottle, but I find they give best results in several layers of washes, not too thin.


This is the rest of the Torture Chamber set. I think there might have been some other bits and pieces in one or other of the Kickstarter expansions, but I didn't get any of those except the Cthulhu Mythos set.

Morris CS9 Armoured Car (15mm)


Not many of these came back to the UK after Dunkirk, but the Morris CS9 was a fairly common reconnaissance armoured car with the BEF in 1940. I've been using Humber LRC as proxies for them, and it's nice to have models of the actual vehicle to use instead.


Gug

 Here's one of the Cthulhu Mythos creatures from the recent Bones Kickstarter, a Gug.

I really don't know what that is; I've played a bit of Call of Cthulhu but never come across one of these. I suppose I could look it up, but I'm lazy.







Half-Orc

Here's another Reaper Bones plastic miniature. I don't know if it's actually meant to be a half-orc or not, but that's what I'm using it for.

I have a couple of half-orc twins in my campaign, a brother and sister, and they're in need of figures.



NOTE: Apparently they're actually meant to be hobgoblins. Too bad, they're half-orcs now.

Here's the other one.



Back to Painting Monsters


This is one of the Cthulhoid critters from the recent Reaper Bones Kickstarter. I think they call it Spawn of Shub-Niggurath, but I'm not completely sure about that.


Just a side note: Windows 10 did an update recently, and since then Photoshop's colour balance has gone entirely to shit. What I see in Photoshop has no relation to what I get as output, and I'm really struggling to figure out how to get it back. That's why all of these images are too blue.











Musings on Class

Druids? Or just grubby old men in blankets?
I have a fondness for AD&D, but one of the things that drove me away from it back in the distant past was the emphasis on restrictive and overly pernickety class definitions.

It seemed (and still seems) to me that it was just stupid that only a character with the Thief class could hide in shadows, and that only a Ranger could track things in the piney woods.

There are ways to play around this, of course, but as far as I can recall, the rules as written offer no really useful advice on the matter. It's just assumed that if you want to be able to find and/or disable traps, then you'll be a Thief. That's a Thief with a capital T.

It's a situation that came up for me not all that long ago, when somebody wanted to play a druid in my game. The difficulty was that the game, at that time, was taking place in a geographical region other than that were the Pseudo-Celts hold sway, so the player's character would be entirely divorced from their hierarchy and authority. It wouldn't matter much, day to day, but it would have been an issue when it came time to level up and what-not. That person ended up not playing in the campaign; I don't know if the social restrictions being placed on their character conception played a role or not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The thing is, as I realised later (too late), they didn't really want to play a Celtic priest and law-giver. What they wanted to play was a crazy old nature-wizard who hung out in the forest and made friends with the little fluffy animals of the earth. I'd trapped myself, and them, into arbitrary restrictions based on preconceptions about a class title in the PHB, and there was really no need for a Druid (capital D) to be a druid at all. Or for a crazy old nature-wizard to be a capital-D Druid.

Names Are Important

When you name something, you immediately begin to define its parameters. That's a useful thing; it makes a thing immediately identifiable, and reduces ambiguity and confusion. If someone names an animal as a bird, then immediately the qualities of "bird-ness" jumps into our minds. It's probably going to have feathers and lay eggs. There's a good chance that it will be able to fly, but maybe it won't.

A name like "bird" is pretty general though; a kiwi and a condor, though both birds, have little in common. They both have feathers, but their feathers are, though fundamentally similar in structure, in actual use and appearance quite different. They both have a beak, but the condor's beak could never be mistaken for that of a kiwi, and they're used in fundamentally different fashion. Still, they are both birds.

I don't have a basic objection to the concept of character classes in roleplaying games; they provide useful archetypal starting points. However, where I do have a problem is when they become prescriptive and proscriptive. I don't want a player who wants to play a condor being forced to play a kiwi, just because a kiwi is what the author was thinking of when they wrote up the "Bird" class.

Class Names in Roleplaying Games

I believe, that for a class system to be useful in a RPG system, it needs to build from the very general to the particular, and the class names should reflect that progression. I also think that the level of particularity should be left entirely up to the individual player to decide.

A class separation I've seen somewhere (I don't recall where) that I rather like splits characters into one of just three fundamental types:

  • Magic Users — anyone whose focus is primarily on spell use, regardless of how that magic is defined. It would include both structured and free-form magicians (e.g. in AD&D, Wizards, Sorcerers, Clerics, Druids). The specific abilities and restrictions on the final character design are largely irrelevant except as special effects.
  • Fighters — anyone whose primary focus is physical combat. In AD&D, these would be the Fighters, Rangers, Paladins, and Monks, but those names might not be appropriate to the specific character conception, so let's not get hung up on them. It doesn't mean that the character can do nothing but fight, but fighting is definitely the most important part of the character conception.
  • Adventurers — pretty much everyone else. Jack-of-All-Trades characters like AD&D Thieves and Bards would be slotted in here, but again those names are less important than what the character can actually do. These would be your "Indiana Jones" characters.

So... What Then?

Re-jigging D&D to a more generic class system isn't entirely straightforward, but it's not impossible. The main difficulty is that we're dealing with a system that has been in print for a long time now, so its class system carries a lot of baggage.

Probably more useful than devoting vast effort to rewriting everything would be just to make a change of mind about how to manipulate the existing system. Think about what we want to do with a character first, and then see how the available classes can be used to achieve that end, rather than going about things the other way around. And, if the existing classes won't work for what we want to do, then CHANGE THEM. I promise you, nobody is going to lock you in prison for this.

Zvezda KV1 (1941)

 Here'a another 1:100 scale (15mm) KV1 from Zvezda, a slightly later model than the previous one with a slightly better 76.2mm gun.

I tried for a dusty look with this one rather than the mud and rust I've gone for before. I can't say I'm completely happy with the outcome though.

Zvezda KV1 (1940)

Here's my 1940 KV1 in 1:100 scale, from Zvezda.

You can tell it's the early model KV1 because of the gun — it has the recuperator above the barrel, which gives it that snouted appearance.



Zvezda T35 (15mm)

I built and painted this mainly to test a new Vallejo colour to represent 4BO Protective Green, and I'm pretty pleased with the result.

I already have more T35s finished than I really need — I bought five of them from PSC as a "squadron" deal, and there are still two left in their boxes. In fact, T35s worked in units of two.




Soviet 4BO — Vallejo equivalent

I've found a good match for the WWII Soviet "Protective Green" 4BO paint in Vallejo ModelAir 71.010 Interior Green.

This was, apparently, the standard colour the tanks rolled out of the factory in (assuming they had time to be painted at all), though the recipe for the paint in the official records is fairly imprecise, so there was likely to be a fair bit of variation even among brand new vehicles.

A complicating factor, when attempting accurate colour matching, is that apparently 4BO darkened by chemical action as it aged. Or maybe it faded. Or maybe it was just dust in the photos that made it look like it had faded. There seems to be a bit of squabbling amongst the experts on this point.

From my point of view, all I'm interested in is that there were light green tanks and dark green tanks, and since this is the colour recorded by the Americans at the Aberdeen Proving Ground when they examined some Soviet armour during and after the war, this is the one I'm going to use for the lighter shade.

Flexibility Through Modular Design

I've discovered that, thanks to Soviet tank development pragmatism, I can expand the variety of tanks available to my force by simply swapping some turrets around.

The BT5 turret is almost identical to that used on the early-model T26, while the turret supplied with Zvezda's T26 is very similar in size and profile to that used on the BT7-2.

There are, of course, differences in detail, especially in the BT5 and BT7, but they look close enough to pass on the wargames table. So, that's handy.

It does mean that I'll have to be a bit more careful about keeping the polarity of my turret-mounting magnets identical though — of the five T26 I have at present, this is the only one I can swap with my only BT5.

Zvezda T-26

 Here's the 1:100 scale (15mm) T-26 WWII Soviet light tank,a snap-together kit by Zvezda.

Russian tanks in disruptive camouflage patterns were rare until the latter years of the war, but this colour scheme was actually formally adopted in 1939, two years before Operation Barbarossa began. It's very similar to that adopted by the Germans from 1943, and it's possibly not entirely coincidental that they adopted it after encountering it in Russia.

This is a very simple kit of only five parts, and it literally takes just a few minutes to put together. Then it takes me considerably longer to replace the post-&-hole turret mounting with a pair of magnets so that I can rotate the turret easily — the original mounting is very stiff.








Red Horde


This is all the Zvezda 1:100 scale WWII Soviet tanks I've got left to paint now, though no doubt I'll get more at some point in the future. I need a couple more T-34s at least. I'm not a fan of production-line painting, as I've mentioned before on more than one occasion, but at least if they're assembled I can use them on the table, in extremis.

They're all very easy to assemble, but I'm not a big fan of the hole-&-post method of mounting the turrets. It's simple, but it makes the turrets very stiff. Therefore, I've got rid of that and magnetized the turrets of the KV-1s, T-34s, and just one T-26. The remaining four T-26 are built straight from the box; I may revisit them if I find I really need their turrets freed up, but modifying them in this way is a lot less straightforward than it is for the other vehicles.

Zvezda BA-10

BA-10 from Zvezda, Soviet infantry from PSC.
This is Zvezda's 1:100 scale (15mm) WWII Soviet BA-10 armoured car.

It's the trickiest of these Zvezda kits I've encountered so far. Not a difficult build, but there are a few things to watch out for.

  • The hull pieces interlock, and it took a bit of judicious bending and stretching to get them all seated properly against each other. Once in place, the fit is good and snug. 
  • The headlamps are very small and delicate, and there was no hope of getting their struts into the holes provided for them. I chose to trim them down and just glue them in place, though I could have enlarged the holes (but I couldn't immediately lay my hands on my pin vice to drill them). Both of them shot out of the tweezers, one of them never to be found again.
  • The wheels are not interchangeable, and you do have to take care to get the right group off the sprue at the right time. And now, looking at the picture, I see I put the front wheels on inside-out. Too late to fix that now.
  • The turret is very stiff on the pin provided. I got rid of the pin and magnetized it, so now it turns quite freely.

It builds up into a nice little kit, and now my Soviets have some scouting capability.

As an aside: Vallejo have changed their Yellow Green recipe since the last time I bought a bottle. It's now very much brighter than it used to be. The washes and weathering toned it down a bit, but it gave me a bit of a shock when it first went on.





I've painted on some basic markings, mainly so I can tell the two apart on the wargames table,
but also because I prefer them a little less plain.

Zvezda KV-2

 Next up on the painting table for my stash of Zvezda 1:100 scale (15mm) Soviets is this brute, the KV-2 heavy artillery tank.

I learned that there's no evidence that any KV-2 actually had slogans painted on its turret, but I don't care about that because I like the flavour it adds to WWII Soviet armour, so mine does.
(Note that I provide no guarantee for the accuracy of the translation for the slogans. I don't read or speak Russian myself, so I got them via Google Translate.)



Slogan reads: Patriotic Slogan!

Slogan reads: Hooray for Our Team!



Vrock — repaint

This is an old WotC D&D pre-painted figures, a Vrock (or Type I Demon, as they once were known). I gave it a rough-and-ready repaint...