Thursday 30 December 2010

Female armour

Women in armour. It's one of those things in fantasy art, it's generally more fetish fantasy than actual armour that's going to save your life in the midst of pseudo-medieval combat. So let's have some practical lady armour!

Model: Nicole Leigh Verdin. 
Armor: Patrick Thaden & Ugo Serrano. 
Photo: Gayle Patridge

Model: Grace Holley
Armor: Patrick Thaden & Ugo Serrano. 
Photo: Gayle Patridge

Same armour, two models. Thaden and Serrano have managed to signify the femininity of the body shape by making the torso quite hour-glass (neither of the photos particularly show that, so use the links!) However, there are some practical problems especially with the abdomen section, where the armour would catch and exacerbate impact from a puncturing or hooking weapon. Nonetheless, this is stunning work.

White Dwarf 87: Dragonlady by David Gallagher

Obligitary White Dwarf Cover. 'nuff said. Well, except that Gallagher has left a vulnerable thigh exposed. The chainmail skirt is a nice idea tho', as are the hip plates which emphasise the, erm, hips. In some ways this might be an answer or reaction to John Blanche's Amazonia Gothique, whose armour is slightly less practical, but both address the passive / victim role people commonly associate with women in fantasy imagery (although this perception probably isn't borne out by the facts).

Cate Blanchette as ER I in Elizabeth:The Golden Age
Costume Design  Alexandra Byrne

This is amazing armour, very smooth and sleek, looks like it would just swim through sword thrusts. The film is actually very entertaining, while Miranda Richardson may have turned in the definitive portrayal of the role, Cate does a very nice job of expressing Elizabeths inner thoughts. There are a couple of shots in the trailer.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice in Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland

Never seen the film, and I'm not sure I want to, but this image is just nailed on. That is a D&D Paladin, saving the cute widdle wabbits from eeeevil. If that were a cover for a campaign book I'd buy it. Bunnies & Burrows & Dungeons & Dragons, ha!  The armour is very cool, especially the scale-mail skirt which is the main nod to femininity, along with the decorative fluting.  There is also the over the hip groove, which does give a more feminine line but I could see that carrying a blow towards the abdomen rather than away.  The gauntlets, however, look like ski gloves wrapped in bacofoil. In action here.
 Model: Natalia Vodianova
Photographer: Dinos Chapman

Harpers Bazaar (UK) Dec 2010 edition oh, and video Silly couture people forgot that you can get attacked from the left as well the right, oh well, never-mind! The cover pose is awesome, she should be holding a sword hilt or a crossbow rather than her wrists. The concept is nominally based on Joan of Arc, and shot at Battersea Power Station. It's great to see a medieval trope played out by near mainstream fashionistas. The costume itself seems to be all about folding and wrapping and unravelling, a kind of extreme layered look, which is feminine by virtue of the play it makes with the display or unveiling of the body, so whilst it is a product of womens media, it seems reactive to the male gaze yet ultimately about control of that gaze and power. However, the side that is armoured is realistically so, no moulded breasts, and where the costume leaps into decorative and fanciful, it is on the shoulder where the form is extended out from the body rather than
moulding or re-presenting it.

Now, these are all pretty great realistic armours. No cheesy breast holders (which would cause a weakness in the armour exactly where the heart is), all the vitals well armoured... but (you knew there was a but coming) - the hair

It makes no practical sense to have long hair in plate armour. Of course, aesthetically it still gets the feminine notes that are generally missing after having the body totally concealed in metal. The practical problems being that hair will get caught in the armour joints and yanked, another it's going to get caught by an assailant and pulled at. Sure one option is to go Goth-punk like the lady on WD cover, but not everyone's going to shave the sides of their heads to reduce grabbage, and the  punk aesthetic isn't right for all characters, and neither is the St. Joan boycut (in borrowed mans armour):

Actually that's just an excuse to google for pictures of Milla Jollovich, if an excuse were needed. Milla didn't make the armour selection section as she's effectively wearing mens armour, which is entirely probable and possible (most breast types are easily wrapped up tight to the chest, space doesn't actually need to be made for them in the armour - tho' the Thaden and Serrano is an excellent compromise on this) but here I'm more interested in the design of armour that still signifies (or conforms to models of) femininity rather than abandons them.
So, anyway, some other hair options:

Taylor Swift 'Love Story' Princess hair

I've no idea who Taylor Swift is, nor do I particularly care to find out, but assuming that hair-do can stand some faster and more vigorous action than moping around gazing out of an archway, it's a good, very girly (fairy princess prom queen) armour-hair option. more photos here. Hmm, tracked down the video and watched it (with the sound off), there are some cool scenes where she's kind of wandering around with a lantern which are quite oldschool D&D if taken out of context, and with a little imagine adding 10ft poll in her other hand, and a Beholder floating... ok, ok it takes quite a bit of imagination.

'Milkmaid braids' from Chanel. Something a little Third Reich Schoolmistress about it, a bit too clean. (Re)found here - the original blog I found this image on had some 'ballet bridal fashion' - and the high tightly scraped top-knot ballet style hair is another potential for armour hair, but it's got Dominatrix / Chav / Sporty Spice connotations I don't like the taste of. Personal opinion aside, Ballet-dancer is a aspirational meme for a lot of small girls, and signification around those memes isn't such a bad idea for a female figher.

"Loose Bun" by Kelli Acciardo from Seventeen, with instructions. Quick, easy, the kind of thing a warrioress might put together in a haste, especially if the bands were wrapped up braids.

The great thing about braids is that they naturally lend themselves to cultures which are already involved in knotwork, i.e. Northern European, la Tene influenced, Anglo Saxon, classic 'Tolkienesque' fantasy, they're thematically tied-in (pun intended).

So there you go, sensible, feminine, fantasy armour and hair.

Note: pretty ladies cause traffic spikes (yes that's over 10 times more traffic to this post than any other) since it was posted 5 days ago.  So there's an advert above!

And here's a couple adventuress miniatures in sensible armour, as sculpted by Tre' Manor:

Eivor the Beautiful, above who is a lightly armoured, ranger type, and Ingrior of Aelfheim, Swordmaiden  below who is a little more on the fighter class.

Whilst none are in full plate, and Eivor and Ingigor suffer from ETS (Elmore Thigh Syndrome, named one of the all-time great D&D fantasy artists Larry Elmore who frequently represents warrior ladies with exposed upper legs). Quite coincidentally, within days of this update Tre' released two human female fighter types both with fully covered limbs.

Vilhanna of the Shield

Ylvfriodr of Ulfrstadt

The cloaks / furs across the shoulders on Ylvfriodr will certainly prevent hair-trappage in armour joints. Although I fear Vilhanna might suffer.

These miniatures are available, along with some other amazing fantasy characters at the Red Box Games miniatures webstore.

Late update:     

Odysseus Osborne sent me this picture of Shannon wearing armour he's designed:

Shannon who is a fully trained HEMA Sword & Buckler fighter
"The armour based on the viking women's apron dress and made for use with a long dress, to cover the movements and signalling. It was found that if the tassets were sent longer to cover the knee, if becomes almost impossible to attack the lower leg as well, due to the severity of the angle of the sword." For me, practical concerns aside - the extended tassets (the long pieces handing down the leg) really help feminise the costume. More at: Odysseus gallery

Thursday 16 December 2010

Shadows of the Perverse: Beardsley's Arthur

Aubrey Beardsley - one of Victorian Englands greatest illustrators got to grips with Mallory's Morte d'Arthur, by way of Arts and Crafts polymath William Morris. Beardsley's work can border on the pornographic, an opium-fulled bitter and cynical sensuality - if Melniboné has a favourite print-maker, it would be Beardsley. In Arthur he to reign back in the excesses, but the underlying hedonistic perversity does seem to seep through, a Satyr - well known as Pan, a symbol of wild, male virility is bequeathed pert female breasts and a symbol of hierarchical religion in the form of an incense spewing censer. A heady mix indeed, and quite subversive when set against the traditionally chivalrous Arthurian tales.

Fluid lines, amazing control and decorative sensibility make these proto-fantasy art second to none. Beardsley's influence is everywhere in black and white fantasy art, and for good reason.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Friday 26 November 2010

Rogue Trader The Musical [Act 3: Horned is the Hunter]

Ok this is going to be somewhat complex and windy.
We have Martin Walkyier - lead singer and songwriter of Sabbat - Wiccan influenced hymn to Pan "Horned is the Hunter". And in response to Walkyiers song "Horned is the Hunter", John Blanche graces the cover of Sabbat's first album with an androgynous sci-fi mutant in a position of meditation or spell-casting, or reading a book, or something.

The Horned God is (loosely) a male sexual deity which appears in the neopagan religion of Wicca, also associated with hunting, based on Pan, the English folklore figure Herne the Hunter  and, controversially, the medieval concept of The Devil.

John Blanche "History of a Time To Come" 1988
Incidentally the image later turns up in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition.

Horned is The Hunter

Alone he sits -
a vanquished Lord upon an oaken throne,
presiding o'er this conflict
that chills him to the bone,
for each tarnished blade that festers
is a thorn thrust in his side,
and His pain alone bears witness
to the folly of mankind.

What hope for a king with no kingdom to rule?
now his children desert him -
regard him a fool,
and are bonded to progress -
the plough and the scythe -
that lay waste and leave barren
what beauty survives
though legends of power and glory suffice -
for these 'latter-day-heroes'
who live out their lives,
chained by conformity shackled by greed -
and told to belive they don't want to be freed.

The enemy within us -
is well armed to spoil and rape,
and this mighty heart grows weaker with
each liberty they take,
so come ye from the shadows
do not tremble 'neath your beds,
at the mention of his name -
hold high your weary heads.

For in each delve and greenwood,
far wiser creatures play,
and in their veins and sinews,
live the Gods of yesterday.

Both wicked and lustful
this God's horny might,
He plays hide and seek
with the shadows of the night,
enthroned in high mountains -
nobility crowned with the wisdom of ages -
the forest his gown,
so nimble the fingers that pipe out the tune,
simple and pure is the song of the moon -
that echoes each evening the ritual performed,
a lament for a God to a Devil transformed.

Are there men among us
prepared to face the fight
who'll stand by their convictions
'gainst overwhelming might,
so do not hide like cowards
and await the bitter end,
come take your courage in both hands
and join with me my friend.

For in each delve and greenwood,
far wiser creatures play,
and in their veins and sinews,
live the Gods of yesterday.

A God of many faces
yet none of them are known
existing in all places at all times -
His glory shown in the majesty of nature,
let the Hymn to Pan be sung
for the myth is but a History Of A Time To Come.

His name is eternal - His power unknown,
the ruler paternal - He watches alone,
as great cities tumble and empires fall,
amidst this confusion the Hunter stands tall.

 John Blanche's Slaanesh from Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (p. 14) 1988

Then we have a remarkably similar image, the horns, the hair, the being seated, the ambiguous gender. This time it's the Chaos God Slaanesh, born from the death-screams of billions of Space-Elves. Blanches black and white Slaanesh is more hermaphroditic than the androgynous Sabbat figure, it's also nice to see the Dark Elf references with the chainmail armour. 

The later fluff for the elves (WFB4+), introduces the horned god Kurnous (clearly referencing the Celtic figure identified as Cernunnos, who some claim influenced Herne the Hunter and is part of the syncretic wiccan concept) and his avatar Lord Orion, king of the Elves who thematically extends the relationship between the elves and a Horned God to before the Fall of the Eldar (although this does depend on reading a certain macrocosm-microcosm relationship of the Warhammer 40k and Fantasy universes) - could mean that Kurnous was intended as an aspect of Slannesh, or just that the whole thing is coming out of the same melting pot of influences.

Re-reading Walkyiers lyrics, certain lines do lend themselves to the character of Slaanesh:

Both wicked and lustful
this God's horny might

Although any direct influence would be pure speculation. It is clear that looking at the two images, Blanche was either re-using the same visual motifs, or perhaps drawing some form of comparison between the neo-pagan Horned God and the Chaos deity.

Scarloc's Wod Elf Archers | 1987

Scarloc, the leader of the Wood Elf Archers, is of course, named after a character from Robin Hood folklore, Will Scarlock (or Scarlett) and the band of green-clad forest dwelling bowmen clearly references the popular image of Robin Hood. Of course, based in Nottingham, the legends of Robin Hood would have been difficult for the denizens of GW to escape from. 

But more specifically, the leader of these merry elves, Skarloc is given a hood, a rune-sword and is titled "The Hooded One"...

Skarloc 'The Hooded One"

Michael Praed as Robin Hood
Judi Trott as Lady Marion
Robin of Sherwood (1984)

In the 1984 TV Series Robin of Sherwood, Michael Praed plays Robin of Loxley, given the title "The Hooded Man" and like Scarloc goes around in a hood quite a bit, as you'd expect. However, Carpenter adds a neopagan twist to his retelling of the tale, and Robin is also "The Son of Herne" - a mystic shaman / avatar of the Horned God, an innovation unlike the Moorish Hashashin Nazir, that hasn't become widely adopted .  This decidedly mystical bent gives much of the flavour, but rather than a strictly Anglo Saxon paganism with Woden, Thunor and Tiw, that would follow from the 'Saxon rebels and Norman oppressor' background of the story, Carpenter created a somewhat romanticised Wiccan basis for his pagan insurgents.

Back to Scarlocs, according to the description on the box-back Kia Stormwitch (the standard bearer) carries the ashes of an 'elf hero' called Kern - son of a goddess, which again seems to be a reference to Herne / Kernunos aspects of the Wiccan Horned God (who is somewhat perversely both the son and the lover of The Goddess) - the Kerne -> Herne consonant shift thought by some folklorists to be evidence for the figure of Herne as a 'survival' of a Celtic deity. In the TV series Robin has the magical rune-sword named Albion (one of a set, forged by Germanic folk hero Wayland the Smith) which may not be used to slay him - whilst similarly Scarloc has a magical rune-sword with runes of swiftness, armour and protection (rather than say, a Minor Death rune of goblin slaying or other offensive capabilities) .

So it follows, if the wood elves are based on Robin of Sherwood, so too might their deity and spiritual leader be, hence the development of Orion/Kurnous/Slannesh as gods of the Elves - all depicted with antlers, and 'lusty'. Robin of Sherwood was hugely successful TV series at the time, and even spawned a couple of Fighting Fantasy style gamebooks by Graham Staplehurst (who also wrote the Robin Hood supplement for Iron Crown Enterprises in 1987, and a couple of articles in White Dwarf on the subject too if memory serves) and illustrated by Russ Nicholson.

The Hooded Man? Robin of Sherwood Gamebook Russ Nicholson

Sabbats History of a Time To Come remains one of my all time favourite albums to this day, and Robin of Sherwood still a very entertaining and TV series I'm somewhere in the middle of series 3 of Robin of Sherwood - The Complete Series although Mrs Zhu seems to have lost interest after Praed was replaced by Connery, still the costumes and scenery are nice to watch. I'm still not regretting selling my citadel wood elves, honest.

Friday 19 November 2010

Insane Robot Shadows: Simon Bisley's ABC Warriors

Simon 'fraggin' Bisley, everyones favourite Art Droid, turned Heavy Metal dude. Probably better known for his fully painted Slaine and HM work than his insanely detailed and splattery black and white stuff that the Biz scribbled out for 2000AD in 1988.

Bisley brought an angular, stylised organo-mechanic with chainz! skullz! spikez! Just tipping the ABC Warriors over the edge from a war-encrusted sci-fi comic, into stranger occultech and philosophic territory, thanks to Deadlock, the best robot magic user ever.

Back in the day 2000AD was regularly printed on toilet paper which really don't do justice to the artwork.  And the current graphic novel reprints that I've seen are just too small for all those scratchy  details. Someone really needs to do a 1 to 1 size print of the original artwork.


Found some awe inspiring photos of the original art, which is apparently in the hands of private collectors:
 The site doesn't allow image hotlinking, so go, click and drooool...

Sunday 14 November 2010

AD&D Gamebook 4 The Soulforge. Who Wants it?

First person to leave a comment on this thread wins a copy of AD&D Gamebook 4: The Soulforge.

Front and back covers have a  crease, the character sheet / bookmark has been detached and has been written on in pencil, but is still in the book.

As a Gamebook, it seems to prefer dice mechanics over decision making, which is a bit different. Storywise, it follows Raistlin's Test in the Towers of High Sorcery, basically about him becoming a proper mage.

"Why are you giving it away?" I hear you scream - well...  the Towers of Zhu are currently occupied by cardboard boxes full of junk very interesting and entertaining stuff - VHS videos, vinyl records, and my gaming collection. Looking though the box of pretty decent gamebooks I came across this. I devoured Dragonlance as an early teen,  played in the campaign, but this book has no place in my collection - I don't plan on collecting the rest of the series, and as a Dragonlance book, I can live without it. I don't know anyone who wants it, but figured it might have value to someone else in the world, and it's better they have it than me.

So all you have to do win this amazing tome from 1985 is leave a comment below, and I'll post it off to you. If I get no offers from The Thirteen Followers of Zhu (or any random passer by) before the 19/11/10,  I'll offer it up, first at, then if that fails, the local charity shop book bin.

Friday 5 November 2010

Orcs in Disneyland

.. of the pig-faced variety of course!


Tom Oreb, Don DaGradi, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet have design credits on Sleeping Beauty (1959), and checking around I'd plum for Bill Preet being responsible for the above concept drawings. Several pig-faced goons here, alongside some bovine and rather muppet-like creatures.

Uruks on the storyboard for Sleeping Beauty. I especially admire the goblin-hat, or should that be hat-goblin? Unfortunately he didn't make the final cut,  the anthropomorphic clothing is very Boschian medieval monsterism. Also, note the pink nosed, green skinned hooded orc in the top right. 

The bumbling buffons are an embarrasment to the forces of evil, a couple of screencaps of the movie, showing the Pig Faced Orcs alongside their Eagle-faced, Goblinoid and Gargoylesque brethren. The colourscheme has been muted down from the design phase, giving a nice consistent feel across the randomly shaped creatures.

From the Sleeping Beauty experience at Walt Disney world, which opened 2 years after the movie (1961) - which appeared under blacklight (UV) giving them a peculiar "blueish sheen", green skin and pink noses familiar to the description of the Orc in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual.  However, these appear to be crossed with the the ultra-rare Cyclopean Orc (Britanicus Editionus Adeeandeeus Uruk).

For those not versed in modern Orc lore, the Pig Faced Orc (green skin, lighter/pink nose) also appears as Gammorean Guard in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Orcs in the 1980s Dungeons & Dragon cartoons, 1970s Lord of the Rings paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt, and yet true origins in popular culture remain somewhat mysterious. Certainly their first written appearance as specifically Orcs is in the 1e MM, but it's entirely possible that someone at TSR (Gygax?) had been to Disneyland and had drawn upon the imagery whilst reinventing the Orc.

Monday 1 November 2010

Rogue Trader - The Space Rock Opera [Act 1: Amazonia Gothique]

"Carving out an empire across a billion shattered star
systems, one super being stood supreme. Biting the
hand that shaped him Dominator's new order reigned
with a grip of iron, dissident's were executed or
imprisoned on maximum-security lunar compounds."

1988 Dominator Album by Cloven Hoof, cover 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

1986 White Dwarf, magazine cover 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

"Sentenced to burn exiled in purgatory.
A man made cage, in a distant galaxy.
But tonight we leave, so spread the word around.
Breaking out, never to be found.
Over the top, past security.
Through the fields of energy."

1986 sculpt by Micheal Perry based on 'Amazonia Gothique' by John Blanche.

"Renegade forces  of the world unite.
Imprison our captors,  freedom is in sight.
Storm the watchtower, tear down these walls.
Nothing can stop us, heed no master's call.
In the night, the sirens wail.
Imperial Storm troopers,  on our tail"

cira 2010 some emo/scene bird

ZOMG! Hair is LARPing 0_o
Gimmie Kozmic Akse!

I've always imagined Amazonia Gothique to be Blanches contribution to the Eternal Champion mythos. Whilst not, directly Ilian The Champion of Garathorm (the only literary female Eternal Champion), Blanches Amazonia Gothique is a transcendent figure, she stands like some orbital moon with her huge white 'fro eclipsing a raging sun. She stands at the centre of a cosmic event. The Major Hero, possibly a Champion of Slaanesh (Realm of Chaos:StD).

Dominator by Cloven Hoof is a rather hackneyed sci-fi flavoured piece of hair-metal, in all honesty the art director probably picked the John Blanche at random, there's no celestial goth/emo girl character. But the storyline could make the basis of a pretty cool Rogue Trader 40k / Gamma World campaign or a stage musical written by Ben Elton.

Thursday 28 October 2010

The Black Sun: Issue 2 (Sept-Oct 1984)

So after many weeks of begging around the interwebs and generally hassling GW fandom  I finally managed to get my hands on a single copy of the Black Sun fanzine. And what a A5 black and white beauty it is...

Firstly the awesome cover by Trevor Hammond introducing a host of characters from the GW Mail Order Catacombs. The Black Sun is a parallel universe where GW mailorder is a dungeon complex rules over by the slave-lord Zlargh the Mighty, and populated by depraved Man-things,  zombie-ghoul like slaves. The editorial is an introduction to this otherworld of Zlargh the Slavelord, off to holiday in Skegness.

Tales from the Crypt comprises news of Games Workshops games developers and other industry news. Albie Fiore (best known for Field Factory / FiendFolio and the Guardian crossword) finishing off Golden Heroes (which is now currently available as Squadron UK) and Ian Marsh starting work on a Doctor Who RPG. As far as I know, GW never published this, but Marsh did have his TimeLord RPG released by Virgin Books in 1991, and now gives it away for free on the interwebs, not sure about its relation to the work in progress mentioned here, but as it shares an author and a subject it probably is a version of the same rule-set. Quite amazing that these two old British titles are still around today...

Next up is a comic strip by Trevor Hammond entitled Torture Tips, wherein Gunatha misunderstands water torture and ends up smacking a hobbit round the back of the head with a bucket. This is not Hammonds finest hour, Gunatha seems to have the same fixed expression in every panel, and there's a lack of coherence to the whole thing, nonetheless it has an early Viz-like 6th Form quality.

The centrefold comprises a very long review / description of Ringworld by the Chaosium. It really does make it sound like an excellent product (as most Chaosium tended to be back in the day) and goes into much more detail than the WD review of the same article.

Lord Zlargh's Catacomb Clearout features a list of explicitly 'end of line or slightly damaged' and implicitly 'taking up space and not selling well' RPG items, all typeset at a jaunty 45 degree angle.

The Castle of Cross Moles - a brilliant single page spoof on the solo adventure "The Castle of Lost Souls" by Dave Morris which was running in White Dwarf at the time. It's satire is actually quite funny - including berating the player for cheating (claiming they had an object which doesn't exist) and a combat system that allows you to "pretend you won anyway", the fact you're playing an ancient race of Warrior Moles fighting against the evil horde of Necroworms just makes it all the better.

Gutter Press column reviews various RPG fanzines. I shall, for your erudition and entertainment list the titles: Tempestuous Orifice #5, Misers Horde #7, Journal of the Senseless Carnage Society #6, Necropolis #1, Dead Elf #1, Morrigan #2, SEWARS, Demons Drawl #6. Yes indeed.

Finally Agaroths Mindflayer, a quiz section that makes very little sense.

Frankly, the obscurity, cockeyed humour and unique styling make this pure collectors-crack. I'll be pawning my shoes and hassling people on public transport "oi, mate, got any Black Sun?" any day soon.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Retrohammer Pig Faced Orcs Army List

Prompted by a post about Warhammer Fantasy Battles 1st Edition army lists over on Fighting Fantasist I thought I'd pull out my new-old retro-styled WFB1 edition army list for Pig Faced Orcs.

Before shelving the whole AD&D Monsters in Warhammer project (well, I've got a spreadsheet full enough for my gaming purposes, but no longer looking to PDF them) I moved away from the WFB1 stat-line, as 'upgrading' to the WFB2 stats means that the list is compatible with pretty much every edition of Warhammer ever, right up to WFB8 and Mordheim (which is a more than adequate upgrade to WFB1s 'roleplay' component) - a much more utilitarian option.

So having moved away from the classic WFB1 the Bugbear army list can pretty much be be used with anything, and so got styled in a more modern approach.

Of course, the 'army list' is still based very much in the WFB 1/ Forces of Fantasy / WFB 2 / Ravening Hordes school of army listing - totally unbalanced and arbitrary in favour of flavour, diversity and narrative over competitive tournament play - something that WFB8 seems to encourage.

Download Bugbear Army List [PDF]

Download Pig Faced Orc Army List [PDF]

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Fighting Fantasy 40: Dead of Night

This is the tale of a Demon-stalker, a kind of templar-knight investigating an incursion of demonic forces into a rustic valley in the Old World, whose family have been kidnapped and homeland ravaged.

By book 40 of the Fighting Fantasy series adding a special attribute in order to make the game unique has become the expected norm, and here is no different.  Dead of Night uses an "Evil" score to measure the morality of your actions (aka "alignment graphing" for all you old school D&Ders!). The prose, plot and this mechanic work really well in combination - often you can be forced into doing Evil actions by well-meaning intentions and otherwise logical acts - hanging around peasants too long will incurr their wrath as they see demons and their hunters as two sides of the same conflict they'd be better of without. We're in slightly murky moral waters here. There are also a selection of talents - like D&D clerical spells, or Lone Wolf's Kai abilities - the selection of the 'right' ones will make the game easier or harder and give clearer routes to victory (spoiler: go for the defensive).
There are grim echoes of the Enemy Within Campaign from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (which the authors: Jim Bambra was on the design team of, and Stephen Hand was working at GW during the time of WFRP development)  and indeed with a little reworking would make a fine WFRP mini-campaign. Even touches like the use of river-transport echoes the Empire campaign setting, the 'taint' of evil running though and the peculiar naturalism all add to the effect. Dead of Night or "Nachtmord" as a WFRP nick-name... is very much a low-fantasy setting, quite different from the usual ecclectic high fantasy of Titan. Whilst in interview Hand has claimed a "Hammer Horror" influence, any direct comparison with English Gothic Cinema (with it's busty wenches and gore) pales with the similarity to WFRP's chaos tinged, Call of Cthulhu influenced fantasy setting.

One nice scene is a zombie-attack minigame that utilises a floor-plan of a cottage for you to strategically place the defendants and a dice-mechanic for which door/window the undead attack through echoing George A Romeros Night of the Living Dead and something of Stephen Hands Chainsaw Warrior solo board game perhaps? Would have made an excellent centre-fold boardgame for Warlock Magazine if it was continuing at this time.

All in all this is, dare I say it, incredibly good for a Fighting Fantasy book, whilst I can get all misty-eyed and nostalgic for the very early Steve Jackson and Ian Lvingstone dungeons, citadels and forests, with their randomly stocked layouts and fiendish traps, Dead of Night is good on many levels, from it's brave use of morality as a theme and it's dark foreboding atmosphere to the challenging puzzles.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Let's Waaagh! like it's 1990-something

Servants of the Imperium - Rejoyce! Our brave and loyal forces have recovered an Standard Template Construct containing an ancient Unit Record Sheet from the depths of the Dvorak Nebula.

I remember using these to keeping track of Space Marine, Eldar and Ork units during the Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trade skirmish / RPG games we used to play across the kitchen table back in the day. So I thought I'd scan it and put it on the intertubes for all to share - with that in mind I also diligently put the disclaimer from GW on the bottom, so it's street-legal in the underhives, if not fully sanctioned by the Emperor.

I have no recollection of drawing this up, or what I used or how I did it, probably some craptacular DOS page layout software, fortunately both my skillz and the toolz have moved on since then!

The background texture (caused by the malefic influence of sitting in the bottom of a dilapidated cardboard box in the grim darkness of my loft for 20 years) is bumping up the file-size to around 5MB. Well worth the long download and the printer ink for the pure archival aesthetics if you ask me!

Download Rogue Trader Squad Record Sheet


Sunday 12 September 2010

Otherworld Summer Sale / Giant Unboxing Video

20% off everything over at everyones favourite old-school D&D style miniatures company  Otherworld Miniatures until the end of September. Let's celebrate with video!

Unfortunately I need to flog my 80's citadel wood elves currently languishing in paint-stripper to raise hobby-cash so I can't be flinging my ill gotten gains at Richard and adding to my lead pile this time round. However I'll can send some PR love through the bloggo-sphere as I stumbled across this Youtube video of the boys at The Beasts Of War doing an un-boxing of the awesome Otherworld Giant:

Of course the highlight is their mini-review of the instruction sheet I drew up which begins at 0:57 including such insightful comment as:  'Is that a birth certificate for the model?  no. Some simple instructions. A nice detailed bit of paper. Just some 2d drawings, nothing too fancy there. Nicely set laid out though. And the back has a big diagram on it'. Yeah!?! No, really, thanks guys! If they'd had started to wax lyrical about the typography (referencing both  1e AD&D manuals and Citadel) or the hand-drawn borders reminiscent of 80's game book adventure sheets, then maybe they'd have lost focus a teensy bit from the titanic amount of well shaped white metal they'd just got their hands on and about to froth all over.

The big guy is currently a snip at £52 (plus postage) until the end of September and of course there are savings on all the old-school Pig Faced Orcs, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Ropers, Troglodytes, Rats, Award Winning Skeletons, Purple Worms, Centaurs, Dire Wolves and pre-orders on the forthcoming Wraiths by Paul Muller, that, frankly I find very impressive...

that armour design has a really nice high fantasy feel, somewhere between Conan movie bad guys, Elmore inlaid armour (shot is a WIP - more detail to come) and pre-slotta Citadel Chaos, and the fact that it's a wacked-out deadite just dovetails perfectly with my recent Trevor Hammond obsession. It's like an awesome Grimdark zombie Elric. OW will be releasing 2 figures - hope the other isn't a million miles away in terms of design.

Otherworld Miniatures

Thursday 19 August 2010

A Fragment of the History of the Dwarves

...this injunction of civilizing import became the starting point of the activity of all of Krtica's successors, the Guild of Stonemasons, the Rune-Masters, those versed in the art of carving words. The political calm that prevailed during the two centuries of the Tethmorn supremacy was calculated to an eminent degree to promote spiritual development and the organization of the inner life of the Dwarves. During this period, a large part of the teachings of the Runelaw that have been received into the Kirkaskivi were collected, compiled, and reduced to writing. The immortal thoughts of the Carvers clothed themselves in the visible garb of runes. On great slabs and mighty dolmen they were made accessible to the distant ages. The impressive traditions transmitted from earliest times, the chronicles of the past of the people, the Rune verses brought forth by the spiritual enthusiasm of a long series of poets, all were gathered and put into stone with the extreme of care. The spiritual treasures of the nation were capitalized, and to this process solely and alone generations of Dwarves have owed the possibility of resorting to them as a source of faith and knowledge. Without the work of compilation achieved by the Rune-Masters, of which the uninstructed are apt to speak slightingly, to-day we would have no Kirkaskivi, that central sun of craft, beauty and knowledge.
A Short History of the Dwarves -  Lady Myrtle Chuffnell

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Lord of the Rings Miniatures from White Dwarf 81 (September 1986)

Gandalf and Sauron painted by none other than Colin Dixon. ME56 Sauron, in standard issue black, with a nice grey drybrushing and shiny palantir.  Also here is a potentially unreleased "Gandalf Greyheim", which the article says is forthcoming. As far as I can tell  this version of Gandalf didn't get a release as a ME range figure or a C11 Wizard. I believe this is the ME1 Gandalf , sold in a pack that included a Strider and a Frodo. Stuff of Legends doesn't list this, perhaps because it never appeared in a catalgue or advert. This also highlights the non-sequential numbering of the citadel Middle Earth range, as ME1 was ovviouslt released after ME56.

Dixon started off painting miniatures by winning the Chaos Battle Banner competition in the Second Citadel Compendium and ended up with a job painting miniatures for Citadel - then sculpting miniatures for years on end then leaving GW in 2002 and sculpting for Foundry.

This post marks a departure - gone are the days of Dever and Chalks Tabletop Heroes reviewing miniatures from Asgard to Grenadier, and in it's place, the citadel catalogue and painting guide that is 'Eavy Metal.

This is also the last post on this theme for a while - I forgot to scan the Balrog advert from WD87 (the box artwork re-used in Warhammer 3rd edition) and the Jes Goodwin Uruk Hai ad from WD100, so those will have to wait...

Saturday 14 August 2010

Lord of the Rings miniatures from White Dwarf 76 (July 1986)

  ME 44  Uruk-Hai - Orc Guards

Here he is again! It's the ME-44 Uruk-Hai guard- this time converted by Kevin "Goblinmaster" Adams from way back in July 1986, this is the exact same model that John Blanche took his green-stuff and Stanley knife to back in October 85. Coincidence? Possibly. Alternatively there might have been a number of reasons to show various conversions - to show the adaptability of the range to non Tolkienites - a good Orc mini is a good Orc mini.

And this Uruk is especially exotic - Kev has trimmed down the sword for less of a scimitar look and given the Uruk a wicked two-tiered horned helmet. and shoulder spike. Something of a baroque candelabra or insectoid carapace about it. And added a hobbit-skull and some vegetation to the base, in fact a lot of Kevs bases are awe-inspiring, with tiny  mushrooms and ferns. Ov course Khaos Orkz needz mor skullz!

It should be noted that Kev has done the decent thing and painted his orc Tolkien Orc Brown, not Games Workshop Orc Green. Well done Kev!

Saturday 7 August 2010

Wagners "Das Rheingold" Cartoon

The echo's of Kirby's Thor, Odin's owl-ear hat, Freya as a Raquel Welch cavewoman stand-in, the weird pinhead-alien Loki, and a (beardless) dwarf straight out of Elfquest (although he'd be a troll there, but never mind). The animation is on-par with the best the 80's fantasy genre had to offer - bringing Wagner down to the pop-culture level we all know he really exists on.

There's a lot of good stuff here - enjoy!

Monday 2 August 2010

Rabid Shadows: Trevor Hammond - Lord of the Black Sun

White Dwarf 48 / Zlargh Slave Lord of the Black Sun

Trevor Hammonds brilliant graphic use of black and white, manic energy and preference for half-orc-half-dead, double-barrelled subject matter summoned to half-life a darkly comic, grimly violent and depravedly supernatural world of... the Games Workshop Mail Order department.

Opening a copy of White Dwarf in the early 80's meant getting punched in the face with Trev's eye-blistering and irreverent mirror-world, where Zlargh the Slave Lord ruled over his game-despatching minions Ugbash Facesplitter, Ted and Granny. By illustrating the page one GW mail-order ad, month in, and month out, Trevor created a secondary cover, an alternative piece which inadvertantly set the tone for the whole mag. Trevor reflected a kind of irreverent sub-cultural undercurrent now sadly lacking from the mainstream of fantasy gaming, which is all too often a drab po-faced wacom-painted vision.  I like to imagine Hammonds was drawn with black bic and custom chiselled felt-tip marker pens stolen from WH Smith.

White Dwarf 62

As much as John Blanche incorporated some punk aesthetic in his work, there was always something slightly decadent and fetishistic about it, slightly new-romantic. Hammonds vision on the other hand is authentically yobbish, grimy and extreme. Whilst there are slicker artists out there ploughing vaguely similar black angled territory (thinking of Simon Bisley's b+w work on the ABC Warriors) it really does not get any more Hardcore Old-School British Dungeon-Punk than Hammonds world. You can almost hear the low fidelity crypt-recorded proto-blackened-death metal by simply looking at this stuff. Perhaps that's the superficial similairty Paul McHales cover for Boltthrowers debut album In Battle There is No Law, or maybe the caffeine...

As well as many of the spot illustrations in White Dwarf (mostly for AD&D and Runequest) Hammond also provided covers for the give-away GW fanzine Black Sun which accompanied White Dwarf (anyone know where I can get those?), alongside some White Dwarf subscription ads and also handful of monsters in the Out of the Pit column and a couple of articles in the Fighting Fantasy magazine Warlock - and that's about the whole published corpus of his work. Hammonds art stopped appearing in White Dwarf shortly after Citadel bought Games Workshop  and moved the offices from London to Nottingham, and I've yet to find any published art credited to him after this time, the Pen and Paper RPG databases list is unfortunately very incomplete.

White Dwarf 73

Whilst Hammonds aesthetic is missing in the daily art-department duties of Games Workshop, I'd like to think somewhere the accursed spirit of Ugbash lives on, perhaps enshrined in the Skull Throne of the usurper Khorne, waiting for the blood moon to rise and lead his fellow slavelords to victory!