Monday 31 January 2011

The Legend of Weathertop and Black Sheep Ale

Some crusty old guy called Eldamar believes there is a Staff of Truth in a tomb beneath Weathertop, and sends me off on a quest to retrieve it. I decide I'll take a bottle of Black Sheep Ale with me for company. Yes it's another Beer vs. Gamebook challenge.

Casually walking around the Oaks, Birches and random shrubbery, I find a spring and sup some ale,  it tastes darker than it's auburn colour would belie, a smooth tipple with a bitter finish. I wonder if that Eldamar fellow knows this quest would also be a drinking binge? Ah well, I've got a map of the hill, but unfortunately no clue how to find the entrance, so it's just a case of wandering around trying to find it.

The fruity brew goes down nicely as I explore a pile of rocks, finding no entrance. The once beautiful tower is now naught but ruins, and the faded glories past weighs heavily on the mind, fortunately I haven't drunk too much, else I'd be yelling poetry into the sky like something out of Withnail and I. Traping around, admiring the view (hey, I can see the Misty Mountains from here!) poking at rocks, I spot a group of Dwarves at the bottom of the hill, and "Where theres a Dwarf, theres an Ale" as my old Gaffer used to say, so I stagger down the hill to meet them. The smell of frying bacon greets me and we settle down to a cosy chat, they're on their way to Bree from the Blue Mountains, and I tell them I'm hopelessly mooching about tring to get into a cave, a trained adventurer, reduced to the status of a bum. Taking a swig of Black Sheep, admiring it's bittersweet taste, the dwarf points at some random locations and says something about trying to find entrances there (spoiler: none of them are correct, bloody dwarves). They finish their meal and move on down the road, whilst I head uphill to admire the wild-flowers.

Either I'm distracted by the wild flowers or the Black Sheeps 4.4% is fast acting, as I manage to twist my ankle in a rabbit warren, but spot a trail and follow it, watching some squirrels playing in the trees listen to the song of a blackbird and revel in the scent of wildflowers. This is actually quite therapeutic, a country stroll, ruins of gothic beauty, a nice dry ale, some cute wildlife. Ahh, but what's this I espy some "flowers lay brutally crushed". Brutally crushed flowers? What evil is this? At last at the end of the trail (spoiler: 10C) I find signs of Orcs. Finishing the bottle with the conumdum of going back and getting some help from Bree or entering cave. More drink will help, so to Bree we go.

Heading off to the Prancing Pony, meet head of the Bree guard, go back with troops some, kill all the Orcs, can't find the staff. Quest is over. I put my feet up by the fire and decide that a little holiday in the country was just what I needed after all.

Black Sheep Ale (definitely a 'special' rather than a regular drink for me, this one)

Legend of Weathertop (demian gamebook page for a 'proper review' - I like the innovative map system, the MERP-lite rules, the descriptions of rural scenes - it's hardly Thomas Hardy, but, all in all very enjoyable)

Beer: 1 Gamebooks: 1

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Female Armour II

OK. So here's some more sensible female fantasy armour research:

Leelee Sobieski "In the Name of the King". 

The overall effect is very nice, but the scalemail seems to have left the ladies neck and chest open to attack, which is strange seeing as the rest of the costume seems so remarkably well thought out. Especially the combat-ready hair, which is really nice to find after having ranted about it. Although this is obviously combination plate / scale-mail.
Leelee Sobieski: This was my second time wearing armour. When I filmed Joan of Arc I had to wear 60 pounds of metal. This armour was a lot lighter, and I even got the chance to help in its design. I wanted it to fall a certain way. It’s just as romantic for me to dress up in armour as it is to dress up in a period dress. As a woman, you don’t get many opportunities to put on armour.  From

 Leelee Sobieski as St. Joan

As Ms. Sobieski mentioned in her interview that The Name of the King was her second outing in armour, this is a picture of her first - as Joan of Arc. Like many other portrayals of women fighters in full plate armour, it is perfectly rational, except for the flowing locks, which provide an opportunity for an opponent to grab / yank and may get trapped in the armour. Otherwise there isn't much concession to femininity in the costume.

 Hilde von Krone (Soul Calibre IV)

Designed by Takuji Kawano. There are 'breast-shapes' moulded into the chest-plate, but not the extreme armour cleavage in typical fantasy armour that would cause weakness and render the armour useless. The legs are a slight concern in that I'm not sure a normal human could actually fit inside the armour, but then her head is disproportionally small (it's a 9 head figure, or would be if she were standing up straight), so maybe it's just a stylisation. Yet again, the hair provides the fatal flaw, as does the decorative necklace and braiding, the least said about the totally unarmoured crotch area the better. but otherwise a really elegant realistic female full plate.

Kelly Chen in An Empress and the Warriors 
(江山美人 / Jiang Shan Mei Ren)

Can anyone say C09 Dark Elf helmet? No, I mean really Citadel Dark Elf! Amazing. I think this would be classed as studded leather. Someone working in the costume dept. was a big fan of Citadel Miniatures dark elves, either that, or my ignorance of oriental armour means that I'd missed out on the references that the citadel miniatures designers were referencing. While the ornate, decorativeness might be seen to be quite feminine, the male armour has exactly the same level or elaboration, so with regards to signifying femininity, we're  only left with the face and the subtle female body shape.

For anyone reading this who doesn't have a clue what a citadel dark elf is, here's a CO9 pre-slotta classic witch elf:

More can be seen on the Collecting Citadel Miniatures wiki. I won't bother describing the armour here, suffice to say chain-mail and cleavage isn't very practical.

Friday 7 January 2011

Otherworld Giant Spider

Instruction sheet with freaky ornamental borders and diagram I drew up for Richard over at Otherworld Miniatures for their WE10d Giant Spider, superbly sculpted by Pedro Navarro (for sale here in the wilderness encounters section).

Some shots below (with Mordred Wyrmsbane from Red Box Games)  to show the sheer scale of the beast, as you can see she isn't really a miniature giant spider, more of a giant spider miniature!
Ungoliant and Melkor
"In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. There she sucked up all light that she could find, and spun it forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished. Now Melkor came to Avathar and sought her out; and he put on again the form that he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno: a dark Lord, tall and terrible. In that form he remained ever after. There in the black shadows, beyond the sight even of Manwë in his highest halls, Melkor with Ungoliant plotted his revenge." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

"There were scenes of old wars, wherein Leng's almost-humans fought with the bloated purple spiders of the neighbouring vales; and there were scenes also of the coming of the black galleys from the moon, and of the submission of Leng's people to the polypous and amorphous blasphemies that hopped and floundered and wriggled out of them. " - H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

"...its eight thick hairy legs drove its ogreish body over the floor at headlong pace; its four evilly gleaming eyes shone with a horrible intelligence, and its fangs dripped venom that Conan knew, from the burning of his shoulder where only a few drops had splashed as the thing struck and missed, was laden with swift death." - R.E. Howard, The Tower of the Elephant
I've posed the Giant Spider up, so it's rearing up. The photo's by OW show it much lower-down, with its body on the ground and its feet more 'flat', which is probably the intended pose for the miniature.  However, the lug and socket system for attaching each of the individually sculpted legs  does provide some leeway in their positioning - although I suspect my pose would require pinning and a bit more filling than the 'official version', as you can see in the photos, with my test pose the Giant Spider miniature was treated to a generous helping of blue-tac to hold it together.

Quite coincidentally I was flipping though The Warlock of Firetop Mountain the other day, and noticed the picture by Russ Nicholson of the Giant Spider attacking is quite similar (fore-legs up) to the view a standard 28mm miniature would have looking at it. I suspect it might have had some subconscious influence on my posing of the miniature!

(for sale here in the Otherworld Miniatures wilderness encounters section of their webshop).