Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Lady Elyandria [Iconic Character]

After 'a bit of research on female armour design' and without much further ado, allow me to present a female plate armour wearing character, for AD&D - one of a series of "iconic" characters from the Realm.

The Lady Elyandria Athon of Eriandor

Class: Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User
Race: Half-Elf
Sex: Female
Level: 1/1/1
Hit Points:10
Alignment: Neutral Good
Sec. Skill: Shipwright, Woodworker

Str [ 17  ] To Hit:+1  Damage:+1
Int [ 11  ] Spells:45%  Min:5  Max:7
Wis [ 17  ] Magical Attack Adj:+3
Dex [ 15  ] React/Attack:+0  Defense:-1
Con [ 13  ] Hits:+0  Sys:85%  Res:90%
Cha [ 16  ] Reaction Adj:+25%

Height: 5'2"
Movement Base: 12"(6")
Weight: 100lb
Carrying Capacity: 1000gp
Thaco: 19  
Armor Class: 4(6)

Common, Neutral Good, Elvish, Gnome, Halfling, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Orcish, Gnoll

 Turn Undead
 30% Resistance To Sleep/Charm Spells
 Infravision 60'
 Detect Secret Doors On A 2 In 6
 Detect Concealed Doors On A 3 In 6

Clerical Spells: 3
Magic-User Spells: 1

Turn Undead: Skeleton:10, Zombie:13, Ghoul:16, Shadow:19, Wight:20

Saving Throws:

Paralyze, Poison Or Death Magic:10
Petrify Or Polymorph:13
Rod, Staff Or Wand:11
Breath Weapon:15

Proficient Weapons: Sling, Staff, Shortsword, Trident

Weapon In Hand: Shortsword (1-6)

Armor Worn: Plate Mail (Rustproof), Small Wooden Shield

Shortsword, Staff, Plate Mail (Rustproof), Spell Components, Leather Backpack, Waterskin, Cloak, Rations, Leather Boots, Bedroll, Small Wooden Shield, Sack, Belt Pouch, Pocket Knife, 10ft Pole (Collapsable) Needle & Thread,


The Lady Elyandira of the House of Athon grew up among the slender pines and high spired cities of the Half-elven folk of the city Eriandor. 23rd in line to the Ivory Throne, and as daughter of a high royal house, trained in the traditional courtly pastimes of fencing, hunting and Eriandorian  ship-building.

Whilst children are rare among the Half-elven people, it is an ancient tradition among Eriandorian nobility that at coming of age, they are charged to oversee a construction of a ship and take it to the world beyond the sea, only to return to the shores of Eriandon once fortune has been raised.

On her maiden voyage Elyandria's craft was overtaken by Uruk pirates, who subsequently shipwrecked the craft in a great storm upon the jagged grey rocks of the island nation of Albion, most of the crew perished, else, given the blessings of Elyandria to do so, saught to return to their homeland at great speed and bought passage upon the first Dwarrovian Skyships they encountered. Ely however, in the capricious nature of her kind, found a strange love for the low hills and gentle valleys of her new homeland and vowed that she would make it her own, while the cry of seagulls and  smell of sea air still makes wistful for the high towers of Eriandor, she is determined to one day retrieve the heirlooms (spell book and Holy Crystal) stolen by the Uruk pirates.

Design Notes:
Demi-human level-limits have been built-in to the characters 'background', she may eventually return home and retire, whereupon her player will have 'won', although the exact circumstances are left to the individual GM / Player to determine. Also the Fighter/Cleric/M-U power-gamer combination has been severely reduced by the lost spell-book and Holy symbol / Holy crystal. Incidentally I used the SSI / TSR Dungeon Masters Assistant to roll-up and edit the character.

Oh yes so whilst I've got part of the braided battle-hair bug worked out,  I'm still working on the actual armour design, trying to work in sea / fish / dragon influences, and a character-sheet style PDF presentation her Ely and the rest of the gang...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Female Armour: Chainmail

Moving away from the previous posts on full plate to depictions of women in chain-mail.

Anna Popplewell as Susan Pevensie | Isis Mussenden | Narnia: Prince Caspian
One of the main 'realistic' issues of female chainmail is that it will, by virtue of its weight tend to flatten out the curves, which is where the cuirass comes in. Pevensies short sleeved chain-mail shirt hardened leather cuirass / bodice with full-length (velvet ?) skirt, was designed by  Isis Mussenden for  The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which was nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award in 2008. This is a nice, pretty, woodsy adventurer type costume, over all I think it's very well thought out giving the character the feminine edge the she needs, as...

"My sister Susan, is no longer a friend of Narnia. She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."
~ C. S. Lewis, The Final Battle

The shoulderless cuirass particularly creates a quite feminine look, as does the subtle tapering of the shirt-tails. The exposure of the shoulder area also gives more movement (being an archer type, will need to raise the arm considerably above the head to gain distance), and as a trade-off some additional neck-protection has been given in the padding the collar. The tied-back hair is adequate in getting it out of the way.

Svanhild the Sure |  Tre Manor | Red Box Games

Ok. I'm going to dive in with an immediately similar character design: Svanhild the Sure. Whilst undoubtedly a more mature lady than Susan Pevensie, Svanhild manages to be even more covered, arms in sleeves, and an additional bucker, because, you know, occasionally ranged fighters sometimes get caught up in hand to hand combat. Arguably the chest-plate might be a metal rather than a leather cuirass, but the figure-shaping concept remains, which combined with the flowing skirts and exposed hair.

This also illustrates something that might be thought of as the hero / adventurer divide. Adventurers, by their nature suffer from cold, damp, rain, and carry stuff whereas Heroes tend to just look cool. This divide between characters designed primarily for the spectacle of violence and the portrayal of real warriors goes back at least to the Roman Gladiatorial arena. But I digress, the signature fur cowl, adds another layer of protection and also stops Svanhilds hair getting trapped in the armour.

Éowyn | Angus McBride
I'm not sure this Angus Mc Bride painting was ever used as an ICE MERP cover, but it did appear in some ICE adverts in Dragon Magazine, as a Jigsaw puzzle and in Angus McBrides Characters of Middle Earth. The picture depicts the climactic scene in The Lord of the Rings where Meriadoc Brandybuck kills the Lord of Nazgul whilst Éowyn keeps him distracted. Interestingly McBride has concatenated events somewhat for pictorial effect. Nontheless, Éowyn is here in a full coat of cavalry chain-mail. Gender signifiers are slightly confused, as the character is supposed to be wearing mens armour (like the Chinese folktale Mulan, our heroin rides into battle in the guise of a man) yet she also appears to be wearing an ankle-length skirt that has no centre split, which presumably means either exposing her legs after hitching the skirt up or riding side-saddle, both of which would rather give the game away. McBride, veteran of military history paintings might just be playing fast and loose with his depiction. We also get those amazing golden curly locks, great for signifying femininity, not so great for kicking ass.

McBride is being true, if rather spectacular in his interpretation of  the text:
A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy, had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheek. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy's eyes.
~ J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Nonetheless, have I mentioned braids as a solution to this design problem before? I think I might have, here's some more!

Alexander Wang | model with Scarf | image found at Forward Forward

Éowyn as Miranda Otto | Ngila Dickson | Return of the King
Susan Penvensie's armour in Narnia may well have been a reference to this other leather cuirass and chainmail combination. Bless those Inklings for nicking each others ideas, I'm sure JRRT and CSL would have had a right chuckle about this. This time it's Ngila Dicksons design for Miranda Otto's portrayal of Éowyn Peter Jacksons Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It's interesting to have two interpretations of Éowyn that are remarkably similar, it's almost like someone at WETA looked at McBrides version, put a curiass on it, turned down the volumiser on the 80's hair-do and said 'job done'. Although it's not in this photo, even the dark-green tunic remains.  There is little in the way of other female armour in Peter Jacksons version of Lord of the Rings, even his warrior-princess version of Arwen just gets a padded dress-coat.

Henga Rolf'sDottir | Tre Manor | Red Box Games

Another example of a full-length chainmail (ok so it's 3/4 length) Henga Rolf'sDottir from Red Box Games, wearing a chain-mail coat over a tunic with barbarian-esque fur shawl or fur-hood and cape. The belt holding in the waist and the flare of the skirts (more created by the pose than anything else) helps define the hip-to-waist ratio even if it is obscured by the pouches, dagger and tied belt. 

Barbie as Rapunzel Éowyn | Bass & Rankin | Return of the King | image found at The Black Gate
Éowyn did manage to get her hair tied back in Bass & Rankins version of The Return of the King (clip here), although only with a simple band to keep those princess tresses out of her eyes. The armour appears to consist of not much more than a pair of shoulder-pads and some bracers and greaves. However,  the light-blue tunic could be chain-mail (it is keyed the same colour as the shield rim). The rigours of cell animation making all those links highly impractical to draw, although Eric from the D&D cartoon and Prince Valient seem to manage with just a suggestion. So I like to think of it as  chainmail tunic even if it isn't really drawn as such. Éowyn also has something of snood or perhaps a cowl-neck sweater dress going on, again, great for keeping those long flowing hair from getting tangled in the rings and snagging, all in all the femininity remains in those design cues, but is ultimately the hair.

Hey, and not a single image of Red Sonjas chainmail bikini  or Morgan Ironwolf's nipples. Well done me!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Cwichelmslaewe Barrow

Silent and lonely, the ancient road pursues its course over height and into hollow :  now stretching away in a generous curve sharply defined by a bank on either side, now scarcely to be distinguished from the surrounding turf. At intervals are earthworks that guard it and barrows that keep watch.   
Illustration L Leslie Brookes
Round one of the latter, familiarly called the "Knob," not a few curious legends have gathered.  Some distance below the old road there runs, also from east to west, a military ditch and vellum, and the story goes that the devil, having a fancy to turn ploughman, cleft this mighty furrow along the hillside. When he arrived opposite the spot where the barrow now stands, his ploughshare became clogged; he halted to clean it, and the soil which he scraped off he tossed over the Ridgeway in a heap to be known henceforth as the Knob. There is a lavishness about this proceeding which can only be properly appreciated by those who have seen the mound and the Devil's Dyke.

The tale was told to me by a native of the district who had heard it when a boy, from the older labourers working on his father's farm. Local opinion however, differed on the subject. While some people believed the Knob was due to His Satanic Majesty's industry, others possessing more education, maintained it was a genuine tumulus raised above the body of Cwichelm, king of the West Saxons; and yet a third party claimed that it was composed of the bodies of this king's soldiers, slain hereabouts in some great battle. So prevalent was this last belief that the owner of the land, who was a thrifty soul, cut into the mound and drew off several hundred loads of soil under the impression that it contained valuable fertilising qualities. The informant to whom I am indebted for the above traditions, well remembers seeing the farm carts coming and going on their foolish errand, and the sensation created in the neighbourhood by this wanton destruction of the barrow. Its poor remains can still be viewed a monument no longer of a dead chieftain or his forgotten host, but of man's credulity and ignorance."
~ Eleanor G. Hayden - Travels Round Our Village (1905)

5 adventure ideas around the Wych-helm* Barrow:

  1. A giant (or perhaps demon) has been spotted ploughing up the highlands (perhaps armed with item 3 below). Afeared of an invasion by giant-kind, the adventurers are hired by the local villagers to get rid the land of him.

  2. Haunted by spectral visitations of long-dead kings, the greedy Landowner hires the adventurers to protect him and release him from his curse.

  3. The Landowner hires the adventurers to protect his wagons carrying the magically fertile soil cut from the Barrrow after some 'unfortunate accidents' and 'mysterious disappearances'. Undead soldiers begin to arrise from the accursed soil and wreak vengeance upon the living for the desecration of their grave.

  4. Guarding a merchant caravan down an ancient road, the adventurers have an unnerving feeling of being watched, passing by "The Knob" they are approached by a soldier in ancient uniform and told they cannot pass.

  5. Rumours of ancient kings and devils-work surround the Barrow, is this just the idle talk of half-drunk yokel halflings? may there be a Kings ancient treasure hoard beneath the mound or is it truly just the lair of a Giant MoleTM?

3 items:

  1. Soil of the Ancestors - this is a wax-sealed jar containing cursed soil from the Wycheshelm Barrow, placing the soil on the ground will summon 2D6 -4 (there is a chance of failure) skeletons, who will proceed to attack the nearest living creature.

  2. Blood of the Land - this is a wax-sealed jar containing blessed soil from the Wycheshelm Barrow, placing the soil on the ground will cause any living plants to grow to twice its natural size in 1D6 days.

  3. The Ploughshare of His Satanic Majesty - this is an immense, rusted iron blade as tall as a man and as wide as a dwarf.  Encrusted with peculiar signs and symbols wield-able only by those of Ogre size or greater strength. Upon the weapon lays a curse, anyone attempting to wield it will be forced to walk 100 miles and plough an acre of land. Once the land is tilled, and grain sown upon it, next growing season a crop of gold will arise (1 acre = 2000gp). The gold will bring ill fortune to any that keep it.  If molten down, up to 23 swords may be forged from the original ploughshare, each will be +1 cursed, berserk inducing, intelligent blade until the first 100 souls are claimed whereafter the swords will revert to a normal one of its type.

* always nice to change the name of an Anglo-saxon king into something more like a Swords and Sorcery villian