Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Ghost Archipelago - The Translator

My Ghost Archipelago crew was nearly done, but I just couldn’t decide on the last figure. I needed a ‘standard crewman’ to round it out, but I just couldn’t find a figure that appealed at the moment. I could have used one of the plastic crewmen, but since the rest of the crew were metal, I kind of wanted a ‘full metal crew’.

In the meantime, I had this figure in my painting queue. He’s actually the cultist apothecary from the Frostgrave range. As I picked him up to paint, I realized he had a serpent pendant…  It occurred to me that I was letting the game rules limit my thinking. Just because I needed a ‘standard crewman’ didn’t mean the figure had to look like a crewman. Instead, I realized what my crew really needed was a translator to help the snake-men in the party communicate with everyone else. He also does double-duty as the crew's healer.

I haven’t given him a name yet, but here he is! The final member of my crew.

Interestingly, I realized with the way the rules work, this guy is functionally immortal. Since standard crewman don’t roll for survival, since they can be freely replaced anyway, this guy will always come back no matter what happens to him. I think that might be part of his story, the guy who keeps getting wounded, but always survives. He wiry, but he’s tough!

Now that I’ve got all ten, I’ll see if I can get them to line up for a team shot tomorrow.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Wizard's Conclave Contest

Congratulations to Paul Souchon, the winner in my little Wizard's Conclave cover contest. Paul correctly noted that none of the wizards on the Wizard's Conclave cover have appeared on the covers of any of the other Frostgrave expansions.

Basically, when I sat down to write the artist brief for the cover, I realized that exactly half of the ten wizards presented in the main rulebook had appeared on expansion covers. These are the five that had not.*

Anyway, once again, I think Dmitry and Kate Burmak have turned in a stunner of a cover. The Soothsayer has obviously seen something important, but the rest of the wizards obviously don't agree on what it means!

Thanks to everyone who took a guess.

* The Necromancer has appeared on the cover of the Tales of the Frozen City fiction collection and the Catacombs of the Evrenbright Adepticon special (Available in Spellcaster: Issue 1), but never on one of the full game supplements. In both of these cases, the artwork was reused from inside one of the books.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Frostgrave: Wizard’s Conclave Cover

Check this out! And pay special attention to the names at the bottom…

This is the official cover for Frostgrave:Wizard’s Conclave which is due out next February. Once again, Dmitry and Kate Burmak have turned in an exceptional piece of artwork, but for the moment, I want to focus on that text at the bottom.

Although the full story is told in the introduction to the book, basically, one day I realized that years of working for Osprey Publishing had given me numerous contacts in the games industry, including many of the biggest names in wargame writing. I began to wonder what would happen if I asked them all to write a scenario for Frostgrave. Well, this is the answer - a big book filled with scenarios of every description, written by a ‘greatest hits’ type collection of games writers. I think it is something unique in the wargame world, and I feel very honoured that all of these people have had a crack at writing for my game.

Now, back to that artwork for a second. I’ve got a little prize for whomever can guess why those specific wizards are depicted on the cover. Put your guesses in the comments section below and make sure I can identify you. First one who gets it right gets a signed Frostgrave: Grimoire box. One guess per person. Employees of Osprey, North Star, and anyone who somehow already knows the answer are ineligible.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Resk, Snake-man Scout

I have nearly finished my new Ghost Archipelago crew. Here is the penultimate figure. To my mind, this is one of the best figures in the entire Ghost Archipelago range. Technically he’s a snake-man Heritor, but since I’ve already got a Heritor, he’s going to be a scout in my crew. (He’s got a bow and quiver on his back.)

I did, at one point, consider painting up an all snake-man crew, with this guy as the Heritor, but I think it is more visually appealing to have just a few in there. Plus, considering my track record with finishing projects, I probably need to focus on just one crew and work to get that finished!

One figure to go.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep, Coming Soon!

A kingdom stands on the brink of destruction, as the vast realm known as the Shadow Deep slowly swallows everything in its path. As the army fights to contain the tide of evil creatures teeming up out of the black clouds, the kingdom’s best soldiers, the rangers, must venture down into the shadows to gather information, rescue prisoners, and ambush enemy supply lines. It is a desperate fight against seemingly overwhelming odds, but every little victory brings another day of hope…

As readers of Spellcaster will know, I have been quietly working on a new game that I hope to self-publish in the next few weeks. Rangers of Shadow Deep uses some of the core Frostgrave mechanics, but takes them in a new direction. First off, Rangers of Shadow Deep is designed to be played either solo or co-operatively, with up to 4 players all taking on the roles of rangers. Also, while the game is still very much a table-top miniature game, it takes one more step in the direction of role-playing. Each player creates their own ranger, choosing from a host of different abilities, skills, and spells. While the players are called ‘rangers’, it is easy enough to create a character that looks more like a knight in shining armour or a devious spellcaster. You could even play a ranger who is more of an academic, focusing on skills, while letting your companions do the majority of the fighting. Every ranger also has companions, the number of which will vary depending on the number of players, but these too will have their own abilities and skills.

Once the players have created their rangers, they can start playing missions. Each mission is like a mini-campaign and consists of two or more scenarios. In some cases, these will be straight-forward: play scenario 1 and then scenario 2. In other cases, each scenario has an important effect on the next one. Once the players have finished up the three starter missions in the book, they will be ready to tackle, Burning Light. This is the massive 9-scenario mission that forms the last quarter of the rulebook. During this mission, the rangers will explore the ruins of a convent in the Shadow Deep. The rangers will be able to choose what order they explore the different areas of the ruins, and the order they choose could have a profound effect on how easy or hard each scenario turns out. Each area/scenario gives the rangers the opportunity to find clues as to the resting place of an ancient artifact. 

Of course, as the rangers go through all of these missions they will gain experience, which will entitle them to increase their stats, abilities, skills, etc. Their companions will also progress, becoming more useful as they become hardened to the dangers of the Shadow Deep.

In many ways, Rangers of Shadow Deep is the next step in the development of the Frostgrave system, but, more importantly, it is a stand-alone adventure game, where players must work together to defend their kingdom against a seemingly unstoppable darkness.

I have completely finished the manuscript for Rangers of Shadow Deep, and I have all of the artwork as well. (All of it created by my friend Barrett Stanley). All of this material is currently with the designer. There will probably be a few back-and-fourths on the design, then I will give it one final editorial check, and then the game will be ready for release. I am hopeful that the game will be out in just a few weeks.

In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks, I will be showing off different parts of the game here on my blog, including creating a ranger and companions, and maybe showing off a scenario or two.

I am also hard at work on the first little supplement for the game, which will both give the players a new mission to complete, and also push the whole narrative of the game forward.

The game will originally be available as a PDF from RPGNow.com, or directly from me, with a print-on-demand version to follow at some future date. I hope I’ve got you interested!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Call of Cthulhu – The Pulps Library Edition

These days I don’t keep a very large library. I just haven’t got the space for everything I read, and, when you get down to it, most books aren’t actually worth keeping. However, I am interested in having really nice editions of the works that are important to me. This is why, when I learned that PS Publishing had published The Call of Cthulhu as an illustrated hardback book in their The Pulps Library line, I just had to take a look.

The book is a slender hardback, 120 pages, 6” wide and 8.5” tall. It sports a dust jacket, with the dust jacked artwork printed onto the boards. It’s an attractive little package.

Apart from the narrative, which takes up 50 pages, the book also contains an introduction by the preeminent Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi, some notes by the artist, Pete Von Sholly, and several short essays by other Lovecraftian notables on the likely influences on the story, other appearance by Cthulhu in Lovecraft’s writing, and on the making of the silent film adaptation of the story (worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it). Most of these essays have been published before, but it is nice to have them collected with the work to which they relate.

The book is liberally illustrated with full-colour plates by Pete Von Sholly who has done some comic work and a lot of film story-boarding. Now normally, I prefer ‘realistic’ artwork (even when covering fantasy subjects), so at first I was unsure about Von Scholly’s kind of cartoony style. However, as I read the book, the artwork grew on me, until now, I can honestly say I like it. It’s perhaps not what I would have chosen, but I am glad that it is in there.

For those who have never read ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, S. T. Joshi describes it thus in his introduction:

“The Call of Cthulhu” is the seminal story in H. P. Lovecraft’s literary output, and perhaps the seminal story in the entire history of twentieth-century weird fiction.

It’s a big statement, but one that I wouldn’t want to have to debate against. Picking it up and reading it again, this time in its own little book devoted just to it, I am struck, once again, by how good a writer Lovecraft actually was. There have been times, and places, where it has been popular to deride Lovecraft’s writing, and probably some of his writing deserves derision. But, at his best, Lovecraft was a very good writer, with an imagination that puts him in the highest tier of fantasy writers. 'The Call of Cthulhu' is certainly one of his best stories.

For many people, only the text of a story matters, and they can read it in a book, on a screen, or scrawled on napkin. I am not one of those people. For me, the medium influences the experience. Reading a book in an attractive hardback is a better experience than reading the same work on a Ipad.
I’m really happy that PS Publishing have produced this little work, and glad that I can add a copy to my library. In fact, I like it enough that I’m planning on checking out several other titles in the series.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Sliss, Snake-man Vine Warden

I’m continuing my work on Collandra’s new crew for Ghost Archipelago, and here is her new Warden. I knew I wanted to paint this figure as soon as I saw the digital render. He’s actually the snake-man herbalist, but he looks like he’s casting a spell to me!

I made him a Vine Warden mainly because he’s holding a plant, but also because I really like some of the Vine Warden spells. Sliss will be starting with Warp Weapon, Snare, Bark, and Amphibious; which I think is a nice mix of attack, enhancement, and utility.

He got the blue skirts as blue is the unifying colour of the whole crew. I made several attempts to paint his…what do you call a cloth that hangs in front like that? Does it have an name? Well, I made several attempts to paint it following the pattern sculpted on it, but this detail proved just too fine for my slowly fading eyesight. So, I just did a little free-hand. When doing the artist references for the snake-men, I said that their designs usually incorporated a lot of curves, so that’s what I went with.

This guy got the benefit of the new, brush-on varnish I’m using. I am still surprised at how much better this does at preserving the actual colour painted onto the mini. It does leave the figure with just a tiny bit of shine, but not enough to bother me.

A few more figures to come.