Saturday, 29 March 2014

New Carpet: Part 1

After a couple of hours last night and another hour this morning. My living room currently looks like this:

We are now awaiting the phone call to tell us when we can expect the carpet fitters. Hopefully soon, as the rest of the house is crammed with books and furniture, and I am completely blocked off from the Troll Cave where I keep all my miniature stuff!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Rymond the Breelander (Joins the Glaurung)

Despite the nickname given to him in Gondor, Rymond was actually born in the town of Archet some miles to the north of Bree. Orphaned at a young age, Rymond went to live with his great-uncle, a glassblower who had little interest in his nephew. As Rymond grew older, his uncle often sent him out on deliveries to many of the nearby towns. During these trips, Rymond took every chance he could to sneak off and spend a couple of hours at the Prancing Pony. Sitting by the warm fire with a cup of cider, Rymond would listen to traveller's tales and learn any foreign words that anyone would teach him.

When he was sixteen, his great-uncle died. Rymond took what little money his uncle possessed, packed a bag, and joined the first merchant caravan he could. For the next seven years, Rymond traveled with any caravan that would take him, as long as it was going somewhere new. At first, he signed on merely as hired labour, but eventually he learned enough skill with a bow to serve as a guard. Finally, his skill with languages was noticed and merchants began to seek him out to act as an interpreter in far flung corners.

Still a young man, Rymond can now speak seven languages fluently, not counting the numerous dialects he also knows. He can even stutter through conversations in Dwarvish and at least one Elven language.  

Rymond was actually in the Druadan Forest when the first announcements about the Glaurung were made, but when the news eventually reached him, he hurried to Minas Tirith determined to secure a place. By the time he reached the city, Breged and Madracoth had already departed for Dol Amroth. Taking the fastest ship he could, Rymond arrived in the city the week after Prince Althérion.

Presenting himself before Breged, the young man nearly begged to join the crew. Initially unsure of the stocky youth, Breged then learned about Rymond’s gift for languages. Such skill could prove invaluable on the quest, so Breged granted the young man a place on the Glaurung.

***

The figure of Rymond comes from the Blackroot Vale archer command pack. Originally it’s left arm was holding a horn up to its mouth. Although I thought it was a cool figure, I just couldn’t see having a hero blowing a horn through the whole campaign, especially one who was supposed to be my translator. So I once again put my (feeble) conversion skills to the test.

My first attempt to give him a new left arm failed miserably, and I ended up ripping it off and starting over. On my second attempt, I sculpted a new bit of tunic on his left shoulder. Then I cut the arm off a plastic warrior of the dead mini and glued it into place. That looked okay, except for the hand, so I cut that off as well, and replaced it with another plastic hand. I had to file the fingers down on the hand as it was a little large.

I’m mostly happy with the results. Rymond has a slightly strange pose. He looks a little bit like he has been caught off guard and is flinching away from something. The whole left shoulder is a bit crude, but generally passes a casual observation. Perhaps a bit of crudity is a small price to pay for a unique figure.

Rymond represents the tenth and last of the heroes to join the Glaurung. That said, I still have at least one figure left to paint to finish off the crew. Still, it is nearly time to set sail...


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

I admit it; I basically bought Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for its title. I doubt I’m alone in that. It is just such a perfectly targeted title for people who are shopping for books.

Regardless of why I bought the book, I sure am glad that I did. It’s a wonderfully quirky little novel that I really don’t want to say too much about. Basically, if you love books, are fascinated by the possibilities of modern technology, have read some classic fantasy and think fonts are cool, you might want to go out and get yourself a copy.

Heck, I barely even noticed that the book was written in the present tense, and generally, I hate that.

Good job, Robin Sloan.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Peldroc the Hunter (Joins the Glaurung)

During the fanfare of Prince Altherion’s arrival in Dol Amroth, another hero quietly joined the crew of the Glaurung. Peldroc slipped into Dol Amroth at night and met with Breged in a decaying inn on the wrong end of the harbour. An ugly man, even before an orc blade horribly scarred the right side of his face, he knew his offer to volunteer would do little to enhance the reputation of the ship or its mission.

Peldroc was born a slave on the northern shore of the Sea of Nurnen, in the heart of Mordor. When he was ten, he witnessed the murder of his mother and ran. For months he fled north through Mordor, barely surviving by his wits and what he could steal. Eventually he reached the mountains and spent a harrowing two days picking his way through the broken heights of stone.

Only a few days after escaping Mordor, Peldroc was captured by a group of Gondorian far scouts. When they heard the young man’s incredible story, they took him in. They taught him the ways of surviving in the wilderness, how to move quietly without being seen, and, that which Peldroc most desired, how to kill orcs.

For the last twenty years, Peldroc has served with the rangers of Gondor in various far away postings. He has been one of their most reliable, patient, and deadly allies. He came to Breged with the personal recommendations of several of his commanders.

When Breged asked him why he wish to join the Glaurung, he replied that he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.

Breged has one secret that he has never shared with anyone, though some have guessed. He is a half-orc, a goblin-man, and because of this he has struggled his whole life to control his anger and his bloodlust.

***

It is perhaps worth mentioning, in my version of Middle-Earth, all orcs have grey skin. So, although Peldroc does look a lot like the Uruk-hai in the movies, he doesn’t look that orcy to most people who meet him. Also, to address the Tolkien purists out there, I don’t actually believe Tolkien meant for crossbows to exist in Middle Earth. He certainly never mentions them in any of the books. That said, I personally, don’t find that it makes a huge difference, and frankly they do look cool.


Peldroc is based on the figure of an Uruk-Hai hero. I actually filed down his ears a little bit, so they would look more human. I also clipped the spikes off the front of the crossbow, as they looked impractical. I gave him a darker skin tone, both to get a bit diversity into the crew, but also to vaguely imply he came from somewhere far away.

I am very happy with his inclusion into the crew of the Glaurung. I’ve only got one hero left to go.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Recent Reading

A couple of weeks ago, I went into the Oxfam bookshop in the centre of Oxford and discovered that they had just received several boxes of vintage sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks. I came out with a handful...

Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

I bought this book for two reasons. First, Jack Vance is one of the biggest names in fantasy whose work I have never read. Second, it won the Hugo award (I would later discover it actually won the Hugo for best ‘Short Story’). It is an intriguing and entertaining work, science-fiction with a heavy fantasy flavour. If you like battles with dragon-creatures, mutant warriors, and maybe even a spaceship, it might be for you. It does require a little patience. Vance moves pretty fast and doesn’t always offer full explanations or descriptions, but I would still recommend it.

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson
 
I first read this book back in high school and loved it. When I saw it again on the used bookshelf, I decided to give it another go and see if the magic was still there. I can report that it is still a highly enjoyable collection of short stories. Interestingly, it is more enjoyable for the setting and the characters (and the desire of the reader that such a place should exist) than the actual plots of the stories, which tend to be pretty straight forward. In truth, a couple of the stories have kind of dud endings. That said, when I read the Callahan's stories, I can’t help but think about the gaming store I hung out in during college, and for that, it still has a bit of magic.

The Shadow – Destination: Moon by Maxwell Grant (Dennis Lynds)


I ordered this paperback off Amazon, mostly to add to my Shadow collection, but also to see if The Shadow really did go to the moon. Happily, I can report that he does not. Unfortunately, that and the fact that it has a rather cool cover, are the best things I can say about the novel. It was the last of the Dennis Lynds Shadow paperbacks released in the sixties, and like the others I’ve read in the series, it draws as much on the melodrama of the old radio show as it does the pulp novels. While there is nothing seriously wrong with this novel, it was, frankly, just a little dull.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Althérion, the Sea Price of Tolfolas (Joins the Glaurung)

The bells are ringing in Dol Amroth as an unexpected hero has arrived to offer his services to Breged on the voyage of the Glaurung. Althérion, the second son of Prince Althérias, of the island of Tolfolas, came ashore clad in golden armour and bearing a shield of ancient Númenor. Despite his resplendent appearance and his hard earned reputation as a warrior, Althérion is better known as a statesman and judge. For the past ten years, he has served as his father’s chief diplomat and has travelled far and wide in Gondor, hence his nickname, the Sea Prince.

At home in Tolfolas, there are many who favour Althérion over his brother Althériac to inherit the princedom from their father, but if Althérion harbours any such ambitions he has never made it known. He says he comes to join the voyage of the Glaurung with his father’s blessing, but there are a few who wonder if he rather comes at his father’s command.

Whatever Breged and Madracoth think of this new volunteer to the crew must for the moment go unrecorded, for it would be unthinkable to refuse such a noble, high-ranking, and popular warrior.

 ***

Althérion is another crewman who grew out of painting the figure. I was looking through my box of unpainted figures, seeing if any might work to join the crew, when I found this figure of Eomer. I also discovered a strange shield (It’s a Mithril Miniatures shield, which I believe comes from a Barrow Wight diorama set). I’m not sure what the shield is supposed to represent, but the ship and the star made me think of Númenor. I figured attaching that would be a good start in getting the figure away from representing Eomer.

I’m not sure what caused me to paint the armour gold, but once I had, I knew I must be dealing with a person of some serious status, even more so if he carried an ancient shield. I wavered for a moment on making him a prince, as this would give him a status actually above Breged, but then I remembered the other main influence of my campaign, the Argonautica. The crew of the Argo was actually filled with Princes, all of whom had more status that Jason, so I figure my ship can have at least one.

I decided such a prince must come from an island. As far as I know, Tolfolas is the only island that Tolkien named as being a part of Gondor, which made my choice rather easy. I’m not above making such things up, but if there is a perfectly good Tolkien option, why not go for that?

Looking at the pictures, I might need to do a bit of touch up on the waves on the shield. These were very difficult to paint. As is often a problem with Mithril Minis, some of the detail is a bit soft and hard to pick out. Still, I think it is worth it.

In fact, I am so happy with how this figure turned out, and how unique a figure it has become, I’m thinking of picking up a few Rohan Royal Guardsmen to paint up warriors of Tolfolas, should I ever need such a thing.