Thursday, 15 November 2018

Look, a Clue!

One of the slightly unusual things about Rangers of Shadow Deep is that many of the scenarios call for the use of ‘clue markers’. In the book, I don’t really talk much about what these should be, and, in truth, it’s not really important. As long as you know what they are, anything will do. That said, gamers should view this as an opportunity!

Like a lot of tabletop gamers, I have a tendency to collect little bits of scenery for no better reason than they strike my fancy. I tell myself that I can use them as ‘scatter terrain’, but when it comes down to it, I hardly ever do. Instead, these little pieces tend to languish, unpainted, on the lead pile.

The need for clue markers is the perfect opportunity to pull out some of these neat little items and paint them up. For example, I received this great pack of ‘piles of skulls’ from Tiny Furniture awhile back. At the time, I had no specific need for piles of skulls, but they just looked cool. Well, now they often serve as (rather grim) clue markers during my Rangers of Shadow Deep games.  

As an aside, I can honestly say that all of the pieces I received from Tiny Furniture were wonderful. The resin casts and sculpts were of the highest quality. You do have to order them from Siberia (literally) so you’ll have to be patient, but they are worth the wait. They also produce perhaps my favourite set of treasure tokens.

So start digging through the bits box and lead pile and see what neat little things you have laying around that really need to get onto the table. Now you’ve got an excuse!

Also, I don't think I've showed off the Rogue companion for my Ranger. Well there he is. He's made using parts from the Frostgrave Soldiers box. As befits a Rogue, he doesn't look too tough, but he's ready to explore and find some clues!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Itsy Bitsy vs. Incy Wincy

One of the best parts about fatherhood is that you can steal your children’s toys. For example, for Halloween my son was given a bag of plastic creepy-crawlies. Since the spiders were obvious choking hazards (and perfect for 28mm), I confiscated them. Of course, not wanting to make the world worse by adding more plastic to the landfill, I decided to recycle them.

I gave them each a very quick paint job, just a base and a couple of dry-brush layers, and they were ready to go. Considering they are poor quality, I didn’t spend much time on them, and they were essentially free, I think they look darn good.

These guys are going to be a constant menace in both Rangers of Shadow Deep and Frostgrave!

As for the title of the blog - did you know that the famous spider-up-the-water-spout nursery rhyme features a different spider depending on if you are in the US or the UK? Yup, he’s Itsy Bitsy in the US and Incy Wincy in the UK. How does that happen?

Monday, 12 November 2018

Day of the Rangers by Leigh Neville

I can still remember, when I was seventeen, seeing film of the bodies of U.S. Soldiers being dragged through the streets of some rundown African city. At the time, I had no idea what it was all about, and being a typical self-centred teenager, I never bothered to find out, but the imagery has stuck with me.

I wouldn’t encounter the Battle of Mogadishu again until I was in my late twenties. One Saturday afternoon I rented a war movie called Black Hawk Down. Two thirds of the way through that film I realized that my hands were aching. I hadn’t realized it, but I had been gripping the side of the couch for at least twenty minutes. To this day, that film remains one of the best, most intense, pieces of cinema I have ever watched.

The movie led me to read the book on which it was based, Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, an excellent piece of war journalism.

Since then, I have maintained a real interest in the battle.

Well, a new definitive history has just been released. Day of the Rangers by Leigh Neville is an exceptional piece of military history. By drawing on the numerous written accounts, as well as extensive interviews with survivors, Leigh gives a very clear and concise account of the battle, mostly told through the words of the soldiers who fought it (Admittedly almost complete from the US perspective). While Leigh carefully guides the narrative and supplies any information the reader needs, he lets the soldiers speak whenever possible, and it brings an immediacy and an authenticity to the book that is impossible in most military histories. 

The book added significantly to my knowledge and understanding of the battle and has earned a permanent place in my library. It should definitely receive consideration for military history awards.

[Disclaimer: Although I no longer work on the military side of the company, I am an employee of Osprey Publishing, who published the book. Assume what bias you want, but I wouldn’t heap praise on the book unless it deserved it.]

Friday, 2 November 2018

Rangers of Shadow Deep – Available Now!

A kingdom stands on the brink of destruction, as the vast realm called 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 overwhelming odds, but every little victory brings another day of hope.
            Rangersof Shadow Deep is a solo and co-operative tabletop miniatures game, in which players create their ranger, gather companions, and play through a series of missions in their fight to hold back the darkness. If their rangers survive, they will grow in power and ability, and be sent on more difficult, dangerous and intricate assignments.
            This book also includes the first supplement for the game, Burning Light. In this mission, the rangers must venture to a ruined convent, searching for an ancient artefact. As they choose what order to explore the ruins, and thus the order in which scenarios are played, they must gather clues to the artefact’s location. But they must be quick, for the longer they remain, the more the forces of the Shadow Deep become aware of their presence.

By the creator of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago.

Now available as a PDF from RPGNow.

If you want to keep up with all the latest news for Rangers of Shadow Deep and share photos, stories, rules questions, etc. then join the Rangers of Shadow Deep Facebook group

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Eye Demons in Frostgrave

The wild magic that swirls around the Frozen City often opens cracks to other planes of existence, and occasionally something truly horrific slips through. Although they are extremely rare, the monsters dubbed ‘Eye Demons’ are some of the most dangerous and feared of all extra-planar entities.
            All eye demons have the following demonic attributes (as found in Frostgrave: Forgotten Pacts): Demonic Strength, Levitation, Magic Sink, Mind Lock, Petrifying Stare, True Sight, Two Heads.
            Eye demons are all spellcasters. Every eye demons knows three spells: Elemental Bolt, and two more, rolled randomly on the table below. The casting number for each spell is 6. Whenever an eye demon activates, it automatically attempts to cast all three of its spells as one action if there are targets in line of sight. It will cast these spells even if it is in combat and does not have to roll randomly for the target of any shooting attacks generated. It will cast Elemental Bolt at the closest warband member in line of sight. It will cast its second spell at the second closest warband member in line of sight, and its third spell at the third closest. If there are less than three legitimate targets, it will start over with the closest. Eye demons never suffer any damage from failing to cast spells, but they may not empower them either.
            Castings these spells counts as the demon’s first action. Eye demons follow this priority order.
1.     Cast spells if a warband member is in line of sight. Use second action to fight if in combat, or move directly away from nearest warband member if not in combat.
2.     If no warband members are in line of sight, make a random move. If a warband member is now in line of sight, use second action to cast spells. Otherwise, end activation.
            A wizard receives +25 experience points if a member of his warband kills and eye demon.

Eye Demon
Elemental Bolt (6), Spell II (6), Spell III (6), Demonic Strength, Levitation, Magi Sink, Mind Lock, Petrifying Stare, True Sight, Two Heads

Eye Demon Random Spell Table
d20 Roll
Blinding Light
Mind Control (target becomes an uncontrolled creature)
Reveal Death
Steal Health
Strike Dead

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Warriors of Alladore

Gearing up for the release of Rangers of Shadow Deep (hopefully a matter of days), I have painted up a couple more warriors of Alladore. I don’t need these guys for my ranger’s companions, but there are a couple of scenarios where you essentially have allies.

Plus, I just wanted to finish off my first sprue of Oathmark humans. Sometimes, it is nice to paint understated fantasy figures, wearing simple armour without too may accoutrements or detail.

[Blogger really doesn't like my spelling of 'accoutrements', but I can't figure out why. Usually, its because I've used a British spelling, but I think this is the only spelling of accoutrements. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.]

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

That time Little John killed me

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to Oxford for Osprey Publishing's 50th anniversary party. The company has been such a major part of my life over the last decade-plus, that I didn't want to miss it.

I arrived in Oxford in the morning. This gave me the chance to meet up with Phil Smith (Head of Osprey Games), Nick Eyre (owner of North Star Military Figures) and Dan Falconbridge (owner/editor of Wargames Illustrated). We had a drink in the Eagle & Child, lunch at another pub, and the went over to the Bodleian Library for their temporary Tolkien exhibit. It’s was a great little exhibit, especially for the cost (free). The highlights were seeing a few pages of Tolkien’s scrawled Middle-earth writings, lots of his original artworks, and, of course, his recently discovered annotated map of Middle-earth. The exhibit has now closed, but considering its popularity, I suspect it will be back. 

At the party that evening, I got to catch-up with lots of old friends, Osprey colleagues both past and present. I also chatted with some of the authors and illustrators that have helped make Osprey great. Most notably, I got to speak to two artists that I’ve had the chance to work with closely in the past. I had a long chat with Mark Stacey who illustrated the Steampunk Soldiers and Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier books that I wrote with Phil Smith. I also got the chance to speak with my old buddy, Peter Dennis. I’ve worked with Peter Dennis on a lot of projects, including my books Dragonslayers and The Story of Santa Claus.

At the party, Peter asked me if people ever recognized me from the Perry Miniatures' ‘American Civil War Infantry Box’. I said ‘no’, but that I did get the occasional comment about appearing in Robin Hood…

Several years ago, when I was the commissioning editor for Osprey’s Myths and Legend series, I commissioned Peter to illustrate the book we were doing on Robin Hood. In one of the stories, Little John infiltrates Nottingham castle and ends up in a fight with the cook and a porter. When Peter came to illustrate the piece, I discovered that I had been cast in the role of the cook and that Phil Smith had become the porter. Little John seems to be played by Peter himself!

It’s not the most flattering depiction of either Phil or myself, but it is all the more wonderful for that.

A few days after the party, I received a package from Peter containing the original artwork! (It's not the first time I've seen Peter's generous nature.) There is not a lot of open wall space in my little office to hang paintings, but something else is going to have to give way! (Especially since my wife has already made it clear that it will not be going up in the lounge – for reasons not clearly expressed).

Thanks Peter. It’s a great memory of a fun time. I hope that we have the chance to work together again some day!