Wednesday 26 June 2019

Sprue Exchange

Actual Sprues May Vary

Is anyone up for a ‘Sprue Exchange’?

Basically, like most wargamers, I have collected a bunch of plastic wargaming sprues that I don’t actually want, and think it would be fun to trade a few for those that I do. So, I have thrown a small pile of my extra sprues in a box, and I’m ready to ship them off.

Here’s the idea. This is a limited exchange. Just me and ten other people. I will ship the box off to the first person. That person can swap two of the sprues in the box for a couple of their own. This person should then email me, and I will give them the next address. This person then sends the box on to person number 2 – and emails me at the same time, so I can track its progress. Eventually, the box works its way around to everyone and back to me. If it’s fun, I’ll do it again. If not, that’ll be the end of it.

Here are the rules.

1.     You agree to send the box off to the next person within a week of receiving it. Less if possible.
2.     Each person can take two sprues, but they must exchange them for two different sprues. (The sprues you put in must be different from each other).
3.     You can toss in extra sprues if you want to get rid of them and there is space in the box.
4.     A sprue can be missing up to two pieces, but only if you can still fully assemble all of the figures the sprue was designed to assemble. (So it can be missing a couple of heads, if there are still sufficient heads for all of the bodies.
5.     Plastic is preferred. Other sprues are allowed if they are very light (such as MDF, Resin, ect).
6.     All postage is 2nd Class.
7.   UK residents only. Sorry, shipping outside of the country makes it not worthwhile.

If you want to participate, drop me an email. You can find it on this blog if you look hard enough.

Remember, spaces are limited to ten.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

The Final Ranger

I have painted all four of the official Rangers of Shadow Deep ranger figures! Now just the giant flies to go.

After painting the first three rangers in classic green and brown, I wanted to go with something a bit different for this one. So, I painted her up in blue – the traditional colour of Lorenthia, the kingdom that has just fallen prey to the Shadow Deep at the beginning of the game. There are still lots of Lorenthians around, and many of them are fighting with Alladore to avenge their fallen country. In fact, in a future mission, I’m planning for it to matter whether a figure is from Alladore or Lorenthia – so decide now!

I went with strawberry blond hair to further separate her from the Alladoreans who are mostly dark haired.

Another great little sculpt from Bobby Jackson. I’ve always been a fan of Bobby, but I think his digitally sculpted figures might actually be better than his traditionally sculpted ones.

Friday 21 June 2019

Frostgrave: Second Edition

Well, the news has leaked, so I might as well go ahead and make an official announcement.

There will be a new edition of Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City coming from Osprey Games in June of 2020!


When I wrote Frostgrave nearly five years ago, it was my first real attempt at writing a wargame. Since that time, I have learned huge amounts about both game design in general and about Frostgrave in particular. I now feel that I can make the game significantly better. So, with the blessings of Osprey, I set out to do just that.

I had two main design goals:

1.     Make the game more fun, not less.
2.     Make the rules clearer, more balanced, and more streamlined, but not at the cost of #1.

For #1, I wanted to do two things. I wanted to make every spell in the game desirable and useful, and I wanted to increase the direct player interaction. The truth is, of the 80 spells in the game, there are about 20 that are never used, or at least never taken, because they are too weak or too specialized. I have gone through each spell one-by-one, tightening the wording, tweaking where necessary, changing the mechanics in others, and, in just a few cases, replacing spells with new ones. As I did this work, I concentrated on how these spells could, and would, be used by players to interrupt and interfere with the plans of their opponents. I wanted to increase the back-and-forth nature of the game, making each scrap for treasure an opportunity for a real magical duel.

For #2, I wanted to improve the whole experience of players, from reading the book and learning to play the game to running a campaign. I wanted to eliminate a few things that never quite worked right, or led to strange, unwanted results, and I wanted to increase the balance, both during a game and over the course of a campaign. A lot of these rule changes will be immediately recognizable to people who have read Ghost Archipelago and The Maze of Malcor, but there are a few new ones as well.

I am still making a few tweaks here and there, but most of my work is actually done. While I don’t want to reveal too much at this very early date, I can say that there are no fundamental changes. The game is still its wacky, D20 self. The ten wizard schools remain in the same alignments. Most of the spells haven't changed. The goal is still to grab treasure, gain experience, and try not to get killed by other wizards or wandering monsters. Frostgrave never cared which figures you used before, as long as they made you happy, and it is not going to care in Second Edition either.

Is this going to make all of your existing Frostgrave books obsolete? No. I mean, the original rulebook probably won’t have much use anymore, but all of the supplements, with all of their optional rules, scenarios, new soldiers, new treasure, etc., will still be usable for Second Edition. There are few things that will need clarification, but not many, and I’ll post a PDF covering those when the time comes.

I will be revealing more as we get closer to the release date, but it is still a long way off, and I hope everyone will still play many games of Frostgrave before then without worrying about any changes. I mean, Perilous Dark is still to come out first, so that players can have lots of solo and co-operative fun, and I’ve got a Frostgrave Immersion Tour to attend!

So, more news coming later, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

P.S. You won’t be able to Leap off the table with treasure anymore…

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Ten Non-Magical Books for Fantasy RPGs

Sometimes I just get the urge to write something purely for the heck of it. So, here are ten non-magical books that can be included in any fantasy role-playing campaign. The next time one of your players wants to know the the title of every book on the bookshelf, you can just hand them this.

1. Glassblowing by Vim Messis

Bound with bright blue cloth covers, this folio contains detailed instructions on the art of glassblowing, including techniques for making a wide variety of bottles and ornaments. The printed text is accompanied by numerous wood-cut diagrams. In many places the book has been annotated in green ink by one of the previous owners in neat script. The last page of the book has been torn out, but it does not appear that anything was printed on this page.
            Price 10gp.

2. Giant Arachnids by Anonymous

This thin sextodecimo claims to be a detailed and authoritative study of giant spiders, but in fact, is really a collection of sensationalist tales mixed in with a few facts. The text, which features both black and red ink, has been poorly applied to the paper so that in some places it fades almost to illegibility. The book is bound in stained, brown leather.
Price 5gp.

3. Villains of the Sea by Tekroth Larn

This thick, octavo book is bound in red cloth and features a black ribbon sewn into the binding. The title has been pressed into the cover with gold foil. It was printed on a traditional press in black ink and includes a number of wood-cut portraits. The book is a collection of short biographies of 23 notorious pirates who sailed a hundred years ago or more. Each entry includes details of both the pirate and their most famous vessels.
Price 20gp.

4. The Cranium by Victurn Lessten

This striking octavo is bound between two ivory plates with a heavy leather spine. The names of the book and the author have been carefully carved into the cover and then stained with ink. The text, which is accompanied by a large number of sketches, is a lengthy examination of the different skulls of sentient races. While all of the factual details are incredibly accurate, it is mixed in with incredibly racist statements about the maximum potential intelligence of the various races.
            Price 50gp.

5. The Second Dragon War by Captain Sederick

This lovely duodecimo is bound in black leather with a highly-detailed impressed dragon on the cover. The texted is printed in black ink in a small copperplate, and gives a detailed history of an otherwise unknown war. None of the place names in the book have been identified and the dates are given in an unknown calendar. It is thus unclear if this is a work of history or fiction.
            Price 15gp.

6. Keys by Anonymous

This tiny book is of a non-standard size, but can comfortably rest in the palm of most people’s hand. It is bound in a reddish-brown leather. The book has no text other than the title on the first page. Instead, every page contains a detailed, ink drawing of a key. There are 296 keys in total, representing numerous different styles and designs. The last three pages and the back cover have slight water damage in one corner.
            Price 5gp.

7. The Animated Dead by Kenth Zandimere

A heavy, octavo containing nearly 900 pages, this book is bound in red velvet cloth over heavy wooden boards. The entirety of the dense, small text is devoted to the advantages and disadvantages of reanimating the skeletons of different creatures. There is no discussion of necromancy or the magic necessary to actually preform the reanimation, just an exhaustive discussion of the practicalities when it comes to such things as number of legs, opposable thumbs, total size, etc. A couple of the species discussed in the book are otherwise unknown.
            Price 5gp.

8. Paints and Pigments by Helbreth Givorn.

This octavio is bound between wooden covers that are painted with swirling colours. Each of the pages contains detailed instructions on how to create specific colours of paint, including what ingredients are necessary, the best ways to mix them, and, in a few cases, cooking instructions. Each page also contains a small circular sample of the colour being discussed. At some point the book had a small hole drilled through it near the bottom of the spine. This was likely done so that the book could be chained to a shelf.
            Price 40gc.

9. The Magic of Sea Glass by Dafrinth T.

The covers of this octavo are made out of thin sheets of metal. Tiny bits of sea glass have been inset onto the front cover to form a colourful mosaic square. The printed text, which seems overly large, and occasionally switches between black, green, blue, red and purple with no identifiable pattern, purports to tell the numerous ways that sea glass can be used in spellcasting, including as a spell component, as a focusing device, and as a target of specific spells. Unfortunately, none of the results purported in the book can be replicated.
            Price 25gp.

10. Edible Underground Fungus by Humster Flinn

A thin, duodecimo bound in green cloth, this hand-written book details over thirty varieties of edible fungus that can be found growing underground. While the hand-writing is clear and extremely precise, the same cannot be said of the accompanying illustrations which look somewhat childish, and are of little help in identification. Many of the fungi mentioned can be dried out and preserved for significant amounts of time.
            Price 10gc.

* Artwork by Barrett Stanley, created for the game Rangers of Shadow Deep.

Tuesday 18 June 2019


Here is my recently finished Catapult mech. It’s another of the plastic mechs from the new Battletech box set. The Catapult has never been my favourite mech design, but I must admit that this is my favourite version in miniature. I painted it with my – take my time, try to get it as nice as possible – paint style, and am happy with the results. 

Thankfully, these new mechs with all of their separate armour plates really works well with my black-lining.

Not only is this mech painted in the colours of my Firehawks Legion, it is the first mech to sport the new legion logo. I got several sheets of these decals from Fighting Pirannha Graphics. Technically, the logo belongs to a mercenary group called the ‘Black Outlaws’, but it definitely looks like a Firehawk to me. I have also gone back and applied a couple to the Awesome mech I painted awhile back, but the photos I took had too much glare to make out the decal!

In fact, I went a little decal crazy on this figure, and even applied a few different ones to the tops of the missile launchers, which provides some nice visual interest when seem from above – which is actually pretty common on a tabletop.

I am now patiently awaiting the release of the new edition of Battletech: Alpha Strike which is supposedly coming sometime this year!

Monday 17 June 2019

The Cover Ranger!

After my brief (unsuccessful) foray into competitive miniatures painting, I am back to painting purely for fun! I’m a still working my way through the immense (5 figure) miniature range for Rangers of Shadow Deep. Here we have ‘The Cover Ranger’, that is to say, the figure that was based on the ranger on the cover of the book. Of course, that ranger has his back to the viewer, so Bobby Jackson had to use a bit of imagination when sculpting him!

I really love this figure. It’s just so classic ranger, all belts, tunic, cloak and sword, and so I went with the classic ranger colour scheme of browns and greens. That said, I did something I rarely do, which is paint the belts black. Black is a tricky colour to work with, but I think it came out great here.

I know some people will be put off by the severed head he’s holding, which is fair enough. This would probably be relatively easy to remove. I painted it up as a ghoul head. That way, it is a nice, clean severed head. Undead means no blood, you see.

I can’t help but feel that if this had been the miniature in my painting contest, I would have gotten more votes! The photo makes the figure look a bit shiny, but I think that’s just the flash from the camera.

Anyway, just one ranger to go and then some giant flies!

Friday 14 June 2019

The Agony of Defeat

It’s over! The painting contest between me and Teras has come to an end, and I have been crushingly defeated! The final vote tally was 85 – 45 in favour of Teras' tree-hugger of a bishop (#2)!

Now, I’ll admit it, I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw those great freehand-painted trees. I’m actually pleasantly surprised that I got as many votes as I did.

What is really interesting is that the votes cast on the Facebook page, 58 – 40, make it look like a close contest, yet the votes cast right here on my own blog went hugely against me 27 – 5, and one of those 5 votes was cast by my Mom! Has my painting style started to bore you all?

In truth, I suspect many people knew which figure was mine. I was struggling to come up with on a colour scheme and decided to base it on the can of golden syrup that I had risked in the contest – hence the dark green, gold and white. I realized this actually made him fit in with all of the Alladorean figures that I have been painting, so I also gave him the Star of Alladore on his hat. Kind of a giveaway to those in the know, but I did want to have a figure I could use, when it is all said and done.

Anyway, congratulations to Teras of Geek Nation Tours, who won fair-and-square (even if he should have lost points for his rubbish trash-talking throughout the contest). I’ll be bringing a can of the good stuff with me to Tallinn next year.

In many ways, for me, this little contest was the first step on the road to the Geek Nations Frostgrave Immersion Tour in Tallinn next year. Now that I’ve painted up my tour figure, I can turn my attention to the new warband I’ll be bringing with me. I believe we are going to set-up a little Facebook group for tour participants so we can discuss scenarios, what rules we want to use, and start the trash-talking early there. I will, of course, be showing off my figures here as well.

Can’t believe I missed out on the maple syrup…

Thursday 13 June 2019

I’m in a Dungeons and Dragons book!

I don’t suppose that anyone outside of the world of publishing looks at imprint pages – those pages at the front of a book filled with tiny text, seemingly random numbers, and copyright notices. However, a careful examination of the imprint page in the newly released Ghosts of Saltmarsh book for Dungeons and Dragons will reveal my name, listed as a ‘Designer’.

Check off a big item on the Renaissance Troll Bucket List!

Now, in truth, my contribution to this book was pretty minimal. In fact, none of the actual words in the book are mine. My contribution comes from another project, which apparently had a significant influence on this one. Personally, I’m not sure it is enough to warrant a design credit, but who am I to argue with the experts?

This isn’t the first credit I’ve received in a role-playing game. My first came when I was just fourteen (with a huge assist from my mother) in the The Grey Mountains book for Middle-earth Role-playing. Over a decade later, I got my second credit, writing most of Rise Alabama! for Savage Worlds. In retrospect, I think both of these were an extremely important steps on my road to being both a writer and game designer. However, both of those are long time ago… so long ago they almost seem to have been written by a different person.

While most of my time these days is taken up working on my own games, in my own worlds, it is wonderful to have left a little mark on the huge legacy that is Dungeons and Dragons.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Let the Voting Commence!

Last week, Teras, of Geek Nation Tours, challenged me to a one-on-one painting contest. We would both have one week to paint up St. Albertus Magnus, the figure that is being given away as part of the Frostgrave Immersion Tour.  Well, we have both finished, and the results can be seen here --->.

It’s now up to you to decide the winner. To vote, simply leave a comment saying ‘1’ or ‘2’, so we know which is your favourite. Voting will also be taking place on the Frostgrave Facebook page. You have until Friday, 12PM, GMT to vote, at which point I will compile the votes and declare the winner!

And remember, people, there is syrup at stake.

(In retrospect, if I had known how much Teras likes syrup, I might never have entered this challenge…).

Side note – If I lose, I will likely be grumpy and release an official errata that changes the Frostgrave survival table so that wizards and apprentices die on a roll of 1-10…just saying.

Thankfully, I have just finished reading the book - Rejection Proof, so I should be able to handle the results...

Thursday 6 June 2019

Leagues of Cthulhu: Guide to Cumbria

I first went to Cumbria, and more specifically it’s central attraction, The Lake District, on my honeymoon, and immediately fell in love with the place. It’s a gorgeous region of high, barren mountains, shining lakes, and ancient monuments, and everything has interesting names (mountains are ‘fells’, lakes are often ‘meres’). Since then, I’ve returned to the area half-a-dozen times, and am planning to go again later this summer.

So, when I was browsing the trade hall at UK Games Expo this past weekend, and came across Leagues of Cthulhu: Guide to Cumbria, I just couldn’t resist. I am happy to report, that even though I bought it on a whim, it was worth every penny. At just 32 pages, it’s a small monograph, but it is packed with interesting tid-bits, including many adventure hooks.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the quality; it is written by Paul ‘Wiggy’ Wade-Williams, a name that will be familiar to many long-time role-players. (I’m a fan of his Necropolis world for Savage Worlds, among other things).

Now, it should be noted that to ‘officially’ use this book, you (amazingly) need 3 other books! However, the Guide to Cumbria includes only a few rules, and these are mostly confined to a few sample NPCs at the back. Most of the book is just a discussion of the history, the interesting places, and the potential adventure hooks to be found in Cumbria. I think people who have actually been to the region will likely get the most out of the book, but anyone who likes horror RPGs set in remote, slightly exotic locations is likely to get something out of it. I especially loved the entry for Hardknott Roman Fort, which is a really cool place, and a perfect setting for a bit of horror…especially at night.

Obviously, I got a hard copy, but I’m pretty sure it was print-on-demand, and likely comes from DriveThruRPG.  It’s a fun one to add to the library, and has got me thinking that I should give the base game Leagues of Adventure a look.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

The Hythe Sound Mirror

I mentioned a few weeks back, that I had set seven ‘goals’ for my life. One of those goals is to visit 100 interesting spots in Britain. When I was young, the only place I really wanted to travel to was Britain. Now that I am here, I really ought to take advantage of it. It is just so easy to become complacent about the place you live, so I wanted to kick myself into gear. I gave the goal a number, ‘100’, just because I find goal-setting works better if you have a concrete way of achieving it – a point where you can say it has been done. Otherwise, a vague goal tends to be forgotten.

So, for my first ‘Interesting Spot’, I set-off to find the Hythe Sound Mirror. Created in the days between World War I and World War II, sound mirrors can be found up and down the Channel coast. In the days before radar, they were a way of detecting in-coming aircraft by reflecting the sounds of their engines. It all seems rather unlikely, and although it was never put to the military test, they do apparently work.  Of course, radar made them redundant, and most were left to crumble away.

The sound mirror near the town of Hythe, sits high up on a steep ridgeline in an area known as ‘The Roughs’. Technically, the area is owned by the Ministry of Defense, and is part of the nearby training ground, but it is open to walkers (and grazing sheep). I quickly learned, however, that the area lives up to its name. The ridge is apparently prone to landslides, which has left very lumpy and uneven terrain. Although I found a ‘path’, it was badly over-grown, and often surrounded by stinging-nettles and other spiky plants.

As I made my way onward, taking in the amazing views that stretched out over the town, the training ground, and out over the Channel, I passed by a large circular depression, scattered with broken concrete. I suspect this was the sight of the other sound mirror that used to be located here, which  was destroyed in a landslide a few decades back. After 25 – 30 minutes of walking through the Roughs, the giant upright bowl of the sound mirror came into view.
I was shocked by both its size, maybe 30 - 40 feet high, and its rusty and cracked condition. There is a fence around the whole thing, which I gather is more for the protection of people than the mirror. It honestly looks like it could collapse at any moment. About twenty yards below the mirror, and of to one side, there is a concrete bunker. Unfortunately, my camera died before I got a photo of it – not that it’s hugely photogenic. 

Inside, the bunker was filled with all of the trash you would expect in such a remote location – rusting cans, cigarette ends, suspicious little plastic bags. It’s hard to imagine someone stumbling home from this place in the dark while drunk or stoned...

Although interesting, and with beautiful views, it’s not the kind of place that makes one want to linger. It is completely exposed, the ground is all uneven and overgrown, and it all has an empty and lonely feeling, even if you can see civilization in most directions.

It’s definitely an ‘Interesting Spot’ – 1 down, 99 to go.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

The Gauntlet has been Thrown! (And Syrup is at stake!)

On the right here is a very strange and rare miniature. It depicts the historical figure St. Albertus Magnus* as if he were a Frostgrave wizard! The figure is being given away as part of the Frostgrave Immersion Tour of Tallinn being run by Geek Nation Tours next year.

As part of the lead-up to the tour, Teras, the Head Geek himself, has challenged me to a painting competition – one-on-one, mano a mano, Head Geek vs. Renaissance Troll! Each of us has one week to paint up our best Albertus, and then we’ll submit them to a public vote.

There is a lot of nerd pride at stake here, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to make it really interesting, so I’ve anted up a tin of England’s best, Lyle’s Golden Syrup** versus a bottle of Teras’ best hometown Canadian maple syrup, to be delivered on the tour.

I’m not going to lie, this is going to be highest pressure painting I have ever done…


* St. Albertus Magnus also has claim to two of history’s greatest superhero names: Doctor Universalis and Doctor Expertus!

** According to Wikipedia, the Guinness Book of World Records names the packaging of Lyle’s Golden Syrup as the world’s oldest brand.

Monday 3 June 2019

Masked Ranger

Back in the excitement when Frostgrave was first released, I thought to myself, 'I am going to paint every figure that is released for the game!' Of course, by the time the dust settled, the original release for Frostgrave included around 40 metal figures, a slew of treasure tokens, plus a box set of 20 plastic soldiers. Considering my average painting speed, I was doomed at the start. Since then, it has only gotten worse (better).

However, with Rangers of Shadow Deep, the initial release includes only 5 different figures, and one of those is a fly! This is my chance, if I can move quickly, I can paint the entire range! With one figure already in the bank, I started in on this guy.

I absolutely love this figure. It is based very closely on a piece of Barrett Stanley artwork in the book.

For whatever reason, it is relatively rare to see figures in the act of drawing a weapon, but it gives this figure a wonderful sense of impending action. Also, there is something about that cloak swirl!

I painted him in very traditional ‘ranger’ colours. In fact, I think you could drop him straight into Middle-Earth or Magnamund and no one would bat an eyelid.

Two down, and two to go (plus a fly).