Thursday 29 February 2024

Public Lending Right

In the United Kingdom, authors are paid a small amount whenever their books are checked out of the library, so long as you register your books in advance. The actual rate per loan is set every year. This year it was £0.1369, but that amount is shared between all authors and illustrators that are listed on the cover. For major authors, this probably represents a nice little income stream. For someone at my level, it’s pocket change. I just got my statement for the past year and thought I would share the highlights!

The Story of Santa Claus: £1.37
Peter Dennis with the Cover Art!

My biggest earner every year!

Dragonslayers: £0.41

Probably still my proudest, published work.

Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide: £0.41

Zombies might not be the hot stuff they once were, but they are clearly still of interest.

Steampunk Soldiers: £0.27

I told my co-author he should register. He’s missing out!

Frostgrave: Into the Breeding Pits: £0.41

Frostgrave: The Maze of Malcor: £0.41

Wait… what? That’s never happened before. What library is loaning out Frostgrave books? (Answer – the BEST LIBRARY EVER!). Seriously though, I gave up registering my gaming books because it seemed pointless. Looks like I might be short-changing myself!

Possibly my favourite of the Frostgrave covers by the Burmaks!

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Genestealer Cultists Investigate an Unholy Shrine

A few of my genestealer cultists investigate an unholy shrine. This might be just the variety of evil they are looking for!

I took this snap because these things were hanging around my desk. I think I've shown all, or at least most, of them before. The little shrine remains one of my all-time favourite terrain scratch builds. It was simple, easy, and looks terrific without being a huge pain to store! I've got one more genestealer hybrid to paint to complete the dozen I set out to complete for Space Hulk.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Why I Joined Patreon & What it Means for this Blog

Artwork by Barrett Stanley
Writing and games are my passion. I love getting to my desk each morning and sinking into fantasy worlds of my own creation. I love the word-craft of writing stories and filling bestiaries with strange monsters. I delight in the mathematics and probability of rulemaking, of working with dice, of manipulating the flow of stories through randomization. I am driven to create games that give people a reason to gather around a table: to laugh, to play, to create their own stories. This is my work. I feel a calling to do it. One of my main goals at this point in life is to ensure that I can keep doing it. Unfortunately, having ‘work’ to do is not always the same as having a job that earns money.

I’ve considered setting up a Patreon for a couple of years, but every time I seriously thought about it, I decided, ‘I don’t really need it’. My games, published by Osprey Games and Modiphius, have sold well, and my publishers and my fans generally seem eager for more. I’ve even done some self-publishing to help fill in the cracks when other work was scarce. All and all, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to earn a decent living while working so intently on projects I love.

But while I’ve been able to support my family for a few years now, it has never been a steady road. Some months I earn next to nothing, others I land a big score. I live in hope that it averages out. I have no employment safety net, I don’t earn a pension, and I don’t get paid time off. That’s just the price of being my own boss, and I’ve accepted that. However, my industry is rapidly changing. New technologies and changing societal norms are mutating the traditional relationship between creators and publishers. Contracts that made sense when they were signed have become out-dated, obsolete, or sometimes non-sensical. While I work to maintain good relations with my publishers, and honestly hope to continue working with them for decades to come, no one can truly say what the industry will look like in three, five, or ten years. Will there be any publishers? Or at least more than one? And if there are, will they still employ independent creators? How can independent creators hope to retain a stake in their own creations while still getting them out to the people who would enjoy them?

Now, more than ever, it is necessary for creators to interact directly with the fans of their work. So, while the money and the idea of a bit of ‘steady income’ that comes with Patreon is certainly appealing to me in the present, I have really joined in the hopes of better securing a future for my work. To have a place I can always go to write, to create, and to share with people whose passion for fantasy adventure games burns as brightly as my own. A place where my work can be supported even if all other avenues dry up. Additionally, I want a place where I can enjoy the full freedom to write and publish whatever, whenever, I want, without reliance on anyone else. The business world loves to capture and dominate niches, as it has proven a good way to generate income, but people and artists don’t work like that. We thrive when we are free to explore, to take chances and risks, and to push the boundaries of our life and work. I am hopeful that Patreon will give me a safe space for my own explorations into areas and artwork for which publishers have no use. I need to keep exploring and trying new things, artistically and economically, both to survive financially and to ensure I don’t stagnate. I’ve got to keep pushing myself as well as my work.

I haven’t joined Patreon to massively change what I do. My greatest joy still comes from creating fantasy adventure games that are turned into glorious game books! I am just hopeful that Patreon is another tool that will allow me to continue to do that, while also growing as an artist and creator. If you’d like to support me in those endeavours, you can do so here.

What Does it Mean for this Blog?

I set up The Renaissance Troll to be my personal hobby blog, to show off the miniatures I have painted, talk about the games I have played, and to share quick thoughts about anything else that struck my fancy. Over the years, my work has crept into that, but that has always been its secondary function. I still intend to carry on with this blog, showing off minis and talking about games. Occasionally, I will mention Patreon, and maybe even share a piece or two from it, but it won't alter the basic structure of this blog.

Monday 26 February 2024

The Hobbit Puzzle

I made an interesting find in the local used bookstore over the weekend. It's a 1,000 piece puzzle based on The Hobbit with artwork by Peter Pracownik made in the UK for Express Gifts Ltd. The image is copyright 1999, which I suspect is near the printing date as well.

Now, I'll be honest, its far from my favourite piece of Middle-earth artwork. The whole work is a little cartoonish for my tastes. Bilbo is only recognizable as a hobbit by his bare feet, and looks much more human or even elvish. That said, these days it is rare to see a completely original take on any of Tolkien's works, so I do find it refreshing. I really like the letters in the 'Hobbit', which are extremely organic and even sprouting mushrooms. I also like the arrangement of the piece, with its frames within frames, and how many different pieces of the story it manages to work in. 

We'll see how I feel about it once I've got it assembled. I'm not expert puzzler however, and it's a lot of pieces, so it could be awhile. Also, since it came from a used store, I just hope all the pieces are there!

Thursday 22 February 2024

Ogre: Test Run

My ebay copy of Ogre: Sixth Edition arrived, and I gave it quick test run. I replaced the cardboard Ogre Mk III with my metal mini and the command post with a little piece of terrain from Brigade Models. I played the most basic scenario and even used the suggested set-up. 

The game really is smooth and quick. I wish it used a die other than the d6, but that's my only real complaint. Math that at first seems daunting really isn't. It is apparent that the side not playing the Ogre has a lot more to think about, which actually makes it a good game to introduce new players, as the Ogre side is much easier. 

My Ogre finally ground to a halt a mere four hexes from the command post. The enemy still had 2 GEVs, 1 heavy tank, and a howitzer left. It's that howitzer that really caused the most problems. 

I still want to replace the counters with miniatures. That actually make the game slightly harder, as the minis won't have stats on them. That said, the game has so few units, I don't think it will take long to memorize them all, and a quick cheat sheet is all that should be necessary before then.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Games from the Grave - My Patreon, Launching Today!

Today I am launching my Patreon, Games from the Grave!  I'll explain my reasoning in a future post, but for now, I'm celebrating by sharing some free-to-everyone posts, including:

There are also a couple of pieces already in the paid membership section:
  • Lair of the Dark Goat - A solo scenario for The Silver Bayonet.
  • The Renaissance Troll (Part 2) - The next part of my gaming autobiography, which tells the story of the first great gaming store to influence my life and an examination of my first role-playing love: Middle-Earth Role-Playing (MERP)!
Going forward, I plan to share at least three works every month, which could include:

 ·       Draft work of new games, with discussions about my design decisions. 
 ·       Essays on game design, the industry, and the hobby. 
 ·       New material for my games, such as a scenarios, monsters, and treasure. 
 ·       Chapters from my gaming autobiography. 
 ·       Reviews of games and associated media. 
 ·       Other types of writing such as fiction and travel writing. 

Most of this will be new writing, though some will be older works that are now out of print and hard to find. Some of it will be used in future publishing projects, but a lot will remain exclusive to Patreon. Whatever its origins or ultimate fate, I hope each work will be a little bit of gamer fun to brighten your day!

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Ogre: Mark V

I had so much fun with the first two, I decided to go ahead and repaint the last of my metal Ogre cybertanks - a dreaded Mark V. As you can see, the figure is quite a beast, and when cast in lead, has a serious heft to it! I nicknamed him 'Thunderbolt', because I had a couple of the hand holding a thunderbolt decals that I thought would look cool on him. 

Disaster struck after I finished painting and went to varnish the figure. I do this by using blue tack to stick figures to cardboard and then take them outside to spray. Unfortunately, while tacking the tank down, I pushed on its one week point, right on the centre of the back where the two halves meet. And, unsurprisingly, it broke in half. Now luckily, it was a clean break, so all I need to do was glue it back together, and I had a new bottle of superglue gel to use... At least, I thought it was gel until I gave it a squeeze and sprayed superglue all over the place. This could have been a lot worse as most of it went on the tank itself and the newspaper underneath and not on my hand! So, check those labels carefully!

Eventually, I got him back together and sprayed. He's now ready to lead my cybertank forces! 

Friday 9 February 2024

Ogre: Retreads!


At the start of the year, I wrote a list of all the games I would like to play in 2024. A surprise entry on that list, even to me, was Ogre, the Steve Jackson classic of asymmetric warfare where a giant cybertank takes on a conventional army. Unfortunately, the only copy of the game I owned was an old pocket edition... which is a tough sell to most modern gamers. So, I decided to buy the big, Sixth Edition box set, but this proved difficult. It's sold out in the UK. Well, lucky for me, I just won an ebay auction for a decently priced used set, and I'm awaiting delivery. 

Although the game is technically a board game, using counters, I know I will eventually convert it to using all miniatures. Now, I did already have a few metal ogre miniatures from long ago, which I dug out of storage. In fact, they are dated 1993 on the bottom. I probably picked them up a bit later, maybe 1997, but that's still over 25 years ago. They were covered in dust and the paint jobs were horrible. I considered stripping them to paint again, but stripping miniatures is a really unpleasant and generally unrewarding experience - so I decided I would just paint over them.

I pulled out a Mark III and a Mark III-b and gave them each about 90 minutes of work. While they are unlikely to win any awards, they are vastly improved! I also have a Mark V, but he's in better shape. I might get to him later.  

Once I get the game, I'll make plans for replacing the counters with other miniatures. Apart from the ogres, I'm not committed to the official range, so will see what glorious 6mm tanks are available!

Here's the original paint job on the Mark III. Certainly needed some brightening, if nothing else. If you look closely, right in the middle of the back, you can see it was just slightly miscast - but I'm calling that battle damage!

Wednesday 7 February 2024

More Hybrids


I've been having a lot of fun old-school kit-bashing to build genestealer hybrids for Space Hulk. Each of these three guys uses bodies and heads from the Stargrave Scavengers set. The two on the outside each have one arm taken from a modern genestealer hybrid set and one arm, or at least part of an arm, clipped off a classic Space Hulk genestealer! The middle guy has one arm from the scavenger set, but the gun arm comes from the Wargame Atlantic Einherjar (space dwarf) set, a sprue of which I got with a copy of Miniature Wargames. Makes a pretty good plasma gun! 

Space Hulk uses genestealer hybrids in a way that really warms my gamer heart. Each scenario has its own encounter table, so you really never know exactly what equipment your hybrids will be carrying, and since this can very greatly from scenario to scenario, you never really know how many and what type you need in your collection. My goal is to have about a dozen of these guys with varied weapons, so I'll always have something 'close enough' that I can throw onto the table (hybrids rarely last long anyway).

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Big Skulls!

Just finished painted a pair of big skulls to use as a scatter terrain. These are Games Workshop pieces made to go with their Warhammer Underworlds game, though I actually got them from Stormbringer magazine - these and 4 more pieces for £9, which is kind of a steal.

I've always had difficulty painting bone. I could never quite get the effect I wanted, so I decided to really give these pieces my all. I painted the one on the right first. I used a lot of washes and layers on it, just taking my time to build it up, and I'm extremely happy with the results. It truly looks old and weathered. 

When I came to paint the one on the left, I forgot some of those lessons. While the end effect isn't bad, it doesn't please me quite as much. It looks like it was recently picked clean, while the other one looks ancient. 

I showed them to a friend and said, 'I love terrain pieces that I can use for every setting!' To which he replied, 'Those are going to look great in your American Civil War battles'. Fair point, but since I mainly play fantasy and sci-fi, I think it works.

The other 4 pieces are smaller, or about the size of the smaller skull, so hopefully I can get them painted up soon. Actually, I don't really like one of them, so it might be just 3 more. Cool kit. Definitely worth the money if you can find it for £9.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Colonial Marine Gun Truck


My Colonial Marines got a serious firepower upgrade over the holidays in the form of a gun truck. The model is from Games Workshop, their Genesteler Cults range. I liked the tough, workman-like look of the vehicle and thought it would be prefect for marines stuck on distant colonies who were generally facing low-level threats. 

I don't really enjoy painting vehicles, so I gave it a very quick green paint job with a few details and a good bit of weathering. Then I threw a few decals on for visual interest. My one bit of flair was painting the name/artwork on the side. This truck is the 'Lucky Duck'... okay, the paint job ain't great, but it was the best I could manage! 

I really couldn't decide if I wanted a mini riding on top of the truck or not. I went back and forth several times before deciding to make the figure removable. So, I drilled little pins into its feet and corresponding holes in the top deck. These hold her firmly in place, but when she is removed the holes are tool small to notice - so that worked well!

One day, I'd like to have a whole 'convoy' for my marines. But, I'm happy to build this up slowly.