Wednesday 30 April 2014

Murder, Murder, Dinnerparty.

(This is one of the ones that isn't really about anything, but that didn't stop me from writing it apparently.)
(Oh and its not about D&D either.)

Saturday 26 April 2014

Who Made This?

Or, perhaps a better question, how was it made?

Ancient Treeman Front





This magnificent individual on Warseer has tried to compile a list of the sculptors for GW. I regard this as an excellent thing as I believe every sculpt should come with a list of everyone whose hands touched it. As well as, for my personal use and interest, an exact breakdown of the design process with minutes of all the meetings and an exacting description of the indistrrial processes used in its construction.

From the Warseer list I can see that that Dryads, which seem to prefigure many fo the design elements, were done by Aly Morrison and Brian Nelson.

I have never seen anything quite like it, especially, I have never seen plastics forced to do the things they do here. Have any of my readers?

Also, where do you begin learning about plastic injection technology?

Thursday 24 April 2014

The Rapture

It may be a kind of living madness, awake and aware, hunting you invisibly though the darkness. Hovering, waiting for a crack. It may be your own hidden desire to die exploding suddenly from a repressed subconscious. It may be some deep engine of your surface biology revolting against its presence in a place its knows it was never meant to be. It may simply be cold compressed fear of an alien world that does not want you to survive.

For DM’s, its best to think of the Rapture as a kind of invisible monster that continually follows the PC’s, drifting and waiting for its time to strike.

Contact with the Rapture always takes place in the following sequence.

1. Contact is made.
2. The PC enters conflict with the Rapture inside their mind.
3. If the PC survives, they are changed by the experience. Roll on ‘The Effects’

The Rapture gains one HD for every day since anyone in the party made contact with it. So, it never attacks on the same day twice. On the second day it attacks at 1HD, the next at 2HD, and so-on.


The above being true, the Rapture will attack when a PC

- Finds themselves lost and alone.
- Is trapped in a squeeze (actually a good time as its ability to harm you is lessened)
- Witnesses a friend’s death.
- Loses any capacity to make light and is engulfed in the dark
- On encountering one of the Lower Darks.
- On things going unusually and extremely wrong in a way that surprises even the DM.

(If the Rapture has a choice of multiple targets in the same situation, it will only ever attack one, always the weakest, the one with less hit points at the moment of attack.)

In addition, players may choose to encounter the Rapture  in the following ways.

- If a random encounter is rolled during a long journey, any PC may say “I choose Rapture”, this cancels the encounter and replaces it with an attack of the Rapture in the same physical conditions (cave, pitch etc). The declaring PC is always the one attacked.

- A player who has been knocked unconscious (usually Zero hp) may likewise declare “I choose Rapture”. If they win the contest inside their mind, they sit back up with 1hp. If the Rapture wins, it sits up in their body, with 1hp.

The Contest

This battle takes place inside the mind of the victim. It occurs just like an encounter, in combat rounds.  The PC fights to retain control of their body and actions, the Rapture fights to possess and destroy them and their friends.

Time in the outside world also passes in combat rounds. The PC’s fellow adventurers cannot fight for them but can protect or restrain their body.

(At the DM’s discretion, certain Spells or Items may allow PC’s to join and assist their friend inside their nightmare vision.)

The PC is frozen during the encounter. Whoever wins a round of combat can do one of the following actions with the PC’s body.

- Move one limb.
- Move the fingers of one hand.
- Make a sound or single syllable word.
- Move one space back or forth along this chain;
Standing-Kneeling-Recovery Position-Foetal Position.

If either the player or Rapture wish to perform any kind of complex action, (ie pulling up an friend trapped on the end of a rope) they must break it into a series of smaller steps and win continuous rounds of combat within the mind. To cry “help” the PC must win at least one round.

The Rapture has HD equal to the days since its last attack. It’s damage die is the die size closest to its HD. Its attack bonus and bonus to damage are the same as its HD.

So a Rapture that has not struck for five days has 5HD, +5 to hit and does d6 damage.

The PC has their current hit points as normal.
Their WIS is their AC in this fight.
Their INT is treated as if it were STR and decides any bonus to hit or damage.
They have whatever weapon they held last.

The Rapture can appear as anything and in almost any environment, although the DM may wish to roll 2d10 on the table below.

It appears as
In this place
Childhood home
Your God
In the dying gleam of sun at the core of the Vampire Court
Mirror Self
Inside a vast Engine of Earth
A Living Dark
A sinkhole sucking you down
A dead friend
Empty Myconid City
The one you love most
Lair of the Antiphoenix (Antiphoenix absent)
A foe you recently killed
Halls of dripping pearl shaped like half-closed eyes
A powerful foe who remains
Across the surface of an enormous eye
A innocent victim of yours
Hanging from a chain above a great abyss
An Earth Elemental
On a capsized black ship sinking into a black sea as lights gather beneath the surface.

The Dm should be advised that the environment also hates the PC and wants them dead, however, it cannot betray the logic of its construction.

If the PC wins, they get their body back. If the Rapture wins, it gets full control of the PC for rounds equal to its HD.

It wants the following things;

Suicide, preferably by falling.
Homicide, preferably of friends.
Equipment destruction or loss.

The Rapture will usually be either screaming or laughing or both. If it takes the body of a mage or Cleric and has the ability, it may self-curse. It will do whatever it can to hurt the party, though its usual first action is to jump screaming from as high a place as it can reach.


If the PC survives its contact with the Rapture they will always be changed by the experience. They must roll on ‘the effects’.

The good news is that if the Rapture fails to kill someone ten times in a row, it will usually leave them alone after that.


Wednesday 23 April 2014

Ride the Iceberg

There’s a theory that passengers on the Titanic could have ridden the iceberg and lived.

The iceberg the titanic hit was large and, apparently, flat. The ship didn’t have enough lifeboats to take everyone. Anyone going into the water would freeze to death in minutes. They do have enough boats to ferry people over to the berg. Steps could be cut up and people moved to the top. Anyone there would still freeze or starve to death, but that would take days, not minutes, and rescue ships are already on the way, they arrive the next day.

It’s a slightly crazy plan maybe, but, if you were the captain of the Titanic, and you knew for a fact that a huge number of your passengers were absolutely going to drown and freeze, and that you would too, and if someone described it to you, would you have given it a try?

The reason people don’t think about riding the iceberg is because they are fucking terrified. When you are scared you don’t think of the thing that has killed you as the thing that can save you.

I bring it up is because it is a good example of one of the things I love most in RPG’s. The re-contextualising of information when under pressure. Seeing everything in the environment almost ‘as-one’, as if you were both outside and within. Being aware of every object and process, not just as it applies to you, but as what it is in itself, its qualities apart from your interaction with it.

There is a deep pleasure for me in thinking about things in this way.

When you are aware of all the things on their own, separated from their immediate contexts, you can then allow them to drift and settle into new configurations. Threats become tools, or toys. The poison that you drink becomes a weapon in your hands.

The castle is surrounded by an acidic moat, the Frost Giant Queen is being attacked by demons like a swarm of flies. What if she got in the moat? That’s not what the moat is there for but it is something the moat can do.

You need to break into the Caliphs castle. The Druid can change into animals. The Caliph likes presents. What if the Druid changed into a beautiful bird, got into a golden cage, and was given to the Caliph?

You have stolen the goblins war-pig. The rest of the goblins are holed up past a barrier in a narrow stairwell below. What if you pointed the war pig down the stairs and set fire to its arse?

The succubus wants to eat your soul, there is nothing you have that can harm her, you cannot break out of her grasp. Why not make out with the succubus? You might charm her and, at least, die slower.

There is absolutely no other form of entertainment I can think of that does this. Improv theatre might, but you can’t ‘win’ improve. Probably trying to win is a good way to fuck Improv up.

There are RPG’s that get a long way from this idea. This is because people are stupid and if you give them something good wrapped in a necessary shell they will work hard to throw away the good part and obsess about the shell. Then they will make something that is all-shell and be very proud of it.

The presence of Iceberg-Riding is one of the reasons that I think about RPG’s and computer games as being almost non-overlapping schema. Like science and religion. They are both games but computer games are good to the extent that they stop you questioning them. They work perfectly so long as you are happy with all of the things you can’t do.

Want to play Half-Life and fuck off to another part of town to talk to someone new? Can’t do it. Why not? Because it’s a game. It’s stupid, after all, to want to do things in a computer game that you can’t do in a computer game. Only children playing for the first time fail to understand that. They keep pushing against the borders of the system, trying to re-contextualise the information.

Older players already know that your job as a player is to not think about the things that you can’t do, just concentrate as much as you can on what you can do, on what the game presents to you, and the more you do that the better you will be at the game.

Nothing really wrong with that. All games have rules. They are all bounded. That’s what makes them games, even RPG’s. But how many computer games make it necessary that you to re-contextualise information inside the game in ways the designers know they could never have predicted themselves? That if you do not push against the orders of what the game has given you then you will probably fail the game?


“Think beyond me, or die” says the dungeon.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Interview Hawk Wargames David J. Lewis

Hawk Wargames is run by its lead designer David J. Lewis

Hawk make a sci-fi wargame called ‘Dropship Commander’ at the 10mm scale. I became interested in it when I saw their remarkable sculpts.

As regular readers may know, I believe that creating little sculptures that are;

1. Playing pieces in a game.

2. Meant to represent and communicate entire cultures.

3. Meant to look like weapons.

4. To be beautiful, or ‘cool’ (which is what teenage boys and Americans say when they mean ‘beautiful’ but are scare of looking gay.)

5. For a mass audience and market (or more mass than any other kind of sculpture anyway.)

6. To be ‘used’ (painted, assembled, modified, picked up, touched, moved around)

places a huge series of overlapping pressures on the design. If a designer can solve all of these problems in an interesting way, they can create something very special indeed. I think Lewis has done this.

I had a huge number of questions for Mr Lewis, so many, in fact, he didn't have time for them all. But he was able to answer five.

Lets start with the dropships themselves. These carry your little tanks into battle and move them around. All the dropships are designed so that if you magnteise them you can actually stack the wee tanks up inside them.

The UCM albatross in particular, loaded it must look like a giant brick of force and mass, unloaded it looks more, predatory? elegant? Like an animal standing on its legs, or like an insect with long legs hovering in the air The leg aspect is mimicked by the tank-holding bits and the flying limbs.

 This is the UCm condor, so you can see what they look like loaded.

Scourge Despoiler

Scourge Harbringer.

PHR Posieden

This is where the designs really sing I think, with the dropships and their interaction with the smaller craft that go inside them.

Elegant empty space-encompassing forms, which you then fill up or as chunks of mass.

1. The Dropships give an entirely different aspect when loaded. They are also fairly unique in terms of war mini’s and in terms of sculpture, unique interacting parts that work alone and assembled as part of something larger.

Was there anything in particular that inspired you or lead you in this direction?

Lewis - It was mainly a case of having the idea for the game (designed around dropships and air mobility) and then designing the models to suit this concept. I looked at a lot of sources for the initial design stages but one of the key driving forces behind the configuration of the models was controlling the cost and size of the dropships. They needed to be efficient and compact and around the same cost or cheaper than their cargo most of the time (especially for the larger dropships). With most games, the few dropships that do exist cost many times more than their cargo and are very large, making it impractical to have large numbers of them.

It feels like Lewis has made CAD-Art. I hope that’s not an insult. Other people have been using computer aided design to imitate or make efficient the things they already did with their hands. He has treated it as a canvas. 

This is the Underside of the tank.  You never see it in combat.

 Everything here could, in theory, be made and designed by hand, but I don't think anyone would have ever designed like this by hand.

2. You use enormous detail at smallest scale and your models are truly three-dimensional. They look interesting from any possible angle and have interesting elements on every surface. How do you do this?

Lewis - I spend a very long time on each design! I never rush anything I work on and I work long hours. Ultimately, you get out what you put in both in terms of design and content creation. I guess I'm also lucky in that I can visualise what the finished model will look like from the 2D concept stage onwards - this is something that is hard to learn but can be improved upon and sharpened with effort and practice.

I was very interested in the UCM standard tanks the first time I saw them. I kind of regard the sci-fi tank as almost-untrotten ground as it seems there is a great deal that could eb done with them that is not. (GW is still in WW1, Forgeworld has moved onto WW2)

The extended limbs mean the tanks project force in an entirely different way than normal tanks. A normal tank is a bit more like a rhino, some thick heavy aggressive beast, these feel more like hunters, they have a mantis aspect

3. The asymmetry and back bent limbs on the human tanks are really neat design choices that knit together the army. Where did you get the idea and at what stage did you decide on it as such a powerful identifying factor for that army?

Lewis -  I decided on this particular design feature quite early in the UCM's design development. In this case, the design came from a detailed study of the concepts that modern militaries are exploring for future armoured vehicles combined with a certain logic and the implied presence of better materials, energy sources etc in the future (i.e - if we have X, what would we be able to built that's superior to today?) With better control and automation we can have a tank with one crew member and If he/she lies prone we can have a lower profile hull (almost always a good thing for low vulnerability). If we had the tech to build an articulated turret then the weapon could be raised over scenery while not exposing the hull and also allowing the tank to be highly compact for dropship carriage.

With the second of his alien races, the Shaltari, he has really cut loose.  For pure beauty these are some of my favourites.

These are 10mm models, a little larger than a big coin.

The bigger something is the more likely it is to have those articulated ‘leaves’ or vanes. Which I imagine to be slowly moving in real life. This means the largest Shaltari machines feel ‘lighter’ less massy, like they are gently floating. 

4. In form the Shaltari walkers have those articulated mobile heads with sensing pods as black ellipses like the infantry faces. Shaltari warstriders have different arrangements, giving the illusion of constant movement and a sense of speed. Why did you decide on such an extreme amount of articulation for the Shaltari compared to the other factions?

Lewis - With the Shaltari Warstriders, I looked at the amount of movement that may be required for a towering tripod walker. Ideally, you'd need a lot of flexibility to achieve a dynamic movement that could cope with a wide range of scenery. Also, pure aesthetic considerations came to the fore here and a certain shape presented itself during the concept generation phase. With the Warstriders, I went for a configuration that could allow almost any leg movement, giving a feel of poise and almost life-like movements on the battlefield.

Lewis is very good at creating force identity. The feeling that a group of disperate models that all do different things all come from the same culture. 

Scourge have that eye configuration, those flexing tube weapons and those vents arranged like pores or mouths. The flares at the end of some Scourge craft, like leaves or tentacles. The destroyer infantry have the same ribbing as the ships. Scourge hunters have the double line of eyes,  the troops have the three eyes.

PHR have the dots. Eyeless faces. Blank, long drawn out armour shapes. They have armour on the front but that ribbing on the back. The walkers and the infantry share these qualities. 

The Hades Walker seems like the most perfect expression of the PHR culture, like whatever it wants to be is pressing through the human covering.

Shaltari craft have that strange semi-hexagonal pattern with the balls, the linked circle designs, that’s just decoration.

guys like to have a little Dawn on each vehicle

And of course, the repeating sunray designs on the tails of the tanks, those vernal ‘leaves’ on the gates and some large machines. 

5. The way you have linked all these tiny elements of design. The shapes, ‘decorations’ and the character of each race, is really good. Perhaps exceptionally good. Can you tell me anything about your design process for this?

Lewis - Detailing is obviously something I spend a lot of time on and take very seriously. Well over half of the development hours of a new model is spent detailing (sometimes as much as 80%). It's all too tempting just to repeat detail sections arbitrarily, almost adding 'artificial' detail as a texture. I try to avoid this most of the time, as it feels somehow 'false' and detracts from realism. Most of my best detailing work revolves around functional elements (e.g. how would this joint work/ where would the panels be separated for easy maintenance/ where would cooling need to be placed?). When there are real reasons for the detail, it looks far more deliberate. The Shaltari are partly an exception to this, as their technology is so advanced as to be unfathomable to us. However, I use certain design rules for their detail elements, sticking to them to add a sense of almost definable purpose to their outlandish technology.

Check out the Hawk site if you are interested. (You may also wish to take a look at the 10mm scenery. Lewis has created his own mini architectural style called 'sci-deco', 

he has also put a huge amount of thought to the stuff you find on top of buildings, vents etc

 because, of course, thats what you see in a wargame. The vent of the top is ore important than anything inside becasue you will never see the inside.

Monday 21 April 2014

The Derro Review Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

In this blizzard of images and sound a friendly electrical German tries to help the Prime American Conspiracy remove treasonous elements. The plan is opposed by the Captain America and therefore fails. All elements become treasonous. The Prime American Conspiracy is destroyed. The Captain America remains.

The Captain America is Johnathan Storm, Johnathan Storm is the actor ‘Evans’. Nicholas Fury is the Man of Snakes, the Man of Snakes is many men. Who is ‘Evans?’ Are the snakes a sign of ‘Hydra’? Numerous ‘Hydra’ personal infest airborne craft. The Man of Snakes opposes them, or seems to.

Scarlett Johansen is charming, as always.

The Captain America is stronger and faster than any Human Thing and has killed many thousands of Human Things. It retains the sympathy of still-useful Humans by pretending not to understand popular culture.

A theoretical conversation might proceed this way;

Still-Useful Human - “The Captain America, it has recently occurred to me that you are a mass murderer and have escaped the bonds of mortality and any moral responsibility for your previous actions. This seems non-optimal to me.”

The Captain America – “Sounds heavy, like that Beatles album, what was it called. ‘Paint it Black?’”

Still-Useful Human – “Oh ‘Steve’, your innocent yet entirely understandable misapprehension of popular culture has caused me to temporarily forget that you can crush my skull in your bare hands because you are not a human being.”

Throughout the presentation of this seeming reality the Captain America refuses to disclose any information, saying either that it has been asked not to, or that it lacks any information to disclose. At the same time, it mocks other elements for not readily disclosing information to it. By the presentations end, all information is disclosed, the Captain America reveals none itself.

The Captain Americas primary opposing element and chief instrument of the Primary American Conspiracy is the ‘Winter Soldier’. Its apparent superiority to The Captain America is an illusion. In reality the Captain America has fully subverted this element before the events depicted even began. In a previous existence or parallel reality the Captain America ensures that its most Useful Human is placed in position to become ‘The Winter Soldier’. This being done, the Captain America simply waits for the inevitable decay of inferior American mind-control techniques. The Winter Soldier element ultimately neutralises itself. When the Captain America presents apparent vulnerability the Winter Soldier element is fully subverted and, in fact, risks its own life to protect the Captain America by executing a downward leap to avoid the effects of Newtonian physics.

The most significant ability of the Captain America seems to be its ability to transit between realities by leaping in a downward direction. When circumstances become non-optimal and a rational assessment of odds would indicate an almost-certain death, the Captain America leaps downwards. First from a helicopter, then from a building, a bridge, a flying machine, and in numerous other circumstances.

On completing this downward movement, the Captain America suffers no ill-effects, but rather, executes a series of apparently-incoherent and disconnected movements that nevertheless result in its avoidance of any physical harm and the achievement of its immediate goals.

The Captain America is only rarely seen to move upwards. It is continually falling, though it rarely climbs.  Its main direction is always down. On a few occasions the Captain America joins machines in the air. These machines inevitably fall to the earth.

At all times those occupying underground spaces hold the advantage. Nicholas Fury escapes in a pipe leading directly to the Captain America’s bedroom. He is then placed in a secret cave. The friendly electrical German occupies the deepest possible position. When this position is threatened the Captain America escapes with Scarlett Johansen to a still-deeper area in avoidance of a bomb.

Even after its total destruction of all opposing and restraining factors and its obvious position as most powerful element, the Captain America is not suspected by any elements. As its power grows, belief in its innocence deepens. This is the lesson of Captain America 2, The Winter Soldier. The hero conspiracy is the most powerful conspiracy of all.