Thursday, March 31, 2011

Loot Pays Off on the First Day

So yesterday I mentioned a new website called Loot, which gives discounts on gaming materials. Well, what should I see in the ol' blogroll this morning, but "The Dying Earth RPG Super Bundle".

Sure enough, when I clicked on the link, I saw this:
  • The Dying Earth RPG
  • The Kaiin Players Guide
  • The Scaum Valley Gazetteer

And the price? $15 for the bundle (hard copies all).

It comes to $27 with shipping; I know from personal experience. Pretty good deal, I'd say! Keep this up, Loot, and you're going to have a pretty good future.

More Ogre Convention Madness

Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I have just signed up to host a game of Ogre Miniatures at NJCon, a fan-run up-and-comer miniatures convention held May 13-14 in Somerset, NJ. Here's hoping there are some Ogre fans planning on showing up!

Ogre Miniatures News

So, being the pest that I am, especially when I get into something, I asked the good folks over at Steve Jackson Games' online retail outlet Warehouse 23 what it would take to get the line of Ogre Miniatures back into production. And here was the answer:
"We're currently working on getting a new casting company to produce all of our Ogre Miniatures, once that's done we'll have a steady supply of minis, hopefully in time for the new 6th edition."
Oh, fraptious day! Callooh! Callay! My PanEuropean and Combine armies are nice, but I would definitely like to bump them up a peg. Plus I'm missing units like the Mark IV Ogre and the Dopplesoldner (not to mention the Mark I and Mark II).

Ogre minis have had a long and tortured history. Here's hoping this works out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gamerati Loot

Here's a nifty new thing:

Every weekday, the good folks at will be offering some gaming product for a big whopping discount (the FAQ says 45% - 75%). Sort of the gaming equivalent of woot!.com (and I'm guessing the similarity in names is no accident).

I've signed up for their email alerts, and will be adding the RSS feed to my blogroll over on the left. What might be of particular interest to some of my OSR cohorts is that they're actively looking for publishers to offer their products for these kinds of deals. Might be a good way to get some exposure...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What do you do with Shedu when you don't use psionics?

You make them mystics! Voila...

Number: 2d4
Morale: +7
Hit Dice: 9d12
Armor Class: 4
Move: 120’/min., 240’/min. (flying)
Magic Resistance: 30%
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d6/1d6
Defenses: See below
Attacks: See below
Size: L
Intelligence: 16
Alignment: Neutral good
Treasure Type: VII
Treasure Value: 1d6x10,000
Magical Treasure: 5 items (35% chance each)

General: Shedu (the name is both singular and plural) are magical creatures without fixed abodes that travel the world seeking to further the cause of neutral good, and they can be convinced to aid fellow travelers of that particular ethical outlook. To this end, they sometimes willingly serve particular deities of that ethos. They are frequent travelers on both the astral and ethereal planes, usually on some mission in furtherance of the cause of Good.

Combat: Shedu attack with their front hooves. In addition, they can use the following magical effects as indicated.
  • Become ethereal at will
  • Become astral at will
  • Telepathy sufficient to communicate with any intelligent creature within 60’, at will
Lastly, all shedu can cast mystic spells as if they were 7th level mystics. The number of spells they can memorize per spell level is as follows.
  • 4 1st level spells
  • 3 2nd level spells
  • 2 3rd level spells
  • 1 4th level spell

All healing and curative spells cast by shedu have double the normal effect.

Appearance: Shedu have the bodies of bulls, wise-looking human heads (males invariably have beards) and the wings of falcons.

(This is a sneak preview from the upcoming Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary.)

Q4 2010 RPG Sales Figures

ICV2 has come out with their analysis of the sales figures for Q4 2010. They have top 5 lists for a number of different categories of games, but I wanted to zoom in on the RPGs, naturally.
  1. Dungeons and Dragons
  2. Pathfinder
  3. Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch
  4. Dragon Age
  5. Mutants and Masterminds
In Q3, D&D and Pathfinder were tied for 1st place, but I don't see that as indicative of any sort of trend in favor of D&D over Pathfinder so much as normal fluctuations. I would, naturally, prefer to see an old school game in the running, but it's interesting to see Green Ronin in there with two out of the five.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wilderness Dressing

Ordinary, but possibly interesting, things found while wandering in the wilderness.
  1. Stone building foundation, 20’x30’
  2. Stone wall, 3-4’ high, 7’ long
  3. Stone wall with doorway
  4. Cracked and broken fountain
  5. Pedestal, marble
  6. Statue on ground, headless, armless
  7. Head of a statue (human)
  8. One side of a small ravine has a bridge footing. No footing on other side.
  9. Small brook has bridge footings on either side. No sign of the bridge.
  10. Collapsed wooden building, 30’x40’.
  11. Wooden building, 30’x40’, no roof but otherwise intact.
  12. Stone fireplace and chimney.
  13. Boundary marker.
  14. Gravestone, illegible.
  15. Gravestone, 100+ years old.
  16. Memorial stone which reads, “In memory of John Williamson, who died in the East.”
  17. Small wooden shrine nailed to tree. Looks long disused.
  18. Stone on the side of a brook is covered with scores of burned-out candles.
  19. Stone bench, in fair shape.
  20. Small spring has brickwork around outlet.
  21. Foot of an enormous statue.
  22. One arch of a viaduct extends 30’ into the air. No sign of other segments.
  23. Collapsed viaduct segment extends some 100’ on the ground.
  24. Long-disused well.
  25. Face is carved into an old tree, some 15’ off the ground.
  26. Small (3’ high by 6’ long) stone cairn. If searched, a skeleton is beneath.
  27. Cobblestone path extends for 40’, then disappears.
  28. Eight rotting ropes dangle from a tree-limb, some have knots, some don’t.
  29. Tree has sixteen badger skulls nailed to its limbs.
  30. Fresco floor, partially covered by earth and debris, shows scenes of underwater animals and plants.
  31. Broken-down wagon. One axle is broken.
  32. Tree is carved with a heart, in which are the initials “K.L. + J.B.”
  33. Stag horns mounted on a tree trunk.
  34. Three concentric circles of stones on the ground, the largest is 15’ in diameter.
  35. Corner of stone building, walls extend 10’ in either direction.
  36. Iron post, 4’ high, with rusted hoop on top.
  37. Split-rail fence 30’ long.
  38. Rusty plough half-submerged in a small pond.
  39. Wooden bird house on a 7’ pole.
  40. Mostly-collapsed grain silo.
  41. Small (10’x10’) building on runners next to a small lake. The building has no floor. (For ice-fishing.)
  42. Large (6’ high) stone urn, partially overturned.
  43. Rotting remains of a makeshift raft next to a small river.
  44. Iron spikes set into a large tree, forming ladder-like rungs leading up 35’.
  45. Perfectly round stone, 10’ in diameter.
  46. Four booted footprints set in solid stone.
  47. Pig wall extends 20 yards.
  48. Mostly-collapsed barn. Only one corner is still upright.
  49. Religious symbol of carved stone, now moss-covered and somewhat askew.
  50. Small stone building (30’x40’), with only the walls remaining (almost completely intact). No roof, floor is covered with soil.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Historical Roleplaying using AD&D

I got to thinking today about what a purely historical gaming setting would look like using the AD&D (or, for that matter, ADD) rules. Since it's historical, magic and monsters are out. So are most dungeons; it would feel a bit contrived for every game to end up delving into the catacombs of Rome or the sewers of Paris.

Fortunately, there are an ample supply of things that can be used in such a game. Creatures aren't a problem:

ape, baboon, badger, bat, bear, boar, buffalo, bull, camel, cat (wild), cattle, cheetah, crocodile, dog, dolphin, eagle, falcon, goat, herd animal, hippopotamus, horse, hyena, jackal, jaguar, lamprey, lion, men, narwhale, otter, ram, rat, rat (giant), raven, shark, skunk, snake, squirrel, stag, swan, swordfish, tiger, vulture

For character classes, we find ourselves left with the cavalier, barbarian, fighter, thief, acrobat, assassin, and if one is using the Adventures Dark and Deep rules, the mountebank and jester (minus the magical effects).

These limitations point somewhat in the direction of what adventures in such a setting would look like. No extended dungeon crawls. A lot of adventures aimed at political intrigue, social encounters, and tactical combat. Certainly something set in the Hundred Years War would do nicely. The intrigues of the Greek city states are another natural; the Peloponnesian War, for one thing. Several periods in ancient Rome suggest themselves; the Punic Wars (fighting against Carthaginian spies, perhaps), the dictatorship of Sulla, the rise of Caesar (the television show Rome would be a good guide here), or fighting incursions of Germanic barbarians, trading with them, and getting mixed up in their tribal politics on both sides of the Rhenus. Personally, I've never found the idea of gladiators as player characters as particularly credible, historically. They were (admittedly with notable exceptions) as a group slaves and not exactly free to go off on adventures. An entire campaign could be made around a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; fighting off pirates and bandits, dealing with hostile tribal chieftains looking to profit off the arrival of rich pilgrims, kidnappings...

Those old 2nd Edition campaign guides would be a natural benefit to such a setting. However, bear in mind that some of them aren't strictly historical, in that they make allowances for magic (the Glory of Rome is excellent in this regard, giving options for "charlatan" mages, but others are a bit more liberal in their treatment of magic and such sections would need to be modified). Interesting question-- has anyone reading this ever run a purely historical game, with no magic, using one of those books and the 2E rules?

I don't say I'm going to be running such a game any time soon (for one thing, I'm having too much fun with my Greyhawk campaign). But I do think it would be interesting to do so, if only to point out that the AD&D rules are flexible enough, and fun enough in and of themselves, to accommodate such a campaign.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MTV Geek Interviews Steve Jackson

...and Phil Reed, President and COO, respectively, of Steve Jackson Games. The full text of the interview can be found

--> here <--

Very interesting stuff from one of the legends of the wargaming industry. Plus a little more information on the upcoming Ogre 6, news on an upcoming version of Awful Green Things from Outer Space (which is an absolutely TERRIFIC game and I'm glad to see it's also getting the "deluxe" treatment-- definitely going on the ol' shopping list) and the most awesome dice rolling evil gazebo you'll ever see.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Return of the Grognards at Dexcon 14

The time is upon us once more, and the Return of the Grognards is in force for this year's Dexcon convention in Morristown, NJ July 6-10.

So far, we've got the following events going under the RotG banner:
  • AD&D 1st edition - White Plume Mountain
  • AD&D 1st edition - Ghost Tower of Inverness
  • AD&D 1st edition - Ravenloft
  • D&D Basic (Red Box edition)
I would love to see more Old School gaming goodness represented at the convention! Let's get some other games going-- Marvel Super Heroes, Star Frontiers, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Champions, Chivalry & Sorcery, Traveller, Empire of the Petal Throne, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, LotFP, Dragons at Dawn... The sky's the limit!

If you're able and willing to commit to running a game at the convention, please send me an email so I can include you in the promotional materials I'm putting together. You can email me at joseph at josephbloch dot com. I'm also putting together another panel on the OSR, and anyone running a game will be included in that as well.

Last year we got a LOT of attention with our original Invasion of the Grognards. I'm hoping that by doing it again this year, we can help expand things, and let people know they can expect to see it at every Dexcon, so they can look forward to it and plan around it.

Come on, folks! If you're in or around the New Jersey area, now's the time to make an Old School splash!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Filming Begins on "The Hobbit"

Wellington, NZ, March 21, 2011—Production has commenced in Wellington, New Zealand, on “The Hobbit,” filmmaker Peter Jackson’s two film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s widely read masterpiece.

“The Hobbit” is set in Middle-earth 60 years before Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

The two films, with screenplays by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson, will be shot consecutively in digital 3D using the latest camera and stereo technology. Filming will take place at Stone Street Studios, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand.

“The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakensheild. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.
There's much more at the link, but here's a little something to get you inspired for the new film:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Ogre Project, Part IV - Playable Armies

As I noted earlier, we had our first opportunity to try out my new Ogre armies at an event at the FLGS this weekend. It was a great time, and I was very pleased with the way the figures themselves looked on the table. Got me itching to finish up the detailing, and paint up the remaining Ogres.

After getting the base coats on the various figures, I started to do some detailing on certain of the figures. Alas, time was against me, and I didn't get to do everything I had set out to do, but it was certainly enough to have a couple of presentable forces on the gaming table.

 Here are two of my Mark III's and a Paneuropean Fencer. The Mark III's are done in a red-and-white scheme and solid metallic blue (with red tips on the missiles, which I'm planning on making a convention for all of my Ogre figures). The Fencer is in a light brown, which could work for either European or desert warfare. The red and white Ogre I'm planning on decorating with black iron crosses, and naming it "Richtofen". :-)
 Here are some representative infantry bases, showing off the four main color schemes I'm using for the non-Ogre units; reddish brown and gray for the Paneuropeans, and dark green and light tan for the Combine troops. The bases themselves were done in a sort of hunter green. I considered doing them in a more muddy gray-brown (which I thought might better approximate an Ogreverse battlefield) but it ended up not looking all that great, and so "realism" gave way to appearance. It is a game, after all.
 Here is a selection of GEVs and light GEVs, again from all four forces. The windshields are done in a periwinkle blue, which really shows up well on the dark green and red-brown units. The turbines (for both Combine and Paneuro alike, on all units that have them) are done in a bright metallic gold. That really shows up well (if you click to enlarge the photo, you'll see it in several of the figures).
Howitzers and Paneuropean missile tanks. The howizers all sport dark gray bases, which I'm assuming are concrete set in place, and the missiles on the missile tanks are white. They'll eventually have red nosecones and possibly black fins as well.

Coming up: I want to do all of the tank treads and plenum skirts of the GEVs in black, and would like to do some detailing on the infantry (making the weapons black, and putting some identifying coloration on the jump packs to point out marines and engineers). There are also an Ogre Mark III, a III-B, a Mark V, and another Fencer to do. I've got some ideas for color schemes for those, but everything's up in the air. I'll make another post when I've got more done. For now, I've got a few other battles to plan with these new armies.

A Day of Pushing Lead and Cardboard

So yesterday was our second Wargame and Boardgame Day at our local FLGS, Mighty Titans Hobbies and Games, organized through the same meetup group that we use to organize the Greyhawk campaign. This second day was a blast, and we've resolved to make it a much more regular thing, every six weeks or so. (The next one will be on May 7th, barring anything unexpected; if you're in or around northern New Jersey, you're more than welcome!)

The premise of these events is simple; several of us bring along some games, either oldies-but-goodies or new-and-hot (or both). We then figure out what we want to play, and have at it! Simple, and a lot of fun.

We started off with a game of Nuclear War (Flying Buffalo), in which I was eliminated before the game began by the use of Secret and Top Secret cards. *grumble* I got a semblance of vicarious vengeance when the game ended in mutual destruction as the last remaining players wiped each other out with retributive nuke strikes.

Then two of us played a game of Tactics II (Avalon Hill) while the others did a session of Starfire (Task Force Games). I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember who won Starfire, but I managed to pull out a victory as the defending Blue nation in Tactics II. My undefeated streak continues. Red had me on the ropes early on in the game, as he had concentrated all his armored divisions into a fearsome strike force right down the middle of the board, but I managed to tie up enough of his other units on the edges and I was able to force a series of exchanges in the center. I was losing infantry and he was losing armor. Soon enough he didn't have any left, and I encircled the remaining divisions in the center and went on to victory.

Starfire wasn't over by that point, so several of us played a game of Scriptorum, at which I was severely trounced, but had fun nevertheless.

At this point, we moved on to the highlight of the afternoon, a game of Ogre Miniatures.

I've been getting my Paneuropean and Combine forces ready for the last two weeks, and while they weren't in a perfect state, they were certainly playable. None of us had ever played the actual miniatures rules (although I and one of the other players had played the board game version many times), so we had a few missteps with the rules, but we had a grand ol' time nevertheless.

The FLGS has a number of wargaming tables with scenery, terrain, buildings, etc. and we made use of one of those with mesa-like hills on either end. Atop each hill we placed a command post, and each side had a Mark III Ogre, 48 points of infantry, and around 50 points of armor (both sides had the same forces for our first outing; 3 heavy tanks, 3 GEVs, 3 missile tanks, and a howitzer). We split into teams; one person on each team commanded the Ogre and the other commanded the infantry and armor. It worked very well. I commanded the Combine armor and infantry.

The Paneuropeans drew first blood, taking out one of my missile tanks with an overrun by two of their GEVs. we continued with a little skirmishing here and there, but the big action was the two Ogres that went straight at one another. The Paneuropean Mark III did an overrun attack against the Combine Mark III (basically ramming it) and got pasted for its effort, losing all of its weapons. At that point it was an easy thing to disable its remaining treads, and the Combine Ogre was still in fairly descent shape, with most of its treads intact and still sporting a few secondary batteries.

While that was going on I managed to scream my GEVs past the Paneuropean units and was racing for the enemy command post; the only thing between those units and the objective was the howitzer (which was about to come under fire itself by those self-same GEVs). Between that and the status of the Combine Ogre (which was able to move faster than any of the remaining Paneuropean units), we called the game in favor of the Combine. Victory!

It was, of course, more of an experimental game to test out the rules, but it was great fun. I  was surprised by just how close units need to get to one another to be in range, and how fast some of them can move in a single turn. The rules themselves are pretty straightforward (we did have to look some things up in regards to the Ogre vs. Ogre overrun, but that was a pretty unusual situation). What I love about it is that some very complex and nuanced tactics can emerge from those pretty straightforward rules. Next time out, we're going to have bigger and more varied forces, and hopefully we'll give the rules an even more thorough run-through. But I think I can safely say that Ogre Miniatures has become a regular in our stable of games.

Greyhawk Session 16

Present were Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Theric, paladin of Pholtus; newcomer Liberius Faxen, human savant; Abo Thistlestrike, human mage; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. 

So last time the party was engaged in finding the stolen Eyes of Sandora for the temple of Pholtus. They came to the conclusion that the outlawed cult of Asmodeus, the Ruby Cult, was behind the theft. Alas, when they came to the temple of Pholtus to share the information they had gleaned, they were informed that the Eyes had been recovered "thanks to information from an individual". The temple hadn't known of the involvement of the cult of Asmodeus, however, and was quite grateful for the information. Specifics regarding the cult's former presence in Greyhawk were scarce, however, but brother Jerome promised to pass along any further information that came his way.

Thus deprived of a specific goal (and curiously uncurious about why the Eyes were no longer missing), the party decided that an evening of delving in the dungeons of the Castle of the Mad Archmage would be in order, as they were a tad low on loot, and such might just alleviate that particular problem.

Having tired of going through the Flesh Render hobgoblins' territory, the party decided to try another of the dwarves' various passages. The first room landed them in the clutches of a giant spider which was quickly dispatched. However, further investigation of the passages beyond found them in an unusually wide (20') corridor, with frescoes of running, track and field, and other athletic competitions. Rounding a corner found them face to face with a five-headed hydra, which prompted a general retreat; unfortunately, the door whence they had come had seemingly disappeared.

This forced the party into a melee. The paladin was laid low, as was the cavalier, and the mystic as well. Fortunately, the latter was able to use her pain management power to stay conscious, but once the hydra was finally defeated, most of the party was in need of rest and recuperation. They repaired from the dungeons and made their respite in the Cock and Bottle, after the cavalier had convinced the rest to recover the hydra's heads.

After selling the heads at the Guild of Leatherworkers and Tanners, and recouping all their lost hit points, the party made one last foray into the dungeons for the evening. This time, they took the other passage guarded by the dwarves, finding a room of impenetrable shadows. Although no source of light would pierce the gloom, the shadows didn't seem harmful, and so the party pressed on.

They entered a round room, after spiking the door, and noted a round ball falling off a rack on the far wall, bouncing precisely into a hole in the floor. An examination showed that there were numbers written on the balls, they were light of weight, but putting another into the hole had no effect. The balls were eventually gotten out of the hole by pouring water into it, thus floating them out. Various fenegeling had no effect, and the party left the room, with the mage taking the balls with him as he left.

Minutes later, however, the party encountered the lair of three enormous beetles (remembering their bad luck with the "exploding beetles" a few sessions ago). They set oil aflame to little effect, and ended up engaging the creatures directly, with a few more members being laid low, but the beetles eventually being defeated. The hour was growing late, but the party looked into the next room, finding a chainmail pouch with 6 gems and an iron box containing 125 platinum pieces and what seemed to be a tuning fork. Paying their tithe to the dwarves, the party returned to the city, and the session was ended. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Game Pricing

With the announcement of the release of the 6th edition of Ogre, there has been some discussion in the wargaming community about the $100 price tag that will accompany the game.

Similar discussions have gone back and forth in the role-playing community over the years; some say that modern rulebooks and modules are over-priced, that rules bloat, extraneous artwork, etc. have caused prices to rise beyond the ability of modern gamers to get into a particular game due to the expense of buying rules and supplements. I know I've made the same complaint myself.

Let's take a look at some numbers.

Back in 1979, you could get a Players Handbook or Monster Manual new for $12. That would be $36.40 in today's dollars. Each. For a relatively thin rulebook (by today's standards) with art that could be described as endearingly quirky. The Dungeon Masters Guide was $15 new, which translates into $45.50 in 2011 dollars.

So to buy-in to AD&D 1E in 1977 cost the equivalent of $118.30 in 2011 dollars. How does that compare?

The Dungeons and Dragons (4E) Core Rulebook Gift Set retails for $104.95. You can get it on for $66.12! Each of the core rulebooks retails for $35, and can be gotten on Amazon new for $23 each. That's only a little more than the combo gift set ($69).

Pathfinder compares even better. The core rulebook retails for $50, and can be had on Amazon for $31.49. The Beastiary is another $40, or $26.39 on Amazon.

Naturally, there are more than just the core books to be had for both 4E and Pathfinder, but there were accessories for 1E, too. Those ultra-thin modules? If memory serves, a module like Village of Hommlet went for $4.50 in 1979, and had 24 pages. That's a whopping $13.65 in modern dollars. Compare that to The Slaying Stone, module HS1 for 4th edition. That retails for $14.95 ($10.17 on Amazon), and has 32 pages to boot.

I've got to say, just looking at the issue of price, 1E and 4E are quite comparable, when you look at the prices in adjusted dollars. Pathfinder comes in even better, at least for the core rules. When you factor in the quality of the materials (which in some part is a subjective assessment, but it must be admitted that the binding of the modern books is probably superior to their 1979 counterparts, and no matter what my old eyes may think about the artwork in modern RPGs, at least they have art in full-color), the modern games come out looking pretty good.

There are a lot of factors that go into it (Amazon, of course, not being around in 1977), but I've got to say that cost is not something I can complain about any more, not when I paid $20 for Hall of the Fire Giant King!

(The inflation numbers in this post come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beware of the Ogre

"Boy, after that pair of giants and the nest of gargoyles, this should be a real pushover..."

The Ogre Project, Part III - Base Coat

So both my Combine and PanEuropean armies are coming along nicely. I've divided both armies into two sections, each with a separate paint scheme, to allow for team play.

I decided to paint all the figures, even those I had previously painted before, just to make sure that the two sections in each army looked consistent. And it was a good thing too, as the paint I previously used was nowhere to be found.

The PanEuropean forces were done in a light gray (lighter than the glossy gray I had done some of them in earlier) and a sort of reddish brown.

The Combine units are half in a light desert tan that will look awesome if I can manage dark brown camouflage stripes, and half in a dark green that's not quite olive, but is marketed as "U.S. World War II Armor". I'm not sure about that necessarily, but it does look pretty nice.

Next comes the detailing, and I have a week to do both that for all for forces and assemble and paint the 7 Ogres. Detailing will consist of painting the treads and plenum skirts black, windshields a sort of periwinkle (which looks really nice as windshields), and missiles white and red. I might do a few other things here and there, but nothing too fancy. Infantry will get a color to match the infantry bases, some black on their guns, and a few units will get color on their jump-packs to indicate their status as marines or engineers in certain scenarios. If I've got the time, that is; that last is something of a luxury.

The Ogres are going to be another story entirely. I found an epoxy putty that the nice man at the hardware store assured me would hold, and I'm going to be embedding some "rebar" to make sure of it. I bought the hand drill that some commenters had recommended, but looking at it, I just have to say... no. Not me.

Things are really coming together nicely. These babies will really look awesome on the terrain boards at the FLGS next weekend. Full reports, of course, when the time comes! Also, I'll be running a game at Dexcon, and a loyal reader has invited me to do another at NJCon. The first is definite, and the second is a "I'm definitely thinking about it." If I decide to do it, I'll naturally announce it here.

Question for the audience: Does anyone have a model of a Mark IV or Mark VI Ogre, or a Dopplesoldner they'd be willing to part with? I can make do with my existing figures, but I'd like to have the real thing, if possible.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Your Attention, Please (Japan Disaster)

Please harken to the upper-left corner of this blog. There you will find a section of links entitled "Worthy Causes". I have just added two new ones, both places to make donations to the Red Cross for relief for the Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor disaster(s). Please consider reaching into your virtual wallet and making a donation.

Splendiforous Ogre News

Straight from the keyboard of Steve Jackson himself, there will be a new deluxe edition of one of the classic wargames from the heyday of the hobby. Ogre 6th edition is coming. From the announcement:
Later this year, we’ll release Ogre 6th Edition. It will be a very, very deluxe boardgame, with all the rules and units from Ogre, G.E.V., and Shockwave, as well as things that have only appeared in magazines and miniature releases.

Why? Because I want to. Ogre was my first design, and the boardgame version hasn’t been available for years. And people keep asking me for it. So some of our Munchkin money is going back to support the people who bought my very first game, by bringing them an edition with the best possible components.

It won’t be “Euro” style. No meeples, no plastic. This will be the kind of hex wargame that we dreamed about 30 years ago, back when our heroes were SPI and Avalon Hill. HUGE double-sided map boards. HUGE full-color counters with HUGE type. A HUGE box to hold them in. And giant constructible Ogres!
"...back when our heroes were SPI and Avalon Hill." I just got the same sort of thrill running up my leg that Chris Matthews gets when he hears President Obama speak. ;-)

This is great news for fans of the game such as myself. I am a little disappointed that the new maps and counters won't be compatible with all the others that I've accumulated over the years from Ogre, GEV, Ogre Battlefields, the Ogre Reinforcement Pack, etc. etc. etc., but the game itself seems like it's going to be very impressive. Hopefully it will rekindle the love of the game in a new generation of gamers who didn't grow up on hex-and-counter wargames as I did. The price looks a little steep ($100 or so), but it seems like you're going to get a LOT for your money. Thick, oddly shaped cardboard counters and fully 3-D cardboard buildings and Ogres. Mmmmm...

Be sure to check out the two page, full-color sell sheet (the thing sent to distributors and retailers to hype the game) for all the salient details.

Oh, and hopefully I'll have another in my Ogre Project series tonight, with plenty of pictures. Just waiting for some paint to dry, and then base coating is done.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Designers & Dragons

Another thing to look for this summer is a book from Mongoose publishing entitled Designers & Dragons, a history of the role-playing game industry. A quick search of the Mongoose website didn't turn up anything, but ICv2 was on the case:
In August Mongoose Publishing will release Designers & Dragons, a history of the role-playing game industry. Written by’s Shannon Appelcline, Designers & Dragons recounts the history of almost 60 companies that have published role-playing games. Its company-by-company structure allows readers to follow the history of the publisher of their favorite RPG.

Appelcline proceeds to follow the fortunes of the various RPG publishers and the key game designers. Role-playing games grew out of the wargaming industry, which itself was only born in the 1950s. The publication of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 kickstarted the RPG industry, which subsequently been through several boom and bust cycles.

Although precise details about the size and price of Designers & Dragons are yet available, it will be a large hardcover volume. Look for details to become available in the coming months.

This definitely sounds interesting. I shall be keeping a watchful eye out for this one.

Coming This Summer: Traveller-AR

Do you have an iPhone? Do you like Traveller? Pretty soon there's going to be an app for that.

No telling how close it's going to cleave to the original, but it could be nifty if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyone going to South by Southwest this weekend? Apparently they're going to be demoing the game.

(Hat tip to Purple Pawn.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hot Elf Chicks of Greyhawk

Okay, James, I'll contribute to your scheme.

Wrong sort of elf? ;-)

If you have been lured here under false pretenses, and are even a little curious what this whole "OSR" thing, or role-playing thing, or Dungeons & Dragons thing is about, feel free to check out the links to the left.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dexcon 14: Morristown, NJ July 6-10 Early Bird Special & Return of the Grognards

My loyal readers will remember that Dexcon, held in Morristown, NJ, is one of the two conventions I regularly attend every year, and that I've been hosting games of various sorts there for years.

Today marks the opening of event registration, and they are also running a special early bird registration discount. Between now and March 18th, if you register with the code "D14EBX", you will get $5 off your registration. That is on top of any other discounts you may receive from belonging to local clubs. It's certainly something to take advantage of if you're going to be in attendance.

This year, I am intending to run:
Last year, I and several other old-school GM's did an "Invasion of the Grognards" that was enormously successful. I would like to do something similar this year. If you're interested and able (and will be able to make the convention-- please don't commit if you're going to be a no-show at the last minute), please take the time to register your event at the website linked to above, and let me know via email (joseph at josephbloch dot com). I'll put together some promotional materials and we should hopefully get as good or better turnout than we did last year.

See you at the con!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Ogre Project, Part II - Assembly

As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm finally making a big push to finish up my Ogre/GEV armies for an upcoming game day over at the FLGS. Having taken stock of what I've got, and what needed to be done, I set to work.

Behold the glory of all my minis, now put together and ready for painting.

I've decided to change my paint scheme somewhat, after a trip to the local hobby store revealed a few neato-torpedo colors that would look great on armor. My Combine army is now going to be done half in olive, and half in a nice desert tan. The PanEuropeans will be done half in gray, and half in a reddish brown (hopefully evoking a sort of Soviet feel). The idea is that, in large scenarios, it will be possible to break down the forces on either side by color, allowing for team play on each side.

The ogres will, naturally, be painted in garish colors, and can thus be used on any side depending on the needs of the scenario. As a wise man once observed, "What's the point of trying to camouflage something the size of a shopping mall?"

The whole kit and kaboodle, now put together and ready for painting.
The Ogres. Three Mark III's, a Mark V, and two Fencers. I want more...
Various units; missile tanks, heavy tanks of both the Combine and PanEuros, and three mobile howitzers from, I believe, Martian Metals in the lower-right corner.

Combine GEVs. I hate those damned fins on the rear. A real pain to glue on.
Naturally, having set about to get my existing miniatures in order, I couldn't resist adding to the collection. Just to even up the forces, you understand. So I hied over to Warehouse 23 and picked up a box of PanEuropean GEVs, a set with some of the now-impossible-to-find-on-their-own Combine mobile howitzers, and a Mark III-B Ogre.

If anyone has any Ogre/GEV miniatures they aren't particularly attached to, please let me know. I will probably be willing to take them off your hands.

And, naturally, my plans for using these bad boys have expanded as well. Not only will they be used at our local FLGS wargame day, but I'll also be hosting an Ogre/GEV event at the Dreamation convention in Morristown in July. Details to come!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Ogre Project, Part I - Inventory

Regular readers will recall that I am a huge fan of Steve Jackson's Ogre/GEV in nearly all of its incarnations. The basic premise is simple; in the not-so-distant future, giant cybernetic tanks-- Ogres-- dominate the battlefield. They wade through masses of enemy tanks, infantry, and hovercraft-- GEV's-- in order to obtain their objectives.

Fencers and Ogres awaiting completion.
The game was originally a Microgame, but was soon followed by numerous expansions, scenario packs, etc. One of the offshoots of the game was a version played with miniatures. SGJ has gone through several different incarnations of miniature lines for Ogre/GEV, and I collected quite a few from their Warehouse 23 (and have a few stragglers from other lines).

Everything to be painted or assembled.
Over the years, some of them have been assembled, some painted, and a large number left in silent, disassembled, glittering pewter. I'd really love to break them out for our upcoming Board and Wargames day at the FLGS, so I thought I'd see what state my own armies were in.

The first step was to take an inventory of what I've got and what state it's in. Turns out I have a lot more work to do than I thought. Here's the breakdown.

The Paneuropean forces so far.
  • 1 Howitzer
  • 1 Mobile Howitzer
  • 6 GEVs
  • 6 Light GEVs
  • 4 Missile Tanks
  • 4 Light Tanks
  • 4 Heavy Tanks
  • 1 Superheavy Tank
  • 1 Command Post
The Combine forces so far.
COMBINE (Painted)
  • 3 Howitzers
  • 6 GEVs
  • 12 Light GEVs
  • 4 Missile Tanks
  • 2 Light Tanks
  • 8 Heavy Tanks
  • 2 Superheavy Tanks
  • 4 GEV PCs
  • 54 Infantry
  • 9 Infantry (Marines)
  • 9 Infantry (Heavy Weapons)
  • 9 Infantry (Combat Engineers)
PANEUROPEAN (Unpainted/unassembled)
Infantry, GEV PCs, and bases.
  • 1 Howitzer
  • 4 Mobile Howitzers
  • 10 Light Tanks
  • 6 GEVs
  • 6 Light GEVs
  • 4 Missile Tanks
  • 1 Superheavy Tank
  • 10 Heavy Tanks
  • 75 Infantry
  • 6 GEV PCs
  • 2 Fencer cybertanks
COMBINE (Unpainted/unassembled)
  • 2 Superheavy Tanks
  • 1 Howitzer
  • 10 Heavy Tanks
  • 14 GEVs
  • 4 Missile Tanks
  • 2 Light Artillery Drones
  • 3 Ogre Mark IIIs
  • 1 Ogre Mark V
MISCELLANEOUS (Unpainted/unassembled)
  • 36 Infantry Bases
  • 2 Command Posts
  • 1 Hardened Command Post
  • 2 Laser Towers
  • 3 Lasers
  • 6 Hovertrucks (w/cargo)
Light and Heavy tanks
So, I've definitely got some work ahead of me! I'm not sure I'll be able to get it all done by game-day, but I'll certainly give it a go. Much of the painting is fairly easy; spray-on olive for the combine units, spray-on gray for the Paneuropean units, and then touch-up with some bright colors for interest. The Ogres are going to be the hardest to paint (and assemble; I've got to find something to use as bases for them).

The plan is to spend this weekend assembling, trimming flash, and maybe priming the vehicles, and then the next week and a half painting them up. I'll try to post some pictures of my progress (if any).

Word of the Day - "Staviary"

Staviary - noun, portmanteau formed from the English "stable" and "aviary". An enclosure where flying steeds (ex.: pegasuses, hippogriffs, griffons, etc.) are cared for, fed, and sheltered until such time as they are needed for travel. 
"I will have instructions sent to the staviary, the place which houses the hippogriffs, and all will be ready at the appointed hour. Eight mounts and an escort of Her Majesty's Guards will await. You will be taken as far as the northernmost edge of the Kron Hills." - Gary Gygax, Artifact of Evil, p. 127.

Greyhawk Session 15

I think tonight finally marks the end of using the FLGS as the location for our game. Last time, we were moved into a different room to accommodate the Friday night Pokemon tournament, and it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences. The room was loud, conducted sound extremely poorly, and just generated a din that made hearing ourselves at the table nearly impossible. This time, the same thing happened, and rather than suffer through it, we upped and went to my house (a mere 10 minutes away, thankfully) and gamed in the dining room. Blessed silence, with only the occasional 9 year old and fur-bearing critter to interrupt.

Present tonight were Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Mongo, half-orc fighter; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. The session began with Theric being summoned to the temple of Pholtus to assist with a problem. A relic, previously stored in the temple vaults, had been stolen; the Eyes of Sandora.

Naturally, the paladin was eager to assist, and the party began to gather intelligence for their investigation. The Eyes were noticed missing only a few days ago, and divination could only reveal that they were still within the precincts of the city. Being a relic, the Eyes made divination nearly impossible. The Eyes themselves were kept in a golden reliquary that was also studded with gems, and had the power not only of x-ray vision but also of seeing into the Ethereal plane.

The Thieves' Guild was all but ruled out as a suspect, both by history (they had never before raided the Temple, and had no reason to change their policy now) and by attestation (the Guildmaster assured the Elder Brother of the Temple, both of whom serve as members of the Council of Oligarchs, that the Guild was innocent, and the Elder Brother believes him). The only unusual occurrence in the Temple itself prior to the theft was the arrival of one Torgood Mulron, a member of an ultra-orthodox sect in northern Nyrond. He was in the temple claiming sanctuary, as his sect is currently being persecuted by certain nobles in Nyrond.

The party interviewed Torgood and found him to be nervous, evasive, and seemingly hiding something. So their next step was to make contact with members of the Beggar's Union. A watch was placed upon the Temple of Pholtus, and then a visit was made to the party's contacts within the Thieves' Guild itself. Rumors spread about the theft (which the Temple had hitherto managed to keep quiet), especially mentioning the source as "a paladin", which quickly occasioned another visit from Karro Ledbetter, the jester cum thief. He brought the party up to speed on the Guild's side of the story-- they didn't pull the heist, and were busily tracking down leads to find the Eyes and thus clear their name. The party volunteered to assist, given that they were already working on the issue from the other side, and were told that there was what the Guild considered a "cold lead" that they could pursue if they wished.

The lead turned out to be a dead barmaid, who had contacted the Guild within the last day or two, claiming to have information about the Eyes. Alas, she was slain in a barroom brawl before the information could be obtained. The party visited the waterfront tavern, called the Nine Eels, and promptly offended the locals to the point where a full-on brawl ensued. It was a nice opportunity to break out the Adventures Dark and Deep weaponless combat rules, which worked really well in practice, but the whole thing was eventually cleared out by the bar keep, Archie, who happened to have a wand of fear handy for just such emergencies. The bar emptied in a panicked flight (including the half-orc!), and the remaining adventurers were told in no uncertain terms to get out.

The one-eyed barmaid, Arva, at the Nine Eels did offer some information to the party before they left, however, telling them that Loretta, the slain barmaid, was having an affair with one Gunari, a Rhennee of whom she did not think much. Gunari had been in the tavern when the fight broke out, but managed to slip away in the excitement. It turned out that Gunari had a room above the tavern, and Arva offered to bring one of the party up there, but it had to be done quickly, while Archie was still cleaning up after the brawl. The paladin went with her, with the help of a silence 15' radius spell to make his approach stealthy.

Despite that advantage, when he came to the room, the paladin, upon hearing someone moving about within, knocked on the door. Immediately the noise ceased, and when the room was finally entered, there was nothing there except a hastily emptied chest and an empty potion vial. Clearly, Gunari had been there but fled with the help of some potion, possibly one of invisibility. He was gone.

The party had a name to go on now, however, and was not without its own resources within the Rhennee community. Baldo, owner of the Rusty Rat tavern, knew of Gunari and had little love for him. It turned out that Gunari was largely shunned within the Rhennee community, being a member of the "red ruby cult", of which Baldo would say no more. The temple of Rao was more forthcoming, however, and identified the cult as one being dedicated to the Arch-Fiend, which had been driven out of the city some years ago and banned, its centers destroyed. If they had returned to Greyhawk, it would be an ill omen indeed.

At this point, though, the hour had grown late and we decided to break for the evening. Still, I personally greatly enjoyed this sort of scenario, which was a departure from the last several sessions which were straight dungeon-crawls. The party managed to catch many of the clues leading them in the right direction, even if the quarry was (temporarily?) lost. I found it a refreshing change, and I hope the players did, too. This sort of adventure always has the potential for frustration when clues are missed and the next link in the chain can't be reached. That didn't happen in this particular adventure, and I hope the players had as much fun with it as I did.

And of course, the Eyes are still not recovered...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Goodnight, Dune

I'm a huge fan of Frank Herbert's Dune (not so much a fan of the books that his son has churned out in the years after his death, although perhaps not quite so much a non-fan as some people), both the books and both film adaptations. My wife was kind enough to share the following with me (a parody of the children's classic "Goodnight Moon"), and I thought it so clever that I'd share it with you, too. Click the image to see the whole thing. If you look at the images closely, there's a lot tucked away there that doesn't get it's own "goodnight." Great stuff.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Humanoids, Demi-humans, and the Pets Who Love Them

Well, love and/or serve.

I've often been fascinated by the selections of animal companions/guards/pets for different types of humanoids and demi-humans. The idea of combinations of monsters is one that harkens back to the original LBBs, of course, but it was also codified in AD&D. A quick stroll through the Monster Manual gives us:
  • Dwarves with wolves or brown bears
  • Gray Elves with hippogriffs or griffons
  • High Elves with giant eagles
  • Sea Elves with dolphins
  • Wood Elves with giant owls or giant lynxes
  • Gnolls with hyenas or hyaenodons
  • Gnomes with badgers, giant badgers, or wolverines
  • Goblins with wolves
  • Halflings with dogs (shades of Farmer Maggot!)
  • Hobgoblins with carnovorous apes
  • Kobolds with wild boars or giant weasels
And, of course, the giants are treated similarly:
  • Cloud Giants with spotted lions
  • Fire Giants with hell hounds
  • Frost Giants with winter wolves
  • Hill Giants with dire wolves or giant lizards
  • Stone Giants with cave bears
  • Storm giants with griffons or sea lions
There are two notable omissions from the list of creatures with animals; humans and orcs. Humans, being the most flexible, adaptive, and unpredictable of the intelligent races, might well not have a single go-to animal suitable in most circumstances (although I would not have thought it remiss if an entry such as cave man or tribesman had "dog" or "wolf" listed).

The omission of an animal companion for orcs is somewhat surprising; they do have ogres listed as possible companion creatures, but that does somewhat break the pattern for humanoids. Wolves would be the natural first choice, but they're already listed for both dwarves and goblins. I very much like the idea of having baboons for the orcs' favored animal; it is both thematically consistent with the hobgoblins' having carnivorous apes, and also has (appropriately icky) connotations with losels.

I definitely like the combination of humanoids and companion creatures, and I like the idea that certain races have affinities for certain companion creatures. Of course, it doesn't preclude a game master from throwing in other creatures in a lair (or in any sort of encounter, for that matter), but having a "standard" gives them a little color with an in-game impact.