Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Labyrinth Of Thorns (contains encounter spoilers)

This past Monday (Family Day here in Canada) I got together and ran a group of friends through Ashley Warren's excellent adventure; Labyrinth Of Thorns.

I'm playing in a couple of semi-regular D&D games but this particular group has basically been getting together to play holiday themed one-offs.  We started coming out of Christmas playing Winter's Splendor (also by Ashley Warren) and after thoroughly enjoying it and looking for a Valentine's themed adventure we were all super-happy to find a suitable Valentine adventure written by the same author.

If I can get slightly review-y for a minute I'd just like to start off by saying that Labyrinth Of Thorns is an excellent adventure.  It's contained to a specific fixed area which keeps players from going too far afield from their central goal, has a fantastic villain with cleared defined motives, and has really vivid flavour text and descriptions that make it easy and rewarding for both DMs and players to immerse themselves in the story.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Labyrinth Of Thorns to anyone looking for a terrific and rewarding adventure that mixes puzzles and problem solving with some challenging combat encounters.  It's available on DMs Guild.

Now on to the figures (because I'm me and that's my thing).  Obviously I can't show figures without potentially spoiling some of the encounters so.....spoilers ahead.

First up we have our intrepid band of adventurers.

I didn't paint most of these models, and unfortunately Kim's Gnome Sorcerer got a bit washed out by my flash but as you can pretty much figure out this was a pretty motley collection of "heroes". 

As an aside the funniest moment for me when the characters introduced themselves was that I was suddenly struck by the fact that my friend Jay's half-orc Ranger was pretty much Dan Harmon's character from HarmonQuest, which was only made more funny when Jay told us he didn't watch HarmonQuest and really wasn't familiar with the characters on it.

One of the first encounters was with a group of Vine Blights.

I'm super excited about WizKids doing Blight models as I have needed them forever for Curse Of Strahd and forgot how prominently they featured in The Sunless Citadel as well.  I basically painted the models brown, then green washed them, then gave them a drybrush of their original brown colour.  Simple but effective and really quick to get done.

One of the next encounters was with a Harpy.

I really struggled with this one  as I generally paint miniatures with an eye to using them in games with my daughter so  prefer more of a PG look and vibe to my figures but the Harpy choices available on short notice were this Reaper miniature or basically nothing.  I'm happy with how she turned out but if I was going to run this adventure again I would probably invest some time into replacing this miniature.

One of my favourite encounters and some of my favourite models to paint for this adventure were the 3 Spectres.

For the Spectres I used some of my Age Of Sigmar miniatures along with the technical paints Games Workshop produced specifically for painting ethereal miniatures.  Not only do I really like the look and feel of these miniatures, it was a great reminder that I should go back and paint some more ghost-pants for my Age Of Sigmar games.

Not every encounter in the adventure is meant to be hostile and the players were able to enlist the help of a sympathetic ghost named Ophira.

Ophira showed up with the intention of warning the group off from their encounter with the Spectres but one of them jumped the gun and they started mixing it up right away.  She was however able to help the group in their final battle before unceremoniously meeting her end.

And finally the adventure's big-bad(s); Rafael The Paladin and his pet Chimera.

These were also really fun and rewarding miniatures to paint and are from Reaper's Bones line.  Rafael is a really cool sword-and-board style warrior and instead of the colour choices listed in the text of the adventure I chose to paint him to match my cleric and paladin of Trithereon with the thought that I could possibly use them as the core of a warband in another game down the road.

The Chimera was another 'classic' D&D monster I didn't have in my collection so it felt great to finally get one done.  This figure was a bit of a surprise for me because when I looked at it in the pack the detail looked a little soft but as soon as I started to get paint on it I realised it actually had a lot of deep texture on it.  I'm really glad to add the Chimera to my repertoire of D&D monsters.


And there you have it.  A well written adventure, populated by some pretty cool miniatures enjoyed by a  great group of players.  That just simply felt like D&D done right!

Now I guess this means I need to start looking for an Easter themed adventure?

-Jay

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Up On A Soapbox - A Problem That Can't Be Ignored

I just did something that I couldn't have foreseen a need to do when I started blogging. 

I just deleted 3 of my own posts.

This blog has a VERY small following (35 followers and roughly 50-100 hits per day) my words are a drop in the ocean that is the internet, very few people are listening to what I have to say, but that doesn't mean no one is listening.
I've always tried to follow 2 key rules about my blog entries when talking about; products, people and game companies.
1.  Don't say anything positive unless I truly believe what I'm saying.  If even one person respects my opinion then I owe it to them to be honest and transparent and not promote something that I don't believe in.
2.  Don't say anything negative unless I truly believe what I'm saying.  Again I don't want to lash out in a moment of anger or disappointment and unfairly cause someone to feel slighted.

In light of some very serious accusations that have surfaced in the past few days I have deleted my 3 posts referencing (positively) A Red And Pleasant Land.  The author of that book has been accused of some frankly horrific and unacceptable behaviour towards his former partner.  I don't claim to know what happened between 2 people I've never met but I'm incredibly uncomfortable having content connected in any way to that individual with my name on it.

I try to keep gaming COMPLETELY separate from my political or social views as I personally use gaming as an escape from some of the grim details of the "real world" but this is one of those situations where silence and complicity only benefit the abuser.

This will be my only post about this.  I don't want to engage in any internet drama or get into any salacious details.  I just want to close with a simple thought.

If you see something wrong, stand with the victim.

-Jay

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Spiders! Big Spiders!

One of the things I've been looking at lately when I need models for fantasy games is some figures that not only would work across multiple games but for multiple player audiences.

For Rangers Of Shadow Deep I needed some giant spiders but I'm also looking for some fun (but not quite chibi) looking models to use in my D&D games with my daughter.  So basically I wanted something with cartoonier proportions that looked a bit more unique.  I also decided I really wanted to get away from the classic spider colour-schemes of dark greys, browns or blacks.

I ended up getting a bunch of packs of Battleclaw monsters from Toys R Us (yes we still have those in Canada) on clearance.  These were great packs, and you'll see more of them in the next week or two, as they came with 2 monsters in each pack for less than a dollar.  The Battleclaw monsters have a vaguely Pokemon aesthetic which works for what I was going for and should be suitable baddies for my daughter to fight in D&D.

Colour-wise I wanted bright but not too bright and basically landed on Spider-Man's costume colours.


They were cheap, easy to paint, turned out well (I think) and still have more than enough size and mass to feel like a threat in a 28mm miniature game.

-Jay

Sunday, 3 February 2019

A holy crusade!

Yet another D&D game and yet another fairly common character type I didn't previously have a model for.  This is becoming a theme...

For my latest foray a party of brave adventurers has set off into the Sunless Citadel.  The Sunless Citadel occupies an interesting place in the history of published D&D adventures.  It was actually the first adventure published by Wizards Of The Coast for their (at the time) new and groundbreaking edition of D&D; 3rd edition.  What makes this interesting to me is that at the time I release I was a lapsed D&D player so I never actually played The Sunless Citadel but for an entire generation of players it occupies a similar place in D&D mythology to Keep On The Borderlands for my generation.  The Sunless Citadel is one of the adventures featured in the Tales From The Yawning Portal anthology and after 20ish years and 2.5 editions of the game later I'm finally playing through it.

As a function of playing with a small group of players we're each playing 2 characters.  When I've been asked to play this way in the past I've always struggled a bit as a role-player because I find that I invariably invest more in one character than the other, or I end up playing 2 characters who aren't necessarily that compatible in the interest of filling out roles in party.  This time out I decided to go into character creation fully intending the 2 characters to be friends/colleagues/companions who's goals and motivations would be in sync.  I worked through a couple of ideas but settled on a Cleric and Paladin of Trithereon (Greyhawk's Diety of Liberty and Retribution).

Dacius the Just is my human cleric and is proof positive that my luck with dice is absolutely wretched.  Even using the 4d6 drop the lowest character generation method the highest stat I rolled was a 14 and I still somehow ended up with a 6.  Being human mitigates that a bit as every single one of Dacius' stats got a 1 point bump (I'm still stumbling around with a 7 Dexterity mind you).  For Dacius' figure I wanted a moderately armoured human with a 2 handed bludgeoning weapon.  I used one of the Bolton Cutthroats from A Song Of Ice And Fire.  I think the figure works well for D&D but oddly the entire Cutthroat box (other than the Dreadfort Captain) look a little small next to the other A Song Of Ice And Fire miniatures.



Amon Flamecreed is my Tiefling (first Tiefling character model for me) Paladin.  I really wanted to make a Paladin that was different from the usual 'knight in shining armour' and making him a Tiefling with a fiendish heritage fit perfectly.  Amon was slightly luckier for me with the dice ending up with a 15 and nothing lower than a 10.  Amon is still a fairly classic sword and board warrior-type but 1 session in and his darkvision has already made him vastly more useful than a human with overall better stats would have been.  Amon is a Reaper Bones model and simultaneous showcased the best and worst about that line for me.  His tail, sword and horns are thin and narrow but the Bones vinyl is very resilient to bending and breakage, his face however is almost completely devoid of detail and he's basically noseless.  Having said that I'm happy with how he turned out and I think he'll continue to be extremely versatile and useful in The Sunless Citadel.



I've got a few monsters to do next but doing a Tiefling, a Kenku and a Dragonborn in the past few months has got me thinking about what other PC character races I should try to get some models for.
Anybody know where I can find a Firbolg for D&D?

-Jay






Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The littlest Owlbears

Today I'm wrapping up the last of the Owlbear miniatures I already own by FINALLY (I think it's been over a year) circling back to my Darksword Miniatures Owlbear pack to paint my Owlbear cubs.

I thought these cub models were a really neat idea as they added something familiar but that was none-the-less missing from other model ranges.  I'm hoping this an idea that continues through the WizKids Wardlings line with the animal companions included with their figures.

Normally I don't post pics of 'finished' figures until they are well and truly finished but I made a minor exception today (and probably will again in the next couple of days); I still need to go back and add the pupils to these guys but I did something to my right hand yesterday and discovered today that my fine muscle control with that hand is currently WAY off.

That wraps it up for Owlbears until some new models cross my path, I think I'll try to lay my hands on some Hook Horrors next to scratch that old school D&D monster itch.

-Jay

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Did someone say "more Owlbear"?

Starting off the new year Reaper Miniatures announced they were starting a new line; Reaper Bones Black.
Almost immediately everyone started speculating on what it would be and what it would be like as the low-cost Reaper Bones line had seemingly been a huge hit with value conscious RPG miniature buyers, while serious painters had largely found the line underwhelming.  As part of their launch Reaper is planning on sending out a ton of free Reaper Bones Black models to get people to try them out and their first model for January 2019 is a new Owlbear sculpt.

First up I want to say the material is a huge step up from the Bones vinyl.  This figure is more akin to a hard plastic, although it may also share properties with the 'restic' material Privateer Press uses.  I'm hoping their February model has some long thin pieces so I can experiment with its flexibility and durability.
Having said all of that, the Owlbear is great!  The detail is crisp and deep, the model required almost no cleanup and he looks great alongside my existing Owlbear collection.



I intentionally painting him almost identically to my WizKids Owlbear from last week so that I could compare the two.



Personally I preferred the Reaper Owlbear for its pose and style (feels very much like old-school TSR art to me) but people who like a more realistic looking Owlbear may still prefer the WizKids version.

What do you think?

-Jay

Saturday, 12 January 2019

There's always room for more Owlbear

My goal was to get my awesome WizKids Owlbear model done before my new Reaper Bones Black Owlbear shows up next week; mission accomplished!

When I first saw this Owlbear previewed ahead of its release late last year I was really impressed.  The pose was dynamic and the detail and texturing looked great.  My only issue to date with the WizKids line has been that they show digital sculpts on their website instead of actual models so I'm always a little worried something might not be quite as detailed or as nice as it looks online, that concern was 100% misplaced here.  The WizKids Owlbear has a ton of deep well executed texture and somehow simultaneously manages to crisply differentiate between the fur and feather textures while still making the areas where one transitions into the other extremely subtle.  I like the pose because it is dynamic and aggressive while still being a compactly positioned miniature that will transport well.  Overall I'm extremely happy with the miniature.



I went with a similar paint scheme to my previous Darksword Owlbear with the only real differences being the paws and the beak.

I need to paint some Monsterpocalypse stuff but after that I've got three more Owlbears to paint this week.

-Jay