Sunday, 28 July 2019

Review - The Ghostly Library

About a week ago I was privileged to be sent a preview copy of a new adventure for D&D; The Ghostly Library.

The Ghostly Library scratches a lot of different itches; it's a mystery, it's a ghost story, it's set in Ravenloft (sort of...), and by sort of I mean it's set on Gothic Earth.  Gothic Earth is a fairly low-fantasy re-imagining of our own world circa 1890 with the supernatural layered in.  It was a setting TSR developed as a bit of side project to the original Ravenloft campaign setting that now appears to be experiencing a second renaissance on DMsGuild.

It can be difficult to discuss a mystery adventure without spoiling details but I'll endeavour to do my best. 

The Ghostly Library by Mrs C, Evans starts off with the characters being engaged to determine the cause of some recent disturbing attacks on one Doctor Henry Fitzroy.  Fitzroy has been victimised by seemingly 'normal' people with no apparent links to each other on multiple occasions and now seeks resolution and peace from his current circumstances.  During the course of the PCs investigations they should discover not all is as it seems, and at the climax of the adventure the players will be forced to set aside normal conflict resolution in D&D (ie violence) and use their wits if they hope to succeed and survive.

One of the measurements of a truly great adventure mystery is that clues are laid out in a way and a context most players could be expected to pick up on without applying any weird leaps of logic.  This keeps the adventure from descending into chaos and prevents players from getting frustrated and feeling unsatisfied with their gaming experience.  Mrs Evans has done a terrific job of presenting multiple logical avenues of investigation, while also providing one extra encounter that can be thrown in at a time the players might feel the most lost.  It's truly fantastic to be able to write an adventure in this style that provides the DM narrative tools to help guide things back on track if necessary without removing player agency.

The adventure is populated by a variety of distinct and interesting NPCs for the players to interact with, and breaking from the standard medieval high-fantasy setting of D&D should give the players time to absorb and deal with moral implications of their choices before they make them.

Overall I would highly recommend The Ghostly Library for any true fan of gothic horror (as opposed to slasher or jump scare horror) as well as to anyone looking for a satisfying investigative mystery for their players to engage in.

The Ghostly Library is currently available from DMsGuild at



Monday, 15 July 2019

Bone Devil and my first test of Citadel Contrast paints

I'm bouncing back and forth between a few projects right now but as I'm able to get my hands on more assorted fiend miniatures I want to keep churning them out ahead of Descent Into Avernus so I'm ready in September.  The other opportunity I've been looking for is the right project to try the new Citadel Contrast paints on.  More on that in a bit.

The Bone Devil is a really neat miniature with some interesting proportions.  The Bone Devil has a wide base (he's standing on a 50mm base here), and is quite tall at about 150% the height of a human sized miniature (not including the wings).  Having said all that being skeletal it is also quite thin, so the model is tall and broad but not heavy-set.
I quite like this miniature as it looks really different from anything else I have, including other larger skeletal models.  I've never actually used a Bone Devil in a game before so I'm excited about trying one out, and once again I'm adding to my slowly growing collection of fiends.

On the subject of the Contrast Paints I have mixed feelings.  If you're an inexperienced painter or someone who is short on painting time then this is the product for you.  It builds in some gradient colour and effectively does the job of three coats of paint (base + wash + highlight) in one coat.  Where I was a bit underwhelmed shouldn't have been a surprise, it was the fact that the paint pooling in low areas and recesses created some uneven looks in a few places.  To be fair, more practise with these paints and/or spending some time doing additional touch-ups and highlights would easily offset that.  Going forward I think I'll use these as a time saver but will definitely invest more time and effort into cleaning up after the Contrast coat.

There you have it; new model, new paints, good times!


Saturday, 13 July 2019

Review - Uncaged Volume 2

After about a week I have finally made it through my copy of Uncaged Volume 2 for Dungeons & Dragons from DMsGuild and I'd like to share my thoughts.
Uncaged is an anthology series originally planned for four volumes (I believe now a fifth has been added) that as the blurb on the back reads "subverts and reinvents the tropes around female mythological creatures, monsters, and figures."

Volume 2 offers 25 short adventures for Tiers 1-3 by a massive and diverse team of writers and artists.  Much like the first volume I have to start off by saying that the book itself is physically gorgeous.  The cover art by Samantha Darcy of a Rusalka is incredibly striking and powerful and once you start flipping through the book you will find it is crammed full of art in a variety of styles.  I've always felt the use of art in gaming products is immensely important to help the DM get a feel for the atmosphere of the adventure or setting and much of the art in Uncaged really drew me in and ultimately determined the order I read the adventures in.    If I had one criticism of the visual elements of Uncaged Volume 2 it would be that some DMs might find the lack of cartography a bit surprising.  Most of the scenarios presented in Uncaged Volume 2 are very narrative and role-play driven so they do not really rely on maps to steer exploration or combat.  Where maps are needed they are provided but the ratio of maps to page count might surprise some DMs.

At it's core though the true value of an adventure or series of adventures for an RPG is the quality of their writing.  This is another area where the team behind Uncaged truly excelled.  I really enjoyed Volume 1 so I had high expectations for Volume 2 and those expectations were more than met.  By working from existing mythology and storytelling tropes Uncaged feels familiar as you start reading but then the authors bend and twist and give you something unexpected to layer on top of the familiar.  With a list of 25 adventures my original intent had been to call out the adventure I liked the most and the one I liked the least but I genuinely can't come up with one I don't like so I'll just have to focus on the one I liked the most and will probably run first.
Love's Sorrow is written by Tera Hooper and illustrated by Gwendy Bee.  Love's Sorrow is a great combination of horror and mystery that as I touched on earlier may initially feel very familiar to both players and dungeon masters but as they begin to unravel the mystery they will find a few twists and a lot of depth for a story that takes a mere 7 pages to tell.  How the adventure plays out will be entirely determined by player choices and the author has thought to lay out multiple outcomes so that success or failure is more on a sliding scale than a traditional got-it/didn't-get-it dynamic that exists in mystery adventures.

Overall I think Uncaged Volume 2 (and Volume 1 for that matter) are must buys for any Dungeon Master.  There are high quality adventures across almost every level of play that can either be played as one-offs or dropped into an existing game as side quests.  Personally I love having a ton of short adventures ready to go on hand as it means if a scheduled game ever becomes unplayable due to a player or players dropping out you can run something else on short notice with those who can attend and possibly some other players dropping in as well.

I would definitely say buy Uncaged Volume 2 and I highly recommend investing in the print-on-demand version as the art and visual elements make it more than worth a space on your bookshelf.

Uncaged Volume 2 is presently available from DMsGuild at


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

And now for something completely different

When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons I DM a lot of games but don't get to play as a Player Character all that often.  What this always seems to lead to for me is that when I'm told I'm going to actually play in a game I end up making tons of different characters in the run up to the game until I actually decide which one I'm going to play.  This is effective a new chapter one in the latest version of that story.

I'm currently prepping to run Ravenloft II: The House On Gryphon Hill as a 5e adventure for a group of friends but after we conclude that adventure my buddy Darren is running a group of us through Tales Of The Old Margreve by Kobold Press.  I've never played a game set in Midgard before so initially I assumed I'd just be making a character out of the Player's Handbook but once I got my hands on the Midgard Heroes Handbook and the Margreve Player's Guide I realised there were tons of character options that are unique to the setting and would let me play something I'd never played before.  I'm currently juggling between three character choices but while I'm deciding I started painting and got my first potential character done.

In D&D I usually play a human character as most of the other PC races don't really interest me all that much, but in Midgard you can play a humanoid bear...YOU CAN PLAY A HUMANOID BEAR!  In addition in the Margreve book there are some additional Barbarian options specifically for Bearfolk Barbarians (Bearbarians?).  On top of all that the Midgard book also has improved rules for great-axes.  So just to be clear, I can play a raging humanoid bearman with an axe that can cleave through my opponents weapons.
The strangest part of this whole thing might be that not only does Reaper make a miniature for that, but as it turns out I already had one sitting waiting to be painted.  For the life of me I can't remember what I ever would have gotten this for in the first place.

So this might be my Margreve character but amazingly there are a few other options that are just as unique and interesting so this guy may sit on a shelf if I decide on a different concept.


Monday, 8 July 2019

Once more on the old school miniature train!

And now for something a little different...

For the most part the miniatures you see painted on my blog are my miniatures that I've painted for myself.  The few rare exceptions have been when I've painted a miniature for one of my non-miniature painting friends I'm playing D&D with or when I inevitably lose EVERY painting bet I make with my friend Darren.  Today's entry is the first time I've painted models for anyone I'm not personally gaming with since I left Games Workshop.

On Instagram I follow VintageRPG who produces a lot of content reviewing (mostly) retro-RPG products.  During an exchange about miniatures he asked if I'd be interested in painting up a few older figs for him.  I was more than happy to lay my hands on some models I hadn't seen in decades and see what I could do with them.  So here we go!

The group itself is made up of (from left to right); a Couatl, a Dwarf Cleric, and a Minotaur.
The Couatl was pretty straight forward, but made me realise I don't actually own one myself so I'm going to have to find another one for my own collection at some point.  Also I know the goal was to show off some classic figures to I resisted the urge to add a super-muscular arm and turn this fig into Trogdor The Burninator.
Next up, and my personal favourite of the three, the Dwarf Cleric.
One of the frequent knocks against older RPG models is that they tend to be fairly flat and without much texture to work with.  This Dwarf figure definitely doesn't fall into that and I think between the heavy armour and the fur cloak would like right at home next to any modern Dwarf miniatures.  I'd also like to call out an element on this figure that I'd like to see more of in modern figures; a mace that is studded rather than spiked.  I have two reasons for wanting to see more of this; firstly as a fan of a lot of old school RPG art maces were typically studded not spiked back in the day, and secondly in my experience a lot of smaller spikes don't seem to cast very well or very crisply on modern miniatures.

Lastly, the Minotaur.
This is a really nicely detailed straightforward Minotaur miniature.  I'm generally a proponent of newer non-metal models but I have to say I like this Minotaur more than the one I actually painted for myself when I did my 2017 Monster Manual advent calendar (an idea I think I'm going to bring back this year by the way).  The texturing is again very good and the proportions are well done making for an imposing but not comically gigantic miniature.
Years ago I lost all of my Ral Partha figures in a move so I don't think I'll have more of these vintage figures to show off anytime soon but it sure was fun to do these up.