Category Archives: Fantasy

Posts on fantasy gaming using the Fantasy Rules 2nd Ed. and Hordes of the Things rules.

Death in the Dungeon – a quick review for a quick game

Looking for something new to try, Sean and I played a little competitive dungeon crawling in the form of Death in the Dungeon, a quick-play zine-format brawler from Crushpop Creations that came out a few years ago. We both quite enjoyed our 3 quick games over 2 hours, but both felt it needed a bit more.

The game is quite small – only 34 pages that are 5.5″ by 8.5″ in size – so by its nature cannot cover a lot of game. But you get the basics – your PCs have a few stats – Movement, Toughness, Armour and Damage. With 6 races, 6 classes, 3 types of armour and 7 weapons, plus a dozen spells, there is definitely room for tactical variety here.

Stats are based on a d4 through d12 dice system – with the core mechanic of being Power Level (from Class ) vs Toughness (from Armour). Ties go in the attackers favour, which was different (and quite deadly for me, as it happened). Initiative uses a pooled dice of the active PCs Power Level to determine, which was quite a clever mechanic.

Our first game we built to 75 gold and I fielded 3 characters to Sean’s 2 – I had a Human Knight, an Orc Barbarian and a Human Sorcerer (who had no weapons or armour, this was bad). Sean had a Knight and a Barbarian. And he destroyed me in two different games – one a straight fight and one with endless skeletons spawning.

Many, many skeletons kept my team busy with Sean eventually did for it, one member at a time.

Our third game I managed to win, mostly by taking a pair of long-bow equipped mouselings running as Dwarves and a Dwarf barbarian. Ranged without cover is almost always deadly and in this game it was too.

Overall, it was a fun little game. But it really doesn’t lend itself well to just two people playing – there just wasn’t enough chaos. Both Sean and I felt that with 3 or 4, that would have felt right. Given the time it took to run a game, even doubling this to 1 hour was totally doable.

One key challenge with the small page count is the lack of clarity you have. For example, my initial sorcerer had no weapons or armour. Was this a legal build? Can you drink a potion or loot during combat?

Would we play this again? Maybe if we had more people. The quick setup and play time means a game can be done in very little time, even if you don’t know the rules.

You can get Death in the Dungeon from Wargames Vault for $2.99 USD. It has a number of expansions as well, which I have the free ones.

Joining the Nightwatch to fight endless skeletons

Our group tried out Patrick Todoroff’s Nightwatch today, a coop fantasy/horror monster hunting skirmish game he published a few years ago. We play a lot of cooperative games, mostly Sellswords & Spellslingers and the new scifi variant I’m working on, so we’re always keen to try something new.

Our First Game

We decided to play the intro scenario set as laid out in the book, which was the big bad or Atrocity, as a necromancer, so lots and lots of skeletons for us. Good thing all three of us have lots of skeletons already. Brian choose a ranged fighter, Sean a melee fighter and myself an alchemist. As we were an odd set (in more ways than one), we ended up with Sean getting a d10 minion to balance the pact Brian and I shared (apparently we ran up a gambling debt together).

The first mission is an escort one – get Derek across the table. Here we bumped into the first challenge, as we couldn’t see exactly what stats Derek was supposed to have. We ended up playing him as having a single free move and nothing else – this did make it an 8 turn game (another challenge, it wasn’t clear to us what the term limit was – it is implied to be 7 turns elsewhere).

Nightwatch begins very quietly. There isn’t a single foe on the table in the first Pact turn. We moved as much as we could given we had to wait for Derek, so that meant the Darkness got lots of turn to spawn. The early turns were fairly easy – we shot or used explosive grenades on foes and got rid of them quite easily.

Brian’s ranged fighter faces off against a bow-wielding skeleton over the graveyard

By turn 3 or 4, it was quite different. The Darkness was now spawning many more skeletons than we could handle in a turn, so out came the smoke grenades. These work wonderfully – any foe inside them moves in a random direction, but this also ended up being a place where some more explanation in the rules would have been nice. it wasn’t clear to us what happened with foes outside the smoke – would they move through it, then randomly once they were in it? And if they moved randomly out of the smoke, would they change direction once out of it to move towards the PCs?

Then the end was coming – one way or the other. Two of us got wounded and that meant we lost our d10 action. Thankfully a pair more smoke bombs and then some flashpowder to get my alchemist free followed by the last explosive grenado my alchemist had.

The end. The PCs and Derek are up in the top corner, about to escape while the hordes close in. Another smoke bomb can be seen in the upper right.

Closing thoughts

Overall, we quite liked the game. It played well and fairly quickly – 2 hours for a game including time to build characters and understand the rules. The core of game is the alternating turns between the PCs (the Pact) and the foes (the Darkness). The second major mechanic is around activations – both PCs and the foes activate worked well too – the PCs get three activation dice (d6, d8 and d10) and use them for their actions looking for successes with a 4+. This gives you some options about what you choose to do.

We rather liked the wounding system – it wasn’t everything to nothing, PCs lose their best actions as they get wounded, all the way down to 3 wounds where they can only move, and then dead at 4 wounds. This meant that PCs degrade naturally, although we never had a PC with more than a single wound.

Sean quite liked the fighting system and how the shield bash and other abilities worked, although we forgot about our guild abilities quite often. The abstract different melee/ranged weapons combinations was an interesting way to cover off many types of weapons without naming them all.

The rulebook is well written, but needed another pass to reorganize and clean up bits. We found ourselves flipping through many pieces to find rules, including some basic stuff like Free Move can be used for reload, which isn’t listed on the quick reference. The author did mention that this was basically a home-brewed system expanded into a commercial product, and as someone who is putting the final touches on a beta for playtesting for a ruleset, I know just how hard this can be.

Sellswords has a nice flow chart for foe action that would be good to incorporate, although the wording around how foes act is quite nice – gives players a flavour for how they are supposed to act, not just as mindless creatures.

We’re definitely going to play at least a few more times, likely through the intro scenario. And I’d definitely recommend others try it out, it does play quickly and well.

You can get Nightwatch on DrivethruRPG for $9.

The Workbench at the End of the Year (Dec 31 2023)

A quick look at the workbench right at the ragged end of the year! After not really painting anything for most of the second half of 2023 I rediscovered painting energy in November and have been plowing through a whole bunch of stuff.

The workbench at the end of 2023. Click for larger.

The anklyosaur person is from Fenris Games and is massive – that’s a 60mm base and they hang over every edge. The baggage ogre and little robot are Reaper, as are most of the random humans over on the back left. The sea serpent and big frog are Footsore Miniatures.

Overhead closeup of the current entertainment. Click for larger.

I’ve shown off some WIP photos of the anklyo-person over on BlueSky but they were early, no weapons mounted and painting not quite finished. I’ve got a whole bunch of WIP photos of this figure and will also be taking some good closeups after I finish painting and basing, because I’m really, really pleased with how they’re turning out!

The baggage ogre is just a fun figure, much more interesting than yet another horse and wagon if you need a baggage element for a fantasy game!

Rear view of the anklyo and ogre. Really, really pleased with how the shell of the anklyo turned out! Click for larger.

Hope everyone had good holiday season, and an excellent 2024 as we roll into the New Year!

Adventuring in a dungeon in Sellswords & Spellslingers

Sellswords & Spellslingers is a fantastic co-op fantasy skirmish game, but it does have one small challenge – it works well for games that take place outside or in large areas, but not so well for a classic dungeon crawl, where bits of the dungeon are revealed as the players explore. So I thought I would set out to design some basic rules for this.

What’s the challenge?

Sellswords biggest challenge comes with how it spawns the foe – continuously and in great volume. This means that if players are in a small space, that is going to get really deadly, really quickly.

Creating a dungeon that gets discovered as you go

Sellwords usually works where you lay the whole board out in the beginning, so I had to create a way to have the dungeon, some foes and a few lost adventurers show up. I used a standard deck of cards and split it up – you’ll see the cards in the shots below. We tried two different versions – the first with 10 terrain pieces + 10 foe cards and then a second version with 6 of each. The second worked much better

So how does it play?

Just as deadly as regular Sellswords. Our second game we took 7 PCs into in, found 2 lost adventurers and still finished the game with nobody alive.

It began quite well. Up until the photo below, we had killed most of the skeletons that had popped up, we’d recovered the lost friendly Goblin (metal figure furthest up the picture) and we’d discovered another lost adventurer (a friendly gnoll), but we has Out of Action behind a pillar in a far room.

Beginning of the game
Near the beginning, as we have got out of the initial corridor and are headed into the linked rooms on the upper left

And then it all started to go downhill. One little group of skeletons – one horde and one ambush, did for 3 characters – two dead outright.

Middle of the game
Right when it all started to go wrong. Sean’s witch leader is down, his archer already dead and my mousling archer about to go down.

After the massive death in the upper left room, death was soon to follow us into the next rooms. Quickly enough my first mousling archer and one of Brian’s were downed. All that remained were two. We did discover the NPC merchant, but he only watched as the skeletons slaughtered us.

And then there were two – Brian’s witch finder and my last mousling – Robin the Good.

And a few turns later, it was all over. Brian’s witch finder was able to revive the friendly Gnoll – Fur Face – but he quickly fell to an ambushing skeleton.

All down, just a short distance from the end.

What’s Next?

Not sure, I’ve got some rules, but I also know that the author Sellswords & Spellslingers has been working on some dungeon crawling, so likely going to wait for that.

As for my hell terrain, it will soon be much more colourful, but that’s a post for another time.

Dead Animal Bits, A Kickstarter

Conversion bits for strange projects can be hard to come by, even these days when high quality plastic figures make kitbashing and bits-finding easier. One of the staples of a certain flavour of folk horror, though, is folks with antlers, either on their helms or straight up growing out of their heads, and nobody has done horns, antlers, and such… yet.

Enter Pete The Wargamer, who has partnered up with Wargames Atlantic to do Dead Animal Bits: Plastic Wargaming Bits as a Kickstarter. As of writing this it’s got about 16 days left to run and is over 2/3rds funded, which is promising for full funding!

Some of the planned bits. Image ganked from the Kickstarter page and cropped.

His campaign video is also over on YouTube and is nicely done, and one sprue will give you enough related bits to do whole units up similarly, which is always nice.

The Dead Animal Bits intro video

I’ve backed for a pouch of bits, 3 full sprues, and I’m really hoping to see this funded and produced so I can get inspired to get back to my weird folk horror 17th C stuff sometime in the new year!

So, if antlers and horns and bones and teeth and feathers and other gribbly conversion bits are an interest, have a look before December 18 2023 and consider backing Dead Animal Bits.

Not a paid endorsement or anything, just one of those chance finds via social media that slots very, very neatly into some of my specialized wargaming interests!

Cliffside monastery of Sheksha-kah on Halite #galaxy23

Today we find ourselves on Halite, the namesake planet of the Halite Commonwealth and homeworld of two separate intelligent species – the related lizard-like Qoss and the snake-like Yishk. On Halite is the cliffside monastery of Sheksha-kah, a famous religious centre in the commonwealth and a common retreat location for the wealthy and powerful to avoid unwanted notice or rehabilitate their image.

The Myth of Othaos

Perched high above the seas below on a narrow ledge, the monastery was founded by famous Halite scholar and skeptic turned prophet Othaos. They (neuter gender Qoss) famously boasted that “The gods don’t exist” and lead a group of atheist scholars that were seeking to unseat the orthodoxy.

Legend says (as told by Othaos themselves) that they were on a small boat travelling to Scorzetti when a massive, unseasonable storm suddenly descended upon their little ship. Soon all hope for control was lost as the heavy waves and wind pounded them. For hours the storm raged, pushed them closer and closer to the menacing cliffs they were pushed. Othaos said they prayed to the Goddess Sheksha of the Light Moon (the larger of the two of Halite’s natural satellites) in his time of need.

Othaos’ ship founders in the storm, as the light moon breaks through the clouds (Stable Diffusion)

Shortly after midnight , the Light Moon broke through the clouds and illuminated them, pointing them at a gap in the cliffs. Through that cliff was a small protected beach and stairs up to the ledge high above the seas. Through skillful navigation, the small ship found its way on the beach, nearly swamped.

Othaos promised then and there to build the grandest monastery on Halite, the building that now stands on the ledge to this day. How much of this tale is true is left up to the reader.

Adventure Hooks

As the monastery often hosts the wealthy and powerful who are looking to avoid some public scrutiny or atone for a public failing, the possibilities for adventures include smuggling people or goods out of the monastery, a covert assassination or similar nefarious things. The monastery can only be reached by foot – either up Othaos’ cliffside route or the newer path alongside the cliff. Both are under easy view of the monastery staff at all times, so any party would need excellent skills and some luck to pull off an action. Conversely, if defending the monastery the powerful storms that whip up in the seas below it often prevent easy reinforcements, so if players are defending the monastery, they might need to hold for quite some time with limited resources.

Authors Note: The above is also being rolled into an upcoming Sellswords & Spellslingers source booked tentatively called The Free Cities of the Rift, a Venice-like city in the world of Norindaal

Folk Horror Miniatures

I tripped over this little Kickstarter earlier in 2022 for a dozen figures inspired by European folklore, Folk Horrors by Ana Polanšćak. They’re very much “things that go bump in the night” weird horror miniatures and I decided to grab them while the KS was still running.

twelve folk horror miniatures - image snagged from Kickstarter
Image snagged from Kickstarter – the twelve miniatures included, all assembled and painted.

Some of them might be humans in costumes (might be!) and some of them really definitely… aren’t. I think I’ll be using these as plot point markers or similar for Pulp Alley-powered weird horror games, either in the not-quite-17th-C gunpowder homebrew setting I’ve been gradually putting together or more conventional early-20th-C pulp horror games. A good creepy alternative to the Cthuloid fishmen and such I already have!

the twelve miniatures all in actual pewter, laid out on a cutting mat for scale.
All twelve figures laid out. The cutting mat is 1 inch/quarter-inch grid squares, for scale.

I’ll get this lot assembled, based, and primed over the next few weeks; painting should be pretty short and sweet if I follow the KS paint scheme!

The figures themselves are nice and clean, minimal mold lines and flash. I have some concerns about attaching the horns on some of the figures and the arms on the one “Bellman”, but thick gel superglue and tiny bit of greenstuff should work OK to keep everything in place!

Unfortunately with the KS closed I have no idea where you might go to buy yourself these figures. Meridian Miniatures appears not to have their own website, just a fairly inactive Facebook page. Andrew May has a Patreon page and has run a bunch of other Kickstarters, but again, no info about post-KS ordering. Slightly odd – if anyone has links please let me know in comments!

The Workbench This Week, 28 Feb 2022

Plague and megalomaniac idiot dictators waging unprovoked war on democracies and idiots honking in stupid pickup trucks… let us distract ourselves with some modelling instead, shall we?

The workbench this weekend. Based and mushrooms and plague monks and ECW and much else!

So what was, in fact, on the workbench this weekend? Starting on the lower left of the cutting mat, we have a batch of 25mm/1″ plastic bases with greenstuff cobbles added to the top, these eventually to have some “town watch” kitbashed figures on them – probably Warlord ECW pikemen bodies with Frostgrave parts for some arms.

Heading clockwise, we have some awesome Fenris Games mushrooms, the first I’ve finished from their massive Sporewood set from the 2021 Toadstool Brownie kickstarter. I’ve based four of them onto a chunk of scrap 1/8th plastic and will get that finished up soonish; the fifth mushroom painted is lying on the left there.

At the back of the cutting mat behind the Fenris-supplied “Love Miniatures Hate Fascism” stickers are sixteen Bloody Miniatures English Civil War chaps, their Company of Wolves bundle of their Wave One releases, also from early 2021. Really lovely figures, full of character. Bloody Miniatures has produced two more batches of sixteen since then and Wave Four is on the way; I’ve held off on buying Waves Two and Three because up until a few weeks ago Wave One was still all boxed up…

The five Fenris plague cultists, all set to lead ominous processions through a fantasy city.

Finally in the foreground we have five Fenris Games Plague Cultists all finished and ready to terrorize a table soon. Their bases were the test run for the urban bases off to the left there. I wanted grubby urban cobblestones and I think it worked. Nice simple figures full of character, too, and beautifully easy to paint up.

Hobby progress despite the state of the wider world, and that is never a bad thing. Stay safe, stay sane, and hobby onward!

A Trash Bash Tower

A few days into January I had a fall that destroyed my glasses and injured my shoulder, both of which combined to cut down the amount of time I was able to spend on the computer. The upside of this, as I still needed something to do, was that I started a random construction project and completed it in about three weeks. (glasses have been replaced and shoulder is nicely on the mend, too)

Over the Christmas holidays I had painted up an entire village of really cool Toadstool Brownies from Fenris Games (they’ll get their own post soon) so I decided to trash bash a multi-story tower for them to cause trouble from, a sort of weird fantasy cross between a fortified tower house and a tenement apartment building.

I started with a medium size paper coffee cup from a widely available but deeply mediocre coffee chain, glued that to a scrap of 1/8th PVC sheet a bit bigger than my hand, then started adding details with scrap cardstock, wood coffee stir sticks, bits of styrofoam, paper, and Milliput.

This hasn’t actually graced a table yet, but I’m sure it will soon, and I want to write up stats for the Toadstool Brownies as either playable characters or random on-table nuisances for the games we play!

I haven’t done a pure stratchbuild like this in a while, but really want to do more, and weird fantasy builds are SO much fun!

An entry for Lead Adventure’s Build Something Competition 2022 – a farm!

Each year Lead Adventure forum runs a Build Something Competition, each with a theme. Brian and I have participated 5 times at various points in the past years. So with 2022 here, I figured it was my time again.

Continue reading An entry for Lead Adventure’s Build Something Competition 2022 – a farm!