Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cryx pt. 9: Bile me!

The silence of late hasn't been an indication of inactivity as such; I've been plenty of busy being ill. What was supposed to be an awesome weekend of drinking with the friends turned out to be...well, just that; a lot of drinking. Only problem with drinking is it makes you stupid beyond reason, which in my case translates into not giving a damn about how cold I feel. So there you have it, I crashed the following day and have been laying low, watching series in the television without a voice for the last couple of days.

This night, I managed to recover and get some work done though (that is, if you discard watching the entire seasons of Sherlock, Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones as 'work') and finish up my Bile Thralls. I've had these guys standing around for some time, and it was nice to finally complete them.

My cat 'Multe' provided a helping paw. I know he's considering starting Cryx.

These models are lovely, not only on the gaming table. It's such a nice surprise to unpack models that don't require any assembly at all; just stick them to the base and you're good to go. They weren't terribly complicated to paint either; I mostly went with the same scheme as I did on Nagash, with a basecoat of Ulthuan Grey, washed with Devlan Mud, highlighted with Rakarth Flesh, thin wash of Athonian Camoshade (I swear, this wash makes all flesh look nasty) and final highlight with Rakarth. Simple as that. I skipped going for NMM on the metal because I'm not good enough to make dark metal with that style, yet, and I'm still undecided on how much I like it in a Cryx army.

I'm very happy with how they turned out.

I've played with these a couple of times, in lists that didn't really support them that much. Ofc. pDenny manages to support most things, but I pressed them in because of the psychological pressure they seem to instill in most people. I mainly keep them hidden behind the lines of either raiders or Nys, and wait for the front lines to fall. Once this starts to happen, it usually means the unit is about to expire, and in the last game versus Khador, he managed to Widow a few of them down. Still, three of them made it to the front and blew up and entire Winter Guard death star and a couple of assassins. I still need work on their positioning, seeing how I managed to take a couple of raiders with me as well, but my old Skaven mentality tells me this is okay.

I've started working next on the Bane Thrall attachment, so we'll see how that goes. I want to get as much done as possible before Witcher 3 hits, now that I've also got Pillars of Eternity out of the way.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A look at my portfolio

With so many people asking, I thought I'd make a single post with some of my best paints. Will be updated on a regular basis.

Pictures with a [Sold] were done on commission or sold later.

Khador Behemoth

Khador Fenris

Khador Fenris on Mount

Khador eIrusk

Khador eIrusk

Khador eIrusk

Khador Joe

Khador Doomreavers

Khador Modded Dog

Khador Widowmaker

Khador Winterguard
Skorne Cataphract Cetrati

Skorne Molik Karn

Skorne Molik Karn

Cryx Satyxis Raider Captain

Cryx Satyxis Raiders

Cryx Warwitch Siren

Cryx Warwitch Siren

Mercenaries Aiyana and Holt

Warhammer Fantasy

Vampire Counts Nagash (completed)

Skaven Abomination

Skaven Abomination

Skaven Screaming Bell

Dark Elf Black Guard [Sold]

Dark Elf Sorceress [Sold]

Dark Elf Sorceress [Sold]

Chaos Dragon Ogres [Sold]

Vampire Counts Isabella von Carstein [Sold]

Vampire Counts Nagash (during wip)

Vampire Counts Nagash (during wip)

Skaven Rat Ogres

Skaven Rat Ogres

Vampire Counts Modded Terrorgheist [Sold]

Warhammer 40.000
Chaos Space Marines Daemon Prince [Sold]

Chaos Space Marines Daemon Prince [Sold]

Chaos Space Marines of Nurgle [Sold]

Mantic Skeleton Horde [Sold]
Halfling mini

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cryx pt. 8: Painted Satyxis and fuck Terminus

So, game night at the local club is off due to some holiday related stuff. Something with Jesus, I think. Henceforth, I decided it was time to get on with some creative projects and represent.

I've been working for some time on my Satyxis Raiders; the little ladies have performed so well in all my games so far, so they were first in line for the brush. I completed them this night and though I admit they were painted for army-presentation, I'm satisfied with their look.

Next up is the witch and the captain, now that all the paint is out. I want to go more into detail with those two, like I did with the Siren - but likely trying to get them out faster. I'm still knee-deep into Pillars of Eternity and with Witcher 3 on the horizon I'm not really sure where I'll find all that time : /

I did the mistake, needless to say, of entering Jolly Roger Studios after posting my Satyxis, which just crushes my fragile little spirit every time. It's an amazing site that has granted me loads of inspiration and those guys are so talented painters they're out of this world. Still, I recommend giving them a look; it's always great to aspire for greatness!

Then we have Terminus and I...
Yeah, I've started assembling that huge metallic fucker.

I've tweeted a bit about my shitstorm of frustration that is Terminus. Allow me to repeat; this model is a living, fucking nightmare. Not only is he huge (likely bigger than a Bronzeback) he also comes in myriads of parts that, goes without saying, don't fit the least. It's at times like these that I want to cuddle up in a corner and cry about my Games Workshop-Ex, hoping that Jervis Johnson will come through the door, smile and provide me with a nice resin Terminus that just goes click.

Sadly, such fancies are beyond me, so I'm stuck with this scrapyard of a model. So far, he's been pinned more than a voodoo-doll and I've spent more Gorilla Gel Glue than I want to remember. My index finger is numb and blistered from drilling and the progress is so slow. Even then, I really doubt he'll be a breeze to transport like other PP models. The parts stick but they aren't solid like with Molik Karn. I'm fairly certain Molik would survive a crash from the table with just a shattered base. Terminus, not so much...

So far, I'm at the wings-section; needless to say this is the ├╝ber-bitch part. Just to fuck up matters more, my drill shattered so I had to make do with an old one. I made a support drilling in front of the wing to keep it in place with wire, but even with that and the already existing support of the model, it wasn't enough to keep the wing in place for the glue to dry. Luckily, I had some creative help from my girlfriend, likely saving me several hours of idle wait, holding those shitty pieces together.

I'm not sure whether this will hold, or if he snaps as soon as I try moving him. Time will tell. Alternatively, I'll get some plastic wings from a deamon prince and use instead. I really love your products, PP, but this one is a dropped ball for sure.

There is no way anyone could possibly assemble this model with just ordinary super glue and the mere patience of a mortal.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hoard of the Dragon Queen Chapter 3 - ZzzzzZ

I've fallen way, way, waaay behind on this adventure log. In fact, at this moment of writing, we're well into half of the second book, yet I just stopped updating this stuff after the first two chapters of the first book. Why? I'll tell you. With a few exceptions towards the end, the first half of this adventure part stinks. 

It simply became such a huge lackluster that I couldn't be assed updating it anymore; for a while seriously contemplating starting out on a Paizo AP and improvise from there.

Yet, I feel I owe it to this blog and the sake of memory to complete what we started; at least so I can get started writing about the pure awesomeness that is the second book. But keep in mind that this stuff was played almost a year ago; meaning I'll have to stick to a review-format rather than a journal. Which is likely okay, anyway.

So, let's go on with chapter 3: Dragon Hatchery!

“There and back again”

As I spoke about in the last chapter, the adventure has a really strange sense of railroading in its early steps, somehow making me wonder whether the authors ever tried GM'ing that much before? In particular, I refer to the heroes arriving at the bandit camp, disguised, in chapter 2 and snooping around for the captured monk Leosin. This is all well and good, but there's an abundance of invisible walls the players really have no chance to guess are there. For example, there's a tent in which the leaders assemble and a cave mouth that's also forbidden. The fluffy explanation is “no trespassers!” - the technical explanation is “You must be THIS high of a level in order to enter”.

So what the heroes are supposed to do in the end of chapter 2, is to rescue Leosin, go back to Greenest , deliver him, which is where chapter three begins.

It starts out with Leosin sending you back to the camp to investigate the caves.

Yes. You read that right.

Those caves you were by all means interested in, that piqued your curiosity; the lesson we all know that great stuff happens in places you're not allowed to go? And after countless attempts, and likely a few deaths or bruises; you realized was not going to happen?

NOW you can. Yes, on your way.

If you're running the adventure as written, there's little way around this. You can allow the heroes to enter prematurely and likely have their ass handed to them, especially if someone manages to raise the alarm.

Ironically, the adventure doesn't include information about one of the most obvious paths: the heroes staying with the cultists, undercover, and following them as they set off? Instead, they're forced to babysit the monk back, so the setup for the rest of the road can be arranged. Again, I can't shake the feeling that this is written for people entirely new to this genre.

What I did: My heroes decided to simply kick Leosin on his way, which he of course wasn't pleased with, but he crawled his way back home. They remained behind, and to me there are two options for you as a GM if this happens.

A) The heroes are ordered to remain back at the hatchery, guarding it along with the denizens of the dungeon. They may scoop up some information about the heading of the cult and all its treasure, which is still just “North. Hail Tiamat!” - I went with this approach, and though it's still railroading, it's not a direct slap in the face with “NO! SHAME ON YOU AND YOUR SILLY IDEAS!”

B) Let the heroes travel along and skip directly to chapter 4. Fuck it, I regret not taking this route somehow, and just awarding them the full XP needed to progress and skip the stupid dungeon. Let the entire next chapter start on the road and let some other people join up with the cultists along the way. You can always introduce Frulam and the dragon guy later, if you want to. They don't get to meet Leosin and Frume, but what little roleplaying these provide is negligible anyway.

“The originality of this place has been fouled...”
But let's stay at this, as written, since this is a review after all.

The heroes return to the camp, only to realize it's been deserted. On the good side, the cave-expansion has finally arrived, and besides from a little roleplay they can do with the passing rangers or ransacking the remains of the camp, there's very little to do besides from entering.

Now, this is a dungeon. You've likely figured this out by now. I usually pride myself in being very, very forgiving about unrealistic layouts and designs of dungeons, mind you, but even this one blew me kind of away. It's not that it's bad per se (see Shackled City, for great candidates in that regard) – it's just boring. And apparently, its' very dangerous business being a cultist of the dragon around here. 

The adventure manages to justify some of the lethal elements, such as the cultists knowing the right path through a garden of dangerous fungi, but others are just hard to believe. Such as the only road into the food-storage is through a huge cavern full of bats and a swarm of hungry stirges. Apparently, whenever the cultist wish to fetch more food, they need to succeed on a DC10 Dex check? Also, the “door” inside is trapped, and several places on the floor as well by Kobold design. I can accept that strongholds and lairs are guarded and dangerous, but you have to believe someone could live here. 

And this is stretching it a lot.

"I enter the cavern and make a Perception check!"
On top of that, there's no original element to this dungeon. This gets progressively better as the adventure path moves on, I must add, but holy damn; they set the bar low. Most of the rooms are simple encounters, and while they're challenging for a party at that level, they're far from memorable.

The main antagonist is the cultist, Frulam Mondath and perhaps her right hand; the half-dragon, Langdedrosa (again reminding us that the writers used a bag of Scrabble when making names for this adventure path). I'm strongly empathizing “PERHAPS” here.

You remember Langdedrosa? The big, blue half-dragon that appeared at the end of chapter one and actually made for the first memorable villain? And likely the one who splattered some party member, seeing how he's several power levels above him or her?
It's not, however, entirely impossible that some player managed to roll 'that roll' against him and perhaps even splattered the scaly abomination across the streets of Greenest. Highly unlikely, but not impossible. Good for you.

 Only, the adventure doesn't want it to be that way. In fact it writes, that if Langdedrosa is slain, another half-dragon takes his place in the dungeon. But wait, the madness doesn't end there. In fact, no matter whether the heroes disguise themselves or run in, guns blazing, he attacks when he spots them. Talk about no room for improvisation, no feeling of accomplishment, no rewards for thinking outside the box.

 What I did:
If the heroes manage to kill him off, Landedrosa is gone. Period.

You can greatly speed up the dungeon by simply leaving out the boring encounters. If you want to make it more interesting, throw in a troll or an ogre-cook, like I did, who stayed behind in the meat chamber. Allow the heroes to interact with the cultist and Frulam if they remain undercover, but stress that the eggs will hatch within a month or so, after which they will have further instructions.

You can present them with the information that 'everyone is going north to the usual meeting place' – even players should be wise enough not to pry further for information than that.

Allow the heroes to witness the dragon hatchery and the eggs; maybe one of the eggs has gone into early hatching and the heroes have the chance to acquire their own black dragon whelpling? Think of the possibilities of that.

“Now, isn't this a surprise?”
My heroes stormed through the dungeon without much issue. Once they'd smashed the heads of the leaders, they found documents on her table, describing how the cultists journey north to an unknown destination. A note describes some place called Nerytar, however, and while the adventure doesn't say much about making knowledge checks for that name.

What I did:
Allow the heroes to make knowledge checks about that name; history is obvious.
If they succeed on a DC 10, they know it's the name of a long abandoned castle out in the swampy areas north of Waterdeep.
If they succeed on a DC 15 or higher, you can pretty much tell them about how the castle was originally built by a half-elf wizard, on the edge of the Mere of Dead Men. He later abandoned it, though, and a group of stargazers moved on. This group hasn't been heard from in several years, and to this day, people assume the castle is empty.
If they suceed on a DC 20 or higher, you can pretty much relate as much of the story as you wish from page 45 in the adventure. The heroes won't arrive at the castle till much later, though, so they may want to take notes.

This ends the chapter, again with some railroading, since the heroes are now supposed to go back to Greenest and talk to Leosin, who will then send them on to another town to meet with his paladin friend. Yet, what if the players decide to make haste and set after the cult? Wouldn't this seem wise? What if they want to track them; after all – such a huge group can't be that hard to follow?

I suggest you allow this to happen, if you want. The meeting in the beginning of the next chapter has next to zero significance for the heroes and the story; instead let the players track down the cultist caravan, infiltrate it or simply join up in whatever ways they can think of, and move on with Chapter 4: On the Road.

Summing up:
Chapter three is likely the worst chapter in the entire adventure path. It's boring, unoriginal, uninspiring and unrewarding towards creative thinking. Move on with it and hurry on to chapter four, which is at least a bit more creative.