Monday, 15 January 2018

CLII. Monstrous Births : Act I

The Countess is on a night-time outing with her spirit minions. She seeks to gather rare widow cap mushrooms, and lichen known as the devil's down. She knows these grow in a hidden cave in Volovska Weald, a forest near Castle Waywode. She has visited that place several times before.

Creeping through the trees, the Countess spots what she was looking for: a dried-up, abandoned well stands in a small clearing, illuminated by cold, bright moonlight. The hidden cave should be nearby.

However, something is not right this time. The cave is no longer uninhabited: a pack of wolves has made it their den since the Countess' last visit. There seems to be a man with them. He is clad in rags, his beard long and unkempt. He carries carved shepherd's crook and a large hoop made of woven twigs. This all points to the strange man being one of the fabled wolf herdsmen, hermits who live in the woods among wolves, commaniding them and caring for them.

The pack caught the scent of the Countess and her spirit host. As she approaches, the wolves, visibly agitated, block the path to the cave's mouth.

The Countess will have none of that. She bleeds herself, and from her blood and a shard of her spirit an etheric projection forms right in front of the herdsman. However, she will soon regret her overconfidance; instead of cowering from it, the wolves throw themselves at the beast with the Countess' face, and tear it apart.

The Countess decides to advance more cautiously, giving orders to her etherial minions to draw out the pack and try to single them out. To bolster her retinue's numbers, she bleeds herself yet again and summons a second Crimson Sphynx from the spirit world. 

One of the Custodians manages to provoke the pack to attack him. The wolf herdsman himself gets into the fray. As he comes closer, the Countess can observe his eyes are wild and inhuman; they look much like the eyes of his animals. The other spirits circle the woods in an attempt to flank the wolf pack.

The wolf herdsman suddenly throws his strange twig hoop around his own neck, which starts a grotesque transformation into a large, snarling wolf. Aided by his wolf brethren, he viciously attacks the surprised Custodian and sends him back to the underworld. But then a Crimson Sphynx gives him a start, landing behind him from the moonlit sky.

The encounter intensifies, wolves and ancient spirits fight furiously. The first few wolves stain the forest floor wit their blood. From a safe distance, the Countess makes her Beast materialise again. She is beginning to feel weak; the summoning always takes a toll on her physically. Attacking together with a Spynx, the Beast manages to open the throat of the enraged shapeshifter hermit. The big bad wolf falls on the carpet of dry leaves, never to get up again.

Then another strange thing captures the Countess' attention: from the thicket to her left, a large figure emerges.  Even in this weak light she can notice features of a deer, but this animal has got way more legs than a deer should. Only four of them are actually touching the ground; the others are dangling from its sides uselessly. 
The creature's slow-paced movements look painful and unsure. Its head is hanging low under the weight of a mass of antlers, grown wildly asymmetrical and coral-like. Then she notices another head hanging from a crooked second neck. As the tormented beast shambles along, its second head sends out a wail that is bloodcurdling and heart-wrenching at the same time. 

It breaks into a run. It is heading in the direction of the well. 

The deformed creature pays no notice to the fighting going on around the cave. However, a Ravenous Bloodfiend stands in its path. The deer attempts to shove it aside with a prod from the overgrown antlers. Angered, the spirit retaliates; but the deer creature is tough.

In the meantime, the skirmish with the wolves continues. The flanking Sphynx ran into some resistance. It is slain, but the beasts are not without casualties, either.

The misshapen deer manages to tear itself away from the enraged Bloodfiend, and heads straight for the old well. The Contess watches in disbelief as it deliberately hurls itself in, and hears it land with a thud on the well's dry bottom.

By that time, the growls and yelps of the wolves and eerie shrieks of the spirits have died down. The forest floor is littered with beasts' mangled bodies. The last surviving wolf is pinned down by a Sphynx, bleeding and struggling to break free from it grasp. The Countess is victorious.

Custodians are sent into the cave to fetch the fungi their mistress needs. After a narrow hallway sloped downwards, the cave opens into a spacious room of irregular shape. The walls on the farther end are damp and covered in places with amorphous red-coloured mass. Slender and pale toadstools poke out of the ground in clusters. A strong musty fungal scent is permeating the room, fighting for dominance with odours of urine and rotting meat. There are gnawed bones scattered on the floor.
Concealed in one of the nooks there lies a litter of five wolf pups, a few weeks old by the looks of it. Three appear to be gone but two are clearly alive. Each of the pups is grotesquely misshapen in a unique way. 

The Custodians report their discovery to the Countess. 'Curious. So this is what the wolves were guarding... Similar to that deer-thing', she mutters to hersef while examining a two-headed pup. 'Can it be a coincidence? What could it be?' 
Intrigued, and mildly concerned, she decides to take the surviving wolf pups back to the castle.

 *   *   *

The game used Malifaux rules, with a few tweaks and with custom stats for my characters. Tomislav Rac played the Countess, and I directed the wolf pack and did the little GM-ing that was necessary. I hadn't playtested the crews beforehand, but it all turned out just perfectly. The wolves were challenging, but not too powerful; and the Countess managed to survive and secure her objective in the end. She even managed to achieve the side-mission and gather some herbs around the cave (represented by the round markers with concentric circles visible in some of the photos), which she will use to craft a useful healing potion for Act II. Thanks to my brother for helping me come up with the stats, I'm sure they would have been far less balanced without his input. There are a few little things that need fixing before game two, but I'm very happy with how this turned out.

To help create atmosphere, a soundtrack I compiled for the games played in the background the whole time. During the game we listened to music from The Witch (2015) official soundtrack, Diablo II 15th Anniversary Soundtrack, and Buried Visions (2017) album by Asath Reon.

 *   *   *

So, that was Act I. Can't wait to play the rest! Act II will see the Countess investigate the causes behind the sudden outbreak of  misshapen wildlife.

I went with very desaturated photos and bluish hue up there because the fight took place at night. I'll sign off with colour versions of some of them:

Friday, 12 January 2018

CLI. Legen

Legen will be my main project for 2018. It will follow the same format as last year's Tor Megiddo: an international collaboration of like-minded hobbyists; first building warbands, monsters and scenery, inventing backstories and finally meeting for a game. This time I, with my colleagues from UMS "Agram", will be the host, and the event will take place here, in Zagreb. I have some very talented and creative people on board, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with during the coming months.


The setting for the project is the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar, or more precisely the isolated group of islands in my little corner of Realm of Shadows (same setting that contains my Cult of Vvolos and Ligia’s Flesh-eater court). There, people live in numerous micro-countries - many of them just a fortified town surrounded with villages that feed it. The rest is forests and hills and bogs, with monsters and barbaric, wild peoples roaming about.

News spread of unusual gargant activity in the north-west of Erebos, the largest of the isles. 'Gargants' is what GW decided to call giants in these new times, so let's just roll with it... Anyway, survivors report of a herd of gargants raiding villages and towns together, in cooperation. Furthermore, the herd appears to be growing in size – more solitary giants join the group as it makes its way south, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Bold knights head north to engage the destructive throng, either sent by their rulers or driven forth by their own lust for glory. Folk say this is all because the Legen-King has returned. Surely not, these are old-wives’ tales…

Legen was a stone castle of sublime proportions, built by gargants long, long ago. In ancient times, from there they ruled Erebos. There is a huge ruin on a mountain in the north of the island, crumbling and abandoned for centuries. They say this is what was once Legen, but due to inaccessibility and roosting griffins nobody bothers to venture there.
The ancient giants were gradually pushed further and further north-west by the little-folk, and ultimately defeated, broken and scattered. The greatest of gargants, and their ruler at the time, was Legen-King. In a spectacular and bloody battle, the king was slain by heroes of old, and his body cut up into pieces.
The body parts were then buried separately all over the islands. This was done to forever prevent the king’s return, because it was rumoured he had magical regenerative powers. Although people enjoy telling it, that story is generally not taken seriously, and is believed mostly by children and fools.

There are gargants on the islands to this day. They are roaming monstrosities of slow mind and great appetite, but they normally roam alone. A single gargant is able to do plenty of damage to peasants, but can be taken down by a well armed and trained party of soldiers. A herd of giants in the kingdom (fortunately a rare occurrence) is a threat that cannot be ignored by any sensible ruler.

Our skirmish will take place in the unfortunate village of Dol, where the pillaging gargants are finally met by knights coming from all across the isles. Will the giants be stopped or will they continue on their path of destruction? We will find out this summer.

*   *   *

The Legen project will take most of my hobby time for the first half of the year, since, along with my own warband and some giants, I need to build the table and scenery for the game. I will document all my progress here, and the other contributors will use their own media, I expect. This also might be a good time to say this: if you're using Instagram, you can now find me there as well: @a_polanscak.

Let us take a look at my first mini for the project: Sir Pelial of Turm, death knight of Vvolos.

Sir Pelial is a lone wandering knight, traversing the isles in search of glory and gold, and hoping Vvolos is watching. When news of gargant invasion in the north reached the knight, he recognised it as a great opportunity to prove his worth. Pelial set off northward to meet the gargants.

The model uses a Lord of Nurgle decayed horse, with barding from a Death Knight's steed. The upper body is from an Empire knight. The shield is also from the Death Knights box.
Sir Pelial was painted in the same colour scheme as the rest of the Cult of Vvolos faction. Yellow robe shows his higher status within the cult. 
As he progresses towards his goal, Pelial's journey will not be uneventful. It is his fate to encounter dangers and acquire companions along the way, so stay tuned for that.

Monday, 8 January 2018

CL. Stat Card Art

I've been busy painting some artwork over the holidays, to deck the stat cards for my Gardens of Hecate models. Most of the Countess' spirits got theirs, as well as the handful of monsters that will make an appearance in the upcoming Monstrous Births games. Here is a sample:

I've also revisited the stats for the models. We'll see how they work when the game is played. All that is left to do is some printing and cutting.

The Wolf Herdsman has the ability to transform into a wolf, so I painted a model to represent the Wolf Form. The mini is from Reaper, and is visibly larger than his 'ordinary' wolf companions. You will also notice the finished cave entrance scenery piece, which will be the objective for game #1.