Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Painting the Mythos: Tsathoggua

May is shaping up to be an inordinately busy month.  I have four days left until I hit the road for the remainder of the month attending various conferences, and before I leave I have a presentation to prepare, and a museum studies workshop to help organize.  I also need to grout the backsplash tiles in my kitchen.  Oh, and I also promised Shane that I'd get the draft files of Megadungeon! out to him this weekend.

Naturally, with so many pressing things to do and so little time to do them, I've been spending the weekend painting.

"It needed the nourishment of sacrifice, for It was a god.  Of course I couldn't get It the sort of sacrifices which It was used to have in Its day, for such things don't exist now.  But there were other things which might do.  The blood is the life, you know.  Even the lemures and elementals that are older than the earth will come when the blood of men or beasts is offered under the right conditions."


This miniature was an absolute joy to paint because of the impressive detail in the sculpt.
The colour scheme was inspired by studying pictures of Bushbabies, Tarsiers, and Lemurs then trying to imagine how they'd look if they were cosmic horrors instead of cuddly little prosimians.

Tsathoggua, who dwells in the black gulf of N'Kai, far below the earth's surface, is perhaps one of the most interesting of the Great Old Ones and certainly the least malevolent; at least he will answer a sorcerer's call if he is first satiated.  Nonetheless, any supplicant would be wise to have a sacrifice ready lest he become one, himself.  He makes an excellent addition to any sword and sorcery campaign as a capricious patron who will provide sorcerers with arcane power in exchange for blood sacrifice.

Tsathoggua is worshiped and served by his Formless Spawn, amorphous beings that can change their form at will, who are most often found in his temples or in underground caverns.

Formless Spawn of Tsathoggua

Armour Class: 9           Special: Immunity
Hit Dice: 6                    Move: 18
Attacks: see below       HDE/XP: 9/1,100

The Formless Spawn can change their shape in an instant; they can ooze through cracks and enlarge their appendages at will.  They have at least four different attack forms that they can change from round to round.
1. Whip - a single melee attack with +3 bonus to hit (damage: 1d6).
2. Tentacles - a melee attack that may strike up to three targets per round (damage: 1d6).
3. Bludgeon - a powerful crushing attack (damage: roll 2d6, pick the highest roll)
4. Bite - victim is swallowed whole and can take no action until the creature is slain (damage: 1 point, cumulative, each round after being swallowed).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Call of Cthulhu: Painting the Mythos

Some time back in the mid 1980s (1985 if memory serves correctly), shortly after getting into the Call of Cthulhu role playing game, I bought this box of Grenadier miniatures.

For about the last twenty six years I've been meaning to get these painted, but since I suffer from chronic Painter's ADD there's always been some project or other that has been a higher priority.  Consequently, these long-neglected creatures have languished in my basement all but forgotten.

So, I've decided to set myself a challenge to 'Paint the Mythos,' and finally give these miniatures the respect they deserve.  While rooting around in the basement, ostensibly to prepare for the spring flood, I uncovered a cache of Grenadier boxed sets that I hadn't seen in many a year.  Blowing the dust of the box cover, fell in love all over again with these beautiful sculpts.  Grenadier was often hit and miss with its sculpt quality, particularly in their AD&D line, but their Call of Cthulhu miniatures are absolutely top notch by any standard.

For my first mythos creature, I'm going to cheat a little to buy some time, and show you one that I'd already painted back in December to accompany my Christmas poem, The Night of the Black Mass.

Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath

Resembling trees in silhouette, the Dark Young are writhing masses of black ropy tentacles covered with puckered mouths that drip green goo, and terminate in hooves that are used for walking.  They smell like an open grave and stand between 12 and 20 feet tall.

The Dark Young are found only in areas where Shub-Niggurath is worshiped, and they act as her proxies, accepting sacrifices on her behalf.

In Faedun, the druids of Llanvirnesse most often sacrifice to Shub-Niggurath, but this is more in the nature of appeasement than actual worship.  Yet, druids of the inner circle are taught the rituals of summoning required to call one of her Dark Young when the need arises.

Armour Class: 0                      Special: Strength Drain
Hit Dice: 8                               Move: 12
Attacks: Tentacles                   HDE/XP: 9/1,100 xp

Dark Young may attack with four tentacles per round.  It can attack four different targets or commit multiple tentacles to each target, in which case it gains a +1 bonus to hit for each tentacle after the first used to attack a  target.  The tentacles deal constricting damage (roll 2d6 and pick the highest roll).  Victims held by the tentacles must make a strength save to escape.  Additionally, a victim held by a tentacle loses 1d3 points of strength per turn unless they make a successful Constitution save.

New Spell:
Call Dark Young
Spell Level: M4
Range: 60 ft.
Duration: One turn per level

This spell summons one of the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, who will aid the caster if the appropriate sacrifice has been made.  This spell is normally only learned by druids and cultists of Shub-Niggurath.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Heroes of Hesiod

It isn't often that I have anything good to say about Wizards of the Coast.  In fact, I have so little interest in anything the company does, that almost all of what they do flies beneath my radar.  Consequently, I'd never heard of their Monster Slayers product line for young children.  This morning Shane Mangus sent me a link to a new adventure for Monster Slayers, The Heroes of Hesiod, which can be downloaded for free.

Monster Slayers is a version of D&D that is aimed at children 6 and up, and is promoted as an educational tool to encourage creative thinking and problem solving.  It's also a darned fun little game.  All two pages of the rules are included with The Heroes of Hesiod, and while they are based on the 4E game, they are simplified to such a degree that the game feels more like OD&D than 4E.

The adventure includes character cards which can be printed and cut out.  Each card lists the character's armour class, hit point bubble, and attack powers.  Each attack, whether it be a dagger, great axe, or fireball, deals 1 point of damage and critical hits deal 1d6 points of damage.  For simplicity, all attack modifiers are already calculated so each attack power looks like this: Massive Axe 1d20 + 5. Deals 1 point of axe damage.

Ironically, Monster Slayers seems a lot more like D&D to me than their 4E products, and if 4E had been designed more like this I might even have bought into it.  It's dead simple and easy for young children to learn, and I can see using it, or at least borrowing some ideas from it when the time comes to introduce my daughter to D&D.  It's certainly worth checking out, and the price is right!

Sunday, May 1, 2011