Saturday, September 29, 2018

Aarklash Revisited

Years ago I spent a bundle getting into Confrontation, Rackham's defunct skirmish wargame. Most people seem to have gotten into it because of the miniatures (figurines!) Rackham made for the game, but what grabbed me was its setting, the continent of Aarklash.
Rackham was always pretty coy about doling out details about the setting... they scattered bits of it hither and yon between their various endeavors. Regardless of how much info I tracked down it Aarklash never felt as well-covered as something like Traveller's 3rd Imperium, Runequest's Glorantha, Earthdawn's... whatever they called that place. There was a lot of intriguing details, but it still felt wide open to interpretation and exploration.
Because of that I've always wanted to run a campaign set in Aarklash (whereas I've never had such a desire for Glorantha or the 3rd Imperium). And now I am.

Aarklash isn't particularly unique as fantasy settings go. It's got the standard Tolkienesque/Eurofantasy races and a few extra. To me it's always felt like a bit like Warhammer's 'Old World' setting with a coat of Disney over the whole affair (partly because Rackham's art has always been prettier than Warhammer's).
There's an religiously uptight empire, valiant baronies full of knights, elves of high, wood, and dark natures... a lands full of undead, orcs and goblins. Instead of 'Chaos', Aarklash's big threat is Darkness... which is an element of Creation and therefore natural, though creeping out of balance with the other elements.

What feels different, to me, is that the entire setting is much more magical and whimsical compared to Warhammer's. It's cleaner, but weirder... and still chock full of horrors.
For instance, instead of Warhammer's Skaven, Aarklash has a subterranean faction called The Hydra. Composed of members of the surface races that have been captured and transformed... through some process resembling mummification and shrunken heads (and a bit of Dr. Frankenstein). Tiny flesh golems housing the hive mind of an alien/demonic intelligence. The Hydra initially started among the dwarfs, but will clearly make use of any race they can get their hands on. The depictions of them are solidly cute n' creepy... I'd much rather deal with Skaven.

Anyway, my idea here is to write up ideas for my Aarklash campaign as they come to me.
I started the group with B/X D&D's 'The Keep on the Borderlands'... altered to fit it somewhere in Aarklash's Aegis mountains (Dwarf territory) as a minor outpost of the Akkylannie (zealous human allies of the dwarfs). The Caves of Chaos have had a thorough makeover to serve as an enclave of Drune (Darkness aligned nomads), Hydra and a secret lab full of Dirz alchemists (humans who experiment in magical biotech).
So far the PCs have stuck close to the Keep, but I expect they'll soon be heading out to follow one of the many rumors I've been tossing at them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Eat The Gods

I've never been attracted to the idea of playing Clerics in RPGs. The concept of gods giving out categorized magic spells as answers to prayers just doesn't sit well with me... not that a lot of RPG magic appeals to me anyway (in-game most of it seems like a substitute for guns). If nothing else it seems the spell list should be different for every god... forcing polytheism on any character wanting wider versatility. Some system where a player could pray for intervention ('prayer' covering a wide range of potential religious activities including human sacrifice) and have that prayer answered (or not) in an unpredictable way (GM's discretion) might work for me... but it would be hard to write rules for such a thing and I doubt it would appeal to most players. Maybe I just think most fantasy gods should be fickle and unknowable in their personalities... not a dependable resource at all. Propitiate them all you want... there's no guarantee they're gonna show up on the day of battle and even if they do there's no telling which side they'll choose to help. I could also see a system where gods may or may not exist but prayer is simply a form of ritual to put the supplicant into a state of mind where he/she can channel the same energies as used in whatever the setting's version of 'magic' is. So pretty much the same class of characters with different methods. Anyway... I was thinking about a faction in my homebrew setting that I've been writing up and how they relate to their gods... not as benefactors or tyrants but as natural resources. They don't so much worship them as feed and groom them... keep them in good health so that in times of need they can draw power from them... like batteries... like livestock. Their gods are powerful, and quasi-omniscient... but fairly alien in their consciousness... they see, hear and know but don't understand or care. So the priests/prophets of these gods can make use of these powers. They can summon the god, or part of it, into a prepared body and then perform rituals on it to get desired results... ask it questions or have it fight for them. Really I suppose it comes down to various golems they create... using the spark of the divine to power them. They 'worship' the gods to attract them, feed them, make them strong... then milk them. In times of dire consequences they can even slaughter them to draw all their power at once, the most obvious result being some sort of huge magical explosion but hopefully I'll come up with some more interesting ideas... big effects that aren't just replacements for artillery or ICBMs. In the end I suppose it's close to the same effect, in-game... but the fluff is different and draws me in... fires me up... makes me want to play a priest who eats his gods. Most likely these guys will only show up as NPCs... seeing as their tribes are from the dark and savage jungles of the west... but eventually I could see PCs drawn from them if the players want.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beastmen Are GO!

A while back I kindasorta lost all interest in all things gaming... stopped buying and painting minis, stopped looking at the forums, lost steam on all my terrain projects. It also helped that the guy I usually play against has been really busy with family matters and hasn't been available to game (I kept playing RPGs on Saturdays though... not a huge mental commitment there).
Otherwise, the most likely culprit was the 3 ring circus known as the U.S. presidential election. Much like in years past I got caught up in the frenzy and devoted nearly all my spare time to volunteer work and reading news sites and watching pundits and... gah... months of obsessive obsessing.
I wonder if that's how it is for sports fans during a sports season?
Anyway, that ended at the beginning of the month and pretty much immediately my mind drifted back to miniature wargames and all the various pots I'd left on the boil... months ago.

The big one was my Chaos army for WFB3. One of my sticking points was that I wanted to have a sizable unit or two of beastmen... and I had none... or rather, I knew I had a bunch of them somewhere but hadn't been able to find them. Not just any beastmen, these were the classic ones from back in the day... pig men, baboon men, rhino men. That and a whole bunch of Broo looking goat men that GW later started calling 'gors'. Not stuff I could just pop down to the local Magic store and replace. I looked high and low... could not find them.
So... earlier today I was digging around in my storage area for a monster to paint up for entry in the Oldhammer Golden Gobbo contest... I had a particular Asian demon in mind... when, BOO! A big box of beastmen jumped out of no where and distracted me for the rest of the afternoon.
No pictures yet... I've got some serious repainting to do... but finding these guys was a BIG boost to my resurfacing hobby energies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lions, Tigers and Bears... Pt. II

So it's been a long time since I've posted about my ever-growing Chaos force. Our gaming here took a long hiatus as a few of us got caught up on a long grueling renovation project at the house of a friend... but that's pretty much done (just a bit of gruel left in the bowl still). Meanwhile I've continued to acquire forces... More Chaos Thugs, more Chaos Dwarves (some crossbowmen, swivel guns...), some more stuff for the baggage train (gotta have a baggage train!). I've begun making some gypsy carts for the renegade band... But also... I got a bad case of Lustrian fever... I'd always loved the old WFB ideas for Lustria... Slann, Pygmies, Amazons, recalcitrant Lizardmen... ancient technology scattered around in lost ruins... a floating pyramid/spaceship... But I only ever had a handful of Slann so my hopes were thin. Then I got a lucky catch of a sizeable (about 1500 pts) Slann force for a pittance compared to the usual Ebay nonsense... the only thing I'm lacking now are some of the elite troops... Panther Warriors, Eagle Warriors. It also gives me an excuse to pull out all my old Ral Partha/Grenadier dinosaur miniatures and put them to use. 2nd/3rd edition Lustria, like Chaos, supports an endless range of crazy possibilities. So that has led me to also snag an ally contingent of Pygmies (the ones from Kallistra and Eureka suit me fine)... and I'm looking at the Amazons from Maidenhead (they have giant prehistoric birds for mounts!). Unfortunately this takes me in a completely different direction than my pals... though there is modern fluff support for Skaven in Lustria and one of the guys has a big horde of ratmen. Still, buying is the (relatively) easy part and now I've gotta find the time to paint all this up and get it into a game. Luckily I like painting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thinking Small

As an allied force to my Chaos army I want to have some Chaos Dwarves.
I've got a handful of the classic figures and a couple handfuls of the big hat variety... I've got them with bazukas and canons and blunderbusses (blunderbi?). But I'm thinking I'd like a bit more mad scientist to them so I've been looking for some other warmachines they might field (I've got a pair of whirlygig carts already).
The Skaven stuff looks too slapdash to be Dwarven IMO, and I don't want more missile weapons/canons... so I'm thinking about golems.
Not so much the Occult variety but more of a mechanical/steam automaton. Most likely those ones from the old Leviathan game... because they're big and mean looking.
Now I need to sort out some rules for WFB 3e steam golems.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lions and tigers and bears...

So I've drug out every old mini I've got in an attempt to make a Chaos army for Warhammer 3rd.
We never played the game back in the Wayback so my purchases were aimed using them in RPGs and small skirmish games (I think we were still playing Melee and Wizard back then).
So here is what I've found so far... give or take a few boxes that are still in hiding.

20 Chaos Warriors X 74pts = 1480 pts (I've actually got more than this but... hmmm)
20 Chaos Marauders X 39 pts = 780 pts
40 Chaos Thugs X 8pts = 320 pts (I don't quite have 40 of these yet... but have proxies)
40 Beastmen X 10 pts = 400 pts (I doubt I have this many yet. The beastman box is in hiding.)
10 Minotaurs X 40 pts = 400 pts
1 Beastmaster X 15 pts = 15 pts
10 Hounds x 23 pts = 230 pts (I'd need another Beastmaster to use them all)
5 Chaos Centaurs X 32 pts = 160 pts (Actually, I have 3 Rackham centaurs and 1 old chaos centaur... so I'll need more)

1 Chaos Dwarf Bazooka X 70 pts = 70 pts (I'd like 3)
2 Chaos Dwarf Bombard X 42 pts = 84 pts
2 Chos Dwarf Warmachine X 120 pts = 240 pts (a Whirlwind and a... whatever the other one is)

2797 pts NOT counting costs for leaders and hosts and equipment. I've got plenty of Champions and sorceror figs for whatever I want. So I think I make 3000 points easily.
This doesn't include various demons and other whatnot that might serve as mercenaries or allies.

So... here is the plan. I want the above to be my basic 'draw' pile to be able to field 3 different versions of Chaos.
Here are my ideas.

Chaos Army 1: Chaos Mutants and renegades
These are the more sympathetic victims of Chaos. The intent here is to have a force centering around a camp of mutants and other exiles who are just trying to survive. These people are victims of Chaos, not worshippers of it. Nevertheless they are strong and motivated to protect their families.
I'm kind of loosely basing this group on the Romani in Europe and the city of Midian in Clive Barker's 'Cabal'. They aren't evil, just opportunistic nomads who want to be left alone... be free of persecution. But where can they go to be safe?
The force centers on a camp with wagons and women and children. These people have a nomadic air to them and are not toting any heavy weaponry like canons. They certainly can't stand up against any substantial/formalized army but they could drive off a patrol or a village militia... giving them time to pack up and make a run for it.
Of the various forces I think this one most needs a fleshed out scenario to give it a story.
Some of the members of this group are normal humans who have chosen to protect those stricken by Chaos.
There are also Beastmen, though they are not the sort who have devoted themselves to darkness... they are just more extreme mutations.
Leaders might be classified as Chaos Warriors/Champions... but they would not be represented by models of such. More like formerly high ranking members of militias.
For models... beastmen, minotaurs, barbarians, various strange mutants and humanoid creatures, hounds. No spawn or demons or anything too awfully weird.
Some big riding beasts, chariots/wagons, maybe a barbaric/tribalistic/gypsy looking sorcerors/witches.
If there is magic here it is of a traditional or tribal variety, not Chaotic or Necromantic or Demonic. (How to model shamanistic magic in Warhammer?)
Technically, by the rules, I'd think this is more of a horde army... focusing on Grunts and Beastmen and Hounds... and not much else. They're a collection of clans/families with some extra help from outsiders. I'm not sure how the numbers work but I see them as being like a village/town from one of the WFB 2e scenarios like 'Blood Bath at Orc's Drift'... except mobile, based in wagons and carts vs. houses.

It also seems like this group might earn the sympathies of local Wood Elves (I'm still figuring out Wood Elves and their motivations).

Most of what I need for this army are human rabble and nomads... peasants and brigands with various small mutations scattered about. A large camp of wagons and women/children to protect. Ox carts. Peasants armed with makeshift weapons. A lot of stuff that might also work in my HYW/Bretonnian project (which is still on the drawing board).

Chaos Army 2: Chaos Warriors
The intent here is to make a standard Chaos army that is a collection of loose warbands, intent on destruction and mayhem. They are out to do harm.
There should be a sizeable element of human followers (Chaos Thugs)... opportunistic and anti-social brigands who are merely out for gain... greed and lust more than any true love of Chaos... the early seduction of power. Others are just operating out of bloodlust and a desire for revenge. Many are escaped criminals and exiles... murderers and bandits and iconoclasts. These would make up the various units of grunts.
These are general divisions of loyalty/motivation/character... each unit could be broken into smaller chunks.
1. Unit 1: Crazies... murderers and maniacs from across the multiverse
2. Unit 2: Archers... not sure what their story is...
3. Unit 3: Scum... opportunists criminals and hateful bastards.
4. Unit 4: Barbarians... desperate nomads fighting for vengeance against the tyrants.

The grunts are unruly and disorganized and badly disciplined, so they require leadership... lest they turn on each other in petty squabbling. Few of them have any loyalty or connection to each other. So Chaos Warriors of higher standing (higher discipline) must lead them.
The majority of the army should be human... normal and mutated. Then there are various allied bands that may join and leave depending on their own motivations. Beastmen, Chaos Dwarves, Necromancers... Orcs, goblins, Skaven, Dark Elves.

These are the guys with the dark magics and the camp followers with caged victims and women over the fire... dark cultists and strange pets. Brutal and merciless.
This would be my main army for 3rd edition games I think.

Chaos Army 3: Chaos Wastes
The intent here is to go-for-broke with the weirdness... this is a large warband or collection of warbands that is wandering the Chaos Wastes. Any conflict this force might encounter would be from other Chaos groups, strange monsters, alien weirdness.
This army is just about always on the move... constantly changing. It is the most truly 'chaotic' in it's structure and history and motivation... it is pretty much insane. It should feature elements that could not exist outside the Warp or Chaos Wastes... large floating dispersed creatures, bizarre aliens, impossible technologies, all sorts of anachronisms and outright nonsense.
This will be the most labor-intensive force to build. More conversions and sculpting and creative use of bizarre elements. Best to start small and let it grow organically as in the Realm of Chaos books.
This force is more likely to be devoted to a particular palace of Chaos... so it is more likely to have demons, which I have but not in great numbers (except for Daemonettes).

Obviously this is a long-term project. As it is I've got enough to put a fairly sturdy, though anonymous, Chaos force on the table. We've been playing small games for months now. But I've never done up big themed forces before so I want to have a go at it.
So I need to continue to collect and build... as well as repainting much of my existing force. It should be fun and not incredibly expensive since mostly what I'm looking for are peasants and barbarians.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Implausible Horizon

This is my blog about tabletop gaming. I'm sure it's going to be pretty damn random.
Mostly I want it to be a place to ramble about idea for various projects I'm working on.
First I need to conjure up some visual flash for the place.