Update for project 1701c


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IMG_0868Figures for the Tomorrow’s War scenario Lost & Found are now complete.

On the left we have the Marines of the Mandanin Co-Dominion, dropped onto Guerzim to rescue a downed pilot. And on the right are a local militia group of the Nar faction of the Crucis Union. In all ways these models conform to the descriptions found on pages 98 and 99 in Tomorrow’s War – just in 15mm and on group bases.

Mandanin troops, I’ve decided, have equipment broadly similar to Eastern European, and the Crucis Union has equipment broadly similar to Western European.

I’m not real happy with the basing and may pop them off and redo them. But they’ll do for now. In reality, at eye scale, it’s not that noticeable.


Disease for 5e D&D


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wax-sculpture-black-deathThe characters in our Parsantium campaign recently came into contact with a disease bearing agent and I realised that I had addressed this issue many times before for many different game systems.

D&D 5e is a bit quiet on this topic and that’s OK: I’m happy with a more world-designer-friendly approach. Searching the interweb I found several useful ideas. And as a result here are my modernised house rules for dealing with disease.

CONTRACTING a (mundane non-magical) DISEASE

A character can be exposed to disease in many ways. Giant rats are consistently carrying one disease or another, and some areas such as swamps and some old ruins are plague spots. During wars, long sieges provide breeding grounds for disease.

When exposed to a source of disease (specify the generalised type ahead of time), the character must make a CON save against the DC of the disease (all the normal rules of thumb for deciding DCs can be applied here: 10 for weak, 20 for pretty bloody serious). All normal penalties and bonuses can be applied to this roll.

If this roll is failed the character has contracted the disease. The incubation period of the disease is d6 days (make a note of this period – for example 3 days). At the end of this period the character suffers 1 level of Exhaustion.

Every ‘period’ (for example, the 3 days found in the initial contraction) thereafter he must make a new CON save using the same DC as the initial contracting level. If successful the disease does not progress. If failed the character suffers an additional level of exhaustion. If the save is failed with a critical (1), the specific disease also reduces the relevant characteristic by one point, with all the attendant knock on effects.


Level Effect
1 Disadvantage on Ability checks
2 Speed halved
3 Disadvantage on Attack rolls and saving rolls
4 Hit point maximum halved
5 Speed reduced to 0
6 Death


Use these as both general descriptors of the effects of the disease and also specific pointers as to the deleterious effects on characteristics if critical failures are rolled during progression/recovery.

  • Wasting Disease – steals Strength
  • Brain fever – reduces Intelligence
  • Soul Waste – saps Wisdom
  • Creeping Chills – saps Constitution
  • The Shakes – steals Dexterity
  • The Pox – ravages Charisma


To reduce the levels of exhaustion a character must first stabilise: save and therefore not progress, and then save again the next test. On this second test the Exhaustion is reduced by a level. The next level must be saved against twice: once to stabilise and then to reduce.

If a character makes his save when on level 1 exhaustion he has reduced this to 0 and has therefore recovered naturally from the disease.


  • A character fails his saving roll against Soul Waste
  • The DM rolls d6 and discovers the incubation period is 3 days
  • Three days later the character makes a CON save roll and fails. He gains 1 level of Exhaustion, suffering a Disadvantage on all Ability checks and notices that his judgement seems to be impaired (role playing opportunity)
  • Three days later he rolls again, failing with a Critical (1). His Exhaustion is now level 2. His speed is now halved and his Wisdom is reduced by 1
  • Three days later he rolls but this time he saves. The Soul Waste does not progress but he is still suffering Disadvantage on Ability check, still suffering half speed and is still at -1 Wisdom
  • Three days later he rolls and saves again. His Exhaustion is reduced to level 1. He can now move at full speed but still has a Disadvantage to Ability checks and is still -1 Wisdom
  • Three days later he rolls again and saves. The disease does not progress.
  • Three days later he rolls again and saves again. His Exhaustion level is reduced to 0 and his Wisdom returns: he has spontaneously recovered! The natural course of the disease was 18 days.

N1. Reptile god. Session 5


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fumbleAfter the battle in the first level of the implausible dungeon beneath the swamp, the elvish boys had a good long rest in a barricaded room. When they re-emerged they completed the sweep and headed down, encountering and defeating troglodytes, crocodiles, giant rats, killer frogs, ghouls, and a particularly effective (though unlikely) harpy.

The standout events from this session were not the achievements of victory, but in the way they happened. There were a lot of ‘1’s’ rolled.

As more of a story-game guy rather than a rules guy I could not let this pass, and these critical failures became interesting and sometime funny events. Storm the sorcerer seemed to suffer quite a few of these. When they were fighting in a boat he rolled one on his attack, then failed a Dex check, and fell into the water. Later, when trying to shoot at a ghoul, another critical had the crossbow break – no doubt because of the moisture.

Octavius the paladin was actually charmed by the harpy, and was actually hit and took damage from a ghoul.

My favourite was when Arius the monk was attacked by a ghoul, was hit, and failed his save to become paralysed. Another critical failure later and we declared that he had lost something – his choice – but it would only be noticed later. This is straight from dungeon world and is an excellent way of inserting some story into the game. He fell, dropping his staff into the mud. It only makes sense that it could become lost or forgotten in the bid to get away.

This is something that is going to pay off later.

Project 1701 c01 & d01; Traveller Tomorrow’s War


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Every time I write 1701 I have a little chuckle, and now 1701c is just too auspicious… at least it is for any dyed in the wool Trekkie.

Anyway, planet Guerzim is part of the Crucis Union, a political body that sounds a bit Federal, that has at least four different political factions. I’ve decided (since I like to base both fantasy and science fiction on historical models), that the Union is roughly analogous to NATO. This means that their equipment will be Western European and American inspired. The Mandanin Co-Dominion, the Union’s most obvious foe, is therefore going to be based on Soviet equipment.

With that in mind I have decided the figures that need to be painted. This is a 15mm exercise, with the resulting squads being mounted on FoW bases. The figures shown are a mix of FoW guys I picked up on sale – I’m pretty sure they were designed for the Arab-Israeli conflicts: but importantly some of them have AK’s and some have the typical M16/SLR look. To fill the specialist roles of SAW and SLAM I’m using some of the excellent Eureka Miniatures Soviet and Australian troops. They really are superior to the FoW guys: not that the FoW guys are bad, far from it, but there is a surprising amount of detail on Eureka for 15mm. Here they are divided into the squads.

I’ve also built some N scale buildings from Metcalfe Models. There was some interesting chatter on the interweb about scales for 15mm. There seemed to be a strong body of opinion that going down a scale (from 15mm 1:100 to N Scale 1:150) was a good thing to do. There were also many contrary opinions. So the experiment has to be conducted and we can see how it all looks when it comes together. The buildings themselves were a delight to put together. Honestly, I could just make them all day.

When it comes to buildings in a science fiction setting we really at at the mercy of other people’s imaginations as there is no reference work. We’re not talking about hasty Mars-Habs here, this is Traveller: people have been living full and productive lives on planets for many hundreds of years. And with that in mind I decided that technically there is no reason why something could not be made of locally made bricks and morter. There was no reason why it couldn’t look like and ordinary house. It also fits my theme of basing the future on the past.

Project 1701


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nick_g_02When I got back into miniatures after a long break of working and making a family, I started with 15mm. Way back when I thought 15mm was where the action was and I bought a complete painted army of the Sudan (1890’s). Pretty soon I found that a group of 12, 24 or even 36 figures shoulder to shoulder does not look like a battalion, even though that’s what they were supposed to represent. I tried to rectify this by going to 10mm and making the groups bigger. This still did not work and the abstractions of ‘battlefield intelligence’ (I’m the general on a hill but I can see absolutely every man in this battle and I can command groups individually to change formation) took a lot of the fun out of it. I turned to 28mm and skirmish and have generally never looked back.

However the 15mm urge has always been there and I was momentarily tempted by Flames of War until it became painfully obvious that it was just a set of rules for Ancients, and the cavalry were models of tanks. My painted Falshirmjagers and support never saw action.

And in another corner of my mind was science fiction. Over the ears I have been on the search for a set of rules that would allow me to play ‘reinforced platoon’ level games (like Crossfire and Poor Bloody Infantry did for WWII). Most rulesets I have read do not really cover the kinds of advancements and therefore changes in tactical doctrines that I want to see. No one knows what the future will hold and new technologies will make old tactics futile and present new ones unimagined today. However you can be pretty sure that enhanced battlefield surveillance (drones, possibly robotic, with live feeds to command posts), guided and precise range detonated munitions, and improved communications are going to play a part.

At present Tomorrow’s War by Ambush Alley Games seems to have all the elements I need. The models shown in the book, and most of the games I see in other people’s blogs are 28mm. However, no model moves in isolation: they are all part of a fireteam. And as it says on page 55, ‘Many Tomorrow’s War players may already have figures based on multi-figure stands for use with other games. This basing method works perfectly well with Tomorrow’s War, so there’s no need to rebase your existing armies or replace them with new figures. Simply treat each stand as a fireteam and keep track of how many casualties it has taken.

This is the green light to proceed with Flames of War basing techniques in a sci fi setting. And so we get to the first project of 2017:

Project 1701 – Lost & Found

Overview: I don’t know if 15mm figures based in fireteams is actually fun to play. I don’t know if Tomorrow’s War is fun to play. This project is about testing those two unknowns.

Goal: to play out the scenario in the book from page 96, with as much as possible following the example, in solo mode.

Project elements:

  • 1701a – develop enough of big picture backstory to allow a more specific story to be built
  • 1701b – develop the scenario story to breathe life into the game
  • 1701c – identify, paint and base figures to populate the sides in the scenario
  • 1701d – build terrain for the game arena
  • 1701e – play the game
  • 1701f – after action report

N1. Reptile God. Session 4



dqccvcwChristmas seemed to have taken longer this year with us all having a busy time, consequently stretching out the space between sessions. We were over half way through N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God and were determined to fish the whole adventure. To bring us back into the swing of things I recapped the world, referring to the Parsantium map and refreshed everyone’s memory with brief descriptions of the prevalent cultures and major tensions that they would be aware of. With that out of the way we went to the specifics of the scenario.

At the end of the last session the party had cleared out the temple and returned to town. Rather than pick up directly from there I simply told the story of what happened over the next few weeks. They regrouped, recovered and learnt what they could. They met and exchanged info with the hermit magician, and as the mood of the still-charmed population started to turn ugly again, they headed off.

The path to the supposed centre of all the trouble lay to the West along the northern banks of the Istra. On their four day trek they found sign of a large hobgoblin raiding party, but luckily avoided contacting them. The land gave way to a diseased forest, that in turn dissolved into swamp land. Following the path through the swamp they were assaulted by the usual range of annoyances such as mosquitoes and leaches, and suffered from the damp atmosphere. Finally they reached a low circular embankment that kept the waters a little back, and in the centre lay a hole in the ground… and then the adventure started.

Why would you build a dungeon in a swamp?

Questions like this came up many times, and we talked about the old-school dungeon design that didn’t really think about ecology or basic engineering.

In any case, as they stood discussing what to do about the swamp dungeon: break the dike and flood it, or get smouldering logs and smoke it out, a snapping turtle lurched out of the swamp behind them and attacked. Storm deftly froze it with a ray of frost and this galvanised the elfish boys to enter the dungeon without further delay.

The first level of the N1 module dungeon is sparsely populated and serves more as a way of introducing the environmental problems. These include constant cloying wetness, mud that sticks to boots that slows down movement and reduces stealth bonuses, and the effects the wetness has such as swelling doors and squeaking hinges.

Very soon they found, successfully silently approached, and cold bloodedly murdered several guard/cult members. With the way open they then systematically explored the ground floor, squelching through mud. Several large and suspicious rooms were identified and then left for later more detailed investigation and it was not until it appeared that floor had been totally mapped they came across some higher level and more dedicated opposition. These three assassins were obviously the lieutenants in charge of the guards. Their quarters were more luxurious, but only marginally.

Arrius the Monk kicked in their door, knocking one of the assassins back off balance.  Casius the thief cleanly and spectacularly nailed the second assassin in the throat with his hand crossbow, Storm the Sorcerer fried the third with an electrical bolt, and Octavius the Paladin calmly beheaded the fourth. The combat was quick and brutal: effective and cinematic… which was lucky for the elfish boys because these particular four, had they taken initiative, might have exacted a fearful toll.

In that small group of rooms that could be barred and defended and they searched everything, finding an above average sword and shield. The final action of the night before we packed up involved opening a chest that was guarded by a glyph of warding. Reluctantly, Arrius admitted he did not think of such a thing when he flipped open the lid. A paralysing blast threw him back, and the rest of the party barred the doors and decided to take a rest while they waited for him to recover.

So ends the next part of N1.

In general book-keeping we decided to do away with tallying XP in any form, simply agreeing that after a completed ‘adventure’ they would all go up a level. This is a recognition that modules are usually designed to do exactly this, with the XP awards adding up to the right amount. 

15mm Grav-tanks for the Nar faction


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Tomorrow’s War in 15mm is one of the projects for this year. The key setting information is that it will be in a classic Traveller framework, with the action taking place in the old Judges Guild product Crucis Margin.

All eyes are on Guerzim (1626), where the Nar faction of the Union Crucis has a major base and is on high alert for attacks from the Mandanin Confederation. And perhaps they should be, as it was the Nar that attacked first some 200 years ago and then were beaten back.

More work on the political story as I develop it. This is, typically, a project that will span story-telling games, and wargames so there is some painting and modelling to be done using parts from a variety of sources.

Here are the first two heavy vehicles in 15mm. They are grav-tanks and represent the pinnacle of what the Nar can field. Let’s say they are Tech 11 in Traveller speak. Not sure of their name yet, but they are equivalent (in TW game terms) to the Leopardo II, or the Dear Leader 2 Heavy Tank (pp. 216).

The parts for these beasts came from eBay. Since I do not read Chinese characters I do not know the company name (link). Several of these models were cut up and reassembled to make the tanks, doing away with the tracks, of course.

The paint job is a simple tan with hull red lower portions and corners, and then heavily dusted with earth colours – my planets are dusty. I few details have been picked out such as metal dings on corners and metallic blue for sensors.

The final image shows some 15mm troops for size comparison. It’s a big battle machine, but I feel this fits with the way things go. Everything gets bigger in each new generation of technology and so a grav-tank ought to be a monster.

N1. Reptile Cult. Session 3


zomblinWe picked up from where we left off with the party on the first floor of the defiled temple, after having smashed the skeleton sentries.

All of the indecision of the previous session seemed to have dissipated and now, with concrete evidence of the temple being a place of evil, the elvish boys showed admirable determination and action.

In quick order they discovered a library where the original scrolls were still stored, along with a few more significant scrolls relating to the original goddess of the temple. These were stained with blood. In a small interview room they found a secret door but it had been locked form the other side. They busted through and found goblins at the ready, but their strength pushed the monsters back. The monsters fled, leaving more than half their numbers dead.

The party pursued the creatures and easily slaughtered them, but not before one of the goblins became reanimated as a zombie and the Paladin was overcome by fear. Someone was casting spells at them. A previously unseen door hid the evil cleric, but neither a crossbow bolt or a ray of frost harmed him.

The thief charged forward and kicked in the door and a brisk battle ensued. In this tussle the cleric retreated and got off another spell, blinding the monk, but it did him no good. Soon after he was cut down as he tried to flee. Through this Ghath interspersed words of inspiration, fine sword work, and a one stage a fine trumpet solo.

In the final exploration the boys found scrolls covered with black speech, and a vile room dedicated to some kind of Naga goddess, or possibly a demon. Also in the room was a woman in a cage who had been brutally mistreated by the now dead evil cleric. She told the party a harrowing tale of kidnappings and abduction to a place in the swamps where a monstrous half-snake half-woman called Explicitus Defilus charmed the captives. The girl herself proved to be immune and was returned to the village rather than fed to crocodiles.

And so, with the remaining acolytes bound and gagged, and with the girl dragging the head of her tormenter behind her, the party retreated to the cottage of their recent allies, the elvish investigators. Their intention was to hand over the charmed acolytes to the Mayor.


Threads for future investigation and potential development from this session:

  • The jade statue of the Naga is large and valuable, something like 7,500gp (roughly $150,000 in today money) and heavy. It would be a worth a lot to get to back to Parsantium – not just for the money, but for study as well. If left there they boys concluded that a liberated townsfolk would probably smash it
  • What is a Naga? Who is Explicitus Defilus? Into what demonic pantheon does she fit? Is this related to the Daeva case?
  • The demented scribblings of the mad cleric would be valuable for research purposes also, to those groups and institutions that specialise in translating such works
  • The defiled founding scrolls of the original temple could be returned to some authority for restoration/purification
  • What exactly did Octavian the paladin see that scared the piss out of him?
  • Where did the charmed goblins come from that were being used as guards? Remembering: goblins and hobgoblins are essentially refugee species. They were displaced by the mutated orcs, swept out and sacked Parsantium, but were defeated and driven into the inhospitable wilds.


Thoughts on N1:

  • Again it becomes obvious that the D&D of our youth was written by kids. Where does anyone attend to the call of nature? No lavatories. No chamber pots. No windows though which you could hang your arse, and definitely no reeking piles of excrement about the place. Where do they wash? Where does water come from? Where does the smoke from the cooking fires go? What are they even eating?
  • And there is the perennially laughable question of how the monsters get in the rooms and how come they are all deaf to the sounds of battle outside the door. For this adventure I am correcting this by having creatures in the next room becoming alerted and signalling the alarm. But in the normal run of things it’s almost as if each monster filled room is in a state of waiting for the surprise party. No matter how much adventurers smash and clatter in getting there, all the monsters are saying, “Sshhhh,” and reminding each other to look surprised when the door gets kicked in.

Judges Guild and now


I have a soft spot for Judges Guild (JG).

Not because they were great, or even good. In fact they were frequently shit-house.

But way back in the late 70’s early 80’s when I was a teenager, when already the taint of business needing to sustain itself was starting to show through in the impressive (or at least bigger and more colourful TSR) offerings, Judges Guild products were printed on newsprint illustrated (if at all) by artists that were obviously at the very start of their journey.

There was very little that was professional about JG products. They were amateurish, half-baked and full of lame jokes. They were childish and sometimes try-hard. There were gaps in logic and failures to account for elementary logic – how did the giant get in the tiny room and what does he eat and where does the crap go?

But then, so was I.

I look back on them now and feel a strange and powerful nostalgia: a feeling of loss somehow that I managed to live in rich fantasy worlds constructed in no more than 32 pages of dry description when today 360 pages of full colour leaves me snorting in contempt at their lack of detail.

Judges Guild represented sandbox before the term was invented.

I look now at the Traveller sector guide Crucis Margin, a ‘decanonised’ description of space that bordered the Third Imperium and the Two Thousand Worlds of the K’Kree (easily the cleverest alien species ever conceived), and scan a single page that contains the complete description for a dozen worlds and my imagination runs away. And all that is on this page is a list of numbers and an abstracted chart.

On the shelf I still proudly display a boxed copy of City State of the Invincible Overlord, an appalling rendition of urban planing if it ever existed. It’s more like a bureaucrat’s plan for a western theme park than it is a description of a medieval shit-hole. But I open it, and look at the map, and read the ‘rumours’ surprisingly often.

On file I have an awful lot of JG product. Electronic; sterile; clean. I miss the feel of newsprint – the feeling of newness, openness. I miss the feeling of a future in the making where all the detail has not been fleshed out, where the rails of story have not been laid out for me, where I am more than just a product consumer.

N1. Reptile Cult. Session two


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Eight skeletons, with the door opening inwards would allow only one at a time to step through…

We managed to meet again after a long pause to continue the D&D5e play of the classic module N1, The Cult of the Reptile God.

We picked up the action exactly where it left off, with the elfish boys out on the paths in the middle of the night on the way to investigate the suspicious temple. Suspicion was the order of the day as Casius (thief) detected that they were being followed. No one else did and he slid away from the party to investigate. This aroused absolutely no surprise from anyone as he commonly sneaked off for no adequately explained reasons at the best of times.

This time his suspicions turned out to be true and they learned that they were being followed by two very skilled operators. The boys went to ground and waited, but so did their opponents. Two hours went past and Arius (monk) was furious that their watchers were behaving irrationally by not moving… unless they had superior vision and could see better. Casius circled back around and surprised of the watchers. After issuing a short warning he shot the startled figure who had leapt in fright and drawn his sword. At the same time a web spell enclosed the rest of the party from the other direction.

I described that in two short paragraphs, but it took an awful lot longer than that in realtime as the party played cat and mouse on the moonlit hillside below the temple. And so, in the interests of brevity…

The shadowy figures were also elves – and that was pretty ominous as elves are rare in this world. They had been in the village for a month taking notes. An uneasy truce was established and the party  continued to the temple. There they found a secret door, entered, explored the ground floor, found a sleeping priest and then ran away again. Back at Llewellan and Dorian’s place they learnt some more about the strange goings on about the village. L & D gave them a sleep potion that could be used as a knock out gas.

Back to the temple they went, arguing for a long time about the tactics they would use once they got there. Once inside they again found the sleeping priest, knocked her out and then revived her for interrogation. She seemed reluctant or unable to coherently reply, something that only added to Arius’ (whose anger tempts him to the dark side… mmmm) frustration after a long long series of infuriating frustrations. They bundled her back to Llewellyn and Dorian’s where those two reckoned they knew someone who could remove such a powerful charm.

And for the third time the elfish boys returned to the temple, full of clever tactical ideas, made it to the first floor, found some skeleton guards and then, after a developing a complex plan to defeat them, smashed them easily in an anticlimactic combat. Image attached.

What conclusion could be reached from these lengthy deliberations?

  • The temple is clearly something close to the heart of the mystery surrounding the village
  • According to Llewellyn and Dorian people are being charmed, not converted, mutated or replaced
  • Llewellyn and Dorian are part of some organisation, the nature of which they would not reveal, but that has something to do with the destiny of the pure-blood elves
  • This party really likes to chew the moral and tactical issues before taking action
  • The ancient coin that Ghath (bard) possessed was of particular interest to the two foreign investigators, as was the elfish boys’ encounter and defeat of a genuine demon
  • Storm was of particular interest to the mysterious pure-blood elf agents. He was a sea elf and a sorcerer – a very rare combination – but he maintained his usual reticence and they got nothing from him
  • Cassius managed to steal nothing at all
  • Octavius (paladin) agonised about the process for manufacturing evidence to justify the start of slaughter
  • 1st edition skeletons (I converted the originals rather than use the new stats) are a walk over. But that’s OK