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The lad has been at home after having had all four wisdom teeth out. This has me on nurse duty but that is not a full time job. All I have to do is check him regularly and make sure he’s drugged up, eating (custard and yoghurt) and keeping warm and rested.
To fill in the rest of the time I decided to do a story telling game using the Typhoon Maiden background. The story bit can be found in the link. After a while I got to the part that I couldn’t be bothered narrating and so decided to go for a solo war-game.
This was an ad-hoc thing and nothing that I had been building scenery or collecting miniatures for. I used some Star Wars plastics and paper maps, supplemented with a few pieces of 3D terrain to lift it a bit. I’m using the FiveCore and Five Parsecs from Home rules, and I used some simple randomisers to control the antagonist force.
The heroes, if they can be called that, were Phesigns, a junior gangster trying to make a mark for himself; Pårole, a soldier without his regiment; Locum, a street kid just trying to get ahead; Lantedo, a hacker; and Gnosticos, an ex-military robot that just happened to be sitting on a shuttle that the team could use because things are so confused aboard the Typhoon Maiden that no one had asked her what she was doing.
The mission was to interrogate the security system of a seedy bar in a once prosperous city Phoenix Park on Cadiz. Read more about this in the story section. Suffice to say the table action started as the heroes arrived in the general location to find that a government security team were already there doing exactly the same thing.
And so ends the first story set on the Typhoon Maiden. The survivors, Phesigns, Locum and Pårole (should he survive in a third world hospital), are under arrest by Decados heavies and as aliens that have broken and entered, and then killed an official, it seems unlikely they’ll be seeing daylight again for a very long time.
From a story point of view we know that the conference that was to have occurred with the Vau so long ago was an embarrassment for House Decados and that there are secrets still hidden. Whatever was in that security system is now in the hands of House Decados and not the people that hired the team of amateurs from the Typhoon Maiden.
The Typhoon Maiden itself, that monstrous city, will move through a gate to a different planet for the next story, and a new team will be generated.
No particular connection between these pieces other than they have all been waiting to be finished for too long.
First is a Reaper Miniatures Marilith that I felt fitted the Mediterranean/Arabian Nights/Greco-Roman/Byzantine feel. Handsome girl.
Next is a mashup figure, one of Eureka’s that I added a huge Kite shield to and a sword. Unfortunately I cannot remember what range he was from and searching the site doesn’t get me there either. I seem to recall he was some kind of stone age guy and his heroic posture made me convert him to fantasy hero. He’s one of my barbarians for Frostgrave/Sandtomb, for sure.
Then I have a statue. The original piece came from one of the collectable pre-painted miniatures games – the one that had something to do with dreams? Anyway, I thought it had a good general shape and scale for this game. The pillar is a wooden block that I carved a couple of nicks in before dabbing grey & white daubs with a heavy brush so it left texture. Along with this I have an old GW Lord of the Rings piece that, while the columns do not automatically fit, it is generic enough to pass.
Finally I have another tropical fish shop find, a Chinese temple/library/tomb. Again, this doesn’t fit into an Egyptian ruin setting. But my setting is Parsantium which has connections to fantasy China. My ruined city has been wandering around in space and time for a thousand years. Any old shit could have gone on there.
Everything, naturally, has a base (and coating if terrain) that is wind blown with the red dust of the desert.
Completed Zulus from the lead pile. Know the green is non-historical, but these guys will be used primarily in a fantasy role anyway.
The shield effect I created with an old larger brush. I cut the bristles square with a scalpel to created a blunt end. Then I used first almost-black and dabbed it on, trying to not make the patterns regular or neat. Then I added a red-brown to the black and dabbed in the centre of the pattern. Shield stitching was first done on black, then white.
As usual I finished with wattle stain-and-varnish and then picked out some details afterwards. Of particular note is the white of the stitching. This came out particularly well with a final highlight white dash, I think.
These guys are what I am currently calling the Iklwa, from the cattle plains below the great desert.
The Aqhran Caliphate is not North Africa, just as Rezana is not Rome.
Across a southern continent that borders a middle sea, there is a monotheistic caliphate centred around the capitol of Qadisa. And below that there are is a mighty desert that can be compared to the Sahara, in which can be found tribes of fierce and proud marauders. And below that there is a broad fertile veldt suitable for raising cattle that I choose to call Iklwa that is home to a people that might just be a bit similar to Zulu.
And below that is a dense and ferocious equatorial jungle in which can be found a race of people that make stepped pyramids and worship complex and confounding deities, and demand blood sacrifices. These guys don’t have a name yet.
And below that the world gives way to a complex of islands filled with peoples based on Polynesian archetypes. The Southern hemisphere is one of water, and the beasts of the sea inform the philosophy and culture of the people.
The following setting information is a fantasy adaptation of ‘The Zone’ described in Boris & Arkady Strugatsky’s classic novel Roadside Picnic, put into the world described in Parsantium by Richard Green. This is to splice the setting into a context for Frostgrave, the fantasy wargame set in a ruined city. My thanks goes to Hamish Sinclair for his concise description of the original Zone artefacts from the novel.
The artifacts left in the ruins of Qandir, the City of Brass, can be broken down into five categories:
(1) Recognisable objects, the most obvious of which are books, scrolls and other written material that can be used immediately by the Order. Also included are magically enchanted and recognisable artefacts such as weapons, armour and household goods (though many are actually cursed). Finally, for those with a more down to earth imagination, there are the items of plain treasure in the form of coins, jewellery and objects d’art.
(2) Beneficial objects, yet whose original purpose, how precisely they work or how to manufacture them is not understood. The ‘So-So’ and ‘Bracelets’ are among the artifacts that fall into this category.
(3) Objects whose functionality, original purpose or how to use them to benefit humans can not yet be understood. The ‘Black Sprays’ and ‘Needles’ are among the artifacts that fall into this category.
(4) Objects that are unique. Their existence is passed along as legends by Stalkers; have not yet been seen current magicians, whose functionality is so dangerous and so far beyond human comprehension that they are probably better off left undisturbed. The ‘Golden Sphere’ and the ‘Jolly Ghost’ are among the artifacts that fall into this category.
(5) Not object but reports of effects on people who were present inside the Zones during the original cataclysm. Humans who survived the catastrophe without going blind (apparently from a loud noise) or infected by the plague caused unexplained problems if they emigrated away. A barber who survived the catastrophe emigrated to a far off city and within a year 90% of his customers died in mysterious circumstances as well as a number of natural disasters foreign to the area (typhoons, tornadoes) hit his city. Even people who were never present during the catastrophe but frequently visit the Zone are changed somehow, for example by having mutated children or by having duplicates of their dead relatives return to their homes.
There are also a number of unexplained events or patterns associated with the Zone. Some relate to the catastrophe itself. For example, it is recorded that on the night of the catastrophe many people were blinded, they all reported being blinded by the sound of a thunderbolt. But no one person who was not blinded heard the thunderbolt. Also the Stalker Red reports that people new to the Zone suddenly lose the ability to control their own speaking in the Zone, though this may be nerves or related to the Zone itself.
Communication with Khemet was lost 1,000 years ago when the magical colleges succeeded in discovering the secret of immortality at the cost of transforming all the inhabitants into undead. The university city of Qandir was at the centre of these explorations and when the cataclysm struck it squeezed the location out of the material realm, much in the same way that Pratchet’s Djelebeybi was snapped 90o to reality. Qandir has been lost in space and time since then, dipping in and out of realities.
The former kingdom of Khemet has been one of the favourite destinations for suicidal treasure hunters for centuries. The ruined and desolate cities that lie moaning in the desert wind house riches and surprises. The dead cling to their secrets, and in Khemet the dead are active in preserving their privacy.
Everyone had assumed that this situation was permanent and that Khemet in general and the city of Qandir in particular were lost forever. Travellers and adventurers told stories of seeing mirages in the desert that they claimed were Qandir. Still others claimed that they found the path to it in dreams. The tale-spinners of Aqhran, a culture famous for its love of elaborate stories, repeat the claims that Qandir was displaced and can now be found in the deserts and/or jungles to the deep south at particular times when the stars are right. Professors at the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus paid good money to hear these rumours, and financed expeditions to verify them.
Some 13 years ago these funded expeditions and researches seemed at last to have paid dividends. Reliable and corroborating reports told of the rediscovery of Qandir, though the exact location was not always the same place. Not all expeditions returned, but many did, bearing tales of a city deserted of life, but teaming with activity. Strange forces unleashed unpredictable events, often with lethal effects. But some adventurers returned, possibly maimed and certainly in smaller parties than when they departed, with treasures that the Order greedily seized. Adventurers to Qandir became known as Stalkers, and the general area of Khemet and the specific environs of Qandir became known as ‘the Zone’ where unpredictable magical forces had been unleashed.
Using their influence at court, the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus had laws passed to ensure their monopoly of this trade in magical artefacts. An entire economy has developed around the Zone in the trade of items obtained from the Zone by Stalkers. The only legal buyer of artefacts is the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus, but a large black market has also evolved. Stalkers seek to gain the best price of artefacts while avoiding the agents of the Order who enforce strict laws against illicit trade in Khemetari cursed objects. In order to track down any illegal trade the Order hires agents to enforce the laws. These investigators are typically recruited from the various fighters’ guilds and thieves’ gangs: an ironic partnership since these same orders and gangs are also the main suppliers to the buyers of the Hidden Quarter comprising the major ‘illegal’ market, connecting rich magicians that wish to keep their research hidden from the Order that they publically support. The Cult of the Black Mother is particularly interested in obtaining such artefacts, and is generous (but also not above lethally silencing indiscrete suppliers) in its transactions.
Qandir appears now to be more often than not at a certain location in southern Khemet, though this is not reliable. Sometimes the city is not actually at that precise location, and reports still filter in of its being seen in other places. Regardless, enough reliability of its location has allowed a consistent stream of treasure hunters to find it and return.
Qandir, the City of Brass, is now often depicted as a desert ruin, though this is not always true. Even at its most commonly found location it does not always present itself in this way. Its journeys through space and time have rendered some areas to be lush with vegetation and other areas frozen in snow and ice. And where Qandir is in another location altogether, such as the jungle in deep Pezelac, its terraced pyramids are overgrown with dense vegetation and the air is heavy with scents and humidity. The city is a mystery that defies simple classification. Its original population of several tens of thousands gave it a footprint of many square miles. A single simple description could never have been adequate even before its transformation. Now, it is literally impossible.
The uncatalogued and unguessed at experiments that blasted Qandir out of reality and its subsequent journeys have made exploration in the city perilous in the extreme. Magical hazards that crush and flense a human for no adequate reason appear to be rips in space/time and nothing ‘personal’. Other areas, around the laboratories of long dead mages, are laced with very specific man traps.
Khemet is mentioned only a couple of times in the text. It is described as ‘ancient and corrupt’, and then ‘fallen’1. The simplified Parsantium adventurers map depicts Khemet as a desert and oasis zone west of the Pillars of Heaven Mountains with a west coast on the Corsair’s Sea. Parsantium is way to the north, many days’ travel. Away to the south and west through particularly difficult desert is Qadisa, a jewelled oasis in a fertile river valley.Referring to the Sarantium map, Khemet occupies the area of roughly Soriyya and Amuz.2
Khemet, we allow, is based on Egyptian themes. This means that religious life was strong with the people, and that their place in creation was strongly tied to the seasons. Let’s suppose that the same general situation existed as in the historical model: that the civilisation of Khemet was based around the annual flooding of a river fed by the Pillars of Heaven. This flooding created great agricultural bounty but required enormous effort to dam and channel the flow. Failure to do so meant the water escaped over the flood plain to the sea and people starved. Over the centuries a society evolved that ritualised this process and Khemet grew comparatively rich and cultured. They were isolated by the desert, the mountains, and the sea.
When Rezana was founded, Khemet was already an ancient civilisation. Pharaohs ruled the land. This position was hereditary and succession was generally a stable affair, interrupted only rarely when no heir was apparent and dynastic infighting disrupted the kingdom for a year or two with civil war. For the most part, life was a gentle progression, generation on generation.
The Pharaohs of Khemet were divine in that they were assumed to be directly descended from their immortal and transcendent ancestors, the gods, put on earth to perform the rituals that evoked the sun to rise and the Kushh to flood. More or less isolated physically and intellectually the Pharaohs and their advisors saw themselves as occupying a tiny centre of the world, surrounded by harsh environment and barbarians. In such a claustrophobic environment they developed increasingly sophisticated and bizarre beliefs and rituals concerning the afterlife. Mummification of the aristocrats, most specifically the Pharaohs, become an overriding concern, as did the storage of their remains in complex, trapped megalithic structures. Entire schools of thought grew, eventually incorporating all fields of magical research. Preservation of the Pharaohs’ bodies, and minds, and spirits was the goal. These magical colleges attracted students from around the world and the legends of their findings, powers and manifestations obsess magicians to this day.
No one knows for sure when, but the texts in the hidden libraries of the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus hint, at some time between the years 400 and 600 on the Rezana calendar (a period suspiciously empty of other notations for Parsantium) as being the cataclysm. All communication between Khemet and the rest of the world ceased. Refugees told mind-warping stories of reality-tearing forces; the dead rose from their graves and the living fell in their thousands as if poisoned. The university city of Qandir, also called the City of Brass, disappeared from the land with a scream that blinded everyone that heard it. Expeditions to the kingdom either never returned, or came back shattered and depleted, telling tales of monsters that no military force could defeat. 1,000 years have passed, and the kingdom of Khemet is a cursed and shunned land. The passes through the Pillars of Heaven are treacherous because of the foul spawn that crawl up from the deserts. Trade with Qadisa is done by sea, bypassing altogether that blighted stretch of coast where no living creature tills the soil, but observers out to sea swear that they see movement amidst the rubble, and complain of terrible dreams.
The Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus sponsors expeditions into Khemet to research and to return with artefects. This has been so for many centuries.
1 Khemet is an expected incorporation of the typical fantasy tropes of mummies and skeletons. From a miniatures point of view the Games Workshop faction of the Tomb Kings of Khemri is clearly the model, either intentionally or by convergent evolution.
2 Notes on maps: I have used one of the official Parsantium maps available from Richard’s web site, but I have also used a map contained in the novels Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. By accident, design or subconscious emulation these two maps are exceedingly similar. So much so that I use them interchangeably, explaining away subtle differences as local errors of translation, ignorance, or merely representations of from different time periods. Where there is a difference between the two I choose the interpretation I think is better for the story. For example, there are Pillars of Heaven mountains and these do lead to Sampur (India). There is a Caliphate in North Africa, and Bathura and Rezana are cool names. The former western (Roman) Empire of Bathura sounds a lot better to my ear than Rhodia. The detail around Saradia, Trakesia are just so much more inspiring than ‘Gloomtangle Forest’, though, so I go with the Sarantium one for things like that. Ultimately, it’s a fantasy world and these maps were not compiled using satellite technology. They are approximations.
I searched a couple of very good tropical fish places near me and found these gems. A Triumphal arch and a Pharaonic giant head. All I have done is add the same colour dust effect to tie them into my base boards. These will make excellent centre pieces, emerging from the sands.
To create the dust effect I use chalky pastels, scrapped into my mixing palette with a scalpel. I use tan, white, sulphur yellow and red and mix it a generous slug of acrylic thinners. Exact proportions are not my strong point. I keep mixing pigment till it looks about right, and I keep splashing liquid till I get something like a milk consistency, making sure to not mix too perfectly as slightly varying tones looks better. As it dries out it deposits and reveals the powder again, incredibly fine, just like wind blown dust. When dry I matt spray seal it. This both holds it in place and takes any lingering shine off the surface.
For some unaccountable reason I feel like cataloguing the library that I have acquired (and kept – more have disappeared over the years) that helped me shape my Thirty Years War fascination. With these books I’ve created many scenarios, published one ruleset (Flashing Steel) with another in the works, had a novel published (The Vanilla Assassin), and written realms both here and elsewhere.
The fascination with the darkly romantic late Renaissance started when I went to a war-game convention in Christchurch when I must have been not much older than 14. There I saw lots of figures, probably mostly Napoleonics and Ancients. This was inspiring. But what caught my eye was George Gush’s orange book on Renaissance Armies. No one had figures for that period – it was completely unrepresented in my district at that time. It captured my imagination and held it for over 30 years…
Now, pike and shot is pretty mainstream. They even have magazine articles talking about it. The rules today are sophisticated. There are plastic mass produced kits and the metals are magnificent.
I think now this project might be done, if only because I haven’t found anything new in quite some time. Any book I found seems to cover much the same ground. I don’t seem to be learning anything new.