mercoledì 26 aprile 2017

Review: GW High Elf Prince and Noble (2/2) - The Noble

A few month later, we conclude the Review on GW High Elf Prince and Noble, talking about the second miniature of the box, the Noble (the link to the first part is here).

Like the mounted Prince, also the Noble is highly customisable with different heads, shields, banners and weapons. And that's very good.

One thing is clear from the beginning: besides being sculpted by the same guy, Martin Footit, this figure is very different in two interconnected elements. First, whereas the Prince is a very dynamic sculpt, the Noble is extremely static: feet to the ground, arms to the side, looking forward, almost waiting for a faraway enemy to approach. It reminds me of the very old '80s High Elven infantry of the early editions, in a way, and it's obviously related to them. To me it's not so enticing: Elves are supposed to be nimble, fast, not statuary, but that's me.
Second: the Noble is as solid as rock. Once you put it together, it's unlikely that it will break or snap, like it happened several times with the Prince. It's plastic alright, but it withstands manipulation and this makes me very happy since I'm planning to use this figure in my next D&D game as a PC.

The PC in question is my Noble Elf Fighter (right, what a surprise!, you might say). Valandur Isirmo of the House of the Ivory Tower of Elventown in the Mountains of the Stars.

Don't you recognize me by the colours of my livery?
Valandur is a young Elf. Not young by Human standards but, as Elves reckon, he's just entered that age when young Elves discover the world and act naively and stupidly and recklessly and just as a Human male on the last year of high school or the first year of university.

Valandur is a nobleman, of course, from a prestigious house of a prestigious city of the most prestigious race, the Elves. The Sun Elves, of course, not the other lesser ones. But in spite of his origins he's not a cunt like everybody else where he comes from. 'Right, not as much as everybody else in Elventown. In fact, Valandur is on a quest to prove himself.

It so happened that he quarreled with another young Elf of his age, the odious Prince of the Elves, none other than Legoland the Handsome, son of the King. If you look on an elven dictionary at the word pharagrand (high elvish for "cunt") you will see Legoland's portrait. He's just this guy. Valandur hates him.
Long story short, one day as Legoland was coming back from a hunt with a dead wyvern as trophy, and people were throwing rose petals at him from the balcony, words escalated and Valandur said killing wyvern was for noobs, and that he could easily slay a dragon. Legoland's reply was a slap on the offender's face with his pailette-covered white glove. Challenge issued.

Young Valandur had no choice but to go, especially since the episode happened right in front of Morwen Elentilas, the proud lady whom everybody was courting and whose attention none was getting.

And so Valandur hit the road, and he started a life of adventures along with other valiant companions - Rothgar, a Dwarfish barbarian; Negal, a halfling assassin; and Loras, a half-elven rogue. It was a hard life of travel through the wild lands and battles with monsters and outlaws. But it was fun, and soon Valandur developed a reputation for being as easy to provoke a challenge as he was in spending all the money he had. Offering toasts at all the patrons of inns was one of his favourites, especially right after a bar-fight. Expensive clothes, fine food and wines, fancy accomodations and the expensive love of an elven princess-turned courtesan, Ahlahna of Neverwinter, made sure he money never stayed long in his pockets, but everybody knew his name, though, and that was the important thing!

At last, the party met a Dragon, a green one, and by sheer luck they slew it. Valandur had the head preserved by a taxidermist and turned homewards. As soon as he arrived in Elventown, he was welcomed by the people with cheers. He rode on a cart, covered in shining armour and garish clothes, the Dragon head behind him held by a stuffed Owl-bear. He threw coins at the crowd getting even more cheers.

Legoland didn't like it, and liked it even less when he got his own glove thrown at his face. The King had to accept the gifts graciously and commended the valour of Valandur. It was the elf's moment of glory, but it wasn't finished: the elder Elves, less interested in showing off and more into power-mongering, made it so that Valandur and Legoland were both candidated at the position of Speaker to the next Great Moot of Elves. And how would they settle the opposition? By vote? By a speech? By a gallant joust?

It is SO on.
Valandur and Legoland were so high on testosterone that they could only choose a fight. The two rivals met each other in the Arena, each covered in tight, bright garments, shiny pieces of armour and battle make up (rimmel, phard, bright-red lipstick and random hearts and spades drawn on cheekbones). Their nervous, darting muscles had been oiled with the special glitter-oil of the Elves.
Valandur was obviously better with the spear, his fighting technique mimicking a dance, but Legoland was a spellcaster and could strike at his opponent without even touching him. But eventually it was Valandur who had the upper hand, and Legoland found himself disarmed. Proudly refusing to yield, the Prince choose to fight without a weapon: in return, Valandur threw away his spear and jumped at him with his bare hands - well, not so bare, since he had Gloves of Ogre Power. A few good strikes, and Legoland was thrown to the ground, where he bit the dust.

The crowd exploded with cheers. Valandur was raised and paraded around the Arena by his supporters. When even Morwen threw her scarf at him, he jumped on the terraces and rewarded her with a full kiss that drew even further cheers (and a few deadly stares by her relatives).

And so the legend of Valandur began.

It wasn't easy to capture the full razmatazz of a character like Valandur with a static miniature like this. I decided to go for few, bright colours - white, blue and green, with some touches of yellow. The first hand was disappointing.

Even though I started with dark and dull colours, the figure isn't really helping to look lively. It needs a certain effort. I painted the armour in metal with black details, decorating some elements in green (the green dragon). The clothese are blue and white. In order to avoid too many colours I kept the gems as mily opals and onlu added some ochre yellow here and there. But before the end I had to add some gold here and there to brighten up the whole.

After a general wash and at least two layers of highlight, something started to come out. But it was the third highlight layer that did the job.

Final vote: 7/10. Good, but not great - there a lot of better miniatures for Elves, even in the GW range. I really do hope that AoS will refresh the image of the Aelves by more than adding an "A" in front of the name, but looking at what they're doing lately, I must say I am very hopeful. We shall see!

lunedì 17 aprile 2017

Grenadier Undead Villains - back from 2001

Not only heroes (or better said, anti-heroes) came out of the jar last week. There were also villains, well represented by two figures from Grenadier (now Mirliton) Undead range, sculpted by Bob Naismith.

The first one was Skorgan, one of the best developed villains I ever created as GM, although half of the credit goes to my fellow GM in the group, whom I took turns with. The best part of Skorgan is, basicly, that he died long ago and never really came back. He didn't do anything involving the PCs, ever. And yet he was, for years, a terrifying presence in the campaign.

Skorgan was essentially an ancient necromancer, possibly a liche, nobody really knows, because centuries ago the eastern Border Princes were a region even more wild than today, so nobody really bothered to keep a detailed account of Skorgan's life. Whatever is known is that he really was a poweful necromancer, and that at some point he was sealed in a tomb on the western foothills of the World's Edge Mountains, there awaiting his return.

Ossian, a half-elven wizard PC, learned about Skorgan from one of his contacts, a follower of Malal, who suggested him to go look into the tomb of the Necromancer to find his legendary sword, Xambarg. Ossian gathered a group of friends, including the Dwarf warrior Otto von Krautt, the disowned Imperial nobleman Axel and the Norseman Olaf, and together they entered the underground complex.

Getting rid of traps and magic protections, including undead guardians, was quite straighforward. Stripping the dead (yes, actually dead!) body of Skorgan, obviously a follower of Tzeentch, was relatively easy. But then, never underestimate the stupidity of PCs. I, as the DM, did not: in the loot box, along with several magical items, the heroes found a skull of metal. Its function was possibly to be a key, because it seemed to fit perfectly a shape carved in the wall, inside the wider carving of a door.

You are in the tomb of a Tzeetchian necromancer underground, and you see a magic key in the shape of a skull, and a possibly magic door carved into the rock - a portal of some sort. What do you do?

Next thing you know, a portal on the Warp opened, and a very nasty one since on the other side there was only molten Warpstone. Imagine the wave of blood in Shining, running through the corridors of the Overlook hotel. Now picture it as Warp-lava running through a dungeon.

Run for your life!
The PCs barely made it out alive, and they ran, ran for days. Behind them, a volcano of Warpstone was being born.

But that wasn't the end. One of the PCs, Otto, who had been the one putting the skull into the portal, was having nightmares about it. He wanted to be forgiven. So month later he decided to go at a temple of Alluminas and confess.
The priest told him that the only way to atone would be to close the portal. So Otto travelled back to the place, finding now the small volcano being mined by Skaven. Otto was able to kill Skaven resistance and, calling upon a demon of Alluminas, close the portal.

But Otto wasn't the only one having nightmares: Ossian had them too: he was dreaming of Skorgan, or maybe another necromancer, Thmerr, it was never clear. There was a body lying on a tomb, covered in bandages: and as Ossian got close, the body would spring to life and its hands would grab the wizard's neck.
"Ossian! Ossian!" he would hear before waking up in a pool of sweat.

It's... youuuu!!!
Ossian eventually went back looking for the source of his nightmares. He found the now dead volcano had been digged again beyond the mines, and the body of Skorgan had been freed of the Warpstone. But now the bones were a shining black colour, and the body protected by a cage of transparent crystal.
Ossian smashed the crystal open, stabbed the body to kill it and then, just to make sure he would not come back to life, decapitated it with Xambarg and took the head with himself, leaving the body behind.
Little did he know that a cult of Skorgan had emerged, and that the cultists believed he would come back to lead them. They had temporarily put the necromancer in a cage of Fixstone, a variety of Warpstone that worked the other wat around, blocking all magic. They had this ritual to bring him back: they needed to stab his heart and then decapitate him, but the ritual would only work with the necromancer's own blade! They had been looking for Xambarg everywhere without success. Thmerr, the leader of the cult, had tried for long time to look for Ossian, but he had no clue where to find him!
It was certainly Tzeentch's blessing that made possible that Ossian travelled all the way to the tomb and carried the ritual by himself! Truly the ways of the Lord of Change are mysterious, unfailing and full of irony.

If the wizard did everything by himself, I might as well go home
Now with the ritual completed, Skorgan's skull became a catalyst for Warp: magic energies would gather in the skull and then, at the right time, Skorgan could be brought back. The only problem was that Ossian had the skull now! And if the awakening ritual was not carried on properly, the skull would overload and, well... boom! The sort of boom that razes everything in a range of several kilometres and opens a Warpgate in the process.

Lol, sucks to be you, Ossian!
There were several attempts at deactivating the skull, but all proved unsuccesful. At last, Ossian, now chased by Thmerr's lackeys, through the help of Gelmir, Gelmir's brother Brandir, and the elven outlaw Charmian, tracked a spectral wizard in Tilea, Mario, who was able to help out. The ritual succeeded in releasing the energy of the skull in a controlled way, by making it sentient with a different identity - not Skorgan's, but Skorgan's skull's! The skull was very happy to be born as a magical being made of the Purple Wind of Magic: indeed he opened a portal to a new dimension of undeath, jumped right in with Mario, and closed the door behind himself, thanking Ossian for the help!

It took six years of game time (2502 to 2508 I.C.) and possibly nineteen years in the real world (1998 to 2017) to get rid of Skorgan, but now it's done. Now there is only a very pissed Thmerr. But that is a story for another time...

martedì 11 aprile 2017

The Merry Mariners - back from 2001

Towards the end of 2000 our WFRP group was exhausted. We had played for four intense years but, for a number of reasons, several members had dropped out of the group and only three were left. We found a fourth member and we took turns in GMastering sessions, creating a new party interly composed by Elves, brought together by being members of the crew of a ship.

It lasted less than one year, but it was fun. At some point I painted miniatures for all four PCs, and last night they were found in a jar at the house of my friends, so I took some pictures - forgive the light, it was night and the kitchen lighting was not ideal for photography.

Without further ado, I give you Fanirrlan, Sea Elf pirate. Greedy, adventurous, curious. Raised in the Old World with the healthy principles of survivalist Elves living among Humans. In Lustria, he learned about the Turtle-god Washoon, living under the Sea and emerging occasionally as a moving island - and he became its follower, hence the turtle pattern on the shield.

This miniature is a Jes Goodwin sculpt from Citadel 1987 Elf Warriors, and identified by the name Kaledon.

Then there is the other Sea Elf, Galentil of Breataine, from the stormy coasts of Cothique. Introverted, contemplative, melancholic, Galentil finds peace only at sea and away from people. He can, at times, become actively aggressive and utterly anarchic when confronted by crowds and civilization. A devotee of Mathlann, he finds himselfs very confused when he falls in love with Lilegon (see later), having puberty hitting him very hard.

Another Jes Goodwin piece, this belongs to the Citadel 1985 Silvan Elves for Lord of the Rings, later re-released in 1987 as Warhammer Wood Elves (074213/1). A very fine sculpt, if you ask me.

Now we come to Lilegon: daughter of a Wood Elf witch and a Dark Elf champion of Slaanesh, Lilegon grew as an outcast and quickly learned to survive in a hard world and only trust herself, resulting in a very introverted character and melancholic nature. She and Galentil are basicly dynamite, attracted by their common traits and plagued by bad communication and unspoken words.

I had lots of fun painting this Bob Naismith sculpt from Citadel 1986 C09 Dark Elves, the "Death Maiden". To be true Citadel has always been short of female figures, except for Dark Elves. The original had a spike on her tiara, which I removed to lighten the figure.

Lilegon always went around with a pet Wild Cat, Grinn, who later turned out to be a reincarnation of her witch mother.

This piece by Jes Goodwin is from Citadel 1987 Elven Beastmasters.

Lastly, we have Neferet, an Elf from Astartis, a house-made kingdom set in the deep Dark Lands, with an egyptian mood. Curious to see the world, Neferet was famous for her disdain of "barbarians" as well as her promiscuity, which made Fanirrlan very happy.

This is a fine Bob Naismith piece from Citadel 1986 RRD11 Regiments of Renown: Mengil Manhide's Dark Elves, named specifically as "Witch Elf". When I ordered it, I didn't notice the womanskin on her back, which hardly fits the PC, but then again it was nice painting it.

To be frank I am quite surprised by the quality of my brushwork from that time, considering I only had a dozen colours and a very lousy brush. But then my eyes and hands were probably better, and I had a lot of time to paint.

It's nice to see these pieces emerging from the past! Will post a couple more in the next days.