9/24/2014

5 Further Potions for 13th Age!


The time has come for me to release to the world several more potions from the secret text given to me by a dying alchemist. His last wish was that I give his closely guarded family secrets to the world. Probably. It was hard to hear, he was mumbling. Still, his loss is your gain! 

Potion of Concealment from Animals
Being able to pass unnoticed beyond a hungry pack of wolves isn't just a neat trick, it can be life-saving. 

You become effectively invisible to any creatures with the 'beast' keyword. As with invisibility spells, any attack or flashy action will dispel this effect. 

TierCostDuration
Adventurer175gp5 minutes
Champion325gp15 minutes
Epic650gp30 minutes

Potion of Concealment from Undead
Best not to think about what's in it; just be thankful the zombies seem to have taken you off the menu. 

You become effectively invisible to any creatures with the 'undead' keyword. As with invisibility spells, any attack or flashy action will dispel this effect. Very intelligent undead, such as liches or vampires, may, at the DM's discretion, make a hard save  (16+) to see through this effect. You should inform your players if this is a possibility. 

TierCostDuration
Adventurer210gp5 minutes
Champion425gp15 minutes
Epic850gp30 minutes

Potion of Jumping
This potion tastes like rubber and bounces inside around its bottle somewhat alarmingly. Once drunk, being able to jump great distances or heights is a doddle! No check is required, and the effects of the potion mean that landing from a height won't hurt unless the distance travelled is greater than potions listed effect doubled (once up, once down!).

TierCostDistanceHeightDuration
Adventurer175gp10m2m1 minute
Champion325gp15m4m5 minutes
Epic650gp25m8m15 minutes

Potion of Undetectable Passage
Once this potion has been drunk, the imbiber leaves no trace of their passing. Snapped sticks underfoot will mend themselves, kicked stones will roll back into place and footprints will fade away. Tracking the imbiber is impossible without magical means.

TierCostDuration
Adventurer210gp15 minutes
Champion425gp1 hour
Epic850gp6 hours

Potion of Distant Vision
This deep black liquid allows the imbiber to see as if he were within a distant area. The area to be looked at must be declared upon drinking the potion. If the area is not known to the imbiber (i.e. he has never been there before), he must pass a normal saving throw, or nothing is seen. These potions are incredibly useful for getting the lay of the land ahead, or keeping watch on a distant area.

TierCostDistanceDuration of Potion Effect
Champion325gp5 metres30 seconds
Epic650gp30 metres5 minutes

9/20/2014

Morkai's Hunters - A Space Wolves Grey Hunter Pack

Morkai's Hunters, the foremost Grey Hunter pack in the Deathwolves.

By happy coincidence, both of my Grey Hunter packs were mentioned in Companies of Fenris as belonging to the Deathwolves; the Great Company of Harald Deathwolf. Here's the latest addition of the two - Morkai's Hunters. 

9/17/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The Tenebrae Cabal and the Wizards of Thrinn

The final two Icons of the Ashen Coast, the Tenebrae Cabal and the Wizards of Thrinn are both icons that until now existed only as features on the map of the Coast. The Wizards of Thrinn held their tower, and the Tenebrae Cabal plotted behind the Plague Bulwark.

The gods are an important part of the world of Vostror that the Ashen Coast resides within. Conveniently, I already had a place where the evil wizards and clerics of the last empire resided. The Tenebrae Cabal is an unholy alliance that should supply me with all the evil I could ever want. 


THE TENEBRAE CABAL
A union of evil arcanists and dark clerics, cast out long ago by their masters but determined to rule once again. 

Quote
'Our right to rule is absolute, a divine thing, a holy thing. This land is ours; the Empire has forgotten us, but we have not forgotten it.'

Usual Location
Beyond the Plague Bulwark, with enclaves spread throughout the peninsular. Fort Ibrak and the desecrated temple of Dol Himak are centres of power, however.  

Common Knowledge
Though they do not exactly work in perfect concert, the clerics and wizards of the Tenebrae Cabal are united behind a single purpose - to destroy the Plague Bulwark and unleash their horrors upon the Ashen Coast. Wizards and Priests do escape past the Bulwark on occasion and work to bring it down from the outside or pursue their own vile schemes. Others still are driven to attempt to cross the Bulwark, either hoping to find like minded individuals or driven there by lawful or good pursuers. 

The power within the cabal fluctuates between arcane schools (particularly necromancy) and worship of the various dark gods (of which Kostro, Vundrica and Toovik have the most influence behind the Bulwark). The current 'head' of the cabal is a Priestess of Kostro named Nahal Afsheri, and cultists from the ruined and desecrated towns behind the bulwark flock to her cause to wage war upon the Coast and destroy the wall by force. The vile sorcerer Zavar Amaanat is the strongest source of arcane power beyond the Bulwark, and he schemes endlessly. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Worship of the dark gods is a quick route to power which can be irresistible to some adventurers. Most are sensible enough to work against the cabal, however, not with it. 

Allies
None. Isolation and the destructive nature of their goals puts even the vilest icons off working with the Cabal. 

Enemies
The Platinum Shield stands foremost between the Cabal and the Coast and must be destroyed at all cost. The High Priestess is a source of hope for the worshippers of the good gods; her death would be a great victory. 

History
The evil experiments performed by many of the wizards in the Empire of Turin were frequently misguided; the dark rituals performed by the servants of the evil gods equally so. The result was that the Ibrak peninsular became the domain of plague, rogue undead and worse and threatened to spill into the lands beyond. The governor at the time ordered the construction of a great bulwark to contain the horrors to the peninsular. Many of the evil wizards and clerics elected to stay behind. 

A curious balance formed between the wizards and the clerics of the various dark gods and collectively they became known as the Tenebrae Cabal.  

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the wall stands and the full force of the Tenebrae Cabal is contained. 

There needed to be an arcane archetypal icon on the Ashen Coast, and the Wizards of Thrinn were already on the map - although that they lived within a tower was all that I knew about them. Combined with a recurring theme from my previous games - powerful and dangerous pink crystals - they've become somewhat more fleshed out now and something I hope my players will want to connect with. 


THE WIZARDS OF THRINN
An enigmatic order of wizards that travel throughout the Ashen Coast, recovering powerful magicks. 

Quote
'There is nothing to see here. And if there were, it would be in your best interest to avoid looking, nonetheless.'

Usual Location
The Wizards of Thrinn have always been a secretive presence on the Coston Peninsular, their tower standing looking out onto the Great Ocean. Only the select few that count amongst their number are ordinarily permitted inside. 

Common Knowledge
Wearing their distinctive purple robes, the Wizards of Thrinn are considered throughout the Ashen Coast ill omens; their appearance usually heralds 'interesting' occurrences with strange, long forgotten machines being dug up shortly before they arrive, or an evil awakening, posing a great threat before it is captured by the Wizards who disappear as quickly as they arrived, taking everything involved in the accidental summoning. Quite often these incidents will involve strange and dangerous bright pink crystals, although so far the wizards have yet to find any intact. 

Other times they will turn up and... nothing unusual will happen at all. At least, not that anyone saw. Perhaps something, or someone, might be missing when they've left. It's probably for the best. It's certainly best not to ask. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
It is not unheard of for a Wizard of Thrinn to join an adventuring party, although they seldom remain for long. More likely a party will recruited by a Wizard to help them in their mysterious work, learning only enough to earn their pay. 

Allies
The Wizards usually work alone, although any Icon may find themselves with a temporary ally in the form of a Wizard of Thrinn. Usually, they are not happy with the price of having such an ally. 

Enemies
The Lady of the Woods seems intent on preventing the Wizards carrying out their work, particularly in the wilds. 

History
The enigmatic Wizards of Thrinn have been sighted on the Ashen Coast for centuries, appearing, usually alone, to conduct mysterious arcane investigations. Their history is as mysterious as they are. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Wizards of Thrinn can't recover any intact pink crystals. 

So, that's all 13 icons for the Ashen Coast! Let me know what you thought of them! 

9/07/2014

Thoughts On.... Companies of Fenris: Space Wolves Painting Guide

Type of Hobby: Miniatures Wargame (Supplement)
Number of Players: 2
Authors: Games Workshop Design Studio
Publisher: Games Workshop
Price: £20



Games Workshop have really been on good form recently with the quality of their painting tutorial videos. In many ways I thought that this book didn't really need to exist, as actually seeing someone paint is infinitely more useful than reading a description - but a real focus on variety and fleshing out the background of some of the less well known aspects of the Space Wolves makes the book well worth the asking price in my opinion.

The Great Companies

The guide presents four very different great companies, the Firehowlers, the Deathwolves, the Iron Wolves and the Champions of Fenris. This shows the depth that a single chapter can have within it, showcasing a few of the different themes you can choose. Space Wolves get a lot of flak for their recent focus on the 'wolf' side of the coin, but there's plenty of other options you can choose if you so wish and this book really shows them off. It's great to see a couple of the less obvious choices shown off here; Ragnar and his company would have been easy to throw into this book, but it's great to see other Wolf Lords getting a turn in the limelight.

There's a lot more space dedicated to background than I was expecting, giving a broad overview of the companies, then focusing in on the history and accomplishments of various packs within them, accompanied by lots of GWs usual high quality photographs. Interspersed there's advice on pack markings, how to apply company markings to vehicles and other iconography. The information is nice, and presented pretty organically, but it would have been better if it was all in one section within the book.

Each company has its own cool aesthetic, the warriors of the Firehowlers are covered in tattoos representing their accomplishments and look every bit the berserkers, whilst on the other end of the spectrum you've got the cold and mechanical Iron Wolves. Sven Bloodhowl and Egil Iron Wolf are pretty cool converted miniatures too and whilst they're not too hard to work out given the book tells you what they're actually based on, it would have been nice to have seen proper step by step tutorials for these.

This is all the stuff I actually bought the book for, if I'm honest; I'm reasonably confident painting my army at this stage. I'm pretty satisfied with the information presented, it gives just enough hints and ideas without outright giving the definitive answers or listing all the packs within the companies. There's still plenty of room for your own imagination!

By some serendipity, the two Grey Hunter packs I'd painted so far happened to be ones detailed within the book as belonging to the Deathwolves! Happy with that! I also learnt that within the Deathwolves the Wolf Guard keep their old pack markings, just painting them yellow and black. With that in mind I decided a little repaint was in order!

I won't be following the book entirely strictly though - I like the naming convention I've come up with for my vehicles, for example. (Everything is named after something from Norse mythology - Rhinos are named for wolves, Predators for weapons, Land Raiders for gods etc.)

Paint All the Things

I don't think that there is a single aspect of painting a space wolf that isn't in this book. Armour, fur, plasma coils, bone, parchment, metal, gold, gems, it's all covered. The only omission I noticed was no tips for painting eyes. A weird oversight but I have noticed painting eyes is falling out of fashion, so maybe that's why.

Not content with telling you how to paint everything, there's usually several different methods for doing it! It's a great resource, with eight methods for painting fur and nine for painting the faces of your warriors! I can't praise the sheer variety of painting guides in the book enough - each ranges from only a few steps to about 12, depending on the level of detail you're after - and you're bound to find a way of doing things that works for you.

Yet I'm not sure I can recommend this book alone for a new painter - Games Workshop still seem insistent on not teaching basic technique in their guides. You won't discover how to drybrush; or take care of your brushes; or correctly thin your paints in this book. Thankfully the internet is an amazing resource for that kind of information but I wish Games Workshop would start putting that kind of information in again. They're putting it in their video tutorials, which are free, so I'm incredibly surprised it's not going into their paid products.

A Nearly Perfect Resource

If you want some tips on how to paint your Space Wolves, or something to help you work out pack or company markings, this is a great book. The price is right too; at £20 it's a downright bargain for a Games Workshop product. I'm really interested to see if GW releases any similar products for other armies - it would be a shame if a product of this quality was a one off.

9/04/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast - The Platinum Shield

The Platinum Shield scour the Ashen Coast for the dark followers of the Evil Gods.

When designing the icons for the Ashen Coast I originally wanted, where possible, to emulate the archetypes illustrated in the 13th Age core book. Naturally, the Platinum Shield are analogous to the Great Gold Wyrm. 




THE PLATINUM SHIELD
Revering Saint Laila and the metallic dragons, the Platinum Shield are the Ashen Coast's first line of defence against the dark gods. 

Quote
'A Knight must be pure of heart and noble of purpose; like our beloved Laila. She was the very spirit of a dragon. We can only strive to emulate her. We will never equal her.'

Usual Location
The Platinum Shield's headquarters are located at Fralfield, a days march from the Plague Bulwark. In truth the majority of knights are manning the wall or questing throughout the Ashen Coast. 

Common Knowledge
Since the Plague Bulwark was constructed there has been an order set up to protect it. The threats behind the Bulwark are more terrible than most could face; only the purest of heart could hope to stand before the followers of the dark gods day after day and remain unscathed in body and soul. 

The order's prime duty is to protect Thun from the terrible evils beyond the Plague Bulwark. However, due to the dire state of Thun's Royal Navy, many evil clerics from the Tenebrae Cabal make it off the peninsular and move inland, spreading their evil. As a response, the Platinum Shield roves the Ashen Coast, hunting down these evil priests, or worse. Worship of the evil gods is not limited to the Cabal, and the Shield has become adept at finding hidden devotees.

The order has a strict hierarchy, with ranks following the colouring of their revered metallic dragons so that Brass is the lowest rank, held by the freshest initiates, and Platinum is the highest, held only by the Master of the order. The current Platinum Master is Diogo Corte-Real, an elderly man, thought soon to step aside to one of his inner circle. However, that has been the rumour for many years and his Gold Knights continue to jostle for his favour. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Fighters make up the bulk of the order, although there are many Paladins and Clerics as well, the majority of which worship Derne (God of War and Law) or Sorath (God of Sun, Light and Truth). In theory, however, anyone can join the order if they prove themselves stout enough of heart and pure of soul.

Allies
The Knights of the Platinum Shield are pledged to protect Thun and its King. As a holy order, they are natural allies to the High Priestess and, as a Paladin, they respect the Elven Baron.

Enemies
The Tenebrae Cabal is the sworn enemy of the Platinum Shield, and must be destroyed at all costs. The Devil is a new threat, but an unholy one nonetheless, and the quest to destroy the Cult of Mammon is gaining traction within the order. 

History
The evils of the Empire of Turin once ran rampant throughout the Coast, and on one peninsular in particular; entire towns and villages were entirely subjugated to the wills of dark priests. Eventually, even the Governor, Tyrmund, realised something must be done and ordered the construction of a great wall to prevent the spread of foul undead and terrible disease. 

In the years following the end of the Empire, the wall fell into disrepair under the degradations of the evil magicks beyond it and was almost breached, threatening the surrounding towns and villages.

In a town far from the Bulwark, in the northern Duchy of Arromere, the young Laila de Freitas dreamt of the Platinum Dragon, standing resplendent before a wall that spanned over a hundred miles. Laila was brought up in poverty in a world of browns and greys, she wept to look upon his awesome countenance. The Platinum Shield say that he imparted a message to her, though the exact wording has been long lost, if she ever revealed it. Then he spread his great wings and flew away, leaving Laila standing alone before the wall. Now she could see that it was cracked, a huge chasm cut into it. Feeling no fear, she strode towards it and placed her hands upon it. Even as searing pain burnt her flesh away, the crack shank into oblivion, sealing the wall once more. 

Waking that morning, Laila took up her fathers old sword and began her long pilgrimage south. As she journeyed, she helped many in need and defeated many evils. More and more pledged themselves to her cause and by the time she reached the Plague Bulwark nearly five hundred pilgrims stood beside her.  

The wall was exactly as she had dreamt it, crack and all. She trembled, knowing that only she could seal the breach - but that it would cost her her life. As she hesitated, the aperture grew larger and the wall finally shattered. Plague ridden beasts and undead, driven on by evil wizards and vile clerics flooded from the breach. The pilgrims stood firm, encouraged by the prayers of Laila, but many were only farmers and peasants - they could not hope to stand against such a force. 

The cause finally seemed lost as Laila was struck down by a priest of Kostro; god of Vanity, Tyranny, and Violence. Terrified, the remaining pilgrims turned to run. Then there was the flash of light and before them Laila rose to the air, great platinum metallic wings spread, her fathers old sword now a glorious Holy Avenger. She breathed deadly fire upon the evil host, and drove them back with her enchanted blade. Encouraged, the pilgrims fought all the harder and not a single other was lost. 

The battle over, Laila flew to the shattered wall and plunged her blade into the ground. A great platinum seal filled the gap, energy flowing from her reforged body. The Bulwark was reforged and Laila fell, lifeless to the ground. The pilgrims swore an oath that the Bulwark would never fall into such disrepair again, that Laila's brave sacrifice would not be in vain. They would be the Platinum Shield. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Plague Bulwark stands between the Ashen Coast and devastation.

Would you join the Platinum Shield or throw your lot in with the Dark Gods? Let me know! 

9/01/2014

5 More Potions for 13th Age

More potions for your perusal! As ever, let me know if you use them and if there's anything you'd tweak about them!

Potion of Chameleon Skin
This potion changes colour constantly, shifting hue between all the known colours and a few only the elves can see. Once consumed the user can change the colour of their skin and held items to any hue they like, simply by concentrating. Whilst many outlandish adventurers use these potions simply as fashion items - changing their colour at a whim - they're most commonly used to aid in more sneaky pursuits. 

When used to aid in appropriate skill checks to hide or deceive, Potions of Chameleon Skin give a +5 bonus. The duration the effect lasts for depends on tier.

TierCostDuration of Potion Effect
Adventurer100gp1 hour
Champion250gp6 hours
Epic425gp1 day

Potion of Speed
This potion rushes about its bottle, sloshing from top to bottom and side to side, as if unable to stay in one place for too long. Effectively doubling the speed of the imbiber reactions become quicker and distances can be covered in astonishing speed. In a combat situation the imbiber gains a second move action, as well as a bonus to attack rolls and physical defence (dependant on tier). Outside of combat the movement speed of the character is doubled - likely allowing them to outrun most normal foes. The effect lasts for a single battle, or 5 minutes, regardless. 

There is a downside to drinking such a potent mixture, however - each use ages you by a single year. 

TierCostBonus to AttackBonus to Physical Defence
Adventurer350gp+1+1
Champion650gp+3+3
Epic1,300gp+5+5

Potion of Sweet Water
The vapours of this bottle are often enough on their own to clear a room of any foul smelling mustiness, which makes these potions desirable indeed to adventurers delving in long sealed dungeons. The designed use is to transform tainted or contaminated liquid into pure, safe, water. Water created in such way is perfectly pure and the potion can be used on any non-magical liquid.

The volume of water that can be purified in this way depends on tier. 

TierCostCubic Feet of Liquid Affected
Adventurer100gp1,000 (10' cube)
Champion250gp15,625 (25' cube)
Epic425gp125,000 (50' cube)

Potion of Distant Voice
The bottle this amber liquid is contained within always sounds like it's clinking and sloshing around in someone else's backpack. 

Imbibing this potion allows the user to 'throw' their voice, causing the sound to seem like it is coming from someone, something, or somewhere, else. The distance and length of this effect depends on tier. If appropriate, the DM may require that a charisma based skill check is needed to for the effect to successfully trick a foe.

TierCostRangePotion Duration
Adventurer125gp5 metres30 seconds
Champion250gp25 metres5 minutes
Epic500gp100 metres30 minutes

Potion of Water Breathing
Blue and fizzy, this potion is a favourite of coastal adventurers. It allows the imbiber to breath normally when submerged in oxygenated liquids. The length of time this effect lasts for is dependant on tier and the user is aware roughly of how long they have left before the effect wears off. 

TierCostPotion Duration
Adventurer350gp15 minutes
Champion650gp1 hour
Epic1,300gp6 hours

8/30/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The Lady of the Woods and the Red Dragon

The Lady and the Red Dragon both share a special link - they were both part of the first adventure I ever ran, all those years ago. Originally conceived as minor characters, they both grew to be something greater and part of the group's shared history.

The Lady of the Woods shares many similarities with the High Druid and fills a similar niche on the Ashen Coast. I've always presented nature in my games as a strangely familiar but ultimately unknowable force, and the Lady is an aspect of that. Outwardly she is a being of serenity, peace and beauty - but beneath that there is something alien and dangerous. So too with nature. 


THE LADY OF THE WOODS
A resurgent power, the Lady is a force of nature who seeks to purge her home of arcane taint. 

Quote
'A measured kindness is the best way to restore the natural balance. If that fails... there are so few choices...'

Usual Location
A secret glade within The Enchanted Forest, ancient woodland contaminated by an incursion from another realm decades ago.  There the Lady is protected by her centaur wards. 

Common Knowledge
Though now forgotten by most, there has always been the Lady of the Woods. Once worship of this powerful being was common throughout the Ashen Coast, now there are only myths and legends that tell of a beautiful woman who speaks with natures spirits and guides the will of the land. She is a being of serenity and peace, who urges balance and unity from her followers. Yet she lives amongst the warlike centaur and destroys without mercy those who seek to defile her beloved domain. 

Most likely, the Lady is a dryad or nymph, such is her obvious connection to the woods in which she lives. Some say that she is an aspect of Nalfarin, though there is little to support that assumption. Her recent efforts have been concentrated on removing the unnatural arcane taint from the Usmarsh and the Enchanted Woods, which has to some extent prevented her from turning her gaze outwards. Many wonder what might happen when she does. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Druids, rangers and barbarians are all drawn to follow the Lady. Many powerful tribal lords will seek out adventures in the Lady's name, to perform great deeds that benefit them. 

The Lady's emissaries, a race of sentient trees that call themselves 'the Living Wild', are becoming an increasingly common sight on the Coast, and at least one has been known to join an adventuring party. 

Allies
The Lady is a natural ally of the sylvan elves, and so will stand beside the Elven Baron. 

Enemies
The Ice Titan holds claim to lands that the Lady knows belong to her followers. The Dread Pirate is a monstrous being whose very existence puts the natural balance in peril. The Wizards of Thrinn frequently send invasive investigators into the woods, seeking to harness the strange arcane power for their own use; such beings that would destroy the wild to gain arcane power are not to be trusted. 

History
The woodland that the Lady calls her home was for many years a corrupted, haggard thing with blistered trees and tormented wildlife. Every year its borders shrank away as whatever foul magic that stole the life away from the land surrounding the nearby mountains took a stronger grip. So connected with that land was the Lady that she herself began to wither away and her influence waned. 

This, coupled with the only recently defeated Empire of Turin's policy of iconoclasm, meant the Lady was almost completely forgotten in the civilised lands. The peoples of Ushenge, Usmarsh and the highland tribes remained her sole worshippers.

Nearly two decades ago, things finally and unexpectedly changed. Almost overnight the blasted farmland blossomed with new life, forming meadows and glades of arcane supernatural beauty. The forest too exploded back into life and with it, the Lady's power returned. Her influence has grown and, though she still holds little in the towns and cities, the people of Us and the highlands would march to war for her if she asked. Indeed, many now itch to, and some wonder what the Lady might do with such an army. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Lady sees no reason to create an army of her followers.

It wouldn't be fantasy roleplay without dragons. Even when I tried to create a setting devoid of the beasts it still ended up, ultimately, being about dragons. With fantasy rpgs it's dragons all the way down. 

The Red Dragon is an icon in absentia, which was an interesting challenge. First appearing in my first adventure as a sea shanty singing foe that terrified a party of 1st level adventurers to hide in a cave and live off drop snails for a bit, he had disappeared when the party returned from a parallel world. His disappearance was yet another unresolved plot hook and I felt his influence on the Ashen Coast was too great for him not to be an icon, even if he wasn't actually there. I also wanted to create a different feel to the Devil, who also influenced through followers rather than directly. This was the result.


THE RED DRAGON
The Red Dragon, Fuegalyr, cruel and terrible, terrorised the towns and villages of the Coast but kept the seas safe. Now he has gone those same folk that he victimised see him as their only saviour. 

Quote
'Things were bad then, sure, but at least an honest man could earn a living. Now my family is starving and I risk life and limb launching my boat. I don't blame folks who want that dragon back. A few cows a year seems a fair price to pay...'

Usual Location
Missing. Some say he has entered a long slumber, others that he has business elsewhere, some radical followers say that he walks among them in human form, awaiting a champion. A few dare to whisper that he may be dead - although no adventurers have claimed success at such a deed. 

Common Knowledge
Fuegalyr the Red Dragon, a monster with a cruel sense of humour, is famed for chasing bands of adventurers that are foolish enough to wander into his lands, sometimes pursuing them for days before finally setting upon the tired and weakened fools, searing their flesh and returning to his lair with their bodies and treasure. Sometimes he would follow them, never showing himself, instead singing or whistling sea shanties, knowing that his reputation would put fear into their hearts.

However, in recent years his presence has disappeared from the Ashen Coast and, with it, great poverty and hardship has arrived for the common man. Pirates and worse now patrol the seas, making it impossible for the majority who made their living from the sea's bounty to earn enough to feed their families. As a direct result, bands of vigilantes have risen up across the Coast, calling themselves 'The Red Dragons'. They seek out pirates and thieves wherever they can, liberating them of their treasure and adding it to a great horde that they hope will entice the missing Fuegalyr to return. Like the Red Dragon they have begun to idolise, their favoured weapons are fire and flame.

Adventurer's and the Icon
It takes a certain sort of desperation to believe that an ostensibly evil red dragon is your saviour, but many do. Folk under the banner of the Red Dragon frequently join adventuring parties, hoping to find treasures to add to the great horde. Fighters, rogues and even the clerics from particularly hard hit towns and villages are common Red Dragons. Sorcerers who trace their powers to the chromatic dragons have also flocked to the cause, often treated almost like priests or holy warriors by the vigilantes. 

Allies
A shared desire for gold means that many Red Dragons will willingly work with the cultists of Mammon and the Devil. The King of Thun officially condemns vigilantism, but in truth is eager for any help he can get to remove the pirates from his shores. 

Enemies
The Corsair and the Dread Pirate are the ones responsible for the current treacherous state of the seas. The Platinum Shield, full of lawful do-gooders and patrons of the metallic dragons, often destroy the Red Dragons wherever they find them. 

History
Fuegalyr, the Red Dragon, claimed the lands north of the Enchanted Mountains as his territory. Greedy and prideful, like all chromatic dragons, he terrorised the towns and villages within his domain by swooping in from the skies and demanding impossible tributes in gold and livestock. He rarely let the pitiful begging and whining of his subjects prevent him from leaving with an empty stomach and more treasure for his hoard. 

One trait peculiar to Fuegalyr was his intolerance for piracy (or at least, pirates unwilling to pay a significant tithe to him). For the hundreds of years he terrorised the coast, he kept the pirates at bay, allowing free trade through through the sea-lanes except for a few select pirate vessels.

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Red Dragon doesn't return and find the pitiful offering left by the vigilantes utterly offensive. 

So, two new icons - both of which have been rattling around in my head for about a decade. Would you follow either of their causes? Or would you work against them?

8/25/2014

Thoughts On... Codex: Space Wolves



I'm really a relatively new Space Wolf player, so this was the first time I got to have 'new codex excitement!' with them. As the weeks went on, I was enthused in equal measure by the Stormwolf and the new Dreadnought kit (which I totally called, by the way!) It was nice to have something to really get excited about. Games Workshop's marketing is nonsense (or even non-existent) but I think for those of us still interested these occasional opportunities to get excited are really fun and make me feel like a kid again.

I was a little concerned that my army wasn't finished and that I'd have trouble incorporating new things into my plans but, thankfully, that isn't the case at all. If anything, I think my army is in a stronger place than ever!

New Book with a New Presentation

I really like the new layout, having a master wargear list and each unit having its own entry complete with points value. It's about the only thing from the old 3rd Edition codexes worth bringing back and I'm really glad they have! It makes making an army so much quicker/easier. (Although, you know, use Battlescribe!) Kudos to GW for finally nailing this.

There's plenty of pretty pictures too, which is par for the course. These are mostly the new style 'action shots' with plenty of snow and smoke effects and red lighting (why always red?) They're pretty, and it's nice to have inspiring shots like that, but I miss the old showcase of miniatures style. Still, I guess it's pretty redundant now each unit entry comes with a photo. And it's nitpicky, I know, but now they've got plenty of models painted up for several of the companies, it's a bit depressing to see models from Ragnar's company fighting under Logan, when it would be more evocative for them to use the Champions of Fenris themselves.

My Blood Claws are going to travel in style!
The new units are all pretty spiffy too. I love the Stormwolf - a big old flying transport with an absurd number of guns? Yes please! If anything, I think being all round AV12 is a little bit too much. I'll see how it goes when I actually field one. I really like the look of it too - it's a bulky transport, with just enough Space Wolf frills. It fits perfectly with the Space Marine utilitarian aesthetic. The fact it subtly looks like a wolf's head is even better and a nice touch. That could easily have been overdone but I think it's note perfect here.

Not quite as sold on the Stormfang. The big gun sounds fun, but even if I didn't need the transport capacity of the Stormwolf losing the turret would be a bit much just for a big blast and lance (not that helpful against other fliers!)

This is awesome. AWESOME.
Logan's chariot isn't something I'm that bothered with in terms of my army; I don't see myself adding the Great Wolf. However, I do think it's so utterly, brilliantly, 40k. I think a lot of people really want 40k to be ultra-serious grimdark, when really 40k has always been a bit of a comedy and a satire. Technology that makes no sense is entirely 40k. If my army was the Great Wolf's company I'd be excited to add this. 

The Saga of the Deathwolves

Now an actual named character!

One thing that's really excited me about this new codex is the focus on my Wolf Lord of choice: Harald Deathwolf! Better yet, he's somehow managed to get more space in the book than Ragnar Blackmane (the previous poster-boy for the Space Wolves) or even the Great Wolf himself, Logan Grimnar! There's a really evocative artwork of Harald in a battle between the Deathwolves and the daemons of Tzeentch. Harald's saga is detailed too, built from the fluff from the White Dwarf that accompanied his miniature. 

The Great Companies have all been given names too; so henceforth Harald Deathwolf's Great Company shall simply be called 'the Deathwolves'. 

Harald's rules are pretty nice; he's got Outflank and has the now improved 'Saga of the Wolfkin' warlord trait (saves me having to worry about rolling it!), alongside making all Fenrisian Wolves leadership 10 if they're within a foot of him, and being immune to flamers (thank you ice troll cloak!) I think there's a lot of fun to be had with Harald. Very pleased. 

Thunderwolf Cavalry have got cheaper too, making one of my favourite units even more viable!  Not only that, but they can take even more special melee weapons, no longer limited to a single one in a pack. That's a lot of potential high strength models with at least 5 attacks each. You could create a silly deathstar if that's your thing! Even better, now one of the models is a pack leader, meaning the unit has a character. Space Wolves should be able to get stuck into more challenges! 

As a little bonus, Fenrisian Wolves are now scoring and don't weirdly cost more for characters to buy them as pets. But they're still leadership 5, and Saga of the Wolfkin no longer gives an army wide bonus to their leadership, so they're going to just flee the field more often than not after taking the inevitable casualties. This is mitigated by keeping Harald near them but then he's not outflanking! I'll keep using a unit for flavour purposes, plus they look really cool running down the battlefield, but I think they're still going to either do absolutely nothing or an awful lot in games. Very, very, swingy. 

Stalwarts of the Company


Blood Claws will finally be seeing the use they've always deserved!
Blood Claws, which of all the units in my army are the one that hit the hardest and won me the most games, are finally getting the recognition I've always known they deserved. Not only are the cheaper, they're a lot more so than I expected! I would have thought a single point knocked off them would have been enough but they're only 12 points each! 12! Admittedly, I've lost the ability to reliably outflank them but at 12 points Blood Claws are a steal; especially as they no longer need babysitting (although that was fun!) Stick a Wolf Priest with these guys and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Whilst Blood Claws got much better, Grey Hunters are about the same. I think this is fine. They've gone up a point (if you want the close-combat-weapon) and no longer get a free special weapon. They always seemed slightly undercosted and now they feel fine. The sky isn't falling, they're not suddenly useless (as the 'internet' seems to insist!) and they should still be the backbone of most forces. Honestly, I can't get my head round the idea that a 1 point increase has suddenly invalidated/ruined Grey Hunter focused armies. If anything, they're a little bit better now that you no longer need to choose between a Wolf Guard Pack Leader and a second special weapon! Keep using them - they'll still do everything you used them for before, maybe a little more if you kit them right.

Wolf Priests have gone up 10 points but gained Feel No Pain (6+) which is a great thing to give an advancing squad of Blood Claws. My Wolf Priest has always been amazing in games, so I'm expecting him to keep doing what he's always been doing; using Preferred Enemy to turn Blood Claws from great to brilliant.

Rune Priests are dirt cheap now too - I fully expect mine will be seeing the field a lot more now, especially when I need a cheap HQ/Warlord.

Wolf Scouts have been hit hard though. It's sad to see them lose 'Behind Enemy Lines' - being able to appear behind the enemy really made them feel like veteran infiltrators. Now they're just scouts with a better WS/BS. I think the new page layout is the reason for this - there doesn't look like there's room for the rule on the page. A real shame.

I love Dreadnoughts and I'm pretty certain this is the coolest one GW has ever made.
On the other hand, the new Dreadnought kit is amazing. There's just something incredibly metal about an axe and shield Dreadnought. Muderfang is ridiculous as well, seriously tempted by him! My Dreadnought with a multimelta got a little bit cheaper too.

I'm tempted to try the new Force Organisation Chart too, that gives any unit in the army a chance to outflank and lets you take up to six HQs. A lot of fun could be had there, but I'm not convinced it's worth losing Objective Secured. I'll have to give it a try.

Epic Tales yet to be Told 

The new Codex has given me a lot to think about, planning for the future. My plan to bring my army up to 2,000 points is now: 1 Stormwolf, 10 Grey Hunters, 1 Rhino, 1 Predator Annihilator.

Beyond that, I want more Dreadnoughts! At least two - one with Axe and Shield has to be done. I've always wanted a shooty Dread too and I think a missile launcher/helfrost cannon Dreadnought would be very flexible.

Another three Thunderwolves would be nice too, considering the theme of my army! I'd probably use the opportunity to get different special weapons. Maybe power/frost swords, for higher initiative.

Now I can use them in a 10 man squad of Grey Hunters, Wolf Guard are in my future. I'll probably buy a box of Space Wolves with some Devastators and make some Wolf Guard and Long Fangs.

Viking Warriors with Bite

I think this new Codex and I are going to get on just fine. Accusations of blandness and nerfed Grey Hunters are, I think, unfounded. Certainly we've gained more than we lost. And the new stuff is pretty great! Underutilised stuff has got a needed buff, but overused stuff hasn't been hurt too hard. (7th edition kicked Long Fangs in the pants long before this Codex did!) Mind you, I'm no expert, but I think this looks like a well balanced book.

The Sons of Fenris are renewed and ready to fight in the name of Russ and the Allfather! For the Wolftime!

8/23/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The Ice Titan and the King of Thun

Two very different Kings, both desiring to defeat their enemies and bring the Ashen Coast to their heel.

The Ice Titan, Shattradin. is a good example of using Icons to gauge interest in plot hooks. If any of my players choose him as one of their relationships, I'll have a good idea of the kind of stories their interested in. 

The Ice Titan was a dangling plot thread written into the Ashen Coast long ago. Since reading the 13th Age Bestiary I've been able to flesh him out a little. I like the idea of playing a barbarian who's fled the True King's rule. Maybe someone else in my group will run a game on the Coast some day and I'll get to!



THE ICE TITAN
The True King of the frost giants, who desires that the Ashen Coast become a land of ice and snow fit for his kin. 

Quote
'We can prosper only if the cycle is destroyed; there must only be winter.'

Usual Location
In his glacial fortress at Hammercrag Fell. This ice palace is the coldest point even in that freezing land of permanent winter.

Common Knowledge
The Frost Titan, Shattradin, rules Hammercrag Fell and desires to turn the warm and pleasant lands across the Coast, and eventually beyond, into a realm of indefinite chill. The remaining peoples that live there, the winter tribes, revere Shattradin as a god, and ride great white sabretooth cats into battle at his behest. Worse still are Shattradin's close kin, the frost giant jarls, who have stopped fighting amongst each other to serve their this new True King.

The Ice Titan's patience is glacial and every passing year the frosts spread further. It is only a matter of time before the seas themselves are a part of Shattradin's frigid domain.

Adventurers and the Icon
Whilst it's rare for adventurers to serve the Frost Titan or his giant kin directly, the winter tribes will at times venture into the lowlands looking for hired hands. Some have even left the Fell, seeking adventure. These barbarians often find the clement climate of the coast almost as hard to adapt to as the strange civilised behaviour of those who live within it.

Allies
None of the icons have anything to gain by seeing the world plunged into eternal winter.

Enemies
The High Thane of the Dwaves desires to reclaim the Fell, and one day he may be a threat enough for Shattradin to notice. The Lady of the Woods is more proactive, attempting to unite the scattered goliath tribes; if she were to succeed, then the Ice King would have an enemy worthy of the name. 

History
Frost giant jarls have inhabited the Vycarian Spires for time immemorial, making their home in the dense peaks, largely warring amongst themselves and only rarely sending raiding parties in the lowlands. Then the great Titan, Shattradin, appeared. The frost giant sagas say that he was born of the ice to lead them to victory. Humanoid scholars say that he likely arrived through a portal from a plane of ice or air. Either way, he was revered by the frost giants and swiftly united the jarls. He then cast a powerful spell to freeze Hammercrag Fell. Frost giants soon marched into the lowlands, smashing the unprepared and scattered goliath tribes before they could organise and unite. Hammercrag Fell was the new home of the frost giants, plunged into an eternal winter. Shattradin used magic and the might of his people to build a huge glacial palace befitting his stature there. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Ice Titan cannot secure power enough to perform the ritual required to turn the Ashen Coast into a wintery home for his people in one swoop. 

Of all the Icons, I found the King of Thun the most difficult to write. He serves the same purpose as the Emperor in 13th Age - supporting him is supporting the status quo. I took a leaf out of the 13th Age core book and kept the writeup for the King brief. I trust my players to help me fill in the blanks.


THE KING OF THUN
Standing strong against myriad threats, Thun stands, prospering despite the evils gathering beyond its walls. 

Quote
'The Kingdom cannot rely on the eastern spice trade, we must strike out and take prosperity with our mailed fist!'

Usual Location
The Grey Keep in Thunaar. The keep has stood as the seat of the royal family since the desecrated Royal Palace was burnt to the ground during the uprisings that followed the Empire of Turin's defeat. 

Common Knowledge
Thun stands strong in the face of adversity. Its people have suffered enough in living memory, and the King would have them suffer no more. Each threat must be dealt with if the Kingdom is prosper and return to its historical status as a powerful centre of trade. These threats exist everywhere, however - the evil clerics to the north of the Plague Bulwark are a constant reminder of the old empire's evil; pirates roam the Great Ocean; and dark cults are forever in the shadows. 

Yet of late the King has seemed distracted and is often absent from court. For such a passionate man, this dereliction of his duty is very strange. The people grow concerned. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Is there any greater honour than serving your King? The King needs strong and able hands if he is to see Thun through these turbulent times. 

Allies
A longstanding alliance with the Elven Baron means the free peoples of the lowlands stand united. The High Priestess sees the spiritual needs of the King's people. The Platinum Shield is a bulwark between evil and the Kingdom. 

Enemies
The Dread Pirate stands between Thun and control of the sea. Naval superiority cannot be safely re-established while he still lives. The Tenebrae Cabal is a blight on the Kingdom, and to see it purged and its lands freed would be a glorious victory. 

History
King Pedro II rules through birthright, tracing his lineage back to the kings and queens of old, before the Empire of Turin swallowed up all the free nations. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the King is on the throne. 

So, as always, what would your relationship be with these icons? Would you fight against a land of frost and snow - or stand with it, hoping to secure your own power in a new, frigid, order?

8/22/2014

Thoughts On... Parsantium

Type of Hobby: Roleplaying Game (Supplement)
Number of Players: 3+
Authors: Richard Green
Publisher: Ondine Publishing
Price: £12.99


Parsantium is a melting-pot setting for fantasy roleplaying games, able to stand alone or be incorporated a city within an existing setting. Taking it's primary inspiration from the great city of Constantinople/Istanbul, centre of trade and both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, with a smattering of southern and eastern Asian influences, Parsantium is a truly cosmopolitan city fitting for almost any kind of adventure.

My first encounter with Parsantium was at last years Dragonmeet, which was also my first encounter with 13th Age. Byzantium has always held a certain fascination for me, so Parsantium was a delightful surprise.

City at the Crossroads
Ruled by it's king, the basileus Corandias XVIII, Parsantium stands at the centre of several important trade routes. This brings characters from all across the known world into the city, meaning that far from being static, any number of interesting things could be going on and new characters can constantly be introduced.

The current rulers (and they have ruled more or less constantly for centuries), are Barthuran. This is a Greco-Roman culture, based heavily on the ancient Byzantines. The original settlers were the Sampurans, fleeing persecution. The Sampurans are heavily influenced from indian culture, only with bonus monkey people. The monkey people are pretty rad.

Adding to these cultures are the Aqhrani, who add an arabian flavour reminiscent of the old Al-Qadim D&D setting, and the Tiangon, who bring a touch of the oriental.

There are villains aplenty, from the traditional orcs and hobgoblins to devious rakshasa and dark, hidden cults. There's a lot for enterprising players to sort out!

A Living City
Parsantium is a living breathing city, richly detailed, with intertwining plot threads and locations that give GMs plenty to work from. Important NPCs are given plenty of description, including motivations and history, as well as a rough guide to their power level. As the book is system agnostic no stats are provided, which may be a turnoff for some. This has meant there is more room for solid, well thought out, background, which for me is a plus. There are some really interesting characters in Parsantium, usually with several connections to plot threads and many have some very interesting secrets. Because there are several different cultures within Parsantium there is a great variety within the NPCs.

More than that though, even little details could be plot hooks. I really enjoyed reading the gazetteer section which detailed the city, and particularly the 'First Impressions' and 'Passers By' sections, which are filled with both flavour and plot hooks that would work particularly well in a sandbox game. Each little vignette contained within them is charming, and often surprising. It seems everyone Parsantium has a story to tell!

A lot of work has gone into making the city so rich and alive. There's even a table to help GMs discover what occurs during the city during downtime or particularly long adventures.

History in the Making
There's a lot to see and do in Parsantium. It would impossible to try and do everything! Either as a sandbox or a structured campaign, there's plenty to draw from. Political intrigue, exploration, mercenary work, gang wars, dark prophecies, and evil cults can be combined to create almost any adventure you might think up. There's even a hidden undercity, filled with all manner of evils (some known, many not!) for your traditional dungeon delve needs.

With such a lot to draw from, players have a lot of exciting options open to the for characters too. Traditional D&D characters can be found, of course, but with all these interesting cultures and factions there's plenty to draw inspiration from and, Parsantium being what it is, a truly varied party wouldn't seem out of place or cartoonish at all. This is a setting I'd love to play in just as much as run.

Highly Recommended
I can't recommend Parsantium enough if you want a rich, detailed setting for your fantasy roleplay that's different from the usual fare. No matter what kind of game your players like, Parsantium can fit it in.

If your preference is for 13th Age, Parsantium icons are being rolled out on the Parsantium blog.


8/08/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The High Priestess and the High Thane of the Dwarves

The High Priestess and the High Thane have both watched the Ashen Coast suffer before at the hands of great evil and were both powerless to stop it. Both now strive to create a better world from their own ideals. 

The High Priestess fills the same archetype that the Priestess does in 13th Age's Dragon Empire. She is one of several religious icons in the Ashen Coast. Religion is a significant part of the World of Vostror, and most campaigns set there have dealt with the gods in some way, often using evil clerics as primary antagonists. I've usually stayed away from those plots, but the High Priestess has always been a feature on the Coast. Who knows, maybe the gods will have a significant impact in this campaign?

Icon from game-icons.net and by Lorc

THE HIGH PRIESTESS
The most respected religious figure on the Ashen Coast, the High Priestess works tirelessly to remove the taint of evil from her beloved holy shores.

Quote
'We must wash away the evil that threatens these holy waters. United we are the tide; inevitable and unstoppable.'

Usual Location
The aquamarine temple of Vadomer in the port of Gelfar.

Common Knowledge
The High Priestess, Brenna Tellan, is known for her stirring sermons, sharp tongue and dry wit. She believes the Ashen Coast is a gift from Vadomer himself, created from the ashes of a war with the followers of Nycho - evil god of storms and fury - long ago. It is a gift she would do anything to protect; woe betide the man in Gelfar who defiles the waters there.

Beneath the rough exterior, however, is a kind and patient woman who has seen enough true evil to know that it must be stopped. It is not out of cruelty she acts but the worry of a woman who has seen first hand how low people can stoop.

Recently her stirring sermons have begun to tell of a coming darkness and secret evils hidden in cults and cabals throughout the coast. It appears she has committed herself to stopping this darkness and is actively seeking support.

Adventurers and the Icon
Clerics and Paladins of Vadomer make up the majority of her supporters, naturally, but others are also keen to flock to her holy cause; followers of Nalfarin (god of agriculture and forests), Leandel (goddess of healing and life), and Staryl (goddess of wisdom and prophecy) make up a sizeable portion of her devotees. It is unlikely she would turn away a follower of any of the good or neutral gods. Many that have come to lend their strength to her cause are sailors, or former pirates wishing to atone.

Allies
She serves the realm, and thus the King of Thun. The Knights of the Platinum Shield and the High Priestess appear to share similar goals and both serve the good gods, though she has little tolerance for their grandiose acts of valour.

Enemies
The Tenebrae Council are the last vestige of the evil Empire of Turin and followers of the evil gods, and they are her true foe. The Dread Pirate corrupts the seas with his very presence and must be vanquished.

History
Brenna Tellan is impossibly old. Many say she was the High Priestess in Exile when the evil empire of Turin had annexed the Ashen Coast, and that was over fifty years ago. Others still say that she was High Priestess at least a hundred years before that.  Most say she must have some elf blood in her, if she has lived so long. The High Priestess simply attributes her incredible age to loyal service to the seas and to Vadomer.

The True Danger
They say if the Temple of Vadomer were ever to fall, all the Coast would be imperilled.

Where the Dwarf King of the Dragon Empire is rich and powerful through his land's natural bounty, the High Thane has achieved through a combination of good fortune and strong resolve. 

The dwarven Thanedom of Isminak and its ruler, the High Thane, is another player creation, although I knew I wanted the dwarves to be merchants and artisans, rather than just warriors. The player responsible is no longer with the group, but it's nice to think that shared world building has resulted in something that lasts. I think the dwarves would approve. 

Icon from game-icons.net and by Lorc


THE HIGH THANE OF THE DWARVES
The High Thane is ruler of the Thanedom of Isminak, the foremost trade power on the coast. He would do anything to protect that superiority. 

Quote
'I have crafted a civilization that will stand a thousand years.'

Usual Location
The great Thanedom of Isminak, deep within the Vycarian Spires. There is only one entrance these sprawling dwarven lands on the Ashen Coast, and that is through Valgan's Passage.  

Common Knowledge
The High Thane, Kevaver Runehouse, is a patient, shrewd and diplomatic leader. He united the thanes under the mountain; he turned a tragedy into prosperity; and he has brought more wealth to Isminak than any other before him. 

Adventurers and the Icon
Any dwarf would be honoured to serve their High Thane, but he has the money to pay almost anyone for their services. 

Allies
The dwarves, in theory, give fielty to the King of Thun. Certainly it is in their interest for the Kingdom to stand. 

Enemies
The duergar and cults that serve the Devil constantly beseige Isminak from below, and it is a war that shows no sign of ending. The Ice Titan holds claim to a significant area of the Vycarian Spires known as Hammercrag Fell, lands that the dwarves believe are ancestrally theirs. This claim is disputed by the Lady of the Woods, who supports the indigenous goliath population's quest to reclaim their home, in spite of dwarven protests. 

History
When the gates at Valgan's Passage were closed at the defeat of the Kingdom of Thun to the evil Empire of Turin the High Thane set to work building alliances with the free lands to the north. He turned a nation of warriors and artisans into a merchant empire that upon the defeat of that evil empire turned its attention south, once again. Dwarven traders are now commonplace in most settlements and the dwarves have become very rich indeed. 

Recent years have found the dwarves prospering further still, as the twin threats of the Corsair and Dread Pirate have made merchant shipping nearly impossible. So it is that trade with the northern nations beyond the mountains must go through the dwarves. The High Thane finds this advantageous indeed. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the dwarves maintain trade superiority. In the past they have been known to go to war over what they have lost. 

So, two more icons up. What would your icon relationships be?