Sunday, 30 April 2017

A (Solo) `Spin-off` Pulp Adventure Campaign:

Steve`s Narrative Wargame 
and Role Playing Game:


A (Solo) Pulp Adventure Campaign:

A Quest To Find The Legendary Tomb Of Qui Chi Men.

Part 1
For at least the last nine or ten years or so, I have had a keen interest in wanting to create a dedicated ongoing `living` miniatures campaign journal, covering the ongoing exploits of a small group of intrepid explorers, adventurers, and heroes; following their trials and tribulations as they journey deep into the unknown in search of... perhaps just a legend. Yet their goal will be to uncover the truth (if any exists) surrounding the semi mythical Qui Chi Men... the last God King of the Orient and his fabled lost tomb.

Perhaps the plot will one day grow beyond this tale into, as of yet, unknown exploits way beyond this introductory adventure. Who knows. Maybe one day we will find out!
What I do know for sure (as it is already intricately worked out and planned in my head) is that this all links and ties in with, would you believe, the Gotham `supers` campaign I am running at the same time; and one day it will all become clear how this marriage works. For now I will just say three things, in way of a massive hint: time lines, reality streams, and `gates`.

My first mention of Qui Chi Men was briefly touched upon in an early chapter of the Carlotta Wynn story:  yet the story was never properly fleshed out, and was left hanging and unfinished (during one of the many adventures of my fictional hero `Dr. Justin Fabian  Johannes`**).  But I had to take time away from the project and from gaming in general as real life got in the way for a while,  which meant that every time I let my mind wander to thoughts of finishing the tale... something would always crop up and I would have to push aside any creative ideas floating around in my mind at the time.

** which can be found here on the blog by searching back through earlier pages and campaign articles written here - throughout 2016. I have not linked these for you to find, they are (a) too numerous and (b) meh, I actually want people to go back and manually search anyway.. along the way it may encourage some to find and read other really cool stuff as well {winks}. I figure if you are interested, you will take the time to do this. If not, no amount of hyper linking will make much difference anyway haha.

However, now that I finally have the time to enjoy myself with this mini solo campaign, I find that too much `real time` had passed for me simply to pick up the trail of Qui Chi Men from the point at which I left the Carlotta Wynn campaign; and that would be a stale starting point anyway, as the Carlotta`s story follows an entirely different story arc of its own in any case. No... if I am going to do this, I will do it from scratch, with a new starting point.
Incidentally I WILL be going back to finish the Carlotta story – completely. That campaign was fully played out to its conclusion by the players and myself. I now just have to go back and write it all up. And this will be done sooner than later: almost definitely over the coming month. In fact I can faithfully promise that ALL these story threads, from Dungeons and Dragons, Weird World War II, Zombie-fied  17th Century, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Weird Napoleonics and Caribbean Pirates, Gotham, Cursed Earth, and all the rest... it will all one day unify into one big seamless multi facetted campaign, and in fact that was always the intension. It`s just getting it all there is the hard part. In a comic book that has twenty, thirty, or more years of issues to tell its story: things can evolve and develop naturally with time. Now, unless you want to sit in The Game Cupboard for that long, I would assume you would like to see my story evolve just a little bit quicker than that haha.
So bear with me, I am getting there. When you have so many toys to play with, it’s not always easy to focus on just one thing to the absolute exclusion of everything else.

Meanwhile, I have no idea where this campaign might go (that`s one of the delightful beauties of solo campaigning, using rules engines such as “Mythic” or in this case, using my own humble solo system), other than a vague notion that my main characters will (hopefully) pick up and follow the trail to the lost tomb. But other than that... I have a fair idea what will transpire along the way, but nothing written in stone; and indeed, if they even get to the lost tomb, the ensuing culmination `dungeon crawl` should be highly intriguing. But what happens from there on in, I guess only time will tell.

I simply adore playing games like this on my own... solitaire style: and this will be a chance for me to run my rules through their paces, and play it all out employing my intense love for typical (and atypical) Pulp Noir style and finesse, no matter what the genre.. from Bogart to Spencer Tracy, Indiana Jones, Sky Captain and Sin City: to the beautiful imagery of The Dark Knight trilogy, all the way through to HBO`s series Gotham, on DVD.

Sooooo, its time to pull out my `troops` and get things moving. My highly treasured Pulp figures have been taken out of their boxes and put back into my glass cabinets alongside my lovely ex-Clix figs: and now stand proudly on the (newly Polished) main shelves. To these I have added quite a lot of my Victorian/Colonial minis, especially the less quirky Pax Limpopo stuff; as many of these fit nicely alongside the black and white style Pulp era collection. Some of the less likely Star Wars minis have been dusted off and added to the mix, and my treasured collection of scale miniature cars and vehicular contraptions sit resplendent and shiny, waiting to rev their gas chugging engines and enter the imaginary fields of play.
The Journey Begins:

When Lady Jane Emileen returned home to Pax Angel City, having recently been rescued (by the brave and eminent explorer, Dr. Justin Fabian Johannes) from the clutches of the sinister Baron Luger Von Kiel. Her tales of the discovery of a temple complex deep in the Yangzi Jungle somewhere north of Wuhan... yet south of Xi`an, filled Sir Milo with wanderlust; and he quickly became fixated on the idea of returning to Shanghai discover this place for himself. The idea formulated in his mind (through long conversation with Lady Emileen) that this just possibly might be the fabled lost palace and tomb of the last Tian God King. Indeed, Lady Emileen had been exploring the area with the same notion when, unfortunately, she fell into the hands of Von Kiel... who was also hot on the same trail.

Sir Milo lost little time contacting Dr. Johannes with the dual purpose of questioning him on his own discoveries and to ask if he would care to accompany himself and Lady Emileen on a fresh quest of discovery? Sadly the Doctor was forced to decline, as he was currently involved with other pressing commitments; but he was able to help Sir Piecrust considerably, concerning the probable location of the ruins. 

Dr. Johannes also warned that the evil adventurer and treasure hunter Baron Luger Von Kiel was very close to finding the entrance to the tomb, and would stop at nothing to ensure he was the first to discover (and plunder) the find.

With Lady Jane Emileen`s sketchy memory of the journey through the Yangzi Jungle (all her papers and maps were taken from her by Von Kiel) and with all the help Dr. Johannes was able to provide at the other end of the phone line: Sir Milo Piecrust speedily set about arranging a legal government sanctioned expedition.

He first turned to his old friend and former archaeological student Jonathan Miles Parker, a highly skilled, handsome, and somewhat flamboyant New Yorker. Sir Milo was sure that Jonathan`s brains and brawn would be invaluable to the expedition before the end was reached. When Jonathan`s old mentor rang him and explained everything to him... Jonathan was quick to accept to invitation to join Sir Milo and his ward, Lady Emileen, on their proposed adventure; and was, in fact on a plane to P.A. within a few hours of putting the phone down.

Sir Milo`s next choice of companion on the adventure was another old friend; the somewhat strange and eccentric recluse, Pew Bartholomew Milktoast. Professor Milktoast was a famous Entomologist (indeed his knowledge Lepidoptery had earned him his scholarship at Harvard, Cambridge Massachusetts). What Pew didn`t know about `staying alive` in the jungle probably wasn`t worth knowing. After some considerable persuasion on the phone to him at his family retreat in Boston, Sir Milo finally persuaded the shy and unassuming crackpot professor to join their private expedition. Mainly due to the fact that Baron Luger Von Kiel was lurking about the area. The Professor had an old score to settle with that evil man, and was eager for the chance, finally, to `set things right`.

The only irksome set back to their plans was the insistence by the British Embassy in Shanghai, that the expedition should be accompanied by a platoon of Territorial Infantry... part of the 2nd Gloucestershire Shanghai Defence Force.

This military presence (under the command of Captain Endeavour Bluregard) would ensure the expedition remained free from  harmful interference from the Tian River Gangs, and Nippon Yakuza Opium Pirates, plus any indigenous others who might molest the party on their dangerous journey up the treacherous Yangtze. No amount of arguing with the Embassy would deter them from their decision, and in the end Sir Milo had no other choice but to accept the Military presence being `offered` to him.
Lady Jane Emileen: the ward of the renowned archaeologist, 

adventurer and Big Game Hunter, Sir Milo Piecrust

... exert from the personal Diary pages of Lady Jane Emileen:

... everyone all met for the first time, to began our journey, at the agreed rendezvous point down by the Me`Ping harbour front; where our tramp steamer (Little Hellcat) was roped tightly alongside the wharf. The little island dock wallipers were already hard at work carrying our baggage aboard the boat and stowing it away in every nook and cranny that could be found.

But I was first struck, not by the industrious nature of the workers, but by the seemingly poor condition of our vessel. She sat low in the water, all creaking metal, wood and rust... like... like an ugly duckling. Yes, that was it. She looked like some grotesque unnatural creature bobbing there in the water.
She was stripped totally of her hull paint, and exuded an unsavory aura of blue, rusty matt dullness. I was told by the captain, when I later inquired about the poor condition of the Little Hellcat, that she had in fact just undergone a full refit, which included a complete stripping down of her coat; and she was simply waiting to be restored to her former glory... as soon as we reached our first port of call (a small naval shipyard situated at the port of Me`Peu).

Little Hellcat... she looked more like a sad, dejected little pussy cat. But I would reserve proper judgement until she had a chance to prove herself in open waters. For the short journey from the island of Me`Ping to Me`Peu was a day and a half`s stretch across the open sea and some pretty bumpy, choppy ocean.

The loading of the baggage proceeded fairly slowly, despite the speed with which the workers laboured to and from the boat. But I suspect this was due largely to the cargo of Printers Ink being stowed away below in the hold. A truck bearing the name "Los Angeles Times" sat near to the loading ramps, and workers moved like ants to unload the heavy crates and carry them deftly aboard the Little Hellcat. It seemed strange to me to see an American Newspaper wagon so far away from home. I suppose it never occurred to me to wonder before, where the ink for so much printing was originally made. Doubtless, the plants from which the ink was extracted was harvested from the myriad of heavily forested islands, then manufactured (also locally), and shipped to the main office (via Me`Peu merchant shipping) back in Los Angeles for proper consumer distribution. 
As I stood and watched the loading taking place, I noticed a carriage pull up alongside the  boat and two well dressed people... a couple obviously... alighted and  prepared to board the Little Hellcat. I was somewhat surprised, because the woman was no other than Lady Amelia Maxine Fairchild, wife of Lord Arthur Winston Fairchild (of Fairchilds` Merchant Banking Inc); she was a somewhat notorious figure in... `certain` circles.... back home in PA, while Arthur was a sweetheart, if a little dull company at social functions. They both boarded the Little Hellcat and vanished from my view. I mused over this with myself, that at least I would have some interesting company for the first leg of our journey.

The first of our company to arrive was my dear Uncle Milo and his strange looking friend, Professor Milktoast. They were deep in conversation and hardly seemed to notice the hustle and bustle taking place around them at all. Dear Uncle Milo; it was good to see him looking so animated and happy. I also noticed he was carrying his hunting rifles over his shoulder and this caused me to smile even more. Dear old Uncle Milo. I wondered if he would miss up on the opportunity to `bag` a few prizes for his large wall collection back home. Hehe, of course not!

Following behind the pair was a handsome looking man. Judging by his face he looked to be in his late twenties; solid looking, with barely concealed muscles bristling tightly under his well fitting loose shirt. I remembered the photo I had seen in Uncle`s study of our other companion, and quickly surmised this tall stranger must be none other than Jonathan Miles Parker. I was immediately impressed by his physical presence and the confidence which positively  oozed from him as he marched erectly through the crowd (I fancy, a head taller than anyone else).
(left to right) Professor Pew Bartholomew Milktoast, Jonathan Miles Parker, Sir Milo Piecrust, & Lady Jane Emileen

Mr Woo bids a fond farewell to his daughter, Hu`San Yan.
(above) a quiet, shy, unassuming Belgian gentleman I was later to discover was called Hercule Poirot. He was a passenger aboard the Little Hellcat, and a wonderfully charming dinner companion.
Captain Thomas Malone overseeing safe storage of the cargo aboard his vessel.
Los Angeles Times...The press that never sleeps!

A beggar and his bowl, silently watches everything.

Much more to come... but hold on for a little while, due to other projects needing to come first... another bonus of hobbying for fun, there are nooooooo deadlines yeeeey :)
_____  )o(  ______

Bonus Material:
Picked up once again, in an ongoing saga to be told over many, many months (and years) to come. Please be prepared to be delighted and thrilled by the newly restored archive material {{discovered recently in an old vault}} * Penny Dreadful tales, The Chi Chi Men Expedition, and "The Adventures of the League".

*discovered resting for nearly a century, at the bottom of some long forgotten packing crates, on old reels of decaying cellulose tape, alongside a series of aging and yellowing private journals; and previously thought to have been lost to the relentless ravages of time. This new material speaks to us from the past, revealing events, thought to have been forgotten for all eternity.
The Ripper is Back!

Please, check back here regularly, to see the tale continue.


..... sometime in the ________  at a secret location somewhere in Londeus:

Part 2

Penny Dreadful Tales:
 "Please, do come in, Miss Poppins" a rather neat, pretty little woman with an ageless face, rose from her chair and welcomed her guest, with impeccable politeness and courtesy.

"It`s Ms Poppins, actually."  The new arrival informed, with equally polite, yet rather prickly lack of friendliness in her tone. Her eyes were narrow, unwavering pinpricks of intensity as she stared at the small woman who looked back at her from across a tidy writing desk, near the unlit fireplace.

With barely more than an imperceptible tightening of her shoulders, Miss Murray gestured for her guest to take a seat.
"As you wish."

Ms Poppins smiled slightly, remained standing, and continued to survey the Mistress of Fothrington Hall from across the vast divide of the intervening desk. Ms Poppins was not an unhandsome woman herself. Perhaps, in her mid thirties; her stoic face could most certainly sink many a ship, should her disposition incline itself to that feminine pursuit. Her clothing was gentile, yet held a timeless quality to it. Certainly not a woman to follow current fashion... might have been another.. kinder way of putting it. Though there was, indeed, nothing kindly about this urban, Amazonian fightress.

The two women remained standing.

"Well, then." Miss Murray intoned... and the mutual truce was silently declared. Neither woman was ever going to like the other very much, but business was business. The guns were put away, and a more balanced accommodation for communication was reached. All this with barely a word spoken. Both of these indomitable woman had taken the measure of each other with begrudging inclination to professional respect.
.... yet each of the other knew. They would henceforth become staunch, loyal allies.

"Why have you asked to see me Miss Murray. Is it about the Ripper? Surely he has not returned... he`d be an old man now, surely? "

Miss Murray raised her hand a moment:
"Actually, you may called me.... `M`.

Ms Poppins snuffed peevishly, then continued with her salvo.

"This kind of thing is not really my... forte. As I`m sure you are aware, I am currently engaged in the tutelage and correction of a pair of very wayward twin sisters up in Perthshire. Without my guidance.... well, there is simply no knowing what mischief this twain may get themselves into."
Miss Murray held up her hand, gently to placate and to avert Ms Poppins from her pre-emptive barrage.

"I can assure you, I have not called you here to deal with such matters."

Miss Murray considered for a moment before volunteering:

"Besides, such matters are already being looked into by another field team... no, I have another task for you. One which, rest assured, will require your most accomplished and, dare I say it.... your most devoted attentions."

Miss Murray leaned forward and leant lightly on the desk....  emphasising her words as she spoke. "Actually, I need you to exorcise the Devil." 

Stay tuned to discover more.........
_____  )o(  ______

Picture WIP:

Turning a Sylvanian Families Toy Canal Boat

into a 28mm Victorian/Pulp Naval Steamboat.


I have wanted a steamboat in my games for a very long time; actually, ever since I spotted a really inspirational wargame blog depicting semi fantasy Victorian battle report, lavishly illustrated with photographs and miniatures. The game featured a couple of platoons of British red coats landing on the jungle covered shore line of some unnamed island to investigate this strange temple structure. Suddenly they were attacked by wave upon wave of giant (plastic) spiders, and had to make a terrifying fighting retreat back to their steamship. The whole thing felt like something from HP Lovecraft and could easily have fitted into the Cthulhu mythos. I was drawn in by the whole storyline and by the lavish photography throughout... but most inspiring of all (to me) was the home made steam boat which dominated the plot.

Since then, over the last few years, I have tentatively looked around on game show stands, or on line at various model kits, and I have read a few tutorials on making a steam boat for myself; but always I have been dissuaded, either by the cost or the difficulty involved.

... until now.

Having never truly strayed far from my love of all things Victorian: from colonial skirmish wargaming, whimsical role playing storylines, to full on hardcore Steampunk, I suppose it was only natural that my interest would one day be stirred at the idea of making a vessel for my games.

And so I finally decided to take the bull by the horns and make a start.

As it happens, I was in Bantry some time back, and spotted a plastic toy boat in the shop window, and suddenly my mind went into overdrive... careening with enthused ideas. As I stood staring like an idiot, I didn't see a child`s toy in the window. I saw a converted military naval vessel bristling with guns and Victorian marines, rolling up to the shore line and preparing to engage imaginary fantasy world natives hiding elusively at the edge of the jungle tree-line.

The price tag on the model boat was rather nice and reasonable (old shop stock), but I just had to have it. It was a "Sylvanian Families" toy: very collectible, and at one time.. the top notch end of the children`s toy range. But I have an amazing partner, who knows (and tolerates) my passion for DIY hobby projects, who suggested she buy it for me as a non-Birthday present.

I could hardly suppress my enthusiasm as we walked in to the shop to buy it. The lady behind the counter (actually a friend of Hillers) was almost apologetic as she told us the price tag... but my partner was quick to let the woman know "its a birthday present" I think more to stop me blurting out that the boat was for me as much as to reassure the woman that we didn`t mind and understood it was alright she could not just give it to us.

When I got home and unpacked the toy, I was immediately struck just how lovingly made it was.  Amazingly well packaged, and the attention to detail on the thing was incredible. It actually made me feel guilty that I was about to take the whole bloody thing apart... smash it to bits, saw and hack through walls, and generally vandalize this magnificent toy beyond all previous usable recognition.

The first thing I was going to have to do was change the scale of the boat to make it suitable for 28mm. I think the original toy was about the 45mm mark, so I was going to have to fool the eye into perceiving it differently than a small canal boat.
What a Mucking Fuddle!

Oh my goodness, it looked terrible at this stage; and my lovely partner (who had always wanted to collect "Sylvanian Families" toys) was almost appalled at my desecration of this fine crafted collectible.

 The photo above shows what`s left after I pulled everything apart and re glued and pinned things where I needed them to be; and generally added bits of bottle tops, metal screws and bathroom odds and ends to the mix.

Finally, I was able to begin painting.

Ah, that`s better.

Next, I need to add the gun decks (fore and aft) and the hand rails. Then I can start to add the fine details.
Can`t wait to start adding the boat minutia.

40`s Navy Blue (Ooo little Sand Pebble eat your heart out). Makes a nice striking statement.

The end is in sight, and I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel at this stage.

I have to finish the thing as it already stars as "Little Hellcat" in the ongoing mini campaign I`ve started.

 Oh the pain we suffer for our art ^^  
Articles By Steve




Friday, 28 April 2017

Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System Boardgame

Dungeons & Dragons
Adventure System Boardgame

- A personal journey -
A few years back, I had one of those crazy moments where I decided to do a major blitz on the games room. Games and bits of games and maps and files and books and rules and cardboard tokens and counters and CD`s with no idea what was on them as they were unlabelled, and empty boxes (I don`t know about you, but I find it hard to chuck away old figure packets) and old paints, and brushes and half completed (neglected) bits of homebrew terrain the original reasons for making these, quite forgotten, and glue pots and tins and jars and funny shaped things raided from the kitchen (presumably, originally stolen to make yet more terrain), and old dice and posters and....  yet more figures and heads and arms and shields and swords and...

... well the bonfire that day was big and hot as I threw box after box and bin liner after bin liner down from the patio roof top, to where my beloved waited below to place the stuff, carefully, on top of the burning inferno of plastic, metal and paper*. Some of my collection went to the charity shop down the road, but the end result was the same: my games room echoed for a while and I could actually swing a proverbial cat in there or dance a waltz.

*course, the wife went and told me off for being ecologically `bad` and went and separated the offending material all into her menagerie of `eco-friendly` bins.

Some things I sold or gave away to people I thought might appreciate them. My 1000 MageKnight figures and plastic dungeon tiles went to a friend at Other Realms in Cork. My HaloClix and World of Warcraft minis went to another friend. My entire collection of Games Workshop Middle Earth minis, terrain and rule books went to my daughter`s boyfriend; and most of my D&D rules and supplement manuals went to one of my daughters. Various trunk loads of fantasy books went this way and that to whoever grabbed them first, and for a while several boxes of paperback and hardback novels sat just inside the front door, lining the hallway for anyone calling at the house to grab as many as they desired.

The odd few bits I actually sold: and when I was done, I had a pile of spare cash and a games room reduced to about 40% of its former clutter. The strange thing about a major clear out is, it really helps you to define what it is you want to keep and use... and distinguishes the rest of the "has to go" crap, into a clear list of "will I ever use it again - no".

It’s like a Phoenix arising from the ashes, as you begin to prioritize your hobby with renewed vigour; and as you grow bolder, blitzing away with impunity... you begin to feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins giving up his ring... freely. It’s a deep  internal struggle, but once you find the courage to ` let it go` the feeling of relief is immeasurable.

Now, even as I did all this, I was working out in my head a small `wish list` of things I wanted to buy for myself (as a consolation to myself for having just let go of so much of my `life` all in one go).
Anyway, the point of all this is that, while I was tidying and boxing things up, and burning *sobs* and generally going mad in a wild ardent fervour, my mind was working away ten to the dozen; prioritizing a mental wish list of projects I would enjoy: things I had always wanted to do but either it wasn’t invented yet, or I had never been able to afford it. One such game I actually had to save my pocket money and wait another three years until someone invented it, which was my “Sails of Glory” Napoleonic naval battles board/wargame. But we`re not discussing that game in this article. I want, instead, to talk about my love for the Dungeons and Dragons Boardgames.

About the same time I was doing my massive clear out back in 2013, I had begun to hear about a new 28mm dungeon crawl game from Wizards of the Coast. Okay, it wasn`t new exactly, but I had never heard of it until quite late on the scene, and I discovered it quite by chance on You Tube: “The Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Boardgame.” It seemed to promise everything I wanted, and so I read (on line) all I could about the game. I quickly realized it was not just one boxed game, but three separate ones - yet each totally interchangeable and usable with its other brothers and sisters. Combined, the three games would give me a sizable collection of D&D minis; plus the game contained all the terrain tiles to create an endlessly varied dungeon, and what`s more... the game was totally 100% playable as a solo experience. The more I read, the more I began to ponder on the idea of buying it for myself. But when I finally found a load of game tutorials and battles played out on You Tube, that was it: I went and ordered all three boxed games from and waited as patiently as I could for all the stuff to arrive. Okay, in truth... I practically wore a hole in the floor boards as I paced up and down waiting.

But I didn`t have to wait for long. Three days I think. I knew the boxes were meant to be big.. I`d heard that in the reviews I`d read; but oh my goodness, I wasn`t prepared for exactly how big the games would be... and I had three of them arrive all at once. I was utterly in gaming heaven, like a chocolate addict let loose in a Galaxy warehouse. Never before in my life had I gone and bought myself anything so awesomely complete, or so costly. But this was all pocket money from my own generated sales, so it really was a once in a life time purchase for me. I guess this is how people who buy kick-starter, after kick-starter, after kick-starter feel each time, and is probably why they can’t stop, and keep wanting that experience again and again. I can honestly say I have never felt a hobby experience like it. When it all arrived, it felt euphoric, like a very personal slice of heaven, arrived at my very own doorstep for me to enjoy; with a clear conscience and innocently happy in my bliss.

I had originally planned to open one game, play it to death, and then proceed to the second, and so on. But of course, I simply had to see the contents of each box. Actually, I`m very glad I did this because, enthused and carried along in a wave of gaming intoxication, I was able to take all 140 miniatures and paint and varnish the lot over a couple of weeks of intense hard work. The end result was well worth the time it took, and I soon had a lovely shiny brand new collection of finished miniatures sitting on my shelf waiting to be played with.

Yet as fortune was to have it. Work and family commitments meant I wasn`t able to do much with these games for several weeks, and apart from daydreaming of adventures and campaigns still to come, I had to be content to wait until I had enough spare time to do the game full and proper justice.

But fair fortune was to smile on me yet again.
home sculpted terrain WIP

Amazing what you can do with self dry Clay.
The adventurers walk straight into a Kobold tunnel set up! fortunately for the heroes, the trap is sprung a little too early by the eager little beavers, and  the only thing to get caught under the crushing rocks is one of their own number... eeek!
Christmas time had come! And hey, guess what I received from generous family and friends that year?
Five... yep five brand spanking new expansion sets, additional figures (Heroes, NPC`s and Monsters) to add to my Adventure System Boardgames, and what`s more, they all came beautifully pre-painted **phewwww, less for me to have to do**. This meant I was able to add a load of extra miniatures to the game.

But it gets even better. Wizards of the Coast had bought out a forth, brand new Adventure System Boardgame "The Temple of Elemental Evil," and my lovely Hillers bought me that too, as a last minute special `her to me` gift, which I think is exceptionally excellent.  This game concentrates more on cultists (and elemental types) and less on monsters. But as by now I had well over 250 critters from the Monster Manual, the addition now of 40 odd human type miniatures was a welcome change of pace. I have heard some complaints about this boxed set (I suspect, mostly from gamers who only own this `stand alone` boxed set, and not those who have stayed with the game from its conception, and who already own the vast number of Monsters from the earlier boxes). But personally, I think this forth (and probably final) box add on is the best of the lot.
  And so suddenly, my collection was starting to feel very complete. Masses of Dungeons and Dragons miniatures, heaps of dungeon tiles, and a rather impressive range of add on pre-painted miniatures to mix in with it all. At last I feel I am ready to bring some Dungeons & Dragons to the game cupboard blog.
                                                                             Being a system that will work ideally as either a joint participation game or as a solitaire experience: this means that when together as a group, we will be able to share in all the fun en masse, as it were. But also, individually, each of us will be able to take the game away, and play a solo slice or two, and yet be able to carry on the overall campaign arc, by linking their adventures into the overall storyline.. all by themselves. Ideal too for Tarot, who works very hard nowadays, and is away for weeks and months at a time. Keeps her well and truly in the loop, and part of the gang.
Castle Ravenloft
~ A New Campaign is Born ~
 {Played Using `mostly` 28mm Scale D&D Boardgame Miniatures}
Through the tunnel we descended. It felt as though the very action of motion through the deeps might chase away our deepest trepidations and keep our minds focussed on the task at hand.
I felt Quinn`s heavy breathing on my shoulder, tickling my neck above my armour. The heavy scent of tobacco from that infernal pipe he was so fond of smoking, lay thick in my nostrils... one of his very few vices, that I was aware of. The Cleric was indeed a pious man, despite his perpetual swearing tongue, and never ceasing muttered disdain at the mockery of light he so desperately sought to witness in the world. To seek good for goodness`s sake... to find pure altruism... a rare quest, and one which eluded him still, despite his having looked high and low across the lands, and into the hearts of the folk he ceaselessly sought to assist in the name of his beloved Lathander - the Morning God.
Along the dimpsy, sickly, yellow pallid flickering flame lit tunnel, swallowed by the damp, dilapidated mouldy stone. Further... further.... and deeper still; the torch light made the very air putrid by its noxious, tallow scented purgance.
Even Silvara walked in stooped silence. Her normally bright, beautiful singing voice, hushed by the strangled stygian suffocation of this most dreadful descent. `Not a single quip to trip from your sweet Elven tongue, nor a delicate cadence, plucked from your dulcet stringed Lute?`  I thought to myself in sardonic amusement, as I trudged along in uttermost dispirited misery. Normally the Bard could strike a meter of hope in any heart... but this day, her flame red locks and supple frame provided me with no pleasure. Too far set within the temperament of despair, that even the thought of her loveliness could not entice the strict Domina within me to stir.
The Bard noticed me watching her and smiled sweetly, and for a flicker of a moment, my heart lifted at the sound of her voice as it whispered in my ear. “Not long now, Mistress Kayleth, we will surely be under the beast`s lair, soon, me thinks?” Her words, like trickling, cool, fresh water across smooth pebbles of perfect, rounded hue; drifted keenly into my senses and provoked a genuine half smile from me. I nodded my agreement at her observation, and squeezed her hand for a briefest second. Her delicate fingers entwined in mine, and the transience of time stood still upon that precipice, and a wealth of wordless passion, balanced within a subtle cast, were uttered in secret acclaim, caught within a still reflex. A moment etched in a crystal glass, to measure the countenance of the blink of an eye.... a leaner moment encased within a stare. Love and respect was contained there.
Just for a moment I wished she would trace her slender fey finger.... as she so often did when we were alone together.... along the red, angry scar which ran down my face from skull to jaw. An ugly wound. A reminder of my rash, arrogant youth. "A beautiful scar" Silvara called it. But then, of course, she was biased. The scar was a kept reminder.. that even a Paladin needs to learn when to stand and fight, and when it is wise to withdraw.
Still we meandered a winding path.... down and down again into the bowels of the earth. Across an iron covered yawning throat... a bridge which led to the oubliette below the dire Zarovich estate. 
As we made our way, step by step, towards the vast centuries old graveyard of heroes...  my immediate goal, and perhaps the ultimate fruition of all my labours; this, I hoped, would be the culmination of our march. Insane, disturbing unhappy chance, which led me to be here... now... in this terrible dark and dangerous place. A book... the Necromundi... written secrets in a foreign hand.... cryptic utterances of an evil, dark Master, soon to rise again!
If I was correct in my assertions, here, among the fragile and crumbling stones, I would soon discover whether there were any truths in these claims. If Strahd was risen, I would indeed discover the dreadful truth, or die trying! 
The dilapidated stone across the bridge was strangled... overgrown with weeds and tangled knots of unsavoury looking cavern bushes and unhealthy looking shrubs. Amongst the anarchic jungle lay dark grey sentinels of stone, standing at crooked angles, but mostly hidden under the perfusion of suffocating subterranean shrubbery. An unwholesome pale green light spilled from the vines, and mixed among the dense fog which rolled across the floor in a perpetual carpet of grim, cloying, cloudful grey distain.
Ahead lay a gaping maul.  Like a gigantic skull staring... screaming, open mouthed at the gloom. Its crooked and discoloured teeth pierced up from the earth in jagged lines, which dissected an ancient archway at intervals where even the stones had not wholly succumbed to the onslaught on time and the relentless march of the twisted and bitter vines.
Hidden among the masonry, almost like a demonic mask, lay strange and ugly gothic symbols, and a long dead stone mason`s attempt at individuality... immutably stamped into hapless futile immortality.
Our Wizardess breathed into her hands, like a child might warm her freezing fingers from the chill of winter ice. Yet her small appendages radiated a sudden glow... and there was light, where before there had been none.... save for the insufficient flicker of our lone wretched torch.
I smiled again for a moment. “Thank you Nymmestra, now we shall see if we are close to our desti.......”
I stopped before finishing my sentence. For indeed, I could see... as we all could... that we had reached the entrance to the dungeons underneath Strahd Von Zarovich`s terrible castle.
Nymmestra`s magical dwimmer bought a rich, golden illumination to our cause, and filled the lonely darkness with a sudden warmth and... hope. Quinn could be heard uttering a mumbled prayer to his gracious Heavenly Sun Blessed Lord. And for just a moment, we all felt courage return to our hearts.
Standing before us lay a portal of dark iron bound wood.
The adventure was about to begin.
Much, much more to come on this game in future weeks.

Next episode... a more Noir feel and tone as we jump back to a prequel, and begin the pre-shadowing of `portal gates`into the world.