Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bumper Crop of Cthulhu minis

I really don’t do a lot of shopping for figures lately. The other year I bought a few cheap batches of great, prepainted plastic minis from Ebay, and there were plenty of fantasy and sci fi ones. And with a nice basic color coat on them, it only took a little extra model work and couple extra colors to make the mini stand out or look like a particular character or NPC. These, and my older metal minis, form the stock in my miniature soup.

But for 1920’s Cthulhu fun, my mini collection is a bit lacking. Sure, I have the odd Mi-Go or Dark Young figure left over from the olden days, but not much in the way of 1920’s humans. Here and there some of my Champions and other modern figures can do in a pinch, but it’s really not enough.

So yesterday, seeing as I was in the Neighborhood for the Queen Mary Scottish Festival, I stopped by The War House in Long Beach. Actually, since I have been competing at these games for years now, I kind of make that Saturday afternoon my yearly pilgrimage to the place. I remembered from the year before that they had some Cthulhu minis, and I was hoping to find a couple of items for characters or NPC’s in the current campaign.

They had Chronoscope, which has a few nice pulp adventure minis. But these are pretty pricey. Not that I can’t afford it, but I really need to justify how much use I will get out of something I buy for gaming. But then I saw that War House still had a nice lot of official Call of Cthulhu figures, but sadly most where monsters and again, I have to justify to myself that I will use a particular mini enough to make it worth it.

Then I spotted this pack of Adventurers. 10 character/NPC types in one package…for 10 bucks! I immediately saw three or four that I liked rolling around in that little see-through plastic bubble, so that was my purchase. I cannot pass up 10 metal minis for that price. I knew I would use a few of them. The photo above from the official web site actually shows less than are actually in the pack, so people online are getting a better deal than they bargained for.

There is a big gamer hunter that might come in handy for a “Most Dangerous Game” type scenario, or for a character. The young female archeologist is perfect a couple of the players characters, and the two or three pith helmet guys will be useful eventually. The cops as well.

OK, so the old librarian lady and the South American native guy might not find much purchase in the game, but ya never know.

I haven’t sat down to paint for many months, so here’s my excuse. Hope my paints haven’t dried out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Suddenly – Cthulhu

It does feel very sudden. In the last four years of this gaming group’s existence, I have run a long AD&D campaign that took characters from 1st level to close to 10. I did a handful of Metamorphosis Alpha sessions. I timidly started a Star Wars KOTOR campaign that most players quickly fell in love with. I have even managed to get in a couple of sessions of my beloved Champions setting (too long ago now, around 2 years). And with Big Ben regularly running AD&D I have gotten to sit down as a player more than I have since I was a teenager.

But the entire time I have had Call of Cthulhu in the back of my mind. My “big three” games of my adult life have been 1st edition AD&D, Champions, and Call of Cthulhu. These are the games I ran long campaigns for over the years from the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. Full, satisfying, amazing campaigns with these three genres. And seeing as during the latter part of the 90’s we only seemed to be able to get one several hour session in every month or so, I am in sort of a renaissance of gaming. Running and playing almost every week (weeknight) which a few years ago would have been inconceivable to me. But here we are literally rolling in gaming goodness.

This has given me the opportunity to branch out a bit, and that was especially good for me because after a little over two years of AD&D I was ready for a break. With Call of Cthulhu holding a special place in my heart, I could have gotten a campaign underway sooner, but in all honesty I was not sure this was the best group for it. I have Terry, a veteran of those 90’s Cthulhu campaigns (which were often mostly comprised of female players, which would be another difference from the current group), but the likes of Dan Dan the Power Game Man™ might risk it being more farce than fearful. So as recently as a few weeks ago I decided to go with Runequest, but quickly hit a (hopefully temporary) snag because of my dislike for Strike Rank. I decided after game two to shelf that, and go the hell ahead with Cthulhu. With Big Dan overseas for a temporary period, it seemed like a good time to get a session underway before he came along and futilely tried to powergame a Basic Role Playing character.

My last campaign towards the end of the 90’s was set in around 1922 or so, so I decided to have 5 years go by and set the first session on NYE 1927. My catalyst would be my old NPC “Mr. Troy,” a sort of Truman Capote look/sound alike who was a wealthy antiquarian and high society mystic. Mr. Troy featured as a sort of benefactor in my previous campaigns, at one point setting the old characters up in an occult themed antique shop on the newly built Venice Beach Canals (“Venice of America”). At the start of this game, Troy is in New York, and after character set-up I managed to tie most of them in with Mr. Troy so they can be present at his New Years Eve party at a Times Square hotel penthouse.

One character was a female Turkish Antique expert, and another a female dilettante who used her massive trust fund to travel the world and indulge her hobby in archaeology. These two I connected to Mr. Troy, them being hired to both accompany him to the “underworld” private auction where a well-preserved 2000 year old Chinese urn containing the ashes of a X’an Dynasty sorcerer. I spent a few minutes running this auction with the girls in attendance, and got to introduce a rival of sorts for Mr. Troy, “Hong Lo,” a restaurateur and reputed occultist.

One of the male characters was a young Chinese martial artist working in Hong Lo’s restaurant, which incidentally was catering Troy’s party. So that’s how I got Ben’s guy at the party.

Andy ran a 70 year old investment expert named Michael who had taken a bath in the 1893 market crash, and since then has lived frugally off of some minor, safe investments. During some rougher patches he learned to handle himself brawling for survival or profit. I got him invited to the NYE party of Troy’s because he knew Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, heir to the Whitney fortune, business-man, wanna be Bohemian, and invitee to the party and he asked Michael to come along with him and his free-spirit pals.

The Times Square penthouse party was within view of the madness of Times Square on NYE, and within a stone’s throw of the ball-dropping. The party had a Chinese theme, and the female characters, the antique expert and the archeology-loving dilettante, stayed near the displayed ancient urn and acted as both custodians for it and information dispensers. As a band played and the large, eclectic crowd (sort of reflected in the character make up; Chinese food service people, business people, academics, entertainment folk, Bohemians, dilettantes, etc) in the party danced, ate, drank (those wacky Bohemians hissing like vipers as they smoked reefer by the fireplace) and had a good time.

Not long after the time Hong Lo showed up uninvited and unannounced ( still a bit miffed that Troy had outbid him on the private auction of the urn), and with some of his Chinese thugs acting as servers, he had secretly arranged for the urn to be covented in the chaos of the midnight countdown. A gun was pulled, the urn was grabbed for, and a nice pulp action sequence began as the martial artist intervened, and even the girl characters threw some Indy Jones punches during the ensuing brawl. It was actually a pretty enjoyable action scene, and proving that CoC is pretty good for this kind of thing.

Eventually Hong Lo whipped out a special magic whistle that could summon Byakhee, and as he blew it an loud, eerie Byakhee cry brought forth one of the creatures from the air of the wintery New York evening sky. As drunken party goers screamed and ducked in fear, the Byakhee rages around the room, and a couple of the characters engaged Hong Lo (Andy’s old dude going cane-to-cane combat when Hong Lo revealed his sword cane).

First sanity loss of the game, with Terry’s dilettante taking the worst san hit for 5 whopping points. She went catatonic for a couple rounds, as Big Ben’s kung-fu cook took it to the Byakhee’s grill. His well placed kicks hurt the creature pretty bad (I threw one of the Mythos’ few harm able creatures at them for this first game), and one of Mr. Troy’s armed assistants shot it down.

So 1927 passed by with a bang, and a successful session was in the bag. I was really happy with it. In past years my D&D players would hem and haw when I suggested something like Cthulhu, but they would soon be requesting it over D&D after they saw how fun it was. I think my current group could well feel the same. I’m really looking forward to more of this!


What with my love of post apocalypse settings, including game ones such as Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha, I had meant to post about my Fallout 3 experiences for a long time. I’m sad that the passing of the concept designer for the game, Adam Adamowitz, has been the catalyst.

I love this game, and am still playing it after several months. My character, Mac, left the safety and comfort (well, except for the occasional Radroach) of Vault 101 to search for his father (voiced by Liam Neeson), and has spent his countless hours in the wasteland exploring, helping people, and building up good karma. His rewards for his being good instead of evil have been many, including a spiffy shanty house in the town of Megaton that he long ago saved from the eventual explosion of the atom bomb worshipped in the town square. Mac continues to adventure, and with my purchase of the add-on Broken Steel hopes to soon bring pure, radiation-free water to the Capitol Wasteland through completing Project Purity.

Adam also worked on the current huge hit, Skyrim.

I did not know much about Adam, but I know I loved his work. He had everything to do with that world, from the raggedy human survivors, to the terrifying super-mutants. This weekend, I’m to play a couple extra hours for Adam.