Friday, January 17, 2014

40K Friday - Dark Angels 2014: Evolution of an Army - Part 1

... or "How I developed a personal relationship with Lion El'Jonson"

I never had any interest in the Dark Angels in the early editions of the game. They didn't stand out to me over any other chapter and I was already making my Griffons and later my Crimson Fists. Then when the robed stuff started coming out it just did not appeal to me at all - I liked my power armor visible and shiny. I had the "Deathwing" short story collection and while I liked the main story, the idea of mixing Native American stuff in with power armor made no sense to me at all. A friend of mine chose them for his marine army and while I liked some of the "winged helmet" look the rest of the scheme did nothing for me.

During 5th edition I became aware of the possibilities of the all-terminator army and the Dark Angels were the main way to do it. I picked one up, though they were not painted as Dark Angel Deathwing terminators. I still wasn't a huge fan of their look so I actually wanted some other color scheme.

Something happened there though. To run the army I had acquired the codex and the lore started to draw me in. I liked the Deathwing already, and the Ravenwing was growing on me as I began to see the possibilities of a biker army. I also started to like the robed look as they took on a more knight-like aspect in my head. Think "Jedi" and you might begin to understand. That said I still wasn't huge on the feathered thing but I was weakening.

See? Jedi!

I really disliked the green color too - when I see a green military unit I want to pain camo on it and that doesn't work well with all the robes and hoods and feathers that are part of DA figures. As much as I was starting to like them, there was no way I was going to paint up plain green marines. That Ravenwing paint scheme though ... that was nice.

This scheme just does nothing for me

Doing a little more digging, part of it in my own materials, made me realize that the old Rogue trader Dark angels didn't use the green paint - they were black, with some red details. I can work with that.

Old School Dark Angels

Today they call it their "Pre-Heresy" scheme

Plus it fits pretty well with the Ravenwing "official colors:

Look there we have black, white, and red details

So I decided on using the Pre-Heresy/Ravenwing scheme and suddenly this got a lot more interesting. Black and White marines - who else will have that cool of a combination!

Ah ... yeah ... those guys. Well that's fine - I've liked the Black Templars since they showed up in the Armageddon codex back in 3rd edition. They will be an additional source of inspiration. Look, the only other set of robed marines in the game has exactly the color scheme I have ended up liking. Maybe I should have gone with them but I like the other aspects of the DA's too so I'm comfortable with my choice.

As I was working through all of the above the Dark Vengeance starter set for 6th edition came out and pretty much sealed the deal. Leaders, tactical marines, and a bike squad? That's a solid start! I picked up that plus extras plus I gathered some spare parts that seemed to fit. After a year of putting things together I had a nice pile of parts and a solid paint scheme, but no playable army. Part 2 will cover that side of things.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Overreaction Wednesday - Dragon and Dungeon are Done - Again

Well the magazines are going away again. The final issues of both (in this incarnation, anyway) have now been published. Considering they announced the coming of Next in January 2012 I am a little surprised they lasted this long - Dec 2012 was my original guess for the end of online 4th Edition support. Instead they kept things going through the end of 2013, though with a fair amount of Next discussion creeping in. Considering we haven't had a new book for 4th in about 18 months that's surprisingly decent. I like the flexibility that started showing up this year too - a quote from the introduction to the final Dungeon is below:
Our theme this month is “past, present, andfuture,” so we’ve elected to publish three adventuresthat span multiple editions. “Lowdown in Highport”is a 1st Edition AD&D adventure tied to the classicSlave Lords series (it can be run as a prelude tomodule A1, Slave Pits of the Undercity), and it comeswith 4E conversion stats for the monsters. “Vainglorious”is a 4E adventure featuring the most iconic of allmonsters—a dragon—as its main villain. And finally,we have “The Battle of Emridy Meadows,” a 5th Editionadventure that harkens back to events rooted inthe World of Greyhawk campaign setting.
That's a nice way to wrap things up: 1st, 4th, and Next. The Slavers series got a lot of attention in 2013 so it makes some sense.

Weirdly, this doesn't really bother me. Maybe it's because we've had time to digest the end of 4th and the beginning of Next. I was a lot more unhappy about end of the physical magazines at the end of 3.5 since Dungeon especially was really on a roll with the Paizo team. I was all over it back then. With 4th I've dipped in and out of it but I was running my own stuff, not an adventure path, so there was less urgency around it and frankly a PDF doesn't demand my attention in the same way a magazine does. That's probably just a thing with me, but they are not perfect replacements for one another. The magazines always felt like I needed to read them as they came in, a PDF is more of a when-I-get-around-to-it thing.

I admit I have not been reading much of them this year. I had the campaign planned out and didn't really have any loose ends to fill in but it is nice to have resources available. Again, less urgency, less immediate applicability, and there's not an object sitting on a table or shelf. With the end of 4E support this is likely to be the last month I pay for DDI. I was a latecomer to it but it was useful enough as someone running an active 4E campaign. The campaign has been intermittent at best through the fall and winter and I've written up what I need to finish out Heroic Tier in a few more sessions so I think the online resource can go away for now.

As for Next, well, the online resources I use for Pathfinder are free. I don't really need combat managers or character generators for the older editions of D&D. I don't know how much Next I'm going to play or run but after this experiment with a monthly charge for 4E support it's going to have to be pretty strong to draw me back in to that - I'm not a fan of the pay-wall for an offline game. They've been paying a lot of retro-respect lately. Maybe WOTC will surprise us and go back to a paper magazine - that would interest me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wrath of the Righteous - Session 3

We begin at the entrance to the village of Neathholm, deep beneath the city of Kenabres, on the border of the Worldwound. Our heroes (all 1st level) are:
  • Relyn Steelguard, young Paladin of Iomedae, (longsword and shield)
  • Graidin Cratchet, aspiring Wizard (hand of the apprentice staff-tossing)
  • Arken, newly minted Cavalier of the Order of the Lion, in service to Queen Galfrey of Mendev (longsword and shield)
  • Jaren, Dragon Sorcerer (claws)
  • The Cleric with No Name of Erastil (spell and bow)
(Red was busy so Jaren peels off in the village and doesn't take an active role in this session but we added a new character, a cleric of Erastil, played by one of my longtime players, Dave.)

Lann leads the party past the guards to meet Chief Sull, leader of the mongrelmen village. A nice bit of roleplaying follows where the party actually treats an NPC with some respect - that's a relatively rare event here. The conversation covers a little history, a little current events, speculation on the reason for the cave-ins and the demon attack, and some personal details. The chief is impressed enough to offer the aid of the mongrelmen in the defense or retaking of the city. They are descendants of the first crusaders and they feel that they have a duty to assist. This should be good news if the group can ever get back to the surface.

Then the conversation turns to what lies between the party and their return. The nearest path to the surface is blocked by a tribe of hostile mongrelmen who have turned to evil and who have been consorting with demon cultists. Things go well enough in the discussion that the chief offers the party some healing potions and his trusty enchanted morning star from his fighting days to help the heroes clear a path through the fallen mongrels. While the party clears out the miscreants, his warriors will spread the word to the other tribes so they will be ready when the call comes. At the end of the discussion everyone shakes hands and retires to prepare for the next day.

Rested up, the party moves out, intending to wipe out the pocket of evil that lies ahead and finally -finally! - return to Kenabres. Deciding for once to scout ahead carefully, the wizard drinks an invisibility potion, moves up and casts Sleep on the two-man guard station that he has discovered. One guard drops but the other resists. Graiden is out of ideas and so calls for help and the Paladin charges in, hurdling the barricade and striking out at the remaining guard. The Cavalier is right behind him and manages to finish the mongrelman off.

The rest of the group (including NPC's Anevia the gimpy, Aravshnial the blinded, and Horgus the unpleasant) shuffles forward and while debating how to proceed Relyn the Paladin detects evil through the door, senses it, and kicks it in.

This is some kind of common room and while there is a fire pit and some bedrolls there are only two unfortunate mongrel-traitors in the room and they are clearly overmatched but they open a door and let in a large pinkish cave lizard that makes things interesting. Soon enough all 3 are down (with the help of a summoned Celestial Wolf). There are several doors in the room and the party decides to check the one to the north.

This time the Cavalier charges in but it quickly becomes apparent that the opposition knows what they are doing this time. The inhabitants of the room are a pair of armored humans, a male and a female, wielding glaives and using some actual tactics. The girl maneuvers Arken away from the door while the male steps in and blocks the doorway behind him, holding off the rest of the team. A vicious two-part battle takes shape as Arken attempts to duel his opponent (who is clearly a little better than he is) while the Paladin and Cleric attempt to fight their way in to aid him. Graiden manages to summon a Dire Rat into the room but it does little to change the circumstances of the fight.

Finally, Arken tires and the female bashes him with the butt of her glaive, dropping him to the floor. Before she can do him any further harm though, her companion goes down with a gurgling cry as  the Cleric cuts him down and the Paladin rushes in, shoving her away from Arken's unconscious form. Already battered form her duel with the Cavalier, she is in no shape to fight fresh opponents and is quickly slain.

The rest of the party moves in and checks out the room (some kind of trophy room decorated in dead animals) and get Arken back on his feet - he is more than ready to continue their crusade.

DM Notes:

 I said it before:
The NPC's the party is saddled with at the beginning are a mixed bag. It's good to have living, breathing setting hooks right there in the adventure and it's very disaster-movie-esque having a random group of strangers thrown together after a catastrophe but it's cumbersome for me as a DM to have three extra party members to manage regardless of their impairments. If this was happening later in the campaign it might be less of an issue but having it right at the beginning with higher level NPC's running alongside 1st level characters it's an odd mix of baggage and advantage and just more stuff in general to keep up with. I think one character would have been enough to convey the info with less overhead but we are past that now. For the moment they are sort of "pokeball" NPC's - they stay back out of combat until it's over then come in and impart useful information if they have anything relevant to the current area. 
...and my feelings haven't really changed. It's still not how I would handle it but I'm going with the flow.

There were really two main parts to this session:

First, the interactions at the village, mainly with the chief. This was fun and while it didn't take a whole lot of actual time it felt "right", like the kind of thing a band of good-aligned adventurers on a quest would do. I am amazed at how easily my players fall into the flow of this adventure - that's been a very iffy thing with published adventures I have run in the past but this one seems to be right on their wavelength and it's working really well.

Second was the invasion of the evil mongrelman outpost. They blew through the first 4-5 rooms in the place and once again the contrast in speed of combat with 4E is pretty strong. I like my 4E but there is no question that we are getting more done in a session with this game than with that one. 

They had been having a fairly easy time of it but the last fight with the two cultists was more challenging. I played them with a little more tactical finesse because a) they are classed opponents with two levels, trained fighters as opposed to mutant-man grunts and b) the noise of the previous fight certainly gave them a warning and time to prepare. So they did.

This was not a really long session but it was a lot of fun and got us that much closer to seeing daylight again. Hopefully the next session will get us across that particular goal line and set up the rest of "The Worldwound Incursion".

Monday, January 13, 2014