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Jordan Peacock
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Swords-'n-steampunk: pictures from a train robbery in our Iron Kingdoms RPG campaign. I used two G-scale toy trains (lucky finds at Goodwill) to make my "breakaway" train car scenery. I painted up the track sections, and took two cabooses, gave them new rooftops (with scrap plastic and craft wood), and transformed them into passenger cars. The rooftops had shallow enough slopes to permit all but the most imbalanced minis to stand on top.

I ran the IKRPG "Bitter Medicine" adventure with some superficial tweaks. (The original adventure called for some ex-Cygnaran soldiers -- trenchers in black uniforms -- but while I don't have a Cygnaran army to repaint, I DO have tons of Farrow with guns ... so I came up with a story change to substitute slightly more well-trained Farrow (same stats as the original bandits), and a horse-drawn wagon became a brute-boar-powered hand-car on a parallel track.)

It went badly. I RAN it badly.

"Bitter Medicine" has its good and its bad points. It's got some GREAT artwork, and the vehicular rules at the end are nice to have. The initial "train robbery" segment was simple enough, and though I could have done far better with the NPC characterization, it worked reasonably well as an introduction, to set up the adventure, and give the PCs any of several motivations to get involved. It's pretty much just at the end that things fell apart, when it got to be too scripted, and was trying too hard to be "cinematic," asking too much of a typical group of PCs to react in particular ways for the events to play out sensibly.

Based on my experience, I'm afraid I came away with a net negative impression, though I also acknowledge that a lot of the mess was my own fault. With the full benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I COULD have done it better. It's just that I think the adventure gave me more problems to solve than it did the tools to HELP me run an entertaining game. I've had better luck with the free one-shot adventures (e.g., the "Path of Devastation" series), and various stand-alone encounters in No Quarter issues (or "episodic travelogue" mini-adventures, such as "Smoke on the Water," which may have an element of story continuity, but individual events/scenes can be skipped by uninterested PCs without killing the overarching narrative).

It deserves a proper review, with specifics, but I suppose I'll save that for the Privateer forums.
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Fallout Power Armor Conversions - Boston Style.

"Brother Vinni" makes a number of "not-Fallout" minis, perfect for the depiction of the Fallout universe as seen in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, but I find the bigger, bulkier, clunkier power armor from Fallout 4 (the kind that pops open in the back and you basically climb/step inside) to be a better fit for the aesthetic. In some distant future wherein I actually get to run a Fallout campaign (I've already got players talking about what they want to play NEXT -- argh!), I think I'll go with the FO4 power armor model.

+Chris Thesing let me experiment with a sprue of helmets from Brother Vinni, and I observed that the Heavy Rangers from Dust Tactics had armor reminiscent of the X-01 series of power armor (Enclave design). I've got a "command" set, including one guy who's wearing a welding mask and carrying a giant pipe wrench, who's a great candidate for a roll-cage and some bolted-on scrap to pass for Raider Power Armor.

These guys with the jump packs, however, might work for regular X-01 armor -- not a perfect fit, but as close as I'm likely to get without sculpting my own from scratch. Plus, I got some used (albeit over-coated with a thick layer of this brown paint that removes some of the sharp edges, sadly). The heads are socketed in, hence easily swapped out. I cut a helmet off the Brother Vinni helmet sprue and left the "plug" on the bottom, so I could socket it into the existing hole for a good anchor, without having to resort to pinning.

The helmets don't match up, precisely -- there's a "not-T-45" and "not-T-51" helmet, in addition to the "not-X-01" helmet, and some other, perhaps original designs. However, considering the ease with which power armor parts are mixed and matched in Fallout 4, I figure that's not such a "lore problem."

Now, the trick will be ... what scheme to paint them up in? There are so many choices, after all, but I don't plan on having enemies in power armor be regular encounters. (I have a separate project with some Legion of Caesar power armor -- which might be a lore stretch, but so be it, because the mini I got just looks too perfect for the role NOT to use it.) I think my best bet is to steer away from recognizable factions (i.e., don't paint them up as Brotherhood) but instead go for "generic, scavenged from pre-War relic" look, e.g., with a lot of grey and olive and scuffs and rust, and the occasional piece of armor in a different shade that looks like it was scavenged from somewhere else.

Hmm. AT-43 UNA power armor might actually work fairly well for Institute Power Armor (from concept art -- never actually appeared in the game), now that I think about it.

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Alas, while Facebook will let me add a picture or two to a post, Google+ isn't so obliging. Anyway, here are two more portraits.

> "Stinky Pete," Cygnaran (Human) Alchemist. So called "stinky" because in a recent adventure in which the PCs defeated a vicious bog-dwelling grymkin known as the Boatman, "Pete of No Known Surname or Backstory Provided to the GM" distinguished himself by laying claim to the boatman's perpetually soggy and smelly drape, since it had been revealed by experimentation to be decent light armor (equivalent to a suit of leather, but without the DEF penalty and accompanying huge penalty to Sneaking). When others brought up the smell, his retort was, "Well, I'm wearing a gas mask, so it doesn't bother ME." Drawn for the junior John Zielinsky.

> "Old Bar," Blackclad (Human, technically) Saboteur. His exact career combo is "Blackclad/Field-Mechanik/Brigand," an apparent exercise in living up to the challenge when I declared, "Sure, you can use whatever careers from any of the Iron Kingdoms books, as long as there's a reason, and as long as your PC can work with the others." So, Scott Venable came up with this character who's secretly a Blackclad Druid of the Circle of Orboros, but who has learned the detestable art of working on mechanikal devices -- and even commanding steamjacks -- all for the purpose of being all the better at sabotage. The other PCs (in character) are unaware of his true allegiance (though the PLAYERS are well aware).

He normally passes himself off as a "harmless old" Cygnaran war veteran. He's actually older than he looks (a perk of the Blackclad mastery of nature, I suppose), but also considerably more spry.
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A couple of Iron Kingdoms RPG player-character portraits:

> Thale Lyorys, Iosan Arcane Mechanik*/Rifleman. I theorize that the tall-peaked hat could hide a spare pistol in case the rifle jams. (Inspired by a Confrontation miniature that +Chris Thesing uses at the table.)

(* Yes, it's spelled "mechanik" with a "k," because it's kooler. Or something like that. It's an Iron Kingdoms thing.)

> Ximena, Satyxis Pirate/Librarian. Well, okay, there is no "librarian" career, but there probably should be. Drawn for +Chris Stadler. I don't know if it's canon for there to be such a thing as an Orgoth book, but apparently in our campaign there is. (Orgoth romance novels! Largely indistinguishable from horror if you don't happen to be Orgoth or from the Scharde Islands.)

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Still continuing with Iron Kingdoms, playing through the "Path of Devastation" scenarios (which involve traveling along the Dragon's Tongue River toward Five Fingers), mixing in an old No Quarter adventure called "Smoke on the Water" (which also involves traveling along the Dragon's Tongue River toward Five Fingers -- what a small world!) ... but the latter also has a "GM to fill in dungeon here" encounter, and I had to figure out what to do with it. Somehow I managed to work in references to the Retribution of Scyrah (as I have an Iosan/Elf PC in the party), the evil Orgoth (former conquerors of the land that would eventually become the Iron Kingdoms), AND the dastardly Infernals (sort of like wish-granting genies who invariably twist your wishes in the worst way possible -- and, oh yeah, accept payment in SOULS).

I used a Dreamblade "Chrysalis Spinner" miniature to represent an Umbral/Infernal agent. There are several official IKRPG "Umbral" models (I have some), but most of them are hefting weapons. There's just something about miniatures on the table with weapons: Pose a mini WITHOUT a weapon, and the players readily accept it when the GM narrates said mini pulling out a gun or a knife or picking up a nearby bazooka. But have a mini in an action pose with a gun pointing whichever way he's facing, and players just can't shake the mental image, and have trouble imagining the same PC MINUS THE GUN as an unarmed, non-threatening civilian type.

Not that an Umbral should ever be "non-threatening" by any means (whether to one's life, soul, or sanity). Anyway, this mini (which I got as a grab-bag item from John Vega of the Armadillo Game Shoppe ages ago) looked like it might do the job. The Umbrals, extradimensional entities that they are, are portrayed in the art as looking like their extremities just sort of waft off like smoke or even fluid -- not unlike, say, the popular depiction of a genie emerging from a bottle. This just takes it a step further, I suppose. The Umbral models are also depicted as either feminine or androgynous humanoids who have a thing for bleach-white skin and dressing in black. With a few of the models (especially the Curator), this has the effect of making the face almost look more like some sort of porcelain MASK hiding who-knows-what.

The original model is cast in a sort of translucent blue-green plastic with a silky, shiny sheen and a few dots of color. I played up the color on the "gems" on the wings and added pupils to make them look more like eyes. I painted the central "bodysuit" a dark graphite gray (with slate-gray highlights), and painted the face/mask snowflake white with a slate-gray wash (then white highlights again), with graphite gray eyes, eyebrows, and lips, then with dots of tomato red for the irises. I left the extremities unpainted, as it seemed to make sense that as they're losing their humanoid form, they're also fading into transparency as well.

IDEA BOMB (Random game idea I want to jot down before I forget.)

Savage MST3K Mash-Up

Joel (or Mike -- or somehow both!) and the Robots are subjected to a nefarious experiment by Dr. Forrester. Rather than having to sit through a single, horrible movie, the Satellite o' Love team has to sit through a COMPUTER-generated feature that mashes up elements of some of the worst movies the MST3K gang has been put through. Numerous heroes compete to save the day, including Puma Man, Think McRunFast/Big McLargeHuge/etc. (Space Mutiny), etc.

How It's Played:
Player perspective is focused upon the "hero" protagonists within the mish-mash movie, but each player also has a "metagame" character, represented by a black cardboard cut-out on a stick simulating the backlit silhouettes of Joel, Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy, and others. (Evil Crow? Strange time-travel plot device putting both Mike and Joel on the station at the same time?)

Players are encouraged to play their PC heroes "serious," and save any wisecracks for the MST3K gang meta-characters. Benny awards and adventure-deck style tweaks to the show/adventure are somehow tied to coming up with wisecracks for the MST3K gang.

(In other words, I'm REALLY squishy on how this is going to work. I only have the vague idea that it could be interesting to have a "meta" level to the game through the MST3K gang watching, and to involve various classic MST3K bad-movie characters mashed up into one.)

What Made Me Think Of This:
Idea partially inspired by my random idea to try to run a "Luchas Libre" adventure (masked wrestler heroes!), to do something with the Hero System "Lucha Libre" sourcebook I got in the Survivor Raffle at the end of Necronomicon, and I wondered whether any masked wrestler hero movies have been featured in MST3K or Rifftrax.

Possible downside: Some convention players may be too young to be familiar with MST3K. Is that too obscure?

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Ongoing work in progress on a Cryxian horror for eventual use in my Iron Kingdoms RPG campaign. (I'll try to say little beyond that about my actual plans, since at least two of my players might be reading this -- but I think it's safe to say that "something nasty from Cryx" shouldn't be much of a spoiler, since the PCs are planning to head into the Scharde Islands.)

I'm working with Reaper #77192, "Kaladrax," from the first Bones Kickstarter. This ... is a big one! Normally assembled, it's just a big skeletal dragon, lazily lounging on a pile of pieces from some ancient ruin. However, for a Cryxian take, I wanted something a bit more dynamic, rearing up, and of course a bit mechanized.

Another challenge would be the matter of what sort of BASE to use. Well, I happen to live in Storm Country (AKA Florida, in the Tampa-Orlando lightning-strike corridor), and many household electronics (and breakers and fuses and surge protectors and phones and UPS boxes and etc.) die premature deaths in storm season. A big (and not cheap) fan tower was among those unfortunate casualties. I think I may salvage its base for Kaladrax, though it has its pros and cons.

I found a resin aquarium "skull island" decoration at Goodwill, and I'm using it now as Kaladrax's perch, since it's a bit more vertically-aligned. I've been using the Dremel to cut up the existing joints a bit (carving off "keys" that prevent me from more freely repositioning the limbs), then pinning and gap-filling with wire and epoxy putty to try to have the dragon "rearing up." I've also been digging through my "bitz box" for various pieces to use to "mechanize" this big undead-steampunk-dragon-thingy, but because of the sheer size, I've been using more parts from broken toys than more conventional miniatures "bitz." (Still, some Tyranid parts provided by Mr. Stadler might provide me with some usefully creepy "smokestack" segments for the necrotite boiler.)

I may use 77291 Kraken's "shipwreck" decorative base in conjunction with the rocky "pinnacle" Kaladrax is perched upon,, since the Kraken model would make more sense "waterlined" anyway. A tricky part will be how to texture the surface of the base to suggest choppy water and crashing waves against the rocky outpost.
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And I found THIS in my mail today, sent by Ben -- a player in one of the Fallout-themed games I ran last weekend. At first I thought they were round stickers on painted-white bottlecaps -- like the laser-printed label sheets I used for my custom Bennies -- but I checked and they're completely smooth. Apparently they're homemade, but I am very curious as to just HOW.

In any case, these are way cooler than my homemade Bennies. (Not as stackable, granted, but all kinds of awesome!)

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I'm supposed to be thinking about the Iron Kingdoms campaign starting next week, but my brain's already grinding away on what to run for next year's Necronomicon. One of the players in my games suggested that I do something with Bioshock. (Bioshock 1 & 2, with Rapture underwater ... or Bioshock Infinite with Columbia in the sky? There are pros and cons for each.)

And then I found a link to this video while looking up a timeline for Columbia. I'm getting such an "In Search Of" vibe here with the awkward left-aligned title placement and such. Anyway ... I've got some half-baked ideas.

Call it "Aftershock" for now. (I'm sure someone else has thought of that already, but I'm a GM. I don't have to be ORIGINAL.)

Random idea: modern-ish heroes (circa 1980s) discover nigh-abandoned floating city hidden in clouds, a la "Laputa: Castle in the Sky," only it's Columbia. (I realize possible conflicts with the resolution of Bioshock: Infinite, but no more conflicting than this film is.) Inhabitants are automated or semi-automated sorts such as Handymen, Mechanical Patriots ... or less-natural things such as the Merged (horrific cut content) or Vigor Junkies (more cut content). Why 1980s? Because it's a lot easier to hide a floating sky-city before the era of Google Maps and widespread publicly-available global satellite views of the world. (If I can still do that and push it into the 1990s, I'd go for that, too. The more recent, the more likely my players have been around in that time period.)

... Actually, I'm rethinking the wisdom of doing anything with the "Merged." Just seeing the concept art makes me a bit ill. ...

I don't have terrain that would work for either, but I think I'd try to stick more to printed floor tiles/maps for this one, rather than embarking on any big projects for which I will have to worry about storage issues (for something very niche I might not even use again later). Well, some of the "Columbia" stuff might do double-duty for Deadlands ... maybe. Wrong decade, but perhaps close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and tabletop miniatures.

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It was quite possibly my least-prepped game, but I think the most successful: my "retro-cyberpunk" game titled "20 Minutes Into the Future," run in the 10am slot on Saturday morning.

I blatantly drew inspiration from the old "Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future" TV show from the late 1980s. I knew I had trouble, however, when I attempted an "elevator pitch" to my regular gaming group: Nobody present had seen the show, or at least didn't remember it well, and one player didn't even know who Max Headroom was. But then ... a little math and I can figure the reason why: He wasn't AROUND when Max Headroom was on TV! (Insert standard "I feel so old" cliche/lament here.)

I still liked the rough concept. I billed this as just "retro cyberpunk." Imagine a world dominated by mass media, where the real power lies in the multi-media megacorporations for their influence upon public perception, rather than traditional governments. In this future, you might be starving in the streets, but you can at least count on the government to provide you with FREE TV, and people are so fame-obsessed that they'd be willing to die (or at least RISK death) in order to get their 15 minutes (or even 15 SECONDS) of fame.

Our PCs are all involved in the production of a pseudo-news/pseudo-reality TV show: a "video personality" (computer AI/hologram) reporter narrating the show, an "aging" (20 years old) former action-genre movie heroine forced to dodge REAL bullets due to excessive debts, a full-conversion cyborg who would be grossly overpowered by normal RPG standards, a comic-relief "red shirt" whose main purpose is that the viewers love to see it when he suffers, a one-man cameraman-and-editing-crew who covers everything behind the scenes, and the network "controller" who manages everything from afar and calls in favors when necessary to keep the show moving and the ratings up (but not TOO high lest rival networks feel motivated to interfere).

I play-tested it with three players from my regular group and went over my target for a four-hour game. I had enough material that I could have easily gone longer. My convention game benefited greatly from this trial run (I tried to focus far more on keeping the pace going urgently), but what really carried it was just how enthusiastically the various players carried out their roles. We had a three-way rivalry between Penny Farthing the "starlet," Kissy Lovejoy the hyperactive AI/reporter, and Nancy Sterling the corporate exec over who was really calling the shots here. We had poor William "Scotty" Campbell the comic-relief sidekick taking hits for the camera like a champ, and doing a great job of playing a guy who's such a trooper that he's obviously in pain and yet still soldiering on by offering up witty one-liners and blatant product placement. The pyromaniac cameraman took sadistic pleasure in maneuvering the stars into awful situations, then editing things and developing a (false!) narrative to make them come out as conventional heroes -- all for the good of the show, mind you. And then there was poor Rutger Tannhauser, the walking tank, taking abuse, quite capable of taking down the entire opposition (or, indeed, the building, if need be), yet restraining himself to just keeping the more photogenic stars alive, quietly supporting via sniping in the background.

I played up the ratings chart, segment by segment. My timing was a bit rough, and I had to do some hand-waving to suggest that each combat round represented a more fluid passage of time -- that, in reality, a turn didn't mean that a PC was necessarily making a SINGLE shot at a bad guy, or vice versa, but rather that the entire gunfight represented a whole exchange of ducking and weaving, popping up from cover and shooting away, before a shot finally landed. (It helped that I kept emphasizing that in between fights vs. terrorists -- real or even RECRUITED to cover the "slow" parts in the mission -- the PCs would just quietly "find" replacement ammunition in a planter and reload while the cameras were focused elsewhere, then move on to the next "scene" -- so ammo-counting wasn't so critical as it might be in a Fallout game, say.)

I'd love to write this up as a more formal scenario, but what works for a one-shot would probably be quite a challenge to manage for an entire campaign. That, and I shudder to think of how character creation would be managed: Rutger was quite deliberately overpowered compared to anything resembling normal character creation, as that was part of the gag: He was nigh-indestructible, and he probably COULD take on all the bad guys one-handed, but we'd end up with most of the hostages dead and ratings would tank because his "bullets bounce off me" schtick would get boring after a while.

Ironically ... well, the scenario at the convention ended with only one hostage being rescued, and that was earlier in the whole escapade. But since this was a "dark satire" type of game, the "funny" part was in the ways the PCs scrambled to cover up this fact by various nefarious ways of re-purposing extra material shot during commercial breaks, trying to create a narrative that an innocent bystander caught in Penny's wild spraying with her fully automatic shotgun was in fact in league with the terrorists, and panicked recruiting of some stand-ins to play the parts of "rescued hostages." All in all, it'd probably be too dark for me to maintain that sort of amorality for an entire campaign. I made careful attempts to refer to the PCs as "protagonists" rather than "heroes," in order to underscore that distinction.

P.S.: Special thanks to +Chris Stadler for use of the Hirst Arts Castlemolds scenery pieces for "cyber" terrain, and +Chris Thesing for assorted, Antenocitis Workshop, and 3D printed elements. The scenario actually sprang initially from one convention-goer who last year walked up to me, gave me a bunch of Infinity minis (I didn't know what they were right away) and requested that I run "another cyberpunk game some day" -- and I never caught his name. (I saw him again -- he stopped by the table, but was already signed up for something else, I guess -- but I couldn't see his badge, and was too embarrassed to admit in person that I either never caught his name or did and promptly forgot about it. :( Argh!)

I basically started coming up with characters based on the minis. Like, there's this lady in a MINI-SKIRT with a HUGE GUN. And this guy, but he's in a KILT. And this other guy looks like some sort of anime cyborg, a la Appleseed's Briareos. And here are a bunch of guys with knit caps and military-ish gear and SMGs who look like either some kind of special forces or maybe even militants/terrorists. And my other Infinity mini I had was this J-pop-looking reporter lady who looked like something from Space Channel 5, with a little robot-bunny sidekick. So how in the world to use them all? And then ... voila! Somehow my scattered ideas coalesced, and I had this weird scenario. (So many of my pre-gens are based on miniatures, rather than my coming up with a character and then trying to find a mini for it.)
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