Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Apathy of New Releases (April 2011)

The latest Game Trade Monthly is out and I'm back to not impressed. The month's preorders are scheduled for May or June 2011, so we are in the pre-con season lulls.

My personal want list - absolutely nothing. Twenty pages of games and nothing comes close to tickle my fancy.

My wish list - I said earlier that I'd be interested Warlord Games' Swedish Infantry, so it would be foolish if I didn't want the Swedish Cav. The one big announcement that isn't listed this month is the Super Uber Mother of all Ogre Boxed Set. $100 worth of counters. Oh, if I only had the time and enthusiastic friend to play this every day!

The Store List: *Flames of War - Lots of artillery and entrenchments/emplacements. I'm still very confused as to the pricing. This month they release a Polish Armoured Train for $150. $150? $150 for a 15mm large piece of artillery that needs rail lines available to be used... and it's POLISH. Now compare that to the 28-30mm Armored Train from Brigade Games thats train, tender, three flats cars and a couple packs of figures for $125. *SHADOWRUN:ANARCHY - SUBSIDIZED

*NOBILIS: THE ESSENTIALS VOLUME 1 - FIELD GUIDE TO THE POWERS - A reprint of a game that people either love or find annoyingly pretentious. Now it goes from a coffee table book to multiple volumes. I just don't know.

*EXPEDITIOUS RETREAT PRESS releases The Secret of the Callair Hills for OSRIC(!)(?)

*Arkham Horror- Miskatonic Horror Expansion!

*Mark of the Xenos book for the Deathwatch (40k) RPG.

*Gale Force Nine is releasing the D&D Ultimate DM Screen:

It's nice, it's a behemoth, and yet the only thing behind that screen are little boxes for dice and small shelves for figures. Again, not impressed for $150 (another $150 waste!). At least the fictional SteamHack GM screen had charts in it! I'll stick to my 50-cent Gamma World screen I picked up at Kay-Bee Toys twenty years ago.

*Paranoia Flashbacks Revisted Redux Redux: a collection of classic Paranoia adventures fit for the current edition.

*SIX more Pathfinder items from Paizo!

*Digest version of numerous Castle & Crusades books

*Three new items from WoTC: DN2 - THE WITCHLIGHT FENS DUNGEON TILE, MONSTER VAULT EXPANSION -THREATS TO THE NENTIR VALE, and the CONQUEST OF NERATH BOARD GAME, a steal at $79.99, considering the description has bad flavor text, yet no mention of playing pieces, accessories, etc!
*Finally, a Captain America expansion for Heroclix, just in time for the movie!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Scottish Golf Mortar Review

The only new release from Brigade Games for Cold Wars was the Scottish Highlander golf mortar.

The mortar comes in three pieces, Scottish golfer, golf bag, and armor-piercing mortar tee.

I mounted my mortar the same way the Brigade Games sample was: three separate 25mm round bases, although in hindsight, all three pieces could fit nicely on a 60mm round base in a mini-diorama that shows St. Andrews meet St. Ordinance.
All three pieces had inconsequential pieces of flashing on them, and only the golfer had a very minor mold line. A couple quick flicks with a pocket knife, and the figure is ready for primer, if I can find nice enough weather to break it out.

There are no current rules for the mortar in print, although I'm waiting for Jim to send me some updated sheets. I'm just hoping for fewer surprises with the Highlanders. With everything the Highlanders could do, the always breathed a sigh of relief because they didn't have (a) artillery or (b) medics. This eliminates "a" and now I only have to be petty when I see a lovely wench in a unit.

The mortar is only available at Brigade Games and retails for $8.50.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Super Galactic Dreadnought: Under the hood of the new OGRE

'cause I couldn't dream of doing it any better:

Super Galactic Dreadnought: Under the hood of the new OGRE

That's TWELVE POUNDS! No lead, just paper! Some people don't have enough books in their homes to weight twelve pounds.

Considering I've seen enough wargamers fork over $60+ for a wargame that the box weighs more than the counters and board (rulebooks don't count, that involves the death of five or six trees), $100 isn't too far a stretch.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cold Wars 2011 Part Four: Analysis and Swag

Part four includes all the things that I failed to mention in parts 1-3. It may be mammoth. Grab a drink and a snack, cause this might take awhile.

*First off, the picture of Tri-corner hats and DaVinci machines was a G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. game set in the Age of Franklin, Benjamin, that is. The British apparently had an earlier Industrial Revolution and are descendng onto the colonies via Canada. The Colonists turn to their resident scientist, and good ol' Ben throws together some weapons using electricity and harmonics. Really cool stuff

*SWAG --I didn't get a tremendous ammount of swag, although it was varied.
  • All the King's Men -- The Indians Plastic set #2
  • I snagged up a pint o' bases for 10 bucks. Not enough round ones for skirmish games and way too many for fantasy minis. I guess I will be working on the "Box of No-Nos"
  • WarStore -- one of their train layout green battlemats. Explantion will be detailed below.
  • I tried to snag up some zap-a-gap and Howard Hues paint, but the HH racks looked like someone put diamonds in the jars, and I never got back to them. The zap-a-gap was obtained and has been active already.
  • Brigade Games - The GW Scottish Golf Mortar from part one, another Skirmish Elite book, this time Rommel's actions during Verdun, one pack of German Schutztruppe in Sun Helmets, and a packet of Schutztruppe Askaris. I figured if Tanga is a reality, I might as well start the "historical" version of the campaign. All figs are already based and a after reading the Skirmish Elite, I have another mega-campaign to plan post-Tanga. I also saw a book covering the Sikh Wars, although that may be my Historicon purchase.
  • Eureka - a pack of the basic Mouse Warriors. Not as fancy as the Reaper mouselings, but very utilitarian as standard troops.
  • My search for terrain discovered either horribly overpriced and horribly produced items. Seriously, I know I need to order palm trees from a cake supply business, but don't have the audacity to sell ten of them in a bag for $10, when I can get them for $20 per 100-count.

*Site -- If there's one thing I prefer about Historicon than Cold Wars being at the Host, it's the outside food stand in between the the Host and the Tennis Barn. After spending a few seconds more than forever in line at the sandwich vendor right outside the ballroom, I want better choices, and the hamburger/bbq/brisket never did me wrong. Granted, I wouldn't want to be the poor guy stuck outside all day in the second week of March, but that was the one station I trusted. As a positive note, the snack stand next to the Battletech room sold a dozen wings for $6.00! The sauce wasn't the greatest, and they were ungodly messy, but they were HUGE! The bathrooms were passable each time I used them, and the gamer funk was relegated to a few select spots in the smaller rooms. I'm also a bit disappointed that I missed the painting classes, which were stowed upstairs. The tent would be a bit chilly, but it slapped me upside the head and said, "Go paint a mini, you big dummy!"

*HMGS - Politics -- I KNOW I've been reading too much TMP ( if I'm going to comment about it on this blog. I stand by "I'm okay, you're okay" analsysis of HMGS without further comment, but some people truly can not have a happy day without a Chicken Little episode. Income is down, expenses up, and attendance sinking. Of course it has nothing to do with poor business planning, pipe dreams, and poor weekend availibility for convention weekends? That Fall-In only had a 10-15% drop in attendance ON HALLOWEEN WEEKEND is a miracle!

Of course, there is a contingent that wishes to slash all expenses away like the Russians retreating from an enemy. They want to lower admissions/dealer prices for cons and run it as no frills as possible.

Sorry, I'm not packing up my stuff and getting a hotel room for no-frills con. That's what local one days are, and the ones that last have more organizational expenses than the current renegade cohort suggests. Seriously, suggestions on how to cut con expenses would barely work at a one day con at Legion Hall with thirty people much less an HMGS. The coffers are sizeable, let us not stash the money, but let's not waste it all.

And having been an attendant to the cons the group's leader put together, if that's a qualification to be a member of the board, then I should be nominated for President-for-Life. Pocon makes CoveCon look like GenCon. Hell, it rivals WhatCon!

Oh, and by the way, Teddy Roosevelt would spin in his grave if he heard the current faction use his "Bullmoose Party" name for their purposes. In modern terms they are Wargaming Tea Party members who wouldn't make it through the term, if they unfortunately got elected.

And I'm sorry I'm insulting the original Boston Tea Party members with that reference, even if they were drunken thugs.

*Guests of Honor - One of the sticking points the anti-board members have is the expenditure to bring in special guests or productions. Now, I do believe I got a piece of cake at the 25th anniversary and I had a blast at the Duke's Diamond Jubilee, but I've never attended a lecture or event for a special guest/guest of honor. And you know what? I don't mind. I must admit complete ignorance about who Rifleman Harris is, but he certainly seemed well-received.

Now, if the convention asked for a donation to attend a meet-and-greet or other special event, I don't have a problem. If the con staff thinks special guests are needed, I'm not going to mind seeing a buck from registration going towards that...

*Historicon - And finally, the big announcement. For Historicon, I'll be running A Very Gnomish Civil War! at 10am Saturday. I talked it over with "The Gnome Guy" Jim Stanton, and the only things stopping the game from being a complete success are two little girls, a family life, and picking out a paint scheme for a certain special unit.

Next up: Some reviews of the Cold Wars swag....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cold Wars 2011 Part Three: Gnomes!

This con's GW events covered Verdun. In the Saturday afternoon session, German forces were tasked to take the trenches outside of the village.

The Germans prepare for battle.

The Germans set up with a heavy armor presence on their left, plus a few dinosaurs for good measure, the cav formed the middle, and their right was standard infantry, the witch, and a few good pirates.

The Village, just prior to deployment

The allies seemed to field an adequate force for defense. French forces occupied the trench with the bunker, the Swiss De Fooze (sp) occupied the center and the far side was a group of Sikhs with a machine gun, personally command by me. There were scores of Highlanders and Irish waiting in the village in case part of the trench line fell. One lone Gnomenizer tank sat at the break on the near side of the board.

The French. Only the faithful dog perished...

The early turns involved an all-out charge by the Germans, and lots of ineffectual special weapons fire. Mortars and machineguns might as well have been firing gumdrops. The Allied Gnomenizer tank did have some success slowing down the dinosaurs and oncoming tanks, but no serious damage. The Germans fateful error the entire game was focusing its mortars on the French bunker, never completely realizing the bunker was completely unoccupied! Only one errant shot managed to veer off and kill the French medic! Are we sure the German artillery officer's name wasn't Von Vick?

When Elephants Go Bad..

In the middle rounds, the German artillery found its mark on the Sikh War Elephant. The beserk elephant spent three rounds charging forward, mercilessly trampling a whole unit of Swiss reserves, terrorizing the Sikhs in the trench, and finally demolishing pirate catapult!

Utter Devastation on the trenches

Despite the Sikh's machine guns hitting true, the German cav survived long enough to hit the trenchline. The Sikhs had jumped out of the trench to volley fire and the bunnies barely made it to the line with the charge. It was a bloody, tragic affair for the Sikhs, but the triumphant
Bunny cav was decimated by second line troops, the one who had fallen in the trenches put out of their misery by the Irish cav.

Jurassic Cheese

Meanwhile, a unit of Swiss, under the command of a young officer, had successfully tunnelled from the rear and popped out in the middle of the German Dino assault. The Swiss Cheese Thrower fired *shooka shooka "1"* and the device exploded. The wall of molten cheese did manage to catch the T-rex, who otherwise just would not die. The cheese wall effectively cut off the French defended side, diverting the remaining Germans between the hardened De Fooz Swiss in the center and the crumlbing Sikh flank.

At the end, the Germans and the Witch reached the Sikh trench, the Swiss De Fooz had layed a swath of dairy devastatation to block the flank from getting further comprimised. As reserve Sikhs charged forward to retake the line, the game was called. The Germans had gained a foothold in the trenches, but the majority of the army fell back to reorganize with the next wave.

The most heroic of all the actions during the battle came from the Tan Swiss. Their diggers had braved significant danger to dig a long tunnel to reach the enemy. After the cheese thrower exploded, they frantically dug underneth each trapped Swiss gnome to rescue them from the Cheese Suffocation Rule. Not a single Tan Swiss perished in the incident.

Above is a picture of De Fooz's officer, riding atop a rabbit. Except for the same varnish shine my guys suffer from the entire unit was a pleasure to look at, and the young man commanding them certainly earned a field promotion.

I was only able to help set up for part two and play another hour and a half of it. The trench line shifted up towards German deployment, and a bit diagonally. The few Germans and the Witch were still in the trench, but the others were just coming on the board. The Allies regrouped in the town and decided to move out to retake the trenches. In a mirror image of the previous game the bunkered trench had significant casulaties, both T-Rex and Vampire-related.
The ride back to Wilkes-Barre was long and dark, so I had to depart, even as the going was getting good. The Sikh Elephant had gone berserk again, but this time no casualties, and I left the con with this image in the middle of the battlefield.

I think the fun was just getting started

Cold Was 2011 Part Two: Pictures!!!

Just a few of the pics that came out from Saturday:
A beautifully chaotic Trench Wars game

A naval game using opaque plastic panels over blue felt. Sparkly!

Ooooh! Ruins!

A cardboard Western town

All the King's Men 54mm fort

Age of Steam Sci-Fi? Tricorner hats and DaVinci Machines

Up, Up, and away in my beautiful balloon

Civil War using HeroScape

Jungle Terrain

A game of Epic (Space Marine)

Fleet Action game for control of the Canals of Mars

Pirates! Arrrrgggghhhh!

And a mandatory Napoleonic shot...
Next up: Part Three - Gnomes!

Cold Wars 2011 Part One: Overview

I made my visit to Cold Wars this Saturday in Lancaster. It wasn't until the end of this week when I knew if I could go or not, so I thanked my lucky stars that I got there at all.

I left the house at 530am with my satchel, a Legions of Steel boxed set, the Gnome Wars Swiss Engineers, and a shopping list. I got to the Host at 730am and headed directly to the Hopewell Room, where I met Nichols for the exicitment of the day: The HMGS board meeting. Now, I did sign an NDA as the legal issues revolving around "The Baltimore Fiasco" were discussed, and I plan on honoring the paper. Let me just say that I'm okay, you're okay, and the HMGS is okay. I'm glad I attended, as it put to rest piles of rumors I've heard.

Registration was almost painfully slow. I'm not quite sure if it was volunteer, training, or participant related, but I'm happy I paid in cash.

We then dashed down to the Tennis Barn for the dealers. I couldn't tell you who was specifically missing, but their abscense created more room for some dealers, and sometimes better table displays and overall attitudes. I went through my regular batch of dealers, MBA, ATKM, Brigade, Eureka and the Warstore and lightened my wallet. I only got hit with two surprises in the hall: (1) Splintered Light was there and I could see their anthromorphic animal packs. They are way too tiny! (2) Lon at Brigade proudly released the Gnome Wars Highlander mortar....

Outside of the items I was previously aware of, there was nothing that struck me as "must buy" stuff. Same thing goes with the flea market. There was some heated, but flexible negotiations, but nothing I would want. I had seen LOS packs at the flea market every other con, but this time there was nary an item that had brushed up against a blister pack of Nightmares.

We wandered around a bit more and found Steve at a Civil War game played on Heroscape. Jeff we found extremely excited in a Black Powder game pitting American, Mexican, and French Foreign Legion together.

Besides another disappointing run to the afternoon flea market, the focus of the rest of the day was Gnome Wars (to be seen in part three). Besides following a car-carrying tractor trailer all the way up 72 to get to 81, the drive back home was uneventful, but very very late.

Needless to say, I'll be back to a guy's weekend, as a GM, to avoid the paperwork lines. I may even ponder using the Host for the hotel room. I love the Continental, but I think trying to cross traffic in March has become a bit old.

Next up: Cold Wars part two - The Pictures

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The "Box"

Since we've moved into the house, I've had a shoebox of random minis stowed away on a closet shelf. With an overactive toddler looking for something to do, I brought down the box and we sorted through the *primed* lead.

And yes, we washed our hands. Safety first with two under two in the house!

It was a futile effort to separate and sort the items with a little girl who wanted to play with "The no-nos!" She was even more excited when she discovered a couple Ape Shamans and a Pack Ape, so she had "Mo-Mo No-Nos" (Translation: Monkey Gnomes).

The box was largely all the Hackmaster minis I've accumulated during the great run I had buying all things Kenzer & Co. You can see the multiple packs of half-painted orcs, all the character figures and the two giant ogres. Each figure is easily 30mm, and oversized at that and the Ogre is close to 75mm!

The painted figs behind the orcs are all individual figs I've picked up from Pictors Studios over the years. And I'm not sure of the manufacturer for the troll, but that one is Maja's and it's not for sale.

Maja found some puppies (Aarnz Hounds) and had a great time. After Cold Wars I think we'll break out the painting (finally!) and I'll let Maja have a go at one of those Ogres. I can always Pine-Sol them, rinse, and repeat. I love my No-Nos!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The tradition lives on!

With the birth of my second daughter, the terror of an extended hospital stay, the general chaos of two children, and my impatience with a tax return check, my trip to Cold Wars this year will be, at best, a day trip. At worst, a playdate supervising my two-year old and a friend back home, and somewhere in the middle, Nichols might come up and play some Legions of Steel Saturday.

The only tiny regret was that we couldn't make it another "guy's weekend." The last two years Nichols, Steve, and myself stayed overnight at Steve's place in Allentown Thursday night, drove down to Lancaster early Friday, passed out at the Continental that night and gamed till 8-ish Saturday. The first year, Steve's best friend Jeff accompanied us and it was epic. With only three of us last year, it was a bit subdued. However, with the exception of one event, we all gamed together for two whole days and no one got on each other's nerves. There's a blog post from last March about it. Look it up.

With a possibility of no Cold Wars, I shot for the next option. I called Nichols, and if he didn't get up early enough, Casa del Viscount was open for the above-mentioned Saturday gaming. To be certain I sent out my broadcast email, just to see if there were any other takers.

The only response I've gotten has been from Steve. Apparently, he and Jeff have decided to continue the now 3rd Annual Guy's Weekend. No details, but I'm absolutely amazed that he organized the trip. I do believe that we may have a tradition that might survive without my constant coddling of the group.

I just wish I had been included on the email list :-p

Monday, March 7, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Gnome Wars Goodness at Spring Fever

As posted at message boards:

Gnome Wars at Spring Fever 2011!
April 8th-10th
Raleigh, North Carolina

Title: Gnome Wars!!!!!
GameMaster: Brian Robinette
Description: Les Legion du Chocolat Suisse take on their arch rivals the
Jägermeister for control of Croakerton. Feel free to bring a 320 pt unit and join the fray!
Maximum Number of Players: 8
Ruleset: Gnome Wars
Scale: 25mm

Oh boy, Les Legion du Chocolat Suisse rocks on toast! for more information

Sunday, March 6, 2011

(Gnome Wars) A Very Gnomish Civil War

I was perusing Tim's Miniatures Wargaming blog (see below post for link), and unfortunately, it got me thinking...

I love his battle reports because (1) I love the eras and the forces he uses and (2) I spend way too much time deciding if I would need to tweak the boards for a Gnome Wars version. Hey, tunnelling and cheese throwers were the least of the KAR's issues!

One of the games he's posted on was A British Civil War. Basically society in 1930's Great Britian collapses and various factions fight over control of the Island. Fascists, Royalist, Trade Unionists, Free Scots, Royalist Scots, the variety of groups was impressive. Better yet, it's a great alternative history subject, since you can use your Great War figures, early WW2 vehicles, plus all those Pulp/civilian figures you just had to purchase at the last con.

Somewhere between thinking of the painting I need to do for Tanga, and staring at a large elephant planter that I knock over and chipped part of its face, I came upon an epiphany.

A Very Gnomish Civil War

In a world where the Allies finally subdue the German military machine, Swiss culture has changed, and not for the better. The simple cheese-loving, beer-drinking, tunnel-happy gnomes have become militarized, industrialized, and fragmented. Quaint cities worth the front of a picture postcard have turned into dirty mechanized sprawl. The countryside has barely changed, at least those parts that survived the ravages of war. With population displacement due to the demilitarization, the Swiss economy fails. The simple Swiss forms of government falter soon thereafter, and numerous factions will take up fight to rule the mountain gnomes.

First off, this game is Swiss-on-Swiss action. I can picture some Germans peasant mobs, possibly trying to achieve the upper hand, but their country is periously close to the Swiss perdicament, so no overt military actions. I can also imagine a unit of Sikhs or two, who did not make back home before the Le Merde hit La Fan. Throw in some Gnomo Sapiens, who came out of the mountains, looking for a good time.

I imagine the main game for about 12 players, each with specific instructions and "potential" allies and enemies. The main playing board is at least 6 x 10 and would focus on a "capture the flag" theme. One corner will be a true gnomish village. I'm picturing mushroom houses moreso than MBA buildings. The center will be the Wonders of the Gnomish World. The elephant planter gets turned into a Sphinx-like object, surrounded by smaller statues. The far end will be a refinery of some sort (oil, molten cheese, beer), that will use those plentiful Enfamil bottles I wrote about previously, along with a piece of garden hose, cut in half, to represent the half-submerged pipeline.

This is NOT your regular Historicon Gnome Wars game. I'm tapping the lawn ornament vibe that the Swiss always project and turning it up to 11! I'll take the derision of those who scoff at a historical game... with gnomes and shove it back in their faces threefold! Hell, I broke a shovel chopping away at ice this winter, I may turn the handle in terrain!

Any suggestions, advice, or smacks upside the head would be appreciated. And, oh yeah, I'm thinking about doing this for Historicon, so help is doubly appreciated.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This is just one of my favorite blogs....

Have you ever tried to read an established blog from end to beginning? It's a daunting, but much more interesting read than even the expected read from post one to the present. Instead of an evolution of blogger, it's a devolution.

I'm a big fan of Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog ( I'm a big fan of his current gaming and while he might not win painting competitions all the time, his work is always solid, and to call his output prolific would be like saying a hummingbird flaps its wings every now and then.

When you're a wargamer in Saskatchewan, I guess you game when you can, and you'll play whatever the other players want to (a good rule to have no matter where you live.) So far I've read from today back to November 2009, and his play is varied and well balance: Colonial, Fantasy, Dark Ages, SYW, and Clan Wars to name a few.

But his painting production is the thing that makes me jealous.

Whethter it's a unit of WW2 Japanese, a random Zulu, or a few vehichles, something is always being completed, and well done, at that. Plus the fellow plays Savage Worlds, so the plethora of random figs is quite apparent.

Currently the Battle reports focus on either Black Powder or Colonial/Great War Africa. Since I still have Tanga scheduled to start next month (*gasp*), I'm absolutely loving the boards and terrain he's using. They wouldn't win awards at Historicon, but he has gotten so much more use and enjoyment than any fancy terrain dioramas.

But check out his blog. If you are even a tiny bit of a wargaming, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Legions of Steel Update!

It seems when I was pulling the nostalgia off the yahoo!group, I should have actually read the posts.

The new, Official Legions of Steel site and message boards can be found here:

It seems as if Clark's dreams of a 3rd edition of the rules, be it hard copy or pdf are slowly coming closer to reality. Plus I found a few more goodies, including the rough draft for the LOS RPG.

If you sign up for the board, look around and you may even spot TheTraitorJacobson lurking about.

Legions of Steel *supplemental*

After breaking out my LOS boxed set with my daughter a half dozen times, I decided that stowing it away temporarily might let it survive to see April.

I then went on a nostalgia trip, thanks the the Legions of Steel yahoo! group. The group is just chock full of scans of old magazines, although I was surprised by the rather pithy selection of photos posted. C'mon people, represent!

Back when Wooly and I were hot and heavy into LOS, we ate up any material we could find, and with none of this doggone intraweb thingy back then, gaming magazines were the bee's knees. Dragon and Shadis had positive reviews on the minis, and I even discovered an old issue of White Wolf with not only an LOS article/scenario, but it got the front cover!

The Holy Grail of LOS info though, was The Tech Factory. The Tech Factory started as a very, very good BattleTech 'zine. If you find Wooly and ask him about it, he will sing the magazine's praises for teaching him to love such concepts as SRTs (Short-Range Torpedoes), much to the maligned wails of his players at his B'Tech galas at Bogglecon and the other cons. As time went on, they expanded into Star Fleet Battles and LOS. Tech Factory was chock full of variants, but more importantly new scenarios to play! If I do remember correctly, we ran "Unite!" as one of the sessions at Origins in Philly, but I'm getting old and it's past my bed time.

I'm seriously going to have to go out to Johnstown to see Wooly and force him to break stuff out of storage.....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NEPA CoC #8: Transgression

After their dealings with the dead rising in Harlem, the Trentons and Smitty bid the others a fond farewell (or good riddance) and departed for Boston. Dr. Millheim, Steven, and Nichols decided to stay through the New Year, up until Steven had to return to classes at Wyoming Seminary. They invited some of their friends to visit, but no one was able to take them up on their offer.

January 1923 --

Our cast:

Dr. Nathaniel Millheim: a combination of Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters and "Big Dan" Teague from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Noted parapsychologist and crackpot author

Steven O'Hara: Instructor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Wyoming Seminary. Friend of Dr. Millheim.

Brian Nichols: Former bookkeeper for "questionable" organizations. Currently working as Dr. Millheim's personal assistant as he is trying to avoid two murder raps in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

All characters' namesakes are the actual players (Steve plays Steven, and so on...)

The academic world is a tangled web of connections and contacts, so it was only a matter of time that a Professor of Medieval Literature at Columbia University would contact the investigators in their New York hotel room. The professor, Dr. Rudolph Pearson, had confided in a former collegue, Dr. Robert Wintermute about the disapearance of a third staff member, Dr. Ephraim Harris. Pearson was worried that Harris had finally used "his brilliant mind to make bad decisions," and that those decisions were not things Pearson could convince the police about. Wintermute had since moved to Arkham, Massachusetts to fill a visiting faculty position at Miskatonic University teaching history while conducting more research. Wintermute relayed Pearson's odd story in passing conversation to colonial history expert Dr. Eric Bowsfield. And guess who was the roommate of Dr. Bowsfield many years before at the East Stroudsburg Normal School?

That's right, Dr. Millheim. If you need a drink to comprehend that, go ahead, Prohibition's over!

Bowsfield was one of the people who had been invited to the Nyc festivities, so could easily drop the investigators a pre-emptive telegram to warn them of Dr. Pearson's contact.

Pearson's story was not much helpful. Dr. Harris has been missing since just after exams in December. He is a brilliant physicist, who hates to travel, and can be quite absent minded at times. However, when he didn't show up for lectures before, at least he could be found in his lab. He left no notes or clues to where he disappeared to. For a nominal fees (enough to cover bar tabs and ensure they didn't have to sneak out of the hotel in the early morning hours), they took the case.

At Harris' home they found a cluttered apartment, with two large mobile chalkboards, covered with equations, a few diagrams scattered about, and little else of interest. Steven, after examining the boards, actually corrected some of the equation, realized the implications of the equations, and decided that while the reward money was nice, someone had to stop Dr. Harris before he did something very dangerous.

(In GM-speak, our trained physicist rolled a 02 on his Physics skill, easily passed his San check, and only lost one point of Sanity after realizing what Dr. Harris was planning to do.)

Before going any further, the fellows stopped off for a few drinks, took a bottle for the road, and returned to the hotel, where Steven tried to explain to the group what the equations and schematics were for. It was great fun to see Steve the player squirm as he tried to explain what amounted to a teleporter in 1920's terms to the investigators. It was also neat when the other players staved off San checks, because they all failed to comprehend what Steven the character was babbling about.

The next day, at Steven's insistence, they followed up on a possible lead in the newspaper. The Hell Gate Power Plant had been suffering from frequent brown outs and even a few complete failures of the grid. Knowing Dr. Harris' plans involved great power requirements, the group posed as investigators from Columbia making inquiries. The plant manager was little help, although he could provide exact times of the outages.

Coming back to the hotel, the group was met with a fearsome visage in the hotel room: Steven's wife Angela.

Angela O'Hara - a Northeastern Pennsylvanian socialite, living off the money of the coal mines. She married Steven expecting reknowned teaching positions and international acclaim. She got a prep school teacher who constantly got in trouble with his group of friends. Angela had already aided the investigators twice (see entries #2 and #6), and was well-aware of the Mythos. However, this was the first time she would be a full-fledged PC, being played by Steve's friend Jeff in a very special guest appearance.

It seemed as if Steven should have been home a week ago, and with a few prodding phone calls, Dr. Bowsfield gave the fellas up. After getting caught up on their "job", Angela agreed to stay and finish it and then get the hell back home.

With Angela's oversight, they searched the apartment again, this time coming up with a basket of baseballs and a rough lease agreement to a warehouse, right near the Hell Gate plant. Steve also deemed it wise to completely eradicate the equations on the board. The others just looked at him puzzledly.

They find the warehouse, knock on the door, and are responded by only a "Go away, I'm busy!" After a few more increasingly ruder back-and-forth, they mention Dr. Pearson, and the door flies open to a thin bespectacled man.

"Why didn't you say you knew him in the first place!"

To call Dr. Harris frenetic would be and understatement. As they navigated boxes, tables, parts, etc, he picked up an oblong rock with multiple runes. "I found this one in my travels isn't it marvelous!"

Dr. Millheim and Brian's heads tilted a bit towards to the side and they nodded in unison. Steven felt repulsed by the object... "Dr. Harris can we just see your project?"

Without missing a beat Harris lead them into a larger part of the warehouse. On the other side of the room stood a circular gate-like contraption. The mess of wires, cables, latches, and other mechanical parts stood 15 foot high, even more impressive as it sat on a five foot high platform.

"Hilliard, Dynakov, they knew want we could accomplish. They just needed my genius, and the rest of humanity to catch up. Wanna see where we can go," Harris gleefully said, as he flipped a giant switch. Parts spun, other parts created a growing hum. He twisted some dials, flipped a few more switches and the open area inside the circle turned electric, then purple, finally showing rock formations in a night sky with no recognizable constellations.

"This is where I found my lovely, come along!" Harris shouted, as he raced up the ramp and jumped into the gate! Dr. Millheim and Nichols chased after him like schoolboys at recess and went through as well."

"Those fools, let's get out of here, before anything happens. Your "friends" are doomed," cried Angela, tugging at Steven's arm. Steven watched the professor and hit two friends disappear behind some pillars, and then he dashed towards the tables, reading schematics, pouring over Harris' notes.

For Nichols and Dr. Millheim, the land was disorienting at best. Solid ground seemed to shift like ocean waves, and the two of them would lose each other after being two feet apart seconds earlier. It took sheer determination and a LOT of luck for them to come back to the portal and the warehouse. Finally, as the machine began to smoke and begin to make unhealthy metal on metal sounds, Dr. Harris returned...

This is where the stories deviate, in the kinder/gentler world. Steven sabotages the machine, the group goes back to tell Pearson the Harris is a lost cause, and the day they leave the Big Apple for Wilkes-Barre, they see a scholarly man on a strange winged beast, flying through the air. As the last part of a long gaming day, I made things a bit too fluffy.

In the real world Dr. Harris barely makes it back, as Steven and Angela systematically dismantle the dimensional portal, causing irreparable harm to the machine. Harris goes berserk and the happy couple barely pulls Millheim and Nichols to safety, before they barricade the door from the outside. The sparking, malfunctioning machine probably ignites the old warehouse and the everything inside. The investigators go back to Pearson and tell them (most of) the truth. But sooner or later, probably after when they return back from a few episodes of Masks, Dr. Harris will have his revenge. Dr. Harris WILL have his revenge.

I will make sure of it.

Transgression is one of the two scenarios in the back of Secrets of New York sourcebook. I chose it for two reasons: (1) Its sci-fi aspects throws everybody outside their comfort zone of walking dead and strange cultists (2) except for Steven who is a trained physicist who worked for the government during the Great War. Truly, Steven acted as he should. He was the only one who could comprehend what Harris was doing, heck he could have IMPROVED on it. Rather, he realized how dangerous Harris was, and eliminated the active technology. Of course, many of the equations are still in his head... Hell, Steven is the only character who has more Sanity than when he started! Those advanced theories are comforting to him, and although it doesn't explain the strangeness, he can accept it as part of the universe.

I fear he's going to be able to stare down an Elder God (from a safe distance), and think nothing of it. Since I'm laying the seeds for Masks, Spawn, and Day of the Beast in the next few weeks, I think the group might hope he's actually able to do that.