Friday, September 11, 2015

Into The Ruins

To say the least, I have found the setting of Frostgrave to be inspiring. I've painted more things for this game than I can say for a lot of others. Each of my two main Warhammer armies has a single painted figure. I already have 2 for Frostgrave.

There is something about a magical, snow-bound city ruined by the sins of arcane excess, that captures my imagination. I imagine the city as a lost Atlantean ideal, powerful in its time but now crumbling and forgotten, and filled with all manner of demons, undead and weird beasts leftover from bygone days. With that in mind, I really want to start building on my terrain collection to suit that feel.

Most of my terrain is pretty generic, so I already have a few ruins, the odd wizard's tower and of course my dungeon terrain to draw from. Ambiance is everything though, so first I had to find a good backdrop for all that terrain. I settled on a 4'x4' Alpine F.A.T. mat from Frontline Gaming.

It's on the bigger side for Frostgrave but it has the perfect bleak, grey look for what I envision. It looks really snowbound and the rocks could be hidden streets. I love these mats. I have two others, one for X-Wing and I just picked up another for 40K. They are vivid, durable, non-slip and come with their own carrying case. A bit pricey, but worth every penny in the end.

While I was buying things, I also found this pair of beauties:

They are pre-painted pieces from War Torn Worlds, which makes their terrain out of recycled tires. They are flexible and durable, which is a big plus because I'm starting to have to stack terrain in my cabinet. The color scheme is little light, but they do the trick quite nicely.

Next I settled in to paint a piece that I figured I would ignore forever. I picked up the Dragons Don't Share set from Reaper's second Bones Kickstarter with the intent of never painting it but imagining doing do until the day I died. Howeve, the ruins were so perfect that I had to get some paint on them at least.

The color is just my dungeon blend on a larger scale. I learned the hard way that Bones doesn't take spray primer well, so the piece is a little tacky, even with a couple extra loads of paint on it

And the top comes off for convenient model placement:

The set also has a set of crumbling stairs made up of a couple pieces for modularity:

But the whole thing fits together if you want it to be one big piece:

I have two notes on this piece. First, you may notice a big gap in the above picture. That is because there is another piece of ruin that has a huge dragon perched on it. I could not bear to tear the dragon off, but it would also look weird with a live dragon always attached to it. If I had another copy of that piece though, I would add it in a heartbeat. Second, for some ungodly reason the top portion with the stairs came in two pieces, both of which were very warped. All of my best efforts with a heat gun were for naught, but I found a solution. I filled the crack with my new favorite basing material, Golden pumice gel. On a piece like this, you'd never know the difference and it came out perfect.

Finally, I wanted to add a little weird and ominous to my Frostgrave, so I set to scratch building. You see, a while back my wife found a little resin pond super cheap online and bought if for me on a whim. I think it was originally meant for fairy gardens or something, but it is a bit out of scale as a pond. It has been floating around for while, always waiting for a project, and I finally found one.

I stuck it to some foamcore, cutting out a place for it to sit down into to lower the height of the walls a tiny bit. Then I filled it with clay to get rid of dead space, plus some more clay around the edges to blend it into the base. Then I used a mix of skull piles from Ristul's Extraordinary Market and spare Games Workshop skeleton bits from ages ago to make it look stuffed to the brim with bones. An old vulture from a Tomb Kings screaming skull catapult completed the look, plus some texturing with the ol' magic pumice gel.

The idea is that it's an old well or decorative pond that has been filled to the brim with dead bodies, possibly from before the city froze. But maybe they are unlucky adventurers after all, and who (or what) put them there in the first place...?

That's all for now. I'm hoping to add some larger ruins at some point to give the table a little more height and choke things up a bit. For now, though, I think it's a good start.

Happy gaming!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Frostgrave: The Night Before

The icy wind rattled the old knight's armor, and Amuron Owlkey looked his brother's way. Though almost ten years his senior and grey of beard, Amuron knew Hadrian's slouch was not one of frailty but of thoughtfulness. Sitting on a frost-bitten log, the knight sat staring into the fire, his blue-grey hood drawn up over his head. Nearby, Hadrian's sword lay next to him on the log and out of the snow. Snow which covered every tree, rock and inch of ground in the clearing they had chosen to camp in.

Amuron chuckled softly. Hadrian had always been the sensible one, the disciplined one. No one had been surprised when he had taken up the knightly order. He was a natural protector and Amuron admired that about his brother. It would also be something he would rely on very soon.

By contrast, there was nearly shock when Amuron enrolled in the colleges of magic. He had not taken it personally, since he knew his own impetuousness, his impatience and his quick (though short-lived) temper. But now, nearly thirty years later, he sat an accomplished wizard. In the snow. Staring at his brother.

Noticing Amuron's gaze, Hadrian shifted. He glowered out of his hood.

"Is something amusing?" he growled.

The wizard chuckled again, realizing he had heard him the first time. Amuron smiled broadly.

"You look cold. And troubled, brother."

Hadrian glowered harder, if that were possible, and pulled back his hood. The fire cast an orange glow over his snowy hair, almost returning it to the flaming red of his youth. Combined with his still-strong frame, he almost looked thirty again.

"Is she going to be warm enough?" Hadrian said, cocking his head in the direction of Amuron's apprentice. Elizabelle was setting up her tent, struggling a bit to get it raised. Though a few of the other men offered to help her, she refused. She was stronger than she looked. And she also looked very under-dressed, with her bare legs and low-cut tunic. Amuron chuckled again, knowing that was the provocation for his brother's comment.

"She knows the warmth charm as well as I do at this point," he said, smiling. "And it works very well. You aren't cold, are you?"

Hadrian stiffened at the implication. "No, I am not cold. I just don't know why you would bring this girl out here."

Amuron put on an exaggerated leer and leaned in toward his brother. "She has her uses."

The look on the old knight's face was priceless and the wizard nearly doubled over, his laughter echoing through the snow-covered rocks and trees. A few of the men looked their direction. Elizabelle still struggled with her tent, well used to her master's boisterous nature. When he finally recovered, he shook his head, smiling still.

"You know me better than that, Sir Owlkey. She is here because I will need her help and because first-hand experience is the best teacher. Those spells of hers will do her no good locked up in my tower. And she is harder than she appears."

Too hard, in Amuron's opinion, though she had right to be. When he had found her, it had been at the side of the road near-dead, with a good portion of her face burned by the thugs who had assaulted her. He had done the best he could to heal her, but healing was never his strong suit, and the scars remained. The wizard returned her to her farm, where her father promptly turned her out because she would never marry. So Amuron took her in, and so far he could not have asked for a brighter, more capable apprentice.

"We have done a fine job assessing who is cold and who is not," the wizard continued, "But you have still not told me what troubles you."

Hadrian's features returned to his glower. "I am not troubled," he grumbled out, "I am concerned. Felstadt is no place for grown men, let alone a girl of barely nineteen. Many wizards have entered the frozen city. Few have returned. Fewer still have returned unchanged. It is a dangerous place. I do not know if even I can protect you there."

Amuron's smile tightened, then drooped. "Having second thoughts about leaving the order?"

Hadrian's face softened, and it was his turn to smile, if slightly sadly. "No. The order can get by without me. The bonds of blood are stronger than any vow. Besides, what kind of brother would I be if I let you get eviscerated by demons?"

Amuron laughed again, stroking his thick brown beard. "Let us hope that most of the stories are exaggerated. I've seen demons at the colleges. They are not pretty. Well, some are, but they are the most dangerous ones. In any case, I think we will find more danger in other wizards."

"That is true," the knight agreed. "Avarice is always a dangerous thing. I still do not understand why you must go into the ruins. Gold and ambition have never appealed to you. Why are you risking your life in Frostgrave for scrolls and trinkets?"

Amuron turned thoughtful and it was his turn to stare into the fire. "I'm not," he said, his voice low and hushed, "They think I am." He waved a hand toward the handful of men he had brought with him. They were hard men. Strong men. Men motivated by wealth and the willingness to fight for it.

"That is another thing," said Hadrian "Can you trust these men? They are warriors, yes. But they are also thieves. Murderers. Blaggards. They could turn on you out there in the ruins."

The wizard smiled again. "Trust them? Not completely, no. But they are loyal. More than a few of them owe me their lives. Others owe me debts in other ways. And they know I fulfill my promises. I don't need to trust them. They trust me."

Hadrian scowled again and Amuron laughed. "Besides, if it goes south, well, I am a wizard after all."

"You can't cast spells in your sleep," Hadrian growled, "Unless you have a charm against slit throats. But you still have not answered me. What are you looking for?"

The wizard looked into his eyes, an uncommon seriousness settling over him. "I don't know. Ever since the snows receded and the city rediscovered, wizards and treasure seekers have been braving the dangers there. The promise of gold and glory is enough for any man, and the knowledge there priceless for any mage. It is no surprise that some test their luck and risk their lives."

Amuron shifted, looking back into the flames. "But I think there is more to it. I think something is drawing those with magic there. More and more wizards are flocking to the ruins. I don't think they really know why they are going anymore. Something is pulling it. I want to know what that is."

The knight nodded. "Then, whatever it is, you are playing right into it's hands."

Amuron chuckled again. "Maybe so. For now we should get some rest. We will reach the outskirts of the city by early morning. Sleep well, brother."

The wizard stood, shaking some of the snow from his cloak and robes and began walking toward the camp proper. Elizabelle had finally raised her tent, and he intended to do the same to his, only with a little magical help. He looked back at his brother brooding into the fire, smiled then kept walking, hoping he had not doomed them all.