Tuesday, November 10, 2020


Original recipe next to very mild conversion.

"We're not sure about the new guy."
25mm Ouvre-boĆ®te (MegaMiniatures OOP), Cheap Chinese knock-off of Bandai "Gouf" (Rhode Island Novelty Company "Battle Space Robot"), Reaper Bones 77047 Goldar the Barbarian
Number Appearing: Never more than 4, usually just one, probably no more than a dozen exist at all

Size:  Ten feet tall and bullet-proof

Armor:  Nth generation self-repairing variable-albedo laminate

Resilience: That which does not kill them makes them stronger.

Intelligence:  Artificial

Communication:  Abrupt and lacking in tact.

Disposition:  Militant

Violence:  In spades.  Also *with* spades.

Enemies:  All who hinder the completion of their mission.

Aims:  Return the Crown Princess to the Capitol for Coronation.  There are unforeseen transportation issues.

Peculiarities:  Might be sort of dead.  Doesn't slow them down much.

Treasure:  Owed a budget-annihilating level of back pay.
Format cheerfully swiped from They Stalk the Underworld

Children are told ridiculous tales for their amusement about silly creatures known as the Mreen (one of the quirkier aspects is that the word "Mreen" is always capitalized).  Absurd constructs with necks of leather and jars for heads, a bizarre code of honor (including an annual requirement for cake), and what seems, at first glance, to be a decided lack of critical thinking skills.  Many of the tales are about a Mreen named Privet Shmucktelly and his hilarious misunderstandings and mishaps with assorted magical tools ("Privet Shmucktelly and the box of Grid Squares" is a perennial favorite).  These aren't like those creatures of legend.  They are the self-same creatures - older, possibly wiser, and definitely free of tale-tellers' distortions.  They are the surviving(?) Marine Contingent of the Imperial Cruiser Pandora, and they have been on duty for a very long time.

On the Island of Knossos, there is only one suitable place for boats to make landfall, inside a natural harbor on the southern side.  On the wall of the harbor is a message, carved in the stone of the cliff in characters a yard high and a hand deep, and rendered with precision that would not be credible if it were not also demonstrable.  The characters are readable to any scholar, over four hundred years old, and don't make much sense.  They are a distance, a direction, a date in the near future, and twelve words that most scholars assume to be names.  They are directions to find where the escape pod containing the Crown Princess will make landfall due to orbital decay.  That's when the trouble starts.  As Presumptive Empress, the Crown Princess can override any and all military orders and directives.

The Marines are trapped in their suits due to a Coronation Directive.  The suit AI is to keep them on duty until they can deliver their charge to the place of coronation or are relieved by an appropriately sized force of body guards.  The previous record for being under Coronation Directive is 273 hours.  Pandora's Leathernecks have been on duty for over 423 years.  Between their advanced age, suit AI, nanotech repairs to their failing bodies, and the fact that nobody has opened a suit in centuries, even the Marines aren't entirely certain if they're still alive in a strictly biological sense.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter are the factors that hamstring their mission: namely the need to barracks lawyer the suit AI to get anything done, and reliance on field expedient power supplies.  The first is what's kept them from building an empire and starting a space program (Coronation Directive is intended to be a short term emergency protocol).  The second is why they ride in wagons or on boats and whack hostiles with shovels instead of accelerated particles.  It's also why they sometimes take up causes with locals that can get them necessary supplies.

The outlaw Sergei d'Gisbourne was judged to be dangerous enough to require several Mreen for his extraction from Quaker Tower.  He ended up leaving through an arrow slit - involuntarily. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Bit of Culture (it grows on you)

"William", courtesy of The Met
This is a 3,800-year-old knick-knack from an Egyptian tomb. Over the last hundred years, it's become a mascot of sorts for The Met.  If you take a close look at the lotus markings, they're really just made out of triangles and dots.

Painting by Charles R. Knight
These things said "Hong Kong" when I was a kid.

Uintatheriums are a somewhat odd extinct mammal.  The tusks give them a certain resemblance to hippos (they're not meaningfully related to any modern mammal).  Uintatheriums started popping up in bags of chinasaurs around the time that Gary Gygax was playing with other cheap plastic critters in his basement, but never got turned into anything iconic, D&D-wise.

Reaper 77144: Mummy for scale.

This sort of thing is what happens when I play with cheap plastic critters in my man-cave.  Acrylic paint, an alcohol pen, and a paperclip used to wire him to the Magic-Sculpt base.  The biggest time consumption came from the cleanup stage - the molds have not aged well.  One big advantage over doing this in the '70s is that I can pull up a 3-d view of the original hippo's markings while I've got the pen in hand.  He's deliberately glossy because "William" was originally glazed with blue glass.  He seems to be perfectly serviceable as a statue, living construct, or magical critter.  I kind of picture him as an immobile oracle that speaks with a lisp due to the tusks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sky Whales

The real ones like belly rubs.
Number Appearing:  Seasonally dependent

Size: USS Macon

Armor:  Not really.

Resilience:  Not much for the size, but still take a lot of killing.

Intelligence:  Fairly high.

Communication:  Flatulent trumpeting.

Disposition: Bubbly.

Violence:  Would prefer not to.  Equivalent to being kicked by a freighter if convinced otherwise.

Enemies:  Cloud Kraken, whalers, The Knights of Thunder

Aims:  Muck about in the troposphere having a good time.

Peculiarities:  Flying cetacean isn't weird enough?

Treasure:   Flubber

The deadliest creature on the Sea of Grass isn't the hungry Steppe Tiger, or the stampeding Purple Buffalo, or even your cuddly friend the Death Worm.  It is the Mountain Locust.  Which is more or less exactly like a grasshopper, except that it has both the capability and preference for inviting several billion relatives over at dinner time.  This can effectively reduce the contents of the The High King's granaries to dust and echoes.  This makes The High King very interested in protecting creatures that can devour several tons of locusts at a sitting.  And his subjects in the area very interested in heavily reinforced roofs, because they are very literally lower than whale dung.

Like normal whales, Sky Whales represent a very large concentration of (often illegal) resources to those able and willing to take them, and a serious mess when they beach themselves.  Their feeding grounds are
above the Sea of Grass during summer, and they winter in their breeding grounds higher up and further towards the equator.

Format cheerfully swiped from They Stalk the Underworld

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Celestial Exiles

Whenever a large group of people interact, those with power will inevitably decide that certain individuals are inconvenient.  A time honored solution to this problem is exile to the provinces.  This solution is particularly attractive when it is nigh impossible to return without intervention from the exiling authority (sometimes you want them back).

The Celestial Empire is no different.  Where the Celestial Empire *is* different is that, being at the top of the g-well, they can drop their troubles off literally anywhere on the globe.  Or the moon, for that matter, but that's a whole separate set of anomalies.  You can do the orbital mechanics and such for how long it takes to lob an object upward from somewhere outward/down from the Celestial Palace (roughly 15,000 miles up, give or take a bit) and drop it onto terra firma in the equivalent of Saskatchewan if you like, but let's just assume that they can and that the transit time for a one-way trip is unimportant.  They can then decide if they feel like dropping supplies, reinforcements, etc.  - or not.  The thing about exiling nobles is that they don't go alone.  They have staff and bodyguards and obnoxious political supporters to accomplish whatever nominal task you sent them out for besides "not being here".  So the drop zone can get pretty big depending on the rank of the exile, or be fairly small for someone genuinely unpopular.

What all of this means for folks with a gravity habit is that the Celestial Empire is in the habit of dropping large groups of well-trained, well-armed, absurdly ignorant and incredibly desperate people literally out of the blue.  Have fun with that.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Drop Pods of the Celestial Empire

The bulk of the Celestial Empire is centered on the midpoint of the Beanstalk, at an altitude of roughly 15,000 miles.  Climbing down is analogous to circumnavigating the world on a stairmaster.  Even if you've got the thighs for it, it's really time consuming.  Falling, on the other hand, is relatively low impact (initially, anyway) and a whole lot faster.  In a nutshell, the drop pod is exactly that - a modified hollow seed pod for dropping people and cargo to places farther down the g-well.  Don't ask me how they aim what amounts to a giant dandelion seed, but they seem to be accurate to within a couple hundred yards or so.

Game stuff:

  • While they can vary in size, these are roughly equivalent to ship's boats.  Cargo/Personnel capacity equivalent to anything from a dinghy through a small pinnace.
  • Due to assorted peculiarities in the laws of physics around anything as decidedly impossible as a live space elevator, pods fall at a more or less constant terminal velocity of 300 mph.  This means that they may end up falling for a little over two days if they go all the way to the surface, followed by some pretty rough (but non-lethal) bouncing.  Cavalry (and other mounted troops) may not take this very well.
  • The counterweight is actually "down" from the midpoint, so they can drop in that direction as well.
  • You're more or less on your own to climb back up, but supply pods can be dropped along your route.

The Beanstalk

From my Weird Stuff That Won't Get Played file:

Beanstalk - The climbing vine of any of a large variety of legumes.

Beanstalk - SF geek slang for a space elevator.

This one's both.  It's not exactly natural, but it is alive.  It isn't exactly an elevator as such - more of a bridge.  If you've got the time and inclination, you can walk all the way up the stalk to the counterweight.  This would generally take about three years to get to the main station at the halfway point (14,625 miles or so).  The thing about large foot bridges is that they are seldom unoccupied.  No, not trolls (mostly).  Medieval bridges were lined with shops and houses like any other street, just moderately cleaner (just as easy to chuck the refuse in the river as in the gutter) and often with mills in the stream.  The main stalk is hollow and has a horizontal cross section about 250' across, or about the same area as one of the original World Trade Center towers.  The assorted "floors" vary in height, but are usually less than 30 feet.  There are various types of passageway that allow access between levels - it's a living plant, but was designed by wizards (or someone sentient and a bit off, anyway).  There are also access points to the outside, where leaves the size of small baronies become archipelagos in the sky linked to the main stalk by their tendril.

The takeaways:

  • Live, plant-based wizard's tower.  Height not measurable by conventional means.  A little under 30,000 miles if you must count.
  • Surface area roughly that of Australia.
  • There's stuff living there.  Some of it's a little strange.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Immortal Heroes of Summat

There's a Frostgrave scenario with statues that these might be handy for.
I bought a bag of 2" "Army Man" knights.  Painting one of each pose as statues leaves me with 30 more for whatever nefarious purpose strikes my fancy.  Mostly attempting to rehabilitate my fine motor skills, truth be told.  I'm not really up to painting 25mm figures again just yet.  Raw Umber damp brushed with Robin's Egg Blue drybrushed with Seafoam Green yields a reasonable facsimile of a patina on bronze.

 Normally I don't like cast on shield heraldry, but the drybrushing works pretty well with these to bring out the designs.

Larger than life, but not into colossus territory.