Tuesday, 24 December 2019

[Homebrew] The Portals of Eremus Have Opened

Like all good campaigns it started in a tavern.
By session #3 they stepped on the moon.
In August our HackMaster campaign ended with a glorious TPK, after which we decided to give the game some rest - it was fun, but it was becoming a bit tiresome, plus we were in the mood to play something else. My best and longest campaigns so far were my two Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaigns (using Swords & Wizardry Complete and D&D5e), and my homebrew Terminus campaign (using DCC RPG). Following the old wisdom "let the shoemaker stick to his last" I decided to run something akin to those: a gonzo kitchen sink sandbox inspired Wilderlands, Arduin, Tékumel, Wizardry 6-8, and the various Might & Magic games.

"I hope it won't be AD&D though" said one of my players after I told them my idea. Once again my plans to use my dream mix of AD&D 1e + 2e + house rules were delayed indefinitely. I rarely let my players have a say in what I'm going to run, but this time I had to agree with him, because I both wanted to minimize preparations and introduce some new players to the game, thus something lighter seemed beneficial. Enter Old-School Essentials, which I managed to upgrade last minute to the print version in the pledge manager, which closed on the night of the aforementioned TPK. After I got the pdf I began to revamp old materials, write new stuff, convert content from other games, draw shitty maps, outsource said maps to someone more skilled, and so on.

This isn't even my final form!
Thus Eremus was born, a continent on Anachron IV, a planet terraformed eons ago by the primogenitors to be a paradise on the galactic fringe. Then they fucked it up during their great war, and vanished without a trace, leaving behind the soldiers and creatures they summoned from across time and space to wage their battles. After a long dark age the survivors began to rebuild civilization.

The campaign which I named Portals of Eremus takes place millennia later, during the tumultuous centuries following collapse of the Tritonian Empire, which ruled over the entire region before it fell apart during the Succession Wars. The players are adventurers seeking fame and fortune in the Contested Lands, where barbaric kings began to raise kingdom upon the ruins of past nations.

We use a heavily modified and expanded version of OSE. Without going into details, the following resources are in use, more or less (sometimes an entire book, other times a few articles only):

Plenty of house rules are work in progress, under playtest, even totally untested. Nothing is set in stone, and if they won't work out as intended they will be changed, retconned, or thrown out. Not that I care too much about balance, but usability and simplicity are paramount. If we keep forgetting to use something, then it wasn't interesting in the first place and should be thrown out. Some highlights of my house rules document:
  • crapton of races for the wandering circus feel
  • monk, samurai, techno class conversions
  • a deck o' stuff table that keeps growing
  • learning skills and talents by training
  • improving ability scores by questing
  • smoother THAC0 and save charts
  • expanded secondary skill list
  • spell point based spellcasting
  • spellburn and spell mishaps
  • expanded weapon qualities
  • dungeon fortune cookies
  • combat maneuvers
  • psychic powers

I will go into the details in future posts. I will also consider writing session reports, but time and time again they have proven to be something I can't keep up with on the long. For now, enjoy the Holidays, and this overview map by Gábor Csomós (author of the excellent The Lost Valley of Kishar).

Work in progress overview map of Central Eremus

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Monday, 23 December 2019

[Review] Cha'alt, Part I: Planet of Apostrophes

Beauty is in the eye of the be'holder.
It's the end of December and I finally have some time to sit down and blog again. Since Christmas is right around the corner, it would be fitting to write about something relevant, like The Kringle Castle Invaders or How Orcus Stole Christmas!, but I won't yield to the comformity of the Holiday Season - instead I'm going to write about Cha'alt, like a fucking boss. Cha'alt is the magnum opus of Venger As'Nas Satanis, a controversial OSR author and a many-faced agent of Chaos. Is he a Raggi knockoff? A za'akier high priest of Cthulhu? A mad genius of adventure design? A juvenile metalhead with sleazy imagination? The greatest troll of the old-school gaming community? He might be all of them, and neither...

I have ambivalent feelings about Venger's previous works.  While there is a rampant creativity behind them I enjoy, it's often smothered by incoherent writing. Venger needs someone to discipline him, badly - preferably not with a whip, because he would enjoy that, but with strong criticism. Enter the fair prince of the Netherlands, whose passionate reviews of Venger's works lead to one of the most entertaining bromances I have seen in the history of the OSR. Him jumping aboard during the Kickstarter campaign was the straw that broke the camel's back, and made me shill out the money for the pdf.

I would gladly travel back in time to the very moment I selected my reward tier on Kickstarter to slap myself for being a miserly bastard and not going for the hardcover, because Cha'alt looks stunning. It's a lavishly illustrated book with a nice parchment background. The art styles are varied, and do a good job at telling what kind of kitchen sink madness awaits the reader in this book as the mecha battles, lovecraftian monsters, vast deserts, gonzo postapocalyptic scenes come alive on its pages. Sometimes it's unusually alive, thanks to the cosplayer photos used here and there instead of illustrations. They aren't bad at all, but they feel a bit out of place. Cha'alt uses colours to convey information: all chapters have a defining colour scheme that makes them immediately recognisable, and maps have sections differentiated by colouring too. Sometimes it goes a bit overboard, but it didn't make my eyes bleed. Most of the text is presented in a simple two column layout, with a rather minimalistic use of highlighting and bullet points. It's okay, because the majority of the entries are short anyway, but it does feel a bit lackluster after the clean german precision of Old-School Essentials. The stat blocks do deserve praise though: although far from groudbreaking, they use space effectively, are easy to read, and cover everything you need in a terse style. They are like a very light-weight version of HackMaster's combat rose.

People with 300 hp mechas are the kind of people
one should befriend.
While Cha'alt doesn't use an exact rules system, I wouldn't call it system neutral either: the stats are some hodge podge of a D&D-isms with hit dice, hit points, ascending armour class, and single saving throw. It's straightforward and easy to convert to your game of choice, though if Cha'alt is very old-school in one way, it's balance - or rather, it's lack of. Monster power levels are all over the place, some of them have ridiculously high hit points, and there are save or die attacks galore! The Crimson Dragon Slayer d20 ruleset is included in the appendix, though calling it a ruleset is a far stretch - it's one of those super light few pages long "systems" that I find too vague and basic for anything other than a beer & pretzels session (heck, even for those I would rather run B/X or Tunnels & Trolls).

Enough of the form though, let's talk about substance! Cha'alt offers a post-apocalyptic setting that feels like an unholy bastard of Gamma World, Tatooine, Dune, Lovecraft, and who knows what else. Originally a generic fantasy world, Cha'alt was first fucked up by the Old Ones for shits and giggles, then aeons later again when they re-awakened and started an apocalyptic war with the now technologically advanced surface dwellers. The current era is called the Obsidian age, where ancient technology, sorcery fueled by the corpses of fallen Old Ones, monsters mutated by the radioactive wastelands, and insane lovecraftian cults co-exist. There are also travellers from outer space who visit Cha'alt to extract the rare resource called zoth needed to refine the spice Mela'anj, which will destroy the planet in a few months. The latter is mentioned only casually once or twice, which is surprising considering saving or leaving the planet seems to be a great hook to kick off the campaign.

Cha'alt's (sigh) map aims to look good over being functional. I would preferr having a hex or square grid overlay over the scale at the bottom right corner - I hated using that on geography classes, and still do twenty years later. There are a dozen intriguing points of interest shown on the map, including a city mind controlled by a giant purple demon worm, a high tech outpost guarded with battle-droids, a sea of green slime full of dredge, a hardcore feminist matriarchy where males are castrated, and so on. The journey between them isn't trivial, because most of the region is covered by the S'kbah, a radioactive desert that will kill or mutate the unprepared. The rules and advice for travelling the hostile sands and obsidian patches are simple: bring plenty of food and water, doff your armour, take anti-radiation pills, and avoid other wanderers.

Rare photo of a ga'athrul mating ritual.
The latter should be taken to heart considering what kind of factions inhabit the wasteland: the cults of the desert are worshippers of Old Ones, the skeevers are desert pirates scavenging the S'kbah, the hunter-killer droids are mysterious machines attacking humanoids on sight, the spice frackers are the aforementioned space travellers, the death-stalkers are nihilistic raiders who fuel their vehicles with blood, and the Dha'arma Initiative is a secret sect of scientists trying to change the past so the Apocalypse never happened. All are cool and inspiring, but it's a pity that half of them is so antagonistic by default it's unlikely the PCs will do anything else other than fighting them. If the desert wasn't colourful enough already, gargantuan sand worms, alien dinosaurs, serpentine sirens, and lovecraftian horrors also lurk among the dunes. Except for the sirens, neither of them has less than 10 HD. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Cha'alt begs to be ran using Rifts. MDC weapons will come handy.

The overview ends with a generic loot table for NPCs (simple but good), some meh magic items (the good ones are in the adventures), six elf sub-races with vague racial abilities (interestingly none of them has tentacles), a random chart for names (of course most of them has a'po'stro'phes), and some rules about saving throws, advantage and disadvantage, critical success and failure. This section was a bit of a letdown after all the zaniness seen so far, but it's just a slight downturn before Cha'alt picks up the pace again. We are 32 pages in, and the meat of the book is just about to begin, so buckle up!

Part II co'ming so'on...

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Saturday, 26 October 2019

Satanic Panic's Great Gnolls

No trace of hyena DNA here.
One little bit of detail that made me raise an eyebrow when first reading the Monsters & Treasures booklet of Original Dungeons & Dragons was the description of gnolls: "A cross between Gnomes and Trolls (. . . perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale.".[1] After knowing them as hyena men for years I found this paragraph more than amusing, especially with the included illustration, which shows them as some crouching goblinoid.

Since the release of the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual the hyena-headed humanoid became the widespread design for gnolls, and I recall very few examples that deviated from them. One of them was Citadel's FTG Fantasy Tribes Gnolls line, where similar to OD&D's Monsters & Treasures the gnolls were big goblinoids. The line was later renamed to FTG Fantasy Tribes Goblins, and finally became C12 Great Goblins.

This April Satanic Panic Miniatures ran a Kickstarter campaign to release its Great Gnoll line - a bunch of multi-part old-school miniatures inspired by the classic gnolls/great goblins. The campaign was successful, and the figurines are available for sale on the SPM website. A few months ago during a sale I bought two sets, which collected dust until two weeks ago. Despite my aversion towards multi-part miniatures, I had a lot of fun already with these little bastards, and I'm nowhere near finished! I spent a copious amount of time figuring out how to combine the various parts, gluing them together, coming up with the color schemes, et cetera. Alas this project is on hold now, for I ran out of bases, which probably won't arrive in the next two weeks (thanks Brexit).

Crossbow gnoll looks so excited to get primed,
 longsword gnoll not so much.
The minis have separate heads, torsoes, shields, and weapons. While the bodies within a set are identical, the heads are all distinct and characterful - my favorite being the one with the chubby cheeks and buck teeth. For some strange reason there are only three shields for four minis, but the weapons more than compensate for that, because there is a crapton of them. Preparing the great gnolls wasn't hard. There were plenty of flashes to cut down, but none of them were problematic, and the seamlines were few and far between. Be careful with the weapons though! They are a bit fragile, I managed to break a sword while trying to force it into a great gnoll's hand. The "great" part in their name is no joke, they are pretty tall for goblinoids - they are a bit shorter  than my Frostgrave characters, and taller than my Heartbreaker Kev Adams orcs.

Not sure what these charming fellows will be at my table. I might introduce them as "true" gnolls into Old School Essentials, or use them as great goblins in Zweihänder. It's also possible I'll use them as hobgoblins until I find better minis for that - although SPM has some intriguing plans for them too. Speaking of which, SPM has another Kickstarter campaign running as I post this to produce a bunch of multi-part great gnoll boar riders. There are only a few days left, and it's almost funded. If you are not interested in mounted units or you want some footmen too, you can add the original infantry packs and their C variants to the pledge.

A finished great gnoll in classic D&D hobgoblin colours.

[1] Interestingly the Lord Dunsany story the author refers to is How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles from Book of Wonders, and doesn't have any description of its titular gnoles. In Margaret St. Clair's The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles one of they are likened to an artichoke, and have tentacles instead of arms.

Monday, 30 September 2019

[Review] Wee Warriors Reprints, Part III: The Misty Isles

The original cover dug up from the depths
of Pinterest, because you deserve it.
Well crap, it took more than two months, but here we go again: the final part of my Wee Warriors reviews has arrived! The Misty Isles is not only the last of the Wee Warriors modules, but also happens to be my favorite from the trilogy. Unlike its predecessors, Palace of the Vampire Queen and Dwarven Glory, the third and final DM's Toolkit is not a dungeon crawl, but a collection of nine small islands complete with hex maps and keyed entries.

Lacking better option I have to go with the Pacesetter release again, which thankfully has no bland AD&D conversion this time. This doesn't mean the Pacesetter version is an exact reproduction of the originals: the maps were revamped, there are some reused illustrations, and a new cover nobody asked for. My mind boggles why we get is a cheap ass homage instead of the real deal - again. Heck, Bill Barsh even praises the original cover in the introduction! At least it could have been included in the book, but alas instead of preserving this historical piece of rpg art it was more important to waste an entire page for an orc, and for the fucking Vampire Queen again, who isn't even in the module. Give her a rest, please.

The Misty Isles wastes no time on bullshit. After a short guide about using the maps and an introduction we get a summary the nine islands, which then the book describes in more details one after another (frequently on a different name, to make things confusing). Each isle comes with a map of 21 hexes, and a few pages of entries explaining what each hex contains. There are only a few empty spots, which are usually areas covered by the sea anyway. The regions are full of encounters and adventure sites described in very dense, but straightforward manner. Monster and NPC stat blocks are embedded in the text, and aren't highlighted in any way, so good luck looking them up on the fly. Not that they would help much, at best you get hit points and armor type (not class!), other times just class and level. Most entries are related to the main conflict or theme of the land, and frequently the hexes are connected to each other, even if it isn't spelled out outright. Yeah, they weren't big on cross referencing back in the day either (although there are some examples).

If the overpowered local ruler wasn't enough, there are hexes
of carnivorous unicorns and transforming wild cats.
But why should you care about a bunch of small hex maps with messy entries? Besides being historical curiosities from the dawn of our hobby, they are also surprisingly good. The themes and tone of the isles range from mundane through fantastic to gonzo. While the most remarkable happening on the Island of Baylor might be a plot against its king or a royal hunt, on the ruined Island of Dwarven Outcasts one of the warring clans discovered an arsenal of modern weapons, on the magically fucked up Island of Warring Wizards an order of lawful kung-fu wizards have been fighting chaotic magic-users lead by a beautiful sorceress for fifty years now, and on the Island of Tripids invasive shapechanging space plants are waiting for a way to spread out. My absolute favorite would be the Island of Nonhumans, which was conquered by merciless aliens who are now living in harmony with nature. Would be, if it wasn't left for the GM to work it out...

Well fuck you too.
The empty half page under the "NOTES" subtitle is just furter insult to the injury. There is one intriguing tidbit in the text though: the "if the game is played without a Game Master" part. GM-less roleplaying games seemed to be a relatively new invention for me - with the exception of solo adventures and gamebooks, which are a different kind of animal. For some reason the author felt an urge to mention how to handle the island for GM-less play, which suggests it must have been a ting even back in the day. Gentle reader, if you have any stories, house rules, or anything about GM-less sessions from the seventies or eighties, please share it in the comment section below. Thank you!

The way The Misty Isles approaches its regions is quite different from how the contemporary giant Wilderlands of High Fantasy does it with its dry charts and lists. It's also pretty deceptive. The entries in The Misty Isles might be wordier, but usually they don't carry more net valuable information than what you can decipher from the average Wilderlands of High Fantasy entry, and it's also harder to find relevant information in a chunk of text than in a table row. While far from perfect, I consider Wilderlands of High Fantasy to be a far more useful tool in running a hexcrawl with its technical style. One thing that The Misty Isles does better though, is being focused. While its regions are smaller, they all have an obvious overarching theme, which makes them easier to grasp for both Players and Referees.

The Misty Isles is a curious relic of the past. It's rough, it won't blow your mind, and there is a product from the same era that did at better job at what The Misty Isles attempted, but still, it's an interesting and entertaining snapshot from the era of low production values and high creativity. It has a heart and a vivid imagination behind it, and for that alone I recommend having it on your shelf, be it physical or virtual. Still, fuck you for the Island of Nonhumans...

Onward to Cha'alt...

Tl;dr: A forgotten attempt at sandbox campaigns that falters in presentation, but has some really good ideas.

Where to find it: You can find the module in print and pdf in the Pacesetter Games & Simulations webshop. Some of their modules are alse available on DriveThruRPG in pdf, so I wouldn't be surprised if the above mentioned three would surface there in the near future.

Other parts of the series:
Part I: Palace of the Vampire Queen
Part II: Dwarven Glory

Disclaimer: The DriveThruRPG links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through the link we'll get some credit for your purchase too.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Beasts of Chaos!! Kickstarter Launched

Why buy a regular minotaur when you can get one
with a fucking drill arm?!
In July I had an interview with Paul Smith of Creative Sculpt Studio about his second Kickstarter campaign called The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!!, where he was gathering money to expand his line of Oldhammer chaos warrior miniatures. The campaign not only succeeded, but the rewards arrived in time. I love them all, they are characterful sculpts that are fun to work with, so it's needless to say, even with my ever growing backlog of unpainted figurines I was eagerly waiting for the next line.

The third Kickstarter campaign called the Beasts of Chaos!! just launched this week. I'm not sure why there is one less exclamation mark in the title - heck, there should be at least four, because it's a more ambitious project than the earlier ones. This time Paul wants to introduce a bunch of misshapen monsters into the hordes of Chaos - hounds, beastmen, minotaurs, slugs, and even a Jabberwocky. Some of these are pretty big, and thus only available in resin, unless we cough up enough money to cover the cost of metal moulds.

If you are looking for quality, hand-sculpted, old-school miniatures for your Warhammer FRP or Zweihänder sessions, I recommend checking out the campaign.

My humble attempt at painting the Cavalier from
The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! in the colours of Tzeentch.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Generic Fillable B/X Character Record Sheet

What the new campaign will end up looking like.
Summer has been busier than usual this year, if it wasn't obvious from the lack of blogposts. Miraculously it didn't have any effect on my campaigns - unlike the chain of bad decisions and critical hits that TPK-d my HackMaster party. My players started rolling up new level 1 characters immediately (that's the spirit!), but the process came to a halt as we ended up discussing that this might be a good time to give HackMaster some rest, and play something else. We agreed that an old-school kitchen sink sandbox using the B/X rules would be fun, so that's what I'm going to run starting this September or October.

I've spent a few hours on retooling one of my older character records into a bare-bones, printer friendly, form-fillable sheet. B/X has probably the largest amount of variants and descendants within the OSR. My game of choice is Old-School Essentials by Necrotic Gnome, but I wanted my character sheet to be useful for those too, who prefer some other flavour. Thus, there are no logos or watermarks on it. On the other hand, it has a place for race, in case you are running a variant with Advanced options. I hope you will find it useful!

Generic Fillable B/X Character Record Sheet (A4)
Generic Fillable B/X Character Record Sheet (US Letter)
Generic Fillable B/X Character Record Sheet with AAC (A4)
Generic Fillable B/X Character Record Sheet with AAC (US Letter)

Update #1: US Letter-size version added.

Update #1: Version with both descending and ascending AC addad.

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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

[Interview] Paul Smith About Sculpting and the Ever-Growing Hordes of Chaos!!!

The Ultimate Chaos Hero!
A few months ago in an Oldhammer group I ran into a nicely painted miniature of Kaleb Daark, the forgotten badass champion of the forgotten badass Chaos God Malal. At first I thought it was an ancient Citadel mini I haven’t seen before, but as it turned out it was a custom sculpt made by the talented Paul Smith of Creative Sculpts / Dark Hollow Miniatures. He already had a small but successful Kickstarter campaign called The Hordes of Chaos!!! that helped him start a line of Chaos Champions, and is running his second campaign called The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! to expand the line, which will end in a few days. Since Paul seemed to be keen on answering questions and talking about his work, I thought I should ask him for an interview.

When did you get involved with miniatures?

I started to kitbash tanks and jet plane airfix models when I was about 8 years old - painted them gold and silver enamels to look sci-fi... It was the 70s everything was in white or silver and looked sterile.

I started collecting miniatures when my Nan took me out for the day (we lived in Balham SW 12) to a shop in Hammersmith - and I bought my first miniature: a pre-slotta dwarf. It was so grey, I painted everything back then in enamels. I went on to buy a Chaos Dwarf Bazooka Team, and then saved, and bought more and more when I could.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

I didn’t start tabletop gaming until last year when I bought HeroQuest. I absolutely love the ease of game mechanics, although now we are all thinking about adding new characters, and rules, and working out some level progression for our existing characters. It’s just loads of fun, my family and friends love playing it, and we usually make an evening of it with drinks and nibbles - £120 well spent! In fact I love playing it so much that I commissioned someone to make me £300 worth of dungeon tiles and buildings that I’m painting up (slowly as time allows)

So you got into minis without the influence of any wargames, rpgs, or other games, do I understand that correctly?

Yes, I always enjoyed drawing and painting as a kid - loved fantasy and sci-fi. My dream job as a child was to be able to make monster like I saw in the Ray Harryhausen movies like Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Star Wars (obviously!), Alien - these fuelled my imagination so much I wanted to have my own creatures. I started collecting White Dwarf magazine and loved all the fluff/backstories to the scenarios and the painted minis . As far as gaming went I didn’t know anyone else that was into it at that age and I moved around a lot for the next years - from London to Bournemouth to the middle of nowhere in country village.

When did you start sculpting?

When I was 11. My first mini that I made was a “slime monster”! With a spear! It was made out of Blu Tack and the spear was a cocktail stick... I painted it green with black shade and a mix of white and green for highlights ... all in enamels. I was super chuffed with it until a few days later, and then the paint started peeling off it ... Then along comes WD and someone in it mentioned Milliput, and how you could stipple it to make grass and also make mushrooms.

Bugs Bunny after a few months of warpstone diet.
When did you start freelancing?

Well, I did paint miniatures for money as a teen for the very small group of fellow teens that collect minis as well - I had also by this point started doing conversions and making full scale dioramas. Just before I turned 17 a friend in Bournemouth contacted me and asked if I wanted to move down there and sculpt miniatures with him and a mate - which I jumped at!

So I grabbed my backpack and moved down there. It was a small company run out of an old school house on a private estate in Winterbourne/Dorset. The owners didn’t charge rent, just wanted a collection of the miniatures we made. I sculpted a few minis and learnt how to cast, clean up, and paint resin casts for sale in shops all over the country and for festivals - Glastonbury festival being one of them and the Dorset steam fair being another. Our stuff was very influenced by the art of Rackham/Froud/Lee - all of which were big influences as well as 2000AD artists, Simon Bisley, Rodney Matthews, Roger Dean, Vallejo, Frazetta, Blanche....

Also, strictly speaking my mates couldn’t actually afford to pay me, so they subsidised my rent in the bedsit and I sold reject models at the weekend to make some cash to live on

You mention in your Kickstarter profile that you took a break for 27 years. Why did you leave the hobby, and how did you rediscover it?

Unfortunately my mate’s company suffered a bit of a blow - the person doing the accounts was draining money out of it on “expenses”, which is why we never seemed to see much of a profit and it came to an unhappy split - my mate was so upset by it that he stopped trading . I went back to where I used to live, met a girl, got married, had kids - broke up a few years later - time just seemed to fly by and I just didn’t really get back into it. Getting a “real job”, paying bills, and spending time with my kids became my priority when I got married and stayed my priority ever since. My kids moved in with me 14 years ago and they are now grown and flown the coop.

So I rediscovered the hobby a few years ago. I was doing my first ever further education course learning to become a therapist at Southampton university - half way through my 3 year course a series of unfortunate events happened - my mum passed away, my brother had been diagnosed as mentally ill, and some other things that I don’t wish to get into happened to my family that resulted in me taking a break for a while. I found myself feeling creative and a need to do something that made me happy, so entered the Milliput! Started sculpting again and loved it, great way to focus and relax from the things I couldn’t change (from a therapists point of view). I went back to my course and did it for another 6 months and couldn’t stand it anymore. I spoke to my tutor and he said that so many people join the course and then “find themselves” doing it without realising. He said that “of the 21 in the class - by the end of the 3 year course - only 5-7 will actually finish.”

So I left the course and looked into making miniatures - and was bowled over by the amount of talent and that the the community had grown so much! I decided to practice getting better at sculpting for a year before going the whole nine yards and asking peeps to pay me. I’d done it before. So essentially after everything that happened I guess I just realised I’d spent most my life doing what was needed, expected and wanted of me only to realise that life really is too short, and now I have an opportunity to do what I always wanted - which was to make monsters and stuff and took the plunge as it were

Wasn’t the abundance of sculptors and miniature projects threatening?

No, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at other peeps work. Obviously it makes people happy (like myself) and I don’t really see it as competitive, but I suspect some do unfortunately - the mini sculptors and small businesses can be quite “cliquey” and competitive as other businesses and industries. It’s not something that really interests me. I do my job because “I” love it, if other people do too that’s great, and I do appreciate their support, but essentially I’m doing it for my reasons.

Are there any particular projects or lines you like and support?

Recently I’ve loved getting some of Hasslefree Miniatures stuff - I recently went to Salute and bought loads for future projects.... They will get painted as well as my 2000 point Skaven army... I quite like a lot of other sculptors in the OSG and also in the Shiflett Brothers Forum . But at the moment organising my first couple of KS’s, tweeting, a webstore, sculpting commissions, painting minis, and running the campaign on 3 different media platforms doesn’t leave me much time at the moment! Hopefully, over time I will get used to running it all and have more time to devote to other projects

Do you have a favorite sculptor or painter?

No - there’s too many to choose from! I like a lot of sculptors for their ideas that they bring, regardless of “perceived” skill - as for painters well I’ll always be a fan of John Blanche’s techniques. Ana Polanscak does great minis too, but I also like fun, colourful paint jobs too and there are lots of good painters - David Stafford is one. There’s a few others but I can’t remember the names at present.

A chaotic cast of new minis, only the Usurper is missing.
What's the difference between Creative Sculpt Studio and Dark Hollow Miniatures? 

When I started out I just intended to be a commission sculptor, hence the name “Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd”. As time went on I had lots and lots of ideas of things that I thought would be awesome to sculpt and have as minis to paint (not a lot of everyday hobbyists can afford sculpts). The idea of selling my own miniatures to people sounded “wrong” with the old name, so I came up with a new one just for the miniatures - so, essentially I’m still Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd (for the sculpting) and Dark Hollow Miniatures is trade mark of CSS Ltd and gives a bit of a background for the minis live in - like Citadel was for GW. Plans change and I’ve loved making my own ideas so far.

Your miniatures are very characterful. Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you have a story or background for them?

Thank you! Usually I read a fair bit and get most of my ideas from books (I have a fair few WH novels), my favourites being “Ignorant Armies” and the older GW books Warhammer Armies. I tend to get an idea of how something looks and feels in my head quite easily - by that I mean I can see it and get a general vibe that I want to convey. Then sometimes I will do a sketch (which speeds up the process quite considerably), but most of the time I just do it straight out of my head. Although I have done a couple of “fan sculpts” I tend not to copy anybody’s else’s ideas, I have plenty of my own. It’s easier to sculpt something fast if half the work has been done and you have the reference material in front of you to work from.

But, I digress! I enjoy making up stories for my miniatures, it puts them firmly into context for the “viewer” and it just makes the work more fun to look at and brings it to life.

Artistically a lot of my influences come from the artwork of famous artists Rackham, Froud, Frazetta, Vallejo, Bisley, Blanche and Miller (there’s definitely more). The odd movie is a good source of inspiration sometimes. One of my favourite movie makers (apart from George Lucas and Spielberg) is Guillermo del Toro - Hellboy (I & II, not that travesty... Hellboy III) - he has a unique and wonderful imagination, and some of his sci-fi stuff too.

How much time to do you spend on average on sculpting a mini? Which one was the most fun to work with?

Ooh, difficult question! Greatly depends on the complexity, size, and whether or not it’s getting cast or just a private one-off. I’ve managed to sculpt an entire mini in 3 hours (see below), and loved it, very fun. Some of my bigger sculpts have taken weeks - and I loved doing them too. I don’t really have a favourite one, I tend to (if I have the time nowadays) to set myself goals of doing something for the first time - getting hands right (can be a pain) - doing an anatomy study because people actually look different to how you imagine them to be. Scales on dragons, making wings, all need to be done for the first time if you’re self-taught. I have the most fun, I think, sculpting my own ideas. But I do also get some really fun commissions too. My average time is about a day for a standard generic posed mini, sometimes I’ll do 3 in a day and a half. But it is very dependent on details, pose and size - the bigger it is, the more care you take with it, the more time it takes.

A few of my personal sculpts - the “speed” sculpts are the Warlock and Hag (middle top, top right) the blind cave troll is one of my favourites and the Draugr with the spear was my first 28mm sculpt I made after I got proper glasses for work. And the Chaos Marine was just because I’d never sculpt any sci-fi yet

The Hordes of Chaos are steadily growing. What's next? Are we looking forward to even more Chaos, or you have plans to explore other Oldhammer themes?

Yes more Chaos is on the way! This morning I made armatures for sculpts (11 more) 5 Beast-Men, a couple of hounds, 3 Minotaurs, and an abomination. The Chaos Minotaur Standard Bearer is already cast, I’m using a couple of the casts to convert into new and interesting Minotaurs - Minions and familiars are on the way, as well as war machines. But I also have s bunch of “randoms” that I want to release too, but we’ll have to see how the timetable goes before I can say when.

Can't wait to see more of them. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions!

If you want to know more about the sculpts visit the Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd. website, the Creative Sculpt Studio facebook page, or the Dark Hollow Miniatures facebook group. You can also still support the The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! Kickstarter campaign to get both the previous, and forthcoming minis.