Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) – Part 2 – Drew Complains to Gundrun

Second part of my Oldhammer style novella, Holiday in Orkrania. If you missed part 1 – why not go back and read it! 

Holiday in Orkrania Part 2 – Drew Complains to Gundrun

Six pence and 2 farthings a night was perfectly reasonable as far as Drew Hafepenny was concerned. After all his name was Hafepenny was it not, and as his old gramps had always said, “Look after the hafepenny’s and the rest will look after themselves,” no one knew exactly what was meant by this—whether it referred to budgeting matters or an attitude to the rest of the world outside the family was never quite established—after all old gramps Hafepenny usually disappeared behind a fug of pipe-smoke after giving this sage pronouncement.

These dwarves were certainly good for it. Hacking bits of gold out of the Orkranian hills as they had been for the last year certainly wasn’t going to make them any poorer. But, their “leader” Gundrun Rocksplitter, didn’t see it the same way. Drew would much rather be stirring tonight’s rabbit stew and checking it had enough salt than arguing over the cost of boarding per dirty dwarf prospecter.

“It’s daylight robbery, that’s what it is,” grumbled Gundrun, gulping the ale, his grey moustache coming away from frothy as he looked up at Drew across the table.

The cheek of the dwarf, thought Drew, to sit drinking my ale and say that—I don’t think I said on the house did I—he’s going to pay for that pint if he keeps arguing this.

Containing his anger, Drew twiddled his thumbs as he always did when he was agitated, and said, “It’s always been six pennies and a farthing for a pallet in the common room. I can’t start giving preferential rates—besides your lot aren’t always the easiest of guests.”

Gundrun harrumphed loudly at this. “If it weren’t for the mining boys there’d be no other guests in the common room—besides dwarfs who else is even staying at the inn!”

Drew scowled. Gundrun had a point—they were in the back of nowhere, like an old cupboard someone had forgotten about—but Drew knew that Nstaad was just waiting for boom time—not as a gold town, but as a destination for the rich of Hyperia who were all abuzz with the new fad of “holiday-making”. He’d bought the old coaching inn to take advantage of that—the old Orkranian hills were particularly picturesque and no one worried about the threat of orcs and goblins now—just legends they were.

Drew’s silence just prompted another verbal assault from Gundrun—he was unstoppable—”and what do you mean by ‘the easiest of guests.’”

Drew wouldn’t let this one go unanswered. “Hah well—I would call dragging in lots of dirt not particularly easy, and also there’s the brawling and the breaking of chairs …”

“All paid for and settled on account,” cut in Gundrun, beetling his eyebrows at Drew in a deep frown.

“And worse of all,” countered Drew, “they hardly ever eat our meals—always off cooking on their own fires—I even caught a couple of them using the hearth to spit-roast a couple of coneys the other week—the cheek of it.”

“These are hard-working dwarves—not made of money—they’re here to work hard to support their families—most of what they make goes back home.”

Drew was about to respond when there was a yip-yap from around his ankles. A small dog with tight white curly fur was sniffing around under the table looking for food. Drew frowned and then noticed a couple more dogs lolling around near the hearth of the common room.

Drew bellowed to the barkeep—his cousin Odo, “Who let the dogs in?!”

One of the dogs near the hearth started barking gruffly and loud—the poodle sprang away from under the table and all three of them exited from the front door or the inn.

Odo shook his head. “Dunno. Gone now though. Almost as if they could hear you Drew.” The Halfling jumped off the step that ran behind the bar and came round to shut the front door. “There. That’ll keep ‘em out.”

Drew shook his head. That was odd. Now he just had to get rid of these penny pinching dwarves. “As bad as dogs,” he muttered.

“What was that,” snapped Gundrun, putting down his tankard with a slam.

Drew took a deep breath. “Your lot need to clean up your act and start paying your way, or you’re out as well.”

The dwarf’s face started turning red above the grey of his beard. He punched the table with a fist. “You want to send away paying customers then that’s your choice, but don’t expect us to protect your midget backsides.”

“Protect? From what?”

Gundrun curled his lip, revealing a set of larger than expected yellowing teeth. “There’s more in these hills than gold and goats you know.”

Drew shook his head. “The goblins all disappeared down their holes years ago. They’re not in the Orkranian hills any longer, cleared off to the Granite Mountains long ago.”

Gundrun shook his head. “That’s the story the King and the Duke might spin—that we’re all safe and nothing to worry about, but my boys they can tell there’s something not right. We can smell them.”

Drew barked a laugh in Gundrun’s face. “Smell your own stinking armpits more like! Go on. Enough of this. Unless I get the rent I’m owned for all the miners by tomorrow then that’s it—they can find somewhere else to stay.”

Gundrun stood up and straightened his leather jack and smoothed down his beard over the key that he always wore around his neck. “They’ll be gone by this evening. We have tents enough up at the Exchange and Mart.”

Drew stood up as well, but regretted it. At least sitting across from Gundrun he didn’t feel his lack of stature compared to the dwarf who now had nearly two foot of height on him.

The front door opened. “Don’t let any dogs in,” shouted Odo. But it was just two of the human hikers that entered. The tall posh one with floaty hair and what looked like an expensive longsword at his side and the one that had the appearance of a bodyguard or a bouncer. Drew wondered idly if he’d like a job at the inn—collecting debts from non-paying dwarves perhaps?

The tall one smiled. “No dogs, just us. A glass of red I think would suit me. Shilby?”

“Ale,” the other said.

Gundrun turned on his heal. “Last you’ll be seeing of me, then,” he said, his back to Drew as he walked towards the door, grabbing it from the man called it Shilby, who gave him a nasty look. “The boys will be gone by nightfall, I’ll spread the word.”

“There’s bar tabs to settle,” shouted Drew as Gundrun walked through the doorway.

The tall man smiled. “Hmmm, the little people are arguing, how quaint.”

Drew said nothing, but turned and went to polish some glasses. He didn’t know who was worse tight-fisted dwarves, or arrogant humans. At least the humans had paid in advance.

By Fire and Sword – Stonehearted Part 2 Published!

I am very pleased to announce the publication of By Fire and Sword, which is the second part of my series Stonehearted – and the sequel to By The Sword’s Edge.

By Fire and Sword is a Medieval action adventure story set in the year 1370.

The English have again brought fire and sword to the country of France. An army devastates the country on its march south to Paris, hungry for loot and glory. But redemption is what Richard Stone seeks—having run away from home after a family tragedy for which he is responsible. The French resist as best they can—but to stand and fight the English they learn is a fools game.

Eolande, neighbour of Richard’s, has also left home—in search of the father that was captured years ago and never returned. But even Calais the bastion of the English in France, is not welcoming to her.

By Fire and Sword is the second volume of Stonehearted. You can purchase from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

If you want to get into the Stonehearted series now then the first part, By The Sword’s Edge is available for just £0.99 or $0.99 from most eBook retailers.  See below for purchase links:

Buy print and eBook at: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Buy eBook at: Smashwords | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

 

Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) – Part 1

So in my last post I said that I’d given up on my recent experimentation with Oldhammer fiction. Well this morning, I was thinking maybe that was a bit premature. So instead I am going to persist and finish the thing!

For those who want to start reading this story, below is the first part of it. Holiday in Orkrania is essentially a novella – 15-20,000 words – sitting in between a short story and a full novel, so rather than splitting into chapters I am going to call each section a Part instead. I’m going to post each Part of the story two or three times a week. This is not a finished product – so there maybe some typos and inconsistencies, but I hope you enjoy reading it.

Here’s what Holiday in Orkrania is about (the blurb/backcover copy):

Prince Hardlee thought a holiday in the Orkranian highlands would be lovely at this time of year – especially when his favourite actress, half-elven Maegana Vulpon was taking a break at the temple of eternal youth in Nstaad. But his father the King does not approve of the relationship choices of his only son and heir, so the Prince has travelled in disguise—yet there are traitors about—an uncle who has eyes on the throne has learnt of the Prince’s destination and despatched a band of cutthroats. Other dangers lurk in the Orkranian highlands as well – Orc raiders eye the wealth of the little village of Nstaad – the Dwarf miners who work there have uncovered deposits of gold, and the Orc chief Grim Bearit would take it from them. Can a mixed band of princely retainers, halfling inn-keepers, dwarven miners and elven priests and actors resist the Orc raid?

For lovers of old style fantasy and Oldhammer everywhere.

And here’s the first part entitled, Hardlee seeks out Meagana.

Arfur Shilby knew there was something unnatural about the grove of trees as soon as they walked underneath the branches of the carefully spaced trees. They were fair birches, elms and fine oaks, a contrast to the dour firs that had flanked the road to Nstaad for most of their journey. Instead of thick bracken to push through there was soft yielding grass underfoot.

“This is an elven wood,” he said.

“Of course, dear Arfur,” replied Prince Hardlee. “The Pool of Life is sacred to the Elves. Can’t remember the name of the goddess though—Aefwinna maybe?”

Arfur shook his head. He wasn’t going to correct the prince, not that he didn’t know the answer, or had any qualms with correcting his master, but he had no truck with elves, and the sooner they were gone from there the better.

“We should have brought the men,” he said.

Hardlee slapped Arfur on the shoulder and laughed. “Why ever for? Quite enough of you been nannying me on the journey so far. If you don’t mind I would like to visit my lady in private—once we get to the Temple you should go as well.”

Arfur scowled. He would see about that. His prince was already bewitched by the charms of that half-elven actress. What could a whole Temple of elves do to him?

Hardlee was striding ahead through the trees. Arfur could see the ground sloping down to the bank of a pool that looked like a mirror glass. He hurried to catch-up. He was a short man compared to the prince.

“You have duties back at court, sire, don’t forget,” he said hurriedly, a little out of breath. “Would not be good to linger here to long. Especially after the incident with the Duke. Can’t you just wait until she comes back from her … holidays or whate’er you folk call them?”

They were on the bank of the lake now—a narrow fine sanded beach lead gently into the water, which was broken only by the faintest of ripples. Across the far side of the lake—perhaps fifty paces a small domed temple sat, fine white columns like stems of a flower supporting the portico, all of the finest white stone, but so delicate and smooth that it appeared almost alive.

Hardlee punched Arfur on the arm. “Really Shilby, you think I should go back to the fustiness of court and wait …”

Hardlee gestured to the centre of the lake where the ripples spread from around a figure floating in the water, staring serenely up into the blue sky. Arfur gulped. She was naked. Long, brunette hair, spread out in the water from her head like a fan. Her breasts rose above the water like …” Arfur turned away. No, no, he wouldn’t let himself fall under the same spell. She was beautiful, he couldn’t deny that.

Hardlee skipped almost like a little boy to the water’s edge and pulled off his boots. He began wading into the water. “Halloo,” he shouted. “Meagana! It’s me!”

For the briefest moment the sky turned dark as if heavy rain clouds had appeared from nowhere, and a voice heavy with menace shrieked across the waters from the Temple. Arfur couldn’t distinguish the words spoken, but it didn’t sound very welcoming. A tall woman with robes of pale green covering her head and body strode from the Temple door and raised a hand in warning.

Hardlee froze and took a frantic step back and fell over, getting tangled up in his sword belt. Arfur pulled him back from the beach. They wouldn’t bewitch his master. He wouldn’t allow it.

“My feet,” wailed Hardlee, “it feels like they’re frozen.”

“We must flee this place, sire,” said Arfur, glancing frantically across the lake. The woman in the green robes was striding swiftly along the beach towards them.

Arfur stood up and drew his sword, and pulled his shoulders back. “If you come any closer,” he spat, “then …”

The woman kept walking. Her hand raised slowly from her side, and the sword flew from Arfur’s grip to pirouette harmlessly ten paces away point first into the sand. He felt like a great wind was forcing him backwards. He tried to resist it.

“You won’t get me with your …” he spluttered, but the force of the unseen power was too much for him and he was knocked to the beach where his master still laid sprawling rubbing his cold feet.

The green-robed woman stood over Arfur. She didn’t look like a witch, he had to say. Her face was beautiful in an aquiline way like many elves, but there was no cruelty or malice in the soft skin, and the deep blue eyes. A smile played on the woman’s lips. “I am Thania, priestess of the Pool of Life. State your identity and your purpose or begone for ever.”

“I am Arfur Shilby, equerry to the Prince—this here is the Prince—Prince Hardlee of Hyperia. Heir to the throne of Hyperia he is. But don’t tell anyone,” he bumbled, “we’re here secretly to see the floozy—the actress I mean. Meagana Vulpona. She’s his lady, you know. The Queen ain’t happy about it I can tell you—King don’t mind too much—as long as he gets me grandchildren I don’t care he says.” Why was he saying so much, he wondered. “But we got to be careful, you know—travel in secret. Assassins—threat to the prince’s life. I blame the uncle—the Duke Leerin. Have I said too much?”

The elven priestess, Thania, nodded. “Perhaps, but also you have said enough. Enough for you to be able to stay here a short while. Your master may greet his lover.” She held out a hand and with a stronger than expected grip hauled Arfur to his feet. She did the same for Hardlee, who stared at her sheepishly, not saying a word.

“Hardlee, you came,” called a voice from the water. Meagana Vulpon strode naked up the beach out of the lake. Arfur didn’t know where to look, but he couldn’t keep from staring this time.

“Meagana,” Hardlee stuttered. “My goodness, so could to see you—umm.”

“The lady could do with towel,” Thania suggested to Arfur.

“Uh yes, right away.” Arfur looked around—there was wicker chair—more of a couch and a soft, white towel that looked as deep as very fine fur. He picked it up and put out his hand to pass it to Meagana.

“Thank you,” she said as she took it and wrapped around herself. “I remember seeing you in Uparee—always hanging outside the theatre.”

“Uh, waiting for the prince, my lady,” Arfur said. He looked away from her staggering gorgeous face and began examining the dirt under his fingernails.

Hardlee recovered himself and pushed past Arfur. “Meagana I have been so lost without you—come kiss me.”

Meagana took a step back and put her hand to her lips. “No. Not until I have finished my worship to the goddess. She will give me new life and youth.”

Hardlee shook his head. “But you have such youthful vigour already, what could you do with more?”

Meagan laughed and Thania smiled knowingly. “I am older than you think, my prince. Twice your age, but I look …”

“Younger, no more than twenty.”

“But that will fade unless I am careful. No go. There is an inn.”

“Yes we’re staying there.”

“Wait there for me until I have finished my worshipping. Another day, is that right?” Meagan enquired of Thania, who nodded in affirmation.

“But Meg, Meagana. I can’t wait,” whined Hardlee, sounding like a school-boy rather than a grown man. Arfur winced.

“Good things come to those who do,” replied Meagan. “Now be off,” she laughed. A beautiful, tinkling laugh, and Arfur couldn’t help glancing at her. For a moment their eyes met, but he grabbed the prince’s arm.

“Now then, let’s do as the lady says. Back to the inn.”

Hardlee shrugged. “So be it, but then we will stay a whole week—we will go walking in the mountains and camp under the stars—and find waterfalls to swim in.”

“A week, sire?” said Arfur. “I don’t think that is wise. What about your uncle?”

“Uncle?” enquired Meagana.

“Nothing. Come sire, let us go.”

Oldhammer Fiction Update and the History of the World

As mentioned previously I have been working on a short story named Holiday in Orkrania, that was an attempt at an Oldhammer themed piece of fiction – but without an official Warhammer setting.

This was going well, but unfortunately came unstuck a bit! Partly

because I hadn’t done enough world building and character development – one of my faults sometimes as a writer is that I get too enthusiastic and just plunge into things. So I have shelved the current story. However, I may come back to it and steal some ideas from it – for instance the character Arthur Shibly (nod to Peaky Blinders) is one I enjoyed writing, and I think there’s more mileage in the exiled Orc cheiftan, Grim Bearit. But first I want to invest a bit more into the world building – enough so that it’s recognizably Oldhammer in style, but also distinct from Warhammer’s Old World setting.

So where best to start than at the very beginning – with how the world came into being. Here’s my first draft of the world’s creation myth – I don’t even know what it’s called yet – this is definitely a rough draft/WIP.

One day the creator of all things was playing. He rolled together some clay between thumb and finger and began creating worlds. Most round so that they could happily roll

Ball with Cypro-Minoan 1 inscription. Clay, La...
Ball with Cypro-Minoan 1 inscription. Clay, Late Bronze (1600–1050 BC). From Enkomi, north-western Cyprus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

around in space, some he sat on by mistake and became flat and physically impossible, but humorously wonderful, so he kept those as well. After a long day making the stars, planets and other paraphernalia of a universe, the Creator was done creating. But one of the planets he was not happy with. It was over big and there were to many bits dangling off it. Looking more closely he realised that already even in a blink of his eye, many millennia had gone past on the world already and it had developed a character and lore all of its own. The inhabitants even thought that they had their own gods and had made myths about their creation—beings from space and evil gods that brought chaos to their world.

The creator laughed. For there was no chaos, only the order of his will. Pity the mortals who did not understand this, but nevertheless it was true.

Looking more closely he was amused at the workings of the world. There many different creatures had evolved. They fought against each other, but there was humour and silliness there as well—and dare he even think it—fun! That made him pleased. It was even as if some other creators had shaped the workings of the world. But he knew that was impossible—he was the only Creator! He watched further, slowing down his own perceptions so that he could watch the goings on more carefully—for centuries he watched. He laughed and wondered at the titanic struggles, the daft names of the characters involved and their oh too fallible morality. But slowly, imperceptibly he noticed a change. The struggles on the world became more serious, more titanic. Winning at all costs was all that mattered to the protagonists who were like automatons set on achieving a result no matter the way it was played. He became bored. But then he remembered.

I am the Creator.

So he took hold of the world and putting it to his mouth he sucked out the fun of it and then blew that into a mold of another world that he had lying around baked from the very clay of the universe. And he created a new world. What happened to the old world he cared not any longer. The new world was his only concern.

The inhabitants of the new world were of similar races to the old world, but they never seemed to be able to take their lives too seriously. They were vain and proud, but fallible too—prone to error and ridiculousness. And the Creator was very happy.

The people of the world knew not their real origin, but they had some inkling of it—deep within them they knew that they were special and they made it their desire not to “spoil things” as they put it.

They told themselves that the world was the last created by the Creator because he had spent the most time on it and that they were held in special regard by him. All races, whether good or barbarous held the Creator in respect and deferred to him. He had after all made them. But they did not build temples to him or worship him—yet he was always in their minds and they hoped not to displease him. Whatever befell them was the system made by the Creator—whether sun, rain, famine or plenty.

They knew that the Creator was the source of certain special things in the world. His breath itself had given life to the world and breathed it full of magic. The breath of life and magic was everywhere and in some places and individuals it rose to the surface. The Creator’s children were those born from father, mother and the spirit of the Creator—and they were honoured by their societies.

The Creator had no wish to control any events on the world—he simply liked to watch. And like any voyeur he found it more interesting if there was conflict in the world. So he did not mind at all if those blessed with magic used their gifts for good or ill. Some set themselves up as demi-gods, and where their doings amused him he let them live as if immortal. And when he grew bored of them they would lose their immortality and die, or be mysteriously encased in ice, lava, mud or stone—put away for another day.

Some weaker peoples worshipped these demi-gods—although worship of them was fleeting. Always the Creator was the one that was in charge—above everything.

So uninhibited by unfounded beliefs and multitudes of false gods, progress thrived and the world changed. And again the Creator became ignored—this was not how he had wished the world to be—he did not want to see horseless carriages and flying machines—or long distance calls without the assistance of magic! So he created the forces of entropy—a freezing presence that spread from the poles of the world to slow down the rate of change and turn things back if necessary. Entropy was followed by those amongst the peoples as well and became the cause of some jolly good fights too!

Creating Virtual Miniature Wargames

First off I am no great expert on this subject, but have played around with a few different ways of doing things, so wanted to give my opinions of what works for me at least. If you’re looking for a how to do this, I’m not planning to go into detail of that now—although I might another time. However, I would say that Vassal seems to be best option as it gives a lot of flexibility, is free to use and has some miniature wargames modules already loaded that you can learn from.

Why Create Virtual Miniature Wargames?

Software like Tabletop Simulator and Vassal are designed to simulate the experience of a board, card or miniatures game on the computer. They don’t recreate a computer game where all the calculations are automated and the player doesn’t have to know the game mechanics. The idea is that you don’t have to have the pieces of card, plastic or metal in front of you to play the game—these are all represented using digital images on the screen—including the board or table.

But if that’s the case, what’s the point? There’s a few reasons.

Multiplayer

The ability to play with people at a distance rather than face to face. Not something that was an immediate need for me.

Cost

Guilty secret—it’s a way for people to play these games at low or no cost. One reason GW bans publication of Vassal modules on the Vassal site. However, other publishers are more chilled about that – the probably realise that having this version doesn’t replace the real experience, and in fact probably helps nurture it. Also I don’t think usage is that high.

Space

I don’t have space for a miniatures games table more than 2 x 3 foot, so playing larger games would be impossible any other way. At the moment for physical games I am restricted to smaller, skirmish style games – Hobbit Strategy Battle Game for instance.

Time

To play a physical tabletop game, you either need a good block of time – half a day at least perhaps, or can leave a table set-up until the next gaming session. I have been able to do that sometimes with our 2 x 3 table, but that’s not always possible. So having a virtual table that I can save and come back to is a great asset for playing a longer game.

What I wanted to do

My ideal situation was to be able to try out some wargames periods and rules sets that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to on a real tabletop – again for the reasons above. My aim was to get more familiar with some of the most popular rules on the market – for instance De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) for Ancients and Medieval, Field of Glory for several periods, Bolt Action for WW2.

The need was for something that was quite customizable and easy to use. Visual appeal would be nice to have, but not essential.

My Experiences so far

I had come across two examples of Virtual Tabletops previously – Vassal and Tabletop Simulator. Vassal is free, very customisable, but doesn’t have the 3D engine that Tabletop Simulator. That 3D engine comes at a moderate cost – I think I paid £14.99 on Steam for it, but given that amount of games you could play with it that seemed reasonable.

Tabletop Simulator

Tabletop SimulatorI’ll start with this one first. I had learnt enough about it to be able to play the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game, so I decided it was time to try some of the wargames. That’s where I came a bit unstuck. When I downloaded some of the wargames modules – e.g. for Warhammer or Bolt Action, I was presented with a load of models, some of which wouldn’t load properly. That meant going and actually watching some tutorial videos and looking up why the image files wouldn’t load.

Having successfully done that I started off with a simple Horse and Musket game – really just a battle that someone had created rather than a whole game set.

The main issue with Tabletop Simulator for simulating wargames became quite clear at this stage – it doesn’t seem to have any way to actually move several individual models and keep them together. You can select several items and move them, but when you put them down again (unless you’re very careful) they tend to fall over or move around. The way round this is to create units with several figures on a base, but that requires digital modelling – something I could probably learn to do, but not at the moment!

I think for skirmish games such as W40k, Bolt Action this would be OK, but since I am not planning to learn the rules for those games just yet, at this point I decided to leave the flashy 3D graphics of Tabletop Simulator behind and try Vassal.

Vassal

VassalTo my surprise and delight I found that there was actually a Vassal Module for De Bellis Antiquitatis. I hadn’t read the rules yet, but I knew that the unit bases for it would work well with One Hour Wargames rules that I had used with some card cut outs. So I plunged into this. As setting up a game was a simple process of dragging bits of scenery and units onto a board and then moving them around using the ruler provided, that was pretty simple. However, I then realised that I had no easy way of recording One Hour Wargamingcasualties. The One Hour Wargames system gives each unit 15 hits before it is destroyed. The module for De Bellis Antiquitatis naturally didn’t allow me to record that, so I had to think about being able to customise the module somewhat to ease the bookkeeping – I didn’t want to try to keep track of hits outside the actual Vassal software – after all it felt that the point of having a simulator was to help with the paperwork too! I read the whole Vassal module creation manual – about 150 pages, but actually quite a quick read and easy to follow, and fairly soon I had the skills to add a text box to each unit that I could edit when they took casualties. See below for a picture!

Vassal Screenshot

I was quite proud of that achievement and decided that Vassal would probably be the system I would work with for the moment – I was competent enough to either edit current modules, or maybe even create my own to make the wargames I wanted to.

What next?

Having tested editing a module in Vassal. I think the next step for me is to use it to play a few games of DBA and learn that system. Then I would like to take a look at Bolt Action as there’s a module for that too – and then probably work through creating some modules for a few Ancients and Medieval rules such as Field of Glory, Warmaster and Warhammer Ancient Battles. These would be for personal use – I wouldn’t post on Vassal given the copyright issues!

Progress on February Publication Plans

My aim for February was to get two titles published – Alt Hist Issue 10 and the second volume of Stonehearted, By Fire and Sword. I managed to knuckle down and get Alt Hist Issue 10 finished in February – not formally announced yet on the Alt Hist website as I am still waiting for Smashwords to approve it and send the files to Barnes & Noble and itunes – they seem much slower this time round at doing that so maybe I will have to chase them soon – that would normally happen within a few days, but its been a week so far. Once that’s done, I can close the lid on Alt Hist – I am actually going to cease publication of it as its simply taking too much of my compared to my own writing.

As a case in point, I didn’t manage to complete my second publication task of February, which was the publication of By Fire and Sword. I have done some of the editing, but don’t have a cover yet. However, I did do the blurb today, so at least that’s done. For some reason I always find the blurb one of the most difficult parts of publishing my own work—odd when I have a marketing background! Perhaps its something to do with finding it hard to separate the writing and promotion sides?

Here it is anyway:

The year is 1370. The English have again brought fire and sword to the country of France. An army devastates the country on its march south to Paris, hungry for loot and glory. But redemption is what Richard Stone seeks—having  run away from home after a family tragedy for which he is responsible. The French resist as best they can—but to stand and fight the English they learn is a fools game.

Eolande, neighbour of Richard’s, has also left home—in search of the father that was captured years ago and never returned. But even Calais the bastion of the English in France, is not welcoming to her.

By Fire and Sword is the second volume of Stonehearted.

Hopefully this should see the light in the middle of March.

Writing

I have been making steady, but slow progress on my Oldhammer short story—Holiday in Orkrania – I have managed to write most days of the working week, which is good, but at about 2,000 words a week that still feels quite slow, and although I am about 60% done, I am at the stage where I am starting to lose a little bit of interest in the project and thinking about other things. I have been trying a few tactics to overcome that—one being updating my blog and writing the blurb for By Fire and Sword—so working on other things—and the other to plan out the next fight scene in Orkrania using a simple map—I actually need to do this as I don’t have a clear picture in my mind of where the rooms in a building are and who is where—so I hope that will make the next part of the narrative go more smoothly.

As for plans for March? That would be a separate post, but will have to be adjusted to take into account the slippage of By Fire and Sword. But hey—publishing schedules always slip don’t they?

Introducing Miniature Wargames to Your Children

The idea for this post comes from my own experiences with introducing miniature wargames to my son—he was eight when he first became interested in miniature gaming—specifically Hobbit Strategy Battle Game (Hobbit SBG)—and is now nine, going on ten. Over the last two years, we’ve played several RPGs together: D&D being the main one, but also some of the old d6 West End Games Stars Wars role-playing game, and a bits and pieces of some others, but D&D has been the main one. His interest in the Hobbit SBG was prompted by the close link between the figures and the movies that he had already seen and loved. So when we saw the Goblin Town boxed set in our local Games Workshop, it became a must-have for his next birthday. Since then we’ve played perhaps half a dozen games with it—it took a while to get started because of all the figures to paint (more on that later) – but since then he’s got well into the rules and created some of his own scenarios for the game.

One Hour WargamingOn the historical wargames side, this isn’t something that he’s been as keen on. We did try playing with the simple rules from One Hour Wargames using the chapter on Ancients and playing British vs Romans. He was doing Boadicea at school at the time, and enjoying episodes of Horrible Histories, so knew some of the background. For this we used paper armies—made out of scans of pictures that we drew together. So we had British chariots, Boadicea as a special leader, Warriors and Skirmishers, vs Roman legionaries, skirmishers and auxiliary cavalry. The game was fun, but perhaps too simple in that both sides were fairly generic and perhaps too balanced—whereas the Hobbit games being more asymmetrical and story based fired his imagination more. Again a key factor to engage his interest was the connection with story and an element of fun.

There’s a few constraints that we both have on pursuing the hobby at the moment. One is my time—we have a toddler as well and she takes up a lot of time looking after and can’t be trusted not to play with figures herself and eat them! Another is space—we don’t have a table big enough for proper big battles—the main table we have that we can use is only 2 ft by 3.5 ft—and we can’t leave that permanently set-up for gaming. The space factor is also comes into play for storing figures and scenery as well—so moving off into collecting a whole set of armies for a historical period on spec is probably not going to happen.

With these limitations in mind, here’s how I would summarise my experiences of introducing the hobby to my son:

Cool miniatures are a great gateway, but can be time consuming and a barrier too

So, with the Hobbit SBG the miniatures were a big draw, but my son didn’t have the skill or patience to paint up the 50+ figures plus quite complex scenery in the Goblin Town starter set. That’s why they say 12+ I expect on the box!! However, he was definitely old enough to understand the rules and enjoy the game.

He has done some of his own painting since then and his skills have improved, but I still think he probably needs to be a bit older before he does this himself. The larger figure sizes – i.e. 28mm – are better though for beginners I think as they’re easier and look better.

However, in terms of space and affordability I’m wondering if smaller scales – 6mm or 10mm might be a good starting point for historical mass battles in the future.

Rules should be easy to understand, interpreted clearly and flexible

As I mentioned understanding the basic  rules wasn’t much of a problem. Difficulties emerged though when adding some more of the advanced rules, and though we both understood them, I think the effort of having to remember all the complexities meant that applying them all held back the enjoyment of the game. For Hobbit SBG I’m specifically  thinking of rules for heroes such as Might, Will and Fate, and heroic actions. For the last scenario we did, we took these out completely. We still had Gandalf being able to use spells, but didn’t worry about recording his Will. I think we could reintroduce these rules at a later date, but with the main priority to have a fun game, playing by all the rules wasn’t a priority. It is a very good idea though to agree up front what rules are going to be played by and to be consistent about things – especially what constitutes a legitimate dice roll – for instance if it lands on the floor or not flat on the edge of a base do you re-roll or not! There’s a tendency for younger children to take whatever would be the most advantageous outcome.

Encourage Story Telling and Fun

Almost like an RPG it can help to dramatize what happens during the battle – “Dwalin staggers back as the Goblin King swings his club at him” etc. That helps to build the narrative of the battle, rather than making it just about winning and losing.

Allow them to contribute to the story telling 

Encourage them to make up their own scenarios. But I would advise a word of caution on balance. It’s probably worth checking that both sides are even – let them choose which side they want to play but make sure things are “fair”. One thing I have to do in the future is check on points values and handicaps to ensure both sides have a chance – a walkover for either side is not fun!

What’s Next?

I would like to play some more historical games at some point with my son – I think it would help teach him something about history, and also give him a different perspective on games as well. Probably we won’t be diving straight into the Battle of Cannae yet, but perhaps a half-way house like gaming myths, as he’s very into Norse and Greek myth after reading the Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase books by Rick Riordan. So, we might try out the Of Gods and Mortals rules from Osprey with a few figures, and then maybe try to recreate some famous historical clashes too. We’ll see!

Earworms by Jonathan Doering – Book Review

Earworms by Jonathan DoeringPhilip Fry is a good Quaker boy, a PhD student specialising in the anthropological effect of sound on humans. He’s approached at a careers fair by someone who works with a department within the Home Office – pretty certainly some kind of spy organization, and is recruited to work on a secret project. But as we soon find out something has gone badly wrong with the project, and rather than trying to bring about positive outcomes, the sound effects have caused harm rather than good.

Earworms is similar in style to Jonathan’s Battalion 202 stories that have featured in Alt Hist. So expect shifting of timeline and inclusion of documents – e.g. secret  memos, copies of letters, emails etc to break up the normal flow of the narrative. I felt that style worked well for historical fiction – I’m less sure how necessary it is for something set in the present day/near future – although the secrecy aspect means that it does still work I think.

I felt that the story got off to a slow start, but then the intrigue given by the shifting perspectives and timelines meant that the the plot became more involved and interesting. There were a few moments though that took me out of the narrative – i-pad instead of iPad and the liking of the main protagonist couple for quite retro music – I wondered if the story was set in the present day or slightly in the past. Indeed the theme of the story did have a slightly old-fashioned techno-thriller aspect to it – especially when our real world is full of such things as Stuxnet viruses that can turn off nuclear centrifuges in enemy states and elections won by “fake news”. Despite those minor qualms, I enjoyed the story though and felt that the plot kept me interested throughout.

You can buy Earworms at the following stores:

Kindle UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N9E92QO

Kindle US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9E92QO

Paperback https://www.amazon.co.uk/Earworms-Jonathan-Doering/dp/1540871517

Picker Pete Lightfinger – C04 Thief Painted

Picker Pete Lightfinger - FrontOne of my ambitions is to collect again some of the miniatures I owned as a kid when I played Warhammer – nearly 30 years ago in the mid to late 80s. I’m not sure if this is one of them or not – but I certainly had a number of the Townspeople and other general human types. Picker Pete Lightfinger - Side

This is from the C04 Thieves range and according to Stuff of Legends his name is Picker Pete Lightfinger – see below for the original catalogue image from the 1986 Citadel journal – and he was designed by the Perry twins.

C04 Thieves - 1986

For paints I used the new Citadel range as follows:

Hat

Base: Mephiston Red
Shade: Carroburg Crimson
Layer 1: Evil Sunz Scarlet
Layer 2: Wilder Rider Red

Coat

Base: Macragge Blue
Shade: Drakenhoff Nightshade
Layer 1: Altdorf Guard Blue
Layer 2: Calgar Blue

Trousers

Base: Waargh! Flesh
Shade: Athonian Camoshade
Layer 1: Loren Forest
Layer 2: Straken Green

Skin

Base: Bugman’s Glow
Shade: Reikland Fleshade
Layer: Kislev Flesh
Eyes: White and black

Hair

Base: Balor Brown
Shade: Agrax Earthshade
Layer: Flash Gitz Yellow

Shoes and Gloves

Base: Rhinox Hide
Layer: Mournfang Brown

Shirt

Base: Rakarth Flesh
Shade: Reikland Fleshade
Layer: Pallid Wych Flesh

Fur Sleeves

Base: Stormvermin Fur
Shade: Nuln Oil
Layer 1: Codex Grey (aka Dawnstone)
Layer 2: Administratum Grey

Gold Cup

Base: Balthasar Gold
Shade: Agrax Earthshade
Layer: Gethenna’s Gold

Bag

Base: Rhinox
Shade: Agrax Earthshade
Layer: Gorthor Brown

Sword

Base: Leadbelcher
Shade: Nuln Oil
Layer: Chainmail (aka Ironbreaker)

Belt & Scabbard

Base: XV-88
Shade: Agrax Earthshade
Layer: Tau Light Ochre

Base

Stirland Mud with a drybrush of Terminatus Stone
Grass tuft Gamer’s Grass – Light Green

Finished with varnish of Ardcoat and then matt of Lahmium Medium

Publication Plans

Things have been a bit quiet from me recently so I thought I’d let you know what I am currently working on at the moment. Firstly as you may know I’m the editor of Alt Hist – the 10th issue of this magazine is being edited at the moment and I’m aiming to publish in February or March.

Also I am editing the second volume of Stonehearted. The first volume, By the Sword’s Edge, started off the story of two young adults – Richard and Eolande and the Hundred Years War. I think that will be available early in March.

There are other things that I need to edit and get out there as well – but won’t promise any more yet!

Writing-wise I am currently about half way through a short story/novella set in an Oldhammer inspired world – a bit like Warhammer, but without any actual Warhammer content, to avoid copyright infringement 🙂

I’m having quite a lot of fun with that – I don’t usually write humour, but the Oldhammer theme required it, so have given it a go – get ready for some bad puns!

What is Oldhammer you may ask – that’s probably the subject for another post, but until then let’s just say its for those who liked Warhammer pre 1992!