All posts by Mark

Field of Glory 2 – Ancient and Medieval Battle Game

I’m a big fan of Slitherine’s Field of Glory game that allows you to refight ancient and medieval battles – and recreates very nicely the look and feel of a miniatures wargame (I think in the original game the artwork were actual photos of miniatures!). So I was very excited to see that they have now released a Field of Glory 2!

The game follows on from their Battle Academy and Pike and Shotte games engines and replaces hex based movement with squares – and the graphics are 3d animations rather than 2d sprites, so visually it looks great. I also really like how they have changed some of the game dynamics and made things much simpler to control so as a player you can concentrate on strategy and tactics instead.

Field of Glory 2 starts off firmly in the ancients setting, and specifically with the Rise of Rome era, but I am sure they will be adding army as per Field of Glory 1 to add medieval battles and armies and also other areas of the ancient world. Here’s a great trailer from Slitherine for the game:

The Return of the Free – Revisiting my First Novel

The first full novel that I wrote and finished is an Epic Fantasy called The Return of the Free. Since then I have concentrated more on historical fiction and historical fantasy. The Return of the Free was in a way quite an ambitious book for me as I attempted to create a whole world for the characters to live in – the world of Ladmas grew around the book – a world where the fantasy elements are not quite what they seem, and there is a strong conflict between science and the metaphysical. The Return of the Free takes one small chunk of that world but plays with the theme of science vs the metaphysical (i.e. religion/supernatural) in quite a fundamental way–but also its a straightforward tale of a young man growing up and finding out who he should be.

If you like thoughtful Epic Fantasy then I would encourage you to take a further look.

You can buy a copy in print or eBook format from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

Out of the steppe came a lone rider. A man of destiny whose prowess would change the world of the Bachyan nomads forever. He was not an enemy come to destroy the Bachyan, but a prodigal son returned to lead them to victory over those who would enslave them.

Taken by Nukush slavers when still a very young man, Jenraey has to learn fast to adapt to the civilisation of his new masters. He finds the ways of the Nukush strange – they worship no gods, but use a magic called science to power their weapons and drive their armies to conquest. Torn between his curiosity in the ways of this great Empire and his desire to return to his own, Jenraey knows that his people can only survive the onslaught of Nukush armies if they can change too.

The time of destiny is at hand and only a leader of legendary powers can prevail.

Will Jenraey be that man?

Best Moment from Lost Mine of Phandelver

After being a bit critical previously about The Lost Mine of Phandelver as an adventure (and being criticized for that!), I thought I would redress the balance by sharing one of the best moments that I had running the adventure for my players.

So before you read any further – SPOILER ALERT – don’t read if you’re about to take part in this adventure.

The best moment we had running the adventure was after the party had rescued Gundrun from Cragmaw Castle. Our Folk Hero Fighter – named Kosef Raban – asked that the party make a detour to Thundertree so that he could fulfill his goal of restoring the village to its former glory. The party a bit reluctantly agreed – especially as Gundrun was keen to look for his brothers. On reaching Thundertree they met the hermit and started clearing the buildings of Giant Spiders and Twig Blights, and then they reached the lair of the dragon!

I think it’s awesome that Wizards included a dragon in their starter set – although a young one – as it gives a great sense of the potential epic scale of the game and also is an iconic monster – you got to have dungeons and dragons in Dungeons & Dragons after all don’t you!

The PCs managed to get into the building where the dragon dwelt without waking it and attack it while it slept. The combat was dangerous and the PCs were losing hit points, but then Kosef came into attack – he rolled a critical and did maximum damage to the already wounded dragon. Enough damage to kill it with one blow! As Kosef had dreamed of returning Thundertree to its former glory this was a great moment as he was the one to actually destroy the biggest threat to the village – the Young Green Dragon. As DM I decided that the killing blow decapitated the dragon and that its head was chopped off with a great sweep from Kosef’s longsword.

We all enjoyed that session immensely. Killing a dragon is such an iconic moment for D&D. Even though this was a side quest it actually felt like the most climactic part of the adventure as a whole.

If you’ve played the adventure – what was your favourite moment and why?

Writing Update – Stonehearted Plotting and Making a Fortress

I haven’t managed to post much recently – mostly because I’ve been pretty busy on stuff – which can only be good news right?

As well as editing part 3 of Stonehearted, I am also working on the plot for parts 4 and 5 and how the series will end – it’s exciting stuff and I’m really enjoying deciding what will happen with the characters. For most of the series I’ve just written it from the seat of my pants, but I’ve decided now that I need to tie everything together.

From a gaming/hobby point of view I have been working on a fortress for Hobbit Strategy Battle Game – using the templates from the LOTR rulebook. This is made out of foamboard, and I have pretty much finished the cutting out and sticking together phase. The fortress is going to feature in a mini-campaign about an attack on the Shire and a case of mistaken identity when orcs try to find Bilbo and the ring, but end up going after someone completely different. The fortress is an old Kingdom of Arnor construction that will be the centrepiece of the final battle of the campaign.

The picture above is the WIP so far.

And finally I have dug out some old Warhammer scenarios for the RP and Battle game that I wrote when I was a kid – some of them seem quite good! So I’m going to type them up and post on this site somewhere.

Hopefully will post something most substantive next week – possibly an article on Medieval Football I think.

Oldhammer C04 Thieves Picker Pete Lightfinger and Renaldo the Roof Rat

Some new pictures of figures I painted a few months ago – taken with my new lightbox. C04 Thieves Picker Pete Lightfinger and Renaldo the Roof Rat also have alternative names of Curr and Assassin as well depending on the catalogue page. See the images of those below courtesy of Stuff of Legends.

Unfortunately it looks like Ronaldo has got in for Picker Pete – perhaps the Curr is going to get assassinated!

Renaldo the Roof Rat
Renaldo the Roof Rat
Kill him
Who you looking at?
Friends
I’m gonna get you now!

 

For a Life Forgotten – Cover Image Reveal

I am working on editing and production of the 3rd volume of my Stonehearted series, which will be called For a Life Forgotten. The story will follow the fate of Eolande as she looks for her captured father in France. If you are new to the Stoneheared series then take a look at the first two volumes, By the Sword’s Edge and By Fire and Sword.

I have now found an image for the cover. See below. I’m looking forward to seeing this volume published – after that there should be another couple of volumes to complete the series.

Mystical portrait of meditative Knight with sword,selective focus, very creative color retouching and hard lighting to underline the ancient medieval time,vignetting and possible noise,low key

Enemy Within Miniatures and a Heroic Fighter of the Known World

Got a new lightbox yesterday, so here’s some early attempts at photos with some basic scenery thrown in.

The photos are just via an iPhone 6 so nothing special, but I think they have come out fairly well.

The first one includes two figures from the Death on the Reik scenario pack for the Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Enemy Within campaign. Joining them is Ulrik Ulrikson, one of the Heroic Fighters of the Known World. It looks like I gave him a new shield design related to his worship of Ulric. Werner from Death on the Reik on the left sports heraldry of Karl Franz, the Emperor, while the sergeant of the Castle Wittgenstein guard has heraldry that I think must have been inspired by the scenario or appeared in a White Dwarf – I can’t find a source though! All of these figures were painted about 25 years ago, but with bases redone this year.

Oldhammer Photo - Death on the Reik and Ulrik Ulrikson

Anyone interested in the wonderful Death on the Reik adventure – you can see a copy on Scribd.

My Writing Projects – Short Story World Building and Revision

For those of you interested in my fiction writing, I thought I would post an update on what I am currently working on.

At the moment I am focusing a bit on short fiction. As you might have seen from a previous post, I have gone back to a story I started a while ago, but didn’t finish – and I’m trying to work out how to best revise that.

I am also working on the background of another short story – a fantasy piece about an old Wizard who has forgotten his spells. For this story, I decided to really invest in doing more world-building and character development than I might normally do for a short story. I am almost treating that side of as if it was a novel – although it won’t have as many characters as a novel and some aspects of the world don’t need to be as fully fleshed out – for instance I am only focusing on one country and two main cultures. A lot of the work so far has been working out the magic system – as that’s the main crux of the story.

That’s meant I have made much slower progress than I might normally when writing a short story – I’m probably spending about an hour a day on it and its taken me a few weeks so far just to get most of the world-building done! But I have enjoyed it and I am interested to see if the work I have done adds richness to the story – will it all have been worth it?

I also have to get on and edit the 3rd part of Stonehearted. Hopefully that should be out for the autumn. Check out  By the Sword’s Edge and By Fire and Sword for the first two installments. If you like medieval action and adventure, I think you’ll really like them.

That’s it from me – I’m also writing a one player D&D adventure for a friend – might post that online at some point too!

(The Picture above is Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules)  by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542).

Lost Mine of Phandelver – a Critique 

First a disclaimer –this isn’t a detailed review of the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure module that comes with the new D&D 5th Edition Starter Box set, but rather a bit of a critique of it based on my own expectations for new Dungeons & Dragons 

What I’m saying is that I won’t offer a detailed analysis of the adventure or go into a lot of the details of what it’s about – so you if you want that have a look elsewhere – but rather I’m going to offer some views on why the adventure, although well produced, doesn’t work as I wanted it to – and how I think it could do more.  

So a bit of a moan really! Here’s the problems I had with it: 

  • It’s still pretty much a Dungeon bash. Although there’s some links between the different locations – finding Gundrun and looking for his brothers, once there the PCs just move from room to room and fight whatever they come across. There’s no sense of something actually happening.
  • The plot is a bit weak – sure help out Gundrun and there’s someone who wants to do bad things. But actually what has the Black Spider got planned? What will he do if the PCs can’t defeat him? We don’t really know. If they knew he was going to destroy Phandalin or Neverwinter, then I think that would add to the sense of drama – and the motivation to do something about him. As it is, the plot revolves around helping some dwarves get stuff – just facilitating greed at the end of the day! The lack of plot driving and adventure has always been a problem with D&D from what I can see, and this adventure really enforces that feeling for me – Warhammer Fantasy Role Play has always done a much better job of making players feel like they’re part of an actual story – and encourage roleplaying. 

 

Lost mine of phandelver

Here’s what I Iiked about it: 

  • Great production values and art – lovely maps 
  • Good tips for new DMs and how to help players get started 
  • The pre-generated Player Characters are well balanced and have some good motivations that link to the locations in the adventure – but I think more could have been made of that in the actual adventure itself – as the DM might forget about the links and could be reminded by some help text in the adventure.  
  • The encounters, monsters and fights are fun for starting adventures – some classic monsters are included, which allows new players to enjoy D&D as it should be.

I hope this critique doesn’t put people off actually getting the D&D Starter set though – it’s a great set, has a wonderful summary of the rules. I just wish I’d taken the time to add a bit more to the adventure to make it more plot driven and exciting!

Fixing a Broken Story – Helix Intercalculator

I am sure most writers have stories kicking around that they have either not finished or are not happy with publishing. Something about those stories went a bit wrong – the premise was not exciting enough, the characters didn’t engage the writer, and the story just petered out – or if you struggled to the finish, you thought “hmm – this ain’t right – I’ll do something else”.

I have some stories like that. One short story that I was writing set in my fantasy world of Ladmas, had quite a few words written – over 5,000, so in theory should have been pretty much written, but in reality the first draft was far from complete. So I went back recently to take another look at it to see if I could just get it done, edited and then submitted for publication.

The story in question is called “Helix Intercalculator.” The weird title isn’t relevant to this post, nor is the detail of the story so I won’t explain it here – perhaps one day it will be available for publication!
But I thought it might be helpful for other writers for me to explain how I went about trying to fix the story – in fact I’m only in the early stages of that – so I think this will be part one of two or more posts looking at how that process went.

Here’s what I did

1. I read the story again.

Pretty simple! But how you read a story when editing is quite important. It really depends on what kind of editing you need to do. To start with I wanted to remind myself of what the story was about and try to work out what I needed to do to finish it. To start with I didn’t realise that it was a bit broken as it was.
I started making corrections of word-choice and typos as I read, but I decided that I actually wasn’t engaged in the story – there was something wrong with it. So I left the red pen for making other comments instead rather than replacing words.

2. Thought about the story as a reader

Once I got out of detailed editing mode this was a bit easier. I thought about the story from the point of view of a reader. Did the story make sense – what was missing? Did I engage with the characters? Was it boring or exciting? If so which bits of the story fell into those categories.

3. Making decisions on what’s wrong with the story

This is really all about judgment and I think quite important to getting revision right. Some people will say just write and don’t worry about revision. Others will apply lots of different methods to revising and editing a story – I think as a writer and editor you have to pretty decisive about what you feel does and doesn’t work in your story, and then figure out some simple ways to fix that. Sometimes if the solution is too complicated it might be better just to start again with a new story!

What I decided was wrong with my story

I picked up on a number of issues with my story:

• Slow start – the more exciting scenes were later in the story – perhaps I should start with those.
• Too didactic – the story was trying to make a point – which involved two characters talking over an issue – this in itself was a bit tedious – I decided to show not tell a bit more and make the theme more implicit in the story – although the characters would still have strong points of view on the subject.
• Too much background exposition – again use of show not tell, and also I should cut out irrelevant or long-winded background.
• Foreshadowing would help with background and also removing the need for too much boring discussion – hopefully I could weave this into my story.
• The structure was wrong – again the start was dull and there was too much chatting. I looked back at my notes and I hadn’t really outlined. I quite like writing without a plan as it’s fun, but when I do I tend to have problems finishing stories! Looks like a plan is needed with this one!

So next I am going to go back and look at the structure and try to rewrite the story – I think mostly it will be a radical rewrite, with perhaps some of the description of more exciting scenes left in. Hopefully that will work. I’ll aim to report back in a few weeks time on how I get on.