Monday, 31 May 2010

Which Has to Do with a Mirror and its Fragments

"He was a terribly bad hobgoblin, a goblin of the very wickedest sort and, in fact, he was the devil himself. One day the devil was in a very good humor because he had just finished a mirror which had this peculiar power: everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it seemed to dwindle to almost nothing at all, while everything that was worthless and ugly became most conspicuous and even uglier than ever. In this mirror the loveliest landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the very best people became hideous, or stood on their heads and had no stomachs. Their faces were distorted beyond any recognition, and if a person had a freckle it was sure to spread until it covered both nose and mouth.
"That's very funny!" said the devil. If a good, pious thought passed through anyone's mind, it showed in the mirror as a carnal grin, and the devil laughed aloud at his ingenious invention.
All those who went to the hobgoblin's school-for he had a school of his own-told everyone that a miracle had come to pass. Now, they asserted, for the very first time you could see how the world and its people really looked. They scurried about with the mirror until there was not a person alive nor a land on earth that had not been distorted.
Then they wanted to fly up to heaven itself, to scoff at the angels, and our Lord. The higher they flew with the mirror, the wider it grinned. They could hardly manage to hold it. Higher they flew, and higher still, nearer to heaven and the angels. Then the grinning mirror trembled with such violence that it slipped from their hands and fell to the earth, where it shattered into hundreds of millions of billions of bits, or perhaps even more. And now it caused more trouble than it did before it was broken, because some of the fragments were smaller than a grain of sand and these went flying throughout the wide world. Once they got in people's eyes they would stay there. These bits of glass distorted everything the people saw, and made them see only the bad side of things, for every little bit of glass kept the same power that the whole mirror had possessed.
A few people even got a glass splinter in their hearts, and that was a terrible thing, for it turned their hearts into lumps of ice. Some of the fragments were so large that they were used as window panes-but not the kind of window through which you should look at your friends. Other pieces were made into spectacles, and evil things came to pass when people put them on to see clearly and to see justice done. The fiend was so tickled by it all that he laughed till his sides were sore. But fine bits of the glass are still flying through the air, and now you shall hear what happened..."

- Hans Christian Andersen The Snow Queen (1844) Trans. Jean Hersholt (1949)

On its own, this section is a great source of cursed items for D&D - Spectacles of Change Alignment, Glass Swords and background motivations for NPCs - evil enchanters seeking great chunks of glass to craft items from. It also introduces a nice mischievous goblin king / devil with a penchant for crafting malicious objects, whose sole motivation is his own amusement at the expense of others - a nice unpredictable amoral villain.

Although the origins of the meme are probably from an earlier tale (though none spring to mind), the splinter working its way into the heart is not a million miles away from Frodos encounter with the Morgul-knife at Weathertop in J.R.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. Indeed there is much in Tolkien transforming ideas from fairy tales, so much so that it's hard not to hear him chuckling to himself making these in-jokes reading his work.

As a side note: the obvious use of religious imagery when compared with the translation at Gutenburg

Narcissus / Nemisis

Going to leave this one in the incubator for awhile but it will be woven into the background, in fact a reworked version might become a central myth of the denizens of The Realm.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Lord of the Rings minis from White Dwarf 66 (June 1985)

First of a short and hopefully not too sporadic series of pieces highlighting the photos in White Dwarf relating to the 1980s Citadel Lord of the Rings Miniatures range.

ME 11: Gandalf on Shadowfax (P. Benson)
Nice choice of yellow accent colours, keeping the figure lively.

ME 23: Rohirrim on Mount (Peter Prowl)
This is the earlier of the two Rohirrim variants (a photo of the later variant can be seen here). However, the banner is somewhat different from that on the standard miniature, so this is either a minor conversion (which isn't noted in the article) or perhaps a painted prototype? The blazing sun device being modelled on the shield has always struck me as odd, as it was clearly Tolkiens poetic language rather than a description of the Rohirrims arms - however it gives this representation a certain quirk.

ME 73: Barrow Wights (Bill Sprint)
Speaking of quirks, why is wight lifting a dumb bell? "wight lifting"... groan... really - Games Workshops designers were full of puns in the old days (just look at the Slaan names), but I imagine its some kind of huge kingly sceptre, and the other two are just wight-ing around for him to drop it.  Sprints Diorama features a C11 Halfling (the one with dungarees and a knife and a bow) and a selection of treasure-chests. Not too sure about pink wights myself, but I suppose it's all-wight really. The smoothed stones are really impressive, a nice piece.

This is probably the largest presence of Lord of The Rings miniatures in the Tabletop Heroes column - published early on in the ranges release. It's a good mix of staple fantasy types - the wizard, the warrior, and the undead, appealing as much to the role-gamer and fantasy wargamer as the dyed in the wool Tolkien fan. Also in the same issue of White Dwarf is Grahame Staplehursts article-length review of ICE's Middle Earth Role Playing, and slightly more tangentially, the Fiend Factory features a mini-adventure set in Koss - the campaign world of the Dungeon Planner series (the Dungeon Planner series of floorplans are the same scale as those in GWs MERP Box. By god I'm geeking out today)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Warhammer Hobgoblin Army List

Download Warhammer Hobgoblin Army List [PDF]

This army list is intended to be used for light 'skirmish' type games - more the kind of Army List that appeared in 1st Edition Warhammer supplement "Forces of Fantasy", or 2nd editions Ravening Hordes. It's probably best used for a Warhammer Skirmish type game where both sides have a few hundred points, or with a bit of work converting to a Mordheim warband.

It's a shame Games Workshop relegated the Hobgoblins to just slaves of the Chaos Dwarfs - their background and troop-types are varied and rich with ample opportunity for modellers / collectors and gamers. Perhaps they'll be reinstated in 8th edition.

Most of the races in the Realm of Zhu borrow strongly from the pseudo-historical tradition of fantasy, and indeed Hobgoblins are no exception. The base influence for this is probably the Warhammer Known World where most "races" are based on historical societies, albeit somewhat twisted. Forged in a time when historical wargaming was more popular than fantasy, it makes sense - not only being able to field the more readily available historical figures, but in also having armies from different periods clashing (Medieval Longbows vs. War of the Roses Muskets = Elves vs. Dwarves).

Warhammer Hobgoblins have their origins in an analogy with the medieval Mongolian, where this initial inspiration came from is lost to the mists of time, unless Aly Morrisson cares to explain it. One of the features of AD&D Hobgoblins is their eastern style armour, and perhaps it stems from this. Either way, the Hobgoblins in the Realm of Zhu are a  decidedly nomadic eastern martial society, borrowing from Tibetan mysticism and the great empire of Ghengis Kahn.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

1980s Citadel Lord of the Rings / White Dwarf Index

During the 80s Citadel Miniatures obtained the license to produce Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit), Games Workshops house magazine White Dwarf featured many of the figures, either in standard advertising slots or in the regular miniatures column "Tabletop Heroes" by Joe Dever and Gary Chalk (of Lone Wolf fame). Here is a complete list of images from those magazines. Where known, the painters name is in brackets.

Outline Drawing (Advert) #64 April 1985
Gandalf on Shadowfax (P. Benson) #66 June 1985
Rohirrim on Mount (Peter Prowl) #66 June 1985
Barrow Wights (Bill Sprint) #66 June 1985
Sauron on throne #67 July 1985
Black and white photo #67 July 1985
Frodo on pony (Lindsey le Doux Paton) #68 August 1985
Gandalf (Stuart Parkinson) #69 September 1985
Orc (John Blanche) #70 October 1985
Fellowship of the Ring Box Set Advert #72 December 1985
Noldor Deep Elf (Pete Prow) #73 January 1986
Uruk-Hai (converted by Kevin Adams) #79 July 1986
Gandalf and Sauron (Colin Dixon) #81 September 1986
Balrog Box Set Ad #88 April 1987
Uruk Hai (Advert) #100 April 1988

Feel free to update any missing or incorrect details. I hope to update with scans or decent photos of the images as as soon as I get the White Dwarf magazines out of storage again.