Thursday, 23 October 2014

Red Box Games Heroic Miniatures Kickstarter

RBG's 5th Kickstarter - with some added Zhu

Red Box Games Heroic Miniatures Kickstarter

Murderhobo WIP sculpts Tre Manor / RBG 2014
Click for the bigger!

...and here are some of the concept sketches what I did draw:

Brigand concept sketches [zhu] 2014

The first five (the slightly more 'exotic' characters may be unlocked later): Spoony, Welard, Rodders the Deserter, Mike the Spike (my names, not the official ones) made it into the first gang.

"Concept Art" means different things to different people, there's a tendency (especially with Kickstarters) for it to mean "final design that the sculptor will produce" and so the concept art really needs to be tightly finished. Tre' doesn't quite work like that, but rather develops his own take on the idea, so the drawings for working purposes just need to be a seed. Although that does mean for marketing purposes they don't really sell the idea in the way a more finished drawing does, neither does it constrain Tre from embellishing and reposing as he sees fit during sculpting, and besides he know his world, how shoes are made, what hats look like, and doesn't need to be instructed on details like that. Without being sycophantic,  it is quite amazing how Tre's sculpting brings these tiny scribbles to life while emphasising the essence of the character.

For inspiration well of course Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st  early careers. N2 The Forest Oracle, by Carl Smith, arguably the worst written D&D module ever , contains this jem describing brigands:  "It is plain that they are not soldiers by their haphazard way of walking. They are neither tarrying nor running. They do not seem to be joking loudly or singing as they advance". Yes indeed! But more importantly, the renaissance and medieval art (Bruegel and Bocsh most significantly), hopefully grounding them in a realistic fantasy milieu, and a bit of The Water Margins.

Gamewise, well for wargaming these guys make great conscripts / peasant levies for medieval armies.

For role-playing, D&D low-level chaotic/neutral/evil characters, the kind of guys busy catching rats in the sewers catching syphilis and getting bitten by small vicious dogs, traipsing around the countryside stealing the lords sheep, going down the dungeon, killing things and taking their stuff.  Low morale (and low moral!) henchmen, hired for a few copper-pieces and likely to turn tail at the first sign of danger. And of course, they make classic WFRP murderhobos.

Alternatively they can be cast as adversarial roughneck brigands and bandits, threatening convoys and terrorising the local pubs, just waiting to be put back into line by our more wholesome heroes, like these guys (also in the Kickstarter):







There are a whole load  more on the site, and more in the pipeline. The KS has already reached its primary funding goal, and is going on to steadily unlock more goodies: Have a look: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1103158358/red-box-games-heroic-fantasy-miniatures

Friday, 3 October 2014

Orctober Fest 2014

The season comes but once a year. Orctober!



Orctober is a month long celebration of Orcdom across the whole of the internet, instigated by Orcmiester of ceremonies, Erny.

Last year I wrote up something about Tolkiens origins of the Orc, inspired by Beowulf, and some speculation on where the Beowulf author may have got their idea from and what it might have meant to an Anglosaxon. And a look at where the the boar-riding aspect might have come from, probably originating with the Tusk Riders from Runequest via Citadel Miniatures (Orcs are Uz)

And previously I'd written on the pig faced goons in sleeping beauty, which was something of a speculative musing on Gary Gygax's pig-faced orcish development.

Prompted by Matthew Sullivans excellent short history of the development of the Orc over on Oldenhammer taking Tolkiens description through miniature designs from Jes Goodwin at Asgard to the Perrys at Citadel, and the development of the strong, jutting lower jaw in their Fantasy Tribe Orc miniatures (which still dominates the Warcrafthammer Ork of today) - which in comments I referenced to Frazetta's 1965 Lord of the Rings artwork.

Frank Frazetta | Orcs

Which prompted Matthew to mention Hildebrandts excellent Pig Faced Orcs from the 1976 Tolkien Calendar, as a possible starter for the Pig Faced variety (the AD&D Monster Manual, whence the Pig Faced Orc entered gaming, being published in 1977)


Snouty Piggy faced Orc Things

Hidlebrand Orcs - Tolkien Calendar 1976

Now, I love that painting, but hadn't looked at it for quite some time. And it reminded me of something.

Frith / Henson | King Ploobis |  1975

Or someone.
King Ploobis / Michael Frith
King Ploobis?

King Ploobis Ancestor | Michael Frith
King Ploobis?



at work on the Ploobis puppet

King Ploobis!

Hey! Future phoning my descendants...

Hey King Ploobis, got any cats?



King Ploobis, from The Land of Gorch. a puppet based sketch section appearing in 1975 on the long-running American comedy show "Saturday Night Live" and led by Jim Henson. Now, I've speculated that the origins of the Fimir are, in part, owed to Skred from The Land of Gorch (by way of Froud / Alan Lee) and briefly speculated that Pig Faced Orc might owe, in part, its design to King Ploobis.

Sutherlands Pig Face Orcs

Purely visually, the key similarities shared by Ploobis, Hildebrant and Sutherland and are the motif of the forward facing nostrils, the long, wrinkled or ridged nazal bone area (much more exaggerated than a rel pig, which is only ridged at the snout end) and prominent lower jaw tusks, and thin, droopy lower jaw with slightly sagging lower lip.


Listening to an interview with Tim Kask - an important contributor to early Dungeons & Dragons, when out of the blue he mentions he had been influenced by Saturday Night Lives "Land Shark" skit when inventing the Bullette (based on a plastic toy) and alarm bells went off. The Land Shark appeared 3 times in series 1, which is when the Land of Gorch was broadcast.  So  I asked Tim whether he remembered The Land of Gorch, and yes he did (in fact saying he'd recently added an NPC to an adventure based on one of the old muppets). So certainly Tim was aware of Gorch, and perhaps it was part of the wider milleu that TSR was part of back in the day.

Were the Hildebrandts, or Dave Sutherland also tuning in on a Saturday night, and picking up some muppet vibes who knows? but it looks likely to me.


From the AD&D Monster Manual, the Pig Faced Orc inspired a lovely range of simple (some may say crude) miniature figures from Minifigs, released the 1970s

Minfig Pig Faced Orc!
Then the Pig Faced Orc got not much action for a long time really, tho' turning up in the D&D cartoon in the mid 80s to do Vengers bidding:

D&D Cartoon Orcs 1983 - 1985
The D&D toon spawned some dreadful 4" bendy plastic toys, that no amount of misty eyed nostalgia can redeem. Infact the White Dwarf letters pages of the day were filled with vitriol at TSR for selling out, so nostalgia is unlikely to be tinted with anything other than righteous scorn and derision in this case.

You could actually buy these. In shops. No. Really. For Money.



Then, we lived in a pig-faced orcless wilderness, until from 2008 onwards there are Otherworlds Pig Faced Orcs  scultped by Kevin Adams (currently 20% off with the code 8THBIRTHDAY at the checkout)

Otherworld Pig Faced Orc Boar Rider 1
Otherworld Pig Faced Orc Command Set

Otherworld Pig Faced Orcs 2


These are fantastic figures, and to be frank, other than coming across an old copy of the PHB one of the main things that got me back into gaming after a 20ish year hiatus.

Then there are Spooktalkers absolutely sublime renditions of Pig Faced Orcs in 2014, based on Grenadier models, with snouts attached.

Spooktalkers  Pig Faced Orcs

More can be seen in his blogpost: The Orcs that Never Were  and well worth a look.


Anyway Otheerworlds figures, and poking around in my attick uncovering some old Warhammer stuff, led to an attempt at a Warhammer 1st Edition "Forces of Fantasy" style PFO army list, way back in the mists of time...
Pig Faced Orc Army List (PDF)

 Reinventing an old D&D character, an Orc Cleric. Orcs are a player character option, play exactly as half-orcs but look like:
Grushna the Founding


And more recently, these two Pig Faced Orcs battling a Slime Eater beneath the Cityport of Kharé, for Otherworlds forthcoming Skirmish game.
Orcs vs. Otyugh
 So maybe it's time to drop the Pig Faced, and call these guys Ploobisian Orcs.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rogue Trader T-Shirts

Some new 80's British Sci-fi inspired retrowear for you comic book loving leadheads!

Rogue Trader T-shirt Graphic concept
Rogue Trader T-Shirt

Rogue Trader T-Shirt close up.


I expect that this doesn't need explaining and I suppose that's all part of the humour. There are those who will know and get it, and those that won't. After a brief trail of the graphic on Facebook garnered enough likes to make it wasn't just me...


GI-Blue Rogue Trader T-shirts are available in both mens and ladies styles via http://zhu-shop.spreadshirt.co.uk/  in a limited edition of 66 each (3 of the mens have already seem to have gone before the official launch). For those outside Europe it might be more cost effective to order from the US store http://zhu-shop.spreadshirt.com/ - styles vary slightly.


But for those who would like an explanation, one follows, of sorts...

Rogue

The design is heavily indebted, if not an outright homage, or perhaps parody, to Dave Gibbons logo for 2000AD strip Rogue Trooper, which first debuted in 1981.


Rogue Trooper / Dave Gibbons / 1981

Rogue is hand rendered, somewhat similar to  the Judge Dredd logo (by recently passed) Jan Shepheard. The original Rogue Trooper logo contains, what I consider to be some very subtle and clever typography - the negative space of the R and the UE making an up arrow and a down arrow - iconic representations of the Nort and Souther, one invading the south, heading down, and the other invading the north, going up. Both ideas clearly echo the army insignia of the Norts and Southers (which arrow up and arrow down, indicating their desired global movements), and reflecting the face in the J of the Dredd logo. In the Rogue Trader T-shirt I've attempted to echo this with approximations of a las-rifle, bolt-pistol and jagged close combat attachment, in the U G and UE spaces. It's supposed to be loose, so don't worry if the shapes just look like angular blobs, that is all they are really.

Judge Dredd / Jan Shepheard 1977



Both Rogue and Dredd logos are, I believe, based loosely on Data 70 by Bob Newman, published by Letraset as rub-down transfer lettering - a response to the growing popularity of  Westminster , designed by Leo Maggs and itself based on fleshing out MICR-13 - a magnetic character set intended to be used by machines to read numerical data back in the late 1960s, when computers didn't have amazing graphical processing capabilities that they do today. It was regularly seen on the early covers of 2000AD as a title font and for various other jobs around the comic, including the "Credit Card" acknowledgement for the Script and Art Droids, as the creators are known, so was clearly known by the designers of the comic. Its use in communicating "this is about computers" or "this is about the techno-future" lasted throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s, before digital technology caught up with traditional print in the mid 1990s, and 'technology' became largely normalised, and not something that needed typographic expression.

Dredd and Rogue logos are by no means clean mechanical reproductions, in fact their jagged punchy edges as much resemble graffiti from the period as anything else. By 'period' I mean the early 1980s and  old school block style , not graffiti of the war torn future of  Nu-earth, although of course they are the same thing. The implication of the design is a future society where specifically mechanically-readable text has become the dominant script so it informs the vernacular of criminal vandalism. Exactly. Of course graffiti here when tied with 'rogue' communicates that awesome sense of rebelliousness that epitomises the character.

Trooper



Trooper set in Futura Black, designed by Paul Renner in 1929. It's relationship to standard Futura is not alltogether obvious, I get the feeling Renner was taking traditional germanic letterforms into the same geometric space as his Futura did with roman, but my German ist nich sere groß, and I'm not even sure Renners original notes and theory on the design have been published, wither way the braod strokes weight and narrow white space suggest such a thing.

Bold stencil lettering was, and still is used by the military, which is, I think, the intended resonance here rather than early 20th century European typographic discourse. Renners geometrical abstraction and simplified forms give it an edge that contrasts with the jagged and complex Rogue. Tension between individualism, the 'hand made' 'rogue' and universality 'machine made', "Trooper" seems a meaningful dichotomy.

Enter the Trader 

"That's all very well and good but it says Rogue Trader not Rogue Trooper".Yes. Indeed.


Original Designed by Chaz Elliot and Jez Goodwin | 1987
Warhammer is a re-drawn ITC Serif Gothic, designed by Herb Lubalin & Tony DiSpigna in 1972 (Lubalin Graph, Herbs geometric slabserif, is used in Warhammers Forces of fantasy)  If the broken edges, distressed typography and semi-roman semi-uncials of the original Warhammer Fantasy logo speak to an antique and ancient world, the hard clean lines and compactness speak to the future. Copperplate gothic, that is a font taking a geometric sans-serif and adding small serifs, often in imitation of 19th C. copperplate printing. ITC Serif Gothic can be seen everywhere from Star Wars to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to He Man and beyond - and built a venerable legacy in the science fantasy genre, although note that all these examples use the alternate round E that isn't available in the digital version, also selection bias - it could have been just as popular in 1970s sit-com titles for all I know. The tooled line-through the letters vaguely reminiscent of Blade Runner,  and the 3d block a weight that somehow suggests manufacture, like metal type, an automobile badge.

 
The all important "Rogue Trader" in a bold, redrawn version of Franklin Gothic. The redrawn has a considerable amount of quirk - the bowl of the R changes alignment in each appearance, the space between the tail and main stroke of the G has been filled-in, simplifying it and the proportions are slightly wider than found in most specimens. The overall effect is quite similar but less extreme of that found in the relationships between Data 70 and the Judge Dredd logo, but here is simplified, almost streamlined in a way that dissasociates the form from the method of production and instead - almost like an aliens impression of roman letterforms.


Notably both are from ITC. It was common back in the day for a designer to re-draw a font for a logo, copying from a type catalogue (or enlarging on a photocopier and tracing that), as it was both cheaper and faster than typesetting by film or wrestling with the Letraset.

I'm going out on a limb and say that I think the 40,000 is completely hand drawn and not based on an original. It does carry  a stencil feel with the breaks in the 0s and a strange, alien quality, slightly reminiscent of Rodney Matthews- as much of Jes Goodwins design often is. The oval shapes the eldar wraithstones .The whole thing set off against Jez Goodwins Imperial Aquila.


Rogue Trader cover.

Overall the impression from the logo is that of construction, Warhammer is rendered as metal, notably in contrast with 2nd edition WFB, they've turned the gold to chrome - the metal par-excellence of the Cyperpunk generation and a rough brick stone, placing rogue trader in dull brass, all-together somewhat architectural in its final realisation.


The History of a Game to Come



"Right, all very type-o-geek I'm sure, but this looks nothing like the design, what are you going on about?"

Back in the dawn of time (1983?) games designer Rick Priestly was working on a space combat game called Rogue Trader. As this was 1983, and not 2014, it wasn't launched as a Kickstarter, instead it got morphed / shelved/ and turned into the ground breaking  Fantasy-in-Space skirmish game Rogue Trader. Meanwhile Games Workshop had secured a license to produce various 2000AD titles as games and miniatures (although the two companies had also collaborated in 82 with Ian Livingstones Judge Dredd boardgame), Rick had written Judge Dredd the Roleplaying game (85), and his Warhammer co-author Richard Halliwell had recently published a board game based on Rogue Trooper (87). This, of course meant that the game design studio was awash with the Thrill-Power leaking from the piles of old Progs and eventually sucked up by the very fabric of the 40k universe. GW published  the Grant/Wagner/Ewins creation Kaleb Daark  and Ewins would go on to illustrate the fantasy rugby-in-armour game Bloodbowl and Chainsaw Warrior. ...

Or in other words, it is not really surprising there was a lot of influence taken from 2000AD and put into Warhammer 40k. Naturally artists working on 2000AD were hired to do illustration work, and much of the set and setting mirrored, transformed and combined aspects of 2000AD stories, there are other clear influences from other science fiction and fantasy sources in Warhammer too, but 2000AD, and Rogue Trooper are up there.

Add caption


The story goes that GW decided to add on Warhammer 40,000 to the already established "Rogue Trader" name in order to avoid confusion with the recently released "Rogue Trooper" board game. Now this story may be 100% true and accurate, but dropping the confusing "rogue trader" all-together as GW would later do with 2nd edition 40k, makes a bit more more sense and have stopped any confusion before it started. Halliwell & Priestly had published Combat 3000 through TTG back in 1979 whilst 2000AD itself had started in 1977  - still noticeably similar, compare Space 1999 (Gerry Anderson 1975-77). The game is literally 2nd Edition WFB with Laser guns and loose formations, so calling it some variation on "Warhammer in Space" or similar makes more sense than naming after an unreleased answer to Starfleet Battles (which Citadel had been producing UK versions of the American craft back in 1980) or Star Force 300 (by Bob Connor of TTG) which Citadel bought various moulds for off of QT models to produce in their spaceship range. The "Something: Number" formula a clear indication of being science fiction in a pop/gaming context (heck, even Daft Punks Scifi Disco-Opera Interstella 5555) and quite sure Warhammer 40,000 does the job. So while there is no real intention to decieve, the retention of "rogue trader" does communicate to someone familiar with the comic that there is some kind of conceptual overlap with Rogue Trooper, a sense of being in the same general territory, if not the exact location, which is a fairly accurate description of what is in the book.

Q. What were we talking about again? A. Rogue Trader T-Shirt


So thus was born the Rogue Trader t-shirt , equating WH40K:RT with 2000AD:RT. And we could talk of the 'trooper' to 'trader' switch, the relation between war, imperialism and capital - especially in regards to grimdark and the deep space 17th Century Shipping Company milleu that Warhammer 40ks Rogue Trader characters seem to exist within. We could talk about Rogue Traders Souther and Space Marine design (as Rick Priestly has said), or GI's and the Imperial Guard (yes I even painted up my plastic Rogue Trader IGs as Rogue Trooper GIs back in the day). But really, this is just a blog-post about a t-shirt, and if you've read this far, your tea has probably gone cold and the cat might need feeding. Thanks for reading.

If you grokked all of that instinctively, in a fraction of a nanosecond, just by looking at the thing, then well, you're as far down the 80's British-Scifi-Fandom Gamer rabbit hole as I. If not, don't worry about it, one has a habit of overthinking these things. Nice shirt tho' eh?


UK Eurozone etc. : http://zhu-shop.spreadshirt.co.uk/ 
US Pacific Rim etc: http://zhu-shop.spreadshirt.com/



If you do decide you want one (oh, go on, go on, go on, say that you will) make sure to read Spreadshirts Fair Return Policy first. Bascially they offer 30 day no quibble refund / return policy. I'm responsible for the creative design, Spreadshirt do all the manufacturing and delivery. NB. Direct-digital they smell funny, like vinegar, wash it a bit and its OK.