Saturday, February 27, 2016
Cover Art By Chris Beaumont
Another Chris Beaumont cover, much better than the 1st but still with a rather horrendous mustard yellow color. The nose-shaped balloons or winged devices seem a bit odd but the creatures depicted are meant to be otherworldly and monsterish. A far cry from the later array of fantastic covers from a variety of artists which made the first 100 issues of White Dwarf standout, but still a growing improvement and the last of the single primary color style used for these beginning six issues.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
I've never been a MA GM or Player but have always found the setting intriguing as a Robert Heinlein fan (Orphans of the Sky). This little article deals with an obvious question about survival aboard the Starship Warden - What do the survivors eat and drink?
The article gives a one page list of serving suggestions, their descriptions and effects. Two small tables also deal with what the players suffer without finding food or water. My own gaming deals mainly with fantasy, and in AD&D sustenance is often glossed over or completely ignored. I've always found this to be a mistake. In a game of paper tigers it helps to flesh them out to find out what puts meat on their bones and to make the players a little bit more aware that their characters are also flesh and bones even if they appear only to be pen, ink and a kind word.
Earning coin in search of spell components or healing remedies not linked to priestcraft is another way to use the idea of a game world filled with more than just tigers and bears. Some good ideas in this short piece of two pages and a corner. (And I liked the illustration Polly Wilson much more than her cover art this issue.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Ah the days when miniatures were badly sculpted lumps of lead. I had a great time with these (and their equally lumpy lead twins from other companies) when I first started with D&D. Now, I just pass these along to collectors who can appreciate them.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Soon a fire blazed again within the pit at the center of the camp. The giants formed two half-circles about it, their arms outstretched to the sky. In their hard tongue they chanted together, calling for the fire to send forth its light.
At the edge of the camp Ivo felt the touch of power reach out and contest with his magic spell. Heavy and solid, the magic of the giants was crude but filled with strength. The witans of many halls, magician-priests like the cold Suel-barbarian skalds of the east, had cast many enchantments on this spot.
Fjolver, the old giant, was no doubt something of a witan himself, or so Ivo sensed. The power drawn from the chanting of the giants seemed to feed into Fjolver and out into the fire. The flames danced and roared as if in reply to the giants' words. It appeared to Ivo as if he could see the faces of many giants in the flames. A long wavering hand pointed toward him, reaching out as if to tear the illusion of his spell apart in its fiery grasp.
Old words, that came from the depths of the past and the oerth, came to Ivo's lips. The secret tongue of gnomish magic. Centuries of skill wove the soundless words into a shield, a net, a covering like the dirt that filled a grave, and the faces within the fire wailed and went out. Only the dim embers of the fuel were left at the bottom of the pit.
"Ahhhhh!!!!" moaned Fjolver and clasped his hands to the side of his head. The wolves lifted their voices and muzzles to the sky and howled.
* * *
Orc bones cracked within the hands of the Keeper. The undead giant had wormed his way through the small caverns that had been home to the rebellous orcs. In desperation a handful of those who had taken part in the Keeper's death had turned and struck at him. Gaping wounds were half-closed on his cold, unhallowed flesh. The blades of weak and frightened orcs had not saved them from the vengeance of the giant. All had died. Most within the depths of caves whose floors were traps of mire and unseen falls into the depths. Some had been eaten by the great blind lizards which dwelled near the fast subterranean stream that ran beneath the steading. The last, those too scared to run or a few brave enough to fight, had been torn to pieces, their bones snapped and crushed, their bodies shredded against the rough stones of the cave.
"Come...!" hissed Ardare in the giant's mind. "Come... stop your play. Vengeance! Vengeance!" "Vengeance," the Keeper repeated the word, grasping at it with his spirit, feeling a fiery power flow into his chill body.
"To Kalfashow, to my brother," the red snake that filled his mind spat out. "Command, I command. To Kalfashow, the surface."
"Vengeance," growled the Keeper. "Kalfashow and our vengeance."
The Keeper began to pull stones away, still on his belly and crawling like a snake. A great fall of rock was between him and the passages beneath the steading. The undead giant worked with strength greater than he had possessed in life. He did not pause, but wormed his way forward, oblivious to pain, though more rock fell on top of him and shards of stone stabbed at his hands.
* * *
"Fjolver!" several giants cried out, seeing the pain that had overcome their leader. Those that had blades drew them, while the others turned this way and that, hands clenched into massive fists. But Hlebard glared at the embers of the fire, then looked slowly about the clearing with a knowing look in his eyes.
"Bolthorn," Hlebard said to one of his warriors, "take some of the wolves and have a walk around."
"Yes Hlebard," answered the giant, and he whistled. Several of the greys pricked up their ears, stopped their howl and trotted after Bolthorn.
"This fire-ring's been broken," moaned Fjolver.
"Hear my news then, Fjolver. Something killed our kin as they drove cows meant for Nosnra," said Hlebard. "Killed them with fire."
"Some beast?" asked one of Fjolver's band.
"A beast yes," said Hlebard. "Men or maybe elves."
Fjolver spat into the fire and the embers hissed. "Elves," he said as if the word were a curse. "They must be near. Magic-users, cursed spell-casters, dweomencrafters."
"Maybe," Hlebard glanced around the clearing again. "Maybe they cursed our camp, left us a trap."
"Maybe they are here," said Fjolver. As he raised his head a long red trail ran down his cheek. His eyes bled.
"If they are, then the wolves will find them," Hlebard said firmly.
"Bring wood! Bring wood!" Fjolver called to his kin. "Bring that dwarf. We will see if a sacrifice of one of the hairy swine will break this curse upon our fire."
"A dwarf?" asked Hlebard, looking toward the cloth sacks.
"Costly sacrifice that."
"This one is trouble," muttered Fjolver. "Cost Sokkmimir his hand and killed three wolves. Hjalm dropped him with a rock to the head. No smith this one, but a warrior."
Hlebard nodded agreement. "Best for the fire then. Why did you bring him?"
"Gift for Nosnra," said Fjolver shortly. "Where is that dwarf!"
Two giants of Fjolver's band had gone to the sacks and begun to empty them. They rolled the contents out upon the hard stone. Food, and cloth, and the clatter of weapons.
"Not that one!" reprimanded one giant. "It's the dwarf we want."
The giant, a young warrior barely past the rites of adulthood, tossed what was near at hand back into the sack he'd emptied.
"Leave it," said the other giant with disgust in his voice. "Find that dwarf. Who carried him? I know he wasn't in my baggage."
"Here," said the young giant with relief. He upended another sack and a dwarf fell free. "Got 'im."
"Ha!" snorted the older giant. "You got nothing. That's not him. They left the mail on that one so Nosnra could skin him. Well now we can cook him in it."
The dwarf fallen from the sack was bound and gagged. His long beard and hair were tangled with the ragged strips of cloth that the giants had used to tie him. Bruises covered his face, black and purple. He looked out toward the edge of the camp as if he could see beyond the magic veil of Ivo's deluding spell.
* * *
Ghibelline stared at the face of the dwarf and muffled a cry of shock and recognition. He'd watched the approach of the giants with growing anger, tinged with fear and memories of pain. Two bright lights had he found in the darkness of Nosnra's dungeon. Two friends, Jalal, the old Baklunish sage who had survived only long enough to breath free air again, and Ginnar, a captive dwarven warrior-smith who had been left behind. They had been closer than kindred to Ghibelline and it pained the elf to know that Ginnar was trapped in darkness while he had escaped into the light of day and open sky. This dwarf had the look of Ginnar, and at the first glance it seemed as if it was his friend that lay upon the stones at the giant's feet. But it was not so, and Ghibelline sighed, relieved and ashamed at his relief.
"Is this one him?" asked the younger giant. He pulled out another dwarf, his large fingers wound into a dark mass of hair, and lifted a short, squat, struggling figure from a cloth sack.
"Watch..." the older giant started to say. The dwarf was tied with thick rope. His arms wrapped tightly to his sides, but they had only bound his legs with a cord knotted about the dwarf's booted ankles. At some point, and through joint tearing twists and wriggles, the dwarf had slipped this cord, though not the rope around his arms and chest. His legs were free, and as the giant lifted him from the sack and bent to peer down into the dwarf's face, an iron-nailed boot-sole lashed out. Blood splashed out from the giant's nose, now broken, smashed like a ripe fruit falling from high onto a stone. The giant howled and dropped the dwarf, both hands held to his wounded face as if to protect his now ruined noise, but the damage had been done.
"Don't let him get away!" yelled the older giant, but blood was in the other's eyes and he was blind with more than pain. Iron nails snapped sharply against the stones. The dwarf hit the ground and ran. Giants were after him and his short strides had not taken him far before a hand was sweeping down to strike him aside.
Large as a barrel's lid, the giant's hand seemed like it could not miss, but the dwarf dropped and rolled to one side. The giant stumbled forward, and the dwarf was on his feet again. Wolves were running loose about the camp, and a call from several giants sent the pack leaping after the dwarf. The giants could be avoided, the dwarf had leapt between the legs of one that blocked his path, but the wolves would surely have him. Three of the quick, black-haired monsters were almost upon the dwarf. He'd nearly reached the edge of the camp, only a few strides before the place where Ghibelline watched from the hiding place created by the power of Ivo's spell.
Spinning round to face them, the dwarf braced himself, ready to die kicking out at the jaws of death that pursued him. The wolves were near, more were behind them, and the giants came on as well.
"Stop!" bellowed Fjolver. "Take him alive!" the giant ordered.
The wolves skidded to a halt and snarled. One snapped its teeth an inch before the dwarf's large nose. The other two circled to either side. The black-coated wolves were well trained and quick to obey. Ghibelline was not so quick. He heard the shout and saw the wolves obey, but he had rushed forward with his sword drawn and could not stop himself as he broke the weave of Ivo's magic spell.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Alan Hunter's curvy line art has always stuck with me. His work on various monsters for White Dwarf and extracted for the Fiend Folio were better than many of the monster themselves. Trampier and Wham always set the feel for early Dragon and Hunter's art always brings back the old D&D days of White Dwarf whenever I see them.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Artwork by Christopher Baker.
Not the most inspiring piece of monochrome artwork. It seems a rather washed-out cover, a kind of light, lifeless tan. The main character seems to have rather oddly drawn limbs with a very withered right arm and shoulder.
The first few issues of White Dwarf stand out from the rest because of their monochromatic cover art. This issue feature cover art by John Blanche whose slightly surrealistic macabre and pointy style screams warhammer to me whenever I see it. I have to say I like this cover much more than issue #1. The light blue goes well with the black inks and adds a sense of falling night to the slightly disturbing image. It beckoned many of the good and great things to come from the magazine before it was swallowed and shrunken and thickened as its later purely Games Workshop incarnation.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
"Telenstil, can we fly from here?" asked Ivo.
"Not yet," he shook his head. "Not all of us, no. I have the power for a spell or two but not the ring. I've drawn upon it too much, it needs to rest and recover its strength."
"I will hide us then," said Ivo. "Do not leave the clearing, the spell is very powerful but it has its limits."
"Not invisibility," moaned Harold. "Last time I was nearly stepped on."
"Stop complaining," said the ranger, he gave the little halfling a small nudge with his boot.
"I will weave us into the spell and make this camp appear as if we were not here and had never even passed this way," Ivo explained. "Now to the edges of the camp, move if you have to but stay as still as possible."
"How long will this last?" asked Talberth.
"As long as I wish," Ivo murmured already forming the picture of the clearing in his mind.
The old gnome took a small crystal from his pack, uncut, its sides were rough and cloudy. He held it between both hands and rubbed it in his palms. There were words, but the others could not make out what he said, they came as if from far away like the echo of a voice heard faintly in a deep cavern. Ivo brought his hands up so that they were even with his eyes and still rubbing one against the other began to pull them apart. A glimmer of light appeared, he kept up the motion of his hands as if they were still one against the other but drew them away. The crystal had transformed, now it looked to be a glimmering cube, one corner pointing toward the oerth while it spun slowly like a top.
In a flashing burst of light the crystal was gone, the clearing took on a double image for a moment. All was the same but layered over one with another, the same camp but empty, a blank space where each companion stood. This double vision sent a sharp pain through the viewer's eyes till Ivo approached and tapped them on the arm or side, one by one.
"See what is true," he told them and the illusion disappeared. "Rest assured, the wolves and giants will see, smell and hear what I wish them to, all their senses will be deceived."
"They better be," whispered Harold.
* * *
The first of the wolves reached the campsite all too soon. It was a large beast the size of a pony. One ear had been split, and scars and missing fur dotted its head and muzzle. The beast strolled into the camp as if it owned the place, lifting its leg and marking a large tree stump with its scent. Rounding the edges of the clearing it passed by first one then another of the group, close enough so that its fur brushed Talberth's leg. The young mage froze in place, his knuckles white on the hilt of a dagger in his belt. The wolf stopped and scratched at the spot where its fur had been ruffled then bent its neck back and worried at it with bared teeth. It rolled over like a puppy then and with legs in the air squirmed back and forth in the dirt. Rising, it shook itself, spraying its unseen foes with a shower of pebbles. With a large red tongue lolling from the side of its mouth, the wolf strode to the fire-pit. Snapping jaws tore ribs from the carcase that had been left behind. It settled down on its stomach, holding up a grisly bone between two paws and gnawed, stripping away what little flesh was left then grinding noisely till the rib cracked beneath its teeth.
* * *
There was a clatter on the stony path, half a dozen wolves came gambling into the clearing. They turned from the trail and crashed together, gangly as puppies, yipping and yowling, biting and nipping at one another. A deep-throated growl from the grizzled pack leader sent the others slinking and whining. One small fellow rolled on his back so that his white-haired belly was up in the air while his tongue lolled from the side of his mouth. The older wolf walked over, proud and stately as any king and placed his paw on the younger wolf's belly then opened his jaws wide and yowled. The whole pack replied and an answering cry came from above. The small wolf gave forth a gurgling response but the paw on his stomach hampered his attempt. A nip from the pack leader as he took his paw away sent the small wolf scrambling to his feet. All seven of the wolves formed into a semi-circle that faced the path, the largest, the old pack leader, at the center.
More wolves came running down the path, but these turned gracefully and entered the clearing at a slow walk. These new arrivals were as black as soot and had eyes to match. None were bigger than the smallest of the grey-coated wolves, but there were a good deal more in number. Just one short of two dozen, the black-coated wolves filled the trail.
One small wolf, half the size of the old grey leader, walked slowly into the clearing and stood facing the seven larger wolves. The pack leader of the greys slowly approached the small black wolf, then stopped suddenly, its muzzle only inches from the other wolf's nose.
The two stared eye to eye for several moments while the wolves to either side swayed on their feet, some letting their tongues hang loose or turning their ears one way or another, but never moving from their place. Finally the black lowered its head and put its nose almost to the ground. The old grey put out its paw and almost seemed to tap, once, on the black wolf's head. The effect was like a thunderclap. The greys and blacks broke out into a jubilant cacophony of howls and barks. The two leaders sat back on their haunches while their packmates greeted each other head to tail then burst into races across the clearing.
Hidden from the senses of the wolves the companions grimaced and clenched the hilt of a weapon, or muttered a prayer, or cowered slightly, (Little Rat was not alone in this) or kept the components of a spell at hand. All unseen, unheard and unsmelt. But only Ivo paid the wolves no mind. The old gnome kept up a sub-vocal chant as he weaved his spell. His thoughts enrapt with what he wanted the spell to show and only vaguely aware of the wolves around him. The powerful illusion masked the humans, elves, halfling and orc, so much so that one wolf who skittered across the stones into the large ranger's legs, never even thought to look to see what it had hit.
The wolves played, though fights of a more serious nature broke out here and there, only to be met with growls and snapping teeth from one pack leader or the other. Then without warning they all became still and silence flowed back into the clearing from where it had been chased by the rambunctious wolves.
* * *
Voices could be heard raised in song. Deep and booming, they
echoed down the hill, across the valley floor and reverberated from the stony slopes of the neighboring heights.
"A snapping bow!" sang out a powerful voice.
"A burning flame!" came the response from a dozen throats.
"A grinning wolf!" the single voice sang back.
"A grunting boar!" the chorus of voices replied.
"A raucous crow!" "A rootless tree!"
"A breaking wave!" "A boiling kettle!"
"A flying arrow!" "An ebbing tide!"
"A coiled adder! "The ice of a night!"
Over the tops of trees and the edge of rock could be seen a
monstrous shaggy head. A giant with a mane of hair like a lion's and a beard that was long as any dwarve's, its end stuck in his belt. This giant was all red-brown and grey, his skin dusky like
oerth dried in the sun and his teeth broad and yellow. He opened his mouth wide and a rumbling bass flowed out.
"A bride's bed-talk!" he sang.
More shaggy heads appeared behind him, though none as tall as their leader. Side by side in pairs they came, singing out a reply in chorus.
"A broad sword!" they chanted back.
"A bear's play!" the bass voice resonated through the air.
The black-coated wolves came forward and the grey's drew back. Their leader paced across the stones and his pack followed. They waited near the entrance to the trail for their master's to arrive.
A full dozen giants followed the tall elder warrior. He
carried an axe of blackened steel and iron, and swung it from
hand to hand as he walked, though its haft was the height of a man and the head heavy as an anvil.
Those that followed carried weapons in their hands. Axes like
that of their chief, swords with blades longer than the haft of a spear, spears tall as trees and hammers that no man could hope to lift. On their shoulders were set the ends of poles, linking one giant with his brethren following behind, the two in tandem. Heavy sacks bowed these lengths of wood, but the giants did not seem to mind their burden. Their voices showed no strain as they chorused their response.
"A Chieftain's children!" the verse rang out, a dozen voices
"A witch's welcome!" "The wit of a slave!"
"A sick calf!" "A corpse still fresh!"
"A brother's killer!" "A hall half-burned!"
"A racing wolf who has wrenched a leg!" the giant chief bellowed into the clearing, as he stepped from the trail. "Are never safe."
"Let none trust them!" his dozen followers finished with a
"Konig!" the chieftain called to the black-coated wolves.
With slow and even strides, the packleader walked over to his master and lay down before the giant's feet.
"I see that some of Karnash's pups have met you here," the giant said to his wolf. "Big." he commented in a loud voice, then turned his head to the giants behind him, "But stupid."
* * *
"Ho! The camp! Hvedrung!" a voice boomed from the lower path. "Hvedrung!"
The grey wolf bounded toward the entrance of the trail, the rest of the grey pack yipped and howled, but did not move.
"What was that noise!" the deep, rough voice bellowed. "Fjolver! Is that you and your boys singing, or is that a moose caught in a trap?" a giant called, as he stepped into view from the lower trail.
"Hlebard!" yelled back the old giant, the master of the black wolves. "Your pups have been waiting for you. But no need to worry!" laughed Fjolver. "My wolves have been keeping them safe."
"Pups!" Hlebard laughed back in mock outrage. As he stepped from the trail a small group of giant warriors stepped up behind him. "You see the world upside down and backwards, Old One. Are those black-haired whelps of yours full grown?"
Fjolver just laughed in reply, his sides heaving and his face going red. "What brings you here?" he asked when his breath returned.
"Bad business," said Hlebard. His voice dropped to a growl and the laughter fled from him.
"We have just arrived," the older giant swept his hand back toward his followers to show them standing with their burdens still on their shoulders. "You are welcome to come within our camp."
"We offer our thanks," said Hlebard. "All blood-debt and hard words are left outside the ring of fire-light. Let they be forgotten in the dark."
"Let them be forgotten," Fjolver and all his warriors replied together.
The two leaders reached out and clasped forearms then Hlebard's warriors walked past the two and into the camp. The grey wolves ran to meet their masters. The giants kicked and swatted at them playfully as they went to greet their fellows from the west. Hlebard's and Fjolver's warriors showed no sign of any feud or ill-feelings that might have lain between them. Instead they seemed like old friends, meeting for the first time in several seasons. This was the way of the giants of the western hills and mountains. Campsites were sacred places. Only a renegade would bring or start a feud within the boundary of the fire's light.
"Hlebard, your news?" asked Fjolver, "Do you have time to first break the fast of the trail? We have food and drink to share."
"No," Hlebard shook his head. "We must first speak of these tidings."
Fjolver turned toward his warriors and called to a large, red-haired giant. "The fire is cold. Svarang, you are the fire's servant for this camp."
"Aye Fjolver," the giant bowed his head respectfully. He lowered the end of the huge pole that sat on his shoulder and as he did, the giant behind him shifted the ponderous weight off his own shoulder as well. The canvas sacks that were slung from the wooden pole smacked solidly against the stones and gave forth an audible grunt. Now the other giants began to drop their burdens as well, till they had piled them in several rows.
Svarang led two of his fellows off to the edge of the camp. They passed close to the gnome Ivo. One huge foot seemed about to trod upon the small wizard, but the power of the spell turned the giants tread and the foot came down to one side, while Ivo kept up the weaving of his spell.