Wednesday, 30 July 2014

First Law: Override - A Proper Introduction

Greetings friends!

So over the past few days the concepts about what my latest game project has swollen and grown into what I am currently sitting on at present.

The game in question is First Law: Override a Cooperative SciFi Tabletop Adventure Game.

Perhaps the description is wrong; perhaps 'Cooperative SciFi Tabletop Adventure Game' is not only long winded but also inaccurate. It is with hope that after this post you, the reader can tell me.

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What's up with the name?
For those unfamiliar with the title it refers back to Isaac Asimov's First Law of Robotics, which in it's most basic form states that no robot can harm a human. As such the title First Law: Override refers to this law being literally overridden.

Within the fluff no one knows why the First Law was overridden or even who did it, but roughly five years ago it happened and when it did the machines that up to that point were serving mankind to make it better went rogue and attacked us.

What scale is the game?
First Law: Override is set to be 28-32mm game with board size ranging from intimate 2x2 games to larger 4x4 depending on the missions taking place.

Where is FL:O set?
Ok, First Law: Override (or FL:O) is set on the other side of our galaxy in a region known as The Outer Fringe.

The Outer Fringe comprises of many planets and stars, most of them inhospitable, but there is the occasional world that is not only useable but in a few cases has spawned life of it's own case.

But FL:O is not restricted to these worlds, there are space stations, floating derelicts and of course in-space battles, all of which are exploitable to you the player!

What characters can I play?
Currently there are three classes a player can create.

First you have the Soldier, those who excel at combat.

Second are the Hackers, those who can use technology as weapons either taking control of enemy turrets or activating/deactivating security systems.

Third and final is are the Rogues, these characters are outsiders to most but make a living either doing questionable actions or bringing down others who do.

What about races? Can I only be a Human?

No good SciFi game would require you to only play a human, instead you have the following choices.

Human (of course) - Resourceful race balanced as a jack of all trades.

Hydan - Highly intelligent aliens that have a natural affinity to the manipulation of AI units. Their relationship with artificial intelligence encourages them to create symbiotic relationships with these units and allowing them to produce beautiful towering city structures and the skills involved in being a Hacker are valued above all else.

Kratel - Brutal warriors who regard death in battle as the only death deserving a member of the Kratel Empire. Away from their home planet Krata Prime it is very rare to encounter male Kratel who are treated as second class citizens by the female dominated Empire.

Reborn - A faction comprised of members of all other races who wish to further their evolution through integration of technology. Unlike the Hydan's symbiosis with technology the Reborn exorcise dominance over it, bending AI units to their will creating reluctant but terrifying mechanical slaves. The Reborn believe that the merging of flesh and tech is the way that evolution must go and have been known to force this merging on entire settlements of various other races against their will.

What sort of missions will I take part in?

As an adventure game rather than a purely action game, FL:O will have you and your team exploring unchartered worlds on behalf of mining sponsors, investigating deserted ships in the dark reaches of space, fighting off swarms of monstrous aliens, hunting rogue synthetic androids and taking part in space based dog fights. You will see entire alien species rise from almost nothing to being a galactic threat, all the while being under the looming watch of the Independent Network Interface (INI) that routed Humans from Earth on the first place.

How this is played out is up to you the players. You can walk the line from White to Black and all the Grey in between, you can make a name for yourself in your profession and earn the big bucks with high class jobs to deck out your team and ships with the best equipment around, or you can take on daring assaults to steal what you need where the rewards are great but the risks even greater!

This all sounds great! What do I need to play this game?
Unlike many games, FL:O is not played out with any particular miniatures line or range of terrain. Instead the game gives recommendations but it is ultimately up to the players what they use. Terrain can be decided largely on what is available and the missions will be largely flexible enough to accommodate most commonly available terrain pieces.

Beyond that you need tape measures, a few d10 and your own imagination!

*************

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the game, and any questions you may have please direct then to the usual locations:
Email: doctorloxley@hotmail.co.uk
Twitter: @doctorloxley

Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you Fringe-side!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

General Hobby Updates - More Painting

Greetings friends!

So putting a temporary hold on my updates on First Law: Override - which by the way is starting to progress exceedingly well as a lot of lessons I learned from CRYPTS is coming into play here. Instead I'd like to talk to you about my recent Hobby updates!

So what have I been up to? Well finishing my Hell Dorado project that I started back in the begining of the year! Yup it's only taken roughly 7 months (all be it about 6 of those months was spent sat on a shelf gathering dust).

So what do I have to show for it? Well last week I showed you all my Greater Damned of Wrath


Well now it's time to shoe off the other models I've finished:







First up is Zaxaan! I had great fun giving his blade it's gorey look, I actually think his blade is my favourite application of Clear Red. I still intend to add some more gore by making strings of it which will be attached to the blade and pooling at the extreme edge of the base.








Next up are the Infernal Horde. I literally finished these critters last night, and painting them up was a great pleasure! The level of defined detail in something so small was wonderful!




Of course I also wanted to goreify my normal Damned of Wrath, he was clearly someone who needed it, and like with Zaxaan I'll later be adding blood strings just to finish this guy off.

But last night was not only Hell Dorado; no I also spent some time working on some models that I've sat on my painting tray for nearly a year.

Yup I'm talking about last year's GenCon purchase I made where I handed in my Henchman notice and cut my ties with Wyrd.

Please note these are still very much works in progress:


First up is one of my Depleted. I am very happy with how the skin came out and i am looking forward to see how he ends up.


Next up is Mr Graves, a model that I have always had major issues with namely due to how undefined the detail on him is. If you want to give this guy any resemblance to a face then you really need to apply it to him as it just is not there on the sculpt, that blob of a mess is the best I could come up with.


Last but not least is the Primordial Magic, or Vomit Worm as he is commonly known.
- I have elected not to include his vomit.
Anyway, this guy looks like to me the perfect candidate for mixing my standard painting techniques with my new love for Clear Red and once he has been painted and varnished I am very much looking forward to blooding up his exposed tissue!

There are more models in my painting queue including the other two Depleted, three Necro Punks, a Copycat Killer, Tuco, Mr Tannen and I'm sure there's more that I've left off.

I am painting them all in a batch, so with hope I'll have them done soon for you all!

On that note; take care and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Forgotten Ghosts - Part 3: A Project: Incubi short story

Greetings friends!

So to date in our story you have been introduced to the following characters:

Paul: The Bounty Hunter
Red: The Warrior
Charlie: The Ghost
Protocol: The NPC AI

The Story So Far:
So the crew of the Goliath arrived at an undisclosed region of space to pick up a friendly ship called the Patriot.

The Patriot was supposed to be the ship belonging to a missing Ghost who was believed to have information valuable to the Free Port Authority; the governing body of Free Port, the largest Human colony in the Outer Fringe.

Once they arrived the ship was under attack from drone ships belonging to the Independent Network Interface. The Goliath destroyed 5 of the drones with the sixth and final making it's escape, but not before one drone was able to damage the Goliath's FTL drive.

With the threat of the drones gone the Goliath was able to board the Patriot. Inside no sign of the Ghost could be found and the power was dead.

Red was able to restart the ship's engines allowing access to the Patriot's cockpit within which Paul found Protocol; the ships active and very cryptic AI Core.

With the Goliath's FTL drive repaired and the toxic levels of air rising on the Patriot, Paul and Red returned to the Goliath downloading Protocol and taking it with them as they left to return to Free Port with the Patriot in tow.

And now; on with part three!

************

Red hated FTL travel. It made no sense to him how it was possible; to travel faster than light, he had never been the smartest of people, but even he knew that wasn't possible.

What made the experience so much worse was how time seemed to stand still while the FTL drive was active. They could walk around the ship and do whatever they wanted without problem, and when they reached their destination he could check the time, and low and behold time had indeed passed, just as long as was supposed to have passed in fact, often hours, days or even weeks depending on the distance travelled. It wasn't so much that time stopped rather it simply died every time they travelled.

They had arrived at Free Port with next to no problems and the journey had given them all time to think about what had happened on that ship, none more so than Paul who had spent every available minute locked away in the ship's holding cells trying to crack whatever information he could from the AI core.

As far as Red was aware, the Patriot had never been piloted by a Ghost, instead the AI itself was a Ghost, some new tech created by the UEF lab boys to take the fight back to Earth. They had tried to salvage the Phase Loop Drive from the Patriot but sadly it was beyond repair. Other than that the ship itself seemed next to useless leading all of the Goliath to agree that it must have been the AI that interested the Free Port Authority so much.

It was because of this interest that they all agreed not to hand over the AI before they knew why it was so important and for this reason they had all worked together in an attempt to figure out Protocol's secrets.

Charlie had ensured that Protocol, while being connected to the ship was kept isolated from the systems, allowing a drop of information into it's own core every so often but not enough to give it access. Charlie called this AI Water Torture.

Paul led the interrogation, he had seen first hand how much information the AI had on them all by just scanning his face and one thing he was not going to do was jeopardise his crew's safety by exposing them to the unknown consequences of what he was going to try and do.

Red's job was possibly the most vital of all, while Charlie monitored the flow of power to the AI Core and Paul argued with it over info, Red kept the Goliath running. He ensured it completed maintenance cycles when it was supposed to and prepared hot meals for them all when the ship's computer told him that enough time had passed for him to do so.

"Who created you!?" Demanded Paul at Protocol, it's electric blue bars appearing faded and dull.

Protocol waited and replied with the same answer it had for the previous three hours.

"I was not created, I was transferred" Protocol replied "I would much appreciate it if you could reconnect me into the Patriot please".

"You're not getting put back into your tin can until you tell me what I need to know!" Shouted Paul back at the Hologram display "One way or another you are going to tell me what I need to know" he continued, an obvious frustration in his voice "either that or I'll just give you over to the Network next time we bump into a drone! How'd you like that?"

The display shifted and shrank. Protocol's voice sounded quiet "I can not answer you as I do not know the answer" Protocol's hologram shifted and changed, it went on to explain to Paul that it's data banks did not go back to it's creation onto to when it was activated as the AI pilot of the Patriot. Protocol continued to tell Paul how it left it's point if origin when it was instructed to lead an attack on an INI force that it knew would fail and bring about it's own termination.

Red's voice burst out of the speakers "Boys, grab your shit! We're about to enter Free Port Docking!"

Paul hurried to the holding chamber's only window and looked out over the expanse before them; the sprawling docking arms of Free Port's Space Dock loomed ahead of them. They had already deactivated their FTL drive and had already entered the planet's atmosphere.

As the Goliath arrived at Free Port Charlie started scrambling around the cockpit, his Ghost display flashing images of weaponry and masked faces.
"We've got a problem boss!" Called out Charlie. He tapped some buttons on the Ghost display and the images projected onto the main ship display.

"Fifteen raiders located at the landing site, almost all Human with a couple of Kratel, armed and tooled to the teeth!" Charlie finished.

Paul searched through the display searching for something, he paused and double tapped the face of someone. The image flashed and quadrupled in size. "Here's our contact, bastard must have sold us out!"

There was a clunk of heavy metal behind them as they turned to see Red, now covered from head to toe in thick metal armour with a large rifle strapped to his back and a baseball bat sized club covered in rivets and bolts resting in his arms. He smiled at them both before speaking in a confident tone .

"Only fifteen?" Red joked "walk in the park!"

The Goliath docked with the Patriot in tow behind before it too docked at the neighbouring station, the access port to the Goliath opened and Paul stepped out alone.

Paul called out to his contact, a short thin man by the name of Davis "Hey!" He shouted "what's up with the armed escort?"

The man called Davis called back at Paul "Nothing personal, just making sure things go smoothly". Davis gestured to the Patriot and four raiders ran towards the ship, opened the access hatch and disappeared inside. After a minute or so had patched one of the Raiders stepped back outside and shook their head.

Davis almost growled at Paul "Where's the AI Core, Paul?"

Paul faked ignorance, it was not something he was good at but he had a backup plan ready. "What AI you talking about?"

Davis looked visibly angry at this reaction and with two fingers pointed directly at Paul. His raiders responded instantly by raising their guns and opening fire. Darting for the nearest bit of cover; a large docking arm, Paul shouted at the top of his lungs "Red! Now!"

The access door to the Goliath opened once more and Red strode out wearing his armour. He was a frightening sight, the armour giving him a good extra inches of height and bulking out his weight almost twofold, he was a walking tank and in his arms he held his large rifle which barked volleys of fire in the direction of Davis and his raiders.

Red's shots echoed across the docking site as the raiders ducked and dived for whatever cover they could find, Red laughed a throaty laugh as he saw Davis keel over from a single fist sized bullet hole in his chest.

"Sweet! Did you see that bro?" Red called over to Paul "I got one!"

Paul was pleased for Red and gave him a thumbs up, despite being an intimidating son of a bitch, Red could not aim with an actual gun to save his life, his rifle designed all around firing the largest, loudest and most lethal rounds possible so that in the few occasions he did hit, it would do some serious damage. It was then that Paul noticed that it was Davis who's been killed.

"Well crap!" Shouted Paul "that's our contract dead and gone!" The roar of Red's rifle was almost deafening and Paul wasn't sure at first if Red had heard him.

"Screw it!" Called back Red and continued to fire volley after volley into the routed raiders.

Behind them both the engines of the Goliath fired up and the access hatch opened once more, from inside Charlie shouted at both Red and Paul.

"Hey guys!" Called Charlie "we're getting outta here now!"

Paul got to his feet and sprinted through the hatch while Red paced slowly and deliberately backwards keeping his suppressing fire in the direction of the raiders, once inside the hatch he quickly spun on his heels and began to unstrap himself from his armour and made his way to the gunnery chair of the cockpit.

Red noticed with some surprise that Paul was not sat in the pilot seat and neither was Charlie, instead mounted onto the dashboard was Protocol's holo-mount. The unit was emitting the image of Protocol's speech bars in vibrant blue and they danced in large movements as it's voice apparently sung a song that Red had never heard before from the cockpit speakers.

Charlie placed both hands on Re and Paul's shoulders reassuringly as they looked on in dismay at the surreal image before them.

"Isn't she a beauty?" Asked Charlie "while you two were making friends outside, I got chatting with Proto' here, we both agreed that the best way out of here was to give her access to the ship" Charlie smiled as Protocol continued to sing her strange and unknown song to herself as the Goliath now untethered to the docking rig forcibly lifted itself from the docking station.

"Ok boys!" Called out Protocol "On my mark and we are out of here!"

Paul noticed the change in voice patterns from Protocol now she was connected to the Goliath. He didn't know why, but she seemed more animated than before, like the artificial life behind her was almost happy. Paul smiled to himself, it must have been the merging with the Goliath's latent AI, the Goliath had always been a quirky ship, and somehow Protocol must have picked up on this somehow.

"Ok!" Called out the AI voice once more "Ready, Set, Mark and GO!"

Protocol's holo display shifted to that of a blue ball that suddenly lit up as bright green as the Goliath's FTL drive activated. It took a moment to respond but before the crew knew it they were traveling far and away from Free Port.

Reality began to dawn on Paul as he slumped down into his pilot chair, the ship being controlled by their new willing and responsive AI Core. Paul laughed to himself, a self aware AI, now he had seen everything.

Paul knew that the next couple of weeks wouldn't be easy, they had killed a member of the Free Port Authority, and for that there would be reparations to pay, but a couple of jobs here, and giving a week or two for things to quieten down there, and things would go back to normal.

Now he just needed to figure out what was the deal with Protocol, and was Charlie right to trust the Goliath in it's electronic hands?

************

And on that note I end the first story set in my new game's universe.

What we are looking at here is an action based mission that could have gone a different way.
- If Paul had been a Smuggler rather than a Bounty a Hunter, or if he had better stats in persuasion (or whatever) then maybe he could have pulled off his plan and gotten away with his Jon's money and the AI core. Instead however there was a fight and thankfully Red with his modified rifle and Exo-suit were there to save the day.

Thankfully because of where the mission took place and because Charlie stated away from the combat they were able to escape before the Raiders were able to rally and return fire, but if it had taken longer to integrate the AI with the ship, or if Red didn't have the Suppressing Fire skill, then we could be looking at a different ending.

This is how a game can play out, with lots of possibilities and thanks to things working out mostly for the best the crew of the Goliath now has access to a Self Aware AI Core which will allow them access to special ship abilities normally only available when a crew member remains behind on this ship.

I hope you like what you've read so far, if you have any suggestions or just general feedback, please let me know!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 28 July 2014

Forgotten Ghosts - Part 2: A Project: Incubi short story

Greetings friends!

So yesterday we had Part One of my first short story for Project: Incubi / First Law: Override. In part one we were introduced to Paul, Red & Charlie, three members of Free Port's premier bounty team. So you know these characters will be returning characters so after this three parter is over you will see these characters in further stories.

And now, without further waffle; on with Part 2!
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The UEF Patriot's doors groaned open and a rush of dust filled air forced itself from inside the ship and out into the umbilical. Paul knew that there was a high toxicity level in this ship, so he knew this would have to be quick.

Stepping inside the dead ship, Paul and Red fumbled for their head lamps, turned them on and began to survey what lay before them. Ahead was a small cargo room, littering the floor was a range of storage containers, some of them no smaller than a person's hand, others as large as a vac-helmet all of them appeared open and discarded.

"Ok Charlie" spoke Red, all signs of intoxication gone from his voice "any chance you can get us some light in here?"

There was a long pause before Charlie replied.

"That's a negative Red" Chirped Charlie "The ship's power is shot, I need you guys to access the engine room and get that bitch running again. Once done I can get you your light."

Paul turned towards the outer door of the ship and manually shut it with a heave and a grunt. The previous amount of light entering the room from the nearby star through the open door now blotted out. In response to the creeping darkness their head lamps grew brighter illuminating everything in the room with a shocking blue-white.

Ahead of them they saw the access hatch in the floor to the engine room and to their right was a magnetically sealed door to the cockpit. Red turned to Paul activating his local comms unit.

"You try and get that door open. I'll work my magic on that engine".

Paul nodded in response. He knew that Red's idea of working his magic was little more than hitting the engine with the butt of his rifle until the machine agreed to work. Paul also knew that Red's method worked.

Red pried oped the hatch to the engine room and clambered onto a nearby ladder allowing him to descend to the level below. The room had not seen much activity in a while, all around stood frozen pistons and cranks each one patiently waiting to be activated once more.

Red's wrist bleeped for a moment and he raised it to his head-cam.

"Yo Charlie!" Red barked into his mic "You gettin' this?"

"Roger that" replied Charlie, "it's probably just air displacement, but keep your gun ready".

Red looked down at his PDA, a wrist mounted device. He had recognised the bleep instantly, it was warning him of movement nearby. It couldn't have been anything alive; Charlie had already scanned the ship and there were no signs of anything. Red gritted his teeth, cursed under his breath for the twinge of fear he felt and continued into the room.

Back by the cockpit door Paul was checking over the locking mechanism. He had heard Red and Charlie's brief exchange and was growing concerned, his own PDA had alerted him to movement at the exact same time as Red's. Paul also knew that Charlie was wrong, he had seen air displacement do many things, but it was always a response to an immediate action, this time nothing had happened prior to the alert.

Paul shook his head, he was getting paranoid. It was the toxicity in the ship, it must be getting inside his suit and messing with his head. He'd need to hurry this up quickly, but there was no getting past this lock without a functioning power system.

Inside the engine room Red had found the Primary Reactor Switch. Even in the darkness of the dead ship it glowed with a dull red that pulsed as if it was the literal heartbeat of the ship. With a dry gulp Red pressed the switch and waited to unleash hell.

Nothing happened. The switch continued to pulse but it didn't response to his command. Red ground his teeth together, raised his hand and with a swing of his massive fist brought it swinging down on top of the pulsing switch.

Something clicked in the switch. The previous pulsing stopped and was replaced with a vivid continuous glow of luminous green. With a flicker and burst, each light in the engine room spluttered into life and began to form a chain of light as the reaction was cried outside the engine room across the cargo chamber and into the cockpit.

With a whirr the cockpit door slid open revealing a small room big enough for a single person to sit in the single chair that filled most of the space. In front of the chair, embedded within the dashboard of the ship controls was a large flat disk, floating above that disk was a set of holographic vertical lines in a vibrant electric blue.

As Paul entered the cockpit and sat in the chair he was surprised how the holographic lines moved and shifted, they merged together into a single ball like image, out from which a single beam of blue light was emitted that moved over his face, remaining over his eyes for half a second longer than any other part of him. Before what seemed like no time had passed the ball shifted back to the lines which stretched and retracted as a voice erupted out of the wall mounted speakers.

"Welcome to the UEF Patriot" sounded the voice from the speakers, it sounded female and was clearly manufactured to have a generic-comforting speech pattern "I am Protocol your guide and friend here to help you as you navigate your first time operating this top of the line, still in testing, Ghost Ship".

Paul was stunned, he was used to ship AIs, but they didn't normally talk to you, instead acting as a silent interpreter between human input and ship action. A moment later his Comms Unit flashed and the familiar voice of Charlie piped into his ear.

"Boss, engines are a go! We can take off whenever you are ready!" Charlie celebrated, a clear sound of pride rung in his voice.

"Good job kid" replied Paul "we'll be coming back over soon, I just have something to deal with first".

Paul turned his attention back to the glowing blue lines "Ok, Protocol was it?"

The blue lines stretched and compressed as they replied "You are correct Bounty Hunter 184269".

Paul looked even more shocked, that was his registration number the AI had quoted back to him.

"Ok, Protocol" Paul continued "Can you tell me what happened to the Ghost piloting this ship?"

The lines moved again before replying "unable to reply. No Ghost pilot has been registered for this vessel".

Paul paused for a second before readjusting his query; "Protocol, who is the registered pilot for the UEF Patriot?"

The lines blurred and then returned to normal "unable to answer query. No pilot registered to specified vessel".

Paul was getting more and more annoyed, when he heard a thundering from behind him, spinning in the chair he saw Red charging towards him.

"Boss!" Shouted out Red as he lumbered towards the cockpit "check your PDA!"

Paul looked down at his wrist, the device he wore like a watch was blinking red. It was at that moment Charlie chirped in on the comms relay.

"Hey guys!" Charlie sounded worried "You'd better get out of their now, the tox levels have risen through the roof!"

Paul turned back to the glowing blue lines, he didn't have time for this nonsense.

"Charlie!" Paul barked back at the kid "Can you get a reading on the ship's AI Core?" There was a pause for a couple of seconds "Charlie!" Paul shouted in frustration.

"Got it boss!" Replied Charlie, he sounded very pleased with himself "give me three minutes and I'll have it downloaded to our systems."

"Fantastic!" Replied Paul "Red, let's get out of here!"

The two quickly moved back to the ship's outside door which opened with ease now that power had been restored. Returning to the Goliath they stripped off their boarding suits and prepared to disembark.

Paul sat in his chair and spun around to face Charlie. "We good to go kid?" Asked Paul.

"Whenever you are boss" Charlie replied "That AI is locked down and being compiled" he continued "but let me tell you, it is like nothing I've ever seen before!"

Red spoke up from his side of the cockpit "tethers enabled Paul, the Patriot is in tow"

The Goliath's engines roared into life and in a matter of moments their FTL drive had been activated.

**************

So that's part 2 for you! Hope you are enjoying this so far. I'll be honest, it's a little bit of a struggle as I'm having issues putting the volume of story I want to cover while making it manageable chunks. If anyone has any hints or suggestions I'd greatly appreciate it.

Today's story is a narrative example of one of the mission types called Investigation. In Investigation missions you will need to explore locations looking for items, people, equipment etc all the while having 'alert blips' sounding out possible danger. It might be toxic gas, it might be a dangerous alien or it might be a friendly little gerbil that had escaped it's cage.

The aim behind each campaign of story is to have a random assortment of missions (games) meaning each story will never be the same again. In this instance our ship's crew were sent to retrieve a missing ship, so we had a space combat mission, followed by a 'terrestrial' (on foot anyway) Investigation mission. Next time however it could be a Space Subterfuge mission followed by a Terrestrial Combat mission. The limits are almost endless.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Forgotten Ghosts - Part 1: A Project: Incubi short story

Greetings friends! It was only a matter of time before I would get started on a short story for my latest endeavour and figured "why not just get it out of the way, I'm sure you guys are ready for it!"

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Like a sleek bullet the United Earth Fleet Goliath roared to it's intended target. At the helm ensuring every turn and manoeuvre was celebrated just right was it's captain and pilot; Paul Holmes.

Paul was a Bounty Hunter by trade and one of the best available owning some of the most prized after sites in the settlement of Free Port; one of the most successful, if not the only successful, Human colonies in the Outer Fringe. Officials from all around new that if they needed something done right and off the books then going to Paul was the best, and in some cases, only way of getting it done.

Sat behind him in the gunnery chair was his good friend Red Six, the two had been through more scrapes then they cared to tell stories about and always come out on top. Before joining up with Paul, Red had belonged to a group of Pirates; the Red Raiders. In the Raider's complex hierarchy he had been the 6th rank and therefore had the title; Red Six, but mostly now just went by Red. Paul had thought about asking about Red's real name but he figured that if Red wanted him to know that, he'd have volunteered long ago.

Along for the ride was their Ghost; Charlie. Charlie was one of the best Hackers either Paul or Red had ever seen and by the time he was 12 had already tapped into the Free Port security system, something the Free Port authorities to this day have been still trying to figure out.

Their latest job was an interesting one; the Free Port authority had recruited the team for a job. On paper the job was going to be easy; locate a missing Ghost operative who's ship had turned up free floating in unoccupied space and was not responding to any coms-traffic, secure the Ghost and their ship and then high tail it out of there and back to Free Port. Seemed easy, on paper.

When they had arrived the crew of the Goliath soon realised that things were far from easy. Before them floated their target; the UEF Patriot. It was a small ship, capable of holding only a single crew member, but it housed the pinnacle of Mankind's latest technological devices; the Phase Loop Drive.

Paul had often heard about these devices, or PLDs as they were called. Capable of opening rifts in space allowing a ship to simultaneously move from one point of space to the other. This was why he had brought Charlie with him. As well as cracking the door to the ship open, Paul hoped that Charlie would be able to record he schematics of the PLD down and later recreate it for the Goliath. When they arrived however it became obvious that they were not the only one interested in the PLD.

Surrounding the ship were at first count a total of six INI drone ships, all working in unison to try and crack the code on the ship and take control of it's AI Core. Responding to the imminent threat the Goliath now hurtled into range of the drone ships and locked on with it's particle cannons.

The Goliath unleashed it's weaponry on the Drone Ships with everything it had and in the first volley alone four of the ships ceased functioning, either shutting down from a lack of higher cognition or detonating all together. The remaining two drones, reacting quickly started their thrusters and banked away from the Patriot.

The first drone banked hard bringing the Goliath into it's sights. Drone ships were physically weak but they were undisputed in their agility. Readying it's single cannon it targeted the Goliath's engine and fired a single well placed shot.

The attack pierced the Goliath disabling it's Faster Than Light travel. Even of they wanted to, there would be no way of jumping out of this fight. The Goliath responded with another volley from it's forward cannons and destroyed the first drone in a flash of liquid fire.

The second drone; following standard programming protocol activated it's FTL drive and retreated at full speed. The wake of the jump rippled out and crashed into the Goliath.

"Well shit!" shouted Charlie, scrambling across the cockpit trying to reach three different consoles on opposite sides of the chamber.

"Just get on it!" Shouted Paul "We need this ship operational if we're going to get this job in on time!"

Red stood from his chair and stumbled his way over to Paul.

"We good boss?" Red asked, a slight slur from alcohol in his voice.

"Yeah, we're good" replied Paul. The Hunter paused for a moment and then continued "Charlie, I'm going to need you to crack the seal on this puppy, think you can handle that as well as the engines?"

Charlie paused for a moment before pulling out his Holo-Unit and started pressing what appeared to be random symbols before replying.

"On it!" The kid replied, an almost distracted distance in his voice.

The Goliath brought itself to a stop alongside the Patriot and began to attach it's boarding umbilical to the partnered ship. From his console Charlie operated his Holo-Unit before he began to recite what was being displayed.

"Ok, we got zero life signs" called out Charlie "as in literally shit-nothing in there". Charlie paused for a moment "However I am reading organic traces. I think our Ghost is inside, out for the count" he looked at his other readings before continuing "and looking at the Tox readings in there, I think he's out permanently".

Paul stood and brushed down his coat before addressing his crew.

"Gotcha" he said smiling and nodding at Charlie "Red, you're with me. Charlie, stay here and keep working on the engines, but stay alert; we may need you inside".

Paul paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts before stepping towards the umbilical and the waiting Patriot. He couldn't place why, but something didn't feel right about this job.

***************

And that ends part one of the first part of Forgotten Ghosts. I hope you liked it, and I should be putting out part two in a day or two. As an idea each section is aimed at representing the narrative of a single mission, however I may remove some bits that would be present in a game but would make for a boring story - we've all played games of X-Wing and Attack Wing where we've spent 20 mins circling each other trying to get the enemy ships into your LOS, and frankly that would make for a freaking boring story!

- On a side note, I've had an idea about the game's name, I'm currently thinking of First Law: Override. It's referring to the struggle that takes place at the heart of the game; Mankind vs the INI.

Anyway, would welcome feedback, and until next time, see you Fringeside! (Get it? Because the game takes place in a region of the galaxy called the Outer Fringe!)

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Project: Incubi - Races & Classes

Greetings friends!

So yesterday I 'unveiled' my latest game idea. Today I'd like expand on that with some fluff and class ideas.

That's right, moving away from CRYPTS free form Aspects, Project: Incubi (I really need a more suitable work in progress name; willing to take any suggestions, something containing INI I think as they're the main antagonists, however all the words I've found are things like INItiate or afINIty and I can't help but think that's a little close to Infinity for my liking. Or there's the whole After Earth thing going on... So maybe a word containing AE? But have you googled that? There is literally 913 words that contain AE.

Anyway, so let's move on with today's topic: Races and Classes.

So far the races are done by theme:

We have the Hydan, the equivalent of Vulcans or Space Elves. I have no plans on them looking like Elves however and I want something that looks both intelligent but also non-human, currently I am drawn to Infinity for the Tohaa as I think they look very suitable:





These are great with technology and specialise in using tech at range.

Next we have the Kratel, these are space lizards who prefer brute force over tech and range. Think of them as like brutish Klingons with a touch of Predator. For these I'm going back to Infinity and seeing part of The Combined Army for the brutish look


Next up are are the INI Forces, drones controlled by a tyrannical AI. These are not going to be playable characters but will be enemies and some classes (Hackers in particular) will be able to utilise them as allies. You're looking for smooth tech bots here, so the range of robots from EDEN or the Aleph are all great:





After that we have the Reborn; a Cyborg group that is made up of many other races who use technology to improve themselves. Think of them as like the opposite of the INI Force. Where INI are sleek and robotic, these dudes are dirty and damaged. I've given it a look but have yet to find a suitable range of models, but I'm sure you could in no time.

Last but not least, we have the Humans. Now these guys are the nomadic survivors, and as with the cyborgs, finding suitable models is as easy as throwing a rock I to a crowd and hitting someone.

Next up are the classes. Now currently each Class is split into 2 trees:

First up is the Soldier Class which is split into the following trees:
- Marine Tree: Marines focus on ranged combat with weapons dealing high damage.
- Warrior Tree: Warriors focus on melee combat using weapons to deal high damage.

Next up is the Hacker Class split as follows:
- Ghost: Ghosts excel outside of combat utilising remote hacking tools to access security systems and provide buffs and debuffs for friends and enemies.
- Machinimates: As the name suggests, Machinimates animate and control machines, capable of possessing or enslaving AI constructs such as INI forces.

Following on we have the Rogue class, a class aimed as a middle ground:
- Bounty Hunter: these guys make use of medium range weapons and are good at keeping pace with even speedy opponents. Once they've tracked a target they don't let it get away.
- Smuggler: Always knowing the right price a Smuggler is great to have as ally. They are also fantastic at avoiding detection and keeping equipment or weapons concealed.

Currently that is where I am; not bad for only 2 days of casual planning, I think you'll agree?

Obviously there will be more to come, I have yet to delve into the pure-NPCS races yet for starters and I'm sure there will be more classes to add.

Anyway, it's getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow, so good night, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

NB: I should probably add, the aim of the trees is to allow for any class to pick from any available tree, but there will not be enough levels/points to maximise all trees, for those who's played MMOs or Borderlands this is not a new concept:


- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 25 July 2014

Project: Incubi (An InDevelopment Title)

And now time for a short story:

*************

Thirty seven years ago humanity created the Independent Network Interface, or INI for short; a sprawling AI formed by interconnecting every single computerised system on Earth. The advertisers called it The Super Internet, and we all bought into it hook line and sinker.

For about fifteen years everything seemed grand! With the aid of the INI we were able to do things we had never before. Space travel was realised in a matter of years, real sustainable F.T.L. space travel.

We met all kinds of aliens from the slobbering animal kinds to the hyper intelligent live long and whatnot kind, who by the way have a real love for M.S.G. it turns out.

I suppose you could say it was one of the golden ages of humanity. That was until the INI turned on us. Yeah, it pulled a Skynet on us and we were too stupid to see it coming.

We fought back; obviously, and after five years of struggle we finally gave up and did the only thing we could.

We fled Earth.

It was funny really. Only a matter of years ago; the Hackers were seen as public enemy number one, slicing their way into the INI to cause havoc and anarchy, now we were relying on them to release the AI on the ships we had from the INI so we could make it off world and hope for sanctuary out in the far reaches of the galaxy.

That's pretty much how we've survived from then on. Yeah there are settlements here and there, we do what we can to blend in with the locals, and we do our best to remind ourselves that out here; we're the aliens.

I won't lie to you however, from the raiders looting our supply ships to those Pha'Nur nasties that we've been seeing more and more it's not easy getting by, sometimes we have to do the occasional thing we're not too happy with. Plus the INI followed us out here, so yeah we have to deal with that too.

But all things considered, we're still kicking, and that's the main thing.

My name is Ben Ford and welcome to the UEF Incubi.

***************

Hey friends! Welcome to an introduction to Project: Incubi, a name for something that literally was conceived in my mind earlier today!
- The name by the way is SUPER work in progress-temporary until I can find something better.

So what is Project: Incubi?

It's a game I want to work on set in a fictional scifi future where you and your buddies take on the role of classic scifi tropes (the Blade Runner style Bounty Hunter, the Aliens style Marine, The Space Pirate, that sort if thing) and take part in cooperative campaign games set across the numerous worlds in a coop environment on land and in space.

That's right! Coop! No GMs here!

Think of it as like an Action RPG with semi automated NPCs.

Attempting to mix an original and robust Terrestrial combat system with the tried and tested FlightPath(tm) system it is my hope to create a game system that allows for a great narrative experience that friends can play together and recount as great stories in the years that follow.

So to give an example of how a campaign might work:

In this example you and your friends are Space Pirates, you already have solo FTL flyers of your own but you want something better, a capital ship you can call a home; a very large, very mobile home.

Now you could take on some standard missions to save up the cash and buy a ship, or you could find an old damaged one and try to rebuild it, or you could just do what all good Space Pirates do and steal one!

So you play through the Hijack campaign in the basic campaign pack.

Hijack comprises of three missions:
1). You need to sneak into a high security complex and steal information pertaining to the location of nearby ships. As all ships' AI are track able through the Intergalactic DMV this should be easy. The only problem is the IDMV's database is housed in a vault protected by Patrol-Bots, nigh impossible to kill and will KO you in almost one hit. However they have quite a limited scan range and will always stick to their guard spot comprising of a 20 feet radius. You should be able to sneak past them and get out, failure to do so will result on a fight on your hands.

2). With this data in hand you have tracked down the location of a transport ship, this will do nicely and it is due to enter orbit before the end of the day.

Now you need to get access to the planetary satellite system in order to send out a jamming signal to give your flyers an opportunity to sneak up on the transport ship. The only problem; the facility you need to access has been overrun by INI forces in an attempt to send a message back to Earth. You must get into the facility with use of force and send the jamming signal. Stopping the INI forces comes as a secondary priority, but bonus rewards will be given if you can do that as well.

3). You've found the ship, jammed their signal and now you must take off into space in your flyers to try and disable the transport to allow you to board it and take control all the while fighting off the mercenary armed guard that the transport has.

If you can succeed in this campaign then you and your buddies get to leave he campaign with a brand spanking-waiting to be upgraded with lots of nice new weapons, transport ship!

And there we have it!

I hope you like the sound of this, if you would like to be involved in this game please let me know!

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 24 July 2014

More Painting Done - Hell Dorado

Greetings friends!

Can you believe it's Thursday already?

Can you believe I'm also writing in the morning as well? For the past couple of weeks all my posts have been in the late afternoon as my earlier start has left me knocked out and sleeping on the way in to work.

Anyway, last night I did some more painting where I finally finished a lot of models. Most of them I am very happy with, some less so.

So last night I varnished all my 'complete' Hell Dorado models, including within that list my Greater Damned of Wrath


And Zaxaan



Now out of these Zaxaan is a model I am less happy with as despite being quite large with lots of detail covering him, he is largely the same thing. He is covered in lots and lots of bare skin which, unfortunately looks a little poor when put up against great models like the Greater Wrath.

This isn't to say that Zaxaan is a poor model, as he is not, he is a great model with tonnes of character who was really fun to paint. No his problem is when you put him next to the Greater Wrath who comes with skin, bones, muscle, dead bodies, stitching etc he looks poor in comparison.

Anyway, last night as my varnish had dried I decided it was time I set about experimenting with my Clear Red paint.

The plan was simple; just follow the guides who all say the same thing:
- Dab some clear red over your intended place to begin.
- Using a mixing palette take some clear red and mix in a tiny amount of black paint, the more you add the older and more coagulated the blood will appear.
-Apply via stippling.

So I did this in a number of models, trying different techniques with the brushes on them all.













And here we have the finished Greater Wrath.

For his muscled area I wanted to give them a fresh blood shine so used Clear Red straight out of the bottle with nothing mixed. It's not so easy to see in the pictures, but this has given his exposed muscles a very 'wet' look which is what I was going for.

For his sword, trunk of his club and the blood stain on the base I started off as advised; put down the clear red, then mixed in a slight amount of black and applied that.

At the same time I was using this mixture on my other models to give the original time to dry; this conveyor belt technique is one I tend to use a lot as it drastically increases productivity.

Then I added some more black and applied the new colour, every time stippling and trying to be as random over the exact placements as possible.

Towards the end the mixture was setting and quite dark causing it to be very solid and I ended up scraping it onto the model. This actually created some great results looking like thick dried gooey blood and chunks of meat, the type you would expect on a blade that looks more like a savage saw.

Sadly I made a bit of a boo boo and forgot to take photos of my other models including Zaxaan who's weapon has been transformed from a sheet of metal into a gore covered slaughterhouse tool!

I'm still working on my Infernal Horde models, and they are VERY nearly done, once they are I will take pictures of everything in their completed form and put them up.

Once done I hope to revisit my Malifaux metals I still have outstanding from last year's GenCon. Once done I have a couple of miscellaneous models and that is my collection done and up to date!
- I say my collection as I may be painting my wife's as well as they have remained unpainted for about two-ish years.

Anyway, that's all from me for now; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Reckoning - Finale

Ahead of the posse the corridors of the crypts stretched on for what appeared to be an eternity. For the first time in hours they were able to see far into the distance as a result of the unusual and bulbous pods that lined the walls which in turn were coated in a thick slimy residue. All of the posse members had heard of this region of the crypts; The Spider nest.

Travelling in single file they crept from tunnels into larger chambers and then back into smaller tunnels. On more than one occasion they encountered a variety of giant spiders, some not much bigger than a rat, others about three to four feet in length. Every time the posse dispatched the creatures with relative ease using Claire's protection spells, Cairo's sword and Brute's poison bullets.

After what felt like three to four hours of getting no where, the party reached a terrifyingly large chamber. The walls were lined with yet more bulbous pods, yet still the darkness clinged creating deep impregnable shadows. The residue was much more built up creating a range of stalactites and pillars of thick, solid material. Looking around the posse slotted a variety of large white webbed structures. These structures pulsed and throbbed as Brute approached. Peering at these structures Brute appeared almost shocked as he carefully stepped backwards. He turned quietly on the balls of his feet as he slowly and deliberately mouthed a single word to the rest of the posse; "Eggs".

Both Claire and Cairo were stood motionless, their faces white and their eyes unmoving as they stared at Brute. The gambler paused for a moment contemplating what could cause such a reaction before the realisation came to him and very quickly Brute turned just in time to see two large, black, spiked claw like legs thrust from shadow and through his torso. The legs lifted him off the ground to a waiting pair of porcelain-white hands tipped with needle-like nails which grasped at his neck gripping tightly as a face emerged out of the shadow.

The face was that of a youthful woman, appearing not much older than Claire but equally pale as her hands that held her prey in place. Flowing from the face was long thick black hair that seemed to shimmer almost blue in the glowing light of the room. With black eyes she looked over Brute before parting her lips revealing row upon row of dagger like teeth as, with an inhuman speed she sunk these teeth deep into his throat and tore out chunks of flesh spraying her immaculate face with arterial blood.

The body of Brute twitched and spasmed as the blood soaked creature tossed his remains into another dark recess of the chamber. As it lay there a swarm of rat sized spiders massed over his remains blotting out any sign that it was anything more than a shifting mass of black.

The creature stepped out from the shadows. It stood on six long chitinous legs, each one hard and black ending in blade like claws. Attached to these legs, a black body rose upwards that paled from black into grey before reaching the pale white naked torso of the beast. It's black hair billowed over it's shoulders and barely covered it's exposed breasts giving it a very feminine appearance before running down her back towards a large black and red abdomen.

Cairo's lips trembled as he recognised what he saw. They were standing in the chamber of Rach'Noir, the Queen of the Skittering Shadow and mother to the giant spiders that lurked below New Fairbank.

Claire fought back anger as she realised too late that the alcoholic Brute had led them into a trap. For only a moment she mused on the knowledge that it was the same trap that had seen him fall.

The Spider Queen rushed towards the pair with a speed they had never seen before in a creature her size. Reacting on almost instinct, Claire returned the gesture by closing the gap herself as she launched herself at the beast.

At first Cairo was unsure what had happened, he had seen Claire sprint towards the attacking creature, had seen her jump into the beast's open arms and then an eruption of a red like mist followed by a high pitched squeal. As the mist cleared he saw the Spider Queen curled up on the floor, a massive gouge in her now blood stained chest. Standing over Rach'Noir was Claire. Cairo wasn't sure what disturbed him the most of what he saw, the blood that smeared Claire's arm up to her elbow or the claw like shape it had twisted itself into, her hand replaced with a single blade like structure, the skin hard and armour like.

Claire turned to face Cairo, a warm smile on her face as she felt an cold hand grab her wist and thrust her to the floor. Her smile turned to a scream as she was dragged along the floor towards the open mouthed and bloody maw of the Spider Queen that was scrambling to it's feet. She quivered as she felt a warmth spread over her body. At first she thought she had been wounded, that this was what it felt like to die. It was then that the realisation of what was happening occurred to her.

Cairo didn't know how to react as he saw the transformation take hold. At first it was slow as Claire's skin darkened and began to thicken, however it was only a matter of moments before the change began to increase in speed as bones shifted out of place NF muscles stretched and tore. In a matter of what must have been seconds he had seen Claire go from being a pretty young lady to an eight foot tall behemoth, her hands replaced by club-like arms while her body had become a thick protective carapace.

The Spider Queen stopped and began to sniff at the now changed Claire as if unsure what to make of her captured prey. She paused for a moment as the monstrous Claire brought one of her club like arms smashing into the monstrously beautiful face of Rach'Noir.

Over and over Clair pounded away at the beast, a blood filled rage had overtaken her and she was hungry for pain, death and more blood. From the shadows came a scream of anguish and Cairo twisted away from the pummelling to see the humanoid form of Brute rushing towards him with arms outstretched.

Cairo readied his sword as Brute closed the distance between the two of them. Brute's skin now a sickly green, Cairo could make out what looked like a squirming under Brute's now dead skin. Bringing his sword down hard on Brute, Cairo cut through both soft tissue and bone with relative ease causing Brute's right arm to sever just below the elbow. The creature that was Brute stopped and examined the site where part of it's arm used to be. There was no blood that flowed from the wound, instead Cairo could all but balk at the sight as hundreds of tiny spiders spilled from the open wound.

With a grin of self determination Cairo thrust his blade through Brute's guy and left it there as if Brute was nothing more than a carving pig. Cairo grunted as he unslung his shotgun again and quickly raised it level with Brute's head. Staring the reanimated man in it's eyes Cairo saw only confusion as it tried to understand what was happening, and for a brief moment Cairo was sure he saw fear just before he pulled the trigger turning what was Brute's head into a dark red mist.

Cairo steadied himself as Brute's beheaded corpse fell against him. As if on cue hundreds of large spiders spilled out from the vacant hole where Brute's head used to be. They scuttled and scurried across Cairo's chest and poured in unison onto the floor disappearing into the dark shadows of the crypts. Looking around he saw Claire, once again appearing as her young slender self laying in the foetal position, splayed across her battle worn and body was the bloody and crushed remains of the Spider Queen. Cairo rushed to her side and began to lift her off the ground and, holding her arm over his shoulders began to help Claire walk in an unsteady motion out of the spider's nest.

Claire came to as Cairo began to lift her off the ground. She was grateful for the help as it felt as if her body had been beaten and broken beyond belief, as if a hundred horses had trampled over her body a thousand times. She noticed that Cairo too was clearly wounded, slash marks ran down his chest from his earlier encounter with the giant spiders but despite all of this he bore her weight and with every step she knew she was getting closer to reaching the bright sun of the surface and the much needed rest she longed for. She knew that she had ventured into the crypts seeking a reckoning for her mentor's death, but that would have to wait for now.

After what felt like many hours of twists and turns Cairo stopped in his tracks. He smacked his lips together and smiled before turning down a corridor that clearly had not been disturbed for a very long time.

"What is it?" Enquired Claire, hardly having the strength to lift her head to look.

"The air" replied Cairo with a smile on his face "it tastes, dusty".

Cairo gently dropped Claire to the ground and started gathering materials from around the corridor before beginning to build what looked like a makeshift fire.

"What? What are you doing?" Asked Claire. There was a weakness in her voice, she would need to sleep soon.

Cairo just smiled back at her to begin with before he finally opened his mouth again to speak "the air tastes dusty" he said again "the undead are this way". Cairo paused as he continued to make their campfire "I agreed to help you avenge your friend by killing undead, I'll see that job done or else die in the process".

Claire heard Cairo's words and smiled warmly. She could feel her body drifting to an uncontrollable sleep, as she did visions of her foe swam through her mind. Sitting on a throne of bone, wearing a suit of armour crafted from the thousands who had fallen to his devilish blade and surrounded by the remains of those who had once stood against him, now acting as his willing slave in death. Claire's enemy was known by many as The Skeleton King; The Lord of Bones. To Claire however, he was just someone that she would pound into oblivion with her newly awoken abilities.

As she drifted further and further to sleep Claire began to smile wider and wider, even in her exhausted and unconscious state she knew that somehow, somewhere, she would have her reckoning.

*****************

EPILOGUE

Deep underground, at the very heart of the crypts never touched by daylight something stirred. It reached out with it's body and mind, a thousand voices silently screaming to be heard. It reached out with it's very being, it's own potent blood coursing through it's conscious as it stirred once more.

The silent voices swam through the air like water, falling and wafting over the ground until they reached their target. They knew their purpose and quickly set themselves on their path.

Skin began to knit together and armoured hide reformed where it was damaged, legs previously broken began to twitch at the call of it's master and as time began to stall, the remains of the Spider Queen reformed as if new.

The reborn creature screamed the name of her master in both pain and obedience; Luth'Nak.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Reckoning: Part 3

Brute stood slumped against the crypt wall. Despite his apparent intoxication, Brute was very much aware of his companions. He was joined by two people, the first a woman called Claire. Claire was a member of The Order and didn't speak much. When Claire did talk she mostly ridiculed the other posse member; a large dark skinned man who called himself Cairo.

Brute had many skills, but more so than anything he knew how to read people. He recognised in Cairo a twang of an accent showing that he had spent at least a few years in Britain. Cairo also considered himself a learned and educated man, but Brute saw something that Cairo tried to keep hidden; a darker side, a bully and a strongman.

Brute's talents in regards to understanding others also stretched to making sure that others didn't understand him. Everything about Brute was tailored and designed around misdirection and misunderstanding. He was a waif of a man who had never thrown a punch in his life, but he went by his nickname of Brute. He found that in many cases this contradiction was enough to confuse people, to get them to drop their guard and give him the advantage he was after.

Ultimately Brute was a chancre and a trickster. He would go to gambling dens, play cards and play his game. While everyone else was playing odds, Brute was playing other people.

It was his talent with playing others against each other that Brute hoped would allow him to pull off his latest heist. His plan was simple; to provide misinformation to their leader, get her all riled up without even realising it until she does something to set off the muscles oaf. While they kill each other he makes sure to slip out with whatever loot they've gathered. The plan was so simple he was almost embarrassed to admit he had thought of it, but even more amused by the knowledge that he knew it would work.

Ahead of the two men Claire barked an order at them both, Cairo stopped and pulled out his two handed sword while Brute readied his revolver. Brute had no idea what Claire had said but there was no way he was going to get caught un-prepared.

The posse stood for a moment, they were in a large room covered in a sticky goo like mess. Brute thought of how it reminded him of the sweet candy his mother used to make when he was small. No one was breathing, everyone waited to see what, if anything, was going to happen.

After what felt like far too long Brute breathed out and lowered his revolver. He still had no idea what his boss had barked earlier, but they clearly weren't in any danger. That was when the first attack came.

From overhead a dark brown shape the size of a large dog dropped from the ceiling on top of Claire, at the same time two more slightly larger creatures rushed at Cairo. Brute stared at them almost dumbstruck as he saw their long spindly eight legs, their deep red eyes and venom filled fangs and he knew they were in a spider's best. It made no sense Brute thought to himself; they weren't supposed to reach the spider nest for another two levels. Clearly the information he had stolen was inaccurate.

Cairo swung wildly with his sword knocking one of the beasts away from him and he responded by diving onto it's squirming shell sinking his blade straight into it's back. As the creature squealed in pain the second spider launched it's own attack on the now prone Cairo.

Across the room Claire was struggling with her own monstrous spider, it tore at her clothing and stabbed at her chest and neck trying with everything it could to sink it's fangs deep into her flesh. Brute saw all of this as if in slow motion; the movement, the peril, all of it just a series of events that he could gamble with the outcome.

Brute readied his revolver at the creature scrambling over Claire and gently caressed the trigger sending a single bullet speeding out of the barrel and into the head of the beast. The bullet left a clean entry hole in the spider's head that soon began to sizzle and bubble as the caustic fluids held within the bullet were released inside the spider's head ensuring the creature died quickly yet painfully.

In a swift motion Brute spun on his heels to face Cairo who was also struggling with the third and final spider. As another moment past Brute released a second bullet in the direction of that beast.

The bullet hit the spider square in it's chest, the force of the shot knocking it off Cairo and onto the floor. Reacting to the opportunity Cairo unslung his shotgun from across his back and unloaded a cartridge into the spider's now bubbling chest turning it into nothing more than a gooey mess.

Claire readied herself for another attack, but when none presented itself she turned her attention to Brute.
"Poison bullets!" She called out, her anger echoing throughout the maze like corridors of the crypts "Since when did you have poison bullets?"

Brute stared at her with almost dead eyes. Without looking away he placed a thick wad of chewing tobacco in between his gums. He maintained eye contact as Claire's eyes flashed bright red causing her to blink and back away.

Brute had heard about the transformation that members of The Order were capable, he had heard that during this time they were capable of brutality, but afterwards they were left frail and weak. Brute knew that Claire had a vendetta down here in the crypts, and he knew that there was no way she would chance a premature transformation on an upstart team member. With all this knowledge he continued to stare into the back of Claire's head as she turned and walked away.

**************

Greetings friends!

So you've seen the first three parts of my latest short story: The Reckoning.

I hope you're enjoying these and look forward to the fourth and final part due soon.

On that note; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Reckoning - Part 2: A CRYPTS Short Story

Cairo took a deep breath through his his mouth tasting the air of the crypts. It had a bitter aftertaste to it that he was very familiar with, and he knew it meant they were going in the wrong direction. Cairo had given up his protests many hours ago after their boss; some Order girl called Claire, repeatedly and often told him to mind his own business.

Cairo was a big man, barrel chested with arms to match. His dark skin and love of golden jewellery had lead people to think he was of Egyptian decent. Cairo had grown up on stories of ancient gods, loving each and every one and before arriving at New Fairbank had spent four years interning at the British Museum, taking the opportunity to learn all he could about the mysterious history of Ancient Egypt. Cairo used all he had learned to further the myth that he was Egyptian and it was not long before he had adopted his name leaving his birth title long forgotten to all but him.

Cairo had been in the crypts many times. He knew many things, most importantly he knew the smells.

It had quickly become obvious to Cairo that every part of the crypts had a different smell depending on what lived within. He knew that the demonic areas smelled of burning sulphur, a smell he could never understand as the demons themselves never smelt of it, and I matter how hard he searched he never found the source.

Cairo also knew that the undead areas smelt of a strange combination of damp, rot and dust. It was a warm taste that brought back memories of his time at the museum. The posse was searching for undead, but this smell did not bring back fond memories at all.

Throughout the crypts you would find strange beings that didn't fall under the main categories, these had all been lumped together into one group; The Brood. Cairo knew that despite their differences, all members of The Brood shared the same characteristics; the smell of cold fear, and a taste of panic laced with hopelessness.

This smell was different to all of the others. It was acrid with the taste of bad coffee the morning after a long night drinking. This was the smell of the Skittering Shadow, the Vermin.

Cairo carried two weapons with him; a double barrelled shotgun and a large two handed sword. He had never learned the art of sword fighting, or even how to properly fire a gun. He had learned the basics through trail and error, and the many scars that covered his torso revealed how most of these lessons were learned via more error than trial.

Cairo's tactics were straightforward and interestingly effective. He didn't bother aiming for weak spots or vulnerable positions. He never messed with parries and guarding. He would hit fast and hard, if the Beasty was still standing, he would hit it again and again until eventually only one of them was left and the other nothing more than a bloody pulp. If that didn't work, a shotgun blast to the face at close range was always effective.

Cairo grinned to himself as he saw Claire setting off down the wrong tunnel of the crypt. He cared not that she risked his life by going the wrong way, only that she risked her own as he knew when it came to loot distribution there would only be one returning to the surface and that was what counted.

Behind both Cairo and Claire stumbled Brute, now here was a pathetic excuse for a man, thought Cairo to himself. They had walked for many hours within the crypts, they had long left the mines and early grave sites and were now approaching the hives, but despite all of this this man was somehow still intoxicated despite not drinking a drop of liqueur after leaving camp. The man stumbled about while continuously muttering about some lady of luck all the while talking to his revolver when no one else would listen to him.

Cairo thought about how simple it would be to break every one of their necks before they even realised what was happening and with a sly smile he allowed this thought to rest a moment longer.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Furthering the Pleasure - Another Night Painting

Greetings friends!

Yesterday I showed you photos of my Greater Damned of Wrath that I've been painting up, today I would like to show you where I am a whole 24 hours later after more time painting last night.

In addition to this I also have more models to show:

To start with we return to my Greater Damned of Wrath:


He probably doesn't look that different to you in the photos but I have continued work on his shoulder spikes; making them less bone like and more like grey slate. I have also been applying a variety of flesh tones to his dead-human belt making it less 'green' and more rotten flesh in appearance. I have also added more tones to his club and began to apply brown tones to his boot straps along with a bit if colour to areas like his tongue etc as well as discolouration to the metal he carries.

Next up is my Greater Demon Dude, Zaxxan (or whatever his name is):


When we last saw him he looked like this:


So since then I have been working on his armour and weapon mainly. Again going for a similar effect as the Greater Wrath's shoulders; his weapon is going for a 'grey slate' look. I still feel like there's quite a lot if a way to go with him.

Next up we have my Damned of Sloth:





These guys are basically done (their bandages are painted up and their joints and bellies are tenderised) in fact I am actually really quite happy with these results and I am looking forward to finishing them off.

Last but not least we have my fallen Angel:


It has come across quite poorly in the shot, but she actually has quite pale skin, not the tan-bed orange you see here. Where we left her before she looked more like this:


Notice the rather fugly looking robes. The dirty white just wasn't working, so I went with something that would make her really 'pop', hence the red.

In my pipeline I have two Infernal Horde I need to work on, but we're getting there and soon it will be time to varnish and start playing around with Tamiya Clear Red for blood effects (some of them like the Greater Wrath will need more of that than others).

I also thought you might like to see a size comparison, as I think a lot of this time the true scale of these models are lost when they are shown by themselves:


So starting from the right we have the Damned of Wrath, he is a normal sized 32mm model, the normal size you would expect for a skirmish miniatures game. Next up is an Infernal Horde member who is a little shorter but meatier, then we have the big dudes; The a Greater Damned of Wrath and Zaxxan. These two tower over a lot of other models, demanding instant attention and almost certainly being quite visible over a good number of single storey terrain pieces.

It's worth mentioning that I picked these models up not only to learn to play Hell Dorado, but also because I liked the models and had a use for them as models for games like CRYPTS or even Malifaux. As time has gone on I have only grown to enjoy these models more and everything about them from the level of detail to the sheer height and weight of them heavily appeals to me still.

Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood
Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Reckoning: Part 1

It was always dark down in the crypts, and today was no different. As usual the shadows of the Dark Below crept into every nook and cranny forbidding any light, even that cast from the torches, to spread further than a couple of feet. What was different however was the humidity, the air was thick with it and it made the hair on the posse's heads stick to their skin.

The posse consisted of only three people; a young woman by the name of Claire, a man who went by the name Cairo and a large bullish thug who everyone called Brute.

Claire was not new to the crypts, and she led her posse with a physical strength not expected of someone with her slight figure and short height, but Claire knew that she had more on her side than her physical body.

Claire thought over their situation as she twisted a Blood Shard in her fingers; it's reddish energy drifting from it's shell and across her hand before being absorbed by her skin. On the back of her hand she wore a stamp inked into her skin that told all who she met that she belonged to The Order of Blood.

The Order had always been good to Claire. They had taken her in from the streets when she had arrived only a few years ago as a young homeless girl. They had given her food and water and introduced her early on to the true power of the Blood Shards.

To begin with Claire was not sure if she believed the same as The Order. She knew full well that they had influence in New Fairbank and she would have been stupid to betray their hospitality, however as time passed that uncertainty was replaced with a curiosity. With open arms The Order allowed Claire to attend their meetings where she learned of their message; that the Human form was nothing more than a chrysalis, something to allow our transformation from the very Will of The Divine into something even greater.

It was at these meetings that Claire heard the stories of transformation, of how The Blood Stone was a gift from The Divine and with the right level of exposure mankind was able to shed it's cocoon to ascend to our greater selves. Claire thought these meetings were crazy, at least until she saw the transformation herself.

It was two years into her tutorage, her mentor; Father William had called all his wards to his chambers so they could witness his ascension. At the time Claire didn't know what to expect until she saw it for herself, as his skin hardened and cracked revealing rows of red and black spines that sprouted in rows from his back. Father William's arms distended as more spines erupted along his triceps before finally his face itself darkened and cracked like pottery revealing a mass of tentacles and teeth.

Instantly Claire was in awe, she knew that clearly she gazed on the image of The Devine itself and she longed for the moment that she too could ascend from her physical shell and join Father William as one of His chosen. It was then that Claire noticed another change in her mentor.

It started slowly, an apparent sluggishness in Father William's movements which grew and increased it's rapidity as the moment continued. After what felt like a matter of seconds this spread to a discolouration of the Father's new skin as it turned an ashen grey. In no time at all it spread across his form until he appeared no more the majestic chosen and instead replaced by a statue of one so majestic.

Claire ran to the aid of her mentor and wrapped her arms around his hard and chitinous form. The moment her body touched his, the form of her mentor began to disintegrate. Just as the earlier discolouration it began slowly, like sand slowly blowing into the wind, but in no time at all it had increased in speed revealing Father William as human once again, his old form returned to him but drained of energy.

As time went on Claire learned that what she had witnessed was not Ascension, but only a temporary change. She learned that to truly ascend much needed to be done and many more awoken to the message of the Holy Order. This news troubled and saddened Claire but it would not be long before she would be overjoyed to look on Father William's glorious change once again.

Claire remembered the night well. They had finished their annual inauguration of new members when an attack began. The ground opened up with horrific green tendrils as the dead literally began to claw out from the very soil their ceremony had taken place on. Within a matter of moments they were under assault by attackers all of whom bore the mark of the Cult of Bones.

Until this moment Claire had never met a member of The Cult, but she had heard many tales of the perverted nature and means with which they treated their Blood Shards; using the power of The Divine to corrupt their souls with rot and death. She saw as one of their members, his skin blistered and withered began to channel his own Shards which themselves had turned a sickly green revealing their own corrupted nature.

As the Cult member continued his un-divine ritual Claire noticed what appeared to be humanoid forms materialising in the air around him. They shimmered like reflections in water before darting towards the members of The Order.

It was the sight of Father William that brought a smile to Claire's face as he once again began his near-ascension and charged towards the channelling Cult member. Father William moved like a being a pure beauty, every step placed perfectly and every swipe of his dagger like claws drawing blood in great torrents.

Claire didn't know how, but it appeared to her that somehow her mentor was siphoning the spurts of blood from the very air as it was spilt, with every drop absorbed his attacks grew more divine while his perfect skin knitted over injuries caused by the Cultists.

No one knew when it happened, but with tens of dead Cultists at his feet; Father William began to turn back to his human form as his Divine shell was shed once more. Claire didn't see the attack that followed, but she heard her mentor's screams as he was stabbed in the heart by a ritualistic blade.

The offending Cultist was quickly dispatched, however Father William's weakened state there was nothing any of them could do for him. Claire held his head in her arms as his Blood Shard began to fade as did his life. She held his Shard and washed it in the dark blood that spilled down his chest, hoping and praying that somehow the Divine would hear her and bring the closest she had ever had to a Father back from whatever abyss he was being drawn towards.

Claire knew it was all for naught, that in life your energies were celebrated by The Order, but in death you were enslaved by The Cult.

It was always that way and on this night, deep in the crypts accompanied by Cairo and Brute; both member's of the Sheriff's Law she intended to find the source of The Cult's power. Claire had sworn an oath to herself, to learn all she could, to awaken her own transformation and use this gift from The Divine to cut The Cult from it's font of perverted energy in Father William's name.

As Claire stared into the darkness of the crypts she felt a tingle in her fingers that wound around her vibrant red shard. Today was the day. She nodded to herself in agreement. There would be a reckoning.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

An Absolute Pleasure: Painting Resumes

Greetings friends!

So last night I resumed something I've been meaning to get around to for months, and that's resuming my studies, as a reward for this I decided to treat myself to something else I've been meaning to do for months as well: paint!

When I last left off I was painting my winter Hell Dorado purchases and it was these I picked up and attempted to resume.

So far the 'closest' I have to the finished article is my Greater Damned of Wrath:





(The top picture is without a flash, the bottom is with as while the flash reveals the different tones between the skin and flesh etc, it washes out a lot of the colour as seen in the non flash picture).

However; and I'm not sure it comes across in the paint job, I still have a long way to go.

In fact I look at this picture and he doesn't look that different to how I left him about 5 months ago:



I still need to work on the rotting bodies he has attached to him (they are still very green rather than 'sickly'), his protruding bones are getting there as is his stitch work. I think that his exposed muscle is nearly done and should be complete post production with an experimentation of the use of Tamera Clear Red (or whatever that stuff is called). His weird gore stick still needs a lot of work and until this morning I completely forgot about the rotting head hanging from his belt.

I do think that I have managed to take his 'inverted' skin around his hands and waist and create a nice colour that looks both fleshy and bloody at the same time.

I'm a little annoyed that the head/shoulders mould line has come out really badly as I literally spent about an hour getting rid of that, never the less, I might be able to correct that towards the end.

However after saying all this, I'm missing the point that I was really loving painting this model amount others. It was such a pleasure to do so and I am really looking forward to doing more later this week.

Anyway, that's all from me today, so to those reading this; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Competitive Gaming: A Gender Divide?

Greetings friends!

I learned something today that I found most interesting.

Did you know that in South Korea there is an organisation who call themselves the International e-Sports League (or something like that) for now we'll call them the IeSL.

So this year they were organising the International Hearthstone Tournament; Hearthstone for those who don't know is a digital card game by Blizzard Entertainment and plays in a similar way to Magic: The Gathering.

Well, this wasn't the interesting thing, no what was interesting was that this tournament had two categories; Male and Female. The argument given was that it was to emulate 'real' sport where women are not pitched against men for a variety of reasons.

Well, as it turns out this was something that Joe Internet wasn't happy with and lobbied against this, the resulting change was that there was still two leagues, one mixed for both men and women, and one exclusive to women.

Now as most of you will know by now, I am quite passionate about equal rights for all, and by that I mean true equality.

What we see here is not true equality, but despite this there seems to be little to no objection, instead Joe Public thinks that not only is this acceptable, but it is the way it should be.

In a nut shell what we are looking at is simple:
- If a woman wants to play in a mixed league; she can. If she wants to play in a league with only her gender; she can.
- If a man wants to play in a mixed league; he can. If he wants to play in a league with only his gender; he can't.

Seeing this imbalance, and the acceptance of such an imbalance makes me wonder if I'm going insane, to quote Will Ferral, "Taking Crazy Pills!"

Now most arguments I have seen focus on a few points, and I will tackle them separately.

The first is that as these e-Sport games are non-physical then there is no gender divide and as such there is no reason not to mix the genders.

Ok, well first that is flat out wrong. It is a scientific fact that male brains (mostly) work differently to women's brains, having strengths in some ways with weaknesses in others, just like the rest of our bodies do. For this reason if one gender has the physical advantage over the other when playing a physical sport and that is why they are kept separate, then the same must be done for e-Sports.

After all, just as you have Strength, Agility and Speed, the same is true for the brain with Strength of Mind, Mental Agility and Speed of Thought.

If we are going to argue that these differences are so minuscule that they shouldn't be factored into e-Sport, then there is no reason not to have a single mixed league, there would be no reason to give women their own league while not giving one to men as well.

Which leads us on to the second reason: Choice.

What if a woman would rather play against only women?

Well why should that only apply to women? I can turn it around and ask "what if men only want to play against other men?" Should both genders not have the right to choose that? Speaking rhetorically; why should only women have the right to choose?

Which inevitably leads us on to the final point: Historical handling.

Essentially saying that men had their time before, that because men oppressed women and forbid them from taking part in certain sports etc, that women have the right to do the same now.

I'm sorry but that's just BS!

Explain to me in a coherent way why I should be opposed or oppressed by anyone because of what others who came before me chose to do? Have I oppressed or dominated women? Absolutely not! And oppressing and discriminating against potentially innocent men is no better than what those 'you' are fighting against.

This final point has nothing to do with equality and fair play and everything to do with revenge and as they say; when you seek revenge, prepare to dig two graves.

*************

Look, I know this is a sore subject, there will be those who skim over my points, think I'm attacking feminism or whatever and miss what I'm trying to say.

There will be those who argue that by comparing e-Sports to physical sports is laughable and there will be those who think that I don't have a right to express myself because of an inherited gender bias, but all I'm asking for is true equality.

If we are to reach true equality, then there is only three ways of doing so within this situation:
- A Single Mixed Leage
- Two Leagues; 1 Male, 1 Female
Three Leagues; 1 Male, 1 Female, 1 Mixed.

Call it whatever you like, but any other form of system is gender biased one way or the other and frankly unacceptable in the modern world.

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Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley