Monday, July 21, 2014

Big doings and a companion blog

Hello, good gentles. 

For those of you who missed my posts on Facebook, I'm recovering well from my June heart attack. I'm down more than 22 pounds and have lost nearly two pants sizes in the waist. I'm staying home from work until August 1, not just to recuperate but also to help my loving wife Tracey, who needed emergency surgery and six units of blood two weeks ago. (She's fine but weak as a kitten, and all this rain is giving her extra joint pain.)

I've long had a desire to start a separate blog to gather everything I'm creating for my steampunk London setting. That way I can put the stories, character sketches and world-building research in one convenient place. I can also better organize game stats and content to bring the characters alive in "In Her Majesty's Name," which has been such an impetus in my setting's creation. 

I can now announce that the thing is begun and viewable, although there's little content there as yet. You can read the intro to the "For Your Table" section about gaming with the characters and setting. I'll start copying some existing content from "Dispatches" this week. 

The new blog bears the overarching name I've created for this saga: Brass and Blood. I envision it as a series of novels, with three books planned so far. Well, for certain weak values of "planned." More like "loosely sketched out."

I even purchased a unique domain name. To indulge in business parlance, I want to "build my brand" under the Brass and Blood name. So you can get to it at or

Don't worry, though. Things won't change much here at "Dispatches." I still intend to cover my gaming purchases and experiences, kickstarters and unboxings, and I plan to increase the number of out-and-out reviews I do.

Ye gods, I can't believe I've written so much at one go. I'm a little tired now, so I'll see you all later. 

Back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the table soon. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

And we're back!

Today is the second anniversary of the debut of "Dispatches from the Rim," and it marks the blog's return from a six-week  hiatus as I've dealt with some serious health concerns.

Although I took a break starting in late May, my health issues came to a head in late June, when I apparently suffered a heart attack. I was hospitalized for nearly a week and am still at home recovering. I'm going to try to go back to work on the 17th, provided my cardiologist clears me.

I feel worlds better than I did prior to my hospitalization, largely because I'm acting like an adult and actually following my doctors' instructions. We've got me on insulin now, even though we're still titrating the dosage. I'm following an appropriate diet plan and the weight is dropping off, although that's largely my body coping with the edema. I feel really good, although I have at times overestimated just how much I'm able to do. Given that Georgia and Alabama are already flirting with three-digit daytime temperatures, it would be draining even if I weren't recovering from a heart attack. 

On the hobby front, all that has gone on for me was finally receiving my Relic Knights Kickstarter rewards (after two years) and I've pledged for the Zombicide Season 3 Kickstarter. That's about it. Oh, and "Sleeping Dragon, Rising Sun" came out for "In Her Majesty's Name." Couple that with the IHMN Gothic releases Craig's been posting on the official blog and I'm as happy as a clam. 

It's my birthday next week. I turn 46. In the words of David Niven, I believe, "If I'd known I would live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."

Take care, everyone. I'm back, and I'll soon be plunging you back onto my steampunk London creations for "In Her Majesty's Name."

Back to the boards, everyone, and I look forward to seeing you across the table soon. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I don't really know what to say

Hi everybody.

Sorry I've been so absent from the gaming community lately. I've been, well ...

breaking down?

coming apart?

unraveling? Unraveling. That's the best description for what this has felt like.

Tracey and I have both been sick for a while, swapping flu-like symptoms back and forth on top of our other health problems.

And for some reason, I have been experiencing unexplained -- and unexpected -- bouts of anxiety, up to the point of a couple of panic attacks. It's been nearly two decades since I had anything like that happen, and back then they were brought on by the combination of a divorce and losing my job within a month or so of each other.

Now, there's no explanation. It just hits me. Today, I went into a bookstore and was nearly paralyzed with terror. I mean, damn. I spent the early '90s working in a bookstore as an assistant manager. There's no reason for me to panic in public.

I am the public face of mine and Tracey's partnership. She is at home, and I am the mobile half, out running what errands we need done, interfacing with the public where necessary, making appointments, visiting stores, and so on. Why am I suddenly exhibiting what looks like social anxiety disorder? It doesn't make sense to me.

I've even had trouble logging on to the Internet. I'll look at a link or a page, and all of a sudden I'm seized with a sense of unease about it, a queasiness that grabs my heart and won't let go. Am I suddenly becoming a Luddite? I hope not, as I have technology embedded in my chest. I'd have to up my self-loathing quotient.

Needless to say, my hobby activity has dropped to almost nil. It's been all I can do to log on to the Lead Painter League to vote every week, to keep up with the new releases Craig and Charles are doing for the IHMN Gothic expansion. I've tried to keep up with the blogs I read to see what everybody's doing, and I have remained somewhat active on Facebook, because, let's face it, Facebook is like the Denny's menu of the Internet. All you have to do is point at the pictures of what you want, no reading or commentary required. "Like." Done.

So this is all by way of saying that a brief hiatus is necessary, actually mandatory. I'll be back, probably sooner than later. I hope to have more information on many of the strange characters I've introduced you to, and actual game stats for them. Despite my mental fugue, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the world I'm constructing out there in the fictive universe somewhere, and I long to bring you more introductions and enable you to use them, or their analogues, in your own steampunk games if you like.

And I also think about all of you on at least a daily basis. It may sound insincere, but I do value and love you all. You mean a great deal to me, and our interactions are cherished. Keep up the good work, everyone, and I'll rejoin you soon.

All my love -- Christopher

Monday, April 7, 2014

Victorian Scrunts take to the streets

I've written a company list for (some of) the excellent Victorian Scrunts Bob Olley produced and that I showed off here a couple of weeks ago.

This list is very much a work in progress, and I welcome, indeed require, your feedback to improve it. Believe me, I'm good at taking constructive criticism.

The problems with the list as it stands (the version you're seeing is my fourth swing at it) is that these buggers are PRICEY. If you're playing with a starting 250-point list, that'll get you a Chief Engineer, a couple of Bangers (long-range fighters), a handful of Beaters (melee fighters), and maybe a Boomer (specialist weapons).

The Stout attribute I've ascribed to them means their standard move is 5 inches, and their run adds only 2 inches, instead of the usual 6 inches and 3 inches of most figures. I thought about making this a -1 point disadvantage, but for now I've left it at zero. It's what gives the list much of its character.

I've tried to make it an entertaining list, but I know with your help, we can improve it. There's also a thread over on the Lead Adventure Forum and a post in the In Her Majesty's Name group on Facebook.

Here's the list:

“Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men ...”
-- William Allingham

Victorian Scrunts

As London has grown, many ethnic groups find themselves migrating to the city’s crowded interior to eke out an existence for themselves. One of the latest such groups consists of short-statured men and women who exhibit their toughness, bravery and technical prowess in their trades. They conjure up images out of their neighbors’ childhoods and are often called by names from those people’s folk and fairy tales -- dwarves, svartalfar, tommyknockers. But they’ve taken to themselves a name first used against them in derision: the Scrunts.

While Scrunts are found in all walks of Victorian life, they seem to excel in the building and technical trades. Many Scrunt-owned enterprises have cropped up, but none are better known than the engineers and weaponsmiths at Stronginthearm Industrial Machines and Armaments. For reliable weapons and inventive ammunition, people from all walks of life dream of getting their hands on Stronginthearm munitions.

Stronginthearm regularly displays its wares (and reportedly tests new ideas and products) through its street teams, each led by a Chief Engineer. In addition to marketing and research, these companies also protect the interests of Clan Stronginthearm.

Most company members can be broken down into “Bangers” and “Beaters.” Bangers carry predominantly long-range weaponry, while Beaters are primarily equipped for melee fighting.

Others with more specialized weapon load-outs carry even more descriptive nicknames. Scrunts strong enough to manage heavy weapons single-handed are called “Boomers.” Bangers who equip themselves exclusively with arc weapons are called “Blasters.”

Engineers assisting the Chief Engineer are sometimes called “Buzzers,” given that they are usually tasked with lugging around the company’s Arc Generator.

Current Chief of Operations Vili Stronginthearm is also pushing the company into the handling of mystical forces or objects. As such, he has lured runic practitioners from their ancient homeland, to see how such forces will perform in the field alongside the firm’s technological creations. None has been so foolish as to give these runesmiths a nickname.

Stronginthearm Research & Development Team

Chief Engineer

Tough, Stout, Engineer, Leadership +2
Faraday Coat, English All-Electric Truncheon, Arc Pistol


Tough, Stout, Engineer, Leadership +1
Faraday Coat, Arc Rifle, Arc Generator


Tough, Stout, Marksman, Hunter
Brigandine, Carbine


Tough, Stout, Strongman
Brigandine, Flamethrower


Tough, Stout, Martial Artist, Duellist
Brigandine, Fighting Knife, Club


Tough, Stout, Medic

A runecaster may engrave, carve, paint or daub one rune per phase onto one piece of equipment held by a figure with whom he or she is base to base contact at the beginning of the movement phase. The effects of the rune last until the end of the game. Once a figure has received one rune, it may not receive another.
Available runes are:
   Ansuz, “gods”: +1 to shooting rolls
   Uruz, “aurochs”: +2 to armor rating
   Raidho, “riding”: +3” move
   Perthro, “luck”: +2 to pluck rolls
   Sowilo, “victory”: +2 to fighting rolls

Recently, the firm has been experimenting with the mechanized walkers as are turning up in industrial uses and on the battlefields across the world. The first of these, called the “Buster Machine,” is a light industrial walker fitted with steam fists. It can be upgraded to fit machine guns as well.

Light Industrial Walker
Steam Fists
Light Military Walker
Steam Fists/ Machine Guns

Stout: A full move for Scrunts is 5 inches. When a scrunt runs, it adds only 2 inches to the distance.

A Chief Engineer may upgrade his English All-Electric Truncheon to an Edison Arc Truncheon (+3 points).

An Engineer may purchase Explosive or Gas Grenades (6 points).

An Engineer may purchase a Monocular Targeting Array (7 points).

A Banger may exchange his Carbine for a Hunting Rifle (+11 points) or an Arc Rifle (+3 points).

A Boomer may exchange his Flamethrower for an Arc Cannon (even swap) or a Machine Gun (+15 points).

A Beater may exchange his fighting knife for a rapier (straight exchange) or a sabre/sword (+1 point). Scrunts lack the necessary height to use a sword (large).

A Beater may exchange his Club for a Nightstick (+1 point).

Any company member may purchase a Breath Preserver (2 points).

Here's a link to the list as a pdf:

Victorian Scrunts on Dropbox

Monday, March 17, 2014

The hand of the master revealed ... my Victorian Scrunts arrive.

As I suspected he would, Bob Olley beat me. I received my items from Bob's Victorian Scrunts kickstarter before I've finished tinkering with the company rules I'm writing for "In Her Majesty's Name." I have two days off coming up, so I'll try to finish them off this week and have them posted before the weekend.

(My excitement has me waxing loquacious. There's a tl;dr summary down at the end if you don't want to wade through my excess verbiage!)

But I cannot deny you, my faithful readers, a look at the glory that is the work of the master. Olley's Scrunts are some of the most characterful miniatures out there, and though I haven't yet removed these from their (unique) packaging -- I'm still at work and don't want to lose anything -- they appear to be incredibly clean casts with minimal mold lines and no flash at all. At least I can't find any yet through visual examination. I mean, these did come out of a mold, right? Bob hasn't discovered some moldless method of casting metal miniatures with the sheer power of his mind, has he? Wouldn't put it past him. These things are gorgeous.

I wish I could've plunged into this KS much deeper, but I could only plump for the three-pack deal. That means there were lots I had to leave behind, like the light weapons, both gambling dioramas, the queen and the two vehicles, and the head sprues. Oh, the head sprues! Not that there's not plenty of variety with what I now hold in my grubby little hands, but still, the more, the merrier. You can see pics of all that escaped my greedy grasp on the pages of the kickstarter here. Bob has said over at LAF that he has ideas for many further Victorian Scrunt civilians, so more of the line may be forthcoming. He will certainly get more of my hard-earned cash when he does. I also intend to scoop up more of those I had to forgo initially, once he gets these up in his webstore.

What I chose were the lads armed with the Heavy Weapons, Packs 1 and 2:

The "unique" packaging I mentioned, here encasing
pack 2 of the Heavy Weapon Victorian Scrunts. 
Look at that face! The heads, bodies, arms and
 steam backpacks are all separate, interchangeable components.
Another closeup of the heavies' faces.

A top-hatted head from the Heavy Weapons Pack 1.

If you can look through the glare, you can see the detail
and dynamism of that body sculpt. I am impressed beyond words.

For my third pack I chose the Thugs:

Here we have the pack of Victorian thugs,
armed to bring violence to the streets.

A couple of bewhiskered close-ups of the thugs here.
They look suitably violent, that's for sure.

tl;dr version: Olley's Armies Victorian Scrunts are dynamic sculpts with exquisite detail, cast with minimal mold lines and, I swear, no visible flash. The variations available due to the modular design mean your assembled Scrunts will likely be unique. Highest recommendation, without reservation.

That's it for today, o my brothers and my sisters. Back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the table soon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Victorian Scrunts are on their way

The lastest word from Bob and Jackie Olley is that most of the packages from the Olley's Armies Victorian Scrunts kickstarter have been dispatched.

Need I reveal here that I'm maniacally scratching away, trying to perfect a company list for these figures before mine arrive in the post? I am. Fourth rewrite -- I don't know how Craig and Charles do it.

Actually I do. I've been writing game rules myself for over 15 years -- it's intense, draining but ultimately rewarding work. (I just wish I did it as successfully as they do it!)

In that vein, when I saw the Scibor figure below, I knew he would be a great walker addition to my scrunt company. The figure is designed for Blood Bowl-type fantasy football, but the inclusion of optional machine guns to go along with the steam fist certainly opens him up for use beyond the pitch.

Here's the picture from the Scibor online catalog so you can see what he's supposed to look like all put together.

That face looks like Cardinal Biggles from the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch, no?

That's actually what made me fall in love with the little fella!

So here are my photos of the mini as I just received it:

Look at that adorable little face! The detail really comes through in this resin casting as well. Ornate yet functional and tough as hell, just like dwarves scrunts should make!

The backs of the steamfists. I checked the picture on Scibor's catalog page to see if these dings and divots were sculpted features or casting issues. (They're sculpted that way!)

The steamfists, palms-up.

This really surprised me. I was not prepared for the gorgeousness of the detail of this sculpted base. I wasn't expecting a sculpted base at all, so it was a wonderful surprise!

Optional machine gun and ammo canisters, I believe.

Shoulderpads, hatch crank and smokestacks. Gotta love more bits!
All in all, I gotta say this was a worthwhile purchase. As you can see, there is some resin flash between the parts in some locations, so thin that it could more accurately be called a film. There are also some tabs to be cut away on the knees of the armor, it seems. I haven't worked with resin much, so I've got my work cut out for me. For an experienced resin-modeler, I'm sure this would be an even greater value, as they won't have to cope with the learning curve I've got.

So back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the tables soon. WITH a Victorian scrunts company list for IHMN, too. Soon, I promise!