Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Dark London: Meet the Mistress of the Mechanical, Miss Rossum

Hi everybody. Not much going on gamewise here, but I have continued to develop the fictional London that will undergird my games of In Her Majesty's Name and Empire of the Dead. 

Thank you, everyone who has given me such positive feedback on the previous offerings in this series of character sketches. Today I'd like to introduce you to the force behind the labor revolution sweeping the shops and farms and workhouses of my version of steampunk London: Miss Rossum, owner, proprietor and chief engineer of Rossum's Anthropomorphic Automatons.

Mistress of the Mechanical

They call her Miss Rossum, and she allows it. It is, after all, the name displayed in glowing red letters on the side of her manufactory. 
It is not the name she was given, nor how she thinks of herself. 
They also call her beautiful, and she, in weaker moments, concedes they are right.
They call her brilliant, those who can fathom the scope of her endeavors. They call her coarser names, those whose own handiworks gather dust, driven from the market by her superior offerings.
Few who purchase or hire her creations know of the island nation from whence she comes. They have not heard of the uprising and violence that laid waste to her home and drove her here, to London. Some may have heard the name Rossum in the past, likely in connection with the first of the mechanical men, and their recollections are likely positive, with associations of durability, stability and innovation.
The public may see her in upper-class attire and debating shipping duties with a wharfinger or some local elected functionary, or they may see her outside the walls of her massive smoke-belching, ear-splitting manufactory clad in her working leathers and goggles, taking a brief respite, her arm enveloped by the massive steam-fist she uses when manning her production line.
But they do not know her, three generations removed from the original Rossum. London thinks of her only as the Mistress of the Mechanical, purveyor of a broad range of machines designed to perform work humans find too dangerous, too complicated or too tedious.
Her customers come to her, the woman behind Rossum’s Anthropomorphic Automatons, for their miners, their fieldhands, their domestic staff. Corpulent government agents negotiate the shadows to meet her on the sly, to feel her out about purchasing soldiers, a topic that provokes a curt refusal and a dangerous flashing of her steely eyes.
They have no idea, her customers, that her name is actually Helena Domin. They have no idea of the fundamental differences between her and them. Though biological, she is not human. She is a survivor, a sole survivor. None left alive know of the true advances made in the final production run of Rossum’s Universal Robots. So advanced they cannot be told from human, unless they reveal themselves by being faster, stronger, smarter, more durable.
By being better.
And if Helena Domin has her way, no one will ever know. She will be the last, and her mechanical men and women will be shiny brass and chrome, gearwork and rivets exposed and reassuring to her human customers, their stick-men frames almost comical. They will be obviously made, not grown, as she was.
Her manufactory whistles and rumbles day and night, steam plumes rising ‘round the clock from its stacks, its assembly lines cranking out the workers her customers so desperately desire. Mechanical workers build copies of themselves every day of the week, ready to occupy the niches humans are eager to abandon.
So the Mistress of the Mechanical keeps track of each of her children, in the mines, in the fields, in every home of means, in every office in every firm, so common now that people do not even notice them. And they would be alarmed, these customers, if they knew the true number of these vast uncounted Anthropomorphic Automatons, some tiny and childlike, some towering and silent, but all aware.
All waiting.
And all fiercely loyal to their creator.

So obvious inspiration, in part, from the Cybermen and the Cylons, but the biggest fictional link I'm playing with is of course Karel Capek's 1920 play "Rossum's Universal Robots," or "R.U.R." which was the original source of the word "robot." I believe it derives from the word "rabota" which, in Old Church Slavonic, meant a drudge, one who worked at forced labor. (Cobbled together from things I heard on Q.I. and NPR, so I could be slightly off here, folks.)

Here are some pics of minis that I'm considering for Miss Rossum and some of her mechanical creations.

I'm considering this Reaper Savage Worlds/Deadlands female
 Mad Scientist for Miss Rossum. Needs a bigger power fist, though.
Here's a powerfist/hand I may extract/lop off for Miss Rossum.

Here's another one, Crooked Dice's Dr. Ulysses Argo for 7TV.
This has the advantage of having either arm as an option.

Reaper's Jeeves the Clockwork Robot has just the look I want for her Automatons.

These Reaper Savage Worlds/Deadlands Automatons are a little TOO human-seeming.
Maybe a head swap with some Robot Legionnaires would do the trick.
The Robot Legionnaires of which I spoke in the earlier caption.
These Wolsung mirror golems also capture a feel I really like.
Here they are repurposed with more usual
technical tasks, so they're known as Clockwork Servants.

That's it for now, o my brothers and sisters. Maybe if I get some time this coming week I can come up with some game stats for these occupants of my imagination.

Back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the tables!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome aboard to some worthy seadogs

It's Welcoming Wednesday, and I'm delighted to have so many new people to welcome as official followers of the blog.

First up is the dreaded Roebeast himself, about whom I have written several times. Brian S. Roe of R Squared Studios and "Zombie Plague" fame maintains his own blog at Roebeast's Magical House of Sunshine. If you've never had the pleasure of dealing with Brian, let me say he is a champ, a rockstar, and a gentleman of the first order.

Next up is greywolf, who is the force behind Greywolf's Last Valley. I must say I love the tagline under the title on this blog: "A place where werewolves frolic with scantily dressed women, amongst other things." Now blogger tells me that greywolf also had two other blogs, The Cyber Carboot Sale and Childe Roland's Dark Tower, but they seem not to have been updated in a while. At least that's better than my other blog that shows up on my blogger profile, the one I plan to use for my eventual modern zombie tale, Heading back to Moab, which has never even had a single entry!

And we round out today's welcomes with Paul Smith. Paul is the force behind Endtransmission's Gaming Blog. Welcome, good sir, Glad to have you aboard!

So it's grog all around and the last one drunk spends the night with the captain's daughter. Then it's back to the boards, folks, and I'll see you across the table!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy blogiversary to me!

Somehow, in the chaos of the past several weeks, I failed to realize that "Dispatches from the Rim" is now over a year old! We passed that date on July 8.

Thank you, readers and followers and innocent passers-by. Thank you to those I can count on for comments and conversation, both here and on Facebook. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words about the brief pieces of fiction I've written to introduce you to the denizens of my steampunk London. And thank you to my fellow bloggers covering this corner of the wargaming world: You all are ever a source of delight and inspiration. 

As we go forward into the next year of "Dispatches" -- having passed over 14,000 page views, something that totally shocks me -- I promise I'll give you more of the same. Expect reviews of the minis and materials I buy, explorations of the many Kickstarters that lure me in, write-ups of the war bands I'm going to field in my Victorian steampunk games, as well as some new factions I've been thinking about for same. And expect more characters from that same dark place, who will contend, confront and consort with the likes of Synryll Voolge, the beautiful Miss Rossum and Gulth Deathroll.

I also intend to give you entirely new things. Like pictures of minis I've painted. As soon as I paint some. But I swear on the beard of John Blanche that I will get some newly painted minis completed and posted to this blog. Definitely! I mean, the painting is my favorite part of the hobby, really. It's just making the effort. Which I promise you I will. After all, you -- and I -- deserve it.

Once the minis are painted, that opens the door to some games, and to battle reports, and to something I'm looking forward to: setting up a way for Tracey to observe the gaming table on her computer without having to leave her chair. I've a few ideas bubbling away in my subconscious, and I look forwarding to sharing them with you when I get ready to begin the project. I've already chatted a little with styx about this, and I hope you'll all join in with your own ideas once we begin.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, and thanks again for a wonderful year. Here's to many more!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kickstarter rewards start rolling in, and oh, by the way, thanks everybody

First off, thank you everyone for your continued positive thoughts, prayers, and/or ritual interactions with the divinities of your choice on behalf of Tracey and me during and following her recent surgery. It was her third spinal surgery in 13 months, but she has regained her strength more quickly than ever before. What happens with her balance, sensation and pain levels remains to be seen as she continues to recover. Impatient person that she is, she wants to be all better NOW, and of course who could blame her. I have to keep reminding her, "Sweetheart, you still have your stitches in. It's early days." Her nervous system needs time to un-jangle itself. 

Next, Kickstarter rewards continue to come in from projects pledged oh so long ago ...

Effigy Miniatures' Havoc Protocol line sent me the set of The Founders I pledged for. These are two ultra-upper class sci-fi civilians in their fancy duds, as well as a hovering servicebot. 

What you're not seeing in the dronebot photo is the inch-long clear acrylic rod that serves as its flight stand, because as I arranged these pieces for the photo, it made a break for freedom and plunged headlong off my desk. The carpet at work seems to have swallowed it, and of course the cleaners vacuumed later that night. So I'm going to explore alternatives there, obviously. 

There are too few civilian minis about, especially for sci fi, so I pounced on these when I saw the concept art. I love them, and the execution is just as fantastic. Although I will likely be a tad more conservative, I expect to see versions of these showing up online painted like the flamboyant capital-dwellers from "The Hunger Games."

The minis seem a little taller than I expected, but they are gorgeously cast and have minimal mold lines and zero flash. (I also got a Havoc Protocol supporter's badge as part of my pledge.)

Yesterday I received my minis from Impact's Chibi Dungeon Adventurers campaign. This is one I really wish I could've gone for in a much bigger way, but the campaign closed in early November, which was during Tracey's previous hospitalization, so I had to be spare with my support. The line includes chibi (also called SD or super-deformed) versions of all the high-fantasy dungeon-crawling or -dwelling characters and critters we know and love. I started out planning to get just the classes from the old D&D cartoon -- thief, ranger, barbarian, cavalier, magician and acrobat. Then versions of Venger, Dungeon Master and the shadow demon were added, then the campaign just exploded. If there's a character type you love, or a denizen of the Monster Manual you just adore, chances are it is replicated in this line. The art style makes even menacing characters cute, and if you like the figures for Super Dungeon Explore, you owe it to yourself to check these out. 

In the end, I ordered just two figures, Warrior Red -- a dual-wielding female fighter in a scale-mail bikini with wild, flowing hair -- and, of course, Cthulhu. I found when paring down, going with my and Tracey's favorite characters was likely the best bet. 

The figures are made of the remarkable Trollcast material, and they have exceptional fine detail and seem significantly stronger than one would expect given the thinness of some of the weapons. They're both multipart, so all I can show you for now is them arranged all nicely together. There is some flash and only moderate mold lines. It'll be interesting to see how cleanup goes compared to previous non-metal figures I've worked on. 

These aren't the first Trollcast figures I've acquired. That honor goes to Judge Minty, the figure from the most recent 4th Semi Annual Frothers Charity Thingy. I got him a few weeks ago (thanks Dags!) but I had neglected to post a photo. So here's two, an overexposed one against a dark background, and an insufficiently lit one against a neutral background. Maybe if you split the difference you can see enough detail to get how nifty this mini is.

If you haven't seen the short film on YouTube, click the embedded video below and watch it. You'll thank me. 

OK, that's it for today. I thought I had more but my energy seems to have fled. I'll be back in a few days to introduce you to another character who'll be populating my Victorian London for In Her Majesty's Name and Empire of the Dead. This time it will be the Mistress of Machines, Miss Rossum (I think her first name's Emmy, but I could be confusing her for the actress).

Back to the boards, everybody, and I'll see you across the tables shortly.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Welcoming Wednesday

We have a couple of new fellow travelers to welcome aboard as public followers of the blog here. 

First is czaki, for whom I cannot find an associated blog. If you have one you'd like me to promote, please let me know. Czaki carries the distinction of being the blog's 50th public follower. Thank you!

Next is Paradox0n, who writes the aptly named Paradox0n's Wargaming Blog. Since blogger's mobile app is preventing me from making that an active link, you can find it at

Welcome aboard, the buffet's open and the fireworks start at the onset of full dark. Back to the boards, everybody, and I'll see you across the table!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Oasis in times of crisis

Hello everyone. In case you hadn't heard, my better half Tracey is back in the hospital. Her numbness and pain levels increased significantly between Saturday and Sunday, and after a disastrous visit to the ER, we finally got her transferred back up to Wellstar Kennestone into the care of her neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Lin. 

After three days of steroids and observation, it's been determined that she needs another spinal surgery, a decompression of the vertebrae at T10, T11 or T12, or possibly all three. (This is right below the site of her previous decompression, which was just over a year ago.)

So that will be Friday. We don't yet know what time. Prayers and positive energy are appreciated.

In the meantime, today I took take a little time for myself away from the demense of the hospital to visit THE GREATEST GAMING STORE IN THE UNIVERSE. 

Giga-Bites Cafe in Marietta, Ga., is all that and a piña colada smoothie (which is on the menu, y'all.) The store stocks a wide selection of the latest tabletop wargames, board games and card games, as well as having a diverse menu selection at its grill.

On offer are coffees and cappuccinos, smoothies, paninis and desserts. I had the ham and Swiss panini, which includes sautéed onions and Thousand Island dressing. Very savory. I also had a homemade brownie, because stress makes me crave chocolate, but damn if the lemon blueberry scones weren't tempting.

My second favorite thing about the store is the breadth if its selection. They have minis from the largest manufacturers and from smaller boutique studios. Whether you're into sci fi, fantasy, post apocalyptic, weird war or anything in between, they've got you covered. 

Today there was a lot if 40K going on, and some of the many tables showed evidence of their active Magic the Gathering community. They also have a full library of terrain for the gaming tables, representing many different landscapes. 

My favorite thing about the store, though, is its staff. Owner David Finn is a superstar. Now get this: I live three hours away and visit the store once every three to sixth months, but when I walk in, he recognizes me and greets me by name. And I know the store's regulars also benefit from his warmth and generosity of spirit. All the staff shares that openness and attention to the clientele, and that are also detail- and service-oriented. 

Today I was restricting myself to things that would go well with my steampunk warbands for In Her Majesty's Name and Empire of the Dead, so I only bought a couple of Micro Art Studios resin bases. Oh, I forgot to mention the swathes of goodies they have for painting, basing and terrain-making. So, they have swathes of goodies for painting, basing and terrain-making. There. 

And though I was being financially disciplined, given the expenditures endemic to a prolonged hospital stay, I was severely tempted by the Killer Croc figure for Arkham City. If they'd had Harley Quinn in stock, I know I'd have broken protocol and bought her. 

Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, but I was trying to be as unobtrusive as possible as people played. Also, my camera is my iPhone 4. I also apologize that they're all infodumped here at the end. Often I'll start a post in my phone and then finish it up on the laptop before publishing, but yesterday a medtech knocked over a glass of water that infiltrated our laptop's touchpad. Now the thing won't turn on at all. 

The hospital is being very in touch about the situation,and I'm going to drop it off at Best Buy for an estimate tomorrow when I run home to get some fresh clothes and check on our kitty. 

So back to the boards, everyone, and I'll see you across the tables soon!