Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Nightmare Legion

As you may have read, this week is half term and I plan to use my time wisely when it comes to getting miniatures painted. Some weeks back I entered one of the brilliant competitions, or challenges, over on the Oldhammer Forum for the month of October. The theme was 'Halloween' and so I chose The Nightmare Legion. 

Now the Nightmare Legion has had a special place in my wargaming heart for over twenty-five years. Why? Well it was the first box set that my father ever bought me, from Wonderworld in Bournemouth to be precise, back in 1988. I can recall him undercoating the miniatures in black for me, but the lure of other lead resulted in the models never being finished back in the day. Still, I didn't give up on them, and down the years I had repeated cracks at painting the legion but I never got further than a couple of models. It didn't matter what I had painted, when I saw my father he would ask 'have you painted the legion yet?' and, to be honest, it has become a bit of a standing joke.

But no more! For the Nightmare Legion are finished once and for all. Here they are in all their glory!

I went for a black, white and purple colour scheme as it was in keeping with the rest of my painted undead. I have also just finished a Khornate army, and the though of painting much red for a while did me the world of good. The simple colour scheme allowed me to batch paint these models quite quickly, and the sheer scale of the job saw me using several speed painting techniques. Sure, they was a loss of finish compared to my chaos stuff, but now that the models are all finished, I don't think you can tell. Can you?

The colour scheme for the basic trooper was simple. Bleached Bone/White for the bone, black for the clothing, highlighted in grey and brown and gold for the equipment. I used drybrushing and ink washes for most of the model, only using layering for the bone itself and edge highlighting for the clothing. Black ink became my best friend in ensuring that enough depth was created within the bones of the troopers and I even went as far as painting on the individual toe bones for the front rank models! The shields are not Citadel, but converted Gripping Beast plastics with the centre hollowed out to fit the boss. These were painted black and white, highlighted with grey and then washed with a muddy red ink wash to simulate the aeons of mud that would no doubt encrust a walking skeleton. I use a stippling brush to flick on red, brown and grey paint flecks, again to simulate age. 

For the command figures, I added gold to the armour and purple as an additional colour to the clothing scraps. Originally, I had gone for red (perhaps out of habit) but was not happy with the finished result. Fifteen minutes work was enough to remove this and replace with a nice regal Worm Purple. The banner is made from standard A4 paper, with the sign drawn on before hand. I used exactly the same technique as I did with the shields, only I added a skull symbol down the bottom and two silver dots to suggest nails at the top. 

The bases were done my usual way, as I recently explained in this tutorial, and believe it or not, took only half an hour or so to complete, for the whole unit! I spent a little longer on the command figures, adding the purple as I said, and highlighting the armour a further stage than the rest of the troopers. 

And here we see the beginnings of my Old School Warhammer Third Edition Undead army. Its early days, but there is a small force her for simple engagements, and minus the Liche, these models will be used as allies for my Khorne army at Blog-Con. I am hoping to be able to recruit a 'second in command' (underling) on the day to help me fight off whatever Warlord Paul feels I need to be fighting off.

Anyway, that is enough waffle for know. I am off to post these on the Oldhammer Forum (and my Dad's Facebook page) beforing tidying my desk up for the next project. With lots of holiday left, I plan to do something totally different next.

So what this space!


Monday, 28 October 2013

Slaves to Darkness 25th Anniversary: Surviving Scenery Reappears!

We celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Slaves to Darkness with a fairly large Realm of Chaos Warband game at the Wargames Foundry, under the generous gaze of Bryan Ansell himself. It was pleasing to the Dark Gods that so few lovingly painted miniatures fell on the tabletop and carnage has long been their pleasure.

Sadly, we have learnt that the carnage did not stop in the game world, and much of the 80's classics were destroyed when the 80's Design Studio was moved circa 1991. Incredibly, thanks to one Evo Von Himmel we have the chance to glimpse at some of the scenery made for the Realms of Chaos books but rarely actually seen. Here we can present some 'Chaos Trees' constructed by Jamie Sims in the style of John Blanche.

You can just make them out in the picture below. 

Looking at them, they are surprisingly 'un-Warhammery', if such a thing is possible, though they have much in common with the early 1980s John Blanche figures that are now safely stored in the collection of Steve Casey.

I am sitting here as I type trying to work out how these were made. Its hard to tell, and please do comment if you know better than I, but I feel that that the scenery is built from a mixture of wire and mod roc/paper machie. No matter the materials used, the scenery has a twisted, ethereal feel that is wonderfully evocative of the Realm of Chaos before it became a rather generic wasteland. 

When I finally get around to building my wargames table, a set of pieces in the style of these survivors is going to be a must!

If you are interested in reading more about these pieces and won't to know how Evo came to own these, read the blog post below.


One question remains though! Who has the others?


Goblin Green, and lots of it! Orlygg's Old School Basing Tutorial

It is half term for me this week. That means an entire week off with the wife and kids, and considering that over half of the Oldhammerers at the Foundry Event too were teachers, I suspect a lot of other folk are off to. This give me plenty of time to blog, paint and game. The trouble is, I have just bought a new top of the range computer and have found Steam. Skyrim is digging deep into my time once again. Even so, I have found time to finish my Adventurer's Cart and work is beginning to wind down on the Nightmare Legion too. 

It will be soon time to paint something different!

I have been asked by a number of people to do a tutorial about how I do my retro bases. So I have used the fact that I have no lessons to prepare for to whip up something that should explain clearly how to produce quick, effective (I think so anyway) old school style bases. My method is based on the Old School 'Eavy Metal one; Goblin Green with a Bilious Green drybrush over the top. Bang and you are done! But I was never satisfied with the result, yet wanted something quick and easy that allows for variation but didn't take hours of fiddly work to complete. 

Right, let's have a look at my method.

Step One: For this you will need a good green (Wooodland, Goblin or any similar colour - you can see I am using AP green at the moment for mine), a brighter green (here I use Bilious), Bleached Bone and White. A brown ink and a yellow ink are also essential. Oh, and sand! I use my own mixture of sands from beaches, fishtanks and Reception Class sand trays.
Step Two: Stick your sand down on your base using whatever method you use. I use superglue or PVA depending how soon I want the base to dry. Depending on how well the sand has stuck down, I sometimes give the base a watery wash of PVA as an additional assurance that the sand isn't going to fall off later.
Step Three: Paint your base colour all over your base. Depending on the size of the grains of sand you are using, I occasionally use a little PVA in this mix. It can initially change the tone of the paint, but by the time the stuff has dried you cannot even tell its been used. 
Step Four: The classic drybrush of Bilious Green is here! In fact, this was where a lot of old school mini's basing stopped actually. I can see why, imagining doing this for blocks of 20, or 30 troops in one go! You would be there all day!
Step Five: Time to use the ink. Mix the yellow 4:1 with water, though different proportions achieve differing effects, and splodge the stuff on in a fairly naturalistic, blobbing way. Don't worry if the tone seems shocking and un-natural, as it dries the ink will lose its vibrancy and blend with the green.
Step Six: Before the yellow ink begins to dry, apply the brown ink around the outside of the base and irregularly splodge around. Again, try and be naturalist here. The two inks will blend in places and a controlled amount of this is good. Try not to merge the two inks too much though, or you will end up with a muddy, unsightly colour.
Step Seven: When the ink is totally dry, your next job is to drybrush Bleached Bone over the top of the whole base. I tend to use a big, old brush from this job as it can be quite knackering on your kit. Allow this to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next stage.
Step Eight: Apply a final drybrush of white over the whole base, but not quite as thoroughly as before. I usually focus my efforts on the rim of the base and work inwards here. Then wait for the white paint to dry well.
Step Nine: Return to the yellow ink once more, again with the 4:1 mix with water. Splodge on the ink with more random aplomb but don't worry about following any particular pattern. Again, the tone will seem quite bright so leave the ink to dry thoroughly before painting the rim of the base in whatever way your prefer.
Completed Base: And you are done!
Well, what do you think?


Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Adventurer's Cart

Good evening (well, at least it is when I am writing this) and welcome to something of a rarity here on the Realms of Chaos 80s. A completed painted model by yours truly! When I say model, I should really say models, as there are three of them, but together they make up a rather satisfying whole. 

Eagle-eyed readers way very well remember me starting this model some months back, when I had acquired it and the Plague Cart rather cheaply on 'Not actually that Evilbay'. Here's a quick shot of what I started out with. 

And here is the finished version. Its taken me quite some time to get the pieces of this lovely model together, and there are a couple of small details that I may go back to in the future, but generally I am happy with the result. All the cart needs now are some actual adventurers to wander around after it, or indeed before it!

As always, feel free to post your thoughts, comments and suggestions.


Where are they now? Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Cover Painting Discovered in Canada!

Pat has framed the piece beautifully. Imagine having this hanging on one of your walls?

A glorious sight is it not? Beautifully, and dare I say tastefully, framed and presented yet safe in the collection of a enthusiast. No tragic skipping for John Sibbick's seminal Warhammer artwork, as we have learnt to our great misfortune, happened with much of Gary Chalk's GW art. You may remember some months back I set out on a quest to track down the whereabouts of key pieces of art from GW dim and distant past. If your memory needs a jog, or you never read the original post, it can be found here. The search has proved successful so far, with Realm of Chaos 80s uncovering Tony Hough's Eldar and Tim Pollard's Collection and all the old school goodness that follows in their wake. 

As I said, this post is dedicated to the cover of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, published in 1986, and is, for me anyway, the defining resource for what the Warhammer World should actually look like. The forests, towns, mountain ranges, people and creatures that dwell amongst it all. Sibbick's front cover is perhaps the most iconic of them all when it come to the 80's Warhammer Mythos. The crumbling underground tomb, the band of heroes (including the troll slayer, who I always assumed to be Gotrek), the Ogre Face banner with squiggles radiating out of it, the mohican with black and white chequers, the green, bandy goblins and the deep sense of inevitable doom for all of the characters involved.

Just looking an the picture above sends me back to the glory days of Warhammer gaming. I can smell the Christmas pine needles, hear the wrapping being torn from gifts and feel the rough sensation of the Rudolph jumper I was wearing when I first laid eyes on the WFRP book during a long ago '80s Christmas Day. I can recall the wild adventures I made up for my friends, The Oldenhallen Contract, The Enemy Within and all the rest. I hope it triggers similar memories for you too. 

But how did the famous painting come to be framed and enjoyed in distant Canada? Well, I was contacted yesterday by one Pat Robinson, a collector of fantasy art who resides somewhere nearby Naggaroth. let's ask him...

RoC80s: How did you come to own this incredible piece of 1980s Warhammer artwork?

PR: I bought this directly from John a while back, and it took a great deal of convincing, as I think it was his last Warhammer piece, and he really wanted it... But, eventually I won him over.   This book was special to me, as I received it for Christmas in 1986 and it took over my life for a number of years.  To this day, I will still open it and flip through to look at the amazing art within when I walk by it on my shelf.  I have about 60 Warhammer RPG books, but this was always my favourite.  

I framed it with a dark green suede matting as I like the organic moss look that I think works well with the scene.  It is stunning in real life, and John kept it in immaculate shape.  The gold trim is a scale pattern which I think plays with the orc skin pretty well. 

RoC80s: You also own a preliminary sketch by Sibbick, which to my knowledge has never before been published, does the early drawing contain anything different to the finished piece?

The original concept sketch. I believe that this is the first time this has been published. So enjoy it!
PR: On the right of the sketch, there is a different character than in the final, and John has a note "Should there be a magician in the here somewhere?"   Ultimately, there was, and the outlaw (who an be identified as such from the career sketch of the outlaw at pg. 32 of the WFRP book, despite John calling him a "thief") was replaced forever.  I guess that outlaw should have saved one more fate point! 

What I found interesting is there are 3 bats in different spots in the painting, (can you spot them all?)  which surprised me, as there was only one on the book... Or so I thought, from many years of use and long car rides.  It turns out, by coincidence, 2 of the bats were under the text of the book, so could not be seen.  A nice little surprise. 

A close up on the right hand side. The large square is a text box, indicating where the blurb would go. 

PR: Also, the sacrificial altar, which looks great in the painting is not on the spine of the book (which did not have art) so that was another nice reveal in the final painting.  

John had written at the top of the preliminary sketch "Temple to the Worship of Khorne - God of Chaos", so now we know where this band of adventurers was heading. On  the bottom, John identifies that the first sketch of this was accepted by Games Workshop - with good reason, I should think.

Can you spot the difference? Hint! Have a look to the right of the ogre.
PR: Anyhow, this piece now hangs in one of my art rooms, along with my other game book covers.  There are 2 Endless Quest book covers and 4 Fighting Fantasy covers, so it is with some good 1980s friends.  

I would probably collected more game book covers if I had not read a book called Game of Thrones in 1996 and started buying all of its bookcovers, and a bunch of other book covers from some guy named George R.R. Martin... 

Speaking of magicians... 

Keep up the great work on the blog.


Pat from Calgary

The image was used elsewhere too. Here, after a flip, it forms the cover for Magia i Miecz, the Polish language edition of Talisman City. Isn't strange to see such a similar image the other way around?

As always, a huge thank you needs to go out to Pat for contributing to this blog. I am sure that many of you will want to do the same below in the comments section. What is your opinion about this picture? Does it summon similar memories for you as it does for Pat and myself? Or do you dislike the image, and if you do, why?

Additionally, if YOU own any old school GW artwork? If the answer is yes, please, please share it with us here. You will find a very captive audience just waiting to froth over your artwork!


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Malignancy of Malal: Creating colour schemes for the 'Lost Chaos God'

Remember when I waxed lyrical about Oldhammer Miniatures? If you cannot quite remember have a look at this post here. I waffled on about the prospect of creating Oldhammer inspired miniatures. It all seemed just a pipe dream back then, but someone has only gone and done it! 

By now, I am sure that many of you are aware that George Fairlamb has produced a miniature inspired by Anthony Ackland's unused Malal concept. Perhaps some of you have even gone as far as buying yourself a copy (or five, like me) of the miniature. I was very excited to find that the models had arrived early on Friday morning and that I would get the chance to fiddle around with the sculpt and get the model painted over the weekend. This post will chronicle my efforts to get the model from the commercial plastic pouch and on to the gaming table. I can do a fair bit of this myself, but I am hoping that you, dear readers, can help contribute to the gaming side, namely 'the rules and fluff', but more of that later.

Lets have a look at what I received from CP Models.

There we have five very well cast and packaged hooked horrors. As you can see, they arrive with circular bases but I intend to base mine using 25mm squares, so they can fit in more easily with my RoC stuff. Dispensing with the packaging materials, this is what you end up with...

The miniatures are cast in a crisp white metal and hold detail very well. I was impressed with the lack of flash and only had very minor mould lines to contend with. Five minutes of idle filing later and they were a thing of the past. Putting the creature together was a little more challenging though, as you will no doubt see when you get your hands on these. Not that it bothered me much, as I can remember the days when such problems were the norm for multi-part metal models. I think that it is very easy to become complacent about the modelling side of things after dealing with one to many CAD products, after all, you just get used to things fitting together. Here, I had to file down the inside of the arms and legs and attach pins. This gave the limbs the support I was looking for as well as allowing me to position the arms a little more carefully. I had a go at forcibly bending the metal in places, and though the parts made a strange cracking noise, nothing snapped or became weak. When I was reasonably happy with the positioning of the first model ( and I didn't have very long thanks to the needs of son/daughter/wife combined) I undercoated the model in black. 

I opted for a black and white colour scheme, to match the background of Malal. Only, I wanted to try out something a little different in the painting. Re-reading Andy Craig's great article about painting (check it out if you haven't already) I decided on using blue to highlight black. So I worked up the raised areas of the body using Chaos Black and old school Enchanted Blue. I dipped a little of the bone colour in for the final highlight. The hooves, hooks and head were painted with a mix of Bleached Bone and Enchanted Blue. As you can imagine, I only used a very little amount of the blue in the mix, and added even less black, but  was happy with the colour harmony effect and promptly worked up the bone bits until the final highlight was pure white. The base was completed in my usual super quick way.

Here are the results, and apologies for the poor lighting. What do you guys think then? Any comments or ideas about the colour scheme. 

Now, if you are wondering about scale, as indeed were a number of members of the Oldhammer Community Facebook page, cast your eye over this next photograph. Now, there has been some debate over what the actual image by Tony Ackland actually shows - beast or lesser daemon? For me, the model is best used as a lesser daemon, largely because between them, the lesser and the greater daemons are more useful in game terms. As an aside, I am trying to convince George to bang out the Greater Daemon to Tony's design in the near future, so fingers crossed there. 

Here's the hooked horror alongside some other contemporary models from the Realm of Chaos releases, and oh, another follower of Malal too! Can you spot him? As you can see, George's model fits in perfectly and will no doubt, just like many of the daemons before it, prove to be an absolute nightmare to rank up!

I am really proud of the model as it is, for all terms and purposes, the 'first' Oldhammer miniature. Why do I think this you may ask? Well, it was the Oldhammer Community that reached out to Tony Ackland in the first place, he agreed to share his unpublished work with us; that work was enjoyed by many thousands of enthusiasts amd one of which was inspired enough to have a crack and producing a model.

And here it is!

Well done George!

So what are your thoughts then? Any sage advice or opinions about the painted miniature? Would you have done anything differently?


Recognise this? Its one of Tony Hough's unused sketches. It started off life as a Games Day doodle and was developed into a proper illustration at John Blanche's instruction. It has remained in Tony's possession ever since. What do you think of this representing a Renegade of Malal? With a sculptor already interested in the project, this may too become an 'Oldhammer' miniature of its own one day!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

D&D, WFRP and the birth of a fictional God: A (short) Interview with Phil Gallagher

Eye of the Beholder, and games like it, were my first contact with TSR and Dungeons and Dragons. Sadly, by this time the UK division was no more. 
Some months ago I began a very interesting dialogue with Phil Gallagher, one of the authors of the immortal first part of the Enemy Within campaign among many other notable works and roles. I found Phil to be an incredibly articulate man, full of stories and with the skill to tell them. No wonder that Mistaken Identity, Shadows over Bogenhafen and Death on the Reik were the milestones that they were! Now our conversations steered wildly all over the place before other commitments put the discussion on hold. 

His thoughts on his early days at TSR UK remained safely stored in my draft folder for quite sometime until I became interested in researching '80s British Fantasy gaming on a wider scale, inspired largely by the recollections of Paul Cockburn. As we have learnt, there was quite the influx of staff from TSR UK to Games Workshop after Dungeon and Dragons module writing company was dissolved. Many a name that would later be tied to WFRP and other GW products can be seen in the credits of the British D&D modules. But there wasn't much actual information on the company itself, or at least, I couldn't find any. 

Then I stumbled across a fantastic blog called Random Wizard, which published an interesting little article about TSR UK and I have quoted it in full below. It serves as a far superior introduction to Phil's recollection than anything I could write.

"The UK branch of TSR had an even shorter history than the parent company of TSR (and nearly as troubled in its ups and downs). There is a dearth of information regarding TSR UK Ltd but hints of what happened across the pond can be gleaned from interviews and other sources scattered around the Internet.

The excellent interview by Ciro Alessandro Sacco teased some information out of Gary concerning the European operations.


It seems that Gary had a different vision of how to expand operations than what eventually occurred. Gygax seemed keen on working with local hobby shops, established residents of the area to give each TSR division its own local flavour. TSR's original presence in the British market was through Games Workshop (Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson). When TSR's proposal for a merger with Games Workshop fell through, TSR UK was born. March, 31 1980
          Not merely an outlet for distributing material made by TSR in the states, the UK division of the company was tasked with making their own brand of modules and accessories. And what an impressive line up they made...

Fiend Folio, 1981
U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh by Dave Browne with Don Turnbull
U2 Danger at Dunwater by Dave Browne with Don Turnbull
U3 Final Enemy by Dave Browne with Don Turnbull
UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave by Dave Brown, Tom Kirby, and Graeme Morris
UK2 Sentinel by Graeme Morris
UK3 Gauntlet by Graeme Morris
UK4 When a Star Falls by Graeme Morris
UK5 Eye of the Serpent by Graeme Morris
UK6 All That Glitters... by Jim Bambra, 1984
UK7 Dark Clouds Gather by Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher
B10 Night's Dark Terror by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher
O2 Blade of Vegeance by Jim Bambra, 1986
X8 Drums on Fire Mountain by Graeme Morris and Tom Kirby
CM6 Where Chaos Reigns by Graeme Morris, Jim Bambra, and Phil Gallagher
I8 Ravager of Time by Graeme Morris and Jim Bambra
AC9 Creature Catalogue, 1986

So what would have happened if this format for expansion had continued? A really telling response that Gary gave, outlines how he expected to make a TSR France division to be headed by Francois Marcela Froideval (who later went on to write the Black Moon Chronicles). I rather like the idea of TSR expanding out on a country by country basis, with each division having its own particular flavour (much like the TSR UK modules were unique onto themselves). What would have been the next step? TSR Japan-- imagine anime infused modules and a more detailed version of Oriental Adventures. Then TSR Germany-- dark forest, witcher style flair.
       Sadly, it was not to be. Shannon Appelcline wrote an insightful commentary for the recent product description of UK7 Dark Clouds Gather.The Final Fate of UK. So why did the UK series end? It certainly wasn't due to sales. Imagine #30 (September 1985), published shortly before the release of "Dark Clouds," claimed that "after the Dragonlance epic, the UK modules are the best-selling series both here and in the USA."
       Ultimately, the UK series was probably doomed by TSR's financial problems of the mid-80s and the changing tides at the company - as Gary Gygax left in 1985 and Lorraine Williams took over. There were many changes in the surrounding years, with the upset in the UK offices being just part of that larger turmoil. TSR UK's Imagine magazine died first, after issue #30 (September 1985). Following that, the shutdown of TSR UK's creative division was just a small step."

Now we get on to Phil himself, as I said earlier, the interview was quite short, but was fascinating. I felt that rather than sitting on the text for any longer, I would share it. Hopefully, some time in the future we can complete 'Part Two' and really get to grips with the development and writing of the Enemy Within Campaign but this will have to serve for now. Can I just say a HUGE thank you to Phil for taking the time out to contribute to this blog and to the wider Oldhammer Community as a whole. I really do find it startling that we are barely two years into this little 'movement' as we have connected to some many of the authors of 80s Warhammer (and beyond).

Over to Phil....

RoC80s: If memory serves, you were on the TSR UK team by the mid 80s. Describe the journey from your young gaming self to a fully fledged member of a design studio, your influences at this point etc.
PG: I didn't get involved with fantasy gaming until my 3rd year at Cambridge in 1981 or so. I'd heard about D&D but didn't really know what it was, and I'd never done any miniature wargaming beyond playing with WW2 Airfix models as a kid. I was a huge Tolkein nerd - had read everything in print at that time, including the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, learnt the Tengwar, and Dwarfish runes - the whole nine yards. But outside of that, apart from a little Harry Harrison, the occasional Larry Niven (and Ursula Leguin, of course) I was not a huge fantasy or sci-fi fan. I thought Lovecraft was tedious in the extreme, I found Howard and Moorcock two-dimensional, and I hadn't even heard of Dune at that time! (I know, I know, how did I ever get a job at GW!?) I bought a copy of Basic D&D but couldn't quite get my head round how to run the module that came with it at that time (I think it was probably "The Keep on the Borderlands") - there were no real instructions about "how to be a DM", and I couldn't find enough saddoes to play with, anyway! Then I ran into a group of people who all wanted to play, an experienced DM, called Chris Moore, and that, as they say, was that. Chris was a great DM, we had fantastic fun, playing hours and hours at a time, and my starred first (that's the UK equivalent of a 4.0 GPA) was sacrificed on the altar of the great Gygax...   After graduation, I was struggling to make ends meet when I saw a job ad in White Dwarf for someone to join the design team at TSR UK. By luck, they were based a few miles way in Cambridge, and I thought "what the hell - might as well apply!" I was amazed to get an interview - with Tom Kirby and Graeme Morris - and even more surprised to be offered the job. Faced with a choice between being a starving, mostly out-of-work actor, or a paid lackey of TSR, I took the money! 
The early days were a fantastic time. When I joined the business, UK2 was just being put to bed - it was a case of final proof-reading, sticking in the pictures and then shipping everything off to the US for printing.
It was my first "proper" job after university and I enjoyed it immensely. The people were all very friendly and welcoming, the offices pleasant, and I had money in the bank. I learned about word processing (we used WordStar on some kind of IBM terminals, I think, with 12" floppy disks!), and DOS, and photo-electronic typesetting, and page design, and paste-up - state of the art, technology it was! 
Jim Bambra joined the team shortly afterwards and he has to take responsibility for introducing me to miniature wargaming. Outside of work we played a lot of Traveler, including 15mm Striker, and later moved onto Command Decision - at 6mm scale.
Jim and Graeme were the main writer/designers at TSR UK - I was principally editor, proof-reader, production guy, liaising with artists, and preparing materials for printing in the US. Jim always wanted input and suggestions and, over time, we developed a very collaborative way of working. He tended to be happiest starting with a blank sheet of paper, and I liked to fill in gaps and hone and polish. 
We all felt that we had a ridiculous number of hoops to jump through to please our US masters who had the final word on what we could and could not do. That would not have been so bad, had we not constantly encountered material from the US that clearly broke all the rules we were told were sacrosanct. One of Tom Kirby's roles at this time was soothing the outraged indignation of the UK design staff!

It was this omnibus edition of the first half of the Enemy Within Campaign that I recall playing with great affection. The journey through the von Wittengenstien castle was particularly terrifying, and I was the GM!
RoC80s: Were you part of Paul Cockburn's poaching of Imagine staff or did you join GW by some other route?
PG: The sequence of events - over a period of a few months - was:
1. TSR Inc closed down Imagine magazine and a half-dozen people lose their jobs. Graeme, Jim, and I were shocked when we heard the news. We had no idea it was even being considered. It was very unsettling, and left a big hole in the place.
2. Paul tried free-lancing for a bit and then landed a job at GW, just as Bryan Ansell was in the process of moving the publishing from London to Nottingham.
3. Tom Kirby left TSR UK to go work for GW. Jim and I, in particular, felt very exposed by his departure - he was one of the good guys on the management side, and it seemed that the writing was on the wall for TSR UK as a whole.
4. I called Paul in Nottingham to see if there were any jobs going. Graeme, Mike, Jim, and I were all interviewed by Bryan - pretty much en masse - and he offered us all jobs. It felt like there was a future at GW, a much flatter hierarchy, less politics, and the opportunity to be in "on the ground floor" as WFRP was created, so it was a pretty easy decision. Only Graeme decided he wanted to stay in Cambridge, but there were no more UK D&D modules.

Find Sigmar's Hammer? Who was this Sigmar bloke anyway?
RoC80s: One of your first roles was the further development of WFRP. How did you find the game when you began work and what input did you put into the finished product?
PG: How did I find the game? I just switched on my Amstrad word processor, and there it was - disk after three-inch full of files! I was little disappointed, and definitely surprised, at how much of WFRP had already been created when I arrived at the Design Studio in Nottingham. 
"Design Studio". It's a term that conjures images of stylish open plan rooms with lots of natural light, minimalist furnishings, and lots creative people with pony tails, sitting at drafting tables. Well, Enfield chambers wasn't nothing like that! True, the top floor had lost of drafting tables where the "paste-up"artists and graphic designers beavered away at page design and logos ("it needs another black keyline," was the standard comment from Bryan), while the typesetters turned the word processed documents from the writers into long 'galleys' of text. But then there were the miniature designers, mostly crammed together in one room on the second floor (although Kev "Goblinmaster" Adams had to be kept separate for some reason). I see them, through the distorting lens of memory, at high stools in front of customised wooden "desks" with a big curve to them, bent over green stuff, which they somehow manipulated onto wire armatures with dental tools (or at least that what it looked like to me!). Their tables were covered with bits of cork, castings of heads, weapons, brass rods, and so on. Finished pieces were "cured" under the heat from an angle-poise lamp. Us newbies from TSR were in a large office with Graeme Davis and I'm not sure who else! Marc Gascoigne (now of Angry Robot books), for sure was there. Richard Halliwell (Hal) was always wandering in to banter with us, but I think he and Jervis Johnson, and Paul Cockburn all had separate offices. Rick seemed to be mostly closeted in his little office pecking away at the computer, writing. Nothing if not prolific, Rick (perhaps because he didn't get constant interruptions from Hal!). There was an old dining table in the middle of the room - for conferences and bits of play-testing - its surface pock-marked by the tip of Chaz Elliott's big knife which he liked to hammer between the outspread fingers of his left hand with scary rapidity. And there was a battered old sofa (on which the same Chaz Elliott was supposed to have spent the night, when he left it too late to go home!) There were a lot of smokers back then, too, so the atmosphere was pretty fuggy, and the whole place was closer to a warren, than a "Design Studio"!
Anyway, I'd arrived thinking I was going to be part of creating "a better D&D", only to discover the rules were mostly written, and it was basically a more detailed version of Warhammer Battle. I wasn't a fan of percentile-based systems, and found the combat system a bit clunky for the kind of fast-paced roleplaying games I was used to. The magic system, in particular, seemed to me to be much more about mass battles than for small parties of adventurers, and I worried that, in the draft we were faced with, wizards would have too much power too easily. I felt like the Irishman in that joke where he gets asked by the tourist how to get to Dublin. "Well, I wouldn't start from here," he replies. If the idea was to create a roleplaying game to supercede D&D, I wouldn't have started with much of the material we were presented with. But it was too late to start again. And what did I know, anyway? I'd worked on a handful of D&D modules, and played a lot of Traveler. So, faced with the tons of stuff already written, and under pressure to get the thing finished and published, Jim and I focused more on giving the rulebook some structure, fleshing out the guidance for new or inexperienced GMs, and making the more powerful magics as hard for player characters to get as we could. 
As I recall now, the bulk of my work was editing and tweaking, rather than generating new material. I worked hard to make the rules as clear and unambiguous as I could - but feared the thing was going to be, basically, impenetrable! The thing, all these years later, I'm most proud of, was coming up with the idea of a hero who, in the distant past, was credited with uniting a bunch of warring tribes to found the Empire. Since that part of the Old World was kind of a parallel of the Holy Roman Empire, with a strong Germanic feel, I was originally going to call him Siegfried - after Wagner's hero from the Ring Cycle. In the end, I think I thought the link would be too obvious, so I opted for Sigmar. 
Jim and I had already decided to develop The Empire as the setting for the campaign we wanted to publish, so I expanded the description and background of the Empire in the rulebook, and tried to sow some seeds that we could use in what became The Enemy Within. 
I desperately wanted the rulebook to have a usable index and helpful cross-references (all my manuscripts were always littered with "(see page XX)"). However, the printing process we used in those days meant we had no way of knowing what the page count would be and what would be where, until the thing was well into production. So the index was dropped, many of the "(see page xx)" were excised, and some of those that remained never got an actual page number inserted instead of the xx!

To be continued....



Friday, 18 October 2013

The Lone Wolf: An interview with Gary Chalk

When I was nine I lived next door to a boy called Matthew. He was a year older than me and we had one of those strange childhood friendships that existed out of school as we rarely mixed in school. He was in the year above and, well at my school anyway, you didn't mix with the older children. We both loved the Fighting Fantasy books which were probably at their zenith by that time. Forest of Doom, Deathtrap Dungeon and the Island of the Lizard King we all conquered with a thumb firmly in between the previous choice so a quick exit back could be executed in case of death. We'd compete, probably along with many other kids, to get hold of the battered copies of Livingstone and Jackson's work at the local library and race home to enjoy them in the safety of our boyhood beds. 

One day, I went over his house, probably with a box or two of plastic Airfix WW2 British (he ALWAYS played as the Germans) under my arm, expecting to see his Argos snooker table laid out for a 1944 skirmish. Instead I found him lolling on his bed, flicking rather carefully through a book. I knew it was a library copy as it was shrouded in one of those yellowing plastic jackets that librarians insisted on using twenty five years ago. As I walked in, he glanced up and casually through the book onto the floor.

As the book skidded to a halt on his paint flecked carpet, its cover gradually settled into my view. Two dangerous eyes stared suddenly into my own, eyes that glared from a figure who was partly Robin Hood, partly '80s Wood Elf and partly unknown hero. I had had my encounter with Lone Wolf!

My first sight of the classic Chalk style of fantasy art. Those eyes still haunt me!
It took me quite a few years to make the connection between Lone Wolf, Gary Chalk and '80s Warhammer. To be honest, it was fairly recently. About 8 years ago now I started collecting back issues of White Dwarf, starting with issue 90 and working by way up until the tone of the magazine turned from '80s anarchy to '90s corporate lunch. I then began to work backwards from 90, picking up the magazine in the pre-Warhammer/Rogue Trader days when it was (nearly) always RPGs all the way. Gary's work cropped up here and there in my random purchases and I started to recognise his style in the old hardback GW books I horded in my bedroom and flicked through from time to time. It was a distinct style. Bright and engaging, and very much against the odds of the darker artwork abundant even then. 

I was pleased, therefore, to produce a small article about his work for this blog, entitled The Magic of Warhammer Third Edition. Its seems that my posting was a popular one, as it has been viewed many times and discussed here and there by fans of Gary's work. Well, I am very pleased to say that Gary has agreed to be interviewed for this blog. We talk about his early career, his move into GW, Fantasy Warlord and beyond. Can I just take this opportunity to thank Gary personally for contributing to Realm of Chaos 80s and the Oldhammer Community. From your feedback, I know how much many of you enjoy these trips back down memory lane. 

Over to Gary...


RoC80s: You were brought up in rural Hertfordshire, how did the country lad become interested in the fantastical in the first place?

GC: There wasn’t really a fantasy genre back in those days, or if there was I didn’t know about it. Doctor Who didn’t appear on tv until I was eleven years old and the world was only available in black and white.  As a result I became interested in drawing and history which were about as far away from reality as I could get. I realised while reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s excellent historical fiction books that someone  (Charles Keeping) was illustrating them and presumably getting paid for it. I decided me to become an illustrator, and thanks to a truly inspiring art teacher I fumbled my way into art school.
      It wasn’t until I was leaving art school that the whole fantasy thing began to kick off with Dungeons and Dragons arriving, science fiction books appearing all over the place and everyone reading The Lord of the Rings. I just wanted to illustrate kids books and suddenly there was all this stuff!  The world was now available in technicolour. Of course that could have been the effect of the drugs, but it doesn’t seem to have worn off yet.
         I got a job in a graphic design studio producing anything from shampoo labels ( flash but regal ) to , and, I swear this is true, airbrushing out an old lady’s wooden leg in a photo for something medical. Classy eh? While I was doing this, I kept sending out illustration samples and eventually manged to become a freelance children’s illustrator doing fairy tales and stuff. Fantasy comes in a bit later, so keep reading…

Illustration from Lone Wolf II: Fire on the Water.
RoC80s: You started wargaming as a teenager. What are your memories of that early time? Was it purely historical for you, or did you find yourself amongst the early D&D roleplayers?

GC: Wargames were originally played with Airfix figures, using Donald Featherstone’s rules. These were the only things available to a teenager who didn’t live in London. You played World War Two or American Civil War or spent your entire life converting tiny plastic men with the aid of plastecine. The strange thing was though, that these games were actually fun! As you know fun is no longer allowed unless it has accidentally slipped into a set of rules by accident. If this does occur, it’s usually weeded out by the fifteenth edition. We eventually started making up own rules for things, but it was okay because nobody ever found out.
        There were no fantasy games around at all at this time, except for those played by a mythical figure in a cardigan called Tony Bath who played wargames set in Robert Howard’s Hyborea. As no-one in Hertfordshire had ever heard of  Conan or Hyborea, these remained pretty much of an enigma. The D&D stuff comes in later…

Scratch-built model ships. Used in 'Every Dwarf loves a Sailor' and beyond. Gary Chalk 1986.
RoC80s: How did you manage to move from being a ‘player’ to working in the ‘games industry?’

GC: I moved into the games industry by inventing my own game! I had desk space in a printers and one day I was looking at a historical boardgame when I was espied by the two brothers who ran the place. They asked what it was and how much it cost. When I told them how much, they couldn’t believe the difference between the printing costs and the retail price and told me that if I made one up, they would print it. So I did.
 I invented with Cry Havoc. I had recently started playing D&D ( I told you it would eventually turn up) and was struck by the difference between the roleplaying and existing historial games. Historcial games, even skirmish games, had rather anonymous playing pieces who were all much the same, while D&D had characters who were all different and could do more than just fight each other. I tried to put a bit of the RPG flavour and colour into a historical boardgame with individual characters with individual strengths. Cry Havoc was born and I was a game designer.

Talisman: The magical Quest Game. First Edition 1983. Cover Art by Gary Chalk.
RoC80s: My earliest memory of your distinctive style is probably the front cover of Lone Wolf: Flight from the Dark in 1984. How did you become involved in Joe Dever’s famous gamebooks?

GC: I first met Joe Dever when he was running the Game Centre near Oxford Street and I flogged him a load of copies of Cry Havoc. He need a lots of other products he couldn’t get a regular supply of and so I started a line of dungeon mapping pads and floorplans, which I also sold to him. At this time there were no gamebooks to get involved in and we started playing fantasy wargames using the Reaper and Laserburn rules along with historical games with the now widely available 25mm metal figures.

One of Gary's '80s dioramas. This one appeared in Fantasy Warlord among other places.
RoC80s: How did your begin working with Games Workshop? Was it as an artist or games designer?

GC: I left the printers as they had serious financial problems and were milking Cry Havoc for cash, so that it could never really get anywhere. I went to see Livingstone and Jackson at Games Workshop. They had repeatedly threatened to sue me for plagerism over the dungeon planner pads and the floorplans, but had never really been able to make it stick. I told them that if they gave me a job, they wouldn’t have to keep trying to sue me and I could even invent products for them. They thought this over and gave a job they called Games Development Manager! I had an office, a drawing board and a view of the car park. I was only in charge of myself, but hell, I was management material!
      Now this is where the story really starts. Joe Dever was fired by the Game Centre and needed a job. Workshop needed a warehouse manager and I suggested Dever. He got the job. While I was working on Talisman and Battlecars, Livingstone and Jackson came up with the idea of The Wizard of Firetop Mountain, based on the solo Tunnels and Trolls adventures. When this started to sell, they asked Joe if he would ghostwrite a solo adventurefor them and if I would be prepared to illustrate it. All for a princely 1% royalty. I pointed out to Joe that if we were good enough to write their books we were good enough to produce our own. Joe wrote a section of the first Lone Wolf book based on a world he had put together for his fantasy wargames. I produced some illustrations and made up a presentation for the publishers. As I recall, the text was put together by Workshop’s very own typesetter in secret lunchtime sessions….

Interior Illustration from White Dwarf 41. May 1983. By Gary Chalk.
RoC80s: You produced a wide range of material for early issues of White Dwarf. You wrote about painting in the days before ‘Eavy Metal and produced classic articles like ‘Every Dwarf Loves a Sailor’. What was it like working on the magazine in the early to mid 1980s?

GC: It was great working with Jamie Thompson who was the editor at that time.  He had a great sense of humour and was always slipping jokes and rude noms de plume into White Dwarf. I particularly remember a writer he called Hugh Janus ... This was back in the days when White Dwarf was still a magazine and even featured articles about other manufacturer’s games. The naval rules for Warhammer were written as I needed some for ships in my own games and decided to make an article out of them.

Iconic cover to Blood Bath at Orc's Drift. Gary Chalk. 1985.
Interior Illustration from White Dwarf 114. By Gary Chalk.

RoC80s: Among old school Warhammer fans, you are probably most well known for the 2nd Edition expansion packs like Bloodbath at Orc’s Drift (which was played out at our recent Oldhammer Day at Bryan Ansell’s Wargames Foundry by the way) what is the story behind the creation of these scenarios?

GC: The story is  that Workshop asked us to write a scenario for them. We were putting on some of the first really big fantasy wargames at Dragonmeet and Games Day. (Sometimes we used Warhammer and sometimes we put Warhammer rules on the table, but were secretly playing Reaper, ‘cos it was quicker. Weren’t we naughty! Anyway Bryan Ansell asked us to write a scenario and I came up with Orc’s Drift and Joe expanded it a bit so that it would use a lot of the latest releases in the Citadel figures range.
Interior Illustration from White Dwarf 113. Gary Chalk. 1989.

RoC80s: You provided quite a bit of artwork to GW (and beyond) during the 1980s and many fans want to know what happened to the original pieces of art. Do you still have them in your possession or have they been sold on to collectors?

GC: I have some of the artwork, but a lot of it has gone missing at Games Workshop. They actually produced a boxed set of  Lone Wolf figures at one time and I gave them the artwork for the first Lone Wolf  book for the box lid. This is sadly one of the missing pieces. I have it on good autority that some of my artwork, along with that of other artists, was actually seen in a refuse skip outside the studio. Since the witness is an ex-Workshop sculptor, I can only assume this to be true. I am really pissed off about this as you can imagine.

The ill-fated fantasy ruleset.
RoC80s: You were involved in the ill-fated Fantasy Warlord project. What was the original vision behind the project and why do you think that it failed?

GC: The original idea behind Fantasy Warlord was to produce a set of rules that actually allowed players to use tactics on the tabletop in a way which was realistic and relatively quick to play. I had given up playing Warhammer because it was incredibly slow to play with a lot of figures.  By a lot, I mean two or three hundred a side. Warhammer is really a skirmish game. If twenty bowmen need to throw sixty dice to resolve their firing, then that, in my book, is a really clunky system. That’s why I went for the percentage based rules which allow you to resolve combat and firing with a single die roll.

       I didn’t much like the ever increasing rules either. Chaos seemed to need an enormous number of rules. Think about that  for a moment… and the background was getting so detailed that there was very little room for the gamer to be inventive. I actually enjoy making up scenarios, war-engines, uniforms and so on that  bolt on to the rules for my own games. I now believe that I may be alone in this and this could be one reason why Fantasy Warlord failed. People want to belong to a group where they are one of the boys. They’re one of the people who play Warhammer or  Malifaux or whatever, and ultimately it is this community which is as important as the game. They like the in-jokes about the third edition or getting the badges on their orcs to look just like the ones in the magazine. I’m afraid to say, that I don’t really give a damn about this stuff and I can make up my own badges. I must be some sort of pseudo geek who isn’t really geeky…
        There are lots of other reasons it was a disaster. We had figure makers who lied about the number of sculptors they had and layout artists who really did deserve to be laid out. We had packagers who were going out of business and hadn’t told us and we had one of those little financial crisis things. The Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, told it was going to be a little blip, but he lied. Imagine that, a politician who tells lies. Seems impossible, doesn't it? Anyway, the project seems to have been totally doomed form the moment of it’s conception.  I screwed up big time.

Interior Illustration from Warhammer Armies. Gary Chalk 1987.
RoC80s: You were recently quoted in a news article about 40k, this caused some bemusement amongst long standing fans of your work (as you have had nothing to do with the game for decades), how on earth did you end up being interviewed for the piece?

GC: Even though I haven’t had a lot to do with 40K recently I am still unravaged by Alzheimer’s and have followed its progress closely. I have even managed to read bits of White Dwarf down at the paper shop before they throw me out.
      The reason I was asked to do the interview was nothing more or less than flagrant nepotism! My son Titus who works as a journalist in Berlin, is a friend of Samira Ahmed. She needed to find someone who knew about Games Workshop’s products and he suggested me. Funny old world innit?

      In my defence I can only say that I am familiar with Workshop’s products and I have played both Warhammer Fantasy and 40K, indeed I actually play-tested early versions of the rules. If they had interviewed someone who currently worked for Workshop, it would have ended up as as a piece of advertising. I told her what I honestly thought and that’s about it.

An intriguing piece from the Colleges of Magic article. The black dot? Design choice or a cover for something?