Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils :: A Victorian Sci-fi Setting for MEST


Here lay my first effort on designing a VSF genre document.

I've been struggling to acquire enough time to craft a nice backdrop for the "Victorian Sci-fi" genre to use with the MEST rules.  What I did was decide that I'm limited to available minis that Aggro84 has, and to the range of available minis left yet unpurchased in the wilds.  That is; I don't intend to craft my own line of unique figures any time soon!


  • Needs to using minis that people can purchase, preferably stuff we've already got ready for gaming.
  • Needs to be able to fit into a strict definition of "Victorian" science-fiction.  Therefore I limited, at least for this first iteration, technology and world politics to what was known in 1875 CE.
  • Needs to have a "point-of-departure" that is interesting that allows platforming for the crazier VSF concepts.  I chose menhirs and aether.  Aether being a very interesting thing because it seems to have supernatural "natural" qualities as the so-called "Fifth Element".  Menhirs because they look so cool and can be found in silly places.  Like caves.  So I decided that the it would during the discovery of a particular cave in Prussia around 1866 CE or so.
  • Needs to have the rest of history - however sloppy my attempt - extend from that ahistorical event. 


And here is my rough overview.  I'm not a historian just a lazy gamer with access to Wikipedia and Google Search.  I hope this information is entertaining enough to excite others to learn more about this effort.  This genre setting includes the 1875 CE campaign map I've been working on here:

Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils

aka Cold Steam Empires


This is Victorian Sci-fi during the reign of Queen Victoria circa 1875 CE.  The British Empire rules the oceans, and Prussia with the help of Italy recently (since 1861 CE) defeated France and Austria.  Russia and Poland have had their borders pressed by Prussia but they are not ready for what is coming around the bend.  Spain and Portugal have folded into France, and Hungary with Romania and Serbia have formed an unsteady alliance with Austria.  Most of the other nations of Europe and Asia Minor have yet to understand the events of the the Brave New World.

A New Kind of Science

Science is starting to discover crazy new rules about physics and numerous scientists and engineers, and some mystics and scholars are trying to make sense of this.  Everybody is seeing what the New Age of Scientism will do for their country.  As such, the nobles and politicians see great potential to wage an unyielding war even though the last war has yet been paid for except by bloodshed.  As it can be surmised, new wars are under way this next may bound across the entire globe.


Moongates, an ancient alien technology, have been discovered buried in ancient caves at various locations through-out the world.  The first of which - a small circular arrangement of carved basalt stone pillars -  was during a fortuitous road excavation in the small town of Wernigerode that sits upon limestone. This set-off an explosion of interest into spelunking with the Prussian and neighboring territories to as far as France and Italy.  Many tragic deaths occurred, many fights to clamor for fame happened.  Blood was spilled; all for mere recognition to be the person or team that found evidence of previously unknown and mysterious ancient religious practices.  Most of these finds were in such poor shape that they appear no more than just exotic, crumbled and broken, menhirs.  Others though, with just a tiny blood sacrifice of several pints extracted from tortured criminal convicts, allow travel between worlds.  Moongates are rather finicky but allow bodily transportation of persons and their personal effects to the planets Venus, Mars, and to the Moon.  Apparently - and to much surprise and consternation - these worlds are inhabited by hostile alien empires some of which have been waging war among themselves for hundreds of years.


The so-called “Fifth Element” or “Quintessence” has been confirmed to exist as a medium for travel between the planets.  This has long been theorized by great esoteric authors such as Madam H.P. Blavatsky and Vladimir S. Solovyov but the utmost nature had come from deeper understandings of the Akashic Records.  Such “astral readings” were long thought to be a ruse set up by charlatans and theosophists vulturing Oriental Mysticism.  However; after much investigation by the Royal Society, these astral readings by the late Sir Alfred P. Sinnet (1840 - 1872) gave The British Empire quite an edge.  His posthumous knighthood after his assassination by Prussian spies reflects his position of reverence afforded to him by the Queen and Consort.  He will be greatly missed.

Cold Steam

Scientists and engineers of the British and the Prussian empires only recently have begun experimenting with designing and building aethercraft to be launched from the Moon. “Cold steam” otherwise known as “Phlostigated Anaphylactic Aether” generates an absurd amount of energy that robs the surrounding environment of heat and often causing the weather to change to snow or rain.  It is a problematic force because it requires harvesting from outside of the Earth therefore many facilities exist upon the Moon to collect, compress, and bottle it for use elsewhere.  As soon, the majority of traffic through Moongates is shipping cargo containers of derisively named “p-to-a” owing to the stink of the gas itself.


A biological version of aether recently discovered is “Virchow’s Psychoplastic Ectoplasm”.  This “life-force energy” can be coerced using “spectromalic light rays” to be consumed by the cells of certain life-forms and can be captured within “electricified crystallites” and transferred into Jacobian clockwork devices.  An engineering example of this are the Baconite Automatic Men who gain the essence and personalities of the prior life-form; but these personalities are subsumed with strong application of “Vicente hydraulic tubes” otherwise these per se golems become suicidal berserkers.

Alien Empires

There is strong evidence that prior cultures upon the Earth itself have been influenced by the presence of other-worldly beings from distant planets, to which attribute the names of gods and demons.  With the discovery of Moongates we see some of these beings insitu still waging war upon the nearby planets of Venus, Mars, and the very Moon itself!  These other cultures have been in great decline for thousands of years and the Great Powers’ ad hoc access to their worlds has put them in great upheaval.  That fact plus the other in which they are ripe for exploitation and religious conversion makes them prime candidates for cross-planetary domination.  Fortunately for them, the Great Powers are only slowly realizing proper technology to fully exploit their diminishing resources.

Alien Dimensions

A stark reality check came recently with the application of earth-bound Aether.  With the presence of telescope technologies it can be seen as a fact that the actual Moon itself is uninhabited. However, it appears that reality within the locality of an aether gas cloud gets distorted to perceive the reality beyond the Moongates themselves. Within that locality, reality has been wrought differently and the unbelievable conclusion is that Moongates do travel to other worlds but these exist in other dimensions!

A Brave New World

Queen Victoria of England, Empress of India, is 56 years of age and the discovery of Alchemistry - a pet project of her husband Prince Albert who had long been a secret enthusiast of theosophy - has kept her appearance young and her health invigorated, to enjoy the fruits of her British Empire.  The comely royal couple, who appear fit and no older than 27 years of age each, and much the Parliament itself appear to others as charismatic, strict but loving leaders. The people of the Great Commonwealth - to include India and the Northern Africa - have fallen in love of her despite her very strict rule. Slavery within the Empire no longer officially exists as nearly every citizen is willing to die for the Queen.  India is still going through much reform after the assassination of the last moghul Bahur Shah II at the armstice of the bloody Indian Rebellion ending in 1857 CE.


The British Empire has an excellent spy network. Due to its shipping and maritime strengths, it also controls the North Sea, the North Atlantic, and most of the “Seven Seas” of the world.  With its understanding of the “electricical propertyes” of Aether, it is slowly attempting to build the worlds’ first flying ironclad based upon research and experiments with smaller vessels by Lord Ungarry at Oxford.  The Frontier Nations of America are yet a large colony of the British Empire and the Western Territories and the Middle Counties have not yet been acquired from Spain nor from France; so there is no such a thing as “The United States of America [ USA ]”.

France and Greater Iberia

The French have united with Spain and Portugal to form Greater Iberia but this is still in its founding stages with the loss of the Franco-Prussian war. The French Empire has tremendous support from partisans and other nationalist organizations as a result of its recent defeat at the hands of the Prussian Empire.  Spain and Portugal as well as its world-wide colonies remain fearsome, nationalistic, and dangerous places to visit unless one is a citizen or an ambassador.

Prussia Uber Alles

The Prussian Empire was first to learn of the Moongate technology by several years but the last to understand how Aether could be used to create Cold Steam.  Yes, the British stole the Moongate technology barely a year ago but have men tremendous leaps in understanding its potential uses in regards to Aether.  However, it was Herr Doktor Doktor Virchow’s discovery of Psychoplastic Ectoplasm that gave Emperor Wilhelm a fantastic idea; build an army of Automatic Men, the sort alluded to by Sir Francis Bacon nearly 250 years ago.  “Bi Gott! We will have a World Empire of 1000 years!” he exclaimed.  The idea of enslaving his own people so incensed statesman Otto von Bismarck that he resigned his post and left for Austria.


The humility of losing to Emperor Wilhelm in the last Grossdeutschland War of Unification has left an indelible mark upon the psyche of the Austrian peoples. The arrival of former architect of the Prussian Army Herr Otto von Bismarck was fortuitous for Austria; he mechanized warfare using iron soldiers “Eisen-soldats” and flying fortresses.  These “pure efforts of war” are the way for the future he commented.  However, it has been noted that many other chancellors and counselers of the Austrian parliament think that a New Austrian Empire is a foolish thought against the fear that Prussia this next time will not be so kind; that Austria will be burned to the ground and its lineages extinguished.  Regardless, Chairman Franz Joseph has put great trust into Herr Bismarck and even making him Lord of War, second in command of the Empire.

The Great Blight

The remainder nations of Europe to include the vast populations of the Mediterranean Nations have yet to catch up with the Four Great Powers (Britain, France, Prussia, Austria-Hungary) in terms of understanding science and technology. They do try; spy networks abound and many of the gypsy tribes in those regions constantly roam the wilds reminding all that would listen to their shamans that a “great undoing is coming”, “The Great Blight”  Tales of frightful magic are told; of shambling undead, wolf-men, and flesh-golems of terrifying brutality. Indeed, the stories amount to a war greater than the world itself; a war across the entire face of all planets in the Solar system.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Step by Step Tutorial - Part 2 - Weathering Powders for the Rest of Us

Well here is Part 2 which is more of a weathering powders tutorial.

Here's where we left off.

These are the first miniatures I tried powders on. They came out pretty good, but the powders were a little too bright for my tastes.

I used these powders only on them. Afterwards, I decided it would be better if I had more colors to use.

I invested about $6 USD in this Pastel set.

First I grounded off a little brown. Even this is way too much by the way as a little goes a long way.

I then liquified the powder with mineral spirits, mixing in some of the orange rust powder residue. I wasn't sure at this time if you could mix colored powders. Luckily it worked. I have been told that turpentine also works as a liquifier.

Without powders.

After the powders are applied.

Liquified powders on the breast plate.

I then made some green for the brass areas.

Liquified green pastel powder. Next time I will be a little more gentle scraping at the Pastels to avoid the big chunks.

Green Powder applied. Next time I will mute this green more as it was a little too much.

A yellowish tan powder for the base.

I ended up blotching the tan and the brownish red liquified powders on the base. Here the applied powders are still wet.

Here's the reddish brown after it fully dried for a half hour or so and I went back and dabbed on some of the Secret Weapon Rust Orange. It's important to note that the colors will dry much brighter after the mineral spirits dry.

Blotches of Rust applied and dried.

I went over some of the dried areas with a brush dampened in spirits to smooth out some of the spots where the pigments dried a little too  abruptly. The dampened brushing along the edges created a smoother transition. I noticed there was a little powder bleed over into some of the areas I didn't want. This was an easy fix, with spirits and a little lining with a black/brown wash in the grooves of the mini.

And here's the finished model in better light, after a little clean up.

So what did I learn?
Powders are pretty damn easy to use.
A little does go a long way so start slow, you can always add more later.
Powders dry much brighter than they look going on wet, so be careful.
You can make cheap powders with grounded down pastels.
You can mix your powder colors. The Secret Weapon powders mixed just fine with the ground pastel powders.
You can clean up your mini afterwards with brushed on spirits and some fine lining work.
Finally (I learned this last time) a sprayed on matte fixer doesn't seem to effect your completed work.

So give them a try!
With a set of pastels and some mineral spirits or turpentine you too can have a go.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Step By Step Tutorial For the Rest of Us - Part 1

So I thought I would write a tutorial to describe how I paint minis these days.

First off, I think everybody reading this should know, I am not a great painter. I am generally cheap, impatient and easily frustrated. On top of that, I lack the patience, eye sight, fancy brushes and hand eye coordination to do fine detail work.

So is everybody excited now?

On the flip side, I think I do a pretty good job at selecting simple earthy color tones that make the minis I paint look much better than they would with a brighter palette. I am also constantly trying to experiment with new techniques in an attempt to improve my final results and make them both more efficient and esthetic.

The Marauder Chaos Thug I will be painting in all his 80's glory.

This is my wet palette with a clean sheet of parchment paper freshly laid down. I suggest that everyone out there reading this make yourself one to try out if you haven't all ready. They are basically free and save you lots of time and paint.

These are an example of the cheap craft paints I use. They don't cover as well as expensive miniature paints, but I like them because they go on with a semi-transparent quality.

So here's where I start. The mini has been fixed to a base, primed grey, dry brushed white and the base has been sloppily painted and dry-brushed.

These are the colors I use for "creepy guy" flesh tones. Flesh, cold brown and a little pale blue. I add white to the mix for the final highlights later on.

I apply a mid tone flesh color, painted on fairly thin, with the above colors, to the skin areas of the mini.

Next the hair. I decided red to make the mini stand out more and because red is more aggro. Again, this is a slightly thinned paint not meant to be opaqe.

The same thinned paint, this time in a dark silver, to the metallics. I am using a larger brush to do all this, and I am not too worried about being overly neat.

The browns. I start with the lighter browns and go darker. No shading is being done here though, just thinned base colors with the same thick brush.

Finally the golds complete the base coats on the model. Total time here is about 15 to 20 minutes on this mini.

Next are the washes. I didn't used to do washes. I would start with very dark base coats and add highlights on top of them. I have found that washes speed things up and look better as a final result.

Here, all of the washes have been done. I mostly just used thinned standard paints as a wash. Sometimes I do thin the paint with some Secret Weapon brown and black washes I bought a while back. I used a thicker brush to apply and I still wasn't too concerned about neatness. This took maybe 5 to 10 minutes.

This next method is often called black lining. Here, I used a thinned brown black mixture and a smaller brush to darken in the eye sockets, mouth and to separate area's on the mini to make them stand out more. This also cleans up the mini and corrects a lot of mistakes I made earlier. This step probably took about 5 minutes. I have tried "the dip" but to me the 15 minutes or so, it takes to apply washes and line the miniature are worth doing by hand.

Whited out eyes.

First layer of flesh high-lights and metals. I like my metals to be dabbed on to make the armor look uneven and weathered.

more high-lights

I usually do one layer at a time over the entire miniature. I then go back with a secondary lighter layer and sometimes a third. This is where the wet palette really comes in handy, as the paints don't dry as fast and you can keep adding lighter colors where you last left out.

Some where in there I added pupils with a black micron pen.

This was really only about two layers of highlights over the entire washed miniature. My highlights are pretty much done by now.

I love this next step. It's super easy to do and looks great. Unfortunately, you can't see it to clearly in this photo. I add a very thin wash of red to the model's nose,cheeks and bottom lip, followed by a very thin wash of a blue-black for a five o'clock shadow.

I tried playing around with the color balance for this final picture so you can see the color and layers a little better. The only thing different in this picture and the last is I went back and did the leg studs on the mini's left leg. Dark silver, black wash on each stud and a final dot of plain silver for a high-light.

So that's it for part 1. The highlights actually go very quickly. They probably took about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, plus an extra 5 to go back and do the leg studs. I am debating adding two streaks in his hair like the original model and a simple face tattoo.

Part 2 will be very experimental for me as I will be trying some weathering powder techniques, but more on that next time.

I hope someone out there found some of this useful.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stuff wot I painted in November (a day late)

Here's everything I managed to paint last month.
Not a bad go of it eh?
I went and bought a set or pastels to grind up and create my own powders with today.
Hopefully I will have some examples up soon.
Maybe a tutorial is in order?

My attempt at and Oldhammer shield design.

Side view of the same mini.

I might tone down the blue powder effect on this guys metallics.

arse end.

Nothing fancy here but I like him.

Arse end again...

An undead Japanese Ninja type?

I was least impressed with this guy. Oh well.

This guy showed up in the post as part of an Undead deal. No chariot though.

Stupid flash on the crows beak! I should probably fix that. Nothing fancy here but fairly effective.

Another attempt at an Arcane Armorial style shield. I am not sure if this type of thing suits my painting style?

side view of the same fellow

another view

I quite liked how this guy turned out. Fesh out of the Chaos Wastes

especially the horsehair.

Reminds me of a Granbretan a la Hawkmoon

Liked this green chaos knight

I would have liked this mini a hell of a lot more if he didn't have such a ridiculous hair cut. Kid'n'Play anyone?

I got these based finally

blurry group shot!

Another blurry group shot

Clearer group shot :)