Sunday 21 January 2024

Devilry Afoot - call for playtesters

After much testing of mechanics and drafting and re-drafting of ideas, we are now looking for additional playtesters for Devilry Afoot

Set during the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion, Devilry Afoot pits flawed human heroes controlled by one or more players against the creatures of the night whose actions are randomly determined by the game’s easy-to-use mechanics. Designed for solo and co-operative play, the RPG-lite character customisation, and scenario driven narratives and unpredictable monsters combine to ensure that no two games are ever the same.

In their current form, the rules allow the creation of flawed characters from five different archetypes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are rules for supporting followers, unwary innocents and ten classes of fiendish monster drawn from the folk beliefs of the Early Modern period.

We are looking for a number of new players who are able to commit to playing scenarios from the rules, putting the mechanics to the test and identifying areas in need of clarification. Players will need two ten-sided dice, a handful of characters, half a dozen innocent civilians, and a clutch of monsters. Only a handful of miniatures are required.

If you're interested in joining the playtesting team and contributing to the development of the next Irregular Wars title, use the contact form on this page, or email me at irregularwars (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know what you can commit to. 

Active playtesters will have their names listed in the manuscript acknowledgements, and receive a free pdf of the finished rules.

Monday 15 January 2024

Devilry Afoot - witch hunters (3)

My latest monster hunter to be painted up is this lovely 28mm plague doctor 3D sculpted by Crosslances. He will certainly find service as a 'scholar'. In Devilry Afoot, scholars are one of the available archetypes from which to build your characters. Scholars may be drawn from the gentry, or be particularly gifted scions of more common families. Devoting their lives to the pursuit of knowledge in many different sciences, they are often more adept with a scalpel or quill and ink, than with swords or guns.

As the sculpt holds a lantern - a very functional peice of equipment in the darkness of Devilry Afoot, I wanted to try object source lighting (OSL) for the first time. This technique is supposed to represent the light coming from a source on the model itself - in this case the lantern. I'm not entirely happy with the outcome - I suspect I rather over did the OSL, but it certainly makes for an interesting painting approach!

Sunday 14 January 2024

Werewolves for Devilry Afoot

The latest models painted for Devilry Afoot are two 28mm werewolves from Northstar Miniatures. The shine picked up by the camera really shows the necessity of a good matt varnish before trying to take nice photos.

Werewolves are originally humans, usually societal outcasts or farmers with isolated small holdings far from the light of other god-fearing mean. Seeking a means to protect themselves and the little they own, they have made compacts with the Devil who has bestowed upon them a gift – usually an ointment of a cursed piece of clothing – that allows them to assume the bestial form of a savage wolf-man. However, some unfortunates made no such deal, but have instead been wolf-bitten, cursed with lycanthropy and the uncontrollable urge to hunt when the moon is high.

Sunday 7 January 2024

Devilry Afoot - witch hunters (2)

I've now finished up my second batch of angst-ridden monster hunters for Devilry Afoot. The three men are all from Bloody Miniatures - the woman is from the Flint and Feather range by Crucible Crush Productions.

The first chap was painted up to be a veteran soldier, but he could be a gentleman at a push. Equipped with polearm, sword, buff coat, cuirass and religious tract (stuffed into his head band), he is certainly ready to confront some devilry!

I am particularly fond of this rural-looking sculpt. With a blunderbus, pipe and dead rabbit, his most notible moments in playtesting have been the accidental shooting of a colleague, and a lot of standing in the bushes smoking his pipe. He could fit the solfier archetype, but he's been painted up with the intention of being a doughty goodman.

My only female hunter to date, I've painted up this lovely wee sculpt with a pistol to be a goodwife. Depending on her upgringing, she might also work as a scholar.

This fine agitator has been conceptualised as a veteran soldier, although he could pass as a goodman or perhaps even a religious. He comes with holy item (or political pamphlets?), sword and matchlock.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Devilry Afoot - the vampyre

Rarely known in Western Europe, whispers from the East, and from the wilds of Ireland, speak of insatiable, sentient revenants who have returned from their graves. The details vary as to the origins of these creatures, but the stories often begin with a despotic ruler making pacts with the Devil to prolong their tyranny. They invariably end with a soulless husk, stalking the night to find succour in the soft flesh and young blood of the innocent. 

Vampyres are included in Devilry Afoot because they should be there, rather than because there was any great tradition in 16th-17th century Western Europe. However, they were certainly a feature of Eastern European belief from the late medieval period. The German Nachzehrer (a more static kind of vampiric being who remained in their own grave) where prominant enough to warrent theological texts against them in the late 17th century, and there were vampire panics in Central Europe from the early 18th century. So its not too much of a stretch to imagine a vampyr making his or her way west in the wake of the Wars of Religion.

I struggled to find an aethsthetic I liked for a 28mm 17th century vampyre. They are often overly fantastic or terribly Victorian in appearance. I ended up going for this nosferatu from Reaper Miniatures. He stands slightly taller than my hunters from Bloody Miniatures, so is imposing despire his understated appearance. I also like that he obviously has a soft spot for rats.

Thursday 4 January 2024

A wee pact devil for Devilry Afoot

In Devilry Afoot, pact devils are capricious creatures eager to strike deals with hunters and lure innocent humans away to the otherworld. A pact devil may be the Devil himself, but is much more likely to be a member of the fairy folk or some petty demon.

I have chosen to model this pact devil as a leprechaun, converting a lovely Reaper Miniatures chap who is sculpted riding a turkey. Instead, this fellow is leaning against a standing stone with a passageway to the otherworld hidden at its base.

Leprechauns are said to be low-born fairies, or the children of degenerate fairys and evil spirits. Contrary to the modern depiction of leprechauns all in green, I have gone with the older folklore where they invariably dress in red.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Devilry Afoot - witch hunters (1)

Set during the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion, Devilry Afoot pits flawed human heroes controlled by one or more players against the creatures of the night whose actions are randomly determined by the game’s easy-to-use mechanics. Designed for solo and co-operative play, the character customisation, scenario driven narratives and personal objectives combine to ensure that no two games are ever the same.

These are the first two painted hunters I can call upon to defend the innocent from devilry; both are from the marvelous 28mm Engligh Civil War range by Bloody Miniatures. Indeed, most of my hunters will be drawn from that range as each sculpt is so characterful and dynamic. Both of these sculpts have been painted up as pretty dour types - good practice at painting balck.

There are six archetypes which form the basis of character creation in Devilry Afoot. The first could be a religious, a scholar, or a gentleman, equipped with sword and pistol.

The second to my mind could be a religious, or even a veteran soldier, with sword, holy item (a bible or book of psalms) and buff coat.

After choosing an archetype, characters then pick a trait or skill to start with. They then roll to find out their hidden secret or vice; for example, they may be doubting, lustful, drunken or even a secret witch themselves. They may then purchace weapons, charms and other equipment to prepare for the coming darkeness.

Monday 1 January 2024

Bewitching witches for Devilry Afoot

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1

As I mentioned last Halloween, I have been working on Devilry Afoot, a new, gritty, 16th-17th century skirmish/rpg-lite game pitching player-controlled monster hunters against assorted creatures of the night controlled by the game mechanics.

We already have quite a number of test games under our belts and have a tidy set of core mechanics almost ready to be unleashed on a wider pool of playtesters. The scope of testing so far has been driven by the miniatures we had at hand, or have picked up for the system and, to date, the playtesting has mostly be done us unpainted miniatures (how uncivilised!).

With witches being one of the core antagonists in Devilry Afoot, I thought it was maybe time to run through my thinking around how to represent them on the tabletop. The game uses a randomised activation order system and when it comes time for the 'monsters' to activate, their actions are determined by a d10 roll against a situation chart. Depending on the situation, they have a greater or lesser chance of performing a range of different actions including simple moves or attacks, to casting spells and summoning imps, or they may transfigure into a hare and flee into the night.

Aesthetically, I rambled through period woodcuts (including the famous 1647 Discovery of Witches by Matthew Hopkins above), on to local folklore, and beyond to more recent cinematic depictions to try to find something that really fit the bill.

The 1996 film adaptation of Arthur Millar's The Crucible was a logical first thought. The false-witches are just girls wearing their normal clothing with nothing to distinguish them from anybody else. This is realistically the best approach to depicting witches on the tabletop, but at the end of the day it's not overly fun and doesn't distinguish between innocent humans and those nasty witches.

I wanted to have a standard coven of witches consist of three individuals - traditionally the maiden, matron and crone. The 2015 film adaptation of Macbeth did a good job of depicting its witches of different ages, but that was not something that you find much in 28mm miniatures. Of course I could select models from different ranges, but I wanted them to have a uniform aesthetic on the table.

Disney's Hocus Pocus (1993) is not a film I've seen, but the stills from it are arguably pretty good at capturing the ageless kookiness that I feel could come across from a good miniature witch. That said, they also conform a bit too well to the stereotypical crazy-lady witchiness and I'd rather be a bit more subversive.

The Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 film adaptation of the Wizard of Oz ... too green.

And that brings us to the aesthetically wonderful folk-horror movie, Midsommar (2019). Here we have something very unsettling that subverts expectations with beautiful, flower-bedecked women in crisp white shifts. There is something in the visuals that belie dark secrets that really appealed to me, and for no other reason, that's the direction I took.

My flawed protagonists come from a 17th century setting and much of their clothing will be drab - lots of blacks, greys and browns. That allows - nay, encourages - me to have very contrasting creatures of 'evil'. These witches may have made a pact with the devil, but perhaps that was only to give them agency and a voice in a highly repressive patriarchal society? Why should they not dress in pure white and dance below the moonlight? Afterall, fair is foul and foul is fair... I ordered these lovely figures from Crooked Dice. In lieu of maiden/matron/crone, I went with the Charlie's Angels tripple threat of brunette, blonde and redhead to help distinguish them on the table. 

The standing stone is to be used as a 'pagan altar', a terrain piece that can be used as an objective marker, but also weakens the resolve of characters when they are nearby. It is just a piece of blue stone from a mountain walking path, but real stone never looks real on a gaming table, so it had to be painted up anyway!

And of course, what is a witch without her imps and familiars? In Devilry Afoot, the witch's arsenal includes a spell to summon imps who are fast and aggressive, but are usually more of a nuisance than a major threat. There are a wide number of miniature manufacturers who do wee figures appropriate for these, but I went with the familiars from Foundry's Undead range.