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Mordheim & Skirmish Wargaming


Though I enjoy the Warhammer universe (largely thanks to Fantasy Flight's recent RPG), I have zero desire to play either of the large-scale wargames (Fantasy Battle or 40k). It's just way too much commitment in terms of both time and money. I mean, what if I built a huge undead army and then decided I didn't like undead anymore?* Besides, I tend to like tactical gaming the way I like my fantasy fiction - action-packed and to the point. That's why I'll read pulp fantasy like "Kyrik: Warlock Warrior" over "Game of Thrones" any day.

A few weeks back, I found a used copy of the Mordheim rulebook at Half Price Books. I had heard of the game before but never seen it or played it. Now the Warhammer universe is  a grim, dark place, but Mordheim (now out of print, but available at the Games Workshop website in PDF form) cranks up the volume by throwing an apocalypse into the mix (it's not surprising that the game was published in 1999).


A comet thought to be a good omen instead crashes into the city of Mordheim**, devastating it and showering it in radioactive meteorite shards. Apparently, the shards become a valuable resource and people come from all over the world to get their hands on them. Not surprisingly, chaos ensues and treasure hunters fight the flat-out crazy mutant inhabitants in the ruins of the city to accumulate piles of glowing green meteorite shards.

I haven't pored through all the rules yet, but at its core, Mordheim is a skirmish minis game. You create a warband of 10-15 minis and then duke it out with other warbands. The game is played as a campaign, and from session to session your intrepid band of cutthroats accumulate radioactive meteorite shards, experience, weapons and powers. One could almost call it a tabletop action RPG.

In any case, I've been inspired enough to dig out some Warhammer zombies that have been sitting in my closet and actually assemble and base them. As an experiment in terrain making, I also tried creating a section of broken wall using Foam-Core and spackle. They're currently unpainted, but I'll post updates when I get around to finishing them.


*Yeah, right. Like that would happen.

**Honestly, what outcome did they expect? They named their city like they were naming a Norwegian black metal band.

As a result of a stubborn Movable Type bug, I've disabled commenting for now. I figure no commenting is a better user experience than buggy commenting. In the meantime, look for a new monster entry soon – the vile Maloculus! maloculus-old.jpgHere's the original sketch from 2006. A 'remastered' version of this image (which is truly a terror to, um, behold) will be released with the forthcoming monster entry.


We all know that adventurers are nothing without monsters to fight, right? Well, the same goes for monsters. Without adventurers, what would they do? Probably die of old age and actually keep their treasure, but that's beside the point.

This is the center panel of a three panel GM screen that I designed for personal use, and it kind of sums up my personal view of what low level fantasy adventurers look like. No storybook knights in shining armor or high-fantasy epic heroes here. These adventurers are hard-living, amoral, tomb-looting opportunists with beat up equipment and an axe to grind.

Even though my artwork doesn't take place on a particular "world," pieces like this can help put the monsters in context and maybe provide a little imagination fuel along the way.

Dungeon Crawling Rules

As far as gaming is concerned, I prefer dungeon crawls. There's just something iconic about sending a fighter, cleric, thief and magic-user into a mouldering dungeon like some kind of pseudo-medieval special ops team to hack their way through monsters and steal treasure. Provided they can survive.

Of course, dungeon crawling is not much fun without opposition, so having plenty of monsters is important. Those early RPG books (particularly the monster-focused ones) provided me with a lot of imagination fuel as a kid and inspired me to draw. That love of monster books continues to this day and is obviously a major driving force behind this blog.

Here are some of my preferred dungeon crawling games. Many of them are functionally equivalent, so for me the artwork is often a selling point, as it has always been with gaming books. The monsters on this blog are designed with these kinds of games in mind, and should be easily translated for use in any of them.


One dungeon crawling game towers above all the others in my humble estimation. These are the Basic and Expert D&D rules published by TSR in 1981. They have enough rules structure to make it sufficiently "game-like" for me, while leaving plenty of room for improvisation. The rules are clearly explained as well (though it took my ten-year-old self a while to figure them out). They also have great cover/box art painted by by the legendary Erol Otus. In retrospect, this is also the last iteration of D&D from TSR that would have that amateurish, fanzine-like charm. I highly recommend finding a copy of these rules, either online or at in the used section of your local game store.


A number of other games capture some of the feel of these early boxed sets either through rules emulation or artistic and literary inspiration.  These games have the advantage of currently being in print.

Labyrinth Lord, from Goblinoid Games is the closest to 1981 Basic and Expert D&D. This game is a retro-clone that utilizes the Open Gaming License (OGL) to loosely replicate the feel of the rules that inspired it, namely the 1981 Basic and Expert rules referenced above. Among the emulated rulesets, I'm partial to Labyrinth Lord for two reasons: it emulates my favorite rules and has great artwork.


Another OGL-based retro-clone is Swords & Wizardry from Mythmere Games. S&W harkens back to earlier incarnations of D&D (in this case the "Little Brown Books" or "White Box" D&D from 1974) and incorporates a number of changes that update and/or take creative license with the source material, but  it's an enjoyable ruleset and in its earlier printings had an amazing cover by Pete Mullen (I guess I do judge books by their covers).


The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games is the latest addition to the roster of games that try to capture the look and feel of classic role-playing games from the late '70s and early '80s. DCCRPG is not a faithful emulation of one particular era of D&D rules. It is very much a game of its own that combines rules inspirations from many sources in an attempt to be faithful to the pulp fantasy literature that inspired fantasy role-playing games in the first place. This is a massive book and has a lot of artwork, including the last professional illustrations by one of my favorite vintage TSR artists - Jim Roslof.

These are some of the games that I find particularly enjoyable (though I don't play them all). The monsters on this blog are geared towards the style of games that the above books embody. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from translating them to any game you like. If there's one thing monsters love, it's finding new adventurers to devour.


Magical Monstrosity Press is an online book of beasts, art gallery and blog inspired by pulp fantasy & sci-fi, medieval bestiaries, vintage role playing game books and classic death metal album covers. 

You will find ravenous hordes of slimy monstrosities from beyond time and space and an onslaught of voracious undead here, simply because that's what I enjoy drawing. Of course, there will be other types of monsters as well, but the above two will surely outnumber them. I've always enjoyed the combination of an illustration, a block of statistics and descriptive text found in role-playing game bestiaries and this blog is in part a reflection of that.

At times I'll post a fully developed monster entry with an illustration, stat block and description (suitable for old-school dungeon crawling RPGs, modern clones and any other game system you choose to translate them to). At other times, I'll just post sketches, the occasional print-and-punch game accessory or feature an artist whose work I find inspirational 

If you have suggestions for changes to creatures I post here, or would like to see variants, let me know and I might incorporate them. Also, I'd love to hear any tales of how these monsters played at your gaming table. Post your gameplay anecdotes on the relevant monster's page if you want. I'd like to see what havoc they wreak when out in the world.

In any case, enjoy the site and let me know what you think. I welcome feedback.

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