Sunday 18 February 2018

Psychic Knights Riding Dinosaurs: A Lost World

This is my current "default" Middlehiem setting for my homebrew skirmish campaign rules.  I thought I'd share some WIP shots and a bit of background on Middlehiem.

I suppose Middlehiem could be described as a underground "lost-world"(think Journey to the Centre of the Earth) where dinosaurs can be telepathically controlled by dino-knights - wearing plate armour. It has War of the Roses/late-Middle-Ages tech where gunpowder is in its infancy.  Middleheim's core setting may or may not be expanded to include not-African-tribesman, not-Incas, and not-Japanese samurai as my budget permits.

I think the genre I am aiming for is "medieval pulp" - high middle ages swashbucking rather than the usual Iron/Bronze Age Conanesque sort...

Underpinning this is my magic system. This is just typical psychic abilities from modern and sci fi, transplanted back to the Middle Ages. I'm not a huge fan of wizards in pointy hats - borrowing psychic powers means I have a "established" magical framework that works in a consistent, coherent manner.  Knights with psychic powers feels "new" but enables me to steal from established systems (cough Savage Worlds cough).

The ruling class are all psychics - the telepaths are the "dino knights"- they alone can control the giant beasts and tend to be the upper nobility of Middleheim.  They have an array of mind-focussed psychic powers - focussed on mind control and illusion. Typical abilities would include confusing foes, creating illusionary doppelgangers, mind control and mental attacks, and buffing/debuffing morale, and obscuring (invisibility) as well as limited precognition. They can also shield themselves and nearby allies against mental attacks.

Perry medieval plastics have been wonderful for making random minis; they have a myriad combos and extra arms/legs/heads make them awesome for scratchbuilding/body swaps...

The second, lesser noble class are telekinetics.  Typically fighting on foot, they tend toward physical powers - pushing, pulling, deflecting and directing projectiles, augmented blows, spraying fire, with some healing and limited levitation.  Deadlier in direct combat, they are less effective at commanding both men, and the mighty dinos that decide most battles.

The rank and file are equipped with long pikes and powerful polearms; well-suited to taking down large reptiles as well as armoured knights. Half of most forces are equipped with either powerful crossbows and longbows. Lately primitive muskets have come onto the scene, capable of propelling a lead ball through even the toughest dino hide.

The smallest military unit is the "lance" - usually a telepathic dino-knight and his apprentice squire, both riding raptor-sized dinos.  They are supported by several telekinetic men-at-arms, and up to half a dozen each of both bowmen and pike/halberdiers - usually over a dozen men total.

The models need a lot of polish but my aim was to give them a basic coat so I can playtest the rules...
I'm quite happy with the $1 dinos and I think they will paint up well with a bit of drybrushing and simple detailing... 

 Middleheim is made up of small duchies and city-states.  Battles are fought on a small scale - with hundreds per side being common, and large battles being rare.  The underworld is lit by luminescent plants and lava pools; the terrain can range from rocky desert to lush jungle.  Dinosaurs and giant creatures roam the wilds, with spiders the size of horses amongst the horrors of the wilds.

In Middleheim, the gamer controls a lance of mercenary dino-knights. They can hire out to fight battles for local lords, escort caravans through dino-infested terrain, and hunt down rogue T-rexes. They can defend settlements against Aztec raids.  The troopers in the lance can then "level up" in both psychic and physical abilities in a campaign. 

Anyway, that might give those who are interested a background on my homebrew skirmish rules' setting. It started as I felt dinosaurs were vastly under-represented in wargaming (compared to say, zombies/undead: which I am heartily sick of) and I wondered how I could include them. I noticed some of my 2-year-old's cheap $1 plastic dino toys fit with some 28mm Perry knights... and the rest is history....


  1. I look forward to see what you come up with.

    For some reason, I feel you also need to add a faction of communist cavemen trying to throw off the aristocracy of the Dino-riders.

    1. It sounds awesome - freedom fighter cavemen - but depends on budget. Perhaps the not-Zulus might take on the oppressed faction role?

      I was planning on a caveman game in 15mm (I got pretty much all the dinos in a $10 tub and some small ones do not fit with 28mm)

  2. Very Interesting. This remidns me of a anime tv show called Jura Tripper. A bunch of kids that are for some reason on a super hightech boat are stranded through a strange storm in a medieval dino world.
    They bring wiht them fire arms and the the dominant kndgom gets a hold of one or two guns and then reveser engineres them and mass produces them. It's pretty intense for a kids show.

  3. We have some dino-ish creatures in fantasy (Warhammer lizardmen have dino-like traits) but they are surprisingly rare.

    True dinosaurs seem almost... extinct so far as gaming is concerned....

    1. I have mostly found them as a "side" part of the game and not the core. For example, a Lost World style game where a wandering monster or random creature is a dinosaur, but the true opponent is still the rival party.

    2. Exactly. Occasioanlly a minor part of a minor game.
      Contrast this to the ever-present zombies/undead; which feature in almost every fantasy/pulp game and star in 99% of boardgames on Kickstarter....

    3. As I think about why, I have come up with 2 possible answers and am curious to your thoughts on it:

      1. Dinos (at least the big ones) maybe seen as over-powered compared to humans, even ones with guns. We have seen guns be less than effective in TV and Movies, so perhaps this has internalized itself into the psyche of gamers.

      2. There is no solid way to make $$$ off Dino minis since theya re so ubiquitous as plastic toys and such. Therefore, from a business perspective it does not make sense to try to make a game around them?

      Your thoughts?

    4. I'm dubious about #1. Most fantasy and sci fi wargames (including the most popular ones) have wildly overpowered units, mega tanks/mechs and monsters.

      Maybe #2. Though gamers being who they are, I suspect most would buy $10ea "official" resin minis especially if you made them unique with your artwork etc - even if $1ea plastic ones were available. I mean, 99% of gamers paint their minis in the studio scheme.

      I find it baffling - like the lack of good modern vampire/werewolf/modern pulp mini lines, or why more indie game devs do not plumb the current superhero craze... you'd think a superhero game would be popular right now, right?

      There's quite a few areas where wargaming trends do not match modern mainstream media (i.e. Cthulhu always seems very overepresented consideringhow niche it is)

    5. Yes, that is curious that large/powerful units are a staple of many sci-fi/fantasy rules sets. Why would Dinos be "out of bounds" then in mainstream rules.

      Do you recall the old TV Cartoon Dino-Riders? Could be a source of ideas.

  4. Posting Middleheim rules? Interested am I...
    Thank you for the blog.

  5. Probably the best place is to join the Delta Vector google group - along with various Middlehiem versions, there's about 100 other homebrew rules by some cleverer folk...!forum/delta-vector7