Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stonehaven Miniatures Kickstarter

I don't really involve myself in many Kickstarters. Most are neat enough to watch & follow as they progress, but few catch my attention enough that I actually invest. This month found the creation of two such kickstarters. The first is the crazy-popular Bones 2 kickstarter, and the second is from the less well known Stonehaven Miniatures.

Stonehaven already has two KS drives under their belt (Dwarven & Gnomish adventurers). They first caught my attention with their Gnomish Adventurers drive. Their gnomes were fun & whimsical while staying close to their fantasy roots. Plus there was a wide range of fantastic classes & schemes they covered (who wouldn't want a Gnomish Knight on a riding dog?) Sadly, I didn't notice the group-funding effort until it was already over & done.

I heard they were doing another one, & I wasn't going to miss it. Their new kickstarter is Elven Adventurers.  had a fun variety of wee folk. So far they've shown some intriguing concept art such as the Kitsune, Necromancer, and Sorcerer below.
Art from Stonehaven Miniatures, Copyright 2013 Michael T. Evans

They also toss in some fun nubbins with their pledges like, like familiars, musical instruments, character biographies. Their scale is similar to Reaper, although judging from the size comparisons they probably aren't on the "heroic" side of 28mm. After this Kickstarter they've made comments for a few other races they want to produce. Most notably for me are Half Orcs and Halflings, two poorly represented races in fantasy minis.
Art from Stonehaven Miniatures, Copyright 2013 Michael T. Evans
 The Kickstarter has 20 days to go at this point, and I'd encourage you to go check it out.  Of the concept sketches they've shown so far I've been a big fan of over half, which is a good ratio for me (I like the other half too, but don't necessarily feel the need to own them). This is definitely a miniature company to watch and support. Go check it out.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Easy Dragonborn Paladin Conversion

A few years back I picked up a Dragonman Conversion Kit to build a Dragonborn sorcerer a few years back and have been looking for easy conversions for the rest of the bits ever since. Head swaps can be a little finicky, so I always kept an eye open for a good pairing.

With the onset of bones, I found it. the Bones Duke Gerard mini was right on several levels. It looked spot on for a Paladin or Warlord, and being plastic meant it was easy to carve the head away. I couldn't stop the sword from curving, so I swapped it out with a blade from the Black Templar's Emperor's Champion (Games Workshop).

I've already painted blue and red dragonborn, and this time around I really felt like making a black one, and keeping in mostly monochrome (there are a few blue, gold and brown accents though). Black can be a bit tricky, since it can tend to look unfinished, so to combat this I'm not going to keep the mini a bit darker, hence the black shield and cloth. I also added a little bit of a blue tint into his scales, and am using the blue accents to hopefully tie it together.

The armor is mostly done, but most everything else needs at least 2-3 layers before I'm happy, but you can see where I'm going.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dark Elves leaks from White Dwarf

We finally have some shots of the new Dark Elf minis that we've been hearing so much about. I've always thought the army looked pretty dated, particularly the Cauldron of Blood, and this release looks like it'll bring the army right where it needs to be. The photos are courtesy of the folks at Blue Table Painting (or at least their Facebook page).

 The Cauldron of Blood, and Bloodwrack Shrine variant, are probably the most welcome updates. Not only was the old cauldron stuck in the 80's, it had very little conversion potential. Looking at these shots I'm bubbling with ideas (mostly revolving using the Khaine statue) Wouldn't that make a great c'tan, or Eldar Avatar? The serpentine medusa also holds some interest for me, namely her potential use in a Daemon army as a Keeper of Secrets or Herald.

The next most interesting addition is the Kharibdyss model. In case you don't know the reference, Charybdis and Scylla were a pair of immortal monsters that Odysseus had to sail between in the Odyssey. Charybdis was a monster that created giant whirlpool that would swallow ships whole, which plays nicely with the Dark Elves niche as seafaring pirates, and monster wranglers. Maybe they'll make a Scylla monster at some point.

No Dark Elf army would be complete without an assassin. Shadowblade here looks neat, although that cape begs for some details to be painted on it so it doesn't look like a trash bag flapping behind him.

Rounding out the rest are some new units. The Witch Elves look like they're banking on the popularity of the plastic DE Sorceress mini. The Sisters of Slaughter appear to be from the same box, and I'm guessing they represent warriors from the Cult of Khaine. I think I prefer the Witches.  Then you have the Dreadspears. I guess the DE needed their own equivalent to the HE Sea Guard. Eh, they don't appear to be fancy, but they'll probably have an important role in the army book. 

More when I find it.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Herald if Nurgle, on the cheap

For my Daemon army I have troops from all four gods, and Heralds from three. Now that the Herald of Nurgle is worthwhile I thought I'd go ahead & add him to my army.

I like the plastic mini GW put out for him, but it's a bit spendy ($25). I kind f balk at the idea of having to pay that much for a single plastic mini.

Instead of ponying up the cash, I found a neat conversion that is easy, looks great, & costs 40% less than the official Herald.

I started with the Warriors of Chaos Nurgle Chaos Lord, from fantasy, and did a simple head-swap with a plaguebearer. I didn't use this head originally because I didn't like the big horns for the regular 'bearers. Here it works though.

The chaos lord mini's head is divided into two parts, a mask, and the back if the head. So the plaguebearer head fits nicely onto the body without having to reshape it at all. I did greenstuff the base of the neck, and add some fatty folds to make it blend on though.

The model is corpulent, rotting, and tall.about two heads taller than a Space Marine, everything a chosen daemon if Nurgle should be. And cheap, that's nice too.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

For sale: Khador Starter

I just finished snow flocking the Destroyer this morning, so I thought I'd show off the whole battle group.
This is first time I bought & painted minis with the expressed intent of selling them. I'd been wanting to try out the Zenith spray technique for a while and this seemed like the best way to get it done. So now that these guys are complete I'll probably seal them, & toss them on eBay. Don't worry, I won't be labeling them "pro-painted." I reserve that label to folks who are a lot better than I am. Rather, I'll probably say they're painted to a "high-tabletop standard."

I've never sold anything online before, so I'm not sure the price they'd fetch. I suppose I'd like enough to pay for the investment in the minis, as well as enough extra to buy some more.


Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Paint High Contrast Red


Reds can be a vexing color to paint at times. It can be tough to get a good basecoat, and shading can get tricky if you don't know what you're doing.

As you can tell from the minis above, I usually use the same technique for painting red. I picked it up from reading project logs by Spikeyjames on Warseer (he painted the White Scars army you see in the Space Marine codexes). It's a relatively easy process, and it takes less time than you'd think.

Step 1 is a basecoat of Mechrite Red, it usually takes 1-2 layers to get a nice even coat.

Second is a wash of Thraka Green. That sounds odd, but it works really well.

Once that dries the third step is a layer of Blood Red. Again, this can take a few applications to get even, but the dark red basecoat makes it easier.

You then layer highlights from Blood Red to Mecharius Orange through Golden Yellow. This step goes by really quickly, since I try to wet blend a little bit. The mini will probably look more orange than red at this point.

Finally, you give your mini a wash of Baal Red. This brings the orangey look back to a nice deep red, and covers up any green from the first wash.


Meet the PC: Arahan Nolatari, Elf Ranger

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

Another Elven Ranger? Yep! Although this one was played by a friend of mine, Mary.

The back story for Arahan here was very similar to Aeon: In the post cataclysm world the Elves didn't exist, or maybe they just didn't interact with the rest of civilization, who knows. Arahan here wakes up after a lengthy hibernation to discover the rest of her kin are missing, and so she sets out to figure out what happened to the world. At some point she joins up with the "Everyman Company."

The last member of our company was a Dragonborn Sorcerer, so we simply used the mini I'd painted for an earlier campaign.  So in summary, We had a Fighter (close range), an Artificer (mid range), an Assassin (mid range), an Archer (long range), and a Sorcerer (mid range). So we had a tough time in standup fights, and so many of them were standup fights.

I'd bought this mini close to a decade ago for another game (back when we were playing 3.5) but never finished painting it. I was dragging my feet in painting it for this campaign too, so Yorrik took it & ran with it. The mini is a Selwyn, Elven Captain for Reaper's Warlord game. It's pretty generic, but so was the character.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Space Marine shots from White Dwarf

It looks like Space Marine leaks are coming faster & faster, plus I've been reading up a bit more on what the rumors are. I got these shots from Ded'Ard.
Here are a trio of new HQs. My favorite is the Librarian. We don't usually see facial hair on generic marines, so I'm all for it. The Captain appears to be a recycled version of Sicarius from Black Reach, although the details are up up date. I like it. I'm reserving judgement on the Chaplain. The shot appears to be at a bad angle, So I'll hold off on naysaying until there are better pictures. 
Another new feature for Space Marines are the Graviton weapons (detail above). Rumor has it, they're crazy powerful and wound vs. armor, so I'll be keeping my ears open for more.

 These are called Centurions. If I didn't mistake what I read, these are like suits that a space marine steps up into. I've seen a bit of speculation about their size, but I'm thinking they're about the size of a Tau Crisis Suit. I'm warming to them a bit.

These two new Rhino variants are the Hunter (above) and the Stalker. Still not sure on their weapons, but I'm leaning a Graviton weapon above, and Auto Cannon below.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Space Marine leaks arrive

Space Marine leaks have finally arrived on our shores (the first of many, I'm sure). Courtesy of A GW facebook page in Australia

 I haven't been keeping up on the rumors, so I'm actually at a loss for what I'm looking at. They appear to be a combination of Terminators, techmarines, and dreadnoughts.

Now as far as this is concerned I hope it's a joke. The head & oversized weapon all loo wrong. This looks like it could be about 2/3 the size of a Riptide, maybe bit bigger. It isn't a clear shot, but all I can see here is Robo from Chrono Trigger.
"For the emperor, bzzt"
This is more like what i was expecting from a new codex. It looks like some kind of anti-air vehicle. I'm not sure what the turrets are though. Auto cannons perhaps?

More when I find it.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Warmachine: Khador Juggernaut

Contrary to the low expectations I set in my last post, I did, in fact, finish the Juggernaut last night.
All it really took to finish him up was some washes & highlights for the metals, the blue for the eyes and axe (to match Sorscha) and the basing. All told I think he took about 6 hours of painting, so it was a really good turnaround for a model of this size.

I'll definitely be duplicating this technique in the future. Probably at least one more time in the next two days in order to paint the Destroyer Warjack. Once that guy's done I'll be selling the lot of them. Not sure how much I could get, but hopefully enough to make my money back, and buy some more minis.


(P.S. One final plug: The Warmachine: Tactics kickstarter is in its final hours. Go check it out.)

Test Mini: Zenith red

A while back I came across From the Warp. The author, Rob had a nice little blog going with some good ideas. Sadly, he stepped away from his little corner of the internet about 6 months ago and hasn't been seen since, but his words live on. I've pondered over one of his speed painting techniques for a while, and this week, with the onset of my rekindled interest in Warmachine, I've decided to give his Zenith overhead painting technique a go.

If you don't feel like clicking the link above the premise is simple: using two cans of spray paint to create a two-toned basecoat for your minis. Rob posits that you need a black basecoat, and a dark color for a secondary coat, but I'm trying something a little different in order to paint a Khador Juggernaut Heavy Warjack.

Khador's army usually uses a red scheme, so in the interest of selling this guy on eBay that's what i went with.

I used two colors of Krylon: Burgundy, and Pimento (both with satin finishes) I wanted two tones of red, and for the lighter color to be a bit more orange instead of "cherry."

Here are the simple steps:
1. A light black primer basecoat
2. 1-2 coats of Krylon Burgundy. When you first spray the paint on it doesn't look like it's well covered, but just give it a few minutes to dry, and it'll be more obvious where you need more paint.
3a. Wait for the dark basecoat to dry, then hold the lighter color, Pimento, at about a 45 degree angle above the front of your mini, so you're spraying down on it. Then make 2-3, light, even passes with the paint. The first layer looks really splotchy, but it evened out with a few more coats, and also as it dried.
3b. The initial spray didn't cover the back of the gauntlets, so I sprayed them individually, using an envelope to shield the rest of the mini from overpaint.
4. After that dried, I went through and painted highlights along the edges (I used Mechrite Red through Firey Orange, through Sunburst Yellow).
Steps 1 through 4 literally took a single hour. So I'd definitely call it a speed painting success.

Finally, I coated all of the red bits with a wash of Baal Red. This served a few purposes: It deepened the red into the right shade, helped even out the fade between the two colors, and it dulled down the glossy sheen of the spray paint.

Here's how it looks now, after about three hours of painting. I might actually be able to finish it tonight before I go to be. (Unlikely, but possible)
I think this technique is ideal for large minis with wide flat areas. I imagine the smaller you go the dicier it becomes. The Khador 'Jack is idea since it has these wide, flat panels, but detail-heavy Menoth 'Jacks might not fare as easily.

As Rob noted in one of his last posts, this method can easily obscure finer details. For instance, the holes in the Juggernaut's face plate appear to be divets instead of vents (or whatever they're supposed to be).  The best way to prevent this is by placing a bit of masking tape over details you don't want painted, or want to protect. You finish painting, and the tape strips away clean once the paint is dry.

The next step for me (other than finishing this mini, and it's brother) is to try a new spin on the Zenith technique with Fenrisian Wolves. I'll keep you updated on that once I give it a go.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Privateer Press Kickstarter

I mentioned yesterday that I've been getting pretty spun up about the Warmachine: Tactics Kickstarter.

I'm not invested at a very high level, but it definitely has my attention. In addition to liking the tabletop game and story background, the developers say game is modeled after Valkyria Chronicles and Final Fantasy Tactics. If they manage to capture a fraction of the enjoyment garnered from those classic games it should be a fun ride. Plus there are a number of great looking Limited Edition minis you can get in addition to the game, and I've been lurking extensively on the off chance they'll post more.

Of the eight minis they're releasing, I've ordered five: Two for myself, one that I'll paint and sell (the Evil version), one for Yorrik, and one for a friend's birthday present.

One of the minis that's piqued my interest is the smarmy, greasy, self-interested young Khador Journeyman Warcaster Andrei Malakov (below in white metal). The artwork is really characterful, and I think it will just be a fun mini to paint.

I don't actually *own* a Khador army, but I've been looking into it more and more. To that end I found a really good deal on the old, metal starter box which I decided to paint, sell, and hopefully turn a nice little profit (that I would then use to buy the plastic Khador box. I realize that makes no sense).

Here's the metal Khador warcaster, Sorscha. When I got her it looked like the previous owner has smashed her nose, so I had to re-sculpt it.
She turned out pretty well for the little time I put into her. The Warjacks are coming along even faster. I'm testing out a new painting style and it's working quite well for me. I'll show you the results tomorrow.

In the meantime though, Go check out the Warmachine: Tactics Kickstarter. There's less than 3 days left to pledge, so if you like what you see I'd encourage you to invest.


Monday, August 5, 2013

What I've been up to: The excuses start here

As you can probably tell from the weeks of "Meet the PC" posts, I've been keeping pretty busy in my offline life.

I took close to three months of time off from my job to take care of my twins earlier in the year, which left me without any more time off for the summer. The net result was that I'm the only guy in the office that doesn't have vacation time, so I've been covering a lot of slack while co-workers are having fun in the sun. (Although to be fair, they had to cover for me for those three months.)

The extra work hours, plus helping out with the babies has not provided a lot of time for painting or blogging. I'm working on that though.
Yeah, it's kinda like that (photo from
Currently, I've started a commission to paint an entire army or Night Wolves (my friend's DIY Space Wolves), which will probably last me until the end of the year. I'll make sure to photograph & post those as I get them done.

Also, I've been avidly following the Warmachine Tactics kickstarter. In addition to being interested in the game, there are several limited edition miniature add ons that I'm gunning for. I've also been painting the Khador battle group I picked up on the cheap. I'll post more about that tomorrow.

If you're tired of "Meet the PC" the good news is that I've pretty much run out of PC minis. Yorrik has a few more, but I haven't had a chance to photograph them yet.

Here's hoping for more updates in the future.


Meet the PC: Aeon, Dwarf Revenant Assassin

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

The third party member of our ill-fated "Everyman Company" was Aeon, an undead Dwarf assassin played by mu buddy Roshko. I don't remember the whole back-story, but nobody in the world had seen a dwarf following an ancient cataclysm. Aeon here had been a lore keeper, and awoke a millennium later and set out in search of answers.

I'd say that Roshko has a strong affinity for playing whatever classes & races are new & shiny, and this campaign began shortly after the 4th edition book "Heroes of Shadow" which introduced Assassins as well as the Dragon magazine that kicked off the Revenant race. The concept was cool on paper, but in practice he was a mid-range DPS that couldn't stay in melee for too long since his HP was so low. This made him a bit of a glass hammer.

The character mini was an easy choice. You can't get a much more shadowy dwarf than Reaper's Klaus Copperthumb. He was the whole package, dark cloak, knives & throwing axes, light armor. All I really had to do was paint him in dark, desaturated tones to emphasize his post-vascular existence.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Meet the PC: Jon Bridle, Human Fighter

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

Yorrik's character in the aforementioned post-cataclysm game was Jon Bridle, the public face of our motley crew of PCs, and the bastard son of a horse-baron. He set out to make a name for himself by forming the "Everyman Adventuring Company." Ironically named due to the fact he was the only human in the whole party (don't forget, in the world setting demi-humans were lower class citizens).

This mini is the Pathfinder Valeros, Iconic Male Human Fighter modified & painted by Yorrik (the original mini has two weapons). It's a good sword & board human adventurer & fit well with the rugged character concept. Plus the armor looks good as leather instead of the bronze on the original character.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Meet the PC: Zarina Ambrose, Genasi Artificer

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

Back in 2010, following Yorrik's comprehensive Castlevania game, the rest of us were taking turns GMing our own games. I did an ill-fated Dark Sun game and Robotlich did his tongue-in-cheek game, but first, fellow player Chris led us on a campaign of his own devising.

Probably one of the most frustrating game's I've participated in, and I've played Iron Man D&D.

The setting itself was a feudal fantasy world set a almost a millennium following a earth-shaping cataclysm. Some races survived while others did not (halflings, gnomes, & dwarves didn't make it iirc). At the time of the game, humanity was the ruling, jingoistic class, while all others were of lower caste.  Since the world was still slowly recovering from it's near-end there was a push to rediscover much of the lost knowledge, tools, and arcana of the previous age. This is where our adventuring party came in.

For my part in the game, I played a wizarding academy dropout-turned-archeologist named Zarina Ambrose. She would go out in the wilds looking to unearth old treasures and return it to the arcane university for a retainer (she'd of course keep the best finds for herself). To represent the fact she had some magical affinity, but no real talent she relied almost entirely on magical equipment she found & modified: Hence the Artificer class from the Eberron source book.

Overall I'd give the Artificer class a C-. It's unwieldy, not very intuitive, and begging for extra rules support that it never really got while I was playing. I liked the character though.

The mini itself is Kyla, Bounty Hunter from Reaper, and fit exactly with what I wanted. To me it has a kind of Tomb Raider quality. Someone who's spent a lot of time away from civilization & has had to piece her armor back together. The fact I was playing a Genasi didn't matter, since it was a simple palette swap to give her blue skin with a few white lines painted onto her face. Normally Water Genasi are bald, but they've been known to have hair, so I went with it.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Meet the PC: Paladin of Ilmater

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

Back around 2005 a buddy of mine invited me to sit in on his regular weekly D&D session at a local game store, GMed by the store owner.  They were running a Forgotten Realms campaign, so I took that as an opportunity to roll a character idea I'd been brewing for a long time, a Paladin of Ilmater. (his name was lost in the Warp a long time ago). He was a child slave turned holy knight, so he believed it was wrong to deny any creatures their ways of life (unless they attempted to deny the rights of others).

Ilmater's whole thing is healing and protection at the cost of self, so my character was more of a pacifist than most others. I think my fellow players were kinda grumpy when I refused to fight in a few encounters (The giant eagle was just hunting for food, who was I to deny its right to live?). The game only lasted a few more sessions, so I only actually used the mini for it once.

 The mini is Tariq, Nefsokar Sergeant from Reaper's Warlord line. I think it makes him look sufficiently exotic without overdoing it. I painted this up ever so long ago, so looking at it now I think about how the gold might offset the whole "suffer on behalf of others" motif. I'd probably give him a few washes to make him look a bit more worn & dingy.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Meet the PC: Paelias, Eladrin Thief

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

So here is my own PC: Paelias, the Eladrin Rogue. 4th edition tried some neat things with the generic D&D setting, and one of the changes I rather liked was splitting High Elves and Wood Elves into somewhat more distinct (and differently named) cousin races: Eladrin (the alien, civilized, and fae-like race) and the Elves (the nomadic, arboreal, more down to earth of the two). Elves retained their skill with bows and their light-footedness, while Eladrin were given an affinity for the more romantic and civilized longsword, as well as a wonderful ability to teleport around the map by briefly stepping between our world and their native dimension, the Feywild. Paelias here was a political exile from his home, a gorgeous but unchanging ivory city where the Duke of Pearls held sway. Finding the chaos of the mortal world to be much preferable to the predictable stasis of his home, Paelias had grand adventures with his companions - his favorite of which were those that involved wine, women, and song.

I started with Reaper's Shad, Mercenaries Rogue as a base for my conversion. The site identities him as human, but I thought he would make a fine example of the slender and impressive Eladrin race. The sword that comes with the mini was rather thick, and not at all the quick, lightweight blade that Paelias would prefer, so I swapped it with a much thinner, pointier plastic bit I had acquired from a box of Warhammer State Troops. Purple is obviously Paelias' color, so I started by painting his leather armor with a straight-forward lift from dark to light. I mixed that same dark purple into every other color that I used on the mini, which is why there is a ghastly tone to his skin and a purplish tone to his hair. The brown leather did not benefit from the process very much, and if I were to do this mini again I would definitely try something different - possibly a more contrasting color. The sword was simply painted using metallic paints, then coated with a purple wash. he base was drybrushed various layers of grey and bone, then washed with the same color as the sword. Overall I am quite pleased with Paelias, though he is not my favorite mini out of the set.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the PC: Olivia, Human Wizard

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.


This is my favorite mini from the set. I feel like everything came together for this mini to produce exactly what I had in mind. I started with Elise Anya, Vampire Hunter, a great mini that I have bought and converted a few times now. I like the coyness in the mini, and the fact that she is not overtly sexualized. The miniature holds a short sword behind her back, but in keeping with Olivia's arcane nature I swapped it out for a scroll (complete with runes in blue ink). The blues work together very well in this mini, and the skin ended up with a pale, greenish tone that I feel adds to the theme. The hair has a certain blueberry-like quality, whcih I also like. Her stalwart companion was a bit acquired from... somewhere. I remember having to kludge the feet from plastic card. The first iteration of the book stand's feet resulted in a very topsy-turvy looking fellow, and I liked it so much that I kept it. The brass metals took to the blue wash much better than the silver did - and you can see that I didn't even wash the silver metals on this mini. The sidekick, the paintjob, and conversion, everything came together on this mini, and even though I think the Fighter came out a little better, this is definitely my favorite form the set.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Campaign Construction: Dark Sun (Session 1)

As I mentioned earlier, in Meet the PC, a few years back I took my first foray into GMing by running a Dark Sun D&D campaign for my friends. Since it was my first time behind the screen, I wanted to bring a little something else to the table: Custom minis for encounters.

Dark Sun is a unique world, and to sell the setting I wanted authentic feeling encounters. It's a desert world without Gods, and without metal, and where arcane magic corrupts the natural surroundings. So finding the right minis, and painting them properly posed an interesting challenge.

Each week I'd make sure at least one fight featured a specially prepared enemy. This sometimes had me painting a mini up until my buddies showed up on my doorstep.

The very first encounter took place in a gladiatorial arena, where they were pitted against dangerous desert monsters. The first was a Winged Snake (Warlord's Couatl) that I painted to look like a rattlesnake, and a pair of Drakes who sported a Gila Monster motif (minis are Crested Fellrakes from the WotC Chainmail game).

The second fight in the arena had the PCs facing off against a Mul (Dwarf-Human hybrid, bigger than either, Kinda like a Liger). Looking at the art of Dark Sun, most of the characters are lightly clad (due to the oppressive heat) and since Muls are massively strong, I decided that Dark Heaven's Goldar (I named him Dru'ul in the game) would be the way to go.

Like I mentioned earlier, There's no metal in Dark Sun, so I replaced painted things that would normally be metal as though they were hide, leather, bone, stone, or wood. Most notably, I made his axe bone, and tried to get his plate armor to look like it's reptile hide. This was the mini that helped me realize that this would actually work.

I figured as a gladiator would be in the sun all day, then get oiled up before a fight, like how professional body builders look during competitions, hence the tan and shiny nature of the skin.

Incidentally, if you ever name a Mul gladiator Dru'ul, be prepared for your players to rename him "Drool the Mool"


Monday, June 24, 2013

Meet the PC: Lucy, Half-Orc Ranger

One of my favorite parts about tabletop roleplaying is finding, modeling, and painting the perfect miniatures for our party PCs. I've been doing this for years now, and thought I'd share some of these characters with you.

 Lucy here was being played by a first-time gamer, so her personality didn't come out as strongly as the veteran roleplayers. Still, she was a enthusiastically violent gal, who took instruction well and wasn't afraid to get stuck in. The two-weapon ranger was a fun build in 4e.

Finding a miniature to represent a female half-orc is a bit tricky. Lucy's player was adamant that Lucy not be represented by a "pretty" miniature - she wanted to play a tough-looking warrior, not a dainty elf! This proved to be difficult, however, and eventually we had to make quite a few compromises. I suggested Moraia, Overlords Hero as the miniature is wearing a mask, and had hands that could be converted into holding two axes (Lucy's weapon of choice). By this time I had decided to use differing shades of the core color in the minis, as is obvious here. The olive-green armor was supposed to provide visual interest against the bright green cloth, but I don't feel it completely came together. The skin tone also didn't end up with as much green tint as I would have preferred, and the hair is (I feel) too dark to add to the overall effect. The axes were painted metal, then washed, with a result that I am not happy with. Despite my issues with the paint job, I love this mini's dynamism. I posed it in such a way that Lucy is jinking over a hole int he floor, either bringing her axes to bear, or just finishing a follow-through. This model looks great in three dimensions, and no picture can really do it justice because of that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A review if Gale Force 9's D&D collector's series minis

If you're anything like me, you were living under a rock when Gale Force Nine announced that they were teaming up with Wizards of the Coast to release a new line of high-quality, resin D&D minis.

When I found out, it immediately struck a chord with me. Back when D&D turned 25, and 3.5 was released, WotC put out a few lines of fun, game-enhancing minis to go along with it. I was a big fan, and still buy these minis when I happen across them in stores (even if they look kinda durpy).

I had really hoped that Wizards would have another similar mini release along with 4th edition back in 2007, but it was not to be. So now, 6 years later, we're on the verge of a new D&D system, and my hopes have been realized.

Shortly after the onset of my May Mini Challenge I discovered the news of the GF9 minis. they had a great looking Illithid raiding party box set so I immediately set out to get my hands on it.
That is we're I will start my review.

I prefer to buy local when possible, so my first step was to call up my FLGS and have him order it.

Turns out that isn't possible.

Since the D&D minis are being released in limited editions the only stores to receive the figurines are "exclusive retailers," stores that carry a certain amount of other GF9 products like Flames of War. I live in the middle of Oregon, an the only store in the state that fits the "exclusive" category is about 90 miles away. Screw that.

So online I went. You can buy the minis directly from GF9's website, but I was feeling a bit miffed that I couldn't buy from a local store, so I went to Amazon instead.

I buy GW, so I'm used to bruising my wallet to get what I want.

The price tag on my box of choice was $50 for 5 minis. Not too bad when you consider how much a single Farseer costs, but it seems a bit steep compared to a comparable Reaper mini.

Likewise, I was only really buying the box for the two Illithids (Illithi?). The Intellect Devourer spoke to me a bit, but I didn't really care about the Duergar or Gnoll. 

No Illithid would go on a raiding party without it's thralls so it makes sense, but it still means I'm buying $30 worth of minis that I'm only lukewarm about. I feel the same way about the Drow War Party set. I love the rogue and the wizard, but I could do without the other three.

The single monster minis seem quite reasonably priced though. The Purple Worm model is large and well detailed for a price if $35. That's reasonable, even looking at Reaper.

One of the first things I noticed was that I didn't have all the right minis. Instead of a Gnoll I received a second Duergar sprue. I was lukewarm about the Gnoll, but I still want what I paid for. Fortunately the third-party store that I purchased from was gracious to ship me the missing mini free of charge. I was happy about that, plus hey, now I've got two Duergar.

There is some creativity here. You can see from the box art that the Illithid's heads have four delicate tentacles. This is done by dividing the head into two bits: the bottom part of the head (including two tentacles) is part of the chest-bit and the top of the head (with the other two tentacles) as another.
The Intellect Devoirer is also rather clever. The hind legs are incorporated into the base, while the forelimbs and head are a separate bit.

As always there are a few casting flaws here & there: an errant air bubble, an inexplicable bit of flashing, etc. The worst I experienced was a large mass of resin attached to one of the Illithid's mouth tentacles. I basically had to carefully carve a new tentacle out of the hunk of plastic. It turned out fine though.

The resin is light, and a little bit soft, so it's probably most comparable to finecast. Unsurprisingly, the resin can be brittle too. The gnoll's leg broke in shipping, but with a little pinning & reshaping with hot water, it was good as new.

Like I said earlier, I knew I wanted some of these minis as soon as I saw them. They're posed very naturally, and look like the models were taken directly from the pages of the Monster Manuals. All of the sculpts I've seen so far are great, with some very deft modeling. Just because I like them doesn't mean I want to buy them all though, as with any range of minis, some appeal to you more than others.

So far they've only released monsters and similar baddies, but they've stated that they'll be putting out PCs & heroic models in the future (Drizzt for instance). GS9 recently announced they would be releasing a Gen Con only D&D Next module "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" and pre-orders would get a free Paladin model to boot. He isn't very energetic looking, but he has a ton of character.

The models are 30mm scale, so they're a little bit bigger than say, Reaper's Dark Heaven series, but on par with their Warlord line or GW minis (which is called "Heroic 28mm").

They also come with their own specially modeled scenic bases, but I'm not actually a fan of those. I get the appeal, but I like to model my own bases sometimes. It's silly, but I also have a strong preference for GW's 25mm bases, and prefer to use them when I can.  

But Muninn, why not just put them on the bases you prefer? 1. I could do that with several of them, but not the Intellect Devourer, since the model is actually a part of the base. I'd rather use the bases they provide than have mismatched minis. I'm kinda OCD like that. 2. What's the point of having Limited Edition minis and not using the whole thing?

In Summary:
I like what I've seen, what I've bought, and really look forward to what they'll be putting out in the future. I hope some of their future releases are available through gaming distributors, so I can buy local, but if the minis are cool enough I'll find a way to get them.

The good:
* beautiful minis
* creative sprue layout
* fun, iconic characters & monsters
* I want to see many many more

The bad:
* Hard to come by
* moderately high price
* non-standard bases
* you buy both wheat & chaff
* typical casting issues