Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Classic Miniatures

I've spent the last couple of days getting to know Michael at Classic Miniatures. I found him because I lost a bid on an old mini of Asmodeus on eBay. I wrote to him and said that I really wanted one of those for my collection, as well as any other minis which closely resembled the original TSR artwork.

I found a kindred spirit, and am linking to his website. He's dedicated to obtaining old original figs, molds, etc and resurrecting classic minis that have been long out of print.

He's also aquainted with a lot of sculptors and the people who own the original lines, which means he's in a position to pester people to rescupt or make new variations on old minis we love.

Feel free in the comments section to post your wish lists of fondly remembered minis or TSR based artwork that never made it into lead. You never know, you might just be able to be the little bird that whispers in the ear that can make it happen.

I'm also working my way backwards through the complied monster stats I have, creating my own 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium with photos of my minis as illustrations. I'm doing it in Publisher 2000. I haven't decided if I'll put it all up online or not, or make it available by request....I don't want to infringe on any copyrights and trademarks, but then, nobody is making 2nd edition stuff so it isn't really going to cause any damages. Regardless, however I make it available it will be for free for that reason.


Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm going to the dungeon to eat worms....

As you know, I'm working on rudimentaray sculpting...and not wholly successfully. I tried to make a wraith using the Reaper dollies and green stuff and was utterly unable to even create "a vaguely human cloud".

I think I'm better with more monstery monsters at present...less to compare them to. In reverse order alphabetizing of my monster collection, I got to the worms section and decided to try my hand at creating a Tunnel Worm and a Tenebrous Worm. (Click on the links to see the original TSR artwork from Monster Manual II, for reference only and review purposes only, no copyright infringement intended.)

For the Tunnel Worm, I first took a rubber caterpillar I had that reminded me of it.

Next, after studying the original TSR artwork for a long time, I crafted the head in brown stuff and gave it green stuff eyes. The mandibles were really difficult, as were the two clawed tentacles.

Finally, after it cured, I primed and painted it.

Another view.

Is it my imagination or does this thing look like a Zanti Misfit?

For the Tenebrous Worm, I again used a rubber caterpillar I had that reminded me of it. About the right shape and body structure.

Then, (again) after studying the original artwork for a good long while, I crafted the head out of brown stuff onto the rubber caterpillar. The mandibles were a little tough, since they had to be very thin and jut out from the head. I had a hard time getting them not to droop. At this point I preferred to work with brown stuff over green, because it isn't at tacky as the green stuff and firms up faster. I hated to paint it, actually, because I really liked the contrast between the brown stuff and the green body of the existing caterpillar...but the Monster Manual says these things are black and grey...and if I weren't a stickler for accuracy, I wouldn't be making my own miniatures. Curse my obsessive compulsive disorder!

Finally, I primed and painted it. This one was a little harder than the other worm, because the entire caterpillar had to be painted, not just the horns and mandibles. The spray on primer didn't stick very well to the rubber...duh...but once it was coated in paint and then sealed, I didn't have any problems. I'm sure it will crack and chip if I it gets bent at all, but most of its life it will sit on a shelf and when in combat, I'll be controlling it, so I think I'm relatively safe. That frothy stuff isn't rabies, it is just Reaper brush on sealer, and I was too impatient to wait for it to dry before I took the pic. I have got to learn some patience....

Post your comments, I'd love to know what you think.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fighting Evil Can Be Complicated

You Failed Your Saving Throw
by Todd Wm. Ristau

(Lights up on PRIEST, WIZARD, and THIEF seated at a long table. On the table are dice and some lead miniature figures. At the head of the table sits DUNGEON MASTER, behind a Dungeon Master's screen.)

PRIEST: What does it look like?

DUNGEON MASTER: It is a gold amulet.

PRIEST: There's no design on it or anything?


WIZARD: No design. That could be significant.

PRIEST: Like how?

WIZARD: Or, it could mean nothing.

(PRIEST stands there indecisively for a long beat.)

THIEF: Shouldn't there be some kind of timer between moves, like in Scrabble?

DUNGEON MASTER: It's not really a turn based game like that.

WIZARD: Does Scrabble have a timer? I think that's Yahtzee.


PRIEST: OK, OK....I touch it.

DUNGEON MASTER: The amulet immediately transforms into the Holy Symbol of your diety.

WIZARD: Ah, that is significant.

PRIEST: Ok. Shit. What do I do?

WIZARD: Well, ordinarily I wouldn't trust something that makes itself look more attractive to me when I touch it.

THIEF: What would happen if I touch it?

PRIEST: It's MY holy symbol, nobody touches it but ME.

THIEF: I want to do something.

DUNGEON MASTER: You just helped wipe out a whole cave full of goblins.

THIEF: I want to do something now.

PRIEST: Why would goblins have a holy symbol of my god?

WIZARD: Maybe they ate the priest who wore it here.

DUNGEON MASTER: What are you doing?

PRIEST: I'm putting it on.

DUNGEON MASTER: Ok, it starts choking you.

PRIEST: What???

WIZARD: We probably should have identified it first.

PRIEST: You can do that???

WIZARD: Sure. I'm a magic-user.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) You take another 4 points of choking damage.

PRIEST: Shit!!! Get it off me!

DUNGEON MASTER: Technically you can't say that, you're choking.

(PRIEST mimes choking and with red face and sputters indicates he wants something cut off his neck.)

WIZARD: I look through my spell book for an appropriate action.

THIEF: I take out my serrated dirk and start to saw off his head.

(PRIEST backs away and, still miming his being choked by an invisible amulet, glares angrily at THIEF.)

THIEF: What? I want to do something.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) You take another 4 points of choking damage.

PRIEST: Gmbdt ibt duff fuhhhck offfdddt mmmmeeeee!

WIZARD: I'm going to identify it now.

PRIEST: Gmbdt ibt duff fuhhhck offfdddt mmmmeeeee!

DUNGEON MASTER: The gnome identifies the the obect choking the priest as an Amulet of Holy Might currently attuned to the diety Tyr, God of Justice in the Forgotten Realms.

PRIEST: (no longer choking) Then why the fuck is it choking me?

DUNGEON MASTER: You can't ask that, you're choking. (rolls dice) Another 2 points, by the way.

PRIEST: I'm asking you, not my character.

WIZARD: You must have had an alignment shift or something.

PRIEST: I'm evil now?


WIZARD: Loot the bodies of the goblins.

THIEF: I did that already.

PRIEST: Why am I evil?

DUNGEON MASTER: Why do you think you're evil?

PRIEST: This isn't therapy, its a god damned game.

WIZARD: Maybe you're evil because you use profanity. God's don't like that.

PRIEST: I'm using profanity because there's no way in hell my goddam character turned evil. I was good this morning, Mighty Tyr granted me my prayers, didn't he?

WIZARD: That's right, your priest spells were instrumental in allowing us to surprise the goblins and wipe them out.

THIEF: I try to rob the priest while he's chocking.

DUNGEON MASTER: OK, but you'll have to take a penalty, because he's thrashing while he chokes.

THIEF: I'll just wait, how close is he to dead?

PRIEST: (making the time out sign) Pause! How am I evil?

DUNGEON MASTER: (with great patience) You're evil because you used your power to sneak up on this goblin tribe and wipe them out without provocation or allowing them the chance to defend themselves.

WIZARD: Did my fireballs at the goblin children change my alignment?

DUNGEON MASTER: You were already evil...Which was also a strike against the priest, because his Lawful Good diety didn't like his associating with evil characters.

PRIEST: I don't fucking believe this.

DUNGEON MASTER: Oh, that reminds me, your prayers won't be answered until you atone...

WIZARD: He could pray to an evil god.

THIEF: Who can I pray to for something to do????

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls the dice) 3 more points of choking damage.

PRIEST: No! Goblins are evil creatures. They are inherently evil, they live in evil little caves and they do evil little things and the Forgotten Realms is better off whenever an evil creature gets destroyed so that it can no longer do any evil!

DUNGEON MASTER: So, you agree the world is going to be better off when you choke to death?

WIZARD: That's right, the amulet agrees with you, so it is eliminating evil by destroying you.

PRIEST: If the amulet agrees with me, then it shouldn't be punishing me.

WIZARD: Wow. Good point.

DUNGEON MASTER: It doesn't matter if the amulet agrees with you, it matters if your God agrees with you.

PRIEST: I killed these goblins in the name of my god!

DUNGEON MASTER: But Tyr didn't like that.

PRIEST: Says who?


PRIEST: You aren't the god of me.

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolls dice) 4 more points of choking damage.


DUNGEON MASTER: You have two choices. You can atone or convert to an evil religion.

WIZARD: If he doesn't die.

PRIEST: This sucks. I thought I was doing the right thing. That should count for something. Why should I give the goblins a chance? They're EVIL for fuck's sake. They wouldn't have given me a chance, they'd have snuck up on us and slit our throats if they could.

DUNGEON MASTER: Right, because they are evil. That would be an evil thing to do.

WIZARD: Technically...Yes. Smart, but probably evil.

PRIEST: Isn't it good to protect the party, the villages, the other good creatures of the world by eliminating the threat of evil whereever you find it?

DUNGEON MASTER: Is it worth becoming evil yourself in the process?

WIZARD: Who Watches the Watchmen...


THIEF: (brightly) Do we still have the prisoner?

DUNGEON MASTER: The one who told you where the goblin cave was?

THIEF: (sarcastic) Do we have more than one prisoner?


THIEF: Then, that one.

DUNGEON MASTER: You still have the prisoner.

THIEF: I start to torture it.

PRIEST: Why are you torturing it?

THIEF: Because I'm BORED!

PRIEST: (shocked) But...that's evil!

THIEF: (mocking him) Why is it evil to torture an evil creature? It'd torture me if the situation were reversed.

WIZARD: Uh-huh. And then it would eat you.

THIEF: Besides, I'm already evil anyway. I should do some evil stuff, or I'll turn good.

PRIEST: (sputtering) You're evil too? Everybody I was with was evil but me?

WIZARD: (cheerfully) But now we have achieved balance and party unity, because you're evil too!

DUNGEON MASTER: (rolling dice) No, now he's dead.

(Everyone looks at DUNGEON MASTER, lights fade to black.)

NOTE: This scene was loosely based on events which actually occured in a session in the last adventure our group played. If you you see an analogy to the invasion of Iraq here, that's because it is intentional. I remember back in 1990 I was working with a guy who was a very devout Born Again and an equally devout Catholic in Iowa City. Both were very intrigued by my working on D&D stuff during our breaks. The Catholic with a kind of academic interest and the Born Again very worried about my soul. Both came away feeling better about the game once they knew more about it and that I often used the game to create interesting ethical dilemmas for my players to work through which might then help them to more clearly define their own individual personal beliefs in real life. The Born Again told me he'd be interested in talking to me further about developing a Christian role playing game which would do the same thing...the project ended, however, before we could get any further than just discussing it on our breaks.

The above piece was performed on Jan 13th at No Shame Theatre in Roanoke, as part of Mill Mountain Theatre's Underground Roanoke late night series, and will be again this coming Tuestday at the Upper Valley Writer's Show in Staunton. All the T-Shirts, Baseball Caps, Miniatures, Tote Bags, etc were provided by REAPER MINIATURES...and we think you ought to go to their website and buy a whole bunch of their stuff.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Priest of Gond and a Volt

I got my enormous package from my friend at Reaper, Matt Clark. I now have nearly 50 pounds of minis and paints in my workshop in the basement in addition to everything I already had.

I've been very busy building terrain features for the upcoming module I'm running my players through, Doom of Daggerdale and prepping the minis I will need for that adventure.

I've also been reading lots of posts on various miniature based boards, especially Reaper. One of the most common threads on such sites is "What minis do you want to see made?"

I really want to see some priests of specific Forgotten Realms mythoi...in particular I needed a priest of Gond for one of my players. There just ain't a figure out there, new or old, that even comes close. And if they did make one, I bet it would be a gnome.

Soooo, among the things I ordered from Reaper was Green Stuff and Brown Stuff to start working on making the minis myself that I can't seem to buy out there.

The first one I worked on was creating that Priest of Gond for my player. I had searched the internet far and wide, as so far as I could tell no company anywhere, ever, had made a miniature of a Priest of Gond. In the Forgotten Realms book they are pretty specific. Fat, happy, clad in yellow robes with a bandolier of tools and...a gigantic yellow hat.

I vaguely remembered seeing a miniature that might work as a scratch built base in the Reaper catalog my friend Matt had sent me. I had lost it, though, so I searched through the whole Reaper on-line catalog page by page and until I found a mini that might work as a base, from a really nice set called 02950 : Townsfolk: Clergymen. The figure is a pretty straight forward medieval monk.

The next thing I did was take the base off one of those plastic trees that people use for model railroads scenery and used my dremel tool (a thougthful gift from my wife!) to hollow out the trunk/stump area from the underside to fit over the figure's head in order to make the base for the "big yellow hat". It took a while to get the hole just the right size, but trial and error eventually yielded good results. I toyed with the idea of making the hat removeable, but decided that only invited a lost hat and more work to replace it. Gluing it on his head saved me some trouble in the future, I'm certain.

I then cut around the edges to make it round and sanded it down to get rid of the grooves that were there to represent roots. Then using my "Brown Stuff" I made the point and rim of the hat, also the holy symbol, sash and tool belt for the character as depicted in the Forgotten Realms Adventures book. I tried to get the sash to look like it was caught in the wind, but it kept drooping and I decided that even if I did get that wind-blown look it only meant they'd snap off in game play. I decided to let them touch the robe.

Lastly, I painted the mini once it all cured and dried. I'm not the painter I used to be and I'm having a little trouble re-learing the new techniques they describe for the Reaper Master Series paints, but with practice I'll get better. At any rate, I've got what is likely to be the best miniature of a Priest of Gond I'm ever likely to see. He's standing on some of that terrain I mentioned. There will be more details on that in a later post. I fight the temptation to torment the player using this miniature by having him encounter a curious little kobold named George.

With the left over brown stuff, I made another mini entirely from scratch based on a monster in the original TSR Fiend Folio, the Volt.

My friend, Matt, wanted to see the original artwork for one of my favorite monsters from the original Fiend Folio--the volt.

The volt is one of my absolute favorite monsters. I know that once upon a time, long long ago, someone made a miniature of it because it used to be in my friend Matt's collection. It was a tiny little think that sat on top of a very thin wire that stuck up out of a base. Matt doesn't have the miniature any more and nobody either of us have talked to remembers who might have made it. I could kill him for refusing to sell it to me when I bought most of the rest of his collection ten or twelve years ago.

My sculpt is much larger than the one Matt used to have back in the late seventies, early eighties. This was my very first attempt at sculpting anything. I think it came out extremely well. These things are supposed to swarm, so I'll eventually have to make more of them.

This was a pretty easy monster to make, but my very first original sculpt so it wasn't without difficulty for me. I rolled out a small line for the body, two balls for the eyes, lots of little tiny lines for the hair, then mounted it on a pin...squishing everything in the process and having to start over again. I used a needle to dig out the mouth and add detail to the eyes, then stuck the pin in some more brown stuff to make the base. I should have checked the illustration more often because I almost forgot the horns!

The tail kept succumbing to gravity and drooping, but Routunious the Priest of Gond was able to help me hold it up and under hot light it did eventually cure to the point that it held.

At any rate, I now have a volt. And I've also got the sculpting bug. If none of those boards are going to listen to my pleas for the old school monsters from MM, MM II and FF, I'm just going to have to make them myself.

So there.

If you have comments, I'd love to hear them. If you remember the original volt miniature, who made it, and where I might be able to get one--I'd really like to hear it! Googling "volt" or doing an eBay search for "volt" render extremely unsatisfactory results!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, after a very bumpy plane ride, I am back home in my own basement and preparing with great anticipation to resume my campaign world.

I spent a lot of time up in Minot working out the details in the next module the PCs will be going through, Doom of Daggerdale, and trying to untangle the mess of chronology my Forgotten Realms notes are.

It was a very difficult decision, but I'm going to eliminate a big chunk of history from my my campaign in Iowa City from 1993. A lot of the chronology established there just isn't going to work with what I'm doing now. I had run those characters (Ursk, Pacheco, and Eye Kook) through Feast of the Goblyns as part of a grand scheme I had of reviving Zhengyi in the Bloodstone Lands...but in working on the Realms time line I have discovered there are some unreconcilable problems in what I was doing and what TSR did.

Also, I want to run that module with my new players using a revised time line, so the adventures of the Mysterians will end with the confrontation with Auril.

Another thing that has given me fits is that I think I was using a 7 day week instead of the tenday system, so I will have to do some careful checking of notes as I integrate that history. Very good thing that I somehow ended up with all the character notebooks from all of those players from back then and have kept them.

I also got a great phone call from my friend Matt Clark at Reaper and am looking forward to a few extras in my package from Reaper I ordered last week. He has also convinced me to give the Reaper paints a try...and the convincing wasn't hard to do, since they really do have the best reputation in the business. He let me know that painting techniques have really evolved since the "old school" way we did back in the '70's.

Matt is an amazing mini painter, so I have every reason to trust him, even if I am nervous about learing a new style of painting. He's also sending a pile of Warlord materials...so even though I'm never going to give up my 2nd Edition materials, I promised I'd give a new game system a peek.