C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!

I decided to paint this Reaper owlbear I picked up really cheaply a year or two ago (it is from their “PB” line of retro lead/tin castings, so it was cheaper than the modern lead-free metal version, and moreover the FLGS had it 50% off!).  I found some pictures of other people’s paint jobs which I used for ideas.  Once I was done with it, I thought I ‘d repaint my TSR owlbear.  Back in the early 1980s, TSR, in a fit of hubris, decided to tank the AD&D license from Grenadier, give it to Citadel (though I never saw any Citadel AD&D minis anywhere in the US, maybe it was a UK-only deal?), and finally in 1983-1984 they produced their own line of minis which were pretty uneven in terms of quality.  I only had a few of these, including an owlbear that came in a blister with a rolly-polly polar bear.

Anyway I looked, in vain, for a painted example of this guy and came up with nada.  I did my best to make him match the Reaper owlbear’s colors and markings, though really he looks a bit more like a vultureracoon than an owlbear.

tsrowlbearThere he is in all his glory.

Below, the Reaper owlbear, looking much more obviously owly and beary.


Look at that glorious plumage!


Even accounting for the puffed up plumage, the Reaper mini is a good deal bigger, so maybe these are a mated pair.

owlbear family

In which case that weird Grenadier hawk-goat thing would be a an owlbear cublet.

Sadly, owlbears are getting to be as rare as hen’s teeth due to the fad for owlbearskin rugs.


My only regret is I forgot to put any feathers on the rug.  Maybe I’ll touch up that some time.

I did recall seeing a painted TSR owlbear in an ad once, in a Dragon magazine, and by chance I found it in the first issue I checked (#62).

owlbear ad Not a bad paint job at all.  I would like to point out that their painter noticed the racoonish features too and put bands on the tail.

The rest of the ad has some of the character minis and you can see that the hand on the right has a spiked leather bracer. \m/  I guess TSR was feeling threatened by the Grenadier ads of the same period which featured a dude in full armor sitting at a table with their competing line of minis.

Do you, or did you, own any owlbear minis? Leave a comment and/or post a link if you’ve got something to show off.  Or draw an owlbear.  C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!!!


Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , ,

The otyugh: what an offal monster

The otyugh is one of those D&D monsters that doesn’t come from folklore, literature, or any identifiable source other than Gary Gygax’s imagination.*  The Monster Manual doesn’t give any indication of their coloring, but given their habitat of offal, refuse, and dung, I’m thinking brown or red-brown.

So here’s a sort of step-by-step guide to how I painted mine.  The minis I had were two Grenadier Otyughs (one I’ve had since the 1980s and another Scottsz gave me); a TSR neo-otyugh (purchased very cheaply at Origins 2006); and a TSR Otyugh (also a gift from Scottsz).

1. Sprayed with grey primer.

2. Painted with somewhat thinned Burnt Umber craft paint (I use Ceramcoat mostly).

3. Dry brushed with a mix of white and burnt umber.

4. This is where I got sloppy and stopped photographing each step.  I painted their eyes, mouths, and bases black, and then dry-brushed their tentacles a mix of pink and (Caucasian) flesh.  Then I gave the tentacles a wash of thinned down Citadel red ink.  (I bought a set of their inks in about 1989 at NeoVention.  I don’t use them that often and still have them.  They never dried out!)

5. The finished minis.  I painted white eyes, spines, teeth, and claws, and inked the edges of the mouths red, and gave the neo-otyugh a pink tongue.  In hindsight maybe a little yellow would have enhanced the teeth.  I don’t think they actually brush or floss.

Having two Grenadier otyughs let me use one as a ‘rough draft’ while figuring out the paint scheme.



*There was some speculation, maybe at Dragonsfoot or some blog, that the otyugh was partly inspired by the ‘garbage disposal monster’ in the first Star Wars movie.

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

Finally painted some more minis

This weekend we got some “craft time” in, and I finally finished a few figures on my painting desk.  I am noticing that my eyesight is significantly worse than it used to be, and my ability to paint small details, especially eyes, is plummeting, although my ability to whip out a mini in about half an hour remains strong.  I think I spent four hours total painting this weekend, which accounts for the above five minis and work progressing on about a dozen others.  Of course some of the work on these guys was already done (the fighter had been started last August to give you an idea of how rarely I’ve been painting lately).

Anyway the first two are a satyr produced by Mega Minis from an older Metal Magic mold, and a TSR “korred” that I picked up at Origins about five years ago.

Black hair speeds things up immensely since I get to skip shading.  I sometimes highlight black hair but not on these two.  For a TSR mini, the korred is not bad.  He actually has a lot of character that was not evident before I painted him.

The next two are lamias.  Again there is a Mega Minis recast of a Metal Magic figure (on the right), and an older original — a Grenadier lamia that was very graciously sent to me by Scottsz.

Lamias are another monster from Greek myth, like the satyrs, but interestingly the Greek version was half woamn, half snake, while the D&D version is half woman, half mammal (I think the Grenadier one is supposed to have the lower half of a deer or elk, while the Mega Minis one is clearly half cat).

Lastly there is one of the Citadel “Fantasy Tribe Fighters” guys that was sent to me by Mike at Specter Studios.

I am not terribly satisfied by this one, but I know he’ll never be anyone’s first choice for a PC so I just did a ‘wargame’ standard paint job on him — he’s only ever going to be a NPC.  I like his pose but he’s not very inspiring for a ‘hero’.

Don’t ask me what that little maggot-looking thing on the ground next to him is.  I didn’t see it when I was photographing them.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , ,

Caverns of Doom figures, rebased etc.

I started this blog, lo these many weeks ago, to document a project of recreating the Caverns of Doom and the Sorcerer’s Crypt.  As I sought out information to fill in some gaps (Ihad lost some of the rules sheets and discarded the boxes, which had the character and monster stats in the case of the Sorcerer’s Crypt.  I found Scottsz’s Sorcerers of Doom project and was so impressed with what he was up to that I thought I’d start my own blog.  That’s when I put up most of the “static pages” too, as I was figuring out how blogs work.  The Caverns of Doom page just shows the map.  You can see some older, blurry pics on the Caverns of Doom post here.

So I touched up a few of these guys, and rebased them all on dungeon black.  I still have a few other original Heritage figures that came with the set to paint up, but in the meantime I’ve got similarly old-school stand-ins for the rest.

Left to right, a Grenadier wizard, a Prince August elf (cast from a mold), a Grenadier cleric, a TSR barbarian (the original figure in the set is a “barbarian woman”), a Heritage paladin, standing in for the knight, and the original thief figure, still one of the best D&D thieves I’ve seen.  They are standing on the map I made.

A slightly better shot of the wizard.  He is clearly using some sort of protection scroll, as it is pointed at his opponent!

Some of the monsters.  not pictured: the rats.  I have three of the original four rats, but usually use some plastic rats from the Heroquest game.  Back row, left to right, Grenadier vampire, original Heritage skeleton archer, Grenadier skeleton, original Heritage demon, a Standard Games mon-ogre standing in for the hobgoblin.  Front row, a Grenadeir slime and a spider made from a dollar store toy (you can get bags of dozens of these little glow-in-the dark spiders at Halloween…).

But the Caverns of Doom are deadly because of the Dragon most of all.  My Heritage dragon is mostly MIA (I still have the body section but not the head, wings, and tail!).  so I use a Grenadier that is the right size (3″ long) to fill the three squares.

Quite feline, actually.  This dragon is clearly the stalking kind.  I don’t like how the striped tail turned out but otherwise I’m happy with him.

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 5:51 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

TSR’s unloved figures: an occasional series

As I find/paint/photograph my small collection of TSR-produced minis, I’ll post them in this series. 

From what I can piece together, TSR was somewhat dastardly in its dealings with miniatures manufacturers.  First Minifigs got a brief deal (in 1977) to produce D&D and Greyhawk figures, but this was taken away and Heritage Models was offered a deal in 1979…only to have that fall apart after they’d designed a rather large line, which would become their Dungeon Dwellers.  (This is basically he said she said type stuff, though.  Apparently Heritage had terrible management too!)  Next Grenadier got the AD&D license in 1980, and this lasted only a few years.  Among the issues, apparently, was TSR’s unilateral decision to let MPC create plastic versions of many Grenadier without permission, attribution, or royalties.  But again this is partly hearsay.   In 1983 TSR started making their own line of D&D, AD&D, Gama World, Marvel Superheroes, and Star Frontiers figures. (Grenadier had also made figures for other TSR games like Gama World and Boot Hill, as well as other company’s games like Traveller, Champions, and Call of Cthulhu…I wonder if this antagonized TSR?)  TSR would give Citadel the D&D rights in 1985, but with limitations that made it impossible or at least impractical to sell their figures here in the US (that could have something to do with Citadel’s contracts with Ral Partha, though).  The legend is that TSR intentionally kept D&D figures off the market in this way to give Ral Partha a big advantage when they finally got the license to make to make AD&D figures in 1987, but that seems unlikely to me.  I am probably not in the minority when I say TSR’s line of D&D figures the worst of the lot, but they do deserve some credit for making some figures that painted up nicely and actually putting out some good sets.  The main problems were lack of skill and or experience on the aprt of their sculptors, too many boring characters and not enough interesting monsters.  Why did they release orcs, goblins, the elementals pictured below, and so on, when there were so many D&D critters that had never been made into figures?

Here’s a pair of elementals I picked up super cheap at Origins a few years back:

An earth elemental. (more…)

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,


The death of Harold Godwinson

Granted, the Vikings are more popular, and the Normans were the final victors, but the English army of 1066 had heart.   Harold and his men raced north to repel a massive Viking invasion, catching the enemy by surprise and massacring them.  Then they raced south to Hastings, shedding most of their (horseless) light troops and levies along the way.  There Normans won the day, but only after taking shocking casualties from the Huscarl’s axes.   The dismounted huscarls of Harold’s army turned back repeated charges by the Norman knights, which is pretty incredible really. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Bugbears for breakfast

Or, why was Trampier only allowed to draw bugbears from the waist up?


Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

Why did it have to be snakes!?!

Organizing my figures has been life-long struggle.   OK, not a particularly important struggle, but still, it’s been a pain.  Take monsters.  Do you just put them in boxes willy nilly where they fit most compactly (to minimize the total boxes needed), or do you put them in some sort of order — by name, by hit dice/level/challenge rating, by type, by locale (swamp vs underground vs arctic…), by theme, etc.?  If you are a collector, do you organize them by manufacturer?  There are lots of possibilities.  I finally settled on putting most them in “themed” boxes.  So lizardmen, troglodytes,  and kobolds all went in one box; ogres, trolls, & giants in another; etc.  The drow and spiders I posted earlier actually share a box with my snake-themed monsters (“spiders & snakes”).  These are the serpent folk:

These “giant” snakes (on a 1″ grid battlemat) are a Ral Partha cobra, and two Grenadier  figures.


Published in: on March 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Army of the dwarfs

My brother has always loved dwarves, and built up quite an army. He was never as patient at painting as I am, and ultimately I finished a lot of these, or painted them start to finish in some cases, although back when we were building Warhammer armies there was a certain rivalry and I hated to waste time when I could be painting my own orcs…anyway since then I’ve rebased his dwarves for HOTT/DBx/etc. (more…)

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Daddy, did YOU fight in the Edition Wars?

I started playing D&D back in about 1981, maybe a little earlier. I was 9, my brother was 11, as were the friends who introduced us to it. I remember the first Dragon Magazine I bought was issue # 54, and it or the following issue had a review of the “new” AD&D book, “The fiend folio,” so when I started playing D&D, AD&D was already more or less the default game. I actually tried the Basic set a little later (it was probably a Christmas present), and I vaguely recall seeing what must have been the “Holmes” revision, as our friends who introduced us to D&D had a softcover booklets that included the nine alignments, so they definitely didn’t have the “original” Little Brown Books/White Box. We were kids then and instantly assumed that “Basic” D&D was just an introduction and AD&D was the “real thing.” I don’t think we ever tried more than a session or two of the Basic set, but we did occasionally look it over for the great Erol Otus art.

We played AD&D for years, snatching up every Dragon Magazine we could, and all the “Official” rule books (we never actually played with anything from Oriental Adventures, the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide, or the Wilderness Survival Guide, but still we had to check them out). We found Unearthed Arcana a little weird, since the new classes & races seemed overpowered, but did adopt many of the new spells, rules regarding racial level limits, and fighter specialization.

We stilled played some, but when second edition was released, D&D lost its shine. No more half-orcs, no more assassins, no more demons. Cumbersome non-weapon proficiencies rules, tons of “extra” sourcebooks for character class kits and subraces. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and especially Dragonlance were suddenly the “default” world for all TSR product. It became limiting. We had also been trying more “realistic” combat rules, skills-based systems, anything new. We played Rolemaster, MERP, Palladium Fantasy, Shadowrun, and mostly GURPS, actually starting with the “preview” Man To Man rules (around 1985 or so?), which are still probably the best gladiator miniatures rules out there. In GURPS we really opened up to the wider range of genres, like the Old West, science fiction, horror, many historical campaigns including several epic “pirates” campaigns that eventually incorporated a combination of GURPS and Man o War rules for naval engagements, cutting to GURPS “cinematic” boarding actions. (We sank many ships we should have tried to loot first, because the naval broadside rules were so fun.) We played a semi-historical campaign in Norman England but involving continued depredation by Vikings, and many supernatural elements like magic using the GURPS Voodoo ritual casting rules. I wrote a campaign history, adding each week we played, in the form of a saga, and while I never completed it, it was a blast and I still enjoy looking it over. We were really getting into games again. Then college is over and we didn’t play much. After several years hiatus, we got a 3rd edition D&D game going, and enjoyed it but saw problems, which seemed to be fixed in the 3.5 rules. But character creation had become a chore, requiring stratagizing and rules lawyering. Thieves became rogues, combat machines with a few thief skills. Half-orcs were back, but as stupid barbarians, not conniving scoundrels. But role playing sessions became largely hack-and-slash combat fests, because the complex rules for combat were so central to the game. I loved the game for requiring miniatures, which are as big a passion for me as RPGs, obviously.

We tried 4th ed. when it came out, and ran many sessions; enough to know it wasn’t what we wanted. It is a great game but it is not D&D. Just not interested in it anymore.

Dungeons and Dragons is more than year into it’s “fourth edition.” And the online D&D community (if EN World was any indication) had its panties atwist like never before. (I emphasize online — I take it the vast majority of D&D players continue to play whatever they’ve been playing without paying any attention to all the ruckus.)

For my part I’m completely fascinated by the so-called “Old School Revival” (link is to a free .pdf). There are “retroclones” that recreate long out-of-print versions of D&D and other games, partly relying on clever use of the Open Game License of 3rd ed. D&D. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of blogs devoted to sharing ideas, dungeons, and campaigns. Most are offering their work for free, and those that aren’t are selling what appears to be incredibly high-quality material. And they are hobbyists, not subsidiaries of Hasbro (although a number are published professionals, and some both offer freebies and sell things.)

So we’ve been playing Castles & Crusades, which is very similar to AD&D but with a much simplified action resolution system. It has been a blast. The energy we haven’t had to expend learning rules has gone into character backgrounds, session summaries, etc. Our DM, my brother, keeps a log on a calendar. I haven’t gotten a close look but I think events we players don’t know about are also on that calendar. That is cool. We use figures like we did in AD&D — to show marching order, to make melee more concrete, and to show off my painted figures.

I am seriously considering running an original rules D&D campaign, or perhaps a retroclone, or just C&C. I have a lot of war-gaming figures, so I’d probably work in opportunities for the players to take part in tabletop miniatures battles at times. I have a ton of ape-men, including a HOTT army of them, so there will probably be an Ape kingdom. I’d love to run a siege — a friend of mine built a 25 mm scale castle out of matte board, pretty much identical to the castle Games Workshop was selling when they released their first Siege rules in the late 1980s. I painted it and built some siege equipment, and I have never gotten around to using them for siege! I have tons of monsters I’d like to put in dungeons, and am thinking about assigning a particular NPC to each of my “townsfolk” and “henchman/hireling” figures. I have ideas about a hexcrawl for wilderness adventures, and as part of uncovering & creating the world map. Possibly in Hyborea, or a similar pastiche of fantasy/adventure archetypes. My brother, the group’s current DM, has said he’d like a break from DMing anyway, and perhaps it would run parallel to the current game, or something like that.

If I have the time. There’s a lot of figures to paint.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 4:21 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Documenting the 8-bit era and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.


Miniature painting, wargaming terrain creation and more

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.


An Alternative Cultural Daybook


I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

300 stories

A continuing mission to produce flash fiction stories in 300 words (or less)

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.


Blog of writer Bia Helvetti

Taking Games Seriously

Because Fantasy without Philosophy is Garbage

The Rambling Roleplayer

I play roleplaying games and sometimes I write stuff about them.

History fetish? What history fetish?

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

An idle mind is the devil's wood shed.

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


A vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.


Just another WordPress.com site

Bunker Club 55

Another Dump of Stuff for your RPGs, D&D, Microlite 20, OSR

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"


gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead


Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.


Tabletop gaming, Dungeon-Mastering, pipesmoking, and single malts

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.


Tales from South Zierden Alley

Wrathofzombie's Blog

A blog of Role-playing Dorkiness!

Atroll's Entertainment

A Troll's Account of Having Fun

Three Lil Pigs Painting

talking about painting miniatures for display and heritage figures

The Mule Abides

New York's Old School Dungeoneers


This is the Venn Diagram of my Life

stefan poag

The Weird Fantasy Art of Stefan Poag

Dyson's Dodecahedron

Award Winning Dungeon Design


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 210 other followers

%d bloggers like this: