Plastic pirates

I’m a little shocked at how many figures in my backlog fall into the “pirates and swashbucklers” category. Doing another sweep I remembered I still had 20+ plastic pirate crew from the “Weapons & Warriors” game, 10 or so dwarves with guns and horned helmets that seemed seaworthy, and about a dozen Landsknechte (who technically would be a little early and landlocked for Age of Sail gaming but who are a) flashy, b) mostly unarmored, and c) armed with guns or Zweihanders, so they really fit in better here than Medieval fantasy or Modern/Sci-fi which are the other two categories I tend to put RPG minis into).

The plastic pirates were a challenge because there are so many and they ought to be non-uniform. What I ended up doing was limiting them to 20 and breaking them up into groups of five, each of these four groups getting a single color for their shirts and trousers. Then I chose five different colors for their bandannas and sashes, and used them on up to 1 from each group of four. Lastly I used dark brown on half and black on half for their vests and shoes. So, no two are exactly alike but I can easily form groups of various sizes (4 blue bandannas, or 5 blue shirts, or 8 blue anything, or 10 black vests, etc.). I will probably number their bases too.

I used a lazy but fast shading technique that I’ve been experimenting with a bit: a black wash (which I used to do back when I started painting, knowing no better) but with some Future Floor Finish mixed in to greatly reduce the surface tension and allow better pooling into crevasses than plain paint and water would. This basically creates an effect like black lining (which is very tedious) and adds a simple shading in one step. I’ve tried Minwax “Polyshades”for the same purpose (with has the added benefit of being a polyurethane varnish too) but it tends to make things look too dirty, like a regular black wash. The new wash mix is not perfect, especially on the orange and yellows, but pirates should be dirty so I’m OK with it. I can’t imagine getting 20 pirates done in three 1 hour painting sessions otherwise!

At some point I may add eye patches (to the ones with the sloppiest eyes) and mustaches (the figures look like they either have bushy mustaches or really heavy sneering lips). I might also go back and give half of them darker skin tones, since historically pirates could be from anywhere.

They all seem to have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other, with what might be a knife tucked into their sash. (One detail that I like is that the swords are manifestly NOT cutlasses, which only became common in the early 19th century. In the golden age of piracy, the swords might be anything, and the short hangers they have look right).

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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When you go into the woods tonight

Admittedly, some of my conversions and scratch-builds are goofy. My daughter was getting rid of some old “Care Bear” miniatures she’d been given by a friend, so I thought I’d do a quick paint-only conversion to make them Scare Bears. I’d already covered a few of their bellies with gore before it occurred to me that they could have crude icons of some kind similar to the symbols on the Care Bears’ bellies. Maybe later I’ll be inspired. They still need their bases flocked and perhaps some touching up, but for the minimal effort I’ve invested I’m pleased with the results.

Obviously I just base-coated them black and added a few grey highlights on the areas that had tufts of hair sculpted on. Then I added exaggerated eyes, teeth, and claws. They were about 2″tall and are based on 40mm bases, so they are approximately ogre sized compared to other D&D miniatures.

Now I just need to find a suitable mini for Prof. Cold Heart.

 

 

Published in: on April 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (5)  
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The skeleton crew

Still anticipating a swashbuckling game some time in the future, I painted all the undead pirates I picked up on clearance a few years ago and a couple of ghosts someone sent me gratis (Thanks Scottsz!). I spent a little less time than usual painting these, knowing that they would not see a ton of use and having so many to get through. A nice dark wash cures many sins and makes the undead look suitably grotty, though I regret some of the hamfisted highlighting I added on the bones which came out too heavy and covered too much of the shading.

 

Mostly Reaper, except for one stray Citadel plastic skeleton from the 1990s. The one in the red coat was painted some time ago but I added a little detailing on his coat now that I have a better sense of how the cuffs and lining can contrast with the rest. The two zombies and the plastic skeleton got a rust effect on their weapons (orange and brown mixed into the silver) but I wasn’t completely happy with it and did not do this to the others.

These guys were a lot of fun. The violinist was a musician for some fantasy army but makes perfect sense to me for a ghost ship. The jolly spirits are Rafm. The skeletons, Reaper.

Last yet more Reapers. The one on the far left has no jawbone, which makes skeletons so much more creepy IMO. The guy in the blue coat behind him is not shown at a very flattering angle but he has a crow perched on his shoulder and his face came out pretty good, honest.

Some day all the pirates and swashbucklers will get better basing — maybe sand or if I get ambitious, wooden planking to suggest a deck. I also thought about adding seaweed draped over some of them but haven’t thought of a good way to accomplish that.

Published in: on April 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Classic Miniatures

As of this writing the website for Classic Miniatures is not operational, which is a shame. Mr. Thomas is producing excellent re-casts of much of the old Heritage Models line. It’s a hobby more than a business (he has a job, family, etc.) so we’ll just need to be patient. However after a conversation on the Heritage Yahoo group I purchased some of his recasts to fill some gaps in my collection and replace a few long-lost or broken minis. Here they are — I cleaned off a tiny bit of flash and put them 25mm square bases.

First up, a pair of Knights & Magick knights and two Dungeon Dwellers.  The mace-man must have been lost a long time. The knight next to him was always one of my favorites from that line because of the horned helmet and axe. My original lost the axe-head a long time ago and has had a series of replacements. It’s nice to have a complete one again. The dwarf is unarmored and just has an axe and a small bag in his hand. He was included in the original Crypt of the Sorcerer game and I lost mine a long, long time ago, so I was happy to find a replacement. I’m sure he’ll paint up nicely. Lastly the cleric is one I never owned but always liked — he looks more like a pilgrim or monk than a Templar.

There’s my other axe-knight below, painted green because of course a knight with a giant axe is the Green Knight.

A pair of knights from the Knights & Magick line; axeman’s axe is a replacement

Next are two knights with two-handed swords. They are from the Chivalry line and Knights & Magick, respectively. Apparently Chivalry was closer to true 25mm scale; K&M and the Dungeon Dwellers were closer to 28mm, like Grenadier or Citadel. These two are both new to me, and I really like the K&M knight’s pose and the fact that the sculptor (Max Carr?) thought to attach the plume on his helmet to the blade in order to create a sturdier model. While the Chivalry line was theoretically “historical” I seriously doubt you’d see two-handed swords in the 12th or 13th century, which these guys appear to be emulating.  Still, great for RPGs.

Finally some more Knights & Magick models I’d only seen online: on the far left, “The Warlord” (who also has a mounted version and a squire in the complete set; I just wanted him for a well-armored cleric) and three “Giant Knights.” They stand about 7′ next to other Heritage models (the warlord is comparatively tall too), but would be normal-sized compared to any modern miniatures. They look great though. The axeman has a “Norman” kite shield on his back and would make a great Huscarl. The guy with the flail is leaning in and looks ready to engage (never mind his flail is “resting” — at least it won’t break off). The last one with the mace looks a bit like an early Citadel chaos warrior. His mace-head has a face on it (not visible from this angle as it faces the back) and the ornate helm and spiked armor are good.

Here’s one next to Reaper Bones half-orc, which I’d call 30mm scale really. Next to the regular knight, the “giant” knight is pretty fearsome, but scale creep strikes again and he’s just a knight next to the Reaper mini.

Anyway here’s hoping the Classic Miniatures site goes live again soon. I should point out that these castings appear to be in lead/tin pewter — the flash was easy to remove and when rubbed on paper they leave a mark. I’d venture to guess they are a higher tin content than original Heritage castings though because some barely left any mark and they seem a bit shinier. They base markings are partly obscured or absent — whether that is intentional or not I couldn’t say; I don’t know if all Heritage models had them back in the day.

Published in: on March 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Busy, busy, busy (3) — almost all the pirates

I’ve been on a tear painting minis and haven’t kept up with photographing them. Lately I’ve been trying to get things a little more organized and the cheapest storage solution I’ve found so far are small “bead organizers” you can find at craft stores for about 2 or 3 dollars. The “Darice” ones are made in the US and often come with no shrink wrap, so I feel a lot better about the reduced environmental footprint too. Recently Michael’s had a 40% off sale on all “bead & jewelry making supplies” which also covered the organizers. I line them with foam sheets, mostly, saved from packaging. The 18-figure capacity is pretty ideal for sets of figures organized by types, and the one over-sized compartment accommodates bulkier figures nicely. I also have a number of larger tackle boxes that I started getting for storing my 1/72 armies, but a lot of them have been displaced by D&D stuff. I don’t often buy tackle boxes any more because they have gotten a lot more expensive and almost always are made in China.

So anyway here are almost all the swashbuckler and pirates minis now. I did cheat and buy a collection of used, and already painted, orcish pirates via Noble Knight. The price was good and I’ll just need to touch them up a bit. The modest sales of my book at DriveThruRPG funded that purchase, which is awesome. I still have a handful of swashbucklers, some civilian types, and box of undead pirates to go, but this project is very near completion.

First up, the pirates (in one of the larger tackle boxes)

 

Most of these have already been on the blog before. There are some unpainted dwarves with blunderbusses in the top left, which I’ll get to eventually. They’re actually Warhammer minis, so they have horned helmets and the backs of their coats show some mail, but they’ll do. The green lady on the bottom left is one of the minis I bought already painted. The two chunky guys with big ‘staches are cheapo plastic pirates from a bag at the dollar store. The one with orange pants is carrying a swivel gun which is from a 1/72 artillery set. These slightly over-sized guys look way out of scale next to true 25mm figures but the Reaper half-orc at the lower right is just as big as them. I originally intended them to be ogres or half-ogres though.

Next up, buccaneers and musketeers. The top row are some Heroscape Revolutionary War era soldiers. I got one of the core sets a long time ago when they were clearanced at Kay-Bee Toys and a booster or two later. They had some great stuff — the Revolutionary War guys came with four werewolves! The guy with a blunderbus is Reaper.  There is another plastic pirate on the lower left; the rest are Wargames Foundry, I think.

Next, some swashbucklers! Quite a varied lot, Ral Partha, Grenadier, Rafm, a Marauder dwarf, and the guy in the powedered wig is possibly Old Glory or Foundry.

Lastly, the orcs. Mostly West Wind “50 Fathoms” minis, though the top row includes a Reaper goblin and four Citadel orcs. I’ll need to repaint the West Wind guys some — giving them the more orange skin tone the top row uses, and I’ll probably swap out the sledge hammer on at least one of them for a boarding axe or belaying pin. The two shaman types are a little odd — they’re holding voodoo dolls that really look like gingerbread men, and funky wands. One of them will probably get a weapon swap too.

Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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GaryCon

I won’t be at Gary Con, which is starting tomorrow. But I understand that my book Burgs & Bailiffs: Trinity will be there. If you’re there, you’re probably not reading blog posts, but if you are, stop by Black Blade Publishing‘s table where I’m told it will be available in print. And say hi for me.

Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dungeon? Check! Dragon? Check!

Back when my daughter was in second grade, she drew this for me — a dragon slayer! The vertical bars on the left, she explained, were to show that this is in a dungeon. She later told my wife that in hindsight, maybe she overdid it with the blood.
This drawing is now framed in the basement (sorry about the flash glare) where all the gaming takes place.

Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Seth E. Green must be destroyed

I’ve known some horrible people in my time but the worst of the worst is definitely Seth E. Green. This god-damned motherless bastard does a bang-up job painting miniatures, and even worse he’s only been back at it for a year or two after a hiatus. This scumbag fartsack has he temerity to do some of the best painting I’ve seen, despite being colorblind. And don’t get me started on the bases. It’s enough to make me apoplectic. The NERVE of some people.

Seriously don’t take my word for it, stop by his site and leave a comment or two!

Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Saint Patrick’s Purgatory (now with leaked material!)

Forget leprechauns and banshees … here’s your St. Patrick’s Day adventure!

Fortunatus, we are told, had heard in his travels of how two days’ journey from the town, Valdric, in Ireland, was a town, Vernic, where was the entrance to the Purgatory; so thither he went with many servants. He found a great abbey, and behind the altar of the church a door, which led into the dark cave which is called the Purgatory of S. Patrick.  In order to enter it, leave had to be obtained from the abbot; consequently, Leopold, servant to Fortunatus, betook himself to that worthy, and made known to him that a nobleman from Cyprus desired to enter the mysterious cavern. The abbot at once requested Leopold to bring his master to supper with him.  Fortunatus bought a large jar of wine, and sent it as a present to the monastery, and followed at the meal time.

“Venerable sir!” said Fortunatus, “I understand the Purgatory of S. Patrick is here; is it so?” 

The abbot replied, ” It is so indeed. Many hundred years ago, this place, where stand the abbey and the town, was a howling wilderness. Not far off, however, lived a venerable hermit, Patrick by name, who often sought the desert for the purpose of therein exercising his austerities. One day he lighted on this cave, which is of vast extent.  He entered it, and wandering on in the dark, lost his way, so that he could no more find how to return to the light of day.  After long ramblings through the gloomy passages, he fell on his knees, and besought Almighty God, if it were His will, to deliver him from the great peril wherein he lay. Whilst Patrick thus prayed, he was ware of piteous cries issuing from the depths of the cave, just such as would be the wailings of souls in purgatory. The hermit rose from his orison, and by God’s mercy found his way back to the surface, and from that day exercised greater austerities, and after his death he was numbered with the saints.  Pious people, who had heard the story of Patrick’s adventure in the cave, built this cloister on the site.”

Then Fortunatus asked whether all who ventured into the place heard likewise the howls of the tormented souls. The abbot replied, ” Some have affirmed that they have heard a bitter crying and piping therein whilst others have heard and seen nothing.  None, however, has penetrated, as yet, to the furthest limits of the cavern.”

(From Sabine Baring-Gould’s Curious myths of the Middle Ages)

Via Wikipedia, here is a map of Station Island. Click to Embiggen. “Caverna Purgatory,” noted between the two large buildings, denotes the site of the cave.

St. Patrick features rather prominently in my book, Burgs & Bailiffs Trinity: The poor pilgrim’s almanack. Some excerpts follow below in italics. He was a very important saint, and had several hagiographies written on his life and miracles. Unsurprisingly many different places claimed to house his remains or other relics important to him. The disputes began right after he died:

In cases of disputes about the proper home of a relic, ordeals might be held to settle them. After the death of St. Patrick, the churches of Saul and Armagh both claimed his body. To settle the dispute, two untamed bulls were yoked to the cart which bore his body and left to go where they would. They stopped at the spot where the church of Downpatrick was built and Patrick buried.

(From the chapter “Furta sacra” (holy theft))

Here are three pilgrimage sites in Ireland from the chapter “Whither Pilgrim”?

 

St. Patrick’s tomb
Location: Downpatrick, Ireland
Miracles: Sticks to Snakes, Snake Charm, Speak with the Dead, Dispel Magic
Downpatrick is the most likely of the several claimants to St. Patrick’s tomb; he is also said to be buried with St. Briget and St. Columba. When Downpatrick wasn’t being looted and burned by Vikings (as happened at least seven times), it was one of Ireland’s most popular pilgrimage spots. But since most of Ireland was usually being looted and burned by invaders anyway, it was still a top attraction even in the “off season”.

Croagh Patrick (Mount Patrick, also called The Reek)
Location: County Mayo, Ireland
Miracles: Dispel Magic, Silence 15’ Radius
This was a pagan pilgrimage site for the summer solstice for thousands of years. But as a Christian site, it is said to be where the Saint fasted for 40 days. The best time to visit was the last Sunday in July (Reek Sunday), when the pious celebrated the time Patrick killed a witch by repelling her spell back onto her. Pilgrims, usually barefoot, circle the mount clockwise seven times saying seven prayers.

St. Patrick’s Purgatory
Location: Lough Derg (a lake island, also called Station Island)
Miracles: Detect Magic, True Seeing, Plane Shift, Speak with Monsters, Resist Fire
Restrictions: Visitors must convince the shrine keepers to unlock the door over the cave, and then spend a night inside. They will face various demons and devils inside.
Supposedly the cave was created when Patrick asked for a visual aid to convince sinners of the reality of Hell.

He also has a tomb in England:

Glastonbury Tor
Location: Glastonbury, Somerset, England
Miracles: Holy Word, Commune
Restrictions: Must approach with peas in shoes (-2 to Dex for a week afterward); possibly guarded by fairies or knights
This mound was the site of an ancient monastery, but in the 12th century, in legend it grew into “ground-zero” of Christianity on England. So in 63 CE, Joseph of Arimathea arrived with the Grail. The Chalice Well provides healing waters. His staff grew into a hawthorn tree — the Holy Thorn Tree or Glastonbury Thorn. The Thorn blooms every Christmas. Many minor saints, as well as King Arthur, Guinevere, and St. Patrick are said to be buried here, and Christ spent some of his missing years here, building a church.
Pilgrims used to walk the 512-foot-high Glastonbury Tor with peas lining their shoes for penance.
The tor or hill also has pagan associations (as a fairy mound and entrance to the Otherworld, and abode of the king of the fairies) and later with the Arthur legends (the tor is known was the Isle of Avalon to the Britons and the final resting place of King Arthur).

“Appendix I: an index of saints, spells, and relics” mentions a few more spots to visit if you need some relics of St. Patrick.

St. Patrick (Snake Charm, Dispel Magic, Speak with Dead, Snakes to Sticks) [crosier, tooth, and bell: Dublin; lower jaw: Derriaghy]

This appendix lists nearly 200 saints and Biblical figures with miracles associated with them. Each entry in Appendix I follows the format: Name (Miracles) [relics: places], so every miracle associated with a given saint is in one place, and any relics of the saint not mentioned in “Whiter Pilgrim?” are also indicated. These matter because the book also gives a couple of systems whereby clerical magic requires either relics for casting, or pilgrimages for learning, spells. Off to fight the snake cult? Better stop by St Patrick’s tomb to learn Snake Charm, or possibly swipe one of his bones to take with you.

Published in: on March 17, 2017 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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A few of my favorite things

A freind asked me recently what my favorite miniature was and of course I couldn’t even begin to answer. I usually think of my Grenadier AD&D “Dragon’s Lair,” but while I’m certainly proud of it, I don’t really have a lot memories associated with and painting it was more of a duty than enjoyable. I might also think of my orcs, which I have a lot of, or my skeleton army, which I really like too, but most of them were painted without a lot of care and only really look good as an army. After a little thought though I realized my favorites must be the figures that always end up on display on the wally. I have an old “printer’s drawer” that can hold a lot of minis, but it is an antique and I always worry about overloading in. More recently I picked up a small display that I imagine was made for thimbles or shot glasses at a rummage sale. Some of my favorite adventurers, and a few monsters, are displayed prominently on it in my gaming area.

The red velvet backing and arches really class it up, huh?

L to R, top: Citadel dwarf (one of my all-time favorite dwarfs), Grenadier hireling, Reaper fighter or paladin; bottom: Citadel knight Templar, Grenadier archer, Grenadier gnome illusionist.

L ro R, top: Heritage knight, Minstril from Groo the Wanderer (Dark Horse), bottom:  Heritage elf, Heritage knight, TSR fighter.

Grenadier thief, Grenadier halfling lookouts, Ral Partha gnome, Reaper mushroom king, Grenadier fighter, Grenadier efreet.

Grenadier halfling, Grenadier thief, Grenadier magic-user, Citadel chaos warrior, Grenadier goblin hero, Heritage sorcerer.

Some of these are pretty well painted in my humble opinion, though some are pretty crude. The chaos warrior actually placed in painting competition at a convention in the late 1980s, though I knew he was not up to snuff compared to what I was seeing in White Dwarf. He’s served as a half-orc fighter many times since, as has the goblin next to him. Apart from those two, I believe the rest of the paint jobs are less than 10 years old. I’d say I’ve gotten a lost faster, and perhaps more garish in my colors and contrast, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten much better. But I’m on track to at least finish painting all my figures before I go blind, so there’s that…

Published in: on March 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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