First impression review: Lion & Dragon

I really like the idea of historically based RPGs. One of the best campaigns I ever played in was a GURPS historical campaign. But I probably like the idea a little more than the actual experience of playing them, because so much of my playing history has been D&D.  Anyway I’m always curious about games that claim any kind of “authenticity” or to be informed by historical research, so Lion & Dragon caught my interest with it’s subtitle: “Medieval Authentic OSR Roleplaying.”

Right off the bat I should admit I am generally turned off by main author, “RPGPundit.” He espouses hateful politics and is the sort of self-promoter who will complain constantly about being mistreated while attacking other people shamelessly. So I definitely wouldn’t want to be around him in real life. But there are lots of people I don’t like. This review will, to the extent possible, bracket my thoughts on the person and focus on the product.

The fact is, it’s a pretty neat game. The rules are relatively concise and the layout is nice. I appreciate games that don’t overdo the graphic design, and this has a mix of new and public domain black & white line art. Nice. The system itself is a mix of ideas, like a heavily house-ruled Moldvay/Cook D&D game. The classes reminded me very much of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, with heavily niched areas of expertise. Instead of regular charted progress in class abilities, each time a level is gained the player rolls for a random benefit — a mechanic I’ve seen on several blogs a good 8 or 10 years ago (for example), but one I always thought was a clever way of keeping characters unique. The magic system is significantly different than standard Vancian D&D, with clerics gaining a short list of miracle-working abilities and magic-users (“magisters”) focusing on summoning, alchemy, and similar pursuits. All characters are humans, with northern barbarians and the Cymric being classes in themselves, while other nationalities may choose from the standard thief, fighter, MU, and cleric classes. This all looks good.

Unfortunately the major problems in the game are where it fails, sometimes badly, to fulfill the promised “medieval authenticity.” According to the introduction, the promised authenticity relies on five pillars:

  1. social status is extremely important
  2. monotheism
  3. magic is rare
  4. life is cheap
  5. civilization is survival

The first point had me thinking this was a promising start. Looking back on what I consider the most important attempt at “medieval authenticity,” Fantasy Wargaming, social class was given extremely detailed treatment in both the introductory essays and the mechanics. In L&D, there are just six social classes listed:

  • ex-slave/serf
  • peasant
  • villain (city-born)
  • knightly nobility
  • lordly nobility
  • aristocracy

Clerics, we are told, roll only to determine their origins, but all considered to be of the knightly class on strength of their office. (This is a pretty big departure from medieval authenticity in itself.) A short, vague discussion of how social classes interact follows, and social class will determine a character’s initial background skill and starting wealth. It does not affect how many siblings one has, or how many of them are still alive, or options for character class. It does appear again in the section on law and trials, however.

The description of the “villain” as “city-born” is flummoxing. A villein in medieval England was a rural dweller, with feudal obligations to a lord, and possibly little more than a peasant. If the intent was to have a middle-class type, perhaps “burgher” or “guild member” would be a better fit. This is something other games (like Fantasy Wargaming) handle better by bifurcating social classes and statuses according to ‘estates’ and hierarchies, so that one might compare conscripted peasant to a lay brother to an urban servant to a rich villein, all of similar status but in different spheres (landed/warrior class, religious, urban, and rural). Failing that, the social classes just need to be expanded to a much larger list. People born in a city could range from paupers to Lord Mayor, after all.

Another factor one might expect to impact characters is gender, but apart from noting that females are excluded from the magister collegiums (schools that teach magisters, or magic-users), gender has little impact on a character’s interactions and status. This is partly explained by the fact that the Church of the Unconquered Sun is egalitarian.

And this is perhaps the most glaring problem with L&D. The monotheism of L&D is not Christianity. There are clearly reasons for this decision (avoiding offense to players, opening up more opportunities for female characters, simplicity). But the medieval period was certainly colored by the peculiarities of Christian doctrine and lore, and it is odd that this would be hand-waved. Similarly, L&D adopts the Law vs Chaos moral-metaphysical order of D&D. While this is also described as a equivalent to good/holy vs evil/unholy, the concept of Chaos in L&D includes not just the Poul Anderson-inspired idea of the indifferent or hostile faerie otherworld, but also the Warhammer world’s idea of chaos as a force for mutation. Chaos cults and mutants, and even skaven rat-men are a part of L&D too. This is jarring and odd, but an enterprising DM could make sense of this with reference to the nightmarish art of Bosch and Bruegel and other grotesques as precedent, and to perhaps casting Chaos cults as pagan survivals. In any event the DM will have to determine what exactly mutations consist of, as the rules simply point the Cults of Chaos book for information on that. So in a way, mutations are not really part of the game at all, or at least not the core game. This is a strange decision, but presumably fits in with a marketing plan that requires purchase of at least one supplement to complete the game.

So. not doing great on the first two pillars. How about “Magic is rare?” The strongest part of the game is the magic system. For clerics, the miracle system is enviably simple. For magisters, the magic system is much more complicated but includes a lot of authentic detail. RPGPundit has often mentioned his interest in the occult and it is obvious that much of this section is inspired by occult literature. It would perhaps be quibbling to note that much of this literature is from a later period than the medieval. Having colleges that teach magic seems a little contradictory to the idea of magic being rare, but on the other hand, Toledo and Salamanca were reputed to have the best colleges for magic in medieval Spain. So the Collegium are not totally without precedent.

The aforementioned section on trials is also quite good. The rest of the rules are interesting variant rules for D&D. The combat rules take inspiration from a number of sources, and at times it looks like house-rules for a more combat-intense LotFP.

The companion volumes Cults of Chaos and Dark Albion provide more setting details. CoC is described as offering more detailed information on heresies and cults, including demon-worshipers, as well as rules for chaos mutations. It would appear that the forces of Chaos in the setting are similar to what the medieval Church and Inquisition imagined as the forces of Satan; presumably all heresies are ultimately devil-worship. DA is said to contain more detailed rules stressing the importance of social status, but as it was actually published before L&D it is unclear if these would supplement or simply repeat what is in L&D. DA contains generic OSR material that overlaps with  or contradicts the things covered in the L&D rules such as character classes and magic, based on what I could discern from reviews.

As I haven’t rolled up a character, let alone played this, I can’t offer a final judgement, but my overall impression is that this game suffers from being over-hyped by the author. It looks like a good system with some great ideas, but it tries to be too many things, in my opinion. It tries to be

  • a game for “medieval authentic” play (whatever that means; it is less clear as one reads the rules) in traditional D&D style adventures
  • a game system to use with the Dark Albion setting (which is a sort of mix of the Warhammer Old World with traditional D&D by way of the 100 Years War, with both “serious” and “dark” content mixed with jokey ideas like France being ruled by literal Frogmen) and
  • a game to perhaps challenge similar adaptations of the B/X rules but shift the focus to other modes of play in more historically-based settings, like LotFP and other OSR games that actually push the boundaries of what D&D is.

I feel like it could be used for the first two purposes readily enough: ignore the mutations and frogmen and the Church of the Unconquered Sun for the first mode. As-is it is suited for the second (though honestly I wonder if even the author uses the bizarre Dark Albion setting). But there is really nothing to support a DM hoping for the third option. The DMing sections give no advice on designing adventures, and the “wilderlands adventuring” guidelines are bare-boned tables with a few suggestions for encounters like “bandits” or “wild animals.” Worse, the explanations for the encounters often add nothing useful, such as: “GIANT. This encounter would be with a giant, of the type chosen by the GM as most appropriate for the area and terrain.” And, of course, an entry for Mutants that again points the reader to another book. More information on social interaction-based adventures (such as diplomatic missions, visiting court, travel, investigating heresy, or incorporating the excellent legal system into an adventure) would be most welcome and might actually make the game seem less like a fantasy heart-breaker. Even so, there are some good ideas that might make it worth the effort to polish this into the game it could be.

Published in: on September 4, 2020 at 8:36 am  Comments (1)  
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The RPG reference bookshelf

I’ve been doing some amateur research on role playing games and in the process have acquired a number of books on them. There’s been some serious scholarship on RPGs in recent years, but I’ll limit this to the early days — the twentieth century. Most of these books fall into one of three categories: introductory type “What is a role playing game?”, guides to improve your play, or studies of RPGs from some viewpoint — possibly academic, but most often religious, and almost all of those are part of the literature of the Satanic Panic. Each listing has a short annotation, but it’s been a long time since I read a few of these.

Albrect, Bob, and Greg Stafford. The Adventurer’s Handbook: A guide to role-playing games. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1984. An introduction to RPGs, with particular emphasis on Stafford’s “Basic Role Playing” system which forms the core mechanics of RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, and other Chaosium games. The reader is walked through making several characters, and given some solo scenarios to play out with them. The book also includes some reviews of the major games available, suggestions for GMs, and a discussion of accessories like miniatures and magazines. The book as a whole is designed like a school workbook, with short quizzes at the end of each section and art that reminded me of my elementary school days in the 70s. Far out. Overall it’s an interesting artifact.

Butterfield, John, Philip Parker, and David Honigmann. What is Dungeons & Dragons? Warner Books, 1982. A guidebook introducing role-playing and D&D to a general audience. The authors were college students, apparently commissioned to write this book to fill a gap in the mass market. The US paperback has a label clarifying “DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a federally registered trademark of TSR, Inc. Use of TSR’s trademarks and the contents of this book have not been approved by TSR.” The book outlines the basics of D&D with a glossary of terms, a sample dungeon, an extensive recommended reading list, and some discussion of other the other games then available, including some board games which might inspire D&D settings.

Craun, Joan, and Ludwick, Rick. (Eds.) GamesMaster Catalog: A comprehensive illustrated guide to games. Clifton, Virginia : Boynton & Associates, 1980. Perhaps intended to be an annual, this was the first attempt to be a comprehensive listing of RPGs, wargames, board games, miniatures, and accessories. The board games covered are specialist/hobby games: no Parker Bros. or Milton Bradley. Each company provided samples and information about their games, which were photographed for this catalog. This is far from comprehensive, but covers a lot of smaller companies, and is a glimpse into the market at the time.

Fannon, Sean Patrick. The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible. Prima Publishing, 1996. A reference book that attempts to be an overview of RPGs for novices as well as a source book for experienced gamers. Of note are the extensive glossary, timeline, and extensive notes on gamer culture. The informal writing style may be charming or grating.

Fine, Gary Alan. Shared Fantasy: Role-playing games as social worlds. University of Chicago Press, 1983. A landmark study of D&D and Empire of the Petal Throne gamers from a sociologist’s perspective. At one time this was the ONLY academic treatise on the game and likely to be found in every university library in the 1980s and 1990s. It has garnered some controversy as some of Fine’s subjects say that did not agree to be identified in the book, and felt that their academic reputations and careers were damaged by the quotes.

Galloway, Bruce, et al. Fantasy Wargaming. Cambridge : Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1981. Technically both a game in itself and a treatise, it was noted by Butterfield, Parker, and Hongimann (1982) as one of the only nonfiction works on D&D (alongside Holmes (1981). The book includes both a running critique of D&D and some anecdotes of actual play, along with extensive GM suggestions more appropriate to D&D or T&T than the included game.

Gygax, Gary. Master of the Game. New York : Perigree Books, 1989. Gygax’s book on becoming a better game master, along with suggestions for getting more involved in the industry through conventions, publishing, etc.

Gygax, Gary. Role-Playing Mastery. New York : Perigree Books, 1987. Gygax’s book on becoming a better player and game master.

Hackett, Martin. Fantasy wargaming: games with magic & monsters. Wellingborough : Patrick Stephens Limited, 1990. While the focus is much more on wargames than role-playing, there is some background on RPGs and some of the wargame scenarios presented are really skirmish-level engagements in a dungeon. I’ve always suspect that this was the book Patrick Stephens Ltd. expected Galloway’s book to be.

Holmes, John Eric. Fantasy Roleplaying Games. New York : Hippocrene Books, 1981. Groundbreaking as the first popular work about RPGs, and notable for being written by the editor of the first “basic” D&D boxed set. D&D is not the only game covered, and the extensive photographs of contemporary games, miniatures, and set-ups is a plus.

Larson, Bob. Satanism: the seduction of America’s youth. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1989. Bob Larson was a radio evangelist and now grifts as an exorcist. I remember when this book was new, as I was working my first library job in high school, and we had a sadly large collection of stuff like this. There were chapters on Satanism in pop culture, and the threat of cults, and some hilarious appendices: “A parent’s guide to occult games, ” “A supplemental guide to Dungeons & dragons,” and “A parent’s guide to black metal music.” I don’t remember too much about it after 30 years, so I recently ordered a copy via interlibrary loan. 

Leithart, Peter, and George Grant. A Christian Response to Dungeons and Dragons: The cathechism of the New Age. Fort Worth, Texas : Dominion Press, 1987. An 18 page pamphlet which is a pretty good representative of the Satanic Panic literature. “FRP activity” is linked to “more than a hundred suicide and murder cases” and similar claims are made without citation, although the suggested reading, to be fair, does include two pamphlets published by TSR. 

Livingstone, Ian. Dicing with Dragons: an introduction to role-playing games. Revised American Edition. New York : New American Library, 1983. A sort of popular guide to RPGs, notable for the choose-you-own-adventure type game that fills the first third of the book, with nice illustrations by Russ Nicholson. There are fairly in-depth explanations of D&D, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls, and Traveller, followed by very brief entries on other games available at the time, as well as a listing of accessories like modules for the games. A brief chapter on miniatures has an interesting approach to painting I haven’t seen before. 

Plamondon, Robert. Through Dungeons Deep: A fantasy gamer’s handbook. Reston, Va. : Reston Publishing, 1982. A guide for role-playing and game mastering, it also includes a selection of reviews of games. I don’t own this one, but leafed through a copy. It was republished in 2008.

Porter, David. Children at Risk. Kingsway Publications, 1998. Devotes several chapters to role-playing games and their offshoots like Magic: the Gathering and their potential for harm to children. Porter is more “moral concern” than full Satanic Panic, and even recommends games based on Tolkien’s works as appropriate for Christians.

Robie, Joan Hake. The Truth about Dungeons & Dragons. Lancaster, Pa. : Timelee Books, 1991. Another full-throated Satanic Panic screechfest. The cover has a neat looking monster though.

Schick, Lawrence. Heroic worlds: a history and guide to role-playing games. Buffalo : Prometheus Books, 1991. The most ambitious RPG book, period. Schick catalogs every game and accessory that had been produced up until 1990, and gives each a short description. In my other life as a librarian I recognize what he’s doing as an attempt at a comprehensive bibliography, and he even assigns a code to each product. The entries are broken up by occasional quotes from important game designers, ranging from a single line to most of a page on various topics.

Swan, Rick. The complete guide to role-playing games. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1990. It’s fortunate this follows alphabetically after Schick, as it is sort of the corollary to Schick’s book. Not as comprehensive, but much more detailed; no pretense of neutrality, and much more detailed in its assessments, although Swan tends to assess each game without regard to historical context as the ratings are meant to be practical guides rather than an historical review. 

Weldon, John, and James Bjornstad. Playing with Fire: Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Chivalry and Sorcery, and other fantasy games. Moody Press, 1984. A brief book on the occult dangers of playing D&D, and somewhat unusual in that it discusses some of the less well-known games of the time. It at least attempts to cite sources other than the KJ Bible and B.A.D.D. press releases, but is mostly hysterical nonsense fueled by out-of-context quotations.

 

Published in: on August 29, 2020 at 9:03 pm  Comments (4)  
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Big photodump of minis

Here’s some of the minis I’ve finished in the past couple of months.

The smallest one first, a mutated rat that was an extra piece on the sprue for the vampire’s corpse-wagon. Mounted on a penny.

One of Citadel’s stranger mutants were the “Beasts of chaos” series, and none stranger than this “Beast of Nurgle,” which is a sort of giant slug with legs and mass of suckers on its front. In the Warhammer game, the suckers shoot streams of acid. This figure is maybe two inches long.

Here’s the profile.

Nurgle is the chaos god of decay and disease, so he’s all about slime and other fluids gushing or seeping about. Here are two “Nurglings,” imp-like creatures that are tiny images of Nurgle himself. Both are also mounted on pennies.

I especially liked the angry little maggot crawling out of his mouth.

Continuing the demonic theme, here are three Rafm “death angels.”

The “Harbinger of Hell,” which is a bit reminiscent of the flying demon in the movie House. I mounted this one on hexagonal tile I recovered when remodeling the bathroom at my old house. Waste not want not.

The next one is the “Faceless Demon of the Void.” He came with his own pillar to perch on. I went with a more traditional red for this one.

Lastly, the “Specter of Doom.” His base is a bunch of rubble and bones, suggesting a ruined tomb or mausoleum.

Otherworld Miniatures has some great if pricey models. They’re a bit hard to find in the US, at least in my experience. These two are barbed devils, closely modeled on the Trampier illustration in the original AD&D Monster Manual.

And now for something completely different, some Old West figures. These are figures my brother originally painted decades ago, but which had lost a lot of paint to wear and tear, and a couple that were never completed. I tried to retain his original color schemes for the touch-ups, although some were painted with PollyS/Floquil paints that I couldn’t easily match. We’ve been playing a Boot Hill game again, so I was motivated to get our PCs in a finished condition. All are Grenadier “Gunslingers.”

The next group are figures we used in a previous Boot Hill campaign. The two cowboys are from the same Grenadier set while the Native Americans are actually from fantasy ranges: The chap with the big axe and headdress is a Citadel barbarian, and the one with the bow is a Ral Partha ranger. Obviously neither is particularly accurate for any real tribe. Could be worse though.

Back to monsters, here’s one of Julie Guthrie’s trolls from the Grenadier “Fantasy Lords’ line:

These manticores are (l) Maurauder and (r) Ral Partha. A study in scale creep, the one fearsome Ral Partha figure is more of a cub in comparison.

I got the Maruader manticore in a lot of figures sold on eBay as scrap tin! He was missing his wings, so I filled in the sockets with putty and textured them to suggest a continuation of his mane, which was already spreading down his chest anyway.

The oldest figure featured today is this Minifigs fell beast, missing his Nazgul rider:

It was part of their “Mythical Earth” range, absolutely not a ripoff of “Middle Earth.” This figure was actually listed in their catalog as “ME57, Ringwraith and Nazgul.” The publicist must have thought “nazgul” was the name for the beasts they rode. The Mythical Earth range was started in 1972, making this possibly my oldest fantasy figure. It’s hard to say for sure as Minifigs is still in business, and parts of the range are still in production. I think my copy is pretty old though, since it came with a bunch of figures from long-defunct manufacturers.

The last blast from the past are these Ral Partha “trills” — bigger than orcs but smaller than trolls.

The shield design is a total cheat, I cam into some old Citadel shield transfers, which you soak in water and glide onto the surface, where they adhere as they dry. The next two figures are much newer.

The “Umber Cuke, aka Nipper,” a riff on the AD&D Umber Hulk was pretty fun:

This is a much newer figure for the “Lowlife” game designed by Akron artist Andy Hopp.

Slightly less silly is this Wargames Foundry orc mercenary. All business except for the tasseled tail-cap.

Lastly, the largest and most impressive of the bunch. Also by far the biggest pain to finish. I am still noticing details I forgot to paint. Ral Partha’s “The necromancer’s throne of bone.”

 

A couple of shots taken before I finished the base show some better details.

The skulls and ribcage on the base are spare bits from other kits. The long bones are real bones recovered from an owl pellet I found in my backyard back around the time this model was first produced. Some of the bones from the mole or shrew or whatever was in there grace the bases of several other figures too.

From 1986 or so, and it could be on the cover of any heavy metal album from the period. Bikini-clad chick with a snake, tons of skulls, gross dude in a thong — it’s got it all.

 

 

Published in: on February 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Re-re-post: Old school minis on the web

A longer version of this post originally appeared in 2010, and was reposted in 2017 with updates, but the question keeps cropping up in various forums so here’s another update. Many links in the previous post are broken now. 😦

A lot of miniatures people turn their noses up at old Grenadier and Heritage and Minifigs figures. I will grant that many modern figures, which take advantage of sculpting and molding techniques unavailable to the original manufacturers (and an aesthetic sharpened by the intervening years of fantasy illustration, comics, etc.) are often quite impressive. The level of animation, and the overall quality are amazing. The crisp detail, and the fact the pieces fit perfectly make them a joy to assemble and paint. But I still love the old school minis too. They often have a gritty realism modern figures just lack, and an undefinable sense of character.

Heritage Models has a site devoted to the Dungeon Dwellers line, Dungeon Dwellers info.  If you didn’t know, this line would have been their “Dungeons & Dragons” line, but the license agreement never got signed and instead Grenadier would get the license for AD&D miniatures. There were several Yahoo groups devoted to collecting particular figure lines and they all had some of the original sculptors, mold-makers, or casters present to share memories. The activity slowly shifted to other forums and you might still be able to find groups on Facebook, blogs, etc., but these are all too ephemeral to link any more.

I love and hate Games Workshop/Citadel figures. They are certainly nice looking. The only things not to like are the scale creep and cost. Citadel minis, back in the late 1980s, were the first figures I had that just didn’t quite fit with my Grenadier, Ral Partha, and Heritage stuff. Ral Partha was always a slight bit smaller than the others, but with Citadel I could tell the scale was actually shifting. Of course nowadays, almost all modern figures are a little bigger than before. “28mm”, “30mm”, “heroic 28mm scale”, even “32mm” are bandied about, whereas in the olden days everyone claimed to be making 25mm figures, whether that 25mm was toes-to-eyes, toes-to-tip of head, or just scale of 1/72 (25mm=6′). Confusingly, 1/72 is sometimes referred to as 20mm scale, since most humans were under 6′ in the historical periods they model. Your vintage Ral Prtha might be close to 20mm, while Archive or Grenadier were more like 25mm+. Some of my newer Reaper and Kenzer Co. figures absolutely tower over my old figures. And that is too bad, because no-one chooses a Ral Partha figure any more for their PC in the games I’ve been playing. They just look too runty. In fact we’ve been using a Ral Partha mounted fighter as a Dwarf on a pony, and I’m probably the only one who realizes the figure was “meant” to be a human! Still, when Citadel was making RPG minis instead of exclusively Warhammer/Warhammer 40k/other branded IP minis, they made some seriously awesome figures. And they made so many that there is a whole wiki just for Citadel, which rivals the Lost Minis Wiki! But readers of this blog may be more interested in another site that just focuses on Citadel’s old AD&D/D&D lines.

The Lost Minis Wiki was created in 2009 with the explicit intention of covering all the out-of-production lines and models, and I can kill hours there. Update: The wiki is now also awash in newer and current lines. Mission creep, I guess. But you can still find lots of old stuff. The Lost Minis Wiki has vast amounts of unpainted lead, but we really want to see the painted stuff, right?

Stuff of Legends hasn’t been updated much lately, but as far as I know it was the first site devoted to classic minis. There is also a site devoted just to dwarves.

Anyway I found a legal copy of the Armory’s Buying Guide to Fantasy Miniatures at the Mega Minis Magazine site. There is a stunning array of old catalogs there to drool over, with images of miniatures that you can only hope to scrounge up at a convention or eBay. But if you love classic minis, the good news is that there are both new lines that are inspired by older lines, and a few companies still casting the classic figures. Update: although Mega Minis is out of business, the first link still works. The second is now a link to the Wayback Machine’s backup.

You can find many old miniatures for sale second hand in the usual places buy things second hand, like eBay, Craigslist, and similar, or sometimes hobby shops and thrift stores. (Last week I found some in a Half Price Books store, of all places.) But some you can still buy brand spanking new, often in better metal alloys than the originals. Here are some options:

Classic Miniatures is recasting many Heritage models, as well as some from other defunct companies. It’s a more of a hobby than a business, though, so please be patient if you place orders.

“Minifigs” today is usually taken to mean Lego people, but the original Minifigs company is putting their old fantasy lines back in production. Details here.

Ironwind Metals, which rose from the ashes of Ral Partha, is producing some of the old RP lines, and Kickstarting more. See the details here.

Thunderbolt Mountain, Tom Meier’s company, is producing figures similar to his Ral Partha classics, but in a more “modern” 28mm scale. Update: new site launched in 2018, but no updates since…

McEwan Miniatures, some of which were sold as part of the Masterpiece Miniatures line, are still being produced in part here: McEwan Miniatures.

Mirliton, an Italian company, is producing some of the latest Grenadier lines, including some of  the old Wizzards & Warriors/AD&D lines! Pricey but classics.

Mega Minis produces original figures as well as an extensive array of older lines. They are providing a great service but I wish they didn’t cancel lines after short runs. Update: Mega Minis, sadly, is out of business. Their molds may have been picked up by other companies. Their original stuff is now at Johnnyborg Castings. These seem to be Kick Starters so caveat emptor.

Viking Forge is producing classic Asgard minis … the ones illustrated in the Armory ads in old Dragon Magazines!

Armorcast is producing many old Lance& Laser/Castle Creations figures, as well as new designs in the old school aesthetic.

If you are looking for old Citadel, there have been occasional revivals of some models, but a consistent source is Wargames Foundry, which has some of the Citadel dark ages vikings and Normans here.

A few other companies are also still producing older lines, such as RAFM and Essex.

And others are producing new lines with old school aesthetics.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know about Otherworld Miniatures, which is creating minis directly inspired by the classic illustrations of Sutherland, Trampier, etc. Update: But they are in 28mm scale, not classic 25mm. 

Pacesetter Games is producing some old-school designs originally created for a disastrous KickStarter by another company. They look nice though.

I have some hopes for Satanic Panic which is doing some old style “gnolls” after the manner of early 1980s Citadel “Fantasy Tribe Gnolls”.

Skull & Crown is doing a line of skeletons that follow the aesthetic of Minifig’s Valley of the Four Winds undead, themselves based on Brughel’s Triumph of Death.

No doubt there are more… maybe another update in a few years…

Published in: on February 8, 2020 at 11:34 am  Comments (2)  
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Neologisms VII

Here’s a few more inadvertent neologisms I’ve run across in my own writing — happy typos that amuse me. The first one is the least necessary, but I think the second and third might catch on, depending on where you work.

inordinant — (found; inordinate) adj. that fails to regulate. The inordinant official allows this injustice all the time. n. one who denies or revoke ordination. The archbishop will serve as inordinant at the excommunication of the monks.

rasponsibility — (found; rasp + responsibility) n. an irritating responsibility. It is my rasponsibility to keep track of my child’s phone charger, apparently.  

varify — (found; verify + vary) v. to alter, especially after an agreement has been reached. Your supervisor will varify your responsibilities.

 

Published in: on January 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Tree trolls

The late Bob Blanc (owner/operator of the company Castings, miniaturemolds.com) sold a number of silicone rubber molds for homecasters that reproduced classic old school fantasy miniatures. According to my sources, he did this under license. Gravity-casting or drop-casting simply does not create castings as highly detailed as the spin-casting used in commercial production. But I enjoy the hobby and picked up some of the molds before the company was shuttered by his passing. One of my favorites is definitely the Broadsword “tree troll” — a sort of sawed-off ent. Interestingly, the catalog image I’ve seen of this particular figure has four digits on each hand, but it is a drawing, not a photo…)

Anyway here are some I made for my collection. I already have bunch of metal and plastic treants shown in this much old post.

The one in the middle was slightly mis-cast (I didn’t pour enough metal to fill in his base, but fortunately his “feet” were cast ok, so he’s just a few millimeters shorter than the others).

For variety, I gave some tops. These are from cheap trees from a crafting store. I added “apples” to two and replaced the foliage with autumn-colored flock on the one.)

I missed one of the unmodified ones — he got autumn colors too.

Painting these was a breeze. White primer, Citadel contrast paints (two of the brown shades) and detailed in regular paint.

Published in: on December 10, 2019 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Druids

Here’s an assortment of druids I painted a while back, after I realized the same figure had been serving as pretty much every druid PC or NPC for years…decades actually.

This first fellow is technically a cleric, but as he has his armor, if any, covered by a tunic or surcoat, he’s always served as druid. His mostly green paintjob was in bad shape so I redid him as more of a Templar in a filthy white surcoat.

Two female druids, both Grenadier. On the left, a magic user from the late AD&D “Adventuring party” set, in green because she’s a druid, I guess. This figure is currently standing in for a cleric henchperson in our AD&D game. On the right, an old “Wizzards & Warriors” figure.

Finally, two actual druid figures, again both Grenadier. On the left, the druid from the “Pinnacle Products” (a sort of reworking of the “Action Art” line with all new figures) Fantasy Lords set. On the right, the druid from the “Adventuring party” set. These two have been sitting around half-started for decades.

The slinger’s cap and equipment are so strange. They look more Renaissance than ancient or medieval. But AD&D druids are weird grab-bags of anachronisms anyway.

Of course “historical” druids probably dressed in white, so I tried to do some in white robes. On the left, a plastic figure from the “Descent” game. On the right, a Ral Partha druid. He should have two companion figures, as he’s from the “Three stage adventurers” series, but I only have the one. Painting anything white is always a challenge, as the shadowing can make the white look dirty, but I think they turned out ok. The ‘Partha druid has a belt of mistletoe, a nice detail.

 

Published in: on December 5, 2019 at 5:30 pm  Comments (2)  

Monsters–another pass at stain painting

I haven’t had a lot of time for painting lately, and the fact that I’m having someeye trouble hasn’t been an incentive either. But I did manage to get a few things painted a couple of weeks ago. The stain-painting technique (prime white, apply thinned paints just pick out details with full-strength paint) has allowed me to be productive in a few minutes here and there.

First up, a Heritage models dragon.

I think this was exclusive to the “Cavern of Doom” boxed game. There were two variants, one with the body cast in two pieces and athis one, with the bod in one piece and just separate head, wings, and tail. I’m not sure which was the first version but imagine they re-tooled it for better casting. If you click on the image, you’ll see just how crude the sculpting is. The scales were probably just the end of a small tube, like the ink reservoir of a pen, and there were lots of joints to fill in with putty. I have another copy of this, from back in the day, but somehow the head, wings, and tail were lost, so I had to reconstruct them with epoxy putty and miscellaneous junk. I was never happy with the result, so I’m glad I was able to trade someone for this complete model.

Next up, a Rafm night gaunt (from their Call of Cthulhu line). I though it would make a passable ice devil for D&D, so I painted it light blue instead of flat black.

Third, Grenadier ghost. This figure came in a small lot of figures I got from a thrift store. There were several recognizable copies of gaming miniatures, including this one. The Grenadier logo and copyright are still partly visible on this one’s base, though the others were Citadel miniatures with square metal bases replacing their “slotta base” tags. So they must be “pirated” copies. There were also a bunch of junky animals I’ll melt down for my own casting operation.

Next up, my favorites of this batch. A pair of Citadel Nurglings, using pennies as bases. I really love the worm emerging from the first one’s mouth. I’m not sure if they had any stats in Warhammer or were just for decorating the bases of larger Nurgle troops. But they make great imps.

Lastly, some zombie dogs from a Zombies!!! game expansion set. I bought a bag with like 100 of these, but only kept a handful. They are mounted on pennies as well. They were a breeze to paint.

 

Published in: on November 21, 2019 at 6:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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The triumph of death, again

I’ve always like the Bruegel painting “The triumph of death.” I was pretty happy to find some miniatures clearly based on the design there, and relatively cheaply. Getting them gave me the impetus to also paint a handful of skeletons from the Valley of the Four Winds line, made by Minifgs in the 1970s. All the images can be clicked to enlarge, but unfortunately that will also make some of the defects of my painting more evident.

First up though, some Skull and Crown skeletons. The majority are armed with “war darts” rather like the fellows in the lower left of Bruegel’s painting, including the coffin-lid shields.

I got my Skull & Crown figures second hand, and had to supply some different weapons for the marching pose.

There were also some “command” figures — musicians with a horn and two hurdy-gurdies, a pair of champions with laurel crowns, swords, and hourglasses, and three torch-bearers.

These were not the first figures to be inspired by Bruegel. The Minifigs “Valley of the four winds” line had a whole army of skeletons mostly based on Breugel (along with other monstrosities from Bosch, but I don’t have any of those).

My Minifigs skeletons also came second hand, and had to have a few repairs made.

Unfortunately they are “true” 25mm scale, perhaps closer to 1/72 scale, while the newer skeletons are in the modern “heroic” 28mm scale.

I also painted a few more ornate Games Workshop skeletons I bought a couple of years ago.

 

Great detail, especially considering they are plastic.

One last skeleton, not so triumphant — a Ral Partha “wounded skeleton”.

And as long as the dead are walking about seasonally, here are a few mummies. The center one is an old Citadel figure, flanked by two Grenadier mummies. On the right, the original sculpt for the “Wizzards & Warriors” line, and on the left the resculpt of the figure for the AD&D “Solid Gold” line.

Published in: on October 17, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Beastmen and goatkin

No telling if I’ll be able to follow through with this, but my master plan is to start getting the vast backlog of unpainted miniatures painted by tackling one type at a time. Here is the result of trying to get all my “beastmen” finished. (I do have a bunch of other animal/human hybrids yet to do, but the beastmen are all vaguely goat- or bull- headed humanoids.)

All images are clickable to enlarge.

 

First up: some beastmen from the Battle Masters game (jointly produced by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop back in the early 1990s). The guy on the far left was one I painted years ago. The others were languishing unpainted until I got more inspired and swapped out some of their weapons.

I used a variety of thinned down paints, including some GW “contrast” paints. The idea was to just prime everything white and paint in thinned colors using the old Heritage Models idea of “stain painting.” The GW Contrast paints are simply paints thinned down with some kind of flow enhancer added to help the pigment pool in the recesses of a sculpture and form “shadows” of more intense color, so that you don’t need to shade or highlight. It really speeds things up. Mixing my own cheap craft paints with some water and a couple of drops of Liquitex flow aid gets similar results. I used the stickers that came with the Battle Masters game for their shields.

The next group are Grenadier “goatkin warriors”. They were sculpted by John Dennett, who did some of the best monsters Grenadier produced in my opinion. The white ones were painted at least twenty years ago, so I touched them up a bit to cover spots where the paint had worn off, and also to correct some sloppiness.

The last group are a random collection: a figure from the Descent board game, a satyr (a WizKids recast, for MageKnight, of a Ral Partha design), and a Citadel “ogre.” The citadel model was another I’d painted many years ago, and touched up. I bought him through Wargames West, an mail-order service from the pre-internet days that published huge newsprint catalogs. I bought several figures through them, even though they did not have illustrations, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Finally, another Citadel figure, meant to represent a beastman champion. He came out a little better than this blurry photo suggests.

And here’s the whole set (including a figure I did not photograph separately because he was done a long time ago and needed no work).

I used a lot of beastmen in the D&D campaign I ran a while back, because I wanted something a little different from the usual orcs. More recently they have been standing in for gnolls in a game I play in. I do have a box of gnolls to paint some day too…

Bonus: another Dennett sculpt, the Vi-Perdon!
I like the animation in this one.

Published in: on October 6, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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