The best D&D movie of the year

It’s no secret that movies intentionally based on D&D tend to suck ass. But there have been some great movies and TV shows that take bits and pieces from the game and make really entertaining stuff. Dave made a maze manages to capture what a dungeon should be like: filled with perils and wonders, and somehow animate and malevolent. The maze which is the location of 90% of the scenes is simultaneously silly and scary. Logic and physics are just guidelines there. The maze clearly has a mind of its own and is hostile. In an early scene, someone cuts their hand and the blood is absorbed — drunk? — by the cardboard floor of the maze. There are a number of traps and tricks that would do any old school dungeon proud, and while there not many monsters, the main baddie is suitably scary.

The film is ultimately a comedy, and the characters are not heroes but bunch of thirty-something hipsters, artists, and slackers. The visual effects (which seem to be mostly practical) are stunning and the writing and acting are pretty good. It’s actually considerably better than the trail suggests. The writers/director might be the next Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonez.

Although this does not appear to have an MPAA rating, it got CA-14 in Canada so that’s basically PG-13. There is some strong language, extremely cartoonish violence, and some adult sight gags. You can stream it online or purchase the DVD, but if it’s an option, find it in a theater!

Published in: on August 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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The toof mouse

So some time back I was driving listening to NPR and someone brought up the “tooth mouse.” The tooth mouse is basically the tooth fairy in other countries — particularly Spanish speaking countries, as well as France, and according to the commenter I heard also in former colonies of France or Spain. The tooth mouse supposedly takes the teeth to build its house, in one version of the story. In any case it usually leaves some small gift. My daughter Riley happened to be in the car and while she stopped believing in fairies and such in first grade or so, she had a loose tooth and suggested she’d leave it for the tooth mouse. Ever since, she would leave her teeth on her dresser, or on a banister by her door, and I’d write a silly thank-you from the tooth mouse (who has terrible spelling and grammar and just signs things “the toof mous”) and some trinkets like glass beads, sea shells, and some coins. The tradition fell by the wayside eventually but this week she lost one of the last three baby teeth she has, and the next day casually commented that the tooth mouse didn’t find her tooth. Riley’s going into seventh grade this year and I know there may not be a lot more of these kinds of moments. So, knowing how much she still loves hunting for toads when we go on hikes, I thought I’d paint the tiniest toad possible for her. It was so small it took only a few minutes really, and I couldn’t get my phone to focus very well on it. But here it is, based on a penny:

I tried it without the flash, not much better.

Honest, it looks pretty good in real life. It’s from the set of familiars Julie Guithrie sculpted for Ral Partha. Somehow I ended up with two of the sprues, so I still have another toad/frog like this and third slightly larger I think from Reaper.

Anyway here’s the card too, front, inside, and back.

Published in: on August 14, 2017 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zombies!!! and that balrog

Haven’t been doing a  ton of painting lately but I did manage to paint the wingless Ral Partha “Armored Balrog” I posted about earlier, and also some zombies. All the photos should let you click to embiggen.

I started off painting his skin completely black, but it seemed a shame to cover up all the detail in the sculpt. Grey highlights would make him look too cold, so red it was.

Ral Partha Armored balrog with missing wings and sword/sword hand replaced 

I might have spent more time on the flaming mane, but the contrast was good enough IMO to get the idea across. He was just a side project while painting up the zombies anyway.

The zombies are part of a larger set I started working on some time ago. The “Zombies!!!” game is a good beer & pretzels kind of boardgame, but what sold it for me was of course the 100 zombie minis. Over the years I’ve picked up a few “Bag o Zombies!!!” sets, though I wish you could get them in smaller quantities. Anyway because the poses are pretty limited, I started making minor conversions to some to see if I could achieve some more variety. Here’s the first few, based on two male zombie poses, the female zombie, and the zombie kid, as well as a couple of zombies from the Doom boardgame. The paint jobs are pretty simplistic, and I used a pale green skin tone to make them more immediately recognizable as undead. I had in mind the crummy colorized verison of “Night of the Living Dead” that you used to see on VHS in dollar stores.

First up, some boy souts and their scout leader. In hindsight the red bandannas look too much like more gore.

Next up, a bridal party. I still need to figure out how to do a flower girl. The guy had tails added to his jacket to suggest a tux and the girl had her dress extended, a veil added, and the severed head normally in the pose’s hand removed.

 

Two bikers — the big guy is from Doom, the skinny guy is from another Zombies!!! set.

Some miscellaneous people. A punk rocker with mohawk (Return of the Living Dead!), a surgeon (just added a mask and cap), a farmer (head swap from a cowboy), and a security guard (Doom again).

And of course you need a zombie Santa. His right arm was pinned back to hold a sack, and the sack, hat, belly, and beard were all added with some Liquid Nails (the older thick formula which I can’t find at the hardware store anymore).

I still have a lot more of these to paint, and some ideas for more variations, but that may have to wait a while.

Lastly a weirdo monster that I can’t really identify. I believe it was from a HeroClix set — I picked up a bunch of HeroClix stuff from a bin in a hobby shop a few years ago to use for conversions. Some kind of alien critter. This one had to have his two hind legs replaced, but for $.25 you can’t go wrong really. I stayed pretty close to his original color. He seems to have two tails and two tentacles in addition to four legs. If you recognize this from the DCU or MCU let me know!

Published in: on July 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Some more plastic dragons

I posted a few plastic dragons before — the MPC knockoff of the Grenadier AD&D dragon, the Dark Tower dragon and two Descent dragons, and a pair of dragons I got from a dollar store.

Here are a couple more.

The first is from a toy set — a knockoff of the DFC “Dragonriders of the Styx” set made by Toyco. The spine in the center of his back, which is spaced out a bit from the rest, was actually a peg for the rider to fit on, but I didn’t have a rider (which would have been a 54mm scale “knight” that looks a lot like the Michelin man — I got this in a trade and the rider was MIA). I slipped a bit while trimming it and cut my thumb pretty badly.  The paint job is pretty basic but I was surprised at how detailed the skin is.

The second dragon is a fairly small figure that was made of a rubbery soft plastic and I think came out of a gumball machine. It originally had a small loop on its back that a parachute was tied to. My daughter gave it to me when she lost interest in it (the parachute never worked properly anyway). For what it is, the detail is not bad.

Lastly a non-dragon — I finished painting a Reaper Bones mimic about the same time.

Who doesn’t love a mimic?

Published in: on June 26, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Plastic surgery disasters III

As promised here are my flagellants. The Warhammer version of these are loosely based on the real flagellants of history, who make an appearance in my book. The real flagellants were fanatics who thought the Black Death was punishment for the world’s sins, and that people needed to be baptized in their own blood to wash away these sins. If you happened to meet some on the road, they might try to force you to join them, or beat you to death trying. But at other times they simply demonstrated their rites and were applauded by locals. At times they also went on pogroms against Jews and massacred them. The temporal authorities were understandably annoyed with them disrupting trade and travel and bands of knights would sometimes go patrolling to find and kill bands of flagellants, but this was unusual. Eventually the Church condemned them as heretics and many were burned at the stake. In Warhammer, they appeared as special Empire troops that are fearless and subject to frenzy like Norse berserkers, fanatically seeking out the taint of Chaos.

The GW box only had 10 bodies, but lots of extra heads, arms, and accouterments. So naturally I wanted to create some extras.

First, here are the figures I assembled with the bodies in the box.

These guys are really extreme, compared to the original lead flagellants made for Warhammer back in the day. I couldn’t readily find any images, but they were just unkempt monks with flails, whips, and clubs. These newer versions use massive flail weapons (some of which I scaled back, like the second guy in the bottom row, whose weapon originally included a flail head in addition to the bell). I like their scourges, but the real standouts are the guys with flaming hair and the pilloried guy.

Anyway with the extra bits I modified a few Lionheart peasants:

And also a few Zvedza soldiers. The guy with the back banner in particular was modeled on Lancelot at the end of the movie Excalibur. The others are presumably also knights who have lost their minds.

I’m really looking forward to painting these at some point.

Published in: on June 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Plastic surgery disasters II

Here are few more works in progress.

First, a pair of leg swaps — the marauder on the left also has some additional conversion to change the position of his arms, which normally attach pretty close to the body, and I used one of the standard-bearer arms to give him a spear. His shield is an old Citadel chaos shield but I didn’t think to take a head-on shot. The angle of the photo makes his new legs look even shorter, relative to him, than they are. Maybe he’s part gorilla. The guy on the right has a nice pose IMO even if he seems a little long-legged.

For the next guy I used one of the elaborate shoulder pads included in the marauder kit as a skull mask. His head underneath is from the cultist set, as they are slightly smaller than the bare-headed option in the marauder box.

The Frostgrave cultists box is really a kitbasher’s dream, with a ton of extra heads and arms (though I wish there was more variety to the bodies). Anyway, one option in the box is to convert about half of the figures into zombies or skeletons. I gave this guy a zombie head and arms and he’d make a nice ghoul or wight. I’m tempted to give at least one thug a withered undead arm too.

The last one also more ambitious. I wanted to make an inquisitor or executioner with a sword, and the armored body from a Zvedza soldier gets a cultist head, a scroll from the flagellants box, and a sword made from a pin and a toothpick.

Published in: on June 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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Plastic surgery disasters I

I spent a couple hours kitbashing some plastic figures yesterday. The original intent was to create some figures in the vein of the old Citadel “chaos thugs.” Thugs were the weakest kind of chaos warrior in Warhammer, so I can’t be too surprised they were dropped from the Warhammer line. However they had a lot of character and I always liked the mix of influences they showed — many had a lot of John Blanche’s surrealism and punk aesthetic, while others might have wandered of the set of the Road Warrior or a Mario Bava horror film. Some peak thugs here and here if you are unfamiliar. When I realized how many of the thugs I’d collected over the years seem to have disappeared, and how hard to find original castings seem to be, I thought I’d cobble together some using parts of other sets I was already interested in or already had.  My main ingredients are the Games Workshop “chaos marauder” set from about 2008 and a set of “Frostgrave cultists” from North Star Military Figures, with some pieces supplied by the GW “Flagellants” set (which will get its own post), some Zvedza soldiers from their short-lived “Ring of Rule” line, a few figures from the Lionheart board game, and a handful of chaos thug archers from the Milton Bradley/GW Battlemasters game.

The main challenge has been that the marauders are much larger than the other figures, both in terms of scale (maybe 30 mm) and build (steroid freaks). There is also a dearth of bare heads, so not nearly as many as I’d like can have mohawks or other weird hair styles like the old thugs. Still, I’m happy with a lot of them so far. More than a few will remain cultists, though, since the hoods and masks look so good.

Skeletor here just has a head from the Cultists box and the rest from the Marauders.

Body and head from Cultist set; arms from Marauders, mohawk from Battlemasters.

The hourglass is from the Flagellants set and the cleaver blade is from the really old GW “Fantasy Regiments” set, indented for an orc.

Cultist head and body, flagellant arms, with modified weapon.

Cultist with scrolls from the Flagellant set

Another somewhat pinheaded thug with a cultist head.

Marauder head on a Battlemasters body. Though the Battlemasters archers are nice, their pose is really hard to convert, and the heads are so  so I’m not getting a lot of use our of them. Also this is the first time I noticed they don’t have quivers.

Zvedza head on a cultist

Cultist head on a Lionheart peasant. Not really related to the chaos thugs and cultists but it seemed like a good fit.

Cultist with modified arm and book from Flagellant set

Another Battlemasters thug, this time with a skull from the Zvedza “Orks” set for a head.

Lionheart body with Marauder head and arms. This figure had already donated both his arms and his head to other projects so I was glad to have extra parts to “save” him!

Cultist with flagellant arms and flail

Cultist with torch from the flagellants set

These all need to have mold lines and joints cleaned up, of course. I’ll post more later. In the meantime here’s a metal figure I rehabilitated while waiting for glue to dry.

I got this poor balrog with no wings and his sword and sword hand missing for $1 out of a bin of broken or just old miniatures. The marauders had one sword-armed arm and the hand seemed like a good match so I used it to replace his hand. I have never had much luck scratch-building wings so I decided to stay a bit truer to Tolkien and leave them off (IIRC the book just refers to “wings of smoke” or something like that, not actual bat wings). I used some plumber’s putty I’ve been hanging onto for too long to extend the mane, which I will paint as fire. Maybe I’ll add more later. Though I’m open to ideas for how to add “wings” of black smoke.

Coquina shoggoth

Among a bunch of shells of various sizes in our craft supplies I noticed a small piece of rock with tons of embedded mollusk shells. I rhought at first that it might be some kind of coral, but a little Google image searching led me to conclude it is more probably coquina, a kind of limestone consisting mostly of shells. I was initially thinking about using it for a base for a mermaid I was painting but it looked so irregular and gross that I realized it would make a much better Shoggoth. The coiled shells and holes suggested pseudopods and a bubbling chaos of mouths, eyes, and appendages.

The eyes are just beads I glued on and painted, and the mouths are formed from breaks in the shells. I just picked out teeth in white along the edges. The whole thing is washed with maroon, with additional brown washes in deeper crevices, then roughly  drybrushed with pink and white. The “mouths” had more maroon added to deepen their color. The whole thing took barely any time; I wish I had more of the stuff.  It will serve as a small shoggoth or gibbering mouther.

Published in: on June 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Dwarf pirates

The last batch of dwarves I painted for an upcoming pirates themed game are these troops from a Warhammer boxed set (dwarves vs goblins, circa 2005).

These dwarves don’t have puffy shirts, or rapiers, or patches and peglegs, but the long coats are somewhat suggestive of the rain coats you might see on fishermen in the north Atlantic, and the horned helmets of course evoke fantasy Vikings, so with the guns they seem plausible as dwarf marines.

The cannon that came in the boxed set looks like a naval gun, from the shape of the carriage. The cannon crew includes one guy with a somewhat steampunk get up and a huge wrench/linstock gizmo. The cannon itself has what might be a gunlock in the form of a dragon head, but the whole thing is extremely ornate in the Warhammer style. I painted it as entirely bronze, as there was no wood grain on the carriage.

For the sake of completeness here are all the dwarfs for this project, now sequestered to their own case:

Apart from the MageKnight figure with the mortat on his back, and the two Grenadier sword & daggermen, these are all Citadel/Games Workshop. Actually the two on pink foam in the upper right I think were produced by Marauder, which was founded by Citadel alumni and possibly was a subsidiary of GW since they appeared in White Dwarf magazine long after GW stopped advertising anything but its own products.

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 5:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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May Amazon suggest some medical books for your edification?

I occasionally use Amazon at work to confirm bibliographic info like ISBNs, and I also use it occasionally for personal stuff. Either because Google/Chrome is tracking everything I type across platforms or because I’ve signed in to Amazon on my personal account at work, I get some interesting recommendations. But I was especially happy to see Amazon getting all medieval on its ideas about medicine: (Click to embiggen)

So maybe Amazon’s AI isn’t a threat, yet, to readers’ advisory and reference librarians.

Published in: on May 31, 2017 at 7:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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