Free hugs!

I had a meeting in Cleveland so I took advantage of the chance to check out a hobby shop I’d heard about — Warzone-Matrix (no link, the website has been neglected for nearly 10 years and the Facebook page looks like it’s been hijacked by 9/11 conspiracy buffs; Google it and see the reviews and photos there). In fact I first heard about it when an acquaintance from overseas mentioned he wanted to check it out when he was passing through the States. I confused it with another shop, or else a version of it from long enough ago it bears no resemblance to what I found last month. What I thought it was, was a basic wargaming type shop with current games. What it actually is, is treasure trove of stuff old and new. It was strongest on RPGs and board games, but had a fair amount of miniatures stuff, and I found a couple of TSR blister packs. One was, sadly, showing lead rot; I got this one instead:

They’re both mounted on fender washers for stability. They follow the TSR tradition of packaging seemingly unrelated monsters together, but as both kill by grabbing you, there is a weak theme.

The roper needed a little more animation, and I bent his tentacles as much as I dared (they were all splayed straight out). He really looks like he wants to give someone a hug.

Being monsters, they painted up really fast and looked pretty good for an otherwise middling line.

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Published in: on February 5, 2018 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I missed the moon!

Sadly clouds this morning in my area, so I missed the moon. Also I was misinformed that the super blue blood moon would be tonight, not this morning. Ugh.

As you will know, the moon was extra puffy today, which astrologers call a “super moon.” This is because it has grown visibly larger. Rotund even. Please be respectful and don’t stare, it’s been a rough time for the moon lately.

As you will also know, it was a bleu moon. This means the Penicillium always present in the cheesy crust of the moon’s surface has grown particularly densely and literally changes the coloring of the moon. So the moon would look blue, except is it also bloody from a savage beating it’s gotten from an unnamed heavenly body or bodies. The red blood and bleu cheese left the moon looking purplish. You don’t see that every day.

We will not get the puffy, purple moon again for something like 200 years.

Published in: on January 31, 2018 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Makin’ bacon : Pig-faced orcs

Pig-faced orcs (“Porcs,” as they prefer not to be called) have been having a minor renaissance lately.

OSR bloggers were talking about them for while; the most compelling look at the origins of the pig-faced orc for my money is here, but I’ve also read that there was some sort of miscommunication between writer Gary Gygax and illustrator David Sutherland which led the best know example in the Monster Manual.  Not sure where I first heard that either. Another theory holds that the Tolkien calendar for 1977 by the brothers Hildebrandt introduced pig-faced orcs, but honestly the orcs in that calendar don’t look very pig-like to me for the most part. I think Zhu is on the right track with the Disney goons (See also Telecanter’s Receding Rules;  Sword & Shield; Realm of Zhu 1 and 2 ; TOTFF; Greyhawk Grognard; Grognardia).

For a long time the only ones available would be the old Minifigs AD&D line.

But several manufacturers put them back into production — Otherworld starting the trend in 2010, which inspired several of the blog posts already linked above  (Casting Room; Otherworld; Splintered Light; and yes Minifigs has them mostly back in production too!).

I was not really a fan of pig-faced orcs back in the day, since I came to D&D after being exposed to Tolkien. But more recently they’ve grown on me, and while I couldn’t justify buying any more orc figures (I have scores unpainted and literally an army of them painted) I thought about doing some conversions on my own. But then I saw the incredible workmanship over at Belched from the Depths and got cold feet. No way am I sculpting anything near that standard. More recently I saw a simple conversion on a Facebook page (and who can ever find something again in that Book of Sand?) and I could at least copy that. So I took some plastic orcs that were unlikely to be painted any time soon and tried making snoots from epoxy putty. They are just tiny balls pressed onto the nose, with the tip flattened and nostrils made by poking the end with bit of florist wire. The only thing I forgot to do was make one an obvious leader. I have a plastic GW “black orc” that should fit the bill though. For reference here’s the basic plastic orc as I painted one some time ago:

A small, somewhat ape-like nose typical of GW.

And here are the pig-faced versions (I also did some weapon swaps from other kits for variety, and gave some shield bosses).

The yellow and purple shields will likely get decals from the BattleMasters game on their shields.

Finally some Grenadier UK plastic orcs:

For reference, here are some I painted in the usual manner, and with their shields.

Both the pig-faced spearmen had their weapons modified; a third is below:

This guy could be the shaman of the tribe, and will be the leader for now.

Lastly a couple of metal orcs (Ghost Miniatures, the fantasy arm of Old Glory Miniatures) that I painted along similar lines, though I left their noses as they were. They might be half-orcs from the tribe.

Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Carving

The clubs post was appreciated, so here are a few more things I’ve carved at various times, mostly as gifts.

Below, some Christmas ornaments (Santas or wood spirits, I guess) from the same unidentified shrub as the spiked club. Each is maybe 2 or 3 inches long. The “hats” are just the bark left as it was. I think the one with the nose might have been from a maple branch, and gave me the idea for some other ornaments I made the following year.

I did a few different types of ornaments. This year I went a little more extreme with the noses, using branching bits, and I decided to use some fiber for the hair rather than paint. If I do this again I’ll save some milkweed fuzz to use instead so they’re all-natural.

This was the most crooked nose of them. so I kept it for my tree.

As you can see the bark is still a bit green in spots; I cut this from my Japanese maple in the fall and it didn’t have time to finish drying out completely. Time will tell if the ornaments will crack as they continue to cure, but I think they’ll be OK.

Here’s the other one I kept.

I also made a bunch of snowmen, and also snowman heads in long hats. I gave all of them away except for one snowman head; unfortunately he spent a year in a houseplant’s pot and some of the paint has peeled off from getting wet, despite the coat of polyurethane I’d sealed it with. I was pretty happy with how the landscape on his hat came out.

The nose is the end of a toothpick, whittled down a bit (the whole ornament is maybe three inches long). The snowmen were made from thick pieces of branch, carved into three rough globes with a top hat; the carrot nose (a bit of toothpick), arms (tiny twigs) and a yarn scarf added after painting.

A bigger project was a Mother’s day gift (my Mom really loves ravens and crows):

The base is just a slice of a log; the heart and crow are carved from some 2 x 6 lumber I happened to have laying around. I don’t remember how I stained the heart; it might just have been some watered down red paint. I cheated and used a saw to cut the rough shapes, and did a lot of filing and sanding. My carving knife is more suited to softer woods, like the shrub or stuff like basswood. I can’t claim the idea is original; I saw a photo of a similar, more stylized piece in a newspaper add for a local gallery.

This is a gnome I carved out of a block of basswood:

It took a long time mainly because I didn’t do a very good job of sketching him out first. I could have saved a lot of effort with a saw or chisel if I had. He’s maybe seven inches tall, including the hat.

This is a woodpecker toy I made for my Mom for Christmas a few years ago.  The bird (a downy woodpecker, which is one of the two species of woodpecker I know of in Ohio) is carved from basswood. If you tap the lever it pecks the stump. The bird is about six inches long, I think.

I made a similar one for my sister’s birthday the following year, and a bunch of mini woodpeckers as ornaments to give as gifts.

They work too — the little twigs are levers to make them peck the trunk. The smallest woodpecker is a little under an inch long.

It should go without saying I am completely self-taught. Anyone can carve wood. You just need a sharp knife, which you’ll find yourself strapping a lot to maintain the edge. I was given a very nice one real carvers use; I’ve tried using some of the junk they sell at craft stores and you’re better off with one or two good tools than a set of crap. Just remember to cut away from yourself and keep an eye on the grain of the wood and you should be OK.

I got the plans for the woodpecker toy in old a book on making wooden toys, and the gnome design was based on a plan I saw in another book, both from my local public library.

Published in: on January 20, 2018 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Flagellants I

So I started painted some of those plastic flagellants. As I mentioned before, Warhammer took the very real phenomenon of flagellants (religious fanatics who scourge themselves and passersby in a religious frenzy) and made them a troop type for the Empire. Apart from the usual exaggeratedly massive weapons, these are not bad figures at all.

The first three are pretty much as intended by the kit — wielding massive flails or scourges (I wish there more of these provided). The bell-ringer also had a massive flail head attached but I removed it as silly. A big bell like that on a rope would be an effective, if loud and clumsy, weapon anyway. I liked blind-folded heads, which is an great idea for someone with an already hazardous weapon like a multiple-headed flail. I do wish at least one body had more tattered clothes so it would look like he’d been scourging himself, but the center guy I just added a lot of blood stains.

I would have preferred to have a few more poses that aren’t running, but the style of Warhammer plastics seems to be action poses.

The great thing about the kit though was the extras — way more heads, arms, and accouterments than you need to assemble the ten bodies provided. So I made nearly as many variants with bodies borrowed from another kit (Zvedza soldiers) and from Lionheart peasants, mixing in a few pieces from the Frostgrave cultist kit and so on.

The guy on the far left is one of my favorites. He’s basically a foot soldier from the Zvedza kit with a flagellant head and banner. I had Lancelot, as he appeared late in Excalibur, wild and fanatical, in mind. The next guy has flagellant arms and head on a man-at-arms body, and the other two are Lionheart peasants with head transplants and modified weapons.

So this is seven of the 18 or so total I’m working on. I find myself stopping a lot though, because they have so many layers of clothing and small details they are kind of a pain to work on. When I get inspired to work on them again I’ll get to them.

Published in: on January 16, 2018 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Manticores and minotaur

A few things from my painting desk.

These two manticores are from the first edition Descent game. For variety, I painted one in a tiger pattern and the other as a lion. They were very quick to paint — I primed them one night and did everything else the next while half-watching SNL on TV.

Wizard for scale, though in hindsight he’s a bit nearer the camera.

The theory I’ve read is that manticores were based on accounts of tigers, so the tiger striped version might be more authentic.

Next up a minotaur of unknown (to me) provenance. Comment if you recognize her. The hands and spear are wire, putty, and assorted spare bits because I got this model without the intended hands.

The minotaur is female. I would have gone with udders rather than human breasts, and given it a tail, given the cow hoofs etc. The furry butt cracks me up. But it’s the last of my unpainted minotaurs! (No counting a few pre-painted MageKnight figures I might redo someday.)

Published in: on January 15, 2018 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Clubs

Not exactly swords but in that domain.
I amused myself this fall whittling and varnishing a bunch of walking sticks, which I thought I’d give as gifts but never did. I used a variety of sticks I’d gathered from my property, friends or relatives. and even parks. Theses are some clubs I made from shorter scraps. Not the best photos, sorry.

This first one, my favorite, is made from part of last year’s Christmas tree, and is probably the only one I’ll hang on a wall.

Being from a conifer, it’s extremely light and although the head looks intimidating it would likely break if you used it in anger. I was going to carve it into an Iroquois-style club with a rounded knob but I like all the stumps as spikes.

The next one is more sturdy; it’s from a piece of an overgrown red maple I pruned. Being hardwood it’s pretty strong, and while the head wasn’t large enough to carve, I love the way it handles. Ultimately it’s just a smoothed out branch though so I’ll probably take it apart eventually.

The last one is made from a bush of some kind I removed two years ago. It has extremely strong, yellowish wood under a grey-brown bark, and I think it might have been an overgrown boxwood of some kind. (The previous owner of my house must have done zero maintenance of the yard for at least a decade before we moved in.) It’s a very dense wood too, and seemed perfect for a club. I added some spikes for fun — the blade was the top-spike from an Indian wall-hanger axe (see the last axe on this page) I remounted on a new haft. The other spikes are just small carriage bolts with their heads ground off.

This one is slightly curved along both axes so that it’s really not very comfortable in your right hand but feels right in your left — I’m left handed. I’m sure I’ll disassemble this eventually when I think of a better use for the blade but it was fun to make.

 

Published in: on January 5, 2018 at 10:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Cultists

The latest batch are mostly plastics, and all meant to stand in for cultists.

Left to right, a MageKnight figure, a modified Frostgrave cultist, Grenadier’s Grima Wormtongue, and two Descent figures, a PC and a modified warlock.

The Grima figure is very small — he might be 4 foot tall, in scale, if he wasn’t hunched over. The Guy in red is from the Descent game, and is some sort of character type, maybe a monk or necromancer. Skull-face has a head from a GW skeletons kit (which will eventually be showing up) but otherwise unmodified.

The lady in black needed a little repainting and though it’s not visible here, she has a white streak in her hair, Elvira style. The cultist next to her has a head from the Zvedza soldier kit but is otherwise all Frostgrave.

Leftmost, a Frostgrave cultist. His right arm is the archer pose, but with the dagger hand swapped in. He’s holding a book from the GW Flagellants kit. Next to him is a Zvedza soldier body with a Frostgrave cultist head, flagellant scroll, and sword made from a pin and a toothpick. Third up is a Descent warlock, unmodified. The last is the same guy with a head swap.

The last four here are all Frostgrave cultist parts except for the mace-man’s arms and weapon, the scroll, and the torch — all flagellants parts.

Here’s a full container of cultists. The remaining guys are older GW chaos sorcerers, a Grenadier evil high priest, and a couple of WOTC figures. I still have some more plastic and metal to paint — including two more Grenadier priests — but this should do it for now.

Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Advent Die Geburt Krampuskind

Just noticed my #shamelesscommerce in the last few posts is being frustrated by the fact that the publisher’s site is down (though you can still cop a pdf at DTRP). Anyway here’s another seasonal repost.

nat-der-kra-2

In just eighteen days we’ll be celebrating the nativity of the Krampuskind!

Left to right we see a manger animal (Reaper Miniatures), an angel (Ral Partha), Krampusjoseph (Heritage Models), the Krampuskind (Dollar Tree),  Krampusmary and two magi (all Metal Magic), and a third magi (Grenadier).

Krampus gloriam in excelsis!

Amen!

Click the image below to embiggen…

nativity der krampuskind

Published in: on December 7, 2017 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy feast day, Saint Nicholas, wherever you are (or, This is clearly not a repost to remind people buy The Poor Pilgrim’s Almanack, but now that you mention it, it makes a great gift!)

Readers of my book will know that St. Nicholas has a grave in Myrna, Turkey, a tomb in Kilkenny, Ireland, and shrines in Bari and Venice, Italy — each of the Italian shrines containing fully one half of his skeleton. He also has a sacred cave near Bethlehem and an island named after him which is known for its ever-sharp tools. I assume there are suitable festivities going on in all those places right now, December 6th, his feast day. Among his miracles are saving ships from storms and raising three boys who had been mummified* from the dead.

Image result for st nicholas

*or pickled, in some versions of the story.

#shamelesscommerce

 

Published in: on December 6, 2017 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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