Are you ready yeti?

The first large box of D&D minis I remember seeing was the “Monsters” assortment. Those Grenadier boxes were a little bit like boxes of chocolates because you never really knew for certain what would be inside — almost every box seemed to have a miniature broken or missing, and/or a miniature not shown on the insert, and/or a duplicate of some miniature. It never occurred to me back in the day to complain to the company or ask for a replacement; I have no idea if they would have. The “Tomb of Spells” was perhaps the worst offender: I didn’t get the lamia or night hag at all, which were on the insert, though I did get alternative sculpts of the djinn and efreet (not the ones on the older insert though; the ones in the blister).

Anyway in the case of the Monsters box, I got the set as shown on the insert except that my Yeti was the later version. (For some reason I always remembered having both versions in my collection, but I can’t think of way to account for having two yeti, so maybe I never had the original.) Anyway a recent trade yielded not only the cone-head yeti but a sort of missing link between the two sculpts: the ogre from the Wizzards & Warriors range. (I also got the earlier, smaller ogre with a similar face but he’s not hairy enough to pass for a yeti so I haven’t painted him yet.  So here are the three yetis side by side.

3yetis

The original design is closest to the Monster Manual version — especially if that is not just a tuft of hair but a misshapen cone-head.

Image result for yeti monster manual

Yeti from the Monster Manual, via Wikipedia. By David Sutherland.

yeti-cone

His replacement has a more rounded head. Mine has had his nose squashed a bit from falling on his face, and looks more upturned than it would be fresh out of the mold.

yeti-final

So the interesting thing to me is that the older Ogre design was clearly the source of the new face. (In this picture you can see a really severe mold line on his outstretched arm. I filed away as much as I dared but the dry-brushing really betrays all the imperfections.)

yeti-ogre

If you look at the three of them, what’s interesting is that the final yeti design incorporates the older yeti’s pose but many elements are clearly from the ogre. The loincloth is different on all three, but look closely at their backs and feet.

yeti-backs

yeti-bigfeet

 

Published in: on February 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm  Comments (3)  
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Clerics

Last weekend I painted four clerics in between chores and doing a ton of preparation on other figures. One thing I’m trying out is putting grout in the bottoms of the plastic bases of some hard plastic miniatures to make them more stable. I’ve used modelling clay  for this before but it eventually exudes oils and I wanted a more permanent fix, as many were skeletons. I hope to start working on my remaining undead figures next, but after all the demons some clerics are needed for balance!

The first is a monk from the Ral Partha “1200 AD” line. (These are back in production, in fact!) It’s a nice sculpt and was pretty easy to paint.

partha-monk

Useless trivia: The 1200 AD line was originally called the 1100 AD line in early Ral Partha catalogs. By the time this guy was produced in 1983 or so, it was called 1200 AD. Sadly, he’s one of the figures that got pretty badly messed up by my cheap matte varnish. I’m glad I got a photo before sealing him.

Next up another Ral Partha figure. This one is cleric from a boxed set sold some time around 1981. The box had other adventurers, all very nicely done, and pre-size creep, so they are true 25mm like the monk above.

Ral Partha cleric

He suffered a bit but not as much from sealing. His face detail was always shallow and the sealer obscures it further; again I snapped this photo before the sealing. I’m not completely satisfied with the hood color but I wanted him to be a little more colorful and thought it might contrast well with his darker skin tone. Unfortunately his sidelong glance is not very clear any more under the sealer. He’s based on a 20mm mosaic tile rather than a 1″ piece of matte board like the others. A similar variant is still being made by the revived Ral Partha, with a snake for a staff (!).

Next a Heritage “Dungeon Dwellers” cleric.

heritage-cleric

This one came in the Caverns of Doom boxed set, and I had to replace both his hands. The replacements are a little big (most figures have wacky proportion anyway) and this is especially noticeable with his tiny feet, but I think he looks ok. The original had an ankh in his right hand and an open left hand, but I gave him a cross and a vial of holy water! He’s got glossy sealer only in this photo too.

Lastly, a Citadel dwarf.

dwarf-cleric

He’s not really necessarily a cleric (he’s from the DC line of warriors) but he’s armed with a big hammer in his hand and a smaller hammer tucked into his belt on his back. He’s got some glossy sealer but no matte in this photo. He was one of the of lucky ones who did not get all frosty looking from the matte varnish.

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 12:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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A cautionary tale

Since it’s too cold to take anything outside to spray with a sealer, in the winter I use a brush-on acrylic sealer (the floor polish formerly sold as “Future” floor finish). It’s really glossy but dries quickly and is a very good protector. I decided to kill the gloss with some matte varnish sold as “Aileene’s” — a house brand at Jo-Ann’s craft stores. It created a horrific, dusty-looking mess of my figures.

20170108_222007

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

However I noticed that brushing on some water restored the original look, at least as long as it was wet, so m next idea was to scrub off as much of the varnish as I could and re-apply the Future finish, since it leaves a “wet” look.

20170108_222459

Not quite where I hoped, but a little better.

You’d think I would know by now to test this kind of thing out before applying to 20-30 minis. Fuuuuuuck.

I may try scrubbing them a nit more with water to see how much of the matte varnish will come off the Future finish, but it’s encouraging that the worst of it can be fixed. Will I never learn?

 

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 10:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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Pandemonia

So here are all my demons, devils, and efreeti. Gargoyles, fire elementals, salamanders, and fire giants did not make the cut; nor did Cthulhu-type entities or angels. Still, probably enough to ruin a D&D party’s day.

demonomania

I think the majority have been featured in previous posts as they got painted, but I noticed a handful of Ral Partha demons and devils that could be touched up or repainted. Just making a head count I find:

  • 10 Grenadier
  • 2 Heritage
  • 15 Ral Partha (if we count the MageKnight knock-off and 2 Citadel/Ral Partha joint releases)
  • 1 TSR
  • 6 Metal Magic (MegaMinis recasts)
  • 1 RAFM
  • 8 Reaper
  • 1 WOTC
  • 4 WizKids (possibly knock-offs of other companies)
  • 6 scratch-built (larvae)
  • 10 plastic toys or board game pieces
  • 1 repurposed Christmas ornament

 

Published in: on January 6, 2017 at 7:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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The last of the devils and demons

lastdevilswip

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to paint any miniatures. But on New Year’s Day I had some free time and decided to finish up the devils and demons in my collection. As you can see in the picture, I have a Reaper Bones marilith, a Reaper Bones female devil, a Grenadier efreet, a Ral Partha “gremlin,” a demon or gargoyle of unknown vintage (recast in plastic by WizKids for Mage Knight), a Ral Partha efreet, and two Heritage avenging angels. Apart from an incomplete figure or two, and some Mega Minis figures that look more like random monsters than demons, those are the last of the demons & devils.

The marilith is still not done. But the rest are finished. I didn’t take quite as much time as I sometimes would, such was my enthusiasm to get a category of minis finished.

Apologies in advance for the image quality — new phone, too much gloss in the sealant, and still figureing out the flash.

First up, the efreeti. Actually these were both figures I painted decades ago but stripped to repaint a bit more aesthetically. The Grenadier efreet is the last version they made for the Tomb of Spells set (I vastly prefer the older sculpt based directly on Trampier’s illustration but this guy is ok). The Ral Partha efreet I purchased some time around 1983 when I was on a family vacation to Baltimore. The three things about that trip that stand out are visiting the aquarium, paddling around the harbor with my brother (where we found a number of dead seagulls floating on the waves), and the incredible hobby shop in the mall on the harbor that had glass cases filled with miniatures from every manufacturer I knew of and many I never heard of. Any money I had at the time was spent there. I’m not sure what other minis I might have bought but I recall my brother getting an ogre and troll made by Castle Creations. I used the efreet as a half-ogre for a while. (all photos, click to embiggen)

efreeti

Next up are a trio of devils. The crouching figure may or may not be an original sculpt for WizKids’Mage Knight line. The guy with the spear is a very old Ral Partha. I couldn’t figure out a way to straighten his spear without removing it entirely and replacing it so I left it alone. The female devil is by Reaper.

3devils

The avenging angels are pretty unusual. I couldn’t find any painted examples in my googling, and they may be fairly rare. They were made for the Knights & Magic line, and would have come in a blister pack with one each of an angel with a flaming sword (like these), a spear, and a bow. I picked these up second-hand from a toolbox full of old minis at hobby shop that has since gone out of business (or at least gone online-only — Spellbinder’s of Kent, Ohio). The odd thing was there were only two wings, and when began assembling them I realized they were both the right wing. So one angel has plastic wings clipped from a plastic toy bird (the neat rounded feathers on the right) while the other took some reconstruction. I bent one wing into shape and added some Liquid Nails to the top edges so they look more symmetrical. They almost look like they were meant to be this way. I love the raggedness of these wings too — it seems like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. (Actually, the bird-wings could be out of Brazil and the original wings out of The Fisher King, maybe).

angels1

Unrelated, but not appearing here before, I had a couple more minis that I painted over the summer and never photographed. They are a Reaper fire elemental and a very old Grenadier cleric. The cleric (who I always think of as Cedric the Cleric) lost his mace long ago and I replaced it with a somewhat oversized morningstar from the plastic Zvedza Orks kit.

clericandelemental1

Published in: on January 5, 2017 at 9:53 pm  Comments (3)  
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Repost: Old school figures part two: Minis on the web!

A longer version of this post originally appeared in 2010 but was in need of updating. I’m not completely done but here’s a start. Thanks to Anthony Emmel for bringing just how out of date this was to my attention!

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.

Heritage Models has a number of sites and yahoo groups devoted to it. There’s Dungeon Dwellers info, a great site for all things Dungeon Dwellers. 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 are several Heritage Yahoo groups, devoted to collecting the figures, providing documentation, and so on. Disciples of Heritage and the Heritage Models Reference groups are worth checking out. The collectors Yahoo groups for Ral Partha and Grenadier are great too.

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 25mm=6′. 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 last year 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. Another great site is the Blue Mule, which showcases well-loved and well-painted old figures. Silverblade’s Suitcase has a collection of very nice looking figures too, many of them very old. There is even one 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.

Center Stage is still getting off the ground but I have high hopes for their Swords & Wizardry line. Update: Center Stage had a disastrous and possibly fraudulent Kick Starter campaign that did the company in, but good news, the minis are being cast be Pacesetter Games.

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. 

Classic Miniatures is recasting many Heritage models, and also has a number of interesting things in the pipeline, including “Unreleased figures by Dave Sutherland III.” Update: Link broken; some classic Heritage and Archive recasts are available; check out the Disciples of Heritage yahoo group for info.

Games Figures Inc. is producing some Minifigs, some Heritage Models not owned by Classic Miniatures, and a few other ranges. Update: link broken; GFI apparently out of business. 😦

Ironwind Metals, which rose from the ashes of Ral Partha, is producing some of the old RP lines. Update: Ral Partha is more or less resurrected here.

Thunderbolt Mountain, Tom Meier’s company, is producing figures similar to his Ral Partha classics, but in a more “modern” 28mm scale. Update: also 30mm scale Arthurian stuff, and some true 25mm.

Mirliton, an Italian company, is producing some of the latest Grenadier lines, but sadly not the old Wizzards & Warriors/AD&D lines. Update: Some older Fantasy Lords and earlier models are in fact available.

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!

Next time, maybe some more revived  or old-school style lines? I wanted to add Barony Miniatures, Max Carr’s company which republished the Warlord rules and had a new line of medievals similar to his Heritage sculpts but the site is offline since the spring of 2016. 😦

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 9:23 am  Comments (3)  
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The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier

I have never backed a game-related Kickstarter campaign — I simply couldn’t afford to at times, and I also grew very cynical about how they’re used by amateurs and conmen.  But there is one that I am backing: Terence Gunn’s Kickstarter to publish a revised and expanded version of his book on Grenadier Models. I was never able to track down a print copy of the first edition, and was not interested in an ebook, so I’m really happy to see this KS launch. Technically this seems more like a pre-order system for a self-publisher, as he’s already done the writing and layout, or is pretty close to being done, from the activity I’ve seen on the Collecting Grenadier Models Yahoo group. If you look at the tag cloud over the right-hand sidebar, you’ll notice Grenadier is one of the most common topics of my posts. For years they were my favorite miniatures company. Such a shame they couldn’t bounce back from the lead scare of the 1990s.

In addition to photos of most if not all of the miniatures Grenadier Models produced, Mr. Gunn interviewed the people who founded and worked at the company, so this looks like it will be the reference for Grenadier Models.

 

 

Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Die Geburt Krampuskind

nat-der-kra-2

In just ten days, I believe, we’ll be celebrating the nativity of the Krampuskind. Left to right we see a manger animal (Reaper Miniatures), an angel (Ral Partha), Joseph (Heritage Models), the Krampuskind (Dollar Tree),  Mary and two magi (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 14, 2015 at 11:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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CIP for self-publishers

Did you ever open a book and notice that back of the title page has, probably beneath a copyright notice and a mailing address for the publisher*, a little block of text that says “Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data”? For those of us of a certain age the layout is familiar, as it is pretty much what you’d see on a catalog card from the pre-digital library catalog**. If fact it is there for exactly that reason: it give librarians a head up on how to classify the book, what the main subjects are, and it presents the author’s name in a form that will distinguish it from other similar names. So part of the function is that the cataloging in publication (CIP) provides an analog catalog record which can be copied into a library’s catalog. But CIP’s other function, when it come from the Library of Congress (of some other national library like Library & Archives Canada or the British National Library) is to tell librarians that this book is serious enough to have been submitted to the national library. (Actually they just submit a title page, table of contents and/or summary, and biographical info about the author, since the book may be unfinished. That’s why CIP doesn’t include the page count and other details you will find on an actual catalog record, and occasionally the title changes by the time of publication, and in some cases the subjects don’t really match the finished book.)  Getting CIP is a detail the big publishers bother themselves with because it makes sales to libraries that much easier, but it also demonstrates the publisher cares about details, and might have performed other traditional publishing roles like fact-checking, proofreading, and editorial review. Small presses and self-publishers might do all that too, but in my experience a lot of them don’t. Sadly getting CIP isn’t very easy for them either. The Library of Congress has some requirements about the number of books and authors published by a publisher before they will even be eligible for CIP, which effectively shut out self-publishers.

Naturally a number of companies are happy to fill this void, and they charge from $50-120 for the service. Of course most writers of fiction probably don’t need to bother with CIP, since the subject analysis and call number assignment of fiction is not a big issue for libraries. But nonfiction — especially nonfiction that the author thinks has some lasting value and would like to have preserved in a library — has a much better chance of getting into the libraries with CIP. I wouldn’t say it is as important as having an ISBN but it is on the same list of priorities. You can read more here, if you are interested in why CIP is important and how to get it. (The linked article mentions three companies that provide CIP for a fee. I’d also add Special Libraries Cataloging, Inc., to the list. The owner “Mac” Elrod has a fairly impeccable reputation.)

Anyway all this is a preamble to say that if you

  1. are self-publishing a book on RPGs, miniatures, or other topics likely relevant to this blog, and
  2. would like CIP as a small measure to help get your work into libraries

I’d be more than happy to provide CIP. I am professional cataloger, so I won’t screw it up too badly. And I’ll do it for free because I want to promote the hobby and the DIY community. Depending on response, I ought to be able to do this pretty quickly for you — quickly enough that it shouldn’t delay publication. All you need to do is send me

  • a mock up of what you title page will look like (front and back) — preferred title, author, and publisher place/name/date
  • a table of contents listing chapters or sections if that helps explain your content, and/or a summary, and
  • enough information about yourself that I can distinguish your name from others already in the national authority file (NAF)

See, I’m not asking for a free copy or anything like that — after all your book is presumably unpublished if you plan to add the CIP, right? I’d be doing this on my own time, not my library’s, so unless we do actually acquire a copy I can’t add your record online to WorldCat, nor can I actually add your name to the NAF if you don’t already have works in WorldCat or in my library like I do for books at my library; it will just be an email back with text to cut and paste onto your book’s title page verso (verso=back, recto=front, in bibspeak). Also I will be doing this from home, since it would not be kosher to use library resources for outside stuff. So it’s not exactly a guarantee of anything, you’re be getting what you pay for, etc., but it could help.

 

——–

*And perhaps a series of numbers like this: “15 14 13 12 11 10 09     10  9  8  7  6  5  4 3”, which printers use to note printing year and number; they just pull off the previous number, so in this case the first group of numbers might be the year and the second group the printing number, so here we see a 3rd printing made in 2009.  Other printers don’t bother with the year and list numbers out of order: “2 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 1”.  This is kind of dying out as printers no longer need to literally remove the numbers from the printing block, but for older books if you see a “1” in the sequence you know you have a first printing.

**Actually the CIP standard has recently been updated to match changes in cataloging rules and to be, theoretically, more web-friendly.

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Behold the elephant harpy!

As I often mention here, my day job is as a librarian, and I get to see a fair amount of interesting stuff because my library is a large public research library (i.e. we get specialist academic stuff and popular stuff).  So recently The world’s best loved art treasures  (ISBN 9780867198089, have your friendly local book store order it for you) crossed my desk and let me say it is a hoot. The artist (Click Mort, link goes to his web site) basically does what modeling & miniatures enthusiasts would call “conversions,” but instead of working with scale models, he “recapitates” ceramic figurines.  These examples probably explain what is going better than I can.

Elephant harpy : http://clickmort.com/available/elephant.html Image (c) Click Mort, used with permission.

Centaur as Envisioned by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass : http://clickmort.com/available/rankin.html ; image (c) Click Mort, used with permission.

 

There are more at his site, and the book has even more. It kind of makes me want to stop in more junk stores hunting for cheap ceramic figurines to create my own chimeras.

Anyway you’ll obviously need to use these in your next D&D game.

Elephant Harpy

HD 5 ; AC as Mail ; Mv. walk 12″/fly 24″ ; Attacks: 3 or 1 ; Dmg. d4/d4/d6 + special or d12

The elephant harpy is every bit as filthy and harridine* as a regular harpy, but with their vast shared memories they also hold eternal grudges. In fact, anyone who harms an elephant harpy will henceforth be the target of vengeance from all other elephant harpies. They attack by dropping objects on their victims for d12 damage (rocks if you’re lucky) or in close combat will rake with their two claws and grapple with the trunk. Anyone grappled will be carried aloft and dropped from some height. Elephant harpies will not go near rodents, for fear that rodents will climb into their trunks.

Rankin-Bass Centaurs

HD 2 ; AC as leather ; Mv. 18″ ; Attacks 1 ; dmg. d6

Said to be the result of the unnatural coupling of deer and hill giants, Rankin-Bass centaurs are the size of deer, but have humanoid heads that would better fit on a giant’s shoulders. Despite their apparent awkwardness, they are quite fleet and agile, and can leap great distances like an ordinary deer as well as move with stealth similar to a deer (surprise on a 1-4). They avoid combat when possible but can kick for d6. They can speak the local human languages as well as several woodland tongues (centaur, brownie, and dryad). They naturally attract normal deer and often herd with them. Rankin-Bass centaurs crave nothing so much as acceptance from humans and humanoids, but their disturbing visages, and horrid stench, make most civilized folk shun them. Some Rankin-Bass centaurs are accomplished druids and can cast with 7th level proficiency; these can be distinguished by their caps. A Rankin-Bass centaur may offer to accompany a party of adventurers in woodland adventures, but usually wear out their welcome by making annoying efforts to solicit compliments and praise. A scorned Rankin-Bass centaur may follow and harass adventurers with their spells (if a druid) or by simply alerting other woodland creatures and monsters to the party’s presence.

*********

*Bonus neologism: harridine = being harridan-like.

Published in: on June 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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