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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Another mystery mini (solved)

A friend of mine was recently gifted a nice cache of old-school minis — mostly Grenadier AD&D stuff, with a handful of Heritage Dungeon Dwellers and Ral Partha. Apart from a detached set of wings, the only one we could identify is below. I have only seen this photo so I can’t say if there are base markings of any kind but it looks like an old Citadel figure to me. (That’s the bottom half of another figure behind her, not a cape btw!)

Mystery mini

I couldn’t find anything quite like her in the Armory’s Guide to Fantasy Miniatures (all the other figures dated to the early 1980’s so it seemed like a possibility). The Lost Minis Wiki and Collecting Citadel Miniatures didn’t turn up any thing either. Early Ral Partha seemed like a possibility too, or perhaps something from Asgard or Castle Creations — the details are very “Sword & Sorcery” to my eyes, and the sculpting is a little primitive.

Update: A list minute look at Grenadier’s Wizzards and Warriors line provided the solution! It’s from Grenadier W11, Female Adventurers. That last bit I wrote about the base made me reconsider and think “that sure looks like a Grenadier base.” Bingo.

As an aside, the Wizzards & Warriors line was a very uneven range. Many were repackaged as the AD&D line, some were revived after the AD&D license was lost, and some are converted picked from the older ancients & medievals ranges. A number of them were modified or re-sculpted repeatedly, perhaps because Andy Chernack was getting better at sculpting, had ideas from improvements, or perhaps to have them cast more reliably. I am struck by the clear lineages for example the “Sorcerer with horn” clearly was redone as the Liche with horn (and the detail of the horn retained)  and the W&W ghoul was converted to the kneeling AD&D pose. The very early vampire was eventually redone with much more detail too. It’s fascinating to see Chernack evolve as an artist, while sticking to the original designs.

Published in: on January 13, 2017 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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Troggs

Back in the early 1970s when Gygax and his buddies were improvising fantasy miniatures for their wargames and proto-D&D, plastic caveman figures stood in for ogres. Various toy companies had sets of prehistoric animals like saber-tooth tigers and mammoths that came with a handful of cavemen figures (to be their hunters, or prey, I guess). I remember my brother & I having a few cavemen that came in a set with dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals when we were kids, so it was a kick to find, among the DFC minis and knock-offs, several knock-offs of (I believe) the old Marx cavemen figures — including several I recognized from my childhood.

They are pretty similar in height the TOYCO “barbarians” or “giants” or whatever they are (like some of the other TOYCO figures, they are not really knock-offs of the DFC line at all).

Toyco-giants

So I thought they should all get a similar paint job to form a small clan.

not-marx-cavemen

None appeared to be female, although the stout one with a spear might be a child. In fact I may use more for juvenile giants than as ogres, since ogres in D&D have been getting steadily larger and broader. Really with scale creep these guys are only 7-9 feet tall at the most, compared to other figures. Interestingly they are almost exactly the size of the Grenadier AD&D hill giants that came in a blister pack. I have an extra rock-lobber from that set so I painted him in the same group too.

hill-giant-and-cavemen

Here are all four of my Grenadier “Giants” (I just realized they never actually said they were Hill Giants on the packaging. Still they are small and cave-man like, so Hill Giants seem to be the intent.)

hill-giantsI’ll probably re-base the ones on square grassy bases like the newer guy.

The Marx knock-offs were made in a waxy plastic of various colors — including orange, silver, and black — which reminds me off some plastic figures made in former Soviet republics that flooded the 1/72 scale market a few years back.  A few had bases but some did not, so I had to plant them in epoxy putty to get them to stand. All are on bases about an inch across. Larger sized bases, like the ones most of my giants and ogres are on, seemed too big.

cave-man-clan

Anyway, when my thoughts turned to what they’d be in AD&D terms, I looked through the monster manuals and noticed a relative dearth of 8 foot cavemen. The closest thing seemed to be Verbeegs, though by second edition they approach 10 feet tall. However they are barbaric and described as “unusually thin” for their height. The cavemen certainly are thin compared to regular D&D minis, since these guys use human proportions rather than the cartoony proportions that most D&D and fantasy figures have. (Even Tom Meier’s sculpts for Ral Partha, which are unusually realistic, have noticeably over-sized hands and heads; most other sculptors have totally given up on realism in favor of the convention that features be exaggerated to make up for the small scale.) The illustrations for Verbeegs are barrel-chested, though some descriptions of Vergbeegs in later editions of D&D modify the descriptions to either downplay their thinness or explain the look by saying they wear multiple layers of furs and clothes, perhaps to hide their slimness.

Cyclopskin would be another reasonable option, but I have other small cyclopes and didn’t want to alter these guys too much. So under-dressed Verbeegs they will be. Or I’ll just stat them up as oversized Neanderthals, or “Troggs”:

Troggs

Mv: 12″; AC: as leather + shield; HD: 4+4; Dam: d10 or by weapon; Save: as F5

Troggs are large cave dwellers, perhaps distantly related to humans. Their material culture is very primitive, and they wear only furs and skins. Some wear decorations like animal teeth or other trophies strung on sinew. They make crude weapons, such as clubs, axes, and spears. These generally do d6 damage, plus 4 for their great strength.  Alternatively they throw rocks for d10 damage at a range of up to 120 feet. They live in clans of 2d6 members; d8x10% will be juveniles (2 HD). The womenfolk usually are armed with flint knives which cause d4 damage, plus 4 for their great strength. Each clan has a leader with 7 HD and who saves as 7th level fighter. One clan in four will have a shaman who casts spells as 5th level druid and saves as 5th level cleric. One clan in six will also have a champion who has maximum HP and fights and saves as a 7th level fighter. They are not necessarily man-eaters but tend to be surly and easily provoked to fight or flight. They fear elves and will attempt to flee from them, but if forced to fight will focus their attacks on them if there are non-elves also fighting. They hate ogres and attack them on sight. Their treasure is usually negligible but some clans  will have a magic item or book that they consider a sacred talisman (50& chance of each). They will not willing part with such a talisman unless offered something spectacular (to their primitive minds) in trade.

troggs

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Quick minis update

I took the day off to see an assembly at my kid’s school and get some chores done, and while I was waiting on the laundry I painted a Reaper Bones mini, probably as quickly as I’ve painted a mini (well not counting assembly-line painting of armies or 1/72 plastics which I mostly don’t shade or highlight). The mini has pretty shoddy detail, really, and I decided to cut off the goatee on the sculpt and paint him as a half-orc, as I’m playing a half-orc ranger in a very occasional 3.5e game with my brother-in-law and his friends. I also finished up a mage, which I’d been meaning to use for a PC in a now-defunct campaign.

wr-fronts

The ranger’s mail was just a plain undergarment with no texture, but I used some of the Heritage “Chainmail” paint I acquired a while back and the little flakes of metallic whatever made even the plain surface look reasonably close to mail. I really need to try it more. The milky stuff on the ranger’s base is varnish which isn’t quite dry. I’m hoping it will eventually dry clear.

And from behind:

wr-backs

The keys to making this one a super-fast paint job were: 1) not priming at all (Reaper claims you don’t need to prime Bones plastic minis; I found that the paint rubbed off pretty easily before sealing); 2) keeping the color scheme simple; 3) combining shading and lining by using a thick black wash to line the boundary areas and pulling it into the deeper crevices for shadow; 4) just adding white to the base colors and highlighting very heavily, since I wanted a weather-beaten look anyway for the ranger. The mage has more traditionally subtle shades and highlights but at arm’s length the ranger looks more striking to me. The mage is a Ral Partha; I’m not sure which line or date but he was definitely in lead, not zinc (er, “Ralidium”). I think he is probably a Julie Guthrie sculpt.

Also, I finished painting Orcus some time ago and forgot to photograph him:

Orcus

He’s a late Grenadier sculpt, but still in line with the 1e version as opposed to the muscle-bound 3e/4e version. I’m still not sure about the eyes, but the sculpt has really deep pupil slits and showing whites made him look bug-eyed, so I guess this will be it.

Published in: on March 27, 2015 at 7:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Treasure

treasures1

Treasure chest miniatures are usually worth using, but I am not so sure about loose piles of treasure.  The problem is that usually show some explicit items — swords, helmets, scrolls, whatever — and your literal-minded players (who have perhaps been conditioned/spoiled by the fact that I often can throw out a mini that exactly mirrors what I described) assume that they are there in the treasure.  Even so, I have acquired or made some loose piles for variety.

Here’s a pretty humble treasure pile, I think from Reaper:

reaper-treasure-pile

Here are a couple of loose piles of gold coins (in this case glitter) with some random objects.

glitter

On the left, a crude scroll made of paper, a buckler from a 1/72 Italieri Saracen, a sword from a Rafm customizable fighter kit, and a tiny twig standing in for a magic wand. On the right, a wooden bead “urn”, a plastic Skaven shield, the helm from an MPC AD&D orc, another wand, and a pebble. The coins are gold glitter.

Next up some gold bars.

bars

These came in a Grenadier Champions set, but the pile of gold bars mini was in production for a really long time — all the way back to their Wizzards & Warriors days, at least.

These chests see a fair amount of use. The one on the far right was the “open” chest from the Grenadier AD&D Thieves set, but for reasons I can barely fathom now, I closed the chest, filing off the treasure that was in it.  For a while the chest was part of a portable war altar for a Warhammer army. The other two chests are plastic pieces from a “Weapons & Warriors” game.

chests

The big hoard of gold is another plastic piece from the MPC AD&D set. It is a pretty accurate but scaled down copy of the treasure pile that the Grenadier dragon lair had.

hoard

Lastly, a pair of golden urns and a pretty bitchen dragon idol, both scratch built by a friend I haven’t heard from in a while. (I hope all is well, Scottsz!)

idol+urns

I dig the candles on the idol quite a bit. The urns are wooden beads, and the dragon idol appears to be some wooden blocks with a tiny metal dragon on it. I’m guessing he used Testors enamel paint to get that smooth, shiny gold effect.

Published in: on March 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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Studies in red and green

Over the long MLK weekend I managed to get a little painting in. I’ve been kind of torn between prioritizing adventurers and monsters.  Although I have a fair number of player character types painted, we always end up using the same dozen or so for every campaign — there is a particular shortage of human rogues, rangers, druids, and bards, as well as demihumans other than dwarf fighters and elf archers. But then again we use a lot of different monsters and I get a sad sort of feeling of accomplishment when all of a given type of monster have finally been painted, sorted, and placed in a labeled box. (There might be meds that would help with that.)

Anyway for some reason I kept to a palette of mostly greens and reds for this last set.

Four adventurers: a gnome mage, a halfling fighter, a human thief, and a human bard.

adventurers-gr

The gnome is Ral Partha, the halfling Grenadier — one of my oldest minis in terms of how long I’ve owned it. My brother & I bought the Grenadier AD&D halflings and dwarfs boxes back in 1981 or so. The gnome is a much more recent acquisition — it was among those sent to me by someone looking for a better home for their old lead.

gnomenhalfling

The thief is also Grenadier. Now that I see the pic enlarged I see he needs some eyelids — though I guess he could just have hyperthyroidism, or surprised.  He’s one of the minis I rehabbed a while back.

thiefwpole

Lastly, the Groo the Wanderer “Minstrel” mini from Dark Horse. I didn’t get the color scheme quite right (his hat should be entirely yellow and the bells and belt gold) but I am happy with him. I traded for this guy though I forget from whom. 😦  I love Sergio Aragone’s work in Mad Magazine but never read the Groo comics. I still have one other Groo mini — a wizard — that I am holding onto for a former player. He left it at my place several years ago, and I rarely bump into him any more.

bard-1

Lastly, two demons — a Metal Magic succubus (actually a MegaMinis re-cast from their monsters box set) and a Reaper imp.  The imp is probably mini-me to the D&D 4th edition version of Orcus (link goes to an image in someone’s Photobucket — I think it is actually art from a module cover?), what with his mini Wand of Orcus.  FWIW I prefer the older version of Orcus, bloated, grey, and decadent, to the new buff generic demon with goat horns, but that’s me.  The succubus unfortunately has a flattened nose — either from falling face-down at some point or just an imperfection in them old. So to compensate I painted her face to suggest overdone make-up and draw attention to the eyes. NSFW if you work in a fairly puritanical environment.

sucubusandimp

jjj

Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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