The torture chamber

I got these GFI recasts of Minifigs of some torture equipment a while ago and finally finished them.  I didn’t realize the rack was missing the spokes or handles that would turn the top roller until I began painting it.  I just added some with florist wire, so no problem.  (I never did check a reference photo to make sure this is what they’d look like; it’s possible there should just be one long arm rather than three short ones.)  Anyway they are the iron maiden I posted earlier; a rack; and a table with a cat-o-nine-tails, poker, and giant knife.


Here’s the denizens: an orc jailer by Ral Partha, a plastic WotC torturer, and an assortment of prisoners: two WotC prisoners, a Ral Partha victim from another set, and a plastic GW dwarf who has been securely bound by goblins.

torture-chamberThere are many more, much more lurid torture chamber furnishings and victims that Citadel sold back in the early 1980s.  [That link is NSFW, maybe!] I don’t know whether they were poor sellers or just garnered complaints but by the time the Armory (the major US distributor of fantasy miniatures) put out their big “Buyers Guide” catalog, they were listed as “out of production”.  Ral Partha had some similar stuff too — not quite as misogynist though.  As did Grenadier & Dragon Tooth.

So my question is: what’s up with this anyway?  Why were torture chambers such a big thing in early D&D figures?  Is it just the association of “dungeons” with imprisonment and medieval punishments, or something else?  Do you put torture chambers in your D&D dungeons?  I’m not sure if I ever have — if so it would have been in the context of some evil lord or mad scientist type wizard.  Do they have a place “random” dungeons or “mythic underworld” style megadungeons?

Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 8:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Devils, demons, and the mushroom king

A-june29groupThis weekend I finished up some guys I’d been working on intermittently.  I have just a few demons and devils left to paint now!

So first, a plastic miniature.  This was made by Wiz Kids for the MageKnight line, and is a copy of a Ral Partha sculpt.  Apparently Wiz Kids got a number of Ral Partha sculpts into its line, which I suppose was a consequence of RP going “out of business” after FASA bought them.

B-plastic-demon-1Left, a Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figure (he’ll be several of these pictures for scale).  Center, the Wiz Kids figure, and right, an original Ral Partha demon in lead.  He came in a set of three devils and you could choose from four heads for them.  The head he got seems like the most obvious choice (the others were much smaller horned heads and a goat-head).   Apart from having no integral base of his own, the plastic guy is a little smaller and his left hand is in a different position.  It’s harder to see here but their knees and legs are in slightly different positions too.  I’m not sure if there was actually a variant RP sculpt or if Wiz Kids just needed to alter him a little to fit into a mold (lead and metal figures are cast in soft rubber molds and can have a more complicated shape; plastic is usually cast from metal molds so the figure has to have no contours that would get caught in the mold).

The next guy is a really old Heritage devil, which was sold in a boxed set (as well as in blister, I think, in the Knights & Magick line).  I got mine second hand somewhere.

C-heritagedevil2I like the armor, which was uncommon in older devils, and the integral fire on his base.


Next up, a Ral Partha demon.  This guy was sculpted by Tom Meier, and released as a “Ral Partha Import” in the USA and as a Citadel miniature in the UK. With the whip and sword, he’s obviously referencing Tolkien’s Moria balrog.

E-rp-balrogHere he is next to a Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figure, for scale.


I have two of this casting.  One I bought ages ago; the other was given to me along with a bunch of other old lead and pewter minis, and is the one the one I finally painted here.

G-2-rp-demonsI kind of like the contrast here; sort of positive and negative.

You might be thinking, “yeah, but why would you want two balrogs?”  You’re right, of course.  You’d really want four to give a party a good challenge!

H-balrog-class-of-84Left to right, a Grenadier Type VI demon; the “gargoyle” from the HeroQuest Milton Bradley/Games Workshop game, and the two RP/Citadel demons.

I-2-grenadier-demonsThe last two demons are from the Grenadier “Action Art” Fantasy Fiends set.  I had them painted sort of randomly before, with greenish fur on one and grey on the other they didn’t really look like demons so much as mutant bears or something.

J-pack-of-gren-demonsI was lucky enough to get a third copy of this guy, heavily converted by Scottsz.  He added a tail, built up the nose and arms, and covered the weird ridge on its back with fur.  Here’s the backs:

K-pack-of-gren-demons-rThese three should be the stuff of nightmares.  Those claws would be 2 feet long in scale.

Now moving on from the demons, here’s a banshee made by Rafm.

L-rafm-bansheeAnd finally, I’m pleased to say the mushroom men finally have a leader.  No more directionless wandering and disorganized assaults on villages.  Behold the mushroom king!

M-mushroomking2He’s a Reaper mini, and nicely made with a lot of little details.

N-mushroomkingAgain for scale with a human.

And finally the grand procession of myconids:


Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm  Comments (3)  
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More figures

Here are a few minis I got around to painting recently.  Two mummies, three wraiths, a couple of cauldrons, an intellect devourer, a templar, and an enhanced troll!


Left, a Reaper, right, Metal Magic, recast by MegaMinis … kind of a blurry picture.

A Reaper mini (swapped out the standard with a sword), a peice from Trivial Pursuit: LotR, and a Metal Magic figure recast by MegaMinis

A Reaper mini (swapped out the standard with a sword), a peice from Trivial Pursuit: LotR, and a Metal Magic figure recast by MegaMinis


Same guys from behind


This Reaper figure was sold with a huge banner to hold, but I thought he’d see more use with just a sword. This sword is one of the extras I cast when I was making lots of Prince August castings from molds — I think the sword goes to an elf or barbarian; the molds might have the same sword actually.  I really like the little faces concealed in the folds and tears of the wraith’s cloak.  There’s one more on his back.


Grenadier intellect devourer. One of those minis they made WAY to big…the Monster Manual has them as very tiny; this guy is huge.


They made this guy way too big … he should be tiny, like 6″ long so in scale about 2 millimeters or less.


A Ral Partha clay golem


Lots of detail on the muscles, which doesn’t seem quite right to me, but very menacing!


A Citadel knight or paladin. He’s kind of grubby so I’d say he’s a knight Templar.



These are two wooden beads, which I think were meant to hold birthday cake-sized candles. The one of the right I tried to give a bigger mouth, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort.


This is my favorite though — a Grenadier troll that I gave a nose-job to. How regal! How noble! All trolls need longer honkers.

My unmodified version of this figure is here.

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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Frost giants

I think I like frost giants more than any type of giant, even fire giants, probably because of the D’Aulaires’ Norse mythology books I read over and over in elementary school.

I painted the first three guys recently.  Left to right, a Ral Partha, Citadel, Grenadier, and another Ral Partha.

The last one I painted blue a long time ago, and repainted a few years ago, before the other three.

The first RP giant may be the first giant I ever acquired.  When I was a kid, there was a hobby shop in the “Berlin Farmer’s Market” (a sort of flea market/outlet mall, about 10 miles from my house when I was a kid, and the destination of one epic hike/bike ride for me, my brother, and a friend some time around 1983) which had tons of Ral Partha, Minifigs, and Heritage Models in their front window, and I found him there.  I was amazed at the time by the level of detail in RP stuff.

The three recently painted guys all have dead, white eyes.

The Grenadier giant was originally painted in a regular European flesh tone, with a black beard… I wanted him to be generic enough to be any kind of giant, I guess.  I like him much more now.  There was also a very similar version with s hammer instead of an axe.  The axe on mine was broken in the blister I bought — I actually assumed it was made that way to be assembled, but when I opened it up I realized it had just broken in the package. The repair I did here extended the axe’s haft a little, and unfortunately I didn’t realize how bent it was until I was finished gluing and pinning it.

The Citadel giant was a ‘donation’ that I took some time to identify, as he was replaced in Citadel’s catalog by a much ‘better’ Tom Meier sculpt when he visited England and did some work for Citadel.

The second RP mini has always been another favorite.  The mace-and-chain weapon, and the pose (he looks ready to charge head-first), make him look very menacing for a smaller giant.  I would be tempted to repaint him more in the style and palette of the other three, but there is nothing wrong with his current paint job, so he’ll just be a slightly different-looking member of the tribe, or maybe a visiting cousin. <Update: He’s the “Hecatron giant” according to the RP catalogs, so I guess I just made him a frost giant because of the horned helmet or something.>

Published in: on January 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm  Comments (3)  
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Ice trolls

Dennis Mize did some amazing sculpts back in the later 70s/early 80s. These trolls are from the Children of the night line.  I have to admit I’m not a fan of Mize’s later work, especially for the Personalities line in the 1990s and the AD&D line.  Those monsters are still nice but the humans look awful, IMO.  Big stupid hair and stiff poses.

Anyway my original two trolls were supplemented by several donations to the Galloway Memorial Home (thanks Khazan!), and I decided to strip them all and repaint them as ice trolls.

Ice trolls

I think the simple layers of drybrushing show off the excellent detail of these rangey ape-like trolls.  The next picture with the flash turned on gives a better sense of their blue & white coloring.

Published in: on December 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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Call him MISTER Daggins!

Jeff Rients mentioned a halfling NPC he made up, named Mr. Daggins, and who got really angry when asked what his first was.

I have a lot of halfling minis and have not been very avid about painting them, mainly because they mostly look like thieves or archers and if you have a mini with a short sword, a bow, and a sling you have covered ever halfling PC your likely to see in any D&D game, at least from AD&D onward.

But in my Basic D&D game, there have been two halfling PCs who are decked out in plate armor and kick butt in hand to hand as well as shooting.  Time to dig out the old Grenadier halfling set, which had one with mail, shield, and a sword.  Sure he looked like a Time Bandits midget more than a halfling, like all of Andy Chernak’s early halfling sculpts, but he’s ok.

In fact the Grenadier halfling has been sitting next to the gnome on my work desk, next to a Ral Partha gnome someone gave me last summer.  They have been waiting to be finished over a year!  Well, at least the gnome is done, and his full helm makes him suitable for a B/X halfling.  Behold, MR. DAGGINS –(actually, I guess he’ll most likely be Quinly in my game).

His sheild has a badger or fox face on it (I painted it as a fox, but could have done better if I took my time).

The base he’s on is 20mm wide, so this mini is about 16 mm tall — barely up to most minis’ waists.  But he looks like a badass, doesn’t he?

It took me almost a year to get him done, just because I have been painting so infrequently until the last couple weeks.

Here’s a few gargoyles (from the TSR Dragonstrike! game) I did the other night too.

Can’t wait to use them as scenery, over and over, until the players stop noticing them, then…BAM!

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  
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The otyugh: what an offal monster

The otyugh is one of those D&D monsters that doesn’t come from folklore, literature, or any identifiable source other than Gary Gygax’s imagination.*  The Monster Manual doesn’t give any indication of their coloring, but given their habitat of offal, refuse, and dung, I’m thinking brown or red-brown.

So here’s a sort of step-by-step guide to how I painted mine.  The minis I had were two Grenadier Otyughs (one I’ve had since the 1980s and another Scottsz gave me); a TSR neo-otyugh (purchased very cheaply at Origins 2006); and a TSR Otyugh (also a gift from Scottsz).

1. Sprayed with grey primer.

2. Painted with somewhat thinned Burnt Umber craft paint (I use Ceramcoat mostly).

3. Dry brushed with a mix of white and burnt umber.

4. This is where I got sloppy and stopped photographing each step.  I painted their eyes, mouths, and bases black, and then dry-brushed their tentacles a mix of pink and (Caucasian) flesh.  Then I gave the tentacles a wash of thinned down Citadel red ink.  (I bought a set of their inks in about 1989 at NeoVention.  I don’t use them that often and still have them.  They never dried out!)

5. The finished minis.  I painted white eyes, spines, teeth, and claws, and inked the edges of the mouths red, and gave the neo-otyugh a pink tongue.  In hindsight maybe a little yellow would have enhanced the teeth.  I don’t think they actually brush or floss.

Having two Grenadier otyughs let me use one as a ‘rough draft’ while figuring out the paint scheme.



*There was some speculation, maybe at Dragonsfoot or some blog, that the otyugh was partly inspired by the ‘garbage disposal monster’ in the first Star Wars movie.

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  
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The ones that got away

The only pic I could find of the original Mithril Beorn (center)

Having, as I do, more minis than I can really finish painting in the foreseeable future (especially at my current rate of zero per month), it’s pretty stupid that I still think wistfully, once in a while, of the minis I’ve lost, traded away, or had stolen over the years. (All pictures from the interwebs, obviously.  Re-posted after much crap from WordPress, which prefers to merge all the pictures for some reason)

Lost: This was the largest loss, although it must have been a good dozen, maybe 14 years ago!  We were playing a GURPS campaign set in Norman England, which was a fairly long and involved game.  We usually played at a friend’s house as my brother & I were living in a crummy apartment.  I knew a large battle was imminent, so I brought a large number of Vikings and knights (mostly Ral Partha, Grenadier, and Citadel mins, several Mithril LotR figures, plus some plastics from HeroQuest and a Battlemasters set) as well the minis we’d been using for the PCs.  We used them to play out a skirmish-sized portion of the larger battle, and another battle next time seemed likely, so I put them back into a pair of tackle boxes and then into the paper grocery bag I’d brought them in.  The ‘gaming room’ was a finished attic our friend used mostly for gaming, and which was usually undisturbed from one game night to the next.  Not this time.  The best I can guess, another player had placed some garbage from the game (pretzel bags, etc.) in the same bag, on top of my minis boxes, and then he or the homeowner’s wife threw the lot out in the trash.  I was really bummed by the fact that the minis I’d brought had been carefully selected to represent some of my better paint jobs and also by the lack of remorse on the part of the player and his wife.  Even a simple “I’m sorry about that” would have been nice.  I know now I shouldn’t leave stuff at other people’s houses, but I think they can’t possibly have realized how much work went into those forty or so minis.

A Citadel berserker. I painted tattoos on mine.

A (very small) barbarian from an early Ral Partha boxed set.

The barbarian from HeroQuest — the second best mini in the game after the dwarf

The Mithril figures were from their first Middle Earth line, and I can’t even find good pictures of them now online.  There was “Woodman” and a Beorn for sure, and maybe a few others.

Another smaller loss occurred when I was carrying a box of minis home from a game at my brother’s house a few years later, and dropped them on the sidewalk in front of my apartment.  They were mostly giants and trolls and several broke into pieces. It was dark and I figured I’d find the remaining loose bits and pieces in the morning.  But it snowed that morning (a good several inches) and there was off and on snow for several weeks before I saw the pavement again, and who knows what got shoveled away then.

Thirdly there are a number of individual minis I remember owning but just can’t find anywhere.  Maybe they broke at some point and I tossed them, or perhaps a few were melted down in my brief frenzy of home-casting with Prince August molds?  A Heritage Black pudding, several Grenadier skeletons, and a few TSR fighters fall into this category.  (I’m sure I didn’t melt down any monsters though… but I do remember melting down some of the TSR minis.)

Traded: I feel much less bad about giving up some of my minis in trades with friends, way back in the mid-1980s when I was still a kid.  I know I traded away a Grenadier beholder, but that is the only one that really stands out.  I know I reasoned at the time that I wouldn’t encounter one in D&D and whatever I traded it for must have been cool!

Picture from the Lost Minis Wiki

Stolen: These are the ones that really hurt, and actually happened way back in 1982 or 3, before I was even painting and when I had only begun collecting minis.  Some of my brother’s friends had come over and looked over my figures — I am sure we didn’t actually play D&D that day — and several figures were mysteriously gone.  The one I missed the most was a lich blowing a ram’s horn from the Grenadier “Monsters” box.  Man, that one was awesome.

Image from the Lost Minis Wiki

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm  Comments (10)  
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In the Telengard setting, “monsters” generally belong to none of the natural animal types.  A Greek chimera is neither mammal nor reptile, and a Cockatrice is neither bird nor reptile, and an owlbear is neither mammal nor bird.  I try to conceive of other monsters breaking biological “rules.”

For example, there are green skinned orcs.  They are green because of chlorophyll.  You’d think a creature hat can make its own food from the sunlight would be peaceful and live in the sun.  But orcs shun sunlight and are warlike.  Why?  Because they glut themselves on flesh and blood for food.  Exposure to sunlight in the typical orc’s normal state (with a belly full of indeterminate meat) can cause acute hyperglycemia.  They suffer in sunlight and seek dark places.  Blood is an intoxicating beverage to orcs, exactly as mead is to Vikings.  (In fact there are said to be peaceful green orcs on the steppes to the southeast, who live on photosynthesis.  Scholars dispute this.)  Not all orcs are green, though.  There are many colors of orcs.

Another example of a monster in Telengard is the Grue.  They are like amphibians in some ways, but can actually absorb nutrients from damp soil and rocks.  This feeding by osmosis is very unsatisfactory for them, though, and a Grue that feeds exclusively in this manner will grow emaciated.  They much prefer the flesh of intelligent creatures, especially adventurers and hirelings.  They are killed by sunlight and injured by starlight and moonlight.  Torches and light spells annoy them but do no harm.  I use a Ral Partha “Well drakken” to represent a grue (image from Lost Minis Wiki; mine is painted dark brown with grey hair and white claws, but I intend to repaint him.)

Because he was sold as a “well drakken,” I always imagined this guy hiding inside a well.  I imagined him waiting for years for victims to stumble near enough to snatch in his huge claws.  The sad Muppet face only adds to the horror.  I love this mini.

Anyway grues can live indefinitely in a hermetically sealed dungeon, and fill this niche of “no-maintenance monsters”  as well as undead creatures,  living statues, and other D&D standards do.

Published in: on March 27, 2011 at 1:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Trolls three

Some time ago I was going to repaint a few old troll figures.  On my vacation a couple of weeks ago to Pennsylvania, I took along a toolbox of paints of figs and got them done, along with some henchmen.  Before I stripped them, they looked like this. (The Minifigs troll was finished much sooner and posted here.)

Here are the Citadel, Ral Partha, and Grenadier trolls as I re-painted them:

The Citadel figure on the left was sold as “Ral Partha Import” back when RP was importing Citadel figures.  (I didn’t realize these were Citadel figures until quite a bit later, and had been shocked that the Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition book had so many “Ral Partha” figures in it!  I thought, “Wow, they are showing other companies’ minis!  Maybe they are aren’t a soulless machine.”  But of course even though they had Tom Meier sculpt a number of trolls for them — not including this one — Citadel would never show another manufacturer’s minis. ) (more…)

Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (3)  
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