The skeleton crew

Still anticipating a swashbuckling game some time in the future, I painted all the undead pirates I picked up on clearance a few years ago and a couple of ghosts someone sent me gratis (Thanks Scottsz!). I spent a little less time than usual painting these, knowing that they would not see a ton of use and having so many to get through. A nice dark wash cures many sins and makes the undead look suitably grotty, though I regret some of the hamfisted highlighting I added on the bones which came out too heavy and covered too much of the shading.

 

Mostly Reaper, except for one stray Citadel plastic skeleton from the 1990s. The one in the red coat was painted some time ago but I added a little detailing on his coat now that I have a better sense of how the cuffs and lining can contrast with the rest. The two zombies and the plastic skeleton got a rust effect on their weapons (orange and brown mixed into the silver) but I wasn’t completely happy with it and did not do this to the others.

These guys were a lot of fun. The violinist was a musician for some fantasy army but makes perfect sense to me for a ghost ship. The jolly spirits are Rafm. The skeletons, Reaper.

Last yet more Reapers. The one on the far left has no jawbone, which makes skeletons so much more creepy IMO. The guy in the blue coat behind him is not shown at a very flattering angle but he has a crow perched on his shoulder and his face came out pretty good, honest.

Some day all the pirates and swashbucklers will get better basing — maybe sand or if I get ambitious, wooden planking to suggest a deck. I also thought about adding seaweed draped over some of them but haven’t thought of a good way to accomplish that.

Published in: on April 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Christmas ghost stories, 2015 edition

I recently  read Ghosts : a natural history by Roger Clarke. For the record it is much less a natural history than a social history, and it really only covers the last 300 years and mostly in England. Clarke tries to be impartial but admits that he is fascinated by hauntings and seems to want, pretty strongly, to believe in ghosts. But I did find some really neat, perhaps gameable tidbits: (1) The ancient Greek taxonomy of ghosts; (2) the modern occultist taxonomy of spirits; (3) medieval lore on the color of ghosts; (4) what ghosts most fear.

  1. The Greeks believed in the mutilated dead who haunted battlefields (the biaiothanatoi, or the souls of those who dies violently); plaintive spirits of children and babies (aôroi) ; wandering spirits of those who were not properly buried (ataphoi); and the spiteful spirits of those who never married (agamoi).*
  2. Modern occultists apparently prefer the taxonomy developed by Peter Underwood, which has:
    Elementals (primitive spirits that haunt a location, often pagan fairy-folk, or demons connected to black magic or Satanism)
    Poltergeists (spirits that cause noises and pranks, often hurling objects at people which land so softly they cause no injury, associated especially with pubescent children)
    Traditional or historic ghosts (the souls of the dead which interact with the living)
    Mental imprint manifestations (a residual effect of powerful emotions, often repeating some action like closing a door or crossing a room like a loop of film)
    Crisis or Death-survival apparitions (the appearance of someone you know well or are bonded with, when they are either dying or facing a deadly ordeal)
    Time slips (a sort of flashback, where a whole ghostly setting is experienced; time slips were a bit of a fad from 1911-1915 but are otherwise very rare)
    Ghosts of the living (appearances of people who are alive, most often seen by people in the twilight between waking and sleep)
    Haunted objects (beds, chairs, weapons, or jewels that have ghostly phenomena connected to them)
    Underwood’s list omits the ghosts of animals, of which Clarke provides a few examples.
  3. Ghosts, to the medieval mind, must be the souls of those not in heaven (for why would they ever leave) or hell (who cannot escape), which is to say the souls of people in Purgatory. Therefore they are still expiating their sins and so they appear in various shades from black (for the most recently dead, still stained by sin) to white (for those nearly finished with Purgatory and nearly unblemished by sin). Of course Protestants would have to therefore deny that ghosts are possible, for there is no Purgatory in their doctrine. Any “ghost” must be a demon.
  4. Finally Clarke notes that exorcists held that the threat of banishment to the Red Sea was the most fearful threat one could make to a ghost (or a demon pretending to be a ghost). Clarke admits he has no idea why this is so, which is surprising. The legend of Solomon using a magic ring or seal to control djinn should be familiar to anyone who has researched magic beliefs. Solomon supposedly sealed the djinn in bottles and dumped them the Red Sea, where they have mostly languished since.

 

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*A pretty decent overview of ancient ghost beliefs is here.

 

Published in: on December 13, 2015 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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St. Pancratius of Wil, death knight

St. Pancratius of Wil, death knight.  Click to embiggen!

St. Pancratius of Wil. Click to embiggen!

I just picked up a copy of Heavenly Bodies: cult treasures & spectacular saints from the catacombs.  It’s a book with tons of photos of bejeweled and bedazzled relics from across Europe.  Some are reclining or posed like St. Pancratius above (& he’s pretty conservative, just being in fancy armor); others are just lying in jumbled ruins but heaped with gems and gold.   A lot of them have rather disturbing facial features added to the skulls in wax, as well as life-like glass eyes, and others are veiled in gauze, giving them a doll-like aspect.

This St. Pancratius was, apparently, originally buried in Roman legionary armor, but when his relics were translated (moved from a tomb or crypt to a shrine or altar), he was decked out in the latest parade armor.  I couldn’t easily find any more on him — there are two other early martyrs but neither is in Switzerland, as this one is.  More on the book here ; even more photos here.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 9:47 pm  Comments (3)  
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Favorite monster, undead

Back when I first got to look inside the Monster Manual (the guys my brother & I started playing with never let us look inside the DMG and MM, rat bastards) my favorite monsters were skeletons.

I’d always been into drawing skeletons since I was a kid, and Jason & the Argonauts was one of my favorite movies, in fairly heavy rotation on UHF.  When I found the lich, I liked them a lot too — here’s the king of the damn skeletons!

Doesn’t hurt that they’re one of the tougher monsters too, with the magic use and all.

But now that I’m DMing, I find that I actually like ghouls and ghasts more.  They are terrifying with their paralyzation attack and multiple attacks.  In my current campaign, the very first session had a TPK when the party stumbled onto a ghoul.  Almost two years later, there was near-TPK (one survivor) in a series of encounters ending with a handful few ghasts.  Ghouls and ghasts in numbers are a threat to any party, at least as far as my group has gotten.  Plus I painted some nice figures for them.

ghoulsandghastsBut my players have characters around 7th level, so even ghasts are less of a challenge.  The next logical step is a wights.  I wish had more wights.

wights

Oh wait, I might have enough…

morlocks1

Published in: on September 15, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Saturday craft time!

We did nothing today — nothing ‘productive’ anyway.  My wife did some sewing; my daughter did some painting, math workbooks, knitting, and watched an episode of Scooby Doo; I painted some minis.  We try to have ‘family craft time’ once a week, especially in the winter when we’re stuck inside anyway. Since my wife was a little under the weather we scrapped some major housecleaning plans and took it easy.  Craft time sprawled on and on, with breaks for lunch, laundry, and making pizza for dinner. Nothing recharges the batteries like spending time together making stuff.  Here’s what I painted:

Two Heritage “Knights & Magick” knights.

These two were painted fairly simply back about 1983.  The one with the sword my brother & I thought of as ‘Lancelot’ for reasons I can no longer place.  I was terribly frustrated with how I painted him, and tossed this mini in the brush water (I was about 11 then!) and when I remembered him later and took him out, somehow the ambient paint left him ‘stained’ with a very heavy black/green wash, that actually looked pretty good.  But not good enough that I didn’t strip him, like most of the K&M knights. The mace-man would make a good cleric if you overlook the sword hanging from his belt.

I also took some cheapo plastics and made some monsters.  One is a knight from a ‘Dollar Store’ set (the same one that provided the statues in a prior post).  This guy had a shield on a deformed, short arm, and I cut that off and transplanted a second mace.  As his helm has no eye slits, I thought he might make a good automaton or Iron Golem.  A knight is next to him for scale.  He’s mounted on a big washer for stability.

Lastly, I picked up a bag of skeleton warriors on Amazon to round out a purchase.  They are not great but are a step up from the Dollar Store crap.  There were six poses, and I did not use the ‘archer’.  I just painted one of each of four poses; I made do more some time, or save them to fight those dollar store knights.  A wash of burnt umber is practically all they need, but I went a few steps further and painted them completely.  Here are three of the poses:

The axeman and spearman both look very Egyptian, in terms of their weapons and shield, although all of the figures have a lot of extraneous skulls decorating them.  Here’s the spearman from the back:

The other two poses I used are more medieval:

The only conversion I did was to bend the flailman’s hand so that his flail is in a more natural position.  I did this by heating the arm with a lighter and bending when the plastic looked a little shiny (before it actually melts or bursts into flame!).  You can also submerge plastics in boiling water and then reposition them, but this was easier for just one figure.  For scale, here’s the flailman about to smash a knight:

Lastly here’s a skeleon, before and after:

These skeletons would be undead giants, obviously.  I like that some look kind of Egyptian…they will fit in as guardians of ancient tombs or ruins, and provide an option other than mummies as the big bads in a pyramid.

I also began work on repainting 30 or so Citadel snotlings.  They’ll see action in Telengard soon, I think.

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm  Comments (3)  
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Ghouls and ghasts and an undead troll

The first ghoul figure I ever owned came in the old Grenadier dungeon monster set. (All images embiggenable by clicking)

The eyebrows are a little over the top, but old Grenadier like this always reminds of the Trampier and Sutherland illustrations in the Monster Manual.  Here he is again with a later Grenadier ghoul (Dragon Lords monsters of folklore set) and the Metal Magic ghoul recast by Megaminis:

The bestial ghoul on the left and the bone-wielding ghoul seem like ancestors of the later Reaper figures.  Here is a set of ghouls generously donated to the Galloway Memorial Home for Convalescent and Wayward Minis.  They were made by Reaper:

I think the big guy on the left is a ghast, or at least a boss ghoul!

Reaper made a second set (different sculptor, probably) that is more bestial and naked, again armed with bones:

Again there is an obvious boss and two lesser ghouls.

Ghouls are great monsters because in D&D they really are very scary for lower level characters, since they make three attacks and their touch paralyzes.  A large number of ghouls poses a threat even to mid and high level characters, especially if they are fortified with ghasts or thouls.

Nom nom nom nom…

Lastly, an undead troll which I think was made was Rafm?

The bone paw on the ground there is an actual rodent skeleton part from an owl pellet I found in my parent’s back yard a long time ago.  I’m thinking it was a mole’s, based on the claws.  If you don’t have any owls puking up bones and fur in your area, you can always go mail order for those authentic parts.

Why red hair?  Contrast.  I painted this guy when I was spending WAY more time per figure than I do now.  Painting stripes on clothing? Textured bases?  Who has time for that?!?

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (4)  
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Morlocks and wights

I painted the “Beastmen” from Descent as Morlocks, as there are many Morlocks running around Telengard.  Maybe their underground city is connected to the dungeon somewhere.

The pose is a little exaggerated but they look OK.

You can see that they have little rag dolls on their belts.  I like that detail but who knows what it means?  Are the Morlocks child-like in some way, perhaps dim-witted and prone to tantrums?

They look a lot like my old school wights, with crazy hair after the Trampier illustration in the original Monster Manual.

The one in the center is Grenadier; the other two are Heritage. Ol’ Red Eyes on the left was one of the figures Scottsz sent me in exchange for for some 4e books.

In my Telengard setting, I’m changing Morlocks a bit from what the LL rules have.  They are more in line with AD&D Grimlocks — sightless, but with acute hearing and smell, 2HD, and very primitive… (well, these Morlocks are; they might have more advanced leaders).  2d6 will be the standard number encountered, so I’ll have to draft the wights if I roll a 10-12; there are only 9 Descent minis.

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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