Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Hobbit Day 2014

Today is Hobbit Day.  It is the day chosen by the fan community to celebrate the works of Professor Tolkien's Middle-earth cycle.  In the books, September 22nd* (of The Shire Reckoning) is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.  It is also the date Bilbo "disappeared" from his 111th birthday party to leave The Shire forever and the date that Frodo left Bag End seventeen years later to begin his quest to destroy the One Ring of Sauron.

My original from 1984.  The cover is almost detached.  This may be the last year I read this copy.

September 22nd also happens to mark the day on which I begin my yearly rereading of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Every year since I first read the books back in 1984 (I was 13 at the time) I have opened The Fellowship of the Ring and accompanied Frodo and his companions on their long journey through Middle-earth.  I don't always complete all three books and I'm sure I have missed a year here and there.  But there can be no doubt that I have read the books at least 25 times over the years...and counting.  I'm so very thankful that I discovered Tolkien's works so very long ago.  For it was Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli, and the others that directly lead to my love of roleplaying, wargaming, and miniatures.

So happy Hobbit Day to you all.  Now it's time for me to open my well-read copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and start my journey anew.

* Note: I am well aware of the differences between our calendar and that of The Shire.  September 22nd has been chosen by consensus as the date to celebrate Bilbo and Frodo's birthday rather than the converted date.  I'd rather not debate the merits of September 13th-ish vs. September 22nd.  To me, it's just not that important.  So have a pint, raise your mug, and drink one with me!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Blunderbuss Pirate

Though it is never far from my mind or from my gaming table, pirates and Legends of the High Seas have taken a backseat to other projects lately.  I absolutely love the ruleset and the genre but I have been unable to give it the attention I would like over the last six months.  The winds of change are ablowin' however.  A scurvy band of pirates have been seen scouting out the Caribbean town of Port Largo in recent weeks.  The townsfolk know that it's only a matter of time before they become brazen enough to take a prize leaving port.  Yep....I feel a LotHS game brewing!

To add to the denizens that call Port Largo home, I painted up this nifty model from Black Scorpion Miniatures.  Black Scorpion has been my "go to" company for miniatures of the piratey nature for years now.  I've always been pleased with the quality of their products and this blunderbuss wielding rogue is no different.  He is one of the four miniatures offered in the Rogues 1 blister pack.  Though I have yet to paint the other three minis, I can say that the quality of the others is as good as this one.

Since I seem to be giving a mini review (pun fully intended) I must add an important detail.  All of the pirate models I own from Black Scorpion (and I own them all except for the Pirate Girls line) are metal.  It should be no secret to regular readers that I absolutely hate resin.  When I found out that Black Scorpion was switching to resin I hurried to complete my collection of pirates by purchasing my missing figures in metal before they disappeared.  So while I'm giving two thumbs up for the metal sculpts, I cannot say the same for the resin versions.

The first parts I painted on this pirate were his hair and scarf.  Before I had decided on a full color scheme, I knew I wanted both to stand out.  I chose a light auburn for the hair and a garishly bright yellow for his scarf.  For the hair I used my standard color palette for red hair:  Auburn Shadow (09241), Carrot Top Red (09242), and Highlight Orange (09242), all from Reaper.  For the scarf, I tried a new technique for shading yellow.  I painted the scarf in Sun Yellow (09008) and let the pure color stand for the highlight.  I then mixed in small amounts of Imperial Purple (09023) for each successive shade.  I was very pleased with the results.  Instead of powdery looking light yellow highlights and dirty shades, I ended up with a very clean color graduation.  I'm currently working on an elf maiden in a yellow dress.  I plan on trying the same technique to see if the results are as good on a larger surface.  Updates to come.....

The green shirt was a huge problem.  For one, I kept getting small dots of green paint on my freshly painted yellow scarf.  Painting over a dark color with such a light translucent one was no easy task.  The main issue was with the highlighting though.  I used the Mossy Green triad from Reaper.  When I began mixing in the highlights the paint turned chalky.  No matter what I tried I could not get the color to play well with the others.  I mostly fixed the issue by glazing a darker green over the highlights but the evidence is still on the shirt if you look closely.  Oh well.  I don't think I'll be using that combination again anytime soon.

So another new pirate is completed.  Now I need to choose a name (something Irish would do nicely I think) then decide which crew I want to add him to.  I'm thinking this weekend would be a great opportunity to field him for the first time and see what that blunderbuss is capable of.  Will he survive his first raid?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Painting Classes That Never Were, or Hello Miss Jessica?

Life sometimes gets in the way of my hobbies.  I hate it when that happens.  As I described on my other blog, I had to cancel my GenCon 2014 trip at the last minute.  In doing so, I lost out on money, planning, and expectations.  I also lost a chance to take a few miniature painting classes - something I've been wanting to do for a long time now.

Although I'm not a terrible painter, my work definitely leaves open room for improvement.  What I've learned has been mostly from looking at blogs or experimenting on my own.  I've never taken a formal instructional class or even painted with other hobbyists.  I wanted to change that at GenCon.  Amongst some of the activities I scheduled were the two painting classes pictured above: The Art of Painting Skintones and Painting Pretty Faces.  I wanted to sign up for more (so many to choose from!) but I kept encountering timing conflicts with other things I wanted to see and do.  The scheduling issues turned out to be a good thing I guess, since in the end I was unable to attend and would have lost out on even more money.

So while feeling sorry for myself and pouting from having to cancel my GenCon trip, I was cruising the internet to cheer myself up when I stumbled upon a new painting instruction video offered by Dark Sword Miniatures:  Masterworks Miniature Painting with Jessica Rich.  Though the price was a bit steep I decided to buy it.  Damnit, if I can't go to GenCon and take a few miniature painting classes there, I'll just bring the instructor to the comfort of my own home.  And what a choice of instructors:  Jessica Rich!  I have admired her work for some time now, especially her George R. R. Martin miniatures.  So yeah, I made a date with Jessica and asked her to come to my house....kinda.

I really didn't know what to expect when I began watching the DVDs.  I had watched bits and pieces of other videos on YouTube but wasn't all that impressed with them.  Most were just okay as far as video quality goes; nothing to write home about.  And that's unfortunate.  Painting is obviously a visual skill and without being able to see clearly what the instructor is doing, the usefulness of the lesson becomes somewhat dubious.

I'm happy to say that the DVD so far has exceeded my expectations.  The images are not exactly high definition but you can definitely see what's going on.  Jim (the owner of Dark Sword Miniatures) and Jessica seem to go to great lengths to ensure that the camera is positioned perfectly to allow the viewer ultimate access to the miniature being painted.  I would imagine that even in a classroom setting it would be difficult to get any closer than what the DVD shows.

I haven't finished the DVD set yet.  It's over 20 hours of instruction.  What I have completed has been a great help in refining my skill however.  I highly recommend the set to any miniature painter that wants to better their painting skills.  I think it has already helped improve my craft.

Here is a final thought on the DVDs.  They are not cheap at $60.  But after doing the math I found that it's actually an incredible deal.  The two classes that I signed up for at GenCon cost me $46 total.  Assuming that I could have arranged my schedule to include one more class at a similar price, I would have paid $69 for three classes and three hours of instruction.  By purchasing the DVD set, I not only saved $9, but I gained about 17 extra hours of one-on-one instruction on a variety of different topics by one of the industry's best painters.  Even if I group the chapters into like categories, the DVDs offer twenty different classes.  At $20 a pop....well, you can do the math.  I'm thinking that DVD instruction (if done correctly) is a much better bargain than attending a class.  Of course you do lose the interactive aspect of a live instructor.  It's beyond difficult to ask Jessica a question (she never answers).  At least if I need something repeated she's right there waiting for me at the push of a button though!

Here are the topics covered in the DVD set.

Disc 1
*  Introductions
*  Tools
*  Mini Prep
*  Color Theory
*  Base Coating and Blending (highlighting and shading)
*  Female Skin Tones & Features - Fair Skin

Disc 2
*  Female Skin Tones & Faces - Ruddy Skin
*  Female Fair Skin Face
*  Male Skin Tones and Faces
*  Painting Hair - White Hair
*  Painting Hair - Auburn Hair
*  Painting Hair - Black Hair

Disc 3
*  Dark Elf skin Tones & Faces
*  Difficult Colors - Painting Black
*  Difficult Colors - Painting Red
*  Painting Critter Fur
*  Painting Critter Eyes
*  Painting Wood Grain
*  Painting Feathers

Disc 4
*  Painting Sheer Fabric
*  Painting NMM - Gold Armor
*  Painting NMM - Steel Sword
*  Painting Blood and Gore
*  Painting Dingy and Weathered Clothes
*  Painting Flames and Fire
*  Painting Gems

Disc 5
*  Painting OSL and a Magic Sword
*  Painting with a Limited Color Palette
*  Freehand - Tone on Tone Damask
*  Freehand - Brocade Borders

Disc 6
*  Freehand - Painting Tiny Portraits
*  Freehand - Painting Tiny Portraits Slideshow
*  Finishing Touches - Sealers and Basing
*  Jess Conclusion
*  Jess Dark Sword Gallery
*  Jess Other Manufacturer Gallery
*  Dark Sword Gallery

I hope you enjoyed my little DVD review.  Let me close with a few questions:

*  Have you ever taken a live painting class?  Was it worth it?
*  What are your thoughts on video instruction?
*  What (if any) other video courses would you recommend?

Thanks for your comments and most of all, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Peter Jackson's New Movie Poster

Peter Jackson just posted a teaser movie poster for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on his Facebook page.  All I can say is WOW!


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Save vs. a Cold or Suffer 1d6+2 Days of Misery

The title says it all.  I went away for a short mini-vacation and brought home a souvenir I neither wanted nor expected - a summer cold.  For the next week that little cold exploded into a major ailment and brought me to my knees.  Either it had some super secret ingredient to make it more potent or maybe I'm just getting older and unable to recover as quickly.  Either way, I felt terrible and spent my free time resting on the couch or going to bed early.  Needless to say, both of my blogs suffered from my inactivity (apologies for the crosspost if you arrived here from the other blog).  My cold is gone now though and I feel like a new man.  It's time for a blog update.

*  I'm working on a few pirate ships for Legends of the High Seas.  I purchased them as a Christmas gift for myself but I am only now getting around to them.  They are from Laser Dream Works and so far I think they will be quite nice.  I'll write a post in the near future reviewing both of the ships I purchased:  HMS Fly and USS Lee.

*  With the nostalgic resurgence of D&D taking over much of my hobby time, I have found myself spending more time painting various miniatures from Otherworld Miniatures.  I love working on minis with an old school feel without dealing with the poor quality of true old school miniatures.  I am using the elven fighter/magic user to represent my character in a Moldvay Basic D&D campaign I'm currently playing in.  The plan is to finish him first then move on to a group of pig-faced hobgoblins.

*  Finally, though it's not related to D&D, I have another hobby item to share.  I've been interested in photography for a long time and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to enjoy taking photos.  I've wanted to try aerial photography for a while now but the cost has always been too steep for me to justify.  No longer... Prices are now a bit more reasonable so I just dropped some cash on a new quadracopter and have been experiencing an entirely new side of photography.  Allow me to share one of my early practice photos.  Here is a shot of my neighborhood taken from 130 feet of altitude.  We can call it a "dragon's eye view" photo to help tie in this blatantly unrelated photo to D&D.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Meriadoc Brandybuck: Fictional Dioramas & Functional Usage

File this miniature under the 'better late than never' category.  I started this particular Meriadoc Brandybuck mini well over a year ago for a Hobbit Day diorama I was working on at the time.  Hobbit Day 2012 came and went with only Bilbo Baggins complete, so I abandoned Merry and onto the queue shelf he went.  Months later, I picked him up again with the goal of finishing the now near mythical diorama for Hobbit Day 2013.  That day too came and went without a completed miniature. Back on the shelf he went.  Finally, I was able to finish him last week.  Maybe, just maybe, Hobbit Day 2014 will see a completed diorama.

The planned diorama was to depict Merry spying on Bilbo in the Shire.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins approaches Bilbo from a distance.  Not wanting to deal with her antics, Bilbo quietly slips on his magical ring and disappears until Lobelia has safely passed him by.  Bilbo then reappears and goes about his day, oblivious to the extra company hidden beside the road.  According to the text, this event was the downfall of Bilbo's well-kept secret and a catalyst to forming the 'conspiracy' that was finally unmasked years later when Frodo tries to leave Crickhollow without his friends.

When completed (if that ever happens), Lobelia will be positioned near the bottom of a small rise continuing her walk down the lane towards Hobbiton.  Bilbo will be positioned in the lane some distance behind her, holding his trusty ring in the palm of his hand with an obviously pleased look upon his face for having avoided the dreadful creature.  Merry will be off the side of the road hidden amongst the brush and grass, not quite believing what he just witnessed.  If done correctly, I think the diorama will depict the scene from the book quite faithfully.

This version of Merry (from the Merry and Pippin vs. Grishnákh blister) is the perfect mini for the job.  He is already kneeling/hiding so no conversion was necessary.  More importantly, the look upon his face, while originally sculpted to show fear of Grishnákh, seems to show surprise as well....perfect for my project!

I'm a firm believer of double-duty miniatures.  As such, I did not want to paint and base Merry solely on the description of the Shire encounter.  I also wanted to be able to use the model for additional encounters.  I painted Merry in his Fellowship attire, including the Lothlorien cloak.  The look was flexible though.  To me, the color scheme could just as easily fit the well-tended fields of The Shire (for the diorama) as well as the wilds of Middle-earth (for gaming in general).  The main alternate use of the mini would be for its intended purpose.  The encounter that the blister was meant to depict occurred in Rohan near the eves of Fangorn Forest.  It was easy to adopt the imagery Peter Jackson used for Rohan in the movies and tie it in with The Shire with just a little stretch of the imagination.  The base could be cultivated winter wheat or natural grassland, both of which work for either use.  Now, instead of just sitting in a diorama, I can pull him out and use Merry on the game table.

There is one part of the  model that would preclude Merry from being in Rohan (as depicted in the book and movie) but it takes a sharp eye to find it.  I'll leave that one detail open to guesses in the comments section.

Though the time frame of completion may indicate otherwise, I actually enjoyed painting this miniature.  This sculpt predates GW Finecast and represents the good ole' days when GW LotR SBG products were worth the money.  The lines are clean and the details crisp.   If I remember correctly, I had very little prepping to complet before priming and painting.  That's never the case with Finecast miniatures.  Though I have plenty of GW LotR lead still to paint, working on this miniature made me miss the days when I eagerly awaited the next issue of White Dwarf to see what LotR goodies were coming out the following month.

Ending Note:  I apologize for the photos.  I tried a new lens on my camera for this session.  While the lens does a great job in other areas, close-up photography is not one of them.  The photos look very fuzzy and not at all sharp.  I could have retaken the photos but I was feeling much too lazy, just like a fat hobbit!

Don't forget to provide your guesses below.  I wonder how long it will take to spot it.  As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

DSM Dragon Diorama WIP: Please Don't Make Me Paint More Coins

OK.  This is it.  This post will be the last WIP for the base.  The next will not go up until the base is completely finished and the dragon is ready to be mounted.

All the gold coins have been painted.  Each and every little coin was done by hand.  Though I was tempted (OK, very tempted at the end), I was able to avoid drybrushing.  It took forever but I'm glad I stuck with my original plan.  

All that is left to do now is go back and change a few of the gold coins to silver to break up the monotony of gold.  That shouldn't take me very long.  A good number were already completed at the last WIP post.  Plus I'm keeping the total number of silver coins fairly low.

A bit more work does need to be done to the rest of the base, however.  The stone needs two additional layers of highlighting and then some weathering.  The weapons have only received basecoats so they will need some more work as well.  The gravel will require the most attention though.  I plan to layer up to a rather light brown then attach a significant amount of flock and foliage.

Though I did not take photos, the dragon has also received several basecoats.  Whenever I needed to rest my poor eyes from painting tiny coins I would work on the dragon.  Before I knew it the dragon was prepped, primed, and coated in dark red.  I like it when work gets done without effort.  I just wish that would happen more often.  Once the base is finished I will start working on him full time.  He is MASSIVE!

This project is taking up a large portion of my hobby time but I have not abandoned the rest of my miniatures.  I just completed a hobbit for the LotR SBG and a pirate for LotHS.  I'll post photos of both minis soon.

Thanks for checking in on the WIP and thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dark Sword Miniatures G.R.R.M. Masterworks Kickstarter Loot

I received my Kickstarter loot from Dark Sword Miniatures on Monday.  The box actually arrived on Saturday but I wasn't home to sign for it so I had to wait.  After getting my greedy hands on the package and ripping into the blisters, I found that the wait was definitely worth while.  The new G.R.R.M. Masterworks miniatures are absolutely beautiful.  I received 28 total miniatures (exact contents are listed at the bottom of this post).  Unfortunately I had to pass on most of the add-ons because I already had many of the selected miniatures in my collection (not a bad problem to have).  Overall I still got a great deal on the minis though and I can't wait to get my brush on them!

Just like the previous Kickstarter by DSM, Jim and his crew certainly had their act together.  Immediately after the project ended I received a backer survey in the mail.  I submitted my choices then waited.  The wait was not long however, unlike many other Kickstarter projects.  The time between the end of the fundraising period until I received my backer's reward was less than 2 months.  The estimated delivery date was right on target.  Well done guys!

In addition to the great miniatures, I also received this nice document signed by Jim Ludwig (the president of DSM), Tom Meier (the sculptor) and Mr. George R. R. Martin himself.  Of course the miniatures were the reason I backed the project.  Little extras like this however, prove that the company cares about the hobby and about their customers.

Here is everything displayed all together for a photo.

Once again I am very happy with both the company and their Kickstarter project.  I will not hesitate to back any future efforts.

Reward Contents

Pack 1 of 10
  Jeor Mormont
  Davos Seaworth
  Arianne Martelle

Pack 2 of 10
  Brynden Tully
  Limited Edition Sorceress

Pack 3 of 10
  Maester Pycelle
  Barristan Selmy

Pack 4 of 10
  Prince Joffrey
  Male & Female Minstrels

Pack 5 of 10
  Mounted Khal Drogo

Pack 6 of 10
  Mounted Ser Loras Tyrell

Pack 7 of 10
  Lady in Waiting
  Brothel Worker

Pack 8 of 10
  Scribe of Westeros at Writing Desk

Pack 9 of 10
  Cocky Young Hedge Knight x2

Pack 10 of 10
  Brothers of the Knights Watch

Add Ons
  Exclusive Variant Sculpt of the Scribe of Westeros at Writing Desk
  Kev & Tre Tribute Sculpts

Anyone else back this project?  If so, are you happy with the quality of the miniatures and the speed in which the rewards were delivered?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Game of Thrones Theme on Wine Glasses

I simply could not resist posting this video.  This guy has talent.  When I have my wine at dinner tomorrow night I'm sure to be tapping out a rhythm.


Friday, April 18, 2014

DSM Dragon Diorama WIP: Of Bases and Coins

Work continues on the base of my Dark Sword Miniatures Elmore Dragon Diorama.  The work has been tedious and at times rather boring. But I know I'll be happy with the end result when it is finally completed.  Slowly but surely the treasure horde is coming along.

I've kept to my goal of not drybrushing the coins.  Each coin thus far has been painted separately by hand.  I'm glad I have done so.  Though it may be difficult to tell from these low resolution iPhone photos, the coin horde is quite striking to the eye.  I do have to admit however that I am doing it the hard way.  Each coin, or stack of coins, has to be painted from several different angles.  I usually start with the top of the coin, then I hold the base at eye level and rotate it around, brushing on color where needed.  Otherwise the coins would look two dimensional without their sides painted.  Drybrushing the coins first, followed by the stone gray color probably would have solved this problem.  But I truly think the effect would be much less dramatic. 

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, most of the coins are/will be gold in color.  As you can see in the photos, the gold really does contrast nicely with the gray.  However, to break up the mass of gold I decided to add a few silver coins here and there.  The effect is subtle but does the job nicely.  When I finally get around to painting the assorted weapons and armor included in the treasure pile, the golden mass will be broken up even more.

I've dry fitted the dragon to the base.  Wow!  I had forgotten how massive the miniature megature really was.  The vast majority of the base will be covered by his body while the dragon's impressive wingspan will drape most of the treasure hoard in shadow.  These factors lead me to wonder if I am wasting my time by painting all the individual coins, especially when I will be the only person to really appreciate the detail.  What do you think?

I guess I should get back to painting coins.  I estimate that I'm a little over halfway finished.  Hopefully updated photos will be posted soon.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4 Starts Tonight

The fourth season of HBO's Game of Thrones starts tonight in less than an hour.  I was able to score two bottles of Fire and Blood Red Ale before it sold out (I wasn't quite so lucky last time).  The maesters predict that both bottles will be gone before the night has passed.  I do not plan on letting them down.

While the first two seasons followed the first two books fairly close, season three failed to do so.  HBO ended last season at roughly the halfway point in A Storm of Swords, presumably due to the massive amount of material to cover.  It will be interesting to see how the fast paced and exciting second half of book 3 combines with the much slower (and frankly rather dull) book 4.  I am hoping that HBO is able to piece together a combination of A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows that brings the latter book up to par with the other books in the series.  Of course, there is always the chance that the second half of book 3 will fill the entire fourth season of HBO's version.  There is certainly enough material to do so.

Time to pop the top on bottle number one and find out what HBO has in store for us.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nontraditional Goblin Skin Part 2: Old School Edition

Goblins have been on my mind lately.  I know that's an odd thing to say but it is true.  I have been contemplating goblin weapons, goblin society, goblin raiding tactics, even goblin intelligence (or lack thereof).  But mostly I've been thinking about goblin skin.  Several months ago I began a project experimenting with goblin skin color.  I wanted to try different skin tones beyond the usual green-skinned little monsters that seem to be the norm these days.  While I have nothing against 'greenskins' and actually like them for certain aspects of gaming, I wanted to wander off the beaten path for a bit.

My first foray delved into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I wanted a dusky look that fit more closely with the professor's description of goblins in Middle-earth.  For this attempt however, my inspiration came not from Tolkien but from the excitement surrounding the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons.  I wanted a color scheme that would harken back to the early 80s when I first started playing.  This is what I came up with...

For the miniature I chose a model from Hasslefree Miniatures.  This little grinning goblin is called Dima (HFO007) and can be found in Hasslefree's Orcs and Goblins line.  I liked the semi-old school style of the sculpt and thought he would be perfect for my old school color scheme.

I have a sizable collection of goblins from Otherworld Miniatures that would have served even better for the old school theme I was attempting.  I wanted to save them though until I found the right goblin skin color so that the entire tribe will look somewhat homogeneous.  So for now I will stick with Hasslefree's goblins for experimenting.

Now that I had my miniature I needed to decide on the paints I would use.  To aid in the decision I pulled out my trusty copy of the original Monster Manual and flipped to the well-worn page describing goblins (hmm... I guess I fought many of them back in the day).  On page 47 I found what I thought I remembered.  There, goblin skin is described as ranging from "yellow through dull orange to brick red."  Though the description would change in later editions (sounds like a subject for another blogger post), this was the goblin I had such fond memories of from those long ago days.

Shortly after reading the description in the Monster Manual I remembered a color photo depicting goblins with a similar color scheme.  I wasn't sure where I saw it so I rummaged through my collection for hours.  I finally found what I was looking for.  There, on the cover of module N2 The Forest Oracle, were three goblins with a pretty close resemblance to what I envisioned in my mind.  I then had both inspiration and an idea of the color scheme I wanted to use.  It was time to paint.

For painting the skin I chose a medium brown for a base coat.  I can't remember the Reaper color (maybe Intense Brown??) but it is the equivalent of GW's Bestial Brown.  From there, I started layering in various shades of lighter browns mixed with tints of red, orange, and yellow.  I made particularly heavy use of Saffron Sunset (09247) and Orange Brown (09201), both from Reaper.  Highlighting was accomplished with Saffron Sunset mixed with various shades of yellow.

The rest of the miniature, including the garb, armor, and weapons was painted in rather drab colors to contrast with the skin tone.  Greens and dark browns dominate the color scheme to help highlight the orange and yellow of the skin.  The armor and weapons were heavily washed to knock down the shiny new look that so often breaks the character of this type of monster.  After all, they should look like desperate scavengers and raiders and not like a knight in shinning armor.  With that being said, now that I look at the photos on blogger, I need to go back and wash the helmet a few more times.  It does look awfully shinny.

I am fairly happy with the outcome of this goblin and I think I'm close to finding the skin tone I want to use in the future.  I think I will paint one more goblin and intensify the oranges a bit to see what happens.  Afterwards a final decision will be made and the resulting color scheme applied to my waiting Otherworld Miniatures goblin tribe.

Anyone else use this style on their goblins?  Any comments, hints, and/or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beginnings: DSM Dragon Diorama WIP

It has been said that from humble beginnings come great things.  Well, I'm unsure about the 'great' part but I certainly have started off my next project in a humble manner.  After sitting in an unprimed state for months, I have finally put a layer of paint on the base of my Dark Sword Miniatures dragon diorama Kickstarter that I backed last year.  The excitement of DSM's current Kickstarter project bubbled over and vanquished the painting lethargy I've been suffering through for the last few weeks.

For this project, I decided to start with the base this time instead of the miniature, as I normally do.  Two reasons drove me to this decision.  First, in this case the base is very much part of the miniature instead of just an afterthought.  I will not say that it is the focal point (the dragon obviously serves in that role quite admirably) but for the diorama to come to life and provide the proper backstory to honor Larry Elmore's iconic painting, the base needs to be nearly as impressive as the dragon itself.  To say that I will need to spend quite a bit of time on the base to make it so would be a huge understatement.  The second reason deals with logistics.  The dragon is huge! I do not have the proper equipment available to mount it for painting.  By completing the base first, I can use it to securely hold the dragon during the construction and painting process.  I will just need to be extra careful not to damage or ruin the already painted base while working.

My plan of attack is simple.  I've already cleaned, primed, and thrown down the initial base colors to give me a good starting point.  The dirt/grassy area around the stone was given several coats of a mid-range brown for a base.  I will darken some areas and lighten others to give an overall impression of scattered dirt and rocks.  Much of this area will be eventually flocked with grass and shrubbery so I'm not overly concerned with this particular portion of the model.  The stone however will play a much more important role.  I have an initial coat of Reaper Shadowed Stone (9085) covering the rocky areas.  After a few light washes to bring back some of the detail, I will slowly bring up the mid-tones and highlights with successive layers of Stone Grey (9086) and Weathered Stone (9087).  Then comes the hard part: the treasure.

The coins will take me some time but I'm looking forward to the challenge.  I will not say that I will paint each and every one by hand but I do plan on avoiding drybrushing as much as possible to really concentrate on the detail.  I plan on most of the coins being gold in color for two reasons.  In literature and popular media, dragon hoards always seem to be comprised of gold coins.  It's an iconic image that I do not plan on tinkering with.  Second, even if silver were the preferred color of a dragon's treasure, I would still choose gold.  The gold coins will contrast much better with the grey stone than silver.  I do plan on mixing the treasure up a bit though.  I'll add silver and copper here and there in small patches to break up the golden monotony. 

As a basecoat for the gold coins I chose a deep red - Bloodstain Red (9133) to be exact.  I can't remember where I learned the technique, but basing gold, copper, and brass metallic colors with a deep red will produce much more vivid and rich hues than when applied over black or white.  I use this technique every time and have been quite pleased with the results.  Try it and see if you notice a difference.

So that's it for now.  I have thousands of coins to paint.  I will post another update once I get a little further along.

One last thing though:  today is the last day of the Dark Sword Miniatures G.R.R.M. Masterworks line Kickstarter.  Lots of backer rewards have been unlocked over the course of the drive and the total number of included miniatures is now up to 24.  That's more than double the initial offering.  Plus lots of great add-on deals are also available.  Go have a look at the funding page here before it ends tonight at 11pm (EDT).

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Kickstarter from Dark Sword Miniatures

Those that regularly visit this blog know without a doubt that I am a huge fan of Dark Sword Miniatures.  I frequently rave about the quality of the sculpts and great customer service provided by the company.  I also tout the fact that a large portion of their miniatures are inspired by my favorite fantasy artists:  Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, and Keith Parkinson - the giants of the golden age of gaming. For those reasons alone, DSM has more than earned my business.  But an additional feature has ensured that my money tends to flow their way more than any other miniature company- the George R. R. Martin line of miniatures. 

My favorite sculpt of the bunch so far.

For some years now, DSM has been producing wonderful sculpts of many of the characters from Martin's epic series A Song of Ice and Fire.  The Starks and Lannisters and every character in between have been beautiful rendered in 28mm metal.  Now Dark Sword Miniatures is further expanding the line with a new Kickstarter.  Eleven new miniatures are being offered at a very reasonable price with plenty of promised stretch goals along the way.  Viserys Targaryan, Ser Barristan Selmy, a mounted Khal Drogo and my favorite of the bunch, Ser Brynden Tully, The Blackfish, are just a few of the upcoming minis.

Finally, a mounted warrior!

If you're a fan of Dark Sword Miniatures and/or A Song of Ice and Fire (or just like well-sculpted miniatures) then help spread the word and let's get this Kickstarter funded!

The Kickstarter page can be found here.

The Dark Sword Miniatures homepage is here.   

As a final note I want to point out that the previous DSM Kickstarter was a pleasure to work with.  The dragon and all of the stretch goals were shipped out almost immediately after the drive ended.  There was no waiting on miniatures for months and months like another Kickstarter I backed that rhymes with Reaper Bones (yes I do realize that they were on an entirely different scale).  The loot comes quick!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Black Sails

If you're into pirate gaming, or simply like pirates, I recommend you check out the new series on Starz called Black Sails.  I've watched two episodes now and I have to say that I have enjoyed not only the story and visuals, but the cinematography as well (I'm not a TV/movie buff so I cannot put into words what I have noticed, but something is definitely different and refreshing about the camera work).  The acting is top notch and the wardrobe people (see, totally not a movie person.  I don't even know the correct term) have set the series firmly in the proper time period.

The story takes place in and around Nassau in 1715.  I'll not give away any of the plot details but the weekly series is based on a nice mixture of history, literature, and creativity.  Black Sails features historical pirates such as Captain Charles Vane and Calico Jack Rackham.  Fictional pirates such as Captain Flint, Billy Bones, and John Silver add a unique but believable twist to the tale while a cast of invented characters round out the show and bring to life Nassau during the Golden Age of Piracy.  After watching two episodes I am completely hooked.  It's like watching HBO's Game of Thrones set in the Bahamas.  Yes....that's a good thing!

Watching the series has helped rekindle my love for Legends of the High Seas and pirate gaming in general.  Suddenly all of those backlogged projects have taken on a new urgency and I find myself enjoying sitting at the hobby desk again.  Beacause of the show, I am currently at work on two different ships, three different pirates, and a naval captain along with his crew.  I'll post updates in the near future.

Once again, check out Black Sails on Starz and prepare yourself for a damn good pirate tale!  You can watch the first episode online now for free.  It's a heavily modified version (the nudity and some gore have been edited out) but the story and the visuals are still intact.  You can watch it here.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Aleena the Cleric

A few months ago (wow, has it really been that long?!) I made a comment about how a miniature I was painting reminded me of a certain NPC cleric of my past.  I thought the mini seen below was based upon Aleena the cleric from the Metzer red box edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  Well, it turns out my memory of the 80s when I was a D&D fanatic is not as I thought it to be.  I was clearly wrong with my assumption.  But in discovering my error, I took a fascinating journey of reminiscence and discovery into the past.  Please allow me to share.

The WIP of the miniature in question

My first introduction to D&D was through a strange mixture of the Moldvay Basic set and AD&D.  As clueless preteens we gleefully mixed the two systems into a loose ruleset that guided our adventures into strange lands.  While I have very fond memories of that first set it was actually the Metzer version of the basic set that I spent the most time playing back in those days.  Ahh, the memories.  How can one forget the awesome and terrifying red dragon painted by Larry Elmore gracing the cover of the fiery red box or the beautiful cleric that befriended a lonsome adventurer in the introductory adventure?  That of course is where Aleena comes in.

For those of you who may have forgotten, we meet the blonde-haired cleric shortly after wounding a goblin in a cave.  As we cautiously pursue the fleeing goblin, we come upon her silently meditating in a corner of a cavern chamber.  She is drawn to our high charisma and invites us to join her for a rest.  After instructing us on several aspects of an adventurer's life, the cleric not only joins our expedition but kindly offers to heal us as well (that 16 charisma really pays off).  Aleena becomes a mentor of sorts as we explore the remainder of the caves together but she can do more than just offer instruction.  She exhibits her skill and power as she uses her clerical abilities once again, this time turning the undead ghouls that block our route.  We are beginning to fall in love with this woman!

But our love affair is not meant to be.  Bargle, the roguish magic-user that has been terrorizing the countryside around Threshold slays the beautiful young cleric with a deadly spell.  She falls in battle and no matter what we do, we cannot alter that fate.  We either kill the evil Bargle after making our saving throw or unwittingly aid him while under a charm spell.  Either way, Aleena the cleric is no more.

With either outcome, we do manage to recover Aleena's body and return her to the local church.  Hearts are broken, both in the game and in real life over the death of the cleric.  No matter how many times we play the scenario or what we do, we cannot save her.  The cleric's fate is preordained.  It is with great remorse for her loss that we begin our adventuring careers in the world of D&D.  But with her loss comes wisdom and the understanding that death is real in the game and the hero does not always win.  We are shown just how dangerous the adventuring life can be.  This would have been a profound lesson to those new to the game and perhaps this is why the Metzer boxed set remains so ingrained in the collective memory of D&D players worldwide.

I was reminded of her sad story as I went back to my worn red box to research what Aleena looked like and it brought back so many pleasant memories.  I wondered if others thought the same. I turned to the internet for answers.  What I found there was surprising.  The memory of her death was a topic much discussed. I discovered that many others felt the same way I did about the poor cleric and that the solo introductory adventure and her death remained with many players for years.

But I also discovered that her death was not in vain.  Aleena's fall galvanized the will of the countryside and thousands upon thousands of players rose up in anger to find and vanquish the evil wizard.  Who knows how many adventuring careers were launched by the memory of her fair face and kind demeanor? 

The anger directed toward Bargle was both in game and in the real world.  I found that many who played that introductory solo adventure retained a hatred of Bargle well after the Metzer red box became a collector's item.  For example, as a nod to the intense dislike that players held for the magic-user, Paizo included an adventure entitled Kill Bargle in the very last print issue of Dungeon Magazine (#150).

Some expressed this 'anger' in a more artistic manner as evidenced by the poster and t-shirt seen below.  Gamers from across the world were united in the memory of Aleena and a desire for vengeance.

Visit here for a short video about the "Kill Bargle" t-shirt.

One of the creators of the shirt

In my research I also found out that Aleena may not have perished after all.  I stopped playing D&D in 1987 when girls and cars became more important than dice and character sheets so I missed the future developments.  Apparently Aleena was sighted again after my departure in several TSR supplements.  In 1987 she was given a description and stats in GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos as a 12th level cleric along with a note stating that if it were extablished that she had died in the solo adventure from the Basic set to change her name to Anielle.  In 1994 she was again found in Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure with basically the same descritpion but with no mention of a possible earlier death.  Though she may have existed for future players, her death and our failure to save her still sits heavily with those who played the adventure before additional supplement releases.

Is this Elmore's new revised Aleena?

Which brings me full circle with this post.  It was the thought of Aleena the cleric that came to mind when I started painting the miniature.  But my memory of her failed me utterly.  My miniature is the wrong class, has the wrong weapon, the wrong garb, and even the wrong hair color.  Hell, the only thing remotely similar is the helmet.  Maybe that was the memory trigger.  Though the miniature does not resemble Aleena as described by Metzer and illustrated by Elmore, the trip down memory lane was definitely worth the mistake on my part.  And really, as in most things in life, it's the journey that counts...not the final destination.

What memories do you have of Aleena and Bargle and do you have a miniature that aligns more closely with her description? 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Birthday D&D!

Happy 40th Anniversary D&D!  Though the date varies depending on who is asked, I see that today seems to have been chosen as the official day to celebrate.  I did not start playing in 1974 (I was only three years old) but it wouldn't be long before I was introduced to the game that would define much of my childhood.

My original Moldvay Basic Set

I was 11 years old in that magical summer of 1982...the year my life changed.  I had recently moved to the other side of town and was the proverbial new kid when Chris Chew invited me to a birthday party camp-out in his back yard.  After the normal stuff that kids do, and when the parents had all gone to bed, Chris and his friends pulled out numerous books, boxes, miniatures, strangely shaped dice, and sheets of paper and told me we were about to embark on a grand adventure.  That night will forever remain as one of the most memorable of my life.

From that night forward, I was hooked on Dungeons and Dragons.  I played every possible moment and collected as much material and books as I could get my hands on.  For about the next six or seven years my life revolved around the fantasy world.  I made great friends and went on wonderful adventures, and even learned a few things that could be applied both to school and life in general.  Those were the best of days.

Eventually my obsession began to wane and by the time I left for college, D&D had become much less important than girls, and cars, and girls, and beer, and girls.  I sold off most of my vast collection for beer and date money (a huge mistake that I still regret to this day) but I did hold on to a few pieces that held the most memories.  (My original Moldvay Basic Set is my most prized and beloved gaming possession).  I sometimes thought about D&D but I never returned to the game.  It was Peter Jackson and the LotR movies that rekindled my love for fantasy and gaming in general.  After a nearly 15 year break, I began to drift back to the game I so loved. 

So happy birthday D&D and thanks for the memories!