Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Monks for D&D 5th Edition

I recently purchased the D&D 5th edition Player's Handbook and with enough reviews out already, I'll just say I like it. I played first edition in the 80s, and tried second for a few years before moving on with life and computer gaming. The OSR movement brought me back onto RPGs, but the idea of getting in on the ground floor of a new edition was definitely appealing.

Monks have always been one of my favorite classes - in theory. Way back in First Edition, Monks were basically unarmed super heroes with critically low hit points- a risky proposition for low level characters.

The Fifth edition Monk character has some nice abilities but it doesn't seem over powered given the amount of special features given to all the classes. Which might be a matter for discussion, but I probably missed that debate by sitting out third and fourth editions.

Above, three monks. From left to right, a Reaper monk, a Ral Partha from the late 80s, and another Reaper. The RP is bigger than 25mm to the eye, which the standard then. Nonetheless, he's still shorter than modern minis which are now pushing 30 to the eye. Scale creep...whaddya do about it?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gimli, Gandalf, Legolas and Aragorn - Mithril Miniatures

At least one of these miniatures (Gandalf) has been in my mini collection for over twenty years, but it is a new paint job.  The others were completed recently - but are also from an older part of my collection.  I eventually put together a whole Fellowship collection, although I am planning on stripping and repainting the hobbits.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mice and Mystics Heroes

Here are some mouselings from Plaid Hat's Mice and Mystics boardgame.  It is great fun and an excellent way to get your 5+ year old children into fantasy board games.  The miniatures are made of plastic or a resin-plastic and are well detailed for board game pieces.

With the Reaper Bones II Kickstarter close to delivery, I am hoping the Mouselings in that set will be compatible with these guys for some expanded off-board adventures

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crusader Adventurers

Here's a look at another pack from Crusader Miniatures' rather limited line of fantasy characters.  As I said previously, Crusader is my favorite historical miniature manufacturer, and some of their Dark Ages and Medieval figures could easily fit into a fantasy setting. This three pack of named fantasy adventurers contains all demi-human characters.

From left to right

Illadrian  the Half Elf - very typical Elven figure, his thigh boots and leather codpiece are, well...unique.

The Gnome McCoy - Really like the proportions on this gnome figure; he is short but proportioned very slim.  Next to a dwarf he would definitely be distinct.  The two-handed broadsword must account for the Scottish name. The stone basing is from a press mold made by Happy Seppuku.

Urko Half Orc - My favorite sculpt and character.  His scale and chainmail armor and solid greaves and arm pieces give this character a look of a Germanic warrior in the late Roman Empire.  Very inventive.

Crusader Miniature CCF002

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dark Sun Mul

Googling a bit will show that I am not the first person to turn this Reaper figure into a Dark Sun Mul Gladiator - but I would like to state that I had the idea before I saw those previous versions.

The Dark Sun campaign world included a wonderful race that rarely appears in fantasy or gaming literature - the half dwarf.  It combines the best of both worlds - as tall as a human, but as stocky as a dwarf.  Sterile and hairless, "muls" are favored as gladiators in the arenas of Athas' city states. 

The figure below is a Reaper Bones barbarian whose conversion to a Mul requires only a specific skin tone and a bone blade in place of metal.   

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Goblins and Kobolds

The release of the new D&D starter set with included adventure runs an encounter - spoiler - with goblins early in the module. Of course it does - how can an adventure for 1st to 5th level characters not have goblins?...Only if it has kobolds instead.

Here are small force of kobolds and goblins in honor of D&D obviousness.

My goblins are always blue, by the way, because of this guy: 

If you haven't read the Goblin series by Jim Hines, then you must not like laughing. Funny, but not ridiculous, and a nice subversion of your usual fantasy tropes. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Norse Legends

Since I bought the Greek legends for the Of God's and Mortals ruleset, I needed some opponents - hopefully at a cheaper price.  The book lists stats for many gods and creatures, aside from those officially released as miniatures.  On the right is a Reaper Bones Valkyrie.  It is a great sculpt, richly detailed but it suffers from the "bendy" sword issue that plagues some (many) of the Reaper Bones. It tried the boiling water dip, which has worked in the past, but with the size of the sword and its thinness, nothing seemed to work.  I open to suggestions.

In the center, is a cheap 54mm Viking from a bagged set.  I think he will be Balder, Thor's doomed brother - who sadly never made an appearance in the Marvel movies.

A Gripping Beast 28mm Viking is on the left to give a scale perspective.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kitsune from Stonehaven Minis

I recently received my Elven Adventurers Kickstarter from Stonehaven miniatures.  In hindsight, I wish I went in for more than what I did...which is probably what every company should hope for if they really want to use Kickstarter to launch an ongoing operation.

The two I really wanted were these Kitsune (Japanese fox shapeshifters).  For the most part, I think Eastern fantasy creatures are really overlooked by most manufacturers.  

The sculpting and casting are both excellent - though a bit flat when viewed in profile.  It was either from production or shipping but both of their arms can be "pushed" a bit to remedy the situation.  From a design standpoint, I like the overall theme and detailing.  The male looked very much like a merchant and was painted accordingly.  The female kitsune did not go in the cheesecake direction that many sculptors of anthropomorphic characters follow but looked very much like an assassin or gladiator.

Stonehaven currently has a kickstarter running for fold flat paper terrain done in their distinctive sepia art style.  If paper terrain interests you, Stonehaven has a solid record of delivering on their previous projects.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dark Sun Elf

One of my favorite D&D settings is Dark Sun, although I have seldom had the opportunity to play a long campaign in that game world.  For those not familiar, imagine a typical D&D world of wizards, elves, dwarfs, humans and other monsters.  Then imagine a magical event on the order of a nuclear holocaust that has upended the usual fantasy tropes.  Halfings?  Happy but shy farmers and villagers have now become savage cannibals.  Dwarves?  Still industrious but now hairless surface dwellers.  And elves are no longer mystical and coolly serene but are wandering merchants and raiders not to be trusted.

Ral Partha miniatures made for Dark Sun pop up on ebay and other used dealer from time to time and are becoming fairly expensive.  Furthermore, their "true" 25mm scale doesn't match up well with the 28mm heroic style of modern miniatures.  Luckily, it is not to hard to adapt current minis into the Dark Sun world.  Athas is hot, arid and metal is very rare.  So lightly dressed character in leather or fabric, and weapons should appear to be bone or stone.  High ranking character would have metal weapons, but they are rarer than a +2 sword in a typical campaign world.

This figure instantly screamed Dark Sun to me. Athasian elves were speedy runners and the none too smooth finish on the weapons could pass for bone.  As part of the Reaper Bones line, I found some of the facial detail a little less distinct than on the original metal figure.  However, the weapons were well molded and straight, and did not require the boiling water dip to reset them.

Reaper Bones Iconic Elf Merisiel 

Reading Recommendation

Troy Denning's five book series about the world of Athas is a minor classic of world-building.  The Verdant Passage, The Crimson Legion, The Amber Enchantress, The Obsidian Oracle and The Cerulean Storm can be found on kindle or in used book stores where I found most of mine.

Also worth getting from a few years ago is the IDW graphic novel Ianto's Tomb.  It's less epic than the five book series but the artist does a great job in capturing the look of Athas as many imagined it. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Female Barbarians

This is a true throwback.  Not only is a pair of miniatures from the 1908s, the paint job is from that decade as well.  The figure on the right is a 1984 Ral Partha from the stamping on the bottom.  The other one's marking is unreadable, but I suspect it is of similar vintage.

I probably painted them around 1989/1990 when I was in high school.  Of course, I am a bit embarrassed by the quality. On the other hand I was using mostly Testor's paint because nice Citadel paint was hard to come by in the small town South 25 years ago.  I also had no magnifying lamp, but I did also have 20/20 vision so that's probably an even trade-off.  All in all, it's nice to hang on to them as a time capsule.

And obviously, it's babes in chainmail bikinis.  What 15 year old (or 40 year old) doesn't occasionally like to paint up a little cheesecake? If anything, the figures are a bit restrained by today's sculpting standards.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bushido - Temple of Ro Kan

I have to admit that despite all of these figures, I have yet to play Bushido.  I am not alone, I think, in letting a game's quality of figures drive my purchase rather than the game itself.  Monk characters have always been a weakness of mine in RPGs, so the Temple of Ro-Kan faction was a natural impulse buy for me.  

The quality of the figures is excellent.  The poses are dynamic.  As far as assembly, I cannot comment as I purchased the starter set off ebay, and the chap who sold them already assembled and mounted them on those really nice "ruined temple" bases.  I wish I had more info on the source for future purchases in this faction.

The peasant characters look very good, but their scale (32mm) precludes their use as extras/civilians in a historical wargame, which was one of my original thoughts justifying this purchase.  Oh well... 

Below, Aiko & her Gorilla.  These were my first purchases, when a friendly but not so local game store closed out their Bushido stock and sold them for half price.  Who couldn't turn down an awesome gorilla? 

The Kitsune in humanoid and fox forms.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hercules and Perseus

Greek Legends 

Two sons of Zeus are today's miniature posting. Hercules, Greek hero and warrior, was known for his tremendous strength (but not wisdom) and his Twelve Labors. Perseus is the founder of Mycenae and slayer of Medusa.  Both characters are a part of modern pop culture thanks to animated Disney films and the "Titans" film franchise.  None of these adaptions are terribly faithful to the myths, as entertaining as they might be.

Thankfully, both of these sculpts by Steve Saleh are based on ancient depictions of the two heroes. Hercules carries his club and wears the skin of the Nemedean Lion and nothing else.  Perseus carries sword and shield, and wears a tunic and robe, rather than the later Classical Greek hoplite armor that less accurate depictions have used. These two figures were released last year by Northstar Miniatures as part of the Greek faction for Osprey's Of Gods and Mortals mythological skirmish wargame.  Also included in the set was Medusa, oddly matched with her slayer.

The Hercules figure is excellent. He is powerful and massive, and the lion's skin looks as it should - both armor and trophy. For Perseus, the draping cloak and the helmet detailing are the highlights. Less impressive is the leaned back, slightly off balance pose. Also, Perseus' head is separately cast and must be glued to the body.  The fit is not precision cut, and some gap filling is necessary.

Overall, these are really nice figures that are a "heroic" 28mm.  Hercules is about 32mm from foot to eye, Perseus a little bit less.  If you have an interest in gaming with Greek mythology, these are worth getting, even apart from the Of Gods and Mortals game. They can be purchased direct from Northstar Miniatures, but for those of us in the States, Architects of War can special order them, which can save you a bit on shipping.

OGAM302 Greek Legends

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Crusader Adventurers III - "Rune Lords"

Most miniature wargaming bloggers tend to mix all of their interests together, but I tend to compartmentalize my stuff.  Furthermore, my other blog, Sea Kings and Horse Warriors, is specifically focused on games and literature from the Dark Ages, so I would rather not mix in my additional interest in fantasy miniatures and the occasional RPG.

Crusader Miniatures are probably my favorite historical line, so it should be no surprise that I would enjoy taking my brush to their fantasy figures as well.  

Crusader Miniatures, all of which are sculpted by Mark Sims, primarily produce historicals from the Ancient era to World War II.  However, the company also puts out a few fantasy, western and pirate packs that might appeal to players of RPG and/or skirmish games

Coming from a primarily historical sculptor, these have a realistic look not usually found in most fantasy PC figures.  The sculpting is clean and uncluttered; weapons are not oversized, female proportions are not exaggerated and their clothing has definite historical precedents. Mold lines are minimal and easily removed.  Sims knows how to design a pose that is both dynamic and easily manufactured with minimal complications.

In addition to fantasy PCs, these models would work well as mercenaries or command figures in a historical game, or as the ubiquitous caravan guards.  The ethnic diversity of the characters is also a nice touch ranging from a possibly Celtic Druid to an East Asian, putting me in mind of the type of characters found in Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear's Mongoliad series.

Crusader Miniatures, Item #CCF003

Reading Recommendation

The Mongoliad Trilogy is collaborative work by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and a host of other writers. The Series focuses on a fictional holy order, the Shield Brethren, who are rivals to the historical crusading order the Sword Brothers or Livonian Knights. The main characters represent a variety of Western ethnicities and fighting styles.  As the Mongol invasion of Poland and Hungary in 1240 threatens to push further west, the holy order splits into two teams.  One must compete in a brutal gladiatorial tournament held by the invading Mongols while the other group treks across the steppe on a mission to assassinate the Great Khan and halt the Mongol invasion.  

Clearly influenced by RPGs, the series is best described as historical fantasy that does justice to both genres with its inventive use of secret history and conspiratorial mysticism. On the negative side, a long distance quest is a plot device fantasy writers call upon too often, and any collaborative writing project is going to suffer from uneven intervals of differing quality.