Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Mini collecting driven D&D campaign or D&D campaign driven mini collecting?

This is where most of my painting efforts go these days. Not into finishing off long standing army projects, or even starting new ones from the leadpile that has started growing alarmingly again since last year. No, I have been painting to order, and to strict deadlines in some cases, for my D&D campaign.

Not just that, I've been buying/collecting models specifically to fit the PCs and certain NPCs and monsters. This has not only involved Oldhammer-esque models (Citadel, Grenadier and Ral Partha are all in the mix), but also exploring what's on offer from newer and current ranges.

I got my players to help choose their own minis, and these ended up coming from two suppliers I was previoulsy unfamiliar with: Darksword Miniatures from the US, and Spellcrow from Poland. I was really happy with my purchases from both.

Our Paladin, Erin aka 'Biff Thundermuffin' by Darksword Miniatures
The sculpt our Paladin chose couldn't be more perfect - Male Warrior with Bastard Sword by Jeff Grace, aka 'Biff Thundermuffin' (so christened by the lady who painted the example on the DS webpage - not the name of our PC!) Our Paladin has some delusions of grandeur, and the other players agreed this guy was the perfect target for them to knock off his self righteous pedestal.

Our Bard, Briar -  by Darksword Miniatures
Our Bard also chose a mini from Darksword. There were a few other DS minis in contention, and arguably the mini is too big for our diminutive half-elf songstress, but the sculpt is such a good match for the original PC portrait we chose that in the end she was the natural choice. Female Bard with Lute is another Jeff Grace sculpt, inspired by the original AD&D art work of Jeff Easley, and fits the old school 80's vibe of our campaign perfectly.

The Darksword minis are cast in pewter and are very fine. I appreciate where the models have been cast in seperate pieces this has been done seemingly to allow easiest access for the painter more than anything else, but they were still very fiddly to put toegther, and needed more metal work than I was prepared for. I'll know better for next time, and there is going to be a next time as I also ordered minis to represent some key NPCs (as yet unseen in the campaign!) at the same time, and they are going to be a right pain in the arse when the time comes to paint them.

Thia aka Human Female with Sword  - by Spellcrow Miniatures
One of our players is a no-nonsense Blacksmith's apprentice named Thia. I say no-nonsense, she is actually a dangerous psycopath, but we love her anyway. The model we chose from Spellcrow (Human Female with Sword) is a very sensibly attired young lady with a massive sword. This fits our Thia perfectly. I painted her up in dull browns and metals, to fit her background in the forge. I sometimes worry she doesn't look as well finished as the others, but even that resonates with the character, so I'll be leaving her as she is. I did eventually add some broken skeleton bits to her base in honour of one of her early in game triumphs, and that has given the mini some more presence on the table.

Joradin aka Drunk Dwarf by Spellcrow Miniatures
Also from Spellcrow is our Dwarven Cleric, Joradin of Moradin. He is an alcaholic, and not just in your typical "I'm a Dwarf all I do is drink beer and eat rats all day" happy-go-lucky kind of a way. No, he has a serious case of 'Unknown Tragic Back Story' which has led him to the far less attractive and more self destructive path of drinking to seek oblivion. Sadly, he is still a dwarf, so oblivion takes quite a long time and the journey can be both hilarious and explosively unhygenic. The Drunken Dwarf from Spellcrow was the winner from a number of strong contenders, they really do Dwarves well in Poland it seems (noting Sciboar minis too, of course).
The whole sorry bunch of them... including Bruce the ever flatulant Moorhound
Here is the party together. This must be after their first dungeon together (mixed results, but at least they got a bath while they were down there, where one of them found a shiny ring!), and after Thia almost beat a farm boy to death with her bare hands because he accidently bit the top of her finger off, as they've been joined by Bruce the elderly, very deaf, and even more flatulent Moorhound (represented here by a plastic wolf from mid 90s GW). Joradin's base has now been painted up with some flagstones, but the little sod spilt beer all over them in a big puddle. Still, it adds character so I've left it.

Baskillion the Blackblade (25mm Sturm Brightblade from Ral Partha) and the Tramilar Guard (WHFB4 Plastic Empire Halbediers)
As the group finally made it to the Duchy of Tramilar (we started the campaign with a modified version of the AD&D Fighters Challenge II, before moving on to a modifid version of the Wizards Challenge II, all set in the lands to the west of the Principalities of Glantri in the Mystara setting) I needed some Ducal Guard so I finished painting up a small unit of WHFB 4th Edition Plastic Empire Halbediers. A friend had painted the first one (gold breast plate, now used as the sargeant) nearly 20 years ago, and I'd always intended to paint the rest to match. The deadline of the impending D&D game and the desire to use 100% painted minis finally gave me the impetus to get them done!

I pressed a 25mm Ral Partha sculpt of Sturm Brightblade from the AD&D Dragonlance saga, into service as the Captain of the guard and the Duke's Brother-in-law Baskillion the Blackblade. The paintjob on the mini is not mine, and is apparently unfinished so happens to have a black sword and shield - so I made that a feature of the character. This was possibly the first element where I allowed the features of the miniature to dictate the features of the NPC in game. I was in a rush, needed a painted mini, and it was easy to incorporate that elements into the story. I didn't need to, nobody would have questioned the unfinished mini if I'd just left it, but I've always enjoyed the creative exercise of  blending different inputs and source materials into a D&D campaign - it is one of the main attractions for me in being a DM - so tying in features of the mini or its paintjob to the description or storyline was just another variation on that theme. Nothing novel in that of course, but we've so rarely played D&D with minis over the many years of paly (where as this campaign uses them heavily though not exclusively) that it has not been something I've had the chance to do very often. It certainly got me thinking...

'Uncle Trap' is still waiting for them...
One NPC who I painted to a deadline for a particular set of possibilities in game, but who has still not been used(!), is Uncle Trap the gaoler. The mini is Narg the Torturer from Hasslefree. He's like a cross between Big Daddy and the gimp from Pulp Fiction. Luckily I've not had this happen too many times and most of the models I've painted specifcally to order have played their part and been appreciated, but I do hope they end up doing something naughty and end up in clink soon.

'Sturm Brightblade' (not authors own work) - 'Hazlik' from the RP Denizens of Ravenloft set - 'Unknown' 25 mm pre slotta (not authors own work) - Narg the Torturer by Hasslefree Miniatures
NPCs from the court of Tramilar. Uncle Trap/Narg the Torturer is on the right, while Captain Baskillion/Sturm Brightblade on the far left stands next to Numis the Court Wizard aka 'Hazlik' from the classic Denizens of Ravenloft box set by Ral Partha. I'm not sure of the provenance of the third chap, he's been doing service as Duke Ormath of Tramilar (and recently he's been moonlighting as a halfling tavern keeper and Rogue) he came to me already painted in the same batch as Sturm, but he's not the same style of casting as you can see from there bases. If anyone knows who he is please let me know!

Something else which D&D allows for is a more agnostic approach when it comes to scale. I primarily use 28mm minis, but am happy to incorporate 25mm and 30mm ranges. Partly of course this is because all minis are only supposed to representational anyway, but in D&D with it's wide range of playable character races and body types, the different scales in minis can help indicate whether an NPC might be halfling, or half-elf, or just shorter or heavier set than the average. I feel this all adds to the melting pot effect, and gets away from all the minis being so uniform as they might tend to be if only using models from my existing Warhammer forces for example.

'Damsel' - 'Vampiress' - 'Banshee' from Ral Partha's Denizen's of Ravenloft Box Set
More minis from the Ral Partha Ravenloft set. Very basic paintjobs served a purpose here. The figure on the left is the Damsel. In game she represented Ariela the snobby and naive daughter of the Duke, who had been kidnapped and held in a ruined tower guarded by a wyvern. We played the session where they rescued her on scrap paper with pencil drawn maps, so no minis for Ariella or the Wyvern at that stage. Anyway, by the time they get her back to Tramilar they realise that nobody believes her to be missing. The Duke's daughter is still around town, but the Duke has been taken very ill. Enter mini #2, the Vampiress from Ravenloft. Note the purple dress (belonging to Ariella's dearly departed mother, seeing which sends our travel stained heroine into a frenzied rage!) and the small white bird in her hand. In game the imposter was a Swamp Hag named Zharta the Witch, and when the party finally forced her to reveal herself I repalced the Vampiress with mini #3 the Banshee. Note the purple dress again. I deliberately down played the differences in the clothing on the minis and painted the dresses a fairly flat but rich purple to emphasise that it had been Zharta the Witch all along...

... and that little white bird? Well that turned out to be the wyvern from the tower, polymorphed into a dove so it could stay close to it's mistress while she went about her dastardly deeds!

Marauder Wyvern - sans Azhag the Slaughterer, and still needing to be based.
The look on my players faces when I not only revealed the masquerading swamp hag in teh matching dress, but then hit them a fully painted and fucking massive Wyvern, was absolutely priceless. I'd worked faster than I'd ever worked before to get that beast ready in time for the big showdown. Even my wife recognised how hard I'd worked. Unfortunately, this was all the encouragement I didn't need! Now I needed to see that look on their faces again! I'd spent a fair chunk of change on minis specifcally for the game by this point, and the Marauder Wyvern was sourced specifically for the purpose (although it is also now the centre piece of my Orc and Goblin army, so a bargain really!). It was too late. From there it was a slippery slope and my painting and collecting took on a renewed verve. All for the campaign!

Blacksmiths' forge and Kitchen Stove
Next up was some 'Dungeon Furniture' from Black Tree Design. I saw a post on the Oldhammer fb page about a sale and ended up blowing my January hobby budget in one visit. Then went back for a second visit before the sale ended. Oh dear...

Forges and kitchens are a recurring theme in our game, so smith's set and a stove were obvious choices and have already seen plenty of use. However, I've still got lots left unpainted because this is where I started buying things just because I liked them, and then inventing scenes in the game that suit my purchases. Uh oh!....

However, I'm not convinced this is entirely a bad thing, as I do still have a strong vision for the campaign in my mind, and I'm only buying things which develop on some key ideas and themes. Couple this with tying in detail on models with detail in the campaign and it can actually help flesh out the detail, which in turn can take you in new directions in thinking about the story. It is a process of serendipity that I'm really enjoying.

Some desert based bad guys
One of the players has decided her character has a phobia of scorpions after an encounter at very low level. It's like music to a DM's ears! I went home after that session and bought a swarm of them, and a bloody great massive one just for good measure. I had to wait several months before I could spring them on her, but when I did her reaction (and that of the other players) was like DM's crack. There was no doubt that having the proper minis for the surprises I was springing on them was making the game better for everyone. This was going to get expensive.

Nekrophidian (Bone Golem) from Blacktree
Giant Scorpion from Heresy Miniatures
Scorpion Swarm from Blacktree Studio
A very political band of halflings have made off with the wheels from Joradin of Moradin's cart. The party have been occupied with other matters for the best part of a week now. Who knows where the little feckers have done with them by now!  This little lot (pun intended) are huge fun. I particularly love the saucepan helmets on two of them, and the shield design (a carrot in case you cant see) is my most succesful bit of free hand painting to date. In game they are bolstered by two other diminutive reprobates, but they were painted by someone else and will be going for a Dettol dip as soon as the campaign is over because I now can't wait to paint them myself!

Citadel Halflings, including Cedric the Ogre Hunter in the yellow cloak.
I just love the detail on the backs of these minitures, especially the folds in the floppy hat, and the crossed satchels on the chap on the end.
I've been painting a lot of bards. It comes from having a bard as one of our player characters as she needs some X-factor rivals and Pop idols to play up to! Currently chief among them are Ramon and Giselle, a pair of performers who have embarked upon a short tour sponsored by the mysterious Baron Felmoor (more on him, and other NPCs in a future post). The group meets them in the town of New Haven, where they also encounter Thore Ironclad, a dwarven master armoursmith. Thore is ably represented by the Dwarven Tavern Patron from Hasslefree. I ended up painting him in the week that Lemmy from Motorhead passed away and for me the mdoel bears a passing resemblance, so I painted hm up with that in mind. He has taken on the affectionate nickname of 'Not-Lemmy' in game.

Ramon is also known as the Minstrel from Hasslefree. Giselle is the 'Gypsy' from the Denizens of Ravenloft set by Ral Partha.

A group of non-combatants painted/collected specifically to represent NPCs from our current D&D campaign
'Giselle the Bard' aka the 'Gypsy' from Ral Partha's Denizens of Ravenloft set
This guy is called Ramon. He's a douche.
I've now got a farly good collection of various adult fantasy types (wait, that sounds wrong...), but every population needs some young 'uns, and they are particularly useful as victims/antagonists in a D&D campaign. I first saw these on the Orclord's Stuff section of Stuff of Legends, and had to get some. I was thrilled to find they are still available from Hasslefree. This bunch are a combination of the Medieval Kids and Village Kiddies sets:

'Medieval kids' from Hasslefree Miniatures line up to 'bat each other one' in the time honoured tradition of kids everywhere
In the blue corner!
In the red corner!
And looking on dissaprovingly from the crowd...
This one is definitely my favourite model. She could easily double as a Halfling Ranger
Very basic paintjobs, but hugely enjoyable to paint and play with. I'll be ordering more fantasy non-combatants from Hasslefree just as soon as I've finsihed painting the last lot!

Well, if you made it this far then thank you! I've actually had this post in draft form for several months, but have delayed publishing and have removed certain photos as I don't want to risk my players getting any spoilers of future encounters. No point going to all this trouble if I then give them a sneak preview of what's coming up and don't get to taste their delicious in game tears!

Stay tuned for further updates as our campaign continues :)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Brother Orlando - Rainbow Warrior

This week I've been painting a classic RTB01 Space Marine in the style of the Rainbow Warriors. A much maligned but endearingly remembered chapter of Space Marines from the Rogue Trader era that, for various reasons one might imagine, was phased out as the Grimdark (tm) descended.

I'm not painting it because of that though.

Asslessman from Leadplague started a brilliant tribute idea on the Oldhammer fb page for the community to paint Rainbow Warriors to show our support for the LGBTQ community in the wake of the hate crime (I hesitate to call it a terrorist incident, although that has clearly been an aspect of this case) of the massacre at the Pulse Nighclub in Orlando last week.

I was immediatley on board with this, but I have to admit I struggled a bit with the inherent and potentially distasteful irony of painting a man with a gun to commemorate and show my support for the victims of a mass shooting. I took the opportunity to ask my mum and her partner for their reaction when we saw them briefly for a family event this weekend.

My mum has been out for over 20 years. She is one of the bravest people I know. Her partner (her wife and my step mother) is an ex-Church of England minister. They have both suffered homophobic abuse and institutional prejudice in their lives and careers. They put their love first and they got married, but they had to leave the Church to do so. That broke their hearts. Gladly they have now found semi official acceptance from the Church, an acceptance they always felt was there from their congregations and communities... at least some of them. They've also spent their lives supporting the downtrodden and marginalised in various ways. I felt they were well placed to give me an honest reaction to this idea for a tribute.

Their reaction was positive. They immediately recognised what I was trying to achieve and it was me who quickly brought up the contradiction at hand. They agreed, but my mum very clearly said that her first instinct was that she was glad that the community was responding in this way. We talked about ways that I could have made the tribute more poignant. Removing the gun, placing it at his feet etc.

I also talked about my other idea for a tribute. If I had not gone with Brother Orlando, a close rendition of the picture from teh Rogue Trader rule book, I would have gone with a metal Mk6 Sgt. and called him Sgt. Stonewall, in honour of the struggle that the LGBTQ community have had to fight to get this far. They have had to fight, but they've never had to resort to terroism to get the message across. Love is winning them the struggle. Love is what is going to win against terrorism and hate, and that's what painting Brother Orlando was all about for me.

The pose is as close as I could get to the original picture in the RT rule book

The banner is not a faithful recreation, and was mangled by my 3yr old son before I even managed to get a pic, but I'm calling that wear and tear from the Love Parade. That gun fires party foam by the way.