Saturday, March 24, 2012

Painted: Skeletons for D&D

I mentioned before how most monsters get little or no love from miniature manufacturers but goblins have been done over and over again, sometimes over and over again by the same company. There might not be quite as many skeletons as goblins but this is another monster that it seems every manufacturer has tackled at least once, and buy a few random 25mm fantasy lots on ebay and likely you have the start of a skeleton band.

This batch here, the first off the line from my collection, or I should say first up from the grave, are mostly Grenadier, with a couple Prince August and one Ral Partha. I've got more are waiting for paint, but with the ten here I've got a decent encounter to hinder my players with and let the clerics play with the turning rules. I did learn, though, that a first level group (especially one with two clerics) can take these guys out without too much trouble. (So don't expect just D10 next time, guys. ;) )

Encounter with the Undead

Grenadier make possibly my favorite skeletons. While they might not look quite as dangerous looking as some Ral Partha ones, they're technically excellent and imbued with strong personality that has a very subtle hint of camp such that if you want you can easily picture them behaving like the evil dead of Army of Darkness (though this came years later, of course). The glory of the Grenadier ones though is in the variety and consistency. Though there's a marked difference between his 1970s work and 80s work, all those from the 80s rank up perfectly with one another and there are so damn many you'd be hard pressed to collect them all (I've been fortunate to wind up with quite a few in random lots on eBay but have not applied myself to the task... yet).

Many (but not all) of the Grenadier ones are numbered S1, S2. etc. I don't know how many were sculpted in all but cataloging them all (with their S numbers) would be a fun project in and of itself one might undertake with perhaps the help of the Grenadier Yahoo! group and the Lost Minis Wiki. The Lost Minis Wiki would also be the place to put the results. I have nowhere near a complete set, but I seem to recall I have s60 or 70-something, and I long wondered if there could be that many. Then again, there's the skeletal captain, S113, below, that takes its "S" number from its catalog number, so I really don't know the rhyme or reason.

And something cool I learned just a few days ago, these are a much more motley crew than I had thought all along. I thought all the Grenadier ones, save for the orc and the Roman looking one, were from two of the popular box sets. But in fact there are no two Grenadier skeletons here from the same set or blister. Now I'll have to pin down the providence of my many other Grenadier skeletons.

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In addition to the 80s Grenadier is this OG chap from circa 1976, the Tomb of Horrors box set, which was originally part of the Wizzards & Warriors line but was then re-released for the AD&D Solid Gold Line. His arm was bent out of shape (pointing down instead of up) when he arrived and wouldn't have survived another twist, so I re-enforced the join a little with some greenstuff and let him be.

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I've got two Prince August self-cast figs in here. If you read Dragon in the 80s or early 90s you might remember a Prince August ad for molds of these skeletons sold by mail order. Apparently you could buy them cast by Prince August as well. I got a set of these off eBay along with the wraiths mostly out of curiosity and they definitely seam to be of the self-cast variety given the low quality. The casts were rough and had smooth areas where details were lost, and it took some work with greenstuff to bring them to a level I was happy with. As I said there are tons of great skeletons out there so this definitely wouldn't have been worth it was there not the nostalgia factor. But isn't nostalgia the elephant in the room here?

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Lastly, there's a single Ral Partha represented here, and you can see how well the RP ones mix with the Grenadier. This one is basic and unarmored, but my favorite Partha ones have ornate armor and seem to have more agency and malice than your average skeleton. Such that I plan to use them for Skeleton Warriors, a distinct and far deadlier monster from the Monster Manual II. More on those later, but let me know if you know where this particular one with the halberd is from as I couldn't find him at the Lost Minis Wiki.

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As always these are on flickr, and let me know if you can fill in any of my incomplete metadata.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Enter: the Challengers, pt I

Character portraits from my Borderlands & Beyond AD&D campaign.

My players and I present Choderick's Challengers, young upstarts out to prove themselves in the Borderlands and Beyond. Previously I showed off the figs comprising the party. Here are some of the players' own takes on their characters. So far I've received three bios from the nine players who have taken part so far, but I'll add more if/as I get them.

AD&D Character Sketch: Choderick Argenhelm, paladin

Choderick Argenhelm, paladin
sketch by Clark

Choderick Argenhelm, fourth son of Lord Tristan Argenhelm, is a Paladin sworn to purge the world of evil. His family was slaughtered by marauding reavers in the service of a wicked sorcerer. A vision of the goddess Freyja raising the brave and valiant from among the slain, who were then escorted across a shining bridge by the Valkyries, led him to his calling.

He is accompanied by a doughty dwarf named Ott Gravelspit. They met when Choderick tracked a vicious band of thirty orcs until they made camp. He then waited for the orc guards to become complacent, and attacked. Catching the foul creatures unaware he managed to send most of them back to the hell from whence they spawned. Ott was a captive in the camp, bound, mistreated by the orcs, and in bad shape.

AD&D Character Sketch: Ott Gravelspit, dwarf fighter

Ott Gravelspit, dwarf fighter
sketch by Dane

Upon liberation, the dwarf swore an oath of fealty to Choderick. To break such an oath would bring dishonor to the hearth of his ancestors. Ott has been slow to take to the ways of the Paladin Order. Choderick often chastises Ott for his worldly ways and letting greed get the best of him in regards to treasure, meat pies, fortified mead, and short, hairy women.

Despite being a fierce and canny warrior, Choderick suffers from ill health due to crippling allergies. He is especially prone to dust, molds, slimes, and kobold dander.

AD&D Character Sketch: Leofwin, half-elf ranger

Leofwin, half-elf ranger
sketch by Alan

Next we come to the party's master of trails, schemes and logistics. Leofwin, as he's known, is an outcast who has turned his liabilities into strengths. The offspring of a southern duke and a visiting elven ambassador, he was reviled by both families. He learned to roll with the punches from his older, full-human siblings. The few elves from his mother's clan who would tolerate him constantly tested his woodcraft and endurance with unannounced, midnight ventures into the wild. What came out of this upbringing was the half-elven ranger you see before you. Good with a blade and a blow. Wise in the wiles of orc and kobold. Liked by noble and commoner, but slow to form friendships. Above all, a complete glutton for punishment, who somehow stays standing against the fiercest of buffets. (Oh, those fierce buffets!)

AD&D Character Sketch/Inventory Diagram: Twiss, magic-user

Twiss von Standbrau, magic-user
inventory diagram by Tyler

Last for this post but not at all least is the magic-user Twiss von Standbrau, who's dominion over that kingdom Sleep has many a time brought low those who would stand against the Challengers. Twiss is the youngest of the von Standbrau family of wealthy and prestigious human magic-users. Twiss was born into the magic-user profession but remained highly unmotivated to his craft, preferring to hike and fish rather than commit to study. A recent accident of questionable circumstances has left the patriarch of the von Standbrau house dead, and Twiss' eldest brother has since seized control. Twiss was immediately banished from the family estate. Left with little but his clothes, spellbook, and a few possessions, Twiss has quickly realized that a life of fishing is hardly the road back to nobility and comfort.

Despite his familiarity with the outdoors and wilderness, Twiss is used to an easy life. While competent and capable, he is vastly out of his element as an adventurer and prone to cowardice in the name of self-preservation.

Interested in seeing the full character sheets? They're in the flickr collection.

Btw, the sheets we use are the awesome replicas drawn up by the Mad Irishman, available free on his site. Ought else you need is golden rod paper.