This blog is about the world of gaming miniatures, as seen from my perspective. I've been collecting and painting for over 30 years now, and while my primary focus is miniatures for D&D, I also enjoy many other games that use minis, so we'll be covering those as well. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meet The New Lead, Same As The Old Lead

Another batch of giants hit my desk last week. I'm keeping 4 out of 21 for myself; the rest have been sold or will be sold in the near future. A second lot saw 2 more giants adopted, as well as some RP 11-series that would have otherwise cost waaay too much individually. Look for some Dark Sun minis to hit eBay in February or March, as they made up the bulk of that lot that I'll be selling to help recoup some lead funds.
Ral Partha 31-012 Giant Half-Troll Champion
The highlight of my latest acquisition is the Citadel/RP Giant Half-Troll Champion shown above. I have lusted after this bad boy since the mid 80s. Another fine example of outstanding work by Tom Meier - the armor is ornate yet not over-done, the pose dynamic and not physics-defying, and the feathers on the helm just work for me. He'll get painted up this year, for sure!
Citadel CM18 Fire Giant
This Chronicle/Citadel Fire Giant was an added bonus in the same lot. I have to admit, it took me a hour or more of poking around the Intertubes before I secured a positive ID on him. Hard to know where to start looking when a mini has no hallmark or ANY sort of stamp, code, etc. Once the paint was stripped from him, all of Nick Lund's handiwork was laid bare for me to take in. Just a nicely done mini on all fronts.
Citadel CM18 Fire GiantCitadel CM18 Fire Giant
Take a good look at the pic of his back, and then the zoomed-in view. Oooh, some trophies hanging from his belt - gruesome fun! It got me thinking (always dangerous) on just how enduring many of these old school sculpts are, packed with personality and just begging to be painted.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the new stuff as well as the old, just in different ways. Take for example some recent giants from Reaper: Werner Klocke's Vanja, Fire Giant Queen; Derek Schubert's Frost Giant Princess; and Ben Siens' Skorg Ironskull, Fire Giant King. All three sport common features - the huge Final Fantasy-style weapons, an embarrassment of detail, and the kind of "oomph" that makes an impact around the gaming table when placed upon the battle mat. I hope to one day paint at least one of these beauties.

And how could any fan of old school lead not be impressed by the folks over at Otherworld Miniatures? Their G Series of giants are pretty much the pages of the Monster Manual come to life in miniature. Don't get me started on BS5, aka The Otherworld Giant, though. I might start foaming at the mouth and babbling about merits of which head variant to use. If anyone at Otherworld wants to hook me up, I just might have to add a Sponsors section to ye olde blogge.

I guess it really boils down to what I grew up with. As far as pure collecting is concerned, I favor the 70s/80s (and sometimes 90s). But when it comes to the question of "what do I need to add to my game?" then there is no clear favorite. Whatever looks best and costs less works best for me.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Final Frontier

I was barely a month old when the Apollo 1 astronauts died. I was a college freshman when Challenger exploded. And I was still in my 30s when Columbia broke apart.

Each January, NASA remembers those who died in the line of duty. I was in the undergraduate library watching the Challenger launch. When it exploded, the library fell almost totally silent, except for a few quiet "What just happened?" and "Oh my god..."

President Reagan's remarks about the crew still resonates with me to this day:

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

On a much lighter note, happy birthday to Elijah "Mr. Frodo" Wood, who turns 30 today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Level, Another One

The other day my DM stopped by to pick up some campaign-related material. While he was here, I recalled that my elf wizard dinged 8th last time we played, but as it was late and we were smoked, we did not take care of any housekeeping. So I had him witness my HD roll for 8th, and as you may have now deduced by the post title, I rolled a 1. Again. For the SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE TIME!!!

According to Ned, that is about 1 in 16,000 give or take a bit. By all accounts, my poor wizzy should get killed by anything stronger than, say, a mortally wounded kobold. With no other bonuses, I should only have 11 HPs. Eleven. As it stands, I have 29. Let's break that down:

1st Level: 4 (all PCs in our campaigns always start with max HP at 1st level)
1st Level: 4 (Mind over Body feat; gives INT bonus as HP bonus @ 1st level [FRCS p37])
2nd-8th: 7 (that would be those seven straight ones rolled, in case you missed it)
3rd & 5th: 2 (+1 HP per Metamagic feat taken per Mind over Body)
Other: 12 (newly-acquired Ring of Robustness)
TOTAL: 29 HP @ 8th level

If I didn't have my new ring, I would be weighing in at 17 HP. Pretty close to average, which I think is what, 20? 2.5 x 8 = 20, if I remember my stat block generation standards correctly. I suppose I could always choose CON (currently 10) as my 8th-level ability increase, and then CON again at 12th. That would give me 11 extra HP (not 12, because of Mind over Body). Something to think about.

Anyone else ever have such shitty luck with the dice? Maybe I should buy a Powerball ticket, see if I can defy those odds and score a big payday. Then I could bribe Ned to let me re-roll all those ones. Of course I'd have to pay hush money to the other guys around the table, but it would be SO worth it.

Get Yer Giants!

Need a giant? I listed 21 giants on eBay tonight from Ral Partha, Grenadier, Heritage, Citadel, and Superior Models. We're talking old lead, none of that sparkly Ralidium or other non-hazardous blends kids use these days. Lots of 01-series goodness here, with a smattering of other stuff too. The auctions end Sunday evening (1/30) around 7:30 Pacific/10:30 Eastern.

I've attempted to add some humor in several of my listings. I don't know why, I guess sometimes I look at a mini and the sculpt or paintjob triggers a response. Otherwise it would be a bunch of "Just the facts, ma'am" type of descriptions. Bor-ing!

For those of you who stop by to look and/or bid, thank you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do You Do Slotta?

Just wondering how many of you out there care one way or another what kind of base your miniature comes on. The reason why I ask is that I still see comments on forums and blogs where folks express a dislike for slotta-base minis. "Too bad it's slotta-based" is a similar refrain, and I'm not entirely sure if that's because those people don't like basing their miniatures, or what?

To be fair, I used to not consider slotta-base minis as a collecting option. Looking back, the reason was simple: I did not know HOW to base them! I was used to simply splashing some paint onto the Ral Partha or Grenadier or Heritage mini base and that was that. But slotta-base? Umm, there would be an ugly gap in the base of the mini, and since it wasn't textured, it would look...fake? Plain? I don't know. Years later, the "secret" of basing came to my attention, and it was something like "Oh, so THAT'S how you base a slotta-base mini!"

Now it's hard for me to NOT do extra basing work on whatever project I'm working on. At first, I simply glued the fixed-based mini (like the many Reaper DHL models I have) to the top of a spare plastic base, and then used spackle to blend in the terrain with the base. You know, so it didn't look like a mini glued to the top of a spare base.

But wait, there's more? You mean I can buy a base with edges higher than the bottom? Oh, so now I can glue the mini to the bottom of the base and use the spackle to level off the base, and everything is neat and tidy? Damn, what will these kids think of next, pre-formed custom bases so I can create my own little dioramas?

This year, I think I will have to go ahead and take a mini, hack the base off of it, and pin it to one of them there fancy new-fangled bases. I'll be sure to add that to the To-Do list, and hope to share the results down the road.

Now, if I see a mini I like, I'll add it to my collection regardless of what kind of base it comes with (or what scale it is, but that's another entry for another time). I mean, it would be a shame to pass up a perfectly good Remorhaz...I mean, Frost Wyrm or Erekose simply because they were slotta-based. Which reminds me, I still need to pick up the Frost Wyrm and paint up my Erekose sometime this year.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

City State of the Invincible Miniatures

Someone out there picked up several pieces of gaming history tonight on eBay. Bill Owen, who was a founding partner of Judges Guild, auctioned off a lot of fantasy miniatures. Why is this cool and/or noteworthy? Because they were actually used in gaming sessions by Bill, the late Bob Bledsaw, and others associated with JG back in the day. Here is the text from the auction listing:

"Fantasy miniature collection with many painted, a few conversions plus a cigar box miscellaneous unpainted or partly painted 1974-1976.

Most were painted by Bill Owen from the days of their weekly Middle Earth-based D&D campaign at Bob Bledsaw's house.

Notably included is Beorn the bearman (Craig Fogle), LL's amazon queen, Marcham elf warrior, Tony the Patriarch, Gandalf (Mark Holmer), various critters like ents, giant spiders, Martian thoats and most impressive of all is very colorful Balrog with whip.

We used these miniatures for particularly complex situations and battles that we played regularly during pre-Judges Guild times (and some afterwards) a mere 37 years ago. Who knows where the time goes?"

Now how damn cool is that? Pretty damn cool, at least in my opinion. Someone acquired miniatures that were painted by Bob and used by Bill, Bob, etc. on their gaming tables way back when D&D was in its infancy and the JG crew were these upstarts who created some of the most memorable non-TSR adventures and settings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New additions to the lead family

It's been a busy week on the painting and collecting front. I've made significant progress on my DA scouts, and they are nearing completion. Overall, I'm very pleased with the results to date, and I'll even give Devlan Mud wash a try. Pics of the final product to follow in the near future.
Two boxes arrived in my mailbox bearing newly-acquired lead. The first one contained four minis from Superior Models: WL-71 Surtur the Fire Giant, WL-78 Sitting Griffon, WL-102 Dragon Warrior, and WL-103 Dragon Mistress. I already have Surtur, but this new one came with wings, which I did not have on the first one.
The Griffon is a sweet sculpt, even though it is not a dynamic pose. The feathers are nicely done, and should show a great amount of detail when painted up. I also like the large eyes, which just scream character, so I hope I do a good job on them. The dragons for 102 and 103 are the same, but the riders aren't. Just need the Dragon Master (WL-100) round out the trio of dragons and riders.

I was quite happy to pick up all four for just under a total of $21. As a plus, all four models came with their original packaging! Big thanks to eBay seller basementblowout48723 for superb customer service and a flawless transaction.

The other box held a Ral Partha Stone Giant (11-403) and a pair of LOTR minis from Heritage: 1760 Troll of Moria, and the Balrog from 3000 The Mines of Moria Paint'n'Play set.
The troll I wanted because I remember it from back in the day - can't say for sure if I previously owned one or not, but I remember his ugly, snaggle-toothed face for sure. And the Balrog - well, what's not to love about a LOTR Balrog? The unique thing about this one, though, is his size. He's barely bigger than a human-sized Heritage mini! I wonder if the sculptor had to make him that size to fit in the set.

Big thanks to fellow eBayer selmanvandrake for a fast and excellent transaction.

Wrapping things up, my boys wanted to take some pics of their minis. Here are some from Frodo (age 8):
and Taz (age 6):
Frodo shows more interest in painting than Taz (as evidenced by his collection of over 200 minis compared to Taz's 20 or 30), but it's fun to see them busy painting. Chips off the old block, or something like that.

Much Ado About Plastic

I do not own any plastic pre-painted miniatures, D&D or otherwise. So news of the demise of D&D Minis does not affect my buying, painting, and/or collecting habits.

There's plenty of chatter going on out there about it; just take a peek at the latest entries over on Eternal Keep and you'll see what I mean. Hard to tell for certain if the line is being shut down simply for financial reasons, or if they have made just about every single monster, NPC, and hero several times over and there's not much left to cover. Or, if you prefer, the various theorists and fortune tellers out there suggest it is a portent of doom; an event that signals the beginning of the end of D&D as we know it!

Personally, I think it's a bummer. When you think about it, there are plenty of reasons to use D&D Minis in whatever pen & paper game you happen to run or play in:

1) Affordable - a quick perusal of eBay listings showed a lot of minis in the $1 to $3 range. Sure, the prices for rares or critters like Orcus and dragons can quickly hit $50-$60, and even the Colossal Red Dragon goes for $200 plus, and then some. I'm just saying I think you can pick up a bunch of orcs, skeletons, and other common foes plus a smaller amount of giants, demons, and other strange critters for a lot less than their metal counterparts. You also need to factor in the cost of supplies (paints, brushes, tools, etc) and time when mentioning metal minis.

2) Time - let's face it, not everyone has time to paint minis. Many folks don't even WANT to paint (Heretics! Burn them!). Hell, sometimes even I get burned out when I've been painting for a spell, and take a break. With D&D Minis, you buy them and POW, good to go. Table-ready. No muss, no fuss.

3) Storage - unless you are a hard-core OCD-type collector, you can simply dump your D&D Minis in a Rubbermaid tote, cardboard box, or burlap sack. Sure, you can be organized if you want, that's just going to cost you some more money for additional totes or carrying cases (tackle boxes, tool boxes, craft supply organizers, etc).

Those three points summarize why I think plastic pre-painted minis are a good for D&D. Granted, you can always make an argument that in many cases, metal minis can be even less expensive than their plastic counterparts. I know I have personally scored many lots of lead in the range of 10 to 30 cents per figure. Bargains can be had, that's no secret. And on the other end of the spectrum, many sellers continue to charge outrageous prices for minis such as the Ral Partha 11-series of AD&D miniatures.

But painters still need to invest substantial funds into paint & supplies, and the time it takes to learn the craft and paint, paint, paint. I am fairly confident I will go to the grave with a roster of unpainted minis that is both long and shameful.

I dig the fact that if you give a couple of painters a lead mini, chances are they will produce finished products that look quite different. It's always fun to trot out new lead for the gaming group, something that bears my personal touch. In our current game, I hand-picked and painted up everyone's characters. It is some of my best work to date, and I feel like we are moving our characters around the battle mat, and not some generic proxy or figure that is exactly the same on our board as well as on thousands of other gaming boards worldwide.

The plastic king is dead; long live the king.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

He served in a company of heroes...

Richard D. Winters, MAJ, USA (Ret.) passed away on January 2nd. Like a lot of veterans of his generation, he seemed very humble and genuine. He was best known from his wartime actions chronicled in both the print and cinematic version of Band of Brothers.

It would seem that some folks have been trying to get the President to award the CMOH to Major Winters for his actions at Brecourt Manor during the Normandy invasion.

According to Wikipedia, there are 36 living members of Easy Company.

Monday, January 10, 2011

They're NOT Little Men! Oh, wait, yes they are. Never mind.

a scene from Universal' new comedy, The 40 Year Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell and directed by Judd Apatow.
Andy painting his Little Men (photo:

I read an interesting review of the Ultramarines (Warhammer40K) movie over on FTW. The cool thing is that it was written by his wife. You know it's true love when you let your wife post on your miniatures blog, and when she writes a movie review about a Little Man movie.

My wife knew I was a geek long before we were married. We have been married for over 15 years now, and have known each other for something like 23 years. She used to think that when I played D&D with my crew that we were literally "jumping around in bushes" instead of sitting around a table rolling dice and pushing Little Men around a battle mat. She now knows that jumping around in bushes is LARPing, but she still sends me out the door on gaming days with a chipper "Have fun jumping around in the bushes, dear!"

When she enters the bonus room and sees me painting, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes and quips "What a geek!" And of course, I reply with "And yet you still married me." As far as I can remember, she has always called miniatures "Little Men." She's right, of course - well, except for monsters - but Little Men is pretty much the universal chick code for any and all miniatures.

My wife and I recently watched the HBO miniseries The Pacific, which was my birthday present to myself. She really enjoyed it, but that's not a shocker to me - as it turns out, she really liked Band of Brothers. And LOTR. And Star Trek. It seems that compelling storylines, interesting characters, and good writing go a long way towards attracting non-geek viewers. That's not to say the missus would enjoy reading LOTR, but I'll take her positive reaction towards the movies any day of the week.

I guess my point is to count yourself lucky if your wife/husband/partner embraces your Little Man hobby and/or gaming and geek culture in general.

Maybe I should paint up Reaper's Brigitte, Naughty French Maid just to see if she's paying attention. She'll probably smack me upside the head, but it will totally be worth it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Your 4th level Neutral cleric is too powerful!

The above image is used without the express written consent of the National Hockey League, or whoever the actual owner may be. In any event, should they happen upon my blog and read this entry, perhaps they will smile when the connection is made and not be angry at me.

Back in my gaming heyday, we would play as much as possible on the weekends and maybe even squeeze in some weeknight action. Ah, the carefree days of high school and college! My group has always been strictly a D&D group. I don't know why, but we never seriously considered giving any other genres or systems a whirl.

So one day, one of my high school buddies (also a gamer) approaches me and says that his group has an opening at their table, and would I like to join them? Of course I jump at the chance to play more D&D when my main group is not gaming. Mikey (my friend, not my brother) mentions that his group plays other games in addition to D&D, just so I know ahead of time. Hey, no problem. I wouldn't mind playing other games too, so tell them I'm in!

Group #2 seems like a decent bunch of fellas. There was that somewhat awkward feeling-out period where we all get to know each other, but once they see that I actually know how to play D&D, I seem to fit right in.

As Mikey had previously warned me, Group #2 enjoys a wide variety of games in addition to the ongoing D&D campaigns. Turns out he wasn't kidding: Traveller, Star Wars, Star Trek, Micro Armour, Nuclear Risk, Diplomacy, Nuclear War (the card game), and I'm sure there had to be a couple others as well that I'm forgetting about.

It was really cool to give all these other systems and genres a try. Micro Armour, in particular, really struck a chord in me. Little lead tanks, I'm sure, had NOTHING to do with it. Well, maybe a little bit. But I've always been a student of WWII history and a model builder, so Micro Armour wasn't a tough sell for me at all. Many a memorable battle was fought, and I even built my own Styrofoam battle boards at home. And yes, I still have all my GHQ tanks from back then. I'll need to dig them out and line them up for a photo shoot one of these days.

Back to D&D with Group #2. I had been playing with them for several months now - exactly how long, I'm not sure - and all was well. Or so I thought. One session, we set up and get ready to play. The DM mapped out "Fort Blood" on the gaming table. Fort Blood used to be an orc stronghold, but the party had long since routed the former owners and now we used it as our base. The DM has us set up our miniatures in the dining hall, and I'm thinking we're going to get jumped by something pretty nasty here. Boy, was I ever right!

We get jumped, all right. Or more specifically, I got jumped. My 4th level Neutral cleric (his name escapes me at the moment) is attacked and killed at the dinner table by his fellow adventurers. WTF? I recall being stunned for a bit, before turning to the two or three players who did the attacking and asking why. Their answer? "Because you were getting too powerful."

Too powerful? What, did they think I was going to take control of the party and lead everyone on prayer raids or host endless Tupperware-style holy symbol parties? Sure, some of the guys around the table were fairly chaotic (read: spazzes in real life), but that seemed like a shitty thing to do. Needless to say, my time with Group #2 ended soon after that, if not the same day.

I wonder what I did to piss them off? Drink someone's Mt. Dew? Heal some other character instead of theirs? Do or say something offensive? For the life of me, I can't think of anything I said or did that may have led them to ganking my poor cleric like they did. Looking back, I can laugh about it now, and I kind of doubt any of them would even remember why they did it. Sometimes I wonder why I still remember in such gory detail, but then again, my mind is chock full of useless info like that.

In my main group, back when one of my neighbors was our first DM, there were times when he would pit the party members against each other to stir things up. Of course, he was the kind of DM who enjoyed killing characters, destroying magic items, and fostering party dissent. I'm glad we finally ditched him. We've been rolling along just fine ever since then.

I've even toyed with the notion of setting up a Gladiator-style arena, just so everyone could have at each other. Of course it would be just for fun, because no one wants to get killed multiple times all in the name of seeing who could kick ass and take names. More of a fun diversion, really.

So "WTF TK!" indeed.

(For those of you not fluent in leet speak, TK = Team Kill. Fratricide. Friendly Fire. Fragging.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"James, earn this...earn it."

I recently read a post over on Joethelawyer's Wondrous Imaginings that got me thinking a bit about life, death, and the endgame in our various campaigns.

Keep in mind a couple of things: 1) I've been gaming with the same group of friends for something like 25 to 30 years now, so we're all quite familiar with everyone's playing style as well as how our stalwart DM runs his campaigns. 2) We don't play on anything approaching a regular basis, mainly due to the fact that two of the guys live in California.

Our current campaign (most recently mentioned here) is a 3.5 game set in the Forgotten Realms. Everyone is at or close to 8th level. The storyline has us butting heads with the Red Wizards of Thay, but not just because we needed an enemy to fight. Two characters (including my wizard) are from Aglarond, which borders Thay to the southwest. Needless to say, family history more or less has us at odds with Thay going back before we were born. The intrigue and unanswered questions keeps our imaginations busy, for sure.

Historically, our DM has run a low-magic campaign. In past campaigns, magic items were hard to come by. You cherished each one, and it REALLY hurt if you ever had the misfortune of losing one (or all of them). Things have changed since then. Magic items are now more plentiful, but the LEVEL of the items is carefully controlled. And in my opinion, this is a good thing.

With a couple of exceptions, we are mostly outfitted with +1 and +2 armor and weapons, and miscellaneous magic of similar power. I have the feeling if we were all strapped with +3 and +4 items, we would breeze through encounters and there would be little challenge (and therefore little danger). In other words, I think we are appropriately equipped for a party of our level. I'm sure if we reach higher levels, then the +3/+4/+5 items will eventually come into play.

Leafing through my pile of dead and/or retired characters, I noted a trend: my last four characters were all 9th level. For whatever reason, double digit levels is a challenge for our group. Where did we go wrong? Well, for one, we sometimes just plain and simple fuck up. We managed a TPK with one group because we made a bad tactical decision in a frost giant lair. That was our bad, no more, no less. And if memory serves, I think we lost a couple of characters when they went off on a side adventure, or got split from the party. And then there's always the dice. Sometimes you just have a bad day rolling. A 1 on a crucial save, or a miss when you really needed a hit. You can't control that part of the game, so you just have to deal with it.

I guess I must be an optimist, because I have set up and planned for my wizard to eventually become an archmage (as in the prestige class). That won't happen until 16th level, when I will be Wiz15/Acm1. Of course, I still need to make it from 8th to 16th, but if you don't plan for it, how can you make it happen? Why even bother? Well, I don't think anyone in the group has ever pursued a prestige class before, so it's more of a "let's plan for it anyhow and deal with it if I ever get there" sort of mentality.

Bottom line, I think, is that in a campaign like ours, you need to EARN your rewards (hence my quoting Capt. Miller for my title). If I ever want to reach 10th, much less become an archmage, I need to play smart. So far, so good. But, no matter what happens, the game is still fun to play after all these years. If the game isn't fun for you, why would you even play?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Painting To-Do List, January 2011

OK, reality check time. After taking stock of the various miniatures lounging around my desk, I typed up a list of everything present. The list is long and shameful, but it needed to be done. First, I am going to finish those projects already started. Second, I will resist the temptation to start anything else until the following list is complete:

Drow x7 [Reaper WL 14590, 14575, 14570, 14355; DHL 2952, 2524, 2506]
Skeletons x3 [Reaper Barrow Wardens 3220 & 3221]
Vampire [GW Mordheim blister]
Giant, Stone [RP 11-403]
Giant, Frost [RP 11-436]
Giant, Frost [Reaper DHL 2622]
Giant, Cyclops [RP 11-488]
Giant, Skeletal [Reaper DHL 2742]
Giant, Fire [RP 02-934 Barbarian]
Giant, Fire [RP 01-067 Hecatron]
Giant, Hill [RP 01-313]
Ogre/troll [RP 02-144]
Hobgoblins x6 [RP 11-446 and 11-487]
Orcs x11 [RP 02-073 & 02-084]

Dark Angels scouts x11

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg! There are no less than 14 more giants, 7 demons/devils, 2 beholders, 1 basilisk, and a dragon or three waiting for some love. My fetish for giants is apparent, but I found it interesting that in my 30+ years of gaming, I've never done a large dragon! With any amount of luck, I will tackle Ebonwrath after I wade through the above list. He's already partially assembled, but I want to greenstuff some gaps and make it look good. Must...focus!

Anyone out there have any goals this year? I'd love to hear about them if you want to share.