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!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Ral & Partha's Excellent Adventure (or Guam and Back Again)

I've mostly been buying single figures or small lots here and there for the past couple of years, trying to fill holes in the collection and generally avoiding large lots - the lead pile is already huge and I really don't need to make it bigger. But an eBay seller recently had a dozen or so lots of old-school goodness, and a few were just too tempting to take a pass on so I went ahead and bid on several, and ended up winning three.

What caught my eye in two of the lots were some Citadel AD&D minis, specifically four bugbears and six norkers. The rest was a great assortment of Heritage, Citadel, Grenadier, and a smattering of Ral Partha, Superior, TSR, and others. I've long desired to replace my Heritage bugbears and ogre that our first DM absconded with decades ago. And now that our new 3.5 FR campaign has kicked off and we are once again 1st and 2nd level, I decided my DM would benefit from a new batch of old low-level monsters to throw at us. I'm nice that way.

Citadel AD&D Bugbears
Citadel AD&D Norkers
Heritage ogres. Yellow one needs a medic.
Heritage bugbears, how I've missed you so!
That's when the fun started. I won two lots on January 23rd, and the third on January 28th. The third lot was in my hands on January 31st, perfect condition, no worries. The first two lots, shipped together, should have been at my house by the 27th, but that did not happen. The USPS decided my minis needed a vacation, so they sent them to Guam and Hawaii. WTF??? I copied & pasted the tracking history at the end of the post. You can see that the package left Missouri on January 24th, and was en route to the west coast. The last "In Transit to Destination" was on the 27th, and then nothing until the 31st when it shows up in Guam. From there, it heads to Hawaii, and then finally to Washington.

I was excited when the tracking info showed that the package was on my doorstep on February 5th. I opened the front door to find that there was no package after all. Are you f*cking kidding me? My guess is that it was delivered to a neighbor's house by mistake, as I have had items that weren't mine delivered to me by mistake in the past. Sure enough, today - two days later - the package shows up on my doorstep. Finally!

The box was pretty beat up, not a surprise considering it traveled in the neighborhood of 13,000 miles instead of the expected 2,100 miles. I said a quick prayer to the lead gods and opened the package. The seller had very creatively packed the miniatures into four plastic ice cube trays, and wrapped each one in bubble wrap. This should have been good enough for the anticipated domestic trip, but alas did not hold up to the rigors of pan-Pacific travel. A handful of minis where rolling around loose in the box, having been dislodged from their ice cube tray nests.

After unpacking and taking inventory, the final tally was six broken minis and two missing minis. The broken minis can be repaired, but the missing pair (a couple of Baaz Draconian warriors from the TSR Dragonlance box set) are gone forever. I hope they ended up in Hawaii, so they can enjoy the sand, surf, and sun. I don't know how USPS managed to drop the ball on this one. It's not like the zip codes are close (98072 compared to 96913), so I guess we'll just chalk this one up to human error.

After I have a chance to sort through these beauties, I'll be selling the leftovers in much smaller lots on eBay or Facebook. They all deserve a good home, and not just sitting around my hobby room in a plastic bin with all my other lead orphans.
  • Delivered, Front Door/Porch
  • Feb-05-2018, 17:38 PM, WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Out for Delivery
  • Feb-05-2018, 08:20 AM, WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Sorting Complete
  • Feb-05-2018, 08:10 AM, WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Arrived at Post Office
  • Feb-05-2018, 05:30 AM, WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Feb-04-2018, 12:57 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Feb-03-2018, 12:57 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Departed USPS Regional Facility
  • Arrived at USPS Regional Facility
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Feb-02-2018, 12:45 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Feb-01-2018, 12:45 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Departed USPS Regional Facility
  • Arrived at USPS Regional Facility
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Jan-27-2018, 12:07 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Jan-26-2018, 12:07 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • In Transit to Destination
  • Jan-25-2018, 12:07 PM, On its way to WOODINVILLE, WA 98072
  • Arrived at USPS Regional Origin Facility
  • Departed Post Office
  • Jan-24-2018, 17:04 PM, BALLWIN, MO 63011
  • USPS in possession of item
  • Jan-24-2018, 12:20 PM, BALLWIN, MO 63011

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reaper Resin vs Reaper Bones

I love Reaper Miniatures. Great miniatures, great company, great customer service, and an outstanding community. For player characters, there is something for everyone. Our last party was all Reaper, and our new party is once again all Reaper. And the selection of creatures covers pretty much everything in the Monster Manual and then some, so the question is usually how much should I spend?

Some folks don't like to mix scales, but that's not a problem for me. True, some of my venerable 25mm Ral Partha orcs look downright tiny compared to a Reaper DHL 28mm adventurer, and many of the old Heritage and Grenadier sculpts lack the same level of detail as contemporary minis, but I don't look at my collection like that. I buy what I need and I buy what I like, scale and sculpting differences be damned.

To date, I have resisted the siren call of Reaper Bones. I didn't participate in any of the Bones Kickstarters, and did not consider buying any individual Bones minis. While I am a huge fan of how incredibly affordable Bones are, I still prefer the feel and heft of a solid chunk of metal. Another plus for Bones is the light weight. I'm sure I could haul around a lot more Bones than metal minis and still have to carry less overall weight. Finally, Bones get high marks for potential durability. How many weapons and limbs have snapped off a metal mini due to an unfortunate fall off the table or from the ham-fisted handling of my fellow gamers? A lot.

Which brings me to the other day. I was looking for new giants, and I saw the Bones Frost Giant King. That pretty much melted my resolve (no Will save allowed) so I went ahead and bought him. And while I was at it, why not buy another frost giant? Ned (my DM) knows my philosophy is "you can never have too many giants" so I also picked up Boerogg Blackrime in all his resin glory. While both the eBay listing and the Reaper website state Boerogg is resin with metal accessories, my NIB copy is resin with resin accessories. Just an observation, not a criticism.

He followed me home, honest!
Standard Reaper packaging vs Bones
I have been reading up on Bones over the years, mostly on the Reaper forums, but also on various blogs. The first-hand accounts of my fellow painters have been very enlightening with regards to Bones, from priming (to prime or not to prime? That is the question), hardening (some substances can cause Bones minis to stiffen up to varying degrees), and converting (easy, given the soft nature of the plastic). The reason I looked at ways to harden Bones is because I'm NOT a fan of how soft and bendy the king's sword is. If I cannot get it to retain a nice straight form, then I'll have to consider lopping it off and replacing it with a resin or metal blade.

The various bits, side-by-side.

Boerogg Blackrime

Frost Giant King

You can see how much bigger the King is.
So I have removed the giants from their packaging, cleaned them with dish soap, a toothbrush, and cold water, and let them dry. Next step will be to assemble them, clean up any imperfections, and get busy painting! I will leave that for next time, one article for the Bones giant and one for the resin giant. If any of you folks have advice you'd like to share, your input is much appreciated. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Year, New 3.5 FR Campaign

OK, so we actually played on 12/30/17, but let's not split hairs, shall we?

We wrapped up our long-running (2009-20017) 3.5 FR campaign last year in New Orleans. New characters were rolled up on 2/25/17, and then we took a long break to allow our DM time to decompress and regroup for another tilt. It seems only appropriate that we ended one campaign and started another to coincide with my birthdays, does it not? Here is our new party:

Human fighter
Half-drow cleric
Human rogue/sorcerer
Gnome rogue/wizard
Aasimar druid

The new campaign kicked off with our intrepid adventurers enslaved by drow in the Underdark! We were captured individually (at least my druid was alone when ensnared by a goblin trap and captured by some drow, so I'm just assuming the rest of us met similar fates). We slaves led predictably miserable lives as miners and laborers, doing our best to survive each day as we toiled for our harsh masters in Llurth Dreir.

We escaped our captors when we were attacked by some mind flayers and their humanoid minions. While the slavers were busy fighting off the incursion, we broke our shackles with tools and sheer strength and fled down a tunnel. It was a small gaggle that fled, with the five of us plus three orcs, three dwarves, and a human. Our armament consisted of some light picks and clubs.

The tunnel led to an open cavern at the edge of an unknown Underdark sea. As we were scrounging for food and water, some sahaugin raiders emerged from the sea and set upon us. The sea devils probably thought we looked like easy prey, but we fought with the frenzied determination of slaves who had no wish to return to that life. We prevailed, although a few NPCs died during the melee. Some tridents and a net were added to our arsenal, although we cut up the net in order to fashion a crude rude so the chimney in the ceiling above could be explored by our sneaky type.

Pressing on, we were attacked a second time by yet another band of sahaugin while crossing a narrow fjord. The fight whittled down our already meager resources, along with more dead NPCs. We added more tridents and another net to our equipment pool, and our fighter donned some seashell armor taken from a dead sea devil. It is the equivalent of banded armor. Perhaps our biggest score was the discovery of a spellbook looted from the dead sea devil wizard. It is waterproof, of course, and has a read magic spell that cycles through several languages on the page in real time! What this means for us is our rogue/wizard will now be able to cast his arcane spells that he was previously unable to use.
As we continued to work our way through the endless tunnels of the Underdark, we caught a break when we discovered an illusory wall that concealed a small, worked crawlspace that led to some stairs going up. We rested and recovered on the stairs, and then made the 1/4 mile trek up them until we reached a landing that branched off and continued up.
Battle Armor Little Mermaid! 💜 Sans wig unfortunately. I got a lot of Aquaman but oh well, it was still fun to wear! #cosplay #cosplayer #dallasfandays #dallascomiccon #littlemermaid #mermaid #armor #disney #aquaman
Sahaugin shell armor?
At the top of the stairs, we found the remains of an ancient city that was buried below ground and mostly covered by a lake. The side passages at the landing led to areas that were sealed off, as they were obviously below water level. So we entered the lake, swimming to and from stalactite and stalagmite alike, until we reached the top of a tower that was poking up from near the middle of the lake.

There wasn't much to see in the tower, as the lower levels were magically blocked (to keep the water out). In the one interesting room we found, the statues therein turned out to be very helpful! The warrior, rogue, and arcane caster statues are some sort of automated trainers, so the fighter and the hybrids were able to train up to level 2. The cleric and my druid were not so fortunate, but every little bit helps, so not to worry.

We left the tower and found a passageway that led upwards. A tower rising up through the ground alongside a river was discovered and explored. A pitched battle with many, many goblins was fought and barely survived. Pretty much the only reason we didn't perish was due to the fact that everyone was carrying a dose of healing goo (I think it came from some fungus that one of the dwarves was able to identify and harvest). As we somewhat foolishly continued up, an encounter with a few drow was enough to exhaust our spells and give us reason to leave the structure.
Image result for indiana jones nazis i hate these guys
Drow. I hate these guys.
Our last encounter for the session nearly proved our undoing (again). We entered a cavern complex that was the lair for a tribe of goblinesque barbarians. Soon after we routed a small force of natives, reinforcements arrived from two directions, forcing us down a third passage. And OF COURSE that led to a dead end! Time to hold the narrowest part of the tunnel and make our last stand.

But how did we escape? Well, tucked back at the far end of the room attached to the tunnel was a creature that resembled an earth elemental. The elemental was shacked to a circle of runes on the floor and held by bonds of energy, it appeared. With nothing to lose, we attacked the bonds with our weapons and freed the elemental. It summoned the six of us (one lone dwarf remained out of the original count of 7 NPCs) to its side and whisked us away from certain death, right through the very earth itself!

Turns out the elemental was actually an earth genasi who was captured by the goblin things. He brought us to the hidden refuge of Earth's End, an enclave that is a haven for creatures of the earth and for a few friendly allies. There is no physical passage in or out of the area, so you need natural or magical abilities to move freely through the earth to come and go.

Once we rested up, our host was able to get us directly to the dwarven city of Iltkazar, where we leave off until next time.

We achieved our two main goals: escape captivity and survive the perils of the Underdark. I imagine we will be able to get portaled or safely escorted to the surface from here. There is a total of 66sp and 30gp in gems to share, along with the armor and weapons we liberated from drow, sahaugin, and goblin. Isn't it funny how a few simple upgrades make your 1st level characters feel almost invincible? Well, when you go from no armor to chain shirts and banded mail, and from light picks and clubs to tridents, a rapier, daggers, a shortbow and hand crossbows, you sure feel a lot more secure. There is also a magic cloak and three potions to identify.