Friday, December 30, 2016

New Hero & Tribute to Gary Gygax & David A. Trampier

Got a couple of new installments for today, I'll start with the more mundane one and move to the more exciting tribute piece at the end of this post.

You can never have too many fighter-type figures.  So I made another one.
Standard milk bottle construction with a flat tapered wooden plug on the top (larger side towards the bottom of the milk bottle), and a bead cut in half and glued on the top of the smaller end of the plug to make a more "nasal" looking helmet.  I've been wanting to do one for a while, and I think I may have hit on the construction method for it that I like.  You just have a couple of half holes on the sides (because it's a bead) but I just filled them in with glue.  You can still see them, but it's good enough.  Shield is a small thin wooden circle with a leather craft brad (with the prongs cut off) glued onto the middle of the shield.  The sword is a tile spacer cut to shape.  And that's it.
I did try a slightly different shield arm position for this figure.  As you can see he is holding the shield away from his body.  This is a bit more "realistic" I think, and by tapering the top of the shoulder of the left arm (the tile spacer that makes it up), cutting it at a 45 degree angle, you still get a lot of surface area of the tile spacer touching the body, so it should be strong enough.
I also wanted him to be a bit more "mixed armor" in appearance, so he has the chain mail shirt, but over it he's got a more banded mail type of chest protection.  The variety makes him more visually interesting I think, in addition to his helmet.

And now, onto the tribute piece ...

For those of you who remember the name of Trampier you could probably already figure out what the piece will be.  There are few things in the D&D world (at least the old school D&D world) than the cover of the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook.  Below is an image of the cover without any of the text, in other words, it's closest to the original painting done by David A. Trampier.
The demon idol with the gem eyes and the two thieves trying to pry them out of the statue is such an iconic old-school D&D image, I just had to try and do a Craftee version of it.  Here is what I did.
Here is the statue by itself.
Here is the view an adventurer would have of it, standing at its feet.

And here is a more posed shot with other adventurers.
At first I was just going to do the statue, but I just love the two thieves, so I had to include them as well, even though I'll never use the figures except for this post.  It was worth it, although they were a pain to make!  The idol construction is very straightforward, although I will say it has a lot of large pieces in it and it is not the most inexpensive figure I've ever done.  There is probably about $10.00 worth of material in this thing, which for a Craftee is a lot.  His main body is a very large egg (not sure of the size but you can tell from the other figures in terms of scale).  His upper arms are large split egg, with his forearms one size smaller split eggs.  His "hands" are the split lady bugs (although you can't really see that in any of the pictures).  His lower legs/shins are the same size of split eggs as his upper arms.  He has smaller split eggs behind these (although you can't see them) serving as the upper legs.  His feet are split wren eggs (the smallest of the eggs), as are the end pieces of his horns.  I used axle caps glued at the bottom of these split eggs to create the horns, and then glued them to the head.  The head is a large round ball with a flat bottom (this is important!).  The flat bottom of the large ball and the flat end of the very large egg being used for the body allowed me to have a good and sturdy place to attach the head to the body.  The base is an oval precut piece of thin plywood I got at Michael's.  Interestingly, these pieces are also what I make my doors out of as well, I just cut them down to make doors.  They eyes are fake gems I also picked up at Michael's in a pack of several colors.  The fire "plate" is the same half circle piece I used to make the large braziers I put in a previous post.  Everything about it is identical, down to the hot glue fire effect.

As far as the paint job goes, I knew I would need to be more extreme in my colors, both because there is no sculpting on this very large figure (so you have to use the paint job to create any sense of depth), and also because I wanted it to be consistent with my painting style on the smaller figures.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this piece, which makes me even more happy since my primary motivation in doing it was as a tribute to Gary Gygax for his great game, and David Trampier for his iconic artwork.  Unfortunately, neither one of them is still with us.  Thank you very much, gentlemen, for some great memories and fun times!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

More Dungeon Terrain & a New Hero!

The holidays are generally good for me for getting gaming stuff done.  This holiday season has not been an exception in the least.

First up, a redo of my terrain boards for caverns.  The first one I did just wasn't "popping" as much as I wanted it to and I realized the reason why.  I didn't leave any black space in between the "squares" on the board.  I originally thought it would be better since I was trying to do a cavern floor rather than a dungeon room with floor tiles as spaces, but it was just too flat looking.  So I did a hallway that was more consistent with the dungeon floor tiles I did, leaving black in between the cavern "squares."  The new tile is on the right.  I like it better.
I decided to do some cavern wall pieces as well just to give me the option of putting a wall every now and then to give the illusion of more depth.  Unfortunately I painted it first before doing the new tile, so it looks more like the tile on the left with no black spaces, but I think that's probably fine for the wall since there are no "squares" on it.  Here is the wall piece with the new cavern hallway.
Next up, some dungeon terrain!  I am always on the lookout for ways to make more brazier type dungeon pieces.  I stumbled upon using the axle cap as the top with the small flower pot as the base, with this structure glued to a regular 1" round precut thin wooden base.  The flame I stole from DM Scotty.  It's the business end of a Q-tip cut down to fit.  Before cutting it though you soak it in white glue and then gently pull some of the cotton up off the tip creating a flowing shape that looks like fire when you paint it.  Just go to DM Scotty's page, he has a great tutorial on how to do this effect.  When I was finishing them up I really liked the shape and thought I could do the exact same shape without the flame effect and have it serve as a basin for holy water.  Below are two braziers and one holy water basin.  I put hot glue inside the hole in the axle cap to make it look like it's holding water.  Can't see the effect very well in this picture, but you get the idea.
I wanted to make a teleportation device for a dungeon room.  I wanted something simple, but something so eye-catching that the players would just have to have their characters touch it.  All it is is a shaker peg with the bottom piece cut off (be patient doing this, if you go too fast you'll split the peg!) and glued to a regular thin wooden 1" base.  The paint job is straight forward except for the top.  I painted all the metal colors first, including the top part, and then painted the very top white.  After the white dried I painted on a special neon red paint.  The white undercoat really makes the red "pop."  No way my players can resist having at least one character touch this thing!
Given I was doing caverns, I needed to make some doorways for the cavern as well.  I wanted to start with open hallways since they are easiest.  Below is one of those, made just like the other hallways just painted with the cavern effect on the sides instead of the gray stones, as well as a "magical portal" doorway for a room.  I wanted to frame it to make it look at little different as well.  I toyed with the idea of putting some cotton on the gray parts of the smoke in the open doorway and have the cotton "reaching" into the room towards the characters, but I haven't done it yet.  Not even sure if I want to take the chance of ruining it to be honest if it ends up not looking good.
And finally, my newest hero.  I decided to do an old-school looking Ranger.  He's a standard milk bottle construction with a rounded plug for a head, tile spacer arms, small wooden precut shape for a shield, tile spacer sword, and tile spacer bow on his back.  The new part of the construction is I took a small round bead and split it in half.  Then I glued it to the back of the head to make it look like he is wearing one of those hoods that they wore in Europe during the Middle Ages.  It drapes down over his shoulders as well as you can see.  He's also got high boots and chainmail shirt and pants.  I am really please with him, he looks like those old Grenadier D&D figure Rangers, which is exactly the look I was going for.

To quote the bar keep at the Prancing Pony from the Lord of the Rings movie, "He's one of them rangers!"
You can see the "tail" of the hood that I made by splitting a bead and gluing half of it to the back of the round plug head piece much better in this second picture.
I'm really happy with him, he is one of my favorite hero figures I've made to date.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Starting New 28mm DBA Hun Army

After I completed my 28mm DBA Armenian army I went to Cold Wars 2012 and entered into a DBA tournament ... and got smashed. Not really surprising because I had never played an Armenian army, not even a single time, so I really had no practice. (That I was not playing much DBA at all did not help either.) I came back home, put the box of troops on the shelf, and there it sat for four years until I recently took it to show it off a friend. We played a couple of DBA games using 15mm troops, but it started me to think that I need to make an opponent to this army so I can use it more.

I've looked at the enemies of the Armenians before and was thinking about the Early Imperial Roman army, but as noted when I tried making some, the helmets are quite a project. I needed something simpler. As DBA is up to 3.0 now, I looked through the new army lists and found that they could match up against the Hunnic army, which consists of one General as Cavalry or Light Horse and 11 Light Horse elements. I like Light Horse armies and this seems simple enough.

I decided to start on the first element – the General as Cavalry – and use a few new build ideas that I had been thinking about. So here is the final build of the element. It has two different style of figures.


The figure in brown is made with two beads, one stacked on top of the other, while the other two are a single, oval bead.

One of the inspirations for building this army was finding a novelty bead called a 'moustache bead'.

The bead in the center is the original, unaltered bead. By sanding away some of the underside of the bead (on the left) you get more of a composite bow look. By sanding on the top and bottom sides you get more of a longbow look. The figure in brown is carrying the bow, so you can get a sense of scale.

The figures in orange and blue represent a huge leap in minimalist (for me) in that the head and body are a single part, an oval bead.

At first I was skeptical about using these beads would be useful, given their simple shape. As I started adding the other bits, for example for the head covering, the arms and legs (hot glue), and the weapons, I saw that it actually worked out well. The key was giving the figure a hat, so the head did not look so pointy.

For the hat I found another novelty bead. I am not sure what it is – maybe some sort of flower – but it makes for a great padded leather cap.

I glued these to the top of the bead, sanded the top down a little so the hole was not so prominent, filled the hole with glue, and then added a short piece of yarn between the head and the hat to act as fur trim. All in all, I liked the effect. I just need to find a way to vary the look a little, other than by painting different fur colors.

The brown figure was made differently. For this I used two cylinder beads – one of which is shown below – and stacked them on top of one another. The bead for the head is shown here, with a taller cylinder for the body. I used the same novelty bead for the hat. As a way of making figures, it worked fine, but I was so struck with the look of the single oval bead that I will probably not use these for this army.

With my experiments on making horse in 12mm I started using oval beads – similar to the ones that I used for the bodies of the orange and blue figures – for horse's heads. Normally I use the split eggs, shown on the left below, for the forequarters, hindquarters, and the head. I was never really fond of using the exact same size egg for all three. I always felt like the head should have been smaller.


Now I use oval beads for the head, only I use ones that are more "squat" in appearance. Almost what are called barrel beads. Using these kind of beads allowed me to stop using a flathead plug as the neck, so I have essentially swapped two wooden parts for one.

Well there you have it. One stand down, 12 more to go. I just need to come up with a way to vary the head coverings a little more. I guess I will have to suffer a trip to the craft store to get some inspiration! 😉

Monday, December 19, 2016

Erol Otus Tribute, a New Monster, and a Treasure Pile, oh my!!!

Got sick over the weekend so I was holed up in my house all the time and even though I didn't feel well (and still don't!) I got some work done on my wooden guys just to distract me from my horrible head and chest cold.

First up, a treasure pile!  I can take no credit for this construction idea, I stole it from DMG from his YouTube channel.  I did make a couple of minor modifications, however, but regardless, here it is:
How could any adventurer resist!?  The chest is identical to the way I've been making and painting them for a while now, just a small 1/2" cube with a split 1/2" spool glued on top.  Then I paint it to look like a chest.  The base is a bit larger thin round wooden shape than I use for the individual human-sized figures, maybe it's 1.25" radius?  Something like that.  Anyway, the silver and gold pieces are just from a bead package.  They make great treasure looking pieces though.  The coins are large gold sparkle.  DMG uses the smaller dust-sized gold for his piles, and that looks good too, but I wanted something that looked a little more like an actual "coin" and these larger glitter really fit the bill perfectly.  I glued the chest down first, and then put hot glue in a rough "pile" shape on the rest of the base piece, making it a bit higher towards the middle of the base.  I then painted the whole thing black (except for the chest of course).  Then I glued down the beads, and after that glue dried I covered the entire uncovered part of the hot glue area with white glue and sprinkled the glitter on it.  After that dried, I put a watered-down coat of white glue on top of the glitter to hopefully hold it in place a little better when I'm actually using it during play.   I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.

I've been wanting to do a Basilisk for some time now.  I finally got the construction the way I wanted it and decided to paint him a little bit of a different color than the standard greenish or yellowish lizard skin color.
He's a split egg head with an axle cap and flat head plug for a long neck, a larger split egg for the body, an combination of flat plugs and a small round headed plug for his tail.  The spikes are all cut tile spacers and glued onto his back.  The feet are my traditional three-toed rounded foot look.  The hardest thing, and the thing that took me the longest time to figure out, was how to do his legs.  I was at first just going to paint them on, but I didn't think it would look as good especially because it would lack the 3D quality that I wanted in the figure, so I kept trying to figure out how to do the legs.  After all, this lizard creature has 6 legs and an observer should be drawn to this fact, so painting them on there was not going to do that strongly enough, I thought.  For each leg, I settled on the large tile spacer ends with the flat side cut at a 45 degree angle to give him an "ankle" look.  Glued those onto the body and then just painted him a pretty simple "reptile" looking pattern.  I wanted the eyes to be strange looking, so I used a blue-green glitter paint.  I'm pretty happy with him, especially with how the "crouching legs" turned out.

As I've said a couple of times on this blog I believe, my favorite old-school D&D artist is Erol Otus.  His stuff I find very compelling primarily because his art does not stick with the traditional appearance of the various classes (like a fighter's armor may be very strange looking), and also his art has a very surreal look to it, which I think is perfect for a fantasy adventure game.  Anyway, I've been meaning to do some figures for PCs as near as I could match in his style.  I can't do all the details he puts into his work, for obvious reasons, and I am no where near the artist he is, but my goal was to create a fighter, cleric, and wizard that would at least give the Erol Otus feel to someone looking at them, using his paintings to inspire me.  Here is how they turned out:
And here they are in action inside the Tomb of Horrors!
And here is Otus's work that I used as my primary inspiration:
The fighter and the wizard figures in particular you can see in this image, both on the left side.

For the most part, all three figures are the same upside milk bottle construction that I often use for my human figures (these three are all humans although the wizard could be an elf I think as well ... a tall one).  However, the fighter and the wizard each have a new piece to them that I've not shown on this blog before.

First the wizard.  His head is a oval bead.  I filed one end down at a slight 45 degree angle so that when I glued it to the flat surface of the bottom of the milk bottle it would tilt backward; hence his head position.  Also I filled in the open hole at the top of the bead with a hot glue gun and as is often the case with these wooden fellows, I was trying to make a "peak" with the hot glue but created two peaks.  It looked to me like he was wearing some sort of open hat and his hair was sticking out the top in two tufts!  It was one of those ignorant, happy mistakes!  The fighter's helmet is a metal piece that I can't remember the name of, but they use them in leather working when they put studs in leather.  The unaltered piece looks like the metal cone you see here, but it has to sharp prongs that point downwards that obviously are used to pierce the leather and then are bent backwards to hold the metal cone into place.  I snipped those off and glued it on top of the smaller end of a flat head plug.  Makes a very nice helmet I think!  Also on the fighter and the wizard I painted mouths, which I do not normally do, but after not doing that with the cleric (even though I think he looks very cool presenting his holy symbol with his eyes narrowed and focused!), the mouths are an important part of Otus's work and I needed to include them in the figures.  One of the things I really like about the wizard in particular is that the figure could be used for a male or a female character.  I really hate having to make different figures for the different sexes.

Thanks again, Mr. Otus, your work enthralled me as a boy, and I am still inspired and affected by it as an older man.  I salute you!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Forgot to Include the Monster in the Post below!

Oops!  Gave you the dungeon furniture, and the walls, but not the monster!  Here he is, the dreaded, but incredibly cute, Rust Monster!
What I heard is that Gary Gygax based the appearance of this monster off a Japanese toy.  I can sort of see that!  He is a small lady bug shape (same one I used to make the Giant Beetles a while back).  The tail are small wooden circles glued together with a thin wooden piece cut to the shape of the iconic "propeller" shape at the top.  The front legs, rear legs, and antenna are all tile spacers cut to their respective shapes and glued to the wooden body.  His rear legs did not turn out as I had hoped, I never could really get the shape that I wanted, but it's close enough.

Dungeon Furniture, Walls, & a Monster

Hi Everyone,

Very cold here tonight, so there was no way I was going to be anywhere but home, so I got some work done on my little wooden fellows.  As I posted a few days ago, I'm trying to build my collection of dungeon furniture.  When I was looking at the braziers I made recently, all I could see was "magic sundial."  I'm a lover of old school D&D and Holmes has a magic sundial in the dungeon that is included in the Holmes version of D&D.  So here is a magic sundial for my dungeon, and my tribute to one of the most important people in the early years of D&D.
The construction is identical to the braziers.  The only difference is I cut a piece of tile spacer in an attractive shape and glued it on top of the sundial face instead of putting hot glue in the same place to create the fire like I did for the braziers.  The paint for this one is interesting, I found a fairly expensive ($8.00 for a little bottle!) professional grade acrylic paint and I decided to give it a try.  It sort of shows up in this picture, but in person you can really tell that the paint is very glossy.  Normally, I don't like that, but I wanted more of a magical metal look to this piece, and I'm okay with it being as glossy as it is.  It's too thin, though, to be used for the figures.  I'll stick with the American paints for them.

I prefer not having walls on my dungeon all around it, but at the same time having the flat floors only does lack for some visual interest when you get a big dungeon on the table.  I decided to make some "walls" that I could slide up against the walls of the hallways and the rooms every now and then just to give the impression of walls without blocking the player's view of the board (which is what I don't like about 360 degree walled dungeons, that and the fact that you can never see what's in the corners of the room!).
Sorry, the picture is a little fuzzy but you get the idea.  This is a single piece of precut wood from the craft store, about 2 inches tall and 3 inches wide.  On the back I glued a small 1/2" I think cube flush with the bottom edge of the piece of wood.  Then I glued a precut rectangular piece that comes in a big bag of wooden pieces in a variety of shapes and sizes flush with the small cube.  The important thing is to leave some of the rectangle extending forward from the wall.  The reason this is important is that you will slide the wall piece up against the hallway or room tile so that this rectangular piece slides underneath the hallway or room tile.  This will give the wall stability and keep it in place.  Painting is very simple as you can see, I used a lighter and darker shade of brown to break up the look of it, and to create "depth."  The lighter color bricks indicate a pillar flush up against the wall, with the darker bricks in shadow slightly from the pillars.
Here are two of the wall tiles in the corner of a room to give the room some height and depth without blocking the players' view of the room tile too much.
Here is how it would look on one of my hallway tiles. 

A larger project I am working on is some tribute pieces for OD&D, Holmes D&D, Moldvay D&D, 1st Edition AD&D, and Gary Gygax in general.  The sun dial piece is a tribute to Holmes as I said before.  The image in the next picture should be recognizable to all old school D&D players.  Love it or hate it, this is a wall piece depicted in the classic Gygax module, the Tome of Horrors.  If you haven't played the module, I won't spoil why this is such an iconic image from the module.

Construction was pretty easy, painting was a pain.  It's just a regular wall like I described above with the large lady bug shape glued onto the wood.  Then I used small beads to make the horns on the head, with the two pieces of horn pointing "down" accomplished by splitting one of the beads and gluing one piece on each side, giving the illusion of horns pointing downwards.  I based the painting off the following image of the wall piece from my favorite D&D artist of all time, Erol Otus.
Thank you Gary Gygas, and thank you Erol Otus for this iconic module, and iconic image, from my youth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Early Christmas Present: a Cricut Cutter

I received a new Christmas present from Santa Amazon the other day: a Cricut Explore Air 2. (By the way, it is not pronounced "cry-cut", like I thought, but "cricket".) So what is it? It is like an old plotter only in addition to plotting (using drawing pens) it also scores and cuts designs out of craft materials like paper, vinyl and – if you get the deep cut blade – foam sheet.

Because it is Air-compatible you can print from your computer over Bluetooth. So naturally, with the Spanish 1808 project ahead of me, I decided to grind out some bicornes. First, I created a digital version of the plastic template I made.

The Cricut comes with its own Design Space software which runs in your browser. I was using Google Chrome on a Mac and had no issues with the software. After creating an account, logging in, and creating a new project, you upload the image into your project.

The graphic came in oversized – this is typical with this type of software – so I resized it. As you dragged the resize handle it automatically kept the shape proportion, so nothing fiddly there.

I then copied and pasted in several more bicornes to fill up the page. Note in the graphic about that the shape is intended to be cut out (the little scissors icon). It took me a while to figure that one out. My first attempt it kept trying to print the shapes.

There are a number of things you can do with a shape. Coloring is so that you can discern different shapes on different layers. You can also mix and match action by having some shapes cut and some score. This is useful for paper modeling, which needs to support both.

When you hit the 'Go' button it brings up a preview screen. As it turned out, meticulously positioning all of the shapes did not matter; it rearranged them to maximize use of the page. I think it was able to do this because I was choosing an odd size (4" by 6") and because everything was on the same layer.

I positioned my foam sheet on the adhesive mat provided. Note that the mat is gummy and designed so the material stays in place while the cutter is operating. Note the damage I have already made to my new mat with scribbles and cuts on it already.

Once everything is ready, you click the 'Go' button on the screen. The 'Load' button on the Cricut flashes, so you press it and the mat and your material is pulled into the machine. (Note: the mat moves forward and back; the cutter only moves left and right. This machine needs a lot of table space!)

There is a knob on the Cricut to indicate how thick the material you are cutting is. Initially I set it to the highest value and I noticed some tearing. I paused it in the middle and reset the thickness to 'Custom' and then the cuts smoothed out. After I finished the job I could see yet more cuts in my mat from where I had the setting too high. All of the bicorne halves popped right out of the sheet, however.

A little bit of trimming for those first ones with a pair of sharp craft scissors will get rid of the jaggedness. No worries. You can see the one in the bottom center has a dent where the roller went over it. This might not be good if you need both sides of the foam to look pristine, but if one side is not shown, the end result will be fine.

So in the span of a few minutes of cutting, I have 14 halves. Enough for seven bicornes. When I get a little more efficient with my cutting, and create a few more digital templates, I should be able to quickly and consistently make arms, legs, weapons, plumes, epaulettes, and more.

I also bought some adhesive backed vinyl to experiment with. I am already thinking about the possibilities there.

UPDATE: This is why I cannot complete project! I cannot leave well enough alone. Rather than simply being a bicorne factory for my 42mm troops I start wondering. What if I scale the size down even more, can I make a bicorne small enough to fit my 12mm troops? Can the Cricut cut something that small and intricate? Can I glue something that small without gluing my fingers to the model too?

Let's stop wondering and try!

Yup! That is a bicorne on a 12mm bead cavalryman. It may be a little oversized, but I like my figures cartoony and this is still doable with my sausage fingers.

Must ... not ... start ... new ... project!



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