Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Fightin' youths

Fightin’ youths

I told this story during the last game night, and it received enough laughs that I thought it would be worth sharing to a wider audience.

I have some experience wielding polearms, both as a hobbyist and professionally. I learned to fight with medieval weaponry as a kid growing up, and I had a chance to use my skills one day during Basic Training after I joined the US Army Reserves. This is the story of how that all played out.

While growing up in the 80’s, my friends and I discovered D&D, the Renaissance Festival, and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at about the same time. This triumvirate of awesome led us to spend a summer building weapons out of dowel rods, foam pipe insulation and duct tape. We primarily built swords with increasingly complicated hilts, but we experimented in other weaponry as well, including various pole arms built using long curtain rods with paper towel rolls duct taped to the end, and other embellishments.

For one full summer we battled it out in the yards of our neighborhood, suffering minor scrapes and cuts. No bones were broken but there were a few concussions, and once my friend Billy got knocked out by a savage blow to the temple. These were serious fights that took place at full strength. We had rules about fair fighting, which saved us from the worst injuries, but we were a tough group of kids not afraid to hit hard enough to make the other cry.

The amazing thing about this summer of melee is that we actually began to develop fighting skills. There were times when a bout would last for more than a few seconds, as we learned to position, feint, deflect, and wait for openings. I enjoyed dueling with long and short sword, but my specialty was the pole arm.

Life went on, and we grew up and out of our combat phase. A decade later, at 26 years old, I found myself newly married, about to be father, and I joined the Army Reserves. (The exact reasons for this are still obscure.) One fall day I set out for Basic Training, and spent eight weeks training with a great group of young men and women, most of them straight out of high school. One of these fine folks was a fellow named Richard Faith. He came from central Kansas, and he had to get a special waiver to join the army. His only available career path was as a boiler-operator. He was also my battle buddy, meaning we did everything together, and had to look out for one another. This big old corn-fed galoot was as big hearted as he was big boned, but he struggled mightily to pass all the requirements of Basic Training that would allow him to serve in the Army.

Faith had to stay after every night at the shooting range to try and get the required “Sharpshooter” badge. He had to run two miles every single day until he could get his time below the maximum. Both of these things he only passed on the day of graduation by the narrowest of margins. While we were getting our dress uniforms on, Faith was out shooting and running his two miles through the snow. When a drill sergeant entered our dressing room to tell us Faith finally earned his badges, a cheer went up. His graduation was truly an achievement, and though I never saw him again afterwards, I am sure he went on to become a success. I have rarely met another with as much grit as he had.

Faith had problems. He was slow, both physically and mentally, and had a hard time in stressful conditions. When it was our day to throw live hand grenades, he had to go around with a big white ‘X’ chalked on his helmet to let everyone know he was NOT ALLOWED to touch a grenade, god save us all.

One day during Basic Training, the drill sergeants led us out onto a playing field, and we all gathered around in a ring. The boxes we brought along were opened to reveal protective equipment as well as big double-ended padded pole-arm like training weapons. Here we go! I thought this would be a chance to really show off some of my skills. The fights were fun, with people cheering and calling out, and finally it was my turn to go.

I stepped out into the circle carrying my pole arm easily, doing a few tricks, spinning it, and moving in different attack and defense poses to the delight of the recruits. Faith eventually got his helmet secured and grabbed his pole arm. I was smiling, having a good time, and I moved into a position with the pole arm held out and up with both hands, ready to deflect and defend against whatever Faith could throw at me.

Little was I prepared for the mad attack Richard Faith unleashed. He held his pole arm like a giant club above his head and charged straight toward me at top speed with a guttural howl. I was surprised but moved into a position to easily deflect his crude blow, only I did not account for the superhuman strength of an enraged Faith who battered my weapon aside with a mighty sweep and them began to beat me into the earth. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I stood up shaky, and as the sergeant held up Faith’s arm in victory, I shambled back to my place in the circle, bruised in more ways than one. Everyone around me clapped me on the back and said how great it was that I let Faith win. I just nodded, still stunned, and still trying to make sense of what happened. I still think about the episode from time to time, and there are many lessons I have taken from it. One lesson I learned is that getting cocky and underestimating your foe is a huge mistake. Another thing I learned is that victory will go to the person who wants it more, and Richard Faith, though he may have been lacking in skill and ability, made up for all his short-comings with a surplus of drive.

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Dwarven Forge Cavern Game Tiles kickstarter Day One

Dwarven Forge Cavern Game Tiles kickstarter Day One

Dwarven Forge, a leader in 3D dungeon terrain, is launching their newest — and best yet — Kickstarter for 3d Cavern game tiles. Based on last year’s wildly successful dungeon game tiles kickstarter, this years offering looks to surpass that success in every measure — from the dollars collected (congrats guys, you are earning it!) to the amkpunt of tiles offered, and to the unbelievable quality of craftsmanship of the tiles themselves.

I cannot gush enough about Dwarven Forge Game Tiles. My good friend and fellow gamer Dave came through during the original dungeon tiles last year, donating a two-set kickstarter for the good of the group* and after using them for a few weeks I told him I felt as if my dungeons and dragons life was complete. They are the best.



This kickstarter is just beginning and I will update along the way. Right now in it’s first day of 28, it has achieved half the total amount the original kickstarter achieved. This is a good sign, and I roughly estimate they will double the money this time around. Lets hope that leads to twice as many cavern tiles!


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7-10 dio1

These recently painted Reaper miniatures were set up into a diorama. The scene depicts three adventurers — priestess, necromancer, and ranger, who find themselves in a mysterious chamber with a pair of portals. Suddenly they are attacked by creatures emerging from the portal. Down below, a screeching owlbear erupts from one portal, while a big black orc trundles out of the other.

The walls, floors, and stair were made with dungeon tiles. Most of the furniture is from the Reaper kickstarter with a few other odds and ends picked up over the years. The small red fox is one of the Reapers familiars.

7-10 dio2

The owlbear rounds a column and launches itself with full force against the archer and the wizard. Three powerful claws and a snapping beak lash out. The ranger attempts to draw and shoot at point blank range, while the necromancer braces himself for the onslaught. He holds a curled parchment in his hand.

7-10 dio3

The priestess, cut off from the rest, holds up her holy symbol to ward off the overbearing presence of the black orc. She raises her scimitar to defend against the mighty blow of the war axe. The orc is single minded in its ferocious attack, letting his guard down, not noticing or caring about the faithful fox companion of the priestess, ambushing from behind.

7-10 necromancer

Here we have the necromancer. He is done in shades of turquoise, blue and green, with an amethyst gem in his staff and a magical scroll written in golden ink.

7-10 owlbear

The owlbear has some crazy stance, but it works, really capturing the sense of explosive movement.

7-10 pathfinder cleric

Shannon rose to new heights of detail with all the patterned fabrics in the Pathfinder iconic cleric. She is probably the best so far of all the Reapers painted.

7-10 blork1

Big orc, big axe. The gruesome shield is my favorite part. I used antique nickel for the metal blade and plate armor, then dry brushed a bit of gunmetal along the edges.

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I have been excitedly awaiting the six dragons that came with my Reaper Kickstarter package the most. This silver dragon is the shadow dragon model from There Be Dragons, and my first to paint. I think it came out pretty well, although I wish I could have used more variations f color. Silver was pretty limiting in that way. I used platinum gold for an accent, such as on the inner wings, but it is very subtle.


The dragon is a great mold. He is a fine scale, stands up well, and will look good on any battlefield. After painting the dragon was given a satin varnish. Both the dragons in the set are fantastic, and the other one might be my next project.

7-5 illusionist

The psychadelic wizard was one of my favorite miniatures in the set and I had to dissuade many other from painting this one so that I would get the chance. My favorite part of this miniature are the purple robes with gold and silver stars and moons which Shannon did with a toothpick. I tried to make his feather look like a peacock quill. What’s up with the crazy blue owl eyes? He must be in the middle of a spell…

7-5 slayer

This was another miniature I just really had to paint. She is such an attractive slayer. One time I had this dream about huge naked blonde women with hair and swords as long as their bodies, and the image has stuck with me, so women with big swords have become a theme I am drawn towards. I was also experimenting with an orange and grey theme which I might use with my future warriors set.

7-5 stone golem

I wnted this miniature to look like he was carved from some kind of blue stone like cobalt. He is blue all right! But I think he turned out good.There are about five different shades of blue on him. I wish I were able to make it look like veins running through, but I went for a mottled look instead, due to you guessed it, laziness and lack of skill.

7-5 wizard

A friend did the base colors of this one and I finished him up. This arch wizard looks impressively iconic. The colors match him well.

7-6 furniture

I love accessories! I am always looking for more, and the few that one with the Vampire kickstarter reward are pretty cool. Khar painted the treasure heap but I did everything else o the floor here, including our visiting white rat. The first week of painting is over, and a huge chunk of miniatures received their coatings. Probably three-quarters of the box remains yet to be painted.

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We had a great party on the fourth, with all the trappings, including huge amounts of grilled meat, beverages aplenty, and a raucous trip to watch the fireworks explode at a nearby park. During the latter stage of the party, some one suggested painting miniatures, and before you know it, the table was full of painters, including a few kids who may have never painted miniatures before. Below are the miniatures from the Reaper Bones Kickstarter that this great group of friends and family painted on the Fourth of July.

7-4 adventurers

7-4 ghosts - Copy

7-4 gnome

7-4 sarcophagus

7-4 succubi



7-4-elf warrior



7-4-pathfinder barbaian






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Cthulhu! This is the smaller one of course. I started out with a pink base coat. I put a lavender wash above that, and then dry-brushed the whole thing in slime green. I think it came out ok. I like the blood red base.


Probably the best miniature I have yet painted. This wraith is one of the transparent miniatures. I went over it with a blackwash first, trying to get the tears and holes in the robe as dark as possible while leaving the rest of him see-through. Then I painted the sword, base, and gravestone and finally gave him a shellacking.

I am experimenting with painting swords in a different way than giving them a coat of silver or gunmetal. Instead I am trying to paint them in white, grey, and black to look like reflective metal. I have seen some great examples of this online but have sadly been unable to duplicate the effect so far. I do like the sword of the wraith with its blue glowing runes.


My daughter painted this excellent hellhound.


Audrey also painted this miniature, a representation of her character Gale, a fey archer. I love the mona lisa smile and the shadowed eyes.


Mummies! My hobby spanning dearth of mummies comes to an end with the excellent set of four in the vampire set. I experimented with two colors of blue with this pair. I also tried to use lots of gold, copper and bronze.


I have always loved yuanti. They are one of my favorite villain races and show up at some point in most of my campaigns. I painted this guy quickly and traditionally, without any twists or surprises. I think he looks just fine. Oh, I tried to give him some fangs, which met with marginal success, but those glowing red orbs for his eyes came out great. I originally wanted to paint his underbelly a different color, but opted against it, probably due to laziness.

That’s it for this update. On the table right now are a silver dragon, a few golems, and some more characters. Hopefully more friends and family will drop by and allow me to put a paintbrush in their hands. More updates along the way, until the whole 7.4 lb box of over 300 miniatures are all painted.

Here are a few close up shots of some miniatures from Part one.


Each of the twelve goblins is painted a different color. It is hard to get a good photo of them and they might be a tad shinier than I hoped for, but I just cant get enough of these li’l guys.


The female frost giant. I should give her a name, like Helga perhaps.

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With much anticipation the box containing my miniatures arrives on Friday game night. The weekly dungeon delve was cancelled in favor of opening, playing with, and ultimately painting this vast treasure trove of toys, er, I mean miniatures. Everyone in the gaming group helped paint, and this might become a regular occurance until the bulk of the miniatures are coated. It was great fun, with great results.

reaper-unpacking1 The box splilleth open.

My first miniature was of course the frost giantess, seen above. I have long lamented the lack of a large female miniature, so this was a welcome addition. There are other giant-gientes pairs in the Reaper Bones line-up which I hope to someday acquire. Her hair and those big blue eyes are my favorite part of this one. I am unsatisfied with the mottled apprearance of her skin, but I do like its porcelain sheen. I plan to break from tradition and paint her mate as a fire giant.

Here be dragons

Here be dragons

I have a total of six dragons, including the shadow dragon and red dragon from There be dragons’ the Pathfinder red, the jabberwocky, the hydra, and the frost wyrm, I plan on painting the shadow dragon as a silver, and the pathfinder red as an ancient white dragon.

reaper-captbarnabasLori painted this great Captain Barnabas. I particularly love the green coat. She says her favorite part is the blue pants. He is pretty great. The bright colors make him really stand out.

reaper-flamespiritShannon was the first to experiment with a translucent figure, diving right in with s fire spirit. I think the spectacular results speak for themselves. I love the gold coloration, and am tempted to use this method on the huge elemental. We shall see.


Skeleton by Jackson. He plans to paint the whole set in a similar scheme.

reaper-valkyrieKhar chose this valkyrie to represent her paladin. That white skin, those red lips, and the great red cloth of this miniature really stand out. This figure also has the trademark “Flaming Whats” copper base, an innovative aid to help pick out characters on the battlefield at a glance.

There were other miniatures painted by us that night, including an elven ranger named John Smith, a gnome spellcaster, and a hellhound, but either I did not get them varnished, or the photos didnt turn out well. They will make it into a future article for sure, as I document the epic painting of these hundreds of miniatures.


A dozen giant rats became my first challange. I use a three step method: base coat, then black wash the shading, then dry brush the highlights, followed by a matte varnish. The varnish I am using looks more satin than matte, but a protective coating is essential with these flexible plastic minis.

reaper-mummyHere is my mummy. Finally I have a mummy after years of fruitless searching. I am especially proud of this one, as it perfectly exhibits the three stage method. I need to do some base work. The vampire set includes four mummies. Besides this specimin, we have a pair of khopesh wielding mummy warriors and a hovering mummy lord. This will be fun.

Reaper-sorceress1This is the pathfinder iconic sorceress I believe. I really love the way she turned out, The pink is very vibrant and she has such an angelic expression on her face, which I somehow managed to capture. There are a tom of female adventurer types, which is a real boon, as my gaming group is usually around seventy five percent women.


Here are the gobs. Each one has a different color skin. It is about equality here, folks. I really enjoyed painting these little bastids. It is unfortunate that they have too much shine, it distracts from their overall great appearance. I plan to slaughter many player characters with this band of gobbos.

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