Monday, October 27, 2014

Reaper Dark Heaven: Montrig the Bloody

Going back to my Reaper Dark Heaven figure "archive" again for a change of pace, this time I completed an intriguing old figure called 02168 Montrig the Bloody.  I should note that my version of the figure seems to be an earlier version than the one currently shown in the Reaper Online Store, as Montrig originally came with the pick shown in the pictures below rather than a mace (and this is backed up in the fluff from Dark Heaven: Apocalypse).

At first glance, you're probably wondering what happened to him.  Well, according to the lore Montrig gained the name of "the Bloody" for his practice of covering himself with the blood of his foes.  His pick, in particular, is described as being covered with the dried blood and gore of past foes.  I suppose hygiene really isn't an issue when you're undead.  To achieve this effect, I decided it was probably best to paint the figure "clean", and then blood as the last step (and hopefully not screw everything up in doing so).

I decided to go with a gold tone for the majority of the armor to retain the figure's warm tones.  I did use silver for the mail and scale armor, as well as the weapon details.  The gold was covered with a brown wash (as did most of the rest of the figure and base), while the silver parts received a black wash.  The blood was applied in thin layers, first using Reaper MSP Clear Red to sort of "block out" the areas, then followed up with a mix of Clear Red with red and a tiny amount of black.  The second mix was more opaque and darkened the effects considerably.  The tips of the pick were painted a mix of Clear Red and red, as it would have the freshest blood.  Since Montrig is described as covering himself in blood, I kept the blood effects on his front since that's where he would most likely place it for effect.

Montrig's wings were a gift from the Demon Lord Abyst for slaying the lesser demon Margo.  Originally, I was going to paint them a brighter red, but I realized that it would be competing with the blood effects, and probably make the figure too red.  I toned the color way down with a mix of red, medium brown, and black, which resulted in a very dark crimson color.  I lightened the mix with more red and used several thin coats for the highlight layers, and I really like how it turned out.

Conclusion:  I'm extremely pleased with how this figure turned out!  The figure is pretty clearly an older sculpt (compare the relatively static position with newer figures, for example), but it's pretty unique.  The blood effects turned out better than I had hoped, and I feel like my color choices worked very well for the figure.  It's very satisfying to have another figure painted after all these years!

I'm likely back to Bones figures next, but I have several more old Dark Heaven figures left to paint as well.

Until next time!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reaper Bones: Nienna, Female Elf Ranger; Norgol, Irongrave Knight

This week's figure for Monday Miniatures is 77091 Nienna, Female Elf Ranger from the Heroes set.  I had previously finished this figure in a painting spree back in January, but I've reposted her below as I'm still happy with the way she turned out.

I like how the camouflage pattern on the cloak turned out; distinct enough to notice, but not too much of a contrast to ruin the effect.

Since Nienna was already complete, I spent my time on 77065 Norgol, Irongrave Knight and completed the BBEG set.

I've been wanting to complete this figure for a while now, but I couldn't decide on a paint scheme.  The sculpt is solid (pretty literally, at that), but nothing exceptional.  Taking inspiration from the name ("Irongrave Knight"), I wanted to stick with more of an "iron" look that steel for his armor.  The figure was painted with a variety of grays and browns (which seems to be a recurring theme lately).  I decided to avoid using more lively colors to keep the figure's menace and theme strong.

The armor plates were painted with a mix of medium gray, black, and medium brown.  Once that was complete, I went back and added a medium gray edging (similar to a highlight, but pertaining to wear rather than a light source).  This was followed up with a brown wash to help further separate the oxidized areas of iron from the parts that are likely to suffer abrasion.

Since the axe is so large, I decided to stick with a black blade.  Again, the dark tone makes the figure more menacing, but I was also concerned that an attempt at NMM would blend in with the rest of the armor too much.  Instead I added some simple edge highlights to the axe.

Conclusion:  I had no idea how this would turn out, but I'm pretty pleased with the results.  I think there's a reasonable degree of contrast in the pictures, and the effect isn't something I've tried before.  This seems to be a good example of an experiment paying off!

Next week's figure for Monday Miniatures is 77149 Damien, Hellborn Wizard from the Bedeviled set.

- M:M

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Reaper Bones: Male High Wizard

We're back to the New 30 set this week for Monday Miniatures, and a figure I've been looking forward to painting since I received my Bones I Kickstarter order last year:  77034 Male High Wizard.  I'm curious why this figure never received a name, as it seems pretty rare for a Reaper miniature to go unnamed.

This figure is crammed with details, and I think it turned out fairly well as a Bones figure.  The detail on the pile of books and skull aren't the best, but they get the job done.  At the same time, the tiny little lizard and the wizard's fingers turned out fine.  As I said, I really like this figure and it works great as an archetypal wizard.

I primarily went with a blue/purple scheme for the wizard.  His cloak went through a few shades of blue before it was "blue" enough (I felt it was still too similar to his robes and had to keep lightening it).  The robes are actually a royal purple, though it's hard to tell in the pictures above.  The cap is the lightest shade of purple, just to make it stand out a bit.  I used warmer colors as accents, as I thought the red transitioned well from the purple colors.  I also used a little bit of orange to avoid having red in too many areas.

Conclusion:  I would have preferred that the purples and blues didn't run together so much, but overall I think the figure turned out fairly well.  I didn't really attempt anything crazy on this figure, but at the same time I think I had pretty good brush control and only had to do a tiny amount of clean up.

Next week's figure for Monday Miniatures is 77091 Nienna, Female Elf Ranger.  I completed this figure some time ago, so I'll likely work on something else.  Despite the delays with Bones II fulfillment, I'm still going to try to complete as many Bones I figures as I can before my Bones II package arrives!

- M:M

Reaper Dark Heaven: Pillars of Good and Evil

Today I completed a couple more of my older Reaper Dark Heaven figures:  02094 Pillars of Good and Evil.  I have had these for many years now (since late 90s/early 2000s, whenever they were released), and the Pillars were among the earliest Reaper figures I purchased.  Having just finished up the Colossal Skeleton from the Reaper Bones line, I wanted a change of pace (and it was a good chance to work on my backlog).

Pillar of Good:  I wanted to keep this one clean and fairly vibrant.  Because the figure is already pretty busy with the vine and flowers. I didn't want to use a complex stone pattern that could either distract from the other details or get lost in the mix.  Instead, I went for a solid "white stone" look, with black wash to accentuate the cracks.  To make the pillar itself stand out, I went with a darker stone color for the base.  I kept the plant a vibrant green, and early on felt that the crowning flower should be reddish-pink (I'm not sure why; I don't know if it's modeled after a real flower).  Gold was used for the ankh and star-and-crescent symbols (I considered using silver, but I thought it might blend in with the stone too much).  I think the darker gray background for the star-and-crescent gives a nice contract to the symbol.

Pillar of Evil:  The surface of this pillar is bizarre, to say the least.  I figured it was going for a Cthulhu-esque motif, so I decided a mix of purple, blue, and red might work for an "undefined mass", with the recognizable bone sections painted appropriately to stand out.  The mass of the pillar turned out darker than I expected, so I'm not sure if the color differentiation is lost.  However, the various eyes were painted red and manage to stand out noticeably, which I'm glad of.  The eyes and the pentagram were painted bone white, then red (to give a brighter effect).  This was especially tedious for the pentagram, as I wanted to keep the clean lines and doing touch-up with black in the center of the glyph risked ruining the previously-painted red lines.  Fortunately, my work on brush control seems to have paid off and I didn't have any mishaps there!

Conclusion:  Between the two, I actually think the Pillar of Good turned out better.  The colors on the Pillar of Evil are a little too muddled, though I think it works well enough.  The highlights on the base of both pillars turned out nicely as well; I used a pretty strong highlight, but toned it down with a glaze of black wash.  Two of my oldest figures are now complete, with respectable paint jobs!

Until next time!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reaper Bones: Colossal Skeleton

After finishing up this week's Monday Miniature, the Orc Berserker, I decided that I wanted to tackle one of the larger Bones figures.  I had a couple sitting around my desk taunting me (as all unpainted figures do), and decided it was a good time to get one completed.  Bones II includes several larger figures (including numerous dragons), so I wanted to at least get one of my existing ones completed before Bones II arrives.  As such, here is 77116 Colossal Skeleton:

You'll notice the base isn't a typical washer.  The Colossal Skeleton stands about 4.5 inches tall, and has a massive base.  I had read that lids from food tins work well, and in a sense it did.  Unfortunately, it has a slick coating (to keep food from sticking), and that plays havoc with getting any kind of putty to actually stick to it.  I left the figure attached, but I plan to rebase him once I find a suitable replacement.  Because of the flexible nature of Bonesium, the skeleton's right arm tends to "drift" considerably if the figure isn't based.

The figure was painted with a couple of medium browns, bone white, a couple of grays, black, and some brown washes.  A few bits of the weapons were painted gold to give it a little more variation, but otherwise it's a fairly limited palette.  I was attempting to use paint mixes to introduce variety, and while I'm pretty happy with the brown colors I achieved I think more variety would have been better.

While it may be hard to tell from the pictures above, I tried using a "cooler" bone color on the underside surfaces and a "warmer" bone color on the upper surfaces.  It's fairly noticeable when looking at the figure in person, and it creates some nice variation.

Conclusion:  Overall I'm very happy with how this figure turned out.  Larger figures can be challenging due to the sheer amount of surface area.  I'm really pleased with the warm/cool variations in the bone color, as that gives more variety in a color that dominates the model.  I also think my NMM blending on the dagger was pretty good, though my NMM is still way too dark and needs to shift into lighter grayscales.  The one thing that would help strengthen the figure would have been more variation in colors for the various straps and bits of clothing.

So that's it for the first large Bones figure that I've completed.  I'm not sure which large figure I'll paint next (or when), but I do have Deathsleet and Ebonwrath waiting in the wings (no pun intended)....

Until next time!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Role of Death in RPGs

I have seen a few discussions on the role of death in roleplaying games (RPGs), particularly the death of player characters (PCs), and I wanted to provide some thoughts on the matter.  Often, the first (and sometimes only) argument is that if PCs never die, it makes the game trivial or meaningless.  I do not think this is necessarily the case, and in fact it can actually detract from the gaming experience depending on the gaming group.

The first question that must be asked is, "What is the purpose of the game?"  This is a question that has to be answered by each gaming group, as it greatly determines the style of game being played.  For example, a group that's just interested in a combat-focused dungeon crawl is very different than one interested in roleplay-heavy character development and strong plot elements.  The first group is generally not very attached to their characters except in an abstract way (a means to getting loot, leveling up, and other achievements based on game mechanics).  However, more story-driven players are the ones who suffer much more from character death.

I tend to compare RPG heroes to comic book superheroes.  How often do comic heroes actually die?  And when that does happen, it's almost solely as a plot device to further the story.  In my opinion, killing a PC is essentially forcing an end to the story the player was telling, regardless of the impact to the larger plot.  The key idea there is that of "hero"; the PCs should survive while lesser beings die around them.  Is it realistic?  No, but nothing else is in most RPGs, either, so that becomes a very weak argument.

Another argument for character death is that it's necessary for the heroes to fail.  However, "death" and "failure" are two different issues which tend to get lumped together.  A great example of these conditions being separated is the tabletop game Descent: Journeys In The Dark.  In Descent, heroes who lose all their health are "defeated", which removes them from the game until they are revived.  In this way, the Overlord can defeat the heroes in a quest without permanently killing them (and thus removing the character from the game).  The heroes can all be defeated, the Overlord wins the quest... and the game goes on.  The story continues!  And the players do not have to "reset" and lose the investment in their characters.  Again referring to the comic approach, the heroes suffer a setback (which happens, and makes for good stories), but the story continues.

There are numerous ways to avoid character death, ranging from their being left for dead, being taken captive, or even a miraculous escape.  Again, comics are rife with examples of this.  Instead of a character being slain outright (and his story ended), perhaps he is taken captive by the orcish tribes.  Now the other characters can arrange a rescue attempt, the captive hero can try to escape, and so on.  Again, the story continues!

Now, this is not to say that character death should never occur!  It depends on a certain level of "good faith" between players.  If a low-level PC runs off to a dragon lair or attacks a demon lord, they should probably be obliterated in short order.  Also, there may arise a situation where a player feels their character should die, usually in a grand heroic sacrifice (holding off the enemy hordes so the others can escape, etc.).  Sometimes it's as simple as a player just not liking their character or wanting a change of pace.  In those situations, death may be good for the greater story and can be embraced for that.

Ultimately, I think the story as a whole should take a greater precedence than game mechanics.  It's all about having a good time, and no one enjoys having the story for their favorite character brought to an abrupt end because of a night of crummy dice rolls!  Instead, let them suffer defeat but live to continue their story and fight their way back to victory.  Obviously, this approach is better for more story-driven players, but I think that it would add much more to the game than it might detract, and allows the stories of both players and characters to continue!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reaper Bones: Orc Berserker

This week's Monday Miniatures figure is 77059 Orc Berserker from the New 30 set (and also part of the Orcpocalypse add-on).

This is another solid figure, both in terms of the type of Bonesium and the quality of the sculpt.  The mold lines were in easily accessible places and were easy to clean up.  Of particular note is the sword, which is fairly rigid due to its thick blade (thinner blade have been troublesome on other figures).

Due to the amount of armor (and little else) the orc is wearing, he was painted primarily in a range of grays.  The skin is a mix of black and dark green, highlighted with the same with a touch of blue.  I wanted the skin to be dark enough for the figure to pass as a black orc (that's what the metal range of these orcs were listed as), but also light enough to function as a "normal" orc as needed.  The kilt and bracers are light blue mixed with light gray.  I wanted to achieve a winter or arctic effect to match Kavorgh.  The boots, straps, and belt are a medium brown mixed with a light gray, again to help lighten the figure.

Conclusion:  I'm very pleased with how this figure turned out.  I spent a lot of effort on the sword's non-metallic metal (NMM) effects, and I think I got some good transitions.  I'm still having trouble modeling a NMM effect on complex armor surfaces, but I think I'm moving in the right direction.  I also like how the blues turned out, and don't feel out of place on the figure.  My initial attempts on Kavorgh felt disjointed until I adjusted the colors, but fortunately I didn't have the same issues this time around.

Next week's figure in another from the New 30 set and one that I've been looking forward to:  77034 Male High Wizard.  It's a very unique-looking figure and has a lot of detail incorporated, so it will be interesting to see what everyone comes up with.

- M:M

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reaper Bones: Townsfolk: Mother with Children

As I mentioned in last week's Monday Miniatures post, this week's figure did not see retail release due to quality issues.  So if you haven't purchased a Vampire kit from the Bones I Kickstarter, you won't currently be able to get this figure:  77087 Townsfolk: Mother with Children.

When I was first inspecting the figure, I didn't see why it was pulled.  While it's certainly not an epic figure, it's just meant to represent townsfolk NPCs or the like.  Due to this purpose, I'm not as critical of the figure as I would be of one intended to serve as a player's character.  There was relatively little cleanup for mold lines, as well.  However, the lack of detail became noticeable once I started painting.  In particular, I could not decide if the mother was supposed to have sleeves, and all of their facial features were... lacking.

As mentioned above, the figure is intended to serve as an NPC, so I wanted to avoid bold colors (both to avoid competing visually with more important characters, and to create the appearance of well-worn work clothes).  That said, I didn't want to use browns and grays exclusively, so I used a lightened mid-blue on the dress and a lightened dark red on the boy's tunic to provide some color.  The rest of the figures were painted in a variety of browns.

The facial features were surprisingly challenging to paint.  I'm not sure if this was due to the conversion from metal to Bones, or if the original sculpt is just weak.  I wound up redoing the faces a couple of times, and tried to imply stronger features than were actually sculpting.

Conclusion:  This is not one of my better figures, but it gets the job done.  Given the limitations of the sculpted faces I think I did a fair job, but I understand why the figure was pulled from retail release.  Hopefully an improved version of the figure will be available one day.  In the mean time, this one is complete and ready to function as a background NPC.

Next week's figure is 77059 Orc Berserker.  This is a great figure, and I'm looking forward to getting it done.

- M:M

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reaper Dark Heaven: Zombie Werewolf and Samantha of the Blade

I was looking through some of my older figures today, and decided that I should take a short break from Bones to knock out some old Dark Heaven figures.  These were among the first Reaper miniatures I got many years ago, but for one reason or another I've never gotten around to painting them... until now!

First is 02132 Zombie Werewolf:

Back in the day, undead figures usually weren't very grisly in their details, so when I came across Reaper and their zombies-with-exposed-innards, I thought it was a great step forward.  After some experimentation back in the day, I found that using brown washes on top of a red basecoat gave a nice effect for exposed muscles.  I've used the technique in this figure, and I still like the results.

One challenge I had with this figure was that it is a very brown-heavy palette.  The exposed muscles and bones both shift toward brown with washes applied, and the lack of equipment meant there's nothing else to break up the fur on the figure.  To combat this, I layered another coat of red on the muscles to make them stand out, and highlighted the fur with a more yellow-brown.  The best part about zombie figures is that you can be extremely messy when painting them, and it still looks appropriate.  I applied a red-brown mix around the mouth to indicate dried blood, since (as a zombie) the beast would not clean itself between victims.

Conclusion:  I really like how the figure turned out, and the ways I was able to work around the issues listed above.  I feel like I did the figure justice all these years later!

The next figure is 02047 Samantha of the Blade:

This figure was actually my brother's, which I obtained at a later date when he was no longer gaming regularly.  I checked the Dark Heaven Apocalypse rulebook that I have (also many years old), and it lists Samantha as the leader of the Sisters of the Blade.  The book also mentions that she has red hair, so I wanted to carry that forward with the figure.  The other main goal was to practice non-metallic metal (NMM) on the sword blade.  Since her armor is largely mail, I wouldn't have to worry about applying NMM to it as well (note she does have a breastplate and left-side shoulderplate, but they are largely obscured).

I used a few different browns for her boots, pants, gloves, belt, pouches, and scabbard, which were further differentiated with three different brown washes.  The rulebook mentions she has green eyes, but the eyes on the figure are tiny, so instead I decided to give her a green shirt for added color.  The mail and sword were painted with a couple of different grays, though I did use metallic silver for her necklace, torc headband, and scabbard details.  The hair was primarily red and orange, with some brown added to tone it down a bit (though it's still a rather strong orange).

Conclusion:  I think the NMM came out better than I expected.  I need to work on smoothing my transitions a little more, as well as identifying where the lights and darks should be.  I think the upper part of the blade probably needed to shift toward a darker shade at the base of the blade, but I wasn't sure since that entire edge would be in the light (while the underside would be in shadow).  I'm also happy with how the browns turned out, as there's enough differentiation to keep it from blurring together.

I still have several more Dark Heaven figures to paint, so expect them to pop up on occasion when I take a break from Bones (or whatever other project I'm working on).

Until next time!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reaper Bones: Shaeress Nashanneth, Dark Elf Queen

I've had this figure sitting on my desk since I finished up Drago Voss as Tri-Klops.  However, I had sort of hit a wall and never progressed with it until now.  Here is 77066 Shaeress Nashanneth, Dark Elf Queen as Evil-Lyn.

Using some reference pictures for Evil-Lyn from the 2002 reboot of Masters of the Universe, her skin tone was challenging to pin down.  It's a sort of cold pale skin, but I didn't want her to come off as a vampire or the like.  The other challenge was her hair, which is stark white.  The long hair on the figure (and the sculpted texture) left me wondering how shade it without making it look too gray, or just dirty.  The final hard part were the straps from her gown; I'm actually pretty pleased with how accurate I managed to paint the straps, but the sculpted detail is weak on this figure and in some cases it was hard to determine where exactly the straps were.

I used  mix of flesh wash and purple to shade the skin and eyes, leaving a good amount in the eye sockets to provide a nice purple color.  The black and purple clothing was highlighted with a couple of layers lighter (pretty standard fare), and the plates and headdress were painted copper and given a light brown wash.  The base is a dark brown with a black wash.

Conclusion:  Given how long I was stuck on this figure, I'm extremely happy to have it complete!  I feel I did a pretty good job with the straps (I know it's not a super-clean paint job, but I'm still happy with how accurate I managed to be on such tiny details).  This figure is different enough that the association to Evil-Lyn may not be immediate, but once it's pointed out I think the comparison holds up rather well.

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reaper Learn To Paint Kit #2: Basic Skin and Cloth

For a change of pace, I decided to finish up my Reaper Learn To Paint Kit #2: Basic Skin and Cloth.  One of the figures included in the kit (02621 Laurana, Sorceress) had been sitting on my workbench in the "to do" queue for several months.  I wanted something a little different from what I've been working on lately (painting Bones and prepping Relic Knights).

When you're starting out painting, it's easy to get discouraged because your results don't seem to match the finished examples that you see from other painters.  This is especially true in the middle of the project, as the figure can look like an absolute mess before you're done.  Below are pictures from the different stages of the LTPK instructions.  Note that I tried to follow the instructions, even when I would have done something differently, as I considered this a learning experience versus "just painting another figure".  Hopefully this will help others who might want some insight into the painting process!

Skin Step 1: Basecoat

Once the figure is primed, you'll want to apply a nice, even coat of paint for the skin basecoat.  This is usual for what's called the "inside out" approach, where you paint the innermost "layers" first, and work up to the outermost features (which are generally easier to get to).

Skin Step 2: Midtone Shading

The next step is to add a thin midtone layer, leaving the darker basecoat in the recesses to create definition and shading.  Apologies for the odd color in the photo; it seems my camera randomly decides not to like my lighting setup!

Skin Step 3: Highlighting

The third step for the skin is to add final highlights, leaving a little of the previous two layers visible.  I think my highlight color was a little too light, so it creates a harsher transition than I'd like.


The eyes are a multi-step part, and to be honest were kind of a paint in the butt on this figure due to her pronounced brow and cheekbones.  The eyes were painted by painting the entire eye socket dark brown, then off-white (leaving an edge of brown for definition).  From there, the pupil was added by painting a vertical stripe in the middle of each eye.  The most important part here is to make sure your eyes match, so the figure doesn't look googly-eyed!


Next, the hair is basecoated, and then highlighted to provide a natural sheen.  I think highlighting the hair was the biggest thing I'll take away from from this exercise.  This is the first time I've tried it, and I really like the "sheen" effect it gives.

Cloth Step 1: Basecoat

With the skin, hair, and eyes done, we move on to the cloth.  A basecoat is applied to the top and the loincloth (that's what the instructions call it!).

Cloth Step 2: Shading

Next, shading is applied to the cloth areas.  When I initially applied this, I was afraid I had made the shade color way too dark for the top (compare this picture to the previous step).  As you'll see, even if that happens it can be corrected by later steps.

Cloth Step 3: Highlighting

The final step involves adding highlights to the cloth areas.  I lightened the green, which I had previously over-shaded, and added further highlights to the cloth areas.  In addition, I added color to her bracers.

Basing, Details, and Finishing Touches

For the final steps, we paint the leather items (boots, belt, book pouch, etc.), the base, and the scroll.  Since these areas aren't the focus of this painting kit, they're given less attention.  I will say that I'm really pleased with how the scroll turned out.

02621 Laurana, Sorceress

Conclusion:  Overall this was a fun project, and I highly recommend the Reaper Learn To Paint Kits!  They're a great value just for the paints alone, and they have good instructions that will help you grow your painting skills.  I believe this set of LTPKs has been retired, so they may no longer be available except from existing stock in stores, but a Bones LTPK is supposed to be coming soon and should be just as great, if not better!

For Laurana in particular, I'm most pleased with her hair and scroll, and I'm pretty happy with her eyes, as well.  As I mentioned above, there are parts that I would have done differently if I were painting the figure "normally", but I endeavored to stick with the instructions to maximize my learning.  I think I need more practice with this style of painting skin, but I think it might give a little more control than using a wash to shade a midtone basecoat.

Until next time!