Painting – DDM4 “Fettered Dracolich”

I’ve been very happy collecting D&D pre-painted miniatures. They are light and aren’t likely to damage each other in my figure boxes, they are generally good quality available at a low price and they come in full colour! Since the main table-top game I play is D&D, I know they are the right scale for my game and can be used immediately.

Every now and then I get one that has a sloppy paint job, but I’m more than capable now of fixing them up or adding some extra touches where the existing look is bland.

Sometime last year I obtained a “Fettered Dracolich” (#17 in the Lords of Madness mini series; also in the Curse of Undeath – Dungeon Command set).

Fettered: 1. Chained or shackled; 2. Confined or restrained.

First concern first… who names these figures? It’s a good sculpt and nice pose. Chains… no. Shackles… zilch. Cage, weighted net, magical bindings or other confining object? Neither, nor. Okay, there is another D&D mini called “Dracolich” (its bigger) but since this Dracolich was originally a black dragon, maybe just “Black Dracolich” could have been a possibility.

Secondly… the paint job is extremely simplistic. Mine was purely a mid grey over the black plastic of the figure. Images online suggest that the grey is common, otherwise it’s a creamy brown. After we used the figure in a game a few months ago, I started to do some detailing to bring out the bone structure. It was taking me ages and I wasn’t very impressed with the small obvious improvements. During this week (a bit like Azazel) I decided it was time to take it seriously and get it off my desk by doing a complete repaint.

Here’s an image of the typical mini. (I hadn’t photographed mine beforehand.)

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The unchained, unrestrained, animated remains of a dragon!

I gave it an all over light yellow brown, and then a darker brown mostly over the wings. This then got a mostly dry-brushed white to bring out the skeletal structure. It then got a strong tone ink to darken between bones, etc. White highlights to most bones and I thought I was almost done. I’d been looking at some images online, and decided that instead of fussing with wing detail, I’d just paint between the bones like I’d seen on a few other dracolich figures. I started with black mixed with a bit of blue, planning to come back and darken it later, but it dried darker than expected and I only used a bit of black paint on wing edges. Tips of the horns and a few spots between bones got a bit of black too and fluro red, then red for the eyes.

It could probably do with a little bit more detailing, but I don’t really feel like doing much more – so it may only get a spray of clear varnish before going back out to the dragon display shelves in the lounge. Here’s the (probably) finished figure:

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Painting 8 – From Dark Elves to Drow

A long time ago I bought a pack of plastic Games Workshop (Warhammer) Dark Elves, and three metal figures to use in Hero Quest. More recently, the D&D campaign that I run has been encountering Dark Elves / Drow in increasing numbers. I have seven of WotC’s D&D pre-painted mini’s and started using my unpainted GW figures to bolster their numbers. Having fought their way through Hill, Frost and Fire Giants, the party are seeking the Drow that masterminded the assault of giants in the west of the Flanaess of Oerth. Their next step is entering Lolth’s Demonweb and so they will encounter many dark elves. Time to paint…

Eight standard Dark Elf warriors, 2 “champions” (I think they’re Blackguard) and a sorcerer. The standard paint scheme of my D&D mini’s seems to be black on black, with a touch of silver. (I’m touching some of those up next.) I’ve been watching Subedai on “The Lost and the Damned” a lot since the end of last year, since he’s done a range of Dark Elves. This was the basis for my uniforms. The plastic figures have as much detail as the metal ones, which isn’t common in my experience. I spent a week and a half working on these – if I can just finish some floor plans for parts of the Demonweb then I’ll be ready for another D&D session!

I wanted to show a painting progression for the standard warriors, but forgot to take pictures each night. Here’s what I do have:

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I normally do flesh first, but I was still looking up how other people have painted drow flesh, so left it to last. If I do any more drow, then I’ll prime the whole figure in black! All of my figures had a long helmet ornament which I didn’t like – half got trimmed before I sprayed primer. The other half of that (skull) went part way through painting. I generally paint mail black, then go over with silver, but chose to start with my violet first to give a different look. The final result is noticeable, but doesn’t stand out. It worked well, whereas I don’t like the green (as much) behind the mail I did on the champions. I varied their boots a little by using two browns and then later did something similar with the scabbards. Blackened most of the areas to be treated in dark green and did the bottom of each figure – then glued into a new base. Browns on sword hilts and chest plate, then antique copper. Grey on helmets (I should have just done this in black too) and then silver on blades and helmets. I’d wondered about the chest emblem (skull) for a while – thinking that it could be a “house” symbol – and was considering red. These troops are what I’d consider city guards, rather than underdark patrols, but I decided against something bright. They ended up black, brushed over in silver. I’d done sleeves in a light grey and had to repaint those to violet once I started doing flesh – too similar.

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Most of the sites and images I looked at for “drow flesh” suggested dark browns (supposedly easier to highlight) to very dark greys, to blacks (with grey/white highlights) I mixed a very dark grey that dried to a nearly black shade. A tiny bit of white highlight, then white eyebrows and eyes. Red over the white later for the eyes. The face detail on the plastic figures is excellent – made painting the eyes much easier than heaps of other figures that I’ve done. I gave all the figures a go over with AP Dark Tone Ink here – nice shading, particularly bringing out the weapons and the hair. Hair got a good paint now with white to clean up spill-over from other features, though I kept the detail brought out by the ink. I’d been doing the champions and sorcerer at the same time – same colours, mostly in different form.

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The sorcerer got extra effort because he has a lot of extra details – scrolls, rings, trinkets, etc. The yellow ochre on his cap was originally going to be painted over with something else, but it looked good and worked with the green and purple, so I used it with the robe trim too.

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Q: When is a Beholder not a Beholder?

A: When Wizards of the Coast designates it “Product Identity”.

On Saturday night my gaming group got together to continue our Pathfinder D&D Campaign. Our characters had travelled into an area seeking a DracoLich’s phylactery. By the end of the night I think we’d forgotten why we were there. [Side note to Von if you’re reading: We have one woman playing – my wife. She runs a rather zealous Paladin and helps to keep us from getting sidetracked by rampant & irrelevant stupidity or Monty Python. She has also played WoW.]

The first main cave chamber turned out to hold cattle! A closer look was quite dangerous. One gorgon is fairly nasty – a very large metallic scaled bull that breathes a large cone of petrifying gas. We faced eight! I’m quite impressed that by the end of the combat, we only had two (out of 8 characters/NPC’s) that were statues.

My character is a Dwarf Cleric/Wizard/Mystic Theurge. He’s not known for his melee combat. (He might be known for his generosity, his drinking and total disdain for copper pieces.) He has 68 spells to cast each day, and then there are scrolls and wands. I like my wide range of offensive, defensive and miscellaneous magiks! I’m not happy if I can’t use them and even less so if I don’t understand why I can’t.

During the stampede of the Gorgons, the Warmage and I found many of our spells being cancelled. We also started getting attacked by spell effects from a source we couldn’t locate. Things like Charm, Slow, Stun and Disintegrate! In my long history of D&D, these are classic hallmarks of a Beholder, except that two of us were still flying, previously cast defensive spells were still operating and magical items appeared to be functioning normally. Also, a Beholder can’t use it’s eye rays in it’s own anti-magic field. The next thought was multiple invisible casters but I couldn’t see any of those either. (Before people think of lots of stupid responses – I can see invisible.)

DIGITAL CAMERAIt turns out that we were fighting Glaring Tyrants. These are Pathfinder’s answer to the Beholder – ten eyes that fire different ray spells and a large eye that issues a spell-casting disruption cone.(They initially were in an upper chamber, firing rays through a connecting hole.)

Why can’t we fight a “real” Beholder?

Because, because, because, because, because…

It’s the way that Wizard’s of the Coast has defined it’s SRD (System Reference Document) and OGL (Open Gaming License). A bunch of things like certain book names, the planes, and a bunch of monsters that include the beholder, displacer beast, githyanki, mind flayer, and umber hulk are all designated Product Identity and as such cannot be used, copied, modified, etc in Open Game Content. [Full list and legal info can be found on Wizards site, or by web search.]

Actually, we mix a heap of 3rd and 3.5 edition D&D stuff in with our Pathfinder anyway, and I don’t think our campaign/gaming sessions can be defined as bound by the OGL/SRD. (We did buy all the books too!) So a “real” beholder probably could enter our games, but it was a extremely memorable night and quite impressive of the DM to throw something new at us. (Thanks Orez!)

Working through the PC game shelf

Or…  “What PC Games I’m NOT playing“…

I spent four weeks of my Christmas Holidays playing World of Warcraft – I did wander into the Mists of Pandaria, but spent most of my time doing Cataclysm content. I followed that up with a run through of the single player campaign of MS Freelancer. This was the fourth time I’ve played the game and I still enjoy it. I like to try different ways of doing things, seeing if I can get somewhere to get a ship or weapons I didn’t have before, and I’m always trying to do better than my “Battleships killed: 3” record on my 3rd play through. (I only got 2 this time, but that’s still better than the 1 of the 1st & 2nd run-through.) I did manage to spend half my time in Bretonia flying a Kusari Light Fighter!

Over the years I’ve built up a collection of games that people have given me, or I’ve bought at a discount and they’ve gone onto a shelf or into my computer draw. I decided to pick something from this collection and try it out. My computer system really needs a major update and so playing older games means that my system shouldn’t have trouble running them at higher graphics standards. Of course, this also means that the graphics of any such game may not be very impressive any more! It is fun when I read the system requirements and they want 64MB RAM, a 1GHz processor, and a 128MB Graphics card.

I started with something I’d heard a lot about… BioShock. “A first-person shooter experience unlike any other.” (They were right!)

BIOSHOCK (Irrational Games / 2K Games) came out in 2007. This is probably the newest on my game shelf, but I was disgusted to find that I spend longer installing and loading the game than playing it. It installed fine, but I don’t like loading screens that don’t tell you how long its going to take or how much is left to load. I wasn’t happy with sitting through a long load for a short intro sequence then a swim to a lighthouse… and another loading screen.

I really, really hope that the quality of the graphics (absolutely crap), the difficulty with movement (easy to move, hard to stop moving), and the sound quality (I had subtitles on or I’d never have known that some of the noises were people talking to me) directly relate to the fact that my graphics card barely meets the minimum system requirements. I’ve seen much better quality graphics run on my system with much older games. Unlike a few others I tried in the last few days, I’ll keep this and might try it again when I have a new computer.

Take 2: UNREAL  (Epic MegaGames / Digital Extremes, 1998)

This installed fairly quickly and ran well. I played for a while but was mostly unimpressed. Keyboard control left a bit to be desired, but at least it’s customisable. I have Quake II (1997) that I played a lot a long while ago, and (from what I recall) that had better graphics and was more interesting.

Take 3: DEUS EX  (Ion Storm / Eidos Interactive, 2000)

Easy install, controls and settings seemed good. Started the “training” introduction and again, wasn’t impressed. The graphics were pretty basic and I wasn’t getting into the style of the hacking/devices for opening doors. It seemed like it might go somewhere interesting, but a few things with the game-play were getting annoying. I don’t think this one’s for me. Didn’t grab my attention enough to want to try playing the proper game. I also had Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003) on my shelf, but I’m not even going to try that.

Take 4: ROME: TOTAL WAR  (Creative Assembly / Activision, 2004)

From what I’ve read this is my type of game…. but, thwarted! Slow start – three discs to install (while I painted at least), then start… opening screen then a nice message saying to remove the CD, close the game, re-insert CD and start game again… no luck! Treid that a few times and still the same error message. I wasn’t in the mood to uninstall and go through a complete install all over again… so that’s another game I’m not playing. I do have Medieval (Total War) somewhere, so I might try that instead.

There’s still a dozen or so games on my shelf. I’ve ended up to two sets of discs for Morrowind (Elder Scrolls III), so that might be what I’ll try next.