“Low level potions and scrolls…for killing a BEHOLDER? What a rip.”
Beholders seem to be a repeat offense as far as home-made minis go. There’s an accessibility factor for the entry level sculptor, and if you simply can’t sculpt (not likely true) then you can always go the wire and foam ball route. And if you want to try sculpting, it’s hard to go wrong, goofy grins and all. Part of the equation is the beholder’s popularity. It’s iconic enough to make it on the cover of the 5th edition Monster Manual, if you’re looking for empirical evidence. Is it a dragon on the cover of a Dungeons & Dragons book? No. It’s a beholder.
And if you’re looking to buy one, they tend to be on the pricey side anymore. Reaper Miniatures has some that are more economical, but at the time I scribe this, you can pay upwards of 40 bucks (US) second hand. And who wants to shell out good money when you can so easily make your own?
There are a couple of concerns that go along with crafting such a beastie. It floats. Sadly our “real world” physics simply wont’ easily allow for a sculpture to be suspended in thin air over a 2 inch base. (If you come up with a cheap and easy gravity defying solution for this, for pity’s sake, let me know about it in the comments!) Otherwise, we’re forced to choose between a discreet stand or to try to suggest levitation through elements that contact the base.
The second choice seems like the elegant solution to me, but to get a real sense of weightlessness, you would need to have some flimsy contact points. The Reaper miniature has several tentacles coming out the bottom of the figure to contact the base. Now, there could be some intellectual property issues in character design there. I’m thinking beholders are a Wizards of the Coast IP, so commercial iterations are, as needed, legally distinct. Yet still, Beholders in my mind’s eye don’t have butt tentacles. You could have some elevated terrain on the base come in contact with an eye stalk, or the body, and I love seeing those when they’re well executed, but a stick under it will do, painted black, or better yet, transparent.
If I had to have only one beholder in my collection, and I’ll be frank, I don’t use them that often against the player characters–they’re never high enough level–I’d have the one from the cover of the Campaign Guide of the City of Splendors boxed set of the Forgotten Realms setting. Originally, it was on the cover of Waterdeep and the North, but I first encountered it from the boxed set.
Drow bikini babes aside, there’s something evocative about this image. There’s a narrative screaming to be told here. Sadly, there’s not much about these characters in the set, which seems pretty weak, since this is their strongest image. You get that it’s a shadowy organization with one foot in Skullport (the skeevy, underground antithesis of Waterdeep) and one foot somewhere in the city’s sewers. They’re not quite a thieve’s guild, that would set off divination alarms for the secretive agents of the city’s justice, but they are a shadow syndicate for illicit activities in Waterdeep and Skullport. Only a handful even know Xanthar is a beholder, let alone he’s the kingpin behind it all. So really, the only time you’re going to need a mini for that is for final showdowns, or if the characters took a wrong pipe too many and wound up being a random lunch for Mr. Xanthar. Be that as it may, a Xanthar beholder mini will still make a great stand-in for all my beholder needs.
Behold the results…
This is actually, my second attempt. I made one years ago that I was super happy with at the time, yet over the years, it is as if he kept hitting himself with his own disintegrator ray, since I had to keep repairing him, until he just fell apart. I may have mentioned that Crayola Air Dry clay is a subprime sculpting medium. This time around, I applied everything I’ve learned since then, and I believe I have a product that will likely last longer than I will. And as my skills have improved, The Xanthar’s never looked better. //I’ll update the post with vintage Xanthar pics when I can dig them out.//
My method was pretty straight forward. I began with a tangle of wire at the center tied to a larger copper wire that extends out the bottom (later painted black). I posed the wires for the crustacean-esque eye stalks. I wrapped the center of the mass up with tinfoil strips to make the base for the body. The rest was a matter of applying clay over the wire and foil and sculpting it. I have a bunch of Super Sculpey left over from other stuff. I like it, but it’s really soft and easy to deform while sculpting it, which make delicate jobs tough. I had some Classic Fimo clay, which is crumbly and hard, yet takes good detail. But like I said, it’s crumbly. So, like peanut butter and chocolate, it seemed like a no brainer to mix them to the consistency I wanted. I’m thinking it was 70/30,(?) but heavy on the Sculpey. In the not too distant future, I’ll have more on the tools and methods I use.
The mini’s featured above are mine as well. Those are a couple of my ProCreate putty minis from last summer. Xanthar isn’t the first art inspiration!