Category Archives: Sculpting

To Give a Dwarf, (or A halfling’s guide to carving decoys).

“All dwarfs have beards and wear up to twelve layers of clothing. Gender is more or less optional.” ― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

After what seemed a lengthy hiatus, I got the chance to run another game for my other group who are relatively new players. The occasion coincided with the birthday of one of the players, so cake and ice cream was as much a part of the festivities as dice and character sheets.

Having known of this with a respectable amount of time in advance, I decided to wait until nearly the last minute to start work on the birthday present. Yet to be fair, the inspiration hit me late in the game, so to speak. There’s always a long margin to consider in sculpting minis, especially with epoxy putty. It takes at least 4 hours before you can fiddle with green stuff without deforming it, give or take some time depending on the temperature. So each stage is likely to eat up a good part of the day. This guy took about three days to sculpt with one day in the interim where I didn’t touch it.

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I finished painting this guy with only a matter of hours before the event, which granted me some well earned sleep before I boxed him up. I managed to snap a few pics after he was done. Here hes standing on the map I made along with some of the 3D map icons I made for the session, but more on that in another post.

This figure had some new elements which took me out of my comfort zone. The axe head and the shield were made from miliput where usually I sculpt from green stuff (kneadatite). While green stuff is great for organic shapes, it’s less than stellar for shapes with hard edges. Believe it or not I used to carve weapons out of materials like wood or plastic, and to my mind, they’re still viable options as they turned out fairly decent. This time though I went with the orthodox method of making the rough shape out of miliput then sanding and carving the shapes down to what I wanted them to look like. The reason a putty like milliput works better is because it doesn’t cure rubbery. It cures hard with the consistency of ceramic which lets you drill or sand it down.
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The second issue was the cloak. I hate sculpting cloaks. They have their up sides. They cover up a lot of detail you don’t have to sculpt onto the back side of the mini, and they generally look cool. You can get a dynamic pose by having the cloak being wind tossed and so forth. But sculpting cloaks require a base piece sculpted on a greased poly bag (clear plastic bag) and then glued carefully to the mini, then having layer after layer sculpted on the base piece, and having a ton of back fill packed into the voids so the mini is one solid piece rather than a mini with a rubbery cape. The difficulty lies in the patience it requires to wait for each step to cure, and to get the folds of the cloak, robe, or cape to look right and to look smooth like hanging cloth.

Anyway, in spite of my sculpting shortfalls and learning curve, the recipient was delighted. Holkvir, the one eyed gold dwarf mercenary was its own, one of a kind, miniature.

 

Brain Dogs

“It’s literally a brain on legs.”
-Bex Shea

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Intellect devourers are one of those rarely used monsters that come up maybe once every other campaign. They have a long pedigree that stretches back to the early years of D&D. And they straddle that fine line between the goofy and terrifying hemispheres of monsterdom.

You have to go back to 1976 to the Eldrich Wizardry supplement for the original D&D game to see the genesis of these bizarre beasts. They have enough presence in the game to make it on the 1st Edition (AD&D) Monster Manual one year later.  The backstory connects these things to Mind Flayers, or Illithids if you prefer.

It seems Garry Gygax and friends took a look at the squid faced illithids and thought “You know, these guys need a pet.” So the idea was a dark ritual where illithids transform a victim’s brain into nasty little beast that destroys people’s minds and replaces their brains in order to masquerade as their victim and lure even more tasty brains in time for illithid brunch. It’s the illithid pyramid scheme.

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Making these buggers was easier than I expected. There’s not much putty involved. It’s all in the armature. You can pretty much pump these out with a couple hours’ work. There is a couple of design options for sculpting one. Some illustrations show a brain with arms and legs sticking out of it. Some feature dog bodies with brain heads and other concepts have even weirder designs.

My first impressions come from the 2e Illustrations which type, but strangely the body or legs were depicted dark blue.

Personally, as nostalgic as I am, I dig the 5e look.

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So, with this in mind, I got the following results.

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Zombification

“Zombies no, banshees neither, but shades, spectres, and doppelgangers are OK.”
A response by “im pooping” in the Something Awful.com forums to the question “Would you have sex with a zombie or a ghost?”

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OK, I may not be the greatest sculptor around, but it feels like my skills are starting to improve, even if ever so slightly. Zombies are one of those miniatures you can never have enough of. There’s always this still silent whisper in the back of my mind saying “you should learn how to cast a mold and mass produce this stuff.” But then I wouldn’t have all these one of a kind game pieces would I? It would sort of put it in the category of “Limited Edition”, but I digress.

It has been a few months since I mixed up a batch of green stuff, so I wanted to ease back in to it with a couple of simple projects. You never just sculpt one thing unless you have incredible patience since it takes so long to cure after each new application, so I made a couple of intellect devourers on the side, which I’ll be posting here shortly.

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This poor guy is actually the first anthropomorphic (human like) mini I sculpted entirely from Green Stuff aka. Kneaditite. I love this medium, even if many don’t use it for the whole sculpt anymore. It just has the right amount of stickiness and spreads so easily. I’m able to come up with better looking proportions without as much effort, and it takes an infinite amount of detail.

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If there’s one lesson that got reinforced in this sculpt, it’s the need to make a “manikin” head or a blank head that’s a tad smaller than the finished look and letting that cure, so you can apply putty and sculpt on it without deforming the basic head shape. I think I sculpted the head and face twice before I remembered that technique.

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Now to fix a few details, get some paint on him, and base him. He’ll be all set to shamble after some players for those nice juicy brains!

 

Mini Menagerie

“There’s no way there can be that many ogres. I know for a fact he’s only got two minis for ’em.”

Well it’s been a bit, but here’s a glimpse at some stuff I’ve sculpted. A couple of these I’ve featured in several posts and pictures previously, but I thought I’d put them together in one gallery.

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You’ve all seen this one. I modeled it off from an old Forgotten Realms Book of Lairs cover by  Larry Elmore.

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This was the first miniature I sculpted. I hope I’ve learned a few things since. There’s not much call for tavern specific minis, unless you have a lot of fights break out in the tap room. I try to keep them down to a memorable few. Of course they help with the need for urban  bystander minis in a pinch.

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Speaking of urban bystanders, here’s an angry peasant. I got the harshest criticism on the peasants I made, so I rarely bring them to the table. I wasn’t really going for the master piece here, just a rough and ready hoodlum mini instead of a stand-in.

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Here’s everyone’s favorite blood sucking bat-mosquitos…stirges!  These minis can be difficult to get your hands on, and secondary markets can be pricey. Thankfully, these guys aren’t too difficult to whip up. Thing is you wind up needing dozens of these buggers.

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Here’s a poor pig farmer being harassed by a couple stirges. The farmer is a WotC mini.

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Here’s my half orc barbarian, just because. This one is sporting a severed elf head handbag.

 

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The axe was an exercise in problem solving. Procreate isn’t the best material for the cure and sand method for making non organic shapes, but that’s all I had at that point. So I carved an axe blade from a small scrap of wood. Wood that small wants to split by the way. Needless to say, it took several tries.

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This is the swashbuckler I’ve featured in a couple of places. The thing on his back is the little lute I carved out of wood blue tacked to his back since I needed a bard NPC for one of my games recently.

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Below is my paladin of Torm. This was my intro to armored mini sculpting. Proportions kinda got away from me here.

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This is, once again, a previously viewed mini. You wouldn’t believe how often you need just a simple friar in a scene. He’s been described as “derpey.” I won’t disagree.

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And now for a couple of monsters. This ogre made it’s appearance on my Facebook page a while back, but it’s here for continuity. This was a Super Sculpey build on a two inch washer.

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Here’s the Ogre Savage I modeled him from in a side by side shot. My ogre is a bit on the big side, but then few of us are exactly the same in nature.

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Finally, here’s a fire archon I made. They’re sorta like elementals, and it can work for one in a pinch. Here’s a couple angles.

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So now we’re mostly caught up with the slow pace of productivity. I’ve been, aside from running games, been spending my talents on terrain building, but that’s material for another post.

 

Behold … er.

“Low level potions and scrolls…for killing a BEHOLDER? What a rip.”

10440889_829995183736893_30475396273261182_n (1) 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.

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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.

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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.

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Whadda YOU lookin’ at?

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.//

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“You think we took a wrong turn back there?”

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.

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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!

The First Parcel of Loot: Grandfather Tree!

“…And all I got was this crummy potion and a bag of copper? I shaved my 10 foot pole for THIS!?!”

10891632_794053540664391_336231525757320486_nHey folks! If, somehow, you managed to stumble across this in your internet wanderings, I thank you for pausing a moment for consideration. I figure this might be a suitable supplement to Facebook to catalog my crafting (mis)adventures and other game related stuff. You may have already been privy to some of this “stuff” if you are an associate of mine on said social network, and if so, my hearty apologies for not blazing new trails with this post. If you’re coming over from my other shenanigans site, then welcome!  Hopefully, we’ll wrap up Season One of the Temple of Elemental Evil “actual play” recordings and, rumor has it, produce the next on YouTube?!?! If so, this “random treasure” will likely feature prominently there.

Alright! Let’s get on with it, shall we?

1010597_645043065565440_6420763520519119221_nGoing waaaay back in time to April of last year (2014) I present Mr. Big Tree!
Needs a better name you say? Well, I envisioned Grandfather Tree from the Forgotten Realms D&D setting. He hangs out in the High Forest, swaying with his bros… That is until a rapacious pack of dwarves swarm outta nowhere!

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“Eat it, Tree Boy!”

I made this guy the DM Scotty Way, that is with super cheap materials and hot glue….lots of hot glue. I probably should have had the camera ready while I was making this, but that’s the thing with extemporaneous experiments, It’s difficult to remember to document, and then it may not turn out so well. Anyway, the armature for this guy was simply made from glued together wooden dowels and tooth picks. Over this, I liberally applied the hot glue to “bulk up” the figure, covering the joints and filling out things where the wooden dowels were too thin. Then, with a smaller glue gun, I added texture to it, blending into the face which I had glued on just before. The glue is translucent and it was difficult to see what I was doing until it was painted, but I got the bark effect I was shooting for.

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I made the face from…believe it or not, Crayola air dry clay. Yeah, if you’re at all familiar with that material, you’re probably shaking your head right now. Let’s just say, it’s not optimal for this kind of stuff. Usually, you can’t squeak out this kind of detail with it, and I’d be hard pressed to do it again, but there it is. Secondly, it’s brittle. At less than a quarter inch thickness, expect it to break. Thirdly, I’ve discovered this “property” of the Crayola air dry, that over time, it tends to crumble.

I put tiny mettle beads in for the eyes. I added plastic leaves and Woodland Scenics clump foliage for canopy and the little bushes on the base. A stone from my driveway made a good accent there too. Also, I used home made sawdust flock for the mossy bits, like on his beard. 485547_644998015569945_2247534753007659404_n
Surprisingly, this figure has held up well. I’ve had it a good year now, and it’s even had a few nose-dives, and it’s still good!  I made the base out of the Crayola stuff, and I notice paint flaking off here and there. I may refashion a new base from Super Sculpey in order to preserve this. The face, thankfully, is yet pristine.

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“HOOM! Bring it on! HOOORAROOM!”