For my Character of the Month and for Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge on Instagram, I decided to do this half-elven ranger, sculpted by Dennis Mize for the Ral Partha AD&D Adventurers collection back in 1989.
Another old-school, metal miniature from yesteryear that’s been sitting in my pile of shame without a drop of paint on him since the day he was purchased.
I’m really happy with the way he came out, and I’m glad I chose yellow as the prominent color. I hate painting yellow, but for some reason I thought it would look good.
True to form, I waited until the last possible day to finish him up, but that still counts!
This month has been fun. Make sure to stop by Carrion Crow’s Buffet for the Forgotten Heroes blogroll and check out everyone’s fantastic submissions. Next month here at Dead Dick’s Tavern starts with a major gripe session, followed by more pop culture miniatures, another character of the month, and…oh, yeah…a little thing called the Season of Scenery, hosted by Mr. Star Wars himself: Dave Stone! This year, I have decided to merge both the Season of Scenery challenge and my own Year of Pop Culture and work on something that will satisfy both.
For my Character of the Month, I decided to do a cleric. This is an old TSR miniature from the “Heroes” set, released in 1983.
I have made my derision plain regarding this era of D&D miniatures. There’s very little to like. Most of the TSR miniatures look stupid; scale is an afterthought; and they are made of a strange metal that does its damndest to repel paint. In short, they suck.
The Heroes set is the best of the TSR D&D boxed sets, though. Most of the miniatures in the set manage to not look completely like ass. I actually like this cleric, which is why I chose to paint him.
I’m not at all sure what that thing he’s holding is supposed to be, so I painted it like a candle or a lamp. Could be a weird holy symbol…who knows?
Anyway, that’s for Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge over on Instagram. My next post will be the rest of my Monster May(hem) efforts, as well as a round up of everyone else who contributed!
I’m getting a slow start on 2022, mainly because my painting desk is in complete disarray as I look for a better way to organize the paint racks of doom. Still, I’ve managed to paint a couple of miniatures this year so far, one of which is my Character of the Month for Tom’s (@the_goodground) painting challenge over on Instagram. If you recall, Tom came up with the completely original idea of painting one miniature each month of an official Dungeons & Dragons character class from the 5E Player’s Handbook. Well, who am I to turn down that kind of challenge? It’s pure genius!
Of course, anyone taking part might be tempted to write a complete backstory for the miniatures they paint in a challenge like this, but not me. I’m content with simply painting my miniature and showing it off, thank you very much. Who has time for back stories? That way lies madness.
I decided Tom’s unique painting challenge is a good excuse to paint up some old, classic lead; something I have long chastised myself that I do not do enough of. So, I’m starting things off with a classic Ral Partha miniature from their AD&D Dragonlance line: 11-073, Lord Gunthar uth Wistan, Knight of the Rose and Grandmaster of the Knights of Solamnia. (Sadly, I don’t know who sculpted this miniature.) Both of those honorifics are simply fancy titles for what Lord Gunthar is, at heart: a human fighter.
That’s Lord Gunthar on top of the dragon, there; in pretty much the only picture I’ve ever seen of him. This was from the 1985 Dragonlance calendar and was painted by the great Larry Elmore. Lord Gunthar is a guy in plate armor with a huge mustache. He isn’t described much differently in the books, and he isn’t a primary character. (On a side note, although I love Larry Elmore as much as any kid who grew up in the 1980’s playing Dungeons & Dragons does; I’m not wild about the dragon in this picture. I think he looks kind of insectoid.)
Anyway, the picture doesn’t really help much, since most of Lord Gunthar’s body and his rear are not depicted. The miniature doesn’t include the dragon, either; so he’s far less impressive than he is in the painting; and it’s not exactly faithful to the image (although it’s close). So, I had to wing it a bit.
Here he is: The Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia: Lord Gunthar uth Wistan, who should be about a 15th level fighter or so. If you want to read his backstory (but why would you?), you can read the original Dragonlance Chronicles. Or, skip that and find the abbreviated version here.
The miniature is fine, I guess; but the Knights of Solamnia are renowned for having highly stylized and ornamental armor. Lord Gunthar’s armor is kind of plain. Even his scabbard is unadorned. Not really living up to the whole Grand Master of Knights look.
I think I will enjoy this challenge a lot this year. I had fun painting this classic miniature and I’m looking forward to doing more.
No one ever enjoyed playing games with Braska Triskelion; but everyone hated playing against him. That’s because no matter how much grace one may possess, no one likes to lose all the time, especially to the same opponent. Braska had a hard time keeping friends, but he acquired enemies easily; or as he preferred to call them, “sore losers”. Easy enough for him to say, because he didn’t really know what it meant. He didn’t understand how it felt to lose, sore or otherwise; because Braska Triskelion never lost at anything.
From early childhood, Braska Triskelion had an obsession with games. He preternaturally grasped and mastered the rules of any puzzle, riddle, contest or match; whether of skill, wit or cunning. Though possessed of extraordinary agility and coordination, Braska was not robust. Despite this, he occasionally played at sports and other physical pursuits, though he did not enjoy them. He was nevertheless always able, through his disciplined mind, to employ superior tactics or devise some winning strategy for his team.
Vast wealth came quickly and easily to him. With his abilities, he was able to make a killing in both the gambling houses and in professional contest circuits around the world, all in record time. By the age of twenty, Braska Triskelion was fabulously rich, with more wealth than any one of the sovereign rulers of the land; and more than many of them combined. But, as is the case with those who breathe the rarified air of being the undisputed best at what they do, Braska Triskelion was bored. He decided to get a job.
He hired himself out as a gamester and puzzle-solver extraordinaire. No opponent was too skilled for him to lay low, no riddle or conundrum was above his talents, no trap beyond his ability to defeat. He charged exorbitant prices to those who could afford them, but he was known to apply his skills and wits to any problem or challenge, free of charge, if it interested him enough.
In Evalaux, he negotiated the Puzzle Maze of Durwald D’Orsay, a trap-filled abattoir of mythic renown responsible for the deaths of countless daring adventurers; and claimed the fabled Ruby of Carmina from within. It took him less than one hour. In Mornellorn, he bested the Gynosphinx Volira in a riddle battle that lasted two days, most of which were spent in silence as the monster contemplated (with increasing frustration) the solution to Braska’s opening (and only) riddle. She guessed wrong. In Isoq, Braska stunned the Sultan and his entire court when, after a sumptuous welcoming feast, he opened the fabled Tomb of Ab-Vorath after gazing at the complex diagrams on the door for less than five minutes. The tomb had defied the wisest of Isoq’s viziers, the most determined tomb-robbers and the bravest of adventurers for centuries. In Thord, Braska Triskelion played Hnefatafl with the Storm Giant Gymir, rumored to be the most cunning and skilled ever to play the game, and defeated him five times.
In a row.
By the age of forty, Braska Triskelion had enough quatloos in his treasure hoard to be the envy of dragons everywhere. His name and fortune were known across the Ten Kingdoms, and naturally, there were attempts to take what Braska Triskelion had won for himself fair and square. Although he didn’t care much for his fortune (how much can one man spend, really?), Braska did care about fair play. He never cheated at any game or contest he took part in, and he felt that if anyone was going to take his treasure, they would have to get it the same way he did. By winning it.
Thus, he took measures to protect his hoard.
Braska’s private Island, Windisle, was an early prize he had won by betting the famously-dour Duke of Cornedayl that he could urinate all over his throne room and make the Duke thank him for it afterward. There is no record as to how Braska accomplished this; but his ownership of Windisle, long a territory held by the Royal Family of Cornedayl, proves that he did. Windisle is an inhospitable place encircled by the Reef of Shattered Ships. There, high upon the Cliffs of Vexation, Braska constructed a vault which he named the Toy Box; a multi-level dungeon filled with traps and deadly monsters, summoned guardians and magical wards. He hired the best guards: veteran warriors, mighty magic-users and cunning assassins, and paid them handsomely. And he placed his treasure within its walls.
Now, any who want the fabled wealth of Braska Triskelion have only to take it; either by braving the death trap that is the Toy Box, or, if one doesn’t wish to risk almost-certain death, by beating Braska in a fair contest. Any game will do, but you only get one try.
Take your shot. Braska Triskelion hopes you succeed.
He’s genuinely curious to know how it feels to lose.
For my final Character of the Month for 2021, I chose to do a Rogue. Of course, I didn’t have much of a choice, as it was the only character class I hadn’t done yet. Braska Triskelion is, of course named after the classic Star Trek episode, The Gamesters of Triskelion, in which Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are forced into gladiatorial combat for the amusement of a trio of disembodied brains, who wager quatloos on the outcome of the contests. It is unclear (and never explained) how disembodied brains would enjoy winning (and presumably spending) money.
Angelique Pettyjohn is also in the episode.
“Braska Triskelion” is the Deadly Gamesman from Black Scorpion Miniatures. I’ve had this miniature for almost 12 years. I was going to use him as a crazed, game-obsessed nobleman in my D&D 3.5 campaign; then I was thinking he’d make a cool supervillain for Super Mission Force. Either way, I never got around to painting him until now.
That’s it for my Character of the Month challenge, and that’s it for 2021! Up next, my 2022 Resolutions.
Master Leung, head of the Brotherhood of Long Winter, had reached his eightieth year, and tradition held that a new Master must be selected from among the most skilled monks of the temple. Although a great tournament would be held to determine the new Master, Leung was certain it would be Pupil Wu, his most senior student, who would receive the honor. Pupil Wu would receive the sum of Master Leung’s knowledge; would read the secret sutras and learn the final, hidden techniques of the Brotherhood of Long Winter. Pupil Wu would become Master Wu, and would carry on leadership of the Order in the traditions of the centuries of monks that had come before. Of this Master Leung had no doubt.
Yet, before that, a tournament must be held; for so it is written in the sutras that prospective applicants must pass the trials and prove their worthiness to become Master. Thus, in accordance with tradition, the Temple gates were opened to receive visitors; those who would serve as spectators to perhaps the greatest display of martial prowess in all the land.
Everywhere there was a palpable sense of expectation and excitement for the coming contest. For days prior to the tournament, peasants, nobles, warriors and monks from other traditions all arrived at the temple, braving the mountainous terrain and the bitterly cold winds. Just before the closing of the gates, one final traveler arrived. His features were hidden beneath cloak and hood, but that did nothing to disguise his great size. In a soft, yet firm voice that belied his massive bulk, he demanded to take part in the Tournament of Long Winter. He would compete to be the new Master.
Master Leung frowned. Although there had been instances of monks from other monasteries competing in the tournament, it had not happened in many generations. Besides, this man did not look like a monk. Leung ordered the traveler to remove his cloak and hood, and the traveler complied; much to the shock and outrage of all assembled. The traveler was an Uroku, one of the savage half-men of the mountains! In times past, the monks of the Long Winter had hunted the Uroku and driven them deeper into the lofty peaks and crags. Old as he was, Master Leung had never seen an Uroku. He was shocked to learn one could even speak.
“My name is Bak Mai,” he said, “and I demand the right to compete in the Trials of Long Winter.” Nervous laughter and gasps of outrage greeted this announcement from the throng of spectators. This…thing…was not a monk. It wasn’t even human! How dare it demand anything? The Uroku was immediately set upon by the monks of the temple. He knelt calmly and bore the blows of their staves without resistance, all the while staring defiantly at Master Leung.
Master Leung was nothing if not familiar with the traditions, and nowhere in the sutras did it say that a competitor must be a monk, or even human. With obvious reluctance, Master Leung told the monks to cease their assault. He allowed Bak Mai to enter the tournament of Long Winter, much to everyone’s astonishment.
After all, thought Master Leung, entering is not the same as winning; and there was no possibility of this beast winning the tournament.
After the first day of the tournament, Master Leung began to feel a sense of disquiet. Bak Mai easily placed first in all the Trials of Endurance. Although two monks lost their footing and plummeted to their deaths, Bak Mai was first to scale the Cliff of Woe, and did so with startling ease. He remained under the frigid waterfalls of Tessen Lake for far longer than the other monks, three of whom froze to death in the icy waters rather than concede defeat. He knelt on hot coals without complaint or injury for a full hour while they piled heavy stone weights upon his lap and shoulders; even though twenty-five minutes was the most any of the monks could endure; and several would forever carry horrific burns that might never fully heal.
The Trials of Combat were held on the following day; and the outcome was not even close. Bak Mai chose no weapons with which to complete. Instead he dressed in bits of the armor and raiment of the soldiers and monks that hunted and harried the Uroku in years past. The monks and spectators were outraged by Bak Mai’s affront, but their mutters and protests were quickly silenced as Bak Mai soundly defeated every monk who stood against him in combat. The force of his blows was terrifying, like a thunderclap atop a high hill. Many monks were killed, many more forever crippled. There seemed no way to defeat the Uroku, and Master Leung began to feel something he had not felt in decades: panic.
That night, Master Leung meditated upon his dilemma. Tomorrow was the final Trial: the Trail of Wisdom. Traditionally it was a test of the monk’s problem-solving abilities, knowledge of the sutras and creative thinking. It was always held as the last trial of the Tournament of Long Winter; when the monks would be at the limits of their physical and spiritual strength. Only Bak Mai and Pupil Wu remined to take part in the competition. One of them would be the new Master. Leung repressed a shudder at the thought of the Uroku leading the Brotherhood. He had to ensure Pupil Wu won.
Master Leung considered the problem of Bak Mai. There was no way the Uroku could know the sutras as Pupil Wu did; and yet, he would have said there was no way an Uroku could have placed first in the Trials of Endurance and Combat, defeating every monk that opposed him. Bak Mai was an enigma; worse, he was a serious problem. He threatened centuries of tradition. Master Leung had to make certain that whatever test he set tomorrow, Pupil Wu’s victory was assured. He meditated for hours, until the once-tall candles were guttering pools of wax. Then, he permitted himself a smile. He knew what he would do.
The next morning, Pupil Wu and Bak Mai knelt on tatami mats in the main courtyard, surrounded by crowds of spectators and those monks who remained. Small writing desks had been set before them along with brushes and ink. Master Leung spoke from atop his dais. His voice rang out loud and clear in the early morning air. “The Trial of Wisdom shall consist of but one task,” he said. “Draw a snake.”
Here was a task any child could perform, thought Master Leung. He had no doubt the Uroku could draw a snake; but it fell to Master Leung to decide who drew the best snake. It was a matter of opinion: his opinion. No matter how artistic Bak Mai may be, he had already lost.
Bak Mai reached for his ink brush and selected a sheet of paper. Pupil Wu blinked in confusion, then did the same. He watched as the Uroku hunched over his sheet and began to draw. Pupil Wu did the same. He drew a basic squiggle with a head. He was finished, he thought; but then he looked over and saw Bak Mai was still drawing. What could the Uroku be drawing? Perhaps he was adding scales, or coils. Perhaps he added the flicking tongue, or the poisonous fangs. His snake was probably far better than Wu’s. Sweating, Wu began adding all these details, only to find Bak Mai was still drawing. Desperate, Pupil Wu added more and more…
“Enough!” called Master Leung. “Present your drawings!”
Bak Mai held his picture aloft. It was a basic drawing of a curved line in the shape of an S, with a circular head. A child’s drawing of a snake; but an obvious snake, nothing more.
Pupil Wu felt ice on his spine as he realized that Bak Mai had certainly drawn this in seconds. There was no reason for him to labor so long on a drawing so crude. He was pretending, hoping that doing so would provoke Pupil Wu into making a mistake.
And it did.
Flushing with embarrassment, Pupil Wu revealed his drawing. It was an extremely detailed snake; or it would be, if not for the tiny legs Wu had added. He had seen Bak Mai drawing for such a long time, he panicked and began adding all manner of embellishments and details. Unfortunately, he added too much. Not even Master Leung could pretend that snakes had legs.
A silence settled over the courtyard. Everyone waited to see what Master Leung would do. Everyone except Bak Mai. He leaned over and regarded Pupil Wu’s drawing critically.
“That’s not a snake,” he said.
Bak Mai is an Ogre from Wizards of the Coast. I found him in a plastic bag along with a bunch of other miniatures I acquired in a Craigslist buy several years ago. To be honest, I forgot I even had him. He was not easy to identify, but thanks to R Strickland on The Miniatures Page for the assist.
I wish I could take full credit for writing Bak Mai’s Trial of Wisdom; but it’s a variation on a legendary martial arts fable: “Don’t Paint Legs on a Snake.” It means don’t waste time adding useless embellishments to something that is perfectly adequate as it is.
As some of you may know, a big fucking storm blew through New England a couple of days ago; leaving half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Guess who was in that group? While putting a standby generator on my house was one of the best things I ever did, I had it wired to power necessities like my furnace and my well (heat and water are nice to have). Sadly, the painting cave didn’t make the cut, so I lost a few days of painting time. That means my entry for Dave Stone’s Apocalypse Me challenge might be a tad late…
The good news is that this guy serves as both my Character of the Month for October (not late, like last month) AND my entry for ORCtober! Sure, he’s technically an ogre, but I painted him as an orc (in case my clever use of “uroku” went unnoticed) ; so does that count? I say yes.
My “Character of the Month” for March isn’t MY character at all. Raphinfel, “The Adored”, is the creation of Jon, producer and creator of the brilliant Tale of the Manticore podcast, which you should all be listening to. As such, Raphinfel’s story isn’t mine to tell, so apologies in advance for those expecting my customary prose. You can hear it for yourself by checking out Tale of the Manticore: 31 short episodes and counting, all really good.
Unless I’m completely missing the point, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Raphinfel is a wizard. Not the good kind of wizard. The other kind.
The miniature I used is Lamann, Sorcerer (02807), by Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by James van Shaik; but as I said, Raphinfel is a Wizard (actually called a Magic-User in Basic Dungeons & Dragons), not to be confused with the “official” D&D Sorcerer class, which will get its own “Character of the Month” at some point.
Although I’m pretty happy with how he turned out (and hope Jon is, too), this miniature would be a perfect miniature to display some Object Source Lighting (OSL) techniques as that crystal ball is begging for it. But I suck at that, and I wanted Raphinfel to look good, not sucky. Maybe if I wasn’t on a timetable I would be more inclined to mess around, but to be honest I’m a coward when it comes to risking the work I’ve already put into a model.
I haven’t decided what class will be featured next month yet. In the meantime, Imperial Rebel Ork has put out a call for hobbyists to display their geeky T-Shirts this month. Although I have far too many to display, here are a couple I’m proud of.
I bought this at Gen-Con in 2012, and to be honest I forgot I had it. It recently resurfaced from the depths of my dresser. While I was disappointed by Cloverfield, I have never been disappointed by my old furry pal, Grover. (He’s the Monster at the End of this Book, after all.)
Next, This T-shirt just arrived yesterday, all the way from Ireland, which is why it’s so wrinkled from the long trip over the water. It should come as no surprise to any who regularly visit this site that I would be powerless to resist the Vitruvian Dwarf, made by Quertee, purveyor of limited edition T-shirt designs. I am trying desperately not to give in and buy their “Surf Arrakis” and “Let’s Summon Demons” shirts. I’m managing.
Anyway, this fulfills my Character of the Month resolution with weeks to spare, unlike last month. New post soon!
Well, I’m not off to a good start with my 2021 Resolutions. I’m already a month behind on my Character of the Month. For Fem-bruary’s character I chose a to paint a fighter; and here she is, better late than never. Nevertheless, being late doesn’t get me off the hook for another character this month, so watch this space for my official submission for March. In the meantime, this miniature is Rhaine, Rogue; from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Werner Klocke. At least, that’s what she’s called now. My blister said “Rhaine, Duelist”; so I decided to stick with that concept for her backstory.
Among the rich and powerful nobility of Evalaux, disputes are often settled at swordspoint. Despite this, most nobles barely know which end of a dueling saber or pistol to hold, never mind how to employ one for its intended purpose. The richest noble houses have fencing masters on staff, ready at a moment’s notice to avenge an insult or satisfy the slighted feelings of their patrons. If, however, yours is not one of the richest houses; or if you have recently suffered the inconvenient (yet permanent) loss of a fencing master due to poor job performance, then you must hire one; else be at the mercy of the social jabs and thrusts of the aristocracy.
Aramise Del’Arco is the most sought-after duelist in Evalaux. She has been offered fencing master positions at the most prestigious and wealthy houses; positions she has declined. Some of the masters of these houses saw her refusal as an insult and made the poor decision to hire a duelist of their own to seek redress. Aramise Del’Arco killed every one without compassion or apology. Thus, the nobility of Evalaux must content themselves with never having the best duelist under permanent retainer; and they must fear that Aramise Del’Arco may one day show up on their own doorstep in the employ of a rival.
Aramise Del’Arco does not work solely for the nobility. In the crowded streets and back alleys of Evalaux, crime lords, cults and other nefarious organizations have all used her talents. Provided you can afford her, Aramise Del’Arco is for hire. But be certain you pay the bill when it comes due.
You may ask why. An illustrative example: before he was known as “No-Nose, One-Eared, One-Eyed Rickard”, Rickard the Butcher was a man to be feared in the dark underworld of Evalaux. When he decided to send three bravos after Aramise Del’Arco rather than pay her fee for her elimination of a rival, Aramise Del’Arco gave him the visually-appropriate nickname he enjoys at present.
As for the bravos, they didn’t get nicknames. They just got dead, and Aramise Del’Arco got her money.
Aramise Del’Arco is a mystery. No fencing master in Evalaux can say she was their pupil or their classmate. No one knows where she came from or how she became so skilled with a blade. All that is known about her is that she is quite possibly the finest swordswoman alive; and that she will work for anyone who meets her price. Once hired, she will work until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. She cannot be bought off or bribed; but make no mistake: she is no assassin. If an opponent dies in the course of a lawful duel, then so be it; but she will not murder for hire, and sad indeed is the person who would make the mistake of assuming so.
I instantly fell in love with the “unofficial” duelist character class when I saw it collected in Best of The Dragon (magazine) Vol. 4, and promptly made one of my longest-running AD&D characters ever: a half-elf duelist who constantly found himself embroiled in political games with players much bigger than he. I used him as an inspiration for this Character of the Month.
This whole COVID-19 pandemic really sucks. I am extremely fortunate. I know this. My pandemic experience is not typical; here in the US or around the world. Throughout this crazy time I’ve been getting paid. I have a personality that does not suffer much from isolation. I have hobbies and interests that keep me occupied. I am lucky.
One of those hobbies is gaming, specifically roleplaying games. Back to the irony: I have played RPGs with friends more often during the pandemic than I did pre-COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, I couldn’t get my friends to commit to a game night if I gave them three months advance notice. Now it seems when everyone is stuck at home, they have more free time; or at least more discretion in how they use it. We’ve been using Roll20 and other free apps to run roleplaying games over the web, and it’s worked well, for the most part. It’s even allowed me to reconnect with one of my oldest and best friends who lives all the way across the country and play games with him, which is a very good thing.
The upside: since March, when everything started to shut down (at least where I am, in a state with a governor who isn’t a spineless suck-ass who puts loyalty to a fucking political party above a public health emergency…sorry, don’t get me started), I’ve run Star Trek Adventures and Slasher Flick, and I’ve been a player in a steady D&D 5th edition campaign. Like clockwork, I have played a game every week with 4-5 friends with no problems. We made a schedule and stuck to it. You know: like adults do, when apparently they don’t have the freedom of not being in lockdown to hold them back.
I hear you. Shut up, Piper. You’re getting what you want: you’re playing games, right? Why are you still complaining about it?
Because I miss gaming more than ever. Real gaming. I miss being around a table with my friends. I miss rolling dice. I miss passing the potato chips and ordering pizza. I miss the digressions and the jokes, and the bullshitting and catching up that takes time away from the game. I miss the pantomimed actions and the facial expressions, neither of which really come through well over a webcam. I miss a game free of technical difficulties. I miss having the need for a GM screen.
I miss my friends. Don’t tell them I said that. I’ll deny it. None of them read this blog anyway. But it’s true. I miss those fucking assholes with all my heart.
Because I am old, we have traditionally played games that are more “theatre of the mind” than actual map-and-miniatures games. Again, ironic; considering I’ve collected miniatures since I started playing rpgs, and since I (at least) am certainly a full-blown miniature wargamer as well. However; when running or playing in a roleplaying game I prefer to imagine the action and the setting, only resorting to hastily scrawled maps or pictures should they be needed to convey vital information or remove confusion.
Why do I prefer this? Because theatre of the mind forces things into a first person perspective. Things are happening to and being imagined by you, the player, not observed from a godlike, top-down strategic map that shows exactly how many 5-foot squares are between you and that bandit over there and what his initiative score is.
Let’s talk about that bandit. The bandit scowls at you, gripping his hand axe, his knuckles white. The once-fine weapon has been used as a tool, its blade notched and worn.He is lanky, malnourished, and unwashed; and does not have the look of one who enjoys his work. His leather armor is surprisingly-well cared for save for a shiny patch on his left forearm, where it is obvious he has often stropped his knife. Perhaps he, like so many in this war-ravaged land, was once a guardsman or soldier; now reduced to the life of a road agent, robbing and stealing to survive. The bandit stares through the eyes of a man with nothing to lose, for he has lost everything already.
I’d be willing to bet you have a pretty good idea of what that bandit looks like in your mind now. Guess what? I bet it’s not exactly the same as what MY bandit looks like. Sure, I provided all the necessary details (perhaps too many) to form a picture, but the picture was YOUR formation. What colors is he wearing? What color are his eyes? His hair? His skin? How long is his hair, if he has any? Does he have any scars? I never described any of those things.
In the tactical environment of online roleplaying, none of that matters, because as soon as you encountered the bandit the DM plopped down a virtual token with a generic picture of a guy who likely looks nothing like what anyone pictured from the description; but now becomes what the bandit looks like for everyone. Congratulations. Your menacing bandit has been reduced to a crappy piece of clip art. (And yes, I know you can make your own tokens and you’re not reduced to clip art; but once again, a token is a token; not a bandit, or a Deep One, or a dragon.) Your thrilling, imaginative combat has now degenerated into a strategic, turn-based board game. Which would be fine for me, if I was playing a board game.
My gripes are in no way reflective of the quality of the games I have participated in. We’re all working with what tools we have. I miss being around an actual table, although I would much rather play over Discord than not play at all. I’m playing in a few hours, as a matter of fact.
I just can’t wait until we’re all back together again.
This pandemic has everyone social distancing (if you’re not, you should be), which means sitting around a gaming table has been a thing of the past lately. Ironically, it has contributed to me playing MORE games than usual, especially RPGs. As some of you may know, I have managed to run several legs of a Star Trek Adventures campaign this year over Discord, pretty much weekly. It went well, and the write-ups of the sessions start here, if anyone’s interested. I have yet to post the conclusion, but that’s coming soon. I’ve been busy with Monster May(hem), real life, and now Forgotten Heroes…but rest assured I haven’t forgotten about the crew of the U.S.S. Adventure.
That being said, tonight I get to play in a game rather than run it. We’ll be playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, which is new to me. The version I last played was 3.5, and that was years ago. (I skipped 4th Edition altogether, which most folks agree was a good thing.)
Anyway, by far, one of my favorite things to do in any RPG setting is create a character. I figured I’d document the creation of my first 5th Edition character here: Lirhanir. (I’m going to jump around a lot and not necessarily go in order, as it makes more narrative sense. Don’t worry…it’ll all make sense in the end.)
Class and Race: I decided I want to play a paladin, which is a class I have never found particularly interesting. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever played a paladin in all my years of roleplaying.) I’m not at all interested in playing a stereotypical “holy knight”; someone who fights with anyone who doesn’t adhere to the same code he does, even his own party members. That evangelical bullshit is depressing enough in the real world. Lucky for me, in 5th edition I don’t have to.
My Dungeon Master is setting the game in his own world, and he’s starting us out at level 3. Humans are the dominant race, and demihumans are relatively uncommon. I decided I want to be a half-elf, which in this setting is considered a second-class citizen almost everywhere. Elves consider them an abomination, and humans generally ignore or ostracize them.
So, being a half-elf and a paladin (plus some additional perks my DM has granted) gives Lirhanir familiarity with all weapons, armor and shield types, as well as proficiency in the following things: Athletics, Insight, Perception, Persuasion, Performance and Deception. Lirhanir can play the lute fairly well, although he’s no bard. He does this to make others happy, and chase away the darkness (see below). It also gives him a bunch of paladin abilities, none of which are really worth getting into here.
Background: In 5th Edition, you choose a background for your character which gives them proficiency in skills they would have learned during their upbringing. I don’t envision Lirhanir had much of an upbringing, so I chose urchin. Lirhanir grew up on the streets of a city, Riften, scrounging and surviving however he could. (This is in-line with being a member of a disadvantaged class.) It also gave him proficiency in Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Thieve’s Tools, and Disguise. Not exactly on the path to paladinhood from the start, but it sure explains why he is also skilled in Deception. It also confers the feature “City Secrets”, which gives Lirhanir an instinctive familiarity with all urban environments that allows him to move at twice the normal travel rate between two points in any city (he knows which alleys and rooftops to traverse to get from point A to point B fastest).
My DM has also made half-elves in his world “prodigies”, which gives him expertise in one skill, as well as another language. His languages are Common, Elvish, Goblinoid, and Sylvan (the language of fey creatures); not bad for a guy with average intelligence. I chose Insight to be the skill in which he has expert proficiency; growing up on the streets, you get a feel for people pretty quick.
Attributes: In 5th edition, you have the option to either roll dice or buy your attribute scores with points. We opted for point buy. My attribute scores (including racial bonuses) are as follows: Strength 16 (very strong), Dexterity 12 (above average), Constitution 12 (above average), Intelligence 10 (average), Wisdom 13 (above average), and Charisma 14 (significantly above average). This means Lirhanir will usually have attribute bonuses in addition to proficiency bonuses for most of his skills.
Oath: In 5th edition, paladins can take various oaths to better fit their concept. (The stereotypical paladin takes the Oath of Devotion, but he’s not that kind of paladin.) I chose the Oath of the Ancients instead, which essentially means Lirhanir reveres life and goodness and strives against darkness and evil. He holds good to be paramount, far more important than any concern of law or chaos. This gives him spell lists and abilities more in line with a traditional ranger or druid, not really a former street urchin; but…it’s going to work out. Trust me.
Equipment: Paladins start with chain mail armor and a shield, but neither one fits my character concept. Instead, Lirhanir wears a chain shirt under his tunic. It provides less protection than a full suit, but also doesn’t hamper his movement at all. To compensate somewhat for not using a shield, he specializes in a defensive style of fighting. He is adept at using a quarterstaff, but carries two short swords as his primary weapons. He also wears a hood most of the time to hide his half-elven heritage from the assholes of the world. Finally, he carries a smooth river rock; the holy symbol of his patron, a water spirit named Nauhrel. He only uses it when he is Turning the Faithless (be they fiends or fey creatures).
Almost done. I had to pick his personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws. For Personality, I chose Speak when you have something to say. Speak up for others who cannot, or will not, speak for themselves. For an Ideal, I chose Always be of service. For a Bond, I chose I owe my survival to Odger Tucca, the Halfling who cared for me when I had nothing. For a flaw, I chose I am most afraid of being helpless. These traits pretty well sum up his values and outlook, and guide how I will roleplay him.
How did a street urchin become a champion of the light? Lirhanir was special from the start. As a street urchin, he did whatever he had to to survive; but he always managed to avoid hurting others in the process, at least others who didn’t deserve it. Despite enduring hunger, cold, neglect and abuse, he always sought to help those less fortunate than he. That made him a good person.
Once he stopped an unscrupulous alchemist from dumping his poisonous slurries into the city’s water supply, because he saw that it was making poor people sick (the rich lived upstream; their water wasn’t affected). In fact, it was also making a water spirit sick. This spirit, Nauhrel, was close to death, and would have died if not for Lirhanir’s actions. She became his patron, a spiritual force for goodness that recognized in Lirhanir a Champion of the Light.
Finally, Lirhanir is Chaotic Good, the alignment that best suits his outlook. Above all things, he tries to do the most good and thwart the most evil, but he’s not all that concerned about how he gets those things done. Laws are fine when they work. When they don’t, you don’t blindly follow them anyway. Lirhanir is not above lying or stealing, if it’s for the greater good (he won’t steal a coin purse to make a buck, but he would absolutely steal food if he needed it to help someone, and didn’t have the money). Again, about as far from a typical paladin as you can get.
Lirhanir looks more like a rogue than a paladin, which is exactly what he would have been if he wasn’t chosen by Nauhrel. I envision him as a D&D version of Daredevil (kinda): urban protector of the downtrodden, lightly armed, skills and methods used in service of the greater good. Guess we’ll see if he survives his first session, which starts in about 3 hours!
First: Thanks to everyone who took part in Monster May(hem), formerly called Monster Month, but now irrevocably changed, thanks to Roger. You guys are awesome, and there were many impressive and inspirational submissions. It’s my hope to continue this annually. I’ve hosted some challenges in the past, but this one seems to be the one that resonated best with people. In addition to my good buddies Roger (Dick Garrison) and Jeremy (Carrion Crow), I got to meet some new hobbyists, like Matt from PM Painting and Ken from Blue Moose Arts; as well as deepen my acquaintance with Dave from Wargames Terain Workshop, Harry from War Across the Ages, and returning participant Coyotepunc, who once converted a Toob tapir into a wizard (still love that). So, bring on Monster May(hem) 2021!
One of the great things about Zoom meetings where I don’t need to be on camera is that I can do whatever I want while “listening” to whatever drivel someone spouts off. This morning, I decided to paint one of the two monsters I didn’t get to by the end of the month (i.e. yesterday).
This is the “Dung Monster”, by Reaper. It’s their version of the Otyugh, a classic (if somewhat disgusting) Dungeons and Dragons monster. Otyughs live in filth, mostly trash and shit. This is what they usually eat, too (unless some tasty adventurers are doing a dump dive); so you can imagine the smell coming out of that massive cakehole must be pretty horrific.
This miniature came together quite by accident. I wasn’t planning on painting him for Monster May(hem)…in fact, I forgot I even had him. That’s because he was part of that same Craigslist lot that gave me the Marauder Giant I painted yesterday (2 posts in 2 days. BOOM.). I accidentally mixed too much Magic Sculpt while filling the gaps in the giant, so I had to use it lest it dry out (that shit’s not cheap). I rooted around in my insanity pile…kind of like an otyugh roots around in well, shit…and found him. I put him together and thought…”well, if there’s time this month…”
I decided there was time. This thing wasn’t gonna sit on my desk for another year, not when I had an interminably boring Zoom meeting to sit through. So I painted him.
This guy is actually a pretty old Reaper miniature, and he’s all metal, as his current price tag will attest ($12.99!) For those of you who want your own shit monster but don’t want to pay that much, you can find a different version in the Bones range for about 4 bucks. It also looks quite good, but different.
So, how did I achieve this particular shade of putrescence? I gave him a base coat of Vallejo Brown Violet (the violet part of which eludes me), then highlighted him with Army Painter Hemp Rope, followed by Army Painter Sulfide Ochre. Then, I gave it a final highlight of Citadel Zamesi Desert before washing the whole thing in Citadel Athonian Camoshade. Not bad for a couple of hours work, and certainly preferable to sitting through a Zoom meeting without painting anything.
I still have one monster on my desk that I didn’t get to last month. You can expect to see it soon, because like this ugly fellah here, that guy isn’t sitting on my desk for another year, either.