Category Archives: Painting Challenges

2022 Resolutions

Well, it’s that time again: time to rate how faithful I was to my hobby resolutions from last year, and time to make some new ones for 2022. Last year I decided to keep it simple and not set too many lofty or unrealistic goals for myself (including goals that just seem to be set every year and never started; like my Old West scenery or my Wargames Factory Shock Troopers). In fact, this what I said: “I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines.” Sound advice, and it will be more of the same this year.

So, how did I do last year? I only set four goals for myself. They were:

More Roleplaying Stuff: Goal met! I posted some write-ups of a Marvel Super Heroes game I ran way back in January. The game was much more fun to write up than it was to play, because two of my four players didn’t exactly enjoy a return to the old 1980’s TSR system, (One really didn’t enjoy it, but that’s another story. ‘Nuff said.) Still, for myself and the other two, it was a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to write up any further Star Trek Adventures games, although we did play a few times. I hope to return to running both these games again this year, although likely with a new group of players (see below).

One Character a Month: Goal met! You can see the results here if you want. Some were late for their respective months, but all made it in by year’s end.

Painting Challenges: Goal Met! In addition to the one I set for myself, I hosted my now-annual Monster Mayhem in May, and I took part in no less than six other painting competitions: Leadballoony’s Fembruary (although I posted my miniature in March), Carrion Crow’s Forgotten Heroes (my favorite painting challenge!) in June, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery (July-August) and Apocalypse Me challenges (October, although I posted her late), Orctober (October), and, although I didn’t “officially” enter, I painted a miniature for Deadcember, an Instagram challenge.

More AARs: Goal met! I posted After Action Reports with original scenarios for two games: a couple of Green Hornet .45 Adventure games, and a return to Super Mission Force, featuring The Crimson Hound!

So,I grabbed all the rings, despite being annoyingly late a few times. I also got two more personal projects completed: all the Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures in the Twin Shadows expansion, plus the accompanying Ally and Villain packs; and all the miniatures for the Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps game, including the Ultimate Badasses expansion. Not too shabby!

So what about this year? Well, these goals should look somewhat similar.

More Roleplaying Stuff: This year, Dead Dick’s Tavern will feature even more RPG content. Roleplaying games were my first love and my initial entry point into the miniatures hobby. I love playing RPGs, I love running RPGs, I love talking about RP games and game systems. We are in a golden age of RPGs; with tons of small-press and creator-owned content sharing the market with amazing companies like Free League Publishing and Modiphius. I will (hopefully) discuss RPGs old and new, post some game write-ups and reviews; and if possible, maybe even get to play in more games as a result.

Through Instagram and Discord, I have been fortunate to meet some roleplaying gamers from all over the country and play games with them. It’s been a pretty fun experience, and one I plan to continue this year. If you look at the top of this blog, you will see there is more than one page. (Yeah, I know. I didn’t realize that either for the longest time.) Anyway, a new page will soon be up there, talking about which RPGs I hope to run in 2022. If you are interested in playing anything I list (remotely, of course), then by all means contact me for the particulars!

One Character a Month: Maybe more, actually. As I said, I won’t be hosting this challenge, but it’s open to anyone who has an Instagram account and wants to participate. It’s essentially the same challenge as mine (though no backstory required): paint a D&D character class each month. I’m using this as an excuse to paint some classic lead: Grenadier, Ral Partha, RAFM…I will post my submissions here, too!

Painting Challenges: I’ll be paring it back a bit this year. Aside from the above Character of the Month, I will absolutely be hosting Monster Mayhem again, and I will always do Forgotten Heroes for as long as Jeremy hosts it. I can’t say no to Dave’s Season of Scenery, either; he’s so accommodating by giving us two months, and it’s pretty much the only time I force myself to build and paint scenery. Other than that, we’ll see what comes my way.

More AARs: Yes! This year will see a return and conclusion to the Green Hornet adventure. I would also like very much to do some more Star Trek skirmish games; perhaps this time using the TNG crew; and of course, Super Mission Force.

Personal Projects: I don’t like to make promises to myself that I don’t keep (although it happens often)…BUT…I’m going to be focusing on getting all my Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures painted this year. Will I be able to get through 3 more boxed expansions and 20 + blister packs, a total of 63 miniatures? Probably not. We’ll see. I have some other things I keep looking at, thinking I should start or finish them. As always.

Get Back Out There: I’ve been neglecting the blogs of others for a while, as real life has reared its ugly head. I hope to be once again be more of a nuisance to hobbyists everywhere.

Well, that’s about it. Keep watch for that new RPG page, if interested. (I have no idea what I’ll be posting next, but it’s a good bet it will have something to do with the miniatures hobby.)

Character of the Month 2021 Review

Well, I did it. I wasn’t always on time, but I managed to get all 12 Dungeons & Dragons character classes painted, along with backstories (mostly), over the course of 2021. I figured I’d do a quick recap with handy-dandy links to review all my characters before my next post, in which I will discuss my 2022 Resolitions and my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in the coming year.

While all the core classes are here, I opted only for “classic” D&D fantasy races. Upon looking at these, I see that Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Half-Orcs are all here. (I can’t believe I somehow forgot to include Gnomes and my favorite fantasy race of all, Dwarves. How’d that happen?) Newer gamers may notice I ignored most of the current races utterly. Thus there are no Aarakocra, Aasimar, Dragonborn, Genasi, Goliaths, Kenku, Kitsune, Tieflings, Tortles, Tabaxi, or fucking Warforged represented here, among others. That’s tough shit. I chose what I chose. The reason for this is simple: I don’t like them.

If you like the abovementioned races and any I didn’t mention, and feel that my exclusion is an injustice and affront, feel free to make or submit your own Character of the Month (see below). I get it. I’m old. I dislike the new stuff. I don’t understand the youth of today. You may even think I’m a racist because I don’t like Harefolk. But, since none of the races above, including Harefolk, actually fucking exist, I’m not too concerned about it.

Anyway, here’s the recap, month by month:

  1. January: Kurn Velden, Cleric (War Priest; Avatars of War) Shortest backstory. I was finding my voice.

2. February: Aramise Del’Arco, Fighter (Rhaine, Duelist; Reaper Miniatures) First late entry. Not off to a good start.

3. March: Raphinfel “the Adored”, Wizard (Lamann, Sorcerer; Reaper Miniatures) Not my character; he’s from Tale of the Manticore, a podcast you should absolutely be listening to if you’re not.

4. April: Doval Lakatos, Bard (Rupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord, Privateer Press) Probably my favorite miniature of the year, for obvious, bagpipe-related reasons.

5. May: Darl Mandos, Sorcerer (Del Briarberry, Halfling Wizard: Reaper Miniatures) One of my favorite stories, featuring the dastardly Tom the Winker.

6. June: Berjotr Skaldisson, Barbarian (Barbarian Axeman of Icingstead; Reaper Miniatures) Based loosely on a friend’s character, also a fun story to write.

7. July: Sarapen Moonsilver, Druid (Juliana, Herbalist; Reaper Miniatures) I get the most compliments on this one, probably because of her base.

8. August: Reverend Mother Mara, Paladin (Mother Superior; Reaper Miniatures) I took the inspiration from her backstory from an article I read (in Dragon, I think) about a character who evicted undead from a family manor by posting the eviction notice on her shield and clearing house. Always thought that was fun.

9. Chloe the Rat, Ranger (Vermina, Rat Queen; Reaper Miniatures) My least favorite miniature and backstory. Just didn’t seem to come together for me. YMMV. She was also late.

10. Bak Mai, Monk (Ogre, Wizards of the Coast D&D Silver Anniversary Collection) The backstory wrote itself. I like the miniature, too.

11. Karsa the Unbound, Warlock (Dark Elf Sorceress, Games Workshop) Another late one. Painted on time, but the backstory was a tough slog.

12. Braska Triskelion, Rogue (Deadly Gamesman, Black Scorpion Miniatures) One of the miniatures I’ve owned the longest; I was glad to get him done. Painting black and white is kind of boring and tedious, though.

The biggest challenge I ran into with this…uh…challenge was writing the backstories in time. Sometimes they came pretty easily (Aramise Del’Arco, Bak Mai); others weren’t so easy (Sarapen Moonsilver, Karsa the Unbound). Lucky for me, this isn’t going to be a problem going forward.

Turns out my buddy Tom (who used to have a blog but doesn’t anymore) is going to host this same challenge on Instagram this year. I told him I will take part, of course; but that I am going to use it as an excuse to paint some old-school lead. I will post my submissions here as well, so expect a lot of Grenadier and Ral Partha miniatures to show up at Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2022. The character backstories are a pain in the ass, though, so I’m not going to bother with them. I know this may make some of you sad (which is actually quite flattering), but the time spent on them is a factor; and I just don’t have it.

Anyway, hope this recap allows you to quickly revisit your favorites or check out any you may have missed. New post soon on plans for 2022!

Braska Triskelion, Gamester

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.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Karsa the Unbound, Warlock

Man, I need to hire a cleaning crew.

Dead Dick’s Tavern is a sight. Looks like I left the tap dripping, and the scent of stale beer has mingled with the smell of cobbler’s wax, sarcasm and vomit. Looks like someone threw up in the corner. Wasn’t me (this time). I’d say I must have overlooked that on my way out; but TBH I didn’t really feel like dealing with it back then, and I didn’t expect to be gone for over a month. Guess what? It’s still here.

It is nice to be missed, though; and apparently my uncharacteristic absence from the blogosphere was concerning enough that a couple of you reached out. Thanks for that. I am fine, just buried and beset at all sides by real life stuff.

I’m back now, though; with a new Character of the Month. This time, it’s a Warlock.

Put simply, she would not be owned.

Karsa was six when the armies of the human Duke invaded her forest, destroyed her home and enslaved her people. The Duke put most of the elves to death, as he correctly feared they would never stop resisting the yoke of bondage until they were free. Elves were magical, ancient, and quite dangerous; and they live very long indeed. Why take the chance? The children, though; that was another matter. Most were sold into slavery. A few were given as gifts to other nobles. Others died, either from neglect, starvation or from an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. But not Karsa.

Karsa found herself the possession of Melek, a wizard; one who had done the Duke a service once and asked for her as payment. The Duke acquiesced, assuming Melek wanted Karsa for the usual, depraved reasons old, evil men want young girls. But Karsa was spared that much, at least; for whatever dark magics Melek practiced had left him unmanned, if not physically then practically. He had no base interest in her, even as she grew to be uncommonly beautiful, even among a race as known for beauty as the elves. For several years, Melek used her as a mere house servant. She chafed and rebelled as best she could. Each time she did, he made her suffer for it; but in her mind, at least, she was her own master.

Although he used her as such, Melek did not require a servant. His true intentions were quite specific: it was her blood he wanted. The blood of an elven maiden is a powerful arcane reagent; one used in magics and rituals most foul. Melek bled her regularly to obtain it; and, although he could have done so painlessly, he made certain to make it hurt as much as possible, for such was his cruelty. Karsa endured this and all his other petty torments, vowing one day to be rid of the old man one way or another.

Melek was always keen to acquire more power at any cost; thus his experiments and rituals turned from the hermetic, which he found too slow, to the demonic, which promised quick (if costly) reward. In preparation for a grand summoning, Melek bound a lesser demon–a quasit named Raze– to his will. For a time, Raze joined Melek in tormenting Karsa; for Raze had no other diversion when not assisting his master. Like Karsa, he was Melek’s creature and he could not strike back at the wizard directly; but Raze soon formed a plan to free himself from Melek’s control. For that, though, he would need Karsa.

It was quite simple. Melek was to summon Belphegor, Lord of the Pit, to bargain for more power. The circle was drawn. All that was left was to anoint it with Karsa’s blood; freshly acquired; something he would do the following night, at the time of summoning.

If Karsa was no longer a maiden by then, Melek would not likely notice. But Belphegor certainly would.

Raze put the proposition to Karsa. If the summoning ritual was sabotaged, Melek would meet a grisly fate; freeing both Raze and Karsa from the wizard. Although the thought of Raze touching her horrified and revolted her, she would endure that and more to be free. She agreed. “Then, it is done.” said Raze, practically dancing with joy. Karsa prepared herself for the worst, but Raze looked at her with amusement. “Be assured, elf-girl,” the quasit said, “the mere thought of us coupling is as repugnant to me as it is to you. Mercifully this bargain of ours has no need for physical consummation. It is enough that you consented willingly. You are no longer of any use to Melek.”

It may seem that Karsa had made a bad bargain; that with Melek’s death, Raze would be released from bondage. When that occurred, what was to stop him or Belphegor from doing what they wished with her? The grinning demon thought he had hoodwinked her; that the miserable elf-girl knew no better.

But he was very wrong. Karsa was no fool, and she had a plan of her own.

The next night, all went as planned. So intent on his ritual was Melek that he didn’t take the customary pleasure in bleeding Karsa as was his wont, nor did he notice anything different about her that would give him pause. Anointing the circle with her now-tainted blood, Melek summoned forth Belphegor, Lord of the Pit. And he paid dearly for it.

Melek had no time to realize his mistake before the summoning chamber was showered in his own blood. His body died quickly and brutally, consumed in seconds by the ravenous demon lord. His soul, however, was doomed to eternally suffer all the tortures a Lord of the Pit can devise; and those are many indeed. Still, Belphegor was far from sated. Ignoring the cackling quasit, it saw the elf-girl for the first time. But something was wrong. She was not cowering in fear as expected. Rather, she met it’s gaze defiantly, without flinching. She wanted something of Belphegor.

The demon lord was intrigued long enough to stay its hunger. “Ask,” said Belphegor.

“What was Melek’s bargain?” she asked.

“Melek pledged to serve me body and soul until his death, in return for the powers I will bestow. Then, he was to be mine.”

“I will make the same bargain with you as Melek sought. With one provision.”

Belphegor considered. It was free and uncontrolled. There was nothing stopping it from simply devouring the elf girl here and now. In fact, the thought was somewhat appealing. But she would live much longer than that fool Melek would have; and they could do so much together over so many years. In the end, she would be Belphegor’s, too. There seemed no good reason to refuse.

“Name your condition,” it said.

Karsa turned and stared at Raze coldly. The quasit had been watching this exchange with interest, but now realization dawned. In a split second, he remembered every insult, slight and suffering he had inflicted upon Karsa.

“Wait! Raze started to beg.

“Done,” said Belphegor. Then the quasit was no more, his existence utterly obliterated by Belphegor’s will. “You are mine, now, Karsa. Body and soul.” With that, the demon lord disappeared.

Karsa took a deep breath. It would appear she had traded one form of bondage and servitude for another. Why, then did she smile?

Put simply, she would not be owned.

Karsa was no fool. In exchange for great power, she was bound to Belphegor for the next several hundred years, until her death, when she would be eternally at the demon lord’s mercy. That meant she had several hundred years to use the power to find a way to destroy Belphegor, or perhaps some way not to die.

Lichedom, perhaps…

Karsa is a pretty famous miniature: the original Dark Elf Sorceress from Games Workshop, circa 1998 or so. I never played Dark Elves, and I never bought this miniature. Rather, it was a gift to me from a relative who lives in England. She came across it in an estate sale, of all things. It was still in the blister when she sent it over the water to me.

Astute observers may note that once again, I am late for my Character of the Month. Rest assured, Karsa was painted back in November with days to spare, but I had no time to write her backstory before the end of the month. November stretched into December, and here we are. It’s a good thing I don’t miss deadlines like this in my professional life, or I’d be out of a job.

So, what’s to come? Well, I have one more Character of the Month to do before the end of the year; and it’s one of my favorite D&D classes, to boot. Plus, I’m gonna try to do a very special Christmas AAR, just because I haven’t done one in a while. Traditionally, December is my month to clean up the Side Pile; but to be honest I’ve been so busy with other stuff I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that this year.

Oh, and I’m turning 49 soon. Imminently, in fact.

I asked one of my (younger) employees today: “Remember when Amazon only sold books?” Then I asked her, “Remember when Amazon was a rain forest in Brazil?”

Times have changed, and I am old.

Apocalypse Me: Hungry Bertha

I’m used to storms here in New England. Unfortunately, sometimes they screw with my painting time. Since I had no power to Piper’s Painting Pit on some key days last month, I was unable to get my entry for Dave Stone’s “Apocalypse Me” challenge done on time. Here she is, better late than never; and no, she doesn’t look like me at all.

This lovely lass is “Hungry Bertha”, an OOP Horrorclix miniature from the Freakshow set. As many of you know, repainting and rebasing Clix is something I quite enjoy. So I decided to make Bertha look a little better, paint-wise, and a little more zombified. That way she could (theoretically) be my entry for Zombtober, too.

The lollipop stuck to her backside is a nice touch, as are the mysterious and loathsome slime trails emanating from her various folds. Lovely.

Anyway, I decided to add some gore to her base…a few GW zombie bits, some green stuff intestines…you get the idea.

Add copious layers of Blood for the Blood God, some gloss varnish on her lollipop and slime trails, and here is the result.

This close up shows that I should clean up her eyes a bit, methinks.

Upon reflection I thought it might be fun to make a diorama out of Bertha here, with her teetering upon a veritable mound of body parts and gore; but I was under the gun as it was. This will have to do for now. Still…it’s a thought for later.

Apologies for being late, Dave!

Bak Mai, Monk

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.

Up next: playing catch up!

Chloe the Rat

This is a tale of two women; one, a loner, a creature of the wild; with but one friend in the world. The other: a princess, cruel and spoiled, with no friends at all.

The girl Chloe was a child of the forest, a foundling. She was raised in the ways of the Pathfinder by Keeler the Guide, a ranger of Rowanwood; and Sarapen Moonsilver, the Barkwarden. Chloe was a peculiar child who grew into a peculiar woman. She took to the teachings of the ranger and druid well enough, but neither could call her daughter or friend. Something was different about her. It was as if she felt no kinship to the forest at all, or to those who lived within. Except for one.

Chloe met the dryad Briarose one day while traversing the Rowanwood alone. Eager for company, the dryad invited Chloe to stay for a while and trade news of Rowanwood, for Briarose could not venture far from her ancient oak and wanted to hear of the forest beyond her reach. Chloe obliged, more from a sense of boredom than anything else; but she soon found herself returning to the dryad’s tree more often, sometimes planning her travels to include Briarose’s grove as a stop along the way. The two became friends, though they could not be more different.

Chloe’s travels took her far throughout the Rowanwood, and she was only able to meet with her friend Briarose once every few months or so. It was during one of these meetings that the dryad told Chloe she had met another girl from the land outside the forest. Her name was Circa, and she was a princess. Princess Circa had stumbled into her grove while hiding from her royal guard, who had accompanied her on what she called a “terribly boring” hunting trip. They spoke for a while and Circa told her how hers was a life of luxury and privilege. She had many servants and everyone obeyed her commands. She invited Briarose to come visit her in her castle. Of course, Briarose had to refuse, as she could not leave her tree. When she told Circa this, the princess got a strange look on her face. A few minutes later, the two heard the sounds of the princess’s hunting party calling for her. Circa left to join them, but told Briarose that they would see each other again soon.

Something about this made Chloe uneasy, but she said nothing. When she returned to the grove several weeks later, she found it uprooted and destroyed. Briarose’s tree lay on the ground. The ancient oak had been ravaged for lumber. She found the body of her friend beneath it, still clinging to the trunk, and she imagined the scene as her friend must have begged and pleaded with those responsible to stop hurting her tree. To stop murdering her.

Chloe knew who was responsible, of course: the spoiled princess, Circa. She wanted Briarose and did not care that the dryad could not come to her court even if she wanted to, for she was bound to the tree. Bring the tree, then, Chloe imagined her saying. Chloe followed the tracks of the princess’s guards to the edge of the forest, where they passed into the plains beyond. She tracked them all the way to Malfort, the capital of Evalaux; and could have tracked them to the castle itself, but there was no need. Chloe knew she could not get to the princess directly. Better to spend her efforts elsewhere.

And she did. Chloe had no friends in Malfort. She had no friends at all, since the death of Briarose. Her first task, then, was to make some. She did not like people, so instead she made friends with the rats of Malfort. All of them.

Within months, Chloe and her rats controlled the entire underworld of Malfort; easily wresting it from the grip of the Thieves’ Guild that operated in the sewers and shadows. Chloe’s legend grew. Rats bred unchecked, spreading disease and pestilence in the city above, spoiling foodstuffs and fouling wells. The people of Montfort cried out to the palace for help. They were suffering. They were dying. Unrest stirred, and the power of the royal family began to shake. Surely the king would do something?

The king could do nothing, because the king was dead. His seneschal found him in his chambers one morning, or what was left of him, anyway. He had been devoured by rats in his sleep. There seemed nowhere Chloe’s rats could not reach.

Princess Circa found herself suddenly in charge in a palace overrun by rats. She barricaded herself inside and hired as many rat catchers as she could from the surrounding towns and cities of Evalaux. She paid them extravagant sums to ply their trade, with promises of riches untold to the one who could rid the palace and the city of the rats. The rat catchers all died horribly; some devoured by rat swarms like the king, some made to ingest the very poisons they employed in their trade. They died, the people despaired, and Chloe’s grip tightened around the princess’s throat.

Over the course of the next several months, Chloe squeezed.

Today, Princess Circa still lives in the ruined palace, though her servants and guards fled long ago. She wanders the halls, incoherent and bedraggled and quite mad, attended only by rats. Outside, life has returned to normal for the people of Malfort. The tides of vermin no longer plague the city as they did. The disease has been checked, commerce and trade has resumed. The wells run clean and the storehouses are safe. All is well again.

But the people know, and they will not forget. Chloe the Rat is now princess of Malfort, and her palace is below the streets.

September’s Character of the Month is a Ranger; albeit a pretty unconventional one. This project has been pretty light on evil characters so far (only Rafinphel the Adored is expressly evil, and he’s not MY character), so I thought it was time. I imagined a ranger so obsessed with vengeance that she usurped nature for her own ends. This is the result.

For Chloe, I used Reaper’s Vermina, the Rat Queen, from their Chronoscope line. There are two versions of this character. This one, sculpted by Werner Klocke, has an anime-vibe to it. The other one is much more Victorian-looking and is sculpted by Patrick Keith. I’ve had this one for many years. She was supposed to be a non-player character in a D&D 3.5 campaign; but the game fell apart before I had a chance to paint her and she’s languished under chipped black primer ever since.

Since it’s obviously not September anymore, Chloe is late. But that’s ok. I have another Character of the Month for October coming by the end of the month; and hopefully more Star Wars, too.

Season of Scenery 2021

Well, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery has come and gone, and here’s what I have to show for it. Thanks as always to Dave for hosting this fun challenge!

I painted up the 20mm Gaslands scenery that I said I would. The tire stacks took me about half an hour in total to complete; whereas the barrel groups took WAY TOO FUCKING LONG. Those barrels were some tedious bastards, I can tell you that for nothing. Now that I have these done, I should play Gaslands at some point just to drive some cars into these explosive barrels.

I also painted these fuel and/or gas tanks (they’re actually milk and livestock feed tanks from model railroads). While most of them are in 20mm scale; as you can see they could be used equally as well in 28mm games. I weathered and rusted them up quite a bit using MIG rust pigments and Citadel Typhus Corrosion.

Up next, I have some 28mm 3D-printed scatter terrain I recently picked up with an Etsy coupon. These crate and barrel piles look nice, and I can always use more of them. I also took the opportunity to paint some extra barrels and bits I had lying around.

I also managed to get to these remnants of some 3D-printed SciFi crates I ordered. I painted them in the same white theme I used for the others. You can see them in my Star Trek battle reports.

Finally, the things I’m happiest about. These two Armorcast vending machines have been an incomplete project for years. I bought them at Gen Con in 2012; and I planned on using them for zombie games; but that didn’t happen. Then my intent was to use them in supers games; but that didn’t happen either. Then last year I took them out and put them on my desk because I wanted to get to them for Summer of Scenery 2020; but guess what didn’t happen? And there they have sat in all their annoying base-coated glory, just taking up space on my painting desk and not paying rent. Well, now they’re done, and I now NEED to use them in a game just to justify their existence.

Did I get to everything? No. But I don’t give a shit because it’s STAR WARS TIME, BAYBEEEEEEE!!!! I’m finally diving back into Imperial Assault, so watch for that soon!

Reverend Mother Mara, Sisterhood of Calucia

For August’s Character of the Month, I chose to do a Paladin.

When Mother Helen, Preceptress of Cobbage, opened her schoolhouse door to find the abandoned infant on her step, she did not hesitate; for Helen had once served the Sisterhood of Calucia, Guardian of Lost Travelers. Though Helen was a sister no longer and the Sisterhood was no more, she took the child in and cared for her as her own daughter; for what was this poor child if not a lost soul? Helen named the child Mara, who grew to be beloved by all in the small village. She was kind, helpful, charitable and humble. She could also lift a bushel of apples at arms’ length by the age of nine; and by fourteen, she could fully drive a fencepost into hard-packed clay with one swing of her hammer.

Despite (or perhaps because of) her great strength, Mara did not lack suitors when she reached the traditional age of marriage two years later; but Mara had no interest in marrying anyone from the village. These were the same boys who were her playmates for the last sixteen years, and she could not see them now as men. Besides, she needed to care for Mother Helen, who had grown infirm with age, and to assume the duties of Preceptress in her stead; for Mara was easily as wise as she was strong, much wiser than a girl of sixteen years should be.

Towards the end of her life, Mother Helen told Mara her own story; how she left the Sisterhood and came to be Preceptress of the small village of Cobbage. Helen was once a novitiate at Glenstrae Abbey, seat of the Sisterhood of Calucia in far-off Dunlaig. The folk of Dunlaig were a superstitious lot who had no use for magic that was not divine, and the Abbess of Glenstrae, Gertrude, was no exception. One dark and moonless night, an elf maiden sought sanctuary at the Abbey. She was in flight from lawless men who wished her harm; yet the Abbess denied her safety. She was fey, after all; and the Abbess decreed that she would find no comfort among the Sisterhood. When they found her body the next morning on the very grounds of the Abbey itself, the Abbess was unmoved. She ordered the corpse buried in the garden, where “at least it would do some good as fertilizer.”

The sisters were in shock. They felt immediately the loss of their Guardian’s favor, for who was more wayward and in need of aid than the poor elf maiden who begged for help and received only scorn? Still, Gertrude was unrepentant and prideful. She would hear no dissent on the matter, though she felt the loss of communion with Calucia more strongly than most.

A fortnight later, the keening started. The elf maiden had risen as a bean sidhe; and she was not done with the Sisterhood of Calucia. Each night for a month she circled the Abbey, keening and wailing; a horrid sight to behold. The sisters pleaded with the Abbess to repent; but Gertrude remained defiant, poisoned by her deep-rooted hatred of all things fey. With no divine magic to hold it at bay, it was only a matter of time before Glenstrae Abbey’s protections failed and the bean sidhe was able to enter what was once consecrated ground. When she did, her unbridled wrath broke fully upon Gertrude most horribly, but left none alive among the Sisterhood.

None but Helen. Cornered by the bean sidhe among the white and silent corpses of her sisters, Helen closed her eyes and called out to Calucia for deliverance. When she opened them, she found the horrid visage of the undead elf mere inches away, staring at her with an expression the young sister couldn’t comprehend. She blinked, and the thing was gone. Mother Helen told Mara she did not know why the creature let her live, if not to tell the tale of what had become of the fallen Sisterhood and of the once-holy Abbey, now fallen to evil and ruin.

Helen died a few nights later. Mara saw to her burial. Over her grave, Mara vowed that she would do what Helen could not. She would atone for the Abbess’s transgressions. She would rebuild Glenstrae Abbey. She would redeem the Sisterhood of Calucia, or she would die in the attempt.

Mara made her intentions known to the village. The blacksmith provided her with armor and a sword; but Mara did not know how to wield a sword; rather, she knew how to swing a hammer. So the smith forged her a hammer instead, a true weapon of war, not a tool for driving fenceposts. Mara accepted it gratefully, and named it “Correction” in honor of the switch Mother Helen occasionally used to chastise pupils who misbehaved.

The road to Dunlaig was long, and Mara encountered many who needed her help along the way. She fixed wagon-wheels for the stranded; planted and plowed for the infirm; defended the weak and powerless; and clothed and fed the needy as best she could, often going without comfort herself. She did this without complaint or recompense as service to the Guardian Calucia in memory of Mother Helen, the woman who cared for her when no one else would.

When she finally reached Glenstrae Abbey, she found it to be a cursed and bleak ruin shunned by all. In the years since the Sisterhood’s destruction others had come here in search of adventure or to loot the valuables of the vaults. All of them perished when the heard the keening wail of the bean sidhe; for the undead creature spared no one foolish enough to willingly enter the Abbey grounds. Now, these cursed souls had risen and become evil things themselves. They surrounded Mara as she strode boldly up to the gates of the Abbey, whispering foul promises of eternal torment; but Mara was unafraid. She shouted her defiance and commanded the undead horde to leave the Abbey, that this would once again be sacred ground. She invoked the name of Calucia, and something wondrous happened.

The undead hordes shrieked in fear and pain. Many of them simply ceased to exist as the power of Mara’s prayer banished their evil forever. Those that remained quailed in fury and terror; but they soon rallied and leapt to the attack. Mara met them head-on with Correction. Within minutes, she was the only thing moving on the grounds of Glenstrae Abbey. The bean sidhe’s minions were utterly destroyed, shattered into oblivion by the holy power of her warhammer.

Mara knelt in prayer and waited. She did not wait long. The restless spirit of the elf maiden appeared, and let out a keening so horrible that Mara felt all of the rage, humiliation and pain of maiden’s death all at once. She could feel the unbridled evil of the scream as a chill upon her soul and knew that she survived only by Calucia’s grace; for it was more than anyone could bear, and Mara knew that all who had heard it before had died on the spot. In the span of one moment, the scream of the bean sidhe aged Mara a full score years; yet Mara, shaken to her core, still stood, somehow alive.

The undead thing rushed at her, furious. Mara did not raise her weapon in defense. She only watched as the hooked claws reached to tear her limb from limb, and she spoke only two words. “I’m sorry.”

The bean sidhe stopped. For a moment, the two women stared at each other; for the undead elf maiden looked then much as she did in life: beautiful and fey. Mara stepped forward and embraced her. The bean sidhe slumped and let out a sigh. Then it vanished.

Mara found herself Abbess of Glenstrae. She spent the next several years rebuilding the convent, doing much of the physical labor herself. She exhumed the bones of the elf maiden and reburied them in a place of honor alongside Mother Helen, whose remains she brought back from Cobbage to rest on Abbey grounds. Her good and charitable deeds regained the favor of Calucia, and the Abbey was soon home to novitiates once more. The Sisterhood of Calucia was born anew.

Reverend Mother Mara is Reaper’s Mother Superior, sculpted by Werner Klocke. I was wondering what miniature I was going to use for a paladin. I seem to have picked up this one in a trade and forgot all about it, which only goes to show that (surprise) I have too many miniatures. She was fun to paint, if not particularly challenging.

Up next: My Season of Scenery submissions! Then on to STAR WARS!!!!!

The 2021 Season of Scenery To-Do List

With one month gone already in Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery, I am lagging a bit behind. I’ve decided to do a bunch of small pieces that have been sitting around for far too long. Hopefully I can get the majority of them done by the end of August; but if not, at least I’ll have made some progress. Much of it is either 3D-printed or resin cast stuff, some of which I’ve owned for almost a decade.

Pretty much everything that’s black up in that picture is 20mm Gaslands scenery: fuel tanks, fuel barrels and tire stacks. These should be very easy to paint and hopefully will go fast. The white stuff is some new 3D-printed cargo piles I picked up in 28mm scale. Again, not hard to do, just time-consuming. The gray stuff is what’s left over from a 3D-printed sci-fi crate order I got last year. I used the other crates in my Star Trek Forgotten Worlds scenarios, but since I didn’t need these large ones I didn’t bother to paint them. Then there’s the vending machines and the Victorian weird science dynamo, both from Armorcast, and both purchased so long ago I can’t remember when. (I don’t even think they make the dynamo anymore.) Those damn vending machines have been sitting on my desk in their respective basecoats for almost ten years. It’s time, man.

Finally, I have three resin barricades I’ve owned since 2003 or so. I bought them for Warhammer 40K, but I never really went back to playing 40K so I never needed them. Primed black on the left side of the picture is a ruined wall fortification, another 40K piece I never got to. While these are the oldest and largest pieces of scenery; they’re also the lowest priority. Still, it would be nice to get to them…maybe if time permits.