The sounds of pursuit fill you with terror as you try to flee. You can hear the beast gaining on you. There’s no outrunning it! You look back in panic. The ground shakes and trees sway wildly as its enormous form crashes through the brush! It spies you, its prey…and it’s beak opens wide, giving forth a blood-curdling shriek of maddened rage:
My second submission for Monster Month, a classic Dungeons and Dragons monster and one of my personal favorites: The Owlbear! The product of magical crossbreeding of an owl and a bear, this ill-tempered monstrosity attacks anything it sees on sight and fights to the death. It’s the bane of low-level adventuring parties everywhere!
This owlbear comes from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, which is a line I can’t say enough good things about. They’re inexpensive, digitally sculpted, and generally very good-looking, especially the monsters. I’m less jazzed about the personalities (character classes, etc.), but YMMV.
The miniature was easy to paint and practically highlighted itself. The texture of the feathers and fur takes washes and drybrushing quite easily. I think it took me about 2 hours or so, which is pretty fast for me.
I still have four projects I’d like to get to this month, but realistically it’s probably not going to happen…so I have to prioritize. There’s one big one I really want to complete because I’ve been staring at it forever!
Check out all the other participants in Monster Month. Visit their sites and see what they’re up to!
Monster month was a bit underwhelming this year. The first half of the month was taken up with work problems that, to put it bluntly, fucked up my hobby focus. After that, I took a much-needed week off, during which you would think I would double down on my painting. However, when I paint, my mind wanders, tending to fixate upon things that vex me (like work). So instead, I played Spider-Man on PS4, which allowed me to “check out”, and not think of anything not related to being Spider-Man for a few hours every day.
Nevertheless, I managed to paint a few more monsters to finish out the month. I’m considering making this an annual event over here at Dead Dick’s Tavern, and perhaps soliciting participation from other hobbyists, much like the imminent Forgotten Heroes challenge hosted by Carrion Crow, starting in just a few days!
First: a Reaper Bones Hell Hound. In AD&D, Hell Hounds are the dogs from the plane of the Nine Hells. They’re emaciated, rust-brown dogs that breathe fire, and they’re often summoned by sorcerers with less-than-good intentions. (This miniature was an impulse buy; I saw him and realized I didn’t own any Hell Hound miniatures.) My first cursory look at the unpainted miniature made me think his back was on fire, but upon closer inspection it’s fur and spines, not flames. I painted him mostly in Vallejo Red Black and Reaper Rusty Red. Not much else to say about him except I’m not thrilled with his base. Oh, well…
Next, this big fellow is a Shambling Mound, from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures. You get a pretty hefty chunk of plastic for his $4.99 price tag; a real bargain! You can get a sense of his scale compared to the human-sized skeleton in the foreground.
From the AD&D 3.5 SRD: Shambling mounds, also called shamblers, appear to be heaps of rotting vegetation. They are actually intelligent, carnivorous plants. A shambler’s body has an 8-foot girth and is about 6 feet tall when the creature stands erect.It weighs about 3,800 pounds. This miniature is scaled much bigger than it’s description would indicate. Despite its AD&D origins, I will most likely get more use out of the Shambling Mound as a minion for either Plant Man or Poison Ivy. I’m pretty happy with how he turned out. I basically used a ton of green and brown paints and washes before finally highlighting with some yellow wash.
And finally, another classic AD&D monster: the Carrion Crawler. From the Forgotten Realms Wiki: A carrion crawler was a burrowing aberration that scavenged the dead and occasionally preyed on living creatures. Carrion crawlers were large, pale yellow, and greenish aberrations whose appearance was akin to a three- to four-foot-long centipede. Crawlers possessed eight long tentacles protruding from the sides of their heads, allowing them to stun prey.
This is another Nolzur’s miniature that I bought specifically for Monster Month. I based the carapace in Coat D’Arms Goblin Green, then highlighted up to Vallejo Green Sky, washing him with Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade. His underbelly was based in Army Painter Necrotic Flesh, washed with Citadel Seraphim Sepia, then highlighted with Reaper’s Moldy Skin. The base was given a layer of Citadel’s Stirland Mud for texture.
Here’s a picture of him with a 28mm Privateer Press Cygnar guardsman for scale. Once again, Nolzur’s doesn’t seem too bound by the descriptions of these monsters, as, much like the Shambling Mound, this particular Carrion Crawler is a lot bigger than the standard size given in the description.
That about does it for Monster Month this year, although I may have a few stragglers still to come. Next month is Forgotten Heroes, over at Carrion Crow’s Buffet. This will be my third year participating and I’m very happy to take part!
There’s always a someone who’s late for the train. My orc warlord on wyvern took a bit longer than I anticipated, so these miniatures weren’t done in time to make it into Monster Month.
First up, some iconic AD&D monsters: Displacer Beasts!
(Every time I speak the name of this monster out loud, I say it as Sylvester the Cat would. It makes it much more fun. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.)
A Displacer Beast resembles a six-legged, emaciated puma with two toothy tentacles sprouting from its back. They are stealthy carnivores that often hunt in pairs, which is why I bought two. Displacer Beasts are surrounded by a light-bending camouflage effect, which makes it difficult to determine the monster’s exact location at any given time (like when you’re about to get eaten). These Displacer Beasts are from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and although they’re technically the same miniature, it’s easy to get some variation in the tentacles and tail simply by doing the old “hot water bath/reposition/cold water bath” method. (I’m not sure what’s up with the lighting in these pictures, but the focus is a tad blurry. Same thing happened last time. I need to investigate this further.)
In the video game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, you get attacked by a ton of Displacer Beasts in an ice cave. I guess that’s why I based these on snowy bases. I used Citadel’s Mourn Mountain Snow, a texture paint kind of like Stirland Mud. I like Stirland Mud a lot, because it looks like mud. Unfortunately, Mourn Mountain Snow doesn’t look like snow, it looks like white mud; so I also added some snowy flock and tundra tufts to the bases.
The other latecomer is a classic Grenadier Balrog. This miniature came out in the late 1970’s. I once painted him with the dreaded Testor’s gloss enamel, but I stripped the miniature years ago to repaint him. I finally did! There have been several variations of this figure over the years; one has a wavy sword rather than the flaming sword mine has. I think this miniature holds up quite well, considering its age.
It does seem a bit small for a Balrog, as you can see from the picture above. If you say the word “Balrog” most fantasy fans have an image in their heads that roughly corresponds to this one, i.e. the Balrog of Moria, “Durin’s Bane”. But Tolkien is often vague, even contradictory at times when describing what a Balrog actually looks like. At times he describes them as gigantic; other times he says they are twice the size of a man. Whether they have actual wings or not is apparently up for debate among Tolkien-philes. Whatever the case, looking at the mniature now, it’s a bit too red. I probably should have painted either his body or wings black for some variation. The hair on the Balrog’s body was drybrushed with a Vallejo Cavalry Brown, but it looks close enough to red so that the effect is somewhat lost.
It looks a hell of a lot better than it did when coated in Testor’s gloss enamel, and it can certainly do a fair job of representing a greater demon, nonetheless. I made the lava base out of pieces of irregular craft foam scraps I had from my Gaslands projects a few months back. I’m somewhat ambivalent about how it came out and I’ve since found a much better method for making lava bases that I’m keen to try soon.
My latest two “monster month” projects have arrived! Presenting: the Griffon and the Bulette (Land Shark).
(Astute observers may notice that the model in the middle of these two monsters has changed since the last post. That’s because I couldn’t seem to find that human fighter who found himself between an Umber Hulk and a Purple Worm, and then between a hungry Troll and a Basilisk. Perhaps his luck finally ran out…)
The Bulette, also known as a land shark, is a terrifying predator that lives only to eat (much like a regular shark). It burrows beneath the ground and bursts to the surface whenever it detects the vibrations of movement. A bulette has a territory of about 30 square miles, and will attack anything it comes across, completely consuming its prey (clothing, armor, weapons, etc.). When it has eaten everything in its territory, it will move on to another area.
Bulettes are not usually smart; however there is a famous case of one land shark ringing the doorbells of unsuspecting victims, fooling them into opening the door by pretending to have a delivery of something (flowers, candy, etc.). Once the victim opened the door, the land shark would strike!
This bulette is a Reaper Bones “land shark” (appropriate, no?).
A griffon, as everyone knows, is a majestic beast with the body of a lion and the head, wings and front legs of a great eagle. Griffons are fierce predators and enjoy eating horses most of all. Griffons are semi-intelligent and are much prized as mounts for heroic characters, as they are capable of being trained by those with enough daring and skill.
This griffon is yet another of Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures. I used the hot water/cold water bath method to reshape its wings somewhat, but that’s about it. In all my years of painting, I have never painted a griffon before. I really like this miniature (score another for Nolzur’s); therefore I have named him Merv.
Monster Month continues with a couple more beasties: the dreaded basilisk and the AD&D version of a classic monster: the troll!
The troll is from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and I am hard-pressed to recall seeing a finer version of the classic AD&D troll. I absolutely love this sculpt. If I have one criticism, it’s that he’s a bit too big; most trolls are 9 feet tall or so; this guy looks like he’s twice the size of the fighter next to him. In addition, his built-on base is somewhat problematic if you plan on mounting him on the included 50mm circular base, as it overlaps the circle somewhat due to his wide stance. I chose to use a bigger (60mm) base, but that meant I had a lot of space to fill. I used some cut-up pieces of craft foam to simulate dungeon flagstones and here is the finished result.
Everyone knows what a troll is, but the AD&D version of a troll is particularly nasty, as they regenerate all damage—including severed limbs—given enough time. The only way to put a troll down for good is with fire or acid. Other than that, run. The AD&D troll has a somewhat unique look to them as well; the long arms ending in ragged claws, the rubbery body, socketed eyes and wiry hair. They’re pretty horrific. And they’re always hungry. Thankfully, they’re not that bright, so it’s somewhat easy to outthink them.
A basilisk is an eight-legged reptile that petrifies victims with its gaze, much like Medusa. A significant difference between the two, however, is that Medusa decorates her lair with the statues she creates, while the basilisk just eats them. Yes, a basilisk is fully capable of eating the stone bodies of its victims. Basilisks are about as smart as your average reptile. In other words, not very.
This basilisk is a Reaper Bones version. This was a miniature that I was unhappy with throughout the entire painting process. I felt like I chose the wrong colors and I everything I did just seemed to make the miniature look worse. Finally, I applied a wash of GW’s Fuegan Orange to his spine and the tips of his scales, and everything looked a million times better. Now I’m pretty happy with how he came out.
Monster Month kicks off with two classic AD&D monsters straight from the Monster Manual: the Umber Hulk and the Purple Worm—two very good reasons not to adventure underground.
The Umber Hulk is from the Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures line, which is a new-ish Wizkids line of computer sculpted miniatures that are both inexpensive and impressive. Wizkids has the rights to produce all the “official” AD&D monsters like the Umber Hulk, which is why you’ll see them called by their true names and not by a knockoff (i.e. Reaper’s rust monster, the “oxidation beast”). I have to imagine that Wizkids is taking their cue from the massive success of Reaper Bones, because the Umber Hulk cost a mere $3.99. He’s a pretty decent size, too, as you can see from the (very nervous-looking) 28mm Reaper fighter standing between him and the worm. The Purple Worm is a Reaper Bones version of their “Great Wyrm” sculpt. I believe it also retailed at $3.99. Again, great price, decent size, great sculpt.
These Nolzur’s miniatures are, like Bones, supposed to be ready to paint without priming; in the case of Nolzur’s, they are supposedly primed already. Regardless, I choose to prime both Nolzur’s and Bones miniatures with Vallejo surface primer, because the paint rubs off if you don’t (no matter what they say). The Umber Hulk miniature required a little additional preparation prior to painting. Like Bones, many of the Nolzur’s miniatures set in weird positions after the casting process and need to be repositioned, which is actually pretty easy to do. Initially, this Umber Hulk’s mandible hung lower than its base, which would have made standing him up impossible. A quick dip of the miniature in some hot (but not boiling) water allowed me to bend it into a more upright posture, then a quick bath in some cold water made sure it re-set that way and wouldn’t go back. This method also works with Bones and even Heroclix, depending on the thickness of the plastic you’re trying to reshape.
Once he could stand up without stepping on his own jaw, I got to work:
According to the Monster Manual (3.5 edition in case anyone cares), an Umber Hulk resembles a cross between an ape and a beetle. It dwells deep within the earth, and can rip through solid stone like it was paper. AD&D player characters fear the Umber Hulk for several reasons. It’s covered in armored plates, it’s strong and can dish out a lot of damage, and it can hypnotize you with its eyes. But perhaps the scariest thing about an Umber Hulk is that it’s smart; often, it’s smarter than the PCs. The average human ability score (including Intelligence) is a 9. An Umber Hulk has an average Intelligence of 13!
The Purple Worm is another well-known AD&D monster. It’s a massive scavenger worm, covered in purple chitinous armor. A mature Purple Worm has a 6′ diameter mouth and is about 80′ long. (This one must be a baby.) It can easily swallow prey whole, including humanoids. To top it off, it has a poisonous stinger in its tail.
Being a Reaper Bones miniature, it’s not an “official” Purple Worm. I just painted it up that way.
Unlike Umber Hulks, Purple Worms aren’t smart. They’re just huge and mean and very tough to kill.
Insanity Pile Progress
Off to a good start, even though it’s only the first week. I’ve painted more than I’ve purchased. Good on me.