What’s VFF Publishing, you ask? Why, it’s my publishing imprint! Yes, I write and publish novels. This blog is about gaming, but I see no reason not to redirect you to the Visions of Fantasy & the Future site if you’re curious about what I write. I write fantasy and sci-fi. You can buy my novels at Amazon and other fine sellers of literature.
I wrote a brief story and painted a couple of miniatures for a contest in a Facebook miniature painting group. I thought I’d share it here:
(The contest rules were: “… choose two Bones! miniatures, paint them as a loving couple, and tell us their love story. Don’t feel mired in convention, either… just have fun with it. There are no politics here… man and woman, man and man, man and beholder… we don’t care, just keep it consensual and ‘romantic.'”) Sadly the two miniatures I chose did not have very finely defined detail; a failing common to some of the earlier Bones miniatures castings.)
She was a lady of refinement, daughter of a lord, lost in the Bleakmere. He was a scout for the Mucklebones tribe, one of their most fierce hunters. Draak had her in his sights, ready to shoot the smooth-skinned interloper down. There was something in the way she carried herself, a regal bearing, a quiet dignity in the face of all the dangers of the swamp.
He stayed his hand, and instead showed her the way to safety, revealing himself only at the end. Alora was shocked by her clandestine watcher, her hidden protector, but saw honor and nobility in his eyes. Though they were from different worlds, Alora reached out to him.
“Stay with me. Together, let us discover the wonders of this world.”
Draak’s heart leapt. Ever since he was hatched, he explored. He knew there must be more to see than the twisted trees and black pools of Bleakmere. He took her hand and let the woman sweep him away. Through thick and thin, fair weather and foul, Alora and Draak traveled near and far, never leaving each other’s sides. Companions true, their love for discovery, adventure, and each other led them to experience all the great adventures the world offered.
These are Reaper’s Bones Juliette Wizard and Lizardman Spearman. Juliette must have been one of the earlier castings of Bones because her features are very soft and poorly detailed. Even Lizardman Spearman suffers a bit from lack of detail around the face and chest (though his tail and legs were really nice). She photographed much redder than her skin tone really is and the subtle dry-brushing in her hair didn’t come through at all. Before I painted her, I looked on Reaper’s site, and I couldn’t even find the Bones version of this miniature. Obviously, Reaper wasn’t happy with the casting.
It’s a two-for-one Bones day! (This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said that, and it probably won’t be the last). I needed a few miniatures for session 4 of my Tyranny of Dragons campaign (watch for that update coming soon!). For a brief moment, my brain went wonky and I almost looked in the store for new miniatures to represent these two adversaries, then I remembered all my unpainted Bones!
So, for those of you keeping track, today’s miniatures are Dragonman Warrior (which I will be using as a Half-Dragon) and Lysette, Female Elf (which I will be using a human female cleric w/a halberd since I don’t have any miniature like that at all).
First thing I did, of course, was to wash them in warm, soapy water (more on that in a minute) and then I affixed them to larger, more stable bases. Since these would likely be used in tactical, combat encounters, I wanted decent bases.
After that, I applied the base coats. The Dragonman got steel armor and blue scales (per his depiction in the adventure). Lysette got purple robes because she’s representing a character known as the “Wearer of Purple.” I learned three things from this: I didn’t have purple paint. Mixing Privateer P3 red and blue (I don’t remember the exact names) doesn’t result in purple, but rather muddy brown, and I FAILED to scrub all the mold release off of these miniatures. You can’t really see it in the pictures because I didn’t take them until I got the paint to properly stick.
For Lysette, I used a Folk Art purple paint I thinned with distilled water. I did not thin it enough. I made do, but I immediately went out and bought more Privateer P3 paints to avoid the mess I made in the future. I ended up changing the color of her pack, too. I decided to make her blonde (despite how she is depicted in the adventure) and if I was doing this over, I would ultimately paint her jerkin a different color. Perhaps blue, or maybe red.
You can see in these pictures, the base coat of the blonde hair. I am not particularly good at hair, especially if it’s not black or brown. Naturally, I turned to Google. There are a lot of painting guides and tutorials written by far more skilled artists than I.
Despite the blob that the purple paint was, I rather like the way it came out. In closeups it sort of looks like the robes were dyed by hand; they have that uneven quality a quick-dip dye job might create. I certainly couldn’t have achieved that effect if I tried.
I don’t have an in progress picture of the Dragonman because, well, I forgot. Plus, he’s mostly armor. Now that I’m looking at the pictures, his armor really needs a black wash. I admit, I’m a little afraid to try it because the wash I did on the blue dragon was a disaster. I have another week before this miniature will get used, though, so I might read up a bit on it again and try this weekend. If I screw it up, I still have a few days to try to fix it.
In the end, these two miniatures are better than the last humanoid Bones I tried to paint. There are more hard details on the figures and the faces aren’t just blank… things. The blonde hair turned out okay; I liked the way it started out, but the more I worked on it, the worse it got. I salvaged it in the end, I think. I did like the way the gem in Lysette’s staff came out, though. It doesn’t show quite as nicely in the pictures as it does in person. I painted over the orange color with an iridescent white paint and the effect under light is really nice. It photographs horribly, though. I think I need to dry brush a lighter blue on the dragon wings on the Dragonman’s shield, too.
I’m going to work on some townsfolk miniatures, next, I think, as well as finish up some metal minis I have sitting around.
Ha! It wasn’t fifteen months this time. But truth be told: I had this mini pretty much finished the whole time and never got around to actually doing anything with it. Behold, the fearsome, not-a-beholder-kin, IP-free EYE BEAST.
The Eye Beast requires no gluing. It even stands up on its own without weights or the boil ‘n bend straightening method. It has a lot of deep, craggy detail, and really big chompers. Pictures I found on the Internet showed it painted in all sorts of garish colors by artists more skilled than I. I didn’t want the bright, psychedelic look, though. I wanted something gritty, dark; a creature that would descend upon you from the depths of the underdark and EAT YOUR BONES.
So, I painted a black base coat. I went with grays and browns for the highlights and found an ivory color for the massive teeth. For once, I wasn’t worried about how I was going to paint the eye. I did an iris AND a pupil! There were also a bunch of little eyes here and there all over its body, so I had to detail those, as well.
The base has some nice detail hidden in the rocks, like a sword. For some reason, I had the entire miniature finished EXCEPT the base and just let it sit for months and months (fifteen of them!). I wanted to put little bits of flesh and blood on the teeth, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned through painful trial and error, it’s this: if your skill level isn’t up to snuff, the more details you try to add the worse it looks.
Unlike my mother, this guy really does have eyes in the back of his head!
I’m not an expert painter by any stretch of the imagination and I’m not painting these for contests or to display in a museum. Voltaire once said perfect was the enemy of good and in publishing, perfection is certainly the enemy of “done.” So, I’m calling this one done; it’s good enough for me. Err… except for the base. I still need to paint that sword and finish those rocks. I’ll get to that before I start my next miniature.
As promised, here is a picture of the two minis I painted concurrently with the dragon from my previous post. I still need to finish the bases and get at least a pupil or something in those eyes. Time to break out a tooth pick. I’ll put another picture of the dwarf up when I do my next mini; the beard looks better than this picture shows. I wanted to show off the shield, and now I see there’s a spot I have to touch up. The lady’s hair looks better in person, too. It’s not just a blob of brown; there’s nuance, I swear!
It’s been a while since I did a post about my Bones miniatures. Over a year. Fifteen months, actually. In an ideal world, this post would read something like this: I had a blast the last fifteen months painting my Reaper Bones! I was having so much fun, I didn’t have time to blog about it, so you all will never know all the painstaking work I put into painting these miniatures. Instead, enjoy these pictures of the whole painted horde!
I could write that. It would be a LIE.
I hardly painted at all those fifteen months. I was busy. Life got in the way. I wasn’t really playing D&D or running a game. Etc. etc. Blah, blah, blah.
Guess what? HOLY COW there’s a real, honest-to-goodness update here!
Everything glued together really well. Superglue made a fast, strong bond on this miniature. It seems to work better with large areas to bond rather than something small, like a hand. There was relatively little flash on the miniature, but it was very front-heavy. I glued 1″ steel washers to the feet and it still flopped over. I glued 1.5″ bases to the washers and it was still unstable. I’m thinking of cutting a wood block to 1″ x 2″ and screwing the two bases to it, then painting & flocking the wood.
Now, I said this was a Fire Dragon. I don’t need another fire-breathing dragon. I don’t need a red dragon of the D&D mold. I did need an awesome Blue Dragon, though, so I went with that. Most blue dragon pictures I’ve seen use a tan/yellow type contrast for the wing membranes and belly scales. In the pictures, it looks pretty good. On my miniature, I HATED the wing membranes. The belly scales looked good, but I didn’t think that color would work well on the large flat areas of the wing membranes. They have very minimal texture, so it’s just a flat expanse.
I replaced it with a light blue. It seemed to work reasonably well. I went with a darker blue for the spine plates and intended to go over the entire dragon with a black wash, followed by a lighter shade of blue for drybrushing the highlights.
In the end, the final color scheme is pretty pleasing (to me). The scales have some subtle texture which is really nice compared to the doughy faces in some of the character miniatures I’ve seen. I really like this dragon.
Then… I did the wash. What an unmitigated disaster. The scales handled it fairly well, but the wash just pooled on the wing membranes and didn’t sit in the fine striations as well. I hoped it would make them more visible, instead, it was like dumping water on a piece of flat plastic. I almost threw the whole thing out.
Maybe I didn’t thin it enough. Maybe the paint is not formulated correctly (I’m using Privateer P3 paints now). I don’t know. I’m not an expert. It sucked. It didn’t work. In my head I was going “oh shit oh shit oh shit” while my stomach was knotting up like a clenched fist.
I used another layer of the light blue to cover up the wash on the wings (if you’re keeping track, that’s now 3 layers of paint on the wing membranes), and dry brushed the rest of the mini. I then did some touch-ups.
The end result… I’m pretty pleased with. My skill level is probably at the high end of Beginner or low end of Intermediary. The light plays pretty cool on some of the scales, and I think the color I picked for the eyes works really well. Unfortunately, you can’t see either of those in the picture. I have several other Bones dragons, and I learned some lessons on this one that should serve me well going forward… providing it’s not fifteen months before I paint another miniature!
I still haven’t fixed the base, but it stands well enough now. I’ll get around to the base eventually. I painted a couple of metal minis at the same time as this one. I should’ve taken pictures of them, but I haven’t based them yet, either. Maybe once I get the bases done for all three I’ll post more pictures.
I have an Eye Beast, too. It will be the focus of a different blog post. It’s totally NOT a Beholder, y’all. That would be a violation of WotC’s IP. I haven’t based that one, either.
This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!
Once they were “safe” inside the temple of Chauntea, our heroes took a moment to take stock of the situation. The priest and acolytes were shaken, but unharmed. The priest, Eadyan Falconmoon offered healing to the heroes who saved him, but reminded them there was still a third group attempting to burn their way through the Sanctuary’s back door. After a quick planning session, the heroes execute their plan, then the attacking cultists and kobolds.
After eliminating the danger to the Sanctuary, they led Eadyan and his acolytes back to the keep. There, they were met by the Castellan who told them of the governor’s next cunning plan. The guards with families would usher their loved ones to safety through the old tunnel while the heroes and twenty volunteers would distract the dragon from the battlements. The Castellan was not convinced of the dragon’s resolve to destroy the town since it had been circling for hours now and Greenest was still standing.
The heroes agreed to lead the keep’s defenders in attacking the dragon. Tobin volunteered to try to talk to the beast, since he spoke Draconic. Meanwhile, Broken Sky had the remaining guards hide in the nearby towers and prepare to attack the dragon from afar through the arrow slits. He enticed it with promises of tribute and the dragon landed on the battlements to hear this human wearing cultist robes sing praises to him. While Tobin distracted the dragon, the rest of the heroes attacked! While Veya took a swipe from the dragon’s claws, she managed to land a mighty blow on its snout with her great axe. The beast dismounted the tower and flew away under a hail of arrows, abandoning the cultists looting the town.
When they returned to the ground floor of the keep, they were greeted with fewer cheers than they expected and some grim news: cultists were attempting to set fire to the mill. A proverb about “no rest for the wicked” came to mind (along with “no good deed goes unpunished”). Without the mill, Greenest would have no way of grinding grain for flour and it would severely damage their ability to make it through the next winter. The heroes once again set out.
At the mill, they saw some cultists setting fires outside and dealt with them, but they were either the most incompetent fire builders ever, or they weren’t really trying to set fire to the mill. Broken Sky snuck into the mill and spied multiple cultists lying in wait. He reported to his companions what he found and Zinnianna suggested talking to the mice and rats in the mill to swarm and distract the cultists so the could sneak attack them. As they were preparing to launch their attack, a group of guards from the keep caught up to them. They attacked the mill en masse and made short work of the cultists. They left the guards to mop of and returned to the keep.
Naturally, there was no time for rest. The heroes and Castellan were alerted to something happening outside. A sizable force of kobolds formed a ring around the keep entrance, and from their ranks strode an armored, half-dragon warrior. “Defenders of Greenest! This has been a successful night, and I am feeling generous. Do you see these four pitiful, useless prisoners? We have no need for them, so I will trade them back to you. Send out your best warrior to fight me, and you can have these four in exchange.”
Veya was still suffering from grievous wounds received earlier in the evening. Broken Sky volunteered to face the half-dragon. As he prepared himself, the creature paced in front of his prisoners. When the monk strode forth to meet him, the half-dragon swung his mighty blade, but missed Broken Sky. The monk responded with a furious attack that staggered the creature and knocked him back. The half-dragon snarled and unleashed his breath weapon. The bolt of lightning grazed Broken Sky, knocking the elf to the ground. Darkness took him. The half-dragon stood over him and sneered. He spit on the elf and threw his sword to the ground. “Is there no one here worthy to face me?”
He turned away in disgust and walked away from the elf’s smoldering body, directing the kobolds to release the prisoners. The kobolds follows him by rank, and the raiders left Greenest. Healers rushed out with the rest of the heroes and to their relief, found Broken Sky only mostly dead. After resting for most of the morning, the heroes bound their wounds and made ready to tackle their next task.
The Governor approached them and asked them to track the raiders. He felt they might be able to recover more intelligence about their purpose and perhaps, some of the stolen loot. On their way out of town, the heroes were met by Nesim Waladra, a disciple of a monk called Master Leosin. Master Leosin, who was known to Broken Sky, went missing in the night after pursuing a group of the cultists. He hoped the heroes could look for his Master while they were tracking the cultists. The followed the trail to a small camp where some cultists and kobolds were arguing over lunch.
The battle was brief. Without their leaders, the kobolds and cultists did not work well together and were divided and conquered with judicious use of spells and strategy. As the heroes took stock of their situation when the battle was over, the saw the trail left by the main group, leading further into the hills…
I actually gave out a LOT more healing than the adventure calls for. Officially, if they heroes can’t heal themselves, tough cookies. That might play well in organized play where there may not be group cohesiveness from session to session, but in an extended home campaign, it’s not terribly fun if they all die by attrition in the first two sessions before they even get out of 1st level. Other DMs out there may disagree and say that it’s more realistic. Neither approach is wrong and I decided since it was a new game with a new system and a new player, that I would err on the side of fun.
The rules for 5th edition still aren’t quite second nature, but this was only my fourth session running it over the last six months. We’re picking them up pretty fast, though, and I’m getting better at recognizing opportunities to hand out inspiration. I did have to hand out one “Let me finish before you interrupt me; there is a point to this!” Some of the adventure does rely pretty heavily on the players letting events play out rather than stabby-stabby grabby-grabby at every available opportunity. It’s not a bad thing; it just is.
Now that the first episode is done, I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of this plays out. It seems like Episode I is the biggest stumbling block to groups playing this adventure because it is SO difficult and doesn’t let them just do the stabby-stabby grabby-grabby thing (in fact, that’s an excellent way to die fast in Episode I). The pieces are on the board and the plot is in motion…