Saturday, April 28, 2012

Critters


The Crites are small ravenous aliens first introduced in the movie Critters. The film proved to be fairly popular, and went on to spawn a number of sequels.

Over the course of the films, the appearance of the creatures changed sightly, but by and large, the Crites from the first film were not overly different from the later ones.




In one of the films there was also a giant alpha Crite.


The popularity of the films also crossed over to the world of gaming, and there are three companies that make miniatures of these creatures. I have examples of miniatures from two of those three.

The first three miniatures are Space Munchkins from Wargames Supply Dump (MIS10). These can be used as larger Crites in 1/72 scale.  The next three are Munchers (PLA-10) from Khurasan Miniatures, and despite being sold for the 15mm market, are probably more appropriate for 1/72 scale.



I modified some of the Khurasan Munchers to represent Crites from the first film, and various unique Crites from the later movies.


As far as gaming goes, the Crite have a number of abilities that make them dangerous to the standard horror movie character, but I doubt that they would prove much of a threat to a party of typical D&D type adventurers.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fuzzy sapiens

Fuzzies: Small aboriginal creatures of the planet Zarathustra which first appeared in the novel Little Fuzzy, by H. Beam Piper. They are known as Gashta in their own language, and stand about two feet tall.


Fuzzies made their RPG debut in Ultima III: Exodus. For some reason, I seem to remember that they were in Wizardry as well, but I may be mistaken about that - it's been a long time since I played either game.


Fuzzies armed with their traditional weapons, as well as with blasters were made by Archive miniatures as part of their Star Rovers line. Below are a pair of Fuzzies with their hodda. They stand about 15mm high, so are actually about foot and a half taller than a Fuzzy should be (in 1/72 scale).


Ewoks: Shameless products for merchandising, or symbols of the triumph of resourcefulness over technology? I was neutral about Ewoks when I first saw Jedi, but always thought that the Battle of Endor was rather ridiculous. If they were consistently portrayed as primitive man-eating (why do people keep saying Ewoks are cannibalistic?) savages, they would have worked for me, but unfortunately they were flanderized with respect to their "cute" characteristics, and I've developed somewhat of a bias against them.


Galoob made a number of Ewoks as part of their Micromachines Star Wars line. The first four poses (starting from the left) come from the Ewoks figure set (66080), while the last two poses are unique to playsets. They stand about 15mm high, and come painted in typical Micromachine fashion.

So who would win in a fight? Me, I'm partial to the Fuzzies.


To crush your enemies...


...see them driven before you...


...and to hear the lamentation of their women.




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Enemies of Man

My interest in the world of Tékumel began after reading The Man of Gold, and Flamesong. A friend who had also read the books purchased the RPG, and our gaming group played a couple of games that I found quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, we found the rules rather kludgy, and the world was perhaps too alien to the other players, so it never became a mainstay for our group.

One of the aspects of Tékumel that I liked the best was that the alien races were like nothing that I had encountered in RPGs at the time. I was intrigued by the 2x4 limb arrangement of many of the creatures, and in particular with the aboriginal creatures of Tékumel, the Ssú and the Hlüss.

I think I was only vaguely aware of Tékumel miniatures back when I was actively gaming, and it is only recently that I've been able to buy some of these miniatures. I'm not sure about the exact history of these sculpts, but the Legions of the Petal Throne line was originally produced by Old Guard before being bought up by Ral Partha, and eventually transitioning to PHD Games (and from there to oblivion). The image below shows a Gray Ssú, and two Black Ssú.


All of the miniatures come with the front pair of legs cast as a separate piece. The Gray Ssú is a fairly rough sculpt, and does not have the tattered appearance or oval mouth that are attributed to the Ssú. The Black Ssú are larger, and much better sculpted. Different versions of the front pair of legs allow the figure to be posed either with raised legs, or lowered legs.

Next is a Hlüss miniature fitted together to show how the basic miniature looks. It is really crude, with a thick neck and narrow head that only vaguely resembles the picture of the creature in the books. It will definitely take a bit of work to make this particular figure look good.


In trying to find out how well the miniatures work for 1/72 scale, I found some discrepancy in the size given for the Ssú between different Tékumel sourcebooks.

Table 1. Height when on four legs.
Creature     Swords & Glory     Tékumel Bestiary
Gray Ssú     1.71 to 1.9 m     5 to 5.5 feet (1.52 to 1.68 m)
Black Ssú     1.83 to 2.41 m     5.67 to 6.5 feet (1.73 to 1.98 m)
Hlüss     1.22 to 1.6 m     ---

When I use the Swords & Glory heights, the miniatures scale out as 1/72. If I were to use the heights from The Tékumel Bestiary, the creatures would be too big. However, the heights listed in The Tékumel Bestiary, are in scale with respect to 28mm figures. I kind of wonder if this was a case of retcon to make the size of the Ssú miniatures consistent with that of the human miniatures. In any event, I'm obviously going to go with the original Swords & Glory values for my Ssú.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Intulo


Intulo by Deviant artist Slaskia

While looking for information on lizardmen in mythology, I came across the Intulo of Xhosa and Zulu folklore. It is vaguely described as a "lizard-like creature with human characteristics". In other instances, it is described as a blue-headed lizard or gecko.

In Zulu mythology, Unkulunkulu (who is described by various authorities as either a sky-god or an ancestral spirit) sent Unwaba the Chameleon to bear the message of immortality to men. However, after the chameleon set out, Unkulunkulu had second thoughts about granting immortality to men. He sent Intulo the Gecko after the chameleon to proclaim that men would be mortal. Intulo was much faster than the chameleon, and delivered his message to man long before the chameleon arrived. Thus, both creatures are viewed as harbingers of doom by the Zulu people.*


The only other mention of the Intulo I could find was in Final Fantasy XI, where they are reptilian creatures that spit poison, and have strong resistance to all magic except fire.


Now, there is no Intulo miniature of any type that I am aware of, but when I saw the lizardmen from Irregular Miniatures, the first thing that came to mind was that they were Intulo. Why? I don't know, but perhaps it was because of their big bulging eyes. From left to right, the figures are Heavy Infantry Lizardman with Halberd (FLM5), Lizardman Standard Bearer (FLM8), Lizardman Drummer (FLM9), and Lizardman Swordsman (FLM1).The fifth figure is the Lizardman Chief (FLM10), but it is of completely different appearance to the rank and file, and looks a heck of a lot like Prickle from The Gumby Show.


I couldn't find an actual South African creature that was said to be the blue-headed gecko of myth, so I patterned my paint scheme somewhat after Bibron's Gecko (of the genus Pachydactylus), and the Blue Headed Tree Agama, both of which are common to that region.


The paint-job looks a little meh at the moment, but I think a coat of satin lacquer and a dark wash would probably do wonders for it.

If you wanted to cast the chameleon as the Intulo (or just as plain Unwaba), there are the Warhammer Fantasy Chameleon Skinks (GW 88-47). The first figure is actually the Chameleon Stalker, but it sometimes replaces one of the standard figures in the normal blister of Chameleon Skinks.


* Note: In The Religious System of the Amazulu, the two creatures are called Intulo and Abantu. Henry Callaway translates "intulo" as chameleon, and "abantu" as lizard (in the role of the gecko).


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Backbaird

Backbaird (バックベアード) is a yōkai who appears in the manga GeGeGe no Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki. The name has been said to be a transliteration of "Bugbear", and has also been rendered as Buckbaird, Backbeard, Bugbeard, and other variations. Other than the name, the creature has little, if any similarity to either mythical or D&D bugbears.


You damn lolicons!


Unfortunately, there seems to be very little interest in releasing GeGeGe no Kitaro outside of Japan, perhaps because of its 70's aesthetic, so the only material I have regarding Backbaird has been taken from the internet.

From what I can tell, Backbaird attacks by lashing out with the projections surrounding his body. He can also create additional copies of himself, and possibly induce dizziness in people who are in his presence.

Some sources suggest that he is a type of tree spirit based on the root-like projections that surround the eye, while others claim he is an embodiment of smog or shadow, but I'm not sure if these are canonical interpretations.

Unofficially, Backbaird has been invoked as a protector of young girls because of his phrase "このロリコンどもめ!" This phrase became an internet meme via the character Beako (ベア子) who is sometimes presented as being Backbaird's daughter.

Controversy over Backbaird emerged in 2008, when the photographer Masatoshi Naito leveled charges that Mizuki plagiarized the design from his photomontage Shinjuku-boukei・Chimera (新宿幻景・キメラ). I'm not sure if Naito had a backstory associated with his work, but his charges seem to be substantiated as far as the design of the creature goes.

Anyway, below is a Backbaird figure from the Shigeru Mizuki Yokai Figure Series produced by Kabaya.


I don't think Backbaird has a set size, but he often appears very large. This particular figure seems to be intended to be roughly 1/8 scale, but I think it works perfectly with 1/72 scale figures as well.

Backbaird seems to have become associated with cyclopean eyeball monsters in the Japanese videogame world, with appearances in the Wild Arms video game series, and also the Castlevania series.

In Castlevania, the Buckbaird is a tougher version of the Peeping Eye. There are a couple of different designs depending upon the version of the game it appears in. One version seems to be able to shoot eye beams, while the other has some sort of electricity based attack.


This is an in progress shot of my attempt to model the Castlevania Buckbaird. The main body is built around a plastic pearl bead, while the end of the tail is built around a smaller spike bead. I'm still trying to decide whether the chain should be permanently affixed to the body, or if I should make it detachable.