Monday, December 30, 2013

Arduin Monsters


My first exposure to the world of Arduin was through a copy of The Runes Of Doom that I picked up one summer when visiting some older, college-aged friends in Pasadena. I think it was the art of Greg Espinoza that first captured my attention and triggered my buying decision, but after reading the book, my mind was reeling. The overpowered character classes, over-the-top magic items, crazy monsters, and all of the little snippets of information laced throughout the book became fuel for my imagination.

Over time, I purchased all of the digest-sized booklets, and even though we never played a game of Arduin Grimoire, monsters, magic items, and background found in the books would make appearances in my campaign.

Not too long ago, I picked up a copy of Arduin Eternal Bestiary & Treasures, as I was interested to see if there were any changes made to the monsters that I remembered so fondly. Whereas the old books described each monsters in about 6-8 lines, the new book presents a page of information for each monster. About half of the space is devoted to stats, followed by a section on combat style, and some additional information on monster physiology.

To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed with the book, but this is mainly due to the fact that I had no interest in the actual mechanics of the current version of the game. My major issues are that the book does not catalog of all of the Arduin monsters from the original volumes (where are the Ghost Crab and Hell Maiden?). Secondly, despite the expanded text, I did not feel that the description for each monster was any more in depth than what was presented in the classic digests. But like I said before, this is because my interest is more in the Arduin fluff.

Anyway, on to my monster miniatures. All of them were produced by Archive and are now OOP, except for the vroat which is still being sold by Center Stage Miniatures.

Doom Guard: "Dull black plate armor... They must litterally [sic] be dismembered to stop."


Hell Maiden: "Voluptous bodies valkyrie like warrior women with bare skull heads."


Octorilla: For some reason I couldn't find the stats or description for the Octorilla in the original books.


Shadow Golem: "Looks are also obious [sic] and so also omitted."


Vroat: "Mutational cross between giant toads and crocodiles, thus earning the nickname "Jumping Jaws"!"


Wobra: "Emerald green winged cobra with ruby red eyes."


The miniatures are relatively large with respect to 1/72 figures, but I think they could all be used without a problem, although the Doom Guard and Hell Maiden would probably have to represent exceptionally large specimens.

Emperor's Choice currently makes some monsters for Arduin, but I'm not fond of the sculpts in that they have a 3D modeled regularity and smoothness that make them too artificial in appearance for my tastes.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Limei Architectural Models

There are a number of vendors on eBay that sell figures from the Guangzhou Limei Model Design Company (广州利美模型有限公司). I think that the figures are meant to be used as scenery for architectural models, but they are typically marketed as model train accessories.


The set that first caught my eye was of their Arab figures. They are sold in bulk, so are probably not really a good value unless you need a large number of figures for a crowded souq or bazaar. I'm guessing that the figures can be used for time periods from at least the 19th century on up to modern times.


There were four male poses, and three female poses in the set I received, but I think there is supposed to be four of each pose. Unfortunately however, the mix was random, so there is no guarantee that you can get all of the poses.

Also available are figures of beach goers in an unknown number of poses.  These are typically sold in smaller batches, but again come randomly, so you never know what you will receive.


The beach goers look like they date from the 1940's or 50's, and are rather flat, since I think they were mostly meant to be laying flat sunbathing.

All of the figures are listed as 1/75 scale, but are probably larger, since they fit in perfectly with 1/72 scale figures.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More Hobbits


Tolkien writes that hobbits are between two and four feet in height, a fact that is echoed in this Warner infographic. But then, counter to depicting Bilbo as an everyman hobbit, Peter Jackson makes him a heroic 4' 2", almost as tall as his legendary great granduncle Bandobras Took.

I believe that most sources however, would agree that Bilbo was just average height at best.

WARNING! Not suitable for all audiences.


The hobbits from the Lord of the Rings HeroClix CMG are about two-thirds the height of a human-sized HeroClix. They can't be used as hobbits in 1/72 scale, but they are perfect as normal humans.



For miniatures that are more suitable as hobbits, we have to the left, four halflings from the Ral Partha Fantasy Collector Series. These are all taller hobbits that can be used to represent Fallohides. To the right is a Heritage hobbit from the Little People set (Fantasy 1311), and the R-Kiiv Merry Hibbot now produced by Center Stage Miniatures as a Halfling Adventurer (FEP-003).


The R-Kiiv Hibbot reminds me of the Ducreux self portrait used for the Archaic Rap meme, and seems even more appropriate given that he seems to hold a sack of coins in his hand.

Unfortunately, this is the best I could do...

Smaller hobbits include the Essex 15mm halflings, which seem to be scaled down versions of their 25mm line. To me they seem to be a bit undernourished, and don't quite have that chubby look that I like to see in a hobbit.



Last are some Irregular halfings. I know that I made fun of their 10mm halflings, but the 15mm halflings are actually quite nice. They are a bit on the short side, but are nicely rounded as hobbits should be.


I now have more hobbits than I know what to do with...

(Or try this link if you cannot access the video.)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cyclopes

The cyclopes of Greek myth can be divided into two lineages – the first group were the three (or sometimes seven) Elder Cyclopes, who Hesiod listed as Brontes, Steropes, and Arges (who was replaced with Acmonides or Pyracmon by other authors). The names of the four alternates were Euryalos, Elatreus, Trachios, and Halimedes. These were immortal giants who were of the same generation as the Olympians, and worked with Hephaestus at his forge.


The other group of cyclopes were the Younger Cyclopes of Hypereia (identified with Sicily by the ancient Greeks). Among them was Polyphemos, who stood out from the rest of his tribe in size and strength, and was encountered by Odysseus and his shore party on a visit to the island of the cyclopes.

"Oh my God, He killed Kenny! You Bastard!"

Modern renditions of the cyclops are more influenced by films, and include Ray Harryhausen's iconic design for The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (in literature, Sinbad's encounter with a man-eating giant actually occurs during his third voyage, and is a retelling of Odysseus' encounter with Polyphemos).


Given the oriental flavor of the Sinbad movies and the lack of horned and hoofed cyclopes in classical art, I originally thought that this particular type of cyclops could also represent the Turkish monster Tepegöz, as rendered in the following picture.


Then I realized what I thought was a horn on his head was actually a ladle that he was holding in his hand.

In any event, the following are the various cyclops miniatures that I have in my collection.

The first two miniatures represent the Harryhausen monster. The larger one is a resin X-Plus Cyclops that was part of the Ray Harryhausen Film Collection (Chess Set 1), while the smaller one is from Ral Partha (Children of the Night 13-020). The Ral Partha miniature is undersized, and would probably go better with 15mm figures.


There is also a two-horned version by X-Plus which represents the cyclops that fights the dragon at the end of The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad which I'm still trying to find at a reasonable price.


The next group of cyclopes bear some traces of the Harryhausen design, but also retain elements of classical cyclopes. The large cyclopes are from the D&D CMG, and include the Cyclops Crusher (Dangerous Delves #13), and the Skeletal Cyclops (Savage Encounters #33). These cyclopes have a bony armored head and scaly skin somewhat resembling the Harryhausen cyclops. The smaller cyclops is from the Age of Mythology game by Eagle Games, and it has the goat-like legs of the Harryhausen cyclops.


Next are some more classical cyclopes. The plastic figures to the left are the Pathfinder Cyclops (Skull & Shackles #34), and a cyclops from the Arcane Legions CMG. To the right are some metal figures – the Reaper Cyclops (Dark Heaven Legends 02953), and a Grenadier Cyclops from the Mythological Creatures box set (Action Art 8003).


More metal figures include the three Ral Partha Cyclops-Kin (AD&D Monsters 11-453), a Grenadier Psyclops (Monster Manuscript Vol.VIII 1508, MM68), and a Grenadier Klynops (Monster Manuscript Vol.V 1505, MM41).


I think of cyclopes as having beards and a full head of hair, but for some reason, many of these figures are bald, and any beards are rather short. I'd like to find a miniature of a cyclops with a big full beard, but will probably end up having to add them  using Kneadatite myself.


Last are the Grenadier Undead Giant Cyclops (Fantasy Lords 011), a Citadel Cyclops (Fiend Factory FF14), and a Heritage Masena (John Carter, Warlord of Mars 1523).


The Masena is described in ERB's Swords of Mars as a Cat-man from the Thurian Moon. I don't quite seen anything cat-like about it. It is described in the novel as having two mouths, one eye, and the ability to change colors to blend in with its surroundings. However, it does purr and meow which I guess counts for something.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Kami de Korokoro


Kami de Korokoro (紙でコロコロ) is a small manufacturer out of Osaka, Japan that mainly produces 1/144 scale models, but they also make a few figure sets in 1/72 scale.


It is probably no surprise that the majority of these figures are WWII Germans, but what really makes Kami de Korokoro unique is that they produce a set of 1/72 Japanese high school girls (although Hobby Link Japan markets them as "Panzer Girls").

From left to right the figures are one of two crewman from the German Tank Crew Set (Troops & Peoples 1-72-001), a German Infantryman in Camo Poncho (Troops & Peoples 1-72-002), a German Officer in Early Palm Tree Pattern Camo (Troops & Peoples 1-72-003), and two of the girls from the High School Girl 3-piece Set (Troops & Peoples 1-72-005).


The figures come with quite a bit of flash, but the resin is soft, so it cleans up very easily. The German in Poncho is one of the earlier figures I purchased, and seems to have been made with a different resin that probably did not flow as well. The figure is marred by many imperfections which will require some putty and sculpting to repair.

The newer casts in the pale resin have a few smaller bubbles, and there seems to be some issue with the resin reaching all the way to the tips of their shoes, but overall I think the problems are not as bad.

As far as the sculpts go, they are fair to decent, but I don't think that they really merit the price that they are sold at. They definitely would be helped out by being painted, since it's pretty hard to see any details on them otherwise.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nurikabe

Nurikabe (ぬりかべ or 塗壁) is a yōkai whose origins are from the coastal region of Fukuoka. In folktales, it typically manifests itself as an invisible wall that impedes the movement of its victim. Like many yōkai, it is not particularly dangerous, and seems to be satisfied with causing fear and confusion until its victim gives up trying to move.

The most popular representation of Nurikabe, created by Shigeru Mizuki, takes on the appearance of an animate plaster wall.


I like the earlier one-eyed version, but the iconic Nurikabe from GeGeGe no Kitaro is what most people who are familiar with the creature will recognize.


I suspect that Mizuki was influenced by various pictures of haunted walls from Japanese paintings when creating Nurikabe.


However, in 2007, a painting that showed a different vision of Nurikabe surfaced from a private collection in Utah. I'm guessing that prior to this discovery, there were no actual paintings that definitively showed what Nurikabe looked like.


Author/illustrator Matthew Meyer created a version that blends the two types at Yokai.com. I also like the version of Nurikabe from the PS2 game Ōkami, which takes on the appearance of a much more elaborate wall.


Regardless, the only miniatures of Nurikabe represent the version from GeGeGe no Kitaro. The large Nurikabe is from the Shigeru Mizuki Yokai Figure Series produced by Kabaya, while the Nurikabe performing the leg drop is a glow-in-the-dark GeGeGe no Kitaro Attack Swing keychain mascot from Bandai.


There are a couple of other Nurikabe toys I'm trying to find, but overall, I'm not terribly fond of the typical Kitaro version of Nurikabe. It just looks too much like a giant piece of gray toast.

As far as size goes, I'd estimate Nurikabe is portrayed to be about 10' tall in the Kitaro manga. However, it can make itself as large or wide as necessary to impede its victims, so pretty much any size works.


I also decided to have a go at making my own Nurikabe out of clay. After all, it's just a rectangle with arms and legs... I think I'm going to use it as a master so I can create various versions of the creature.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Buried Treasure

I guess my mother was cleaning up the house for the upcoming holidays, and gave me a call asking if I still wanted some of the stuff that I had stored over at their place.


I was totally not expecting these Grenadier boxed sets. I thought I had sold them all when I went off to grad school and didn't think I'd be gaming any more.

There are miniatures that I sold at that time that I wish I would have kept in place of these, but it's still nice to have these sets back.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Manō Kanaka


Sharks held a great deal of cultural significance in old Hawai'i. Tools and weapons were fashioned from the teeth of sharks, and drums were made with sharkskin. Man-eating sharks, like the tiger and great white were known as niuhi, and were hunted by nobles. Their flesh, and particularly their eyes, was believed to be imbued with supernatural power.

Some families however had sharks as 'aumakua (a family totem), and considered it bad form to hunt or eat sharks, since there was a possibility that the shark might contain the spirit of one of their ancestors.

The most powerful of such ancestral spirits were the shark gods such as Kua "the Red Shark", Ku-hai-moana who was said to be "thirty fathoms long", or Ka-moho-ali'i the brother of Pele the goddess of fire. These spirits could take on human form, and in some cases ended up producing children with normal humans. The offspring were known as manō kanaka (shark-men), or what we might call were-sharks.

Tales of humans that could change to sharks can be found throughout Polynesia, but probably the most famous one is the tale of Nanaue. Relatively modern stories of manō kanaka also exist, some of which I find particularly chilling.

As far as appearance goes, most modern depictions of were-sharks show them as sharks with human arms and legs. I'm not sure where this concept originated from, but it has been used in both D&D and videogames.


I have mixed feelings about this depiction because the were-shark stories I heard as a child, lead me to imagine them as men with gaping shark maws on their back (hidden under a feather cloak) who could transform into sharks. I suppose the current view of shark-with-legs can be considered as a transitional form between man and shark, and certain Hawaiian chants do have the phrase "..fish with long legs from head to tail...", though it is not clear to me that the reference is to manō kanaka.

Anyway, Reaper makes a whole slew of transitional form were-sharks, but almost all of them are enormous even compared to 28mm figures. The only exception is the dwarf were-shark which is just about right as far as height goes, but the figure is a bit to campy for me.

Other than Rumscratch, the only other suitable figure that I could find for use as a 1/72 were-shark was the Pathfinder Wereshark Pirate (Skull and Shackles #12). I would have preferred if it were less clothed, but it is better than nothing.



Addendum: Center Stage Miniatures also has some Lesser Weresharks (Spawn of Dajobas), but they also look pretty big as well.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blink Dogs


"These brown and yellowish creatures are as intelligent as normal humans and have a fairly complex language consisting of barks, yaps, whines, and growls. They are also able to use a limited form of teleportation (the blink)."

Advanced D&D Monster Manual

The Blink Dog has often been described as a monster that is unique to D&D, but I know I'm not the only one who has observed the high degree of similarity between the Blink Dog and the Jeep.


The Jeep (despite its odd appearance), is described as a magical dog with the ability to disappear from one place and appear in another. Jeeps were yellowish with brown spots, intelligent, and spoke in a language consisting of "jeeps". Both the Blink Dog and the Jeep have been described as "African dogs".

I always pictured Blink Dogs as the terrier-like dogs from the Trampier illustration in the Dungeon Masters Guide, rather than the badger-headed Tom Wham Blink Dog from the Monster Manual, or the lynx-eared versions from D&D 3.5.


There have been a few Blink Dog miniatures, typically described as Wink Dogs (I'm guessing due to legal reasons), but the only ones that I have are Grenadier Blinc Dogs (Monster Manuscript Vol.I 1501, MM6).


Of the various miniatures, these are the ones that I think look closest to how I envision a Blink Dog, but even so, I saw Blink Dogs as being rather small, like Jeeps, rather than 3' at the shoulder.

Because of this, I decided to use 15mm dogs from Peter Pig as Blink Dogs. The first two dogs come from their PBI line (Range 8 #526), while the dog with handler is from The Men of Company B line (Range 1 #55).


I modified the tails, and made some other alterations so that the dogs would all be a little different from each other. I used Kneadatite to make the small tuft at the end of the tail for one of the dogs, but it was rather time consuming to get it to stick to the tail and look right, so on other dogs I just put a blob of CA glue on the end of the tail.


Here are some of the dogs painted up. They look a bit like dog-headed lion cubs because of the spots and the tail, but I think they turned out pretty nicely.