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 " 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.