Wednesday, July 10, 2013

OLD School Inspiration

I've been up since 4:30 or so, but I passed out a little after 11 last night, which means I got more than five hours of sleep and am thus feeling more rested than usual. It's the "wee hours" of the morning (I think...I don't really know the definition of that phrase) and because my wife's out of town and it's Wednesday, I'm going into work late today due to the need to drop the boy off at daycare. Since I don't need to wake him up till 8, that gives me some time to drink some coffee, eat a slice of week-old apple pie, and catch up on "things."

I really hadn't intended to post ANYthing to Ye Old Blog until after the total publication of my eleven part monstrosity on role-playing, but it would seem I've been especially inspired to write this, and while that may mean a few double or triple posts, I'm sure you folks can handle it, right? After all, I'll be out of the country here pretty soon, and I doubt I'll have much time to write while on my trip (more's the pity...I still need to finish my edits/rewrites of volumes one and three of 5AK...*sigh*, I hope that's finished before the end of the month).

Some of the things I wanted to post about: The Lone Ranger movie, the television show Defiance, and the recent posts making the blog rounds regarding "D&D summer camp." Of all those, the only one that's really time sensitive is The Lone Ranger, because it's gotten a mixed reception and will probably be leaving the theaters soon. Since I'm not going to take the time to post on that today, you might want to go check out the movie now before it's gone: it's a weird little film, and I liked it...but for pretty different reasons than one might expect (that would be the subject of the post). However, if your budget's tight, you grew up in a time post-Ranger (I, at least, had the Saturday morning cartoons and the 1980s feature film), and if you aren't a fan of the kind of twisted-campy-action that made the first Pirates of the Caribbean film so successful you might want to skip it.

Oh, and I wouldn't take small children to see the movie, by which I mean "children under 13."

So if I've got all these things to post about and I'm NOT going to do so at this time, what exactly is the subject of this post? Inspiring old school junk, my friends. Specifically old Grenadier miniatures for AD&D.

My buddy Kris is crazy. I mean literally (he's on medication for this, not to mention SSI). But even without that, the Doc (as I call him) is nutty about stuff. He's a fairly smart guy, but he doubts himself and his own abilities a lot (he's a talented musician and painter for instance but is a bit self-consicous of both). I don't see Doc as much as I once did because he resides in a small town in Oregon where the cost o living is a lot less and where he's closer to his parents...however, we still keep in touch and our conversations are often about gaming.

So a few weeks ago he told me he was getting rid of all (or most of) his miniatures and he asked me if I wanted them. I, of course, asked "how much?" and he said something like $15 plus S&H. I believe I ended up sending him a check for $25, because I already felt like I was ripping him off. But Kris wanted to get the stuff off his hands and out of his apartment, so he felt like we were doing each other a mutual favor.

And probably we are...I'm sure my wife would be less than happy with me adding another big box of clutter to my office.

Here's the deal, Kris had picked up the 4th Edition core books when they came out and acquired a few minis and battle mats over the years and such for use with the game (to be fair, I believe the accumulation started earlier with edition 3.5, but I couldn't say for sure). Anyway, after reading the 4E books and (maybe) playing once or twice, he decided the whole game was huge stinking pile of crap. Doc got rid of the books, but he's been holding onto the minis because A) he likes to paint (he usually paints things besides minis, but painting is painting), and B) he could still use the minis in D&D games (he last ran an AD&D game for a neighbor couple a couple months back.

However, he finally decided it was time to clear some space and the minis weren't fantastically necessary to his life and so shipped me a box. Which I got (finally) a couple days ago, and which I opened last night. This morning I've been going through the specific contents and it was enough to get me to start blogging.

Wow. In addition to a rolled battle map (vinyl, I think) with squares on one side and hexes on the reverse. I received four sets of Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Tiles (kind of like three dimensional dungeon geomorphs, but with cooler artwork), each with a different theme. The sets I got included Ruins of the Wild, Dire Tombs, Lost Caverns of the Underdark, and Fane of the Forgotten Gods. They are most unassembled and appear to have been unused or almost never used. I'll have to check these out in more detail later.

Kris also sent me a large tackle box filled with foam trays containing minis in various states of paintedness. This is a mixed bag (ranging from Ral Partha to Citadel to Reaper), but includes some really nice pieces. There's an unopened Reaper blister back with what looks like a Type V demons and another unopened back of "crossbowmen," though the latter come with equipment packs and whatnot that would put any older adventuring minis to shame. Diego and I were looking these over last night and he made me put a couple of the pieces at the very bottom of the box because he found them to be too scary. The most scary? Something that appears to be a ring-wraith or something (it's just a black cloak and hood with no face or hands). D did not like the looks of that one one bit!

But that's not all! The Doctor also sent me five boxes of Grenadier models of the kind that used to be advertised in the old Dragon magazine. Four of these are specifically for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and are complete in their entirety. The fifth is from their "Fantasy Lords" line and says it is "for use with Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy games." This one, called Skeletons: Raiders of the Undead, is not complete (it's at least missing the "free starter scenario" that is supposed to be included), but since it's packed with a bunch of extra minis, I'm not too worried about it. Besides, I'm more excited by the other boxes.

The four complete boxes are all from 1980, and include the following:

5002 "Monsters"
2006 "Specialists"
2010 "Denizens of the Swamp"
2007 "Females"

These are fantastic. I've collected a lot of minis over the years (mainly from Citadel for GW games), so I've seen a huge range of quality when it comes to miniatures. These minis of 1980 are pretty substandard as far as actual modeling (they're small, their features obscured, their details simplistic at best), but they exude a charm in their themes and their forms that I just find incredibly fascinating. These figures don't feel like they were pumped out with the specific aim of flooding tournaments around the world with armies (like Warhammer), but were instead designed to be used in intimate surroundings...perhaps around a kitchen people who wanted to put their imagination into a physical form. These things were NEW once upon a time...and I mean a whole new CONCEPT in what was a miniature. You don't have a dozen similar lizard men in a box; instead, you have two ("lizardman" and "lizardman with club"), along with a troll, a basilisk, a giant snake, a shambling mound, a sahuagin, and two gnolls (one of whom is a "gnoll leader"). It's like the company didn't know WHAT might be needed or required of the players, and so just put together a likely group.

The "monsters" box is a similar hodge-podge, including one of each undead type, a couple lycanthropes, a balrog (though referred to as a Type III demon which is completely inaccurate in any edition), a wind elemental, a medusa, a gargoyle, an ochre jelly (though who's to say it couldn't double as ANY particular slime), a couple goblins, and a couple orcs. The orcs and goblins are very similar in appearance (big headed thugs) but the orc figures are physically bigger and meaner looking. There is a "naga spirit" that looks like a giant hooded cobra topped by the head of a bearded old man. Stylistically weird, but makes me want to design an adventure or dungeon or board game using ONLY the models found in the box (and I'm sure there were people "back in the day" that did just that!).

The "specialists" include ten different character types (half-orc, monk, druid, paladin, mage, ranger, bard, assassin, cleric, and gnome illusionist). What's interesting is that the specialists appear to be simply "non-fighting men." Again, they are stylistically interesting: the druid appears to be a Cossack or Hungarian, the monk is wearing a karate gi and looks like something out of a Bruce Lee movie, and the only way I can tell the paladin and ranger are the devices on their shields (a cross and tree respectively). The half-orc, too, is undistinguished except that he looks poor and filthy (slovenly) compared to the others...the assassin has a cloaked/hooded appearance with a mace raised high to brain someone. The mage has a high collared robe but is still wearing a backpack for adventuring. The cleric has a cross, a Pope hat, and something that looks like an urn of frankincense or something.

The "females" box is quite nice, as it contains all female character classes (none of the "specialists" are female). They are, for the most part, fully clothed and proportioned and outfitted as you would expect for adventurers. They include: a lady with her panther (scantily clad), a fighter, an archer, a "guardswoman," a magic-user (high collared cape and crawling with snakes!), a "swordswoman" (with a terrifically giant hat that mounts a small dragon!), a cleric (who actually looks like an adventuring cleric), a dwarf (no beard), and a thief with sling (the only other model that is scantily clad).

Despite a lack of polish, all of these characters are interesting to look at, and would provide easy inspiration when creating a character. For the most part, none of them look "superheroic" (or even really "heroic")...they look like non-nonsense adventurers in a fantasy setting, willing to do battle in their search for treasure. These old and clunky minis makes me want to play in an Old School Way...something like AD&D without being AD&D. Maybe "Advanced B/X" or something.

Hmmm...okay, I'll have to think about it. Right now it's time to put the house (and myself) in order before D wakes up. Installment #3 of my series "On Role-Playing" should be appearing in the next couple-few hours.
: )


  1. I absolutely love the old Grenadier "yellow box" AD&D minis, and have since I started the hobby. I have about 8 different sets of these, in various states of completeness and/or paintedness. Their charm never wears off for me.

    1. @ Al:

      I almost hate to paint them, preferring them in their purgatory-like state of "suspended potential."

      Fortunately, I don't have time to paint them anyway.
      ; )