There’s something deadly in the undergrowth

Shin High Terror.  The very name strikes fear into the shins of men.

About a year ago, three friends and I gathered in my lounge and on Skype to try a game of D&D.  This blog is the story of my quest to represent the events that took place that night (and on many subsequent occasions).  I’ll also post collecting side quests, drawings, commissions, and anything else that feels loosely aligned with those topic, as well as my complete illustration portfolio.  It’s mostly going to be fantasy miniatures and drawings of dragons and orcs and mythical creatures these days, so if that’s not your bag you might not like it here.

Once long ago I trained as an illustrator, but I don’t have much time to draw between work and life and hadn’t painted a mini since around 2005 (truth be told, I was terrible at it back then).  I don’t know if it’s the complexity of the game system, the need to really commit a chunk of time to playing through the campaign, or just the excellent company of my good friends, but Shin High Terror has really renewed my interest in drawing, and the whole history and activity of painting and gaming with miniatures.

Meet the party!  By the luck of the dice, none of these reprobates stands more than about five feet tall – so our campaign found its title. From left to right, there’s:

  • Lori, the half elf bard.  Habitual liar and awesome stat-buffer.  Here incarnated as a Games Workshop wood elf wardancer drummer from around 2000.
  • Carrick the Acolyte, coward and cleric of Loki.  Since left the game, so never got to see his avatar:  a very old Citadel Miniatures Elric of Meniboné (complete with lead rot).
  • Thernyl Steeltoe, dwarf paladin of Tyr.  The glue that hold the party on the straight and narrow, a religious fanatic with a heart of blood-stained gold.  His player is taking a break though (good luck, Mike!) so let’s hope the call of chaos doesn’t pull too strongly on the less lawfully aligned of the party.  What else could represent our friend the dwarf than a 1990s Games Workshop Josef Bugman, with hand made banner of Tyr? This was I think my first ever attempt at freehand painting – it came out OK!
  • Gimble Ningle, the gnome rogue, thief, and assassin.  A one-gnome killing spree, Gimble’s got loads of abilities but it often comes down to stabbing everything.  Here he is, as an old lead Citadel dwarf thief.
  • To his right is Alan or Arnold, a temporary human DMPC.  Another old Citadel figure.
  • Last, and in many ways least, Isembard ‘Moleslayer’ Bandobras, halfling warlock.  Another glass cannon, this one with range.  I play the Moleslayer.

I’ve settled on minipainting as the best way to represent our characters.  It’s quick – they are after all very small – and a lot of the creative decisions have already been made by someone else.  They can also be used for in-person gaming if we ever gather in the same place, but since we’re spread from London to the far north of Northumberland that has presented a challenge.  There’s a couple of creatives in the party and we have occasionally sketched up a character or a scene – below, along with a close up of my dear Moleslayer, are some drawings I did of Gimble and Steeltoe.  One’s been given as a gift, the other will follow when I get the chance.

Other than wandering bandits and any carnivore larger than a badger, the principle antagonists in Shin High Terror are the Cult of Sargonas.  Mostly they’ve  been represented by bandits (identifiable from other brigands because they each wear red sash), human and elf acolyte spellcasters, and orc mercenaries – this last group normally bringing some sort of semi-domestic carnivore much bigger than a badger.  So far they seem to be led by the local lord’s daughter, they’ve hired an assassin to kill us, and we’ve uncovered a conspiracy of doppelgangers.  So we’re having a lot of fun, and I’ve got a lot of choices for painting.  Here’s the motley crew:

I’m not a fan of the default lantern-jawed orcs with muscles like two bodybuilders and I’ve tried to avoid them here.  So, on the left there’s a half-orc assassin from I think a 1990s or early 2000s D&D line, and three Otherworld Miniatures pig-faced orcs.  I absolutely love these sculpts, and more-or-less anything from Otherworld – come pay day, or perhaps when I’ve taken a bite out of lead mountain, I’ll be spending more than I can afford there.  Sticking with the orcs, on the far right there’s a the uruk hai Lurtz, from Games Workshop’s early 2000s Lord of the Rings range.  I actually painted 90% of that when he first came out, and only had to finish off the face paint and shield design.  Moving right on the back row, there’s another Games Workshop Lord of the Rings mini, this time Denethor.  One of the doppelgangers had been impersonating a local lord, and this felt like a good conceptual match.   In the middle are two cultists from Hasslefree Miniatures, one male one female, and a Games Workshop dark elf sorceror/sorceress duo, from the 1980s and mid-90s.  I painted both as D&D drow and the latter I think came out particularly well.  Lastly on the right, theres a couple of barbarians.  At the front, the Russian Alternative  Barbarian of the Wasteland Lord (a fantastic sculpt from a company that seems to deal exclusively in fantastic sculpts) and the free Games Workshop Slaughterpriest of Khorne from the front cover of White Dwarf a few months ago.  He’s big enough to be an ogre or half-ogre in this crowd.

What’s next for Shin High Terror?  Here’s a clue:

I’ve picked out the next batch of player and NPC miniatures for painting (below, fresh from the Dettol).  They’re all from the old Citadel fantasy ranges from the 1980s and early 1990s, to stay consistent with the scale of the original batch.  The grizzled old mercenary on the left is an NPC coach driver who got mauled in an encounter with an owlbear.  In the middle is an alternate Gimble Ningle.  I was never totally satisfied using a dwarf to stand in for a gnome – this one much smaller and slighter than his dwarf counterpart.  Gnomes seem to be a bit more rare than either dwarves or halflings, which I suppose is as it should be.  We’ve also got a new player joining on Wednesday, so on the right there’s an as yet unnamed wood elf druid.  All I know about him is that he might have an affinity with bears.  I’ve wanted to paint a Citadel wood elf beastmaster since around 1991, so I’m really happy with our new player’s decision.

Lastly, I re-drew the campaign map.  It looked much better as a black and white line drawing before I tried to weather it with tea and Photoshop.  You’d think by now I would have surely learned to scan and save an image before colouring it, but I’m quite confident this will not be the last time I ruin some artwork at the eleventh hour.  This is just for fun for now, but at some point over the next couple of months our DM might roll up a player character and I’ve volunteered to to take on the DM mantle.  It will be my first time, so I’ve been researching a few ideas for short scenarios and in the map I’ve hidden a few secrets and Easter eggs for the group.

Wish me luck!

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