Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The First Foray Into Plastic?

Although plastic figures are commonplace now, I believe Ral Partha was the first company to produce plastic fantasy game figures.

(Of course, there have always been plenty of plastic toys, but I think these were the first plastic figures made specifically for RPGs.)

There were 4 figures, elementals from the AD&D line, that were made in a translucent plastic for Fire, Water, and Air. The Earth elemental was made in an opaque plastic.

The plastic figures were issued as 11-527: Elementals of Fire and Earth, and 11-528: Elementals of Air and Water. They are identical to the metal elementals issued as 11-426 (Fire & Earth) and 11-427 (Air & Water).

I bought the plastic figures at the Ral Partha booth at Gen Con. They were just loose pieces on the table and I thought the transparent plastic made a really good elemental figure, especially for water. I guess there weren't a lot of people who agreed with me, or maybe manufacturing the plastic figures was too difficult or too costly, but Ral Partha never produced any other plastic figures.

**Update: It turns out I was wrong about Ral Partha not making any other plastic figures, there are actually two more. (Both of them from the AD&D line.)

The first is the Banshegh, from the metal and plastic combo set of Justina Heulough and the Banshegh (11-753). Justina is a sort of "Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde" character in the Birthright campaign setting. She is the ruler of Pashacht by day and an evil spirit by night.

The other is a ghost version of Syluné Silverhand (11-086), eldest of the Seven Sisters from the Forgotten Realms setting.

You can see the figures on Alan Stewart's web page, and at the Lost Minis Wiki: Justina, Banshegh, Sylune.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Arx Aurum

We're doing some alchemy today - turning lead into gold, courtesy of my good friend John. He received these two gold-plated figures from the Ral Partha collectors club back in the early 80s.

This is the original version of ES1 - Evil Wizard (later 01-001) which I think beats the other versions hands down.

And this is the special promo piece of "Ral" the caster.

The name Ral Partha came from a D&D character played by John Winkler, who worked as a caster at Ral Partha (the company) for many years. This is a figure of him at work with heavy gloves and a lead ladle.

Both figures are by Tom Meier who has his own company -
Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures. I asked about the figure's "MIAMI" t-shirt over on the Thunderbolt Mountain forums, and Tom replied that John went to Miami University (the one in Ohio). He also said that John's Ral Partha character was a sort of cross between Grocho Marx and Cornelius Vanderbilt; now that's my kind of guy! :-)

You can see that post >here<.

And you can read a short article on the origins of Ral Partha by company president Jack Hesselbrock >here<.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scaly - Regular, Super-size, and Flaming Hot

Here's a really great Naga from Broadsword miniatures.

I thought all the Broadsword figures were sculpted by Jay Adams, but there was a review of this piece in Dragon magazine 84 that credited Bob Maurus as the scultor, so I don't know.

This nasty looking brute is the Madcoil from Ral Partha's Elfquest Personalities boxed set. Sculpted by Julie Guthrie.

And this fantastic Salamander is also from Broadsword. I'm pretty sure this one is a Jay Adams piece.

Friday, September 5, 2008

High Weirdness (or low?)

Here are some interesting pieces from Minifigs "Valley of the Four Winds" series. I remember picking them out of a discount bin just because they were so strange.

(L to R - Shouting Head on Arms, Old Woman Changing into Fire, and Walking Mouth)

(L to R - Spiked Two-legged Cat, Large Head on Legs, and Giant Hand)

I always thought that these bizarre figures would have equally bizarre names; like "Hairbaalis - Cat from Hell". After hunting around for quite a long time, finding the actual names was something of a let-down.

**Update: More Valley of the Four Winds info
Wow. Thanks to datawrangler for opening this can of worms that I can't hope to sort out. :-) It seems that the "Valley of the Four Winds" story (serialized in White Dwarf magazine) was written by Steve Jackson* and Ian Livingstone of Games Workshop (under a collaborative pseudonymn) in conjunction with the release of the VFW miniatures from Minifigs. Sometime later, Games Workshop also released a VFW board game.

You can read more about it in this excellent review at >boardgamegeek<.
(Which also gives a detailed summary of the backstory.)

* That's the British Steve Jackson, not the American Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games)

You can see several group pictures of more VFW minis at >stuffoflegends<.

**Update #2: The Great Bell and Tower
The Great Bell and Tower, one of the major story elements and a large multi-piece figure set is being re-released by >Game Figures Inc / Minifigs America<.

Monday, September 1, 2008

And Speaking of Wizards with (ahem!) "Magic Wands"...

Here is Boredflak from the Finieous Phigures set. I love that he isn't just carrying a machine gun, but a bazooka as well!

(Finieous Fingers was a terrific comic that ran in the early issues of Dragon magazine. In 1982 Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures produced a set of 8 figures based on the comic.)

And here's a mystery wizard toting what looks like a Schmeisser.

**Update: Mystery wizard identified. This is actually a Citadel limited edition piece "LE7 - Wizard with a Sub-Machine Gun". Thanks to datawrangler for pointing me in the right direction.

You can see a painted figure >here< and a list of Citadel limited editions >here<.

The Finieous Phigures set would get its own post, but someone's already done that. You can check out all the figures >here<.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Favorite Monster Runner-Up

Coming in a close second to the Phraint for my favorite monster of all time is another figure by Richard Kerr. (From his Off the Wall Armies collection)

Snake Wizard with Magic Wand

After disappearing for many years, this figure is available again through Steve Jackson Games >Warehouse 23<

The full line of Off the Wall Armies figures can be seen >here<

Monday, August 25, 2008

What better way to start than with
(trumpets: doot doo doo daa!)

My Favorite Monster of All Time

I've always liked crazy monsters, and never had any qualms about importing
them into my games from whatever sources I could find. In the early days of
AD&D, the Arduin Grimoire was an absolute gold mine for strange and
wonderful monsters. My favorite monster was the Phraint, an insect warrior
who, well, I guess he can introduce himself.

(Archive Miniatures ad, from Dragon magazine 38)

The Phraints seemed to have a special enmity with Vroats - giant frogs
with crocodile heads as seen here...

(By Erol Otus, from Arduin dungeon #2 "The Howling Tower")

By now I'm sure you're thinking "Could this get any more obscure?"*
but amazingly, over the years, three separate companies have made
Phraint figures - Archive Miniatures, Texas Miniatures, and Emperors
Choice Games. Archive and Emperors Choice also made Vroat figures.

On the left are the original Archive Miniatures Phraint and Vroat, by
Neville Stocken I believe. The Phraint seems to be posing for a photo
op while the Vroat sizes him up.

On the right are the Emperors Choice Phraint and Vroat, ready to do
battle (by William Watt).

While in the center, Richard Kerr's "Insect Warrior" (nudge, nudge,
wink, wink) from Texas Miniatures looks on in smug superiority.

As far as I know, the Emperors Choice figures are the only ones that
are still available. You can find them >here<.

(* Yes, in fact, it can get more obscure, digression and obscurity are
my forte. Should the phrase "Phraints in Space" be running through
your head for any reason, here is a Space Phraint, also known as a

(By William Watt, from Emperors Choice Games.)