MOTB: The Widower

Finished product first!

“Quaddis is a strange world, long the plaything of the vice, vainglory, and eccentricity of the powerful and great of the Calixis Sector and far beyond. It is a place of strange tales and stories, and one of the oldest is that of the Widower – monster, changeling, creeper in the darkness.

The Widower of old was said to be the Haarlock’s warder and spy and – when needed – their peerless assassin – a thing that no weapon could kill and against which no lock could bar entry.”

Dark Heresy – Tattered Fates
Dark Times

In the Before Times I was running a semi-regular Dark Heresy campaign loosely based on the Haarlock Legacy trilogy by Fantasy Flight Games. During the Tattered Fates sequence, the characters wake up in a pit having lost all their equipment and have to fight for their lives against horrible pig-faced butchers and their broken creatures.

Later, they emerge on to a pleasure planet about to undergo a Purge-style festival. One of the many creatures that stalks them is the Widower, an ancient sentinel of molten flesh around which the story revolves. Naturally, it needed building.

A mythical beast

Enticingly, Fantasy Flight included only one piece of art that is probably the Widower (it isn’t explicitly stated, but it’s a safe bet):

Probably the Widower, courtesty of Fantasy Flight Games

This doesn’t give a lot to go off, let alone what model to use as a base. At the time I had a job that was quite, uh, lax on workload, so I had a lot of energy to trawl the internet for inspiration.

I found this rather excellent piece from Ryan-Alexander-Lee on Deviantart, that these days might be seen as a commentary on AI art, but back in the heady days of 2018 it was as spooky as ever. The chilling uncanny-valley smile, the morphed hands, the concealment under a funerary shawl.

Hessyst by Ryan-Alexander-Lee

It was also the height of the XCOM rejuvenation, and XCOM 2 brought us the rather excellent ‘Faceless’ enemy, which had the molten waxy skin described in the adventure book that I was looking for.

It was slightly too humanoid for me (two arms and two legs for an unknowable ancient death machine? Yawn) but the texture of skin, colour palette, and even the hooked hands made the final cut for the design. Now, what on earth could I use as a base?

Faceless concept art for XCOM 2
Melting a monster

It became apparent I wasn’t going to find something that suited the brief. At the time I had been playing around with a revolutionary new tool called a hot melt glue gun, and I wondered if it was possible to simply build the Widower out of glue and save myself a bunch of cash and time.

It started with drilling a few holes in a 40mm plastic base and getting some gardening wire I’d had lying around and just wrapping it around itself in weird shapes.

I was going for a rough tripod structure for balance and weirdness, with something resembling a head at the top and a raised arm to put the “weaponry” on.

Then blast it with glue!

I liberally doused the frame with the hot melt glue gun, trying to get as many gooey stringy bits as possible. I really let it dribble. I tried not to have too much in the way of musculature or recognisable features as I wanted to be really weird and alien.

Once it had cooled, I applied a second more delicate layer of glue to create more bumps and ridges to give the washes something to sink into.

The only editing I did after the glue was to create a few spikes out of green stuff and add them to the raised hand. I liked the Faceless design with the darkened claws to highlight where the danger zone is, and I wanted my Widower to have something that looked like it would really mess you up.

It was also carefully pried from its base and glued to a custom resin one I had acquired for my other Bedlam Feast cultists. Little did I know how far ahead I was planning, as this would also double up as my Warp Horror/Chaos Spawn for my Chaos Necromunda gang, and having matching bases is vital to the aesthetic.

With it soundly dried, I hit it with a white primer and it was ready for some paint.

Quick and dirty

That first coat of primer is always a thrilling experience – seeing a random selection of pieces and colours finally unified. This was a particularly exciting project to see undercoated, as the model had been completely translucent until this point. It was only after seeing all the undulations in gross detail was I really convinced with how well it had come out.

So many undulations! With this sort of texture, painting the Widower was a breeze.

First, I splashed the whole thing with Reikland Fleshshade. Darker recesses were given a Carroburg Crimson wash, and everything was drybrushed with a light flesh tone to pick out the most extreme edges.

As a final alien touch, the darkest areas got a little dab of Druchii Violet wash.

The ‘claws’ were roughly drybrushed in darker shades of Screamer Pink and Xereus Purple to draw attention to them, similar to the Faceless.

The purple areas then got a hefty dollop of gloss varnish to up the goo factor, leaving the outer areas matt. This helps give it an otherworldly, ever-changing look to it.

The base was painted in the same way as the Bedlam Feast cultists – pick out different cobblestones in different shades of grey, wash with Nuln Oil, light drybrush of a mid grey, then random patches of Typhus Corrosion to taste.

Wrapping up

I’m overwhelmed at how well this horrible beastie came out. For something I did basically no testing on, it came out perfectly first try. I guess that’s the nice thing about making a grosteque flesh monster from hot glue – it’s difficult to make it look like anything other than a grosteque flesh monster.

I particularly like how, although it has no face, from some angles you can almost make out one or multiple faces. It sort of has arms that are sort of legs. Its torso looks like it’s about to spew out more limbs. It’s monstrous.

Maybe one day I’ll return to that Dark Heresy campaign. For now though, it has taken up service as a Brute in my Bedlam Feast Necromunda gang, using the cultists as a gang. I’ve been putting off painting their leader for a while, but now with another campaign on the horizon, perhaps it’s time.

Outlander scrap prospecting site

Last year I ran a Necromunda Outlanders campaign for my friendly local game store Asgard Wargames, my first proper ‘public’ game with players outside my immediate friend circle and a campaign format we had very little experience of.

Most appealing to my deadline-averse hobby nature was that every scenario required specific objective markers or scatter terrain. The perfect excuse to plunder the bits box!

Finished product first!
Mining for parts

First scenario to get a look in was Mining Expedition, where gangs have to battle over and search through four ‘prospecting sites’. The only stipulation from the scenario was that they needed to be about 4″ in size.

I had rather unhelpfully thrown away all my old CDs from the noughties, which would have been perfect scatter terrain fodder, so I was on the hunt for another half dozen equal-sized round bases that didn’t involve any hacksawing.

I had been planning this campaign over the Christmas season, meaning lots of delicious tubular snacks. Incredibly the lid of my favourite holiday snack (Twiglet tubes) was exactly the dimension I needed! Praise the Omnissiah!

It was only in hindsight I realised I’d overlooked the prospecting site’s requirements to be stood on, and didn’t make them particularly friendly for models to climb on top of.

I got around this issue by a) not worrying about this at all, as players don’t read the rules, and b) allowing gangers to perform their Prospect double action if they were within 1″ of the edge of the site and proving them with heavy cover.

Blocking it out

It was particularly satisfying to go through my various bits boxes to pick out pieces I’d been holding on to for some unknowable future project and slap them down to the bases. These would be big, chunky, or heavy pieces that took up space and didn’t have much utility. A hacked up mechanicus generator, miscast crates and pipes, a big chunk of white metal (from Warmachine I think?) and a glob of flash-cured resin.

Sprue Goo

As part of this campaign prep I’d found myself with a glut of sprues. I’ve been more conscious of hobby wastage and I didn’t like the idea of them going to landfill, and at the time GW’s sprue recycling initiative was yet to reach my area.

I’d seen some recommendations for ‘sprue glue’ – cutting up your empty sprues and putting them in a jar of acetate until they become a sticky syrup of melted plastic. It’s used as a kind of liquid greenstuff – smoothing gaps between large plastic pieces or as a more robust filler for scenery. I didn’t fancy the idea of a toxic jar of flammable goo, and I had way more sprues than I could goo.

Instead I got into the habit of hacking my sprues into small straight sections and keeping them in a big plastic tub. I wanted to separate as many of the bits that obviously identify it as sprue – so all round bits were snipped from the straight bits.

This gives me a huge box of scrap filler pieces that look great when sprinkled liberally around junkyard pieces, and really helped to fill out these naked bases.

Filling in the gaps

When everything was dried (and extra superglue applied to keep everything attached to the red bases, which turned out to be frustratingly resilient to having things glued to it) I cracked out the tub of polyfilla to complete the look.

I wasn’t concerned that I lost a lot of detail after this stage – theyy were supposed to be mounds of scrap that may or may not have anything useful buried in them. Having a few interesting pieces poking out of a morass of metal and mud seemed like the ideal way to represent the scenario objectives.

A contrasting style

I’m still trying to break out of my micro-scale painting techniques for doing mid-sized scenery pieces like this, and I’d seen a recipe online somewhere for painting scrap using drybrushing and contrast paint. I’m late to the contast party so I didn’t really appreciate what I’d been missing out on.

The recipe was simple: drybrush silver, then contrast, then weather. It couldn’t be that simple, could it?

I undercoated everything black and cracked out the big brushes.

Mining my own business

This was my first proper foray into Contrast Paint, (to me) a new-fangled invention that I didn’t see a place for in my usual paint lineup. It was designed for batch painting armies, so why would I need it?

Boy was I wrong.

I went out and picked up half a dozen contrast colours I thought would work well:

  • Aggaros Dunes
  • Garaghak’s Sewer
  • Skeleton Horde
  • Black Templar
  • Guilliman Flesh
  • Flesh Tearer Red
  • Blood Angels Red

These were then applied liberally and randomly across the scrap piles, directly over a really rough and uneven drybrush. I was astounded at the effect!

When everything was covered in contrast, everything got attacked with Typhus Corrosion to create some matt brown areas and weather the metal a bit more.

I took some silver paint and very roughly highlighted some of the more prominent edges, being very careful not to take my time or be particularly neat about it.

A final light drybrush of Ushabti Bone around the sandy bits helps blend it into the floor a bit more.

A prospective new technique

I’m so blown away with how easy and enjoyable that Contrast technique is, I’ve adapted it for loads of scenery projects coming up. It scales up really well, and Contrast has much better coverage over large areas than the regular washes do.

I’m incredibly satisfied with this whole project – finding exactly the right number of correct-sized bases, freeing up huge chunks of my bits box, creating a huge box of sprue ends, and discovering a completely new painting technique. It couldn’t have gone better!

I’m very excited about the possibilities this opens up. Perhaps entire hills made of scrap to create a junkyard board? Be still my beating heart…

New GM resources | Game design

Advice for any new Dungeon or Games Master, sourced from dozens of campaigns with hundreds of players over thousands of hours and still making new mistakes. This wisdom to new GMs is broadly split into three categories – preparing to run a campaign, writing an adventure, and running the session.

Some mechanical examples are specific to D100 RPGs like Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader or Imperium Maledictum, but the principles still work for other systems like DnD or Starfinder.

Fail quickly, keep the game moving, and have fun!

Continue reading “New GM resources | Game design”

MOTB: Khorne blood pool scenery

Finished product first!

One of my first events I felt safe returning to was an Inquisitor day at Warhammer world, run by venerable members of the Conclave with a familiar format. There are 3-4 time slots during the day, and everyone can have a crack at running a one-off game with a group of people they might otherwise not usually play with.

One of my many lockdown projects was a trio of 54mm Bloodletters, and I was eager to pit them against some worthy opponents. It wasn’t acceptable for them to simply be there though, clearly they needed some set dressing to add to the drama.

I already had a few odd Chaos-y bits, like the classic Warhammer Temple of Skulls kit, but I wanted something more Khorney. Perhaps it was time to delve into the mysterious realm of resin.

Continue reading “MOTB: Khorne blood pool scenery”

Week 7: They look like us now | Necromunda: Moon of the Mad Magos

This is the seventh and final week of the Moon of the Mad Magos Necromunda campaign being run at Asgard Wargames.

Weekly event: They look like us now

The plan of the mad Magos is revealed. The finest fighters of Helicon have been replaced with gene-hanced replicas of themselves. Perfect Skitarii infiltrators with subdermal implants, lightning reactions, and the memories of all those who have died and been reclaimed by the moon. They can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever… until you are dead.

All scenarios contain a Murder Cyborg hidden among the fighters. 

Additionally, the strange devices previously ransacked by gangs turned out to be atmospheric stabilisers. The Badzone effects from the previous week are still in effect. You may permanently eliminate these effects from your settlement by removing a Xenoculum, Archeotech Device or Malefic Artifact from your gang list.

Continue reading “Week 7: They look like us now | Necromunda: Moon of the Mad Magos”

Week 6: No Place Like Home | Necromunda: Moon of the Mad Magos

This is the sixth week of the Moon of the Mad Magos Necromunda campaign being run at Asgard Wargames.

Weekly Event: No Place Like Home

Storm clouds gather overhead. Settlements are plagued by swarms of cyber-flies and sentient oozes, while crushing winds and unpredictable night cycles disguise the moon rebuilding itself into new and terrifying configurations.

All settlements are affected by a permanent Badzone Event. The particular event is determined by checking the scenario’s defender and their settlement starting location. The event affects both defender and attacker.

Continue reading “Week 6: No Place Like Home | Necromunda: Moon of the Mad Magos”