Previews Archive | 8/23/2010
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Lords of Madness Preview 2
How Do We Make These Minis?
Peter Lee

We’ve been using computers to sculpt miniatures for a couple of years now, but this is the first set in which all the new figures were CAD designed. To celebrate this milestone, this preview will walk you through the creation of Kalliroth, a githyanki pirate.

When I create a miniature set, the first task is the set list. The early stage for a set list is surprisingly low tech: a simple spreadsheet. Whenever I am hit with an inspiration for a miniature, I add it to the list as a reminder. (I believe the current list has somewhere around 200 ideas in it…) For each potential miniature, I fill in a name, base size, approximate rarity, race, approximate RPG level, RPG source, potential set, and a general field for notes. When it’s time to create the set list, most of the work is already done.

After finalizing the set list, I create the art order. This describes what the miniature will look like. Typically, it includes race, sex, height, weapons, armor, and other equipment. I also give a general description of the attitude of the figure and a direction for the miniature’s pose.

Once the art order is written, the art director takes over (Ryan Sansaver). Early in the process, we get a sketch. One of the great strengths of the CAD process is we don’t need to have a sketch of the figure in a final form, but instead we have something that we call a Da Vinci pose, in honor of his Vitruvian Man drawing. Below is the Da Vinci sketch for Kalliroth.

Once we have the sketch, it’s time to create the sculpt. We start with the miniature’s pose. For humanoid monsters, we take inspiration from art, movie stills, or even a few minutes with wooden sticks and a digital camera. The CAD team created this basic pose for Kalliroth.

Meanwhile, we work on the weapons, armor, and other items for the miniature. The first pass results in simple shapes to fill out the figure. By determining this early in the process, we identify potential pitfalls. With Kalliroth, for instance, we changed how the skirt falls to make the figure more stable.

After we complete the basic form, it’s time to flesh out the details. Throughout the process, I review the set with the art director to go over all changes. After a few rounds, we have a final miniature, and we send the final set list off to be manufactured.

While the machines that make the miniatures are tooled, we get examples of each figure painted to show the manufacturer. A few months later, the miniatures are on the shelves for your enjoyment!

For today’s preview, I have two very rare figures to show. One is Kalliroth in her final form, the other is C’Tallun, a mind flayer that Kalliroth hunts. Why? C’Tallun has the audacity to wield the silver longsword of a slain Githyanki. My goal is to have these figures inspire a story. Are they rival pirates travelling through the Astral Sea? Did C’Tallun’s sword originally belong to Kalliroth’s slain lover? Ultimately, I leave that up to you.

I hope you enjoyed this look into the production side of things. See you next time!