For a change of pace, this preview follows three Giants of Legend commanders from the ideas that got them started to their final, full-color plastic minis.
I wanted a barehanded male monk miniature that would
a) look great.
b) work wonderfully as a player character.
c) serve as the commander of a new type of skirmish warband, the all-Monk strike force.
So I wrote the following art description:
Young Master -- Base: 25mm. Rarity: 3 Rare. Faction: Lawful Good. Gender: male. Physical Description: Square-jawed human male monk with short black hair. Bronze skin, wearing simple white loose-fitting travel clothes. Armor: bracers on wrists: thick magical leather bracers. Weapon: no weapons. Pose: I'd prefer a martial arts pose: something like cat stance where the front foot barely touches the ground and the weight is mostly on the rear foot, one hand held forward as a knife palm and the other cocked at the side as a fist. We're after a mini that many people playing monks can look at and say: "that's my character!"
Stacy Longstreet, our art director, assigned the concept sketch to Steve Prescott. Steve delivered a wonderful sketch. For you martial arts purists, the pose wasn't exactly the cat-stance I was talking about, but it was certainly an acceptable D&D-style interpretation, and the point of art suggestions is to help inspire something cool, not to straitjacket the artist. Here's the front view of the sketch, what you'll see on the stat card.
Stacy sent Steve's concept sketches to our sculpting studio, Hasbro Far East. HFE sent back various versions of the sculpt for approval. My recollection is that the first version of the sculpt had something strange about the face, but the second attempt nailed it. Then one of our minis painters (on this set, Eve Forward-Rollins, Mike McVey, and Jason Soles) created the paint master by painting one of the hard plastic PU samples. HFE did their best to match the paint sample using paint-masks, and the resulting rare mini looks like this:
Skirmish Play: Unlike some creatures, the design concept for the Young Master leaped serenely through development. Heck, he even kept the magic bracers. The Young Master can command any type of LG warband, but he excels commanding other monks. The all-monk warband's frenzy of stunning fists is a blast to play, or you can use the monk squad as the strike force alongside a sturdier dwarf or paladin group in a 200-point game.
The goal was to make a gnoll commander that would
a) deliver the flavor of a nasty Chaotic Evil fighter-type commander;
b) be playable in both 100-point and 200-point games;
c) fill a niche left open by the gnoll's entry in the Monster Manual, which states that groups of 20 gnolls usually have a sergeant with them;
d) give former Chainmail players a chance to use the flail-armed Gnoll Warrior mini with the new D&D miniatures;
Here's a painted metal mini, the one we produced for the previous game, followed by the sketch Steve Prescott created for the new mini.
You'll note that in order to manufacture the two-handed flail in plastic, we opted to press it against the gnoll's body. That way the thin weapon isn't at risk of breaking and we can manufacture the gnoll sergeant as a one-piece mini.
You can see from the finished uncommon mini that the sculptors did a great job of translating Steve's vision:
Skirmish Play: The Gnoll Sergeant is tough enough to survive for a while in 200-point games, but not so tough that he won't be at home in 100-point battles. Like most Chaotic Evil commanders, pure commander rating isn't his strong point; high commander ratings are for the Lawful types. His commander effect is a thing of beauty: Followers gain melee damage +5 against wounded creatures! That's right: once your troops have landed the first blow against an enemy, the rest of your warband can kill that figure a lot quicker. There's more to say about this commander, but I'm being drowned out by the agonized howls from the reading audience. We'll let you find out the rest when you get the mini.
We've been excited about doing a rakshasa. Nasty spells? Evil mastermind speeches delivered with a tigerish growl? Backward hands? What's not to like?
Here's the art order, complete with my quaint misspellings:
17. Rakshasha -- Base: 25mm. Rarity: 3 Rare. Faction: Lawful Evil. Gender: male. Physical Description: A humanoid tiger. The body is mostly human except for a tiger's head and being entirely covered with a tiger's fur. The weirdest physical difference is that a rakshasha's hands are backwards: its palms are where the backs of a human's hands would be. This rakshasha should be very well dressed in elegant, colorful clothes. If it has to, it fights with its claws, but it's mainly a sorcerer. Armor: none. Weapon: just its claws. Reference: MM page 212.
Only now did I realize that Steve Prescott sketched all three of these commanders. Someday I'll do a preview showing off work by other illustrators and visiting artists. In the meantime, look at the wonderfully funky rakshasa Steve sketched for us.
The backward hands look so wrong that everyone involved with manufacturing the mini tried to "fix" them at some point. In the end we got it right.
We went through a couple paint schemes for the rare mini. The first scheme was mostly blue and yellow and it was absolutely gorgeous. It was way too light and friendly, however, for an evil sorcerer mastermind. Stacy asked the painter to revise the look with a nastier palette, and this is what we got:
Skirmish Play: The Rakshasa has DR 5 and Spell Resistance, both handy for keeping your commander alive. His spells are tricky. They're not outright killer spells; they require a bit of assistance from the rakshasa's minions. As long as the Rakshasa's followers survive, their commander's spells will help them stack up enemy bodies.
As to his commander effect, let's just say that the rakshasa's backward hands inspired what is probably the game's funkiest commander effect. Some people will love it. Some enemies will dislike it intensely. Guy Fullerton, the Answer Man, probably will be somewhere in between!
About the Author
Rob Heinsoo started playing D&D with the original brown box in 1975. He's now the lead designer of D&D Miniatures.