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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Old West Outlaws

For my first Old West painting post, I'd like to establish my Western bona fides.  I lived in Nevada for 4 years and Arizona for 11.  My wife was born in Tombstone and we met at the University of Arizona.  In the desert, I once grabbed a snake by the tail and got bit. I used to catch lizards, mark their bellies with blue dye and then release them back into the wild to see if I could catch them again.   Prospecting with my dad, we once found an old crate of TNT. For brevity, I'll cut myself short and say I still miss the wide open spaces, the mountain skyline and the subtle beauty of the West. Painting Old West figures won't take me back to the place I love, but it's a pleasant reminder!

This commission is for a friend who's going to run them under Great Escape Games Dead Man's Hand.  The figures are loaded with detail and each is a character in their own right.  I thought the challenge here would be to keep a tight and earthy palette. It turns out that painting 36 unique characters is the bigger challenge. There are no economies of scale after you prime the figures!  
For each Old West post, I'd like to tell a western flavored story.  Today's is about Gary Gygax's Boot Hill, my 2nd favorite RPG of my youth after D & D.  Employing two 10 sided dice for character abilities and combat, the game was ahead of its time. It didn't catch on like D & D in part because it was brutally unforgiving. While character attributes leveled up after gunfights, you were still as susceptible to death by a bullet after 20 gunfights as you were in 1. And once you died in Boot Hill, there were no spells or clerics to revive you. You were simply dead and had to start over.

Being young and blessed with loads of time, I spent many hours filling up binders with campaign materials. I rolled up hundreds of characters, drew up maps and  missions.  All the background material paid dividends every time my friends sat down for a game or campaign.  Funny thing, kids who were too cool to play D & D were happy to play Boot Hill!
The summer before we headed off to college, my best friend Pat asked to start a campaign.  From our first game, Pat said he wanted to find Doc Holliday and challenge him to a gunfight.  I had a secret "house rule" that fictional characters couldn't find & kill the legends of history. So I kept Pat on a wild goose chase by making sure Doc was always one town away.  The hunt for Doc became the thing that summer and we had many great adventures along the way.  Over that summer, something amazing happened that I never saw before or since. Pat's character wouldn't die. Against all odds, he lived through every gunfight & diced his way out of every tough spot.  He played so well, so luckily and for so long that his stats topped out and he became nearly invincible.

The week before we left for college, I let Pat find Doc Holliday.  Even though Doc tried to talk him out of it, Pat wouldn't rest until they had a shootout.  Pat was faster and better than Doc. He got off 3 shots that all found their mark before Doc could pull the trigger. Badly wounded, Doc's ability to shoot back AND hit were greatly diminished. I pitched the dice and against long odds, Doc got off a single shot that hit. I pulled out Bio One to find where the hit was, diced it and it was Pat's head. A headshot is never good but it could be the ear, the jaw or a grazing wound.  I diced it again and it came up Pat's forehead. There was no saving throw.  Just like that, Pat was dead and the campaign over. Pat fell into a stunned silence. Seeing how much it shook him, I felt quite badly about having rolled up the bullet that killed him.

This ended our Boot Hill playing days. When I'd suggest a new campaign, Pat would say "What's the point? I'll never top that." He was right. Sometimes, he'd reminisce about his character, look into the distance and say "Remember when...?" 30 years later, I still remember.

40 comments:

  1. It would have been far simpler not to grab said snake instead of letting it bite you ;) But seriously very nice figures Sir

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    1. Andrew! LOL, it's not hard to do if done correctly. The snake curled up in brush and when I lifted him triumphantly, I discovered I had his tail and not his head. The bite served me right, interrupting his nap like that.

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  2. I always wanted to try Boot Hill, but none of the local stores ever carried it. I'm liking the painting so far. Are you going to use LotOW?

    FMB

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    1. Thanks Marcus! My friend is set on using Dead Man's Hand, and the card aspect of the rules is supposed to make then shine. Maybe a bit like cards in Maurice? I'll see!

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  3. The Minnesota Kid Rides Agin! (They say he oncet shot a man jest fer snoring too loud and keepin' the muskies down while he was ice fishin'...!)

    Your Western credentials are well-attested by these wonderful figs, Monty; you have done excellent work with a limited palette, each figure is a real individual.

    That's some purty fancy paintin', Tex!

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    1. LOL on the MN Kid, and thanks Ev! You are quite familiar with Minnesota, especially so with you living half way round the world from us!

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    2. Blame the Coen Brothers and MST3K!
      ; )

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    3. Two very good sources for Minnesota flavor! The irony is that my dad is the biggest muskie fisherman. It's crazy because muskies are 10,000 casts = 1 bite . No thanks!

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  4. These are most excellent and I'm sure your client will be very pleased with the results. You're getting quite a reputation and plenty of work. Congrats on that.

    You do have the proper cred's to do this period. Do you ride?

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    1. Anne, thanks! I almost took a spill in the Rocky Mountain National Park that put off entirely. My daughter rides every week but I settle for petting and feeding the horses!

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    2. I'm pretty sure stepping in horse manure is the proper cred's for painting Old West.

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    3. Then I'm in! I also wade through it at work, so to speak.

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  5. Nice Westerners, Monty. You certainly have the credentials too. Best, Dean

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  6. It makes me want to get my western stuff out! They look great!

    Christopher

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    1. I should have a look around and see your western stuff! Thanks Christopher!

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  7. Great work I must resist to call of the wild west my painting table is over full as it is
    Peace James

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    1. You are time tripping through history on your painting table. It is amazing how many things you have going at once!

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  8. I have fond memories of Boot Hill as well. As I recall, my brother and I were quite taken by the hand-to-hand rules. It's where I first learned the term "haymaker." =]

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    1. Wiatrog! That's right, not everything was settled with guns. You could resort to fisticuffs! Good times!

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  9. Sounds like your Wild West credentials are pretty good Monty...lovely painting too!

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    1. Thanks Cyrus! I'm just missing the chaps and cowboy hat. And living out west, darn it. ;-)

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  10. Greate RPG story Monty !!! Give one some flachbacks from the western RPG games I used to run back in the days...

    ...and of cours lovely painted minis ! It is indeed a chalange to paint 36 individual minis, easyer to paint uniforms:)

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael! I have my old copy of Boot Hill book and Bio One around here somewhere. Someone on eBay was listing Bio One for $70! I better find my set.

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  11. Great painting and an even greater story!

    I remember, back in the late 80s, playing the Swedish Western game (simply called "Western") with it's overly complex combat system. It had this transparent hit template, that you would place over a drawing of a person with hit locations marked, and then move the template around according to your hit roll and various other modifiers.

    In our first ever gunfight, my character drew his gun and fired a shot. I rolled the to-hit dice and the GM started looking up the rules. After some 30 minutes of frantic flipping through the book, I put down the comic book I had picked up after waiting for 10 minutes and asked him: "So, do I hit?". He looked at me with a sad expression and answered: "I don't know."

    Needless to say, we never played the game again.

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    1. Jonas! LOL, that was pretty bad, not being able to figure out if you got a hit. We used Boot Hill to calculate if you got a hit and then we used a supplement called Bio One to determine where the hit was and the damage. It reduced the human body down to a grid and using a 10 sided dice, you'd plot out the hit and how bad it was. It took into account facing, prone and all of that.

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  12. Nice work. I grew up in the mountains and despise this urban environment as much as I can. Although it has its own perks such as modeling shops 20 minutes away and no postage fees.

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    1. Andras! You do have some LOVELY mountains where you live. The Carpathian range, right? And you're so right on the urban living!

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  13. "Hands up guys, give me the cash, and quickly!" I've just heard these words when looking at this excellent work Monty, the far west wind is blowing across this remarkable minis! I do like this!!
    Cheers,
    Phil.

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    1. Thanks so much Phil! I think I'll slip in the story of the Great Northfield Raid next.

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  14. Lovely work Monty, I must dig out my cowboys but poor Pat!

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    1. Fran! My friend was sore at me for a week afterwards! I blamed the dice and he saw the throws, but he wasn't having any of that.

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  15. Hi Monty,

    so you done the magnificent seven! ;-)
    they are ready to go to Deadwood!
    now you have to paint the good, the bad and the ugly;-)

    another great paint work on another period, congratulations my friend!

    Cheers

    thefrenchjester



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    1. Another great song by the Clash! I can throw that in there, knowing that you're a fan as well. There'll be some good, some bad, and hopefully not too ugly. Thanks Gilles!

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  16. Never got into Boot Hill but played first edition D&D in the 70s as a kid in a big way. Your story made me smile....lot's of good memories with the early Gary G stuff.....they were the days the whole role playing thing was very Avant-garde and mysterious. Love it Monty.

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    1. Groundbreaking stuff! I did love D & D. The only limit was the imagination of the DM, and I suppose the creativity of the players.

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  17. Great figures Monty and a lovely opportunity to reminisce about the early RPG days. I think we tried almost every system out there including Boot Hill. Every gamer has those delightful stories about the dice playing havoc and creating some magical and tragic moments. The funniest system we ever played was Rune Quest with it's odd location hit system. It was very comic as most of the fights ended up with our characters crawling around almost trying to bite one another to death after most of their limbs were disabled... fun crazy stuff :-)

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    1. Matthew, thanks! I tried a number of non D & D systems, but I don't remember this one. How did I miss it? It sounds like fun!

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    2. I liked the unique setting for Rune Quest and over time some of the kinks in the rules system were worked out - initially it was a bit clunky like Traveller. BTW thank you for your encouraging comments on my blog. How do you manage to paint so much with your RSI? Impressive :-)

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    3. Interesting. I tried Traveller so that gives me an idea what the game was like.

      My RSI is from my elbows to my forearms. Painting doesn't aggravate it so I can paint all I want, thank god. I can't drum or landscape any more so it's the painting table for me. It's my saving grace.

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