The Khazad Guard in Miniature
By way of an intro, I will state that as well as computer games I have played table top miniature games in the past (hell most gamers have at some point) but was never a massive fan, though I do still have the odd game and a beer with a few mates. What I do love about them is the miniatures and the scenery! I always have, since I was 9-10, painted miniature soldiers mostly historical, but some Tolkien fantasy too. When we started playing LOTRO nearly 2 and a half years ago I was blown away by the models and the scenery and imagined making models of some of it.
About 4-5 months ago, just after baby Dwarf was born I decided to actually do some of it. I started with some plans and rough sketches as I always do. I wanted a small diorama/vignette with some cool ideas for a scene involving our khazad guard dwarves, and perhaps a base of theirs, and the opportunity to try out some cool modelling techniques. Here were some of my initial sketches:
I’ll be honest at this stage I’m just toying with things I think look great, so here I had come up with a small garrison/outpost in a mountain side some where snowy up in the misty mountains. I was in part following the cliché Peter Jackson ‘dwarven stuff is angular’ which I’m not 100% wedded to, but I liked this design so much I have forgiven myself! 😀 I liked the idea of a large wooden door, with a stone carved frame, and some steps down, but also a hexagonal platform at the meeting of two paths. I then added the idea that the second path led to a watch tower/platform, with a small on-duty shelter. It pretty hard to see that from these, but my sketches often only make sense to me, as they are a way of me making ‘notes’ on my ideas. I have never been much of an author as those of you who have suffered through reading any of my articles will appreciate, so for me sketching is my note taking.
I then just got stuck in with throwing together some foam core, polystyrene and balsa wood, onto a balsa wood base with some glue to see how this all looked in 3D. The above is the result , as you can see I have a couple of primed figures on there, toying around with various layouts, but I have the basic concept there, door into the living quarters on the left, hexagonal platform in the centre, and outpost on the right, and some steps down the mountain from the hexagonal platform too. One final touch I decided to add in the centre, was a frozen waterfall falling behind the hexagonal platform, and running under it and out of the front of the diorama.
At this stage I must confess, I got carried away and was a little lax in my picture-taking… sorry! What I did next was added more polystyrene, cut with a bread knife and hot wire to all the empty areas above. This filled out the bulk of the model in a light weight material. I then mixed some white wall filler and coated large chunks of the model in that, which allowed me to sculpt and smooth much of the rocks some more, and add various bits of extra terrain. I then undercoat (in black) the whole model, and did some dark grey dry brushed coats onto the top, adding various blues, purples and browns into the grey to give it a vibrant grey. I then progressively added some light beige to the grey and dry brushed it fainter and fainter onto the top, to add highlights to the terrain, which is what you then see below.
As you can see it really has taken shape now, and here are a few details of some of my original ideas: Firstly the door, the details got a bit vaguer for two reasons. Firstly the foamcore was not ideal for taking detail at this scale, and secondly I decided to opt for a more weathered and aged look to the frame.
Here is a close up of the hexagonal platform, which I made from foamcore and just drew the design onto with a biro, then scored the centre with a scalpel. This dinted the foamcore enough and it only needed a little tidying up with a scalpel, and a little squashing down of some of the edges to make it look carved. This meant that when I dry brushed it all the detail showed up as below.
Next I went onto detailing and weathering effects which are my favourite part! I started with getting a frosted snow weather effect with some white paint, sparing brushed on to exposed top surfaces, as shown below. This also provided a good base for the snow powder effects to follow.
Then I add the first of many layers of snow, this is a modellers snow which can be bought from toy/train/modelling shops, and it’s basically just small white granules, which glisten a little like real snow. I added liberal amounts of glue, then sprinkled it on, you can see the glue here (blue colour until dry). I also began adding some blue watery paint effects to the stream bed, which when I eventually model the frozen water will shine through the acrylic making it look more life-like and as if it were reflecting sky. And I have added a little faded colour detail around the main door frame.
At this point I have also started working on some figures to go on the diorama, I definitely wanted the three main dwarves: Izbaruk, Anlafski and Haki, but also fancied adding in some alts: Ganin, Azaghar and Tyri, as this would be a unique opportunity to see them all together, something physically impossible in-game! In addition also needed some Orcs and Goblins to fight, so I have started on those too. One of the biggest tricks was converting the figures to make minstrels and Rune Keepers all in the in-game uniform, but as I’m still only part way through it that will have to wait for next time, but for now here’s a sneak peek of the progress so far!
Progress has been pretty slow as I A) have too many on going projects, and B) get easily distracted, but as I have posted about it, I’m hoping this will give me an incentive to at least try to do some more in the next month or two! Hope you enjoyed this little detour so one final shot: Haki, Anlafski and Izbaruk closer up showing some of the WIP, including my attempt at the Cloak of the West Tower in Red!