Pathfinder Battles Preview: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond
Friday, July 13, 2012
First off, did you know that our first set of Pathfinder Battles minis, Heroes & Monsters, was just nominated as the Best Miniatures Product of the year for this year's Gen Con/EN World ENnie Awards? We're enormously proud of such a strong showing with our very first set, and given the leaps and bounds of improvement on sculpts, painting, and packaging we've experienced since then, I'm very excited to see how the Rise of the Runelords set does at next year's awards!
But in order to complete production on the Rise of the Runelords set, we had to get every miniature just right. And there was one little bastard in the set who seemed to elude our efforts until—quite literally—the very last few minutes of the pre-production process.
Illustration by Eric Belisle
There he is, the final miniature to be revealed in the Rise of the Runelords set. The Shining Child. He's a kind of glowy outsider from the edges of the multiverse, summoned by the ancient wizards of Thassilon to do their bidding in the era of the Runelords' dominion. This creature has been a favorite here in the office since we introduced it way back in Pathfinder Adventure Path #4, and we always knew we wanted to make a miniature of it.
The creature's first appearance, by artist Jonathan Wayshak, was absolutely gorgeous, but also enormously abstract and literally impossible to sculpt into a three-dimensional miniature (that's the thing about those light-based outsiders, you know). When we included the Shining Child in Bestiary 2, we asked artist Eric Belisle to create a more physical version of the creature, still infused with eerie light effects and still otherworldly and spooky. His image is the one posted above, and it's become the definitive "look" for the shining children in the meantime.
So when we sat down to create the list of figures we wanted in the Rise of the Runelords set to support the new Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path Anniversary Edition, we gleefully added the Shining Child to the list. After all, we'd been working with WizKids to add several miniatures with clear plastic effects in the set, and since this guy was translucent and composed of living light, he would be the perfect candidate!
It would be easy!
I've subsequently learned that nothing is truly easy when it comes to making little plastic men, especially when you get into weird plastic effects. In the months that followed our decision to include the Shining Child in our set, he rapidly became the most difficult figure from a production perspective.
For starters, the Shining Child is size Small, making him a bit more difficult to sculpt than some of the larger figures. That turned out to not be such a big problem, as WizKids has great sculptors. The initial sculpt, which has since vanished into the dark depths of my email in-box, sailed through approvals without a single comment. It looked great.
Then we started trying to figure out how to paint it, and the real trouble began. Take another look at that image. The guy's clearly kind of transparent, so we figured we'd start with a fully clear plastic base. We needed some purple highlights, and some splatters of yellow or gold paint to sell the light effects, but that ought to be simple enough, right? Oh yeah, and it had to look like light was coming out of the creature's eyes and mouth. No problem, right?
In an email entitled "Shining Child, the Bane of My Existence," WizKids' production manager sent along these three "options" from the factory, based on our original paint step specifications:
Yeah, not so great. You can see the hint of the awesome sculpt in these images, but the clear effect was really making it difficult to pick out details. WizKids did their best with an opalescent paint effect on the creature's hair, but I knew no one would be happy with this miniature, because both the WizKids production team and I weren't happy with the miniature. Also, it didn't look enough like the art to really sell it as a Shining Child.
So we went back to the drawing board, from a color point of view. Taking a look at Belisle's original art, we realized that he had done a great job simulating a clear figure by starting with a white base. So we sent word to the factory. Any chance you can try that?
Well, they tried, anyway.
At this point I could see we were headed in the right direction, but still a good distance from the finish line. For starters, the figure looked like it had been dipped in White Out, and the face had actually taken a step backward. I knew this was to be a common miniature in the set, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't also hideously ugly, so I sent WizKids back to the drawing board.
At this point, the WizKids production manager got so fed up trying to filter our painting instructions to the factory that he sat down with a bunch of "blank" figures and simply started painting them himself. He rapidly turned around a control figure that came closest to the mark of everything we had tried so far when he sent me this picture:
I thought it looked much better, but needed to see it in person. As you've probably noticed comparing our blog photos to the final miniatures, sometimes pictures don't really do a figure justice. Sometimes, you've just got to hold the figure in your hand to properly judge it. Happily (and by a sort of cosmic coincidence), WizKids' production manager happens to live about 10 minutes from my apartment, so nearing the last day we could possibly fix this without trainwrecking the schedule for the set, he stopped by my place for a quick review of his personally finished paint master.
I thought it looked great in person, and at long last gave him the go-ahead to put the figure into production.
The end result is a Shining Child that actually looks like a Shining Child. A figure that utilizes the clear plastic while still possessing depth. It honestly turned out to be one of my favorite figures in the entire set.
But holy moley, it was a pain in the ass to make, so I wanted to save it for last so I could tell you the whole, gory story.
Thanks, Shining Child. You proved that sometimes, it's the best children who come in last.
Next week, we'll begin our tour of the very next Pathfinder Battles set: The Shattered Star!