Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ode to a Fat Bandit

I bought my first paper miniatures back in 1986 or so, but I never really used them in at the table much until I started playing Savage Worlds a few years ago.  I had a player who really benefited from the ability to see the relationships (and especially distances) between characters that miniatures provided.  That it took me 30+  years of gaming to determine that this was a good idea probably speaks volumes about my lunkheadedness.  <--- That is a word right?  The minis were part of a series by Steve Jackson Games called Cardboard Heroes.  The originals are long out of print, but you can buy them in PDF form from their web store. The first sets were fantasy based, but they expanded over time to include some Autoduel minis, Science Fiction, and eventually a couple of Horror based sets packaged with some floor plan maps in the late 90s/early 00s.  In the modern age there are a number of companies that make paper miniatures both in PDF and as print products.  Some of them are quite good.  In my old man's heart, however, the Cardboard Heroes will likely always be my favorites.

While I did not use those first miniatures at the table, they did become part of my gaming experience in another way.  The art on many of those first miniatures was inspiring.  These little dudes (and dudettes) were less than two inches tall, but they were incredible line drawings.  They had real personality.  What is more, they were much more detailed than the crummy lead miniatures of the day and  a load less expensive.  The Cardboard Heroes were so detailed that I found myself using the miniatures as models to create NPCs in the fantasy games I ran.  I found myself even creating adventures specifically to include the creations these minis inspired.

Size isn't everything.
  This guy looks awesome
when he is 2" Tall.
My favorite of the original Cardboard Heroes was named Fat Brigand by the company.  With great affection, I dubbed him Fat Bandit (for versatility dontchaknow?) and he became a regular fixture in my fantasy games. Looking back on things, I don't wonder if bandits didn't become one of my favorite It's-ok-for-the-players-to-just-kill-these-guys enemies because I got to include Fat Bandit in the ranks of the enemy.  Fat Bandit was so much more than... er a fat bandit to me.  He has been a pirate captain,  a travelling merchant with an attitude, urban criminal overlord, and more.  Other minis in the series provided the same sort of NPC inspiration.  Only rarely, back in the day did I ever get to play as other than the GM, but at least once I created a PC based on one of the Cardboard Heroes as well.

When I went on my no-fantasy hiatus, this practice of minis as NPC generator fell a bit to the wayside.  When I started running traditional fantasy again a few years ago, I found that paper minis were far more available than in the good old days.  I have purchased a bunch of those, both fantasy and modern, since I started using miniatures at the table.  I have even found a way to make some of my own which has been a great addition to the game.   If there is any interest in my process for that, sound off and I might make it a future blog entry. Even with all the other options, however, the Cardboard Heroes still figure prominently in the mix whenever I run a fantasy game.

Remember that lunkheadedness I mentioned before?  It was only as I wrote this that I considered the notion of creating a PC for Fat Bandit.  Now if I can find a fantasy game to play him in...


  1. It ATE MY COMMENT AGAIN!!!! Ok, one more time. I would like a tutorial on the miniature making..I love how-to's. John Explained, but I think you have different procedures, and I really like having things to refer back to, when the desire to do a thing hits

    1. There is definitely an issue with comments vanishing into cybernothingness. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done about this, but it certainly makes any lively discussion between blog followers almost too challenging to be worth the effort.

  2. My method is probably not the easiest. I am sure anyone with access to photoshop can do things much more efficiently. I have used the current method for Savage Mars, My supers game, and Autoduel so it is fairly versatile. When time permits, I will write that post up. I think it might be too time consuming while I am devoting so much time to writing The Colony.

  3. As Jane has posted elsewhere, the key to a successful comment on blogspot is to hit the blue publish button at the bottom of the text box immediately after you finish typing. Any other action is liable to erase your comment.