Friday, August 24, 2012

From Paper, to Computer, to Miniature: The Travels of a 30 Year Old Character

"I've been around 30 years?!  Zounds!"  Still ready for action, Saladian waits for his next call to action.

While doing a project to create a character miniature for an upcoming game, it occurred to me that I have been playing various iterations of said Advanced Dungeons and Dragons character, off and on, -for the past 30 years.  That's kind of a long time.  It made me start thinking about all the mileage I have gotten out of the concept.  It also struck me, as I don't actually consider him one of my older characters...

The original creation of Saladian occurred in the early 1980s. He was rolled up by my friend Joe C, who was running an AD&D campaign using Dave Arneson's Blackmoor setting. The character fit paladin stats, and as Joe was going to be DM-ing, he offered Saladian to me to use in the game.

Up to that time, I had never tried a paladin. The idea of playing a knight, as opposed to my earlier characters, a thief and barbarian, had some appeal. There is a great picture in the Player's Handbook of “a Paladin in Hell”, where the hero is facing off, precariously on a mountain cliff, battling against a wave of devils. It was very evocative of real heroism and last stands...Remember the Alamo/Rourkes Drift type of stuff. I have always had a soft spot for the optimistic, truth and justice for all, types of characters that paladins exemplify: Superman, Capt. America, Capt. Marvel (aka Shazam), Mr Rogers, and John Wayne.

  A Paladin in Hell by David C. Suthland III


In 1st Edition AD&D, the paladin was a very strong class, and it was tough to roll up given the rules we used. There were also the alignment, magical gear, and wealth restrictions to consider. I think a lot of my interest in paladins is the challenge of running them with the codes of conduct that must be maintained.  I had the name chosen for an Aladdin type rogue, but I decided to apply it to the new character.  Saladian the Paladin was born!

...I think that sounds cooler if you're 15.  And it's the 1980s.

The DM duties switched from Joe C. to Joe H, and I leveled the character up in the classic Temple of Elemental Evil, other TSR modules, and his original creations. The Blackmoor part of the game was retconned out of the storyline.  Joe H. initially placed the campaign in Greyhawk, but eventually moved to the Forgotten Realms. In our vision of the D+D world, both settings were on the same planet, just different continents. When Joe decided to use the Forgotten Realms campaign, we just hopped on a ship in Keoland and landed in Waterdeep.

I played the character off and on until the early 90s. Fun highlights of the campaign were; interesting NPC henchmen I picked up along the way (boy, did I have charisma!), asking opponents to surrender before engaging them, getting a Holy Avenger sword, fighting in a war, outliving most, if not all, of the original party members, and finding out that in the quest to receive my paladin warhorse; it was guarded by a red dragon. Eeep.

Saladian never got that steed, because that's where things ended. As most campaigns go, it faded from the world with a whisper rather than a bang. We moved onto other games and characters, players moved on, and Saladian remained unused in a character folder.

The Return(s) of the Paladin!
Fast forward to 2002. Bioware released a Dungeons and Dragons computer game called Neverwinter Nights. It had probably been 5 years since I had anything to do with D+D, but the lure of a customizable game enthusiastically brought me back. The computer medium allowed several of my characters to make returns to gaming in the form of digital avatar!

Other computer games saw Saladian used as a character. Once one has a graphical reference to use, the looks of a character start to take shape.

Saladian in Lord of the Rings Online

Saladian in Dragon Age II

Breaking it down, Saladian is a blond guy with an Abe Lincoln style beard. He fights with sword and shield.  In both LOTRO, and especially Dragon Age II, I was really able to get what I considered his look correct.  The Dragon Age II creator really captured the concept I had envisioned. 

Around 2007 our group started playing Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. It's a skirmish game that uses a similar system to that of the Warhammer Historical line of rule sets. They are fairly straight forward and enjoyable set of rules without being over encumbered with complexity. For a couple of years we had been batting around the idea of recreating the Battle of Archet, which is the introductory storyline in Lord of the Rings Online, using miniatures.

The New Frontier:  Customizing a Mini
Since we were doing the battle based on the LOTRO game, we decided that it might be fun to run it as a mini campaign using the same characters we play ingame. I actually have 2 Saladian characters in LOTRO, one a Captain and the other a Champion, so it was he whom I chose to use. Thus I began my quest to make a Saladian miniature.

Games Workshop's Rohan Captain (pack includes mounted figure)

I have not done much in modding figures.  The thought of ruining perfectly good figures, and spending a lot of time doing it, always made me shy away from anything that wasn't a simple mod. 

 For Saladian in Middle Earth, I picked a Rohan captain.  The mini is nice and it had animated pose. It had a helmet on, and that could be Saladian, but I wanted to make it a bit more personalized than just painting it out of the pack.  The process of sawing the head off was very slow!  Pewter is much harder than lead, put I did not want to do a butcher job on it.

The head I was swapping onto the Rohan Captain came from a Perry Miniatures American Civil War plastic boxed set.  The replacement head actually had a “chin strap” style beard (aka a Lincoln), so it fit the bill!  The Civil War miniature's heads all come bald, (so you can put a forage cap, kepi, or soft cap on it.)   After the head swap, I added the hair was with a couple of layers of Citadel “paint on” green stuff.  It's not a replacement for regular green stuff, but it makes a nice filler and worked well for adding the hair.

"The Blackwold brigands are nearly upon us.  Summon the rest of the Dale Wardens.  We must defend Archet...."

It was a fun project bringing the character to miniature.  It took me outside my hobby comfort zone, and that's a good thing.  I always tell people to "learn by doing", and on this occasion -I took my own advice.  Something I dreaded starting proved very worthwhile to me.

Believe it or not, there was also some reminiscing too.  Saladian, it's taken 30 years, but now you are in miniature form too.  Thanks for the memories.

David S.


  1. I absolutely love this post. It always amazes me to see how our characters effect us as players. Some become old friends. We can tell adventures to each other in a way that people who have no idea what we are talking about get really confused because to us it was real. We were there. Thanks for talking about this guy, and taking us through a different kind of story.

    1. Thanks Ripper! Even when I was not doing paper and pen rpgs, Saladian was still around in other forms.