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Let's talk about monsters for a bit. The name comes from the same root word as "demonstrate" and "monstrance"--attention-grabbing things that draw the mind to greater matters. Like comets, in ancient times, they were seen as more than just malformed dangerous beasts, but as a sign that something was deeply wrong in the world, or a portent of a great evil drawing near. Offenses against the gods, offenses against nature, great upheavals to the realms.
It is unclear to me how TSR conflated the Gorgons (women with petrifying glances and snakes for hair; Medusa was only the most famous) with the man-eating red-hot brazen bull of King Phalaris (or perhaps of the cruel engineer Perilaus, depending on how you read the story). But they did! And now there are minis of scutigerous metallic bulls snorting noxious gases.
Now, let's talk about the colonial American West.
The interior of the country is vast and rugged. Overland journeys by wagon were grueling and dangerous--especially when traveling through the land of people who definitely did not want you around. The advent of the steam locomotive and the railroad was meant to expedite travel. And it did!
Ponderous iron-clad engines, belching smoke and steam, whistling like the screams of the damned. On rails laid by slave labor, expendable labor, immigrant labor, cheap labor worked to death, the railways wormed into the interior and crept across the Great Plains.
Again, I have to stress the Plains were already occupied, and the inhabitants were not happy to become casualties of Industrial Progress or Manifest Destiny. They were already using those plains! And at full strength they were a terrifying threat, incredible riders and archers who knew the land well.
To be specific, the Plains tribes mostly depended on herds of the bison, whose flesh, sinew, hide, hair, and horns provided them with their necessities. And when settler businessmen and governments realized this, they hatched a wicked plan. To aid and unify the genocidal little wars and massacres already ongoing, the colonists would exterminate the bison, and thus starve the indigenous peoples.
Mountains of buffalo skulls soared to the sky. The buzzards gorged themselves on the bullet-ridden flesh of enormous beasts left to rot. Displaced and starving, the dispossessed natives were forced off their land or killed in battle. Deep-rooted prairie grasses were replaced by wheat and corn monocultures, undoing the knotted mesh keeping the soil from blowing away. And the iron railroads and their riders advanced on, branching tendrils North and South.
This is the sort of cruel and egregious upheaval that creates monsters. And in the Weird West setting of my Bandits and Badlands game, the monster that came forth to demonstrate here is the P'izen Bison.
A steel-plated beast of immense size and strength, fueled by an unholy fire, spewing choking gases, bellowing from a rusted throat.
It tramples and devours and poisons. It renders the land waste around it, like Catoblepas and Bonnacon both. It destroys the works of man without discrimination.
It reeks of sulfur and low-grade coal, burns to the touch, abrades the skin with steel wool. Its gaze paralyzes with dread. It eats men alive.
In short, it is a manifestation of all the externalities of Industrial Progress with none of the good parts.
Various votaries of the Spirit of the Age, gadgeted up, encased in stoveplate armor and armed with steam-powered fists, have tried to stop it. But that's like trying to stop a spirit of vengeance with bullets, ain't it, pardner? Might as well try to make Old Man Buzzard gag, or try to out-lawyer Old Scratch.
Nolzur's Gorgon with some green stuff added to make it look more like a bison, plus a couple of smokestacks left over from VROOMgear and some cotton batting.
The statuesque lady with the Arkansas toothpick is an Indian Princess from CP's Weird West line, while her elderly companion is their 28mm Victoriana Plains Indian Girl, aged up a bit.
Guest appearances from Hellstromme, 91002; Raven 59002, Shaman 59010, Chieftain 50113, and a couple Apaches from Artizan. Also the signpost from Western Sophie. The cacti were just on sale at a hobby store fake plants aisle.
Lots of pics here, a story's worth. Turnaround pics in spoiler areas.
You should imagine Ennio Morricone playing the soundtrack, slow-paced to start with. Diegetic horse noises, hooves plodding. Scraping, dragging sound.
A glow of a cigarillo and a long inhale as we slowly zoom in on the horse's master.
The smoke exhales out of his nostrils, and the camera pans down to show it jetting from multiple holes in the Revenant's torso as well.
The rendezvous at hand, the Revenant knocks on the coffin once or twice. It is the only sound besides the horse breathing.
Panning the camera around to the other side of the tree we see a couple boys from the Red Hand posse.
"Two against one, fella. You might be too stubborn to die, but you ain't gotten any better at counting."
He retreats. Hoofbeats recede behind the mesa.
(music gets tenser, speeds up)
"Boss! Good to have you back."
"Thought we'd lost you! Now let's get back to San Cascarion and drain those vatos dry!"
Other, different hoofbeats make the Red Hand thugs stop celebrating. They look around,
This, they did not expect.
(Morricone music just goes bananas here)
[fight choreography ensues, guns shot and whipped out of undead hands, etc,]
Camera zooms in on the Revenant again holding a cigarillo to withered lips. He holds up first one cracked and flaking finger, then another, then a third and finally a fourth. The barest hint of a smile crinkles his mummified cheek. Counts just fine. Roll credits.
Ooowee these were fun to do! The Revenant, an undead Man with No Name, is from Artizan, as are Brothers Thomas and Martin and Fra Benedict, the Holy Inquisitors 3-pack. I used a pin vise to drill a few extra holes in the Revenant.
The bad hombres in red and the Nosferatu are from Dracula's America, the Red Hand coven 3-pack.
Horses are from Nolzur's Adventurer's Campsite. They've been on my Shelf of Shame for too long.
The Coffin and Skeleton are Reaper, 77633. The Tree of Despair and the signpost from Western Sophie make an appearance as well.
Here's Part 1, from a WHILE back.
Hope you enjoy!
"Aw, shucks, pardner. You know Ol’ Scratch already. Closer to you than your own skin, and always ready to strike a bargain. Just wait at a lonesome crossroads at midnight if'n you need riches, skills, or vengeance. Scratch got all three in spades. You’ll know them by their smile and by the way their boots don’t fit quite right. Only takes one kind of currency—but you probably wasn’t using it anyhow, was you?"
"There's a little black train a-comin; Best get your business right / For that dark train's a-comin' on, And it may be here tonight"
A Stranger Comes to Town
You don't have a horse? She'll get you one. You don't have money? She'll get you some.
Her shadow is cast wherever she stands, stacks of green paper in her red right hand.
(Click for more)
Took me a while, but I finally got Western Sophie and her crossroads signpost painted up. Added a couple of signs from other sprues. She's a beautiful sculpt.
While we're on the topic of the Weird West, here's Agent Sam of the Treasury Bureau. A grab-bag WotC aaracokra mini that used to be dull bland white with brown armor; I gave him a bit of pizzazz and a nice hat.
My Weird West games are warlock-patron intensive, and this fellow definitely serves the Spirit of the Age. Wings, talons, and authorization from the Treasury bureau is a formidable combination.
Guest appearance by the skeletal WWWizard of Oz scarecrow, 80059:
"...Oh, that dark train's a-comin' on; Prepare to take a ride."
A return to the Weird West setting! These ladies are wonderful townsfolk, or suitable for magic-users or fancy rogues. The young lady in orange is from Eureka (one of their Hyde Park Hypostyle figures if memory serves), while the ones in yellow and pink are from Reaper's Victorians (80068. The Victorian gentleman is still in progress, on the back burner).
More angles, but the sun was not quite right
And a guest! 80065, the Physician.
My Weird West campaign included the town of Lovelace, a steampunk bastion of order run by a Babbage engine of limited omniscience. Several of the citizens were clockwork-and-punchtape automata.
Meet Citizen Rustbuckets, one of the oldest inhabitants! I love Stonehaven sculpts almost as much as I hate paying for them. Look at that benign goggle-eyed face and its genial steam-shovel underbite! He's here next to HLPr-bot, featured previously.
And here's Marshall Crusher, the very long steam-powered arm of the law. I tried to make it look like he's got a boiler in there.
Here's a sampling of the human and automaton population (in two shots because focus is hard).