It’s never a good sign when you find the dungeon master watching Silent Hill with a notepad in his lap. Yet this is how the story of The Gaunt began– by observing the terrifying, the cringe-inducing, and the flesh-crawling moments of one of the grittiest horror films from the last decade. My notes, and thoughts, went something like this:
Horror is most effective when it’s something that can’t be controlled, killed, or turned aside. When horror is a force of nature it becomes more like a nightmare than a bad zombie movie. If it can be stopped with good detective work (The Ring) trapped by arbitrary rules (Dracula) or killed because of a grammatical error (Lord of the Nazgul) then it’s not really horror. It’s a scary monster, like everything else we fight in Dungeons and Dragons.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote:
“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
But what if it can’t be killed? What if your only choice is to flee? To plunge deeper into the nightmare? To hope the creature leaves you alone, hiding in a dark closet, so it can pursue the other people in the house?
The Dumb Bet:
During a discussion on one of the miniature painting forums I frequent, someone introduced the 6-Color Challenge. Put simply: the challenge is to paint a miniature using 6 or less bottles of acrylic model paint. This is not as easy as it sounds, since many of the paints do not mix well, or at all, and most experienced model painters come to rely on a trove of highlights, base tones, primaries, secondaries, metallics, and pre-mixed washes.
So it was that I mangled a Gauntfield figure recently purchased from Reaper Mini’s Bones catalogue, transforming him into a Silent Hill-esque force of horror. I wanted ugly, decayed, moldering, festering brown and red in all its grotesque hues. Here is how it was done.
I started by removing the eyes. Because reasons. Also, eyes indicate mood, expression, and intent. I wanted everything except madness and grinning ferocity wiped away. I used a standard exacto blade and carved upwards from the bottom of the cheeks to the inside of the hat, and painted the face to look like a yellowed, purifying bandage.
While painting I managed to get the tones I wanted with 5 layers:
The Base: Marron Brown with a touch of Elfic Flesh for a weathered leather look. By the end of the base layer the entire figure looked like an old catcher’s mitt.
Browning/Weathering: Because Marron Brown is a very dark color, but also very watery, I was able to get a lot of depth by re-painting the pants, hat, and sickle handle multiple times until I got a gradient of browns. I mixed in a bit of red for his bloody bag, so it would have a softer red look (as opposed to the bloody shreds of his flesh-cloak)
First Dry Brush: Elfic Flesh + Black = Tan-Grey. I left some brown on the sickle to give it pocked rust spots. Next I dry-brushed his bones, bandaged eye, teeth, and decorative skulls with more Elfic Flesh.
Wash: 1/4 black paint to water. This made his bones pop, gave him a more impressive maw, and brought out the details in his clothes. I then muddied the wash into a brown-grey for the ground.
Final Dry Brush: I gave his bones and eyes a final brush of light red. I went heavy and smooth on the bag’s red stains so it would have a bloody soaked-through look. With the upper coat I lightened it a bit, and added a gradient of red near the bottom, giving it a skinned-flesh texture.
This isn’t my favorite monstrous paint job, but it’s definitely the ugliest. When it comes to goblins, bugbears, and trolls, I usually prefer dark, well-defined lines, with an almost cartoonish quality. But for my unstoppable evil, I went sick.
Game Ink: Negro Black
Game Ink: Marron Brown
Game Ink: Elfic Flesh
Game Ink: Scarlett Red
The Gaunt’s Purpose:
I won’t spoil too much, since my players sometimes read these posts and The Gaunt hasn’t hit the table yet. In a nutshell The Gaunt was formed within the layers of the infernal realm by the saturation of nightmares. Once willed into existence, the lords of hell gave him the task spreading corruption and rot into every corner of the realm. This freed the other demonic lords from the responsibility of tending their fiendish gardens. That is, until The Gaunt wandered into the realm of men, where he seeks to spread corruption with a mindless fervor.
So yah, he’s basically hell’s interior decorator.