Community Publisher Profile – Dark-Platypus Studio

Goodman Games is proud to showcase our amazing Third Party Publishers, and we want to give each of them a moment to shine. That’s the reason for our Community Publisher Profiles. This time up, we’ve got Andy Barlow of Dark-Platypus Studio!

The Mutant Mayhem Minis line is a collection of pewter gaming figurines designed for use with the Mutant Crawl Classics role-playing game. The other part of the Mutant Mayhem Minis line is the adventure modules. Their first adventure module, The Goats of Travail, features a sheltered village under threat from an invasive new monster species. All the monster models you need to run this adventure as a fully realized visual treat are available, and this is a trend that will continue with future releases.

Andy wrote a great summary of the miniature-making process, so we’ll just give it all to you in his words!

Andy and Erica of Dark-Platypus Studio lord over their minis!

Hi, I’m Andy Barlow, and I run Dark-Platypus Studio. Primarily what I’ve been doing for the last decade or so is making miniatures: I sculpt, make molds, and do pewter casting, both for my own projects and for other small gaming companies. I really loved Gamma World back in the day, and when I saw Mutant Crawl Classics, it brought all those old fond Gamma World memories back for me. But that didn’t inspire me to make Mutant Mayhem Minis, at least not directly, and not right away. The story behind how we got to this point is a little more complicated than that.

I love RPGs, but my wife Erica over there (*Erica waves enthusiastically*), she really loves RPGs. In fact, she has worked with Goodman Games for a number of years now, helping to run their annual Dungeon Crawl Classics tournaments at Gen Con, and the occasional Xcrawl game or tournament too. Very often she would use our home group as Guinea pigs to playtest these adventures before the big con. In doing so, we could see what miniatures and props she needed to run the game, and very often, I would end up sculpting her a custom piece or two, just because I wanted her Gen Con table to be the most awesome one there.

Fast forward to the early spring of 2018. We had discovered Mutant Crawl Classics and were having a blast playing it at home. Erica decided she wanted to write and run a couple of adventures for Gen Con and Origins. She got cranking, and it looked like they were going to be amazing. She also decided that the best way to make the con games run smoothly was to provide pre-generated characters. I thought it might be fun if we had custom sculpts for them, to really knock peoples’ socks off, so I volunteered to sculpt a few up.

Finished Mutant Mayhem Minis

Of course, I started with my own character, Dok-Tor Zayiss, and before long she handed me a few more to work on, too. And then a couple more. At some point, she decided that options were the way to go, and she just kept handing me more characters to sculpt. Client work was a little slow at the time, so I just kept cranking ‘em out. I sculpted all the monsters for the events, too, just to show her that I was just as crazy as she was. With only a few weeks to go before the approaching Cons, I made master molds for all the sculpts, cast up a few, and we both got super-busy painting everything up.

I’m happy to report that the Gen Con and Origins events did not disappoint. Our two adventurers, The Gaea Imperative and The Temple of ZiHa, went over very well, and all our tables had a blast playing them! We did too and we’re super-proud of what we had accomplished. In fact, we looked down at the pile of over 30 unique miniatures that we had made for the events and said, “What we have here is the beginnings of a Product Line.” We took the idea to Joe Goodman and got a thumbs up to license them as an official for use with MCC. So not long after Gen Con was done, we launched the Mutant Mayhem Minis Kickstarter. 30-odd days after that, we had succeeded in getting the funding to make the production molds and share these minis with the world.

I know that there are always people who are curious about what goes into making pewter gaming miniatures, so here’s a brief overview of how it all works:

  • While I tend to favor an ‘old school’ look, all of our figures begin life in a very new-fangled way. They are digitally sculpted on my computer, and then 3D printed on a high-resolution SLA printer. After the 3d prints are cleaned and touched up, then the process becomes much more traditional.
  • The next step is to make a Master mold. The prints are embedded in a circle of uncured silicone rubber, which at this point has the consistency of soft clay. Just like clay, I can sculpt it and push it around, to make sure the figures are well supported and help control the parting line. I then put on some mold release and put another ½” circle of uncured rubber on top of them. This big disc of rubber then gets put in a special ‘can’, which is then placed in a vulcanizer. This is really nothing more than a heat press. It puts that can under about 2 tons of pressure, all while heating it to 325 degrees f. After about an hour, this combination of heat and pressure cures the rubber, and it comes out as a solid flexible rubber that is capable of withstanding the heat of molten pewter. All that pressure has also forced the rubber into every tiny little space around the models, so every minute detail is captured. I break apart the two halves, pop out the 3d prints, and then cut in gates for the metal to flow into the cavities, and vents so that air can flow out.
The Master mold, an important part of the mini making process.
  • Then it is time for the magical fun that is spin-casting. This is not actually a fishing thing. I place the mold in my spin caster, a washing machine-sized contraption that basically clamps the mold shut, and then spins it really fast. Molten pewter is poured into the machine. That pewter falls into the hole in the center of the mold, and then centrifugal force causes it to be pulled out into all the cavities. I keep it spinning until the metal cools, and this pressure again causes all the tiny details in the mold to be captured, providing metal castings of the highest quality. I’ll spin that master mold a couple of dozen times and generate lots of copies of each individual model.
  • Then comes production molds, I’ll clean up the castings, and place as many of them as I can fit of all one figure into each mold. That way, each time I spin the mold it generates multiple copies of the same piece, which really speeds up production. Other than that difference, the process is very much the same as described above for making the master molds.
  • Finally, it is time for production. This process involves me hanging out in the garage for several days, just spinning those molds, again and again, making great heaping piles of miniatures.

The miniatures we are making for Mutant Mayhem Minis are certainly unique, with a wide range of xenotypes, and tons of post-apocalyptic flavor built into all their tiny details. But there are lots of miniatures companies and miniatures out there, and what makes our’s most unique is that they are designed to go hand-in-hand with our adventure modules. Our first release, The Goats of Travail, already has custom-designed miniatures available from us for all the monsters and encounters in the adventure. A lot of the monsters from our 2018 Gen Con games are also already in the lineup, so they’ll be all set for minis once we get them ready for publication.  Of course, we’ve also already submitted our games for this year’s con: The Rats of G.I.M., and Bob-Dar and the Quest for the Golden Treat. Sign up if you can, we’d love to see you there. Now I just gotta get sculpting on those minis…

Hi-tech miniatures storage device.

Author: jmcdevitt

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