We continue Elemental Evil week here at Diehard GameFAN. Today’s interview is with John-Paul Brisigotti, the CEO of Battlefront Group. I was especially excited to do this interview as I just started miniature paint about fifteen months ago and have found it to be relaxing and a lot of fun. Sure I’ve had Warhammer armies since Fifth Edition, but I never really tried painting until the beginning 0f 2014 with my Reaper Bones Kickstarter. Since then I’ve been painting up a storm from figures from the Batman Miniature Game by Knight Models to Palladium’s Robotech RPG Tactics.
If you’re unaware, Gale Force 9 is the official miniature provider of Dungeons & Dragons and I’m a big fan of their figures. I have the Anton Marivaldi set (from the novel The Reaver) to paint as well as Isteval from Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. I’ve got a huge backlog of things to paint but I definitely want to get their Xanathar and Adult Red Dragon models. As someone new to collecting and painting miniatures, I wanted to ask questions about the entire process that goes into a sculpt in addition to asking questions about the Elemental Evil line specifically. So whether you’re a fan of GF9’s figures, a D&D diehard or just someone that wanted to learn more about miniatures, I hope you’ll find this interview rather informative.
Diehard GameFAN: When you partner with Wizards of the Coast for each line of the Collector Series’ miniatures, how do you decide which characters/monsters will be made? Do you flip through the books and say, “We want to cast Character X.” or does Wizards say, “Here is who we want you to sculpt.”
John-Paul Brisigotti: This is a very collaborative process between us with neither party going in with a fixed idea of what is possible until we have bounced ideas around. We always start by looking at the source material and me getting excited. This comes from being a long time D&D player who still can’t believe I get to do what I do for a living. At this point, my team and I work through some options and potential poses. Then we throw a suggested selection back at Wizards to see what they think. When the Wizards team have had a think, we quickly get to the same level of enthusiasm to see what is possible with the ideas we like and then we progress to the sculpting stage. At the very start of the process, I got together in person with the Wizards team and we spent time brainstorming potential ideas that gave us our starting list. Our original plan was created this way and almost everybody in the room got one of the things they wanted made.
The first year of releases was a wide assortment of ideas from novel characters to some older module art giving us a huge variety of characters and monsters so we could see what was possible. Since the fifth edition launch, we are in a more coordinated place so you will see more miniatures directly related to Wizards and the other partners’ products so everything from the adventure product to models that are from the Neverwinter MMO will be out in the first half of this year.
DHGF: Your miniatures tend to be limited to only 1,500 sets per figure. Why such a low number?
Brisigotti: When the idea of the Collectors Series first came up, I wanted to have a range of models that no D&D fan has ever had. The goal was never to make an ever-growing range but to have figures rotate out of print so that range was constantly evolving over time. The limited number idea was a direct result of this but without the stigma of limited meaning more “costly.” Given there is a limitless supply of ideas for models both from classic and new modules and projects in the pipeline, we are able to keep this plan while supporting the latest adventures, like the Elemental Evil releases, and still fit in some great monsters like the new Remorhaz or Adult Red Dragon.
DHGF: Gale Force 9 casts their miniatures in Resin. What makes you choose Resin as your material of choice over say white metal, plastic, restic, or pewter?
Brisigotti: In the miniatures world there are now several materials you can work with to give you different results and the resin we use is at the top of the list for retention of detail. Resin comes in a varying grades depending on your needs and the Collectors Series made in our factory uses the top grade that is usually reserved for making “masters.” We chose this material to make absolutely sure that every detail our sculptors put on the model is then conveyed so the player is getting an exact copy of the model we made. Materials like white metal are more robust but will never capture the original model in the same way. Plastic is a great for larger volume items but you always have the choice between the “softer” looking products or the “hard plastic” style which work well for higher volume production once you have spent the price of a new car on the tool.
DHGF: Will there be any terrain pieces for the upcoming Elemental Evil line ala your Caverns of the Underdark set, or will all the pieces be humanoid and monsters?
Brisigotti: With Elemental Evil we started with grand terrain ideas to do exactly what we did for Caverns with each node. However, when we looked at what it would take to pull things off, we realized we had bitten off more than we could chew. With such a great list of models already on the schedule, the big plan for terrain was scaled back and put on the shelf for a later date as let’s face it, elemental node mats with 3-D terrain is never going to not be cool. We do have some 3D spell effects and a spell deck coming with the adventure to accompany the eight miniatures packages (Twelve miniatures total), so there is no shortage of things to excite any player participating in the Elemental Evil campaign.
DHGF: How long does it take to sculpt and cast a figure for you?
Brisigotti: For a standard human figure it will take Giorgio Bassani, our principal sculptor, about a week depending on complexity. The bigger the model, the longer it takes; so an Ogre would be two weeks, etc. Charles Woods, who does our digital work, will take about two weeks for a monster but again that depends on the complexity. The Elemental myrmidons took that long, but the Adult Red Dragon has taken almost a month. In both cases the initial sculpt is not the production model, as it then gets “cut up” for production once Wizards is happy with it. That can be a simple task, like an arm separation or something more complex like the male medusa head that we are doing right now that belongs to the prophet associated with the Elemental Evil Cult of Black Earth. Mastering the model for mass production takes another week between the studios and the factory. Full scale production will begin shortly afterwards, so the entire process can be from two to six weeks depending on the model.
DHGF: Has there even been a time when you’ve had an idea for a figure that looked great on paper but wouldn’t sculpt or cast right? If so, what do you do when that happens?
Brisigotti: Indeed we did. In our initial list of figures at the start of our partnership with Wizards of the Coast, we had two models that taught us a great deal: the Eye Tyrant and Lolth. Both figures had such great design briefs and we ended up with masters that looked great. However, when the time came to “cut them up,” we realized we had simply gone too far down the design path without taking production into account enough to not have issues. Both models had extensive reworking so that we ended up with both a great model and something that can be reproduced, the latter being the harder part of any sculptor’s job. Making a great model is much easier if it never has to be mass produced. Learning as we go now means we have not had it happen since, but it all depends on how crazy we get with our poses so it might well happen again particularly on something big.
DHGF: Can you share with us what the miniatures of the Elemental Evil line will be?
Brisigotti: We have eight packages coming with a total of twelve miniatures. Each month has a different elemental power starting with the Cult of the Howling Hatred and culminating with the Cult of the Eternal Flame.
DHGF: You’re also going to be doing the Princes of the Apocalypse Dungeon Master’s Screen. That’s a big change from miniatures. How hard is it to balance both the crafting of play aids and miniatures? Do you have two different design teams, or are people wearing a lot of hats over there?
Brisigotti: Given we started our license with Wizards almost five years ago with gaming aids, making RPG accessories like the DM’s Screen is actually the easier of the two products as we have had some practice. That is not to say we don’t keep adding new items like the screens and spell decks, but working with Wizards on products like that is easy after all the years we have known each other. We do have different teams working on each area so mats, spell decks, screens and tokens are created in New Zealand, terrain and mastering in the US, the models by the studio in the UK and the entire range manufactured in our factory in Malaysia. It’s a truly globally made range of products.
DHGF What sorts of information will we see in the Princes of the Apocalypse DM Screen?
Brisigotti: As with the Dungeon Master’s Screen we made for Tyranny of the Dragons, the Princes of the Apocalypse DM Screen will have a balance of core information useful for any game combined with the specific DM needs for running Elemental Evil. It also features stunning artwork from the campaign.
DHGF: For those that recently purchased the regular DM screen that came out in January, what about your Princes of the Apocalypse DM Screen will make gamers want to pick up this version as well?
The regular screen is a great product as it gives you everything you need for any adventure you want to run. For those parties who are going to run through the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure, having the specific screen is just a great way to help the DM for the months of play ahead. At $14.99, we see the Princes of the Apocalypse screen as a low-impact way for DMs to have the tables and information at hand to provide players with tons of adventure and intrigue in defeating the powers of Elemental Evil.
There you go. As I mentioned in the interview, each GF9 figure/set only gets 1,500 made, so you if you’re interested, you might want to snag figures while you can. Check your local brick and mortar store for figures. Otherwise you can order directly from Gale Force 9’s online store or other online retailers like Miniature Market. If you want to learn more about what Gale Force 9 has planned, you can always visit their website or check out their official Facebook page. Check back with us tomorrow as we continue Elemental Evil week here at Diehard GameFAN. We’ll have our last interview with a company contributing to the Elemental Evil line of products and games.