Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cannibal Cookpot

An iconic scene in Pulp adventure -- an unfortunate explorer ends up in a cannibal cookpot!
 The story arc for my 28mm Pulp games has the Portuguese monk, Brother Virigi, being captured by pygmy cannibals (of the South Seas, no less!). An iconic cartoon image of cannibals is a big metal cookpot with a hapless explorer plopped down inside of it. So, I just h-a-d to build one for the game where the players' archeologists race to rescue Brother Virigi. After all, he's the only one who knows the way to the lost city. I agonized over how to do this and how elaborate to make it.

I knew I was doomed to an elaborate construction when my friend Mike S mentioned "LED votive candles" to me one Sunday evening after gaming. "The make votive candles with LED lights?" I asked. Then immediately went into "Hmmm..." mode. I stopped by Hobby Lobby the very next day on the way home from work. Wouldn't you know it? They had all their LED candles on 50% off! Naturally, I picked up a pack of two. They were a bit taller than I'd hoped. My original thought was to make a little mound to slip over the candle and have the cookpot suspended over the LED flame. At 1 1/2 inches tall, the mound would have to be bigger, which meant more elaborate construction around it.
This terrain piece was made from 3 layers of blue foam with a hollow cylinder in the center for the LED votive candle
I apologize for not taking "work in progress" pictures. It is a fairly straight-forward construction. I cut three layers of blue foam out so they would stack on top of each other in a rough, rounded, pyramid mound. I then traced the edge of the candle out in the center of each piece of blue foam. I cut out this central circle and stacked the three pieces up, gluing them together so they would fit over the candle. I sized it so the flame part of the LED barely protrudes above the surface of the mound. A piece of black styrene was the base, which also needed the candle hole cut out of it.

Next, I took some dowel rod and roughed it up with an X-acto knife so it looks like a tree trunk, carving it to a point. I drilled a hole right before where it narrows to a point and inserted a piece of craft wood to be the crossbars the cookpot hangs from. Then, I plunged the dowel rod poles through the three layers of blue foam so they'd have a firm grip and stand upright. I added Tacky glue around the base for additional grip. Next, I trimmed up the three layers of blue foam to give it a less stacked and more rounded appearance. Blue foam doesn't really trim well with an X-acto knife, so this was fairly messy.

The next step was working on the surface of the mound. I glued on larger stones here and there along the surface of the foam. Afterwards, I painted all but the stones the earth brown I use for my bases. When dry, I painted the brown areas again with white glue and poured Woodland Scenics "Gray Blend" coarse ballast over it to make it a rocky mound. Once dry, I painted the surface with my black ink wash to give the stones further depth.
Ladder and platform made from bamboo skewers and craft sticks
Because of the height of the votive candles, I decided my pygmy cannibals would need a ladder and platform to stand on while cooking their "dinner." I made these out of craft sticks or bamboo skewers, and Tacky glued them into place. I also dug through my figure drawers and found two plastic figures I wouldn't be needing. I cut off their heads, hollowed out a wedge shape underneath and mounted them atop the poles with Tacky glue. Now, it was time to do some painting. All wooden parts were painted Dark Brown first, then dry brushed a medium brown and then Khaki. The heads received a light gray base coat, then a dry brush of the palest flesh tone I own. I very sparingly added some less ghoulish flesh tone here and there on the bald head to break up the monotony. Everything painted then received a black ink wash. I did go back and add a highlight to the larger stones that were protruding from the mound -- the ink wash had really darkened them up.
The cookpot itself is a doll house tin pail from Hobby Lobby, as is the votive LED candle
The cookpot itself is a doll house tin pail from Hobby Lobby. I painted it black with two coats, then dry brushed it copper. I don't know why, but I always imagine primitives having copper utensils and metals. More earthy looking, I guess! Anyway, the pail already had two little rings which I'd pre-measured to loop over the craft wood crossbars. I hung the pail on the crossbars and then added more ink wash to "fix" it into place so it didn't swing back and forth. The final step was to flock the styrene base, as well as adding patches of grass on the mound. I used my normal, multi-step method of coarse ballast and sand for the earth texture.
Now imagine that yellow light flickering, reflecting off the cotton whisps, and you get a better idea of the effect...!
Now, it was time to go back to what started this whole elaborate construction -- the votive candle. I shredded cotton ball material and glued it around the top of the candle so that only the fake flame protruded. The cotton ball would reflect the light of the flickering LED and look like smoke from the firepit. I did not glue cotton to the inside of the pail. I figured I would just manually place it in there to cover the base of whatever unfortunate figure has been chosen for that evening's dinner.

All in all, I am happy with how it came out. It'll be a great counterpoint to Skull Cave once I run the scenario. Plus, cannibals are a staple of Pulp adventures, so I'm sure I'll be able touse it time and time again. Hope you like it!