Here, Here, Fellow Model-Makers

One of my customers, Jürgen Klüser, recently purchased my 1812 frigate in 1/700 scale.  Prior to that, however, he bought this:

1_700 trireme

This is a model of a trireme in 1/700 scale.  This is meant to be one of the larger triremes constructed during the Hellenistic Period, with 70 oars (most had around 50).  Of course, a ship like this would also have been typical of a smaller Roman warship.

Anyway, the reason that I bring this up is that Jürgen has quite an extensive collection of models (far larger than my own).  Below is a screenshot of my trireme on his website.Juergen trireme screenshot

For some odd reason, I could not get a higher resolution on any of the photos.  I have the larger one only because he sent to me.  Anyway, you can check my stuff out for yourself on his website (as of this writing, he doesn’t have anything else under my name yet), or check out his homepage for lots of other interesting models.  Most of these models, as you can probably imagine, are commercially available kits (he’s not selling them on his website, by the way), not the 3D-printed oddities that have only recently entered the market to fill in the gaps.  I’m serious about that, by the way.  You try finding models of Greco-Roman warships in your local hobby shop – I don’t know about in Germany, but you certainly won’t have any luck in the U.S.

Anyway, I had another reason for making this post, and that’s because I’m in the process of doing something similar with my own models.  As you might have noticed in the post about the 1812 warships, I’ve been going crazy with the camera lately.  Now that I have a decent set-up, I intend to start posting lots of pictures and doing something similar to Jürgen with my blog.  Granted, I’ll be sticking with my own creations, and I don’t expect to have a particularly large gallery any time soon, but I think that this is something all model-makers should do.  There simply isn’t enough appreciation of this sort of work, even (and perhaps most especially) within the families of people who do this, and without galleries to preserve the careful work, a lot of it is simply tossed out like rubbish.  I’ve managed to save exactly eight model aeroplanes so far, all from my late former employer (that may seem redundant, allow me to clarify: the proprietor of the company I used to work for died while I was still working, but I continued working there for another two years), whose widow simply wanted to get rid of them.  You’ll see them eventually, as I intend to take pictures before I find them proper homes (four of them are quite large, and I think would be better suited to adorning the chart-room at my local aerodrome, rather than my bookshelf).

I’d rather not end on such a negative note, so I’ll leave you with a head-scratcher: my next post (or, at least, the next one with lots of pictures) will likely be about shoes.  Seriously, shoes.

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The Tank Collection

As you may know, I offer several Soviet heavy tanks in my Shapeways shop.  I have the entire KV series available, except for the KV-85 and the [possibly mythical] KV-6 land battleship.  However, my hand remains steady only when shooting a rifle, not when trying to paint 6mm scale models.  Therefore, I didn’t have pictures of them painted until now, when my most frequent customer provided a picture of everything he bought from me, and then some.

Fred's tanks labelled

All but Object 263 and the S-51 (both Soviet self-propelled guns) are available in the “tanks” section of my shop.  If you want to know more about each of these without visiting the product pages, keep reading.

All eight are experimental and/or cancelled projects.

KV-220: an experimental step up from the KV-1, superior in every way, with a longer chassis and 85mm cannon.  A single prototype was constructed in 1941, then lost in December of the same year after a direct hit from a 150mm howitzer.

KV-4: about 20 different designs were proposed for this tank, though my original customer (not the one who took this picture) wanted the version from the game “World of Tanks.”  The game designers based their model very closely on project Strukov.  However, the KV-4 was to be produced at the Kirov plant in Leningrad, so all experimental projects were cancelled when the city was attacked.

KV-3: three projects, objects 221, 222, and 223, were proposed for the KV-3.  The design was meant to be a step up in every way from the KV-1, rather like the KV-220.  Object 223 was the most heavily-armed and armoured version, and thus chosen.  It had a 107mm cannon and a maximum armour thickness of 120mm.  However, the prototype was destroyed before production could begin and the project promptly cancelled.

T-150: the new diamond-shaped turret of the KV-220 on a standard KV-1 chassis, and also with a more powerful engine.  The only one ever built was destroyed while defending Leningrad.  Are you noticing a pattern yet?

KV-7: two 45mm cannons and one 76.2mm cannon were nestled into a casemate.  This design was not very effective, and after one prototype was built in 1941, the project was revised into the KV-7-2, which carried a 152.4mm howitzer in place of the three smaller guns, thus leading directly to the SU-152, which did enter production.

S-51: model by Kampfflieger.  A step up from the SU-152 (!), this vehicle was armed with a 203mm howitzer, which brought the vehicle’s weight up to 66 tonnes, though none of that weight could be attributed to the roof, which to be removed in order for the gun to be loaded.  This one was built considerably later than the others, tested in 1944, and cancelled within a year, as it was not very successful.

KV-5: yet another experimental project out of the Kirov plant, cancelled when Leningrad was attacked.  Only one design, object 225, was proposed.  Like object 223, this one had a 107mm cannon, but could carry a lot more ammunition, naturally.  Two machine gun turrets could also defend the tank from infantry armed with anti-tank weapons.  The weight was projected to be 100 tonnes, making this a super-heavy tank, and the heaviest ever built by the Soviets… except no prototype was ever built.

Object 263: model by oyvindsofienlund.  This one is quite out of place, as it was built in 1951 on an IS-7 chassis and armed with a 130mm cannon.  Naturally, since the IS-7 (object 260) also had a 130mm cannon, this thing seemed pointless.  About the only thing it had going for it was that it was 8 tonnes lighter than the IS-7.  Stalin didn’t like it, and Khrushchëv had no interest in continuing to produce heavy tanks, so the project was cancelled, along with everything else over 37 tonnes.

Warships of 1812

Let’s start with the bomb ship in 1/700 scale.  This model comes in two parts.

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The smallest drill I have is 1mm, but I needed 0.7mm to clean out the mortar barrels.  I used a bent sewing pin instead.

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The mortars after de-spruing and clean-up (removal of tiny printing artefacts, which were far too small for any of my camera lenses to capture, but which stuck out like a sore thumb to my horribly myopic eyes).

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A pair of smooth-jaw, self-closing forceps proved perfect for both installing and positioning the mortars.

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I chose to position the mortars facing both the bow and stern for now.  They snap into place easily, and rotate quite freely (as long as you have something to grab them with, of course).  Since aiming (as imprecise as it is with barrels proportioned like teacups) and loading took so long for early mortars, wargamers who choose to use this model may take a full turn just to position their weapons for their next attack.  Naturally, this depends on what rules you’re playing by, after all, most naval wargames that I know of don’t even use bomb ships.

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Two views of the bomb ship next to the Flying Dutchman.  If you read my previous post, you know why the scale is something of an issue.  The bomb ship is certainly the right size (given that I had actual data to work with), but the Dutchman is absurdly large for a 68-gun galleon.

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The 1/700 and 1/1000 scale bomb ships.  Both of these models can be ordered here.

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The set of 1812 warships.  They look remarkably similar, though the difference is much more apparent in the bottom photo.

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The 1812 warships and an early English galleon.  All the models are supposed to be 1/1000 scale, though I’m not certain if galleons ever got this big back when they still had four masts.  By the way, in case you’re wondering, I used to make all of my model sailing ships trimmed for running, but after issues with the masts twisting inside the plastic bags they were packaged in, my new standard practise became to trim all square sails by 30 degrees.  Twisted and broken masts are far less common now.

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At least this one is accurate, since I had actual blueprints to work with when I made my model of the Preussen.  She’s missing one of her staysails, but that doesn’t matter for the purpose of this photo.

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So, there you have it, two ships that serve as the backbone of any sensible navy during the War of 1812, be it British, French, American, or Russian.  As you probably know, the British were enamoured with three-deck ships-of-the-line as well.  Don’t worry, I’ll have one of those soon enough.

Sets and Goofs

The latest addition to my Shapeways shop is a pair of single-deck warships of a design that emerged in the late 18th century and were used throughout the first half of the 19th century.  For this reason, I have called them the “1812” warships.  They are currently available in 1/700 scale and 1/1000 scale, and the latter will soon be available as a set, which is much more cost-effective for those who wish to build a fleet.1812 warships

The ship on the right is a 44-gun frigate, the same exact type as “Old Ironsides,” otherwise known as the USS Constitution.  The gun deck has 44 gunports, including the stern chasers, but the upper deck can accommodate many more guns.  This one has an additional eight gunports on the upper deck, bringing the total count up to 52.  Constitution herself frequently carried more than 50 guns, as the ship’s armament could be configured at the captain’s discretion.

The ship on the left is a bomb ship, also called a mortar ship.  This type was developed directly from the earlier bomb ketch, which is so-named because, at the time, “ship” strictly meant a three-masted vessel, and during the 17th century, there was no room for a foremast on a ship that carried a mortar.  By the end of the 18th century, however, warships had become large enough that mortars could be fitted to full-rigged ships.  Unlike a bomb ketch, which had to be built with a wider hull, a bomb ship needed only have its masts moved a little farther apart, and have the rope stays replaced with chains to keep them from catching fire.  On my model, I have removed the lowest staysails entirely, as well as giving it one fewer jib than the frigate, as an easy way to distinguish the two.

The reason I brought up the USS Constitution earlier was simply because she had a fairly common design for her day.  The ship is highly celebrated, so data is very readily available.  My frigate has approximately the same dimensions.  In so doing, however, I discovered that I DUN GOOFED with all of my model ships from earlier periods.  WHAD-I-DO?  I made them WAY TOO BIG.  The Flying Dutchman, for instance, has 68 guns, in gunports that are 1mm square, which means that they would be 1 metre square on the full-size ship.  Constitution wasn’t even that big.  In fact, it wasn’t until the construction of the iron-hulled HMS Warrior in 1860 that gunports were that big.  So, based on that, the Flying Dutchman model that I have looks perfectly proportioned, but is roughly 50% larger than she should be.  In fact, she should probably be the same size as my “English Galleon,” while my English galleon and Portugese “Caravela de Armada” should be smaller still.  So, how am I going to fix this?  I’m going to change the scales on all the suspect models from 1/1000 to 1/700, which ought to be a bit more accurate.  I may eventually re-upload properly-sized models for 1/1000 scale, but that will take a while.

The Gadfly Gun

Those familiar with Greek Mythology are probably aware that gadflies are creatures that the gods use to ruin your day.  They are either bot flies or horse flies (stories are not really clear on that), and the gadfly is best known for being used by Zeus to kill Bellerophon by biting Pegasus (in some versions of the story, in others Athena saves him).

With that out of the way, I present the Gadfly Gun.  It is the nickname given to a steam-powered, self-propelled siege mortar that the chuyinka developed.  This thing will ruin your day.  Or your fort.  Or your entire city.  Or all of the above.  And it could kill you in the process.

Gadfly gun

The gun itself looks dinky, but it has a 60cm bore, and fires shells weighing in at 2000 kg!  I based this design on the Karl Gerät of World War II, a German self-propelled siege mortar that lobbed the exact same two-tonne nasties at Allied cities.  However, the Karl Device (that’s what the German name literally means) was a logistical nightmare to operate, whereas the Gadfly Gun’s problems lie entirely in its production.  This 280-tonne monstrosity is made from two steam locomotives bolted together, with the engines themselves powering the drive sprockets.  There are four sets of tracks in a very similar configuration to Object 279.  Once built, operating this contraption is fairly easy, as it has a substantial operational range, and an on-board magazine.  Given the many different types of shells that can be used, however, separate loading vehicles do accompany the Gadfly Gun.  The primary vehicle can carry a dozen charges, but only three shells at a time.  Both the propellant charge and the shell are loaded via a telescoping steam ramrod directly behind the cab (unlike the Karl Device, the Gadfly Gun is a muzzle-loader).  Meanwhile, in case you’re wondering, the coal box is at the rear, and coal is brought to the fireboxes (inside the cab) by means of augers inside chutes.

(This next paragraph has nothing to do with the model, so feel free to stop reading)  I mentioned in my last post that I might not have any miniatures up for a while.  That was a mistake, as inspiration can strike any time.  For me, a lot comes from music, and a scene from the Nine Empires played in my head as I was listening to this.  Yes, even though I am all caught up on Game of Thrones, I can’t help but sometimes put the music to the swirling images that my own brain comes up with.  A bit of mad typing and clicking later, and the Gadfly Gun came to life.  However, as of this writing, it is not yet available in my Shapeways shop.  By the way, that is not the only instance of music giving me such an idea.  In fact, yet another piece from Game of Thrones, titled “Hold the Door,” inspired an airship chase involving the ZaphnoraAeronautical Development, and Talos.  As it stands, that chase is slated to be the final chapter in book five of my series (out of nine), though I’m not writing the chapters in any particular order (hence the reason book ONE isn’t finished yet).

New Models and a Hit Logo

My Shapeways Shop now has over 150 items in it.  My most recent model as of this writing, the 151st, is also my 30th sailing ship.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have no control over what ideas pop into my head, so I’m all over the place.  I went back in time with some of my more recent models, producing a couple of floating gun batteries that predate the ironclads of the Nine Empires.

Gun batteries

And now for something completely different.  I was recently commissioned to create a logo for Vaccine Production Program Laboratory, which I am told is now a hit among the staff.  I do not usually brag about this sort of thing, especially since the design has not been formally approved, but in the interest of building my reputation, I figured that I may as well share that little tidbit.  This is the design that I sent off to Dr. Frank Arnold:

VPPL

As you might be able to tell, the overall shape is based on the antibody symbol.  I am told (by my little birds, naturally) that other entries included a syringe and an Erlenmeyer flask.  Now, assuming that my design is indeed chosen, here’s a little tip for anyone who designs logos: keep it simple, but also eye-catching, memorable, and unique.  I’ll stop it there, since I am by no means an expert on logo design.  Nonetheless, if you do that for a living, show them this, and maybe it will give them an idea.

Before I go today, I’ll leave you with a few more things to look out for.  I will likely be posting pictures of some non-miniature projects in the near future.  It’s Rennaisance Faire season where I live, and hopefully I’ll be able to make the time to go.  There is a lot to see at such events, and it should come as no surprise that I enjoy all periods of history.

Summary of Factions

Let the Wargames begin!  Soon, dear comrades, soon.

The way I see it, the chances of me actually getting my story published are slim to none, even if I could afford to be a full-time writer and produce a book series at a reasonable rate.  However, I have a toe in the door (not quite a foot, but better than nothing) of tabletop wargaming, given the popularity of my model tanks and sailing ships on Shapeways.  Mind you, the closest experience I have to wargaming is Axis and Allies, which I have played only twice in my life (once as the Axis, and once as the Allies).  That being said, I see no reason to avoid casually developing my own game and get some more market exposure.

I cannot control the ideas that pop into my head.  Sometimes, I will work on one 3D model after another, other times I’ll write several pages of the story, and other times I’ll work on my 2D graphics.  I was putting off writing this post until I had the flags for all Nine Empires finished.  Behold:Nine Empires Flags

In an earlier post, I provided some short descriptions of each of the Nine Empires, and over the course of several later posts, more detailed backstories for some of them.  This time, I’ll discuss the symbolism and best-known empire-building strategies for each nation.

Bulmut: the cross contained within a square was a long-used symbol by the westernmost kingdoms that eventually became Bulmut.  It was meant to symbolise both the sword and the hammer.  After the dwarves joined, the quatresact was integrated into the design, and the Silver Star of the North was placed in its centre.  A quatresact, by the way, is a symbol that many dwarven noble houses display.  It is essentially a square version of Odin’s Sign.

Strategy: focus on technology and industry.  Superior weaponry allows Bulmut to achieve victory on almost any battlefield.  Only the most stubborn enemies will continue fighting long enough for Bulmutian forces to suffer any significant losses.  However, with smaller numbers at its disposal, a single defeat could be devastating.

Alexandria: the double-headed eagle is the symbol of the Karamzov family.  It was originally black, but changed to gold after the family took the throne.

Strategy: fortifications and deep battle.  The borderlands have many forts, and behind them are rugged lands that are easy to dig into, but difficult to move armies through.  Alexandria’s wealth comes largely from agriculture and trade, and the rail lines allow the empire to quickly move both soldiers and resources around in the event of war.  Much of the fighting consists of holding off the enemy as long as possible, then retreating into the wilderness as soon as something goes wrong.  If the winter doesn’t kill the enemy, the partisan groups hiding in the woods and angry farmers eventually will.

Kantossa: the rising sun.  Kantossa is the easternmost land of Rossbera, hence the first to see the sunrise.  It is also a wealthy nation, and is rarely affected by economic downturns.  Given its widespread trade, as long as someone on the continent is doing well, so are the Kantossi.

Strategy: trade monopoly.  Kantossi merchant ships are armed, and can defend against some fairly powerful warships.  The merchant fleet has a few dedicated warships, which are meant mainly to defend against dreadnought and other heavy warships.  Piss off the Kantossi, and you may find every single port you control under blockade.

Sondor: the sailfish on a red field is the coat-of-arms of House Azul.  The blue cross represents the rivers of the mainland, and the gold cross represents the wealth that flows over them.

Strategy: always use the land against the enemy, even if you are in their territory.  In addition to a large arsenal of dedicated river warships, Sondor makes good use of espionage to learn about the battlefield, many times for isolating the various enemy divisions and avoiding a battle altogether.  Imperial agents routinely make friends within criminal organisations that stand to benefit from a major power shift in the area.  Turning the common people against their own government is another common strategy, but it is not quite as reliable.

Drachania: “black diamond” is anthracite coal, and Drachania has a lot of it.  The black dahlia on a yellow field is the coat-of-arms of the Votavko family, and looked remarkably similar (at a distance) to the coat-of-arms of the Karamazovs, back when both were still vassals to the Skharnovs.  To avoid confusion, the families went in two different directions with the designs of their nations’ flags.

Strategy: get lost.  Seriously, enemies can just get lost within the vast wilderness of the country.  They will find that Drachania has huge amounts of untapped natural resources, but should the enemy bring in mining equipment and try to steal it, that is the time to strike, because that is when they are most vulnerable.  Drachania has potential to be a more powerful version of Bulmut, and all that is needed is one step in the right direction.  It would take no time at all to build up industry and collect the necessary materials to build a huge army with powerful weapons.  Now, if only you could find a way to motivate the people…

Karaden: “blood of the jungle, blood of the waters.”  When the request was made to turn those words into a flag, that was the result.

Strategy: trololololol!  The Karadenians have a habit of doing totally unexpected things during war, then making the trollface and saying “you mad, bro?”  Well, their rhetoric is not quite 21st-century like that, but the idea is the same.  Galleons firing explosive shells and incinerating men-of-war, the dreadnought-killing Invictus-class battleships that are smaller than many armoured cruisers, and of course, the flying galleon are all troll-weapons that the Karadenians have unleashed to discourage everyone else from getting in their way.

Breace: the arm-and-hammer was the symbol of the resistance during the War of Breacian Independence, a conflict that had been foreseen for decades, and finally took place thanks to Arcadia’s weakened state from the War of Karadenian Succession.  The many different red, white, and blue battle flags were all combined with a highly abstract version of the arm-and-hammer to produce the flag of the independent republic.

Strategy: feign surrender, then pull the rug out from under invaders.  The people of Breace enjoy their independence, and every time that Arcadia has tried to take back the territory, it is the people themselves who take up arms against the occupying soldiers and drive them back.  This usually costs Arcadia a staggering number of troops, such that continuing the war is no longer an option.  On a slightly humourous note, every time an Arcadian ruler makes the mistake of trying to reclaim Breace, it means the end of a dynasty.

Taressim: a rising star, stretched out like the arrows of expansion in green and red, symbolising blood and land.  This is how the State instructs the people to see it.

Strategy: devote yourself to the State or die.  There is nothing to do in this country if you’re not a soldier.  Even civilians work for the military in one way or another, though the options are rather limited.  When the country was first formed, life was fun, because the country was constantly at war, gobbling up other countries and expanding rapidly.  Now, surrounded by mighty empires on all sides, High Command is left with two choices: start wars that will push the country to the limit and potentially bring about its downfall, or change the directive of the State.

Arcadia: the golden compass on a dark blue field is the coat-of-arms of the Rodilos family.  Unlike its successors, House Rodilos did not see fit to come up a with completely new flag design when it rose to power.  The compass was originally meant to symbolise exploration, but on the imperial flag, symbolises conquest and dominion in all directions.

Strategy: peace through power.  I’ll eventually rephrase that before I put it in quotes, seeing as the country isn’t run by the Brotherhood of NOD.  The Arcadians do not believe that military conquest is necessary, as long as all roads run through their empire.  With huge amounts of land and natural resources at their disposal, the Arcadians have the potential to dominate the continent either by force or through economic strength.  The empire also has a large and powerful military that is capable of protecting any commercial or industrial facilities that are of great benefit to the nation, be they at home or abroad.  The main challenge that Arcadia faces is that it can’t fight everyone at once, and should it be the one to start the war, that may very well be what happens.

 

The River Dreadnought

I recently released this model in my Shapeways shop.  This is the largest and most powerful of the Sondorian river warships.QAL Angnor Alt 1The QAL Angnor looks rather similar to contemporaries of the HMS Dreadnought, but with different proportions.  The ship is shorter (120m vs 160m), wider (34m vs 25m), and the hull is only half as deep, with a freeboard of 3 metres, and a draught of 4.5 metres (vs 7m and 9m for the Dreadnought, respectively).  As with the small monitors and mid-size river cruisers, the purpose for the different proportions is to make navigating shallow and winding waterways much easier.

Unlike the river cruiser, which is designed to hide behind high riverbanks and trees, the river dreadnought is designed to stand out and instill as much fear as possible.  After all, no-one expects to be in danger from 305-mm (12-in) guns inland.  The poor Taressimian soldiers who marched deep into Sondorian territory found themselves at a tremendous disadvantage, as no land-based artillery had the power or the range to counter these mighty warships.  The towering armoured citadel allows the officers to see over the vast majority of obstacles, and in the field, ships of this type usually function as mobile command centres as well as floating artillery platforms.

River fleet

Above: the QAL Angnor in my virtual river diorama, surrounded by river cruisers.

Below: an earlier version of the ship, with a smaller forward funnel.

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River Dreadnought superfiring broadside

Above: since the guns are usually not fired from a level position, the far-side middle turret frequently fires over the near-side middle turret.  This particular type of superfiring is something that only river dreadnoughts ever did.  Thus, even though this type of ship had one fewer turret than the oceangoing variety, it effectively has the exact same firepower.

Dracologeny

I recently watched this video by AronRa.  Sometimes, to entertain myself, I sit down and watch his videos pertaining to evolution.  I’ve always found palaeontology fascinating, and not just because I like dinosaurs.  In fact, dinosaurs aren’t even my favourite.  However, this particular passage does contain a bit about dinosaurs, and not much about any other creature that actually existed.  I even based the title of this post on the title of the video I referenced.  However, I chose to combine “dragon” with the more modern term “phylogeny,” rather than with the older “taxonomy,” for reasons that should become clear to anyone who reads this and knows the difference between the two.

Regrettably, I have no pictures to show for this one, and I really ought to.  Perhaps I will post a supplement to this later, with all the pictures that will make this easier to understand.  Anyway, let’s dive into this.  I warn you, unlike the typical fantasy writer, I have given a lot of thought to the evolution of life on my made-up world.  No magic or gods in this creation myth, just nature.

Given that Varanganska has nearly twice the gravity of Earth, the fish that crawled out of the oceans need the help of every bit of flesh.  Thus, they grew three pairs of limbs, creating a hexapod paradigm.  Since much of the creature’s mass was forward, the extra support was doubled at the front end, rather than at both, hence the hexapod paradigm instead of an octopod one.  Smaller animals found the extra pair of limbs hindering, so they became dormant in all but the largest species in later periods.  Thus, there are suppressed hexapods and expressed hexapods.  Through convergent evolution, both groups evolved to have analogs in each other, adapting either thicker limbs or more of them to hold up the same body.  An example of this is the similarity between the dostrop and the sleipnus, both of which are analogs of the horse.  The former is a suppressed hexapod with very stocky limbs, and the latter is an expressed hexapod with more slender limbs.  Over tens of millions of years, limbs came and went depending on the animals’ needs.  This is most apparent with the evolution of Varanganskan dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs evolved from similar ancestors on Varanganska as here on Earth, however most creatures in both groups had six legs.  However, this is at the point that the similarities between the two evolutionary pathways begin to disappear.  Around the same time that the first proto-feathers appeared, the first group of dragons, the flightless dragons or “great serpents” break off from dinosaurs.  Today, flightless dragons have each pair of legs (or flippers, as some are aquatic) evenly-spaced over the length of their bodies.  The earliest specimens had only down feathers, and so appear to be covered in fur, but most modern species are covered in contour feathers, which, from a distance, resemble scales.

The second group of dragons broke off during a time when both lizards and smaller dinosaurs started to glide between trees.  Both wyverns and membrane-wing, more commonly called leatherwing, dragons appear.  In addition to the number of limbs, wyverns are actually reptiles, and not descended from dinosaurs as dragons are.  Leatherwing dragons also have sparse feathers, whereas wyverns have none.  Flight feathers had not yet appeared when leatherwing dragons broke away from dinosaurs, which is why they look more like the unrelated wyverns than other flying dragons.

The third group of dragons constitutes the last split of dinosaurs, which occurred shortly after the appearance of asymmetrical flight feathers.  It is at the point of their origin that dinosaurs begin to differentiate between dragons and birds.  Their common ancestor is an expressed hexapod that otherwise looked identical to Archaeopteryx.  By modern definition, the Archaeopteryx-like creature would be called a feathered dragon, rather than a bird, but it is most certainly an ancestor to both.  Modern feathered dragons all have avian wings, but with protruding claws, as well as long tails that are more lizard-like than bird-like, but can still manipulate flight feathers with them.  Another difference between feathered dragons and birds is the means of reproduction: birds are typically oviparous, whereas all three types of dragons are typically viviparous.  In other words, the majority of Varanganskan dragons do not lay eggs.

There are several exceptions to the last rule, but the most notable one is the Night’s Dragon, which is not a true dragon by any means, and, as a genetically engineered creature, does not fit into any clade.  Even by conventional taxonomy, there are too many characteristics taken from totally unrelated clades to make classifying the Night’s Dragon even possible.  These I will arrange in the order of most subtle to most radical.  First off, though the Night’s Dragon has the talons of a raptor (referring to both dinosaurs and modern birds of the type), with deeply-curved claws the size of meathooks, no raptor has even been known to have more than four toes; the Night’s Dragon has five, the outer two of which can pivot to change the configuration from 4:1 to 2:3.  Second, the Night’s Dragon has fully fused phalanges in the wings (unique to birds), and slit pupils (absent in birds) in its tetrachromatic (absent in dragons) eyes.  The Night’s Dragon arguably has better vision than any bird or true dragon, especially at night, when only owls boast such great eyesight.  Third, and this is somewhat related to the feet, the Night’s Dragon is bipedal, in spite of being an expressed hexapod, and its arms terminate in five-fingered hands with opposable thumbs, a feature unique to mammals.  Fourth, the Night’s Dragon can deliver venom by means of chelicerated fangs that fold up and retract inside its mouth.  Chelicerata is its own, totally unrelated clade, a subphylum of arthropods separate from both crustaceans and insects, but which includes arachnids.  Though vipers can have retractable fangs, none of them have chelicerae, and furthermore, no vertibrate has venom that can match the Night’s Dragon for potency, as it is the same cocktail of neurotoxins and proteolytic enzymes typically found in spider venom.

Varanganskan dragons come in all shapes and sizes, and, while some have lost legs over the years, they are still distinguishable from wyverns by both their internal anatomy and genetics.  As I mentioned, within the lore of this particular fantasy world, wyverns are reptiles, and dragons are actually dinosaurs, as birds are.  None of them breathe fire, but that did not diminish their usefullness as beasts of war, most notably by the dark elf dragonlords.  That being said, not all species of dragons can be tamed, or even trained.  Furthermore, unless you first have contact with the creature when it is very young, you would have no hope of getting it to do anything other than kill you.

One unusual dragon is the “winged lion,” a feathered dragon whose body is covered in down feathers, thus resembling fur.  The “mane” is comprised of both feathers and horns, somewhat resembling a cat’s ears.  Aside from this “mane” the creature looks little like a lion, but for many, it is the simplest way to describe the creature.  Another unusual specimen is sometimes called a manticore, though this leatherwing is far uglier, possessing  frills and horns arrayed around its head to, again, resemble a lion’s mane if you squint at it the right way.  Most dragons, however, are simply expressed hexapod versions of extant birds, or otherwise analogs of fairly small creatures, with nearly all the big ones having gone extinct by the time that The Nine Empires takes place.  Sorry to disappoint, but this is a steampunk story, after all.

Virtual Dioramas

Who doesn’t like train sets?  Even if you don’t have the patience or the space to build your own, you have to admire the detail in the set, as well as the work that went into it.  In the last place I lived, my father’s trains were set up in the finished attic.  Now, however, the only place we have to put them is the second floor of the workshop.  Unfortunately, I don’t see that space getting finished any time soon.  There are simply too many other things that need to be done in the mean time.  Therefore, computer-generated images of my own creations will be the closest I will have to those wonderful tabletop models for some time.  Admittedly, my go-to software, Autodesk Inventor, is not very good for rendering terrain or indeed, most organic shapes.  Inventor was made for designing machinery.  Tanks, ships, and buildings are easy to make with this software.  That’s where I end my rambling for today and simply share some pictures of my sets.

Diorama 1Above: five river cruisers steaming down a river.  Ten KV-1 tanks are on the riverbanks, seven of which are visible in this picture.  I will, of course, eventually replace them with tanks of my own design.

Diorama 2

Above and below: views of the river cruisers from the banks.

Diorama 3

Below: the Zaphnora approaches the Hub.Diorama 5Diorama 6Diorama 4Above: the Hub as seen from Zaphnora‘s bridge.

Inside Zaphnora's Hangar

Above: the Zaphnora inside an airship hangar.

Below: Pherazmil and Khrodanau approach the Tower of the Eyes.

Tower of the Eyes 2

Below: from this angle, Zaphnora and Grugnula can be seen approaching the tower.Tower of the Eyes 3Tower of the Eyes 4

Above: standing at the base of the tower, looking almost straight up.