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le Compte du Masque

Character figures are great. Nothing really makes a horde of grunts stand out on the board like a dynamic character figure. For campaigns (RPG or battle), they are essential. While locations and storylines provide some sense of continuity for a campaign, there is nothing better than a continuing character to be the focus for both consistency and individuality.

And that is the challenge with making this type of figure. You want them to be the "same" character time and again, but it takes away from the illusion if they are wearing the same clothes all the time. If you meet the bartender in a back alley behind the stables to sell some contraband, why is he smiling, wearing an apron, and washing out a mug? (we used the same figure for both situations) Or, on the flip side, why is our new ally, whom we rescued from drowning at the hands of bullies, now shorter when he is armoured up to go adventuring with us? (we used different figures for different situations)

The Compte du Masque is a generic continuing character that I use in different campaigns to fill in a lot of sustainment roles - evil mastermind, mysterious hero, outsider vigilante, scientific mastermind, etc. So it is key to have the "same" guy with different looks. When the compte shows up in a smoking jacket it sets one kind of tone, whereas when he busts in in full steampunk armour, it sets another. So, not only do I need a set of good figures, but I also need to be able to make new ones, and pretty quickly, too.

This is Brainiac 13 from DC comics and the original (or maybe the second, but definitely the first DC) Heroclix line. He is not the character. But he is the source of a key piece for the character. But, before we get to that, here's why this is a great peice. Well, tentacles. That and since 'Clix was bought and sold, the new company reneged on the original promise not to remove old figures from official play. The price of old figs dropped. You should be able to get two of these for a buck. That's 12 tentacles for a dollar, which is a good deal if you have to throw the rest of the figure away. But I don't. The body is also nice for giant, hulking, Frankenstein monster things. I have a slew of them made into Weird War II Axis homonculi. That leaves the head.

And the head is what I want for the Compte. Sure it's a robot head. In garish colors. But looking at the shape, size, and style of it, with a little silver paint, it is ideal for an iron mask. Angular, but still with human features. Distinct and a bit off. And larger than a regular 28mm head. This head will be the "continuity" piece for the Compte.

Its pretty easy to see what I did there. Just took the head and swapped it on to another figure (or a hybrid of two or three other figures). Not to difficult. But looking at the pictures, you do get a good sense of continuity amoung the different figs. They look like the "same" person in different settings. This has a lot to do with the fact that the face is evolutionarily the key thing we focus on for identifying peoople. So much so, that when we key on the head being the same, we subconsciously ignore (or justify) any of the other changes that might be inconsistent.

Look at the above photo again. Is the first thing you thought, "WoW! he has a lot of different types of body structure (height, weight) for being the same guy!"? Certainly, the head doesn't mask your ability to see those things. But you have to consciously decide to do it. You have to put yourself into a mode of thought that "these are different figures; now I will look for the differences." If you have a good campaign going, instead of doing that, the players will think, "Oh! The Compte!".

Beyond the basic psychology, I think this focus of recognition is helped immensely by the fact that we play wargames "at arm's length" where we are looking down on the tops of heads and at faces, instead of with a natural perspective for other people. That may account for why we, as wargamers, generally have a penchant for uncovered, unhelmeted figures when the tactical situation makes that a bit nonsensical.

Well, a couple of pictures and a little rough discussion of psychology, and this one is over. Hopefully, it provides a trick you can put in your trickbag and use in the future. I know the Compte will get a few more makeovers in the coming days. And I have a few more applications:

  • I have a helmeted samurai leader that I will duplicate with the same figure, except an unhelmeted female head
  • An upcoming RPG scene will have a crowd of civilians with a familiar headed one in it. It will be up to the players to figure out that they are playing "Where's Waldo?"
  • For one of my characters, I am going to do a series of different equipment loadouts using different figures and just doing a head swap. I may do some "wound status" variants, too.


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