Skip to main content

Launching My First Kickstarter: Icons of Pulp Fantasy

I am eager to share a passion project, Above the Fray Miniatures, that I've been working toward launching for well over a year now. My intent with this little venture is to produce affordable, small-batch 28mm miniatures for tabletop gaming.

In fact, I went live with the Kickstarter just today to help it come to fruition!

It all started as a lark in early 2017 when I stumbled across a gent from England with an Etsy store selling custom miniatures commissions. I was intrigued enough to splurge on one, and wanted the experience of "art directing" a figure design in this medium. I realized that the commission included all reproduction and molding/casting rights, and so the seed was planted in my imagination. I realized that, if I paced myself, I could put together a thematically unified set of eight miniatures inspired by my enjoyment of the pulpy sword & sorcery short stories and comics that had stirred my teenage imagination.

While directing the design of the miniatures from this side of the Atlantic, I simultaneously busied myself with learning as much as I could about the process of sculpting, molding, and casting the miniatures that I had become re-enthralled with in the past couple of years. With persistence I managed to piece together a lot of information scattered and buried in bits and pieces across arcane websites, long-abandoned forum threads, and dormant blogs. Quixotically in retrospect, I was a bit surprised not to easily find a ready-made primer a mere Google search away that what would school me on the subject (perhaps relaying what I learned would be a worthy subject of a future blog post).

Once I got the sculpted figures in hand in all of their diminutive "green stuff" glory, I set about contacting a variety of companies that offered to create the necessary production molds and then cast batches of them in metal in the small quantities I could afford. I was lucky to stumble across John Popson early in that search, and he has proven a mentor and booster from first contact, generous with time and advice on everything from how to pursue this idea economically without compromising on quality to the best way to organize my Kickstarter. John has run a number of successful Kickstarters for his own lovely creations through his Effin Cool Miniatures company. It didn't hurt that John was a fellow Ohio boy close to my age living in Cleveland; I learned that his girlfriend grew up in Defiance, Ohio, the same tiny rural town from which my ex-wife hailed.

John convinced me to get some master molds made so that I could cast a set of the figures for painting, thus better showcasing them for my Kickstarter. I did that earlier in the year, but then another long-in-the-works passion project jockeyed to the fore of my attention: The Lost Art of Kreigh Collins: The Complete Mitzi McCoy, a book through my Picture This Press that I finally got out the door last September.

Order your copy today at!
That more or less gets us up to the present moment, when I've turned my attention back to putting these miniatures out in the world for folks who might enjoy incorporating them into their games. I hope you'll consider supporting my Kickstarter. I've tried to reasonably price these, and the "extras" I am able to include have been exciting for me: Getting some of my favorite game designers  to contribute "stretch goals" in the form of character profile cards that allow players into these games. It's that spirit of camaraderie shown me by Andrea Sfiligoi (Ganesha Games) and David Phipps (Pulp Alley) that has made this hobby so seductive these past couple of years, and has inspired me to want to contribute to it on this whole other level.

A final debt of gratitude is owed my dear friend Steve Conley, who for years now has worked with me on projects of all sorts, from designing websites to creating comics with me to unfailingly sharing his expertise on a multitude of subjects. He's one of the best people I know, and I have him to thank for the cool company logo he pulled together for me on my ridiculous 11th-hour request (below). If you know Steve, you know how lucky you are to know him.

I hope you'll consider pledging in my Kickstarter, which is running now through the evening of Saturday Nov. 24. I'll post some of the images and a bit of text from it below. Thanks!

But first, check out the promo video I put together!

Icons of Pulp Fantasy: A new line of 28mm miniatures

"Let me tell you of the days of high adventure..."

Above the Fray Miniatures produces small-batch casts of pulp-era inspired sword & sorcery miniatures as homages to the types of heroes and villains found in the works of writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, R.E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and others.

We're commissioning the types of miniatures we want to see on our own gaming tables and are launching this Kickstarter believing that kindred spirits in the gaming community would enjoy including these figures in their own role playing and tabletop miniatures games.

Support from Top Names in Tabletop Skirmish Gaming

To make this endeavor even more fun for us, and hopefully you, we've reached out to some of our favorite miniatures game creators for special material so players can immediately put these Icons of Pulp Fantasy to use in their games. To that end, David Phipps, creator of the wonderful game Pulp Alley, has provided statted profiles for all eight personalities in this set of miniatures, even creating some new traits for the game. And perennial favorite Andrea Sfiligoi, creator of the popular Song of Blades and Heroes series and the recent Sellswords & Spellslingers, has statted up profiles for these miniatures to use them in both of these games, creating new traits as well as providing alternate versions of each profile at different stages in their careers. (See the stretch goals listed below.)

Prep Work Complete and Ready to Cast

The good news? About 85% of the work is finished! As you can see from both the video and the photos below, the miniatures have been sculpted and master molds created. This Kickstarter will cover the remaining costs of creating production molds and then casting the miniatures we want to share with you. We partnered with veteran miniatures caster John Popson and his Effin Cool Miniatures to ensure the quality of these casts is of a caliber we can be proud of.

This will be the first set in what we anticipate to be an annual release of miniatures in the Icons of Pulp Fantasy line. Like you, we are gamers, and this is our way of trying to contribute something to the community that has inspired us over a lifetime. So ask yourself one important question when pledging:

What is stronger, the miniature or the hand that wields it?

We're looking forward to putting these miniatures in your hands and seeing how you and your imaginations wield them!

Pledge now...with just a little more help we can make this happen!

Stretch Goals

Want to drop the miniatures right into the action? The following stretch goals let you do just that!

All unlocked stretch goals are free to every backer!

$700 Stretch Goal 

$700 Stretch Goal
Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes
 printed profile cards by the game's creator Andrea Sfiligoi! A deck of professionally printed character profile cards statted up by Andrea Sfiligoi himself for each of the eight miniatures specifically for use in his tabletop skirmish game, Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes. Sfiligoi will be introducing new character traits as well as providing multiple profiles to reflect characters' experience progressions (e.g., Barbarian, Pirate Barbarian, Barbarian King). This deck will be formatted and printed to blend in perfectly with other card decks used in this game. 

$850 Stretch Goal 
Pulp Alley 
printed profile cards by the game's creator, David Phipps!
A deck of professionally printed character profiles statted up by David Phipps himself for each of the eight miniatures specifically for use in his tabletop skirmish game, Pulp Alley. This deck will be formatted and printed to blend in perfectly with other card decks used in this game.
$1,000 Stretch Goal (LOCKED)
Sellswords & Spellslingers printed profile cards by the game's creator, Andrea Sfiligoi! A deck of professionally printed character profiles statted up by Andrea Sfligoli for each of the eight miniatures specifically for use in his tabletop skirmish game, Sellswords & Spellslingers. Sfiligoi will be introducing new character traits as well as providing multiple profiles to reflect characters' experience progressions (e.g., Barbarian, Pirate Barbarian, Barbarian King). This deck will be formatted and printed to blend in perfectly with other card decks used in this game.

$1,200 Stretch Goal (LOCKED)
"The Lions Ate Him?!?" Scenario: 
A custom, system-neutral scenario artfully presented with a map to provide the setting for players to sneak into the Tower of Set, filch what they can, and make it out of the surrounding gardens alive. Printed on double-sided card stock.
$1,400 Stretch Goal (LOCKED)
"The Night of the Orgy" Scenario: Another custom, system-neutral scenario artfully presented with a map to provide the setting for players to sneak into the Harbinger of Doom's compound and rescue the king's only daughter from his clutches. Printed on double-sided card stock. 
$1,600 Stretch Goal (LOCKED)
Upgrade: A Four-Scenario Booklet
A booklet containing the scenarios and maps for the already unlocked scenarios as well as two more scenarios custom designed to put your new miniatures into action. 


Sculptor: Deeper Reach Miniatures
Murun Thornton is freelance miniatures sculptor who takes custom commissions through his Etsy store as well as sells casts of his original miniatures creations.
Caster: Effin Cool MiniaturesJohn Popson and Effin Cool Minis is a miniatures and gaming company, with a focus on developing several categories of miniatures for use in your games and dioramas. They've been producing miniatures for their own line and casting for other gaming companies since 2013.

Stretch Goal Contributor: Ganesha Games' Andrea Sfiligoi
Ganesha Games has been producing award-winning tabletop miniatures wargames, pen-and-paper role playing games, and boardgames since 2007. Visit their home page or Lulu store.

Stretch Goal ContributorPulp Alley's David Phipps
Pulp Alley captures the fast-paced excitement of our favorite action and adventure stories. Pulp Alley is jam-packed with heroes, villains, and plenty of unexpected perils. Designed primarily as a tabletop miniatures game for 2 to 4 players, Pulp Alley covers any time period, any setting, and any genre—science fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, war tales, and many more!


Again, thanks to everyone who has supported me getting this project to this point, and thanks to all of you who help get it over the finish line by pledging in the Kickstarter.


  1. That's absolutely brilliant Joe! Congrats and all the best for a successful Kickstarter 🙂


Post a Comment

Well-thumbed posts

Lost Art of D&D No. 2: Games Workshop's Holmes Basic (1977)

After Games Workshop attained the license to print a co-branded edition of TSR's 1977 Dungeons & Dragons basic rules book, they set about putting their own stamp on it, designing a new cover and replacing a number of the illustrations they deemed too crudely drawn for their U.K. market.  The cover art was by John Blanche at the very start of his career as a fantasy illustrator. Blanche went on to be a mainstay at Games Workshop, producing countless illustrations for them. His fannish enthusiasm for the material--as an artist as well as a lifelong gamer--has deservedly made him a favorite over the decades. I first encountered Blanche's work in the David Day compendium, A Tolkien Bestiary (1978), to which he contributed five illustrations that sit comfortably alongside the book's chief illustrator, Ian Miller. I have a special fondness for this book, having coveted it as a child during my incipient Middle Earth fixation. My parent's procured an out-of-print copy of t

Take the High Road: Making Cheap and Easy Dirt Roads

I have wanted some good roads to add to my games for a while now. My first attempt was a couple of years ago when my standards were a bit lower and I wasn't sure how much I was interested in investing in this new hobby. I bought some PDFs of cobblestone roads that I sized, printed, and glued to felt. The result was okay, but the way my laser printer  produced the roads ended up being quite reflective to the point of almost being glossy looking. The combination of glue, paper, and felt also meant the roads had a wavy consistency and almost always curled at the edges. I used them once or twice but was never happy with them. My sub-par first attempt at making roads for my games using felt strips, glue, and printed designs. You can see how shiny and how wavy and curled at the edges they turned out. I never felt good about putting them on the table for our games and eventually stopped altogether. I've been meaning to take another crack at making some roads now that I have

Striking Back Against COVID-19: Free Conan Scenarios for 'Sellswords & Spellslingers'

Long-time readers of the blog will remember the adaptation of "Beyond the Black River" I started working on in the spring of 2018 for the  Sellswords & Spellslingers  rules. I ran it for the first time at Historicon 2018, and have now run it at several conventions and game days since. Sellswords & Spellslingers is designed for solo and co-op play, so to do my bit in helping the game community in its fight against boredom during these isolating pandemic days, I've decided to gather and organize all of the material I developed for my convention scenarios and make it freely available as a download via this blog. At the link further down is a 68-page PDF file with all of my player aids and notes. Of all of the major solo/co-op miniatures rules that have been released in the past few years, Sellswords & Spellslingers  is hands down the best if unfortunately not the most widely known or used. I highly encourage you to buy a copy of the rules, if you

All Together Now: 'Sellswords & Spellslingers' and the Pleasures of Cooperative Gaming

I've always enjoyed a good competitive match as much as the next guy, whether it was sports in high school or video games (HALO, etc.) in my thirties. But regardless of the game, I've always been partial to team play, and the best cooperative games put all of the focus on succeeding as a team. That's one of the reasons I was enthusiastic about getting Andrea Sfiligoi's latest release,  Sellswords & Spellslingers (Ganesha Games), on the table for this month's Second Saturday Scrum Club gathering. Last year I had organized a Halloween game ( recap ) to beta-test Sfiligoi's Run From the Dead , which is built atop the same cooperative mechanics as Sellswords . I was surprised when I discovered these rules were re-skinned for the fantasy genre and released last December ahead of Run From the Dead . Hopefully, the zombie apocalypse version of the rules is not too far behind because I definitely think  Run From the Dead  is the best tabletop miniatures rule s

Chainmail: Battle for the Borderlands

It's always a pleasure to find new wargaming friends, especially when they fall in line with your own gaming ethos and level of dedication to crafting fun games. Eric Hoffman had been scheduled to be a game master at Scrum Con in both 2019 and 2020, but family illnesses torpedoed his intentions both times. It's no fun as a convention organizer to have to scramble to find a replacement GM at the last minute, but life often gets in the way regardless of best intentions, and I completely understood his situation.   But having never met Eric, it was hard to know if it was a big loss to our con and its players who had signed up for his games. Now that I've had the chance to play with Eric a couple of times, I can definitively confirm that it was indeed a big loss, and now I'm really looking forward to him being able to run a game for folks at a future Scrum Con. Eric finally did get to attend a Scrum Con event of a sort when we hosted our virtual Summer Invitational back i

My First Wargame: Reviving 'Revolt on Antares'

If you don't count playing Risk as a kid of nine with a bunch of adults on a camping trip, then Revolt on Antares was my first proper wargame. And it was infatuation at first sight. I had already been playing D&D for two or three years when I first clamped eyes on this game. I immediately recognized Jeff Dee's style on the cover art from his illustrations in the D&D books, and the idea of such a little box containing an entire game from D&D's publisher, TSR--"The Game Wizards," don't you know--was too enticing to pass up.  It was spring of 1981, and my family was on vacation in the Boston area to visit some close family friends (the Dashes) who had left Dayton, Ohio a couple of years prior. They had one son a couple of years older than me (Adam) and another almost exactly my age (Benji). In retrospect they could both be kind of obnoxious at times, but when they weren't, we found ways to have fun together. Our parents were quite tight as friend