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

Chainmail: Battle of Emridy Meadows

In my imagination, Chainmail has always been that shadowy precursor to Dungeons & Dragons that I was both intrigued by yet leery of. I loved the idea of a game involving mass battles in a fantasy setting akin to those depicted in the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I also had a sense that Chainmail, released in 1971 a mere year after I was born, was likely a clunky wargame that would be too frustrating to bother mastering. It also didn't help that my first inkling of its existence was around 1980 or so when I could never dream of amassing the miniature armies needed to play out these massive conflicts. No, back then I was pretty sure Chainmail was the province of grizzled old grognards who had started wargaming before I was even born.

Even after my gaming rebirth decades later in 2016, I was fine with letting the dim past remain so, and was more than content during my first couple of years back in the hobby exploring rules of a more recent vintage and manageable scale…

Lost Art of D&D: Alex Nuckols

Artist Alex Nuckols made what disappointingly ended up being a minor yet still evocative contribution to the visual history of D&D with a series of paintings he was commissioned to produce for a school supply company named St. Regis. It seems he painted nearly a dozen pieces that graced the covers of D&D-themed notebooks, folders, and three-ring binders in 1980-81. As a D&D-obsessed kid of 10-11 years old at the time, I owned three or four of these and have never parted with them. 

Here are some examples I found online. I’ve always regretted that Nuckols didn’t produce work for any actual gaming material released by TSR (or any game company) because to this day I think he captured the gritty feel and texture of how I imagined these fantasy worlds in my mind’s eye. He was certainly a more accomplished artist than many of those who ended up in the stable as staff at TSR at the time. Artistically, his compositions are always compelling and typically eschew the over-heroic pose…

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 set I've …

Historicon 2019: New Digs, Epic Games

Historicon is turning into one of the highlights of my summer. I've developed some fond friendships over the past three years of attending and feel like I'm beginning to be more a part of a community and less a neophyte or spectator. It was at the first Historicon I attended in 2017 that I met future fellow Scrum Clubbers Walt O'Hara and Steve Braun, and the circle of gaming friends has expanded significantly from there to include great guys like Ivor Evans, Miles Reidy, Jeff Allen, Joe Bloch, Eric Schlegel, and a bunch of the HAWKs gaming group (Don, Duncan, Buck, Chris, Greg, Bill, et al.).

The two hour trip up to Lancaster Friday morning made for a lovely drive with the convertible's top down and Spotify blaring out a summer tunes mix. I had found a great Airbnb condo five blocks from the convention, but I decided to go straight to Historicon without checking in (which finally happened a bone-weary dozen hours later and well after midnight).

I spent most of that fi…

Scrum Con 2020: A Leap Forward!

Scrum Con 2020 was held last weekend in Silver Spring, Maryland on Leap Day, which seems fitting in that the convention itself took quite a jump forward from 2019: More than double the number of games, more than double the number of attendees, double the number of convention t-shirt designs, and three times the space.

And we sold the show out again! 

We had about 215 registered attendees and filled almost 275 seats in the 35 games we offered over the course of the day. We had folks come from some distance to attend, including Philadelphia, West Virginia, New Jersey, and other exotic locales that I'm sure I'm forgetting. As always, we organize the convention as an equal split between miniatures games and role-playing games, and I was pleased to see even more attendees this year sign up for one of each type.

We're admittedly small as far as these things go, but I think the quality of the experience we offer is a cut above, and we put a lot of effort into everything from the pri…

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 haven’t already, a…