Category Archives: Creatures

Ice Dragon 2002

Not my first combination of dragons and space, but definitely my most draconic, this is obviously a dragon of the old Ice Planet 2002 theme.

Ninjago has given us plenty of “elemental dragons” of all sorts of elements including ice, and in the past I’ve personally built “elemental dragons” of Steampunk (on the defunct LEGO Galleries, alas) and Classic Space. I had some ideas about building a Blacktron space dragon (which served as a partial inspiration for the Dragon-class Blacktron battlecruiser) but I’d never considered an Ice Planet elemental dragon before.

Until now.

The Elemental Dragon of Krysto is much more definitely a dragon than the fusional Classic Space variety, with a rider rather than a cockpit and those moulded dragon feet elements on its four legs. Still, Ice Planet 2002 did have a lot of open-cockpit vehicles, so I felt less need to enclose the crewman.

Sized about like the Jay’s Lightning Dragon or the first Zane’s Ice Dragon, about the only concessions to space vehiclehood here are the shoulder-mounted rocket engines and the bits of ice saw and skis at the end of the tail.

Still, you couldn’t mistake it for anything but an Ice Planet dragon with its colours and Celestial Christmas Pudding logos.

I’m fairly pleased with how this turned out, even with the CCBS elements on the neck and tail rather than being exclusively built. That shouldn’t really feel like a cheat, but somehow it does a bit.

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Mynock

As a trained biologist, few of the various Star Wars creatures give me as much pause as the space creature in which the Millennium Falcon hides from the Imperial fleet.

While I suppose a vacuum-dwelling organic creature is theoretically possible, it raises all sorts of questions, particularly given what we see of the thing. Obviously it doesn’t need to breathe, but what does it eat? How does it attract its prey? How does it travel through space? Find a mate? Reproduce? Poop?

I could totally see a solar-powered space-dwelling creature, but this one lives in an asteroid belt at what looks like a considerable distance from its star. How does it get its energy? Organic fusion reactors?

By comparison, the mynocks that inhabit its innards are positively practical. Some sort of parasitic winged lamprey equivalent, drinking power from the space creature and any passing spaceships.

There’s evidently enough atmosphere within the space creature to sustain Han, Chewie and Leia with only a breather unit, so wings actually make sense as a form of locomotion. And maybe they’re not exclusively native to space creature gullets.

I could see them as being some kind of planetary creature that drinks electrical power, probably parasitic on some kind of large lifeform that makes use of bioelectricity. Even on Earth there are several creatures that make use of electricity: the electric eel, the platypus…

All well and good so far, but we also need the proto-mynock to be able to survive for some time in a vacuum. It’s not a vacuum-dweller by design: it has wings. But if it can at least survive vacuum on the outside of a starship for a few days then they could have spread all over the place, “chewing on the power cables”, as Han says. The mynocks inside the space creature would have been presumably brought on a previous spacecraft meal, and now subsist as parasites on the creature itself.

That’s my theory, anyway. Wookiepedia probably has a different one, but Wookiepedia’s xenobiological descriptions offend every scientific plausibility bone in my body, so I’m reluctant to give them much weight.

Anyway, apparently continuing with my reimaginings of Star Wars creatures, I built a large mynock model.

This one’s mostly black, rather than the pinkish shade of the ones from The Empire Strikes Back, so it’s either a related species (like there’s not only a single species of deer or a single species of vulture) or just a reimagining.

Black would make it harder to see in the cavelike environment within the space creature, but if you live in a completely dark cave who cares about vision? Most Terrestrial cave creatures are pure white. Mynocks do have eyes, though, which is an indication that they live in environments other than the dark inside of a space beast. Maybe they’re naturally black, and the ones in the belly of the beast have lost pigmentation in the darkness.

I got the idea to build a mynock from that Bionicle/CCBS tail element. I acquired it at the beginning of the year thinking I might use it on a Blacktron variant of my Classic Space Elemental Dragon or something. Apparently it’s “or something”. Here’s my black mynock, and a few musings about its potential xenobiology.

O For A Muse Of Fire…

My son wanted to rebuild his prized Green NRG Dragon set, and he made the request that I build a similar-sized dragon for Kai, the Red Ninja of fire.

Kai’s Elemental Fire Dragon

It’s been a while since I built a dragon, and Kai’s my favourite of the Ninja (unless it’s his sister Nya), so I thought I’d have a go.

The Green NRG Dragon has a rather nice scaly belly look on the lower frontal section, and part of my thinking was to see if I could make an extended version of that which would cover basically the entire underbelly. That’s where this model started, and I built it up from there.

Note the scaly belly. Try to ignore the unfinished-looking underwings.

The head is large and impressive, but quite heavy for those poor balljoints and tends to sag if not posed very carefully. Clickstop universal joints would have alleviated this tendency, but they make for a longer and less flexible joint that would have detracted from the look of the build and made posing more of a challenge anyway. I posed its head very carefully.

I liked the “unusualness factor” of the wyvern bodyplan on the Green NRG Dragon, but I prefer my dragons to have four legs, so that’s how I built this one. The front feet look less than fully stellar when he’s posed rearing up on his back legs to expose that snakelike belly, but maybe I could build a set of alternate front feet that are more handlike, and swap them out like the extra stud shooter hand of the Clayface Splat Attack set (replacing that hammer hand).

The head has ended up with rather a Smauglike look, which wasn’t planned but I liked the way it was shaping up so I went with it. A bit nasty-looking for our heroic Ninja, perhaps, but it does work well for a big red dragon.

The last time Kai had an official dragon he had to share it with his sister, so it’s been a while since he’s had his own dragon. And I don’t think Nya’s had a full-on Elemental Dragon of Water of her very own (unshared with her pyrotechnic brother, I mean) yet. We don’t have a lot of Nya’s lighter blue, though, so building her a dragon on this scale would be challenging.

Old Man Willow

If January is anything to go by, this year seems to be the year in which I develop my weakest building areas.

I’ve built a couple of minifig-scale building interiors, and I consider that an area of weakness. Last week at the Grand Opening of the Rogue Brick building lounge I built a piece of architecture for the adults competition, and I’ve historically considered that a relatively weak area even though previous architectural microbuilds have been well-received. (I didn’t win, even though I may have invented a new technique to make the columns around the dome. Oh well).

And now, trees.

Old Man Willow

I’ve been getting more confident at trees, but I still don’t feel like I’m really good at it. But I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings the other day for the umpteenth time and I had an idea that I should attempt an Old Man Willow build.

Old Man Willow is, obviously, part of the Tom Bombadil sequence; one of the first challenges the hobbits face on their journey to Rivendell, and one they face with the aid of neither Gandalf nor Strider. A black-hearted tree spirit dwelling on the banks of the Withywindle and holding large swaths of the Old Forest under his grim sway, he proves a greater challenge than the hobbits’ meager strength, and they have to be rescued from his clutches by the mysterious and fan-beloved Tom Bombadil.

As the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring completely skipped over the whole of the Tom Bombadil sequence, I’m free to do pretty much whatever I like without fear of anyone complaining that it doesn’t look like it did in the movie.

When done well, film adaptations of well-loved books are great. You finally get the excitement of seeing what before could only exist in your mind’s eye.

But even the best film adaptations conform to someone else’s vision, and I have to say I think we often tend to forget that.

I personally think the film got the look and feel of Rivendell wrong, but such is the power of visual media that if I were to build my imagination’s Rivendell I’d undoubtedly get comments about it being “inaccurate”.

Maybe I’m not trying to build Peter Jackson’s version of the Last Homely House, nitwit! Did you think of that, eh?

Anyway, I don’t have to be concerned with that in an Old Man Willow build, because none of that whole sequence made it into the films. Though if I’d tried to include any of the hobbits I’d undoubtedly get told off for getting them “wrong”. Don’t have any official LotR minifigs yet.

I borrowed the pendulous willow branch technique from this build by Cyndi Bourne, who has a lot more leaf elements than I do and can really do it justice. Yet another thing to add to the endless Bricklink wishlist…

Still, I have enough to at least give a decent impression of the look of a willow tree.

I would have liked to make more of a face in the trunk, but that made the trunk so tall that you lost the effect of overhanging branches. Thus, a pair of eyes only.

I initially went for green eyes as most appropriate to a vegetative spirit, but they didn’t look quite right t so I swapped them out for orange, which is subtler but looks much better.

And then I had to try and make Tom Bombadil.

“Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow”, we’re told, but while we can do a bright blue jacket courtesy of either Jay or my Classic blue astronaut or my son’s Minecraft Steve, yellow boots are beyond my current inventory’s capability.

Anyway, there it is. I think my first Lord of the Rings-related build, and it’s a tree.

How To Train Your LEGO

As either the last build of 2017 or the first of 2018 (built in one year but posted in the other) I decided to have a go at another dragon.

And a specific dragon, for a change: the winged reptile that makes jet-black look cute – Toothless the Night Fury, from the How To Train Your Dragon films.

Toothless soaring over Berk, my version

Toothless’ wide, flat head and big green eyes are pretty distinctive, and I’ve done what I can to reproduce them at something close to minifigure scale. Close enough that I decided to incorporate a saddle and make a minifigure Hiccup using young Luke Skywalker’s head with real-Kai’s hair.

Then, remembering the lessons learned in last year’s Ninja and Dragon build and struck with an idea of how to make a halfway decent tiled roof for a Berk townhouse, I decided to go to town on the scenery.

The little hut I built is really too small to be an actual house and too open in front to be much of anything, but it does its job of making an interesting scenery counterpoint to my aerial Toothless, complete with a Viking maiden with an axe and a shield, possibly Astrid. If I had more 1×2 curve slopes I’d have made the roof slope longer and at a steeper angle like the houses in Hiccup’s village, but nevertheless I’m quite pleased with the technique.

Berk townhouse

Toothless is fully poseable, except that the wings don’t fold up. But the only fully-foldable LEGO dragon wings of my direct experience are on the Green NRG Dragon, and green-and-gold just wouldn’t be right on Toothless. Besides, they are too big for a model at this scale.

I think my favourite part of the dragon bit of this build is the way I did Toothless’ large-pupilled eyes, but I do wish I could have figured out a way to give him an opening jaw that looked remotely right. I tried a couple of things but nothing was working; Toothless’ thin lower jaw is very hard to get right at this scale. In the end I decided to make him Mouthless. He does spend an awfully huge amount of time with his mouth closed.

A bright red 2×4 wing element would have looked better as Toothless’ missing tail fin, but I only have 2x3s in bright red and they looked wrong, so we have dark red. It’s the only piece of significant wrong colour, though, so I’m happy. I only wish they made 1×2 balljoint holders in black.

Top-down view

A Plague of Locust

Blacktron BT221 Locust

It is, however, quite a large locust, and Blacktron to boot, so it should not be taken lightly.

Given the potential body stresses of a hopping form of locomotion on the pilot, a locust might seem a poor choice of creature on which to model a mech, but on low-gravity worlds like Titan and the Jovian moons, hopping is probably the most efficient means of motion there is. With the low gravity producing much lower stress on both pilot and vehicle, the Locust proceeds in what are effectively a series of low glides, mostly using the legs for altitude maintenance.

The BT221 Locust, then, fills the role of the BT086 Alienator on planets whose gravity is low enough to make a walking gait impractical. Armed with three small plasma pulse cannons and two lasers attached to the forward pilot’s position, the Locust is one of the least armed vehicles in the Blacktron arsenal, but makes an effective single-pilot scout/reconnaissance vehicle.

Obviously I’m in arthropod mode for my space builds, what with the Black Widow antiturtle and the Futuron Scarab, but arthropods make excellent base creatures to model mechs and space vehicles after. I’ve got an idea for a mech based on a pillbug design that can roll up into a ball for atmospheric re-entry drops, but I have no clue yet how I’m going to build it in LEGO.

Counteracting the Weaponised Turtle

Even before the inclusion of a version in the LEGO Ideas 21109 Exo-Suit set, Peter Reid’s Neoclassic Space M350/M450 Turtle droid was well-known in the LEGO community.

It has the advantages of being a very cute robot in and of itself, and of being a very versatile design able to tote all manner of equipment on its carapace hardpoint. And LEGO builders being LEGO builders, naturally “all manner of equipment” turned inevitably to weapons.

The proliferation of heavily weaponised Turtles leaves the poor Blacktron Alliance at something of a disadvantage. The Turtle arms race cannot be allowed to continue unchecked without any countervailing Blacktron droid of equivalent capability.

Building a Blacktron-variant Turtle would perhaps be the obvious solution, but that just continues the Turtle arms race with a darker twist. Biologically speaking, when one type of creature exhibits a population explosion it destabilises the environment for all the other kinds of creature. We don’t need any more Turtle droids in the Neoclassic Space environment.

I’ve seen one Blacktron builder attempt to stem the flood of heavily weaponised Turtles with a very cool scorpionoid “Rectifier” droid, but whenever possible I like to create rather than copying. Besides, I wasn’t satisfied with the weaponry size limitation that underslung hardpoint location incorporated. When you’re going up against Turtles with monstrous weapons systems like these, the fact that you have a tail gun as well is not going to cut it. You need the capacity to mount equally heavy Blacktron weapons systems on your robot’s shell.

Enter the K19 Widow.

A K19 Widow armed with missile pods faces off against an M350 Turtle armed with a heavy laser cannon

A product of the Blacktron Alliance’s DarkTech Industries corporation, the K19 was designed as a deliberate counter to the Federation’s M350 Turtle built by Anodyne Systems (and its M450 Mark II upgrade). Thought by some Federation analysts (especially among those on the Anodyne payroll) to be based on a pirated copy of an M350, the K19 Widow incorporates a number of significant differences from its Federation rival, only really similar in the roughly hemispherical shell shape and top-of-carapace hardpoint.

Take that, proliferating robot!

Most notably, the Widow opts for a hexapedal configuration giving increased stability and climbing agility over the Federation’s M350, though at the penalty of a minor loss of efficiency over long-distance operation.

K19s’ Artificial Intelligence architecture also shows some marked differences over the M350. Turtles are designed for heavy service as a sort of robotic pack mule, and tend to have stolid, hardwearing personalities and a tendency towards just quietly getting on with their job. They tend to be male in personality, though not exclusively so. Widows are a more combat-oriented design and tend to be more expressive. Their basic AI archetypal substrate is female (as befitting their “Widow” name) and they range in personality from highly-strung prima donnas to determined femmes fatale via the sultry and the irascible.

Like the Anodyne Turtle droid, the DarkTech K19 has a roof-mounted hardpoint capable of engaging with a wide variety of weapons systems and other equipment. The base model comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons, but DarkTech Industries offers a full range of upgrade packages, a sampling of which is detailed below.

Base Model The base K19 Widow comes with a pair of plasma pulse cannons. Versatile and cost-effective, they are useful for antipersonnel and limited antispacecraft use, though their armour-piercing capacity is limited. This is the cheapest price-point package in the DTi catalogue.

Directed EMP This options package includes a pair of directed electromagnetic pulse units. Effective at scrambling electronic equipment, DTi make use of the very latest in frequency enhancement techniques for their dEMPer units, in order to defeat Federation shielding.

Missile Pods A very popular upgrade package, missile pods give the Widow a non-line-of-sight strike capability which can be particularly useful against Federation frontal armour. Standard DTi missile pods contain five cells and are compatible with all standard Blacktron Alliance light tactical missiles.

Tactical Laser The K19 Widow TL variant incorporates a twin-barreled medium-charge laser cannon, such as can be found on smaller Blacktron surface vehicles such as skimmers and rovers. With light-speed line-of-sight firing and good armour penetration, lasers such as this are a good all-round weapon system.

Radar-Guided Coilgun Firing a nickel-iron-bound titanium penetrator round at hypervelocity speeds, the radar-guided coilgun can operate in both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight modes. One of the most basic types of larger weapon, it retains its utility even on the modern energy-weapon battlefield.

Mobile Recovery The Mobile Recovery variant of the K19 Widow eschews weapons systems for a crane attachment suitable for effecting the recovery of downed small spacecraft and crashed rovers. Less common than armed variants due to most Widows’ dissatisfaction at losing their precious guns, Widow-MRs are usually prized by Blacktron expeditionary forces and colonial administrations.

Spinneret Designed specifically for the K19, the device nicknamed the “spinneret” is a portable tractor-pressor stasis field generator which can pin enemy vehicles and personnel in place, act as a tractor beam or a pressor beam. Its utility as a combat device belies the fact that it was invented as a rescue aid for stranded personnel.

Quad-Barreled Plasma Cannon Useful primarily for area attacks on slower-moving targets, the quad-barreled plasma cannon was originally one of the heaviest weapons option packages available, but now constitutes a medium weapons system. Of limited antispacecraft utility, it is normally employed in frontal-assault mode.

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Now I just need to build some kind of ludicrously massive Blacktron singularity gun or other insane weapon system, to counter some of the more extreme weaponised Turtles…