To get started here was the concept art found online (not sure who the artist was but the image linked back to this forum), and the final results and a 30 second video demonstration of:
The Hook Horror
(who I nick named: “Janet”)
The inspiration and design came from Chad, one of our heads of plot when he saw these Mardi Gras puppets. The idea was that previous prop monsters were often using what we call “Bucket Shoes” stilts. This is where we take snow board bindings and bolt them to thick 3 gallon buckets and use them like huge shoes. This made the prop monster more combat effective but not so much that it couldn’t be handled easily enough due to how slow it was. So the monster’s card/stats had to become stupidly huge thus it was certain death to make even one mistake around their slow truging selves. Compensating with stats to make them boss-monster challenging wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as a spectacle like this should be. By example for here is a past bucket shoes monster Thomm the Troll turned ally of the town.
Thanks to padding and buckets for feet Thomm took a 5’10” 200lbs player to 7’9″ and the appearance of a metric ton. Trouble is that his top speed is “quick lumber” so he compensates by having a two handed weapon in each hand for reach and hits like a rocket propelled freight train on fire, even through weapons. During his fight the real/true threat was all his minions that were being largely ignored as everyone looked at this giant brown troll discoball of death.
So the goal with the Hook Horror became to put the NPC’s feet on the ground, balance the weight, and make it able to run, dodge, and block. In addition we wanted some really alien movement to it. We wanted the Underdark monster to be as scary as possible.
For maximum rigging we purchased a base aluminum hiking backpack frame. This was ideal for several reasons. Without all the extra bags the frame was inexpensive. The aluminum pipes fit a 3/4″ pvp socket. The straps were very secure and very padded for high speed combat, and it had great back support for carrying the load. From here we built a base skeleton from PVC and PEX piping.
The skeleton needed the rigid PVC, but the limbs needed to be thin and flexible so PEX was used as it is stiff but bendable to what shapes you need. To make the joints seem real and function somewhat like a real joint they were constructed sort of like one. Zip ties through drilled holes for tendons, a fat piece of opencell foam for bouncing cartilage, and a drilled tennis ball for a ball joint.
For the shoulders and the hips we created a “muscle socket”. Using the same ball joint connection a bunch of foam would create a pocket for the ball to be in. That way when the joint moved it would deform the padding around it giving an illusion of muscle. In this case instead of the pipe being attached right to the ball it is pushed up inside it. That way if the puppeteer shrugs or raises their arms the whole shoulder of the beast as well as anything else attached goes with it.
After that came the weapon claws, and the claws that would be the feet of the Hook Horror. Long weapons needed to be used for reach. Padding and paint added for aesthetics (and in game story/mechanic reasons). Then wide velcro straps were added to the back end just before the monster’s “wrist” so the NPC can strap it to their forearm. With and added 90 degree angle handle, into something like a really long nightstick, the NPC has complete control to swing and block with the long weapon using only one arm. The claws core was made from 3/4″ CPVC to ease up the weight a bit. The feet are just very small versions of this strapped to the NPCs boot to run down the side of it and operate the legs.
From here we suspended the rig and started attaching the legs and testing the joints. Once they were in place PEX was bent and lashed to the frame start making ribs (note: there were more ribs used than shown in the pictures here)
By this point my pup Sadie is not impressed, but she enjoys the mess I am making.
After this muslin was wrapped around the skeleton and sealed to it with spray adhesive. Lots of spray adhesive.
Now it was time to make the head. This part was relatively old fashioned. Standard open cell foam. Using a Sharpie I drew out a shape I wanted. With a razor I cut the general shape I wanted and then used thick shop shears to start snipping at the details in an effort to sculpt it the way I wanted. I often pinch and rip out foam for fine details.
By this point my pup Oona is not interested, but she is enjoying the mess I am making.
Using a hot glue gun I start gluing not only the spikes/spines onto the Horror but muscle groups. The difference is that the spikes will stick up through Janet’s skin, the muscles will be covered by her skin to give her a really organic look and feel.
The skin we chose was a thin shipping padding you would wrap around breakable items. While this material gave it just the perfect texture for its skin when painted it disintegrated in high heat and resisted spray adhesive. So small tape patches had to be used. With her debut event over we will likely reskin her with thin upholstery foam for a better look and construction. We did buy black feathers to add at the joints and other key places… but I was exhausted and forgot to add them.
By this point my pup Maddy was bored with me, but she is enjoying the mess I’m making.
After that comes the painting of the foam and the skin. We were going for a green, yellow, white, grey putrid color scheme to make the thing look just horrific and never touched by a drop of sun or vitamin D. Mixing and blending these colors along with black to get some contours in the face gave it real presence.
We failed to make Janet modular. Something we are going to correct. But there was no time to give her a detachable tail and head. So into the rental van suspension rig you go!
At the end of the day our new girl performed very well. The first two assaults on town in the darkest part of night had the expected results. It waited just at the edge of the shadows to be recognized as some kind of a prop… then rushed headlong into the crowd. Both times there were genuine screams. Players later both complained and raved about future nightmares yet to be had.
By this point my puppy Morla was sick of my S*** and decided to end it once and for all.