Friday, March 22, 2013

Deepthought: Accommodator (or, On the Life of a Friend)

This is a hobby editorial. I went to school to become and try to make my living as a writer. Though I love the hobby, and I'd like nothing better than to sculpt all day, posting amazing things on here for all to ogle, there are times when the urge to write strikes, and I try to use these interludes to delve deeper into important parts of the hobby. I hope you find the following article interesting, and I promise to get back to posting cool models soon!

When I started writing this, it was titled "On the Death of a Friend," but then I realized that, were I in your shoes, that is not the type of title that would inspire me to read an article. Thus, I changed it, and I like it better already.
This is an anniversary of sorts, i guess, though it's hardly a thing to memorialize. This is the 3-year anniversary of the death of a good friend of mine, who went by the name Ross Nickle under the sun and the stars, but who was known as Accommodator in the digital world of posts and threads. Ross was most active on the Tyranid forum Warpshadow, and for the years when he was as our administrator, that board ran like a well-oiled machine. You may have run into him on other boards as well: particularly those that had anything to do with Titans and Titan Legions.

Like the passing of Brimstone (for those of you who can still remember Brimstone), Ross' death was an odd thing. It happened once in Real Life, happening to families and friends and co-workers. But then it happened again Online, weeks later, when the news was released to the communities. And in those communities, that news spread further than it ever could in Real Life, for over these information superhighways we touch more lives than we know.

If you knew Ross online (as Accommodator), you may not have known him as well as I had the fortune to in Life. As an attempt at remedying any disparity, I am finally getting around to this: something I've been meaning to write for some time. In it I hope to capture the Ross that I knew, and I hope to further fill out the Ross that you might have known. I'm not sure why it came to me now, but here it is.


Were it not for Ross, I would never have made my first attempt at a Dominatrix-from-Hierodule-conversion. And were it not for that first, I certainly never would have attempted my Second And Far Better Version Of The Same.

Ross had a very special gift that, if you're lucky, you'll run into out in the real world from time to time: He believed in others--strongly; possibly more strongly then they believe in themselves. I've had the fortune to encounter a number of people like this in my life, and they are always the strongest forces to bolster your flagging faith in your art. They seem to believe in you and in that of which you are capable more strongly than you believe it yourself. They give you a kick of confidence, square in the ass, at moments when you need it most.

Ross did this for me with the Dominatrix.

Hydra, who was the originator of the idea, had just done his Dom from Hierodule, and we all marvelled at the size of the man's spore sacs, for who else would ever be mad enough to cut up a FORGEWORLD MODEL?!
I was musing to Ross one time that I would never be able to do what Hydra was doing.
But Ross disagreed.
Ross told me "sure you could."

And, what's more, Ross put his money where his mouth was. He bought the Hierodule, handed it to me, and told me to go to town. The result was my first (albeit it still a bit rough) Dominatrix.

In addition to creating a Dom for him, I had the fortune to collaborate with Ross on what is still (and will probably forever be) the largest and most successful modeling project of my life: the Infestation of Casavant Prime board for Games Day 2008. The man kept me on track in exactly the way that you have to do with creative folks, and he gave everything to support me and the project along the way, from driving nearly 100km from his home to the build site, to applying Creep or paint to anywhere we asked him to. I think I even had Ross sculpting Nid scenery at a point. It was not only the largest and most successful project I've ever undertaken: it was also the most rewarding. On paper, we won Best Table at Games Day 2008.
In life, it came out exactly as we had hoped, and everyone who played on it loved it.
We tried another table in 2009, this time completely of my own design and built completely from scratch, and it wasn't anywhere near as epic as Casavant Prime. Still, we worked together, and we got it done, and we got a whole pile of community members to contribute to it.

Ross Was

Ross was unassuming. He would sit in the back, smiling faintly, watching everything that went on with those hawk eyes of his. When he saw a chance to contribute, he'd jump in and state his point succinctly, then return to hanging back.

On warpshadow, Ross was a better moderator than any of us. I don't know how he found as much time for the board as he did, but he was always on top of everything. Ross paid more attention than i did, and he paid it better. It was he who saw talent out in the void and lead them to warpshadow. Ross was telling me about Krewl Rain before i knew who Krewl Rain was.

Ross liked his toys big. When it came to nids, his goal for his swarm was for it to be endless. He bought up old plastic termagants, en masse, because they were cheap and because they were smaller targets than the newer ones. Ross loved titans. Absolutely. He made himself a tyranid bio titan out of a Star Wars Rancor model (we called him 'Rancornid'). He was probably the number one buyer of old Armorcast warhounds and reavers on Ebay. He'd send me reports on the going rates of these out of production models like they were commonly traded stock.
( This demotivational poster was made from a shot at Games Day Toronto like the one below. They are all Ross' titans, with the exception of the Forgeworld Warhound. Ross never had any time for Forgeworld Titans)
Hell, a box in Ross' basement is the final resting place of the largest thing to ever come out of Armorcast: the half-finished prototype of the Warlord titan, which he acquired for a ridiculous sum that I will not get into.

Armorcast Warlord Titan Prototype. Owner: Ross Nickle.
Sometimes I still dream of the meetings and conversations we had about that titan, about how my brother and I were going to finish the thing as a project for Ross.
Some days i still dream of finishing it off as a tribute to him; as a gift to his wife and daughter.

Ross did SCA, and he taught me what that meant and how it had little to nothing to do with LARPing. In the SCA community, he went by the name of Dragonheart. He never struck me as sentimental, but i knew the truth of that name in his love for his wife and daughter. He met his wife through SCA. The two of them and their daughter shared a love for martial arts, and sometimes we couldn't hang out because all three of them would be too busy practicing together for an exam.

I talk about Hydra and Moloch pretty often on here. They're buddies, and they're Germans, and they're like anyone else, but there were times and places in our hobby world when and where they have been kind of a big deal...which is, of course, ridiculous and arbitrary, and I got over it over the years. I don't think Ross ever did.
When the four of us had the opportunity to sit around in his hot tub and talk bugs and warpshadow, i think Ross was really excited by it. One of my favourite photos that i've ever taken of Ross is one of him sitting across a desk from Moloch, the two of them painting together to save my overly-ambitious Tyran Table project. I can't remember if Ross actually told me that he was chuffed to bits to be able to paint with Moloch, or if i constructed that after the fact, but that is how i remember it.
I think i've said it before, but Ross was reliable. He was reliable in the same way that Japanese rail lines are reliable: in a way that you could set your watch to. I didn't take Ross for granted; it was far worse than that. I assumed Ross' immortality tacitly, as a natural consequence of his reliability. For me, the idea that there could ever be an end to Ross was an absurdity.

If you never had the chance to meet Ross in life, i'm sorry for you. He would have liked you. And if he didn't like you, he would have at least respected you in a noble way that i'm not sure many people do nowadays. He was a great guy, and he never tried to convince anyone of that. He wasn't loud or showy or sometimes insecurely extroverted, like i can be. We were very different people, and his difference made me want to be better than i am. I hope that my difference might have inspired him to have a couple more crazy ideas than he might have done normally.

It is a morbid thing to talk about, but Ross' death was sudden and pedestrian. It took him while he sat before his computer. I am a sentimentalist, and i'm not afraid of the dark, so whether it be noble or sad, i sometimes wonder if Ross wasn't on Warpshadow then, putting the board to bed, unwittingly saying goodbye one final time.

And now, years later, i pay him silent vigils: not in the place where he lived or in the place where he died but in the place where he worked. I await him in the lobby of that bank tower, where I awaited him on so many evenings after we'd both finished for the day. For some reason, it is this place with its gold glass that calls to me, and i look to that bank of elevators, expecting his ghost, expecting that we'll have drinks or dinner or just hand-off a few random bits while handing-off a few random words about the gribbly monsters from beyond the stars that haphazardly brought our two worlds together for a time.

I love you, and i miss you.
I look forward to another time, in another place, where there is nothing to do but sit around and talk shop about monsters and giant robots and the next mad thing we're going to make together.

I'll see you there, brother.


  1. I still have his PM's in my Warpshadow inbox. I just can't delete them. I still feel crappy that I couldn't go to the last gamesday in Canada, I think it was the 2008 one.

    He thought I was a bot when I signed up at Warpshadow, or some program did. Dunno how I got the nick name pr0n bot, cant remember lol. Here's some hilarious PM from him.

    Message subject: LOL - hey - prOn bot, wanna edit this particular sentence a
    From: Accommodator
    Sent: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:24 pm
    To: KrewL RaiN

    KrewL RaiN wrote:

    in homage to one of my favorite incests. .

    I would beleive you meant "one of your favourite insects." But I'm not going to read anything into that post at all. Nope. Nothing. Nada.

    LOL!!! :lol:

    He PMed me a lot of stuff when I started out on Warpshadow, its like going down memory lane reading them.

    I have met you, Hydra and FrostBergs, and missed out meeting Accommodator at said Gamesday, and feel really bummed about it... Warpshadow probably is the message board I have been around the longest. Never met an admin who went out of his way to welcome you to their forum.

    Woo my first thread, and hehe Hydras comment. I can blend paint now! The old photos of my bugs omfg... xD

  2. Don't worry, Krewl. Even if you guys never met in life, I'm sure that, from how much he mentioned you in conversation, you and Ross still had a pretty good relationship going on. Thanks for sharing your memories about The Man.

  3. The man was cunning... or beardy rather. I learned that word from Ross. He was buying up old rhinos because they were smaller and could navigate through tight spaces between scenery, regardless of the fact that there is no way ten Spay Semarines would ever fit into it. In life he was generous and caring, in game, he was ruthless and cunning. He was proud of his beardiness.

    Whenever I see Contemptor Dreadnoughts I think of Ross. He once asked me to convert a toy into a Paladin Titan, which I never did. Ross died before the Contemptors were released but I always think he'd get a kick out of them.

    I've always thought Sergeant Telion looks like Ross.

  4. I knew Ross not via these games so I hope I'm not intruding. The Ross you knew and describe here is easily the Ross I knew. I was introduced to him because of my interest in the SCA back in the day he lived in Montreal. He was an excellant ambassador for the society, a mentor and a cherished friend.

    In the SCA he was Frederick Dragonheart, Knight of the East but most called him Ross. It's just how we knew him. That bugged him a little. It made me snicker. To make things worse I gave him a nickname. He hated nicknames. To me he was the Rossalope. He rather surprisingly managed to make it backfire. He liked the name.

    I was sad when he moved away but then I too moved away not long after. Years passed, he came to visit me and brought the family. One of my favorite weeks. I introduced him to Invader Zim. Like you I always assumed he'd be there and we'd share a beer again. I'd get to enjoy his very dry wit once more and to laugh with him once more.

    I can say with sobering confidence that a week does not pass that my thoughts do not turn to Ross. Thanks for being my friend old chum.


  5. Hey there Pink,

    I'm very late to this sober party, but having the urge to lurk the old forum, I check out your blog shortly after. I was very lucky to meet Ross during the 2009 events, (as well as you Hydra, and the others I'm second on the back left).

    Warpshadow has a place in my heart, it's been a a busy few years, and I've forsaken GW like so many others because of their nonsense, but all of you, Ross included will always be a reminder of why I love the game, the hobby, and the community surrounding it. Ross was an great example of that and I'll miss him.

    Though his Legacy will carry on with Warpshadow, and one day I'll probably come back, until then I'll mess around with kingdom death, and maybe even my University home work ;).

    Thanks for posting this,

    Tyler (Withteeth)

  6. Does anybody have complete pictures of his rogue trader era (and indeed entire across edition) collection of Tyranids?

    I've been slowly collecting a rogue trader only Tyranid army for the past two years and there's very little shown online such that the largest collections of models, usually part of larger and later edition mixed Tyranid armies, are at best 10-20% of my own collection size (at 1 Protonid, 3-4 Dominators, 100 Hunter Slayers {yes one hundred hunter slayers and yes it took quite some time to track them down anywhere from single models through to groups of 4 to 8 at a time}, 5 Mounted Genestealer Hybrids to name the most impressive of the collection :)), but one picture of Accomodator's force including his star wars Rancor stand in model, showed a significant number of hunter slayers and many of the 2nd ed armorcast models to boot and I'd love to see his entire collection as it's one of the largest I've been able to source online and only seen a fraction of the models.


  7. P.S. I am contactable over on Warpshadow under the same name or via again under the Auretious Taak alias. :)

  8. Thanks for the lovely comments folks.
    As far as photos of Ross' Nids go: Ross was not one for aesthetics. He only cared about getting things painted enough to get them onto the board so that he could play a game with them. Rarely did he ever take photos of his own nids, and the only time that they were documented in any meaningful way was when I was documenting them with my camera; some of them appear here: