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Prisoners of the Seatower of Balduran

This encounter is intended for any number of players of any level using the  Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset

Most gaming groups who run last year’s nostalgia inducing Murder in Baldur’s Gate will pick a faction and support their side throughout the adventure’s many and various short quests.

Of course, my group decides to get themselves thrown in prison as a ruse to earn the confidence of the crime faction in order to serve as a vice squad for the authorities. This is why it is hard to write RPG modules – how are you supposed to anticipate this madness?!

The result, ultimately, is that I accrued a few short encounters that you can throw into any prison scenario – whether you are in Baldur’s Gate or elsewhere in the multiverse. It’s not a full on encounter, but a string of “incidents” that can be used to spice up your game.

•An older prisoner is coughing and sputtering, but who isn’t in this damp and dreary place? A DC 15 Medicine check reveals that this prisoner has caught “the damp” and will die within a few days if not treated. Convincing the guards that he isn’t just faking the illness requires a DC 10 Persuasion check (with Advantage, if some medical jargon is applied to the entreaty). Once the prisoner is well and back in his cell, he will be grateful and reward the heroes in some way (handing them a spare shiv, warning of some impending plot against them, or cutting them in on a prison break, etc.)

•An upper level of the prison is home to the more affluent incarcerated. A nobleman named Rexus Bormul has become the defacto “lord” of the cellblock. Technically speaking he could walk right out of here (either legally or illegally) but prefers the immense power he has over the prison to the relative power he has outside it. From his poshly appointed cell he entertains guests and chats jovially with the guards and wardens, bribing them so thoroughly that they may as well be his henchmen. 

    Rexus calls the PCs up to his spacious cell block for wine, food and entertainment. After attempting to woo them, he requests their assistance in some matter – perhaps delivering a letter once they make it “outside,” breaking up an escape attempt, murdering a fellow inmate, or simply spying for him. It is up to you whether Rexus is a genuine ally, a scheming villain, a friend of an enemy, or an enemy of an enemy.

•A scrawny halfling inmate palms a valuable or contraband possession from one of his fellow convicts – one who has been threatening the tiny criminal. The thief plants this personal treasure on one of the PCs, hoping that in the ensuing scuffle, the party will be able to solve this problem for him.

•One select nights, a corrupt warden holds prisoner brawls in the late evening. He allows guards, and maybe even inmates to net on one another in bare-knuckle brawls (fought until unconscious). This is highly illegal, and no doubt he PCs will be pulled into the matches. They may be asked to take a fall in a fight, may curry favor with their keepers by winning fights and earning a particular guard a lot of money, or they might try and rat out the whole operation to the day warden.

     Perhaps the fights even take on a more sinister turn as knives, or even desperate wild dogs are pulled in off the streets to fight inmates for “entertainment.”

•A hero with a particularly valuable skill (a bard who performs, a crafter, a learned sage, etc.) is taken from the general population cell to a private chamber where a warden, or ranking guard asks their help in a special project. This might confer the party some boon, earn the ire of their fellow convicts, offer a chance for escape, or even present an opportunity for an advantageous romance.

•An odd, squirrelly inmate reveals that he was a mage the whole time, hiding his abilities for months (or even years!) in order to facilitate a riot or prison escape plan. The PCs might learn this ahead of time with an Arcana DC 15 check by finding impromptu spell notes carved amongst the hash marks that litter the wet stone walls.

•Being below sea level, this section of the prison has a small pond in the ruined part of the tower. Escape would be impossible through the sturdy iron grate, but small fish do manage to swim in and out. Inmates are welcome to try and catch their own meals by hand (eaten raw, or cooked by sympathetic guards), or this paltry place to while away the hours might be the scene of a struggle as one convict attempts to drown another. Or perhaps impromptu lock-picks can be crafted out of the bones of some unlucky fish?

•That dead rat has been there in the corner for weeks, and the guards refuse to remove it! In truth, the very slowly decaying corpse is serving as a dead-drop for the passing of notes; perhaps between prisoners, guards, or someone on the outside. Tiny notes are rolled up and slid into the varmint’s rotting maw. 

Map

       

Features of the Area

1. Stairs up

2. Guard Station

3. Storage

4. Double locked entry portcullis

5. West general population cell block (Barred walls and locked doors, includes simple cots and sewage holes for bodily waste) DEX DC 15 to Lockpick

6. East general population cell block (Barred walls and locked doors, includes simple cots and sewage holes for bodily waste) DEX DC 15 to Lockpick

7. Mess hall

8. Kitchen (Locked, guards only. Only dull knives present)

9. Underground pond (entry to the lake barred by an iron grille)

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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Incidents, Playtested

 

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The Thing in The Pit

This encounter is intended for 3-5 characters of 2nd level and makes use of current playtest/5th Edition data as of July 6th 2014


This one is a quickie: a room I designed for a one-shot dungeon crawl that unfortunately got passed over. Some of the party will be forced to fend off the slapping appendages of an abhorrent otherworldly creature, while the rest of the team attempts to breach the entrance to the dungeon before the lot of them are crushed. Make certain to have a player character on hand who can pick locks – or else this encounter is far from being fair.

Map

                                

Features of the Area

    Terrain: Each large block of dungeon floor is 10 feet by 10 feet. Any 5 foot squares marked with a star are considered difficult terrain

   The Pit: This yawning chasm reaches far down into the Underdark, where a massive, amorphous beast from the Far Realm is trapped. The drop is 20 feet where tight cracks and crevices leech deeper into the ground. The elastic tentacles have wormed their way up through these openings. Because the uneven walls of the pit provide good handholds, no check is necessary to climb back up (the writhing tentacles may pose their own challenges, however)

   Treasures: The locations of the two treasure caches are indicated by gold sunbursts on the map (see “Rewards” below)

   Exit Door: This sturdy steel door is a half-foot thick and incredibly heavy. It is shut up tight by three identical locks. Passage to and through the door is blocked by a toppled over column (see below).

      •Each lock requires a DEX DC 10 check to open, and some appropriate lock-pick must be used (a set of Thief Tools would suffice, and Proficiency in such tools grants advantage as normal). 

   Broken Columns: One of these collapsed columns has fallen in front of the locked exit door. With the stone ruins blocking the way, it will be impossible to unlock the door.

      •The column is very heavy, and another party member will be needed to lift it, if not completely move it out of the way. A STR DC 10 check is sufficient to lift the column up, allowing access to the lock. This same character can keep the column elevated for several rounds without having to make another check, but must use their action on their turn to do so. A STR DC 15 check will allow the character to shove the column aside and out of the way for good.

Monsters

The otherworldly abomination is far too massive and durable to be killed by a few paltry, low-level heroes. Fortunately for them, the beast cannot drag its squamous bulk through the caverns below to reach them. Instead, it has extended several of its slimy, mouth-covered tentacles to probe for prey. Though each individual tentacle can be destroyed with some ease, more will take their place, and the creature itself will take little damage. Is the monster regenerating these tentacles, or does it just have a near inexhaustible number on its body? That’s a question bets left unanswered.

•x(# of PCs) Tentacles (40 EXP each)

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     Beast Tentacle (Medium Aberration – Limb)

AC 12 (Vulnerable: Slashing)

HP 8

   Available Actions:

Slam  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +3 to hit (1d6+3 bludgeoning damage); automatic hit and +1d6 bludgeoning damage if target is already restrained

Trip  (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; up to two creatures) DEX save DC 12 or target(s) are knocked prone

Ensnare (Within 15 feet of any part of the pit; one creature) +4 vs. STR or DEX (target’s choice); on hit target is restrained and may attempt the check again to escape as an action. A tentacle that has ensnared a target in this way may deal it 1d6+3 piercing damage as an action

   Traits:

•Each time a beast tentacle is destroyed, roll 1d4-1 (minimum of 1) – a new tentacle replaces it after that number of rounds has passed.

____________________________________________

Tactics

The tentacles have supernatural blindsight, and the best has enough intelligence to try and interrupt any character attempting to escape. Otherwise, they try to kill and eat every PC (like you do, when you are an amorphous beast)

Rewards

In the nook in the north part of the room, the skeleton of an unfortunate explorer (wounded by the beast and unable to escape) is crumpled against the wall. Amid the ragged ruin of bones and torn clothes are x1 Healing Potion, a silver ring worth 10 gp, and three raw, uncut gems worth a total of 100 gp

One of the water basins in the eastern section of the dungeon is home to the formation of some uncut precious stones. A STR DC 10 check (advantage if a dagger, prybar, or other tool is used) will free the gems, which can be sold for 50 gp

 

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In Defense of the Refugees (AKA: “Save the Ladies!”)

This encounter is intended for five PCs of 3rd or 6th level using the most recent D&D 5th Edition statistics as of July 2

I was really fond of the Lord of the Rings console games that popped up in the mid 00’s. I mean sure, these weren’t the best beat-um-ups on the market, but they hit home by leveraging a franchise that I was obsessed with at the time. Given that one of my earliest memories is of playing Golden Axe with my father while propped up on a stool in front of an arcade cabinet – loving a co-op beat-um-up is never hard for me to do. 

A particular gem from those games was the “Minas Tirith Courtyard” level. In essence, it was a siege scenario in which you had to hold off endless hordes of increasingly difficult opponents, while making way for a flood of civilians to escape. The level ended once two-hundred villagers (all women, as I recall. Hence why this level became “save the ladies!” In common parlance) escaped to the safety of an inner wall. It was a grueling task, and a perfect complement for the scenes of devastation and warfare it was meant to invoke.

This encounter attempts to capture the feel of that scenario with a satisfying set-piece battle.

Setup

The PCs have agreed to help defend a community (castle, city, fortress, whatever is appropriate) from an invading army. While regular troops man the walls, the party is overseeing an evacuation. Civilian refugees may be fleeing the city out of a postern gate, falling back to an inner defensive ring, or breaking for the harbor to board boats that will take them out of the conflict. Regardless of the particulars, citizens have no choice but to rush through a warzone to reach safety. When the scenario begins, enemies have breached the defenses and the PCs will need to earn their keep covering the refugee’s flight.

At your discretion, some of the soldiers defending the walls may come down to lend the PCs a hand. Assign no more than one soldier per player, and bump the number of monsters in each wave up by one to compensate.

The party will face endless waves of opponents in this encounter. Their goal is to hold out until all refugees have made it through the exit gate in the southern corner of the map, before themselves pulling back to safety. Depending on the difficulty you intend, the number of total civilians can be adjusted up or down. As an alternate way of working the scenario, the parties goal might be to stand their ground until a prescribed number of refugees makes it through the gate (in this case, consider deducting the EXP value of slain refugees from the party’s total EXP).

   •Each round, 1d4 refugees arrives at the eastern edge of the map (Labelled “Refugee Entry” with eligible squares shaded in blue).

  •Every refugee that successfully escapes through the gate grants its EXP value to the party in the same way a defeated enemy would.

  •Number of refugees: Easy – 10; Moderate – 20; Difficult – 30

Map


When monsters enter the battle, roll 1d4: that monsters arrives in the corresponding entry point on the map (Labelled “Monster Entry”) and takes its turn. Monsters that arrive through entrance 4 will almost always make for the exit gate to cut off any refugees that get past their brethren.

Features of the Area

    Rubble: Walls broken by siege equipment, burning wagons, overturned market stalls, or even piles of corpses. Areas of rubble require 10 feet of movement to pass through.

     Barricade: These stacked barrells, crates, and debris grant half cover.

    Tower: This watchtower is positioned to overlook a great deal of the courtyard. The room is 25 feet up and features an arrow slit that grants Superior Cover, but does not allow the shooter to see anything east of the fountain. The advantage of being able to snipe from the safety of the tower are obvious, but not being on the ground to draw enemies away from the fleeing refugees is a serious disadvantage.

    Porch: This adjoined patio area has a sturdy stone railing all around it that can grant half cover if someone inside crouches. Leaping over the railing is easy enough to do, but requires 10 feet of movement.

    Fountain: The fountain in the middle of this battlefield grants half cover, or full cover if the attacker is on the other side of the large statue in the middle. Enterprising or vicious PCs will find it deep enough to drown orcs in.

   Stone Structures: The low stone buildings might compirse homes, gatehouses, customs offices, or storage. Though their slate roves aren’t especially steep, a 15 foot climb is still required to get to the top, where a PC could enjoy an elevated vantage point. Some of these building have missing walls, destroyed by siege weaponry, creating a path for the city’s invaders to stream into the courtyard.

Monsters

   —Level 3 encounter: One wave every other round

 Wave 1: 10 Goblins (Pg. 49)

Wave 2: 10 Hobgoblins (Pg. 55)

Wave 3: 1 Hobgoblin Leader (Pg. 55), 2 Hobgoblins

Wave 4: 1 Ogre (Pg. 69)

Continuous Waves: 1d4+1 Hobgoblins

—Level 6 encounter: One wave every other round

Wave 1: 10 Orcs (Pg. 70)

Wave 2: 7 Oorogs (Pg. 71)

Wave 3: 1 Orc Leader (Pg. 70), 2 Oorogs

Wave 4: 1 Hill Giant (Pg. 46)

Continuous Waves: 1d4+1 Oorogs


Allies

For the civilian refugees, use the stats for:  Human Commoner (Pg. 57) [And for the record, the civilians comprise both men, women, and children, not just ladies! All the same, don’t NOT save the ladies – that isn’t very feminist either.]

•For allied soldiers (if you choose to provide them), use the stats for:  Human Warrior (Pg. 58 – Replace armor with “Ringmail” and bump AC to 14)

Enemy/Ally Tactics

The attackers (be they orc or hobgoblin) are in the thick of city fighting now, and much of their discipline is fading in the chaos of battle. Use the following guidelines in determining an enemy’s targeting priorities:

1. If a PC is within 10 feet of an enemy, it will attempt to attack the PC

2. Enemies will otherwise attack the nearest opponent, whether they are a civilian, soldier, or PC

3. Enemies will switch targets to the last target that attacked them, thus allowing your players to “pull” the horde off of a civilian

4. Enemies who come out of entrance 4 will make for the exit gate, to block the passage of those fleeing

Though based on a video game, the best part of tabletop RPGs is their infinite mutability. These rules of engagement make for an interesting tactical encounter, but as always, use your judgement. Smart players will find ways to draw enemies away from the fleeing refugees. And likewise, a moment of dramatic ramping-up in which a foe purposefully ignores the players to slay the defenseless civilians might be just what the story needs.

Similarly you can follow a set of guidelines for the behavior of the fleeing refugees:

1. A refugee will always avoid provoking attacks of opportunity when possible (unless ordered by a PC)

2. Refugees always attempt to move toward the exit gate at best possible speed, allaying this only for reasons of safety

3. If within reach of an opponent, a refugee will use the Disengage action

4. If in reach of an opponent and unable to move closer to the gate, a refugee will use the Dodge action

5. Refugees consider PCs and soldier allies and can move through their space unhindered

If you opt to provide the players with back-up in the form of additional soldiers, consider letting the PCs give orders to the troops. They are in control of where the soldiers move to and how they form up, and can even order them to attack particular targets. If you wish to make this more complicated, perhaps an Easy Charisma roll is needed to clearly explain orders over the din and confusion of battle. In this case, PCs might only be able to give vague directions (“Stand left of the gate” or “form up on my right”) rather than letting the players choose which precise square for each soldier to stand in (the more tactical option).

 

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Mobbed in the House of Knowledge

This adventure is intended for 3-5 player characters of 3rd level and applies to the final release of the D&D Next Playtest

     So last year my fledgling 4th Edition Neverwinter Campaign Setting game fell apart thanks to my busy schedule. Though I lament its loss, I think the last encounter I ran can have some future life – potentially in your own game. The PCs were investigating some Ashmadai (read: evil devil-man) cult activity in the decrepit ruins (NEVERWINTER CAMPAIGN SETTING SPOILER AHEAD) of Neverwinter’s once beautiful House of Knowledge. They were questioning some of the squatters and homeless holed up in the old Oghman shrine, when their inquiries got the attention of cultists concealed amongst the rabble. A desperate melee ensued wherein the party had to limit their area attacks – lest they harm innocent bystanders. But with the cultists disguised in the crowd and the doors to the room shut, the party was in a dangerous (and near TPK!) situation.

     This encounter seeks to capture the tension of being locked in a room with an overwhelming number of foes, and many innocents caught in the cross-fire. I’ll also explore some home-brew rules for dealing with grappling mobs in a fast, easy way that affords you some realistic options in regards to being pinned by multiple attackers. 

     And you don’t need to be playing a Neverwinter campaign to benefit! Bear in mind, this encounter is tuned between moderate and tough for the level the players are at. Still, multiple opponents tends to make encounters much more difficult. You may wish to spring this encounter on a party that is fresh and has all of its resources to bear.

Setup and Tactics

     The PCs must track down a lead related to their current plotline. A possible informant lives amongst the squatters in a rundown library (In Neverwinter, the House of Knowledge) in a desiccated part of the city. Unbeknownst to them, less than savory elements (The insidious Ashmadai Cultists of the Forgotten Realms, for example) move in and amongst the destitute persons living in the ruins. Some of the rabble are evil agents taking advantage of the fact that few wish to be bothered with the City’s poor and downtrodden. 

      The vipers amongst the peasants are carefully concealed – and would like to remain that way. The main chamber of the library is a tall, dome roofed rotunda crammed with the unwashed poor. Let the PCs ask some questions of the unwashed masses and do some investigating before the action starts.

     The PCs may opt to flee, rather than fight –  a perfectly sensible response! However with the mob latching hold and supernatural cultists barring the main means of egress, that will be easier said than done. The cultist rabble will attempt to grapple PCs (two or three at once) to keep them in the room and allow the tougher cultists to more easily slay them. None of the cultists is above using an innocent bystander as a human shield.

Plot Text

      The conditions in this once shinning bastion of knowledge couldn’t be worse. The destitute are crammed into every nook and cranny of the dilapidated ruins. Clotheslines now hang haphazardly from rotting bookshelves, old folios feed pathetic cookfires, and all around you is the smell of mold, decay, and human waste.

     But you can detect the shifting air as someone closes the worn double doors to the library’s central rotunda. Standing in front of the only entrance to this lobby is a tall man in a black cloak. He sneers at you and hisses, “We don’t accept outsiders prying into our business. You know too much for your own good.” A warm, eerie light emits from the man’s open palms and with a snap, magical chains of molten hot metal slide out of his hands and clink on the floor. 

     Around you the crowd cowers, and backs away. Most of the crowd, anyway. Some anonymous vagabond shouts “Kill the outsiders!” There is a flash of movement as the squatters run too and fro…some scrambling to get away from the melee…others pushing forward with rusty knives, clubs, and bare hands to strike at you!

The Rabble Attacks

Part of the challenge in this combat encounter is separating the innocent squatters from the concealed cultists. To create an environment of confusion and tension, only have part of the hostile human rabble attack at first. Each round, more of the incognito cultists will strike at the PCs. Use the below guidelines for how many Human Rabble to introduce per round:

If the players attack the crowd indiscriminately, assume that some of those killed were indeed cultists; other were not. Innocents who are attacked will opt to flee rather than strike back. The cultists won’t bother to attack the other squatters – nobody will believe their claims of Ashmadai cultists hiding iut in the old library anyway. However, if barring the PCs path means injuring or harming innocent civilians, so be it.

Innocent squatters use the same “Human Rabble” stats as the cultists.

Mobbed!

The grapple rules in D&D Next (found on page 17 of the How to Play document) are simple and efficient, but lack a bit of the nuances that apply to attacks from mobs. Consider applying some of the following optional rules below to make this encounter mor dangerous.

For context: restraining a target is like holding them tight bodily, while their arms and legs are still free to move (albeit in a much more limited fashion, hence the apllication of disadvantage). Pinning aLimb is like getting an opponent into an arm or leg lock; stopping their limb from functioning while not impeding overall bodily mobility. In either event the target is grappled, and thus bound in place, though not completely motionless.

     Multiple Grapplers – •A second (third, fourth, etc.) attacker may grab an already grappled target using the normal rules for initiating a grapple, and does so with advantage. 

•There should be a limit to the number of assailants in a grapple (4-5, DMs discretion). 

•Three or more grapplers may move a target without taking the normal 5 extra feet of movement penalty. Doing so requires that they all act on the initiative of the lowest attacker.

•Any assailant may attempt to restrain, or pin the limb a grappled creature.

•Escaping a grapple with multiple creatures requires you to make a Strength or Dexterity roll opposed by a Strength roll from each attacker. You need only beat the highest attacker’s result to escape the grasp of each assailant. 

     Pinning a Limb – While grappling a creature, as a separate action you may attempt to constrain a creature’s limbs by making an opposed Strength check opposed by the creature’s Strength or Dexterity (their choice). Doing so prevents the creature from using that limb (possibly denying them use of a weapon, or spellcasting ability if both hands are bound). The creature need only escape the grapple to cancel the effects of a pinned limb.

Features of the Area

     Lighting: Cracks in the walls and broken stained glass windows in the upper floor, along with the blaze of cookfires and candles make this room brightly illuminated.

     Statue: In the middle of the room is an enormous statue of Oghma – though this may not at first be apparent. Weather, vandalism, and seismic disaster have all contributed to this once beautiful piece of art’s decrepit appearance. Stained and pock marked with ware this 30 foot tall statue is barely recognizable, but its size is no less impressive.

     Stairs: Though damaged and now treacherous, these marble stairs wind around the wall of the rotunda and climb up seven stories. Each floor above the main chamber is lined with stacks of rotting books and crumbled shelves, niches where statues once stood, and the occasional row of scholar’s stalls. Anything of value has long since been looted.

     Floorspace: Though left open in the image, feel free to clutter the floorspace with tents, cookfires, clotheslines, cots, waste piles, barrels, crates, fallen sections of ceiling, and any other debris you might expect in a shanty-town.

Map

This map was made using the Dwarven Forge map visualizer 


Monsters

Branded Zealot – (Storm Over Neverwinter pg. 6) [3 Players: x2, 4 Players: x3, 5 Players: x4]

Human Commoner – (Bestiary pg. 57) [3 Players: x15, 4 Players: x19, 5 Players: x24]

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Combat Encounter, Playtested

 

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Penguincon 2013 After Action Report

     This past Saturday marks my first visit to Penguincon, hosted by Gamers with Jobs. I had been aware of the convention going on here in Cleveland, but assumed I’d be too busy to attend. Wouldn’t you know it, stars more-or-less aligned so that I could go! Board games and the ever incredible “fudge island” here I come! Because of my predilection towards running games (rather than wandering around the con and just having fun like a normal person) I was encouraged to prep a quick one-shot featuring the barely week old release of the D&D Next playtest. 

     Oh right! The newest Playtest! I couldn’t have been happier. Other than my hold-over gripes with feats, this latest (and final!) update to the public playtest is without doubt the best we’ve seen yet.

     In my typical fashion, I prepared copious amounts of glitz and glamor for the occasion. Quality always trumps special effects, I know that intellectually, but my heart screams out to blast a smoke machine down the intricately detailed halls of some modular Dwarven Forge set-dressing. I tried my hand at a few new effects for this very brief adventure.

   

     I know, I know, it’s a game of the imagination. But I just don’t trust the player’s imagination to picture it correctly! They need help! And LED lighting! Wish I had taken the time to do something fancier with the mosaic tile puzzle (stolen and adapted from a similar trap in the old 3rd edition Book of Challenges). Regardless, that particular trap was exactly as vexing as it needed to be both times, not bogging the players down in trial and error, but still forcing them to think sideways.

     This adventure, a variation and expansion on a previously posted encounter, Curse of The Black Jarl, fratured four (five if you count the Forge of Foresight) quick challenges that varied between combat, interaction, and exploration/puzzle solving. Ultimately I think it gave players a good feel for the speedy combat, and the flexibility of the core rules.

     What was cool for me was getting to run two groups of players through the same adventure, using the same party (six pre-generted characters, with six players in each of the two sessions). The groups were able to compare notes afterwards and see who had the simpler solution to puzzles (“Oh, you guys just used the doors as a bridge…we got set on fire a lot.”) At the end of the day there were no complaints about the system getting int he way of the fun, the final boss was tweaked just right, and each character had a place to shine regardless of the player’s level of experience (we had some newbies to D&D!) And once again, my sincere thanks to all those who joined me for the game – glad you liked it!!

     I’ll look into formatting the adventure into a friendly and readable PDF, with map and mosaic tile floor handout. It ran between 2 – 2.5 hours making it ideal for this kind of convention play. I think I’m learning my lessons from D&D Encounters well.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Con Man

     Tomorrow, I’ll be attending this year’s PenguinCon by request in order to run a few sessions of some D&D Next Playtest. I’m pretty pumped about this! The most recent (and final!) public playtest looks fantastic, and I’m really excited to drum up some interest in this new version. Also, I’ve never run a game in a free-for all, public setting like this one, so I’m looking forward to it. Time to hone some of these lighting effects to accompany all these Dwarven Forge catacombs….

I’ll try and grab some pictures of the event, write a little something about the experience, and will likely even share the (very brief!) adventure itself. It’s nothing special, and makes use of some of my favorite old tricks, but we’ll see how it plays to the audience.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Aside

Look, I know, RPG’s – “Games of the Imagination” – I get all that. All you should need is a pen and a character sheet. But I love props, scenery, miniatures and other gaming toys. LOVE them. I think most gamers tend to be very visual people, and that’s why Dry-Erase-Grid-and-Minis is the way most groups run their game – whatever the preferred system happens to be.

But for me, that isn’t enough. Miniatures help us resolve the distracting dissonance of spatial minutiae so that we can shove our way to the story and action without interruption. I love that about them. But why not go all out with 3D terrain and dioramas to help all the players agree upon “what this inn looks like”? It might take some of the heavy lifting away from the player’s imagination and agency, that’s true – but it also strengthens the shared experience and helps to limit player confusion about what is going on and where those barrels of pitch are relative to the minotaur cultists. A clear “stage” picture can also inspire creative choices – I might not have considered swinging on a chandelier until I saw your carefully constructed toothpick chandelier hanging over the dragon’s head(s).

I always envied the “Warhammer 40k” and “Warmahordes” guys for their piles of miniatures and fancy terrain pieces. But I had to face the facts: I lacked the talent (and more importantly, the money) to scrape together the resources necessary to carve out my own 3D dungeons and structures.

Or so I thought.

My expensive yet rewarding delves into the world of Dwarven Forge terrain pieces was just not sustainable. I had enough 3D dungeon terrain to get started, but I needed more: more generic, flexible pieces as well as specific dungeon dressing. I needed longer hallways, narrower passages. I needed items that DF – for all it’s quality and awesome products – did not always have available. I needed to start a few DIY projects.

Enter the Hirst Arts Castle Molds. Silicon molds for use with common hobby plaster, you can use and re-use these to cast your own 3D dungeon components. It’s more work of course, since you are required to craft, assemble and paint your own construction materials – but that alone is incredibly rewarding.

I’m extremely amateur here in the world of table-top modeling, but wanted to share a few of the pieces I’ve been working on. This entry-level sort of stuff still looks good and is endlessly useable in your game. If you’ve been kicking around the idea of trying a few such projects I encourage you to dig in – to get terrain that looks half-way decent is not as hard as it seems.

•I started off my foray with a few simple 1×1 columns. I needed them for an upcoming session, and they turned out pretty well. A simple place to start.

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•My Dwarven Forge sets were great for establishing some fancy rooms, but I found myself in need of a few long hallways as well. The challenge with 1 square wide halls is that most miniatures pop off their base on the sides (weapon hands extended, tentacles dangling, bulgy monster muscles, etc.) – making a single square width a tight fit. To make my narrow hallways more useful in play I slipped a half-tile next to the floor tiles. Technically a 1.5 inch wide hall, but infinitely more practical for the table.

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•I wanted to try my hand at something a bit more complex, so next I made a 2×2 floor tile with an arcane ritual circle on it. A little sloppy, I admit, but from far back it gets the job done. A nice clean stencil would have made this turn out a lot better.

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•Next I went…a little…crazy. I’d seen cool use of small lights in newer Dwarven Forge Catacomb sets and was inspired to try my hand at integrating cheap, battery powered tea-lights into minis terrain. Thus I came out with a large brazier and hearth/forge. I’ve yet to get a chance to use these in play, but I was pleased by how they turned out.

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•This large room (still in progress at the time of this writing) was originally an ambitious project to recreate an old 2D dungeon map I had into fully realized 3D. It dawned on me, however, that all the narrow rooms and tight corners (as well as the fact that this single chamber alone took hours to construct) meant this was probably more time consuming than it was worth. Not to mention the difficulty of transport! Though sturdy enough for table play, these plaster models need to be treated with some care as they are rather fragile. It makes the bigger pieces more susceptible to chipping and damage. Thus I settled for having a spacious, elbow shaped chamber.

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•The sacrificial altar was much more of an experiment. I had seen a few “how-to’s” on Youtube regarding budget terrain that made use of old packing material. One of the few upshots of my dayjob is that packing foam and bubble wrap are in abundance. Taking this particularly interesting piece of porous black foam, I decided to try carving it into a raised dais. The upside is that this material is malleable enough that you can slide the base of most miniatures into it – allowing minis to stand on the narrow steps I hewed into it with an exacto knife. The problem is that the sides did not take paint very well. Ultimately it would have looked better if I had chopped up the edges of the surface to give it a more worn, stone appearance.

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….and in back….

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All that said I was happy with how gross a quick dry-brushing job made the altar look! Drippy, disgusting, head-blood!

I’ll likely post future projects here as they get finished up. Next up is a two story guard tower: just as soon as I can figure out an easy way to get stairs/ladders working without needing to procure a new mold set….

3D Terrain Craft Corner

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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