Last week, I posted the terrain I made for the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch at the Charm City Gameday. I had a blast playing the deathmatch, and I’m really happy with how the piece turned out. But I have this hangup with making terrain: I’m not a big fan of spending more time on making something than I’ll get to use it. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, if something is only going to get used once, I do something quick and easy or not at all. In order to get more use out of it, I wanted to use this piece for an encounter in my home game. Of course, many of the features that are in place for the team deathmatch aren’t really compatible with a standard D&D encounter, so I needed to tweak things a bit.
First, I had to add monsters. Since I was still calling it “The Court of the Storm Lord,” I added four different types of storm and air elementals. In retrospect, two would have sufficed, max three.
Next, I gave the encounter an endgame. When a character made it to the top of the central pillar and grabbed the book that was there, the encounter was effectively over (I put a lectern at the top). The elementals would see the PC as the Storm Lord, and stop attacking. Further, they would obey his instructions, as long as those instructions did not require them to leave the map (which would destroy them). Of course, with this endgame in mind, I picked monsters that had push and prone powers, or added them, to make attaining the top of the pillar more difficult.
The four lightning rods at the corners of the map I changed as well. Instead of allowing the PCs to control them, I used them as outlined in my May of the Dead contribution. Lightning would strike a random rod at the end of each round, and damage all characters in that quarter of the map.
Finally, I had to change the Sun Switches. There was no need for them to trigger an acid trap that dumps onto the central pillar. Instead, any character that stepped onto one would be carried by a gust of wind 80′ in the air. While there, the elementals would not attack them, and the character could direct the lightning attack every round (instead of it being random).
And with just those four tweaks, I had a really fun encounter map.
Finally, as promised, how I made the Sun Switches for the map. My first inclination was to make something myself. I considered simply painting something on the tiles, but ultimately decided I wanted something modular. I grabbed my Sculpey, and dug in. Frustration ensued. I couldn’t get something satisfactory. I suppose if I had kept at it, I would have eventually come up with something passable, but the Charm City Gameday was approaching, and I had other things on my plate. To the craft store!
My hope was to find a decorative button to use, but when I got there the selection was less than impressive. (I assume a fabric store like Joann Fabric would have a better selection). I did find two different buttons that would work, but before I grabbed them, I decided to check out the jewelry aisle. I was glad I did. There are all sorts of pendants and bangles that are just begging to be included on your terrain pieces. I would encourage you to visit that aisle on your next shopping trip.
I found these pendants for $2 (with the weekly 40% off coupon every craft store has). The pendants have a small loop at the top that the necklace goes through, but that’s easily remidied with a pair of wire cutters and a needle file. (Needle files are useful for all sorts of things, not the least of which is filing flash off of minis.)
Ten minutes later, I had three “sun switches.” And… that’s it. It’s just that easy. And they look great.
Of course, as with any dungeon accessories article I write, here are some other uses for the pendants. (Suggestions garnered from Twitter have been attributed. If you’d like to participate next time on Twitter, simply follow us.)
- Make a Portal-style puzzle room that the PCs have to get through.
- Use them as portable teleport pads. You can limit the range, and force the PCs to bring both with them, or make the range “infinite” so that they can leave one behind in a safehouse as a dungeon emergency escape.
- Treasure – it is a ceremonial shield. Or a magical shield that shoots water out of the blue gem.
- Standing on one draws monster attacks.
- Use as a terrain feature – standing on one confers some benefit, whether it be an already published one (like bloodstone) or the “fly and direct lightning strikes” one I used.
- It’s obviously a soul trap. And it already has another soul trapped. So when someone steps on it, their soul gets trapped and the trapped soul ends up in their body. @TheAngryDM
- It creates a mirror image of a character that steps on it, and the mirror image… @Alphastream
- That’s an ancient thermostat, it lowers the temperature of the room by shooting out a freezing mist. @WesleyKHall
- It’s a magical trap – the trigger’s elsewhere, but that’s the zappy end of it. @DungeonGrind
- It contains a trapped demon that will try to trick the party into smashing the mirror and releasing it. @Hzurr
- It twinkles and glitters, but otherwise does nothing. The gelatinous cube sitting on top of it on the other hand… @Reg06
- It shows the reflection of the last creature to look into it – and makes the current viewer think they have assumed that form. @JohnduBois
- Magical hologram projector with plot point -or- The eye of a trapped giant golem @ObliviousWit
- If the dungeoneers fail a stealth check to move quitely, the crystal cracks, releasing the trapped zephyr demon within. @Rwaluchow
- Some sort of gem-based puzzle @CStevenRoss