Tag Archives: Sly Flourish

Weekly Roundup: Rare D&D Art Found Edition

Just this week, Steve Winter posted a picture on Twitter of something he found in a WotC warehouse. It’s the original painting from the cover of the 1977 Basic Set. Pretty cool find! And if you visit WotC HQ someday, it seems as though you could view it yourself, if you happened by the R&D area….

Growing Up Gamers posted a good article for parents this week. It discusses tips on gaming (with other adults) when you have kids around.

Sly Flourish gave us some good ideas for your party’s home base. Our favorite bit of advice? “Let the players decide upon and build out their home base. Give them options but don’t force a solution.” Some players LIVE for this kind of stuff.

Gnome Stew mulled over the idea of PCs who are children. (Not to be confused with children gamers)

Thoughtcrime Games began exploring Africa as a setting for fantasy games. They started with a discussion of Ethiopian history.

Finally, Semper Initiativus Unum put forth the controversial idea that maybe a man named David Wesely is actually the father (grandfather?) of D&D. Go learn some history. (And if you want some more, check this out)

Weekly Roundup: Weekend of Cons Edition

Ok, so it’s no longer Gencon (obviously) but there are (at least) three other major cons going on this weekend: DragonCon in Atlanta, WorldCon in Chicago, and Pax Prime in Seattle. With all that gaming going on, we’re not sure there’s even anyone around to read the roundup! Well, for those of you not at a con this weekend, here are some articles to soothe the disappointment.

Speaking of Pax, if you’d like to watch this year’s D&D Celebrity game (with Chris Perkins, Wil Wheaton, and the Penny Arcade guys) you can find it here. Really good stuff, and always fun to watch them play. It will (most likely) also eventually be archived on the WotC D&D Youtube channel.

If you’d like to win a copy of the 3 D&D 1st Edition reprints, The Secret DM is running a contest until the end of the month.

Over at The Broken Binding, our Subcontracting Your Villain Work idea is being tried.

Sly Flourish had a great article on how to design your own zone wide environmental effects. There are also examples. Environmental effects can really add a special layer to an encounter to make it memorable.

Some Space To Think wrote two great posts on skills and skill systems which set a lot of people thinking. We noticed these further thoughts from 2d6 Cents, though we suspect there were probably more responses in the blogosphere.

If you wish you were still at Gencon, check out Brian Liberge’s Gencon interview with Shelly Mezzanoble about the Rise of the Underdark campaign over at Stuffer Shack.

Gaming As Women had an article this week with some questions to ask of characters to bring them closer together as a group. You know, make them less of a roving band of misfits, and more of a team.

IntWisCha tackled the subject of Social Conflict. No, not when your gamers argue about tactics. It’s about how to end conversational conflict in our games on a “high point” the same way a fight ends with the killing blow.

As a followup to last week’s talk about the very successful Reaper Bones Kickstarter, Wired had an article highlighting it. Apparently, it was the third biggest Kickstarter ever.

And finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you to this week’s WotC playtester profile. They talk to friends of the show Alphastream and Going Last.

Blast From The Past (Weekly Roundup: Totally Unrelated Link Edition)

Roleplaying Tips blogged about how to get your players to hand you Checkov’s Gun.  If you don’t know what Checkov’s Gun is, you can check out TV Tropes.  Do so at your own peril (and only if you have several hours at your disposal).

Weekly Roundup: Ennies Voting Is Open Edition

Voting for the Ennies is only open for the next week, so head on over there and vote (the link opens in a new window so you can let it sit while you peruse the roundup). Befoe you head over there though, we want to note this, which is in the voting instructions: Before voting, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the products. The product titles link to their publisher’s websites, allowing you to learn more about that product. The Ennies are not a popularity contest. Don’t vote for something just because it was made by a publisher you like, even if you haven’t seen the actual product. Take a little bit of time to get to know all the products in a category, or don’t vote in that category at all. Let’s make this the best Ennies ever!

This week, The She DM wrote up a great analysis of how much the new WotC Dungeon Command game costs vs. how much you’d pay on the secondary market for the same miniatures. If you’re just going to buy Dungeon Command for the miniatures, this article is a must read.

Reality Refracted has some great advice for long time GMs who make the switch to the other side of the screen. Sometimes it’s difficult to go from GM to player, and this is some great advice for those who change up their role.

Campaign Mastery wrote a very in-depth article on investigative adventures, and the different ways to lead PCs from Mystery to Solution. This is a long one folks, so set some time aside, but definitely worth a read if you’re thinking about this type of adventure in the near future. (We also have some advice from a while back…)

If you’re looking for something more bite-sized, check out the quick paragraph that Joe the Lawyer wrote about what makes for the best D&D groups.

If you have little ones, and love Gencon, make sure you check out Dread Gazebo‘s article on bringing kids to Gencon. Of course, every child is different, but the advice here is solid. (We might also note that this article goes hand in hand with the one by Avy Valentine which was linked last week.)

Sly Flourish posted some great advice on how to tie PCs to a prepublished adventure. For many DMs, the inability to fit something prepublished into their campaign keeps them from using prepublished resources. Try some of these tricks to personalize prepublished adventures.

Finally, you may have heard about the new RPG coming out called 13th Age. And you may have some questions. If so, check out the 13 facts about 13th Age posted this week at their site. Looks like a fun system.

Blast From The Past (Weekly Roundup: Loot! Edition)

A Character For Every Game [now Dyson’s Dodecahedron] posted a roundup of maps from around the blogosphere.  If you’re as into maps as he is, check it out.  It’s a great source of bloggers who regularly post maps to steal.  We love a good roundup!

Weekly Roundup: First Special Ops Gameday Edition

Just yesterday, we started our new home campaign. We’re loosely using the rules from the 4e supplement Wraith Recon that drops a “special ops/splinter cell” theme into a fantasy setting. Our first play session went very well, and we hope to meet on a regular basis with rotating DMs.

If you haven’t been following the “What X Edition of D&D Got Right” over at Greywulf’s Lair you should check it out. His most recent addition was What AD&D Got Right.

With our new home campaign in mind, we really liked the Inception style skill challenge that Sly Flourish presented this week. We may have to work that in somewhere.

A Hamsterish Hoard of Dungeons and Dragons posted a random table of dragon “add ons” this week that you should check out. It doesn’t seem to be made for 4e (semi-system agnostic), but should be pretty easy to adapt. Make your dragons more unpredictable and deadly TODAY!

Neuroglyph Games posted 10 new psionic rituals for Dark Sun. I wonder if we’ll see access to any of these in an upcoming Ashes of Athas mod??

Stuffer Shack discussed the new Legends and Lore article about Epic play. He mostly disagrees with the WotC article, and has some great thoughts.

Finally, don’t miss Daily Encounter‘s second article on art for D&D Next. We especially liked the links to D&D artist’s Deviant Art galleries. Lots of good inspiration there.

 Blast From The Past (Weekly Roundup: Podcast Edition)

Tarrasqueous had some interesting homebrew Gamma World “monsters” called “Gamma Portals.”  This was especially interesting to us, as we just finished the first Gamma World novel “Sooner Dead” where “ripples,” similar to Gamma Portals, featured prominently.  Kind of neat to see some crunch put to the fluff in the novels.

Weekly Roundup: Dice Tower Giveaway Edition

We kind of let our one year anniversary come and go without any real fanfare. We feel bad about that. And, since we’ve been trying to come up with a good Hirst Arts dice tower, we have a little something to give away. It’s a not-quite-perfect tower that was an early prototype of the perfect dice tower that is in our head. (It has trouble rolling more than a couple of dice at at time). Convoluded? Perhaps. Let us clarify: it looks a lot like this one, except without the braziers on either side of the doorway. Anyway, if you’d like to win it, just post something to that effect in the comments. The contests lasts until December 3rd.

 The Evil GM posted a great spreadsheet that autocalculates monster stats. This is based, of course, on the updated MM3 and following math. Check it out, it’s a Google doc, but you can download it for Excel.

The Action Point has started letting the players roll when their non-AC defenses are attacked, much like the save mechanic in 3.5. Find out what he likes about it.

Over at Wombat’s Gaming Den of Iniquity, they started a new series on running sandbox games. If you’d like to give your players more freedom and fly by the seat of your pants more, this is a great place to start.

Hunter’s Haven had some great advice for all the players out there when it comes to character creation. It’s three very quick bullet points, so even if you don’t have time to read the whole article, it’s worth checking out.

A few weeks ago Sly Flourish posted a set of pictures that he uses to organize his game maps. Instead of opening each map, he is able to flip through the pictures. This week Alphastream added to the catalogue. This is a great resource; if you have a bunch of adventure maps you’d like to organize in this manner, but don’t want to take pictures of them yourself, check out both articles.

Finally, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that we’ve run several adventures on a ship. That’s why we were excited to see Dungeon’s Master‘s list of eight hooks for high seas adventure. Check it out!

Blast from the Past (Weekly Roundup: Daylight Savings Time Edition)

Yax did a guest post over at Critical Hits about body language at the gaming table.  Not only did we find this article entertaining (check out the illustrations) and informative, it was on a subject that isn’t usually addressed in gaming blogs.  We give it two thumbs up; a must read for all.

Weekly Roundup: Hirst Model on Ebay Edition

It took us about a month, but we finally have the final model from the Gencon Fourthcore Deathmatch up on Ebay. It didn’t sell at the convention, so now you can get it for a steal – with nowhere to store it, I just want it out of my house. The auction ends in 7 days, so happy bidding! There are a LOT of modular dungeon pieces AND accessories in this model. The auction can be found here.  And a few of the week’s articles can be found here:

We’re pretty much lazy dungeon masters around here, so the article over at Sly Flourish this week was right up our alley. Check it out for some great tips.

Of course, if you’re a lazy PLAYER, you’ll want a copy of the cheat sheets presented by Temporary Hit Points this week.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a game store that is carrying Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, go pick it up! If you’re not, you’ll have to wait until Sept 20th, and settle for the review over at This Is My Game.

Have kids? Young kids? Maybe it’s time you let your 4 year old DM! That was the gist of the article at Kids Dungeon Adventure this week. 

This one isn’t an article, per se, but we thought it was full of good info that most people would find helpful. It’s a thread on Reddit discussing how to organize your minis, maps, and other RPG accessories.

Finally, the current contests we’re aware of include the Obsidian Portal/D20 Monkey caption contest, and the Flagons and DragonsFlagons High” fantasy toast contest. Check them out!

Do you know of any contests we didn’t list?

Hirst Arts Buyers Guide

About a year ago, when I was considering buying some sets of Dwarven Forge, I came across Sly Flourish’s Dwarven Forge Buyer’s Guide. In the article, Mike walks the new buyer through what to buy your first time around.  It seems to me that it’s time to give Hirst Arts molds similar treatment.

First things first.  Before buying, you need to decide that you are the type of person who will actually use the molds.  If the thought of spending hours casting blocks from a mold does not appeal to you, Hirst Arts (HA) is not for you.  There are several “middle of the road” 3D terrain options for people who aren’t willing to pay a premium for Dwarven Forge (DF), but are also unwilling (or unable) to cast their own blocks.  Three such options that I know of are CastleKits, Showcase Terrain, and DungeonStone.  CastleKits casts complete tile sets from HA molds, and sends them to you.  For example, if you want seven castings of one of the floor tile molds, you simply order that from their store, and they will ship the pre-cast blocks to you, ready for assembly and painting.  DungeonStone and Showcase Terrain go a step further and cast the blocks already “assembled,” and all you need to do is paint the pieces.  These two manufacturers cast their pieces out of resin (which is what DF uses).  CastleKits are more versatile, as you can make anything you would make with  HA blocks.  Just order the pieces you need.  DungeonStone and Showcase Terrain require less work.

Still want to cast your own pieces? To get started in the addiction hobby of creating your own dungeons, you’ll need about $100 which is similar to the commitment when dipping one’s pinky toe into the DF pool.  About half of that $100 will go towards casting material and other tools of the trade; future investment in HA will be substantially less than your initial cash outlay.

There are several “lines” of HA molds, so I will list two “starter” molds from some of the more popluar categories. I would definitely recommend choosing a single “line” to buy from at the start.  You can eventually branch out to other lines, but if you don’t limit yourself, the mold choices can become overwhelming. Here is a link to the molds page.  It will open in a separate window so you can browse the molds alongside this article.

Gothic (chipped) Stone
Mold 40 – Basic block mold.  I like this mold because it’s all business.  Yes, there are other Gothic molds that cast mostly blocks, but none of them have the same versatility that this one does.  No frills, but your buildings will come together quickly with this mold.
Mold 201/202/206 (choose 1) – Basic floor mold.  I like these three molds because they include triangular pieces that can be used for decorative floors, or in other surprising ways.  Which mold you choose is personal preference, but I own mold 201.

Mold 701 – Fieldstone wall mold.  This mold is just as “no nonsense” as the Gothic basic block mold.
Mold 203/206 (choose 1) – Since many people go with Fieldstone because of its similarity to Dwarven Forge, you’ll want floor tiles that also look similar.  Either of these molds fits the bill.

Mold 95 – Basic block mold.  Like its Gothic chipped stone cousin, this mold is just blocks. It’s got a great sand blasted texture; bear in mind you don’t have to paint it in a sandstone color.  It would hold up just as well with stone greys that would make it look like granite blocks.  Go with the Egyptian line if you like the look of blocks (vs. fieldstone), but the Gothic chipped stone texture doesn’t appeal to you.
Mold 290 – Egyptian floor tile mold.  I’m recommending this because it will fit the best with the wall block texture, although either of the floor tile recommendations in the Fieldstone section above would work well too, if you’re going to be painting your models gray.

Mold 81/82 (choose 1) – Cavern Walls.  In reality, you’ll probably want both of these molds if you’re doing caverns, but you can get away with just one for a while.  It basically comes down to whether you want the one with the door, or the crates and barrels.
Mold 281 – Cavern floors.  I like the non-symmetrical look of these tiles; if you’ve got Dwarven Forge cavern sets, these will fit in perfectly.

So, looking over these selections, you’ll notice that I’ve basically recommended plain vanilla wall blocks and floor tiles.  To be honest, these two molds will go a long way, and let you build out about 95% of anything you can imagine.  But eventually you’re going to want to accessorize, decorate, and personalize.  Here are recommendations for one more mold in each category.  If you have the money to start with three molds, go for one of these.

Gothic – Mold 45 – Gothic Dungeon Builder.  Of all my molds, this one is probably my favorite.  It’s far more versatile than it looks.
Fieldstone – Mold 71/80 (choose 1) – Fieldstone Accessories or Dragon’s Teeth.  You’ll probably get more mileage out of the arches and other bits in the FA mold, though the pillars and dragon heads in the DT mold are pretty cool too.
Egyptian – Mold 96 – I like the coffin and mummy included as well as the pyramid pillars.  Don’t be sucked in by the secret door piece, you won’t make enough secret doors to be worth it. (Hint: if you want a secret door in your dungeon, buying a Castle Kits casting of the appropriate secret door mold is more cost effective)
Caverns – The other wall mold.

Hopefully, I’ve given you a good starting point to dive into the immensly fun hobby of creating your own 3D terrain.  Please ask questions in the comments below, or via Twitter.  I know of several other RPG bloggers who use Hirst Arts, and if I can’t answer your question, I can point you to someone who can!

The Sea Dragon’s Maiden Voyage, Part II

In Part I, I outlined a skill challenge I used aboard a ship, and promised the combat encounter that followed; before we get into that combat encounter for the Sea Maiden, I wanted to highlight two other things I did during this adventure, and my thoughts on how they worked out. 

Arcane Ballista on the forecastle. The sailor henchmen are the pink starburst.

I’ve long been a fan of using special terrain features to add spice to combats.  This particular combat, however, was my first time actually trying it, and I think it went very well.  I used the Arcane Ballista from the D&D Miniatures “War Drums” line, framing it as a deck gun that the players could fire on their turn using a minor action.  Since the card that came with the mini was written with 3.5 rules, I had to come up with some 4e mechanics governing how the ballista was to be used.  I required a difficult arcane or thievery check to operate it, and then an intelligence or dexterity attack vs. AC.  Once the ballista had been fired (hit or miss), it took a full round to reload, so the team couldn’t just gather around it and fire it six times a round.  I struggled the most with determining the damage output of the ballista.  I wanted to make it good enough to be enticing to use, but not so overpowered that it would break the combat.  Obviously, the damage would be force damage, but how much?  I eventually settled on 3d6 for the 4th level party, rationalizing that rolling lots of dice is fun, and the average damage didn’t seem too out of line.  Being that the PCs were on a ship, I also gave the ballista a push ability so the players would have the opportunity to shove their adversaries overboard.  Here is what the finished product looked like: 

Arcane Ballista 

  • The arcane ballista requires a DC 22 arcana or thievery check every time you want to operate it.  This skill check is part of the minor action to fire it.
  • Powerful Blast  recharge: 1 round; Minor Action Ranged 20; Int+5 or Dex+5 vs. AC; Hit: 3d6 force damage, and you may push the target 1 square.

 (Sorry about the formatting, but you get the picture…) 

In retrospect, I may have changed the push to 2 squares, and perhaps made the arcana/thievery check a one time thing.  Other than that, I think it went very well.  Two of the PCs (trained in arcana and theivery, of course) made a beeline for the ballista as soon as I handed them the mechanic.  It’s something I will definitely do again. 

Arrrrr! Sing a chanty and man the topsail! (Artwork by Wesley K. Hall)

The second thing I tried was giving each of the players a henchman.  This idea I owe entirely to Wesley Hall over at WeXogo.com, who proposed the idea of “reverse minions.”  He’s created three: the Merchant, Soldier, and Farmer.  These were the inspiration for my henchmen, the Sailor.  I wanted to make mine more sturdy than 1 hp, so I took the idea of a “two hit” minion, and turned it into a power.  Here is a pdf of the final result, with artwork courtesy of Wesley Hall.  They are set at level 1, but can easily be leveled up with the PCs, if you so choose, by using the SlyFlourish cheat sheet.  Just use the minion damage, atk vs def for the attack bonus, average AC, Fort & Will -2, and average Def for Reflex.  The defenses you could tweak a bit depending upon the flavor you want to give the henchmen.  

How did they go?  I’d say swimmingly. (See what I did there?)  The group immediately gave their “cabin boys” names and personalities without any real prompting.  While I didn’t give them a lot of opportunity to roleplay them, I suspect there would have been shenanigans.  The combat they were involved in wasn’t broken by the addition of the henchmen, and because they only have the one attack, things weren’t really slowed up either.  

In planning to use them, the biggest question I had was: would the players involve their henchman in combat, or opt to hide them in order to keep them around for roleplaying opportunities later?  I mean, sure, two hits is twice as hardy as one hit, but it’s still pretty fragile.  Involving them in combat would mean a pretty good chance of henchman death, and there wasn’t a replacement waiting in the wings.  I did make it clear at the start of combat that their henchmen were either in or out; they couldn’t choose to run and hide after the first hit.  In the end, only one of them chose to leave their sailor out of the combat, which was fortunate because he ended up being a hero later on.  Only one of the henchmen died, though several of them took their first hit.  I still haven’t decided whether the henchmen will stick around, given the PCs current predicament, but if they do, I expect that the group will have a lot of fun with them. 

Well, this post has run a little long, and rather than tax your attention span even more, I think we’ll put off the combat encounter until next week.  You’ll be highly amused when you see how it ends, I guarantee it.  See you then!

Weekly Roundup – Postponed Game Edition

Well, inclement weather has postponed our game this week.  *Sigh*  Guess we should read some hot-off-the-press blog articles for our much needed D&D fix, and get together some article-y goodness for you while we’re at it.

Sly Flourish had a great buyers guide to D&D books for new DMs.  The book landscape has changed quite a bit since the outset of 4th Edition, so if you’re looking for everything updated, start here.

Icosahedrophilia (say THAT five times fast…) had a very interesting article on the history of miniatures in D&D.  Specifically, how the rules, as written, supported (or didn’t support) the use of miniatures on a battle map.  Good read, even if you’re only interested in the general history of D&D.

For all the Arts & Crafts and Hirst Arts nuts out there, Ben’s RPG Pile had a fun tutorial on building ruined hallways with your Hirst Arts molds.  Mold numbers and pictures included!  Woo hoo!!

And Finally, RPG Musings had an article on speeding up D&D 4e. I know, I know, everyone’s sick of the talk about “the speed of combat in 4e.”  Actually, if you read that again, the word “combat” isn’t there….hmmm….

If we haven’t noticed your blog yet, feel free to leave us a link in the comments!

Weekly Roundup – Finished Sea Maiden Edition

Well, it’s been several months in the making, but I finally finished the Sea Maiden.  It took longer than I expected, but I also wasn’t working on it as intently as I would have liked.  Article and pictures to come soon, though we’re more focused on the “Where to get Gamma World minis” articles at this point.  So what went on in the blogosphere this week?  Read on…

Sly Flourish had a great article on using the 5×5 method to design NPCs.  It was originally meant to help design adventure hooks, but we think this is an innovative new use for the technique.  Not only do you get some cool NPCs, but you have some hooks already built in!

Three separate blogs talked about the speed of a gaming session, and all three came at the discussion from different angles. Some Space to Think talked about RPG game pacing in general – how to make sure there are no lulls in your game.  Arcane Springboard over at This is My Game made an argument for doing away with ongoing damage to speed up combat, and The Dungeon’s Master had general tips to speed up combat.

Ben’s RPG Pile reviewed the new set of Dwarven Forge wicked additions.  Check it out; his articles always have nice pictures to illustrate the subject at hand.

Board Enterprises had some interesting thoughts about whether or not you should map out locations in your campaign.  While a definitive solution to the problem was not presented, it certainly gave us something to think about.

Bartoneous over at Critical Hits had another great Architect DM article.  We recommend you go check it out, if only to find out the answer to the question “How much damage can your average structure really take before collapsing? Assume barbarian w/axe, not explosives.”

Finally, over at Geek’s Dream Girl, there was a great article on using all 5 senses when you describe a scene for your PCs.  Great advice in here, and something we’ve been thinking about for a while now.  Theory is good, of course, but putting it into practice is better.

Shameless plug time! Add a link to your blog in the comments!