Tag Archives: Table Tech

DIY Area of Effect Templates

One of the greatest simplifications that 4th edition made to the game was making all areas of effect (AoEs) square. No longer did players have to take up precious game time going through all sorts of gyrations to figure out exactly which squares were affected by a fireball or cone of cold. Sure, there’s an element of simulation that is lost by making a fireball square, but in my mind, it’s a winning tradeoff.

This also makes DIY AoE templates a simple project that anyone can do. Compare this to days of yore when you needed a vise, needlenosed pliers, coated wire, a ruler, endless patience (and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting) to make a zone for your “Entangle” spell. Before I get into today’s project, let’s look at some common methods for marking off a zone or AoE on the battlemat. Continue reading

Make This Modular Bridge Terrain for $10


Bridges are really cool.  They have the same confining qualities as a dungeon corridor without all the claustrophobia.  A bridge has the danger of falling off.  And come on, the most epic scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy was on the cavern bridge where Gandalf took his stand.  Let’s see if we can’t get a little of that flavor here.   

First, I am by no means an expert at making terrain.  Aside from painting and modifying miniatures, my D&D arts and crafts experience is limited largely to dabbling in this and that.  So when I tell you that this terrain is easy to make, I’m saying that from the standpoint of an amateur.  I will also say that I am not the type of person to make something for my game if I think it will only get used once.  I don’t like the idea of investing more time into making something than it will get used.  So, when I come up with an idea, I try to make it as modular as possible.  If I can’t think of five or six different ways to use something, it doesn’t get made.  Those are the ideals I approached this project with.  Easy, fast, and modular.  Let’s get started.   

Your shopping list:    

  • 2 pieces of 12x6x2 styrofoam rectangles (I found it in the floral aisle of my craft store)
  • 2 pieces of basswood, 1/2 inch wide, usually 24 or 36 inches long (in the wood crafts section)
  • 1 piece of basswood, 1/8 inch square, again usually 24 or 36 inches long.
  • Black, white, and brown acrylic paint.
  • (Optional) A piece of black felt and a piece of blue felt.  They’re about the size of a sheet of paper.

All this should come to about $10, give or take.  Be sure to Google coupons for your favorite craft store before you head out!  Also, you will need the following, which I happened to have, but you may not:    

  • Crafting Miter Box & Saw (wood crafts section again.  About $15)
  • Coping saw or styrofoam cutter
  • Various paint brushes
  • Elmer’s glue

So these things bring the total to more than $10, obviously, but are items you’ll get more use out of.  Also, you could probably use the saw that comes with the mitre box to cut the styrofoam, you’d just end up with a more “angled” edge than a “curvy” one.    

Start by laying the styrofoam end to end the long way, and mark off the top 2 inches of the foam.  Then, draw a curvy line within that 2 inch section, making sure that the curve is contiguous across both blocks.  Your blocks of foam should look like this:    

  Then, cut along the lines.  Try to keep the thinner pieces intact.  Here’s what they look like when they’re done.    


Mix up the black and white paint to make gray, and brush the edges of the foam (both the big and small pieces you cut out).  When the gray is dry, add a little black paint to some water, and “wash” the gray edges so that you fill in all the tiny holes in the styrofoam.  Washing makes a drastic difference.  Paint the top surface brown, and wash that in black.    


While your foam is drying, use the mitre box to cut your 1/2 inch wide basswood into 2 1/2 inch segments.  Make as many as you want, but make sure you have an even number.  Glue them into a bridge, and then use the 1/8 inch wood to make “wheel rails.”  The rails should be 2 inches apart; I used a 2 inch length of spare wood as a spacer, seen below with the X on it.    


Paint the bridge brown, and use a fine sharpie or a fine paintbrush to blacken the groove between every other slat.  This will create 1 inch spaces for players to put their minis in; the bridge is also 2 inches wide, so by telling players the minis need to either be on the left or right and between black lines, you now have an effective “grid” on the bridge without having to draw squares.    

Finally, once the paint is dry, take an exacto knife and cut a grid onto the styrofoam.  It doesn’t show up too well in the pictures, but it’s evident at the table.  If you want something more defined, I’d use dots of white paint, kind of like on dungeon tiles.    

To set the piece up, lay the black felt down to simulate a bottomless pit, and span the bridge across the opening.  Put the two smaller pieces of foam on top of the bigger pieces of foam as walls .   

So that’s pretty much it, believe it or not.  Total make time: about 1 1/2 hours.  Here are a few features of this really versatile terrain:    

  • By cutting 2 inches off the top, you left 4 inches a the bottom.  Incidentally, most dungeon tiles are 4x__ or 2x__, so you can lay tiles on top of this perfectly.
  • Because you drew a contiguous line across both pieces of foam, you can lay them end to end.
  • By laying felt in the gap, you can create the illusion of a bottomless pit with black or a river with blue.

Here are a few configurations you can make, besides the cavern bridge:    

 Cave corridor or cliffside path (lay foam end to end with the walls on top) 

Bridge over a river gorge (Blue felt for water, no confining walls)


Ravine with ambush at the top    


Stepped hill that the PCs have to scale 

A final note: You may see in the pictures that I used something other than brown paint as a surface on the terrain.  I used flocking with styrofoam glue, and I was very unhappy with the results, mostly because of the styrofoam glue.  It didn’t dry clear, and was all… “webby.”  If you want to use flocking, I would NOT recommend styrofoam spray glue.  If I were to do it again, I would paint the foam first, then brush on watered down Elmer’s glue.  Shake on the flocking, and use a spray bottle to spray more watered down Elmers over the top of the flocking.  You can also buy rolls of premade “grass” flocking type material in the model train or diorama section of your craft store, though I feel that stuff is kind of expensive for what you get.  In the end, brown paint will do just fine. 

How would you use this terrain?

RPGKids! – Aborted Playtest & A Freebie!

This weekend, I was all set to test the RPGKids! system with my kids.  I had the tokens.  I read the adventure.  I had the dice ready.  Then, Sunday evening, the three year old was wound up beyond any hope of being able to sit and concentrate on… well, anything.  So we didn’t play.  In the downtime created by her hyperactivity, however, I had a brainstorm. 

Every player is supposed to start the game with two vials of medicine.  Instead of using the checkboxes on the character card, why not make a token that the player has to turn in when they use the medicine?  And, of course, you can hand out more medicine tokens when the party finds treasure.  Of course, I had to take that a step further… why not a whole bunch of potions to hand out to players? 

I’m a big proponent of tactile elements to the game; from the dice to the miniatures to the poker chips I give my players as Action Points.  So, here are the potions I came up with; when I first made them, I had something specific in mind, but upon further reflection, the symbol on each one could mean a lot of different things, so I also included some ideas for using them.

Red Cross

Ok, this one is medicine, and I wouldn’t recommend muddling the issue by assigning a different meaning to the symbol.


Makes the character fly for a certain amount of time
Gives the character the ability to talk to birds
Falling from high up doesn’t hurt the character
Character can control the wind
Character can run really fast


Character can breathe underwater
Unlimited water gushes out when you open the stopper
Character can talk to water creatures
Character can walk on water

Human Outline

Turns character invisible
Smashing causes a “twin” of the character to appear for a certain amount of time


Character can see in the dark
Character can see invisible things
Character can see far away
Character gets a bonus to search checks
Character can make someone else blind

Circular Arrows

Grants a reroll
Character can switch their “role” (e.g. a healer can become a
wizard) for a certian amount of time
Character is swapped with another character at the table for a certain amount of time
Character can go back and change a decision they made


You can download the PDF here.  I’ll be adding it to the downloads section soon, and if you appreciate the work involved in making these, that’s where you can donate to the blog.  They’re one inch wide, so the round punch mentioned in the last RPGKids! article I wrote should work great to cut them out.  I would also use the foam mentioned in that article as backing for the tokens. 

Have fun!

What other uses can you think of for the potions?  What kinds of potions would you like to see me make next?

RPGKids! – A Token Problem

Back when NewbieDM first came out with his updated version (1.5) of RPGKids! the praise for it was so fierce that I went and bought it, downloaded it… and let it sit on my hard drive.  “This would be a great game to play with my kids,” I thought to myself, though finding the time to pursue such an idea was a bit hard to come by.  Ok, maybe that’s a lame excuse; “we find the time for the things we want to do,” yes, I know.  At any rate, the PDF sat quietly in my “D&D” folder waiting to be rediscovered.  Then, just last week, NewbieDM got a nod from the superblog Boing Boing, and my interest was reignited.  I printed out the PDF (in color!), and flipped through the awesomely simple rules and the included adventure.  “This is great,” I thought, “my three year old may be a little young, and my eleven year old may be a little old, but I’ll make it work.  We’re going to play this weekend.”  As an aside, I will say that this is a very complete product.  Printed out on a color printer, you have the rules, the adventure, tokens, character cards, and all the maps you need to run the adventure.  Perfect.

I had a problem though.  I wanted to use the fun monster and player tokens that came with the game, but even printed out on cardstock, they were difficult to pick up and move around the map.  Definitely not kid friendly.  So I went to work to make them better for little hands.

To make the tokens easier to use, all I really needed was a third dimension.  Paper thin tokens (quite literally) are difficult to get your fingers under, and you end up either sliding them to the edge of the table, or bending them to your will.  Well, ok, just bending them.  My solution to this problem was stupidly simple: foam sheets.  I don’t know if there’s an “official” name for this stuff, but it’s a sheet of flexible foam about 1/8″ thick, about the size of a sheet of paper, and comes in all different colors.  You can find it in the kid’s craft section of your local craft store; you’ll spend about $2 for the amount you’ll need for this project… and will have lots left over for the tokens in the next adventure Newbie is inevitably going to write.

Now, technically speaking, that’s all you need, aside from a ruler and an exacto knife or a pair of scissors.  There is one tool that would make the job easier and quicker, but it is a little expensive if all you’re doing is making the tokens for RPGKids!.

Most craft stores sell different types of hole punches in the scrapbooking aisle (oh, the places I go for you readers…).  You can get shapes, borders, and yes, 1″ circles.  The punch runs $10 to $15, but be sure to look for the weekly “40% off 1 item” coupon that most craft stores put out.  I was too cheap to buy one, but if you’re the type to make your own tokens on a regular basis, I would highly recommend such a tool to make token manufacture simpler. (Note: I actually found the “make your own tokens” article on Newbie’s site while I was writing this article, and after I had completed the project, though I realize that it makes me look like a big cheater.  I do think the foam is a better medium than metal washers or wooden discs.  It’s way cheaper and lighter.)

I chose red for the monsters and green for the PCs, just so the kids would have another visual cue when playing the game.  I also wrote the monster’s name on the back so that there’s a “hurt” side.  If I had been feeling especially ambitious, I would have printed out a second set of the tokens for the reverse side, and put a red dot, or X or something on them to indicate hurt.  The actual cutting of the tokens and foam went really quickly; the foam is very soft material, and I just had to zip off 26-ish 1″ squares.  A little elmer’s glue, and voila!  Lightweight, kid-friendly tokens.

It’s funny how, for me, these little “prep” projects really get me excited to play a game.  As I said before, I’ll be playing this weekend (hopefully), and I will definitely be writing about how it goes.  I’m interested to see if the three year old “gets” it, and if the eleven year old gets bored.  I’m thinking yes to the first, and no to the second, but then, I’m an optimist.  Until then, I’ll be studying the adventure!

Dungeon Accessories: Lectern

This post is part of a series showing readers how to use Hirst Arts blocks to make accessories for 3D dungeons.  For the rest of the series, click the “Article Series” link on the menu bar.  If you don’t own any Hirst Arts molds, have no fear! You can skip right to the bottom for adventure ideas that do not require the actual accessory. 


“You enter a room that is completely empty, save for a lectern with an open book on it.” Such a scene, of course, sparks a myriad of questions in the player’s minds.  Added ambiance, like a sourceless beam of light illuminating the book, only serves to bring them to the edge of their seats even more.  Of course, showing them the lectern makes it that much cooler.  And let me tell you, this accessory couldn’t be easier.  I mean, so easy I almost didn’t post it, for fear of a resounding “duh” from the collective internet.  Let’s get to it. 

You will need mold 201 or 202.  I do not own 202, but I would have preferred it for this project.  You’ll need two of the long skinny floor pieces, two of the tiny triangles, one of the 1/3 rectangles, and a 1 inch square floor piece.  See the picture. 

Gather the pieces

 Glue the two triangles together, smooth sides facing in, and the skinny long pieces the same way.  Then, glue the triangles to the skinny long pieces as shown. 

Glue the triangles to the skinny rectangles

Congrats! You’re practically there.  Now, the tricksy part.  You need to stand the lectern up, and glue it to the 1″ square floor piece.  This will add a lot of stability, as well as giving it a “raised off the floor” look.  Since it’s pretty top-heavy, you’ll need to lean it against something so it doesn’t fall over while the glue is drying.  I just used another Hirst Arts block, as shown.

Once it was dry, I added the final piece to the triangular support, for the book to rest on.  The final product is pictured at the top of the post.  If you don’t want to make the lectern “raised” up on its own floor piece, you can integrate the floor piece into a 2×2 or 3×3 modular floor section, also as pictured at the top of the post.  You do cast your Hirst Arts to be modular, right?  Also, if you don’t want the triangle pieces as supports, you could also leave them off, and sand the top of the skinny rectangles at an angle.

As I said, this project couldn’t be easier.  Start to finish (not counting casting time), it came together in about 1/2 hour.  That’s counting drying time!

Some ways to use the lectern:

  • The PCs are given a quest to find a certain book. They find this lectern in the middle of a library, with a book open on it. Is that the book they’re looking for? Or, like Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail, is it in a more humble location?
  • When a ritual book or spell book is placed on the pedestal, rituals or spells cast from it are more powerful. (In “crunch” terms, a spellcaster is given a bonus for casting from beside the lectern)
  • The book on the lectern cannot be removed without performing an action, quest, or ritual.
  • If the book on the lectern is removed, a trap is triggered. (Who didn’t think of that one? Raise your hands… you should be ashamed.)
  • The book on the lectern acts as a “deck of many things.”  When approached, the book flips itself to a random page.  A PC reading that page pulls a card out of the deck of many things. (Yeah, I know the deck’s not out yet. It’s coming out this year though….)
  • The lectern stands alone in the middle of an empty room, with a book on it, illuminated by a sourceless light. It is completely mundane, as is the religious text on it… but the players don’t know that.

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination.  Do you have an idea for the lectern not listed here? Leave it in the comments!

Happy New Year & a FREEBIE for all you Dark Sun fans!

When I posted the freebie trees for Christmas, it was brought to my attention that I neglected all you Dark Sun fans out there.  My apologies, and I hope that today’s offering makes up for it.  We have palm trees provided by the wonderful folks over at NintendoPapercraft.com, and some cacti provided by yours truly.

Palm Trees



P.S. – We’d love to see some pics of any of our papercraft in action…

Merry Christmas & a FREEBIE from the Misfits!

It’s Christmas come early around here.  We wanted to get you something nice, so here are some papercraft trees for your next wilderness encounter.  The pine trees were made by Quick Quests, and we thank them for allowing us to post the trees on our site.  Please take the time to check them out, their prices are very reasonable.  The Deciduous trees are a Misfits original, though the tree art is from Karen’s Whimsy. Just click the links below to start the downloads.

Pine Trees

Deciduous Tree

They’re our gift to you, so download and print as much as you want!  When things have wound down from the holiday, the files will find a permanent home in our downloads section, so they’ll be easy to find later.  Enjoy!

DSC_0003 (2)

Dungeon Accessories: The Well & Pool

 This entry is part of a series wherein I show how to use Hirst Arts molds to make new dungeon accessories for your 3D terrain of choice.  If you don’t have any Hirst Arts molds, that’s no problem.  At the bottom of the article you’ll find a bunch of ways you can use the accessory as the centerpiece for an encounter or story arc; you don’t need the actual accessory to use the ideas.  So feel free to read the whole article, or just zip to the bottom, and get your creative juices jumpstarted!

A well or pool usually seems out of place in a dungeon, and players approach them with caution; for good reason, as you’ll see if you read some of the adventure hooks at the end of this post.  There are instructions on the Hirst Arts site (in the Tips & Tricks) on how to make water features.  I’m not going to duplicate any of them, but rather show you one of the methods I use.

Getting everything together

All you need to make a well and a pool is either floor mold 201 or 202.  If you have mold 45, you can use pieces from that mold, but it’s not necessary.  For the well, you’ll need 4 of the long thin rectangular floor pieces, and 4 of the smallest rectangular pieces.  For the pool, you’ll need 8 of the half size floor pieces, and 4 of the smallest rectangular pieces.  Is that specific enough for you? How about a picture:

You’ll also need something called Water Effects, which you can also see in the picture.  It’s basically really really thick Elmer’s glue – think “whipped cream” thick.  You could also use resin, but I don’t have any experience with it; if you want instructions for resin, you’ll have to check out the Hirst Arts site.  I will say this – resin looks like a lot more work, though the finished effect is probably more water-like.


Putting this project together is incredibly simple.  For the well, form two of the short pieces and two of the long pieces into a square.  Then, add another layer, placing the long pieces on top of the short pieces this time.  That’s it.  For the pool, glue two half size floor pieces together for each side, and use the small short pieces for the corners.  Make sure that the smooth sides of the floor pieces are facing inwards.  The pool will be fairly fragile until the water effects have set in it, so don’t go putting too much pressure on the walls.  Let everything dry overnight.

When they’re ready for the water effects, tape some parchment paper to your work surface.  This will keep the water effects from drying to your table. Hold the well (or pool) steady as you fill it with the water effects.  Then, take a toothpick and swirl it around the surface to texture it.  Be sure to get it into all the corners; it may need a little coaxing.  You can see how mine turned out below.

I will note here that the water effects took a LONG time to dry, especially on the pool.  In my dehydrator, over 48 hours.  Hey, I said it was easy, not fast.  Once the water effects was dry, I decided I wanted to have steps leading up to the pool, so I used another of the long and short skinny pieces to do that.  You can see in the pictures that the finished “water” in the pool and well has some air bubbles in it.  For now, that doesn’t bother me, but I may end up painting the surface of the water later.  If I do that, it will be a coat of blue, wash of black, and dry brush in light blue or white.

What can we use these for?

  • The water acts as a scrying device, showing the PCs a possible future, or something happening far away.
  • There is something at the bottom of the well (that they really want!) and a trap of some sort about half way down.
  • Swimming to the bottom reveals an underwater tunnel to a hidden room or cavern.
  • Drinking the water does something special: regenerates a daily power, acts as a potion of healing, or perhaps something more…sinister.
  • A monster comes out of the water and attacks
  • If you throw a coin in, something happens
  • The PCs need to figure out a way to drain it
  • Something triggers it to overflow and fill the room with water

What would you do with it?

Making Your Own “Invisible” Mini Redux: The Base

In my first post about how to “make your own custom invisible mini,” I expressed some doubts about how the base turned out. In fact, I’ve retried the method I outlined there several times since, and every time I’ve gotten the same less than ideal results. I subsequently developed a theory that cutting a hole in the middle of the base before shrinking somehow interferes with the shrinking process, and warps both the base and the hole in the middle. I had to find a better way to base my invisible mini. Listed below are three ideas I came up with, my reactions to their appearance, and thoughts about the time and money involved in their implementation. First up:

Cut the hole in the base after shrinking

So, since the theory was that the hole messes up the shrinking, I decided to try shrinking the base first, and then cutting the hole in it. Unfortunately, I do not own a Dremel tool, so I tried using a 1/16″ bit in my cordless drill; the idea was to drill a row of holes, and then file out the wavy edge until the slot was the right size. Frustration ensued.

My thoughts: Have you ever had a plan in your head that seemed really good, and then you tried to execute the plan, and found that you’re an idiot? That’s what this was like. First, the “non-slotted” piece of plastic did not shrink any better than the ones with the slot cut before shrinking. So before I even tried to drill the holes, this method was behind the 8 ball. Then I started drilling the holes; it involved precision work, and a good deal of profanity. I do not recommend this method. I didn’t even finish, I quit halfway through. You’d need to sand the edges of the base to even them out before you even got to the part where you try to drill a series of holes, then more filing… just save yourself the trouble.

Next Up: The Binder Clip

The next option is to use a binder clip. Either “small” or “mini” are the right size, and if you work in an office, you most likely have access to one for free. I suppose I should tell you to ask your employer before you take a single mini binder clip home for personal use. At any rate, once the invisible mini is clipped in, just remove the little handles, and voila! A base!

My thoughts: Ok, so this method is cheap (especially if you have access to one of these at work) and incredibly easy. Here’s the thing though – it’s ugly. I just don’t like the way it looks. It looks like I’m using a binder clip as a mini stand; that’s not what I want. If you don’t mind the asthetics of this solution, it will work fine, but it’s definitely not for me.

Final option: Buy something

So my third option was to buy a base. Now, before you suggest it, the 1 inch square bases they make for metal miniatures don’t work. I tried it, and the slot is too large. But you can get little stands that work perfectly. The Shrinky Dinks site sells 20 for a dollar. They are red, so you don’t get the overall clear plastic “invisible” look. If you absolutely need that, I’ve located a retailer in Germany that sells clear ones. I didn’t do the currency translation, and I don’t know if there’s a minimum quantity you need to order. If you have to get 50 though, that’s more bases than you could ever hope to need. Unless you’re building an invisible army, in which case, good for you.

My Thoughts: This is absolutely the way to go. Is it DIY? No. Is it relatively cheap, easy, and good looking? Yes. There’s not much more to say than that.

Two final somewhat unrelated notes

 I was at the craft store the other day, and I noticed they sell packs of “Shrink Plastic.” I don’t remember the exact price, but I belive it was cheaper than online. You might want to check with your local store to see if they have something similar.   Also, I heard rumors online that they sell the little bases at craft stores too, but I couldn’t find any.  Perhaps you’ll have more luck.

Finally, the retailers I linked to in this article are certainly not the only ones selling this stuff.  A Google search for “game pieces,” “card stands,” or “board game supplies,” will yield more results.  Here are a few more for you: 1, 2, 3, 4


Dungeon Accessories: The Wheel

 This entry is part of a series wherein I show how to use Hirst Arts molds to make new dungeon accessories for your 3D terrain of choice.  If you don’t have any Hirst Arts molds, that’s no problem.  At the bottom of the article you’ll find a bunch of ways you can use the accessory as the centerpiece for an encounter or story arc; you don’t need the actual accessory to use the ideas.  So feel free to read the whole article, or just zip to the bottom, and get your creative juices jumpstarted!

 I don’t remember where I got the idea for this accessory, perhaps it just popped into my head one day.  I wanted a dungeon feature that the players could interact with, something like a puzzle, a trap, and a toy all at the same time.  The wheel is what I came up with.   The finished wheel rotates on the base, so players can actually turn the wheel to where they want it.  What you put on the wheel and what it’s used for (or triggers) is completely up to you, but at the end of the article we have some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

 The only Hirst Arts mold you need for this project is #45, and you’ll have to cast it four times.  In that mold there are three pieces that fit together into what I call a “corner pillar.”  Pictured below are these three pieces.


You will also need a wooden disc.  You can get these at any craft store, usually in the wood crafts section.  The disc I’m using is 2” in diameter.  Because the disc is so large, I’m going to make the base 2 blocks high instead of 1 – otherwise, the disc would completely overshadow the base.  If you want a shorter base, I’d recommend a 1 1/2”  diameter disc so the finished product looks proportional.

 Choose any one of the three “corner pillar” pieces to be the base for the wheel.  I wanted basic, so I’m going to use the one on the left, and I need four of that same piece.  Since I’m going 2 blocks high, I’ll also use four of the ones on the right. Glue the four pieces together so that all the “pillar” sides are facing out. 

 While that’s drying, get a 1/16” drill bit, and drill a hole in the center of the wooden disc.  Then, mix up some gray paint, and paint your wooden disc the same color as your stone tiles.  You could also leave it looking like wood by staining it.  Now it’s time to make an “indicator” for your wheel.  You know, something that shows the players what the wheel is “set” to.  Wire is perfect for this; I’m going to use a paperclip for my wire, and needlenose pliers to bend it.  There are two ways to affix your indicator to the wheel.  The first is to glue the indicator to the base, making it immobile.  The second is to add a loop to one end of the indicator, so that it swings around the center axis, making it moveable.  Generally, you would add a moving indicator as a secondary indicator.  Using two indicators for the wheel allows you to add complexity to the wheel’s “setting,” and therefore add to the complexity of the puzzle.  Finally, if you don’t want to mess with bending wire, you could also have a fixed point in the room (like a pillar) act as a fixed indicator.

At any rate, if you want an indicator on the wheel, bend the paperclip into an “L” shape, making sure it fits on the base with the wheel. 

One indicator glued on, the other with a loop for the axis

Add a loop to one end if you want the indicator to be moveable.  Make sure the loop is big enough to snugly accommodate a straight piece of paperclip (which will be the wheel axis).  If you’re going to have a fixed indicator on the wheel, simply glue it to the wheel.  (You may need to prop it up with something so that it doesn’t fall off the base before the glue is dry.)

 Let everything dry overnight. 

 The next day, you’re going to take your 1/16” drill bit again, and drill a hole down the center of your base for the wheel axis.  Cut a piece of straightened paperclip (or other wire) so that it will stick out of the hole and poke out of the wheel just a tiny bit.  Get some glue on the wire, and stick it in the hole.

While that’s drying, think about what you want to paint on the wheel; symbols, colors, something else.  I’m going to paint some runes on it for the PCs to decipher.  (If you want to do runes, and aren’t sure what to use, check out our article Ancient Runes in Ancient Ruins.)  You can paint as many things as you want on it, but keep in mind the number of combinations that will be possible – especially if you’re planning on using two indicators.  I’m going to keep it fairly simple, and use four runes. 

The great thing about this setup is that you can make more than one wheel to put on the base.  It’s a very versatile and reusable dungeon accessory.

 Once everything is dry, your wheel is ready to use!

The Finished Wheel

Here are some ideas for using a wheel:

  • Paint a compass rose on it
  • Use four colors to indicate seasons – yellow=summer, brown=fall, white=winter, green=spring
  • For extra mystery, just use ticks (lines) on the wheel
  • Runes

What turning the wheel does:

  • Opens or closes certain doors in the dungeon
  • Shifts the PCs from the Shadowfell to the Feywild and back to the material plane
  • Changes the terrain in the room or dungeon
  • Sets the destination of a nearby portal
  • Awakens a monster
  • Shifts fate
  • Changes a character’s sex/personality/race/class/player

There are really too many ideas to write here.  Basically, the wheel is a complex triggering mechanism; think of it as a series of levers, but cooler.  Anything you can think of to turn on, off, up, or down can be done using the wheel.  What are some of your ideas?