Tag Archives: Forgotten Realms

To Give a Dwarf, (or A halfling’s guide to carving decoys).

“All dwarfs have beards and wear up to twelve layers of clothing. Gender is more or less optional.” ― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

After what seemed a lengthy hiatus, I got the chance to run another game for my other group who are relatively new players. The occasion coincided with the birthday of one of the players, so cake and ice cream was as much a part of the festivities as dice and character sheets.

Having known of this with a respectable amount of time in advance, I decided to wait until nearly the last minute to start work on the birthday present. Yet to be fair, the inspiration hit me late in the game, so to speak. There’s always a long margin to consider in sculpting minis, especially with epoxy putty. It takes at least 4 hours before you can fiddle with green stuff without deforming it, give or take some time depending on the temperature. So each stage is likely to eat up a good part of the day. This guy took about three days to sculpt with one day in the interim where I didn’t touch it.


I finished painting this guy with only a matter of hours before the event, which granted me some well earned sleep before I boxed him up. I managed to snap a few pics after he was done. Here hes standing on the map I made along with some of the 3D map icons I made for the session, but more on that in another post.

This figure had some new elements which took me out of my comfort zone. The axe head and the shield were made from miliput where usually I sculpt from green stuff (kneadatite). While green stuff is great for organic shapes, it’s less than stellar for shapes with hard edges. Believe it or not I used to carve weapons out of materials like wood or plastic, and to my mind, they’re still viable options as they turned out fairly decent. This time though I went with the orthodox method of making the rough shape out of miliput then sanding and carving the shapes down to what I wanted them to look like. The reason a putty like milliput works better is because it doesn’t cure rubbery. It cures hard with the consistency of ceramic which lets you drill or sand it down.
The second issue was the cloak. I hate sculpting cloaks. They have their up sides. They cover up a lot of detail you don’t have to sculpt onto the back side of the mini, and they generally look cool. You can get a dynamic pose by having the cloak being wind tossed and so forth. But sculpting cloaks require a base piece sculpted on a greased poly bag (clear plastic bag) and then glued carefully to the mini, then having layer after layer sculpted on the base piece, and having a ton of back fill packed into the voids so the mini is one solid piece rather than a mini with a rubbery cape. The difficulty lies in the patience it requires to wait for each step to cure, and to get the folds of the cloak, robe, or cape to look right and to look smooth like hanging cloth.

Anyway, in spite of my sculpting shortfalls and learning curve, the recipient was delighted. Holkvir, the one eyed gold dwarf mercenary was its own, one of a kind, miniature.



Running Horde of the Dragon Queen: (Revisited)

Well it’s been a while since I talked about embarking on, what was chalking up to be, an “evil” flavor for Horde of the Dragon Queen published campaign. Since then, we’ve picked up a few new players. It’s an infusion of diverse personalities that adds a new dynamic. Certainly the inter-character relations have gotten spicier with a few pvp attack rolls taking place. While this sort of thing can be OK, given an understanding among the participants, things can quickly migrate into Bruised Ego Town quickly.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s the Neutral Good elven ranger that’s been counting all the coup on the Chaotic Evil tiefling assassin. To be fair, the ranger’s actions (generally) have some sort of narrative justification, and there’s a ready Cure Wounds spell by way of apology, but by that point the real damage is done.

We play for diverse reasons. Some come for the story, others get to try out personalities not their own within the realm of the safe and the hypothetical. Well, at least I’d hope Chaotic Evil would be a novel perspective. Anyway, hero, anti hero  or villain, everybody wants to play a paragon of awesomeness. Otherwise, why bother?

I had to have a heart to heart with the tiefling assassin’s player, whose bizarre and self destructive behavior belied a willingness to end his character’s story in an ignominious way simply  because he didn’t seem to fit in, or jive with some of the other stronger, and diametrically opposed personalities in the party.

I gave his character an easy way out of his predicament, and I told him to not to worry about party friction. Frankly, it would be more interesting if his character had some changes of heart, or at least some misgivings about his behavior, than to exit the stage in a less than spectacular way. Ultimately, it’s his call. Yet I don’t feel like I would be doing my job if everyone, especially a new player, wasn’t having a good time.

This is a campaign that’s gone far off the scripted path, back again, then off road again, which I think most out there would agree isn’t such a bad thing. It makes things interesting, and adds replay value to the original materials anyway. The challenge to move forward in some manner at least parallel to the adventure as written is coupled with balancing over powered characters with under powered characters, and strong personalities with quiet ones, and with uncooperative players with team players.



Running Hoard of the Dragon Queen:When Good Players Go Bad

“Whaddya mean Govenor Nighthill has no money? He had about 5,000 gold pieces last time we robbed him.”

14709_842496389153439_4449791469832993263_nFor those in the know, the first part of Wizard’s Tyranny of Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen, is sort of a “one event leads to the next” type of story. I posted before on my decision to run a more linear campaign with a new player. I completely regret that decision.

The following contains what may be construed as mild to significant spoilers.

The Dilemma
You just never know. New Player certainly is a noob, but not the type to ever differ to other characters, or even be a team player for that matter. New Player, “Instigator” is thy name. What’s more, this is not a party that works for charity. You have a piratical priest of Talos the Destroyer, a maniacal tiefling assassin, and a Neutral half-orc wizard, who’s saintly in comparison to the other members who barely tolerate his presence. My dilemma going forward is finding out how to motivate these players to pick back up with the story as planned without dangling tons of gold in front of them, and to try to foster party cohesion.

The Carrot
As I see it, there’s little motivation for this band of nare-do-wells  to investigate a dragon cult and build coalitions to put the kibosh on their plans. Setting fires, pointless torture, human trafficking, and a range of other types of demonic activity is more in line with their modus operendi.

So I’ll have to hit a little closer to home. The cool thing about 5th edition D&D is that each character comes with a bond–something or someone in the setting they profess to care about. And that can be a powerful leaver. I’ve already introduced the AssAssin’s bond–a maguffin in the shape of a mysterious key that belonged to his parents. I can’t keep snatching the key away to keep him chasing it. At some point you have to deliver. The thing I have to brainstorm is what significance is the key, how will that spur up a motivation, and how can I tie that neatly into the story as written? The others are a bit more obvious. Every cleric comes with a deity that can make them care. And Wizards are almost always motivated by the advancement of their craft.

The Stick
One character goes off after something that grabs their attention. Another starts off to explore on their own; it’s a DM’s worst nightmare. More than this, the tiefling name calls the other characters and both tiefling and priest snub the wizard, so the wizard sets his own agenda.

I’ve gotten pretty good at wearing two hats. I can DM as well as play an NPC who is a party member. I’ll speak in character, using a different voice affectation and most of the time they get when I’m a DM and when I’m speaking as a supporting character. “Supporting” is a key word. A DM should never make the big decisions for a group, simply offer opinion and advice. This time I have no such voice, or any agency to influence any of the shenanigans within the narrative with the authority that a party member has. So I have to sit mute and slack-jawed at the atrocities being described.

The solution? If they bake a cake, let them eat it. They may run off to commit crimes, but there are champions of good out there, and the world is a dangerous place. If they want to solo, then they may just find that cooperation is actually beneficial to their survival.

To Conclude
When you go to start a new campaign, learn what it is you’re buying into. Hoard of the Dragon Queen is not the setting for an evil campaign. I have to say that this is the first campaign I’ve ran where I genuinely don’t like the characters who are in it. Note, I’m not saying players, I wouldn’t be there if that was the case. But what keeps me running this campaign is mostly the love of the game, and a morbid curiosity. Only time will tell if they can get it together for the next fifteen levels.


Quick Quip: Duregar

So here we get a preview from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide at EN World. My first thought is that I didn’t realize that there was much call for duregar PCs. OK, maybe now with the Out of the Abyss storyline set in the underdark I suppose. There always seemed to be a missing analogue to the renegade dark elf with the renegade, uh, dark dwarf, but it must have been deeply repressed in the subconscious. duregar

But hey! If you want to be an OP dwarf with enlarge/reduce and invisibility at 3rd, then game on my friends!  But here’s the deal. The description reads: “They have a typical dwarven appreciation for order, tradition, and impeccable craftsmanship, but their goods are purely utilitarian, disdaining aesthetic or artistic value.”  The above image accompanying this text kinda says something different doesn’t it? For a “purely utilitarian” culture, this guy sure has a lot of bling. Maybe he’s a renegade, ostracized by his peers for his snazy stuff?

The First Parcel of Loot: Grandfather Tree!

“…And all I got was this crummy potion and a bag of copper? I shaved my 10 foot pole for THIS!?!”

10891632_794053540664391_336231525757320486_nHey folks! If, somehow, you managed to stumble across this in your internet wanderings, I thank you for pausing a moment for consideration. I figure this might be a suitable supplement to Facebook to catalog my crafting (mis)adventures and other game related stuff. You may have already been privy to some of this “stuff” if you are an associate of mine on said social network, and if so, my hearty apologies for not blazing new trails with this post. If you’re coming over from my other shenanigans site, then welcome!  Hopefully, we’ll wrap up Season One of the Temple of Elemental Evil “actual play” recordings and, rumor has it, produce the next on YouTube?!?! If so, this “random treasure” will likely feature prominently there.

Alright! Let’s get on with it, shall we?

1010597_645043065565440_6420763520519119221_nGoing waaaay back in time to April of last year (2014) I present Mr. Big Tree!
Needs a better name you say? Well, I envisioned Grandfather Tree from the Forgotten Realms D&D setting. He hangs out in the High Forest, swaying with his bros… That is until a rapacious pack of dwarves swarm outta nowhere!


“Eat it, Tree Boy!”

I made this guy the DM Scotty Way, that is with super cheap materials and hot glue….lots of hot glue. I probably should have had the camera ready while I was making this, but that’s the thing with extemporaneous experiments, It’s difficult to remember to document, and then it may not turn out so well. Anyway, the armature for this guy was simply made from glued together wooden dowels and tooth picks. Over this, I liberally applied the hot glue to “bulk up” the figure, covering the joints and filling out things where the wooden dowels were too thin. Then, with a smaller glue gun, I added texture to it, blending into the face which I had glued on just before. The glue is translucent and it was difficult to see what I was doing until it was painted, but I got the bark effect I was shooting for.


I made the face from…believe it or not, Crayola air dry clay. Yeah, if you’re at all familiar with that material, you’re probably shaking your head right now. Let’s just say, it’s not optimal for this kind of stuff. Usually, you can’t squeak out this kind of detail with it, and I’d be hard pressed to do it again, but there it is. Secondly, it’s brittle. At less than a quarter inch thickness, expect it to break. Thirdly, I’ve discovered this “property” of the Crayola air dry, that over time, it tends to crumble.

I put tiny mettle beads in for the eyes. I added plastic leaves and Woodland Scenics clump foliage for canopy and the little bushes on the base. A stone from my driveway made a good accent there too. Also, I used home made sawdust flock for the mossy bits, like on his beard. 485547_644998015569945_2247534753007659404_n
Surprisingly, this figure has held up well. I’ve had it a good year now, and it’s even had a few nose-dives, and it’s still good!  I made the base out of the Crayola stuff, and I notice paint flaking off here and there. I may refashion a new base from Super Sculpey in order to preserve this. The face, thankfully, is yet pristine.


“HOOM! Bring it on! HOOORAROOM!”