Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our Games Have Come a Long Way

So the beginning of my downfall was when Lee, who plays our wood elf Druid, brought this one little miniature to one of our D&D games.
Wood Elf Druid

Earlier in our campaign (October 2014 through about October 2015), adventuring encounters and dungeon crawling were done with large sheets of paper with outlines of terrain or rooms, and little markers for characters and monsters.
Drawing Dungeons on Big Paper

Being a miniature gamer on the historical side, I had been interested in doing some basic miniatures for this as well, but hadn't found a source of fantasy figures that struck my fancy for buying and painting. There are pre-painted plastic D&D branded figures available (in great variety released over the last several years), but I figured they would be not very good painting quality and on the expensive side.

Following Lee's first nudge down the slippery slope, I purchased plastic D&D figures on eBay that were suitable for each of our player characters. These characters marched around on their paper dungeons, and fought little markers for monsters. That didn't seem very satisfying.

The next thing was to figure out how to make some modular dungeon terrain; something that I could construct fairly easily, and which would look convincing enough to create a nice enough illusion to allow the players to get immersed. Buying something pre-cast, or even pre-painted, such as Dwarven Forge (beautiful but pricy products), was considered and dismissed. I'd rather have the fun of making it myself.

So I made some carved foam modular dungeon tiles. Lots actually. Rooms of various sizes and passages of different widths and lengths. And doors. And Grace made me some Sculpey (baked clay) slime pits, and water pools, and other "dungeon dressing" items. Which of course then made me go out to eBay and buy a bunch more dungeon dressing items, like altars, and wells, and campfires, and all sorts of nice little inexpensive goodies. We used these dungeon tiles for a couple of sessions in October and November (game time has been hard to come by), and the improvement in the feel of the games was dramatic. At this point, I am unrecoverably down the slippery slope, and completely committed to a quality visual game.

Which means we need figures for monsters. eBay to the rescue on that one as well, and over the past month or so, a steady trickle of little boxes have been arriving in the mail with one or two or five or twenty figures. It turns out the plastic D&D figures are pretty nice, and shopped for judiciously on eBay, can be pretty reasonable (in some cases, downright cheap).

The last step in phase 1 (basic functionality build) of a terrain set was the carving of modular foam pieces for the Underdark. This would require pieces from which could be shown passages and caverns, rifts and gorges, underground lakes and streams, etc. Grace and I knocked out the basics of that over the last couple of weeks.

With all of our group being off a good bit around the holidays, six out of our seven players got together for a long session on Monday (3pm-11:30pm with dinner and breaks). It was a blast. They finished up a small dungeon, spent a little time in town, and then ended up descending into the Underdark for their first foray deep underground for an extended period (and distance from the surface).
Monday's Troll Fight

The session was a lot of fun, and for the first time, we had a total visual experience of terrain, characters, and monsters, and it was fabulous. Pictured above is a simple two foot by two foot small battle board laid out to represent a crossing over a chasm of indeterminate depth. It uses two modular side pieces laid overtop a two foot square black painted "rift" base. A few other small cavern wall and bridge pieces complete the simple but effective scene. And a troll of course. [The pink foam baseboard still needs its "theater black" edge painting...but I still have some work to do.]

More to follow on the construction of the pieces, as well as some better pictures of the results.

Plus catching up on three months worth of unwritten blog posts, but that's a whole different story.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone/anyone out there!

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