Apr 17, 2014

DIY: Terrain Examples

One of my players recently did some work on building a set of custom terrain pieces.

Here's the link to the video:

One of the things I really like is the flexibility of what he built. As the video shows, so many of the pieces can easily and quickly be reused in different configurations.

I hope you'll give the video a look, and feel free to leave comments here, or on the YouTube page.

Apr 10, 2014

DM Tools: Know Your Enemy

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy
-- Green Day - Know Your Enemy

Images can be a powerful tool for DMs. Some of the earliest D&D modules (i.e. Tomb of Horrors) included illustration books that helped DMs to further show what the PCs were seeing at certain key moments and locations in an adventure.

Also, along those same lines, miniatures not only help show where everyone is during a given moment of combat, but the sculpts and paint jobs also help clarify who or what the PCs are fighting (otherwise you could just use chess pieces for positioning).

Another area where images can be very useful is for key NPCs. In any adventure there are usually one or two antagonists for the PCs to face, from the town mayor, to "the evil necromancer" to the "goblin king". For some of these characters (the necromancer and the goblin king) miniatures might be useful, but for the town mayor, a miniature isn't probably very useful, especially if he doesn't fight the PCs.

For some of these non-combat NPCs, images can really help the players know just who they are dealing with. Fortunately there are a number of ways to find just the right face for your NPC.

A simple Google image search can give you plenty of images, but most will probably not fit in to your game setting (unless you are playing in a modern setting). The images can still be useful for a DM as the right image can really help solidify who a character is, even if the original source material isn't something you can show at the game table. For instance, I once based a female warrior character on an image of model Angie Everhart I had seen. Something about the image (an ad for some product), and the toughness she displayed felt right for the character I was coming up with.

deviantART is another great resource for images. When looking for something, I typically start there. Also, it's free and easy to sign up, and having an account allows you to bookmark favorite images. Recently, for my weekly game, I needed an image of a bone devil, and was able to find something useful there I could use in my game.

A couple of other resources not to forget, especially if you're looking for fantasy images.

Your own collections. If you have any copies of Dungeon, Dragon, modules from any edition or system, don't forget to give them a once over for images you can copy and use in your home game.

Wizards of the Coast posts art galleries for most, if not all, of it's print releases. If you have a DDI account, then you can access galleries from various 4th edition products, to the monthly Dungeon and Dragon online magazines.

If you don't have a DDI subscription (like me), the Wizards of the Coast site still has useful places to visit. For instance, back in the days before the walled garden, the WotC site posted the art galleries for free. Check out this archive page fora list of galleries from older products. This can be a great source, especially for monsters, but also for various adventurer types.

When WotC had outsourced the production of Dungeon magazine to Paizo, Paizo would post a free PDF supplement for that month's issue. Check out their downloads page to get free supplements, often with key art and maps for the various modules in each issue. I've used these supplements in several sessions when running a module from the magazine in my home game.

Now while all the above suggestions are free (or products you already own), one last source for NPC images are from the various GameMastery decks Paizo puts out. In addition to their equipment decks, and decks specific to their various Adventure Paths, Paizo also has decks of face cards, like their Enemies, and Dungeon Dwellers decks. For a few bucks (even less if you take advantage of their current Scratch-'n-Dent sale), you can get plenty of images for all types of NPCs. And the nice thing about the cards is that the backs are blank for the DM to keep track of any important details for each NPC.

This list, while offering you a lot of ideas, just begins to scratch the surface of what you can utilize to find the right image for the right NPC.

If you liked this article, or have other suggestions for other DMs to consider, please consider leaving a comment.

Apr 3, 2014

Kreo Warriors Set Review - Drizzt

As my past reviews here and here have indicated, I'm not very fond of the Kre-o Dungeons and Dragons figures, but considering how truly iconic the character of Drizzt is, I just had to pick one up.

As for the figure itself I think it's a wonderful representation of the much beloved drow ranger. The kreon has a nice white hair piece, comes with two scimitars, and has great detail in the torso printing, down to the fur lining of his cloak. The figure also comes with a nice bow and pieces to make a small tree with a practice bulls eye.

Unfortunately, that's all you get, and that's where this set, and all the Warriors sets in general, really miss their mark. For the extra price of the set, the Warriors sets run at least $1 more than the blind figure packs, all you get is a handful of extra pieces. In the case of the Drizzt set, just getting a lone figure doesn't really seem like an iconic presentation. Where is Guenhwyvar, his panther companion? The kre-o line already has wolves (see G.I. Joe and the Beastmaster figure in the D&D line for examples), so adding his trusted companion should have been a no-brainer.

And what's with the tree? I've never read any Drizzt novel where he attacks a tree. Granted, I haven't read all of them, so maybe there is a scene I'm missing, but for this set, we really should have an Orc opponent, like the teaser poster when the sets were first announced. Having Drizzt by himself just seems like a half baked idea.

That said, should you pick one up? Hell yes, even in spite of the omissions in this set, what is here is one great figure. Also, with Wulfgar slated to be part of a future release, you definitely want to have Drizzt on hand.