Friday, July 20, 2012

Gelatinous Cube Mini

The gelatinous cube in its natural
environment: graph paper.
So, inspired by this guy, I decided to make a gelatinous cube mini of my own out of hot glue.

I did as he suggests, making a 2" square hole and flooding it with hot glue. It didn't work the way I expected. For one thing, I made the square out of cardboard, covered with wax paper. Fun fact: hot glue sticks to wax paper. Who'd have thought? For another thing, it didn't just run the way he describes; perhaps I was using an insufficiently hot glue gun. It turned out much stringier and lumpier than expected.

The gelatinous cube digests its prey.
So then I just ran with it, and went nuts applying stringly greebles and nurnies. It's hard to see in these images, but it doesn't look like a classic gelatinous cube is supposed to look. But it's a 2" ooze cube, it's slightly translucent, and it's more visually interesting than it's supposed to be, and that's what really matters. Gelatinous cubes in my world will just be greebly, that's all.

I've considered giving up on translucency, painting the interior of the cube green or blue or greenish-blue, and maybe putting it on an actual base (once I acquire some Large bases). But I don't know if I have enough hot glue left to make a second one if I mess this one up too badly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vampires, Holy Symbols, & Execution

So, as I was watching Interview with the Vampire on Netflix and marvelling at how almost every trope of modern vampire fiction was done first by Anne Rice, something occurred to me when Louis mentioned not being afraid of holy symbols.

Imagine an Earth-like setting (obviously not D&D) where vampires don't care about holy symbols. Star of David, Star and Crescent, Flying Spaghetti Monster, they don't care. Religion has no power over them.

Except the primary Christian holy symbol. Why? Obviously not because Christianity is right about anything. The ichthys has no effect on vampires. No, vampires are bothered by crucifixes because they represent an instrument of execution and torture. The cross reminds the vampire of the death he doles out to everyone else, but can no longer hope for himself. Or something. (It's mythology, it doesn't have to make sense. At least, it doesn't have to make any more sense than the shaky justifications for arithmomania, inability to cross running water, lack of reflection, or distaste for garlic.)

Vampires have exactly the same reaction to nooses, guillotines, electric chairs, and so on. It's not symbols of religion that they care about, it's symbols of execution.

But part of that idea might just be how much I enjoy pointing out how morbid the use of the crucifix as a symbol is. Introducing a religion whose holy symbol is a noose would probably work just as well. In related news, I just had a brilliant idea about a new religion...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures In Rebasing 3: Doing It Right This Time

So, as I was getting into mini painting, I did splurge on ordering some actual black plastic circles and plastic-specific glue. So various minis that had broken off of their Lasertron tokens got much better bases. It was definitely worth the expense.

I wound up going with the Litko Game Accessories BaseMaker, buying 50 circular black acrylic 25mm diameter x 3mm tall circles. These are almost precisly the same, albeit less hollow and less bendy, as WotC mini bases. Perfect.

When I got them, they were all glossy and shiny and excellent and I oohed and aahed over them for a little while.

While I was at it, I got some Craftics #33 Acrylic Cement, which doesn't seem to glue the plastic together so much as melt it together. (I may mean that almost entirely metaphorically.)

You see the boxes of text on the front of that tube? That's all warnings. The entire back of the tube is taken up with warnings, too. Don't breathe the fumes, only use it outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, don't set it on fire, don't touch it, don't eat it, causes cancer, decomposes to poison when heated, et cetera. Sticks really well, so I recommend it, if you don't mind dying of it poisoning you in half a dozen ways at once.

I thought superglue was magic, but then minis started falling off their bases. With the plastic bases and the acrylic cement, they're not falling off anymore. Plus, they just feel much more like the correct weight now.

There was this one guy whose stance was way too wide to fit on a Medium base, and who was way too small to plausibly be Large (and anyway I still don't have any Large bases; that'll be my next Litko purchase.) He's pretty bendy, but also pretty elastic; his legs wouldn't stay together long enough to glue them. So I took an X-Acto Knife, sliced a little wedge out of each of his hips, glued his legs back on, glued him to a base, and now he's a good little mini. Should make a good warforged. (Also his eyes weren't painted, so I did them green, the same color as the little crystal of phlebotinum he's holding.)

All in all: I'd say doing it right is worth the expense.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Extra Spell

Extra Spell. The feat that launched a thousand arguments, once upon a time. To wit: does it allow access to spells that aren't on your class list? Or does it allow access only to spells that you would normally be able to access anyway?

The arguments were (mostly) settled when the official WotC FAQ chimed in:

Can the warmage (Complete Arcane) benefit from the Extra Spell feat?

No. Extra Spell lets you add one spell to your list of spells known, but the spell must be taken from your class spell list. Since the warmage already knows all the spells on his class spell list, this feat has no effect.

But not everybody treats the FAQ as gospel, and rightly so (often, they provide insane and self-contradictory interpretations of the rules).

Prima facie, the line in the feat about "Extra Spell is generally used to learn a specific spell that the character lacks access to and would be unable to research" seems reasonably clear-cut: it allows you to mine other class lists, because if a spell is on another class's list and not yours, you lack access to it. If so, then the FAQ is flatly contradicting the text of the feat, so the FAQ is wrong.

However, I can see how it could have been intended to mean "lacks physical access to a written version to copy into his spellbook". It's ambiguous, but I can see the possibility.


That said, though casters don't need nice things, I disagree with the "official" FAQ answer.

There are precedents in the Expanded Knowledge, Shape Soulmeld, and Martial Study/Stance feats, which allow you to access things you would otherwise be unable to access.

There are hardly any circumstances under which Extra Spell would be useful if you adhere to the FAQ's answer. If you're on a class with a desperately limited number of spells known, maybe. Or, as the text of the feat says, if you want a spell but can't find a scroll of it. Or if you're a Chameleon and use your free floating feat every day to temporarily learn a new spell long enough to copy it into your spellbook. So the official interpretation makes it a waste of a precious feat.

Worst of all, the official interpretation is boring.


So I'm inclined, in my games, to let Extra Spell take a spell off any list at all.

With the exception of known game-breaker spells (though most of those are level 9, and thus unlearnable with Extra Spell).

And with the caveat that you don't get to pick from the weird lists like Trapsmith or Adept to get a spell early; if it's available to a full caster player base class, you get it as a spell of that level, no lower.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Paint Your Minis

The first mini I did repainted. Original on the right.
I realized that I was resisting getting into mini painting out of fear of Doing It Wrong, because every "how to paint minis" website lists some gawdawful complex (and often mutually exclusive from site to site) set of steps and specific paints and brushes and glues and paint strippers and so on and if you don't use these exact products your minis will catch fire and explode and your family will catch the plague.
Original on the left. This one turned out... acceptable.
So, earlier this year, I just said "screw that", pulled out the paints I had inherited and bought for art class and the smallest brush I happened to own, and just went to town without regard for Doing It Right. (My family still has yet to catch the plague.)
The one in the middle is completely repainted. The one on
the left only has his quilted padding repainted. The one on
the right is the original.
The paint I happened to have -- mostly Galeria and Americana acrylics -- are apparently adequate to the purpose of mini-painting, and have served my needs just fine so far. When I run out of these, I may buy paints intended specifically for models.
Original grimlock on the right. Original goblin and
gravedigger on the left. Just repainted details, mostly.
Mostly, I've just been repainting the minis I happen to have doubles of. I repainted one of my dark-skinned minis with light skin, purely to make it easier to tell her apart from her dark-skinned doppelgänger, but I felt bad about it, because my mini collection has so few dark-skinned people (who aren't orcs) to begin with. But I repainted the next light-skinned double I got with dark skin, so hopefully it balanced out. I think I'm more concerned about this than is absolutely necessary.
Original on the left. The one on the right is black to make
up for repainting the earlier mini light-skinned.
I never noticed how many of my minis had eyes that are the same colour as their faces. Now they have actual eyes. The worst offender was my Tundra Scout, in part because each eye is as big as most minis' entire heads. Now my woolly mammoth has eyes instead of blank brown spots.
Original snake and beetle on the left. Original runespiral
demon on the right. Repainted the orangutan's rock, and his
Lasertron token to match.
So my advice to you: don't fuss about it, just get out your brushes and your paints and get painting. It's remarkably soothing. (Maybe if you don't happen to have brushes and paints, you can fuss a little bit about which ones to buy, but try not to fuss too much.)
I didn't repaint the Cap'n, but I did repaint his Lasertron
token to match the wave he's riding. I was pleased with
how closely I got it to match.
I also got a whole bunch of Ziploc bags and a Sharpie and organized my minis by Type and Subtype: "Misc Humanoids & Monstr Humanoids", "Animals, Plants, & Vermin" (because I only have a few of each), "Aberrations & Outsiders" (sometimes hard to tell apart, so they just get a shared one), "Oozes, Undead, & Constructs", "Humans & Elves" (again, sometimes hard to tell apart), "Dragons and [Reptilian]s", "Orcs & Goblinoids" (and also a cyclops), "Dwarves & Short Ppl" (including gnomes, halflings, and other human-like Small creatures), "Tokens" (leftover bases and Lasertron tokens), and "PCs" (so I don't have to go rooting through several different bags at the beginning of every session). So I recommend doing something like that, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pi, Bursts, and Cones

About two Pi Days ago, I celebrated in the most appropriate way I could think of: I actually did some calculations involving pi.

See, at some point I had seen Paizo's Steel Sqwire templates. I judged them unnecessarily expensive, because I knew I could make some that were just as good myself.

So I went and I found some wire...

...and did some calculations.

I decided that all the fiddly little right angles and squarenesses in the RAW templates for cones and bursts were unnecessary, because I was making templates to represent actual cone and burst shapes. I decided my cones would be quarter-circles and my spheres would be circles! So that involved some math.

As everyone should know from elementary school, the circumference of a circle is 2πr. And, obviously, the perimeter of a quarter-circle is 2πr divided by 4, plus 2r, or r(π/2+2). And 1 inch for a mini equals 5 feet in-character, so we divide all our answers by 5.

radius (ft.) cone (in.) burst (in.)
10 7.1 12.6
15 10.7 18.8
20 14.3 25.1
30 21.4 37.7
40 28.6 50.3
50 35.7 62.8
60 42.8 75.4
70 50.0 88.0
(If you do this yourself, you might consider yourself well-advised to double-check my math before cutting.)

I elected to make a 20' burst and a 30' cone, because those are the biggest that would fit in my D&D stuff carrying folder, and anything smaller is easy enough to figure out on the fly.

So I cut my wire to length and affixed it to itself with a connector and...
This dragon's breath weapon is 10' too short for its size. Oops.
This changeling is casting darkness. Or fireball. Or obscuring mist. Or fog cloud. Or stinking cloud. Or cloudkill. Or solid fog. Or dispel magic. Or zone of truth. Or something. This is a useful size template to have, is what I'm saying.


Friday, July 6, 2012

All-Spellcaster Battle

I recently DMed a battle that went better than I could possibly have planned.

In the old-fashioned, relatively linear, non-OGT campaign (which I've been calling "the summer campaign", for reasons of I'm running it now and it is currently summer) I've been running recently, I still sometimes use random encounter tables. Specifically, because it's set in the same world as my OGT, I use the same random encounter tables as I use for my OGT. (Though the summer campaign is set so far in the Omorashi Empire, while OGT is in Gus, so it's more like a set of tables that are in the same Excel document as my OGT tables, but which had not yet been used.)

Anyway, for a small town that has become completely taken over by goblins, I put together some creatures. For variety, there's goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, bakemonos (Oriental Adventures; I took the line that "bakemonos are the 'goblins' of the Shadowlands" a little more literally than OA intended, and declared them a form of goblin native to the Omorashi Empire (to whatever extent "native" can describe a country that's only existed for 20 years)), mites, pesties, and nilbogs (Tome of Horrors, which I recently discovered and love, full of all the monsters from earlier editions that were too horrible or ridiculous to ever get officially ported to 3e (except even ToH lacks the duckbunny)). They're all led by an ogre monk, and I whipped up some goblin spellcasters for support.

I think I may be embarking upon a half-deliberate attempt to screw every character over in combat, one at a time. This time, it's the ranger's turn: the spellcasters have obscuring mist and fog cloud, and the ogre has Deflect Arrows. Next up: solid fog, web, and undead/oozes/elementals, to annoy the scout! Non-Humanoids to annoy the beguiler! Intelligent, mind-control-resistant humanoids to annoy the Vow Of Peace cleric! Lawful Good yet hostile foes to annoy the paladin! Hostile dragons to annoy the dragon shaman! Or something along those various lines.

Anyhow, the relevant feature of this post: spellcasters! I slapped fiendish and 3 levels of shaman (an OA class that's like the cleric but more interesting) on goblin and called it a yaoguai. The relevant features are cure moderate wounds, hold person, fog cloud, obscuring mist, shield of faith, cure light wounds, burning hands, and some orisons. Also, each yaoguai starts with 1d4-1 random minor scrolls, for variety.

So, for one of the wandering monster fights, I roll... 8 yaoguais. Approximately a level 9 encounter. Needless to say, a very tough fight for an ECL1-2 party. (Most of the party wound up gettting enough XP to level.) And it went fantastically.

So the yaoguais cast some Obscuring Mist/Fog Cloud to annoy the ranger. Then the party took out a couple yaoguais. Then the yaoguais started using their Cures to bring their companions back up, their Hold Person to incapacitate the scout (they tried it on the ranger and discovered that he's not a humanoid), and Burning Hands to wreck the party's crap.

One of the yaoguais summons a huge fiendish centipede. The paladin charges and uses Smite Evil on it. The centipede uses Smite Good on the paladin, prompting entertaining incredulity. The centipede's time runs out and it vanishes.

Anyway, the yaoguais swiftly take down the entire party except for one or two. Every yaoguai that's gone down has gotten a heal and popped right back up again. And all looks lost for our heroes!

Except then the yaoguais all run out of all their decent spells, and have to resort to converting their orisons to inflict minor wounds or trying to punch for 1d2-2 damage. (Shaman at least gets Improved Unarmed Strike for free, so at least they weren't provoking with their attacks.) And the party manages to get enough healing potion down the dragon shaman that he can reactivate his vigor aura. And then it's all over and the yaoguais are suddenly easy to take down.

Why do I say this went fantastically? Because coming back against overwhelming odds from the brink of defeat is awesome. Turning a near party-wipe into a victory is awesome. (I don't really know how well the players actually liked it, because it took all night, they were exhausted by the end, and then they immediately barged into the library and discovered the ogre monk, for whom they were woefully unprepared. But I thought it was fantastic.)

And to what do I ascribe this fantasticness? All of the foes were pure spellcasters, with no melee support or capability at all. Going nova by blowing all their good spells in the first few rounds of combat allowed the yaoguais to almost, but not quite, win. Having done that, and no longer having any decent spells left, then allowed the PCs to win handily.

An encounter of nothing but pure spellcasters, with just enough power to almost wipe the party. Don't do it too often, lest it get old, but try it once or twice.

And, as a side note, this is also one of the reasons why wandering monster fights are good. You might wind up accidentally rolling an encounter it would normally never occur to you to throw at the party, and that encounter might turn out to be amazing and might give you completely new ideas to add to your DMing repertoire.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On Flux Storms

If you recall, one of my primary motivations for giving up on regular campaigns and running an Open Gaming Table was that people kept failing to show up.

It's enormously irritating to come up with some justification for why a character wasn't there one week, when he was there the previous week and the next week. I seem to recall Playing D&D With Porn Stars once came up with a great chart (which I cannot now find) to roll on to determine what your character was doing (and what happened to him) during the session you missed, but that still required sessions to end in town or someplace else where it's convenient for a character to slip out. And if that happens, you can just use the "personal business" handwave. But what happens when you end the session in the middle of a dungeon? Or when one session lasts several weeks of in-game time and the next lasts only a few hours?

So I came up with a new justification, and made it the centerpiece of my campaign. Enter the flux storm.

In the first session, the characters all met on a ship. They were all sailing from various places to the ports of Wang and Endeesy. Suddenly, they sighted what looked like a brilliantly iridescent thunderstorm! The rogue elected to steer the boat straight into the thunderstorm, where it was struck by a bolt of freaky sparkly lightning, which made everyone on board feel all tingly for a few seconds.

Then the half-elf NPC passenger Ned explained that he thought it was what's called a flux storm, and everyone on board was affected by the flux.

What is the flux, you ask? It's basically a time hop effect, except it happens at random, can last any length of time, and you are affected with no saves or checks.

If a player isn't there for a session? Their character vanishes, and reappears next session with no memory of the intervening time.

If a player steps out to use the bathroom or get a drink? Their character vanishes, and reappears when their player returns. (Unless they're in the middle of combat, in which case the character vanishes if vanishing would be harmful for them but fails to vanish if vanishing would be beneficial. If you're about to be hit by the ogre or bleed to death, you can't avoid it by your player ducking out of the room. If you're flanking with the rogue, you vanish if your player ducks out of the room. Leaving the table is sometimes necessary, but to be discouraged. (Do try to take a 5-10 minute break every hour or two, though; human beings can't concentrate on one thing for that long.))

If a player makes a terrible, painfully bad pun? Their character vanishes, and reappears a minute later. (A half-decent alternative to docking people 1 or 10 XP at a time for horrible puns, as long as it's all in good fun. If the response is "I deserved that", you're doing it right. If the response is irritation or outrage, you're doing it wrong.)

If a character dies? A previously-unnoticed character (played by the player whose character just died) who had been on the boat but had been vanished for all the intervening weeks appears.

The basic rule I use, which it took the players a couple sessions to figure out (well, I wound up just telling them), is that you don't just reappear where you vanished: you reappear with whomever you were with when you vanished. So if the party moves on to the next town while you're vanished, you're not left behind or anything.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Custom Reincarnate Tables 3: Central Repository

So, once upon a time, I came up with some custom tables for the reincarnate spell. Then I rebuilt my monster database and started redoing the tables. Here, then, is the central repository of links to the most recent versions of all the tables:


Choose the table appropriate to the Type of the creature to be reincarnated. Roll on that table.

If you get a result that indicates another type, reroll on the indicated table. If you get a result of "Other", roll on the list of types to determine what the creature's new type is, then roll on the table for that type.

1-6 Aberration
7-12 Animal
13-18 Construct
19-24 Dragon
25-30 Elemental
31-36 Fey
37-42 Giant
43-58 Humanoid
59-64 Magical Beast
65-70 Monstrous Humanoid
71-76 Ooze
77-82 Outsider
83-88 Plant
89-94 Undead
95-100 Vermin