Friday, March 25, 2016

Mace of Disruption

Well, I went and created a spoof Twitter account. My love for puns and D&D finally smashed face first into a professional life spent interacting with the entrepreneurial set and the Mace of Disruption Twitter account was born. If you are the tweeting sort, I will be dishing out dubious buzzword filled business advice through the lens of high fantasy. Think Tolkien meets Malcolm Gladwell. It will be gloriously absurd.

I'm already loving all the business bot accounts that have begun retweeting and/or following me. I am sort of curious what would happen if I actually interacted with them. Would they understand the significance of the situation when I finally put on my robe and wizard hat?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Painting Pile: Orc Berserker

I stayed home sick yesterday, and some loud road work happening directly outside my house prevented me from properly convalescing, so I decided to knock out one of the minis I had primed on my craft desk.

I painted up the orc berserker from Reaper's Bones line. I wanted to practice a couple things with this paint job. First was to experiment with unusual skin tones. I actually used a blue gray as the flesh undercoat on this guy and then built up through layers of green mixed with leather brown finishing with a mix of leather brown and ivory for the highlights. I'm fairly pleased with the slightly olive skin tone that resulted.

I also noticed what I thought was supposed to be severe scarring on the right side of the orc's face. In retrospect, after reviewing some of the other paint jobs in the Reaper Bones gallery I'm not sure that was the intent in the sculpt, but I decided to give him a dead eye and a wicked, fleshy burn scar. I actually really like the result!

The last thing I was really practicing on this paint was my color blending and in particular my metal hilighting. I am pretty pleased with how the highlight on the sword turned out, and I like that the tone of the metal on the sword, the chain mail and the sort of cast iron look of the armor plates are all slightly different. It helps that orcs can be a little messy. I may need to refine my non-metallic metal technique a bit before tackling a crisp and clean paladin.

During this paint, I also noticed that I seem to default to red for fabric colors. Not sure why that is, since my favorite colors are blue and green, but I have a whole bunch of metal, leather and red minis painted up. I added a bit of orange highlight to try and change this guy up a bit, but after drying, it still looks pretty red.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Beware the Smiling Dungeon Master

Last weekend we played the third session of my new 3.5 campaign and I feel like this session will stick in my memory as one of the best I have ever run… in part because of everything that went wrong. It may sound malicious, but the dice were often not with the PC's throughout the day, yet it felt like the ensuing calamities were directly responsible for some of the session's best moments.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Start with the Epic: The Wandering Hills

My players would likely deny it, but sometimes I feel like I really struggle and/or forget to add epic fantasy touches when planning adventures or building out my supposed to be epic fantasy worlds. Instead, I get lost in the mundane minutiae. What is the driving force in this town's politics? Do I have enough farms around the city center on this map? What animals make up this ecosystem? What are the mechanics behind this trap? I feel like I almost always start with the practical and work my way up. Sure, I might add some magical beasts to a forest, or have undead raiding local villages... but I regularly feel like it's just not enough. The undead might as well be raiding bandits and the owlbears might as well be divided back into their constituent parts. The epic feels like an add-on rather than an integral part of the world.

Then there are days like today when I feel like something epic clicks into place.

I've been trying to flesh out some of the regions surrounding the one where my players are currently adventuring. I do this for my own enjoyment, and to prep for the possibility of "next steps" in my game's adventure path.

Today, my world-building thoughts started from a slightly different angle than my usual approach. Instead of thinking, "What cities and countries are around this one?" I started pondering some images that have been squirreled away on my Pinterest boards and thinking, "you know what's cool? Floating islands!"

So, instead of starting with the basic size and industry of a nearby citystate... I used floating islands as a starting point for this particular world-building session. I decided to work from the epic concept downward to anchor it in my game.

Floating islands got me thinking about what makes them float. Magic is an obvious answer. More specifically, I am using some elements of the Eberron campaign setting in my world, including air ships built from soarwood. In Eberron, soarwood is rare, and possesses a "magical buoyancy". Well, what if soarwood was not so rare, and was buoyant enough that uprooted trees would actually fly? By that logic, groves of soarwood might have enough lift to drag chunks of land with them!

The floating islands in my game would all be covered in buoyant soarwood groves! But what would actually dislodge the groves? Here, I turned to the real world and the karst landscape of southern China. Perhaps soarwood grows best in areas high in soluble minerals like limestone. Natural erosion might lead to spectacular gravity-defying formations that actually break free and wander from time to time.

With a strong theme for the new region, I turned my thoughts to the type of civilization that might call it home. What if someone took advantage of these floating islands to build cities? The cities would certainly be difficult to assault. Unfortunately, since trees grow and die, maintaining a balance to keep the city in place would require some work. Arborist guilds might hold a powerful position in such a civilization! They would be tasked with pruning and growing the soarwood groves not for aesthetic purposes, but to maintain the physical well-being of the city itself!

The notion of arborists as a powerful profession then led me to begin thinking of this civilization as elven... but a group of elves with a more practical approach to their nature affinity. Instead of simply being the "MOAR TREES!" kind of elves, they would instead focus on the meticulous balance between natural and built environments in their cities.

Over the course of just a few hours mulling this over in the back of my head while I worked at my actual job, I had come up with a natural biome for my world, and a civilization which felt both more fantastic than what often come up with, but at the same time, anchored more deeply in the reality of the world as a whole. When I work the other direction, it often takes me days or weeks to reach this level of detail.

If you find yourself struggling with fantasy world-building like I so often do, it might be worth giving this fantastic > mundane method a try.

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