Category Archives: Props

Trying something new…

I’ve never been particularly handy. I’ll write, talk in public, and I can tell a pretty good yarn (or so I’ve been told), but I’m not great with cars or home repair. I’ll hook up your computer or your home theater, but don’t ask me to fix the plumbing; I just don’t have the skill ranks!

Likewise my relation with the more “arts and crafts” aspects of our hobby has been more as an observer than a participant. I have friends who paint miniatures and do so with great skill, customize their creations and produce some beautiful work. I’ve been bitten by the bug before. In high school I ordered some plastic Warhammer Fantasy minis (can’t remember the set but I know it had dwarves and skavens) and some paints and tried my hand at it for the first time. I had no notion on how this was done and even though I understood the idea of priming the miniatures I overeager to paint and did not allow the primer to dry properly. Let’s just say that attempt was less than successful.

Later, in college, I tried my hand at it again and with some coaching from those aforementioned friends.  I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say when I showed the final product to a friend he asked me if I had just dunked the miniature in paint and set it out to dry. End of try two!

For years I did not play with miniatures so this was no big deal, but when D&D 3rd edition came around I realized I needed some miniatures to get the most out of the combat system. I first I used my old HeroQuest board game minis, some other unpainted minis I had purchased thought a life of gaming, even some Mage Knight miniatures. My prayers were answered when the D&D miniatures came out and I was bit by the “plastic crack” bug (that’s what my friends and I used to call it). By now I have enough miniatures to play for a long, long while.

I am happy to move around the miniatures in a hand drawn map, or some of the tiles or maps made by Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. I’ve spoken about this in previous posts, but as I’ve met more fellow gamers over this past year through the Puerto Rico Role Players Group I’ve been amazed at some of the wonderful dioramas and models they create. These are labors of love that greatly enhance the feel of a game. When we had a table at a local convention promoting the group the reaction to the models being displayed was awesome.

So with another convention coming up we wanted to display some of those wonderful creations. Sadly both of the talented artists will not be able to attend the con, but both agreed to send some of their work and one of them actually offered to help us make some new terrain to display. I was reluctant at first. I’ve never been particularly handy and I saw little possibility I might actually be good at it, but never one to shy away from a challenge I said, “Why not!” What’s the worse that could happen? I end up with an ugly looking piece of cardboard that’s supposed to be a fort!

Last Saturday my friend Sara and I met with Jaime and Mario. Both make excellent models and terrains. Mario makes incredible pieces using everything from printed out models, to household items and even animal carcasses (I kid you not! You should see his dragon skeleton made from a rat’s skeleton…). Jaime, well Jaime is in a league of his own, he is a model maker, make up artist and all around great guy (Mario is a great guy too, I just don’t like to tell him too often or he’ll get too full of himself).

Jaime was an excellent teacher, providing materials, sound advice and patience, sharing his craft with us and actually getting me to do what I considered impossible, work on terrain for a role-playing game that actually LOOKS like what it’s supposed to represent.

We decided to work on a river bed and Sara, Mario and I each worked on a piece of the river. We carved the riverbed in Foamular and then used the same material to create promontories, boulders and rocks. We used a heat gun to give the terrain some features. Sadly I had to leave early but Mario and Jaime put the base coat of paint on the pieces and we’ll get back together next week to finish the river using some silicone.

I am so thrilled about the experience. I actually managed to make some terrain and at the stage I left it, it didn’t look half bad. You can look at the picture here in the post. I also know it had a lot to do with the teacher. Jaime is incredibly talented and patient; communicates effortlessly and gives good solid advice and encouragement. Best of all I felt this was something I could do. I am psyched about finishing this project, displaying it at the convention and maybe tackling some other projects.

I feel like I gained a geek level over the weekend!

Food & Games

Don’t worry; this has NOTHING to do with all the electronic cooking games out there. This is about gamers and the food they eat when they game. Junk food and role-playing games are connected in poplar culture, and in all truth some games will devour prodigious amounts of chips and soda. Undoubtedly some groups try to eat healthy, bringing fruits and veggies to the table, but I suspect the majority of use would rather have some Mountain Dew than water! (For the record I don’t like Mountain Dew, I’d much rather have Jones Soda, but the Dew but it emblematic.)

There are things like Igor Bars by John Kovalic out there! These sound delicious, but are probably heart attack inducing. But my reason for this post is just not to share recipes (we can certainly do that) but to talk about how food could enhance gaming and set the mood for a game!

I remember when I first read Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home. It was during my Dragonlance period, having just finished reading the Dragonlance Chronicles and was getting my hands on everything Dragonlance. This was NOT a gaming supplement; it was a collection of stories, poems and recipes. Yes you read that right, recipes. I was so intrigued, it was like having the cookbook of a fantasy Inn, and it seemed like magic. This was back in 1988 and I didn’t cook at all. In fact I avoided cooking for years so I never got to try Tika’s recipes.

The only time I had an edible prop in a game was during a Star Trek Adventure where the game master had Romulan Ale available for us. It wasn’t truly the legendary alcoholic beverage of the Star Trek universe, we were all still underage, but water with food coloring. I barely remember the adventure (sorry José) but the pitcher of blue liquid in the middle of the table really captured my imagination. And by the way, that last link has some nice recipes for mixing up alcoholic versions of the Romulan Ale, Star Trek party here we go!

Since then I’ve embraced the joys of cooking and the old storage room with the fridge and microwave has actually become one of my favorite rooms in my house. I love cooking and often cook for my players. My famous and artery clogging Gordopletas® have graced games and geeknics alike. Still I have NOT actually created a dinner to enhance a game.

When I began my current campaign, which is a pirate/swashbuckling themed Pathfinder RPG game, I wanted to take my players out to a restaurant called La Guarida del Pirata (The Pirate’s Hideaway, beware that last link is in Spanish) a pirate themed seafood restaurant. We didn’t go but I cooked for them, we watched a movie and discussed campaign expectations and character generation.

It was a great experience BUT I missed the opportunity to make food part of the experience. I want to change this, I really want to find an opportunity were I can cook for my players and make it part of the gaming experience. Perhaps we have a dinner party in game and then have food in real life. I want to play a zombie game for Halloween, I can already think of some possibilities. Brains!

Do you integrate food into your gaming? Do you cook or prepare something special for your players?

I better dig out the Leaves form the Inn of the Last Home. I’ll keep you update of my attempts to bring food into my games in a meaningful way.

DM Rewards: Tomb of Horrors Review

I got something very unexpected in the mail last Friday when I went to check my PO box. Wizards of the Coast sent me my second DM Rewards package of the year.  I was standing in the post office holding a large white envelope from Wizards of the Coast that had DO NOT BEND printed in large bold letters across the front.

“Cool” I thought, “I completely forgot I was apart of DM Rewards program.

When I got home I couldn’t wait long to open the envelope from Wizards. I cleared off a space on my dinning room table and opening the envelope and pulled out all of it’s contents.

The first thing on top was a Welcome to DM Rewards letter that reads:

DM Rewards Letter

DM Rewards Letter

Welcome To DM Rewards!

Contained within this envelope is your reward adventure entitled Tomb of Horrors, and update of the classic 1st Edition adventure for the 4th Edition game! You’re Receiving this reward for simply signing up and being a current active member of our DM Rewards program. Consider it a “thank you” from Wizards of the Coast for the time you take to offer your players the enjoyment of a Dungeons & Dragons game!

Each year you’ll want to update your contact information with us by logging into your account online at membership.wizards.com and updating your personal information. That way, you can be sure that you’ll continue to receive your free reward just for being a part of the program. In order to receive the reward for 2011, you must either have signed up for the DM rewards between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, or log in to your profile to update your personal information during that time period.

In addition to your annual reward mailing, we’ll be sending you something special twice a year for DMing a minimum number of games during a 6 month cycle. Each game you DM is worth 1 point, and if you ear 5 or more points during the reward cycle ( which runs January 1 – June 30 and July 1 – December 31 each your), We’ll send you something cool that you can use in your games and show off to your friends! We send these rewards out twice a year in August and February.

Welcome to the program. We hope you enjoy the free adventure and all the great stuff to come!

Chris Tulach
D&D Organized Play Content Developer
Wizards of the coast

TOMB OF HORRORS! I have read so much about the Tomb of Horrors from Wikipedia and other sources on the Internet. I picked up the original Tomb of Horrors adventure written by Gary Gygax from Amazon.com earlier this year. You can also download a free 3rd edition of the Tomb of Horrors adventure form Wizards of the coast. I have also been eagerly anticipating the release of the  Tomb of Horrors: A 4th Edition D&D Super Adventure next week. After reading the Welcome to DM Rewards letter I made a mental note to log into membership.wizards.com and update my address information.

Encounters Ad

Encounters Ad

Setting the letter aside on my table the next item was an ad for Dungeons & Dragons Encounters. It read “Find More Adventure Every Wednesday At A Store Near You”.

After setting the Dungeons & Dragons Encounters ad aside I saw the meat and potatoes of my Wizards of the Coast package.

Dungeons & Dragons: Tomb of Horrors. An Adventure For five 9th – Level Characters. Gary Gygax • Scott Fitzgerald Gray. As well as a large battlemap.

4E Tomb of Horrors Cover

4E Tomb of Horrors Cover

So that part is a little different from the Original Tomb of Horrors that came out in 1978. The original cover of Tomb of Horrors got players from levels 10 – 14 and on the cover of this version it says “an Adenture for five 9th – level Characters.

The introduction reads to the Tomb of Horrors reads:

Somewhere under the lost and lonely hill of grim and foreboding aspect lies a labyrinthine crypt. It is filled with terrible traps and not a few strange and ferocious monsters to slay the unwary. It is filled with rich treasures both precious and magical, but in addition the aforementioned guardians, there is said to be a demilich who still wards his final haunt. (be warned that tales told have it  that this being possesses the powers which make him nearly undefeatable!)

Accounts relate that it is quite unlikely that any adventurers will ever find the chamber where the demilich Acererak lingers, for the passages and rooms of the tomb are fraught with terrible traps, poison gases, and magical protections. Furthermore, the demilich has so well hidden his lair that even those who avoid the pitfalls will not be likely to locate their true goal. So only large and well prepared parties of the bravest and strongest should even consider the attempt, and if they do  locate the tomb they must be prepared to fail.

This all matches up with the original Tomb of Horrors Introduction. The following is new however.

Horror Never Dies

The text above, penned by Gary Gygax, heralded Tomb of Horror’s assault on the unsuspecting hobby in 1978. One of the handful of now classic adventures modules published in the earliest days of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, The Tomb made it’s first appearance three years before as the official D&D tournament adventure at the original 1 gaming convention. It used the original Dungeons & Dragons rules, published in 1974. In the time since, the adventure has become a legend in gaming circles – loved by some, vilified by others, and indelibly burned into the memories of every player and D< who set their imaginations loose within it.

In 1998, the original adventure became the centerpiece for (and was reprinted as part) the legendary Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set for 2nd Edition AD&D. At the height of 3rd Edition’s popularity. Return author Bruce R. Cordell updated the adventure as a free release.

Now, the most legendary dungeon crawl in gaming history has been updated for 4th Edition D&D rules. In keeping with the spirit of the new edition, the challenges herein might prove more calculated and consistent than those of the original adventure. Be warned, however, that the challenges can be just as deadly. Characters who survive the adventure should attain 11th level and will have begun to make a name for themselves as they cross from the heroic to the paragon tier.

Tomb Of Horrors Map

Tomb Of Horrors Map

This 4th Edition of the original Tomb of Horrors takes players from level 9 though level 11th. In fact it uses the worlds “Characters who survive the adventure should attain level 11th”. I think anyone who is not formiliar with the Tomb of Horrors should take heed of all the warnings in this adventure. The adventure booklet also continas a larg poster of the entier map thought it is not to scale for use of miniatures. The cardboard cover that the adventure sits in also contains another company of the map printed inside.

I also want to take amoment and talk about the art inside the 4th Edition of Tomb of Horrors. The art they use in this booklet is the same as the art from the orgion Tomb of Horrors. Not every single bit of art is used but most of it is that’s for sure.

Wikipedia states

Gygax designed the adventure both to challenge the skill of expert players in his own campaign, and to test players who boasted of having mighty player characters able to best any challenge.

Wikipedia also has a quote from Lore Sjöberg of Wired on Tomb of Horrors.

This is a D&D adventure created in 1978 for the purposes of testing the wit and fortitude of adventuring parties at game tournaments. “Testing” is used here in the same sense as the sentence “We’ll be testing the dog for rabies.” Let’s just say the subject is not expected to survive the procedure.

Tomb Of Horrors Art

Tomb Of Horrors Art

You know what? If you haven’t done it already check out the wikipeda page on the Tomb of Horrors and read the whole reception section. The point I am trying to make here is don’t just pull out this adventure module and run it for your gaming group until you fully understand what your going to put them through, and until they fully understand the warnings.  I have not even run my own party through this adventure because of that fact.

The original Tomb of Horrors is one of the best adventure modules I have ever purchased because of all the ideas it has given me for traps and map layouts. It has been difficult to try and convert the traps to a 4th edition version so this updated adventure module should be a big help.

If you would like to get free adventures and swag from Wizards of the Coast, then sign up for a DCI account in the DM Rewards program. It’s not the easyest thing to do, but the pay outs are pretty awesome.