Unboxing January 2017 Dungeon Crate

Unboxing this months Dungeon Crate “offering symbols of peace, luck adventures, and missteps all things we encounter throughout a year of gaming.”

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January’s box contains a D20 yin/yang t-shirt from armorclass10.com. While we really like the design of this shirt we are not enthused about the way the design is printed on the material, similar styles in the past have cracked and faded rather quickly. It also has the armorclass10 logo printed on the top center of the back.

Next, we have a  Ki-Rin coin from Rare Elements Foundry. “Ki-Rin are a race of aerial creatures whose hooves rarely touch the earth, for they dwell amid the clouds and behind the winds. Females are never encountered and Ki-Rin are always solitary. They sometimes aid humans if the need to combat evil is great. The coat of Ki-Rin is luminous gold, much as a sunrise on a clear day.” This coin has some good weight to it and is a good size, but it is a little awkward for flipping because of its size. It has some fine detail and the aged look it has is nice with a four-eyed Ki-Rin on one side and the Rare Elements Foundry logo on the other. (quarter for size reference)

 

Then we have a critical fumble deck from Nord Games. This is a full set of 52 full-color cards for when you roll natural 1’s. Each card has four entries, one for each attack type; melee, ranged, natural, and magic and includes a severity level in the upper right corner of each card ranging from Awkward (recommended for lvl 1) to Disgraceful (recommended for Lvl 13).  This is our first encounter with the deck and some of the “fumbles” seem silly in the scenario, we were able to play out some of the fumbles but others were unnatural to roll play out.

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We also got a mini adventure “The Pententieyrie” from Adventure a Week, suitable for 5th edition Lvl 4-5. “An ancient carving, an avian goddess, and a demonic path to adventure await.” These are great little adventures easy to throw into a campaign for those times when the DM just isn’t quite as prepared as you would like to be and need a little more time.

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There was also the digital crate that came with a PDF of the Pententieyrie AAW, a PDF Adventure Chronicle e-zine from AAW and a PDF 5th edition character sheet by Javier Aumente that has a layout that we really like because it seems like it will be easier for the kids to use.

That’s it for this months box, there wasn’t as much as there has been in previous month’s boxes the reason for this being that the items in the box were a higher price. At first, we were kinda excited about the T-shirts inclusion but after some thought had a change of mind, while I do like the shirt I would prefer to see more content like from previous boxes. Overall we were a little underwhelmed with this month’s box but do understand the reasons for less content and that sometimes its trial and error with things.

*We are not endorsing any particular brands and were not paid for this review

Welcome to the Tinker-Shop

Welcome to the Tinker-Shop, the little corner of this blog dedicated to crafting projects and displays. Some of the posts here will be about the process we follow to make a piece of terrain. Some of the other posts will be just to show off some other work that is a one shot item or something that there is a lot of already in the crafting sphere. Not all of the techniques are original to us, and where it is necessary the proper links will be shared and credit is given where due.

This post is about the tools that we use most often. If something is used for a specific job it will be added in that post.

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The first thing you’ll need is a marking device. These are pretty self-explanatory, as they are used to mark where you might want to cut, glue or engrave something. I recommend a pencil, marker, and pen. All of these can and will be used to mark measurements and designs or whatever. However, a pen can be used on foam to engrave a symbol or pattern for stonework. This is also why I suggest a pencil, this is easier on dollar store foam board and does not leave a groove where you might not mean to.

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Next thing that is important is a measuring/straight edge device. These are handy because they keep things exact. Not just knowing what size things are, but also keeping lines and cuts straight where they need to be. It is highly recommended to have a metal ruler so that your knife doesn’t cut through it, adding grooves and making your lines wonky.

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The third tool type you will need is cutting devices. You don’t need a whole lot here to be productive. I mostly use expandable knives with break off blades (I make good use of both the 9mm and 18mm sizes) and scissors. A hobby (Exacto) knife is useful but not necessary.

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Possibly, the most important item you will need is some sort of material to work with. Cardboard is a very useful thing to have and you can get by with just this and the materials above along with paint and brushes for almost anything you want to make. Nearly everyone in the hobby uses double corrugated cardboard in their projects, though normal works just fine and defiantly has its own place for use.

Another popular material is foam. The two most common used in what we are going to do are expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene(XPS). EPS is probably the most common thought of item when  the foam is mentioned. It usually comes white in color and is comprised of many little balls (this is how I remember it is expanded) and is generally more pliable. XPS is more rigid than the EPS and often comes in either blue or pink for a color.

There is a kind of the third option that a lot of crafters use and that is dollar store foam board. This material is popular because it is a mix between the two foams mentioned above, but very thin. It comes in many colors and has a paper on each side making a kind of sandwich. This particular brand is used because the paper peels away easily, exposing the foam to be used in whatever manner desired. Other brands can be used but the paper is much more difficult to peel off. Also, it is much less costly.

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Another important tool we will be using is something to adhere two pieces together. A hot glue gun is an affordable and quite a handy option. In fact, this is probably where I would start. I recommend a dual heat gun with a metal tip because it gives the most option while only having one item. The thickness of the stick is nearly irrelevant. You can often get more work in a single wide stick, but you can buy a lot more of the thin ones for a similar price. In the end, it doesn’t hurt to have one of each, but it is not necessary.

There are many types of glues that I have seen people use in their videos. There is PVA/Elmer’s white glue, tacky glue, e6000, and so on…I personally use wood glue for my stuff (I have a gallon of it that I hardly even used from when I was able to do some woodworking). A lot of this is a personal choice, but certain glues have somewhat specific uses and react in undesired or interesting ways with some materials.

Paint and its accessories are additionally good things to have. A person can get by with very basic colors and accomplish many things, just ask The DMG Info. Although if you are like me and want as much consistency as possible there are very cheap options on the market to build a good supply.

This is probably a good place to end this post. There are a good number of other things that we use, but they are not required to make most things.

Cave Tiles

Today’s adventure is cave tiles made from expanded polystyrene foam. I’m going to take the time to apologize for the lack of pictures on this post. It was kind of a last minute decision to make it.

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I start out by drawing my basic shapes on the foam and get it all laid out. I don’t usually have a specific shape in mind for any individual piece, but by laying them out I can get a sense of how to shape things as I go along. Doing this also keeps me from being limited by space restrictions by the board dimensions.

The next step is to cut out your pieces. The most useful knife to use here is an extendable break off utility knife. Make sure you have a fresh blade, as a dull blade (even a slightly dulled blade) will tear the foam rather than cutting it. To be fair, though, sometimes that torn look can add an element that you can’t get otherwise.

At this point you can shape it down with the knife if you want, adding a bevel to the edges and carving or scooping out gouges for a more rock-like look. I usually just bevel the edges and do the detail work in the next step.

Now I take some kind of heating element, a heat gun or some sort of fire spewing device (a blow torch, a dragon, or if your boring a lighter) and lightly go over it to give it shape and definition. I have gone to using a heat gun, this creates an interesting formation with the foam as it seems to make individual balls melt more rather than whole sections.

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You could also take this time to make valleys and specific craters or what have you in the foam. Once that is done (depending on the method used) you can go straight to painting using craft store acrylics (my process outlined below), or you can cover it with patching plaster. I recommend using the plaster if you are going to take a heat gun to it as the effect of the heat gun makes it difficult to paint on its own. The plaster will take a few days to dry. (Note: this is not the strongest substance so I do not recommend trying to crush it)

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Once the plaster is dried to your liking (I gave it about a week) you can go ahead with the painting process. (Note: if you water down the paints it will get into hard to reach places better and will make your paint last longer) I give it a base coat in black, then go over it with whatever you want the main color to be (I like my caves to be dirt colored) with a heavy dry brushing. The number of coats can be whatever you feel looks best to you. I had to do two on these because the brown and black were so close. Then I did two coats with a lighter shade of brown using a less heavy dry brushing. I finished this part off with a typical dry brushing with a light brown that matched my scheme best. I would like to add that when I do my dry brushing for highlights I always stroke from the top down, it makes the most sense to me to do it this way, and as long as you are consistent with all your pieces it will look good.

The final stage is something that I borrowed and adapted based on the materials that I have, from Black Magic Craft. He uses a spray on lacquer finish, but I don’t have spray on so I use the brush on stuff left over from my woodworking that I had to put aside for the time being. I can’t say to any comparison here because I don’t know how the spray on ends up but I am satisfied with my current results. Anyways, enough rambling, I apply a coat or two of this stuff, usually using the satin to keep the glare down. In the future, I plan to add a coat of matte finish paint to break the glare down even more. I will put up a small post for that later to let you know how it turns out. Give it about 24 hours to dry and then you can start playing on it.

Adventure Vault Unboxing

Unboxing Dungeon Crate’s Adventure Vault sample box, a great value at $20. Ideal for if you want to try it out before committing to the subscription or  as a gift for the tabletop RPGer in your life. According to Dungeon Crate, the boxes are randomly put together with leftovers from previous months boxes. This is what we got in ours.

First up we got a set of 7 glow in the dark polyhedral dice from Metallic Dice Games.

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There was also a grab box of dice including two glow in the dark d8, a d20, a d12, a d6, and a percentile. Not bad, after all, you can never have too many dice.

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Next, there is a Reaper Bones Water Weird figure.

There was also a wooden d10 coaster from PigseyArt and just like I did with the d12 from the August Box I turned this into a magnet for the toolbox.

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Got one more die, a d6, from CoolGuysNation.  This seems to be a promotional piece for their website.  To the best of my knowledge, they do not have a store to purchase from.

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There were four Adventure A Week mini dungeons, three Pathfinder and one for 5E.

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Finally, my favorite thing in this box, from Advanced Deployment a set of four acrylic Elemental Figures. As well as a set three Magic Circles and Five Blood Spatter Tokens.

Overall I was really happy with everything we got in this box, it was a great value and will probably be something we purchase again in the future.

*We are not endorsing any particular brands and were not paid for this review

A Quick Thought: The Benefit of DMing and Playing Simultaneously

In writing another blog post I mentioned that I was simultaneously running a game and playing a character at the same time. This is something my wife introduced me to as she really wanted to play but I wasn’t willing at the time to run a game. Wanting to also play in a campaign that I was running, I have adopted this strategy. I know to many this seems like a queer way to approach the game, but there is something I noticed that I don’t think is as obvious otherwise. This is a great way to teach yourself how to not meta-game.

Knowing what the direction the game is going to be going makes it quite tempting to fiddle with your character and what they might do. Despite this challenge, I have found it oddly satisfying being able to stop myself and redirect my thoughts back to the game and thinking what my character would actually want to do in this situation. Giving this a little more reflection I suppose there can be another benefit to this in becoming a better role player and learning how to dive deeper into a character you have created.

Class: DM Level: 1 XP: 25/100

I suppose an introduction is in order. This is a new blog department for my adventures as a brand new DM. I thought it would be fun to chart my experiences as a growing Game Director from day one. A little background for flavor, I am in my mid-thirties and a couple weeks ago I began my first campaign as a Game Master. I recently started actual play earlier this year. I had tried a couple of smaller campaigns and played for a few sessions before, once in high school and once shortly after my wife and I got together. I have been watching videos from many of the YouTube channels that talk about D&D and role playing in general. This has been a great help, and I want to add my own “voice” to this quickly growing ocean.

I started this campaign to act as a filler for when my wife doesn’t have much prepared for her own campaign. This creates an easier path for me to get into the Game Master aspect of the game. Also, I am set on making this more for my children (5 and 6 who also play in my wife’s campaign) and keeping it light and fun. Bearing this in mind, and pulling an idea from my bank, I decided to play my “Killjoys” idea. A group of random characters who take on “warrants” for people in various cities. I do not at the moment have a long term plan, especially since this is mostly supplemental play every couple weeks or so. Maybe one day I will advance it towards a more concrete story plot, but for now, it keeps things simple for me and the family.

I feel this approach is great for working with children who are being introduced for the first time without having to oversimplify the core mechanics. Bearing in mind, my children have been playing for several months now and started out in a similar fashion but with the most basic of rules to see if they would even like it (you can find information on that here) It is also good for the starting DM because there doesn’t have to be as much pressure to develop a year-long story concept that relies on the players doing certain things. I think this lack of pressure helps to establish the things I feel are important to develop a successful Director:

    • How to avoid railroading (at least too much)
    • Being able to play on the fly (as we some of us know and the rest will learn, that is going to happen nearly every game)
    • Being prepared (a little ironic from the last point but its does help to have some basic outline of what you want to accomplish, there must be a goal)
    • Finding your own flavor (interpreting the rules in your own way, home-brewing and house rules)

That is not to say there is anything wrong with the opposites of any of the aforementioned topics. Everyone has their own style and each group their own method of play and you’ll find yours as you go along.

One last thought on this point, a game of this style gives you the freedom to try all the different styles of play and game refereeing with very little consequence. If you have played games before as a player and wanted to try a different interpretation of the rules then go for it. The worst that will happen is that it won’t be as successful and you will know not to do it again or find out what needs to be fixed to make it a good mechanic. An easy and common place to start is critical success/fail. For example, I made up my own very simple table but I also play off of things that happen in the moment. Other people use double dice on damage for a success and kind of ignore fails or make it up as they play things out. The most important thing is to let your players know what you are doing from the start.

This was my jumping off point. I had put a little preparation into it…about 5-6 hours worth, maybe. I had figured on having a couple of weeks to prepare but everyone was so excited to play their new characters that I was kind of shoehorned into it. Most of the prep time went into designing the map for this world (yeah I’m going all in right from the get-go). This was unintentional but turned out to be the cornerstone for the whole thing, despite the fact that I am not developing a long-term game plan.

First I needed to develop a set of individual story ideas that each character could be doing. My wife and I did Session Zero collectively with the kids to develop the characters. Everyone got to start at a little higher than level one, but I set it no higher than level 5 and everyone made their characters (with some guided background). I used the information from that to start in the world building process. But, I needed a thing for them all to do, a reason to come together.

Along the way, I remembered a one shot encounter that I received through Dungeon Crate and thought it would be a great first mission for my group. All I had to do now was bring them together. Which meant I needed to know where they were all from so I could set up how they meet. So this is about the time I started looking for maps. I could not find any that worked out the way I wanted that did not involve me changing the map into something else altogether, so I decided to just make my own. On a normal sheet of paper, I drew out my island country and then scanned it into my computer. From here I blew it up and printed out a portion of it making it easier to do the cities. With this accomplished, it was easier for me to orchestrate events and build a sense of timing.

I had come up with plans for most of the characters. For things to be a little clearer I suppose I should give you the players; they are my wife (Ravel, a druid tanuki), myself (Nyx, a gnome ranger)(yes I am DMing and playing at the same time I have a thought on that here) and our two children (Bree, a halfling wizard and Audi, a dwarf rogue). Audi and Nyx have somewhat involved situations which required an actual kind of script. I had a basic outline for Bree and played mostly by ear. For Ravel, I had absolutely no idea what to do till I sat down to play, and her entire story plot was improvised for that night.

Since none of the characters were coming from the same place it was necessary to play them in a rotation. I started with Bree running short little errands starting from her mentor’s house and traveling around and she will come back to her mentor’s house. I knew where she was going but I hadn’t established any details about the towns or the people within, so that is where all the improve came into play. I also threw in bandit for her to battle who will return somewhat regularly for a short time and asked her for the details about how he looked.

Next, I went to Audi. I knew what I wanted her first mission to be and spent a good deal of time preparing that situation, but I need something for her to do to be in the loop of play. So, I had the “meet up” happen and she was hired to find evidence of corruption in the local government. This part was short but included my son in the play to keep his interest. Her next turn was to case the target place and find her way in and out. That part was unplanned but was easy enough to make up because I had a map already of the house and knew where things were.

I didn’t do any playing for myself just explained, for story’s sake, what my character was interested in and what she would be doing. So, moving on to Ravel. I had no plan for her other than bringing the plot hook that brings all the characters together. I asked her what she was doing and let it roll out from there. Being out for a walk, I realized she could stumble across a group of orcs attacking a merchant cart. This was to be the jumping off point and what leads to the group needing to be formed. This is also where my supplement from DC would come into play a little and it would be the jumping off point.

There was a lot that happened here, from the director’s point of view, that would help me to start finding my own method of play. I found a way to introduce things and to give those things context. The value of working with players to build the world around (since it was my wife I was doing this with it was better to practice). And, a little taste of how my own mechanics changes would work out.

I certainly learned a lot in this first sitting, especially since I had done so little to make myself ready:

    • It is okay to not know what you are doing. The players don’t know what you are doing either.
    • Making things up on the spot may be just as easy as putting the effort in weeks before.
    • Put in some effort to have some idea of what you want to do. Know the purpose, not the details.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask your players about their characters…you might find a way to justify a random action that won’t seems out of place.
    • Also ask your players for details about what they see (ie. The robes of an NPC, buildings, the road). It takes some of the pressure off yourself to come up with things and it immerses them more into the game.
    • Take notes when you or the players make things up to maintain consistency, especially if you plan on returning to a thing at any point with intention or without.

I’m certain there are more things but that is all I can recall at the moment. I’m sure they will come back to me later on as I run into them in later sessions.

Non-Reader Character Sheet

I created this simplified character sheet for the non- reader or limited reader to make playing D&D a little bit easier for them. Using it with a sheet protector or laminating it also for  leveling up and easier ammunition tracking. It includes the basics that they use most often including two weapons (a short sword and longbow), armor class, hit points, healing potions, and ammunition tracker.

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