Last 15 posts from Ultanya

Three DM Lifehacks You Should Consider

Posted on September 14th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

After sitting behind the DM screen for many years you learn a few things. As a Dungeon Master, I’m always on the lookout for cheap, but effective ways to improve the tabletop experience. Listed below are three DM Lifehacks I think will benefit you, but obviously every group is different. If you have any hacks of your own please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Clothespin
Since the early 1980s I have seen countless attempts at initiative trackers. I personally have used everything from a dry erase board, legal pad, 3x5cards, and even designated a player to do it. There have even been apps developed for it and recent crowd funding projects. But nothing has done a better job than the simple old clothespin. You can buy them in bulk from the dollar store and then all you need is a few sharpies. They can be clipped right to your DM screen and are in plain few of everyone in the room. If you don’t use a DM screen they can be attached to just about anything else on the table. I have seen people use everything from a metal paper towel stand, to a upside down box lid. So, you also want to speed up combat? Think about clothespins for visible initiative tracking.

 

Pizza Box Stand
They come with your pizza order to keep the cheese and topping from sticking to the box. Showing elevation from flying or levitation has always been a challenge with miniatures. Most gaming groups order pizza anyway, and you get these free elevation stands! In my current Sword & Planet campaign we are using them to represent hover skiffs. I have seen another DM mentioning the use of narrow straws on the tripod legs to raise them even higher. If you’re using a battle map it’s easy just to write elevations next to the stands as well. They also have various uses for spells such as Spider Climb, or even Floating Disc. The limit really is your imagination when it comes to little hacks such as this. Certainly, as a quick reference they make for an easy table visual that comes with a delicious treat!

Dark Inspiration Dice
I first mentioned these in my Death House post last year when originally dreamed up. I have always been in favor of bennies (slang for benefits) in my D&D games. With the introduction of Inspiration as a mechanic in 5E I wanted to take it a step further. With Dark Inspiration, there is a pool of six-sided dice prominently displayed in the middle of the game table. At any time, a player may use this resource to increase an attack roll, skill check, or saving throw. The catch? The player also hands the DM one of the dice, who can use it anyway they see fit as the adventure progresses. For those of you starting Tomb of Annihilation, this is a perfect mechanic to add more danger and suspense to the lands of Chult! In terms of creation, I used some old board game D6s and splattered them with reddish-brown acrylic paint. The blood represents the overall danger of using this power…as it will backfire on you eventually!

 

Three DM Lifehacks You Should Consider

Posted on September 14th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

After sitting behind the DM screen for many years you learn a few things. As a Dungeon Master, I’m always on the lookout for cheap, but effective ways to improve the tabletop experience. Listed below are three DM Lifehacks I think will benefit you, but obviously every group is different. If you have any hacks of your own please feel free to share them in the comments section.

Clothespin
Since the early 1980s I have seen countless attempts at initiative trackers. I personally have used everything from a dry erase board, legal pad, 3x5cards, and even designated a player to do it. There have even been apps developed for it and recent crowd funding projects. But nothing has done a better job than the simple old clothespin. You can buy them in bulk from the dollar store and then all you need is a few sharpies. They can be clipped right to your DM screen and are in plain few of everyone in the room. If you don’t use a DM screen they can be attached to just about anything else on the table. I have seen people use everything from a metal paper towel stand, to a upside down box lid. So, you also want to speed up combat? Think about clothespins for visible initiative tracking.

 

Pizza Box Stand
They come with your pizza order to keep the cheese and topping from sticking to the box. Showing elevation from flying or levitation has always been a challenge with miniatures. Most gaming groups order pizza anyway, and you get these free elevation stands! In my current Sword & Planet campaign we are using them to represent hover skiffs. I have seen another DM mentioning the use of narrow straws on the tripod legs to raise them even higher. If you’re using a battle map it’s easy just to write elevations next to the stands as well. They also have various uses for spells such as Spider Climb, or even Floating Disc. The limit really is your imagination when it comes to little hacks such as this. Certainly, as a quick reference they make for an easy table visual that comes with a delicious treat!

Dark Inspiration Dice
I first mentioned these in my Death House post last year when originally dreamed up. I have always been in favor of bennies (slang for benefits) in my D&D games. With the introduction of Inspiration as a mechanic in 5E I wanted to take it a step further. With Dark Inspiration, there is a pool of six-sided dice prominently displayed in the middle of the game table. At any time, a player may use this resource to increase an attack roll, skill check, or saving throw. The catch? The player also hands the DM one of the dice, who can use it anyway they see fit as the adventure progresses. For those of you starting Tomb of Annihilation, this is a perfect mechanic to add more danger and suspense to the lands of Chult! In terms of creation, I used some old board game D6s and splattered them with reddish-brown acrylic paint. The blood represents the overall danger of using this power…as it will backfire on you eventually!

 

Tomb of Annihilation: Cinema Treasure Inspiration

Posted on September 13th, 2017 under , , , , , , . Posted by

Ta Prohm Temples of Angkor

With Tomb of Annihilation being released, many adventurers will be braving the dangers of Chult. For the uninitiated, Chult is part of the Forgotten Realms setting. It’s a land of savage monsters, poisonous flora and fauna, and trackless jungles. As a setting, jungles have long been a favorite to explore by authors. Just to name a few inspirational ones:

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World (1912)
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Land That Time Forgot (1918)
Michael Crichton: Congo (1980)

The jungle is a perfect backdrop for a Dungeons & Dragons adventure. Under the great canopy there is little light, everything is mysterious, the heat and humidity oppressive, danger lurks in the shadows, and the unknown is ubiquitous. In terms of taking the players (and their characters) out of their comfort zone, a jungle setting certainly delivers.

Over the years there have been plenty of cinema experiences also that used the jungle. Below I have picked three with fun treasure inspiration for your Tomb of Annihilation campaign. After all, what would a jungle based adventure be without ancient ruins, deadly traps, and legendary treasures!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Can you hear the theme song yet? When you think of jungle adventurers, Indiana Jones is right at the top. The Golden Idol and the resulting consequences of looting it remain one of favorite cinema moments. The idol is a believed to be based on the Aztec goddess, Tlazolteotl. Her domains were interesting and  covered purification, fertility, and filth. That said, this sounds like something perfect for a place such as Chult. Perhaps the idol can cure or minimize disease, but at great cost. Maybe there is a nasty curse associated with the idol? Replicas are available online from many different vendors and makes for a great table prop.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

In this story, the adventurers are seeking a massive emerald named El Corazón (“The Heart”). The map and gemstone are perfect examples of easy table props. Players love handouts and a crystal gem such as this can be purchased at your local craft store. Gemstones are usually associated with fantastical treasure hunts, which are perfect for a Dungeons & Dragons game. Something like El Corazón would almost definitely come with curse, but also may be the key to something. In the very least the temptation of unearthing a massive gemstone makes for a wonderful side quest in the jungles of Chult.

Jumanji (1995)

How fitting, a movie about a boy who is trapped in a board game! One of the things I always thought was cool were the actual Jumanji game pieces. The four animal shaped tokens include an elephant, crocodile, rhinoceros, and monkey. I think these would make perfect Figurines of Wondrous Power! The characters could find an old copy of Jumanji, or alternatively some other Chultan game during their travels. For added coolness replicas of the figurines are available online to use as game props.

In closing remember there is inspiration all around you. With a published adventure such as the Tomb of Annihilation, one of the best things you can do is make it your own. Borrow, steal, and use material from other sources liberally. The insertion of favorite moments from cinema and story makes for memorable Easter eggs at the game table. If your group is the type that appreciates inside jokes and nostalgic moments, got for it! Besides what DM does not want to unleash a giant boulder trap on the PCs? Pro Tip: Use a D100 and knock over the miniatures for added effect!

Tomb of Annihilation: Cinema Treasure Inspiration

Posted on September 13th, 2017 under , , , , , , . Posted by

Ta Prohm Temples of Angkor

With Tomb of Annihilation being released, many adventurers will be braving the dangers of Chult. For the uninitiated, Chult is part of the Forgotten Realms setting. It’s a land of savage monsters, poisonous flora and fauna, and trackless jungles. As a setting, jungles have long been a favorite to explore by authors. Just to name a few inspirational ones:

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Lost World (1912)
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Land That Time Forgot (1918)
Michael Crichton: Congo (1980)

The jungle is a perfect backdrop for a Dungeons & Dragons adventure. Under the great canopy there is little light, everything is mysterious, the heat and humidity oppressive, danger lurks in the shadows, and the unknown is ubiquitous. In terms of taking the players (and their characters) out of their comfort zone, a jungle setting certainly delivers.

Over the years there have been plenty of cinema experiences also that used the jungle. Below I have picked three with fun treasure inspiration for your Tomb of Annihilation campaign. After all, what would a jungle based adventure be without ancient ruins, deadly traps, and legendary treasures!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Can you hear the theme song yet? When you think of jungle adventurers, Indiana Jones is right at the top. The Golden Idol and the resulting consequences of looting it remain one of favorite cinema moments. The idol is a believed to be based on the Aztec goddess, Tlazolteotl. Her domains were interesting and  covered purification, fertility, and filth. That said, this sounds like something perfect for a place such as Chult. Perhaps the idol can cure or minimize disease, but at great cost. Maybe there is a nasty curse associated with the idol? Replicas are available online from many different vendors and makes for a great table prop.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

In this story, the adventurers are seeking a massive emerald named El Corazón (“The Heart”). The map and gemstone are perfect examples of easy table props. Players love handouts and a crystal gem such as this can be purchased at your local craft store. Gemstones are usually associated with fantastical treasure hunts, which are perfect for a Dungeons & Dragons game. Something like El Corazón would almost definitely come with curse, but also may be the key to something. In the very least the temptation of unearthing a massive gemstone makes for a wonderful side quest in the jungles of Chult.

Jumanji (1995)

How fitting, a movie about a boy who is trapped in a board game! One of the things I always thought was cool were the actual Jumanji game pieces. The four animal shaped tokens include an elephant, crocodile, rhinoceros, and monkey. I think these would make perfect Figurines of Wondrous Power! The characters could find an old copy of Jumanji, or alternatively some other Chultan game during their travels. For added coolness replicas of the figurines are available online to use as game props.

In closing remember there is inspiration all around you. With a published adventure such as the Tomb of Annihilation, one of the best things you can do is make it your own. Borrow, steal, and use material from other sources liberally. The insertion of favorite moments from cinema and story makes for memorable Easter eggs at the game table. If your group is the type that appreciates inside jokes and nostalgic moments, got for it! Besides what DM does not want to unleash a giant boulder trap on the PCs? Pro Tip: Use a D100 and knock over the miniatures for added effect!

Review: DM’s Screen Reincarnated/Tomb of Annihilation Dice

Posted on September 11th, 2017 under , , , . Posted by

I have been using a Dungeon Master’s screen since 1983 and have more iterations then I can count. One of the big disappointments with 5E has been the lack of a useful screen offering. Because of this most DMs have just created their own DIY solution, which still really is the best option. That being said, the Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated is a step in the right direction.
 
The outside of the four-panel screen depicts an ancient red dragon by artist Tyler Jacobson. I would not have purchased the product if it were covered in Forgotten Realms locations or NPC heroes. The dragon is iconic and screams Dungeons & Dragons. This was a perfect selection by whoever was responsible for picking the artwork for this product.

Moving along, the most important part is the information behind the screen. Wizard’s FINALLY has given us a modern screen with useful reference material for the 5E Dungeon Master. Below are pictures of all four interior panels:

As you can see from above, the designers did a good job of populating these screens. I think the reference material they picked is commonly looked up by most groups. Also of note about this screen is the sturdy construction and landscape design. The latter is particularly nice since the screen does not tower over the table and obscure your view. So, would I recommend this product? Yes. I think this is a useful for tool for Dungeon Masters of all seasons.

I also purchased the Tomb of Annihilation dice accessory. Just to be clear, I only purchased this for the tin box. The Green Devil face from the Tomb of Horrors is one of my favorite pieces of D&D imagery. The box is cool, but I was a bit disappointed in the product overall. The images of the tin and dice in the marketing material is a bit different. The tin is very green and the dice appear to have sharper edges, like Gamescience dice. Instead the dice are rounded, seem a tad smaller then a normal set, and are a flat green color. Would I recommend this product? Only if you really want the box because the dice are certainly underwhelming.

Review: DM’s Screen Reincarnated/Tomb of Annihilation Dice

Posted on September 11th, 2017 under , , , . Posted by

I have been using a Dungeon Master’s screen since 1983 and have more iterations then I can count. One of the big disappointments with 5E has been the lack of a useful screen offering. Because of this most DMs have just created their own DIY solution, which still really is the best option. That being said, the Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated is a step in the right direction.
 
The outside of the four-panel screen depicts an ancient red dragon by artist Tyler Jacobson. I would not have purchased the product if it were covered in Forgotten Realms locations or NPC heroes. The dragon is iconic and screams Dungeons & Dragons. This was a perfect selection by whoever was responsible for picking the artwork for this product.

Moving along, the most important part is the information behind the screen. Wizard’s FINALLY has given us a modern screen with useful reference material for the 5E Dungeon Master. Below are pictures of all four interior panels:

As you can see from above, the designers did a good job of populating these screens. I think the reference material they picked is commonly looked up by most groups. Also of note about this screen is the sturdy construction and landscape design. The latter is particularly nice since the screen does not tower over the table and obscure your view. So, would I recommend this product? Yes. I think this is a useful for tool for Dungeon Masters of all seasons.

I also purchased the Tomb of Annihilation dice accessory. Just to be clear, I only purchased this for the tin box. The Green Devil face from the Tomb of Horrors is one of my favorite pieces of D&D imagery. The box is cool, but I was a bit disappointed in the product overall. The images of the tin and dice in the marketing material is a bit different. The tin is very green and the dice appear to have sharper edges, like Gamescience dice. Instead the dice are rounded, seem a tad smaller then a normal set, and are a flat green color. Would I recommend this product? Only if you really want the box because the dice are certainly underwhelming.

Twelve Magic Torches

Posted on August 15th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

A while ago I posted some information on how to add torch creation to your campaign world. With 5th edition, one of the things that seems to have been cast aside is the common torch. In the early days of Dungeons and Dragons they were a staple. Now with the Light spell and Darkvision being so prevalent, hand held light sources are not overly valuable. That being said, I decided to spice torches up a bit!

Since ancient times, humans have associated magical properties with various types of wood. That theme fits wonderfully into a Dungeons & Dragons campaign world. For this idea let us assume that two versions of trees exist: one mundane, and one enchanted. The latter being rare and guarded jealously by druidic circles, malicious fey, and even xenophobic elves.  Occasionally a sapling from one of these magic variations may appear in the lands of the common folk. Or alternatively, a group of adventurers may be retained to hunt and fell these trees. Imagine their surprise if a treant template was added to one!

Once prepared, the wood from these arcane trees make valuable torches. Although expensive in coin or trade, magic torches are something interesting to add to a merchant’s shelf. If you would like to add some flavor to your games, and see torches in the dungeon again, these may be a fun addition. Below please find twelve torch variations and their respective magical properties.

Base Torch:

A torch burns for 1 hour, providing bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. If you make a melee Attack with a burning torch and hit, it deals 1 fire damage.

Magic Torch Subtype:

01. Apple Wood: Beware, fey are attracted to the dancing flames it creates. While holding the torch you may cast Faerie Fire one time before it burns out.

02. Ash Wood: The smoke generated by this torch assists with concentration. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Intelligence based roll before it burns out.

03. Beech Wood: The greenish flames of this torch have divination properties. While holding the torch you may cast Augury one time before it burns out.

04. Birch Wood: This magic wood is favored in cleansing rituals. Druids of the deepest wild covet it. While holding the torch you may cast Lesser Restoration one time before it burns out.

05. Cedar Wood: The smoke from this wood creates a hazy sphere of energy. While holding the torch you may cast Protection from Good and Evil one time before it burns out.

06. Cherry Wood: Sylvan beings favor this wood as a magical focus. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Wisdom based roll before it burns out.

07. Elm Wood: According to legend, the fey use this wood in rebirth rituals. While holding the torch over a fallen companion, you may cast Spare the Dying one time before it burns out.

08. Hickory Wood: Druids have long used the blueish flames of this wood in their influence rituals. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Charisma based roll before it burns out.

09. Holly Wood: A torch designed from this wood can double as a magic weapon. While holding the torch you may cast Shillelagh on it one time before it burns out. It still gets its +1 flame damage bonuses.

10. Maple Wood: The soothing warmth generated by this torch has legendary healing properties. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains one extra hit die to spend during a short rest.

11. Oak Wood: Legend holds visions of great heroes can be seen if you stare into the flames of this wood. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch is inspired with bravery, gaining +1 to hit one time before it burns out.

12. Willow Wood: Perhaps the rarest of magical trees, the flames generated from this wood are said to burn away the cold clutches of death. While holding the torch over a fallen companion, you may cast Revivify one time before it burns out.

As the effects above vary, I encourage each Dungeon Master to develop their own value system. Obviously purchasing these torches should not be prohibitively expensive, but we also don’t need characters with golf bags full of them. I would consider adding them as treasure items, and barter material from merchants. Additionally, the characters could find one of these trees and attempt to make torches themselves. Don’t be afraid to use these torches against the characters also! Finally, do you have ideas for other types of magical torches? Please feel free to share any with a follow-up post.

Twelve Magic Torches

Posted on August 15th, 2017 under , , , , . Posted by

A while ago I posted some information on how to add torch creation to your campaign world. With 5th edition, one of the things that seems to have been cast aside is the common torch. In the early days of Dungeons and Dragons they were a staple. Now with the Light spell and Darkvision being so prevalent, hand held light sources are not overly valuable. That being said, I decided to spice torches up a bit!

Since ancient times, humans have associated magical properties with various types of wood. That theme fits wonderfully into a Dungeons & Dragons campaign world. For this idea let us assume that two versions of trees exist: one mundane, and one enchanted. The latter being rare and guarded jealously by druidic circles, malicious fey, and even xenophobic elves.  Occasionally a sapling from one of these magic variations may appear in the lands of the common folk. Or alternatively, a group of adventurers may be retained to hunt and fell these trees. Imagine their surprise if a treant template was added to one!

Once prepared, the wood from these arcane trees make valuable torches. Although expensive in coin or trade, magic torches are something interesting to add to a merchant’s shelf. If you would like to add some flavor to your games, and see torches in the dungeon again, these may be a fun addition. Below please find twelve torch variations and their respective magical properties.

Base Torch:

A torch burns for 1 hour, providing bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. If you make a melee Attack with a burning torch and hit, it deals 1 fire damage.

Magic Torch Subtype:

01. Apple Wood: Beware, fey are attracted to the dancing flames it creates. While holding the torch you may cast Faerie Fire one time before it burns out.

02. Ash Wood: The smoke generated by this torch assists with concentration. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Intelligence based roll before it burns out.

03. Beech Wood: The greenish flames of this torch have divination properties. While holding the torch you may cast Augury one time before it burns out.

04. Birch Wood: This magic wood is favored in cleansing rituals. Druids of the deepest wild covet it. While holding the torch you may cast Lesser Restoration one time before it burns out.

05. Cedar Wood: The smoke from this wood creates a hazy sphere of energy. While holding the torch you may cast Protection from Good and Evil one time before it burns out.

06. Cherry Wood: Sylvan beings favor this wood as a magical focus. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Wisdom based roll before it burns out.

07. Elm Wood: According to legend, the fey use this wood in rebirth rituals. While holding the torch over a fallen companion, you may cast Spare the Dying one time before it burns out.

08. Hickory Wood: Druids have long used the blueish flames of this wood in their influence rituals. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains advantage on one Charisma based roll before it burns out.

09. Holly Wood: A torch designed from this wood can double as a magic weapon. While holding the torch you may cast Shillelagh on it one time before it burns out. It still gets its +1 flame damage bonuses.

10. Maple Wood: The soothing warmth generated by this torch has legendary healing properties. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch gains one extra hit die to spend during a short rest.

11. Oak Wood: Legend holds visions of great heroes can be seen if you stare into the flames of this wood. Anyone within 10’ of the burning torch is inspired with bravery, gaining +1 to hit one time before it burns out.

12. Willow Wood: Perhaps the rarest of magical trees, the flames generated from this wood are said to burn away the cold clutches of death. While holding the torch over a fallen companion, you may cast Revivify one time before it burns out.

As the effects above vary, I encourage each Dungeon Master to develop their own value system. Obviously purchasing these torches should not be prohibitively expensive, but we also don’t need characters with golf bags full of them. I would consider adding them as treasure items, and barter material from merchants. Additionally, the characters could find one of these trees and attempt to make torches themselves. Don’t be afraid to use these torches against the characters also! Finally, do you have ideas for other types of magical torches? Please feel free to share any with a follow-up post.

The Great Ziggurat of Draconis

Posted on August 8th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

I have awakened from my long blogging slumber! This past weekend was Ultracon 6, our friends and family convention. The theme for this year was a sunken city named Draconis, which had risen for various campaign reasons. We had fifteen players, in three groups of five playing the adventure. The player characters were submerged the entire day Saturday, which made for some interesting three-dimensional combat. To make the latter work better we created water stands that would slide up and down a dowel. After some quick measurements from a ruler, you were swimming up and down in no time!

Our water stands in use for 3D combat!

Their enemies included Deep Ones, Mind Flayers, Aboleth, and an Elder Brain. But the big battle would be at the Great Ziggurat at the center of the city. There Nethyrmaul the Undying, the ancient dracolich, would be waiting for them. We designed the encounter so Nethyrmaul took turns attacking a different group each round. All the while the PCs had to deal with an army of ghouls, stone guards, paralyzing traps, and caustic water spouts.

To facilitate this, we decided a piece of custom terrain was needed. My friend Ike Horton, and fellow DM Team member, volunteered for the task. For background Ike is the person who introduced me to the Dungeons and Dragons game all the way back in 1983. He is also a very talented paper craft artist so it was no surprise the Great Ziggurat would be a visual feast when completed. Ike shared various progress pictures along the way to the DM Team, but nothing compared to when it was finally revealed.

As you can see from the pictures below, Ike made a monstrous piece of terrain. The entire ziggurat is scratch built and measures an eye popping 7’ long, 5’ high, and 3’ wide! We had to use four tables in the hotel just to set the ziggurat up before the big reveal to the players. One fantastic part of the design is all three sides separate from the main ziggurat. This way each of our three tables had a piece as the different groups battled their way to the top.

Front view of the Great Ziggurat

Here you can see how the sides connected.

Another view of the sides.

A close-up of a Tiamat sigil & caustic water spouts.

Nethyrmaul waiting for a PC to snack on.

Example of a detached side at the game table.

I just want to commend Ike again on his amazing work designing such an unforgettable game prop. You can find Ike on Facebook here. If you have a piece of papercraft art in mind, or maybe even some custom gaming terrain contact him. Ike has a busy schedule, and often multiple commissions, but I’m sure he would love to hear from you!

We have already started working on Ultracon for next summer. If you have never tried, I highly recommend putting together a family and friends convention. It’s very rewarding gathering together old friends and new for a weekend of gaming, camaraderie, and steel on steel! You would be surprised how many crafty people are in your circle, and all the amazing things you can create together.

Custom terrain and props by another member of the DM Team.

The Great Ziggurat of Draconis

Posted on August 8th, 2017 under , , , , , . Posted by

I have awakened from my long blogging slumber! This past weekend was Ultracon 6, our friends and family convention. The theme for this year was a sunken city named Draconis, which had risen for various campaign reasons. We had fifteen players, in three groups of five playing the adventure. The player characters were submerged the entire day Saturday, which made for some interesting three-dimensional combat. To make the latter work better we created water stands that would slide up and down a dowel. After some quick measurements from a ruler, you were swimming up and down in no time!

Our water stands in use for 3D combat!

Their enemies included Deep Ones, Mind Flayers, Aboleth, and an Elder Brain. But the big battle would be at the Great Ziggurat at the center of the city. There Nethyrmaul the Undying, the ancient dracolich, would be waiting for them. We designed the encounter so Nethyrmaul took turns attacking a different group each round. All the while the PCs had to deal with an army of ghouls, stone guards, paralyzing traps, and caustic water spouts.

To facilitate this, we decided a piece of custom terrain was needed. My friend Ike Horton, and fellow DM Team member, volunteered for the task. For background Ike is the person who introduced me to the Dungeons and Dragons game all the way back in 1983. He is also a very talented paper craft artist so it was no surprise the Great Ziggurat would be a visual feast when completed. Ike shared various progress pictures along the way to the DM Team, but nothing compared to when it was finally revealed.

As you can see from the pictures below, Ike made a monstrous piece of terrain. The entire ziggurat is scratch built and measures an eye popping 7’ long, 5’ high, and 3’ wide! We had to use four tables in the hotel just to set the ziggurat up before the big reveal to the players. One fantastic part of the design is all three sides separate from the main ziggurat. This way each of our three tables had a piece as the different groups battled their way to the top.

Front view of the Great Ziggurat

Here you can see how the sides connected.

Another view of the sides.

A close-up of a Tiamat sigil & caustic water spouts.

Nethyrmaul waiting for a PC to snack on.

Example of a detached side at the game table.

I just want to commend Ike again on his amazing work designing such an unforgettable game prop. You can find Ike on Facebook here. If you have a piece of papercraft art in mind, or maybe even some custom gaming terrain contact him. Ike has a busy schedule, and often multiple commissions, but I’m sure he would love to hear from you!

We have already started working on Ultracon for next summer. If you have never tried, I highly recommend putting together a family and friends convention. It’s very rewarding gathering together old friends and new for a weekend of gaming, camaraderie, and steel on steel! You would be surprised how many crafty people are in your circle, and all the amazing things you can create together.

Custom terrain and props by another member of the DM Team.

Review: D&D Character Sheets

Posted on June 21st, 2017 under , , , . Posted by

So, this past weekend I decided to pick up new Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets. Even though I can print character sheets to my heart’s content, it just seemed like a fun thing to do. Part of me was hoping to stir up old nostalgia, back when character sheets were a rite of passage! Unfortunately, I think Wizards of the Coast missed a big opportunity with this product. From a marketing stand point, I would not call this a success by any stretch of the imagination.

So what does it include?

A “lavishly illustrated protective folder.” OK, it’s definitely illustrated, and with a cool ampersand, but I’m not sure what the skulls and roses are there for. Maybe a set of dice would have been a better choice? With Stream of Annihilation, and the announcement of the Tomb of Annihilation, the artwork on these folders should have been the Green Devil Face. The timing was perfect, and it would have helped generate more excitement for those upcoming products.
 

This would have been such a cooler cover.

Inside, the folder flaps contain the following helpful information:

  • Actions you can take in combat.
  • Things you can do in tandem with movement.
  • Things you can do on your turn.
  • A place to write your name and character name. 

    I think all of the above is good reference material to place inside the folder. I see beginners and veteran players alike routinely forget this information. In terms of the character sheets my folder included:

    • Four copies of a new sheet that does not include Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.
    • Eight copies of a new, single page introductory character sheet “designed specifically for new players.”

     

       

      OK, so just to recap, three of the five included products you can already download and print for free. The modified new sheet is certainly not worth the price of admission. The thing I’m most disappointed in however the introductory character sheet. I think from a design standpoint the larger boxes were a good idea. The sheet is definitely easier to read, especially for a new player who is learning for the first time. But the back of the sheet is blank! They could have at least included the information contained on the folder flaps.

      So what else would I have done to improve this? Well going along with my Green Devil Face idea I would have included some green colored character sheets. You know like the old school basic sheets? Hell, include the Green Devil Face in the design! That at least would have made the product more unique, and worth its $10 price tag. I would have kept some white versions as well for those who wish to scan the sheets.

      If you don’t have access to a printer, or maybe you’re a collector, then definitely check these out. Overall I think this was a cool idea but poorly executed. Oh well, not every product can be a critical hit. Have fun playing the game, and remember sometimes the best character sheet is just a piece of notebook paper, a 3×5 card, or whatever else you can scribble your hit points on!

      Review: D&D Character Sheets

      Posted on June 21st, 2017 under Posted by

      So, this past weekend I decided to pick up new Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets. Even though I can print character sheets to my heart’s content, it just seemed like a fun thing to do. Part of me was hoping to stir up old nostalgia, back when character sheets were a rite of passage! Unfortunately, I think Wizards of the Coast missed a big opportunity with this product. From a marketing stand point, I would not call this a success by any stretch of the imagination.

      So what does it include?

      A “lavishly illustrated protective folder.” OK, it’s definitely illustrated, and with a cool ampersand, but I’m not sure what the skull and roses are there for. Maybe a set of dice would have been a better choice? With Stream of Annihilation, and the announcement of the Tomb of Annihilation, the artwork on these folders should have been the Green Devil Face. The timing was perfect, and it would have helped generate more excitement for those upcoming products.
       

      This would have been such a cooler cover.

      Inside, the folder the flaps contain the following helpful information:

      • Actions you can take in combat.
      • Things you can do in tandem with movement.
      • Things you can do on your turn.
      • A place to write your name and character name. 

        I think all of the above is good reference material to place inside the folder. I see beginners and veteran players alike routinely forget this information. In terms of the character sheets my folder included:

        • Four copies of a new sheet that does not include Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.
        • Eight copies of a new single page introductory character sheet “designed specifically for new players.”

         

           

          OK, so just to review, three of the five included products you can already download and print for free. The modified new sheet is certainly not worth the price of admission. The thing I’m most disappointed in however the introductory character sheet. I think from a design standpoint the larger boxes were a good idea. The sheet is definitely easier to read, especially for a new player who is learning for the first time. But the back of the sheet is blank! They could have at least included the information contained on the folder flaps.

          So what else would I have done to improve this? Well going along with my Green Devil Face idea I would have included some green colored character sheets. You know like the old school basic sheets? Hell, include the Green Devil Face in the design! That at least would have made the product more unique, and worth its $10 price tag. I would have kept some white versions as well for those who wish to scan the sheets.

          If you don’t have access to a printer, or maybe you’re a collector, then definitely check these out. Overall I think this was a cool idea but poorly executed. Oh well, not every product can be a critical hit. Have fun playing the game, and remember sometimes the best character sheet is just a piece of notebook paper, a 3×5 card, or whatever else you can scribble your hit points on!