Even more nerdination!

This is seriously getting ridiculous. Being a DM and making awesome terrain has become a bit of an obsession, and hopefully the payoff will be worth it when my players see the fruits of my toils. This all began with a graveyard scene for one of the encounters in Shadowfell. I created it with folded paper mausoleums, walls, and gates, and paper gravestones with funny names on them.

I put quite a bit of work into the graveyard, and had a lot of fun doing it. For the road and some other terrain, I used some Dungeon Tiles and some homemade terrain tiles that I printed. I taped it all down onto my "battle board", a creation of my own involving a dry erase board with permanent marker. After getting done with it, though, I realized that I would have one awesome looking encounter that lasted for exactly one encounter, and then I'll have to retire my awesome graveyard. That's a bummer. So, I got to thinking about how I could make sweet looking terrain at home without spending a fortune, and be able to use it for more than one encounter.

I've invested in a few packs of Dungeon Tiles, and they're great and look cool, but they have their problems. My biggest gripe is that you don't know what's in each pack. Wizards likes to create surprise packages -- I think it stems from Magic: The Gathering. They're really into not letting you know what's inside. The other gripe with Dungeon Tiles is that there aren't enough duplicates to make really big rooms. They've designed them so that you pretty much need to buy two of each set in order to make a good looking dungeon.

Other tile sets are even more incredibly awesome, but ridiculously expensive. Case in point: Dwarven Forge. They look amazing and are much more customizable because the tiles don't often have things like furniture or dead bodies permanently painted on them. However, they're really pricy. So, I discovered a way to replace the money part with good ol' sweat, and I've come up with some rad tiles. First, I went to Home Depot and dropped 20 bucks on some tile. Like actual, bathroom tile. They had sheets of these 1-inch stone tiles for 10 bucks for an 11x11 square of tiles. However, the tiles are glued to a plastic mesh and spaced for grouting, so there's about an eighth of an inch of space between them straight off the rack. That won't do for my gaming. ;)

The other issue is that they come off of their plastic mesh rather easily. So, I decided to take them off, and use some wood glue and glue them to cardboard bases, to give them stability. I started by making some 2x2 inch squares, which will be good for creating hallways and also for setting side by side to create rooms.

Then I started making some larger pieces. So far, I have a couple of 3x3 and one 6x6 as well. It's fun spending time making stuff like this, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that's not a fan of modeling, because it gets monotonous. The glue from the mesh sticks to the tiles as well, so I found that in order to create a tight fit between tiles, I needed to use a little sandpaper to get the old glue off.

Happy gaming. I can't wait until the next session.


So, based on the acquisition of 4th edition D&D books, I've gotten back into D&D in a major way. I was always into it, and have been playing fairly regularly since I was about 14 or 15 years old. That's well over half my life, and just contemplating that is astounding to me. Very few other games have been such a mainstay for me. Super Mario Bros., perhaps, but I don't play that with anything near the fervor of a good D&D session.

I remember getting my first copy of a Player's Handbook (2nd edition) back one summer long ago. I was doing some corn detassling at the time, and invited four of my friends over after work to play some D&D. The first group ever consisted of my friend Corey as DM (because he'd played before), and Myself, Chad, Nate, and Mike as the players. I played a Halfling Thief (that's right, we called ourselves thieves back then, noobs, because Bards are Rogues as well!). Mike was a Dwarf Fighter, Chad was an Elf Mage, and Nate was a Human Cleric. You know, you just don't get a more vanilla group than that. And we had a lot of fun and played a LOT of D&D over the next several years.

Eventually the DM hat got passed in my direction, and I enjoyed the helm. I had a few stints as a player in college, but I knew that DMing was the place that I belonged. Still, I never felt like I could possibly know all of the rules. That hasn't changed to this day, but I figured out the secret of being a decent DM -- Use good judgment, make it up, and don't waste time looking up rules. If you really need it, the players all have PHBs, so they can look it up for you. That's it. Other than that, be as descriptive as possible and only as restrictive as necessary. OK, I could go on and on, but the truth of the matter is that as long as everyone is having fun, that's all that matters.

Back to the crux of the discussion: I now live farther from my friends than ever before, yet we play more D&D than we have since high school. It's a very social activity, and it's extremely awesome to have the excuse to get my friends to come over (or to go to their places) to sit down, have a few beers/mountain dews/whatever and immerse ourselves in an afternoon of slaying monsters and performing epic acrobatic maneuvers. After moving to a new town, this is pretty much the pinnacle of my social activity.

The game has grown considerably since my days in a 4-player party. So many of my friends play D&D now, and all of them want to be part of the action (which is awesome). This has resulted in a HUGE party of players. At the last session, we had 9 players. There were moments where the potential player turnout was somewhere around 14, but there's never been a time where everyone invited has showed up. I had a 9-player session in my basement in Robbinsdale back when we were playing 2nd edition, and it was utter chaos. There were actually several sessions back then where we only got through one fight. That's not the case anymore -- 4th edition moves a lot quicker for a number of reasons. First, you only roll initiative once. When we played 2nd edition (whether this was in the rules or not I don't rightly know) we rolled initiative every round. That adds up to taking a lot of time. Also, just figuring out whether you hit or not was more difficult.

This is getting to be a long blog, but I wanted to mention a couple more things. I totally skipped 3rd edition and 3.5, but was immensely pleased to find out that 4th edition relies heavily on miniatures. D&D started as a miniature game, but by the time 2nd edition rolled around they weren't nearly as necessary and in fact we didn't even play with miniatures until I became a DM. Even then they were only used for placement and facing, not for movement. That's right, we ignored movement rate (it was just too dang complicated). Now my 4 pewter miniatures have become 25 pewter miniatures, although I only actually own 4. My players tend to leave their minis with me. I've also assembled an army of monster miniatures, and crave more. The visual aspect that the miniatures adds to the game allows players to continue to be interested in the board and to strategize their next move even while it's not their turn. They stay engaged, and it's awesome. That helps a ton with 9-player groups.

However, miniatures are expensive. You can get some for under 1.00, but some are ridiculous (like the gelatinous cube that sells for $40 and is just a plastic cube. come on. Some of my dice sets have come inside perfectly good gelatinous cubes. LOL.) I'm so INTO the minis, though, that I've decided to try my hand at making my own, as soon as I can get my grubby mitts on some fimo. Also, crafting cool looking encounter grids has become an obsession/goal of mine, because it really brings the scene to life. So, in addition to the fimo, a woodburning kit might be on my list of stuff to get. Oh, and a tackle box for my minis. This stuff literally fills me with glee.

If you can't tell...I'm excited to play more D&D.


So, I tend to let months fly by faster than I can say "I really need to blog more", but it seems that March has passed me by already. Hopefully this won't be my only entry for April, but you never know. I've become a lazy blogger. On the flip side of that coin, I've apparently become a much more motivated worker. I think I owe that to having a job that I actually enjoy.

So, the usual stuff is going on, I guess. The kids are getting bigger and doing new things. I'm hanging out. Occasionally playing video games. Working. Recording songs. Etc.

The weather is getting much warmer, and spring is finally here. OK, that's about as lame a paragraph starter as I could possibly craft, but it's true anyway. With spring come good things, like not wearing a giant coat, not shoveling snow, getting outside for walks, actually meeting our neighbors, etc.

I have to go off on a tangent here. I may or may not have talked about the Orson Scott Card theory of Philotics before. I don't think I have. Anyway, according to Card in his Ender's Game universe, there are lil' things called Philotes that kind of tie the universe together. People that develop relationships also develop Philotic Connections. Yes, this is all fiction, but it explains nicely the way that when I haven't seen a friend in a while and I start thinking about that friend, the universe sort of seems to arrange things so that I reconnect with said friend. It happens to me all the time, and probably to you as well. I truly believe that SOME sort of connection is made between people that's beyond physical.

For example, I was talking to Ryan the other day about not having seen Reuben in a while. That night, Reuben called me. There was no conversation between Ryan and Reub, it just happened independently. There are other examples. I've found myself wondering whatever happened to person X, only to go home and find out that they've friend requested me on Facebook.

Anyway, lately I've been trying to track down a friend of mine from high school named Mike. Since I now live in the same town as his parents, I looked them up in the phone book to see if I could find his number from them. Upon looking in the phonebook, I realized that they had moved...to the house that's literally out my back window. Our back yards touch. Crazy. Weird. Philotic connection? Either way, perhaps I'll meet them again soon, since it's spring and people are outside. (See? This all connects.)

Still, calling old friend's moms isn't high on my cool things list, so I just sent a FB message to his brother. LOL. That seems to have worked, as I got his phone number and sent a message. We'll see. Go philotes go.