Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Another War In A Box

Inspirational!  From poster Teardrop World over at the Lead Adventure Forums, check out this fun approach to a war in a box:

This is just a peek - check out the full thread (link) for a lot more pictures with a lot more detail.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Another Field Report

South of San Francisco, in the sleepy downtown San Bruno, you can find a loverly little game shop called Heretic Games. Warning to you mutants and chaos-tainted types, the store is watched over by one of the Emperor's  faithful.  Standing around six and half feet tall, he's more of a tabletop version than a fluff version.  Your humble editor was more interested in chatting with the lovely store staff than hanging with this grim watchman of the universe.

Apparently, my work computer can't rotate images 90-degrees.
I had to update this from a photo from my phone.  Absurd.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spear Trap

Another quickie for your lookie.  A wall of spears that leap out at adventurers who don't exercise enough caution.

This dungeon feature looks a bit rickety on its own, but it was built to fit over the "walls" of the 2.5D dungeon, like so.

You may have noticed that my scale figure swapped out weapons - his spear for an axe.  The last one was inadvertently basecoated black along with these traps.  Whoops.  Gotta remember to leave your scale figure on the desk when you hit the spray stand, people.  Rookie mistake.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stonefall Trap

Inspired by a hallway in The Goonies, this heavy stone block is apt to fall from any ceiling without warning.  It's actually modelled wrong.  It needs to have a hook in the top for a support rope, rather than crossed ropes which would be obvious to bypassers, but it gets the idea across.

This feature began life as a desiccant pill for use by pharmacies to keep medicinal pills dry during storage.  I sweet talked the local pharmacist into giving me a dozen or so of them a while back, and have had this one rattling around the bottom of the bits box for some time.  Nice to finally put it to use.

For those keeping score at home, this is War In A Box's 500th post:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blade Traps

Any trap good enough to scare Indiana Jones is good enough for Castle Meatgrinder.  Obviously, these little gems won't make an appearance until they are triggered or disabled.

I debated with myself over whether markers for traps were even necessary for Castle Meatgrinder.  They are, after all, single events that can just be described as is.  Either you find it and avoid it or trigger it, take HP damage, and then move on.  Why waste time on a 3D terrain piece for something so transitory?  Two reasons:

1.  They look pretty cool.  They help to make the 3D version of Castle Meatgrinder look as deadly in person as it does in your head.

2.  Making a terrain piece and putting it on the table changes the way the game is played.  These go from forgettable eye-blink damages to real and lasting features of the dungeon by marking an area always and forever as "Here Be Pain and Dismemberment".  In an empty room, they are no big deal, but in a room where the characters might face a squad of orcs?  Or one they might have to flee through?  Now you've added another variable for the players to have to juggle.  Maybe your thief, in order to get into position to gank the enemy spellcaster, has to deal with hiding in shadows and risking a leap over the whirling blades of death.  That's the something added by building physical markers of the blade traps.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Stone Tree

Not exactly sure what the deal is with this stone tree.  It could be a statue of a tree.  It might have fruit of pure gems and jewels that can be plucked.  That hole in the trunk might be the lair of some seriously creepy crawlies.   I'll figure it out later.

Next week, it's trap week at War In a Box.  We're going to celebrate the Holy Week by trying to put a lot of holes in adventurers foolhardy enough to enter Castle Meatgrinder.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Little Altaration of the Dungeon

Another quick hit for Castle Meatgrinder.  It only looks like an obsidian sacrificial slab.  It's actually a mysterious altar of doom, a manifestation of pure chaos leaching through into our universe as a trap for the souls of the foolhardy and unwary.

Heh.  Altar-ation.  I keel me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Massive Firepots

Another cheap version of an idea originally promulgated by The Crafty DM today.  Two enormous stone firepots resting on massive wooden frames. 

These are, of course, cheap electric tea lights bashed and painted for appropriate dungeon ambiance.  The LED lights in these things aren't very bright, but they flicker a bit.  A subtle effect, but it gets the idea across.

You may have noticed that the old robot used for scale has been replaced by a more fantasy suitable miniature.  The minotaur shown here is actually a Pendraken 10mm figure, but he's a big 10mm, and works well as more of a human sized beastman when used as a 15mm figure.  He's about 15mm to the eyes, to give a better idea of scale.  There are quite a few 'big' 10mm figures that would work well as 'normal' sized 15mm figures.  I'll have to show you a few of the ones I anticipate using.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wargaming Field Report

On the road this week means there's no chance to work on my little projects, but there is a chance to get out and see a bit of the wargaming wilderness in other parts of the country - the greater San Francisco metroplex, to be precise.  Up in Concord, CA, there's a lovely little shop called Black Diamond Games.

Clean, crowded with all sorts of gaming product, and with a staff that puts the F back in FLGS.  They also have a smallish, but oh-so-important to a cheap bastard like me, collection of discount and used stuff.

They even have a store van painted up like a boss.  Is this a regular mainland thing now?  Hope so, because it's pretty dang cool.

Much as I would have loved to pick up shrinkwrapped copies of the old Star Frontiers Volturnus titles...there were other things that called out to me more.  Like these Reaper Bones figures that should work great in 15mm.

If you are ever in the area, Black Diamond Games are well worth a side trek for a little exploration of your own.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Overlooking Features

The only thing worse than adversaries attacking you from elevation is when you can't immediately access that elevation yourself.  The half-a-level rooms of my dungeon were designed to allow for one room to overlook the room below.  Open doorways dropping ten feet to the room below are against fantasy-OSHA regulations, though, so I built some fall protection in the form of a nice protruding balcony.

 You like the additional architectural touch of raising the balcony up a bit by adding a flight of access steps?  Purely unintentional.  When I first built the thing, I measured from the tabletop to the floor, forgetting that this balcony would be resting on the floor of the room below - a full 5mm above the tabletop. Rather than cutting the supports, which would have meant the balcony was just 5mm above the floor, I added the steps to give it a little more vertical difference.

The difference in thickness of the rooms is only 5mm, so that extra 5mm still leaves the balcony only 10mm above floor height.  About shoulder height compared to the standard miniature.  Just as the scaling of the furniture and the whole dungeon is a little off, I figure the vertical scaling is off by a factor of two as well.  That balcony should be considered 10 feet off the ground.  In true scale that would be two to three inches.  Highly impractical given the limitations of the one box.

The railing height is pretty good though.  Should meet fantasy-OSHA standards of 39 to 42 inches above the ground surface.  (Guess who wears the safety hat as part of his day job.)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

In the Pits

One of the nice aspects of the half-a-level pieces shown in the last post is that it gives you a chance to incorporate even more three-dimensional challenges.  Flat painted with deep pits shown in perspective are nice - need to do some of those some day - but nothing beats the visual appeal of a sunken and flooded room like this.

Bonus points to anyone who recognizes the inspiration for this room.

The water level of this room is the bottom layer of the foam core paper.  Spray, painting the entire terrain piece resulted in significant warping of this paper.  This was not unexpected - part of the reason for the island in the middle is to maintain some integrity in the room, and I was careful to weight down the piece with a heavy textbook while it dried to ensure that the outer edge of the room would lay flat during use.  The remaining warping in the water level looks a bit like waves and is obscured by the paint job.  A terrain piece with a hard floor - either wooden or stone - would need to be heavily reinforced prior to painting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Half A Level Onwards

In the grand old D&D tradition, going down a level in Castle Meatgrinder means going up a quantum step in difficulty.  You won't find black dragons or pit demons on level II.    One of the few sops to metagaming tolerated at my table is that understanding that you shouldn't go down too far past your limitations.  To help the players, when characters do advance down a level, the players will know it due to the long length of the staircase, pit, or chute.

That said, elevation differences are one of the best ways to add variety to encounters, and beef up weak opponents by giving them the literal high ground.  In a 3D environment such as Castle Meatgrinder this is often accomplished through the use of daises, platforms, and the odd wall crawling beasty.

This small collection of half-level rooms open up the possibility of fighting in cramped quarters on staircases that don't equate to the full change in difficulty level typically encountered.  There isn't much room in the One Box to Hold Them All, and these rooms take twice the space of the rest of the rooms.  As a result, these rooms are just a dead-end offshoot of the main level.  It may be possible to use one of my straight staircases to provide a second way to access the larger room shown here.  Have to experiment a bit with that.

You could double up on the standard 5-mm foamcore to make rooms like this, but I had some thick foam sheet left over from a previous project, so this was a case of making use of what was on hand.  Otherwise, the construction details and paint scheme are the same as the rest of the dungeon.

An extra little piece of three by three foamcore called out for something different, so it got turned into a curved flight of stairs.  That gives this set-up two different ways to access the upper half-a-level.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Flooring, Inserts, and a Little Juxtoposition

One cheap and easy, and light on the storage requirements, method to add more flavor to the 2.5d dungeon is to use inserts.  So far my dungeon has five of these clever little devices.  Rather than an unending series of black floors, these pieces of cardstock can be dropped in to add a little more pizzazz to the place.

 Here you can see how the octagonal room becomes a large ball room or central chamber.

This idea was lifted from The DMG Info guy but with a bit of a twist.  This smaller room has a nice tile insert, or maybe a summoning circle, but... own personal twist is that these cardboard inserts are reversible.  The back side of each one features a more sci-fi feel. 

 The big room makes for a decent vehicle bay...

...or a flagstone floor.  Note that this requires the features be flat enough to not add wobble to the board when the wrong side is down.  All I've added is a bit of cereal box cardstock for hatch covers, because anything else would make the room wobble when used for fantasy.  You sacrifice some detail, but gain a lot of flexibility.

Now the dungeon tiles can also be used to create a space station for use with the sci-fi figures.  All that will take is some suitable powered doors, sci-fi furniture, and other bric-a-brac.  I figure I can cannibalize the city scape for vending machines, benches, planters, and vehicles for the repair bay, so all it really needs is a few sales kiosks and maybe a sci-fi fountain. Here's a shot of all of the sci-fi inserts together. 

Come to think of it, there could be a Barrier Peaks style room or two in Castle Meatgrinder where these would be appropriate, too...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Puzzle Statue

There are few things more certain to distract a party of dungeon plunderers than a strategically placed statue.  A statue pointing to something with a sword, on a half-circle dais, and holding a glowing blue lantern?  That's like crack for adventurers.  There's got to be some treasure or a secret door around here somewhere, or maybe the thing comes to life when you least expect it.

This is one of Reaper's Bones 28mm miniatures, but it makes for a great towering statue in 15mm.  The hard plastic sword is a little bent, so at some point I will have to decide if that's true of the statue, and if it is bent for a reason.  I'm really pleased with the way the glow from the lantern turned out.  It's juuust subtle enough.

So far this brings the list of dungeon rooms with something interesting up to eight.  That includes:
  • Wizard library
  • Wizard laboratory
  • Bunkroom
  • Dining Hall
  • Mystic Garden
  • Hall of the Blood Columns
  • The Well
  • The Statue
Factor in the standard "half rooms empty" given in God's Own Version of D&D, and that's one pretty good level for Castle Meatgrinder done right there.

Right now I'm working on a second half-level to provide for pits, water filled rooms, and even a balcony overlooking lower level rooms.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Marching On Saint Francis

Looks like your humble host is going to be working in San Francisco for the month of March.  If any reader out there has some time and could shoot me an email about the gaming scene, or maybe wants to get together with a poor wayfaring stranger hit me up at - you know my name, it's your old pal WarrenAbox.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Paging the Lizard King

Doors are both boring and time consuming.  I really didn't want to do them, but they are probably the single most important feature in the dungeon, so it had to be done.  After fiddling around with a bunch of designs for self opening doors that didn't really work, I stopped letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and just went with a half measure that violates most of my ideals. 

As mentioned before, they are a little too big for scale, but they are easy to work with, and make the dungeon feel more alien and like a much less mundane place.  They are also big enough for trolls, small giants, and even young dragons to fit through when pesky adventurers show up for some fun.
The key difficulty was making a door that fit into the 2.5-inch gaps in my terrain.  The little blocks to the lower left of each door are meant to extend the walls, but they get rotated when the door opens.
Not a big deal, because the doors in Castle Meatgrinder at the wussy sort of doors you find in modern D&D.  They are Moldvayian antagonists that are hard to open and slam shut behind you the instant you turn your back.  Hope you brought enough iron spikes.