Friday, March 1, 2013

How I DM: Feb 2013 - Eberron Ed.

As mentioned earlier this week, I ran a game last Friday night for six friends. The D&D Next play test was the rule set of choice, but we would have had fun no matter what. We play at most once a month and we don't always run campaigns with a through line. Friday I decided I would kick off a brand new campaign though. A fun exercise, but a lot more leg work than continuing an ongoing campaign or running a one shot. World building is probably the hardest part, but couple that with encounter building, group dynamics, character backgrounds and it takes a lot of work to get a new campaign off the ground.

Eberron Next
Setting as it turns out is hard to convey. The burden of world building is a heavy one, so relying on a campaign setting is a nice short cut. Previously I ran a Dark Sun campaign that mostly felt Dark Sun-ish, but also occasionally presented problems. This time around I decided to try out Eberron. The linchpin behind it being a fantasy world that has gained technology through magic. That means airships powered by ancient elementals and automatons birthed from eldritch machines. Sounds great, but how do you fit it all in one night and not make the story feel cramped? I don't know that I did a great job or that any campaign setting can ever do a great job. Maybe it is me.

In any case I started out the night with a letter for each player on parchment and sealed with a wax skull (below). Each one bought the players together in the cloud city of Sharn. From their they escaped the city on an airship as it was destroyed by a vortex in the sky. Pirates attacked and blew up their elemental. The ship crashed in a jungle and they dungeon crawled their way to midnight.

 3D Terrain
For Friday night I took a decent portion of my prep time to put together 3D terrain. I have openly loved the idea of war gaming for almost a decade now, but hated it in practice. I like painting minis and would build a big permanent battlefield covered in flock in my sun room, but I don't want to regularly play a war game. So when I get a chance to work on terrain for my campaigns I jump at it. I work quick and sloppy, knowing that I will use it once and never again. The steps are as follows, I wish I had taken pictures along the way:

  1. Materials: Purchase polystyrene insulated sheathing from a local hardware store. It is cheap and comes in lots of sizes and thicknesses. I bought a 4' x 8' sheet a year ago and still have plenty of it.
  2. Cut and prep: I use a mix of tools for this work. A box cutter and x-acto knife for the basic shape, occasionally a medium sized bumpy stone to add texture and the back of a pen to slightly engrave a grid once I layout 1" dashes with a long ruler.
  3. Prime: I have used a big brush and cheap acrylic paint in the past to do a quick base coat. I used a spray acrylic this time and in light passes it was fine. When I went hard in the paint though it started to melt the polystyrene. Which was not the intended result.
  4. Dry brush and/or flock: I have done both, but dry brushing is easier/faster and gets great results. It makes the engraved grid stand out so the terrain does not impede the mechanical nature of combat resolution. Flocking does impede things a bit, but looks way cooler.

1 comment:

Grant said...

Old school road lives!

Miles Logged

Books Read

Recently Finished:

The Wise Man's Fear
Dynasty of Evil
100 Bullets Vol. 07: Samurai
Batman: Batman and Son
100 Bullets Vol. 06: Six Feet Under the Gun
100 Bullets Vol. 05: The Counterfifth Detective
100 Bullets Vol. 04: A Foregone Tomorrow
100 Bullets Vol. 03: Hang Up on the Hang Low
100 Bullets Vol. 02: Split Second Chance
30 Days of Night
100 Bullets Vol. 01: First Shot, Last Call
Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street
Uzumaki, Volume 1
Runaways vol. 1: Pride and Joy
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 2: Dallas
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
Batman: Hush, Vol. 2
Atomic Robo Vol. 4: Other Strangeness