Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Dice Tower?

Over on Grognardia, James has another "Ads of Dragon", this one for the Fair Shake dice tower. He ends the post wondering why someone would spend $ on something that they can do by hand. While I don't have an answer for him, I do own a dice tower. Mine is unique, though. I made it.

I've been taking pottery classes for about 2 1/2 years, and a little over a year ago, I was looking for something a little different, a little more complex than the boxes, bowls, mugs, flowerpots, and plates I had made so far. I wanted to make something big. Something that I could point to and say "Yeah, I made that". Something that was a conversation starter and related to my other interests. I decided to make a dice tower.

Why a dice tower? I don't really know. I never owned one, never really wanted one, and truthfully, thought they were a bit silly. I agree with James-why use something like that to roll dice when using my hands or a cup is easier, faster, and just as good? Still, I had the materials, the time, and the motivation, so I started working on it. My class only met once a week, so it was a slow process. For 6 weeks I rolled clay, cut slabs, fit pieces together, explained to the others in the class what it was and talked about gaming, getting the usual questions like "People still play D&D?" Finally it was ready to be fired. I was afraid it would fall apart in the kiln, or it would get broken at some point. But no, it made it through the firing. One more class spent glazing, wondering if I was using the right colors or what it would look like when completed. Another firing and it was done. It now sits on top of one of my bookshelves, waiting to be used in a game. I'm sure someday I will use it in a game, and I do occasionally take it down and drop a die or three down the chute to hear them bounce around and roll out the bottom.

Even if it doesn't get used, I can still point to it, smile, and say "Yeah, it's a stoneware dice tower. I made it."

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Kind of Box? Another Random Table

To expand upon yesterdays Things In A Box post, below is another random table, this one to determine what kind of box has been found. This one probably should have come first, but the Things table was finished before I started on this one.

What Kind of Box?
A Random Table (3d12)
  1. polished metal cube, no visible seams except for lid
  2. shipping crate, rough wooden slats lined with canvas
  3. woven wicker cube on wooden frame
  4. oblong box, rough hewn boards with nails along edges
  5. rectangular box, paperboard over wooden frame
  6. tall & narrow storage box, doors on front, lacquered boards with decorative inlay
  7. finished wood cube with brass hardware and feet
  8. finished wood pentagon with flat top, lid pivots to the side on one corner
  9. oblong box of rusted iron with bolts along edges
  10. small, plain pine casket
  11. woven wicker basket on wooden frame, decorative silk woven into sides and lid
  12. glass display case on metal frame, inside lined with silk drapery to hide contents
  13. wood and leather steamer trunk
  14. wooden blanket chest with hinged lid
  15. large round paperboard hatbox
  16. intricately carved stone sarcophagus with slab lid
  17. wooden frame covered with stiffened leather sides
  18. oblong metal box with enameled overlay and decorative paint, hinged lid
  19. finished wood box with sliding lid, inlaid checker pattern around edges
  20. bone framed cube with stretched human skin sides, lashed together with leather cord
  21. small steel safe, double padlocked door on front
  22. oblong storage box on carved wooden feet
  23. large round metal barrel with screw top lid
  24. lacquered wood pyramid with removable metal cap
  25. hastily constructed box of unfinished wood panel sides and rough timber frame
  26. short, square box, lacquered boards with copper edging
  27. storage crate of wooden panels held together with metal straps
  28. woven reed basket on stick frame, tapered towards bottom, lift off top
  29. small lacquered wooden casket, decorative inlay on top, brass hardware and handles
  30. finished wood chest with single large pull out drawer
  31. octagon shaped box of painted wood, top folds open on two sides
  32. tall and narrow woven wicker basket
  33. plaster covered wooden slat cube with painted pattern on sides
  34. cube with frosted glass sides and metal frame

    Images courtesy of

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Things In A Box: A Random Table

    Boxes. Adventurers frequently come across boxes while exploring, and think nothing of opening them to see what is inside. Frequently, the answer to “What’s in the box?” is “Treasure!” or "Trap!", although sometimes it’s just mundane stuff like supplies or trade goods, and yes, there is the occasional monster. Who leaves those boxes full of stuff lying around all the time for characters to rummage through? I don’t recall very many times in my life when I walked into a room, saw a box, dug through it until I found something I wanted, and took it (well, except for my toy box as a kid, but that was MY toy box). Even if it’s not a usual occurrence in the real world, there seem to be lots of boxes for characters to dig through as they tramp around the dungeon (or tower, castle, inn, cave, extra-dimensional lair, etc.) Below is my random “Things In A Box” table, inspired by the great random tables found at Beyond The Black Gate, Carjacked Seraphim, and The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, among others.

    Things In A Box
    A Random Table (d100)
    1. 1d10 pp, 1d100 gp, 1d1000 sp, 1d20 ep, 1d12 cp
    2. a very fine 6” glass sphere, cool to the touch, resting in a velvet “nest”. Any application of heat (including body heat) will cause it to explode in 1d4 minutes into thousands of tiny shards causing 1d6 damage, + 1 additional point due to shards buried in flesh every turn of movement until healed. If transported without damage, sphere is worth 600 gp.
    3. an 18” lump of lodestone, adheres to nearest iron or steel object, can be removed with strength check. If stuck to armor, -2 to armor class until removed due to awkward size & weight.
    4. 1d6 random books, non-magical
    5. a 12” wax figure of the person opening the box, perfect in all details
    6. a monocle on a 24” silver chain
    7. a severed medusa head, person opening box must make saving throw or be petrified
    8. 1d4 random potions in correctly labeled metal flasks
    9. a slightly smaller box, same construction as the original box. Roll again for contents.
    10. small leather bag filled with sand
    11. a well used hand of glory (non-magical) and a braid of long blond hair
    12. hornet’s nest, swarm of hornets immediately attack all within 30’ radius
    13. 10 iron spikes, a metal hammer, and 100’ of silk rope
    14. 14 copper discs, 6” across, with text written on one side in an undecipherable script
    15. an imp dressed in motley, on opening box he jumps out, yells “BOO!”, then flies away. If caught, he answers to the name Jack.
    16. a cloud of purple dust puffs out, causing all in 10’ radius to save vs breath attack or sneeze violently for 1d3 turns. make a random monster check due to noise
    17. large leather-bound book in an unknown language
    18. bones of a small human child
    19. large bundle of dried leaves from a rare medicinal plant, heals 1d6 damage if burned and smoke is inhaled
    20. small gold plated goblet studded with semi precious stones
    21. silver hand mirror with monogram “L.C.“ on the back
    22. burlap sack containing strips of salted meat (2d4 days rations)
    23. a portal to elsewhere in the dungeon, appears as a miniature staircase inside the box leading down into darkness
    24. a hand drawn treasure map on a 3’ square piece of sheepskin
    25. small carved stone idol of a many armed, winged humanoid with a horse head
    26. copper torc with a small ruby set on each end, resting on a stone slab. If worn around the neck it will immediately adhere to the wearer’s skin and the rubies begin to heat up, doing 1d2 damage the 1st round, 1d4 the 2nd, 1d6 the 3rd, 1d8 the 4th, 1d10 the 5th, 1d12 the 6th, and 1d20 the 7th. After 7 rounds it will immediately cool down and can be worn with no further damage to that person. If removed and worn again later or worn by a different person it will once again adhere and heat up.
    27. a smooth egg shaped stone, with a blue 8 pointed star painted on it. If touched it will cause 1d10 points of electrical damage
    28. a pair of silver dueling daggers wrapped in very soft leather and tied with a braided cord, worth 200 gp each or 500 gp as a matched pair
    29. 6 white candles, 6 brass candlesticks, and silver tinder box
    30. a folded tapestry depicting the first meeting between the king of the lizard people and the queen of the troglodytes
    31. pair of lightweight blue crystals, 6” long and radiating very slight magic. If placed in water and allowed to float, one crystal will always point towards the location of the other crystal, regardless of distance.
    32. small, simple platinum hoop earring. If worn in right ear will allow the wearer to hear soft sounds as if they were at a normal volume. if worn in left ear it will amplify all sounds to a painful volume causing 1d3 damage per minute, if not removed it will cause permanent deafness in left ear in 4 minutes.
    33. a pair of well made black leather boots with 3 shiny steel buttons on the back, 2 pair of bright purple socks
    34. green woolen cloak with carved wooden clasp in shape of a star
    35. sack of smooth, fist sized river stones
    36. 36 bloody teeth, freshly pulled
    37. small red cloth-bound book, “Rites and Sacrifices of the Lost Children of the Crow”
    38. 4 random holy symbols, all crudely carved from wood
    39. femur and tibia tied together in the shape of a cross, wrapped in red velvet
    40. set of 96 wooden building blocks in a variety of shapes
    41. 8 plain but sturdy clay mugs, matching decanter with wax stopper (full of sweet wine)
    42. a package wrapped in fancy paper, labeled “For Victoria”, containing a variety of ladies undergarments
    43. ogre sized loincloth, heavily soiled. if handled save vs poison or become ill, lose 1d4 points of Con for 1d4 days
    44. large sack of glass marbles. There is a weak seam on the sack, 15% chance per round of splitting open if roughly handled (ie. combat, running, strenuous movement)
    45. 15 scrolls, all containing the same random 1st level wizard spell
    46. poorly made wand of healing. Recipient must be wacked hard on the forehead, causing 1 point of damage then healing 1d6 points, 2d10 charges remaining
    47. a paralyzed goblin, regains movement 1d6 turns after opening box
    48. a large metal bucket with a padlocked lid, contains an ochre jelly which bursts free if the lock is opened
    49. 14 twigs tied together in a bundle with rotted cord
    50. a mummified hawk
    51. a trapped wraith bursts forth and immediately attacks when the box is opened (automatic surprise). Inside the lid is a painted rune of undead entrapment.
    52. 4 random gems in a silk pouch
    53. 7 dwarven made hoods (2 yellow, 2 green, 1 purple, 1 tan, 1 brown) and 1 shiny red apple
    54. 3 small wooden boxes, identical except for a number branded into the top (1, 2, 3), and a scroll tied with blue string. Scroll reads “Will you fly, will you fall, will you go through the walls? Choose carefully, you cannot choose again”. When a box is opened the contents of the others immediately disappear forever. #1 contains a ring that immediately teleports wearer to random location in the dungeon before crumbling to dust, #2 contains three potions of flying, #3 contains a 6” steel orb, if touched a 10’x10’, 20’ deep extra-dimensional pit opens directly beneath it, containing 3 skeletons that immediately animate and attack any who fall in. Pit will close in 5 rounds.
    55. A desiccated dwarven corpse, arms and legs have been cut from torso to fit in box
    56. Box full of mirror shards, a mirror inside of the lid reflects a distorted image of the opener. Mirror shatters in 1d4 rounds (even if lid is closed) and a duplicate of the opening character, identical in all respects but of the opposite alignment, appears directly in front of the box and immediately attacks the opener, ignoring all others. If either the duplicate or the opening character is killed, the duplicate and all it’s possessions disintegrate into black dust. Closing the lid will reset the sequence, and it is possible to have multiple duplicates of the same (or different) characters at the same time if the box is opened again. Under the mirror shards in the box is a 3” high crystal pyramid pulsing with a faint white light. If removed from the box the pyramid will cease to light.
    57. heavy leather sack with 12 caltrops
    58. 18” iron cauldron full of live frogs
    59. Black metal, open faced helmet with a chrome spike on top
    60. 40’ of heavy iron chain
    61. wooden bucket with cover, full of 3” iron nails, 2 wooden mallets
    62. 3 old wool blankets
    63. 6 vials of oil, bundle of rags, 2 torches
    64. 8 animal skulls-2 dog, 2 monkey, 1 bear, 1 snake, 1 cow, 1 tortoise
    65. a finely woven black cape, wrapped around a pair of men’s black leather shoes
    66. box is ½ full of dirt, 2 garden trowels and a small bag of pumpkin seeds are lying on top
    67. 12 arrows with dried black liquid on the tips (poison, save or vomit for 2d6 rounds) in a leather quiver
    68. 5 hand towels, a hair brush, 2 combs, and a bar of flowery smelling soap
    69. 2 magical cloaks of protection +1, infested with disease. save vs poison or suffer severe internal pain and bleeding beginning in 1d3 days, lasts 2d4 days, causes 2d6 damage per day, all damage heals at ¼ normal rate, contagious to any who come in contact with infected character(s)
    70. 14 decks of cheap playing cards and a pair of silver dice
    71. 3 shrunken heads (2 elf and 1 gnome)
    72. rats nest made of clothing, 5 rats, hole chewed through rear of box
    73. hand drum, 3 tambourines, and a pair of silver hand bells, all with symbols of chaos crudely painted on them in purple paint
    74. 3 dried gourds on a bed of straw
    75. 6 pots of paint, wooden pallet, 2 large paint brushes
    76. black doctors bag containing 4 vials of holy water, 6 wooden stakes, a wooden mallet, 5 dried garlic bulbs, and a note-”I waited as long as I could but they were trying to break down the door. I’ll try to lead them away. Sorry. -J”
    77. large glass jar full of iron shavings
    78. padlock and 97 keys (none of which match the lock)
    79. empty saddlebag, bit & bridle, and riding crop
    80. carved wooden toys-2 boats, 1 horse & wagon, 4 soldiers, 1 dog
    81. well used mandolin with broken neck
    82. 2 small oil lamps and a flask of highly explosive oil. if oil is used in any lamp it will explode for 2d6 damage to person lighting lamp
    83. charred human skull with a large quartz crystal in it’s mouth
    84. well used set of alchemical tools, 2 glass beakers, and 4 empty glass bottles with corks
    85. sack of dried apples, in bottom of sack is a severed human fist
    86. four 10” stone statues of minotaurs and a wooden model of a maze
    87. 2 red candles and a 2’ wooden wand topped with a halfling skull. If both candles are lit and the wand is held there is a 10% chance of Orcus taking notice
    88. basket full of dried mushrooms
    89. set of well made men’s clothing, folded and neatly stacked
    90. helmet shaped like a fish, the inside is always cool and clammy to the touch
    91. pair of 6’ white feathered wings on a shoulder harness, folded and wrapped in white silk
    92. miniature pick and shovel, 30 rocks painted gold
    93. opening box causes a vacuum, if room has doors they immediately slam shut and characters will suffocate in 2d6 rounds unless box is forced shut (strength check)
    94. stuffed porcupine
    95. bundle of sheet music composed by Vin of Telarine, tin flute, brass kazoo
    96. severed human head, will open eyes and attempt to speak but makes no sounds
    97. plague doctors mask, wide brimmed black felt hat
    98. roll twice and combine results, ignoring rolls of 98-100
    99. roll three times and combine results, ignoring rolls of 98-100
    100. roll four times and combine results, ignoring rolls of 98-100

    I want to thank Professor Pope and Roberius Rex for giving the table a read through and for providing me with feedback and a few corrections.

    Images courtesy of

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Wraith Revisited

    In the comments to my post from last Thursday, I was asked by Kiltedyaksman (of Discourse & Dragons) to give some more detail on the method used to paint the Wraith miniature, particularly what paints and inks I used. I don't recall where I first saw a similar method of painting ghosts, and I played around with a couple different things that I wasn't happy with, until things all seemed to come together on this one. Unfortunately, I did not take any notes for this miniature. Fortunately, I do remember the technique I used and many of the paints are standard colors that I use all the time, so recreating the “recipe” isn’t very difficult. So while I can’t swear that this is EXACTLY what I used and how I painted the miniature, it’s a damn close approximation!

    As a refresher, here is the miniature in question:

    This is the Crypt Wraith from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Bob Ridolfi. Or as my wife calls it, the Statue of Liberty Ghost. 

    Paints used:
    White spray primer (Krylon)
    Neutral Gray (Model Master Acryl)
    Flat White (Model Master Acryl)
    Titanium White (Liquitex)
    Green Ink (Games Workshop)-I don’t think this is available any longer from GW
    Gloss coat spray lacquer (Testors)
    Dull coat spray lacquer (Testors)
    acrylic thinner
    “Magic Wash” (Future acrylic floor polish & water)

    After priming, I put on a base coat of Neutral Gray, then a dry brushing of Flat White, enough to hit all the raised surfaces while leaving gray showing through on the deep parts and the flat surfaces (shield, armor, helmet). Then a very light dry brushing with Titanium White (thinned quite a bit), just touching the highest points. For the inking, I used Green Ink mixed with “Magic Wash”. I believe I first used a mix of 50/50 ink/wash, then a second coat of 70/30 ink/wash to darken the deeper spots. I may have touched up a few spots with an even heavier mix of ink to wash, as it seems there are a few spots that are darker than the rest. 2 coats of gloss coat and 2 coats of dull coat finish the mini, aside from basing.

    If you’ve not used or heard of “Magic Wash”, a quick search online will bring up many, many hits with different ratios of floor polish to water. From straight polish to mostly water, everyone has a mix that they like best. Truthfully, I don’t remember exactly the ratio I used last time I mixed a batch up, I think it was 1:4 but it may have been 2:3 (wax:water). I’ve got a good sized bottle of it mixed, so I won’t need to figure it out any time soon.

    For the base, the mini was glued to a 1” washer, then coated the washer with crazy glue and dipped in Woodland Scenics Buff Fine Ballast. This was painted dark brown (not sure of the exact color) and dry brushed with 2-3 lighter shades of brown. The final details on the base are from Galeforce Nine. Basing Grit: Rocky (which I believe is actually crushed walnut shells) and Winter/Dead Static Grass (a mix of greys and browns).

    I hope that is a satisfactory explanation! I've played around with this a bit on a few other minis, using different color inks and different paint colors, some worked well, some not so well. I hope to have some of those minis posted soon. Give it a try, it's really a simple technique, and I'd love to see what kind of results others have with it, or other similar methods for painting incorporeal undead.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    A Few Miniatures (Fighters)

    As a follow up to my post yesterday, here are a couple of fighter miniatures that I painted about a year ago. 

    Elf Great Swordmaster (Target Games, Chronopia)

    The Elf Great Swordmaster has wings that are supposed to go on the sides of his helmet, but I found them to be far too large. Otherwise, I really like the sculpt on this mini. Chronopia had some really interesting figures scattered among it's armies, especially the orcs. It also had some really bad ones as well. I have a few more that I picked up on clearance, but this is the only one I've painted.

    Fighter (WotC, Chainmail)

    When WotC was blowing out their stock of Chainmail miniatures after the game was canceled, I bought a lot of them for what seemed to be a great deal at the time. Looking back, based on the number I've actually painted, it wasn't quite the deal I thought it was. There were some great miniatures in the line, though, and I've got a number of them assembled and primed, waiting for their paint job. I'm not sure what I was thinking with some of the colors I used here. I like the yellow and green, but I don't know what possessed me to give him a blue helmet. I guess I thought he needed something to match his pants. His sword also took on a little bit of a rusty tint during the final shading wash that he received.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    A Few Miniatures (Some Bad Guys)

    *Updated on 2/18/2011 with a bit of info for each miniature. 

    Since it's been a little while since my last post, here's a quick one with a few pictures of miniatures I've painted over the past year or so. These are all monsters of some sort, I'll get a post with some character miniatures up soon.

    Wood Golem (Reaper)
    While I've never used a wood golem in any of my D&D games, this miniature was just too neat to pass up when I spotted him among all the other Reaper minis at a game shop. Unlike most of the minis that I have purchased in the past, this guy immediately went to the top of the painting pile, and he came out pretty much as I wanted him too.

    Mummy (Grenadier, Folklore Creatures of the Night box set)
    This is actually the second time I have painted this miniature. I received the set he came with (Folklore Creatures of the Night) as a gift when I was in middle school, sometime in the early-mid 1980s. All the figures in the set were painted at the time with Testor's oil based model paints, which were the only paints that I had access to at the time. It was a pretty poor paint job, although the color scheme I used back then is basically the same as what I used this time, but he now has shading and highlights and the paint isn't slopped on nearly as heavily. Stripping 20+ year old oil paints off these old minis isn't nearly as difficult as it sounds, just a long soak in PineSol and a good scrub with a toothbrush.

    Hellhound (WotC, Chainmail)
    Not one of my favorite miniature sculpts, but I needed a hellhound and I had him in my unpainted miniatures among the WotC Chainmail minis I had purchased in an overstock blowout sale. He came out pretty well, although he was a lot simpler looking when I used him in the game. After using him I went back, touched up some paint, gave him a quick shading with Minwax polyurethane stain, and painted the base as "fire".

    Crypt Wraith (Reaper)

    I really like how this wraith came out, even though it's a very simple paint job. Gray base coat, white highlights, then finished with a couple washes of green ink. Glued to a washer for a base with some gravel and grey/brown static grass and he's done.

    I enjoy painting miniatures, but it takes me a long time to finish one. After my son was born this past June, I only managed to pull the paints out once, back in December. I keep telling myself I'm going to pull them out again "this week", but it never seems to happen. Maybe by posting these pictures I'll have a bit more enthusiasm to do so one night after work.