As I mentioned three months and two blog posts ago, I started up a Dungeons & Dragons game with some colleagues at work. I DMed throughout the Fall, and for the Winter, I’ve swapped seats with the other experienced player. I’m now playing a character as he runs the group through a published module. We’ll likely keep rotating in bursts (at least until everyone loses interest and we stop playing. 😛 ).
I started playing D&D with the widely maligned (but beloved by Spud <3 ) 4th Edition, so even as my groups moved onto other games and editions, miniature combat on a grid has always been a core part of the game for me. During my stint in the fall, we made use of my large minis collection to facilitate all of the fighty bits. However, on the first night of the new DM’s game, he realized that he’d forgotten his battle mat at home, which made it a bit difficult to try to run combat with minis. However, because we were playing at my department’s meeting table, he decided to just project the maps on our whiteboard, which worked out great.
Once the first combat started and the map was up on the board, we needed a way to mark where everyone was. First we tried drawing everyone’s position with a dry-erase marker, but this got a bit annoying once people needed to move. Then, someone mentioned that they had a bunch of magnets on their filing cabinet, and these made things much easier. The magnets were a bit small and it wasn’t always easy to remember which magnet corresponded to which player or monster, but the basic idea of projecting the map and indicating creature positions with magnets ended up being really good, as it let everyone easily see what was going on.
At the time the projector + magnets solution was just going to be a stopgap for one night, but I liked the idea enough that I decided to make us a full set of properly illustrated magnets and switch over full-time to playing on the projector. I decided that the monster magnets would be generic, with a few different icon designs that would be re-used each combat, but I wanted the players’ magnets to have their faces on them to make it easy to differentiate them.
Now, a Spud who effectively manages his time would have just taken close-up photos of the miniatures and put those on the magnets. However, that is not the Spud that we have. The Spud we’re all stuck with decided that the magnets needed illustrations of each character, which is why I put all of my other ongoing projects on hold and spent the last two weeks drawing pictures on my computer instead.
As always with my art posts, I recorded the drawing and colouring process and assembled time-lapse videos for each character, so that you can watch me colour while the YouTube algorithm decides whether to issue me a copyright strike for the thematically appropriate songs I… err… “borrowed”. 😛
The party in the Fall consisted of five characters. One of those five is now DMing, and two have changed their characters (possibly temporarily, possibly permanently– we’ll see if they have have more fun with the current ones), so only two of the original five characters are still around for this leg of the campaign. The first of those two returning characters is Melorion, the party’s Druid. Melorion’s miniature was based on the excellent Wood Elf King from Reaper Miniatures:
Having a fully completed model to reference made the illustration process much easier. Also helpful: Reaper posted the original concept art on their site, so anywhere I wasn’t clear on what a detail on the mini was supposed to be, I could just check the drawing. 🙂
Melorion was the first character I drew for this exercise, and turned out to be easily the best one of the lot. It’s always a great idea to schedule your best work at the start of a project so that you can feel super shitty about how everything else is turning out.
Really helps keep you motivated to finish.
The other returning character is Nyx, our plucky Gnome Archer (Who Can’t Hit Things With Arrows, So Also Keeps A Sword Handy). Random and totally useless fact: the video above calls her Nyx Silverthread, but that isn’t the name her player gave her. It turns out I actually never wrote down her full name, but I needed to get the video out the door, so I just picked one at random from the Gnome Family Names list at the back of the book. I’ll re-publish the video once I have a chance to talk to the player next week. 😛
Nyx’s mini is another excellent Reaper sculpt, Blink Berenwicket the badass punk knight:
The mini’s armour is extremely simple, so I had to invent some details on the illustration (e.g., chainmail, straps, rivets, and so on) to make it look right alongside the other characters.
A few hours before the first session of the winter campaign, Gorwick’s player was pitching Spud on his new character, and in a moment of foolish confidence, he said, “He’s a halfling monk. Bet you don’t have a mini pre-made for one of those!”.
Spud shook his head in disappointment as he pulled a mini (painted by the talented Pat Gordon and purchased years ago by Spud because it was pretty <3 ) out of his bin:
Spud: “I know it looks like of wizard-y, but officially the mini is a monk.”
Thus having been told, the player slunk off to contemplate his hubris.
Fun twist: I was totally wrong. Reaper’s Del Briarberry model isn’t a monk who looks like a wizard, he’s totally a wizard who only looks like he’s doing kung fu. Whatever. I’m still declaring myself the victor. 😛
Less fun twist: I spent three hours drawing and re-drawing Gorwick’s right hand, and it STILL looks terrible. Eventually I just gave up. Sad potato. ;_;
Another replacement character, Paynim is an Elf Necromancer. Her visual pitch was simple: “Just… as Goth as you can possibly make her.” I sent the player a bunch of different possible miniatures to base her model on, and he chose Reaper’s Diabolist (which is based on art from the Pathfinder RPG):
To be honest, the original art for the diabolist is a bit awkward, and the miniature is comically bad in some areas (the goofy skull, the mediocre hair, the way-too-thick crown, etc…), but the underlying costume design is solid enough to work with. I only needed to goth her up another 20% or so and give her a suitably disdainful expression to complete the look.
Kace & Cashew
YAAAAAY IT’S TIME FOR SPUD’S CHARACTER! 😀
My character is an urban Ranger (who has never set foot outside town until two weeks ago) fresh off a career doing unspecified unsavoury things for unspecified unsavoury people. Her last job went disastrously wrong, and she found herself needing to lay low in the woods for a while until the heat dies down.
The details are a bit unclear, but in the chaos she also, sort of, uh… found a baby. It’s not hers.
It’s fine though. The weasel feeds it.
Oh, right. Kace has a giant weasel companion named Cashew. Weasel milk is packed with nutrients and THE BABY IS FINE.
Kace’s mini hasn’t been painted yet, but it’s going to be based on Koriah Azmeren, again from Reaper’s Pathfinder line:
There is a critical lack of giant weasel minis for sale, so I had to take matters into my own hands and sculpt Cashew from scratch:
Once the art was finished, I put together a template to turn it into magnetic tokens:
The long magnets are initiative trackers, and the squares are the “miniatures” that we move around the map. There will eventually be around ten different icons (all stolen from this icon set, incidentally) corresponding to different types and sizes of monsters.
Our first test of the minis went really well. As much as I love miniatures, I think magnets-on-projected-maps is going to be my preferred representation of roleplaying game combat going forward whenever the equipment is available to facilitate it. 😀
Aaaand that’s it for today. I will post a Critical Weasel Follow-Up when I get around to painting Cashew, the baby, and the other miscellaneous participants in all of this foolishness.