All posts by Rodney

The Rising Phoenix Games dude. Rodney is a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. He is worryingly fond of mill decks in Magic: the Gathering and a self-confessed Japanophile.

Build a Minis Game, Ep. 2 – Initiative – MM 43

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’ll continue building a miniatures game by adding an initiative system and a turn order. When we’re done, we’ll make a simple prototype game so we can get playtesting!

Mini Monday Logo

Last Mini Monday we looked at a concept and theme for our little miniatures skirmish wargame, Dagger Lords. Now we’ll get started on an initiative system (woohoo, stealth pun) and the turn order. This is an important bit to get right because everything else we do will happen in the order this subsystem dictates.

Once we’ve got the activation mechanic worked out, we can put it into a simple prototype that we can test out. That’ll help us see if our rules are fun on their own, if they take too long, and if they’re intuitive enough. We also want to be sure our rules tap into our theme of fantasy crime lords fighting a turf war. That might sound like a big ask, but I think we can do it.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

Remember that, as we go, we’ll update a public document so that you can see the latest version of the game.

Design Goal

I’d like our activation system to do a few things:

  1. It should be fun
  2. It should involve a wager, supporting the “crime lords” theme
  3. It should allow for up to six players taking turns, but without too much boring wait time

Example Initiative Systems

Not too long ago, Tabletop Minions posted a video about wargaming misconceptions. In it, Uncle Atom mentioned disliking Warhammer 40,000’s simple and boring activation system. In 40K, you roll to see who goes first, then take turns in that order.

In the aforementioned video’s chat, a bunch of wargamers weighed in with some great activation systems from other games, including rolling against a target number to activate, pulling dice from a bag, or activating one unit per turn.

We can also look to games like Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games for ideas. Personally, I’m a big fan of systems that let players make choices about who goes when, such as Marvel Heroic Roleplay that lets the players decide when heroes and NPCs act. In those rules, whoever goes last picks who starts the next round, so it’s always in the PC’s favor to have one of their group end off the round. This gets especially interesting when there’s a chance of finishing off the enemies by going before them: miss, and the baddies are going to get in a lot of shots before you can do anything about it.

Dagger Lords Initiative System, Draft 1

Here’s my proposal for both the initiative system and the structure of each round:

  1. Each miniature gets between 1 and 3 Reflex Points, which are replenished at the end of the turn. Because the average is 2, we’ll assume all minis have 2 Reflex Points for now. We can specify the exact number for each model later in our design process.
  2. A model can spend a Reflex Point to jump the initiative queue, but it’s a gamble.
  3. A model can spend a Reflex Point to interrupt another miniature’s movement or attack.
  4. A round consists of the following phases: Initiative, Activation (Movement and Combat), Top-Up

Dagger Lords — Prototype Game 1

Let’s break these concepts down a little more by jumping into a prototype game.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 3 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game can have up to six players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points and 3 Hit Points.

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Movement and Combat)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 2D6 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the highest to the lowest total. The player with the highest score regains 2 Reflex Points to share among the models in their gang.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each mini then acts in initiative order and can do any two of the following:

  1. Move up to 6 inches
  2. Make an attack

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you much roll a 4, 5, or 6 on 1D6 to hit. If your attack hits, you must roll another 1D6 to deal damage. A roll of 4 or 5 deals 1 point of damage, and a roll of 6 deals 3 points of damage.

Any model can interrupt another model’s movement to perform one action from the list above by spending 1 Reflex Point. If two or more models from different teams wish to act at the same time, they dice off to see who goes first. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting its turn, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does.

3. Top Up

After all the models have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and up to 2 Reflex Points. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

The last team with any remaining models in it is the winner.

Some Final Thoughts

Reflex Points might be compared to actions in D&D, but they also let a player play when they want. Reflex Points are replenished at the end of the round, and no Reflex Points are carried over, so there’s plenty of motivation to use them. They’re our currency for the action economy, and there’s some risk involved in spending them, especially if you’re trying to go early.

We’ll be able to tie abilities to the Reflex Points later, which could get interesting. Imagine if ghouls can spend their RP to steal RP from other minis, or if wizards can cast a haste-like spell to grant their allies bonus RP.

Our prototype is very basic, and probably not tons of fun yet, but it does let us test out some ideas that’ll be at the core of our skirmish game. In fact, we already tested an earlier version of the initiative system and found it needed major tweaking. We want to get this core right, so it pays to test it out and tweak it before we continue. If you do play our little game, please drop your thoughts in the comments below. What worked, what didn’t, how do you think the initiative system could be improved?

You can check out what we have so far by clicking on the button, which will take you to the Dagger Lords working document.

 


Let’s Build a Miniatures Game, Ep. 1 – MM 42

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re building a miniatures game!

Mini Monday Logo

We’ve been building up to this.

I’ve always got a few game projects on the go, like my private He-Man boardgame expansion, but I thought it’d be fun to build a game. With you. We’ll be building a small, miniatures agnostic skirmish wargame, and hopefully it’ll inspire you to build your own.

How’s this going to work?

Each Mini Monday we’ll look at a different aspect of the game. We’ll look at many game design concepts and practices, and get our hands dirty with some prototype games. I’ll present a few ideas, pick the best of them for our game, then discuss why I think they’re great.

Sound off in the comments with your own ideas and feedback, and I’ll do my best to reply there and work the best ideas back into updated versions of the game. It’s also possible that you’ll only see these posts well after we’ve moved on, in which case you can follow our process or modify our results to make your own game.

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover in this series:
Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

As we go, we’ll update a public document so that you can see the latest version of the game.

Concept and Theme

If our concept is to build a small, miniatures agnostic skirmish wargame, then we’ll need a theme to support that.

Our theme could be anything, like monkey pirates with banana grenades, or humans surviving in the grim darkness of space, but none of those ideas are worth pursuing if it pulls us away from our initial concept, unless we’re okay with changing it. For now, let’s assume the concept is rock solid. So we can’t build a Warhammer 40,000 clone, because that’ll need too many miniatures, and a monkey pirates game will need some very hard-to-find monkey pirate minis. Those themes would pull us away from our concept.

I like the basic premise behind Necromunda: gangs fighting it out in a massive hive structure. Gangs are easy to find miniatures for since they could be humans, aliens, robots, mutants, or even undead.

We could flip this on its head to get our own concept: You’re a fantasy crime lord fighting a bitter turf war.

Hey, that even gives me an idea for a name: Dagger Lords.

The theme of gangs of fantasy creatures supports a miniatures agnostic game and doesn’t need to get any bigger than 2-3 minis on a side. It screams Dickensian characters with a fantasy twist, or maybe a Steampunk, Peaky Blinders inspired skirmish game, but with goblins and scummy elves.

With that, we’re on our way to building a miniatures game!

You can check out what we have so far by clicking on the button, which will take you to the Dagger Lords working document. There’s not much there yet, but we’re just getting started.

 


Beast Man, a MotU … Miniature? — MM 41

It’s Mini Monday, and this week’s project is Beast Man, Skeletor’s beastly right-hand gorilla. That’s right, we’re diving into some Masters of the Universe flavoured miniature projects.

Mini Monday Logo

Hello Heroes!

I’ve got a dark little secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m building a game … just for myself. I know, right, not much point in being a game designer and then making a game you won’t sell. Madness!

The game is a Masters of the Universe themed expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgames, the same games that Yochlol and those skeletons we’ve featured so often come from. So far it’ll include four new heroes, including He-Man, and 52 cards featuring the most iconic enemies, heroes, and magical items from the MotU franchise.

He-Man D&D Boardgame
* See The Fine Print

And of course, this game’s most definitely not for sale or distribution, is very much unofficial, and not something any lawyers should get worked up about. I’m making it just for myself.

Tung Lashor Monster Card
* See The Fine Print

Beast Man, Skeletor’s homicidal orangutan, is the first custom enemy miniature I’ve made. It was my most satisfying build yet!

Riso rindo risa GIF - Find on GIFER

Building Beast Man

I converted Beast Man from the Reaper Bones Ogre Chieftain. I’d been scouring the Interwebs for minis to convert into Evil Warriors, then realised I had this guy sitting on my shelf. Sometimes the hobby stars align and a project falls into place as if the Universe willed it into being. Inspiration is a fickle thing, but when it hits, the results can be so satisfying. The Chieftain turned out to be a perfect mini to turn into Beast Man.

The shin guards, spikes, head crest, and Beast Man’s hunched, hairy back were all made from modelling epoxy. You could use green stuff instead.

The rest was painting, and then he was done.

Beast Man MOTU Miniature
“Of course, Master, I’ll take care of He-Man.”

The Next Level

You can probably keep fiddling with a mini forever, and I’ve already got some ideas to take Beast Man a few steps further.

I’d like to add some greenish-grey to the fur of his loincloth and under his shoulder pad. I’ll also add greenish rust to the copper disk, bracelets, and shoulder pad. These additions will add contrast, which is why Beast Man has blue undies in the animated show — now you know.

Beast Man is often shown with blue face paint, and the base could use a light grey dry brushing.

Lastly, I’ll add a chain. Beast Man always had a whip, but a chain would be a great substitute and suggest the cruelty he’s capable of.

Cast Your Vote

Who would you like to see next? I’ve got Evil-Lyn, Battle Cat, and Prince Adam in the works. Cast your vote in the comments below.

The Fine Print

We don’t own the Masters of the Universe, or the D&D Adventure Boardgame, or any right to publish content related to the characters or look-and-feel of either IP.  What you see here is provided for identification purposes in conjunction with the discussion of the topic of the article. 

More Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Once again, we have more cruel trinkets for Dungeons & Dragons 5e that could prove to be both a blessing and a curse to those who dare to use them.

You can find the original Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods, on the blog.

Thank you to Codex Anathema, who inspired this post and are hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival.

Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Eager Blade

Weapon (longsword), rare (requires attunement)

This polished +2 longsword grants you an additional action after a successful attack, once per turn. You must use this extra action to attack an enemy with the Eager Blade or, if no enemy is within reach, to attack an ally or bystander. If no other target is available, you are instead incapacitated until the end of your next turn, as you attempt to bring the weapon under control.

Fire Emblem

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This red ruby is set within a brooch of red gold. You have advantage on Charisma based checks involving fire elementals and creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Additionally, any d6s you would roll for fire-based spells step up to d8s.

Whenever you take a long rest, make a DC 2 flat check. On a failure, a 5-foot-square area within 1 mile of you is set ablaze. This fire is affected by the prevailing conditions and will spread if sufficient fuel — such as dry grass or wood — is available.

I hope you enjoyed these devious treasures. It’s always more fun when there’s some risk involved.

I wonder who might have created them? Maybe an elemental lord of fire had the fire emblem made for his most trusted envoys, but his craftsmen were unable to fully contain the elemental power within the gem? Just imagine if an NPC was wandering around with one of these around their neck.

Do you have any sneaky items or cruel trinkets you’ve created? Did your GM ever fox you with a real stinker? We’d love to hear from you, in the comments, below.


Image Credits: darksouls1

DIY PJ Masks HQ! — Mini Monday #40

It’s Mini Monday, and this week we’re going to do something completely different. I’ll show you how to make the PJ Masks HQ, impress your kids, win fame and glory, and do it all on the cheap!

Mini Monday Logo

 

Hello Heroes!

My post about DIY Gaming got me thinking that I could do a whole series on crafting your own games. I freakin’ love it! Make a game just for yourself and — if you’re lucky enough to have some — your friends? Nobody else, no fans, no gaming clubs? No big budgets for art or marketing. No Kickstarter campaign. Just you, the cardboard, and a few dice. Sign me up!

But that’s for the future. And now, as Mr. Cleese would say, “for something completely different.”

Let me tell you something, jackass! — Monty Python - And Now For Something  Completely...

The PJ Masks HQ

If you’re here, you know what the PJ Masks are all about — or you’re hopelessly searching for an RPG angle to this article! My kids love the pajama-wearing heroes and were lucky enough to get some of the action figures for Christmas. Dad here — overzealous idiot that he is — decided the toys needed a home. It wasn’t like Dad needed to do actual work or anything. Besides, the PJ Masks HQ is just a pipe with wings and funny ears… what could be so difficult about making that?

PJ Masks HQ Front

How Not to Lose a Finger

Sawing PVC pipe in half is easy. Cutting square holes out of PVC pipe without sacrificing an appendage requires the dexterity and nerves of a bomb technician.

I started with a thick PVC pipe and marked out three “doors” for each of the heroes’ rooms.

PJ Masks Tower PVC Pipe

A hand saw will get you started, but gets messy. The trick is to cut many horizontal lines — top to bottom in the picture above — while sawing over a bin. You can then use a drill to cut off these thin sections, and a vacuum cleaner to pick up all the white dust that misses the bin. Repeat until you have enough space to use your saw vertically, which is left to right in the picture.

Finish off the holes with a file and sandpaper.

On a Wing and a Pr(Ear)

I formed the ears with the sections I’d cut from the holes, forming them with my saw, file, and unwavering determination. We don’t need to mention the leg wound incident. It’s not important. Move along!

The wings were made from hardboard, more sawing, more filing, and even more cursing. The fact that Jesus never used the swears he picked up from papa Joseph just proves his divinity, let me tell you.

The wings and ears were then glued to the main pipe of the tower with PVC cement. It’s miracle stuff, and considering how often the darn pieces were smashed off, I can tell you it’ll get you as high as a bat, but it works.

Next Floor, Lingerie and PTSD

The floors and roof were made with the bottoms of tin cans, hot glued into place. A tin opener will get this job done, but there must be a better option. There must be. I still have nightmares about sawing, puncturing, drilling, bending, scoring, and doing whatever else I could to get the darn things off.

Making Faces

Each of the faces on the front of the tower were drawn on cardboard and cut out. I did the same for the detail on the wings. At this point I also superglued foil onto hard, clear plastic to make the eyes, which were stuck onto the PJ Masks HQ at the end of the build.

Painting

Miniature painters, beware. A creation this size takes a lot of paint. I’ve suspicions that PVC is really just dense sponge. I threw five cans of paint at this, and it still seemed to want more!

I painted the faces and the wing details with poster paints, then, when everything was dry, stuck on the eyes. I then used a permanent marker around the eyes, faces, and wing detail. Finally, I painted the whole thing with gloss varnish.

Then I stood weeping as my kids ignored this magnificent new toy and played with the cheap tealight I’d planned to install in the HQ’s ceiling. (Stick a magnet to the base, so it’ll stick to the tin ceiling like a spaced-out bat).

The final thing was an impressive abomination, like a kiddy version of Sauron’s tower. The symbolism isn’t lost on me.

PJ Masks HQ Front

PJ Masks HQ Back

More Occult Misadventure

And now for that RPG angle. Masters of the Occult: Play Manga d20 is the perfect companion to the best-selling Play Manga d20 ruleset, which builds on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Inside you’ll find archetypes and options for the occult classes, based on popular manga and anime franchises.

Open your mind to the possibilities of the world beyond the veil of reality!

Masters of the Occult: Play Manga d20

 

 


Get into Tabletop Gaming, Even if You’re Poor

Too poor to play Warhammer 40,000? No cash for Dungeons & Dragons books? I’m going to tell you why money is less of an obstacle than you might think, and why DIY tabletop gaming might do better things for you than paying for official products ever can.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Games Workshop, Wizards of the Coast, and every other tabletop publisher that has ever taken me on a great flight of the imagination. I want you to support them. I’m a game publisher, so I know how important your hard-earned cash is to the industry. But money shouldn’t be the thing that stops you. If you really want to get into roleplaying games, wargaming, or any other tabletop gaming, then there are ways and means that require very little financial investment.

DIYHammer and the Money Paradox

When I was in high school, it wasn’t a problem for me to buy loads of metal minis for my Ork army. It was my parents’ money, really, and I probably didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should have. Maybe because I hadn’t earned them myself or because of some fear of not being able to paint them well enough, very few of my minis ever got a lick of paint. In fact, I can only remember ever playing one full game of Warhammer 40K, and it was with another person’s army.

Fast forward twenty years and I’m a freelance writer and editor, making a little extra from RPG sales. There was no money for minis. Any month we didn’t need to cut into our savings was a great month. But I needed a hobby, a space to unwind and think. That’s when I found that my paints hadn’t dried up. I unpacked my old minis and dived back into the fascinating world that had first intrigued me all those years ago. Turns out, I’d stumbled on the cheapest hobby ever.

You’d think that the hobby would start getting expensive as soon as I needed more minis, but I found the opposite to be true. I kitbashed two Ork Deff Dreads, some Runtherds, and a Grot Oiler, all using bits I wasn’t using for anything else. Now I have a Mek Big Gun in the works, lots of bikes, and two Dakka Jets, all in various stages of completion. The more I’ve gotten into the hobby, the more resourceful I’ve become, and the less I’ve spent. The only thing I’ve bought is one box of Gretchin and a few Reaper Bones minis.

Mek-krakka Deff Dread

Okay, yes, I’ve needed to buy the occasional paint, spray can, and lots of superglue, but these costs are low and infrequent. Since getting back into it I’ve only finished one pot of Chaos Black paint.

There have been some interesting benefits from taking the kitbashing approach:

  1. I’ve become more ready to take on DIY projects, including fixing things around the house or building toys for my kids, like a Captain America shield and a PJ Masks HQ toy that I built from PVC pipe.
  2. I look at trash in a whole new way, and more of it gets upcycled instead of being thrown into a landfill somewhere.
  3. My pile of grey plastic is shrinking.
  4. I understand the art of model making much better, so I’m closer to making those custom TMNT figures I always wanted.
  5. I’m more resourceful. If I need a thing, I can probably find a way to make it, substitute something else in, or do without. And this goes far beyond miniatures. I’ve needed a new skateboard for nearly a year now, but I’ve been able to repair and maintain it because of a shift in my mentality.
  6. I have a far greater sense of ownership over my army than I ever had before.

Make Your Own

Brett Novak, who turned skateboarding videos into an art form, said in his TED talk that we romanticise that if we had more money, we’d do all these amazing things, but, in truth, there’s usually a way to do them without the money. As an example, Reiner Knizia, the best-selling board game designer, said that, when he was a kid, he often couldn’t afford the games he wanted to play. He had to make his own. That process must have taught him a lot about game design, and probably has a lot to do with how successful he is today.

So forget about money being the problem. If high prices are keeping you from tabletop gaming and the games that intrigue you, make your own. It’ll teach you a lot and give you a sense of satisfaction that money just can’t buy.


Toys as Minis, a Boost for Your Table — MM 39

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week I’m going to tell you why you should use more toys as minis.

Mini Monday Logo

I figure that tabletop gamers fall into two groups; those who supplement their mini collection with toys, and those who hate the idea. If you’re in that second camp, it’s probably because you think that toys just don’t look right on the gaming table. I was one of the haters too, but I changed my mind. Here’s why!

Toys as Minis
Most of these are from Japan, but I found the bear locally.

Hidden Treasures

There’s a lot of junk out there, but search hard enough, and you just might find the perfect additions to your collection. I found that toys from Japan can be particularly good, and tend to be on the smaller side, but keeping an eye on your local cheap or second-hand toy shop will pay off eventually, especially if you’re in a biggish city.

Lots of folks online have shown off their dollar store hauls, so that’s an awesome option if you have cheap shops like that in your area. You’re most likely to find animals and mythical creatures such as dragons, but you never know what might turn up.

Two other great sources for toys for minis are your own toy collection and second-hand sales. Such sources usually have a varied collection of toys to choose from, are dirt cheap, and might surprise you with what you’ll find.

Kitbashing and Converting

If you’re ready to do some converting and kitbashing, then toys offer a veritable gold mine of options. Some hobbyists on YouTube recently did a toy monster mashup, go search it out if you’re looking for more inspiration.

Price

With some exceptions, toys are generally a lot cheaper than specifically-produced miniatures, and printing takes time. It’ll take time to find the right toys, but you can usually search while looking out for other things.

The Buying Strategy

Patience and a will to shop around are the keys to success if you’re going to use toys as minis. Buying a couple of odd-looking horses because you need horses for Friday’s game might be fine, but you’ll quickly collect a lot of ugly minis that way.

Rather, keep a list of what you want minis for and play the long game, buying only the best of the best.

Toy Traps to Avoid

Avoid buying online, unless you can find a good size comparison for the toy. Also, avoid cheap-looking plastic, as this can become brittle over time and break easily. Thin plastic is usually the biggest clue, but strange colour changes in the plastic can also give you a hint that the toy will be more hassle than it’s worth in the long run.

I hope this inspires you to start adding some toys to your mini collection. If you have more collecting tips to share, then throw them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

Kitbashing and Scratch Building Bolts — MM 38

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week I prove just how far I’m willing to go to find the perfect kitbashing and scratch building bolts!

Mini Monday Logo

When you kitbash a lot of Ork miniatures, like I do, you get a little obsessed with bolts. My Deff Dread Gundams have them, my Mek Big Gun has them, and most of the Orks I’ve kitbashed have bolts on their weapons or back plates. Even fantasy minis can use a lot of bolts for things like doors, treasure chests, armor, and flesh or iron golems.

So I’ve spent way too much time thinking about kitbashing and scratch building bolts, and here’s what I’ve found. Below are three different methods:

kitbashing and scratch building bolts

Method 1: Plastic Cylinders

The bottom row was made with discs cut from a soft plastic cylinder. This method also works with harder plastics, so look at the sprues you have, since they might have rounded sections that are perfect for making these types of bolts or nail heads.

Pros: Looks like a fat nailhead or a flattened bolt head. The neat, round shape is consistent, even if you cut them at an angle.

Cons: None really, it just takes practice cutting them thin enough.

Method 2: Bread Bag Clips

Bread bag clips are the miracle material. Cut them into thin strips, then cut these into small squares to make rough-looking boltheads, which you can see in the middle row of the image above.

Pros: Cheap and readily available.

Cons: Looks too rough for modern or futuristic applications.

Method 3: The Secret Ingredient

Clothing zip ties. They’re my secret ingredient.

Secret ingredient X
Secret ingredient X

Look closely, and you’ll see all those little bolts just waiting to be cut out and turned into amazing decorations for your next kitbashing project. The top line of our example bolts is made from these, including the loose bolt lying next to them.

Pros: Looks just like the real thing.

Cons: The soft plastic makes them really difficult to cut nicely, and I’ve not managed to do any reasonable amount of sanding on them to perfect the dome shape.

Of the three, method 2 is my go-to for Ork conversions and fantasy kitbashing, while method 1 is great for neater applications. Method 3’s going to be saved for those times I need a higher level of detail, or if I need loose bolts for my Grot Oilers.

How about you, which methods have you used, do you have another trick to teach us, or do you have a question? Pop it in the comments below.

Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Mad gods bestow cruel trinkets on those who dare ask for a boon. Here are two magical items for Dungeons & Dragons 5e that could easily prove to be both a blessing and a curse to those who dare to use them.

Thank you to Sea of Stars, who’ve inspired this post and are hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival.

The Headhunter’s Coin

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This silver coin has a skull depicted on one side and a pelvic bone on the other. As an action, you can designate a target creature you can see and flip the coin. Make a flat DC 11 check. If you succeed, your threat range for all attacks you make against the target increase by 2, so a roll of 18, 19, or 20 is a critical hit against the target. A roll of 18 or 19 can still miss, unlike a roll of 20, which is always a hit.
If you fail the flat check, you instead suffer a -2 penalty to your Armor Class.
The bonus or penalty lasts until the target is destroyed or until another creature attunes to the headhunter’s coin.

Cruel Trinkets
Image Credit: BlackDog1966

Deadman’s Hand

Wondrous item, unique

This mummified hand clutches four playing cards; two black aces and two black eights. A creature that handles the item becomes instantly attuned to it, and loses attunement to a random item if no free attunement slots are available.
While you are attuned to the deadman’s hand, you gain no benefit or penalty from it.
If you lose the deadman’s hand or become unattuned to it, you suffer a -2 penalty on death saving throws until you become attuned to the magical item again, or through a remove curse spell.

I hope you enjoyed these cruel trinkets. If you’ve tried them out in your game, let us know how your players got on, in the comments below. Or maybe you have some of your own nefarious magical items to share, then pop those down in the comments too.


Image Credits: darksouls1

Scratch Build Tank Tracks — Mini Monday 37

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’ll look at how to scratch build tank tracks for your Orks, Adeptus Mechanicus, or that home-made Baneblade you always wanted to make.

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Why Scratch Build Tank Tracks?

There are a lot of options when putting together a mini, especially these days. I’m making a Mek Gun, so I could buy Games Workshop’s official Warhammer 40K miniature kit, buy parts from a custom parts store, find a model to 3D print, modify a WWII field gun kit, or scratch-build it. So why choose scratch building?

  1. It takes more time to get the same sort of end result you’d expect from anything made professionally, but it’s very rewarding when you do.
  2. Scratch building will teach you so much more about kitbashing, miniature conversion, and model making because it forces you to use that squishy organ between your ears in new ways.
  3. It’s a great way to create miniatures that just don’t exist, or that are too expensive.

For me, I simply wanted to know that I could do it. I love the Grot Tanks I’ve seen the community creating, so making a tracked Big Gun seemed like a good challenge.

Let’s Build It!

Scratch Build Tank Tracks 1
Read-side view of the wheels, track base, and track plates.

Here’s my process:

  1. Use pipes to form the basic shape of the treads and hull. Use thicker pipes as the main wheels, with small wheels as the guide wheels. Glue them together with supports (that black bar in the picture above connects the top three pipes).
  2. Glue sections of pipes over and inside these pipes to build up the wheel hub’s shape. I used lots of dead pen and marker tubes for this part.
  3. Add extra detail, such as shock absorbers. See Adding Springs below.
  4. Glue strips of thick craft foam around the wheels. You can find adhesive craft foam to make this a little easier.
  5. Cut rectangles of cardboard and glue them onto the foam. My strips were about 8 mm by 5 mm, bent two-thirds of their length to hide the craft foam. Glue a few of these on, then let them dry, otherwise it gets tricky trying to stop everything moving around as you work.
Scratch Build Tank Tracks 2
View of the left side of the scratch built tank tracks.

Adding Springs

You can add shock absorbers by putting a spring over a pipe that runs between two of the pipes that form the wheels. Details like these really bring the mini together.

Scratch Build Tank Tracks Spring

Here’s the final mini, bar some extra details and the gun crew.

Mek Big Gun 1

I hope that inspires you to scratch build some of your own machines for the tabletop.

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