Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Mushroom Miniatures — Mini Monday, Ep 5

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you some easy mushroom miniatures to make with clay, to decorate the subterranean caverns of your RPG table.

Mushroom miniatures and a drow in the Underdark
badger, badger, badger, Mushroom, MUSHROOM!

Badgers love mushrooms, everyone loves mushrooms! On pizza or in the dungeon, mushrooms add a touch of class that’s hard to beat. These mushroom miniatures give your players something interesting to fight around, a refreshing change from the ubiquitous grey walls and stone tombs found below.

I made these mushrooms with air drying clay. I added gills underneath with a sharp tool, by drawing lines outwards from the stem.

When they were dry, I painted the stems with white mixed with a touch of green, which gives a sickly tint to them. The mushroom caps were painted purple, and I used two shades. Lastly, I varnished them with a matt varnish, and they were done.

I molded the mushrooms by hand, and there’s nothing inside them to give them more structure, but you could use toothpicks or wire as a core — a good idea for longer stems. If you’re making bigger mushrooms to take the weight of a miniature, then use a tightly pressed core of aluminum foil as the core. It’ll be lighter and will dry quicker than a hunk of solid clay.

I didn’t base them, so they’ll fit anywhere, but you could make up mushroom forests on a large base, or myconid figures or shrieking shroom markers on smaller bases. You can find rules for myconids in the Player’s Companion.

Rodney Sloan

Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic the Gathering is a great game, and it has plenty to teach about life. Today I want to talk about goals.

You win a game of Magic by getting your opponent’s life total to 0. Nothing new about that. There are other ways to win, such as if your opponent has to draw a card from an empty deck, but, for the most part, it’s all about that magical number, 0.

It’s easy to miss the point here. You can play to “beat” your opponent, forgetting that you’ve got everything set up for a lethal play. Taking your opponent down to 0 is the goal, any distraction from that goal is an opportunity for your opponent to win. Strong decks and strong players keep this in mind.

You’ll see people forgetting this in MTG Arena often. When your opponent has a significant advantage, but doesn’t go for the win, then they’ve forgotten the win condition. That can buy you time for a life-saving or game-winning play.

Knowing your goals will get you ahead, in Magic, and in life.


GOAL
Magical Life Lesson #3 by MaxieLindo on DeviantArt

Magic Life Lesson #3 — Know Your Goal

By figuring out your goals, you can eliminate anything that distracts you or stops you from achieving it.

As an example, I’ve been wanting to do regular posts here again, and blog about Magic, but I didn’t want to kill my productivity. I figured that short, 300-word posts would give me a chance to achieve my blogging goal without taking too much time away from writing RPG content. My priority — my number 1 goal — is to write new RPG books. Knowing this goal helps me manage my time and gauge how well I’m doing, so I budget time for blogging appropriately.

We’re halfway through 2019, so it’s a great time to look back at the year’s goals and see how you’re doing. Cut any goals that aren’t working out, create new goals where needed, prioritize them, and the rest of the year’s your chance to shine.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Set Sail in a Miniature Ship — Mini Monday, Ep 4

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll build a miniature ship to go with your Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign or Undersea Sourcebook inspired adventures.

Wind Runner Ship Complete
“Yo ho ho, a pirate’s life for Smee!”

This little boat is very easy to make, looks great on the table, and is highly customizable. I’m planning to make a small armada for my undersea pirate campaign, which won’t take much time or break the bank with this technique.

Wind Runner Miniature Ship
“Arr, tis a ghost ship!”

Building the Ship

I used foam board, which I marked out to be an inch wide and 5 inches long. I then cut it and shaped the bow and stern.

For the gunwales, I used cardboard strips, which I glued to the sides of the foam board. The prow and rudder is made from balsa wood, and the tiller is a match stick. The deck was left plain, except for four struts, which are used to mark the squares off for models to stand on. The mast is a bamboo skewer, with thick yarn glued around the bottom of it.

I then undercoated the miniature ship in white, and painted the hull and prow a dark red. The rest was either painted dark brown to resemble wood, or light brown to resemble rope.

When the paint was dry, I rolled up a thin strip of linen and tied it to the mast. I then glued it in place and painted the yarn. To finish up, I painted the whole thing, including the sail, with matt varnish.

Full Stats Coming Soon

The wind runner, which this is a model of, will appear with full stats in our forthecoming Undersea Sourcebook: Feats & Equipment, which includes two new ships, two submersibles, and an airship.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Scratch Built Flying Sword — Mini Monday, Ep 3

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you a simple scratch building project for a flying sword.

Flying Sword
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Oh, never mind!

This was a simple scratch build, and there are plenty of ways to get similar results. I wanted a flying sword animated object for one of my NPCs, but the model can just as easily be used to mark a guardian of faith or spiritual weapon spell.

I took the scimitar off an old Warhammer orc, then drilled into the base of the blade to insert a pin, made from a paper clip. I then used modeling epoxy to craft the handle, then attached this to a small base. Done!

I undercoated with white, then painted black over the sword and pin. I then painted the base green and dry brushed the sword with metallic paint. I used brown with a leather brown color for highlights on the handle. I then flocked the base and varnished the whole thing with matt varnish. For the second varnish coat, I used gloss on the metallic parts and matt varnish everywhere else. And that was the painting done.

This was a quick project and the idea can be used for so much more, such as spell effects, other animated objects, floating orbs, and markers, such as a triggered blade trap.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

One Card to Rule Them All

So I’m playing a life gain black and white deck against an arguably better version of the same deck. I’m at 9 life, my opponent’s at 765! He or she has four creatures that could nail my coffin shut, and I can block three of them. But, for multiple turns, only two creatures come at me, so I block with my two 1/1 bats, spawned each round by Regal Bloodlord. A win doesn’t look possible, and I could throw in the towel — something common on MTG Arena — but I press on.

Then I land Adjani, Strength of the Pride. I activate his +1 ability and reach 40 health. My opponent goes all in on the attack, but at this point I’ve got the extra creatures to block. I kill off all but the three biggest guys, then pop Adjani, destroying my opponent’s advantage for good. Still far above 750 life, my opponent quits the game.

Draw Engine Fail

Earlier the same day, I played against an elemental deck with Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Risen Reef featuring prominently. My opponent’s forces were stacked heavily against me, but I waited for the assault that never came. In the end, I won because my opponent drew their last card off Omnath.

So…

Magic Life Lesson #1 — Never Give Up


NEVER GIVE UP!
by Emezie on DeviantArt

Never give up, success could be just around the corner. I’ve seen this again and again in RPG publishing, where one book might struggle to sell and another can fly off the shelves. You can do all sorts of things to help sales along, but you’ll never make it in the industry if you’re not creating new content regularly.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Simple Drow Paint Tutorial — Mini Monday, Ep 2

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you a simple drow paint scheme to have you ready for your next drow encounter in no time.

This paint scheme is perfect for an Underdark campaign and doesn’t take much time at all. I used the drow duellist miniatures from the Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game (Boardgame Geek Link).

Simple Drow Paint Scheme
“This way!” “No! This way!”

Base Coat

Base coat your drow miniatures with a medium to dark grey. I use this as the skin tone for my drow, since black is a very flat color that pulls in light. Your drow figures are going to be predominantly black, so the grey gives you some variation, and you can always darken it with a wash later.

Any Color as Long as its Black

Paint all the armor, weapons, bases, and gear black. Leave only the skin and hair grey. For variety, you could paint the armor and any cloth dark red or deep purple.



Hair

Drybrush the hair white. This works very well with the grey basecoat, which defines the recesses.

Metals

Pick out metallic parts by dry brushing with a metallic color. I used Mithril Silver from Citadel, which shows how old my paints are. Mithril Silver is a bright metallic, now called Runefang Steel. I painted the swords with the same metallic paint, but might have gone with a darker metallic color, like Leadbulcher, just for more variation.

Done, And…

At this point, the simple drow paint job is done. They’re ready for gaming.

Simple Drow Paint Scheme

If you have time, you can go back into your simple drow paint scheme and pick out details like eyes, belt straps, wands, or markings. With white, you can highlight the hair, and use greys to highlight the skin. When you’re done, use a dark purple wash to bring out the detail, but leave the hair.

Painting Heroes and Villains

This tutorial works best for rank and file drow, but you can extend these principles for major NPCs and dark elf player characters. I use this technique as my first stage on all my drow figures, then work in more detail for the major minis.

Pro Tip: Us a purple base coat if you want your drow to look like the ones in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Miniature Japanese Torii – Mini Monday, Ep 1

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kit bashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week I’ll show you how to build a miniature Japanese torii gate for Steampunk Musha, Legend of the Five Rings, or similar East Asian inspired settings.

Here she is, folks. This miniature Japanese torii can easily accommodate most Large sized D&D or Pathfinder figures in the center.

Miniature Japanese Torii
The base is 2 x 4 inches: perfect for using on a grid map.

Steampunk Musha – Shangti Factory Hub

This project is the first part of my Steampunk Musha terrain project that will consist of several factory pieces set in the mega city of Shangti. Since it’s steampunk, I figure this set will work well for both my Warhammer 40k games and for fantasy gaming, so this is a “two birds with one stone” type of deal.

The torii gate we’re making today is highly customizable, but is perfect for a Japanese themed game. You could use a similar technique to make gallows or other structures featuring a prominent wooden frame.



Getting Started

You’ll need balsa wood for this, but popsicle sticks will work well too. A sharp hobby knife, wood glue, and sandpaper will do all the heavy lifting, then you can paint and varnish the gate as you see fit when it’s done. I used hardboard for the base.

Prep

Make a paper template for the top piece of the gate (the kasagi and shimaki). Cut 3 of these. Cut 1 long crossbar (nuki), and 6 poles (to make the hashira). We’ll add more bits later, so keep any extra wood aside.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Torii Frame

Place 1 top section on top of 2 pillars. There’s no need to glue it yet, but you can if you like.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the crossbar onto the pillars, with a small space between it and the top piece.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Connecting Things

Score lines on 2 more pillars under the crossbar, like so:

Miniature Japanese Torii

Then cut along the scored lines.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the longer sections of pillar below the crossbar. Glue the short sections of the pillar over the top section. This forms the very center of your Japanese torii gate.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Don’t worry too much if the glue is causing all the pieces to float around. When you’re done you can move everything nicely into place, and sanding will clean it all up when we’re done.

Bulking Up the Top

Score lines to match the location of the pillars onto the second top piece.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Glue the pieces of the second top piece onto the first top piece. In the end, this gives the model more strength and bulk.

Miniature Japanese Torii

Finishing Up your Miniature Japanese Torii

Now glue on the last of the pillars and top piece. If your glue is still wet at this stage you can move things around, then put a heavy book on the gate and let it dry.  Miniature Japanese Torii

Next, add a small down piece between the top and the crossbar. Then cut 2 identical pieces to form the very top section of the tori. These will look like slightly curved french fries.

When it’s dry, use your hobby knife to make everything flush along the edges, then sand the model. An emery board (used for fingernails) works very well for this.

Miniature Japanese Torii
There are 25 ninjas hidden in this image. Really!

I base coated my model white, then painted the whole thing red. I washed it with a purple wash to pick up the natural wood texture of the balsa wood, and to age the model a bit.

For the base, I used hardwood covered in two grades of sand, the finest for the path. I painted and dry brushed this before adding flock. I varnished everything when I was done, because I like harder wearing gaming pieces.

Pro Tip: Suppliers of Shinto religious goods will often have miniature Japanese torii for sale. Personally, I prefer to make my own.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

The Quick Win – Leveraging Goals for the Big Win

I’m a big believer in the quick win.

Especially when it comes to hobby gaming.

The Quick Win
Photo credit: Andre Hunter.

Quick wins, as the name suggests, are small projects that don’t take much time, or effort. The miniature you paint in an hour, the terrain you bang out in 3 hours, or the monster stat block you write in 5 minutes all fall into this category.

Why the Quick Win?

Getting things done is very motivating. My recent post about painting RPG miniatures gets into that more. The reverse is also true though, that having too much on your plate can turn you off of your hobby quicker than a quickling in hyperdrive.

It’s also great having something to show for your efforts, and with a string of quick wins you can easily build up to a much larger goal. It’s a lot like how I write now. My current RPG book — teasers here, here, and here — is being written in 2-hour bursts. In each session, I aim to finish one section of the book. Sometimes I’ll get 2-3 monsters done, sometimes it’s most of a background, but every session that I finish something is another thing off the checklist.

How’s this different from how I used to write? Before, I didn’t break down my tasks much, so in 2 hours I often worked on a bunch of sections, got demotivated, and lost my concentration. That kind of thing can lead to burnout. In other words, I’m talking about the tortoise’s approach to winning the race: slow and steady, and about breaking down that race into milestones. Each milestone is a victory in and of itself.

Life also takes up much of our hobby time, so when we have time, we need to use it wisely.

Your Next Quick Win

I’ll leave you with this thought. What small hobby project would give you the most satisfaction. Is it drawing that dungeon map you’ve been planning? Making a handout? Stating up an NPC? Or do you just need to run a short session over Google Hangouts to get everyone ready for a longer session?

Plan it. Do it. Celebrate your quick win.

Black Friday with Rising Phoenix

This Black Friday we have a massive 50% Off Sale on Drive Thru RPG.  This includes books compatible with Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as stand-alone games, map tiles, and all of our Solo Adventures.

Looking for some unique gaming gift ideas? D20Radio.com has some excellent gamer gift ideas worth checking out.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Ocean Adventures in D&D, Part 3 – Sea Monsters

The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all provide great resources for undersea or ocean-based D&D campaigns. We’ve offered you an Undersea Guide to the Player’s Handbook and an Undersea Guide to the Dungeons Master’s Guide. Today we’ll be talking sea monsters with the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual.

rpg blog carnival logo

This week’s post is part of the RPG Blog Carnival. This month the carnival is hosted by NukeTown.com, and the theme is “All These Worlds.” Be sure to check them out and see what others have shared on the topic.

The Monster Manual is full of useful creatures for your undersea campaign, and the easiest way to access these is to refer to appendix B in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, which lists coastal and underwater monsters. Below is a list of suggestions for expanding on those lists.

Sea monsters
Image credits: Laura College

Aquatic and Amphibious Variants

Many creatures can become sea monsters by giving them the ability to breathe underwater and a swim speed. Twig blights could become seaweed blights, while you could replace a frost giant’s greataxe with a trident and call it a sea giant. Be careful with some monster abilities though, an ocean basilisk could pose a real problem for characters who can’t breathe underwater.

Undead Creatures

Most undead creatures can survive underwater, without any modification. Adding a swim speed is usually all that’s needed to make them effective threats. Ethereal undead, such as ghosts, can use their fly speed instead of a swimming speed, making them difficult to escape.



Constructs

Similar to the undead, constructs don’t need to breathe, so giving them a swimming speed is usually enough to make them useful. A homunculus might have a swimming tail instead of wings, while golems might be formed like sharks or dolphins, giving them a swimming speed and a reduced base speed. You can also replace some golem abilities with ones from other sea monsters; like giving a flesh golem tentacle attacks to replace its slam attacks.

Common sense if your greatest ally here — a stone golem is more likely to sink than swim.

Sea monsters
Image credits: Jonas Allert

When it comes to sea monsters, a little creativity goes a long way, and the Monster Manual serves as an excellent starting point for populating your campaign world.

What’s Next?

What would you like us to cover for your undersea campaign next? Let us know in the comments below.

We recently asked about trinkets in your D&D game, and we’d love to hear your ideas, especially if you’ve got some ocean themed ones.

Till next time, play good games!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.

Undersea Adventures in D&D, Part 2

The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all provide great resources for undersea or ocean-based D&D campaigns. Last week we offered an Undersea Guide to the Player’s Handbook. Today I’ll run through the Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide to help you dive into your undersea adventures.

undersea adventures
Photo credit: Sagar

Undersea Fantasy

The Flavors of Fantasy section in chapter 1 includes a short coverage on swashbuckling fantasy, which offers some inspiration. An undersea campaign might just as likely contain elements of dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, or epic fantasy too.

Undersea fantasy might focus on the otherworldly aspect of the ocean, giving special attention to the wonders of this new world, or emphasizing the alienness of the sights and creatures found there. The sea has a clearly defined border, and crossing this threshold for the first time is almost always a significant event. On top of that, many things we take for granted are not readily available or don’t work in the deep, such as fire, paper, ink, drinkable water, or air. Gravity is less pronounced, and capable swimmers can move in three dimensions, much like flying creatures can do above the waves. Take these aspects into account when building your own undersea campaign.

Planes

The Plane of Water section in chapter 2 describes the elemental plane of the same name, which offers an excellent setting for your campaign as well as inspiration for one set on the Material Plane.

undersea adventures
Photo credit: Nsey Benajah

Adventure Environments

Chapter 5 contains a wealth of information that can be applied to undersea adventures with a little work. The Underwater section is particularly noteworthy and includes a table of random undersea encounters, expanded swimming rules, and rules for underwater visibility. The Sea section includes rules for navigation, weather at sea, visibility, and owning a ship, along with a table of random encounters at sea and statistics for airborne and waterborne vehicles.



Magical Items

Notable magical items include the apparatus of Kwalish, cap of water breathing, cloak of the manta ray, folding boat, gloves of swimming and climbing, mariner’s armor, necklace of adaptation, potion of water breathing, swan boat feather token, ring of swimming, ring of warmth, ring of water walking, and trident of fish command.

The sentient weapon, Wave, makes a great template for a similar trident in your campaign.

undersea adventures
Photo credits: Irina Kostenich

Monster Lists

Appendix B provides a coastal monsters list and one for underwater monsters.

Maps

Appendix C has a map of a ship including the deck and a level below.

Next week we’ll look at the Monster Manual as we continue to build our ocean campaign for undersea adventures.

 

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.