What do Cthulhu, an octopus, and many politicians have in common? Tentacles! That’s right, tentacles!
As roleplayers, we kind of love tentacles, don’t we. Evard’s black tentacles, Day of the Tentacle, mind flayer chins, and the Japanese porn industry – tentacles have dipped their slimy appendages into every part of geek culture.
Today, I’ll share a new monster I’m working on that’s 100% tentacle, and tell you how you can join in and playtest it at your table.
The above tentacles are based off the Watcher in the Water from The Lord of the Rings movie, and the miniature Games Workshop made of it. They were relatively cheap and easy to make, too.
In most cases, the adventurers are fighting against whole monsters, but what if you wanted to only pit them against a giant’s hand, or a dragon’s claw, or the tentacles of a creature hidden deep below the waves?
That’s where the tentacle of the deep comes in. First, I’ll talk about the miniatures, then I’ll show you where to go to find the stats.
I made my tentacles with wire and modeling clay. You could probably use Green Stuff, but anything that won’t go brittle when it cures is fine. For the water effects, I used clear silicone, then painted the tips of the waves white. Lukes APS has an excellent tutorial on water effects that’s well worth checking out for this kind of project, and his silicone idea worked a treat.
I painted the miniature dark green, and used a mixture of Citadel’s Bronzed Flesh and Goblin Green on the underside. Paint the base black, because it really adds depth once the silicone is added to the top. When I was all done I used a gloss varnish to give the tentacles a wet look.
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?
Here are my top 5 recommendations, based on sales and customer feedback, as well as my own (totally biased) opinion:
5. Mecha – A Field Guide
This has 2.5 stars out of a possible 5, making it our worst rating, for any product, ever. Still, if you read the reviews objectively, you’ll notice that nobody’s complaining about the rules, which are water tight. The book might not show you how to design your own mecha, but attentive readers will be able to reverse engineer the system and create anything they want, using the core Starfinder Roleplaying Game rules.
What’s a little murder between friends? A lot of fun, it turns out.
The game’s rules are so intuitive that you might be tempted to think the game is overly simple. In fact, the game’s streamlined for an evening’s dinner party with friends, and makes intrigue an integral part of the experience. We think you’ll find that How to Plan a Murder has something special that most murder mystery dinner games lack. Check it out.
This book is so beautifully illustrated that it’s worth grabbing, just for the pretty pictures. The art is by Bob Greyvenstein, who does most of our illustration and layout work, and this book contains many of my favorites of his art. It takes real talent to draw birds well, and Bob pulls it off with apparent effortlessness.
This brings us to my top recommendation for Black Friday, 2018. Scarthey, the University of the Arcane, is your guide to adventures in a wizard’s university, complete with map, location guide, introductions to the main faculty members, houses, the surrounding town of Scartheyton, history, activities, and sports. You can set your whole campaign within the grounds of the university, or drop it straight into your campaign. Our Choose Your Destiny adventures are set in Scarthey and its surrounds, making Welcome to Scarthey an invaluble part of the collection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
What trinkets have you enjoyed the most in your #DnD games?#RPG
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 & DragonsDungeon Master’s Guide to help you dive into your undersea adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Appendix B provides a coastal monsters list and one for underwater monsters.
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.
The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual all provide great resources for underwater or ocean-based D&D campaigns. Today I’ll run through the Dungeons & DragonsPlayer’s Handbook to help you dive into your underwater adventures.
Many of the classes presented in the Player’s Handbook can be customized to suit an ocean campaign. Druids can choose creatures with a swimming speed for their wild shape ability from 4th level, while rangers can choose appropriate animal companions to suit to underwater adventures.
The following backgrounds work well for an ocean campaign:
Acolyte. Many of the deities of the Forgotten Realms are worshiped in their ocean aspect by seafarers and fisherfolk or given offerings in hopes of a safe sea voyage. A character with the acolyte background may have served in a seaside temple or as a ship’s chaplain. Amphibious characters might tend to the needs of an underwater community or maintain sunken temples and shrines to ocean deities.
Criminal. A character with the criminal background might be a pirate or an escapee from a prison ship. Many criminals find their way into shipping ports, in the hopes of finding a ship to take them to wealthy cities. Amphibious characters are much like their land going counterparts.
Guild Artisan. A character with the guild artisan background might be a cartographer, a shipwright, or a traveling artisan from a port city or island town. Guild merchants are particularly common in port cities and aboard ships. Amphibious guild artisans might be jewelers working in pearl and shell, coral carvers, leatherworkers, skinners, or scrimshaw carvers, besides a host of other occupations.
Hermit. Hermits can be found inhabiting ocean caves, beachcombing along coastlines, and on remote islands. Some hermits are castaways who’ve come to enjoy their life away from the stresses of society.
Outlander. A character with the outlander background might be a fisherman, a pearl diver, a seafarer, or even a pirate with a love of adventure.
Sailor. Both the sailor and the pirate variant backgrounds are excellent options for an ocean campaign.
The Mounts and Vehicles section of the Equipment chapter includes a list of waterborne vehicles. The Services section lists a ship’s passage as costing 1 sp per mile.
Strength (Athletics) checks are used for swimming in stormy seas or raging rivers, or if you’re struggling with a creature while in the water.
The Special Types of Movement section covers swimming, while The Environment section covers suffocating, vision and light, and food and water. The sun’s light only penetrates so deep below the water, and ocean water is undrinkable, meaning that characters must find a source of fresh water or rely on magical means for survival.
Alter self, create or destroy water, any spells that create light (light and daylight), water breathing, and water walk are particularly useful spells for underwater adventures.
Many spells have uses that might not be obviously apparent at first, such as using forcecage to create an air bubble. Rope trick, because of the opening it creates being at the bottom of the space, creates a very functional refuge that won’t flood.
Spells that often see use in a land-based campaign might be less useful in a water-based campaign, while spells like fireball might have little effect underwater, but can be devastating if hurled at a wooden ship.
Appendix D contains a number of fitting creatures for your sea campaign:
Consider the constrictor snake (which could double as an eel with a faster swimming speed), crocodile (saltwater crocodiles can use the same statistics), poisonous snake (with water breathing for sea snakes), and the reef shark.
Skeletons and zombies might be drowned sailors, cursed pirates, or undead merfolk (with the addition of a swim speed).
Next week we’ll look at the Dungeon Master’s Guide as we continue to build our ocean campaign for underwater adventures.
There’s something great about playing with miniatures you’ve painted yourself. Even if you’re more a “theater of the mind” type GM, having a few miniatures on hand is useful. But are you painting enough of them?
Storytime folks (or a thinly veiled reminiscing, really).
My Life with Minis
I got into Warhammer 40K about twenty years ago. That led me to Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing, which was when I first bought a box of beastmen and a paint set. I painted up one of the beastmen and the chaos warrior that came with the paints, but most of my roleplaying was with grey plastic.
Over the next twenty years I bought odd miniatures to supplement my game: some hobbits, an elf, the nine companions from The Lord of the Rings, and some figures I found at second-hand stores. If I did paint any of them, they remained unfinished. Most are still grey metal or plastic.
Then came pre-painted, blind-box miniatures. I bought loads of the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and have nearly completed the War Drums set, with 9 rares left to go. Now I didn’t need to paint, I could just throw miniatures on the table.
Then a friend and I got into the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgames, and started painting up minis from the boxes. When I moved back home from living in Japan I discovered that my paint set, now two decades old, was still good, and kept going. Suddenly, the bug had bitten, and I was hooked.
Getting into the Mind for Minis
What changed? I figure it’s a mental switch that made the difference. Now, when I paint RPG miniatures, I have a few tenants I follow:
Painted, even badly painted, is better than grey plastic.
Simple paint jobs are perfect for gaming.
Start it and finish it, then move on.
Keep it cheap.
Try new things, but not all things at once.
I reckon that most of us have mountains of unpainted minis because we get discouraged at some point. We know our minis won’t be Pinterest worthy, or that it’ll take too long to finish a figure, or we’re just not excited about what we’re painting anymore.
For me, having to fork out money for two pots of grey paint kept me from finishing my gargoyles. When I figured I could mix acrylic paints I had around the house there were no excuses left — and I was done in half an hour. It was a really silly thing, but I saw a roadblock and let it derail me.
Point 5 touches on something that can also discourage you, especially if you’re new to painting. It’s tempting to want to try every new technique you’ve learned, or to play it safe and only use techniques you’ve mastered. Trying a new thing every now and then lets you learn and explore, while keeping the process exciting. The flock on the gargoyle above was an experiment that I very nearly scrapped, but it worked in the end.
Other things motivated me to get painting RPG miniatures again too. I recently deep-dived into Warhammer Age of Sigmar, which I’ll talk about in another post, and I started watching some excellent YouTube channels.
Luke’s Affordable Paint Service (YouTube Channel) is excellent for terrain and scenery, and, like me, Luke loves finding a bargain. Luke also has a great contest on right now for his range of speed-basing materials.
Miniac (YouTube Channel) is an awesome painter, and like Luke has a great sense of humor. His level of detail is way above what I’m going for, but Scott does an awesome job of explaining the basics well. PAINT MORE MINIS!
Tabletop Minions (YouTube Channel) feels like chatting about the hobby with someone who knows the ins and outs of the hobby intimately. Atom Smasher, the channel’s presenter, has loads of great tips, presented as opinion pieces that are a joy to watch.
YouTube has plenty to offer for painting and miniature conversion besides these three, but they’re channels I keep coming back to.
The Rule of Three
Another thing that’s making my painting easier is that I work in sets of three. Three zombies, three wraiths, three whatevers. This lets my paint go further once it’s on the palette, and gives me a chance to try different things with each figure. For bigger miniatures, I’ll work on one at a time, but for short painting sessions, three figures usually get done in 30 minutes of painting, and I can let the others dry while I work on one. Three is also a good average when painting RPG miniatures for most encounters.
Paint More Minis!
In the words of Miniac, “Paint More Minis!” Keep it fun and free and you’ll work through that heap of plastic and metal in no time.
The thing is that roleplaying is a dirt cheap hobby, and you can get by with a handful of dice and some free rules you’ve downloaded off the web, like the basic Dungeons & Dragon rules.
But of course, things are never that simple. You’ll want the massive, beautifully illustrated core books. They’re awesome, and their awesomeness comes with a hefty price tag. Believe me, I know how it feels to shell out for a hefty tome. Living on the other side of the world means shipping often doubles the price on books. My local brick-and-mortar sells the Player’s Handbook for R 850 (South African Rand), which equates to just over $69 USD.
So, what’s a fan to do?
Piracy is rife, but I can’t help feeling that it’s killing the industry and the hobby I love.
I follow three principles when it comes to buying RPG books, which has helped me grow an impressive collection without breaking the bank:
Buy books on Humble Bundle, or second-hand, or when there’s a sale, like on Black Friday. Facebook often has local geek interest groups for buying and selling second-hand stuff.
Buy bigger books, instead of small ones. As an RPG publisher, I can attest to the fact that bigger books give you more bang for your buck. The recent Player’s Companion, at 174 pages, is a huge resource for a reasonable $14.95.
Don’t waste your money on books you won’t use often. Rather, buy books that will lie open at your table, every session. When money is easier, then you can pick up those “nice to have” titles, like extra monster books.
Support the Industry, Support the Hobby
Buying books, dice, maps, minis, coins, t-shirts, and Patreon subscriptions all keep the industry alive and growing, and you should support the hobby by buying what you love. With some thoughtfulness you can do that and still chip in for pizza and pay the rent.
South Africa’s longest running comics and games convention, ICON, celebrated it’s 25th year this year. We were there running demo games of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as to attend workshops by Paizo’s own James L Sutter, who spoke about the industry and, most importantly, Starfinder.
Our Starfinder Plans
We’re not saying much just yet, but we have some cool stuff in the works that will be Starfinder compatible. Watch this space.
New Product — Bullet
Bullet is a faced paced, rules light special forces game by Basil Koufos. If you’ve ever thought playing CS the RPG might be a cool idea, then this game is for you.
New Product — Gear Heart
Gear Heart is an adventure short—an adventure setup, map, and encounter—compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and set in Scarthey, the University of the Arcane. The party is called in to investigate a mysterious tower which appears once every three years on the night of the winter solstice.
In The Works
Besides our Starfinder offering, we’ve begun work on Secrets of Scarthey, our follow up book to Welcome to Scarthey, aimed at GMs. We’ve also got several more adventures in the works, which all tie in with the setting. All of our adventures will either be compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, or the fifth edition SRD, and our setting books will be available in both flavors.