Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Running Storm King's Thunder - Episode 2

In Episode 2, I speak more generally about improving your game in the first half hour. Storm King Thunder specific tips come in the second half hour.

(1:40) Importance of Session 0 (follow-up on the blog post from the other day).
(15:00) Using Assault of the Giants board game miniatures (
(20:12) Simple ways to use crafting to improve encounters
(22:20) Paper crafting as a simple way to create 3D elements (more on papercraft here)
(28:00) Leveling in D&D 5e and Storm King’s Thunder
(32:15) Putting the brakes on leveling for Nightstone and bridges to the next chapters
(33:45) Alternate utilization of Zephyros and Harshnag… and other throw-away NPCs
(38:50) Extending the mid-tier levels prior to getting into the main SKT story
(41:25) Finding other adventures that can tie into the SKT story arc
               (43:05) D&D 5th Edition Adventures by Level
               (44:15) Death in the Cornfields
               (49:15) Mustering at Morach Tor (Dungeon #144)
               (N/A) Kraken’s Gamble

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

GM 101: Why is Session Zero Important?

I often see the question “What is Session Zero?” on social media… or if they haven’t heard of “Session 0” before, one might see a complaint like “I wanted a wilderness-savvy ranger traveling between settlements and exploring the frontier, but everything in our campaign is in this giant capital city. I never get to use my character’s [insert favored class abilities here] and feel less than useful in the game… What can I do?”

[ UPDATE: I also talk a big more about Session 0 in my video blog here: ]

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Running Storm King's Thunder - Episode 1

I started out my blog posts on Storm King’s Thunder as a series of articles, but there is just so much to talk about, it’s just much quicker to do some extemporaneous videos instead of writing it all out (ain’t nobody got time for that). I have a lot to say, and video seems to be the better medium... So this is kind of a video reboot of the SKT series. This first episode focuses on the introductory chapters of Storm King’s Thunder and tips for starting out.

In this episode, I discuss:
  • Tom Lommel’s Disorganized Play videos (1:30)
  • Getting a handle on the sprawling Chapter 3 hooks and scenarios. (3:20)
  • Using a Google Doc (or other note software) to mine ideas out of Chapter 3. (8:00)
  • Write a one-sheet summary or encounter packet for upcoming encounters. (12:00)
  • Coming up with better introductory hooks than the weak ones in the book. (13:00)
  • The perils of using Storm King’s Thunder outside of the Forgotten Realms. (16:50)
  • Stealing other’s ideas. (19:00)
  • Teasing the broader story and mystery to the players. (19:40)
  • Tying the Nightstone attack back into the larger plot. (22:00)
  • Buffing Nightstone for higher level parties. (23:30)
  • Making set piece encounters more interesting with 3D visuals. (29:00)
  • Dollar store deals on gaming paper. (31:00)
  • More on 3D visuals and crafting. (34:20)
  • Teasing an upcoming video on the adventure in Dungeon #144. (38:00)

Forgive me if I meander a bit. Episode 2 will be much tighter (30 minutes) with more of a scripted outline.

Some images of my 3D set ups using papercraft, styrofoam, Dwarven Forge, or even Lego.

Investigating Nightstone
Reavers in Harkenwold

The Battle of Albridge
The Battle of Albridge
Townsfolk defending Albridge
Townsfolk defending Albridge

The Dripping Caves layout
The Dripping Caves layout

Fighting Hill Giants in the Dripping Caves

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

D&D Miniatures: New Plastics from Hero Forge

Hero Forge, the miniature 3D printing service, has again updated their plastic offerings. Aside from the somewhat pricey metals, they now offer “Plastic” and “Premium Plastic”. Premium Plastic, which I wrote about previously, used to named Gray Plastic when it was first introduced (replacing Ultra Detail). What used to be Strong Plastic (Nylon) is no longer offered. It was not particularly good, as the texture was too rough to take paint well. The newest offering, replacing Strong Plastic is just called Plastic.

Full disclosure: Hero Forge offered me a figure to test out without any expectation that I’d write a review. They were looking for feedback for their new material, but were open to any post I’d like to make about it.

First off, I have to say the figure creator has a lot of new options. There are more two-handed weapon poses, more weapons, more outfits, more headgear and more skin options. Many of the items from my character creation wish list I identified in my last post have been addressed. They could probably add a few more pose variants, but that’s a nit pick. I’m even more impressed with the character rendering options than before. Bravo, Hero Forge.

So how does Plastic compare with Premium Plastic?

The Plastic option costs $19.99 while the Premium option costs $29.99. The new Plastic option appears (I’m assuming here) to use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) while the Premium option uses Stereolithography printing.  Stereolithography allows for a much finer detail as the layers are much thinner.

The detail on the Plastic model is better than their prior offerings. The quality is much better than the old “Strong Plastic”, and probably equivalent to the “Ultra Detail” they used to offer. However, you can still see the banding created by the FDM process.

Halfling Sorceress printed with the Plastic option
Halfling Sorceress printed with the Plastic option
This means there will be a little bit of challenge hiding this texture when the model is painted. This is not generally a major problem if you prime and paint, but can become apparent on broad or flat surfaces like a cape or shield. A slightly thicker layer of paint should help with this, but if you use washes to shade, the wash may follow the contours left by the printing process, rather than the figure detail. Priming is a must.

Secondarily, some fine details will be lost. To the right, you see an up-close view of the standard Plastic offering. I added a black wash to allow for better pictures. Keep in mind that the wash over-emphasizes the print layers.

In the model I ordered, the detail of nose and the mouth are passable, but the eyes were largely lost, making a somewhat blank face, but the larger contours were still there. There was also a belt pouch that lost some of the detail (such as the leather flap closure). With a bit of skill, paint can bring back these details, but it is something to consider when creating your model.

Gnome Druid printed with the Premium option
Gnome Druid printed with the Premium option
Unfortunately, I did not choose the armor that had the fine inlay detail, but I’d be willing to bet any really fine details such as those would also be lost. This is something to bear in mind as you outfit your creation. Aside from the fine details, the figure itself came out quite well, and I think I will be pleased with the painted results if I can correct the face.

With the Premium Plastic (pictured left), this is not really a concern at all. Only the very smallest of details (perhaps like the eyebrows, for example) might have some loss of precision, but for the most part, even small details are well handled. Banding on the figure is almost non-existent. If you look with a magnifying glass, you can see the layers, but after even the lightest paint, this disappears. Priming may not be necessary with the Premium Plastic, but I still recommend it to create a chip resistant paint bond.


The new Plastic option is a little bit more flexible than the Premium Plastic, but only by a small margin. Because of the extra flex, an impact on a weapon or other narrow part of the model will be less likely to result in a break. However, neither of these models are as flexible as Reaper Bones or the various D&D and Pathfinder plastic miniatures. You will still want to handle with care and store in a container that won't get crushed in your gaming bag.

The arm of my Premium miniature did break when he got crushed under a book in my dice bag, but that was on me, not the material. It glued back on well, and is barely, if at all, noticeable.

Final Thoughts

If you are going to take the effort to customize a figure anyway, the extra $10 will likely be worth it. I’d prefer if the price point on these miniatures were more like $15 and $25 instead of $20 and $30, but I am not aware of all of the profit and loss factors. At some point, the development costs on the figure modeler will be defrayed and hopefully some of that savings will be passed on.

I do like the ability to download the $10 STL (3D image) file if you want to print your own figures. This only makes sense if you have access to a high quality home device... But they are getting cheaper these days.

For me, I’ll probably keep shopping Reaper Bones or the WizKids unpainted miniatures unless I have a extraordinarily special gift in mind. This is a good option for that very special character that has survived 10 levels or more.

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