Monday, January 5, 2015

Building a magical item: Items of Wood

Wood is one of the most fundamental items used by man, it provides material for weapons, fire, lodging, pretty much anything early man needed to get on about their day.  Today we have improvements over some of the original uses of wood, metal for weapons, coal/petroleum/gas for fire, concrete for lodging, but wood is still just about the most used item.

So, let's take a look at all the wonderful and wondrous items we can make with wood and which woods might make the best version of a magical item.  

First stop, WANDS:

Yeah, kinda cliche to list wands first, but they are a foundation piece in D&D.  Intricately carved or naturally grown, straight and true or gnarled and wicked, wands come in all shapes, but generally not all sizes.  What is one to do when wanting to craft that particular wand?  Since wands can hold charges of just about any low level spell, the options really are too many to list here.  But a few examples would be:
Lightning - you will want a wand crafted from a tree that has been hit by lightning and survived.
Fireball - you will want a wand crafted from a tree that has some fire resistance or that burned in a forest fire.
Magic Missile - as the spell manifestation is unique to each caster, the decision here is up to you.
Healing - you will want a wand crafted from a tree known to have healing properties (such as birch or willow for the salicylic acid they contain).

Next up, Staffs and Hafts:

Here, you will likely want a wood that is solid and strong, something with an appealing grain and texture. Waxwood has gained popularity in use as a staff, but traditionally we look to the ash, hickory and oak trees as sources.  I can see this being a good opportunity to get in some role-playing or to flesh out your characters area contacts - perhaps they know a Treant who would assist in finding a suitable log or Druid that knows of a recently felled tree.  Conversely, the PC could make an enemy out of said individuals by taking a tree without permission.  If one is using the legacy concept of magic item evolution (my grandfather's axe), then by all means, make sure to use the same kind of wood that was previously used.


This has always been a bit of a tricky subject to me, some games attribute magical properties to the bow, some games attribute it to the arrows and some games to both (making for a very power combination). I tend to lean to the side saying the bow is magical and imparts that magic onto the projectile unless the arrow is a specific item (arrow of dragon/giant/etc slaying). Yew and Elm seem to be popular choices, but any hardwood should be considered.

Defensive items:

Most tanks are going to want a shield and wooden shields are historically very common. Some games create wooden armor and this is historically accurate in certain areas of the world and certain time periods.  Oak seems to be the wood of choice, then covered in hides and capped with metal.  The sizes and shapes obviously depend on the source.

I can see a big, ancient oak that has been hit by lightning several times and survived a couple of forest fires providing material for a lot of shields, staffs, hafts, wands, arrows and bows.  When it doubt, talk to an elf or druid, those Treants are hard to find unless you've pissed them off!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Of Teaching Of Tables Of Tops

Good morning class, welcome to Tabletop Gaming 1003.  The "1" designates that you do not know anything about the subject and the "3" designates how many hours of credit this class is worth.  For the life of me, I never knew what the middle numbers were used for other than complicating my life when trying to make sure I had the easy teacher.

            How about we start today with understanding what tabletop gaming really is.  It is not Scrabble, Checkers or Tic-Tac-Toe.  It might be Monopoly, Sorry or Apples-to-Apples, but let's be honest, that crap is for strict Christian family night at home or the church picnic.  Family's who's kids are one high school graduation away from being shown what the real world is (note: there is a time and place for everything and it's called college, if you didn't do stupid shit in college, you missed out).  Now quick, you can jump over to Wikipedia and read some douche bag's idea of what constitutes tabletop gaming...OR...we can toss your ass into the fire and see if it burns.

Tabletop gaming comes in five basic styles: Strategy, Chance, Miniature, Card and Role-Playing.
            Strategy (sometimes called European) is based on planning your moves, anticipating what your opponent(s) will do and reacting to minor changes in the gaming environment.  Lords of Waterdeep and Carcassonne are decent representations of this style.

            Chance (also called American) is based on random events that can radically change the game, game environment or game progression with a roll of the die or a pull of the card.  Cosmic Encounter is dice-less, but is so random that the game can turn on one card being pulled from the deck, while SmallWorld may or may not require dice depending on your decisions.

            Miniature games require boards, miniature pieces and often lots of money to invest in the pieces and time to invest in their customizations.  Warhammer (and its 40K version) and Leviathans represent miniature gaming very well.

            Card games generally involve either pre-building a deck before the game starts - Magic: The Gathering or as the game progresses - Ascension.

            Finally, we get to Role-Playing games for the tabletop.  Traditionally, this has meant Dungeons and Dragons or any of its numerous derivatives.  However, Wizards of the Coast got the idea a few years ago to introduce a true board game version and they did it quite well with Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt.  However, others are there as well, Game of Thrones or Descent fill in quite nicely.

            So, now you have some idea of the plethora of games and game types available out there.  In the next installment, we look into some of the digitized versions of these games.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of Fans Of Fantasy Of Football

Of Fans Of Fantasy Of Football

Many years ago, I asked my father why he was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.  He responded with some long drawn out diatribe on why the Cardinals were a great franchise and why true mid-westerners rooted for the "Cards" and not the "Cubbies" or some other random team in the mid-west.  Then he went on to say that, he did not like to think of himself as a "fan", but rather someone who enjoyed the games played by the Cardinals.  "Huh, why don't you want to be a 'fan'?  Because fan is short for fanatic and I don't want to be considered crazy."

Fanatic - a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.  Synonyms: enthusiast, zealot, bigot, hothead, get the idea...

Therefore, this got me thinking about the word 'fantasy' and its origins. 

Fantasy - imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrainedOH THERE IT IS!!!!

Unrestrained, sounds a lot like enthusiast, which just happens to tie into fanatic, which brings me around to FANTASY FOOTBALL, aka Dungeons and Dragons for jocks (yes, you've seen the meme). 

A bunch of people (mostly guys with personal hygiene issues) sitting in a room looking at numbers, hoping for random chance to fall their way, anxiously awaiting a specific day of the week, or going overboard and participating multiple times a week.  Initially it starts out cheap, free leagues, borrowing a friend's books; before long, you are buying used copies and paying just a $5 entry fee.  Somewhere down the line, you have started your own league (gaming group), have hundreds of dollars tied up in franchise players (dice, rulebooks, beloved PCs).  You have a completely new group of friends (more like you, less like...people) that you see and talk too regularly, your old friends are still around, but they do not get you now.  Entities that you have no reasonable expectation of ever interacting with have become critical to your happiness, completion and success.  How does one cope?  How does one go on?  How does one make sure not to bench the RB3 who is going to have a monster game against a defense rated 25th against the run?  It will be ok, right?  I can bench Tony Gonzalez and play Vernon Davis against the depleted Arizona secondary this week, right? Wait, am I playing the Arizona defense this week in my PPR league?  Do I go with swinging a 2-hander or sword and board, with the plate armor?

After all, it is just fantasy...right?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shifting Focus

Inevitably, when I make a decision about starting or stopping something, an event occurs that changes what I just stated.  Well, it happened, I've gotten an opportunity to write for the on-line site - Lightly Buzzed.  I get to cross post my articles here, which is good, but I'm not sure how well the formatting will translate. Regardless, this should be a fun and interesting new endeavor.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Accursed Kickstarter

Some time ago, I thought that I would have time to actively run an interesting blog.  That time has come and gone unless something happens that really changes the status quo.  In the meantime, here's a kickstarter for a friend of mine's game - he's a long-time professional in the gaming industry.  Check it out:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Building a magical item: The Crafting Process

  While I will not even begin to claim I know anything about forging metal, crafting bows, carving wood or stone or pretty much any skill even remotely related to *ancient* craftsmen, I have seen and read enough to at least speculate on some of the things necessary to craft items in a fantasy setting.

  So without further delay, here are some of the things one might take into consideration when crafting magical items:

The specific person (or thing) crafting the item.  I list this because chances are, your character isn't a master craftsmen, if they were, what are they doing adventuring?

    Master Craftsmen (racially dependent) - years of training, followed by years of skill perfecting lead to perfecting the ability to match an item to the user (most useful for weapons and metal armors)
    Planar Entity - physics on other planes make items on the prime plane more effective (think manufacturing in space as a real world equivalent)
    Divine/Abyssal/Infernal Entity - hey, an angel isn't going to fail you and an item crafted by a devil/demon is gonna advance their own agenda (not saying you will be advancing their agenda though)
Quenching Fluids (used in the forging of metal: swords, axe, hammer and arrow heads, wands, etc.)
    Blood - used to give an item SEEKING, HATED, SLAYING, LIFE STEALING, just need the blood of X (i.e. vampire) for effect against X (i.e. vampire)
    Milk - used to give an items HEALING,
    Natural Oils (olive, peanut, etc.) - used to give an item nature based effects
    Petroleum Oils - used to give an item SLICKNESS, SHADOW
    Holy/Unholy Water - used to give an item the Holy or Unholy ability, also potentially for use against divine/abyssal/infernal targets
    Salt Water - used on an item designed for use underwater
    Elemental Water - used to give an item power against elementals
    Your own Blood (likely mixed with something from above) - should give the item more power (at least in your hands), or possibly increase the likelihood of an intelligent weapon.

Phase of the Moon (when the primary part of whatever is being crafted would be crafted, i.e. blade of a sword, head of an axe, shaft of a staff), I'm not sure how waxing or waning might be included in this.
   Full - Protection, Power, Strength
   Gibbous - Chaos, Performance, Knowledge
   Half - Insight, Wards, Balance
   Crescent - Wisdom, Creation
   New - Stealth, Subterfuge
While these aren't necessarily *powers*, one can see how they might be used in conjunction with the intent of the item being created.

   Spring - Life, Growth, Chaos, anything that involves increases
   Summer - Heat, strength, power, anything that involves stability (note: this is different that stasis)
   Fall - Decay, anything that involves decreasing
   Winter - Cold, Death, weakness, stealth, anything that involves stasis

So how does all of this work together you might ask, well that's mostly up to you and your DM.  Personally, I like to think of these things working in conjunction to boost the overall power of an item.  In game mechanics terms, something along the lines of a +1 of every component you might be able to use.  Case in point, how many +5 items (weapons or armor) do you see in a standard game, probably not many unless your DM is Monty Haul.  Thus, you could say that if a sword were crafted by a master sword smith (+1) during the Full Moon (+1), in the mid-Summer (perhaps specifically on the summer solstice) (+1), using a gallon of your own blood (+1) mixed with Holy Water (Holy) would result in a +4 Holy Sword *when you are wielding it, +3 Holy Sword in the hands of another.

Finally, enough has been stated about the necessary spells used in magic item construction so I won't go into those.  But, I would like to point out that spells used to improve the crafting environment (endure elements), skill of the craftsman (bless, bull's strength) and assistance to the craftsman (unseen servant) might be of importance to a DM.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Building a magical item

    I love my gaming group, I love my gaming group, I love my gaming group, well sometimes not so much.  Life, loves (or at least lusts), work, play, family, all seem to plague this group of people that constitute my gaming group.  We barely maintain an every-other week game after trying for about a year to have a weekly game - 2 hours a week just doesn't cut it for me, but I understand the demands of other's work requirements, so I try not to complain when they had to end or leave a gaming session at 8.  Perhaps I'm just a little spoiled in previously having a gaming group that played for 5-ish hours at a time, every week.  But this is mostly off-topic, what brings me to my point is that we are shifting game systems, likely to one that isn't as "highly magical" or "magically active" and the Pathfinder/D&D default worlds (yes, I know that the various D&D worlds vary in their magic-isity) in that magic items (weapons, wands, staves, rods, etc.) are going to actually be defined by their make-up.  If you want a magic wand, unless you find it, you aren't going to go to the store and "buy" a wand of magic missiles, so you have to make it, finding a special (perfect) tree branch or bone or having a craftsman make one.

   Well, what makes up a magic item?  That varies from item to item:

A sword is likely going to require:
metal for the blade and guard - iron, steel, etc.
leather for the grip - cow, deer, displacer beast
"something" for the pommel - gemstone, metal, bone
To add to the creativity, a different metal or gemstone might be inlaid along the blade. Wood from a certain type of tree might be used for the grip. A certain design (snake, vines, holy symbol) might be used for the guard.

What about an axe you might ask, well:
metal for the head - mithril, star metal
leather for the grip - umber hulk, drow skin
metal or wood for the haft - oak, trent

-C over at Hack&Slash has 3 good posts of random materials for item creation and that's a fine place to start.

But ultimately this information is only a side issue of where I'm headed with this series of posts.  What I'm really striving for is what "things" you might need to craft a flaming burst great axe +3 or a dancing long sword. So, over the next few entries, yes they are already written and scheduled to post automatically, I'm going to talk about what *I think* would allow for special ability to manifest in weapons and yes, there will be some discussion and elaboration on the actual crafting process as a means of adding abilities (hint: get ready to shed some blood).