Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 3: Sculpting Tuesday, June 28, 2011See Part 1 of this series. ... See Part 2 of this series. ... At PaizoCon this year I ran a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the...
At PaizoCon this year I ran a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the information and links for sculpting, just in case you missed the seminar.
Hirst Arts bricks and Apoxie Sculpt floor.
Standard plumbing pieces smoothed with Apoxie Sculpt.
You probably played with clay as a kid, so you know how it works. It's malleable, and you can shape it however you want, but if you want it to keep its shape, you have to fire it in a kiln. You probably don't have access to a kiln, so clay isn't a good material for terrain-building—pushing too hard with a mini or a knocked-over book would dent or crush a clay castle or statue. Fortunately, two-part epoxy clays like Apoxie Sculpt take care of that problem. Mix the two parts and it's soft like clay for about an hour, then becomes as stiff as hard plastic. It's available in many colors, and you can paint it if they don't have a color to your liking. A tip for using Apoxie Sculpt is to mix it, then let it sit for about 15 minutes because it's tacky when first mixed. Work with small amounts at a time so you don't mix too much and waste it. Apoxie Sculpt is good for small projects, but not really intended for larger items (such as hills), both in terms of cost and weight.
In the first photo, I've used gray Apoxie Sculpt to create a flat area near some Hirst Arts floor tiles, with cut dowels inserted to create a wooden barricade (once I paint the dowels with diluted brown paint, they'll look like old logs). In the second photo, I used it to smooth out the interior screw-threads on some small plumbing pieces I'm using for a steampunk gnome city I'm building).
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to Apoxie Sculpt, you can buy a package of Mighty Putty online, at hardware stores, department stores (usually in the home improvement section) and other locations for about $10; it's grainier, and smells like sulfur, but has similar uses, and once it's painted you can't smell the sulfur anymore.
Anyone who's worked with miniatures is probably familiar with kneadadite epoxy putty, commonly known as "greenstuff." It's packaged as a strip or tube of yellow and blue; when mixed it's green, and remains pliable for 1–2 hours. Greenstuff is good for fine details (like creating a glyph on a stone), and remains slightly flexible even after it hardens, but it gets expensive if you use it for large-scale pieces, and its flexibility is a drawback if you're creating something that has to support weight (such as an arched bridge). You can buy kneadatite from the Paizo store, hobby shops, or other online retailers such as The Warstore.com.
Wavy floor made from Sculpey “casts” of a Hirst Arts floor tile mold.
If you want the advantages of clay but don't want to mix stuff or a time limit on it remaining pliable, polymer clays such as Sculpey are workable like clay, but harden when baked in a conventional oven (I hear you can harden it by dipping it in boiling water, though you'd probably want to put the piece in a sieve so you can easily dip and retrieve it). Sculpey is available in many colors, including several stonelike clays. You can purchase it from art stores, hobby stores, and department stores. If you have silicone molds (see Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 2: Using Silicone Molds ), you can press Sculpey into the mold, carefully bend the mold to pop out the soft "casting" of the brick, bend and twist the Sculpey into a different shape, then bake the clay until it's hard (I used this technique with a floor tile mold to create a corridor with floors that rose and fell in waves).
Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 2: Using Silicone Molds
... Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 2: Using Silicone Molds Tuesday, June 21, 2011See Part 1 of this series. ... At PaizoCon this year I ran a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the information and...
Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 2: Using Silicone Molds
At PaizoCon this year I ran a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the information and links for plaster-casting and mold-making, just in case you missed the seminar.
A Hirst Arts cracked floor tile mold.
Using Silicone-Rubber Molds
Do you want to build a fort for your PCs to invade? What about a dungeon with customized room pieces you can move around? Or a display piece to hold your favorite miniatures? Building these out of hard plaster "bricks" is easy with the right tools. First of all, you need a suitable mold for the bricks you want. Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture is by far the best site for buying terrain molds and finding tutorials on how to use them. The mold types range from simple rectangular bricks (like Wizard's Tower Mold #50) to flat floor tiles (like Cracked Floor Tiles Mold #206) to molds for ancient Egyptian buildings, gothic towers, or natural caverns. The molds are durable and easy to use, and last for hundreds of casts (I've had some of my molds for years and have never seen any wear and tear on them). For many of these molds, there are free downloadable plans for how to use that mold to build a sample structure (for example, the Wizard's Tower Mold instructions show how to build a multi-floor tower).
Excalibur dental plaster.
Once you have a mold, you need a casting material. Plaster of Paris (aka "POP") is cheap and available at hobby stores and school supply stores, but it's fragile and not good for long-term use. Most terrain-makers use dental plaster, which is heavier and much more durable than POP. The two most common brands are Hydrocal and Excalibur (the most durable); the best places to buy them are dental office supplier (find them on the Internet, the yellow pages, or check the Hirst Arts message boards for a good supplier in your area). Either type costs about a dollar per pound and is usually sold in 25- or 50-pound containers. Depending on the size of the mold, 1 pound makes anywhere from 2–4 casts.
Casting is simple: Mix the plaster with water evenly until it's about the consistency of milk, pour it into the mold, bang on the table to cause trapped air bubbles in the plaster mixture to rise (otherwise you get bubble flaws in the casting), wait 5–6 minutes for the plaster to start to harden and settle, scrape off the excess plaster so it's even with the top of the mold, wait 25 minutes for the pieces to harden, and pop them out of the mold. In my PaizoCon workshop, I spent a few minutes mixing and pouring the plaster, and by the time the seminar was done I was able to hand everyone a fully cast floor tile from the mold. The plaster dust can irritate your eyes and lungs, so you may want to wear eye protection and wear a cloth mask while casting if you're sensitive to that sort of thing.
Miniatures display platform.
Ideas for Projects
If you can build it out of bricks, you can create it—castles, retaining walls, ruins, wells, arches, and so on are all easy first-time projects. Cast the pieces, let them dry 24 hours, glue them together with Aleen's tacky glue, and you're done. Optionally, you can paint them (latex house paint is cheapest) to give them a more uniform color.
Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 1: Foam Terrain
... Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 1: Foam Terrain Tuesday, June 14, 2011At PaizoCon this year I did a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the terrain-building information and links for making foam...
Beginning Terrain-Making Blog, Part 1: Foam Terrain
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
At PaizoCon this year I did a seminar/workshop introducing all sorts of things about making terrain for RPGs and wargaming. In between various demonstrations of hot wire foam cutting, casting bricks in dental plaster, mixing epoxy putty, and using polymer clay, I rattled off a bunch of websites with more information and/or product links. Here's a rundown on the terrain-building information and links for making foam terrain, just in case you missed the seminar.
Building With Foam
Whether you want to make some movable hills, an elaborate cave system, or build an elaborate set piece that you'll use over and over again, styrene foam (such as Styrofoam) is the go-to material for building. It's light, inexpensive, reasonably durable for this purpose, and easily shapeable with a hobby knife or hot wire cutter. Although you can use common white styrene (technically, "expanded polystyrene," or EPS) for this, its cell-like structure is a little crumbly and may not give you the look you want. A better choice is a denser material called extruded polystyrene, which is stronger and smooth. You can buy it in hardware stores (such as TrueValue, Home Depot, and Lowes) where it's sold in large, rigid pink or blue sheets (typically 2 ft. by 8 ft.) for insulating walls, in 1/2-inch, 1-inch, and 2-inch thicknesses.
A Sturdy Base
Styrene is slightly flexible, and the underside can get scratched or gouged if you place it on a rough surface, so you should attach it to a harder, less-flexible base. Plywood is sturdy but heavy, so many modelers use fiberboard (often called "medium density fiberboard," or MDF), which is stronger than heavy cardboard but easier to cut than plywood. It's medium-brown, typically smooth on one side and rough like dried pulp on the other side. You can buy this at most hardware stores in large sheets (here is a link to it at Home Depot, though this is 1/2" thick and 1/8" thick is generally sufficient). In my experience it is easier to cut the fiberboard to the size you want for your terrain piece, then cut the styrene to match the base, rather than cutting the (softer) styrene and trying to cut the base to match that.
Time For Glue
The cut foam, ready for gluing.
My terrain supplies box has a bottle of Gorilla Glue, Aleen's Tacky Glue and Elmer's white glue, all of which are available in hardware and/or craft stores. Gorilla Glue is good at affixing styrene to MDF, though it expands slightly so you need to stack books on top of it while it dries, as the foam is light enough that the expanding glue could form a gap between the MDF and foam. You can use tacky glue or white glue if that's all you have available, but the bond isn't as strong.
Once you've cut the base material and glued it to the foam, you need to be able to cut and shape the foam. The stuff is easy to cut with an X-Acto knife or a box cutter, though the thickness of the foam may make that a slow process. It's much faster and more fun to use a hot wire foam cutter, and if you plan to fiddle with foam on a regular basis, you should get a foam cutter. The principle of the foam cutter is it uses electricity to heat a metal wire, which slices through foam like a poor man's lightsaber. There are several types available:
The cheap: Often these are powered by D batteries (and drain them quickly), but there's at least one with an AC adapter. Look for the brand names "FloraCraft" or "Wonder Cutter." Retailing for under $20, they're of low quality and they don't cut very fast, but are an easy way to get started with foam-cutting.
The mid-range: The Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Foam Cutter is a little powerhouse and sells for under $50 (you can find it cheaper at Amazon.com and other online stores). It runs hotter than the cheaper cutters, allowing you to cut faster. I also like the wide "U" of the rigid bars, allowing you to cut thicker foam. You can even punch a hole in the foam, untie the wire from one end of the cutter, thread the wire through the hole, and reattach it to the cutter, allowing you to make interior cuts (like a pit in the middle of your terrain). The only drawback to this cutter is you have to hold the thumb-trigger in the "on" position (rather than having an on-off switch) when you use it.
The expert: The Hot Wire Foam Factory has an entire line of crafter and professional oriented foam cutters, including U-shaped cutters, cutting wands, flat cutting knives, and jigsaw-like cutting tables. I picked up the 4" hot knife, which lets me carve directly into the foam (for example, to create the appearance of bricks or mortared stone). These all require one of their power supplies, either a simple AC adapter for $11.95 or a more advanced model for $99.95 that lets you change the cutter's temperature.
This Stuff Will Kill You
Glued, painted, and ready for play.
One critical thing to remember is that styrene, when heated, gives off toxic fumes. Don't use a foam cutter in an enclosed space or with poor ventilation. If you don't have a filter mask, either work outside, in an open area, or with a fan blowing the fumes away from you. And remember that children and small pets are going to be more susceptible to the fumes because they're smaller than an adult. Play safe!
In action at PaizoCon 2011! Photo by Blake Davis
Have An Example
The photos with this blog are of an incomplete foam terrain piece I used at PaizoCon. It's an elevated rise with a bridge over an underground river. The rise pieces are pink foam, carved with a foam cutter, and glued together with Gorilla Glue. I used a blunt pencil to draw a grid on the pieces (not a precise grid, as this looks less artificial), painted them with brown craft paint, painted a second layer of craft paint mixed with sand for texture, then drybrushed with a lighter brown to make the texture show up better. The "water" is currently just blue paint, but I'll be covering that with either a clear resin or layers of clear glue to make it shiny. The bridge is a picket fence from a craft store, stained a darker brown with dilute brown craft paint, and screwed into the top of the foam with long screws. Total building time, spread out over several weeknights, was about two hours, not including time for the glue to dry.
... Manipulating Terrain Tuesday, March 15, 2011For the last installment of the Design Tuesday blog on terrain, we are going to look at a relatively new type of terrain—terrain that you can actively manipulate. This kind of terrain can grant a creature a variety of effects, from an attack, to cover, to a special or enhanced mode of movement. ... Some of the examples of this type of terrain will look familiar. Much of it can already be found within existing encounters. Where this is the...
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
For the last installment of the Design Tuesday blog on terrain, we are going to look at a relatively new type of terrain—terrain that you can actively manipulate. This kind of terrain can grant a creature a variety of effects, from an attack, to cover, to a special or enhanced mode of movement.
Some of the examples of this type of terrain will look familiar. Much of it can already be found within existing encounters. Where this is the case, it is up to you, the GM, to decide whether or not you wish to allow the special terrain effects described below.
Other samples of this type of terrain are new. Some, like the blink crystal, grant magical effects, and can add a sense of mystery and danger, as well as the possibility for strange tactics on the part of the PCs and their opponents.
Like the hazardous terrain presented last week, these new terrain types straddle the line between terrain and new dangers. Based on how much of this terrain you plan to use, you may want to consider adjusting the CR of encounters that use these more active forms of terrain, especially if their use grants one side of the combat more advantage than their foes.
Alchemical Devices: This terrain is actually a broad class of similarly acting terrains. They can be as simple as a workbench cluttered with beakers filled with roiling concoctions, or as complex as a distiller or even stranger alchemical machines. Manipulating such devices requires a standard action and any number of skill checks. Toppling a table requires a Strength check. Making a distiller shoot a gout of highly-pressurized alchemical gas may require a Disable Device check, a Craft (alchemy) check, or even a Strength check, if the PCs are using a strategic application of brute force. Interacting with more complex machinery usually requires a Disable Device check, though a higher DC Craft (alchemy) or Knowledge (arcana) check may do in a pinch.
Whatever the type of alchemical device, the basic rules for its manipulation are as follows. A successful check made as a standard action creates a 15-foot cone (or alternatively a 20-foot line) of damaging energy, controlled by the creature that successfully manipulated the device. It deals damage to creatures within the area of effect. A Reflex or a Fortitude DC halves the damage. Often alchemical devices create an area of acid, but the destructive energy could be cold, electrical, fire, or in rare cases even sonic or force damage, depending on the nature of the device.
To add more flavor and danger to specific alchemical devices, you can layer on additional conditions and effects. You could add bleed damage (which works well for acid or even fire damage devices), have creatures knocked prone on a failed saving throw (for sonic or force damage devices), or have a failed saving throw entangle creatures for 1d4 rounds (for cold damage devices) or even daze creatures for 1 round (for electrical damage devices).
The following are some suggestions for baseline effects of alchemical devices based on the base CR of the encounter.
Simple Alchemical Device (CR 1–5): Activating—DC 14 check; Effect—DC 12 Reflex saving throw for 2d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 12 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Complicated Alchemical Device (CR 6–10): Activating—DC 17 check; Effect—DC 15 Reflex saving throw for 3d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Advanced Alchemical Device (CR 11–15): Activating—DC 22 check; Effect—DC 20 Reflex saving throw for 4d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 20 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Magic-Infused Alchemical Device (CR 16+): Activating—DC 27 check; Effect—DC 25 Reflex saving throw for 4d6 acid, fire, or electrical damage, or a DC 25 Fortitude saving throw if the device deals cold, sonic, or force damage.
Blink Crystal: These strange, cloudy-white crystals glow with a faint purplish radiance. Typically blink crystals are the size of large gemstones, and they are always set in a statue or some similar large and immobile casing. If a blink crystal is removed from its casing, it loses its magic and becomes nothing more than a large piece of common quartz (worth 10 gp). A creature adjacent to a blink crystal can touch it as a free action, which causes the creature to teleport up to 20 feet to an unoccupied space on stable ground within line of sight. Touching a blink crystal as a swift action along with a successful DC 20 Spellcraft or Use Magical Device check can increase the range of the teleport to 40 feet. Failing this check allows the creature to teleport 20 feet.
Bubbling Caldron: A size Large bubbling caldron can be tipped over with a DC 15 Strength check made as a standard action. Doing so releases a 30-foot cone of boiling liquid from the caldron in the direction of the creature’s choosing, and deals 2d6 fire damage to all creatures within the cone’s area. A successful DC 12 Reflex saving throw halves the damage.
The liquid makes the area of the cone slippery (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 412) until it dries or dissipates. The cone of liquid affects creatures on the ground only. Flying or levitating creatures can avoid the liquid and its damaging effect.
Chandelier: Successfully leaping onto a chandelier allows a creature to hang from it and use its momentum to increase the power of a jump before the end of the leaping creature’s next turn. A creature is flat-footed while it hangs or balances on chandelier.
Using the momentum of the chandelier grants the leaping creature a +5 circumstance bonus on Acrobatic checks made to jump off the chandelier, and the jump is considered to have a running start for purposes of determining the DC of the check.
Chandeliers have size categories like creatures do. They are typically size Small or larger. A chandelier can easily support a single creature of its own size or smaller.
A creature larger than the chandelier’s size (or two creatures of the same size or smaller than the chandelier) can attempt to hang on it or use it to gain the bonus on Acrobatics checks made to jump, but at the end of the creature’s turn (or the second creature’s turn, if two creatures are using the chandelier for the same effect), the chandelier breaks free from its supports and both the chandelier and any creatures hanging from it fall to the ground. If either a creature two or more size categories larger than the chandelier or three smaller creatures leap on to the chandelier, the chandelier and those hanging on it fall immediately. Creatures take normal damage from the fall plus an additional 1d10 damage from the falling chandelier. At the GM’s discretion, extremely large or heavy chandeliers or chandeliers with sharp protrusions or other dangers can deal additional damage upon a fall.
Furniture: From flipping over a table to using a gong as makeshift shield, a movable piece of furniture can be manipulated to create partial cover for a short period of time. A creature that is adjacent to the piece of movable furniture can attempt a Strength check as a move-equivalent action to gain cover from the item until the start of its next turn.
The DC of the Strength check depends on the size of the furniture. The base is DC 10 for size Small furniture, and the DC increases by 5 for each size category over Small (moving a Medium piece of furniture is DC 15, moving a Large piece of furniture is DC 20, and so on). A creature cannot attempt this manipulation if it is two or more size categories smaller than the piece of movable furniture it wants to manipulate.
Rug: A creature can spend a standard action to attempt to pull a rug out from under creatures standing atop the rug. This requires a DC 15 or higher Strength check, depending on the size of the rug. If successful, each creature standing atop the rug (some of its space must be on atop the rug) must succeed on a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or fall prone. Creatures that cannot be tripped are immune to this effect. Rugs that are larger than a 4-square area require higher Strength checks. The DC increases by 2 for every additional 2 squares of rug area beyond 4 squares.
... Illustration by Kieran Yanner ... Hazardous Terrain Tuesday, March 8, 2011In last week's Design Tuesday blog, I delved into the importance of terrain to push your encounter design to the next level, and provided you with some design philosophy to ponder when designing your own terrain. This week, I'm back with some concrete examples. ... The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game assumes combatants are able to use their movement abilities with little or no hindrance. Sure, there are walls, doors,...
Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
In last week's Design Tuesday blog, I delved into the importance of terrain to push your encounter design to the next level, and provided you with some design philosophy to ponder when designing your own terrain. This week, I'm back with some concrete examples.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game assumes combatants are able to use their movement abilities with little or no hindrance. Sure, there are walls, doors, and difficult terrain to navigate, or maybe some obscuring effects to grant a little concealment, but for the most part PCs and monsters have free reign to move about the rooms and corridors of the dungeon as they wish. The following types of terrain are all exceptions to this norm. While some act as difficult terrain, they present further hazards while navigating the battlefield.
One thing to keep in mind about all of these new terrain types is that they typically work best as smaller, tactically placed patches. You may be tempted to fill an entire battlefield with one of these new terrains, but doing this should be the exception rather than the rule. They all work best when they give characters a choice between freedom and danger. When properly placed, they can reward the use of combat maneuvers and spells that grant increased mobility to allies or restrict or force the movement of enemies, and may limit the opportunities to make charge attacks without stymieing that tactic outright.
You may notice that these new terrain types are very similar to the hazards presented on pages 244–245 of the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. So what is the difference between these terrains and hazards? These hazardous terrains involve slightly more choice on the part of combatant than hazards do. Most, if not all, have effects when a character chooses to move into or is forced into them, and those effects should be relatively easy to determine before the combatant enters them, either by way of their physical characteristic or an easy Knowledge check (DC 10) of the appropriate type.
Anchor Stone: This strange stone has a debilitating gravitational effect on those who do not traverse over it quickly. Each time a creature starts its turn on an area of anchor stone, it must succeed at a DC 12 Fortitude saving throw. Any creature that fails can only take a 5-foot step on its turn. Any creature that succeeds at the saving throw must move at half speed on its turn.
To take the effects of anchor stone, a creature must be standing on or touching the stone. Anchor stone has no effect on those who fly over it or otherwise do not have physical contact with the stone.
Some areas of anchor stone are more powerful than others, having a DC of 15, 20, or even higher.
Choke Spores: This type of fungus thrives in subterranean caves and other damp and lightless areas. The first time a creature starts its turn within an area containing choke spores, the poison of the fungus is released, inflicting those within that space with the following poison.
Choke Spore Poison
Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 14
Frequency 1/round for 1d4 rounds
Effect 1 Dex and 1 Wis damage; Cure 1 save
Once an area of choke spores releases its poison, that area becomes dormant for 1 day. With a single standard action, a creature can use fire (from a torch, a flaming magical weapon, or a similar implement) to destroy all the choke spore balls within all 5-foot-squares adjacent to the creature. Acid, cold, and fire damage from area effect spells automatically destroy patches of choke spores within the spells' effect areas.
Fey Mist: This strange swirling mist of purple and green gas and motes of light dazzles those who stray within it. Fey mist provides concealment. Furthermore, a living, non-fey creature that starts its turn within the mist must make a DC 12 Will saving throw or become confused for 1 round. Those that make their saving throws are dazzled for 1 round instead. This is an enchantment effect.
Some areas of fey mist are more powerful than others, and have and require a DC 15, DC 20, or even DC 25 Will saving throw to avoid its confusion.
Flame: A house is on fire and that flame rages in large areas, a hellish landscape burns around you, or a large bonfire rages in a clearing where a coven of witches chant evil incantations. While the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook has rules for forest fires, sometimes you may want to have a section of an encounter area that just burns.
When a creature starts its turn with its space fully within an area of flame, it takes 1d6 points of fire damage, and if the creature is wearing metal armor, it is affected as if by a heat metal spell. A creature that starts its turn with its space only partially within an area of flame must succeed at a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take the damage and the heat metal effect if it is wearing metal armor. A creature that moves through areas of flame must make a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take 1d6 points of fire damage, but avoids the heat metal effect. This save is made the first time a creature moves into flame with a move action or when it is affected by something that pushes or otherwise forces the creature into an area of flame.
Supernatural or powerful flames can have higher DCs. A raging fire can have a DC of 15 or the fires of Hell can have a DC of 20, 25, or 30 depending on the power of the flames.
Areas of flame often create smoke, the effects of which can be found on page 444 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.
Haunted Ground: These areas of accursed ground are often the sites of horrid crimes or intense and bloody battles. The intense fear of those who lost their lives lingers and saturates the area. This fear affects living creatures that stray within these areas. A living creature that starts its turn in an area of haunted ground must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become shaken for 1d4 rounds. If the creature is already shaken, it becomes frightened for the same duration instead. Frightened creatures become panicked for the same duration instead. Creatures that are immune to fear effects are immune to haunted ground.
Razor Rubble: Either rubble made of sharp stone, or laced with small sharp blades, this terrain functions like difficult terrain (see Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook193), but each square a creature enters deals 1 point of damage to that creature. A creature moving at half speed, or that succeeds at a DC 15 Acrobatics check as a free action when first moving into an area of razor rubble can avoid the damaging affects for the round but not the difficult terrain effect.
Slick Ice: A frozen lake, a sheen of thick ice on a dungeon or cavern floor, or some other cold and slick surface, slick ice can be hard to traverse, but can also increase the speed of creatures that are agile or foolhardy enough to utilize its surface's lack of friction.
A creature traversing slick ice at more than half speed is required to make a DC 15 Acrobatic check at the start of the movement. Failure causes the creature to fall prone at the start of the movement. Running or charging on slick ice increases the DC by 5, with the same effect on a failed skill check. A creature that succeeds at this check by 5 or more can increase its move across the ice by 10 feet, but is considered flat-footed until the start of its next turn. Creatures (like those with enough levels of barbarian or rogue) that can't be caught flat-footed at the start of combat are immune to this flat-footed effect as well.
Tentacle Mold: This strange vermillion fungus clings to the moist walls, floors, and even ceilings of dungeons and caverns. When a living creature is in or near a patch of this fungus, acidic pseudopods lash out, with sickening effect.
When a living creature starts it turn in an area of or in a square next to (if it clings to the walls or the ceiling) of tentacle mold, it must make a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw; on a failed saving throw the creature takes 1 acid damage and is sickened for 1 round. Though the effect is like a poison, this is not actually a poison effect; the strange chemistry of this kind of mold makes it more alchemical in nature.
Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain—First Things First
... Illustration by Kevin Yan ... Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain Tuesday, March 1, 2011When designing an encounter, it's tempting to focus the majority of your attention on the mix of monsters and villains. After all, coming up with interesting enemy synergies and evocative scenes of terror, threat, and evil-doing go a long way in making encounters both memorable and fun. Often neglected, though, is making sure that the setting you place these bad guys in offers both threat and opportunity...
Illustration by Kevin Yan
Design Tuesday: Fun with Terrain
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
When designing an encounter, it's tempting to focus the majority of your attention on the mix of monsters and villains. After all, coming up with interesting enemy synergies and evocative scenes of terror, threat, and evil-doing go a long way in making encounters both memorable and fun. Often neglected, though, is making sure that the setting you place these bad guys in offers both threat and opportunity of its own. When designed correctly, the terrain of an encounter can provide opportunity and challenges that not only compliment the opponents that you select, but can make combat the stuff of gaming stories for years to come.
First Things First
There are two ways to go about terrain selection for your encounter. The first is to think about the environment that you want to set your encounters, or an entire adventure, within, and filling it with the proper terrain. When it comes to dungeon and cavern settings, much of this work is already done for you. Take a look at Chapter 13 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, especially pages 410&ndash416, and you'll find a good selection of terrain types to stock your dungeon. You'll also want to check out pages 193—194 of the Core Rulebook as it has the rules for difficult terrain and obstacles, and maybe take a peek at pages 244–245 Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide for some sample hazards to play with.
Picking proper terrain is all about creating interesting exceptions, so the first thing you'll want to do is make decisions about the baseline terrain for your dungeon. Unless your group is full of seasoned Pathfinder veterans, you'll want to set those baselines at or near the base assumptions of the Pathfinder rules: Masonry walls, flagstone, and wooden doors are a good start. For the most part you, and your players will not have to think about these areas of terrain at all. They're the standard dungeon dressing everyone is use to. Then you'll want to think about the possible exceptions for your dungeon. Are parts of the dungeon in disrepair? Are parts of the dungeon in the midst of construction? Does the dungeon serve as an entryway to a subterranean cave system? Does it lead to an underground river or water or magma? Once you are done imagining your dungeon, and maybe even sketching it on some graph paper, you can start to figure out where the exceptions sit, and then start brainstorming possibilities that you can't find in the rules... but we will get to that later.
Straying deeper into Chapter 13, you can make similar choices for large areas of terrain that are not dungeons, but the principles are the same. Find your baseline, and then ponder the possibility of interesting and evocative exceptions to that baseline. Take some notes, ponder some possibilities, and search the rules for similar types of terrain.
The other way to go about creating interesting environments is to think about the monsters and villains you want in your encounter in the adventure, and ask yourself two questions. The first question is, what kind of terrain compliments the monsters' or villains' tactics? The second question is, what kind of terrain compliments your PCs' abilities? Answering the second question can be a little tricky, especially if your end result is being designed for a nonspecific group of PCs (say you're writing an adventure for a convention or Pathfinder Society open call, or you're already thinking about next year's RPG Superstar). More often than not, you'll want to try to fill your encounters with terrain that does both simultaneously. This creates better-balanced encounters that don't favor one side or the other overly much, which not only tend to create more exciting encounters, but can also bypass the need to adjust the CR of your encounters because terrain favors one side more than the other.
Whenever possible, it's best to use a mixture of these two approaches. Treat each one as lenses toward your ultimate goal—to create a fun game experience in a world that seem rich, vibrant, and full of possibilities and potential dangers for the PCs to explore.
Designing New Terrain
Whenever you get the itch to create a new piece of terrain, you should shoot toward making your terrain challenging to interact with but not overly frustrating. In general, you will want one of two speeds for your new terrain. The first speed is terrain that has automatic effects when a creature spends an action to interact with it, but the effect is always constant. Unlocked doors, stairs, and small passageways all fall under this category. They talk directly to the action economy of the game. Someone must spend an action or slightly modify her normal actions in order to use them (think squeezing, opening doors, or basic difficult terrain). This type of terrain is easy to use, quick to remember, but it lacks variability. Some of the most exciting terrain features effects that do not guarantee success, or, better yet, feature varying degrees of success.
Enter the second speed of terrain, where actions are often required, but the effect is variable. Usually such variability is tied to the uses of a skill. For most terrain you will want to pick a basic skill that can be used untrained and that makes sense for the terrain type. Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Survival, Swim, and even raw Strength checks are some obvious examples, with Acrobatics already doing a lot of the heavy lifting with the terrain found in the Core Rulebook (see hewn stone floors, rubble, and slippery floors). But don't be afraid to mix it up a little with other skills, even those that can't be used untrained (Disable Device, Ride, and even Stealth are some personal favorites). Creating such terrain is just another way where PCs (or monsters) with high skill bonuses have an opportunity to shine, but at a cost. Failure is a possibility.
When creating new terrain, it is not only important to make sure that they work within the normal rules of the Pathfinder RPG but that they are also the right fit for the PC and creature mix you are designing encounters and adventure for. Designing a fight on a frozen lake may seem like fun, but the last thing you want to do is slow down the encounter to a crawl with every creature being forced to make an Acrobatics check in order to accomplish any kind of movement whatsoever. Consider creating relatively safe areas (maybe areas covered with snow or rough ice that grants more traction), giving clumsy creatures slightly suboptimal movement choices, while allowing agile creatures to gamble for success, or even the possibility of greater effect. With those sheets of ice, consider giving them the possibility of bonuses when higher Acrobatics checks are rolled.
Can We Get Some Examples?
With some of terrain philosophy out of the way, start fooling around with creating your own terrain. Tune in next Tuesday for some new pre-made terrain objects to spice up your game. Next week we will be focusing on some terrain primarily designed to limit or focus movement and action types, and the week after we will unleash some crazy terrain options that grant new action options, such as movement and even some terrain that grants creatures special attacks.