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Gabe / on Tue, Jun 29 2010 at 10:30 am

D&D in the Elemental Chaos part 1

If you saw my Twitter last night you know that I ran a pretty crazy game of D&D. My players ended up int he Elemental Chaos, a place called the Moteswarm to be exact. I wanted to create something that would really give them the feeling of fighting on these giant elemental motes in bizarre gravity. So what I did is create a series of 3D “planets” for the encounters to take place on.

The first thing I had to do was build all this stuff. I ended up settling on Styrofoam balls for my planets. I chose Styrofoam because it’s lightweight,you can sculpt it and it’s easy to paint.

I needed to figure out a way to secure the minis to the planets though. I went through a bunch of different ideas. Everything from a big magnet inside the ball to covering the surface with tape. I ended up creating “anchors” out of the felt pads they make for furniture.

Without the felt these are just little discs with nails on the bottom. I cut out a bunch of Velcro circles and secured one side to the top of the anchor and the other side to the bottoms of the minis.

Now I could place the anchor anywhere I wanted on the planet and just stick the mini on top. These worked perfectly but I did ask my players to set aside their metal minis and use plastic ones just for the night. I think they could have held the metal figs but I didn’t want someones mini falling and breaking.

So now I had these Styrofoam balls and a way to secure the minis to them. What I needed next was a way to make them “float” in space. I briefly considered suspending them from the ceiling with fishing line but then I wouldn’t be able to move them around. part of the craziness in the elemental chaos is that all this shit is constantly spinning and tumbling though space. I decided to create stands for each planet that would raise them up off the table but still allow me to move them around when I wanted to.

I ended up finding precut wooden clock faces. These wooden discs were perfect since they already had a hole drilled in the center. next I picked up some wooden dowels with the correct diameter to fit into the hole and glued them all together.

I spray painted the entire thing black so it would blend into my black table cloth and then set them aside. Next I started working on the planets. When spray painting Styrofoam it is important to choose craft spray paint specifically designed to work with Styrofoam. Most spray paint will contain chemicals that will actually dissolve the Styrofoam. I gave each planet a couple coats with the spray paint and then started with the details.

For the ice planet I used a screwdriver to chisel out a series of cracks and crevices. Once I had these carved out I used acrylic paint and a brush to try and make them look like ice. I also cut out some shards of Styrofoam and hot glued these to the surface. I painted these as well and tried to make them look like icebergs.

In order to create the grid on the surface I cut out a little one inch by one inch square of cardboard. I laid this down on top of the planet and traced each square individually with a silver pen. Since I was drawing these squares on a curved surface they got sort of wonky in some places but that is why I made separate ares of grid zones on each planet.

For the lava planet I did the same thing with red and orange acrylic paint. I brushed in my rivers of lava between the gridded off islands. Then at the top of my volcano I used pipe cleaners stuck into the Styrofoam to give the impression of exploding magma.

For the smaller crystal planet I chiseled out a huge chuck from the side and filled the crater with fake jewels I got from the craft store. I also hit it with some glitter paint in a few different spots and simply scrapped away the surface paint around the grids and left it white to look like crystal.

I pushed the planets down onto the wooden stands and used some glue to secure them. At this point I was pretty much done with the fabrication side of the encounter. I had my planets and I had a way to secure the minis to them. Now I just needed to figure out the mechanics and build an encounter that would be as cool as the props. I’ll go into that in my next post.

-Gabe out


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