You've watched Runehammer grow and change over the years, and I couldn't have done any of it without you, my loyal shield wall... the lumpy headed weirdos! As a little change of pace this week, I wanted to post a look back at some of my favorite table closeups over the eons. Creating a compelling 'campfire' for players to gather around is a constant, and ever-changing, priority for me as a game master. Here's some of the most timeless, the most nostalgic, the most man-was-that-awesome. For those of you new to Runehammer, enjoy and welcome! For those of you who have been around since the DADOS days, enjoy that sweet, sweet nostalgia. What a ride.
The Making: If you haven't watched my video 'Everything I Made in 2015,' please do. From an external perspective, a body of work can seem insurmountable. Our excited imaginations have trouble seeing that a thousand miles can be covered step by step. Believe me, I know this struggle! When it comes to this hobby, and all its ups and downs, all its dead ends or could-haves... for some reason I just keep going. Sharing my imagined-world with others has always been an insatiable hunger in my heart. This heap of crazy was a good start.
Florian Evermoon Surrounded by Rats: One of my earliest videos to get any attention was 'The Rat Room,' a practice in both terrain crafting and encounter building (yep, the pilot episode of the 'Room design' series). In this scene, which I will never forget, our fearless cleric stumbles off the narrow stone bridge into a swarm of rats. Chessex vortex dice are used as rat tokens, each with 6 HP trackable by die face. Yep, there's a cheesy lever on the terrain board... talk about meta.
Trap Theory: One of my most comprehensive theses was 'Trap Theory.' This video encompassed all of my table thinking at the time, summarizing all types of gameplay into traps. Bait them, contain them, spring the threat, resolve. This mindset defined a solid five years of my various games... slowly building a meta-awareness in my players "So what's the bait here? What's the time limit?" This, to me, was a sign I needed to mix up my tool box a bit, and break expectations more often.
The Sword of Sunlight: So often in tabletop games, we focus on ugly things: monsters, villains, violence and danger. In this session, I wanted to bring something beautiful to life. Too-old vampires welcomed their annihilation among weightless white flowers, releasing centuries-old grief as dawn slid across the forest. The gods concurred with my plan, offering actual sun rays on this terrain setup. I still get chills thinking about it.
Sweet, Sweet Tiles: Many table builds focus on 'dungeon tiles.' The ones in this pic were sent to me by the wonderful folks at Rocket Pig Games. I, of course, had loads of my own tiles I had made. These things are popular for a reason: it's just fun to assemble or reveal paths and tunnels piece by piece! In this scene, Hankerin and Yukon Pete faced a contingent of Warforged and Duergar. All these elements are just staples of the table: mines, dwarves, mean automatons. You know what? Staples work.
Viking Death Squad: This build, a whole set of minis and three entire table builds, was created for a one-shot at AtCon in Tacoma. Little did I know then that VDS would stay in my imagination, eventually finding its way into game and comic stores worldwide. VDS also taught me the perils of transporting huge loads of terrain to a con. Was it dope? Sure, but the bright lights, busy atmosphere, and hassle of load and unload made me cringe. Sorry con folks, you'll just have to come over to my house.
The Hook Brothers: Oh man, all alone, ready to face the deadly Hook Brothers! I included this hilarious shot, just to reminisce about moss trees. Trees and foliage made with real twigs and Spanish moss are just freakin' great. Like dungeon tiles or Black Magic Craft's 'Dungeon Stackers,' they're staples because they just work. They pull you in, immerse you, and make you feel the moment. Make some moss trees, y'all.
Timers: Everyone knows what a fan I am of placing time limits on gameplay. A D4 count of rounds has an unreal effect on players, and keeps things exciting. I included this humble photo because it perfectly encapsulates timers in my games: a strange machine is slowly ratcheting the foreground gate closed. All our heroes need do is to fight forward to turn it off. Sure, there are heavily armed warriors trying to stop them... how hard could it be? The joy of timers is that it isn't about HOW HARD, it's about HOW FAST. This encounter also had a gnome piloting a clockwork mech... an encounter posted on my Patreon back then.
Over the Top: Sometimes, you just want to bathe players in terrain stunts. Sure, they can RP, sure they can weave brilliant story, "but look at this!" This crazy projection-animated portal build was sheer lunacy, using a mechanically turning, morphing halloween yard light behind yellow construction paper. Of course, an evil wizard is calling forth an other-worldly army through the damn thing, and our heroes have to stab him. "Eh, what'd you say? I was hyp-mo-tized!" If you're a table-builder like me, consider yourself officially unleashed to do wacky stuff now and then.
Casting Call: I don't talk a lot about miniatures in my videos, mostly because I am awful at painting them (compared to some), and collecting them is a love-hate roller coaster of cost and madness. As someone focused more on terrain, the Pathfinder Pawn box sets were epic for me. For three solid years I used these, not only to deliver games in person, but as preparation tools. I would just set up three to ten of them and ask "What session includes all these guys?" and start writing notes. I've moved on from using these, but hey Paizo: thanks, yo. Love 'em.
Hard Suit: This epic closeup of Awake experiencing existential shock at seeing a forest relic Hard Suit tells a great story. I'd love to really go nuts with using Z-Brush to create miniatures, as I did with my Hard Suit assembly kits. This represents my concept art, modeling, and tabletop disciplines all coming together, much like my work on Idols of Torment. Painting my own printed miniatures by hand? Sublime. I'm not sure the 'market' really has a lot of support for me to lean in on this kind of work, but damn was it fun and satisfying.
Hell: I got a lot of notice in the crafting world for my Hell video. This was a massive, insane table build that pulled out all the stops. Projection lights, LEDs, huge crafting sets, props, miniatures, and soundscapes. I had legions of the dead pulled from Zombicide, a custom wood containment box, and one hell of a mess in my room. I think after this build I leaned back in my chair, observed all my work, and thought "wow, that is way too much." After this colossal project, I started thinking about paper-craft, minimalism, and my ever-faithful index cards. Be gentle with yourselves, crafters... don't go all Collyer brothers on this hobby stuff.
The Battle of Williamsfort: As a comical ending to this post, here's a photo from a huge military battle portrayed with simple printouts, non-literal spatial scale, dice timers, and miniatures. It's crazy to say, but even with all the splendor of hand-built terrain, second-mortgages-worth of Dwarven Forge tiles, animated lights, and thousands of miniatures; sometimes all you need is black and white paper to make the magic happen. It just goes to show that the wonder of what love to do in this hobby is in our heads, in our friendships, not in the styrofoam.
Thanks for reading.