Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm Thankful for the D&D Room

While my wife and I were cleaning in preparation for the guests coming over for Thanksgiving, we found the small digital camera we bought last year. It won't work for photographing miniatures because it can't focus on things that small, but it works great for general purposes. I've posted often about my basement D&D room, but rather than describe it I thought I'd take a few pictures and share what it actually looks like. You can click on the images to see larger versions.

This is a wide shot. I built that table like a theatre platform, with a 4x8 sheet of plywood reinforced with 1x6 boards on three sides, a 1x12 on the DM's end, 2x4 center strut, and legged with 4x4's. There is a 1x8 shelf on the long sides of the platform so players can have a place to write notes, keep miniatures, etc. outside the view of other players. The entire top is covered in a 4x8 vinyl Battle Mat marked off in 1" squares. Vis a Vis markers tend to stain the mat if you don't wipe them off within an hour or so--especially the blue and the red markers--so I'm hoping to eventually cover the mat with a clear plexiglas sheet.

Surrounding the table are the shelves for my miniatures and books.On the table are a some dugeon tile catacomb geomorphs I made around 15 years ago from cardboard inserts meant to seperate 8.5 x 11 sheets of scannable computer forms at the place I worked in Iowa City. These were marked off in a grid of 1" squares and then the cavern areas marked off and colored in with black Sharpie. The coffe can lights I made myself, along with the lightboard dimmer thing you see at the far corner. I took an old wooden lecturn and cut out slots for 6 rheostat dimmers and a master on/off switch. I don't do as much seat of the pants theatre as I used to, so the extra lighting comes in very handy down in the basement. On the top shelf you can see the Sophie Christmas Card I got from Reaper last year, signed by all the staff!

This is a better shot from the player's perspective of the game table. Standing up at the DM's end is a clear plastic thing for signs you can buy at any office supply store. I'm using it to hold up the Tables of Terror sheet from the 2E Ravenloft box set with all the Fear and Horror check tables. I use these in my world to make things a little more interesting without having to send the party to the Demiplane of Dread.

This is a shot from the other player's side. This gives a better view of the geomorphs and the bookshelf I got to put up most of the books I had as well as the new additions I got from my friend in Iowa City I told you about last month. On that shelf are all the books relevant to players most of my modules and box sets, and the cardboard geomorphs. I don't use the cardboard ones very much, but they photograph better than the revised version of them I made later. For those I took stiff construction paper and had catacombs on one side with sidewalk and building interiors on the other which were then laminated. I'll post some of these next week maybe. For now, let's continue the tour of the D&D room.

This is the Dungeon Master's Command Center. The 1x12 facing means my shelf is lower than that of the player's on the sides so that I can put my lap top on it at a comfortable height for typing and the screen almost below the level of the table allowing a clear view of all the table top action. To the right you can see hanging on hooks the Games Workshop area effect templates for breath weapon and blast radius. You can also see my cup warmer. The cup warmer is one of the best Christmas presents I ever got, it is over a decade old and probably a fire hazard, but I consider it as essential a device as a pace maker. The swivel chair lets me spin around easily for 360 degree access to the scanner/printer, DM console, filing cabinet, book shelves, and all the monster miniatures on three sides. In the filing cabinet (thank you Brad, I'm still using it!) I've got all the DM related books I need and my back issues of Dungeon and Dragon magazines. In the top drawer are files realting to world building and dungeon creation. 2nd Drawer are the laminated geomorphs I told you about. Bottom drawer are the loose leaf compendium sheets of monsters I've already scanned and entered into my Publisher 2000 Monstrous Manuals.

In this photo you can see the inside of the lecturn I turned into an ersatz mobile theatre dimmer board. It has very handy shelves for storing all my monster manual books. That thing with the magnifying glass is the light my wife bought me for my birthday last June for scuplting and painting miniatures. The clamp broke the first day, but I drilled a hole in the corner of the D&D table and dropped the light into it and it works great. When I'm not running a session all the DM console stuff is easily removed and this is a perfect work area for painting and sculpting.

On my left at the station I keep a music stand with an easleback ring binder. Inside the binder I've got xeroxed a collection of the most important tables from the DMG for very fast reference. It also has tables from earlier editions of the DMG, PHB editions, the revised regular D&D hardcover book that came out in the late 80's because I like the checklists it used for game day, game turn, encounters and combat sequence. It also has the tables for calculating experience points and random results tables for lots of different things from lots of different sources. Behind it you can see more monsters on shelves and the giant wall map of the Forgotten Realms I've cobbled together from all of the FR boxed sets.

Here is a close up of the DM console. On the left is the famous coffee warmer--I'm left handed. On the table top I've got in black Sharpie 1-10 numbered in squares and then 11-20. Standing there is a miniature of the White Queen from Marvel Heroclix mounted with Super Glue on a penny. She functions as my segment counter in melee. On the foldable book holder is an enlarged xerox of the time track table from the hardcover D&D book (this was different from AD&D 2nd Edition and was the main book for use in the Mystara Campaign Setting). I took the xerox and had it laminated in very stiff plastic. This is an extremely useful tool. Before I had a lap top to keep track of everything, I would flip this over and use Vis a Vis markers to keep track of the hit points and damage of monsters encountered by the PCs. You can see on the laptop that I use the wonderful Core Rules and Core Rules Expansion programs made by TSR. I love having a computer to use as a DM. Everything is so much easier. And, because I have a wireless connection in the basement, if I don't have the information handy, it takes no time at all to search the internet to come up with the needed info.

On my right hand side is the DM screen from the 2E Planescape Campaign Setting. You can also see my dice box--I prefer black dice--calculator and the really cool random generator dice I got somewhere. These include dice that will tell you what the dungeon features are, where a monster is encountered, where a hit was taken, level of foe, foe reaction, size of encountered creature, alignment, character class, and race. There is also a nifty "Death Die" which has normal dice pips, but the number 1 is replaced by a death's head. I also have a six-sided die I've converted to a three sided by changing the 4, 5, and 6 to 1, 2, and 3. Easier than dividing. I also like my wireless mouse and gel filled wrist rest mousepad.

This is a better shot of the books I was talking about that combine my previous collection with the ones I got from my friend in Iowa City in October. The other shelf on wall brackets is where my players store their character sheets and other info in ring binders. I also keep plenty of spray on glass cleaner and paper towels for wiping off the wet erase markers from the battle mat. It is also a good idea to keep a box of tissue handy. Around the corner is a large table where we can put snacks and where I also keep all my paints and terrain making materials. Terrain is a whole 'nother post for a later date. This one is taking up enough of your time already!

And, of course, there are the minis. This bookshelf has all the minis which might be used by my players as characters. They are arranged by character class, with each character class divided by male and female. We start with Female Fighters, then Male Fighters, and go through the various classes as arranged in the 2E PHB. There are some non-standard classes for my world, however, including the broad category of Martial Artist, psionicist, witch, shaman/occultist, pirate, hireling, and mutant. All are human, however, with the possible exception of the mutants. The possible minis for use by players if they want to play demi-humans are on the shelves with the other creatures and monsters, all arranged alphabetically as they are in the Monstrous Manual I'm creating in Publisher.

Individual minis are pretty hard to see in these images, but on the top shelf are figures of Forgotten Realms personalities, most of which were from the offical AD&D series by Ral Partha, but there are a lot of minis by other companies which come close to the descriptions in the FR materials if there is no "official" mini for that character, and the WOTC official minis are growing in number. On the second shelf are figures of personalities unique to my world. For some reason there are a lot of DC comic book characters in my world. I don't know if my PCs will enounter many of them, but I like knowing they are there. The third shelf is currently empty, but only so that there is room to expand as the number of monster minis grows. On the bottom shelf the monsters begin, all alphabetized, starting with the aarakocra. (For that monster I use a really good Reaper Miniature that I think is called "Bird Man") Tucked against the next set of shelves on the right of this image you can see a small gray organizer with pull out drawers. This is where I keep all of my dungeon dressing items. Having the organizer makes finding and putting out on just the right items or artifacts easy as pie. Mmmmm, much longer till Thanksgiving Dinner????

And here are the rest of the monsters, ending with Zombie Wolves. I'm very thankful that I've been enjoying this hobby since the mid-1970's. I'm very thankful that my little brother read The Hobbit and that his excitement over Tolkein led him to get our mom to make him a Legolas outfit and to take him to a hobby store in Davenport to get lead miniatures of characters from The Lord of the Rings books. I'm thankful I went with him, along with my friend Matt Clark. I'm thankful I got hooked and that playing D&D was one of the things my brother and my friends and I could all do together that didn't involve surgically removing BBs from leg wounds, bloody noses, black eyes, or accidental stabbings with kitchen knives.

I'm thankful that I was able to keep involved in the hobby and for all the friends I've been able to enjoy playing with over these past 30 years or so. I'm thankful my wife doesn't mind the hobby (too much) and has actually enjoyed playing it herself. I'm thankful Matt figured out how to actually make a pretty good living in the miniature business and that we have reconnected since the 25th High School reunion (and not just because he keeps sending me big boxes of Reaper Miniatures), and I'm also thankful for a whole lot of non-D&D related stuff but that wouldn't be appropriate for this blog.

Enjoy your own Thanksgiving, thank whoever deserves thanks--from Higher Powers to little brothers--and I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my D&D room with you.

Maybe one of these days I'll share the life size Uboat playset I'm building in another room of the basement. Did I mention my wife is very supportive and how grateful I am for that???

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Blogger S Ristau said...

Wow, that’s one impressive D&D room. I really need to get out there so I can see it in person. Of course when I do, I’ll mess up your neat and tidy alphabetized arrangement of miniatures, because that’s the sort of annoying thing little brothers are expected to do.

Thanks for giving me credit as the means by which you were introduced to this hobby which has become one of your great consuming obsessions. I’m particularly grateful since I was the one being shot and operated on as part of your other recreational pursuits.

When we were at Johnny’s Steakhouse last June, I remembered that incident in which Matt was impaled by the knife held by Audie. But I got distracted and forgot to mention it. Speaking of Matt, did you see the Abyst miniature he painted that’s posted on ReaperVision? It’s amazing.

This isn’t D&D related but we had a little accident on the way home from the Quad Cities tonight. Traveling south on I55 at about 70 mph, we were in the center lane of three lanes of interstate traffic. There was a semi on my right and a car on my left when all of a sudden my headlights revealed a very frightened deer several feet in advance of our front bumper. The deer had nowhere to go and neither did I. The brakes slowed us down to about sixty before we hit. Thankfully, nobody was hurt (except for the deer that is) and we were able to drive the rest of the way home with bits of Bambi ornamenting the grill of my truck.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Shandar the Ashen said...


Glad everyone is ok, and sorry the deer failed its saving throw, but glad your +4 bumper did what it was created to do...bump danger away from you and the rest of the family!

I do hope you guys will come for a visit and maybe a gaming session some time. No knives or BB guns, I promise.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Shandar the Ashen said...

Senior moment--I remember now that the hardcover D&D book I was talking about up there was the Rules Cyclopedia.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Professor Statik said...

Wow...congratulations on a marvelous construction job. Great room. The kind of place I used to dream about making when I got older and rich enough to buy a house with a good sized cellar (dungeon) :) I probably envisioned it with a Commodore 64 in place of the laptop (which were basically sci-fi technology in the early 80's), so the inclusion of the laptop is all the more wondrous.

Hope you enjoy countless laughs and thrills in there.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Shandar the Ashen said...

Well, we've moved to a new house and if I ever get it completed, my new game room is going to blow the old one right out of the water.

Check back between now (1-2-12) and April and see if I've made any progress!

11:15 AM  

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