Thursday, January 17, 2019

TBT: The Orc and the Pie

Back in the early days of the Third Edition era, Monte Cook posted a joke adventure to his blog that would become a meme etched deep into the RPG collective consciousness. "The Orc and the Pie: The World's Shortest (Yet Technically Complete) Adventure: A Parody" didn't even fill a single screen of text, but it has spawned convention adventures (some run by Cook himself), "I Survived Orc and Pie!" T-shirts, and even some filk-y Firefly mash-up art.

Screencap of Cook's original adventure (archived at RPG Geek)
My own contribution was rendering the adventure into a room module for the fantasy boardgame Brickquest, in which highly modular pieces of dungeon terrain (walls, floor, doors, furniture, and other items) can be snapped together to build a dungeon complex of any size and shape (limited only by the size of your collection and building surface). I played around with Brickquest for a brief while back in 2011-12, running an adventure or two for my wife and children, but the investment of time, bricks, and storage space required to run any decent-sized dungeon was more than I was willing to commit to long-term. One of the last rooms I built for the game, and the last one that I dismantled, was based on "The Orc and the Pie": just a 10 ft. by 10 ft. room, an orc, and a pie:

Want pie? Fight me!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Book Review: Sacred Band

Joseph D Carriker Jr's debut novel Sacred Band tells the story of a young gay superhero attempting to solve the mystery of what has happened to an online acquaintance who has gone missing. Along the way, he recruits other heroes to help him, which eventually leads to the formation of a new superhero team, the Sacred Band. And the discovery of a threat far more sinister than initially guessed.

Carriker has put a lot of thought and detail into the individual and collective origin stories for his superheroes. In the world of Sacred Band, the first generation of superpowered beings  appeared in the early 1970s; these two dozen or so "Originals" remain the most powerful of their kind today, but are rarely seen. The event that created the Originals was followed by numerous Echo events: unnatural disasters that cause massive loss of life and produce a handful of superpowered individuals (not all of whom survive the process for long). These "Echoes" are carefully monitored by their governments (in the US and Europe, at least) to make sure they receive the training needed to control their powers enough to not be a threat to public safely, and to insure that none operate as vigilantes. The military has managed to produce a handful of supers through experiments attempting to replicate Echo events, but these Enhanced super-soldiers are even more tightly controlled.

The story's cast have a wide variety of powers, and the author has put a great deal of thought into how they operate and interact with each other and the world. True to the superhero genre, most characters have a number of tried and true tricks they use on a regular basis, but they can accomplish even greater stunts when they are forced to push their limits during tough fights or other crises (though often at some cost). The main characters include:

  • Rusty, AKA Gauss, is the primary point-of-view character. He is a young gay Echo with power over magnetism. 
  • Deosil (pronounced "jey-shul") is Rusty's best friend. This trans woman has elemental powers that complement her calling as a practicing witch. 
  • Sentinel is an Original with telekinetic powers who was leader of the Champions (the first superhero team) until his teammate Radiant was killed. The scandal of Sentinel's coming out after Radiant's death, combined with significant political strife within the team, ultimately led to the disbanding of the Champions and a government crackdown on all other vigilantism. 
  • Optic is a US government-created Enhanced who left military service after his own "don't ask, don't tell" scandal.. His light-based powers allow him to blind foes and fly by becoming light itself.
  • Llorona is a Latino woman whose sonic powers allow her to phase through solid objects. She is heavily involved with the Golden Cross, an international disaster relief group composed of supers.
The real triumph of this novel is its realistic and sympathetic portrayal of LGBT characters. Rusty's sexual orientation plays a major role in his decisions--he's worried enough about a gay online acquaintance to take dangerous risks to investigate his disappearance, and he keeps tripping over his intense hero-worshiping crush on Sentinel--but it's only one facet of a character who is surprisingly well-rounded for the superhero genre. Similarly, Deosil's identity as a trans woman informs much of her personality and motivation. Other characters' reactions to her range from the highly negative (vicious transphobic insults in an early scene in a gay bar) to the unconditionally positive (Rusty's constant and affectionate support throughout), and Deosil herself struggles with the prospect of being an all-too-public example to other trans people. And that's really what Carriker has accomplished here: raising up examples to be accepted, admired, and embraced by both LGBT readers and others. Representation matters!

Overall, Sacred Band is highly satisfying as a gripping superhero story, and as an intelligent exploration of LGBT issues. The combination of the two is a rare achievement, and one that deserves to be applauded and widely shared. It also deserves a sequel. (Please, Joe?)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Forge of Fury #6-7: Forges & Dragons

We've had even more delays in continuing my Tales from the Yawning Portal game, but we've finally completed The Forge of Fury. We ran two sessions over the kids' school vacation. The first was at my mother's house while we visited her for a few days after Christmas. (This was the first time I've run D&D there in 30 years!) The second, much shorter session, in which they faced the final level, was run just after New Year's.

Our heroes include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 4 (assassin, urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 4 (beast master, hermit) with Daikitsu, wolf companion
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 4 (wild magic, sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC/guest-PC), male hill dwarf paladin 4 (oath of devotion, knight)
  • Erky Timbers (DM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 4 (life domain, acolyte)
See The Story So Far for an index to summaries of past sessions of our Tales from the Yawning Portal adventures.

(Warning: Spoilers for The Forge of Fury follow.) 

Part 6: The Forges Found

Last time, the heroes found the great hall of Khundrukar, where they battled three duergar who were occupying the chamber. After slaying the gray dwarves, they entered a room that was once the stronghold's shrine, but had been desecrated when the place was overrun by orcs. After destroying the undead they found here, the party barricaded the door and used the shrine as a place to rest and recover. 

During this long rest, Kalitni found a secret door in the east wall, so when the party resumed their exploration, they investigated this direction. Beyond a small room (and another secret door), they found a hallway with four doors leading to a chamber with a pool. Before they could continue further, the ghost of an armored dwarf emerged from a wall and attacked. Kalitni, Erky, and Dain were frightened by the ghost, and Raven suffered a blow from its withering touch. The paladin cast protection from evil and good upon himself in order to shake off the fear. The spirit cursed in Dwarven, bewailing its failure to save its kinfolk, so Dain tried to talk with it, but it would not pay heed to him, so he was forced to destroy it. 

The hallway led to many rooms that were once barracks, storerooms, and the like, but now held nothing but demolished furnishings and occasional skeletons of the dwarves and orcs who fought here a century ago. In one of these rooms, a half dozen skeletons animated and attacked, but the doorway and the cramped bunks made it easy for the paladin and rogue to dispatch the undead one or two at a time.

At the far end of the hallway was a second chamber with a pool, and the corpses of a handful of dwarves and over a dozen orcs. Finding nothing valuable or mobile here, they backtracked to clear more side rooms. One of these was not looted or vandalized, and held a bed, desk, and beautiful rug. The heroes were paranoid about traps, so walked around the rug to search the other furniture. They found a chest full of coins and gems under the bed. However, Xuri's curiosity got the best of her and she stepped onto the rug--which animated and grappled her. She fought back with her draconic breath weapon, while the others attempted to fight it. They managed to destroy it before their friend was finished off by the rug of smothering. The rescued sorcerer, still fascinated by the construct, cut off a corner of the rug to study later.

Another seemingly empty room was an armory that held an animated armor stand, which the heroes dealt with handily. They returned to the second pool room, and a more thorough search led to the discovery of a secret door to the south. 

But first, they investigated the last remaining room in this area, which was a library. They found a human woman here, who begged them to release her from imprisonment by a wizard who lives here. The heroes were immediately suspicious of Idalla, so Dain used his divine sense--and cried, "Die, fiend!" upon determining she was one. She attempted to charm him, but he was warded by another protection spell; when Raven resisted her, Idalla swore in Abyssal. She did, however, manage to charm Kalitni, but before she could attempt to turn her against the party--or escape into the Ethereal--the heroes took her down with a divine smite from Dain, a guiding bolt from Erky, and an eldritch blast from Xuri. The dead body reverted to its true form:,a bat-winged woman with horns, claw, and a barbed tail--a succubus. With the threat gone, the heroes searched the library, and found many books of dwarven lore (including Khundrukar's history), as well a handful of spell scrolls.

The secret door led to a passage with two branches. The first one led to a secret door into the closet of a once-fine bedroom. The room seemed empty, but Kalitni heard a scraping noise, and warned her companions. Xuri used her wand of entangle, which revealed something large but unseen which resisted the spell. Dain stabbed at the space with his glaive, and hit something. Then the invisible foe revealed herself--an enlarged duergar struck Dain with her greatsword, but it was surprisingly weak blow. She took a witchbolt from Xuri and an arrow from Kalitni, and struck the paladin another feeble blow. Dain scoffed at her as he struck the killing blow. [The duergar's damage was 4d6+2 while enlarged, but I rolled only a few points above minimum damage for her both times.]

Besides her sword and armor, the gray dwarf had only a couple satchels of mundane supplies (food, clothing, etc.). The party tried to take a short rest here, but were interrupted by another duergar coming to the room. They heard the heavily-armored dwarf coming, and killed him very quickly. They pulled him into the bedroom, and investigated the audience chamber beyond. After using a scroll of alarm on the door on the far side of that room, the party resumed their rest in the bedroom. This time, they were undisturbed for the full hour.

The party then checked out the other branch of the secret passage, which led to a small ledge overlooking a chasm in which a waterfall poured down into darkness. A chain ladder was bolted to the edge of the cliff, going down. Xuri lit a torch and dropped it down next to the ladder, which let her see that the chasm went down about 120 feet to rock next to the waterfall; at the base, the water appeared to flow north, out of sight. The heroes decided to finish exploring this level before risking the climb down, so returned to the audience chamber. 

That room's exit opened into the great hall. They could no longer hear the sound of hammering to the south, so decided to explore that direction next. The southeastern door opened into Durgeddin's old bladeworks. A narrowed stream flowed through the room, with two bridges over it. On the far side, three duergar stood near a glowing forge. Two of these dwarves moved to block the bridges, while the third cast hold person on the hill dwarf paladin. Raven leaped over the stream and scored a critical hit on the caster. Xuri used an elixir of healing to free Dain, who then followed the tiefling to flank the duergar spellcaster. The other two duergar enlarged themselves and moved to flank the paladin and rogue, but Raven downed the wizard with a sneak attack before they could reap the benefits of that tactic. (The wizard's rat familiar, which was hiding behind one of the cold forges, fled when its master died.) Xuri cast twinned witchbolts on the remaining duergar, and hit them both. Dain hit one, and it turned invisible to try to escape. The other hit Raven hard [for maximum damage], and laughed evilly, but the ranger's arrow and rogue's rapier finished him. Xuri's still-active witchbolt took down the other, who became visible--and smaller again--in death.

They stripped the duergar of their gear, and found their stash of coins, jewelry, and a potion [which they later identified as hill giant strength]. Beyond the bladeworks, the stream continued a short ways to a waterfall into the chasm they had seen from the other side. 

They returned to the great hall, where only one door remained to investigate. This led to a kitchen, where an animated table attacked them. When Dain realized it was ignoring him to attack Xuri behind him, he yelled at it to stop--and it did. The sorcerer concluded that it had been placed here as a guardian but would not attack dwarves, but she doubted that Dain could command it to do anything but stop attacking. While the paladin watched the table, the others searched the kitchen and pantry, but found nothing of value here. They departed, Dain going last, and left the table here, behind a closed door. They returned to the bedroom--which had obviously been Durgeddin's in life--to take advantage of the alarm spell to take a long rest.

[They now just have the final level to explore.]


Part 7: The Dragon at the End of the Dungeon

After their long rest and other preparations (such as Erky's habitual casting of aid on the melee types), the heroes returned to the chain ladder and descended it, one at a time. At the bottom of the chasm, the waterfall filled a pool that flowed out to join an underground river to the north. The muddy edge of the pool held some tracks of a Large four-footed reptile, which faded away when the tracks reached the harder stone near the river.

A low stone bridge crossed the river, and a second one re-crossed the water a short ways further upsteam. Kalitni's sharp eyes spotted a problem with the second bridge: it had settled some, and was pitted by acid. Dain's dwarven stonecunning told him that it would not hold his weight (and that of his heavy armor), but would hold the others if they crossed one at a time. Once they did so, he jumped the distance safely.

The bridges led to a ledge along the edge of a large underground lake. Just as they came to a place where the ledge devolved into a series of stepping stones, most of the party noticed a serpentine shape swimming towards them under the water's surface. They had time for Dain to ready his glaive and Erky to cast bless before a black dragon's head and neck rose from the water and the beast spit a line of acid at them. This breath weapon hit Raven and Kalitni (whose saves allowed them to take reduced damage). The tiefling's hellish rebuke scored the first damage on the monster, but then the severely wounded rogue drank a potion of invisibility and ran for cover. Xuri spat her own (much weaker) electrical breath weapon at the dragon, and demanded "What is your problem?!" in Draconic.

Erky summoned a spiritual weapon (which failed to strike the dragon, but followed it for a few rounds), and healed the ranger. (He saved his Channel Divinity healing power because he did not know where Raven was now.) Dain leaped across the stepping in order to reach the dragon with his glaive, and delivered a divine smite. The dragon cursed in pain, and Xuri replied, "That's a terrible thing to call your mother" (which greatly amused Kalitni, who also knew Draconic).

The dragon disengaged, and took cover under the water while its breath weapon recharged. This gave the heroes a moment to rearrange themselves and ready attacks for its return--and for Raven to drink a potion of healing. When the dragon resurfaced, Kaltni and Xuri shot it, but it breathed acid on the paladin and sorcerer. (As a hill dwarf with a martial class, Dain can absorb far more damage than Xuri, who was reduced to single digit HP, just as Raven had been.) Raven used her invisibility to sneak attack the dragon with her bow, then Kalitni shot it, Erky hit with a guiding bolt, and Dain hurled a javelin--while insulting the big lizard's ancestry--all of which wounded the dragon enough that it submerged and fled. It swam past a small island at the edge of Dain and Raven's darkvision, and was never seen again.

[The young black dragon had been dropped to 22 of its 127 HP. That's close enough to death that it abandoned its lair and hoard.]

The small island turned out to have the dragon's hoard piled atop it. This consisted of several thousand coins and a number of magic items: a wand of magic missiles, a +2 greataxe with Durgeddin's smith-mark, a +1 shield, and two potions. The party took a considerable amount of time removing the treasure from the cave, and carting it (and their previous loot from this adventure) back to town.


After selling the various nonmagical gear, goods, and jewels from Khundrukar, each PC ended up with over 2,000 gp--not counting the magical items they had already divided between themselves. They now plan to use some down time to learn new languages (Xuri now has a small library of Dwarven lore books she can't yet read), and get the orog's plate armor resized for Dain. The paladin has claimed the dwarven greataxe for himself, but his player is torn between using it and retaining the ability to protect allies with a shield. (I will probably allow him to retrain his fighting style, rather then rain on the fun of having a rare magic weapon forged by a master smith of his own race.) 

Our heroes ended about 1,000 XP short of 5th level, but the next adventure in Tales from the Yawning Portal is designed for 5th-level characters. While I could just say that they advance to 5th level, I will probably run a short adventure to get them there instead (perhaps one from the Mini-Dungeon Tome, for which I backed the Kickstarter). That would also give Raven an opportunity to find better armor (she would love some elven chain), and for Kalitni to seek out a magic bow. However, I will have some time to figure all that out, because we won't be continuing the campaign right away. Now that my kids are regularly involved in Pathfinder Society, and my "Time of the Tarrasque" campaign is active again, it's much harder to make time for D&D. But my family is still very interested in continuing with these characters.

This concludes The Forge of Fury

(L-R): The dwarf ghost; Idalla (in human form); Idalla (succubus)

Nightscale, the dragon at the end of the dungeon

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

2018 in Review: The Blog

"Studded Plate" is now four years old!

I started this blog in late 2014, and has been a weekly blog since early 2015. This time last year, I posted a brief review of what I had accomplished on my blog during 2017. In the interest of monitoring my own progress, and assisting any new readers I've acquired since then, I've decided to make this an annual tradition. 

To quote last year's review: "I write about roleplaying games, LEGO toys, and how I combine the two, with occasional forays into my other hobbies. I have a number of ongoing series that I add to as I find the time and inspiration. These include session summaries for the campaigns that I Game Master, reviews of RPG and LEGO products, and other subjects." Each item below includes a link to either the series index (if I've created a separate page for one) or to the most recent installment (which usually includes a list of links to earlier columns).

"Building the Bestiary" is my series on how I build LEGO miniatures for my tabletop role-playing games. It focuses on the first Pathfinder RPG Bestiary and the D&D 5E Monster Manual. It's my longest-running series here (19 installments plus the Index), but I only finished two new columns for it this year (Aberrations and Celestials).

I wrote more reviews of collectible LEGO Minifigures Series in 2018 than I did in 2017, covering The LEGO Ninjago Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie Series 2, Series 18: Party, and Harry Potter & Fantastic Beasts.

"Time of the Tarrasque" is a homebrew Pathfinder campaign that I started in January 2017. We had a hiatus of about a year due to some players moving away and others (including myself) having dramatic changes in employment, but we were finally able to start again in September with a smaller group. We've completed 17 sessions of this game so far, so I have finally made an index page for it.

I continued running Tales from the Yawning Portal (D&D 5E) for my wife and children. However, my kids are now playing in local Pathfinder Society games regularly, and "Time of the Tarrasque" has restarted, so we all have less time to devote to this game. That has seriously delayed us finishing The Forge of Fury, but I hope to fit that in soon so we can leave this campaign at a better stopping point while we wait for a good time to start the next adventure.

Speaking of Pathfinder Society, I've played nearly three times as many sessions this year as I did in 2017 (as of writing this, I have played or GMed 107 adventures in 2018). I also earned my first GM star (for running 10+ games) this year. I won't be able to GM as often now that Tarrasque has started up again, but I do plan to continue running occasional scenarios when needed. I rarely discuss those games here in my blog, but many of my "Building the Bestiary" models have seen use in those games (or originated in prep for them), and I recently posted photos of the iconic character minis that I built for PFS. 

I posted a couple of articles about Green Ronin's Fantasy AGE system towards the end of 2017, with the intention of doing more, but other games have taken up too much of my GM headspace to follow through with Fantasy AGE this year.

I did, however, continue my series of Freeport 5E articles. 2018 featured installments about using Volo's Guide to MonstersXanathar's Guide to Everything, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, and Mordenkainen's Book of Foes with Green Ronin's Freeport setting; using the Book of the Righteous and Cults of Freeport together; and more reviews of new "Unearthed Arcana" and "Plane Shift" material. In addition, I backed four Kickstarters for third-party 5E products this year: Mini-Dungeon Tome (AAW Games), Tome of Horrors (Frog God Games), Strongholds & Followers (Matt Colville), and Pirate Campaign Compendium (Legendary Games). Once I receive my print copies of the last two, I plan to give them similarly Freeport-focused reviews. (I backed the first two at the PDF level only, so might or might not do the same with them.)

I participated in #Drawloween in 2016, but worked far too much overtime in October 2017 to do so that year. This year, I didn't care for the list of prompts for #Drawloween (too many weird, overly limiting puns), so instead decided to try #Inktober (which used single words). I posted those drawings in small batches here in the blog, but you can also see the whole set at my DeviantArt gallery.

During my 35+ years of gaming, I've almost always drawn portraits of my RPG characters, but for some reason, I went over two years in Pathfinder Society without drawing any of those PCs. I drew my first one during #Inktober this year, and drew and posted another (Cassilda Tillinghast) soon after. I've drawn a third PFS PC since then, and plan to do more, but I haven't decided yet how I want to share them here on my blog. (Meanwhile, I'll be posting them to DeviantArt as I finish them.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

My LEGO Nativity Scene

With Christmas just a week away, I was reminded of the LEGO Nativity set that I built for our holiday decorations two years ago. I disassembled those models soon after the holidays rather than storing them, and also so I could reclaim the bricks for other projects. But I took several photos, which I'm sharing here, with a few comments about some the building techniques I used.

Part of the inspiration for this set was a papercraft Nativity that my parents displayed in our home every year. These had originally come as a book of cut-and-assemble models, one for each day of Advent, when I was in very early elementary school. Besides the pieces and instructions, the book also retold the Biblical story of Christmas (including many apocryphal details, like the Magi's origins and the Christmas rose), split up into passages matching that day's paper element. Part of the heavier cardstock cover formed the stable and backdrop for it all. The models were cute little pieces of art, and I usually called dibs on unpacking and arranging them each year.

For my LEGO scene, I first had to choose a scale. Using minifigures seemed a bit like cheating--plus my selection of "Middle Eastern-looking" garb consisted mainly of turbans, hoods, capes, and Star Wars robes. Instead, I made stylized brick-built figures about half again to twice that height. 

The stable was built of plates, with click-hinges connecting the roof and side walls to the back walls. The side walls were positioned at an angle, and their top edges used angled plates to build their trapezoid shape. 

The people's bodies were essentially stacks of regular and sloped bricks and plates. 2x2 cylindrical bricks are used for heads, and various SNOT (Studs Not On Top) parts were used to make beards and headdresses.

The manger was a small ship's hull piece, with bricks filling in the ends, and 1xN plates around the top; a couple more plates gave it a more stable base. Being a much smaller person, the baby Jesus used a blank minifigure head, with a radar dish added for a halo. (Mary and Joseph lacked halos because--unlike the angels below--I couldn't find a solution that I was satisfied with.)

The three Magi were, as befits kings, the most colorful models in this set. I used contrasting colors and styles for their robes and headgear, and heads of different colors (white, yellow, and black) to match one traditional depiction of them as belonging to different races. Two of their gifts were pieces from the Orient Bazaar LEGO Game; the gold crystal is a piece common to mining-themed sets.

The shepherds were built in neutral tones to show their humble origins. Their crooks were built from whips and wands. The sheep were 2x4 bricks covered with SNOT pieces that both suggested their wool and allowed a slope brick head and a 1x1 round plate tail to be attached. (The sheep were inspired in large part by the Wild Wool LEGO Game, though my models weren't designed to be sheared.)

The other animals--cow, camel, and donkey--were built using various techniques that I touched on in "Building the Bestiary #6: Four-Legged Friends," though at a slightly larger scale. This camel was very similar to the model from that column (which preceded this project by a few months), except that the head and neck were built from a number of SNOT bricks.

After taking the previous picture, I redesigned my cow model to make it a little smaller and less blocky.

The angels were monochrome except for their halos and the trumpet. Wings were attached using one of the techniques used in "Building the Bestiary #15: For the Birds" (which was posted the following summer).

The star was built out of round plates and sloped bricks. The 8 rays were sandwiched between two disks of plates, which allows the smaller rays to be turned to the diagonals. The star's tail was attached to the roof of the stable using some click-hinges. This photo also shows the placement of the angels, which were attached with hinges and 2x2 turntable plates.

The photo below shows the finished set, arranged atop a small shelf unit in our living room, where it remained for most of December. The shelf had a very smooth veneer, so I placed a sheet of felt on top before placing the LEGO models. This kept them from sliding around (or off) at the slightest bump or vibration.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, the solstice, another winter holiday, or none of them, I hope that the close of this year and beginning of the new year prove to be happy for you all!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Building the Bestiary #19: Celestials

It's the time of year when we start to see hosts of angels everywhere, so it seems appropriate to turn our attention this week to building models for those paragons of virtue: the celestials.

Celestials are innately good-aligned outsiders from the Upper Outer Planes. In most D&D and Pathfinder campaigns, they usually appear as allies rather than enemies, most often joining a fight through summoning spells. However, as beings of pure good, they will hold mortals to high standards, and will often punish those who (knowingly or not) profane a sacred site or who abuse their trust. In exceptionally rare cases, a celestial may fall from grace, and become a villain every bit as dastardly as the fiends that they were once tasked to battle.

A few celestials have already been covered in previous "Building the Bestiary" columns. See #6: Four-Legged Friends for the pegasus and unicorn, and #16: Serpentine Creatures for the couatl; all three of these creatures are considered celestials in D&D 5E. I've also presented one angel model (in #15: For the Birds), but this column offers new models for each type in the Bestiary.

For titans, see #3: Giants about building oversized humanoid minis. The Monster Manual's empyreans are Huge, while Bestiary 2's Elysian titans are Colossal. I haven't covered any Colossal creatures in this series yet, but I plan to devote at least one future column to additional techniques for models of that size.



Aasimars are native outsiders descended from humans (and sometimes other bumanoids) who interbred with celestials. They appear mostly human, though many have metallic hair, skin, or eye colors, so simply choose minifigures with the appropriate coloration. A few have halos, which can be added by attaching a transparent 2x2 radar dish to the stud on the minifigure's head; a clear 1x1 round plate can give it more altitude. (See the planetar angel later in this column for an example.)

Creatures with the celestial or half-celestial template look little different from the base creature, except that many have gold or silver coloring, and the latter template adds wings (see #15: For the Birds).


Agathions (Bestiary 2) are neutral good outsiders who combine humanoid and animal features. The weakest, the cat-like silvanshee, can be represented by a black cat figure.

Most others agathions can be built using animal-like minifigures such as those from the Legends of Chima theme: Eagle or Raven Tribe characters for avorals, Lion for leonals, and Fox for vulpinals. (For the avoral's wings, use the Eagle Tribe's wing assembly or see "Building the Bestiary" #15: For the Birds.)

The orca-like cetaceal can be built like a merfolk (see #2: Underwater Races), but with black and white parts. In the photo below, the tail is from The LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures, the torso from an Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet villain, and the head from the Minifigures Geisha Girl.

A draconal has a snake-like body; see #16: Serpentine Creatures for options. The easiest method is to use a Ninjago or Medusa snake body as shown here, which also fills a Large space nicely without needing a base. This model uses a Crocodile Tribe head and torso and Bat Tribe wings (both from Legends of Chima).

(L-R): Leonal, Avoral, Draconal, Silvanshee, Cetaceal, Vulpinal

Detail of the solar's
wing attachments


Angels may be of any good alignment, and can be found throughout the upper planes, as well as pursuing missions almost elsewhere. "Building the Bestiary" #15: For the Birds presented one method of building an angel (with brick-built wings), but here I've built separate models for the three ranks appearing in the first Bestiary: astral devas, planetars, and solars. In Pathfinder (but not in D&D 5E), the more powerful the angel, the more wings it has. In order to mount the planetar's and solar's extra wings. I've used small plates to attach more clip plates to the back of the minifigure. The two senior angels are Large, so have been mounted on appropriately sized bases. The heavily armored solar uses the oversized Axl minifigure from Nexo Knights as a starting point, both for its size and for the 2x2 studs on its back.

Astral Deva




Archons are lawful good outsiders. The weakest, the lantern archon, is described as an orb of light, though the Bestiary picture shows a filigree-like frame around that light. The photo below shows examples of both interpretations.

For the hound archon, use a canine-headed minifigure such as a werewolf (LEGO Studios, Monster Hunters), Wolf Tribe (Chima), or Anubis Warrior (Pharoah Quest).

Trumpet archons are built just like a two-winged angel (see above).

Hound Archon, Trumpet Archon, three Lantern Archons


Azatas are chaotic good outsiders who strongly resemble elves or fey. The Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, and LEGO Elves themes are the best sources of parts to convey this look.

Bralani and ghaele look like majestic elves with obviously magical weapons, so can be built with normal minifigure parts. I've used an Elves minidoll for the bralani, and LOTR elves for the ghaele's head and hair.

The lillend requires a bit more work, as they are Large, with snake-like lower bodies. Like the draconal agathion above, this model uses a Ninjago serpent body. These azatas have bardic abilities, so adding a musical instrument (like the brick-built lyre shown here) is a nice touch.

(L-R): Bralani, Ghaele, Lillend

Appendix: Past "Building the Bestiary" Columns

[#0]: How to Cheat (at Building) a Dragon
#1: Humanoids
#2: Underwater Races
#3: Giants
#4: Undead
#5: Tiny Creatures
#6: Four-Legged Friends
#7: Oozes
#8: Spell Effects
#9: Elementals
#10: Devils
#11: Aquatic Animals
#12: Vermin
#13: Non-OGL Monsters
#14: Plants
#15: For the Birds
#16: Serpentine Creatures
#17: Demons
#18: Aberrations

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pathfinder Iconics Minis

Seoni and Feiya look like they are up to no good!
Around a year ago, I made LEGO minifigures to represent the iconic characters for the 11 classes found in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook (whose stat blocks appear in the NPC Codex). I take these to every Pathfinder Society event that I attend, in case anyone needs to (or chooses to) play one of the official pregenerated characters. They have also proven useful for representing other PCs or NPCs of the same class, or who have similar equipment, or when we just need random pawns.

I have not yet attempted to build all of the other iconic pregens from other books, because that would require 3-4 times as many miniatures. By my count, including alternate classes but not unchained or prestige classes, there are now 40 classes for Pathfinder! (And I still don't own the books for two of them.) 

I did, however, build a couple of the iconics from the Advanced Player's Guide at the same time as the core characters, because I had recently tried them out for myself. Since then, I have built the other four.

Core Rulebook Iconics

Amiri (barbarian), Lem (bard), Kyra (cleric)

Lini (druid) with Droogami (animal companion), Valeros (fighter)

Sajan (monk), Seelah (paladin), Harsk (ranger)

Merisiel (rogue), Seoni (sorcerer) with Dragon (lizard familiar), Ezren (wizard)

Advanced Player's Handbook Iconics

Damiel (alchemist), Alain (cavalier) with Donahan (mount), Imrijka (inquisitor)

Alahazra (oracle), Balazar (summoner) and Padrig (eidolon), Feiya (witch) and Daji (fox familiar) 

Advanced Class Handbook Iconics

Finally, I have also built the bloodrager and investigator and bloodrager from the Advanced Class Guide. The latter is the ultimate skill monkey class, so is a favorite among our local PFS community. However, I often find that the hybrid classes are confusing for new players (and the occult classes from Occult Adventures even more so), so I feel no pressing need to build all of them anytime soon.

Crowe (bloodrager) and Quinn (investigator)
I strongly encourage people who are still learning Pathfinder to stick to the core class pregens, or at least to core plus APG. Save the hybrid, occult, and Ultimate pregens for later, after you have a solid grasp of the basics and are ready for something more unusual or challenging. Part of the GM's role is to help teach new players, but not all GMs are experts on every supplement. If your GM isn't well-versed on the class you want to play, then the burden falls squarely on you to know how the class works well enough to minimize delays to consult rules. If you're not up to that challenge, then it will be kinder to the rest of the table to choose one of the old staples, and wait for a better time to explore that shiny new toy.

Similarly, if I'm GMing a table that needs a pregen to use as a virtual fourth player, I insist that the choices be limited to classes that at least one person at the table knows well enough to run without help, because I already have plenty to juggle on my side of the screen--as do they, with one less brain to put together to solve the mission's problems.

A lot of this advice about classes applies to your own personal, custom-built characters as well, but it's even more important for characters that you haven't been playing and learning since 1st level.