Friday, December 22, 2017

Fantasy AGE: Starting Adventures

I am posting next week's column early, because I expect to be traveling part of the holidays. Enjoy your own solstice celebrations, and I will see you here again next year!

[This column contains spoilers for the adventures "Choosing Night," "Children's Crusade," and "Drive for Justice."]

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Unchaining your LEGO Keychains

As I have mentioned in a previous column, LEGO keychains can be a useful way to acquire certain characters that are otherwise only available as part of large, expensive sets. In addition, a very few characters (like the VIP Club exclusive minifigure) have only been made available as keychains. Keychains typically retail at $4.99 each, which means that they are not much more expensive than a character from the collectible Minifigures line ($2.99 each) or assembled at the Build-A-Mini kiosk found in LEGO Stores ($9.99 for three). Discontinued keychains can sometimes be acquired at a significant discount, usually 50% off. More rarely, individual characters will be marked down to as little as $0.99 if the LEGO Store wants to dispose of their stock of less popular characters quickly. (This is how I acquired several cheap Bossk heads that I recently used for kobolds in The Sunless Citadel.)

The main obstacle to using a keychain as a RPG miniature is, obviously, the chain itself. The chain can be removed by using needle-nose pliers to pry open the loop connecting the chain to the top of the minifigure's head. 

This leaves only the smaller loop set into the head itself. This loop is the head of a screw that is approximately 1 inch long and goes through the hair/headgear (if any), head, neck post, and torso of the minifigure, and ends in the waist piece of the leg assembly. This screw firmly connects all the main body pieces to the chain so that they won't fall off. (The only keychain that I have actually used as a keychain is a Mordor Orc. In the 4-5 years since I bought him, he's lost almost all of his printing, and one leg has come off due to a broken hip post, but everything directly attached to the screw is still as solid as ever.)

I have found instructions online for removing this screw, but every technique involve tools and methods that I am unable and/or unwilling to try, such as excessive brute force or a soldering iron. (Here is one such tutorial, for those who are more willing to risk their minifigures than I am.)

I have, however, been able to use needle-nose pliers to remove the loop from the top of the screw on several figures. This allows the removal of the head and hair/headgear to use with other minifigures. This methods works best on figures who have clear, flat space around the screw, so that the cutting edges of the pliers can get in close to the bottom of the loop to cut it off. Alternately, if you can get a good enough grip on the loop, you can snap it off by bending it sideways. Sometimes, this can result in a break that is both cleaner and further down the screw than cutting could give you (and if you're lucky, less damaging to the plastic).

If you can't quite get to all the way down to the base of the loop to cut it off there, cut off half of the loop, then use the tips of the pliers to bend the remaining bits of loop back and forth until they break off. You may still end up with enough protruding metal at the top that the head doesn't pull off easily. In that case, very carefully apply force to the head to pull it off. Be sure to cover the head with a bit of cloth to protect both the printed face and your fingers. In some cases, I've had to twist the head back and forth until the spur dug the hole just a little larger to allow the head to come off.

Once the head is off, you'll have a quarter-inch or so of screw sticking out of the neck post. Trim that off with the pliers as close as you can (or snap it off by bending it to the side). Unless you have a metal file, you'll probably be left with a small bit of sharp, exposed metal. For this reason, I don't recommend using this method on any keychain that children will be playing with! I always store such minifigure bodies with a head over the neck post, so that the exposed metal will not scratch anything else in the container. Note that the screw makes the neck post thicker than normal, so a head from a keychain may fit a little loosely onto another minifigure's neck due to the time it spent on its original, deformed neck post. And normal minifigure heads may require a little effort to put on or remove from a keychain's neck because they have not been stretched in this way.

A modern standard minifigure head has a partially hollow stud on top, rather than the original flat, solid one. This will help hide the hole left by the screw--and new headgear will cover it entirely. The holes on hair and headgear from keychains will be much more obvious, especially if you had to widen the hole in order to remove the piece. If you wish, fill these holes with putty and paint the patch to match. For my own collection, however, I just leave them as is and ignore the holes.

Unchaining complete!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Winter Holiday: A partial Pathfinder conversion

"Winter Holiday" was a Christmas-themed AD&D adventure by Steven A. Hardinger that appeared in Polyhedron Newszine #56 (November 1990). The adventure involves a plot against the Giftmaster, and encounters are based on a parody of "The Twelve Nights of Christmas":

...Six geese melee-ing,
Five golden rings,
Four colliebirddogs,
Three French Horns, 
Two turtledoves...

I ran it for some friends back in early 2000, and we had great fun with it. I've occasionally considered running it again, but would need to convert it to another system because I no long play AD&D 2nd Edition. Around this time last year, I got as far as converting the adventure's encounters to Pathfinder and having some friends start creating characters for it, but scheduling is always difficult around the holidays and we failed to find the time for it. 

This year, I've decided to share some of the weird creatures that appear early on in the adventure, which won't spoil the surprises too much if I do run it again someday. These were also the easiest monsters to convert to Pathfinder, as I needed to do little beyond applying templates (from the Pathfinder Bestiaries or Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary) to existing animals.

Turtledove (CR 6)

XP 2,400
Avian archelon (Bestiary 3 192; Advanced Bestiary 39)
N Huge animal
Init +7; Senses low-light vision; Perception +20
AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 16 (+3 Dex, +8 natural, -2 size)
hp 52 (7d8+21)
Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +5
Speed 15 ft., fly 50 ft. (average), swim 50 ft.
Melee bite +10 (2d8+9)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks capsize (DC 25)
Str 22, Dex 17, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6
Base Atk +5; CMB +13; CMD 26 (30 vs. trip)
Feats Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lunge, Weapon Focus (bite)
Skills Fly -1, Perception +20, Swim +18; Racial Modifiers +10 Perception
SQ avian
Environment warm or temperate water or coastlines
Organization solitary or bale (2-6)
Treasure none

Special Abilities
Avian (Ex)
A turtledove has a lightweight body structure, weighing 20% less than a non-flying archelon. They can weigh up to 4,000 lbs.

A turtledove is a huge turtle with four white-feathered wings in place of flippers. They are aggressive, but easy to outmaneuver as they are slower than most flying creatures. Dead turtledoves continue to float, so their bodies are valuable sources of components for spells and magic items granting flight.

Flying Reindeer (CR 5)

XP 1,600
Fey awakened elk (Bestiary 3 116, 147)
N Large fey
Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Perception +12
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 11 (+4 Dex, +2 natural, -1 size)
hp 47 (5d8+25)
Fort +9, Ref +8, Will +2
Defensive Abilities +4 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects; DR 5/cold iron; Resist cold 20, electricity 10
Speed 50 ft., fly 75 ft. (perfect); trackless step
Melee gore +8 (1d8+6), 2 hooves +6 (1d4+3)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th; concentration +5)
3/day--dancing lights
1/day--entangle (DC 11), faerie fire, glitterdust (DC 12)
Str 22, Dex 19, Con 20, Int 13, Wis 23, Cha 11
Base Atk +3; CMB +10; CMD 24 (28 vs. trip)
Feats Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Run[B], Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Acrobatics +12 (+20 jumping), Fly +18, Perception +12, Knowledge (geography, history) +6, Stealth +6, Survival +6
Languages Common, Sylvan
Environment cold or temperate plains
Organization solitary, pair, or herd (3-50)
Treasure none

The Giftmaster's reindeer are indistinguishable from normal animals of their type except for their size and noble bearing. When hitched to the Giftmaster's sleigh of delivery, their speed is effectively instantaneous.

(These reindeer were advanced by adding HD, with a size increase because their HD were more than doubled. Unlike other fey creatures, they are wingless, but still gain the ability to fly.)

Colliebirddog (CR 4)

XP 1,200
Awakened avian riding dog (Advanced Bestiary 39)
N Medium animal
Init +4; Senses low-light vision, scent; Perception +18
AC 14, touch 14, flat-footed 10 (+4 Dex)
hp 22 (4d8+4)
Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +2
Speed 40 ft., fly 40 ft. (average)
Melee bite +5 (1d6+3 plus trip)
Str 15, Dex 19, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 19 (23 vs. trip)
Feats Flyby Attack, Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Acrobatics +8 (+16 when jumping), Fly +4, Perception +18, Survival +1 (+5 scent tracking); Racial Modifiers +4 Acrobatics when jumping, +10 Perception, +4 Survival when tracking by scent
Languages Auran, Common
SQ avian
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3-12)
Treasure none

Special Abilities
Avian (Ex) A colliebirddog has a lightweight body structure, weighing 20% less than a non-flying dog of its size.

Colliebirddogs are large collies with feathered wings sprouting from their backs. They are employed as watchdogs, despite being more friendly and inquisitive than trustworthy or brave.

Goose Knight (CR 1)

XP 400
Manimal trumpeter swan fighter 1 (Bestiary 4 257; Advanced Bestiary 197)
N Small monstrous humanoid
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +2
AC 21, touch 12, flat-footed 20 (+9 armor, +1 Dex, +1 size)
hp 12 (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +1
Speed 10 ft., fly 100 ft. (average) (fly 70 ft. in armor)
Melee longsword +3 (1d6/19-20), bite -3 (1d4), or
bite +2 (1d4+1), 2 wings -3 (1d3)
Str 10, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 9
Base Atk +1; CMB +0; CMD 12
Feats Precise Strike (Advanced Player's Guide 167), Weapon Focus (longsword)[B]
Skills Fly -3, Intimidate +3, Perception +2
Languages Auran, Common
SQ animal blood
Environment temperate lakes or swamps
Organization solitary, pair, or flock (3-10)
Treasure NPC gear (full plate, longsword)

Special Abilities
Animal Blood (Ex) A manimal counts as an animal, a monstrous humanoid, and a humanoid for any effects that specifically affect creatures of those types. It is allowed a Will save to resist spells and effects that specifically target animals, even if the effect does not normally allow a Will save. Success renders the manimal immune to that particular effect for 24 hours.

Manimal Swan Characters

As a monstrous humanoid with only 1 racial HD, a manimal swan replaces that racial HD with class levels (just as a humanoid would).

Goose knights consider themselves honorable and chivalrous. They will challenge the party to send a champion to fight the group of them, then will use Precise Strike to "goose" their surrounded foe for extra damage. As long as their opponents obey the rules the geese set, they will only seek to render opponents unconscious, not dead.

Some of the geese in "Winter Holiday" use flails or spears instead of longswords. Adjust their damage (flail 1d6/x2, spear 1d6/x3), feats, and gear accordingly.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Building the Bestiary #17: Demons

The original Types I-VI demons: (Back, L-R): II hezrou, III glabrezu, IV nalfeshnee;
(Front, L-R): I vrock, VI balor, V marilith.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a column on building the devils from the first Pathfinder Bestiary, and I included the marilith demon in my last installment (Serpentine Creatures). Now seems like the perfect time to take a look at the other demons in the Bestiary.

Dretch: cannibal (Pirates of the Caribbean); rock
monster (Rock Raiders); Gundabad orc (Hobbit)
Much of what I said about building devils will apply here. For example, Nexo Knights, Legends of Chima, and the collectible Minifigures Series are excellent sources of fiendish-looking minifigure and brick-built monsters. I'll also be referring to other past columns for details such as creature size (Giants) and building wings (For the Birds).

Dretch are the weakest of all demonkind. They are small humanoids with claws, fangs, and other bestial features. Build a savage-looking minifigure with short legs, or use short monster figures such as rock monsters (Rock Raiders) or scurriers (Nexo Knights).

Quasits are Tiny horned demons, the Abyss's counterpart to imps. In Pathfinder, they even have wings like an imp, but D&D quasits do not. For a winged quasit, use the Gargoyle or Cute Little Devil (Minifigures Series 14 and 16, respectively; see Imp in Devils). Alternately, a bat would be closer to the right scale (and makes a good imp as well). For a D&D quasit, simply omit the minifigure's wings. Salacious Crumb  (Star Wars) also makes an excellent wingless quasit, but he will need a brick to sit upon. You can also use a microfigure, such as one of the golems of Nathuz (LEGO Games: Heroica).

Babau are distinctive for the single curved horn on their head. As with the barbed devil, Bionicle Barraki make decent babau. You can also build one by sticking a 1x1 plate with a clip to the top of a minifigure's head, and attaching a rubber fang to the clip. The model shown uses the same tail assembly as the bearded devil.

The shadow demon can be based on any all-black minifigure, much like a shadow or wraith (see Undead), but it also has wings and horns. Use the Legends of Chima bat wings shown on the succubus and nabasu (below), or substitute a black cloak (as in the model shown here). The latter may be a better choice if the shadow demon appears in the same adventure with other winged fiends.

Shadow Demon: black skeleton, Ringwraith cloak (Lord of the Rings),
Maleficient's horns (Disney Minifigures)

A succubus always appears as a beautiful woman, and most fantasy art depicts them as scantily clad (if clad at all). The "Slave Leia" minifigure's body (Star Wars) is the best fit for the stereotype that I've found, but Lavaria (Nexo Knights) also works for a more obviously nonhuman demoness. The model shown here uses Lavaria's clear wing attachment piece and the Cute Little Devil's tail (Minifigures Series 16).

(D&D Fifth Edition lists succubi and incubi [the male form] separately from demons. For an incubus, simply add wings to a bare-chested male minifigure.)

Nabasu are bat-winged demons with somewhat bat-like heads. The most bat-like minifigures are the Vampire Bat (Monster Hunters and Minifigures Series 8) and Blista (of Legends of Chima's Bat Tribe). Alternatelty, any winged minifigure with a suitably demonic head will do in a pinch.

The remaining demons include the six varieties known as "type I" through "type VI" demons in first edition AD&D. Their current names first appeared as parenthetical alternate names, or names of individuals of their type.

A vrock (type I demon) is a Large vulture-headed and -winged demon. The simplest option is to use one of the Raven Tribe minifigures (Legends of Chima) on a Large base; I've added claws to make it more threatening. You can also start with a minifigure torso and legs and build the rest with bricks: 1x1 plates with clips to add claws to the hands and feet; some small bricks and plates to build a vulture's head; and a L-shaped neck bracket to attach wings and a tail. (See For the Birds about building bird heads and wings with bricks.)

A hezrou (type II demon) is a Large, muscular demon that looks vaguely toad- or lizard-like. See Giants for suggestions for building bipeds at this size (and the slaadi in Non-OGL Monsters for creatures with similar features). With some minor changes in color and head shape, the model shown here can also be used as a base for a dire ape or a barlgura demon (or a Pathfinder baregara [Bestiary 3]).

The glabrezu (type III demon) is one of the two Huge demons on this list. The model shown here uses many different connectors to join its various parts: click-hinges (legs and pincers), hinged plates (elbows), clip-and-bar hinges (neck), Technic pins (hips), and a 2x4 brick with pins at each end (shoulders). Because of the model's size and its free-swinging hip joints, I've used a Technic axle mounted in the base to keep it upright.

 The nalfeshnee (type IV demon) is also Huge. The first model shown here is a bit oversized, but I've included it as an example of a large monster built with the Hero Factory-style jointed chassis and plates. The brick-built boar's head is built around a Technic ball-socket connector.

Nalfeshnee head assembly

The Huge magma elemental in my Elementals column has an almost identical body design, as both were built to look ape-like. (The large buildable CHI Gorzan [set 70202] is simply too big for anything short of a Colossal ape, such as the humanoid gargantua from Oriental Adventures, or a giant version of the megaprimatus from Pathfinder Bestiary 5.) For a Gargantuan ape, remove the nalfeshnee's wings and tail, and give it a new head. A masked humanoid head from a Bionicle Toa or Hero Factory robot is probably best.

The second model modifies the Gorilla Legend Beast (set 70125) to create a properly Huge-sized nalfeshnee. These demons have significantly undersized wings for their body size, so minifigure-scale wings are not out of place on this demon. The boar's head has been scaled down to fit the Legend Beast's smaller ball-and-socket neck joint.

The marilith (type V demon) was covered in detail in the last installment, Serpentine Creatures.

The type VI demon was originally a balrog, based on Tolkien's monster, but the name was soon changed to "balor" to avoid copyright infringement. This Large winged demon has a fiery aura and fights with a sword and a flaming whip. The first model shown here uses the body of Jun-Chi, a "big figure" from the old Adventurers: Orient Expedition theme. (The same base was used for two other monsters in that subtheme: Tygurah and the Yeti. All three can be found on Bricklink for $5 and up each.) The horned mask is from the Islanders series (a subtheme of Pirates), the sword from Pharoah's Quest, and the wings and flame from Legends of Chima. Use a jumper plate to attach the minifigure head, and a SNOT plate and 1x1 clip plates to attach the wings.

The second balor model is brick-built. The basic shoulder and arm assembly is based on the ogre in LEGO GM's "LEGO Monster Manual": a 1x1 round plate connects each arm to a hole in a 1x2 brick in the torso, and a 2x4 car fender piece gives the shoulders some added bulk. Two 1x2 hinge bricks are used to attach the head and wings at an angle. SNOT bricks connect the torso to the legs, which are built of plates and slopes, with 1x1 "cheese-slopes" used for the cloven hooves. The balor is attached to the base with a single 1x1 brick, the hole of which fits over a single stud (1x1 plate) on the base. (This connection and the single-stud connections at the shoulders make mean this model does require some careful handling.)

Appendix: Past "Building the Bestiary" Columns

#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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Makeshift Minis

In one of the RPG-related Facebook groups I follow, a member recently asked for advice about how to represent characters and creatures on a map. Between buying a new game and the approaching holidays, he could not afford miniatures, so needed suggestions for alternatives. My answer to his post was necessarily short and sweet, but I've decided to elaborate on the subject here. 

Using What You Already Have

Cheapass Games got their start (and name) by publishing games "packaged in very cheap black-and-white envelopes, without generic components like dice and paper money, which could be scavenged from games [their] customers already owned." You can do the same to acquire miniatures: raid your boardgame collection for pawns, counters, poker chips, chess pieces, etc. 

If the RPG you're playing doesn't use every type of polyhedral dice in your collection, those extra dice can be used as counters. (Your novelty dice might actually see more use as minis than as dice!)

Most gamers keep at least a few of their childhood toys well into adulthood, and many never stop buying "kids' stuff." Check your toys--and your knickknack shelves--for small items that can be used as tokens. Some of us also have children, whose toy collections might yield a few useful makeshift minis that you can ask to borrow. 

Buttons, beads, thimbles, coins, and other small objects can also make useful counters. The more variety you have, the easier it will be to give each creature type or character a distinctive token.

Acquiring Miniatures on the Cheap

Acquiring a collection of traditional miniatures requires a substantial investment, but you can find cheap alternatives with a little searching. 

Some RPG publishers produce paper miniatures to cut out and fold into small stand-up tents. One of the oldest examples is Steve Jackson Games' Cardboard Heroes, which are still available in PDF form, but these may still be too expensive for gamers who are strapped for cash (especially if you print them in color). 

Can you spot the bulette?
Check dollar stores for inexpensive bags of plastic animals, soldiers, knights, monsters, etc. It was exactly this kind of toy that inspired many early D&D monsters, so using cheap plastic creatures has a surprisingly long and distinguished history in the hobby.

Thrift stores and garage sales are two more places to look for old games, small toys, LEGO bricks, knickknacks, and tchotchkes suitable for use as miniatures. 

Most craft stores and party supply stores are pricier than dollar stores or thrift stores, but can be good sources for some of the items mentioned above. For example, a store specializing in clothing supplies might have a bin of random loose buttons for sale at bulk rates.

Making Your Own

If you own any LEGO bricks or minifigures, or similar building toys, they make excellent miniatures. If you only have a few, use them to distinguish the PCs from the rest of the random minis you've scrounged. For more about building LEGO miniatures, go look through the numerous LEGO-related posts here at Studded Plate.

"A Monster For Every Season" paper minis, by Rich Burlew
(author and artist of The Order of the Stick)
You can also make your own stand-up paper miniatures. For a human-sized creature, cut a 3/4"-1" wide strip of paper into 4"-5" lengths, then fold it in the middle and about 3/4"-1" from each end. Overlap the tabs at the ends to form the base; fasten them together with tape or a paperclip, or cut slots to slide into each other. (For larger creatures, make the strips wider and the side and base panels taller.) Cardstock or index cards work best, and a penny can be taped to the bottom to provide some weight to keep the mini from falling over or blowing away. Depending on your artistic ability, you can draw the monster on both of the upright panels (either as stick figures, a la The Order of the Stick, or more realistic renderings) or just write the character or creature's name on the paper. You might also want to try a quick web search for black and white stock art, and either paste those pictures onto your stand-ups, or create a file with the images arranged to print onto strips to cut out. 

An even simpler method is creating your own cardboard counters. Find some thick, heavy cardboard and cut it into squares or circles of appropriate size (1" for humans in most RPGs). As with the stand-ups, you can write, draw, or paste a name and/or image onto the counter. Alternately, you could attach labels to checkers, poker chips, dominoes, or similarly small, flat objects.

Having Your Game and Eating It, Too

Finally, you can use small candies and other treats as tokens. Use M&M's for small creatures, gummi bears and wrapped peppermint or chocolates for human-sized monsters, and cookies or candy bars for larger beasts. This method has the added benefit of giving the players instant gratification when they defeat a monster--they get to eat its token!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Building the Bestiary #16: Serpentine Creatures

This week's column will look at how to build snakes, worms, and other creatures with a generally serpentine form. After I cover smaller monsters, I'll discuss models for creatures larger than I usually address in this series (like the purple worm above). Snake-like creatures are relatively easy to scale up, so I'll show how to build a few base models, then tweak them to make different monsters of the same general size and shape.

Premade Snakes

For snakes of Small or smaller size, it's easiest to just use prefabricated snake figures. Besides the classic rattlesnake used in Castle, Adventurers, and many other themes, recent years have also given us new snakes in the Ninjago theme, and a cobra in the Minifigures theme (Series 13's Snake Charmer). These snakes also work just fine for other creatures of the same size and shape, such as iron cobras, flame snakes, or eels.

While I normally just use animal figures to mark each square of a swarm (see Tiny Creatures), some of the Ninjago Spinjutsu spinners had toppers of just the right size (about 2" across) to use as snake swarms.

Back (L-R): 2 classic rattlesnakes, 2 Ninjago snakes, 2 Ninjago spinner accessory snakes, Minifigures Snake Charmer's cobra; Front: 2 Ninjago spinner accessory snake "swarms"

The Basilisk from set 4730 The Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter theme; below) is a lovely large snake model, but it is less than ideal for use as a D&D or Pathfinder miniature because it does not easily fit into a square space. Building a large snake from scratch will allow you to better match it to the size and shape of the space it occupies on a battle map.

Building Larger Snakes

A simple snake of Medium or larger size can be built by building 1xN plates into a zigzag shape, optionally with interesting-shaped pieces attached for the head. The blue snake pictured here gives a very simple example, while the two gricks use bow slopes, cones, and starfish to define that aberration's shape.

TECHNIC pieces can also be useful for building snakes. Angled connectors can be linked together with short axles to suggest the curves of a snake in motion. TECHNIC parts are also excellent for serpentine constructs, because they make the model look more mechanical.

Alternatively, hinges can be used to build a poseable snake, in much the same way that I built shapeable walls for my Spell Effects column. Such snakes don't necessarily need bases for support, but if determining what map squares the model occupies is confusing at all, you may want to place them on appropriately sized bases (see Giants).

One kind of hinge that I didn't use for Spell Effects is a cylinder with click-hinge "fingers" at one or both ends. The tight turns that a series of these can make is perfect for twisty snakes. To build a model that is able to raise its head, you'll need a pair of cylinders that connect via an axle, so that you can turn the plane of motion 90 degrees. Some of these cylinders end in a TECHNIC pin, which can be inserted into the bottom of a 1x1 brick to give some variety to head shapes--or into a minifigure head, to create a naga.

I used these hinged cylinders to create the snaky necks of the hydra pictured below (and on the the Index page). This model uses a variety of hinges and pin connections to attach all 12 heads to the body at different angles. Due to the number and narrowness of the necks, I kept the heads fairly minimalist. The body is a blocky quadruped form designed to support the bricks and plates attached to the necks; I kept it simple in order to keep attention on the heads.

Hybrid Snake Monsters

Some creatures, such as the salamander, have a (more or less) humanoid body from the waist up, but a snake-like tail below. A number of Ningajo Serpentine characters, as well as the Minifigures Medusa (Series 10), have a snake-like lower body that is perfect for these snaky hybrids, but this base takes up a 2" space on the map. This is not a problem for Large lillends, mariliths, or lamia matriachs (Bestiary 2; these last could use the Medusa as-is, or with non-snaky hair), but non-noble salamanders are Medium.

As with mermaids' tails (see Underwater Races), building a serpentine lower body that fits on a 1" (3-stud) base can be tricky. The salamanders in the photo below show a variety of ways to tackle the problem, but a couple of them are, strictly speaking, still too big for a Medium base.

The six-armed marilith demon requires special mention here. In the past, I have built minifigures with more than two arms by inserting a neck post into the bottom of an older-style torso that lacks the "X"-like structure in the center. (See my girallon photo in the Giants column for an example.) However, while attempting to build a marilith for this article, I cracked a torso when I inserted the neck post, because I hadn't realized that the post forced the torso to bow out just a little in the center. Some torsos will be resilient enough to take this abuse (as my now-disassembled girallon's did) but many of these "X-less" torsos are old enough that the plastic will be too brittle (as happened with my most recent attempt). I therefore cannot recommend this method unless you can find a torso with no protrusions inside whatsoever.

Fortunately, the popularity of the Ninjago theme--and its archvillain, Lord Garmadon--has made available a variety of parts specially designed to make space for another pair of arms. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Minifigures series includes not one but three versions of Garmadon; two lack shoulder armor, so can easily have another extender placed on top of them. The marilith in the photo above uses two of these parts. The downward tab on Flashback Garmadon's extra torso (the orange one) is located in the back, which allowed me to give her six arms without having one pair bending the wrong way. (And standard Garmadon's tab nicely covers the other's silly tie.) Finally, I placed her on a 6-stud base for stability, because she is top- and front-heavy with all those arms and weapons.

Building in Larger Segments

The techniques used to build snakes from hinges can be expanded to larger models. For example, this couatl is simply a series of hinged plates, with a 2-stud wide segment to attach the wings. Note the base used to show its Large space (in D&D Third Edition or Pathfinder). The D&D Fifth Edition Monster Manual changes couatls to Medium size, which will require a smaller model. Minifigure-scale wings, like those of Chima's Eagle and Raven Tribes, would better fit that scale.

The small back-and-socket joints from the Mixels theme can be used to make highly flexible large snakes. Build several small, identical segments, plus a few that gradually taper to smaller dimensions for the tail. The body of the giant cobra seen here is very easy to build, as shown in the third photo, and uses different kinds of hinges as the tail gets smaller. The hood is optional, and was built in two pieces to match the contour of the bent neck. The head is a bit more complicated, and makes use of more hinges and a couple small SNOT bricks. When coiled as shown in the first photo, the snake takes up a Huge space (3" square), without the need for a base.

I built the purple worm shown here (and at the beginning of this column) a few years ago when I acquired a large number of purple bricks (still a new color at that time) and posed myself a challenge to use them. The detail photos shown how each body segment is built. The connections between segments are staggered in height so that the body rises in the air as it attacks, and the 2x2 turntable plates allow it to so so in a coil. Two of the body segments have their smooth "boat plates" replaced with normal 2x2 round plates so that they can be attached to the clear bricks that support the model. The worm gets a 10x10 stud octagonal base to show that it is Gargantuan; a few extra bricks have been added to suggest that the worm has just burst out of the ground.

For a neothelid (also Gargantuan) you need only replace the purple worm's head with one sporting tentacles and tongues. This new head is built on an octagonal plate like those used for some of the insect and arachnid models in my Vermin column.

Adding Legs

My Vermin column also presented some methods for creating creatures with a multitude of legs, like centipedes. The necrophidius (Bestiary 2) here uses the same technique to build its skeletal spine and ribs.

Larger serpentine creatures with legs can be built using jointed segments to make the model more dynamic. The body of the Huge behir shown below is built from very simple repeated sections. The legs are made from robot arms and faucets; a wand stuck through the holes in the bottom plate of the body segment helps reinforce the hip joints so that the legs won't pop off as easily if they get bumped. (This model could be mounted on a baseplate, but the spacing of the legs doesn't line up with a plate's studs quite as conveniently as I'd like. Further experimentation could solve that issue.)

As with the purple worm, the behir can be modified to create other creatures of a similar size and body shape. To make an imperial dragon (Bestiary 3; called "oriental dragons" in past editions of D&D), start by reducing the number of legs (and maybe changing their style) then add new details to distinguish the specific dragon species. A linnorm has a similar body shape, but scaled up to Gargantuan or Colossal, and only one pair of legs.

To convert the behir into a remorhaz, I've substituted a more insectoid head, added red and orange spines to its back, and added some SNOT bricks to attach the jagged frill just behind its head. To get a very large centipede, simply omit the remorhaz's frill, and possibly the spines.

Appendix: Past "Building the Bestiary" Columns

#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