Friday, February 9, 2018

A New Way to Craft a D&D Story: Part I

This last weekend, we had our local group over for the first D&D session of the year and after conducting the most scientific poll ever, it was determined that people wanted to do shorter one off quests rather than longer year long campaigns.  I was perfectly fine with this decision as I very much enjoy writing stories that, to date, people have enjoyed playing through.  

Short stories though, present somewhat of a challenge especially since we typically play from around 2pm until 8-9pm.  So creating a series of events that usually include one or two smaller encounters followed by a larger boss level encounter, coupled with an intriguing story that I would feel good about.  So a few weeks before our meeting, I decided to put into action a plan that I had thought about last year when we started to run shorter one-off stories.

Now, I feel that the pre-painted minis were (and possibly still are) looked down on in a lot of circles as an attempt by Wizards of the Coast to capitalize on the randomness and eagerness of gamers to "collect them all" as is seen with TCG like Magic: The Gathering.  Additionally, the painting of the miniatures has never been of the best quality, and when I looked at pictures way back in the days of 4th Edition, I knew that I could paint miniatures better than what was being sold at the local Borders Books.

So my plan was to buy a booster pack of the pre-painted Dungeons & Dragons miniatures and write a story that included each of the characters.  I really like the idea as a writing prompt since the booster packs are random in that they contain one large miniature, and three smaller or medium sized ones, but the key is that they are all random.  Now, you might be asking yourself why I did not just reach my hand into the box of unpainted miniatures I already have?  Well, I did consider that as it would save me $16, but I already know what miniatures are downstairs, and I really liked this idea as a writing exercise.  So when I decided to try out this theory, I ordered a single booster from the Monster Menagerie II line via Amazon (mainly out of convenience, but also because the large  FLGS only carried Pathfinder boosters and I really just wanted to stick with the D&D line) and eagerly awaited my writing prompt.

When the box arrived, this was the order I unwrapped each miniature, as well as the thought process I went through.

The large miniature was the Clay Golem, which I was a little disappointed with.  I cannot say why this figure was an initial disappointment, but I was hoping for something a little more grand like the Beholder, or the Young Black Dragon.  And this feeling, right as you are opening the package is what I think WotC and WizKids is banking on with their customer base.  Maybe this is like the rush that compulsive gamblers get each time their money is on the line.

I think the other reason why I was initially let down by the Clay Golem was because of how mundane the paint job on this creature was.  Granted it is a golem made from clay, so there probably would not be a whole of definition or highlighting for the same reason.  And I mean, golems are not particularly flashy creatures either and more than likely, they are just pawns in whatever plan their creator has in store for them.  I think that I felt that one of my biggest fears about poorly painted miniatures that I had paid money for was coming true.  With this in mind, I moved on to the second miniature.

The Human Wizard I was a little more impressed with, partly because it included the transparent accents in the staff and in the magical energy in her hand, but also because there were more than two colors of paint.  Perhaps my standards were so lowered by the Clay Golem that I would find this paint job more pleasing?  However, I was not as impressed with the paint job as the majority of the robes were all black with some purple trim.  I was somewhat surprised with the face though, which is not great, but the eyes and mouth were not as muddled as I was expecting them to be, considering my feelings about the Clay Golem.  The inclusion of the wizard immediately made me think that I now had a reason for the Clay Golem to be in existence.

However, that idea for a story seemed a little clichéd, and while I am not against writing a clichéd storyline, I like to have the stories I write to be a little bit more original than an evil wizard creating a golem that rampages a town.

Then I unwrapped the third little package and that was when I had developed what ended up not really being in the story at all, but it is what helped craft the story that I ended up developing.

I never previously would have considered using Bullywugs in a story, but I really love that this little fella happened to be included.  The idea that a Bullywug shaman created a Clay Golem seemed like a great idea that I probably would not have thought of otherwise.  I thought, "why would a Bullywug create a Clay Golem" and the most obvious explanation was that they created it to defend their swamp or their pod against invaders, and maybe as a result of wanting to create a defense, they lost control over the Clay Golem and it later started attacking towns.  I also did not know much of anything about Bullywugs so this was another learning experience.

At this point, I felt that I had the beginnings of the story, but I needed a way to get the PCs out of Baldur's Gate, which is where half of last year was spent, after they escaped a tower in the middle of the Sea of Swords.  I was hoping that I would end up with a miniature that I could use as an NPC as the hook.  

And that was when this guy showed up!

The bottom of the miniature is almost impossible to read, but it says "Human Cleric 9/44), but this guy is wielding a sword.  Now, I'm not one to be an exclusionary DM, but I can't really look at this guy wielding a sword and think cleric.  A mace or a warhammer sure, but not a pointed, bladed weapon (2nd Edition mindset).  But this did not stop me, and now Gauntlet Charles had his own miniature.  

Gauntlet Charles was a low ranking member of the Flaming Fist that the PCs met during our playing out of the events (most of them anyway) in A Murder in Baldur's Gate.  He cropped up I think only once or twice, but for some reason, the PCs really liked him as a character, and with this Human Cleric becoming Charles, I now had my hook for my story; although that changed a bit too by the end of the writing process.

Well, I am going to end the article for today, otherwise it might run the risk of doubling in length as I talk about the story that I first came up with and the story that I ended up creating in the end.  Hopefully you all will stick around and come back next Monday (02/12) to find out how this collection of characters ended up creating a story that turned out fairly well, considering that it was a first draft and half of everything was still in outline form.



  1. Okay, wow, I have not been following this series of posts, but I really like this! I didn't know about the miniatures booster packs. That is definitely a similar experience to buying packs of magic cards, and I could definitely feel your disappointment with how plain the clay golem is. That being said, you managed to create a story around it, so it worked out.

    It's interesting, I imagine the same rationale applies that buying individual miniatures is more cost effective, but there is definitely joy to be found in uncovering new ones you don't expect to see. The Bullywug being a good example of this (I really like him).

    I really like this as a writing exercise.

  2. OH yeah, also: Wow you play long sessions! Ours are typically 1pm to 5 or 6pm, and they feel kinda long.

  3. okay.. um... third comment.

    But ours are every 2 or 3 weeks, so that's probably the key difference.