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Variations on a theme

My 8-year-old came up with this concept. We call it a

Today, I want to show you what I’ve been working on in October. I recently got sucked into a craft trading group on Facebook, which gave me a chance to put my love of storytelling into another framework. The result is photographed below: a collection of re-purposed crafts I created to ship off to a stranger so he can use them in his fantasy role-playing games. They’re all created to scale for 28mm fantasy miniatures (which gets tough when you’re creating teeny-tiny pickaxes!).

If you need something specific crafted for your own gaming, I’d be thrilled to take on commission projects. Y’know, the holiday season & all. Just shoot me an email detailing your needs.

And now, the fruits of my labor…

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My first masterpiece…

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Messed-Up Jesus painting

Oh wait, that’s not mine.

 

Can you tell I’m self-conscious? Addicted to humor to diffuse any judgment that might occur as a result of putting my work out there? This is your touchy-feely lesson of the day: Don’t be.

Your naysayers only wield the power that you give them. Freely put your best work out there, come what may.

This is the real story fodder I created:

 

Scatter terrain: Two piles of old lumber, mushrooms, two bone piles and a woodcutter's work station

Scatter terrain: Two piles of old lumber, a patch of mushrooms, two bone piles and a woodcutter’s work station

Scatter terrain is used to add character or create ambiance in role-playing games. In your own stories–whichever medium you choose–make sure to consider the periphery surrounding your characters’ journey. Too little scenic description, and it’s harder for your audience to get swept away in your story. To much scenic description and their brains short-circuit, because they don’t know which of the images they should treat as important.

Cover for battle: Two boulders, one canyon platform & a hero's statue

Cover for battle: Two boulders, one canyon platform & a hero’s statue

Crafting the hero’s statue reminded me of the cathartic nature of creativity. I had just returned from a mandatory evacuation, thanks to Hurricane Matthew. Though my house received minimal damage, a friend of mine lost her husband, which put me in a pretty nasty funk.

For the next few days, I was reminded of my helplessness toward fixing what had been lost. And so, I retreated to create, and I emerged with the “Tribute to Matthew.” For the statue, I used a blown-off shingle for the ground, a piece of McDonald’s cup holder (from the evacuation) for the base, and a childhood toy as the statue. Letting go of the silly little toy reminded me that nothing is permanent, and that life occasionally demands far greater than the little trinkets we gather throughout our lives. (If you’d like to donate to the friend who lost her husband, she could certainly use the help. Her GoFundMe account is here.)

A few other pieces I created for the trade:

Broken tracks for a mine cart

Broken tracks for a mine cart

 

Abandoned mine shaft, dilapidated mine cart & crashed mine cart

Abandoned mine shaft, dilapidated mine cart & crashed mine cart

 

Two tool racks, a crate & a soil-filled wheelbarrow

Two tool racks, a crate & a soil-filled wheelbarrow

 

Reversible pathway - Side 1: Dinosaur bones

Reversible pathway – Side 1: Dinosaur bones

 

Reversible pathway - Side 2: Skull candles

Reversible pathway – Side 2: Skull candles

 

Loot: three animal pelts and a pair of treasure piles

Loot for adventurers: three animal pelts and a pair of treasure piles

 

Gelatinous cube

Though this didn’t fit the dig site theme that had developed, the gelatinous cube is a staple for D&D. I had to throw it in, and I only got minimal glue-gun burns in the process.

 

Mysterious dig site with a removable giant sword. (As the Dungeon Master who guides the story, my trade partner can determine whether the bones are of infernal, celestial, aberrant or extraterrestrial origin, or if they're just a hoax.

Mysterious dig site with a removable giant sword. (As the Dungeon Master who guides the story, my trade partner can determine whether the bones are of infernal, celestial, aberrant or extraterrestrial origin, or if they’re just a hoax.)

 

More narrative mysteries: a humanoid-sized spider sac, a suspicious hole, two sets of birthing pods (the DM picks one of several possible origins) & a secret bunker hidden under a fake boulder

More narrative mysteries: a humanoid-sized spider sac, a suspicious hole, two sets of birthing pods & a secret bunker hidden under a fake boulder

 

These hatched pods can serve a variety of narrative functions, depending on what sort of creature the DM decides actually hatched out. The secret? Peanut shells my son forgot to throw away.

These hatched pods can serve a variety of narrative functions, depending on what sort of creature the DM decides actually hatched out. The secret? Peanut shells my son forgot to throw away.

 

What an average-looking boulder...

What an average-looking boulder…

 

et when a player takes the time to perceive anything fishy about this particular boulder...

Yet when a player takes the time to look closer…

 

The hidden entrance beneath. (The hinge itself is from an empty baby wipes bag.)

The hidden entrance beneath. The hinge itself is from an empty baby wipes bag.

 

A few baddies for heroes to face: bat (from a Halloween ring), giant bat (from the same party favor bag as the winged skeleton), animated armor (from my childhood toy), giant spider (from the party favor bag) and your standard subterranean T-Rex from an underground mine shaft (That's a thing, right?).

A few baddies for heroes to face: bat (from a Halloween ring), giant bat (from the same party favor bag as the winged skeleton), animated armor (from my childhood toy), giant spider (from the party favor bag) and your standard subterranean T-Rex from an underground mine shaft. (That’s a thing, right?)

 

I've been wracking my brain, trying to think of something original to do with the creature-head tops of cheap drug-store animal toy containers. After a total repaint & positioning some debris, this one ended up being my favorite!

I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think of something original to do with the creature-head tops of cheap drug-store animal toy containers. After a total repaint & positioning some debris, this one ended up being my favorite!

I could see the T-Rex surprise becoming a fun/groan-inducing running gag for the DM who runs out of ideas for traps: “Ugh! Not another underground T-Rex!”

 

My 8-year-old came up with this concept. We call it a "portal potty." Get it? I used a Whoppers carton & a tea light and... "VOILA!" Instant inter-dimensional travel for the nosiest of adventurers.

My 8-year-old came up with this concept. We call it a “portal potty.” Get it? I used a Whoppers carton & a tea light and… “VOILA!” Instant inter-dimensional travel for the nosiest of adventurers.

And that’s that! I wanted to share this with you, because creativity is such a vital part of the storyteller’s DNA. When obstacles keep you from writing, or painting, or composing a masterpiece… get creative with your creativity! Throw your fear off-guard by scratching your creative itch in a new way. I delve into that more in the document I created for my subscribers.

What unconventional form of creativity gets your storytelling juices flowing? I’d love to hear your comments below!

 

 

 

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About the Author Mark Ezra Stokes

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