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Old Screeds

Mod the Map [11 June 06] More fun and games with Shrink Item.

Picking up from where we left off last time, here are some more ideas for tricks, tactics, and goofs you can pull off with Dungeons and Dragons Shrink Item spell:

  • Mod the map -- create big physical objects that give tactical advantages, shrink them, and unshrink them on the battlefield.
  • Bottle that boat -- Move a big thing through a bottleneck and then expand it.
  • Use while shrunk -- use a thing while it is reduced.
  • Fuel for animation -- Carry inert objects to unshrink and animate.
  • Ten, sir, said the Tensor -- Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.
But in writing this, I'm running long on just the first item. So I'll focus on that today and return to the subject in what looks to be part three of an expanding series on shrinking!

An effective way to use unshrunk items is to hide behind them, stand on them, or use them to block the enemy. In a pinch, a simple barrel offers cover from behind which you can hide and shoot. But you can do better than a barrel! The essential idea here is to gain a better tactical advantage by producing very large things that affect movement and cover. Specifically ...

Pillbox. Make a big iron box of 10ft x 10ft iron plates. A 10ft x 10ft x 1/4 inch plate takes up 2 cubic feet (at least, it does once you cut a couple arrow slits in it). A box (like a six-sided die, for those of you who have spent too long at the gaming table) can be made of six such plates -- and a 6th level sorcerer can shrink such an item for handy transport in her pocket. Add doors and arrow slits in each side (the doors can be arcane locked). In battle, unshrink your pillbox, enter, and cast your spells or use your missiles while enjoying the benefits of Improved Cover: +8 AC, +4 on reflex saves, +10 on Hide checks, and sweet sweet Improved Evasion! Plus it is big enough to fit a liontaur, or four human-types! When the battle is over, cast Shrink Item to take your portable fort with you.

If you prefer a smaller pillbox, you can make one out of 7ft x 7ft plates that are 1/2 inch thick, or out of 5ft x 5ft plates that are a full inch thick (for the paranoid halfling and gnome arcane tricksters out there). The former fits a single medium person, and the latter, a single small person.

Platform. A disadvantage to the pillbox is that enemies can still walk up to it and swing at you -- or at least poke at you through arrow slits. But if you are standing on a tall platform, then you may well be out of reach of the enemy. There are two kinds of platforms:

Faster. The faster platform works like this: quickdraw the platform out of your pocket as a free action. Drop it (that triggers it to expand) as a free action. Climb up and onto it as a move action. Now you can still fire down a missile or spell. For this to work, the platform has to be oriented correctly no matter how you drop it. The best kind, then, is a cube like the pillbox, but made of steel grills, not plates. Quarter-inch-thick grills making a 15ft x 15ft x 15ft cube makes a fine platform, and climbing up a grill is not much harder than climbing a ladder: Climb DC 5 at worst. And with a lockable door, it also also a decent cage for prisoners, or a pillbox that offers cover (rather than improved cover). Also, since all it takes to activate is a drop, anyone can use it.

Better. The better platform is a plate on stilts, with a surrounding wall on top, like a battlement. But it has to be unshrunk carefully with a standard action, not dropped with a free action, so that it is upright on expansion. You have to have some way up, such as a built-in ladder or knotted rope, ideally one that one you can draw up after you. If your stilts are steel rods 2in x 2in x 18ft, then each stilt is half a cubic foot. If 8 of them support a steel plate 15ft x 15ft x 1/4in (a just-under-5 cubic feet volume), then a 6th level caster still has three cubic feet left for a knotted rope and battlements. (If you don't have enough volume to properly embattle all four sides, only embattle one side and make sure that's the side that faces the enemy.)

Walls. Now, there are more uses for steel plates than just for building boxes. Take a set of six 10x10ers. Weld four of them end to end in a row. That's your wall. Take two and cut them into eight 10ft x 2.5ft strips. Weld them to the bottom of your wall fore and aft, so that your wall does not tip over. Put arrow slits and maybe a door in your wall, and have fun! Instant 40ft long Wall of Iron!

Since you are a 6th level sorcerer who took Shrink Item as his only third level spell, you have Shrink Items to burn. So maybe carry around a few walls -- a 20ft long one and a 10ft long one are nice for blocking halls and narrower spaces.

Steel plates are also useful for covering pits and gaps (instant bridge). A 6th level caster can make a bridge (no arrow slits) 28.75ft x 5 ft x 1 inch thick. You can also unshrink steel plates so that they are oriented on edge, and then tip them onto enemies. (Just be careful not to drop them on yourself!) If you have the height advantage, you can drop them on enemies from above.

Cages. Imagine being able to cage a foe on the battle field. One way to do this is to put up a wall to trap the enemy in one corner or one half of a room. Another way is to shrink two semicircular walls, then unshrink one, then the other, so as to pen in the enemy.

To do it fast, you might have a friend or familiar drop a 15ft x 15ft x 15ft pillbox (see faster pillbox, above) on one side of the enemy. You then move to the other side of the enemy (with your arcame trickster ranks in tumble) and unshrink a semicircle wall around the enemy (but not touching the enemy). You could even quickdraw out a couple boulders and drop them to help anchor the cage. This works especially well if the ceiling is not more than a foot or so above the top of the cage (really a pen, in this example). Or you can try to roof over your cage.

Tricksy terrain. Take a 20ft x 20ft plate, or maybe a 10ft x 40ft plate, and weld caltrops all over one side. Pull that puppy out and slap it on the floor between you and your enemies -- voila! instant obstacle! Even better, weld some simple mechanical traps to it. See page 71 in the Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide: Razor wire, scything blade, and tripping chain traps are all good choices.

Or take a look at page 60 in the same tome. Create your obstacle to function as uneven flagstones or dense rubble (well sprinkled with caltrops!). Note that any creature making balance checks is almost always off-balance ... and therefore subject to sneak attacks.

Well, that takes a solid look at ways to mod the map. Stay tuned next time for more fun!

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