Category Archives: Geeky

Stackable Wizard’s Tower for a Hero Kids RPG Adventure

img_2545I recently started playing Hero Kids with my own little heros. Hero Kids is a role-playing game like  D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), but much less complicated and geared towards kids. They love it!

I bought a bundle of Hero Kids downloadable adventures via DriveThruRPG.com. I like that you can print out pre-designed maps and paper miniatures for all of the adventures, making game prep very easy. Sometimes I’ll color the printouts to give them an extra bit of zing, though it isn’t necessary.

After having a few sessions under our belts, I decided to create something personalized to play on besides the printed maps. The Wizard’s Tower adventure features a tower with three floors, so I decided to make a 3D, modular tower with stackable parts, complete with a rickety roof.

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It started as a simple idea, but as usual, I very quickly got carried away.
I used Amazon boxes and lots of hot glue to make the main structure. The pieces were sized and shaped to the printable playing mats of the tower floors.

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Save those Amazon boxes!

img_0788 For the rickety roof, I used a cereal box, painted and cut up into small squares, and tiled over rafters comprised of heavily glued cardboard strips.

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Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

My favorite part of this project was making the stone walls. I blended a sludge of water and newspaper, drained off most of the water, and baked it into thin sheets, using this really cool method found here. I then cut the sheets into stone blocks and glued them all over the box with Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This was the most time consuming part, but I really like the way the stone walls turned out.

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Finally, I painted the printable playing mats in watercolor and glued them to the tower pieces. I still have some finishing touches to add, such as balcony doors, railings, a crooked chimney, and a grand staircase, but my kids (and I) were really eager to play, so I postponed some of these details so we could finally begin to battle our way up to the top of the tower. I do plan to add them later for use in other adventures. I’m thinking that my little players will be become caretakers of the tower while the wizard is off wizarding somewhere.

Keep in mind you don’t need any special props to run Hero Kids, just some standard six-sided dice and downloadable content at DriveThruRPG. If you or your kids want an easy entry into the world of tabletop RPGs, then stop what you’re doing, download some content, and start an adventure!

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Unicorn Taxidermy

Unicorn TaxidermyMy family practices catch and release when hunting for mythical animals, but we were still super excited when we discovered Unicorn Taxidermy. We were on our way to the Utz potato chip factory tour in Hanover, PA, and had to pull over for a quick photo.
I later found an article and video highlighting this legitimate and delightful business. The owner does some pretty far out stuff–check it out!

Tot Finder or Darth Vader?

Old Tot Finder StickerWhen I was a child, I had a sticker on my window that was extremely dirty and faded. I often gazed at it from inside my room, trying to make out the pale image. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d learn it was a Tot Finder sticker, featuring a fireman rescuing a child.
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I’d spot them in second story windows from the back seat of our green Plymouth Fury, too far away to see in any real detail.
Eventually, and with the aid of George Lucas, my imagination eventually filled in the gaps and I falsely identified the fireman as Darth Vader. It seemed he was holding someone small. A child? Little baby Luke? While I still had some questions, the mystery was mostly solved.
I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask my parents about it sooner,  but many years later I learned the unfortunate truth: Parents everywhere weren’t spamming their child’s windows with “dark side” propaganda.
Although Tot Finder stickers are no longer recommended, I’ll still occasionally spot one in an old window, smile, and shout, “LOOK KIDS! DARTH VADER!”

Make a Jedi Tunic from an Old Curtain

When I was scavenging cheap fabric at yard sales for homemade renaissance costumes, I picked up a tan curtain for fifty cents that never got used.
I’ve been on a roll and looking for any excuse to use my sewing machine, so I decided to turn the tacky thrifted curtain into a Jedi tunic for my son. If nothing else, it would give me some more sewing practice and would be a nice test run for an even better tunic down the road.

I took my little guy’s measurements and found detailed instructions at Jedi Assembly to draw up a tunic pattern. There really wasn’t much at stake here, which helped me shrug off my usual perfectionist traits and just throw the thing together without too much fuss. Jedi tunic

I can definitely see what I need to do better. The collar should be thicker and the fit was too tight in the sleeves and armpit. Also, our dog chewed up the drawstrings before I could sew them on, so there’s that.

"It wasn't me."

It wasn’t me.

For watching Star Wars and playing light saber at home, however, I think it will get the job done. Using some scrap fabric to do mock-ups before using expensive fabric is a really great idea for novice sewers like me.

The only downside to the whole project is that my little guy may someday find himself in the window treatment department of JCPenney’s, experiencing a strange nostalgic attachment towards a particular set of tan curtains (cue Star Wars main theme music).Photo Nov 21, 4 08 20 PM

Turn a Pillow Sham and Tablecloth into Renaissance Faire Costumes

Like most of my projects, I got in over my head. It started with a large, fancy tablecloth, probably discarded from a hotel or restaurant, and an ornate pillow sham, both of which I found for 50% off at a thrift store. As soon as I set eyes upon them, I began to imagine the potential. Our renaissance faire trip was quickly approaching, and that fancy tablecloth could make a great cape for my daughter, and the pillow sham could surely be transferred into something “knightly” for my son.

Fancy Tablecloth

Fancy Tablecloth

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Fancy pillow sham

I sat down with my mother-in-law for some brief sewing machine tutorials before lugging her machine home and jumping into my new sewing project. I found a girl’s cape pattern and went to town. Sewing a cape is pretty straightforward and turned out to be a great first project to gain some initial sewing experience. Red Cape While I made a few mistakes on the cape, it was really exciting to have sewn something from scratch, and I was ready to take on the pillow sham next. First I stared at it. Then I stared at it some more. After finally coming up with a strategy, I removed all of the trim and separated the front, back, and extra linings with a seam ripper. Then I sewed the front and back together, leaving room for the arms and neck. I reattached some of the extra trim to make a collar. I was really happy with the result. Who knew a fancy pillow case or sham could be transformed into a knight’s tunic?IMG_0331

I discovered that costuming is like eating chips–once you start you just can’t stop. Of course, now my son needed a cape, too. We scoured some more thrift shops and yard sales, and hit the fabric jackpot! I also scored a few old McCall’s renaissance patterns, which I would use to make a gown for my wife.

The boy’s cape pattern was actually the easiest of all pieces to assemble. For the finishing touches, I used a decorative chain and buttons from a craft store.Version 2

Then came the gown. I came very close to giving up on it. For starters, I had to draft the pattern because I didn’t have the right size. Then I cut some pieces out backwards and didn’t have enough material to cut new pattern pieces. Fortunately, I chalked it up as a learning experience and tried fixing it instead of giving up. I made several creative patches that would make Frankenstein proud, and in the end, it all turned out ok. I learned a lot while making the gown, like using interfacing for support, and attaching zippers and sleeves. At first these were overwhelming obstacles that stretched my sewing abilities and knowledge, but once accomplished, it was all extremely rewarding and worth the invested time.Gown

Like I said, once you start, it’s hard to stop, so I took some old corduroy pants and made the kids some belt pouches to be stuffed with snacks and trinkets for a long day at the faire. Belt Pouch

Renaissance faire costumes can be costly, but with some creativity, some salvaged materials, and a sewing machine, you can create some cool garb for next to nothing and learn a lot throughout the process. Maybe those old curtains or pillow cases will someday adorn a King or Queen! Ren faireRen Faire

Found Items: Dungeon Map

This was found in an old bass clarinet case previously used by a middle-schooler. I thought I’d have some fun with it.Dungeon
Are you in the market for a new home? Seeking adventure? This one-of-kind dungeon may be just what you’re looking for! It features many of the hottest trends in minimalist, underground living.
Facts:
  • Easy access to Dwarven city
  • Multiple all-purpose dungeons can be easily transformed into a home theater, sitting room, or office space
  • Main living space features a large, open floor plan
  • Comes with starting supplies and wood
  • Large monument spanning two walls in main living space is a great conversation starter!
  • Numerous hidden doors with chambers of various sizes (not shown on map)
  • Off-the-grid geothermal heating/cooling
 Contact Dungeon Master now for private showing!
Dungeon Map

Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles Roundup

sewer drainIn just under a week, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans young and old will be shellin’ out hard-earned dough to see the newest take on the green team. I know of at least one local mega-fan in particular, who will be headed to the theater in total turtle style.TMNT Party wagonI interviewed Dan in early 2013 about his sweet TMNT party wagon, at a time when any news about a movie reboot was little more than rumor. By that time, the new cartoon series was already a hit, and I couldn’t help but notice toy stores struggling to keep TMNT merchandise in stock (see my old post, Playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles like a Boss). For better or for worse, it’s finally time to hit the sewers!