Area of Effect Templates
By Steel Sqwire
Gamer Bling likes it when rules are bent. And by this, Gamer Bling means rules (aka measuring sticks) that have been bent. Odd, sure, but useful.
With the exception of Iron Heroes by pop icon and all-around nice guy Monte Cook, most fantasy role-playing games employ a goodly amount of magic spells. The most popular spells are those venerable wonders that affect multiple opponents, spells like the ever-useful fireball, color spray, and more.
When playing in-head (and by this Gamer Bling does not mean in the bathroom), it was up to the gamemaster to make rulings on who or what got hit. The GM’s word was law, no matter how the players felt.
When playing on a white-board or other map without gridlines, the solution was to use markers to draw vaguely circular areas of impact, or to use a paper circle to determine whether a particular X or O was hit, as shown here. Serviceable, but still prone to argument.
The advent of grid maps—and 3e’s aggressive support of same—helped to regulate the battlefield situation, which placed grid maps into a role not unlike that of military police. The only arguments left were whether shooting a 30° cone at a 57° angle would incinerate two widely separated foes 15 and 23 feet away. And that could only be solved by using the 3e templates and counting squares, or by a protractor, straight edge, and some wipe-off markers. And wipe-off markers inevitably meant ink-stained fingers at the end of a gaming session. And stained fingers, for those who work in the food-service industry, can cause problems.
And by that, Gamer Bling does not mean “no more problems for people in the food-service industry.” He means no more counting, no more arguments, no more shaving degrees, no more elliptical circles, and no more ink-stained fingers. Instead, you can outline a spell’s area of effect with handy steel wire templates.
Steel Sqwire’s effects templates are made of heavy galvanized steel wire, precision bent and welded. These things are built to last. You can get them in the base steel color, or, for a few extra bucks, get a set that has been coated with a rubberized finish. Among other things, this coating helps protect your miniatures from getting dinged when you drop them (the wire templates) onto the battlefield.
They are thick enough to be plainly visible, yet thin enough to sneak between adjacent miniatures on your map. You should have no problem placing them wherever you want, unless a spell effect happens to split the footprint of a large three-dimensional creature (two-dimensional creatures do not pose a challenge to these templates, just to the characters).
These templates are fast and intuitive, saving valuable time for more gaming or drink-swilling. They eliminate drawing and counting squares, and obviate arguments. And—in one of the best examples of consumer-friendly thinking Gamer Bling has seen in recent years—each set comes packaged in a plastic storage folder that fits into a standard three-ring binder. Useful and portable!
Color templates are available & provide clarity to which templates are yours or which effect the template represents. Color templates are coated in a rubberized finish in black, blue, & red. And sometimes white. And their web site tells us that yellow is unavailable. But so is beige, so Gamer Bling is mystified as to why they even brought up any unavailable color at all.
The templates are divided into four sets: a skirmish set with smaller circles and cones (plus a keen line-of-sight reel also suitable for use as an emergency fishing line), plus a large radius set, a large straight cone set, and a large diagonal cone set.
Originally, Gamer Bling assumed that the skirmish set would be good for all low-level combats. This turned out not to be the case, because the skirmish set does not actually cover all low-level spells. Entangle and sleet storm, first- and third-level spells respectively, employ a 40′ circle. Gamer Bling was suitably outraged at this nefarious shortcoming.
However, upon further review, this apparent weakness turned out to be the result of Gamer Bling using the secret ninja technique known as “ignorance.” By virtue of this ancient art of “ignorance,” which gives Gamer Bling much great sideways monkey power, he managed to completely overlook the fact that the Skirmish Pack is designed for use with the D&D miniatures game. Which doesn’t use the bigger templates. Thus suitably embarrassed, Gamer Bling retracted his statements that this was a weakness in the hopes that no one would ever notice.
There are a few notable gaps in templates. For example, there is no 15′ cone template for the favored 1st-level spells flaming hands and color spray. Nor are there circles of 10′ and 15′ for glitterdust or confusion. These templates are simple enough, one supposes, that counting squares would befuddle no one but a character with intelligence as his dump stat, but the lack is still there.
There is also no 50′ radius template for bane or bless, nor an 80’ circle for earthquake or sunburst. Gamer Bling will, however, forgive Steel Sqwire for its failure to provide a 2-mile template for use with control weather.
The large-template sets (the ones that have 60′ cones and 40′ circles) also contain the smaller templates that were included in the skirmish pack. This means that if you, too, are trained in the inscrutable Oriental ways of “ignorance” and decide to dip your toes in the metal-template pool and test out the skirmish pack, you will end up having to purchase duplicate templates when you upgrade to the 60′ extension sets. Thus, you should either just jump right in with the big templates, or else find some other bling n00b to buy your obsolete skirmish pack. Or just have more templates than the other gamers, which is always an acceptable solution to any bling conundrum.
You’ll occasionally run into problems laying down a template if you’re facing a gargantuan black dragon, but then again, if your players can’t hit a beast the size of a Mack truck with a 60° cone, they’d better find a new occupation.
And hyper-realists will note that these templates only allow you to fire a cone-shaped spell at a 45° angle (or a multiple thereof). On the one hand, yes, it’s a little odd. On the other hand, Gamer Bling has grave doubts that a spellcaster has time to pull out a compass and protractor in the midst of a heated melee, and the restriction on angles of fire perhaps simulates the frantic confusion one might reasonably have whilst sharpened steel and speeding arrows whiz past one’s head. More often than not, there’s just not a perfect angle.
The Bottom Line
They’re fast. They’re easy. They’re made of heavy metal. They clearly show which vile creatures get roasted into a greasy paste by your fireball. What’s not to love?
Bling Factor: 7
Price: $25.00 – $30.00 (skirmish set), $35.00 – $55.00 (other sets)
You Need: 1 or 3
Gamer Bling wants his 15′ cone and 2-mile radius!
Aside from that, it is conceivable that Steel Sqwire might try cones at other angles of attack (like a 60° cone fired at a 30° angle), but as they have taken to creating other blingy materials, Gamer Bling doubts that it will happen.