As a gamemaster, I’m not into strict adherence to the rules. If it fits helps the story along, I’m all about fudging things. When it comes to things like whether a bad guy is within the radius of a spell, I tend to err on the side of the player character— unless the players are winning too easily, then I come down on the side of the villains. Like I said, it’s about pacing the story.
At the same time, I am all about the props. Rules lawyering isn’t fun, but objects that add some kinesthetic texture to the game are. Your mileage may vary, of course. Some people live to be rules lawters, and more power to them. They’ll like this little craft project of mine for their own reasons.
In our Pathifnder campaign we use Longtooth Studios’ BattleBoards, which have a dry erase surface, and normally doodle in a rough outline of the spell radius if it’s something the doesn’t have a duration of “instantaneous”. We want to remember where the black tentacles are, so we don’t walk into them, and so on. Sometimes, that means drawing over and then re-drawing other stuff, like walls and trees and such. Blah. So I got the idea to make spell templates with pipe cleaners.
Now, I’m sure I can’t be the first person to think of this, so I’m not claiming any credit. Katie had a ton of long pipe cleaners that she uses for art projects, and with her permission I yoinked some for this project. I say down at her cutting mat, which has 1″ squares marked off on it, and bent the pipe cleaners into the shapes of the spell tempates. I made them a little large, so they fit around the outside of the area of effect. When a character casts a spell, I can drop this pipe cleaner contraption over the affected area. I even tied a bit of a red pipe cleaner to indicate where the caster in standing.
I am not a three dimensional artist, and these were my first try, so they’re not pretty. I used orange because it stands out, but you can use any color, or get fancy and use different colors for different types of spells. I founf, after some trial and error, that it’s easier to figure out the total length you’ll need and twist together enough pipe cleaners to reach about an inch past that length, before you start bending things into shape. My fat fingers didn’t do a great job of bending them with any sort of precision, but a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a ruler help if you want clean, sharp corners. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to get them to lay flat; I invariable ended up nending them not only horizontally, but vertically.
To keep them from getting bent, keep them in a large ziplock bag, and printed the spell shape chart from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook on cardstock. The chart gives the bag some structure, and gives me a guide to show me what the template I need look like.
Mine aren’t perfect, and I’m sure you can be more concise than my arthritic fingers will allow. They’re fun to use, fun to make, and add a little pop to your game.