I play 2nd Ed. AD&D (2.5, really). In the spell description for Lightning Bolt, it describes the bolt's length as being 80 feet long, for a single bolt, and 40 feet long, for a forked bolt. If the bolt hits a hard target (thick stone or even thicker wood), the bolt will rebound back towards the direction it came from, or it could even bounce off stone walls, ricocheting -- this is what it would do, in the official computer game of Baldur's Gate! Within the computer game, players could point their Lighting Bolt at a wall, at an angle, and it would bounce from side-to-side, down a hallway, hitting any monster within its length, as it ricocheted...
In my RPG's, I tend to forget these aspects of the spell, as we do not have a template to lay down on the tabletop, to remind us of the tremendous length of the electrical bolt; we also tend to forget that it can bounce off hard surfaces, until it reaches the end of its length. The spell description also states that the bolt can be started at any point, within the spell's range, and the bolt will extend from that point forward, to its full length. To keep these aspects in mind, I decided to make a template.
For BattleSystem games, a Wizard's Lightning Bolt spell has very particular qualities to it. To make judging which figures are touched by the actual Bolt, as required by the BattleSystem rules, a template will make the determination quicker and easier. This template will pull double-duty, being used both for my RPG's, as well as my tabletop fantasy battle games.
To make the template, I cut a piece of clear plastic automotive windshield wiper blade packaging, to the length needed: 80 scale feet becomes 16 inches. I actually didn't have a piece of plastic long enough, so I Hot Glue'd two pieces together, by placing a small amount of Hot Glue where two pieces would overlap, than I quickly pressed the two cut pieces one on top of the other, to make a continuous rectangle of clear plastic of the proper length, 16".
The next step was to apply Hot Glue in streaks, to the top surface of the clear plastic. This gave me a lightning-like, raised ridge of Hot Glue material, which only needed to then be painted. I applied Cobalt Blue craft paint, first, then I mixed together some pearlescent medium with Cool White craft paint, without waiting for the Cobalt Blue to dry, which allowed a fair amount of blending. I did not spend a lot of time mixing the paints, or worrying about how well it turned out -- it is a quick spell template, which will see limited use within any game. Feel free to spend more time, and to produce a better quality product, if desired.
Here are some photo's showing the finished template, and how it might be employed, both within RPG sessions, as well as its use within a BattleSystem game:
|Balmeer, the Mage, is facing a Vampire, his pet Hell Hound, and two Giant Spiders. Fortunately for Balmeer, the two greatest enemies are in a direct line in front of him -- they will regret that tactical mistake very shortly...|
|Picture of the Lightning Bolt Template. The template is actually 17" long -- I need to trim 1" off to make it correct... Oops!|
Here is a demonstration of how this template might be employed within a BattleSystem game. A unit of veteran Pikemen are standing in formation on the battlefield, when a Blue Dragon lands in front of them. They decide to march forward, hoping to intimidate the great serpent, but the Dragon has other plans.
|Bravely, or foolishly, the Pikemen lower their weapons, and march forward towards the great serpent...|
The beast unleashes its breath weapon on the hapless Humans, marching in tight formation, which gives the Dragon maximum carnage as his Bolt rips through the center of the Pikemens' ranks!
|The Lightning Bolt template is placed at the front of the Dragon figure's base, and laid out straight down the center, burning a hole through the tight ranks of the Humans!|