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[D&D] Cheap DM Tools

nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
edited March 2009 in Critical Failures
I am a cheap bastard but at the same time I like providing an engaging experience for my D&D players. I recently posted on my blog about the tools I use when DMing. I have created my own re-usable battle mat and I have created paper minis. I even created a huge tree for one encounter out of cardboard and tooth-picks. I am really interested in cheap yet effective ways to enhance the player's gaming experience. If you have any ideas please talk about them here.

http://bnunes.wordpress.com/category/dungeons-and-dragons/

Also, for those of you with no budget restrictions you can also post to brag about all the cool stuff you are doing. We like hearing about that stuff as well even if it isn't feasible. Personally I would like to project a battle map on the wall and move the mini's digitally but I am a few grand short of that dream.

- :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
- Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
nimrod108 on

Posts

  • ElfWordElfWord Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I used showerboard to create the battle mat / map grid for my group; you can get a gigantic piece at Home Depot and similar places for ~$10. We had it cut into thirds at the store, one third was enough to cover the table our 6-person group uses, and the other two thirds I use as whiteboards in my room. Sharpies & rulers to create the grid, dry erase markers to do maps, initiative notes on the side, and more.

    I also got a box of loose-leaf 8.5" x 11" transparency sheets (office supply stores have it, but I ordered min online cheap), that I can mark on with dry erase or permanent marker, and use as overlays for the battle grid. This lets me have maps drawn ahead of time for a session where the PCs are going multiple places, and keep things a surprise since players tend to be ready for combat whenever I take time to draw a map on the grid. It's also useful for having secret rooms & such pre-drawn.

    For an-in-game map prop, trace paper (pads of it available at art stores for cheap) makes a great psuedo-vellum. I've used it to make multi-layer maps. With bold lines & dark colors, you can see lower layers through the upper layers, sometimes illustrating nifty discoveries of hidden rooms, or just helping players understand a 3D complex better.

    ElfWord on
    Star Wars fan, Battlestar crewman, Fantastic GM. Frequent lurker, occasional adventurer.
    Awesome android RPGs are made by my friends; check them out.
  • nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I really like the trace paper idea for 3-D levels. I had in my head a crazy stairwell battle. I was trying to think of a way to represent it. I was going to build the stairwell out of Styrofoam or something but I think the trace paper would be much easier. That is a great tip.

    I also have a few of my grids laminated and they are double sided. I can pre-draw up to 4 maps right now. I think it just really helps the flow of the game if you have your maps done up ahead of time.

    I will have to look into that showerboard. It sounds useful. I think it is something I can work with.

    nimrod108 on
    - :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
    - Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
  • dscrilladscrilla Registered User
    edited March 2009
    If you want something a bit nicer than paper the singles market for D&D minis can you get a good horde for cheap. One of our players is way into painting minis and we wanted something to look 1/2way decent next to his masterpieces. I used these guys, prices start at $.25. If you have a local store that sells mini singles you could get a good set for little $ if you get the cheapest "representative" for broad types (humanoid/animal/aberration/etc) of opponents. You aren't going for an exact match, but its much better than our old method of using dice/candy/green army men as stand-ins.

    EDIT:here is a long example:
    Say i want to be able to run a large encounter vs orcs/bandits/etc
    I want 6 minion types 6xphalanx for .25
    I want a boss type 1xassasin for .49
    maybe some lieutenants 2xchangling for .25
    A caster support of some type 1x animated statue for .35

    or a dragon encounter with some spawn and a mother

    1xcopper dragon for 1.75
    4x dragon spawn for .25


    So for not quite $3 i have a good set of minis for each encounter, you can get as detailed as your budget permits. I filled a lunchbox of every conceivable encounter plus some that just look cool for ~$50. Now we don't get into "what dice was the kobold chief again?" or "hey you ate the beholder!" issues :)

    Does anyone have a good idea for plastic condition markers for minis?

    dscrilla on
  • KevdogKevdog Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I use Alea Tools markers for status effects. They're a little on the pricey side, but they're magnetic, which is extremely useful when a particular monster gets 4 or 5 different effects on it.

    Kevdog on
  • nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Kevdog, I like the token idea. You just have a legend saying Blue = Flying, Green = Poison. We do the same thing with sticky flags (like the ones you use when marking a textbook). It works well with the paper minis I made. The magnetic tokens would work great with minis with proper bases.

    descrilla I will check out that site and see what kind of an army I can put together. I like the idea of reusing minis instead of having to print things out all the time.

    nimrod108 on
    - :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
    - Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
  • nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Here are some photos of my home-made minis.

    mini21.jpg?w=450&h=337
    Here are my home made mini's. See penny beside for size reference

    mini11.jpg?w=450&h=337
    Here they are on edge. You can see the pennies taped inside.

    nimrod108 on
    - :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
    - Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
  • FiggyFiggy Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I've actually gone to great lengths to make my sessions as professional and showy as possible whilst spending the least amount of money. Much of the following took me many hours to complete, but I found it fun and I think it all paid off. Keep in mind that I live in Canada, so many of the options available to you yanks aren't available to me here because of exchange/shipping (pounds of dice, cheap minis, etc.)

    Miniatures:

    I went through many of the sites that sell miniatures for under a dollar, but the shipping and exchange rate always more than tripled the price of my order, bringing the cost of maybe 5-10 minis to around $30. Not worth it, to me.

    Players:
    I found a seller on ebay who has hundreds of minis for sale individually, and many of them are not available on any sites I've seen that sell singles. I purchased 11 or 12 player minis, trying to get a wide range of different "classes" in the mix. I paid $16 CDN including shipping.

    Monsters:
    I'm not about to buy the monster minis needed to run campaigns, so I went with an idea similar to nimrod's. My monsters are printed out on paper and then glued to a bristol board, the same image of each side. I then cut them out so I have 1x2 little rectangles for each monster that I need.

    For the base, I bought a 1" round dowel at Home Depot, went home and sawed off a dozen or so little wooden tokens. I then sanded them down and used a small hacksaw to create a slit in the centre of the token on the top (so it looks like a Tylenol pill.) I then painted them black.

    I use these as the bases to stick the cardboard monsters in, and they stand up and look fairly decent. I've got enough of these black bases to reuse for any adventure I choose to run (you only need enough for the number of monsters on the board at a time, since the monsters can be removed/replaced in the bases as needed). I also use the bases as "elevators" for my dungeon tiles, creating actual elevation for my dungeons.

    Dungeon Tiles:

    I love the dungeon tiles that Wizards sells, but I'm not about to drop $15 on a set, when I know I need a lot more. I first considered designing my own, but I found out a friend of my brother's used to play D&D years ago and still had a ton of old tiles, now out of print. I got ahold of them, but found that they were in terrible condition. That's ok!

    I scanned all of the dungeon tiles, had them professionally printed (cost me about $12) and then had them glued/cutout on Bristol board. I now have a shoebox of decrepit old dungeon tiles in my closet, but another box of brand new, very useful duplicates of them. The entire process took me several days to complete, but now I have way more tiles than I know what to do with, and I don't have to worry about them getting ruined (or being ruined already)

    Status markers

    There are so many different statuses that I didn't want to have just a few coloured tokens to show whats what, so I printed out little 1x3 cards for each status. I have about 5 copies of each status, totaling several dozen cards. I have about 25 blank ones as well for when I want to denote something unique.

    When a player is Blinded, for instance, I hand him the card to keep in front of him. It lists the effects and everything. When it's removed, he can hand the card back. These were also printed out at a shop and cost about $2.50.

    Tokens/Markers

    For times when a player is marked or cursed, or something similar, it's much better to have a marker on the actual dungeon board to show at a glance what is happening. For that, I just use poker chips. I had an entire set I never use (it was a random gift) and they work perfectly. They're bigger than a mini base, but that's fine.

    Misc.

    I made tiny little + and - markers as well, for whatever I may need them for. There was extra space on the side of some of the sheets I was printing, so I threw them on. They list +1, +2, +3, etc.. I can use them as markers on tiles to show elevation or whatever... even if I never use them it was basically free and might come in handy for something or other.

    Monsters in their bases
    img00038v.jpg
    Base on its own (sorry for the blurryness... blackberry photo)
    img00039n.jpg
    Dungeon Tiles (and number markers)
    img00040c.jpg
    Status Cards
    img00041v.jpg

    Figgy on
    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment · Website : www.nathanswyers.com
  • nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Figgy, I live north of the 49 parallel so I feel your shipping pain. I like the status cards. I just have them all posted behind my DM screen and then I make a note on a post it when creatures get affected. I keep a post it for each player and enemy where i keep track of HP and Init. Handing them cards would be good for the player's reference.

    Your monsters look great! It looks simple but they are way more robust than mine. That is very cool. I also really like the way you use your tiles for 3D dungeons. One of the guys I play with has purchased some dungeon tiles (his money not mine!) so I think I will try using them.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

    nimrod108 on
    - :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
    - Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
  • dscrilladscrilla Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Nice ideas Figgy, I think some poker chips might work well for us. I have heard that shipping makes the minis market allot more expensive, maybe there are local stores that sell singles. Hopefully the prices are in the same ballpark that way. Those paper ones don't look half bad either.

    dscrilla on
  • FiggyFiggy Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    dscrilla wrote: »
    Nice ideas Figgy, I think some poker chips might work well for us. I have heard that shipping makes the minis market allot more expensive, maybe there are local stores that sell singles. Hopefully the prices are in the same ballpark that way. Those paper ones don't look half bad either.

    The guy I bought from on ebay was in the US, but he only charged me $2.50 and then $0.25 for each figure after that. Online stores offer no such shipping discounts most times.

    Edit: I'm actually still waiting for the shipment, but it's only been like 9 business days.

    Figgy on
    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment · Website : www.nathanswyers.com
  • crimsoncoyotecrimsoncoyote Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    ElfWord wrote: »
    I used showerboard to create the battle mat / map grid for my group; you can get a gigantic piece at Home Depot and similar places for ~$10. We had it cut into thirds at the store, one third was enough to cover the table our 6-person group uses, and the other two thirds I use as whiteboards in my room. Sharpies & rulers to create the grid, dry erase markers to do maps, initiative notes on the side, and more.

    I went with this basically. Picked up a massive showerboard (8'x4') a while ago for less than $15, cut into two pieces (we use the 5'x4' piece), and got some car pinstriping tape to make a grid (3'x2', so there's a foot-border around the grid where people can write pretty much anything they want). I'd have to say that it looks pretty sweet, and it's very handy, though it really hasn't seen much P&P use as of yet.

    We actually have been using the board to play our board games in general on for a while, because it's a nice amount of space to spread out on and have room to comfortably sit 6-8 people.

    crimsoncoyote on
  • FiggyFiggy Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I might build some sort of battle mat like that to place my dungeon tiles on top of. I like the idea of giving the players a lot of white space to jot down notes and what not.

    I'm considering cutting the table-sized mat in half and adding little hinges, so it will be easier to pack away and travel with.

    Figgy on
    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment · Website : www.nathanswyers.com
  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I got a bag of 100 mixed colour glass pebbles from EBay and they've made lovely markers for various status effects, marks, hunter's quarry etc.

    I'm also rocking the paper printout standee monsters, but I'm much cheaper and just use plain printer paper and sellotape. They look fine for the time the monsties are on the board.

    Jam Warrior on
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  • nimrod108nimrod108 Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Jam Warrior, pebbles sound interesting but isn't it a pain when you have to move the creatures around? Do you have a way to keep the pebbles attached to the creatures?

    nimrod108 on
    - :whistle: "$2.50 for an eyeball, and a buck and half for an ear" :whistle: - The Tragically Hip - Little Bones
    - Blog: http://bnunes.wordpress.com -Twitter: @Nimrod108 -Wave [email protected]
  • RiusRius Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    One thing I've seen get used a ton for marking status conditions are 2-liter soda bottle plastic rings. You can get them in tons of different colors and they're a little bigger than a wizards figure base, so they work pretty well.

    Edit: If you don't drink much soda like me, you can go to a fabric store, buy a bunch of different color small pipe cleaners and twist 'em into a circle.

    Rius on
  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    They're small enough to sit on the edge of the bases. Especially as my monsties are 2D and hence leave quite a bit of base free.

    Jam Warrior on
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