Of maps and miniatures

I am waiting anxiously for the Player’s Handbook 2 I ordered to come in the mail.  It should be here by Tuesday.  Can’t wait!

In this post I am going to talk about some of the tools I use for running a game.  For those of you who are not familiar with D&D this may go over your head a bit.  Please feel free to post comments or questions.

The first thing you need when playing is a large grid.  You use this grid to determine positioning and range in combat.  In 4th edition, everything is about squares.  A square is basically supposed to represent about 5 feet.  So for example a character’s speed is 6, that character can move 6 squares during his turn.  Most grids use 1 inch squares.  To create my grid I found some semi-ridged poster board from Wal-Mart.  It had very faint 1/2inch squares on it.  I penciled in lines every other square to make a grid of one inch squares.  I did this front and back and then had them laminated.  Now I can draw the layout or map of a room using overhead pens (remember overhead projectors!) and then just wipe it off when we are done.  You can go out and buy expensive grid mats but this is working just fine for my group.

The other thing you need is some kind of tokens or miniatures to represent the players and the enemies.  Wizards of the Coast does make miniatures that you can buy.  They look really good but can get expensive.  What I have done is I take a paper template, find a picture on the Internet of what I want the token to represent, cut it out, fold it into a triangle, and tape a penny to the bottom for weight.  These have been working great and they cost a whole lot less than buying minis.  I may in the future look at buying some minis to represent the players but out-fitting myself with an army would have been very cost prohibitive.

Dice are at the core of D&D.  You cannot play without them.  You are always rolling to determine outcomes of attacks and skills.  They are also useful as counters or any additional tokens you may need.  Your players will also each want a set of dice.  What I did was purchase a pound of dice.  This bag of dice is huge!  It has enough dice for 8 to 10 people to use and it costs about as much as the dice for two.  The company who sells this bag just put in all the dice that don’t pass esthetic quality control.  So many of them have odd paint jobs but they all roll just fine.  You could even use the extra dice as monster tokens instead of buying them or making your own.  This was a great purchase.  You can find them on the Chessex website along with all of their premium dice products.

That goes over some of the basic tools I use.  I will try to include some pictures soon to give you a better visual of what I am talking about.  Please post your comments about what tools you use in your games.  Also if you have questions please feel free to ask.



Here are some of my homemade mini’s.  Penny bedside for size reference.


Here they are on edge.  They are just simple paper triangles.  You can see the pennies I use to weight them down.

3 Responses

  1. Hey Brad! Jim from One Missing Sock again here! At the minute I’m playing in a campaign but I do DM from time to time. The accessories I’ve used in game have gone through timely evolutions. In my very first campaign I simply printed and cut out circles and just wrote PC or monster names on them in pencil. For my game map I used the massive grid which was included in the back of the 3.5 DMG covered in a big sheet of clear plastic so I could write on it with a dry-wipe marker. The next thing I invested in was a box of white ‘eldritch gems’ like these – http://tinyurl.com/cyfvwe . Again, I could write on these with a marker and simply rub it off when I needed to. As the adventures scaled, however, I needed more and more monster counters and buying more ‘eldritch gems’ just wasn’t cost effective so I headed down to a local interior design store and bought a big cheap bucket of glass beads. Later on I decided to invest in a few official mini’s. There are some sites that sell these singley as opposed to in bulk boxes and I just bought a spread representative of most playable races – a few humans, a halfling, a dwarf, a few elves etc etc. These single sites sell common minis as cheaply as £1 so they aren’t too expensive. By this stage I was DM-ing weekly so I decided to upgrade my combat grid aswell. I bought one of each of the official sets of ‘Dungeon Tiles’ (like these for example – http://tinyurl.com/d32mdk ). Now I’ve seen these online as expensive as £60-£100 but I shopped around and grabbed them for the reasonable price of £4-8 each. Obviously the 3.5 ‘Dungeon Tiles’ are harder to get hold of now but I believe that wizards have released the 4th edition ‘Dungeon Tiles’ so you might be able to get hold of these. Since then Ive built up a reasonable collection of miniatures aswell. I now have about 30 miniatures for playable characters representative of various races, classes etc. I also have about 80 non-playable character minis covering everything from generic monsters like goblins, trolls and undead to basic human npc’s like guards and barmen. What I’ve done is put little numbered labels on the bases of each of the npc mini’s (I took a photograph of a few of them and put it up here – http://tinyurl.com/cz4grs). It just means that players can easily identify what they are doing and who they are doing it to as well as making it easier for me, the DM, to keep track of hit points, effects etc. Then, because I’m horribly obsessed and compulsive when it comes to organisation, I bought a partioned box at a local hardware store so I could organise and label groups of minis ( http://tinyurl.com/c3vomd ). By shopping around and trying to be cost effective, I reckon that my current bunch of accessories has run in and around £80-£100.

    Apologies for what quickly became a lengthy essay on my D&D accessories! 🙂 Hope it gives you some ideas!

  2. Hi Jim. Those comments are great. I like the idea with the clear stones. I think I am going to try and invest in some real minis but unfortunately most of the stores that sell them ‘one off’ are in the US and shipping to Canada gets pricey. Ebay seems to be the best deal for north boarder shipping.

    My home made battle grid seems to be working well. We have used it a few times now and there isn’t anything permanent on it yet. One of fellows who plays in my campaign has picked up some dungeon tiles. They are cool but the way I work is I tend to create a dungeon and then try to find the tiles that fit and I think it is easier to build the dungeon from the tiles and then fit them into the story.

    Something interesting I saw on the Penny Arcade site was 3D dungeon tiles from a company called Dwarven Forge. They run about $100 USD a set but they look really cool.

    Anyway thanks again for the post and the advice. Talk to you again soon.

  3. […] I’d like to say a few words, as a fellow DM once titled a post in a similar […]

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