Cheap DM/Player tips

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  1. #1
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    Cheap DM/Player tips

    Hi guys!

    Im starting this thread to get a discussion going about cheap shortcuts you take for things like miniatures, terrain, etc.

    What tricks to you have, other than saying, "OK, Fred...umm...this 4-sider is your fighter, and this one is the orc..."

    Ill start it off by saying that I went to a toy store and bought bags of those little plastic soldiers, farm animals, dinosaurs--whatever! I even got lucky and scored a set of armored knights at about the same scale--perfect for the player characters since I have so few of them as compared to the others.

    These little plastic soldiers or what have you are perfect for cheapy miniatures. The ubiquitous green plastic soldiers are my orcs, goblins, or whatever monsters I might need a lot of in a given game.

    You can get things like horses and wagons from "cowboys and indians" sets...but snatch these up quickly becuase I think they are being phased out due to a conflict with political correctness.

    Anyone got any other tips-n-tricks they care to share?
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  • #2
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    On the back of computer paper I drew out two different inn plans.
    So all by inns are type a or b.
    Castle walls were from castle toy of my brother.
    Catpults and ballista came from another floor war game.
    Had about 20 orc firgures which I use for any man size group of enemy.

    Reuse maps from modules for new adventurers.
    Bad players ruin any game. No gaming is better than bad gaming.

  • #3

    Re: Cheap DM/Player tips

    Originally posted by DnDChick
    Hi guys!

    Im starting this thread to get a discussion going about cheap shortcuts you take for things like miniatures, terrain, etc.

    What tricks to you have, other than saying, "OK, Fred...umm...this 4-sider is your fighter, and this one is the orc..."

    "Aww, I don't wanna be the 4-sided! I wanna be the d30! My guys bigger than the orc. And howcome Charlies always gets to be the bag of Doritos? He's playin' a freakin gnome!"

    Sorry, just couldn't resist.

    I have a game called Jenga which is basically a pile of wood blocks. I plan on using them to represent trees, walls, buildings etc.

    I have about 3000 miniatures so I don't have any good subs for those

    Of course Counter Collection is pretty cheap when you consider how much stuff you get.
    "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson 18th century English author.

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  • #4
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    I pull out my lego collection from when I was 10. I have a bunch of the castle series and it works well.

  • #5
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    I am a big fan of Jackson Games' Cardboard Heroes. I go to Kinko's and color photocopy them and there we bam boom.

    Other cheap tricks?

    There are very few castle scenes one cannot make a 3-D scene for with two 2 liter bottles of soda and two empty bags of Doritos. If you've got dip...heck, then you have a well. Go to town.

    In Deadlands I was a fan of the plastic cowboys and injuns but then I had to put dinosaurs in my campaign, must so I could have an excuse to go out and buy a dollar bag of plastic dinosaurs.

    Got a really keen horse drawn carriage out of Toys R Us.

    Legos anyone?

    Play-do (anyone remember the old Play-Do wars thing in the old Dragon Magazine?) is cool and easy and non-toxic for those extra hungry gamers.

    In the old days I'd throw white paper in tubs of tea-water to approximate scroll paper, then burn the edges to make it look ancient.

    Have fun.
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  • #6
    Cheap tips?

    I would say let the artistic guy paint his fav miniatures,a nd when game time starts, borrow a couple...

    i happen to be the guy alwyas paintin mini's so thegame is held at my place- and all the minis are mine- including the dragon mini which represents everythign from a ankheg, to a scorpion, to a horse...

    I also built a couple small houses and use legos for walls.

  • #7
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    Bardolph's handy-dandy DM tricks

    I bought several packs of "toy" poker chips. These chips are exactly one inch in diameter, and come in packs of six different colors.

    I went to STAPLES, and bought a sheet of tiny sticky-labels and a thin permanent marker.

    For PC's, I use the WHITE poker chips, with a little sticky-label, on which is written the PC's name.

    For friendly NPC's (henchmen, hirelings, etc), I use BLUE poker chips, also with little sticky-labels, if necessary.

    I use the other colored chips for everything else. DM: "Orange chips are zombies, yellow chips are skeletons, and that red one is a tall robed elf."

    Alternatively, you can also use 1-inch diameter miniature bases, and cut up mailing labels and write on each one what it is. Again, for large numbers of similar creatures, don't bother labelling them. Just pile them on the map and say "these are all orcs."

    The Dungeons and Dragons: the Adventure Begins boxed set comes with plenty of cardboard counters to represent many of the basic monsters, and Dungeon and Dragon magazine regularly publish sheets of counters.

    Personally, I prefer the colored poker chips method the most.

    Sometimes I used dice to represent light sources (yellow chips would do well, too). This made it really easy to tell who could see what.

    For maps, I have a giant plastic map with one-inch squares (bought from my local hobby store), and a pack of colored wet-erase markers. Seems to do the trick, but the mat set me back thirty bucks.

    Alternatively, you can use a small whiteboard to draw maps on. I use a whiteboard to track initiative and spell durations (VERY nice).

    Before I used either of these methods, I just used blank printer paper and a black permanent marker, and drew all map areas to the 1-inch=5-feet scale. Of course, my drawings were approximate instead of exact, but it worked out really well. This was cool, since I could re-use the same sheet of paper any time the PC's went back to the same area. To be honest, this method is the favorite among my players. The only drawback is that an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper can't represent any outdoor area very well. For this, I bought one of those GIANT sketch pads, and made the scale 1"=15 feet. Seemed to work pretty well.


    The 3x5 index card is my FRIEND. My players and I use them to pass secret notes to each other. Every time a player picks up some loot, I write the loot down on an index card and hand it to the player. I also write the room number or original owner on the card, too, so when the player casts identify or uses Appraise or some such, I can remember where they found it. At that time, I simply write any additional information they learn on the same index card.

    If I'm feeling particularly creative, I will bundle a group of "loot" index cards, and stick them in an envelope, then label the envelope "OAKEN TREASURE CHEST," or "ORC's BACKPACK," or some such. The player can then have that warm, fuzzy feeling of opening up the envelope and finding a stack of treasure inside!!

    Another boon with the 3x5 index card: if the player loses the card, then the character lost the item. If the players are arguing over which character actually picked up the item first, I simply ask them who has the card. Ownership is nine-tenths of the law. If the player sells an item, I require the player to give me the card back, at which time I rip it up and throw it away, and give them a card with "250 gp" written on it, or some such.

    When characters see strange symbols, glyphs, tapestries, or whatever, I can grab a card and draw a crude illustration with a black permanent marker, and the PC's can pass it around. Almost as good as those "ImageQuest" modules published for Kalamar.

    A couple of times, I even took a card, folded it up in a little impromptu origami, and created a 3D model of an overturned cart! These are small touches, but players REALLY appreciate this kind of stuff.

    I use 4x6 index cards as NPC character sheets, and keep them in a little index-card file.

    Hope this stuff helps!

  • #8
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    My Craptastic list...

    1. *Legos are your freind...They are even customizable, sand down longs swords and you gots yourself a shortsword/dagger.

      *Counters are your freind...They come in differing sizes for those big enanies, and you can color code them for battles

      *Hand held lights are your friend...You can use them to help visualize your sight radius by holding them over your character and having it extend the 20-60ft or so for a torch, or lay it down if you have an adjustable light (like the little maglites...) for a cone effect (also good with area effect spells)

      *I am your friend...Give my money

      *Hero quest is your somtimes freind, who will lieave on the the side of a road for some hot girl...They have good accesories like skeletonbs and book shelves and alchemist tables...

      *Dice are always your freind... make wondeful counters, and to simulate flying, just put creatures on d6's with the hieght in feet on the top, like 1=10,2=20...when you get to seventy, you use two, or a d 12(but harder to balance)

      *spills are NOT your freind...they make an icky mess

      *String just Wants to be friends... ... also good for measuring radii and also good for cones and the like...
    Last edited by Someguy; Wednesday, 13th February, 2002 at 10:56 PM.
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  • #9
    index cards are a DMs best friends.

    I have used them once or twice. Now i just wing NPCs. He dies when i feel necessary, and if he is an integral part of the story, don't matter if you unlad on him- he will just smile and keep on comin

    I have like 10 sets of dice (varios colors) and use them to denote trees, animals, and campfire (based on color)

    And a white boards is cool too... I plan on buying think black tape and makin the lines. I used to use use permanant markere, but found it wasnt so permanent...

  • #10
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    If you have played in any of the Living campaigns, you are familiar with item certificates, little slips of paper with items and abilities on them. You can make these in powerpoint pretty quickly, and do a pretty good job. The players love them and all they cost is time. The players like to look at the certs and trade them or argue over them in ways they never do over a simple list.
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