DIY Tokens/Pogs/Figure bases – Now even cheaper!

It’s no secret that I’m infatuated with the post from the Newbie DM about making your own D&D pogs/tokens using metal washers and your printer. Real plastic figs are expensive! But I’ve found a way to reduce the cost even more than the washer system.

Behold! The Tile System:

These are decorative recycled glass tiles for application in your home – perhaps as a kitchen back splash or bathroom tile work. Each one is 1″ x 1″ and comes in a 12″ x 12″ sheet for $4.98 at Lowes. 144 tiles for $5. The 1″ washers I use are 30 for about the same price.

Of course they fit on a 1″ grid marked battlemap perfectly.

Token Tools from RPTools.net allows the creation of square tokens quite easily just as you would make round ones by selecting a square patterned overlay instead of a round one.

The next task would be to find a square 1″ scrapbooking punch to pop out the square tokens for application on the glass tile. A quick Google search showed that such a creature does exist and is around the same price as the round one I purchased a while ago.

Also, with the new acquisition of my craps style dice stick for moving my tokens around the map, I can mount my pewter or plastic figures to these tiles so I can push/pull them around the map without tipping them over due to being top heavy.

Oo. I just noticed one my Transformers in the background. Better put that away before my kid destroys it! You can also see in this picture how the tiles are attached to the sheet. They are meant to be glued to the wall/surface and then grouted. The sheet allows them to be placed with precision so you don’t have thousands of 1″ tiles to apply and measure out just right. When I pulled the tile off the sheet, I had to remove some of the strands from the back by hand as they stuck on. The process took a few seconds.

In closing, I’m excited to use this new system and will soon have to find a way to neatly and safely store the multitude of tokens I have amassed – something organized so I can find what I need quickly. Perhaps another post when that system is devised.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 at 14:41

Table Tools for the Lazy DM!

(click image for large version and spot the kitty)

I’m lazy. I`ll admit it. I sit down in my DM chair and plan to stay there unless I have to go to the bathroom…and I’m working on ways around even that.  To aid me in my ability to plant my rear end for the duration of the session, I’ve acquired two essential tools for face to face D&D that are necessary to keep my booty in the seat.

The Laser Pointer

I can sit behind my screen, peer over the top, point to the map with the laser and bark orders. “Okay. Move ..that guy.. Over here. Good. Thanks” and my PCs, who are closer to the map, can obey my commands! One potential downside to the laser, if you saw him in the picture at top, is that one of my kitties decided to perch himself on the table and watch the action. He became interested in the laser when I began to use it. Heh.

This one, however, was a little more straight forward with his interest in the map:

Anywho. When using the laser pointer to instruct my PCs where to move the baddies, a scenario occurred a few times. “Yeah. Move that guy up to here. No, more. Ah. Back one. Over one more. One more.” Tedious and annoying all around.

Behold! The latest tool in my arsenal!

A Craps dice stick!

48″ long! Now I can move around my washer minis and other minis just where I want them. It arrived yesterday and my next D&D session is scheduled for the end of October (monthly) so we`ll see how well it works.

What tabletop tools do you find essential at your sessions?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 at 11:29

D&D with my pre-schooler – One year later

Quite a while ago, I introduced my D&D materials to my then 2 year old. He enjoyed doodling on the dry erase mat and really didn’t want to fiddle with the tokens I had made using the famous washer system. It had been some time since then but I never really busted out the materials again. Didn’t really have a reason to as my gaming only recently became Face to Face instead of online.

But with that changing, and with my boy getting older (well.. he’s 3 1/2 now) he began to ask some questions.

Him: “Daddy, What are you going to do while I’m at MiMi’s house?”
Me: “Err..Having some friends over.”
Him: “What are you going to do with them? Play with Transformers?”

He’s all about my 80′s collection of Transformers. Ha.

Me: “Nah. Well they might look at them but we won’t play with them like we do.”

He looks at my clear plastic tub of D&D supplies.

Him: “Is that a game? Are you going to play it with them?”
Me: “Yep. We`ll get some tables down here and play for a bit.”
Him: “I want to play that game with you when I get back.”
Me (Pleased!): “You bet! I`ll look forward to it!”

And we spend the next few minutes arguing about whether or not he can take one of my Transformers with him to his Grandma’s house. Uh… No.. Because he doesn’t want to take a small one that really can’t break. He want’s the big ones. Sorry boss. Anywho….

When he returned the next morning, I had left out the tub of D&D materials. He saw it and was excited to see what it was all about. I cleared off some table space in his play room (I wanted the spare bed room to be a Man Cave of sorts but the Wifey wanted it to be somewhat non-committed to any one style in case we had another child and needed to make it a bed room.. Bah. Fine.)

Last time I did this, the kid was only interested in doodling on the map and no real `play` took place. This time he patiently watched as I unfolded the mat and brought out the markers. Anticipating that he may just monopolize the markers, I quickly brought out the plastic pre-colored Reaper minis I picked up.  Bingo! Like throwing meat to a guard dog as you sneak up to the house. It worked.

I took the time to draw a basic map on the map. Some rooms connected by halls. Drew blue lines for doors. Some open, some not. One of the plastic minis was from World Wide Game Day a couple years ago. That became my `good guy`. An unpainted pewter rogue mini became his. I took 4 skeletons and placed them in different rooms. Kiddo watched intently.

“Okay. So you’re out with me. Walking around..and we find a house.. .A BAD GUY HOUSE!” He gets a wide grin on his face and laughs somewhat deeply. I continue, “We should get all the bad guys out of here and tell the police they’re here so they can come and take them away.

I had a d6 with pips for each of us and told him that we would roll it to see how many steps we can take and that we have to take turns. He would roll, call out the proper number by counting the pips out loud but would skips squares while counting the steps out. Bah. No biggie for now. I`m more interested in his creative abilities.

He encountered his first skeleton and proceeded to announce a loud “BAM!” as he knocked it over.  Eh. As stated before here, I really want to shy away from violence and encourage more clever means of bad guy disposal that didn’t involve walloping them over the nugget with a club.  I shared my concern with him and suggested we instead tie the baddies up so they can’t move. He liked the idea and began making circles around the skeleton with his mini. “I’m tying him up!” Nice :) We agreed to drag each helpless skeleton to “the bad guy room” and throw them in a pile.

When we encountered the next one, I stated that my guy was tied up by a skeleton and that I couldn’t move. The kiddo said in response “I’m going to take my knife and cut your ropes!” Alright! Good thinking! This continues for a bit and much fun was had.  When I announced that all the doors were locked, he even suggested we climb on the roof (not represented on the map) and find a way in. Rock on!

In closing, I wasn’t upset that the die rolls fell by the wayside part way through the fun. It was his imagination and ability to think in 3 dimensions while looking at a 2 dimensional map that pleased me. We’re off to the FLGS this weekend to select his own mini to play with on a consistent basis.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 at 18:22

Tutorial: Editing Canned Adventure Maps for Face to Face Play

This tutorial will show you how to take those canned adventure maps from WOTC and remove any `DM Only` markings to make them suitable for face to face play.

First we`ll need some tools. Well.. one tool. The GIMP – A very powerful and FREE image editor.  While there are other options out there, I’m familiar with GIMP and feel most comfortable teaching you how to use it for editing D&D maps. Head over to The GIMP Download Page to grab a copy and install it.

We’re going to take this map:

The plan is to remove the starting positions of the three monsters. W and the two G’s. I decided to leave the room number (7) as my PCs may want to reference it later when they draw their own map of the dungeon. Also, “To area 15″ isn’t any super secret so I`ll keep that in.

Okay, after getting the program open, you`ll have to copy and paste in the image – be it with Print Screen or right clicking the map in the PDF and hitting copy.  Let’s remove those two G’s. Select the Zoom tool:

Draw a box with this tool around the two G’s and some surrounding blocks:

When you release the mouse click, the screen will zoom in on the area of the image that you chose. Now grab the rectangle selection tool:

and select two blocks that are side by side.

Hit Control+C to copy that selection and then Control+V to paste that selection. It will appear right over the selection you made so it will seem like nothing happened until you try to move that selection. You`ll be moving the copy while leaving the original in place. When you place your mouse over the newly pasted selection to move it, you`ll see that the cursor changes to little arrows pointing up, down, left, and right. Click and drag the pasted selection over the two G’s and try to line them up so the grid lines blend it. You can use your arrow keys on your keyboard to make fine adjustments and get it just right.  Click off of the selection and on to any part of the map image to set the selection in place. If you’re unhappy with the placement, hit Control+Z to undo the last action which will re highlight the selection and allow you to move it around.  It can be difficult to see if the lines line up with the highlight dotted lines dancing around. Don’t be afraid to de-select it, check, and hit Ctrl+Z to move it around again. I do it often. When you’re done with the G’s, it should look like this:

Now let’s take care of that W. To get to it, either you the scroll bars on the bottom and side of the image or zoom out and back in. To zoom out quickly, use the drop down menu at the bottom of the image. In the picture above it says 317%. That’s how far zoomed in we are.  Select something smaller to see more of the image and then use the zoom tool to drag a box around the top row of the blocks that will include the W all the way over to the opposite corner:

Removing that W isn’t as easy as just selecting the block next to it and dragging it over. That spider web will look all chewed up and horrid. But, there’s another spider web in the opposite corner. Or, as I just noticed while typing, another web down two squares and three to the left. Heck there’s a few here. Let’s work with the harder one that is within our field of view. Use the rectangle selection button and draw a box around the empty square with a spider web in it. You may have to zoom in even further to get a nice selection. Try to have it look like this:

See how it’s right in the middle of the grid lines? We don’t want to copy too much over as it may encroach in to the doors when placed over the W. Experiment though. Do the Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V combo to have a new selection of that block that you can drag around. Before we move it over the W, we need to flip it around.  At the top of the image window, go to Layer > Transform > Flip Horizontally.

Your image will be flipped. Now you can place it over the W. Use the above mentioned techniques to get it to line up with the surrounding lines.  Zoom out and marvel at your work!

Wait?! What the hell is that stray spider web line doing there?!?! Grr! It must be eradicated! It’s now time to introduce you to the most powerful tool in the arsenal (in my opinion of course).

Behold! The Smudge Tool

Select that tool and under the options, choose a brush size of like 5. Click the icon next to the brush size and choose the circle. The pictures don’t list the size so just do some trial and error until you find the one you want.

Go to your image and put your cursor over the stray web line. Click and hold and drag over the area a little bit. Avoid contact with the grid line above though as we don’t want to smudge that at all. This smudge tool blends in surrounding parts of the image together. Let go of the button when you’re done and check the work out. If you don’t like it – Ctrl+Z and try again. The finished product should look like this when zoomed out to 100%:

If you wanted to remove the big 7 in the middle, I’d select a 2×2 square of blocks and drag it over. Simple. To remove the “To area 15″ I would select a large selection of background above the text and drag it down then use the smudge tool to blend the edges a little.

Remember, none of your PCs will know what this map is supposed to look like… unless they’ve played it before or are a DM playing this adventure else ware. If you didn’t smudge the area just right, no one is going to know.  Print this sucker out and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 at 10:32

Going from Online to Face to Face D&D: The Poker Face

pokerface I’ve decided to take the step from Online D&D to hosting face to face games at my new house. The online style has suited me for a few years but with my child getting older and able to spend nights at his grandparent’s house, I’m prepared to go all out, have my close comrades over, and kill some baddies at the dining room table. But I’ve already noticed that there are a slew of differences from online play that will have to be addressed with face to face sessions.

Last week at a LAN party (yes, they still exist) I hosted a session of the 2008 WW Game Day adventure Into The Shadowhaunt for 5 players. Some were new, others seasoned, still a couple were familiar with 3.5 but not 4e. It went well, we all had fun. One player tried to use a Streetwise check to perform a sexual act… was interesting.

Anyways.. I found one major thing that I need to work on. My Poker Face. When playing online, I didn’t need one. We were all behind our computer monitors. No one knew that I always DMed in my Transformers boxers! But at the table at the LAN Party, I had a player ask to do something. I don’t even remember what it was exactly.  But it was something that I didn’t have an immediate plan of action for. Sure, the request was do-able, wasn’t anything too far fetched but I just had to think for a moment on how formulate a plan. I didn’t want the player to think that their request was unimportant since it wasn’t planned in the adventure as I feared my “deer in the headlights” look would give that away.

I tried to put on my poker face. No luck. More deer in headlights. I took a moment, thought of a response, gave it, player happy, DM happy.

While this isn’t the best example of when to use your poker face, I see that it’s certainly a skill that needs honed. Do I flip through some random pages while I think? Take a 5 minute break to gather thoughts? Fake it til I make it?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 at 20:20

I feel so out of the D&D loop!

loop

I feel like I’m out of the D&D loop, man. Nursing school has consumed much of my life – so much to the extent that I can’t even find time for a little D&D! My Insider account has lapsed, my group hasn’t played in a few months, we just moved to a new house and my D&D stuff is slowing being re-discovered as we unpack… <sigh>.

But, I have a computer LAN gaming event coming up in late July and I’ve lined up 6 chaps who want to play a little D&D. Most are brand new..which is good for me as I haven’t DM`ed in months. I’ve also seen that Gametable has some new versions out and is changing its name so expect reviews on those soon.

With the new house purchase, I’ve been thinking of running face to face games instead of online only ones but I have mixed feelings on that which are starting to become a full post instead of just this paragraph.

So…I’ve been gone from D&D since December. What did I miss?

Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 05:16

D&D, Violence, and My Toddler

The bad guy has the talisman? Stab him! Nasty thugs blocking your path? Lob some arrows! While these solutions to common D&D problems seem just fine for me, I struggle with the idea of teaching my toddler these actions at this stage in his life.

Are there alternatives? Sure there are but I fear that my gaming sessions with my son will turn in to constant skill challenges. However, as I write this, I think…. would that really be all that bad? It would encourage imagination, creative thinking, and creative problem solving. But not every situation can be solved with diplomacy.

What I would like to do is propose a list of non-lethal attacks…er…solutions to situations that you can’t talk your way out of.  When it comes down to it, a non-lethal solution should be one that either immobilizes/stops the target or causes it to flee. Let’s do it:

  • Rope
  • Big net
  • Shallow`ish pit
  • Bolo
  • Stink bomb
  • Scary sound
  • Slippery agent on floor

I know that’s not a complete list but just some ideas to get people/me started. Basically, at this point, I want to avoid any action that strikes the target and causes physical harm.

Am I going overboard here? I know later in life, and not even all that far in the future, my boy`ll be able to make decisions regarding conduct and appropriate actions but for now I don’t want him to believe situations can be solved by knocking an arrow.

Do you have any suggestions for non-lethal solutions that would fit on this list?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:07

My first attempt at gaming with my 2 year old.

I’ve been greatly inspired by The Newbie DM’s rpgKids publication and then by the Daddy Dungeon Master’s account of trying rpgKids with his son. My 2 year old is a bright kid. Well…isn’t everyone’s kid? He`ll be 3 in a couple weeks. He has a robust vocabulary, constantly uses full sentences consisting of 12-15 words, and can pass gas on demand. Cool kid. :)

While it’s too early to tell what his interests are other than Mickey Mouse, Matchbox cars, and playing with his Thomas the Train play table, I would still like to encourage a vivid imagination and critical thinking skills.  A few weeks ago we were up in our attic putting something away. Actually, it was some of my old Generation 1 Transformers toys that I’ve been showing him. While up there, he saw an old globe I have tucked away. He announced to me, “Daddy? This is the Earth.” I stopped, still holding the box, and looking at him. I tried to think when he would have been up here last as the door is locked. “Yes. It sure is. …Where did you learn that?”.  He answered by spinning it slowly and asking me, “Where do we live on here?” Absolutely floored, I dropped my box and went over to give him his first geography lesson.

But that got me thinking..if he can understand a giant map like a globe, could he comprehend something much more important in the grand scheme of life? … a D&D map?!

A few weeks went by but last night I busted out my Paizo dry-erase battlemap and a black marker. I also had a bucket of tokens made in the style of The Newbie DM’s token tutorial. He was very attentive and very interested in handling everything and giving it a thorough inspection.

Rule #1 for others trying this. Have -TWO- dry erase markers. I only had one at the moment and my boy wanted to monopolize it. Instead of turning this experience in to a sharing lesson that would most likely end with him having to sit in the corner, I let him doodle on the map. It occurred to me that  he has never seen these tools before as I normally game online via Gametable when he’s asleep.  Pretty soon, he has his first battle map scribbled…er… drawn:

obm

In exchange for letting him play with the tokens, he allowed me to use the marker. I quickly drew a rectangle. “Okay kiddo. Pretend you’re in your room but you’re up on the ceiling looking down at your room.” I made a space for his door and put his bed and rocking chair on the map. He put down the tokens and began to pay careful attention to what I was drawing. I asked him where his dresser would be but he pointed to the wrong end of the map. It dawned on my that perhaps I need more realistic representations of the items in his room for this to work at this age.

So I abandoned the bedroom map idea and went for something else. I drew a 10 x 2 square hallway and placed two tokens at one end next to each other. I explained to him that each token takes turns moving and showed him that on one token’s turn, he can move 2 squares and the other can move 3 squares. We were going to have a race to see which token would make it to the end first, of course giving him the token that can move 3 squares.  However, when he began to touch and move the tokens around, the lines smudged on the map and he became distracted with playing with the tokens again.

In the end, I’ve decided to bring out these tools/toys regularly so he becomes familiar with them before I began diving in to some game theory and moving tokens around. Also, I plan on making a map of his bedroom using printed cut outs from pictures I`ll take of his bed, chair, dresser, and so on so he can place them on the map himself.

I`m very excited about all of this!

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 at 10:34

New D&D Encounter Tracker for web/iphone viewable by all players!

My players asked for a `whiteboard` of sorts where they can see the current status of all players as well as the initiative order. We play online using Gametable and Mumble (more on Mumble later).  One of my players was able to craft this nifty online D&D encounter tracker for us all to use and share…and you can use it too!

Here’s how to set up an encounter for you (the DM) and your party.

First, have everyone head over to http://encounter.fites.net

You`ll see this screen.

1st

The page/app will update every couple seconds so those connected to your game can see the latest info. Click (or touch if you’re on your iphone/ipod touch) the Menu button. Hit Settings. You’re now at Session selection screen.

2nd

Since this is your first time using the application, Click on Game Name and enter a name for your session. You can reuse it later. Mine happens to be called Czar. Original, I know :) But its easy for my players to find. Please note, the passwords are sent in plain text instead of the *******’s you may be used to. Meaning, if you have a sooper seekrit password you use DON’T use it here. In the Password field, enter a password that people will use to join your session to view the data. For GM Password, enter a password you`ll use to identify yourself as the GM, giving you uber powahz! Well…the ability to add monsters. When that is done, click Menu and Create Game. After showing your game has been created, hit Back. You blank session is ready to go! If you’re returning to the session, use the drop down menu to find your Game in Progress, enter passwords, and press Join Game.

With your blank session, hit Menu, Add Character. Fill in the proper info and hit Add Player. By ticking the Hidden box, only you, the DM, will see the player/monster until you edit the character and uncheck the box.  Here is a populated session with one baddie.

5th

HP is color coded. Bloodied creatures are orange. Those close to death are in red. When I use this, I prefer to give all creatures an HP of 1/1 so the party doesn’t know the true number.

This`ll work for online sessions or live sessions where people have laptops, handheld devices/phone.  Post comments or questions. Right now, major bugs will be addressed if identified. Feature requests will be considered but are very low on the priority list.

Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 12:26

Using Google Wave with online D&D sessions

google_wave_logo

The online 4e D&D group I DM brought a concern to me stating that they would like some sort of interaction between our live sessions.  As is stood, we were meeting roughly every 4-5 weeks for a ~3 hour session.  It was very easy to lose momentum and feel a tad lost and out of practice when it came time for us to play a live session.

At first, I began thinking of a few ways to handle the situation. As previously mentioned, I have a server running that allows my players to log in and use the D&D Character Builder without having to buy their own subscription. Some of my players are Linux users and are unable to use the builder anyways. If I left Gametable running on there, we could exchange emails and move our players accordingly on the Gametable map throughout the day. There were concerns right away that managing combat via email would be a hassle and I had to agree thus it was decided we would advance the plot/story line between the live sessions and save the meat & potatoes for when we’re all together online.

But Google Wave is in the preview stage (pre-beta) and is invite only. So I said to my group at the last live session:

It would rock if we all had Google Wave to manage this stuff. I think it would work perfectly for it.

And then one of my players spoke up:

Yeah I’ve got enough invites for everyone here.

Whaaaaaat?! Turns out he had a slew of them and immediately sent out the invites. It took a couple days for them to arrive in our inboxes but within minutes, we all had our accounts set up and were exchanging test waves.

wave

Without going in to how Google Wave works (see this link for a video on that), I firmly believe it`ll allow us to keep the campaign flavor going even between live sessions.

Do others here do campaign work between sessions? If so, what medium do you choose to use?

Sorry, there are no more invites available.

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 10:18