A few days ago, I wrote a post explaining why I went with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition for a family game. While I could talk a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses of DnD 5e—and I probably will—I thought I’d take a minute and talk a bit about what tools and props I am using to help make things go smoother. This is aside from the books, of course.
The Grid & Miniatures
Over the years, I have been a big ‘theatre of the mind’ gamer and GM. For those unaware of what that means, it means that I am more likely to play without miniatures and through descriptions. Maybe I scribble something down on a sheet of paper or reach for some makeshift props to help describe where player characters are in relation their opponents or sometimes, when I’m in Google Hangouts, I use the Scoot & Doodle App. With the kids, however, I decided to go ahead and use miniatures. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.
First, I’ve always wanted to use miniatures. I enjoy the 3D representation. Next, it provides a concrete explanation for the younger players. Many I have spoken with over the years agree that using miniatures with kids playing RPGs helps them imagine things a little bit better as well as avoid some frustration and confusion along the way. Another reason I am enjoying using miniatures for our game is because it gives all of us the ability to be a bit more crafty. I have some D&D Encounters minis and some Heroclix that can stand in as miniatures, but we’re also making some. My good friend Jon Henry provided me with a soldering iron and plenty of wire to make some wire frames and combine with Sclupy. I’ll be using these videos from TheDMGInfo as a basis for that. Meanwhile, I’ll also be using some of TheDMGInfo’s other videos along with DMScotty’s channel to build more neat things. Meanwhile, I also used Wyloch’s Armory in creating some quick, sturdy paper minis.
So, we have a large grid map I got from Sports’N’More (Shameless plus, it’s my father’s store) and some wet erase markers I picked up from Staples. We have minis I’ve picked up over the years or have made. And, we’ll be making plenty more along the way.
The GM Screen
Saw a video awhile back that showed how to make this pretty neat GM screen. I decided to add an extra binder in and it works well. Right now, the downside is that it’s too tall for the play area. When I actually sit behind it, I can’t see most of the map. I’m working on some solutions. Currently, it looks like I’ll be moving a second table over more near my area so I can put it there. Even without the screen, I’ll probably need that for somewhere to place print outs, a smaller version of the map, notes, etc.
I’m also going to start using my whiteboard notebook. I saw this, thought it was neat and a close friend sent it to me. It is neat, but is going to be even neater as I stop writing down and wasting sheets of paper I also run the risk of getting confused with. I will use it for keeping track of HP, initiative, etc.
My wife has been diligently working putting together spell cards for our game. These are pretty neat. I recommend, unlike her, start with the spells your characters have before trying to do all the spells alphabetically. Of course, we’re using traditional polyhedral dice and the kids really enjoy having their own dice. In general, the kids seem to enjoy having their own anything. That helps get them into things and lends toward teaching them a little bit of extra responsibility taking care of their own stuff.
I use sheet protectors, keeping track of my stuff as well as the players’ character sheets. It’s helped out a bit so far and I highly recommend it, especially if there’s going to be any food or drink near the gaming area.
Poker chips have been handy to mark status effects and similar things–we used blue for flying and green for hidden in trees, for example, in our last game.
What kinds of neat tools do you use for your game? Or, are you one of many who believes such props takes away from the RPG experience? If you believe it takes away from the experience, is it just a theory or from using them in the past? Do you think there is a difference between using such props with adults versus kids? Let us know.