Posted on : 02-16-2011 | By : Brian | In : Advice, D&D, Guest Posts, The Great Seamus
Another guest post by The Great Seamus. Today he talks about playing D&D on the cheap by making use of local craft stores. As an aside, Seamus and Marcelo are both contributing pretty regularly to the blog, so I think it’s time I made them honorary members of the Guild. Their posts will no longer be prefaced by “Guest Post” (though they’ll still be in that category, for easy finding of things). I will, however, be including little intros like this on any posts I don’t write myself.
I sometimes feel that the hardest thing to convey to players these days is perspective. In our digital age, simply telling a player that a colossal black dragon is rearing on its hind legs, acid dripping from its maw, eyes glowing a hateful red . . . players today want to see it. I know many “old-school” gamers decry this, saying that back in their day, all they needed was imagination. I say that this is that natural progression of entertainment and technology. PONG doesn’t cut it anymore, and neither (necessarily) does imagination and dice. And while there is no substitute for a healthy imagination, these days there are a number of tools at a player’s and a DM’s disposal to help make the game come alive.
The two biggest aides one can have are maps and minis. Thinking up a character is great, but it is a little more endearing to put down your perfectly crafted mini on the table, geared for war. The same can be said for monsters – that same black dragon is much more impressive set dead center on the map, towering over your players’ minis like some dark god. Minis range from metal to plastic to paper, and obviously the quality varies accordingly. Some DM’s are perfectly happy have a round disc-shaped token on the field – me, I’ll take my dragon. The maps are another key addition. Most modules come with nice paper maps, featuring excellent artwork on a 2D surface. Some companies even make modular dungeon pieces for you to collect and assemble. Of course, this gets very expensive after a while. Dwarven Forge, for example, makes some of the most beautiful modular gaming terrain you will ever see – and for hundreds to even thousands of dollars, you can have it all. That black dragon I described to you can be bought, too – for around $75, straight from Wizards of the Coast. So how does one do all of this on a budget?
I find that craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s are the perfect place to do gaming on a budget. Michael’s sells and distributes toy figurines from a company called Safari Ltd, which produces both real and fantasy based animals that are in good scale with our friendly neighborhood D&D game. I myself purchased three dragons of equal size to the Wizards black dragon for a fraction of the cost. Do you need a blue dragon? Grab some paint and brushes, too. The best purchase you can make there are plastic tubes filled with miniature versions of their larger animals – perfect for medium and large sized creatures, and also able to be painted to look however you like.
Moving on to maps and terrain, you can also find a myriad of things to help out your game at these stores, too. Numerous stones, shells, and small plants can be purchased for less than $5 and added to your 2D maps to give perspective on cover, blocking terrain, and even difficult terrain. There are even trees and bushes made by those same toy makers that can be added to your map. Do you need castle walls? Get yourself some building model bricks and stack them however you need them. Another good resource would be looking online or at local garage sales and thrift stores for dollhouse furniture or accessories from the now defunct games Heroscape and Mage Knight. These accessories can be resurrected and help breathe life into your game.
Of course, some things you may need to get from the source. You will probably never find a beholder at Michael’s, and those maps need to come from somewhere. Also, if gamers fail to support the company, the company goes out of business and the game suffers an irrevocable loss. Try to balance your purchases. By all means save some money, but remember not to bite the hand that feeds you, as it were and support Wizards and your FNGS as much as you can.