Crafting, Creating and Finding Cool Stuff

One of the things I have enjoyed about getting back into D&D has been collecting and crafting various game aids. While none of these are essential for gaming, they all add to the immersion and fun. This article will show off the various items I have found, as well as the first items I crafted myself for our games. And for the guys over on TheMiniaturesPage asking about minis, these are the only 2 minis I have painted as D&D minis. Bother were entered into a local painting competition at Our House Games. A Death Knight and a Dwarven Cleric.

A couple years ago, before we started playing D&D, I found a wood worker online who made cool dice trays. They are square, with cork leather bottoms, and came in a variety of woods, finishes, and cork colors. Unfortunately, this guy seems to have stopped trading, which is a bummer, because I wanted one or two more of his dice trays.

This is the one I bought. Called ‘The Dark Hunt” it is a dark wood with a grey cork. Dice roll so great here. Not super loud, but enough clatter off the edges to know you are rolling dice. There were other super cool color combos, but alas, Iron Archer Gamecraft seems to have slipped away into the ether.

Looking for more custom options, a guy I met on Facebook crafted a trio of dice bowls for me from various woods. These went to my son and his gaming buddies. I may have mentioned these before, but for completeness and for those that are new to the blog, I am sharing them again. My son and his buddies play a lot of 40K, so these were crafted to include the icon of their favorite army. Dark Angels, Necrons and Blood Angels.  They turned out amazing, and all three get plenty of use. The DA bowl was often on the table while we played D&D as a secondary dice tray/bowl.

While waiting for my buddy to turn more bowls, I found a really cool dice tray made of leather on Etsy. My daughter plays with another group as well as our family games, and travels to play with her other group. When I found this portable tray, I knew I had to get it for her. It’s a perfect tray for D&D. Portable, leather, and rolls up like a scroll case. It just looks like it belongs in a fantasy RPG. You can find it here:

In all the games I’ve played that used dice of some sort, I always utilized a time-out for bad dice. Sit it aside, or load it back in the box until next week. Heck, I’ve even launched a really bad die out the side door of a game store. Said door opened onto a road so that bad die could end its useless existence. Way too many 1s on that little turd. While playing 40K I all-too-often simply bought a new box of D6s to continue a game. My dice rolling is notoriously bad, and I needed something better for D&D. Besides, a nice set of polyhedral dice isn’t something to throw away. I needed a dice jail. A real dice jail. Which I also found on Etsy. Now this was before I had a 3D printer, and the jails I picked up are most defiantly 3D printed. Still, for anyone sans printer, this is a viable option. While this is what I bought here: there are other options out there. I like these because they are portable, so I have two, one for home games and one my daughter takes on her itinerant gaming journeys. Bad dice beware, we have a place for you.

Since I was the only one familiar with the Forgotten Realms, I found a high-resolution image of the Sword Coast the WOTC has here and had it printed and laminated. I think I printed it 24”x36”, so it is good size. I have bought a few Mike Schley maps (he produces official Wizards of the Coast art) and had those printed larger as well. I find it helpful to have a bigger map than what is included in the adventure modules. You can find Mike’s amazing art here.

While perusing one of the many gaming-related groups and Facebook pages I am part of, I saw someone who had a skull they used for bloodies coins in a one-shot game. The coins were bought with real cash that was donated to a charity after the game. The coins were purchased and used to roll with advantage during the game. In D&D, rolling with advantage means you roll two d20s for an attack or save and use the higher roll. Pretty nifty. However, in that game, every coin bought and used gave the DM a coin to spend on advantage for the bad guys. In the review he wrote, the players loved it. The skull was a plastic Halloween decoration he opened up and then covered with craft paper to give it the look of being covered in desiccated skin. A little grewsome. A lot cool. And I knew I needed on. I’ve gone over it before on this blog, so here is one quick picture of my skull that holds what I call ‘coins of destiny’ that work in a similar fashion. Use them at your own risk.

Skulley the skull bowl

Which reminds me, I bought these coins off Amazon to fill my skull with: here

Heavy, with a shiny gold tone, they work great for my need. There is another pack from the same company that has small denomination coins. Kind of cool for a game prop.

After more than a few gaming sessions, we noticed the hit point section of the character sheets were getting worn through from erasing. While I guess we could just print new sheets, I like the look of a well-used form at the table. Thinking about it some, I decided to get some small game diary books for them to use. They could make notes of important NPCs, traps, code words, or whatever they needed, and also keep track of HPs in the book. There are very nice examples on Etsy, but I wanted something a little less expensive, and home crafted.

Heading to my local craft store, Hobby Lobby, I perused the aisles looking for something that would work. I found small drawing books, blank pages of a cream white heavy paper. A three pack was only like $10 regular price, on sale for $5 I believe. Then I picked up two sheets of dyed and finished leather (also on sale), some rivets and buckles. Then a second trip was in order for a bit more leather to actually make the straps for closures. Doing this on the cheap meant I did not buy the cobra or python or caiman skins. As cool as those were, using fancy leather would have priced this craft into “just buy one off Etsy”. Which defeats the whole crafting for gaming idea.

Adding a can of 3M 77 spray adhesive, I was all set. The leather was nearly a perfect fit. Though it could have been slightly bigger, to give more overlap and get better glue adhesion. Not only was I going cheap on this, I was lazy, too. No fancy stitching for this guy. Let’s just glue the leather to the books. I laid the book on the leather, centered it, and marked the edges with a scratch awl.

 After some consideration on corners (I didn’t do well, so figure this out yourself. It can’t be any worse than mine were…) I made some cuts and then sprayed the leather with the 3M spray. Be careful! It sticks really, really well… Lay the book along the marks, and press into place. I overlapped the edges and used the smooth end of a screwdriver to burnish them over. See? Cheap. There is a nifty tool for burnishing/rolling edges of leather that I chose not to buy.

With the leather stuck to the covers, I pulled out a leather hole punch from my son’s leather working tools. This is a pretty invaluable tool, though rather expensive. I used the smallest punch to put four holes in both front and back covers, then set the smallest rivets I had. I did use the offcuts to make backers for the rivets since the sketchbooks have paper covers. I figured this would give a little more strength.

With the leather on, and rivets set, it was time to figure out the buckles. I laid them out and decided which buckle to use with which book. One has two straps, the other has one. The extra leather I picked up to make the straps with was a cheap pack of dyed scraps. Next time I am spending a little more to get the right colors. These are a trial run, and really designed to be disposable at some point. After cutting the straps out, I punched some more holes using the awl for some, since the hole punch didn’t reach. Setting more rivets attached the straps and the buckles.

While these are by no means perfect, they look a little better than plain notebooks. Hobby Lobby here in the States has several drawing books with leather covers. If you are looking for something that is less work and don’t mind the expense, they are definitely an option. Or search Etsy, there are plenty there.

For a one shot I ran for my daughter’s group, I created some healing potions. I had seen these on Etsy and other places, but I needed 10 or so, and that made buying them cost prohibitive. For a while I thought I was going to have to give up on the idea because I couldn’t find inexpensive d4s. In D&D, a healing potion allows you to roll a number of d4s to regain hit points. My plan was to put two to ten d4s in each bottle, enough to roll for a healing, greater healing and superior healing or supreme healing potions. The bottles I found (I was on a time crunch) didn’t allow 10 d4s to fit. I also found some corks to cork the bottles with, though as purchased from Michael’s the bottles had a plastic lid covered with a cute little piece of fabric tied on. I can’t link the bottles, since they don’t appear on the Michael’s site. The dice had to be ordered online because Chessex dice (the ones I love) were just too much for something I was giving away. eBay had a 50 pack for around $10 shipped. ($13 now, I just ordered more.) These were a big hit, all of the kids thought they were cool, and were surprised they got to keep them.

The last items are some in game items. I was reading on a D&D website called The Alexandrian and was browsing all his tips for dungeon masters. One of the things he does is makes printed “books” to give his players when they encounter in game books. Instead of saying “you found a book” and proceeding to describe it and what it might have in it, he hands over a printed book. It sounded cool, so I browsed the net for some suitable book covers and other art. I spent some time in Paint 3D (I think) and made the covers into a two-cover spread, filling as much of a page as I could. If there were words or unusable marks on (watermarks mostly) I used one of the tools in the program to cover the markings with a swatch of the cover. These are not perfect by any means, and I can’t link for copyright reasons, but I hope you get the idea. Then I went through the adventure we were on and looked through it for any books they might find. Creating these, and a couple more, I did some brief writeups in a word document. Making them two columns in landscape mode, I was able to craft simple books. If I needed more pages, I made those as a separate document. I have access to a color printer, so I played around with ink colors and fonts, and drew some crude sketch maps.

If you do your own, go wild. Provide as much or as little info as you want. In one book, I told them it was written in an unknown language, and only listed the few things they could read. I prepared another page of the info they can find if they get the book deciphered. This is actually kind of fun, and gave me a nice outlet for writing and dreaming.

With everything ready, I bought some heavy linen paper to print these on. I laid them out and did a couple test prints on plain paper to make sure orientation was correct. Then I loaded up the fancy paper and went to town. After printing, I trimmed the paper back to the printed book covers and folded them into books. Cool little player props. Now then can reference their own discoveries and I can give them info that they have to actually read to find out versus me dumping info on them. I have plans for lots more, including the spell books of wizards they take on, and scrolls they find.

So that’s it. They player aids and props I have bought or created so far. Not everyone cares. Some people love it. I’ll probably make more stuff. A chainmail dice bag is absolutely on the to-do list. I think I want a couple ornate candlesticks to put some LED candles on for atmosphere. Anything to put us in the mood to cause carnage somewhere on the Sword Coast south of Waterdeep.

I’ll leave you with this video of the coolest DM’s screen ever being created from wood and silver wire and magnets. A thing of beauty. If any of you are looking for a gift for me for any reason whatsoever, a screen from Wyrmwood would hit the ticket.

Have you crafted or created anything for your gaming? Let me know in the comments what you have created, I am always looking for new inspiration.

BG the DM out

20 thoughts on “Crafting, Creating and Finding Cool Stuff

  1. Dave Stone February 15, 2022 / 3:26 am

    Thoughtful, and imagination provoking tools Harry, you have certainly put a lot of thought into this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • borderguy190 February 15, 2022 / 9:06 am

      Thanks Dave. In many ways an RPG is like a tabletop games. It can use counters and player aids. Why not make them cool? This stuff is the terrain of our games, too.

      Liked by 2 people

    • borderguy190 February 15, 2022 / 9:07 am

      Its so cool, TIM. Etsy is a wonderland of cool stuff from talented people.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. John@justneedsvarnish February 15, 2022 / 8:26 am

    That is all such nice stuff to have! 🙂 I’d imagine making it keeps you busy indeed! My favourites are the small books!

    Liked by 2 people

    • borderguy190 February 15, 2022 / 9:08 am

      Thanks John. It definitely does. Hence my lack of mini painting. Fair trade though, since we’ve had some great games!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. rantingsfromunder February 20, 2022 / 7:14 am

    that is all such cool stuff mate, if as they say the more you put into something the more you get out then you must be having an absolute blast!! 😁

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • borderguy190 February 20, 2022 / 7:27 am

      I know I am, Roger! I sure hope they are too. Now if we just had more time to play.

      Like

  4. Ann February 22, 2022 / 4:17 pm

    Some great stuff there. The dice trays remind me of some trays that a friend of mine picked up. They are made of clear plastic and come with legs so they can be put on boards with miniatures more easily and not in the way of the action. A pity that the guy stopped making them.

    I have to say, I wish I could find a D&D game like yours where I live. You obviously put a lot of time and imagination into it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • borderguy190 February 22, 2022 / 4:22 pm

      Thank you Anne!

      That sounds like a really cool tray. Over minis or maps or board games. No dice destruction. Or at least less!

      Start your own! I was terrified of trying to DM for years. C19 forced me to try, and we just kept having fun. I wish it was easier for people to find games. We will need more players come fall after my daughter heads off to college.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann February 22, 2022 / 4:47 pm

        I wish I had time to start my own. I’ve done a lot of DMing over the years, starting with OD&D back in the 70s, but putting together a game isn’t something I want to do these days. I think being in invested player in someone else’s game is about all the time and energy I could spare for now.

        Yes, the trays are awesome. They aren’t particularly pretty, but very functional. The legs even came off so you could put on longer or shorter legs and to make it easier for transport.

        Liked by 1 person

      • borderguy190 February 22, 2022 / 5:14 pm

        Time. We never have enough of it!

        As you describe the trays, I can picture them clearly. Was this guy making these in the last 10 years?

        Like

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