Organizing my DM Arsenal

So right now, we’re in the middle of a slowly-but-surely re-arrangement of our house that Shel has referred to as our “Uber-Geek Home Make Over.”  Pretty much, we’re attempting to finish putting away the stuff we’ve procrastinated on since we finished moving in….to make room for the new furniture coming in thanks to the closing of my game shop.  What can I say? I loved our gaming tables and bookstore shelves…we’ve already moved my massive gaming collection to the living room! Now we’re sorting through and trying to determine what can stay, what I should give away to friends, what’s going on eBay and what I’m simply putting in storage.

Part of this endeavor has been going through and attempting to unpack, sort and store my various gaming accessories into easy-to-grab cases. Towards the end of my D&D 4E campaign, I was lugging giant tubs of various minis, map boards and a metric fark-ton of extra gaming junk (like official WoTC D&D Skill Decks.) I’m still in the process of weeding out unnecessary stuff  and clutter that really just takes up more space than needed, but I did want to take this time to share some of my favorite accessories in the “DM Arsenal”.

The DM Toolbox:

Okay, so the “Toolbox” is actually a toolbox AND a tacklebox; but they’re both easy to lug around and at least organized to my advantage. Essentially, these are the quick and dirties for me to run a D&D combat session just about any place I need to. One thing I’ve had to learn, especially during my time with 4th Edition, is getting the most use out of minimal space. The game tables aren’t just there for maps and miniatures; but also dice, character sheets, and the snacks and sodas that fuel our attention spans.

The Toolbox consists of dice, condition counters, dry erase markers and assorted dungeon tiles from various WoTC and Fiery Dragon products. Matter of fact, since Fiery Dragon apparently loves to pack a dry erase dungeon map with their products, I decided to get a little experimental and actually cut one of them up into Eight, 4×11″ size tiles. One of my big beefs with their supplied play mats is how they’re folded up, causing creases in the board which usually disrupts miniatures and counters alike. I think cutting one up like I did was actually a smart move; it doesn’t appear to have any peeling from the lamination, and now I can lay out smaller, more manageable play areas when in a pinch.

Fiery Dragon actually takes up the bulk of my toolbox selection, as I had long ago purchased both their Battlebox 4E as well as their Counter Collection 1 series. While a bit pricey all together, I will say that the Counter

This is what a box full of just Monster Manual 1 looks like.

Collection is a VERY impressive alternative to miniatures. The 1″ die-cut counters of every monster in the Monster Manual works very well, and they’re very good quality and should hold up to wear and use for many sessions. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is simply organizing them. Punching them all out results in a massive, chaotic collection that is time consuming to sift through. This is where my tacklebox came in…it’s literally nothing but ALL monster counters. It’s not even all of them…the largest counters wound up in the Toolbox instead along with the dungeon tiles. Still, I was able to at least sort them by tier (and sometimes levels). Best part is: A lot of these monsters appear across all editions of D&D, so they make good counters in general to have regardless of what fantasy game I’m playing.

While the Counter Collection can be a bit much for some, the Battlebox is a handy product to have on hand for any 4E DM. The pads of character & spell sheets, the dry-erasable character & initiative trackers, and all of the condition tokens were worth picking up a copy. The spell radius templates, the dungeon dressings and the additional PC counters are just icing on the cake. If you’re wanting to see a more in-depth overview of these products, check out this vid on Youtube.

Software Tools:

  • Masterplan: Even though WoTC issued a Cease and Desist on their compendium integration, it’s still my favorite campaign designer, dungeon map tiler and combat manager for 4E. Hell, I’m using this software’s plot flow-charts and note keeping for other non-D&D games right now.
  • Hero Lab: My subscription to D&D Insider is ending in a month, and I decided I didn’t want to give WoTC any more money for the current state of their online tools (yes, I’m still bitter about what happened to Masterplan.)  But I’m okay with that, because I felt Hero Lab was a better character creation software anyway! It runs damn good on my tablet PC, its interface isn’t all cluster-fucked like WoTC’s Character Builder, and even though it has the ability to update stuff from your Insider subscription, you can also MANUALLY enter in your own content. What’s that!? Homebrew or 3rd party content in MY character building software? Best part is the 4E support was bundled with the Authoring Kit, along with the Savage Worlds rules.

Other Handy Tools:

  • Dry Erase Battle Graph Boards — really handy. Sturdy boards, dry erasable, and the puzzle locking allows for steady rotation of the game board as well as moduler dungeon design.
  • Gaming Paper — Used a lot of this when my shop was open. Great for designing large maps that you can just roll up and take with you. Pretty cheap in price, pretty high in quality grid paper. Works awesome for poster maps and other uses.
  • The World’s Greatest ScreenOkay, so I already own a D&D screen. This thing is still awesome for when I run other RPG’s though. I’ve actually taken to buying some PDF’s of screens (like Rogue Trade and Dark Heresy) to print out and use with this product. Sometimes, I keep it handy just for extra charts and notes for myself. The plastic covers work with dry-erasable markers, too (Yes, I have a fetish for it with my gaming stuff.) I’ve actually used just a blank sheet and a marker to keep track of initiative or jot notes.

Products that I ultimately felt sucked:

  • GameMastery Combat PadTo be honest it was a fun idea, and you would think it would cater to my dry erasable marker fetish. But it got to the point I felt it was…tedious. Why am I writing players/characters/NPC’s/bystanders/pets etc. names on magnets to slap on my combat boar….which just happens to be dry erasable itself. Yeah, sure, re-use the magnets or move them around blah blah blah….it ultimately became a novelty more than a utility to me. I ended up giving it to a friend to help him with running his first d20 Star Wars/Saga Edition game, which was awesome. For me though, it was much.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Class Skill Decks — Really, I can’t tell you why I shelled out for these while I has a year’s subscription to Insider. I can tell you my players loved them; probably because they got tired of updating their custom cards every couple levels or so.  In the end, they were just more crap for me to lug around, and another item taking up table space. I’d rather they kept up with a Power Sheet instead of cards, but that’s just me I suppose.

I leave you now with another bi-product of our “Uber-Geek” make over….Shel said she wanted her dice box to match her shoes (which happen to be Goblin Stompers….)

2 thoughts on “Organizing my DM Arsenal”

  1. I really like that “the world’s greatest screen”. I might have to pick that up.

    Speaking of dry erase fetishes, do you know if there is a material you can use to make modular dungeon tiles that you can draw on? I’ve got a vision in my head that involves modular dry erase dungeon tiles, on a dry erase board.

    Also, rad tacklebox art. Did you guys draw that?

    1. About making your own:

      I’ve heard that simply laminating print outs works alright. Wet erase markers work better; dry erase can work but if you leave the stuff on for a few days you might have to buckle down with some cleaning solution. To be honest, I bought a small kit of dry erase markers that included a bottle of solution in order to preserve my battle boards (and I have forgotten a few times to wipe’em down….so it’s been a blessing.)

      As for the dice box art, Shel drew those on all by herself. But the particular art style was inspired by the “Goblin Stompers” D&D Tennis Shoes put out by RYZ, which I bought for her a year ago. Google them bad boys, expensive but damn cool looking!

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