Category Archives: Tabletop

MTG Deck Rebuilding

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before on here, but I play Magic: The Gathering, often going in to play casually at the game store, particularly in the Commander format (formerly known as EDH).  I pick a theme for a deck, and assemble 100 cards to build that deck according to that theme and the rules.

One of the decks I’ve always wanted to build, partly because it was one of the first things I ever heard about in Magic when my brother told me about it when we were kids, is a sliver deck.  Slivers are creatures within the world of Magic that mutate and share their mutations with other slivers (thematically).  Gameplay-wise, whenever you play a new sliver, it has some ability that it then shares with all the other slivers (more or less).  One sliver you play might give them all +1/+1, another might give them first strike or deathtouch, etc.  I finally built that deck recently, and had ordered some more cards to fine-tune it.  Yesterday, some of those cards came in, and I planned to start integrating them into the deck.

The deck is gone.

I’ve looked all over my house, my car, the game store, the bag I carried them in, the deck is not there.  It’s been driving me nuts for the past 24 hours.  I finally built what I wanted, and now it’s gone, possibly through carelessness on my part, and that irks me.  I’m going start carrying my decks in a more reliable setup, and take inventory of which ones I have on me much more frequently to prevent this from happening.  I put too much time (and yes, money) into this hobby to start losing things because i tried to carry too many decks in a bag that can’t hold them all without them falling out, or forgetting them behind a box or bag or something at the game table.

So, I’m rebuilding.   Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone found it, or maybe it’s in some weird place that I put it for some unfathomable reason and forgot.  But, I’ve always wanted to play this deck, and I’m going to.  And I’m going to build it better this time.

To help with that, I’m keeping in mind the things I learned from building it the first time.  It’s technically a five-color deck, but trying to truly play five colors, particularly in the Commander format that prevents you from using multiples of anything other than non-basic lands, is a recipe for getting stuck with the wrong mana at the wrong time.  I’m making it mostly tri-color, with a splash of the other two colors.  I’m also cutting out most of the non-basic lands that I used before that came into play tapped, and some of the not-so-great mana rocks that always came out at the worst possible time.

Also, this time I’m using this site: Deckstats.net

By putting my decklist in, I’m getting an analysis of the mana curve, mana color distribution, mana production distribution, test draws, and more to help me tweak the deck before I purchase (or in my case, repurchase) a single card.  I’m sad that I lost my cards, and it’s gonna cost me, but I’m going to build a better deck.

AND MAKE SURE I DON’T LOSE IT THIS TIME.

Hopefully none of you will make the same mistake.  Always keep track of your decks, and if your bag seems like stuff might drop out, you should carry less or get a more appropriate bag.

DM Tools: DM’s Toolbox of Holding

I thought it was time to share some of my tools of the trade.  This toolbox was supposed to be the first post in that series, but I realized the section with Flatminis wouldn’t make much sense without doing the Flatminis article first.

Anyway, I would like to start by making it clear that this is just my toolbox, what I’ve decided to put together and what works for me.  This is by no means saying that this is “THE” way to put a DM’s toolbox together, this is just what works for me.  I know many other DMs who use almost completely different and often much smaller sets of tools/ game aids and run games as good or better than mine.  I also bring in the toolbox regardless of whether I’m running or playing, as a DM can always have a bad day when they forgot to bring something, or a player might have forgotten stuff for the character they are playing that night.  I must note that I’ve only been running Adventure League games with this toolbox, so the items I might need are more predictable and the NPC characters are premade, so there are some items that homebrew DMs might use to help with a more spontaneous game that are not included in the toolbox in it’s present form.

I’ve included hyperlinks in this article to the appropriate Thingiverse pages for most of the items in the box.

For my toolbox, I got a standard crafting toolbox from a hobby store, since it has a bunch of compartments for small objects.  I customized it a bit for my own use.

Toolbox_Top.png

Translation of the runes:

“I prepared explosive runes this morning”

I finally found a place for a bumper sticker I’ve always wanted to use.  I thought it was appropriate for DMing.

Back_Of_Toolbox.png

One of the top compartments holds a couple of spare sets of dice, in case of a new player or someone forgetting their dice.  The other holds a couple dozen goblin Flatminis.  You can never really have enough goblins.

Toolbox_Top_Open_2.png

Here’s the inside of the toolbox.  As you can see most of the items in my toolbox are 3D printed.  I won’t go into everything in the box, but I  will cover some of the highlights.

Toolbox Open.png

At the top of the toolbox are minis I keep for a lot of common enemies, mostly the Flatminis kind.

Toolbox_Open_Upper.png

This toolbox has minis for groups of:

For use with those, I have numbered bases to make DM monster accounting simpler, and unnumbered bases for more distinct minis that I covered in another post.  For enemies I don’t have specific minis of, I have ninjas.  Because… why not ninjas?

773f84a53f646d9ff9563ef1286d77f5_preview_featured.jpg

FlatMinis: Ninja

I have doors for when we want to mark open or closed doors on the game mat.  When I made these I scaled them up so they’d match a 1 inch grid.

doors1.jpg

Mansions of Madness Doors

I even have a kicked in door that someone designed on Thingiverse shortly after I put a general inquiry out on one of the groups.

Kicked In Door.jpg

Broken Door Miniature

For when I don’t have a distinctly different mini for a chieftain or other leader of a group of enemies, I have some different colored marker bases to indicate them.

Minis Leader Marker.jpg

Minis Leader Marker

For creatures that are enlarged from medium to large, or to hold some of the larger minis I have, I have these bases which I modified to be compatible with a few different things.

Numbered Multicompatible Base.jpgNumbered Multicompatible Enlarger Base

I also have a few templates for various spell effects, and markers for effects.  The easiest to do one are the status effect indicators, which are just rings from plastic soda bottles.  I keep them on a carabiner clip for ease of storage.

templates.jpg

Some of the most fun/useful items to me are the tokens I use.  I have tokens to remind people of various effects they have access to.  Inspiration tokens for DMs to hand out, bardic inspiration tokens for my bard to use, a token to mark enemies who failed to save against vicious mockery, and death save success and failure tokens.

tokens.jpgThere are many other odds and ends in here such as scatter terrain, and minis that I rotate in and out of usage when I feel I need them (or not).  I often don’t use more than a fraction of the box when I’m not DMing, but I’ve also had situations where it ended up saving the game that night because the DM forgot to pack most of their minis or didn’t have a collection of their own yet.  That (and all the stuff I tend to make for my own characters) makes it worth it to me to carry it around every game night.

Oh, and I can’t forget this guy:

kool-aid

OH YEAAAAAAAH!

Sometimes you just need somebody to represent a large creature.

LOOT DROP: ULTIMATE BOARDGAME BACKPACK, PART 2, DM or Porter?

Here is how I pack the new backpack for DMing D&D 5E.

Starting at the top of the pack, there is a small compartment, meant for earbuds, chargers, etc.  I don’t really use it much.

earbud compartment earbud compartment open.jpg

Next is the large upper compartment of the pack.

top compartment.jpgI keep the dice case in the dice tray, held in place with provided elastic straps.

dice case.jpgdice case and tray.jpg

dice case in straps.jpg

On the right in an internal pocket, I keep my “Healer’s Kit”

health dice in pocket.jpg

I kept getting annoyed trying to find how much healing each healing potion did, and finding sufficient d4s for it, so I made this kit.  On the inside of the lid it has the values for each healing potion category, and an important reminder:  It takes an action to quaff a potion!

health potion kit.jpg

health potion kit inside.jpg

On top of the healer’s kit, and in the upper left mesh pouch, I keep some sets of spell cards.  In the upper right mesh pouch I keep a set of extra d6s, because it is the one die that uses multiples the most often.  Fireballs, anyone?  Green for green flame.

top compartment mesh pockets closed.jpg

top compartment mesh pockets.jpg

Moving out of the upper compartment in the side compartments I keep more sets of spell cards (for different types of characters.  In the bottom right compartment I keep a bottle of water for cleaning wet erase markers off of game mats.  I also strap my game mat to the side of the pack inside a dry bag.

right side of pack.jpg left side of pack.jpg

left side.jpg

In the pocket on the outside of the main compartment “door”, I keep my folders and character folios.

folders and folios 2.jpg

In the mesh pockets on the inside of the main compartment “door”, I keep the spellbook for my wizard (I made it before I really started collecting spell cards), wet erase markers, other writing utensils, a laser pointer, and some paper towels for cleaning the game mat.

mesh door.jpg

Now, for the main event, I have the main compartment fully expanded.

main compartment.jpg

I keep a lot of rulebooks with me, the core 3 + Xanathar’s Guide + whatever hardcover I’m running are the main ones I keep with me.  I use the Dungeon Master’s Screen (Reincarnated version), with a few notes that I’ve attached to it.

rulebooks and screen.jpgI also keep the toolbox and flatminis case in there for minis and tokens.

flatminis and toolbox.jpg

I also have a small card folio that I use whenever I need to compile a spellbook for a character from my spell cards.

spellcard folio.jpg spellcard folio inside.jpg

And, there you have it.  My massive DMing bag of holding set up for Adventurers League nights.  There is more I will probably throw in here if I run homebrew games, but this is going to be it’s usual configuration.

Starting Gear: Items for New 5E D&D Players

Some new players may find the amount of stuff that some people bring to D&D games intimidating, because we make it look like you “need” a lot of things to play, and a lot of these items can be expensive.

However, you don’t really “need” a lot.  In fact, for your first session, many players at the game table will have spares of the essentials, so they might be able to help you out the first game or two, but if you stick with the hobby there are a few things you should get at some point.

For your first session, if you are just trying out the game, I recommend printing out a couple of blank character sheets, bring a mechanical pencil with a good eraser, and bring something to write on.  Someone will usually have spare dice they can loan you for the night, some generic mini for on the battlemat, and you can usually find someone who will loan you their player’s handbook for the night and help you create your first character.

Character Sheets

If it’s an adventure league game, like what is often run at game stores, you will also need some log sheets.  You can make a free account at DMsguild.com to get access to the documentation and additional rules for Adventurers League.

Adventurers League Player & DM Pack

If you continue with the hobby, though, I recommend putting together the following kit as “Starting Gear.”

  1. Player’s Handbook (often shortened as PHB).  This contains all the essential rules that a player will generally need to make characters and play the game.  There are many other books out there, but you only really need this one, the others are optional for players.
    • Note: for the short term you can get away with using the basic rules document, but it is missing a lot of the information and options available in the full book.  You can find the document here. 5th Edition D&D Basic Rules
    • Here’s the rulebook you’ll want to get.  If it doesn’t have this cover, you’re probably getting the rulebook for a different edition, and the rules are NOT cross-compatible.Image result for player's handbook
  2. Pocket folder.  There will be a lot of papers (character sheets, logsheets, handouts) and you’ll need a way to carry them.  You might want to mark the folder clearly so that it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s.
  3. Tabletop RPG dice set.  Dice are denoted with a d followed by the number of sides of dice (example:  a d6 is a standard 6-sided die).   The exception is that d% indicates that you roll two ten-sided dice, with the one of them labeled for the tens digit, and you use them to get a number between 1 and 100.  A complete set includes a d4, d6, d8, d10, d% (the tens digit die), d12, and a d20.  You can find these easily at your friendly local game store (FLGS for short) or online.  There are dice sets available cheaply on Amazon, just search for “rpg dice.”
    • Some people (myself included) like to get fancy sets of dice, but I highly recommend starting out by getting a simple set of dice that are highly readable from a distance, like the bottom set.  More often you find sets that look like the top set, which look nicer, but the tradeoff is that they can be harder to read.dice sets.jpg
  4. An extra d20.  Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons often uses mechanics called advantage and disadvantage.  If the dungeonmaster says you have advantage on an attack or other d20 roll, you roll two d20s, and take the higher result.  If they say you have disadvantage you roll two d20s and take the lower result.  In either case, it’s handier to have a second d20 rather than borrow one or rolling the same die consecutively.
  5. Your current character sheet (and corresponding log sheets, if it’s an Adventurers League game), in the folder.  If you lose your character sheet, you might be allowed to rebuild it, but that is up to the DM and playstyle of the table.  You might have to make an entirely new character, or borrow one, and nobody really wants to do that.
  6. Blank character sheets, log sheets, any printable references you use.  It’s always good to have backups, because you never know when you’ll need a new character.
  7. Mechanical pencils with good erasers.  Pencils seem to roam and disappear at tables, so I recommend spares.
  8. Something to represent your character on a 1-inch gaming grid.  You need either a miniature or token of some kind that clearly marks where you are on the battle map, and fits inside a 1-inch square when upright.  There are a lot of miniatures you can buy or 3D print (if you have access to that), but there are a lot of crafty solutions I’ve seen online and at the game store for cheap minis.  I’ve seen people print out images and fold them up to stand up with a coin, pictures in small stands, pictures glued to corks; there are many options that don’t break the bank.
  9. A bag to keep all of this together and be able to grab and go.  If you let your stuff mix in with other stuff at home, you might find that you don’t have everything you need at game night.
  10. A dice bag.  Just something to hold your dice together in the larger bag.  Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and one usually comes with the dice that you buy.

That’s it!

Anything past that is optional for players, though I know many players (myself definitely included) who carry much more, but this is all you really need to get started.  Have fun!

NEW MODELS POSTED: 01/13/2019

I’ve been going through some of the files on my desktop, and decided to catch up a bit more on uploading them.

Bardic Inspiration Token

This is one of the 3D printed items that I’ve used the most at the gaming table.  It helps remind people when I’ve given them bardic inspiration, and reminds me of how many uses I have.

Bardic Inspiration Tokens.jpg

The below items I haven’t got printed examples of, as far as I know.  They are items I mixed into new items, but then decided not to actually use.

Bone Pile – Based

Meeple-Based Commoner Token

 

 

DM Tools: Flatminis and Case

I’ve probably been a bit confusing with some of my posts so far, referring to my collection of Flatminis without really explaining them, so here it is.

Flatminis are series of RPG minis available on Thingiverse for free to 3D print.  They are more of what I refer to as 2.5D minis, as they are designed to print flat on a 3D print bed, and it adds depth to them in layers, not requiring any sort of support (though I do highly recommend printing them using rafting, or you’ll have a hard time getting them off the plate).  You print the mini that has a standardized connector tab, and you print a matching base system to go with them that you insert the tab into like so:

1.

flatminis 1

2.

flatminis 2.jpg

3.

flatminis 3.jpg

The base design is standardized, so if you have your printer calibrated well you can print a number of the bases, and then print an even larger number of minis because you likely aren’t going to need all the minis at the same time.

Also, by storing the mini and base separately, you can store them much more compactly.  I keep a lot of the bases in my toolbox, and the player character/npc minis in a separate case for ease of storage and access.  The case is a little display case that I found at a hobby store and added some layers of felt to thicken up the padding and make it look better.  I also had to tape back the display stand portion of it so it wouldn’t flap in the way.

flatminis case closed.jpg

flatminis case open.jpgflatminis case back.jpg

Personally, I sometimes refer to these as Crayola Characters.  Why?  Because I like 3D printing, but not so much doing the detailed painting others do with minis, I literally use crayola markers to color in the white plastic characters, and then clearcoat the outside with nail polish topcoat 24 hours later to seal in the ink and prevent smearing/wearing off on other items (or my hands) in use or storage.

flatminis-colored-in.jpg

Sure, these minis can be simplistic and goofy looking, but I like them.  It allows me to safely and easily carry a wide variety of minis for when someone (particularly newer players or players with new characters) doesn’t have a mini, or when we need some random NPCs in a game.

Also, my enemy minis are mostly Flatminis as well, allowing me to keep an assortment of common enemies on hand without having to carry a bulky foam case with a lot of fragile minis.  I have at least 8 of each of the following minis.

flatminis enemies.jpg

Thingiverse has a pretty good variety of them, which I and some others add to every so often as we create things for our own needs.  I tend to remix in the connector pieces from existing Flatminis, and use a combination of Paint and Microsoft 3D Builder to turn 2D images into minis designs like I did with the heads of the orcs.

flatminis orc.jpg

Sometimes I also find keychains or other mostly flat designs on Thingiverse and remix them into Flatminis, like I did with my ninja minis and making twig blights out of a model of baby Groot.

flatminis ninja and groot.jpg

For DM accounting purposes I made some modified bases with numbers on them,

numbered flatminis bases.jpg

There are also some large size Flatminis.

large flatminis.jpg

It’s really convenient storage and portability-wise to use Flatminis, and enables me to always have a good amount of mini variety at the table.  It’s also kinda awesome when we have new players at the table who don’t have minis.  There’s almost always something close enough for someone to use.

Note:  There are weapon sets made to fit Flatminis, but I don’t make these due to some issues with the 3D printing process of such small and thin objects.