Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Miniatures You're Not Using: Tokens and Tiny Props

Add a level of fun and tangibility to your game with tokens and props that are cheap to get or make and look great. Having manipulatives/tokens to represent common commodities is so helpful for young or casual gamers. In my Dungeonteller games, players love having coins, gems, potion vials, and rations to hoard in their "inventory box" (a cheap metal box with a see-through lid), along with index cards for less common items. Nothing so satisfying as being able to hold a glittering gem or a handful of gold doubloons in your hand or casually toss them across the table to the GM as your PC buys a round for the whole room.
Potion Bottles: I bought a bag of 50 teeny glass vials with round cork stoppers online. Filled them with colored play sand, printed out tiny labels that I worked up in Illustrator, and glued on the labels and the corks with Tacky Glue.
Food Packs: Again, designed the wrappers in Illustrator to look like grocery paper with grease stains and wrinkles. Wrapped them around a stack of 1-inch squares of chipboard/illustration board. Tied them up with string. No glue needed.
Coins, gems, and Treasure Chests: You can buy very cheap plastic coins, gems, and treasure chests online from various toy or novelty suppliers. We have the gems color coded (especially important since Dungeonteller gems can be consumed like scrolls to grant a minor buff or bonus). The treasure chests are tokens representing 50 gold coins each. On the way: water bottles, lantern oil, torches, arrows, and rope!
Potion bottles and food packs
Closeup -- the food pack has grease stains

"The Bank" filled with coins, gems, and chests


  1. These are great. (I might just do something like that myself.) I'll be very interested to see the water bottles, rope. etc.

    Keep up the good work :)

  2. You could use colored sugar or even pixie stick dust (sugar & flavorings) in your potion bottles to make then true consumables.

  3. I've always liked using physical representations of in-game stuff. I find it especially neat in SF games, where you can hand out a physical power cell and mark off charges, and I have some idle notes on converting D&D spell memorisation/preparation to a tetris-based system where spells are a number of tetrominos which have to fit (adjacent!) into your caster's head. I dunno, fiddling with things is fun.

    I do love those potions and ration packs.

  4. Having physical reps is fun. I like what you have done with the potions, rations etc. We currently playing the Pathfinder adventure Rise of the Runelords. As rpgs are only an intermittent part of the gaming cycle, we decided to pull out all the stops and pick up the Paizo cards that go along with the adventure path, and the generic gear cards so players have an idea of what they are actually carrying.

    I think potions and especially coins would be a great addition.

    Good stuff.

    David S.

  5. I really like your game props. They remind me of the stuff I do for my HeroQuest set. More so, the coin props.

    I have an idea for another type of prop: Scrolls. Basically aged paper, rolled-up, tied like a diploma, and sealed with red wax. Scrolls could be marked for different types of spells for one-off Spell Scroll items. Marked wooden dowels, acting as rods, maybe used to note multiple scrolls of the same type -- just slide them into the scroll.

  6. My latest purchase is a box of arrow-shaped cocktail/hors-d'oeuvre picks that players will use to track their ammo in-game. For all these props, it's essential that each player has a box or bin to keep their stuff in, or things get very messy. As the "banker", I have all the bits organized into compartmented craft boxes.