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Beyond Maps and Minis
Joining the Party
Tracy Hurley

At its core, Dungeons & Dragons is a game of the imagination. Plenty of people play it using nothing more than their mind's eye and maybe a few scraps of paper. For some, however, a game of D&D offers a chance to appeal to the other senses and to break out the arts and crafts. Whether it's 3D play environments, props, or sound, D&D offers plenty of avenues to explore one's artistic side.

Of course, we should mention the most recent and forthcoming releases. In January, we had the Haunted Temples map pack, a set of 3 double-sided maps (including one all-new map). Then, coming up in April, we have the next set of Dungeon Tiles, Cathedral of Chaos.

Beyond these official releases, what else are folks using in their games?

Creating 3D Play Environments

For those who might not afford a complete set of Dwarven Forge or who like to do-it-yourself, Hirst Arts produces a number of molds for crafting your own 3D environments and more. Ben from Ben's RPG Pile is using some of them for his Project Red Rover, in which he's building terrain for H3 Pyramid of Shadows. The first installment of the multipart project can be found here. Randall Walker of the Initiative or What blog uses Hirst Arts molds uses to create everything from skulls to terrain.

Others use important encounters as an excuse to exercise their creative arts and crafts skills. Mike Krahulik from Penny Arcade created strange planets made of foam for his group's foray into the Elemental Chaos. On Stuffer Shack, Tourq has pictures of the shrine he built for his 4e game.

Another way to add some flavor and atmosphere to your game is by repurposing common household objects and toys. For his spooky Underdark game, Mike Krahulik used tea lights and fake spider webs. Plus, a dollar store acts as a source of inspiration for Mark Meredith of the Dice Monkey blog.


Props provide tangible objects for players to interact with, and reminds them of important items they have on their equipment list. In his actual play podcast, Icosahedrophilia, Chris Heard has a prop shop segment that goes through what he used during one session—which included a runes puzzle for the players to solve and used tiles to represent the runes.

One idea I've wanted to incorporate into my own game for some time is a newsletter. It quickly shows how the characters' actions impact the world and also provides the players with valuable information that can be used in game. The Campaign Mastery blog has some tips for creating a newsletter.

Using Sound

Beyond touch and sight, some groups like to appeal to one's sense of sound. Playing music during a game can set the tone for the session or encounter and songs can be incorporated into gameplay. For instance, WotC's Greg Bilsland has a house rule where every character has a theme song. When that song comes up in the random shuffle, the player gets an action point to spend during the current or next turn. For those who want more control, there's an audio mixer called Softrope that can play multiple tracks to create a soundtrack unique to the game.

These are just a few ways you can appeal to multiple senses at the game table. Are there methods I missed? Add your suggestions in the comments below!

D&D Next

The DDXP convention happened this past weekend in Fort Wayne, IN—where Wizards of the Coast ran a number of seminars in addition to playtests of D&D Next.

Tavern Tales

About the Author

Tracy Hurley is a D&D blogger, podcaster, and freelance game designer. On any given night, there is a 50% chance you will find her on Twitter as @SarahDarkmagic, a 10% chance you'll find her on the Tome Show, 4Geeks4e, or the DM Round Table, a 25% chance she's home plotting world domination with her husband, and a 15% chance she's planning a sneak attack. She is rarely surprised, never flat-footed, and uses Encounter powers as At-Wills.

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