Accessories Make the Game
Just because we dont use Magic cards, though, doesnt mean we dont rely on a number of other great accessories. The rulebooks are just the beginning of the D&D experience. To truly immerse my newbie players in the life, Ive brought to bear two of the greatest inventions in this hobbys long history: miniatures, and what I like to call the Next Generation Mapping Tool.
Many years ago, not long after buying my D&D boxed set, I encountered the first range of D&D miniatures. They were made of lead back then, and the packages were all emblazoned with warnings about keeping them away from toddlers and pets and Im pretty sure that my handling so many of them over the years is at least part of the reason I cant remember anything that happened between August of 1982 and May of 1985. That and all the beer.
Lead poisoning aside (theyre made of much safer pewter now), miniatures quite literally bring a third dimension to the D&D experience. Oh yeah, and theyre just cool.
Over the years Ive collected dozens of them and even managed to find time to paint some. For this campaign, like many campaigns before, I rushed out and either bought or customized miniatures to represent, as accurately as possible, the Tegel Campaign player characters.
Here they are embroiled in battle with this big, weird ogre/giant/big ugly thing miniature I happened upon at a convention years ago and thought was cool:
To go along with the miniatures I bought this huge Battle Mat, which is a must-have accessory that lets you draw out walls and such using overhead projector pens. A damp cloth wipes it away and you can move on to the next scene.
The one in the pictures above and below belongs to James Jacobs. I lent mine to Roleplaying Games Brand Manager Keith Strohm two years ago, and it has not been seen since. I am still plotting my revenge and when it finally comes to pass . . . ah, that will be a day Mr. Strohm will long remember, I assure you.
But Im not bitter or anything.
Perhaps the only thing that has taken some of the sting from the thoughts of my poor, long-lost written-on-with-a-permanent-marker Battle Mat is what Ive come to know as the greatest roleplaying game accessory ever invented . . . and it was never specifically intended for use with RPGs.
Here at Wizards of the Coast we pride ourselves on our ability to stay ahead of the technological curve in all things. As such, the big conference rooms (one in each of the offices four buildings) comes equipped with these ultimately kick-ass whiteboards. Unlike a run-of-the mill whiteboard, these things actually print what you write on them, and, maybe best of all, they really have a one-inch square grid already on them. I do all the mapping up on this board, dry erasing here and there as I go, and if we have to stop in the middle of something, I hit the print button and get a hard copy of the map . . . man, I can hardly even think of it without getting all choked up.
It even lets me preserve some of my brilliant illustrations, like this homunculus:
Seriously, its like playing D&D in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey . . . which brings me to the ultimate question.
What does the future hold for the Tegel Campaign? (Insert dramatic cliffhanger music here.)
About the Author
Phil Athans is a senior editor in Book Publishing at Wizards and the author of the successful novelization Baldurs Gate. For more about Phil, read his author biography.
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