Great DMing Tool: Washer-based Tokens

Jan 15 2009

Imagine having 100 to 200 role-playing miniatures, in color. Some of them fantasy characters, some of them sci-fi characters, some horror; whatever. And imagine if they cost about 5 cents each, and you could keep them all in a box the size of a hardback book.

I came across these at the D.C. Game Day last year, and I wish I knew the name of the guy who made them. Because they’re ingenious.

First, think about standard RPG tokens, the circular ones printed on heavy card stock. You cut them out and put them on your battle mat. But they’re hard to keep track of, they fall into all sorts of cracks, they flutter and blow around at the slightest breeze, they bend and get creased. They’re a pain.

Okay, so imagine gluing them to the flat side of a washer. Hey. Now they stay put, and they don’t get lost as easily. But you’re still limited to the tokens that your representative game company puts out.

But you’re not.

Go on the web and search for webcomic art. Find some cool web comics. Some will have awesome fantasy characters, some awesome sci-fi characters, some cool monsters; find cool stuff. Drag and drop some great samples to your computer.

Now, open up your favorite image editing application. It can be MS Paint. Crop each strip to just the face of a character (in Paint, use the selection tool, press Ctrl C, then create a new image, change its attributes to 1 pixel by 1 pixel, and press Ctrl V). Save it. Continue for all the strips you’ve downloaded.

(You may not even have to do this much. Many webcomics will have a page devoted just to a list of characters, with facial images already included. Just grab those.)

You now have a bunch of head shots. Drag and drop those into a word processing document. Print it out.

Now go to your local home improvement store and buy a bunch of metal washers; I got 3/18″ washers in bags of 25. Put the washers on top of the faces in your printouts, and make sure they’re a proper size. If not, adjust.

Now you’re gonna make them look fantastic.

Toss your word processing document onto a USB stick or burn it onto a CD, and head down to a nearby office supply store or copier joint. Ask them to print the document out, in color, on nice glossy paper. They’ll show you the papers they have; choose something really nice (you’ll only be using a couple of sheets).

Now cut out the faces, and glue each one onto a separate washer, using normal glue. It’ll stick just fine (though keep an eye on them; mine tend to curl up after I first apply the glue, so I have to press them down once more).

And, boom. You now have dozens and dozens of custom NPCs.

And if you’re in the middle of a game and need a bunch of faceless antagonists, turn your tokens over. The undersides do very well as blank representations of bad guys.

Genius, isn’t it? I just wish I’d thought of it first, in a way. Not that it matters, really, now. I want everyone to know about ’em and start using them.

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