Some new, favorite dungeon masters’ tools

My list of dungeon mastering gear needs a new addition. In my original post, I recommended that 3rd-edition Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder players use Steel Sqwire templates to determine the area of spell effects. The wires map circular and conical areas to squares on a grid.

The fifth-edition Dungeon Master’s Guide drops the jagged spell templates of 3E. Instead, the rules suggest that players measure actual circles and cones on the battle map. Spellcasters no longer need to stay inside the lines. Despite the change, eyeballing spell areas on a grid remains a chore.

Macrame rings

Macrame rings

To show circular spell effects, use macrame rings. The rings come in variety of sizes, so you can get an 8-inch ring for Fireball, a 6″ ring for Darkness, and a 4″ ring for Antimagic Field—or for the tactician who wants to launch a fireball above the battle to catch a smaller circle. The sturdy rings pack easily into your game bag.

Fireball-size ring

Fireball-size ring

I still hunt for wire templates for cone effects. I may try to bend my own.

Back in 2014, I backed a couple of Kickstarters from Jonathan Wilson at Tabletop props. He makes covered wagons, tents, campfires, and dead trees all scaled to match miniature figures. The tent and covered wagon props pleased me so much that I wish I had chipped in for more rewards. The props are now available for sale.

Campsite from Tabletop Props on a battle map

Wagon, tent, dead tree, and campfire from Tabletop Props on a battle map

Almost as many D&D adventures have PCs guarding wagons as exploring dungeons. During the inevitable ambush, I used to put a dungeon-tile wagon on the battle map. Now I have the covered-wagon prop.

Tabletop Props covered wagon

Tabletop Props covered wagon

The wagon boasts stunning details. The top-half comes off, turning the wagon into a flatbed. The wheels turn. At two squares across and three long, its scale suits the battle map.

The tent spans a 3-by-3 square on the map, so it represents a big shelter.

The campfire fits perfectly into a square and features translucent flames.

The wagon’s $25 price led me to only order one, but I plan to order a second. I will use the wagon in many more encounters than any of the more expensive dragon figures in my closet.

10 thoughts on “Some new, favorite dungeon masters’ tools

  1. Alphastream

    Another popular and simple device is a tape measure, or a series of strings cut to specific sizes. You pick your point and measure out from there. If the spell has a lasting effect (or if it’s a wall or similar spell that sticks around), you can place markers. I love the Litko plastic ones for this. Very affordable and really compact yet attractive. They have them in smoke, fire, ice, and other varieties. Some of them double as campfires or fire sources.

  2. Geoffrey Greer

    Beautiful stuff, David. This is definitely one of my favorite aspects of D&D: the beauty of a complete set of painted minis and props and dungeon walls, etc. It just looks so cool on the table. If only I could afford to buy all that stuff! Thanks for sharing, David. Really good idea with the rings.

  3. Brian McDaniel

    As far as I can tell, Tabletop props store still isn’t open- they don’t have a way to select shipping. I wish it was otherwise, I love their wagons and need them for an upcoming Ravenloft campaign.

  4. MN Blockhead

    The Tabletop Props website has a notice posted that states “The store is being updated and retail sales will be available soon.”

    I tried to order and used the contact for form to contact them about it before seeing the notice. David linked directly to the order page, so I skipped the home page with the notice.

    Hopefully it will be up and running soon. I really like the wagon. The tents, however, seem over priced to me.

  5. Timothy Park

    You mention bending your own wire shapes for cone areas and such. That’s actually fairly simple.

    Get a pair of fairly substantial needle nose pliers with a wire cutter in the jaws.

    For wire you can use old coat hangers, but they’re intentionally stiff stuff and more difficult to shape (and if you aren’t careful to keep all your bends in the same plane adjustments are not easy). I prefer electrical wire. Usually the gauges for household wiring are good and can be scrounged without much effort.

    Strip the insulation from the wire or not. (The different colors can be handy.) And simply grip at the point to be bent with the pliers. Copper is soft and bends easily.

    The only problem you might run into is that repeated bending in the same spot will quickly harden the metal and it could break. Usually not much of a problem for this purpose. If it is for some reason anneal it. If you need, message me and I’ll explain how.

    “Support your local blacksmith.” 😉

  6. Matthew Lynn

    Brass rod from Hobbytown is what I used. Don’t remember which size, but it was roughly the same size as some metal coat hangers.
    I used Heat Shrink (for electric wires, most hardware stores carry it) to connect the ends. Works well, has lasted me for years…
    For the bends, I actually dropped money on a pair of bending pliers for 90 degree bends. Worked much better than the needle nose or forming pliers I was using. The bends were all in the same plane…

  7. Pingback: The Grand Campaign, Dungeon Master Gear, Fourth Edition D&D, and Other Reactions From the Comment Section | DMDavid

  8. Pingback: Adventure 4, Expedition 1 – Courting Bliss

Leave a Reply