Favorite RPG Accessory — #RPGaDay2015, Day 14
Huh. Well, here’s a broadly defined and nebulous topic to work from.
If we define “RPG accessory” as being “that which is necessary to play a game, but is not, strictly speaking, the game itself,” that still leaves us with a horrendously huge space within which we’re left to work. By rights, that could include my house, furniture and computer systems. If we limit it down further, to things that are produced with the sole intention of being used for the game at hand, with no outside application, then we’re starting to get into terms that can be more readily manipulated. So, pencils and notebooks are dropped off the consideration as well, even though they remain the dire constants over decades of play. Logically, dice could be included, but with the exception of recent Fantasy Flight Games offerings and the weirdness that is Dungeon Crawl Classics and their decidedly non-standard dice, polyhedral random number generators are pretty much universal. I love my dice collection, and I have a properly ludicrous amount of them, but making them my favorite part of the game is a bit weird.
I do have to digress on a previous point, however. When I ran my Carrion Crown Adventure Path campaign, there was nothing quite so irreplaceable as my two laptop computers. If I had been forced to run without them, or even winnowed down to merely one, there would have been problems. I used one for the map (had I been afforded access to a tablet, I would have dedicated that to cartographic necessity) and basic reference, while the other one served as my library for the adventure itself, setting material, notes and the Pathfinder SRD website. It convinced me of the need for a table dedicated solely to gaming, where I could surround myself with screens instead of piles of books.
That said, it was far quicker to flip through a Pathfinder main book for rules reference when the time came, but that’s due more to the muscle memory that allows me to immediately turn to a given page than anything else. A little work, and I probably could have indexed it better with the SRD.
Favorite RPG Accessory
Naturally, this divides itself into two distinct sections. On one hand, I have the products that I already have in hand to use, and on the other are the ones I intend to acquire or create. I guess the second category would be better off with the label of “potential” tacked onto it, but I like to dream.
Of the products and things I have at immediate hand, there are particular accessories for specific games. Plagued as the gaming industry is with D20 based fantasy, one of the immediate zones of inquiry have to do with tactical maps and miniatures. I never did much miniatures gaming in my normal day-to-day forays into the hobby of gaming, and the early editions of D&D that I cut my teeth on recommended minis, but they didn’t require them. Maps tended to be hand-drawn for tactical purposes, and taken to logical cartographic extremes for the larger campaign setting necessities. When I first started playing back in 6th grade, the centerpiece of my formative years was the large and intricate map that a friend of mine rendered for his game, looking for all the world like the maps in the opening pages of the fantasy novels that served as inspiration.
These days, I have a selection of miniatures, but they’re of such low priority that I wonder why I bothered in the first place. I suppose that I had high hopes for the potentiality of these damned things, but the reality has found me largely disinclined to actually make any relevant use of the figures that I picked up. Similarly, I have toolboxes filled with the dungeon trappings that the first Dwarven Forge Kickstarter afforded me. It’s more than enough to allow me to run a sizable dungeon with a little bit of prep and patience, but this is something that I’ve managed all of once, when I ran a one-night game while visiting friends. I love the heft and quality of the tiles and walls, but I can’t honestly say that I have the patience for using these things on a regular basis. Perhaps if I was running at local conventions and had worked out a system. As it is, the set-up and prep required seem like more work than I’m really inclined to bother with.
Instead, my mainstay has been an ancient Chessex factory second Megamat with crooked squares, a lousy job of cutting and the occasioned stains from a marker that didn’t quite wash off. I keep the mat rolled up when it isn’t in use, and it has come to be called the Beating Map for this purposes. It’s served to keep players in line more often than it has been used for actual mapmaking. It still serves nicely, and every now and again, I’m tempted to replace it with something a little less … unique. Hasn’t happened yet, though.
One thing I’m noticing crop up more and more regularly is the re-introduction of cards to the gaming table. I was a huge fan of the utility of poker decks for Deadlands, and I remain convinced that the Drama Deck for Torg is one of the greatest inventions ever. The new iterations of cards include the Adversary Decks for Fantasy Flight Star Wars, which are sets of NPC stats for various encounters. These are fantastic, but by the time they had come out, I’d already started making a set of index cards with the relevant information on them. Buying the pre-made decks seem like my previous efforts would be wasted. They also just came out with Critical Injury and Starship Damage decks, which are a little more tempting.
These mirror the Critical Hit and Critical Fumble Decks for Pathfinder, which have proven themselves indispensable. I’ve used these cards all along, as a way to change up crits in the game, and they’ve worked extremely well. There are the occasional bits of weirdness, where a wing is clipped on a creature without wings, but I’ve taken to pulling three cards and choosing the one that makes actual sense. Technically, there are rules for pulling extra cards, but it’s a quick and easy method to move the game along.
Otherwise, my favorite accessories for a game have to be the different options for chips in a game with counters. My main exposure has been with the different forms of Deadlands, which had poker chips for the Weird West game. This carried over to the Hell on Earth and Lost Colony games, but these didn’t make as much sense as it did with the original. For Hell on Earth, I laid hands on a bucket of 9mm shell casings, which I used a bit of paint on to differentiate value and they did well to reinforce the post-apocalyptic nature of the game.
When next I run a version of Hell on Earth, I plan to do it as a conversion to Fallout, in which I’ve already started work on the bottle caps which will serve as the main currency of the game, as well as standing in for poker chips. Sadly, they’ll be wearing the Coca-Cola logo, rather than Nuka Cola, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t matter too much in the end.