Friday, October 21, 2016

Tabletop Props for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

The other day, Benjamin asked me about my tabletop props. And over on The Collaborative Gamer the is a great post about tabletop props that goes way beyond the materials I use.

But do use some props with regularity.

General Materials

GM Screen

I can't show a picture of it, but I use pieces of various D&D screens with GURPS charts tacked or taped or clipped to it. Yes, I roll behind the screen. No, I'm not fudging. Yes, I'm rolling sometimes just to fool you into thinking I'm randomly determining something. No, I don't care if you think that's fair or not. I'm the GM, not the dice, or the players, or anyone else. And a GM screen helps me leave stuff where I can easily see it without stealing the mystery of "what did he get out of the minis box?" or "How many more Doomchildren are there?" or "Why is he just drawing pictures on his notepad when I hit the monster for 25 damage? Is that a bad sign?"


Not a tabletop prop. But it's critical. The actual game is run off of a laptop I bought, basically, for the express purpose of running GCA and Word and keeping a huge tab run of PDFs open at the same time. I record all of the player's XP and skills and stats in GCA, and it's kept me sane. Even as it drives me crazy when it does weird stuff thanks to legacy issues and code that couldn't keep 100% up with 4e, nevermind my house rules. Still, a useful tool.


d6s by the score.
Polyhedral dice - d12s, d20s, and my d30 - for rolling on the rumor table.
d10s to record 10-second spell durations - Great Haste being the key one.

The Battle Map

Chessex Maps

As reviewed here. One stays on the table the whole time.

Cardboard Heroes: Dungeon Floors

I've got a few copies of these I've backed with cardboard and use for pre-made rooms.

Not-LEGO blocks

If you've seen any of my gaming pictures, there are always these grey LEGO look-alikes. Some company that a friend of a friend worked for made them. They discontinued the blocks, and he rescued some from the path to the rubbish bin. Someone used them for an art project and I kept the remainder.

They're . . . not as good as Lego blocks. They don't stick smoothly or come apart easily. They're a little finicky. But they are free and I have lots of them. I can pre-make walls and stick them together and put them down on the Chessex mat to create the battlefield.

If they have downsides, they are these:

- walls expand. Put down two walls to make a corridor, and over the course of a battle, it's pretty certain players moving the walls just a little bit to accommodate their mini's base will leave it where it was nudged. Then, it'll get nudged again. Eventually, someone will want to move into that so-called "half-hex" and move the wall to fit their mini. By a few turns into a battle in a tight 3 yard wide corridor it usually gets to be about 4 yards wide.

- they fall over. You need to base them with a wider base, but still, they're prone to getting knocked over.

- they're too tempting. 100% of my game sessions have involved me threatening violence to people who take the pre-made wall sections I've made apart and then building things out of them. Then, I suddenly need a wall, and I have to stop for a minute or two and take apart the tower, boat, weird modern art sculpture, dice holder, pencil cup, whatever that was made out of my walls. Since they're a little sticky and come apart only with effort, this actually defeats the purpose of pre-made walls and slows things down. This alone has led to the expanded use of Cardboard Heroes walls.


My players pitched in a got me a set of Dwarven Forge doors. Also, I traded for some Mantic and other doors as well. I think I have doors covered.


I have hundreds of painted minis. Enough said.

Furniture, Etc.

I also have some plastic furniture. This doesn't see too much use, but I do use them.

I also use or have used:

- plastic palm trees from some pirate battle game set by Pressman.

- snowy walls from a Christmas snow-scene setup.

- craft store models of all kinds, especially if they are durable and cheap. Or at least cheap.

- Cardboard bird houses for huts.

- actual rocks and stones as rocks and stones.

- sticks as tree limbs and logs.

- champagne corks as giant mushrooms.

- counters from various games (Cry Havoc, Battlesystem, GW's cardboard sheets, etc.) to represent terrain.

I probably left a lot off, but I believe in a prop-heavy game. I could play without them, but I sure as can be have more fun with them. I'd take pictures, but you can just scroll through my sessions and see all of this in action . . .


  1. This got me thinking about props I use when running Paranoia, which in turn got me thinking about how Paranoia is a very, very different game.

    1. Awesomely different. In that it's different, but equally awesome.

  2. I wonder if SJ Games could actually make money from selling this sort of thing

    GM screen: we will soon see

    GCA: I've thought for a long time that the should Kickstarter a new edition out. I'd certainly pay my $10 a year in advance. I'd probably go up to $20 if it was bundled with another simple, but useful app.

    Dice: well they do.

    And the rest: perhaps in a DF the next next level box?

  3. How many dice do you actually need?

    In preparation for my return to GMing I've bought 12D6. I could have gone with a score, but I haven't even had a game confirmed yet so don't want to get carried away if the games fall through.

    1. Minimum 18d for missile spells, one of every other size I own for tracking purposes and/or rumors.

    2. Interesting.

      I think that I'll try the 12 and roll 1.5 times if I have to.

      I needed to get two colour sets already to play Feng shui 2, so didn't go for the score of one colour dice set. Once I lose a few that's an option.

      I'm thinking of using the shot counter from Feng Shui 2 to track duration as well. Just have a token for each spell and move them down each turn.

      I'll need some other dice eventually. First potential game still three weeks away.

  4. I use a screen similar to Hammerdog's TWGS, with three horizontal panels, and while initially expensive, it's a great investment as it's going to be used forever. I also have a seven or eight panels screen built from MEGA and MERP, and various cardboard boxed, which I use to hide map sections and miniatures.

    You touched a bit on furniture, and I want to highlight how much fun and versatility it adds to a game to interact with stuff beyond doors, columns and difficult terrain. Flipping tables and jumping on them, opening a closet door to shield you on one side, sending people crashing into crates, etc. It just adds a whole new dimension.

    Also, multi-level fights, where some areas of the floor are 1-3 feet above or below others, sort flights of stairs, can really add a lot.

    1. Sounds good. I really need to pick up some bits and pieces. Let's see if I get a regular game to justify the spend.


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