|Happy Nerdy Holidays
It’s hard to ask for RPG gifts for Christmas. The social stigma is fading year by year, so I no longer fear my parents calling an exorcist over my wish list, but there’s still a maze of editions, similar-sounding games and supplements to ask people to dig through. This is in addition to the fact that RPGs still tend to be a little bit hard to find; arguably harder to find now than they were fifteen or so years ago before Barnes & Noble and Borders replaced so many independent booksellers…before closing most of their own locations..
People only have so much spare time, and playing more than one or two systems at once is pretty difficult; even if someone played two different games every week they would be playing at most 8-10 different games in a month, which is only a tiny portion of the massive amount of games available these days. Especially with Kickstarter helping to launch more RPGs than ever and many companies releasing their back catalogs through DrivethruRPG. The point being that it can be harder to find the right RPG for someone than finding a good costume in the New 52.
With all of that said, the list that follows tries to work around these challenges by providing ten system-neutral gifts for the RPG fan in your life. Even if that person is you. I don’t judge. Even if I did judge, I probably wouldn’t judge this time since I’ve already bought a lot of these things. They’re pretty awesome.
1. The Noteboard
The Noteboard is a small bag that contains what appears to be a stack of laminated 3×5 index cards, but unfolds into a substantial whiteboard (about 1 foot by three feet). If you were some sort of corporate type it probably would be useful for presentations or note-taking, but the fact that one side of the whiteboard features a hex map tells me that this is first and foremost a gaming tool. Tabletop RPGs require a lot of lists: initiatives, hit points and marching order all come to mind. Whiteboards are great for this kind of thing but carrying a whiteboard around with you can be difficult as they’re a little bulky.
The Noteboard isn’t a perfect solution, as it’s actually a large collection of mini whiteboards joined together by tiny bits of plastic. A full-sized whiteboard would lack the little connections and be easier to draw on but again, this is vastly easier to carry. My wife and I actually started to find uses for the separations after a while, such as using them to divide characters up into different zones or to draw a map and mark the different rooms. However you use it, this little whiteboard is great to have and cheap to boot.
2. Flat Plastic Miniatures
Fair disclosure here, I don’t have these yet. They’re a Kickstarter. I do have one of ArcKnight’s products in hand (I will cover it later) and I know one of their other projects was successful as I have friends that backed it. All of that aside, I think these look brilliant. Miniatures are helpful gaming aides – I literally just played a game where an argument over the number of guards in a room resulted in a character death and a fair amount of disagreement. They also look nice and are fun to collect. The problem is that I’m too lazy and uncoordinated to paint the unpainted ones, but the pre-painted ones tend to look a bit cartoonish.
Miniatures are also difficult to carry. It’s fine for a home game but carrying a big plastic box full of miniatures has been difficult when it comes to cons as we are already dealing with suitcases, gaming books, and the inevitable purchases. Up until now, the alternatives has been little flat cardboard cutouts (notoriously flimsy) or other flat tokens (think “pogs”, if that means anything to you). The Flat Plastic Miniatures are already colored, easier to carry, and still stand up to create a 3-dimensional feel similar to standard miniatures. It seems like a great solution.
Word of warning that this is a Kickstarter, so you might not get the goods in time for the holidays. Get a really nice card to go with the printed receipt, perhaps?
3. Dapper Devil Tokens
|Helpful for RPGs, or communicating with people you’re not currently talking to.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Dapper Devil tokens. These are, in fact, flat, which I know I just said was not the best. However, they are brightly colored and possess a great variety of things like “invisible” or “fear” that you can use along with more normal miniatures to create a full diorama. These are probably best in two extremes; either a game with a lot of detail that the non-character tokens help to keep track of, or a game that doesn’t really warrant full miniature layout.
Dapper Devil also has some fun varieties of things that are surprisingly good for representing characters. For instance, I personally own a Guy Fawkes Mask, a brain, a beaker, and a skull. These things seem to talk to players, who might choose the brain to be their scientist or the beaker. In a pinch, when you are carrying very little indeed, they can be surprisingly flexible. The tokens also have the side benefit of being dirt cheap, which I find hard to go wrong with.
Except when it comes to food. Is that really meat in a fifty-cent taco? If so, what animal?
4. Chessex Custom Dice
|A sampling of custom dice we have procured over the years.
You’re not really a gamer without dice. That’s what my dad always said, or would have said if he didn’t think gaming was literally from the devil (and not the dapper devil, either). The point is that gamers need dice, and most long-term gamers I know collect the things like crazy, especially pretty or unique ones. They’re “diceophiles”, in other words, though I think very few of them are actually sexually attracted to dice.
That got away from me a little, but the point is that whether you keep your dice bag inside or outside of your pants, dice and RPGs go together like the X-Men and allegories about racism. Even better, you can get custom ones from Chessex for a reasonable price! The local gaming convention gives out con themed dice to volunteers, my local gaming store will give you a special birthday dice, and we even attended a geek wedding recently that gave out custom dice as a keepsake. These are super fun. I personally am planning to get some made with some nasty-looking skulls instead of sixes for damage dice. Then I can be all “BOOM! LOOKIT DEM SKULLS!” Yes, I guess you could also use these for something horrible like marketing or advertising something. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.
5. Insane RPG Furniture From Geek Chic
Up until now, this list has been somewhat practical in the sense that the items are relatively cheap. Sure, it’s all stuff you don’t really need, but by the standards of things you don’t really need but want, the first 4 are not overly expensive. That is not true for the Geek Chic furniture, which is really expensive. As in, the thousands of dollars range. Is there a cool word for thousands of dollars? I cap out at “Benjamins”, which probably isn’t even cool anymore, if it ever was. I guess Grover Cleveland was on one. How about a Cleveland Steamer? That sounds nice.
This furniture is cool, though. I mean, really cool. Having furnished my apartment some this year, I can attest that the price isn’t even completely ridiculous. Assuming that they’re as high-quality as they are supposed to be, which I have no idea of (check out the video above for a more in-depth look). Right now, my players are stuck with a big glass coffee table that barely fits everyone. The thought of a wooden table with cup holders, custom mini desks, and all of that good stuff would be a pretty awesome change. Maybe I should start a Patreon or a Gofundme. I could be the next potato salad guy, but with a really awesome table.
6. Anything by Dwarven Forge
Now that we’ve talked about spending thousands of dollars on RPG furniture, spending hundreds of dollars on Dwarven Forge stuff will seem reasonable in comparison! Well, maybe not. I own a few of these sets (not the really huge ones, some relatively small ones) and they are totally gorgeous. They look more or less like real scale replica models and give your little miniatures a place to go. Make sure they are some kind of miniature that stands up or you will lose them, but otherwise these are perfect.
That is, except for the size. You had better be hosting a game at your house to have these things around, since transporting them from place to place gets to be difficult fast due to the sheer bulk of all of the caverns. Also, it’s probably pretty easy to lose the little barrels and tables, assuming you use them, and I imagine if you had spent this much on caverns that you probably do. Going down underground to fight with evil elves and mushroom people is pretty much a D&D necessity, and this makes it as real as it’s likely to without actually plugging in a video game.
7. Blue Dungeon Tiles
Let’s pretend that instead of being a fabulously wealthy gaming billionaire who has staff to carry hundreds of pounds of Dwarven Forge product somewhere, you’re a normal gamer with limited money and space. So what do you do? Well, you ignore #6 and get yourself some Blue Dungeon Tiles instead. These are small laminated tiles that you can easily carry around. They are pre-printed with some common dungeon configurations and can be drawn on with wet or dry erase to add more detail. They are incredibly flexible and take up almost no space but still have enough differentiation between the tiles to make them interesting.
The basic set will only set you back 3 Hamilton shockers, but still has probably more tiles than you would ever need. Also, it’s expandable with loads of other cards, most of which I own due to being a Kickstarter backer in the day. The best part of these tiles is that they are setting-agnostic so you can use them for sci-fi, modern, or the new Gor RPG as you like. Yes, there’s a new Gor RPG but we’re talking about tiles, so focus. The point is that they are flexible and I personally use them all the time.
8. ArcKnight Fantasy Roleplaying Maps
|This is where you die… I mean, kill things.
I have these maps from ArcKnight and I totally love them. They are high quality and well worth the price, which isn’t particularly high at a few bucks each (it’s even lower if you got the Kickstarter price. You may be sensing a theme). What’s really impressive about these maps is how nice they look despite the fact that the art is all overlaid with a grid. You would think combining this with a nice-looking map might not work, but these things are gorgeous in person. They really add a little class to the RPG joint, which we honestly run short of here and there. I’m just saying. Don’t get offended.
They also have a nice variety of locations. Fantasy games go all over the place when done right, so endless caverns and hallways don’t always get the job done. These maps have towers, taverns, and the exterior of castles. My favorites are the boats, since you can put them side by side and plan some boarding actions. They also save a decent amount of space since you can stack them (I was able to fit about 80 of them into a neoprene laptop sleeve). ArcKnight also goes to cons, where they are friendly and patient, even on the last day of con.
9. Play Dirty 2
I generally avoided RPG books on this list because if you’re conversant enough in RPG to know a book someone needs, then by all means go ahead and do it. I made an exception for Play Dirty 2 since it’s system blind and as such applies to all gaming everywhere. John Wick [not the Keanu version]is a famous guy by RPG standards, but a bit of a polarizing figure. I’ve played at least one game run by him and really liked it so he probably has some good advice for you. That’s most of what I have to go on because it’s not out yet, but I liked the video enough to back it.
This book seems to aim to be a little controversial, so I imagine you won’t love all parts of it. For instance, my wife is outraged at the thought of player deaths being anything other than a totally rules-legal result of the dice falling. She probably won’t like the chapter about only letting character deaths be dramatic. Some of the other stuff, though, I think she will agree with, such as letting characters be powerful and attacking their social standing in the game world along with their hit points. Regardless, it sounds like a fun read and at $20 for the paperback it seems worthwhile. So buy it, or he’ll shoot you. No, wait, that’s the other John Wick.
Note that this one is another Kickstarter, so you might not actually get it in time for the holidays.
10. Crystal Caste Dwarven Stones Dice
|So pretty. So expensive.
Yes, this is another entry on dice. Why? Well, gamers love dice, remember? I personally have many sets of Crystal Caste dice but I do not have any of these Dwarven Stone sets. I would really like to have them, understand, but much like the RPG furniture, I haven’t quite worked my way up to one. I like the obsidian set because it just seems awesome to have dice made of obsidian, and I’ll probably work my way up to those eventually. Maybe someone will get them for me for Christmas, which would be sort of weird and meta.
The ones I really want, though, are the silver dice. Sure, they’re $400, but they’re also made of silver. How appropriate would it be to attack a werewolf and then whip out silver dice to do it? Also for other mythologies where silver is especially painful to supernatural monsters. The best part is what happens when fiction and reality blur together and you are literally besieged by monsters at your house. When that happens, and Cthulhu knows it’s well on the way, you’ll be able to make your dice into silver bullets! That’s sweet, and life-saving too!
Previously by David N. Scott
10 Reasons I’m Glad I Attended Comikaze
A Christian Gamer Offers 5 Reasons to Watch Dark Dungeons (And 4 Not to)
10 Reasons David Goyer Must Be Stopped
Ten Things We Learned Attending L.A. By Night: The Grey Ghost Masquerade
10 Things I Learned Running Game Demos at WonderCon