View Full Version : DnD for cheap

2008-10-12, 12:49 PM
Recently, I've been very interested in starting a DnD group; a friend loaned me the sourcebooks and the starter set. But since right now I just want to test it out, I'm not interested in buying miniatures or dungeon mats. How could I do an effective DnD campaign without spending on the props?

2008-10-12, 12:53 PM
You don't really need the miniatures. Grab the Player's Handbook and Monster Manual, maybe the Dungeon Master's Guide for all the rulings. Oh, and at least one of every type of die. Just make sure you're getting them all from the same edition: 3.0 and 3.5 rulebook covers look similar.

Tempest Fennac
2008-10-12, 12:53 PM
http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page, http://www.crystalkeep.com/d20/ and http://invisiblecastle.com/ should cover everything you need for a game (Crystal Keep is only weak as far as PrCs go).

2008-10-12, 12:54 PM
Hmm... whiteboard and markers, free dice rolling programs for computer/PDA/cellphone, cut some squares of construction paper and label/illustrate them "Goblin," "Bad guy #1," etc. If you have access to a free printer, go nuts.
My group uses dice in place of minis - kind of confusing. Always roll away from the map.

PS - I supposed you could "make" dice by putting collections of paper pieces with the appropriate numbers into a bag and drawing. Just make sure to put the pieces back between rolls. This would make rolling take even longer than usual, though.

2008-10-12, 12:56 PM
if you insist on using minitures, just use grid paper (squares about 3/4" per 5ft), and lego/coins/counters for the minis

Magnor Criol
2008-10-12, 12:58 PM
I've actually only once ever played in a game where we used the minatures, grids, and whatnot.

Most of the time I play with friends who've been playing for years, and never use grids or mats themselves.

Position isn't usually that critical to the game. When it is (traps, ambushes, combat) the DM asks for our marching order adn keeps track of it from then on. In combat, if we're doing something that requires position, we'll ask - "Is the one attacking the wizard far enough that I can get a charge in at him?" "Are the hobbos coming on in a cluster? Can I hit them all with one cone?" "Okay, I fire my breath weapon in whatever direction will let me hit the most at one time." And so on.

There's been maybe once or twice where there was some confusion, but it's never been a real issue.

Pancake's suggestion - use grid paper and objects laying around - works perfectly fine. The one game I mentioned where we used grids, that's what we did; just grid paper, pushpins for our characters and monsters, and a cardboard box as a base to push into.

Now all you have to do is figure out how to get the books for cheap...WotC doesn't like to price their books very low. =p

[Note: We play 3.5, and haven't looked into 4E yet. I dunno if 4E's mechanics would make this more difficult to do, but I don't really see how they could.]

Just make sure you're getting them all from the same edition: 3.0 and 3.5 rulebook covers look similar.

Amen to this. I am the proud owner of a 3.5 PHB and DMG purchased cheap from Hasting's...I was quite excited to find a reasonably-priced pair, especially the DMG, which I can't seem to find anywhere for less that full price. Imagine my disappointment...

2008-10-12, 01:08 PM
Yeah, I think I'll try the whiteboard and marker grid, with labelled squares for the players and monsters. Like I said, haven't really had any experience, so I don't know just how essential the grid is for combat. I guess the only way to find out is to test. As for the core rulebooks and dice, my friend probably won't need his stuff back for a while, so I can procrastinate on those purchases.

2008-10-12, 01:16 PM
If you're going 4e, position becomes more important.

We took an old whiteboard, a ruler, and a swiss army knife. Carved a grid into the surface of the whiteboard, making a fantastic and super cheap game grid better than most vinyl mats I have seen.

For markers, we generally use lego bricks, colour coded for monster types. My players used to use lego men, but eventually saved up for miniatures (and not the stupid grab-bag WotC thing. Who ever thought random character packs was a good idea?? All it has accomplished for me is guaranteeing I will never want to buy WotC miniatures).

For props, these days I mostly just doodle on the whiteboard. In older times, I made paper foldup models, some of which can be downloaded online, to make some very nice-looking 3d objects. I may do that again if my players ever go crypt spelunking.

2008-10-12, 01:19 PM
I'm actually doing 3.5e, but the color-coded lego bricks seems like a good idea, and maybe some minifigures for the PCs. Player custimisation sounds fun, and they can swap out their armor and weapons with lego men.

2008-10-12, 01:39 PM
The stick-figure avatars on this site actually originated as doodles on scraps of paper that Rich's group used instead of miniatures. And the Order of the Stick comic originated when Rich decided to tell a story about the avatar/miniatures doodles. So if you decide to use cheap alternatives to miniatures, you're in good company.

2008-10-12, 02:18 PM
You really don't need most of that stuff. My group's non-digital resources consist almost entirely of a few books, a bunch of dice, and paper.

2008-10-12, 03:00 PM
For miniatures, you can also print up pretty much any image you want and glue it to a piece of folded cardboard. Not hard to make your own cardboard markers of nearly anything. This can also make for easy dungeons, print lots of cobblestone/stone, cut it into passages etc., lay them out as the adventurers move around.

Last few pages of the DMG have images that are good for dungeons etc., you can photocopy those (it says right on them: permission granted to photocopy for personal use), cut them out, paste onto cardstock. Laminate if desired, write on them with dry-erase markers. Just assemble various room sizes/layouts, and a bunch of pieces that can be cobbled together for odd shapes.

There have been a few threads about getting miniatures on the cheap as well, among the options presented is looking on ebay/at game stores for used heroscape miniatures, you can sometimes pick up a pretty good selection of minis at little expense.

2008-10-12, 03:14 PM
I have a habit of going places and buying buttons/stones/little figures to use for minis. I have a small box of them, so that at the begining of the campaign my group frequently says things like "Dayreth is the little...um...what is this glass thing, anyway?" "*shrug*" "Well, Dayreth is the little horsie-looking-glass-thing""...OK. Alex is the llama." ...it's just like monopoly.
I'm going to start doing monster scrap minis printed out; in the past, I used coins for minis and numbered squares for monsters.

2008-10-12, 09:59 PM
The PHB is a must. You can get away without having the DMG or MM. Before we got mats and minis we used grid paper. Sometimes we'd use coins or paperclips, sometimes we'd just draw on the paper. Minis are nice, but hardly necessary.

2008-10-13, 12:36 AM
See here for my miniature strategy:

2008-10-13, 01:13 AM
The only thing absolutly needed to play D&D is the Players Handbook for players, and all three books for DMs(some players can make due without a book by using the free online resources between sessions, but you really should have a dead tree copy unless you all play with laptops.), and dice(1d20, 1d12, 2d10, 1d8, 4d6, and 1d4 is the suggested minimum, but depending on what you play your needs may vary).

That said I would never play D&D without a map of some kind. I personally suggest 1" grid. If your cheep you can get some 1" grid paper lamented and use wet erase markers on it, but after using a chessex map I'll never go back. Luckily Paizo usually sells irregulars(maps where the lines are a few degrees off from being parallel from the edge) on the cheep. As for minis, I usually use dice, or if I have time I print out little pictures and fold them into my own minis.

2008-10-13, 01:50 AM
Alternatively, you could try another type of RPG if you can find another one your group will be into. Most RPGs I own are not terribly dependant on splatbooks, and almost none of them use miniatures or props beyond dice. There are dozens of shortcuts to making D&D work on a budget, but it isn't ever going to be the MOST economical game you can be playing.

The MOST economical commercial tabletop RPG available would probably be Savage Worlds, which is a single $10.00 rulebook to play. I'm not a fan of Savage Worlds' ruleset, but I have to acknowledge that it's damn easy to get into.

If you definitely know you want D&D and D&D specifically, ignore this post, but I encourage you to try other games to see if you like them better, or at least like them well enough to save the money.

2008-10-13, 03:52 AM
If you are running a 3.5 game.


Everything you need to play dnd for free and legal.

If you are intreasted in buying books and such, get the three core books (PHB, MM, DMG).

I would recommend investing in a gaming mat, and using lego figures.