When I started DMing professionally, I decided that if I was to eventually going to make it work as a job then it was going to have to pay for itself. And that meant no more using my primary income for game aids or printing large maps, and no single-use miniatures or terrain.
I started out with a 25×30″ pad of 1″ grid paper and a set of 20 card stands to use for paper miniatures, and by the time I ran my first adventure I found myself scrounging for cereal boxes and toilet paper rolls to tape together three wagons for a caravan ambush encounter. The players really responded to the wagons I’d made, and that got my gears turning.
It Began With the Waaaghon
While I was writing ‘Rumble on Planet Dethtrak’ I thought while looking for second-hand Warhammer 40K vehicles, “wouldn’t it be cool if I asked the players to scavenge car parts out of a junkyard to determine the stats for their racer?” Unable to find anything within my meager budget, it was my wife a few days later who first said “why don’t you have them physically make their car out of craft supplies?”
So that became the plan, and as a part of that I needed to make the enemy death car ahead of time using those same supplies. So I loaded up on things from the recycle bin, grabbed some straws, pens, and masking tape, and went to town designing the Waaaghon (which began its life as a scaled down version of Sir Skofi’s Trukk design):
Credit: Design inspired by Sir Skofis’s Workshop |
I left some tape and original print showing to give it that junkyard vibe, and truth be told I fell in love with it immediately.
And Then the Battlekroozer
During that time I also wrote two scenes that took place in the translocator room of an Ork battlekroozer, but found that on a conventional grid-based map it was a little hard to understand the elevation changes and the cover provided by the stairs (imagine someone lobbing a grenade from the top level, and you’ll see what I mean). I had a couple of extra days and more than a few extra cereal boxes, so I decided to try my hand at my very first chipboard map:
Credit: Paper miniatures by rpgtoons & r-n-w | https://www.patreon.com/rpgtoons
I chose a 3/4 cutaway for visibility and the response to both was overwhelmingly positive.
What Came Next
After that I began experimenting more with different building techniques, and resolved to have at least one 3D map encounter per adventure. Below are some screenshots from the conception and early stages of a prototype for “Belle of the Bloodmoon” that didn’t make it to the final cut.
What did end up in the final version of that adventure was a boutique for fiends, affectionately named “Hell’s Belles”:
I’m still in the process of discovering where this is going, but one bit of feedback that I really took to heart and would share with any other prospective DM’s is this:
Don’t feel like you need to have professionally made maps and terrain all the time, especially if those aren’t your strong skills. Whatever you do, if you do it your own way it will come across as authentic and people will see that and respond to it.