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GMing Products at GenCon 2007

Following on the heels of yesterday’s post about Treasure Tables at GenCon, I’d like to share some of the cool stuff for GMs I saw (and bought!) at this year’s GenCon. (Pictured here is Kenzer & Company [1]‘s limited edition B.A. Felton bust (from “Knights of the Dinner Table”), which I’ll be using as my GMing mascot.)

Unlike last year [2], when I didn’t take pictures of any of the goodies I wrote about, this year I remembered to take at least a few photos.

Let’s dive into three GMing products that were new at this year’s con: Dr. Wizard’s Patented Elevation Indicator, the Dragonfire airship and Campaign Coins.

We’ll start small, and work our way up to the coolest item.

Dr. Wizard’s Patented Elevation Indicator

This nifty product from Emerald’s Emporium [3] meets a specific need almost perfectly. It’s a $13 lucite rod marked with different elevations, and it comes with two hair tie/rubberband thingies that fit snugly around the rod.

You pop it on your battlemap, stick a mini on top of it and then move the bands to indicate your character’s height (bottom band) and multiplier (top band). When the party’s sorceror casts fly, you set the multiplier to 1.0 — and when two characters fight an aerial duel, you can use the 10.0 line to take them high into the skies.

The only problem I can see is that it’s not wide enough for larger flying minis — like dragons. That’s too bad, but it doesn’t keep it from being a neat GMing aid at a fair price.

Dragonfire Airship

I posted about Dragonfire Laser Crafts [4] in last year’s GenCon product roundup, but without a picture — and this year they had an even cooler ship on display.

This airship was fully three feet long, with multiple decks, movement squares on the wings and all sorts of little details. Apparently they premiered it at Origins, and this was their last remaining display model. One of the folks running the booth said it was missing a few pieces, so the real thing should be even sexier.

At present, it’s not listed on their website. If I had to guess at a price, I’d say $125 (the price of their badass galleon) to $150 (for the extra bits). If I was running a campaign that featured airships, I’d jump on this in a heartbeat.

Campaign Coins

I saved the best for last: Campaign Coins [5], crafted by a new company out of Australia. Hot damn, these things are cool.

They’re exactly what they look like: fantasy money. They look like the traditional D&D coin metals — copper, silver, gold and platinum — and one $60 (U.S.) box includes a total of 120 coins, with a good mix of denominations (1, 10, 100 and 1,000) for each metal type, plus a single random 500-denomination coin.

It’s hard to express how cool they are to hold, but suffice to say that these guys spared no expense. The coins look and feel great, and they’re packed with great touches: each metal type has its own theme for the front-side images, and a distinctive common design for the backs; they’re minted with a process that gives them a drybrushed effect, adding depth; they thought about which coins would be used the most in a fantasy world, and made the least-used (platinum) incredibly shiny; and so much more.

And while $60 might sound like a lot, the denominations mean that you should be able to handle most groups on a single box. In D&D terms, for example, there are five 1,000 pp coins and five 1,000 gp coins — that’s 55,000 gp in value right there.

In short, they’re easily the coolest GMing product I’ve ever seen at GenCon. (I’ll probably wind up doing a full review of Campaign Coins in the near future.)

If you were at GenCon, did you see any new GMing products that I missed? Do you have any questions about the ones I highlighted?

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#1 Comment By John Arcadian On August 22, 2007 @ 5:47 am

The campaign coins are one of those things that you know you don’t really need, but just seem really really cool to have.

“Alright, you guys open the chest and (Whoomp jingle) find this” as you dump a bunch of coins on the table. I can see the players spending the next 15 minutes sorting the coins and trying to actually divvy it up fairly.

I checked out their website too. They need more pictures like the one you’ve got. It really give the impact and shows the detail of all the different coin designs.

#2 Comment By Amaril On August 22, 2007 @ 6:09 am

The coins seem cool, although I’d like to see a smaller set for a smaller games such as Three-Dragon Ante. I would never use these in-game. Players just need to know the amount they find, keep and spend, and move on. My players in particular would hate to have to count it out; that detracts from the actual game. All in all, I think it’s a nice novelty item, but I’d be hard pressed to spend $60 on that instead of a game supplement or some other more practical tool.

By the way, am I correct in understanding that each type of coin comes in different denominations of 1, 10, 100, 1000 with one pp coin equaling 1pp (10gp) and others equaling 10pp (100gp), 100pp(1,000gp), and 1,000pp (10,000gp)?

#3 Comment By GlassJaw On August 22, 2007 @ 6:34 am

The best product I picked up at GenCon was the book Dread. You can get it on indiepressrevolution.com. This book has completely changed the way I prepare for games and think about GM’ing.

It’s essentially a horror “game” that uses a Jenga tower to establish the sense of tension in the horror genre. I use the term “game” loosely because there are no dice or rules mechanics at all. It’s really more of an interactive story.

Even if you never run a game with Jenga, the book is immensely valuable to GM’s. It reads like a literary reference on how to create stories, specifically of the horror genre but it’s useful for any style.

A must-read.

#4 Comment By John Arcadian On August 22, 2007 @ 8:20 am

Dread is an incredible game! I’ve had the pleasure of playing and hanging out with the group that made it for the last few years at origins. I would second all of Glassjaw’s comments about it, definitely one to check out.

#5 Comment By Verkan On August 22, 2007 @ 9:18 am

What I do for the larger flying creatures is put the elevation marker on the mini’s base.

Not as cool as having the mini elevated… but it works.

I like those coins. Currently I’ve been tossing out the chocolate candy coins. Not sure my group would enjoy non-edible rewards…

#6 Comment By Johnn On August 22, 2007 @ 9:22 am

Thanks for the reporting, Martin! I’ll get to Gen Con and finally meet you one of these years….

The airship looks awesome. I’ll be hitting their site for more info – thanks for the link.

I saw the elevation indicator in Dungeon Mag. It doesn’t solve a key problem for me though – vertically stacked combatants. We use poker chips to measure height, but, like the elevation indicator, it doesn’t really solve 3D battles.

Were there any other products at Gen Con that makes GMing easier? This seems like a light crop this year.

#7 Comment By Martin On August 22, 2007 @ 10:40 am

John: Exactly! We didn’t know about the coins until we opened the event program, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Amaril: Yep — 1, 10, 100 and 1,000 for each coin type, with varying numbers of each denomination.

They definitely didn’t pitch them as a practical item — they’re solidly intended for immersion, for bringing the feel of the game world to your players.

Telas: Zack also mentioned Kayuda Maps, and once they go live I’ll probably wind up featuring them here — it sounds like an awesome concept.

Discordian: Oooh, inexpensive real money — good link!

GlassJaw: Oddly enough, my group played Dread, and while we had mixed impressions it was one of my favorite events at the con. I’m looking forward to running it for my local group.

Johnn: I’d love to see you at GenCon sometime down the line.

As for other GMing products, there were plenty — but not much else that was new that caught my eye. Paizo was like GM central, with the Combat Pad, their GameMastery line, Pathfinder, etc.; Alea tools was there, as were the friendly folks from Fantasy Mint (Tokkens); also numerous GM-oriented software booths, none of which really grabbed me.

#8 Comment By GlassJaw On August 22, 2007 @ 10:59 am

I played in a couple of games where the DM used Paizo’s Combat Pad. I ended up going back to their booth and bought 2 of them – one for each of my groups. Pathfinder looks gorgeous as well. Paizo is really firing on all cylinders.

Re: Dread – there is a thread on EN World about Dread. Piratecat (Kevin) has run it a few times (including at GenCon) and he’s the the one that turned me on to it. Again, even if you never run it as-is, it’s still a great read.

#9 Comment By longcoat000 On August 22, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

Johnn – Ever seen people at a con playing a game called Mustangs & Messerschmidts(sp?)? They simulate arial battles using dowel rods, clothespins, and model WWII airplanes. You could use the same theory for 3D battles using plastic minis. Balsa wood base, thin dowel rod attached, marks on dowel indicating height, short length of dowel with a spring-type clothespin on either end (one clips on the rod, the other clips to the miniature’s base).

#10 Comment By Johnn On August 22, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

longcoat000: Neat idea! Thanks – I’ll quest for that game.

#11 Comment By Abulia On August 23, 2007 @ 9:03 am

I think I would find these annoying. πŸ™‚

First, it’s another resource I have to track. As if I don’t have enough of that in D&D already. Instead of writing down that I have 22 pp, 16 gp, 10 sp, and 33 cp now I have a stack of what, 30 coins in front of me?

Like players who build towers of dice I see the same problem with the coins. Now I have coin towers, players rolling them across the table at each other or just “clinking” them together.

Mechanically, the session is over and we all go home. Do I keep the coins or give them to the DM? Now all the players have the DMs product. Do they get lost? If you return them then what’s the point in the first place? Now I have to write down my money, defeating the purpose of the “immersion” coins.

At a megagame level if you walk away from the table to get a drink and the “thief” character takes the coins off the table, were you “stolen” from? Do you get to make a Spot check? Finders keepers?

Yea, I’m sure they’re cool looking and feel great but the reality is, in practice, I see these as being useless in a game.

#12 Comment By Telas On August 23, 2007 @ 10:26 am

Some answers, from an prop-addicted GM (who admittedly hasn’t used them yet).

Every player gets a tupperware box and a pouch. Coins go in the pouch, pouch goes in the box at end of game (along with the magic item cards, potion vials, dice, mini, etc). Box stays with the GM.

Most of the coins have too much relief to stack. And it’s just like the dice towers – “Would you please not do that?” πŸ˜‰

If another player steals your loot, I guess that’s an opportunity to game it out. If I’m the player getting stolen from, the “thief” learns why we don’t steal from melee builds.

OK seriously… I give out items representing potions, scrolls, and magic items. They’ve never been stolen.

However, all that said, it totally depends on the group.

#13 Comment By Jason On August 23, 2007 @ 11:52 am

I don’t know about $150 for the Dragonfire Airship. At those prices, and with a little work, you could easily make a 3D one on your own for easily 1/3 of the cost that would look so much better. Especially if your campaign features the airship as a centerpiece or the main mode of transportation for the player characters. Just my two-cents.

#14 Comment By John Arcadian On August 23, 2007 @ 8:04 pm

Jason said “I donÒ€ℒt know about $150 for the Dragonfire Airship. At those prices, and with a little work, you could easily make a 3D one on your own for easily 1/3 of the cost that would look so much better.”

I highly see where you are coming from, but there is so much to that airship that isn’t conveyed from just a picture. I saw it at origins, and it has about 4 (maybe 6) levels to it, so you can pull them out and have action going on each section. It has multiples smaller pieces ( like railings, foredeck, raised areas, etc) that layer into the main ones to show different heights. The side pieces, wings, and fins also come off of it as well, so it can be a big ship. For my money it is much easier to go with a picture, a map, or a home built, but that thing was pretty damn cool in itself.

#15 Comment By Jonathan O’Donnell On August 23, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

As someone who knows Andre (who makes Campaign Coins), I think he did it to add to the atmosphere in his campaign. He wanted good coins, so he went out and got them made. The product is a result.

@Martin: don’t forget that you can always travel to a country that is experiencing hyper-inflation and get real money. But generally it is only paper money, good for Monopoly and Cheap-ass Games. People used to do that when travelling to Eastern Europe, for example. Of course, your trip comes with all the issues that a country experiencing hyper-inflation has, but it can make for interesting times.

I’ve played one demo game of Dread, and I loved it. The Jenga tower really increases the tension. It provides a great way to make players seriously consider the risk involved in their character’s actions.

#16 Comment By Alan De Smet On August 25, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

With each set of Campaign Coins you get four sets of coins. Each set has 10 “1”s, 10 “10”s, 5 “100”s, and 5 “1,000s”. You also get a single “500” coin from one of the four sets. This means that for three of the four sets, you can’t generate values which include 611 through 999 as the last three digits. An unfortunate omission. If you got a “500” coin for all four sets that would solve the problem, allowing you to generate any number from 1 through 6,110.

Per the previous post, I’ve been thinking of using the Gamemastery item cards, maybe supplemented with the Tokkens for exceptional items, for treasures. The coins seem a natural addition. Being able to say, “Here’s what you find” and dumping a pile of stuff on the table is very, very appealing.

Unfortunately part of the appeal is that the cards solve much of the item tracking problem where an item in a treasure will either end up on no-one’s character sheets, or on multiple sheets. However, I’m not sure how useful this is for the coins, since the the PCs will likely want to split the coins roughly eveningly, which will be problematic for some combinations. To take a simple example, you can hand four players 28 gold pieces in the form of 8 “1”s and 2 “10”s, but if they evenly split it, each will each need 7 “1”s, a total of 28 “1”s, which you can’t do.

I’ll probably give it a whirl for my next D&D game, since they are so appealing.

#17 Comment By Telas On August 26, 2007 @ 9:44 am

Thanks for the math, Alan. Now I’m really glad I got two sets. πŸ˜‰