Frugal GM Resource: Dollar Store Finds

Frugal GM Resource: Dollar Store Finds
I'm not 100% on this notion, but I think that after nine years or so I've painted myself into a corner with the whole idea of trying to share a Free GM Resource on Mondays. Clearly I haven't been at it for the entire time with breaks and skips, but still.....

The problem, as I see it, is twofold, but I'm only going to focus on the first problem.

Foremost by focusing on "Free" I'm missing out on sharing not only resources that have a cost, but also resources that focus on other areas of concern (time, weight, and ideas/inspiration). Kind of the original idea for this blog!

This is something I can fix easily enough by sharing more resources that are not free, but if I find some good freebies I will still share them!

This morning I was killing time at the "Dollar Store" waiting for my cell phone office to open up and I found some great stuff to help with my game. I picked up three items which I'm sharing today. The reason for the post is really one thing, but since I bought three things for my game I'm going to share all three, and save the "big" money & idea resource for last.

Three dollar store finds

The first find was some real low-hanging fruit: a set of RPG dice. This isn't anything new.....you did know that Dollar Tree carries dice, right? Now as I'm a bit of a dice snob, I'm not really going to use these for my regular dice, but if someone comes to a game sans dice? Here you go. I used to keep an ugly pink set for players to borrow when they forgot their dice, which worked fine until they rolled well and the player preferred them over their regular dice. No more expensive dice to loan out now!

 The second find was something I've been on the lookout for a while as a supply item for terrain building: a smooth disposable aluminum baking pan. There are times when you need some metal for a build, but aluminum foil is just too thin. These pans are much more rigid, but easily cut & sliced. My main problem is that overwhelmingly most pans of this weight are highly patterned. It is hard to find a nice piece of straight, clean thicker metal that you can work easily, but this fits the bill perfectly. One pan also goes a long way, material wise.

The last item, and something I wish I had at my last con, is a simple 4x6 (or 6x4 as they labeled it) plexiglass picture holder. These things run at least three times as much (if you buy in a 10 pack!) at the office supply store and are easily overlooked there to begin with. Now, at a buck this is a cheaper/frugal resource.....but what do you use this for? Well, these work well as a player or a GM. Now in your home game everyone generally knows each other, but at a convention game? With a larger 4x6 notecard and a good black marker you have a relatively unobtrusive name placard. The player (or GM) can write the PC's name on the card and no more "What's your name again?" or calling players by name instead of PC name, which can be an in-game drawback. Also, if the GM needs it, you could put the PC's AC on the card as well.

Now these particular picture holders are angled back a bit, which I like a bit more at the table, but if you find/use the more vertical ones, you can add another card facing the player where they can record info if they want, assuming they have a wet-erase marker than can write on plastic. I've used this as a player to keep track of expendable items, HP tally....and when I was playing HackMaster, largest hit (was worth extra HP to have the "biggest hit" of the game and IIRC taking the biggest critical hit as well).


My "Haul" From North Texas RPG Con 2021


North Texas RPG Con 2021
I know I usually post a Free GM Resource on Mondays, but I just got back from what might be my only convention of 2021 so instead I'm doing a bit of a "loot list" of what I managed to acquire at the convention.....and I'm definitely burying the lead.

I did get to host a Whiskey Tasting at the convention, which was live-streamed over at Tenkar's Tavern, and I have a specifically vague accounting of my Friday night DCC game where I "won" through a lucky failure.

I had a great time at the convention and I could easily make a bunch of posts about each game and everything that went on, but I'll keep it simple and share my "stuff" instead of my "experiences".......I already did the one PC story and that's usually more than most want to read or listen to.

Now as far as my takings, er haul, at the con......

NTRPG 2018 Items
First off I picked up a couple of items I missed because I didn't get to go to NTRPG 2018 because I had just moved to Oklahoma from Idaho and had to save every nickle because I'd been told on what was to be day 1 of my new job that I wasn't hired.

That's almost a story unto itself, but not for this blog. 

Basically an adventure and what seems like a reprint of a Judge's Guild treasure map book.

NTRPG Con 2021 Adventure

Speaking of adventures, I picked up this year's convention adventure, along with the special-printing version (the one in green). The corner or every single copy of the limited-edition printing was dinged/bent, so that wasn't something I did. It was almost funny seeing some collectors spend way too much time going through every copy looking for an un-dinged one for their collection. It would be funny if they weren't holding up the line/register, but I need the practice in patience, so I did my best not to let it bother me.

Con Game Printed for Players
Again, since I'm still on adventures, I was surprised when the GM for one of my games had printed copies of the adventure we played for each and every player. This was pretty cool.

New Creature Compendium

My buddy Richard over at New Big Dragon Games Unlimited wasn't going to be able to attend the convention for reasons. I volunteered to spend some free time at his booth and help out as I could. To my surprise he had the first three volumes of his forthcoming four volume book/box set of new monsters printed up as a NTRPG 2021 special "thing" and he gifted me a copy. At $15 a set I was more than happy to pay for it and was actually getting out my cash when I found out it was free! 

Stuff I Largely Didn't Need
I bought these three Dungeoneer/Judges' Guild magazines, and this GM Screen because I'm an idiot...kind of. I wanted The Dungeoneer 1-6 Compendium as a reading copy and the other two magazines were because I had failed to record that I already owned them back home. The Chivalry & Sorcery GM Screen was picked up to round out my purchase to the nearest $5. The thin books on the bottom were some freebies I got when purchasing the other stuff.....and one of them is also a dupe.

Phylactery Zines
I didn't do a lot of Zines this convention because, well because I've gotten a bot overloaded on Zines in general. I am glad I picked up these two volumes of Phylactery because I found it to be a great Zine, one I can see myself actually using vs. reading once and storing away.....

5th Printing AD&D GM Record Book
Almost forgot to include this beautiful 5th printing of the AD&D DM Adventure Log. I liked (and used) the HackMaster version of this product, but I've never seen the original in the wild, so when I did I had to get one.

Jason Braun Art
I spent what initially seemed like a good chunk of change on this smaller painting from Jason Braun. I got a couple of cheap prints from him a couple years ago at my 1st NTRPG and it felt like he was just starting out and even though the prints were a bit "meh", I loved the art itself and getting an original painting........now I'm thinking I got it for a steal. He was a guest at the whiskey tasting so I don't feel as bad for getting this at a good price.

Ed Bickford Art
Jason shared some table space with Ed Bickford, who technically has a website but really should be linked to Facebook for now. Now I'm a fan of cool B&W art....Braun's stuff I got earlier was B&W.....so I knew when I got the painting I was going to pick up a couple of Ed's original sketches. Most were a bit sci-fi for my tastes, but I loved this grown-up Sea Monkey bit and the other bandit attack. I'm seriously considering making basically a large Sea Monkey tank-looking frame for the one picture......I think it'd be cool.

Isle of Dreadmoor Map
The last bit of art I got was not intentional, at least not on my part. The GM for one of my other games gave everyone this cool poster for the game. It's only Letter sized, but the picture doesn't do it justice. When I saw this I thought maybe I had signed up for a Far Away Land game, but nope, just a slightly modified BX game like I had expected. The cool thing was that this print was actually the map for the game! Cool idea, great game, and a worthwhile souvenir. 

Tom Tullis T-Shirt
I managed to acquire one item at the Midnight auction this year, a rather large "bootleg" T-Shirt featuring Tom Tullis on the front. I like Tom and champion Fat Dragon Games when I have the chance. I also like poking fun at him on Facebook and now I can do so as well at a convention!

D&D Electronic Game

At the regular auction I paid WAY too much for a complete but untested copy of this D&D Electronic Game. Now I did not know how much they go for on eBay, but I don't do eBay and this was a fundraiser for the convention, so overpaying for something is usually the point.....but not as badly as it is at the midnight auction. It was not uncommon for folks to tack on up to $25 to round up their winning bid to an even amount......well something ending in $50 or $00 anyway. I'm not displeased with this purchase, so win-win.

D&D White Box, 7th Printing
Every year just before the main auction they hold a raffle, and the big raffle item everybody wanted was this 7th Printing of the Dungeons & Dragons White Box.

Yep, I was the lucky SOB who got to take it home.

The books inside are in great shape and the box has one tear in the corner, but is otherwise excellent for as old as it is. I NEVER thought I'd get a White Box...period, so I consider myself doubly lucky. I cannot wait to display it with my 2nd Printing of the Dungeon! board game.

I did get a new RPG gifted to me that I forgot to take a picture of, but I might do a review on it instead because one of the guys from my gaming group just gushed on the game and even though it doesn't seem like my kind of thing, my interest is definitely piqued.


Free GM Resource: Welcome to the Feast of Legends RPG


Free GM Resource: Welcome to the Feast of Legends RPG
This week's Free GM Resource is definitely tongue-in-cheek, but it is a "full" free RPG from the most unlikely source: a fast-food company!

Feast of Legends is an...interesting RPG from Wendy's. Now I've only given it a once-over and my initial thoughts were that it's a bad joke and not very playable. It seemed to me that the game seemed a bit overly generous with player buffs based on food......

.....oh and pretty much everything is based on food. The gag probably gets old quickly, but it is what it is. In-game buffs based on what you're eating at the game table? Might be a bit much, but I really do think you could have some fun with it.

I'd tell my group we're playing a one-off and then arrange for the group to make a Wendy's run for a meal while creating characters. Make it a thing and go nuts.....enjoy it for what it is.

The PDF download comes with it's own combo GM's Guide and Adventure/Campaign, which isn't really obvious at 1st glance because the PDF isn't bookmarked and the initial table of contents only covers the 1st 25 pages or so. 

It's pretty much a full game, a lot more for a one-off than I would have expected. The website has a die roller and separate character sheets with pre-gens. It feels a bit 3.5/Pathfinderish, but the there are some interesting differences, like different stats that use d4's for generation and standard d4's for hit points as you level. That might be part of the offset for those buffs I mentioned earlier, but like with most any game (much less a one-off) YMMV.


Free GM Resource: Tiny Buildings from Crooked Staff Terrain


Free GM Resource: Tiny Buildings from Crooked Staff Terrain
A lot of times when I toss out a Free GM Resource it's just something I've found that I thought my 12 13 regular readers might like. A fair bit of time it is something I think I'd like as well. Rarely, is it something I'm really excited about....

...and today is one of those times.

For a long while now I've been kicking around the idea of making miniature (compared to the scale of common gaming minis!) buildings/terrain. I really like the idea behind Hexton Hills and bought into their Kickstarter, but that is really small scale good for countryside. I wanted something bigger that I could see actually using at the game table, something I could customize and use at the game table in conjunction with a battle map....it doesn't have to be something workable for miniature battles, but maybe a sweet-spot between straight up maps and larger in-scale (to character figures) dioramas.

I want that!

Thing is, the best I could come up with, based on my skill levels, were basically meeple-ish buildings. Just chunks of wood plopped down to represent stuff. Nothing cool or fancy.

When I saw this video from Crooked Staff Terrain on Youtube....

This is exactly what I was envisioning, but something like 10,000% better. Ideas are pretty damned worthless unless you can execute, so you can imagine how great it was for me to see Crooked Staff show me what I wanted, not what I could manage by myself.....well now I can manage by myself. I've already downloaded their template and had the print shop run off some nice laser prints on cardstock.

I need to do some figuring out still, but what I want to do is mount these onto hexagons to make small villages that I could use at the game table. I'm thinking that what I want to do is look up some old village maps and recreate these onto the hexes such that I could mix and match to make different villages. I don't know if I'll mount them to foam core or (and this is more likely) hardboard. Of course cutting accurate hexes could be an issue......could be.

You'll want to go get the free/PWYW PDF over at DriveThruRPG at this link.


Free GM Resource: Free Mini Adventures from Claw Carver


Free GM Resource: Free Mini Adventures from Claw Carver
Today I got my Swords and Wizardry Limited Edition Collector's Pack (which I never remember buying, but glad I did!) and I wanted to see if I could find some freebies for S&W.....

...and found the Lost in Time blog, specifically the "Other Stuff" page.

Alan, AKA Claw Carver, has written a fair bit that he's made available for free use, mostly mini adventures. One of his adventures even won an award in the 2012 One Page Dungeon Contest (BOOM!!! Twofer for you!)


Free GM Resource: Google Drive & Files


Free GM Resource: Google Drive & Files
Like many of the Free GM Resources I put up here, I know that not everything will work for everyone, but if it's something I get some good mileage out of, I have to assume others will as well.

I personally do not care for Apple products, having dumped my iPhone & iPods when Apple just started making my life a tad more difficult than I had liked.....basically not letting me have control over my own devices, but that rant is old and on my personal blog years ago...

So I'm an Android fan and love Google making some things easier for me. Now I'm one of those guys who tends to have something like four or five copies of my data: one on my laptop, a backup drive, a secondary backup drive, and a tertiary drive kept well off-site (like 1,000 miles away offsite!). Now my gaming stuff will probably be on a thumbdrive or three, but.....

....of course whenever I seem to need something it isn't so handy. Maybe I'm at a con and my laptop is in my room, or the thumbdrives aren't USB C, so good luck looking at my stuff on my tablet....where is my adapter again?

I swear there is an inverse relationship to how backed up my data is to my ability to easily use & share it when I'm not at my desk at home.

This is where I'm thankful for, and recommending as a Free GM Resource Google Drive and Google Files. Since both have size limitations (I think my free Google Drive is *only* 17GB), but if I'm using that space to hold onto my PC sheets, or campaign notes, instead of PDF copies of the rules books....that online space goes a long, long way.

When I'm working on a project I want to share or access on-the-fly, especially if it's written or a spreadsheet (i.e. Google Docs or Google Sheets) using these two is great. I can make it shareable (to participate in or just view-only) and just send a link. So much better than emailing a copy and then having to deal with revisions/version control. I like being able to pop of my phone and quickly find the file I need and use/review.

It just works, and works well.


Free GM Resource: Villains and Vigilantes Supplementals


Free GM Resource: Villains and Vigilantes Supplementals
Last week I was at an undisclosed location where I may or may not have been interviewing for a new job closer to family.....

This week I figured I'd make up for it by pointing out a whole category of freebies from Fantasy Games Unlimited for their game Villains and Vigilantes.

If you haven't played Villains and Vigilantes before, it's a Superhero RPG that's on version 2.1 (which you have to get elsewhere, BUT it is on sale right now on DriveThruRPG ) This page of Free GM Resources is all about V&V, but I cannot seem to find a link to this page from the home page or the V&V page....go figure.

The freebies consist mostly maps and encounters, but there is at least one scenario and some NPC products. If you buy the game for (what is now) $7.50 and then grab the freebies.....you'll have a bit to play with at a decent overall cost.


Free GM Resource: Pixabay


Free GM Resource: Pixabay
One thing I'm always on the lookout for is some free art for use in future projects. Now I prefer to grab old illustrations from books that have long gone out of copywrite, but that can be a lot of work.

Today's Free GM Resource is Pixabay, which is a collection of free images and royalty-free images. Now there are a few sites with free art, but few seem to have all the features that Pixabay has: easy search with parameters, clear marking of licensing/usage rights, and the ability to tip the "creator" of the original piece.  

For Example:

Examples of features