But before you rush off to spend money and get crafty, let's talk about the advantages and disadvantages of using tokens in your RPG.
- Relatively cheap to make.
- Won't blow over every time a player exhales.
- "Fits" visually if you are using a 2D Map.
- Easy to make your own custom pieces.
- Stacks and transports very well. You could load an entire army in your backpack without too much weight (as long as you don't make them out of metal).
- Two sided so can be flipped to indicate "Bloodied" or "Shaken" conditions.
- A bit more expensive than paper standees.
- 2D means the best vantage point to see what's going on is a high angle, so you may find your players standing over the map if you have a large table.
- Usually, people prefer standees and miniatures for looks.
Despite the disadvantages, I like to keep a stock of these around. They are my "go to" for running games at locations where I need to travel light such as at conventions. The last thing I want is to be burdened down with a heavy pack, or to load up really cool minis only to have them get lost or forgotten on the game floor.
So here's what you will need.
- Glue (glue stick or a bottle of Elmer's white glue will do)
- A craft Circle punch 3/4 to 1 inch diameter (available at most craft stores like Michael's)
- Token art printed on standard paper
- Token bases (anything about 1" in diameter and flat)
For Token Bases, I like to uses 1" Wooden disks available from Michael's or other crafts stores. They are fairly inexpensive and lightweight, but still beefy enough to pick up without relying on fingernails to grip them. This pack has about 20 disks.
Because these disks have a beveled edge, using a 1" diameter circle punch would be too big so I use the 3/4". It's a bit tight for pictures and I'll probably switch to a 1" and see how well it fits when I get around to it.
The circle punches can usually be found in scrap-booking sections.
Warning!: Do not mount your images to chip board and then try to cut them with the punch. The punch is good for paper or cardstock only. You will break your punch trying to go through anything thicker.
As for the art, well unless I start uploading some for Free Stuff Fridays you will have to make do on your own. Just find some pics and print then out at 1" portraits on a sheet of paper. Don't worry about making them round since the punch will do that for you. Just try to frame them as best you can. Also, make a duplicate of the same picture and add an outer, red ring if you want to flip the token to indicate a special condition like "Bloodied" or in my case "Shaken".
You can also paint the tokens or used colored bases before you add the picture. This helps a lot with identifying tokens quickly. For instance, I make all of my villain bases black, my heroes red, and innocent civilian npcs in yellow.
You can see above that I have flipped a couple of these npcs to Shaken. These guys make great hostages. Innocent bystanders getting in the way of combat is an under-used combat environment, imho. Also notice I used just silhouettes for these portraits. That's because they are npcs so they are fine being generic looking. 10 generic npc tokens are enough for all of my civilian npc needs. I also plan to make some generic "Monster", "Villain", and "Robot" tokens. It makes them re-usuable, and if I want the players to get a visual of what they are fighting, I can always flip a larger picture over the top of my gm's screen.
Tokens, as mentioned before, are also versatile. There is nothing stopping me from making corpse counters, fire counters, or any other environment hazard that needs representation. All in all, tokens are a useful GM tool.
I think I will add my generic Token art into a Free Stuff Friday Post after all. It will give me time to create the next Alien One Sheet.