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Anything you can draw I can draw worse – playing D&D with our limited budgets and artistic talents

A: So, Twitter?

C: Yes! We’ve now finally set up our Twitter. We have a social media presence. Like, comment and subscribe. Click that bird. Hit that bell. Follow us.

A: Love us. Do as we ask. We shall be sending all of the Tweets, as I believe the cool kids say.

C: Angela isn’t permanently, terminally online like I am, so splitting the labour of Twitter will be an interesting process for us.

A: I feel like our Twitter feed will constantly be at war with itself. It will just be us being like, ‘Too many dice!’ followed by, ‘Not enough dice!’

C: We’ll have to take more photos too. Maybe of the very reasonable number of dice we have?

A: No. But we did have to pick a Twitter picture. And because we’re pasty inside-people, we didn’t use a photo of us.

C: No one wants to know what I look like.

A: Your actual Twitter profile is a picture of you.

C: That is true. Anyway.

A: So yeah, we took a photo the pieces we use for our characters in each other’s game.

C: Yeah, mine is a chess rook for Weyrholm.

A: And my Farrar piece is a butterfly ring which is also a mood ring. Apparently I’m permanently slightly unsettled, according to it. But taking the photo also made me think about why we picked those pieces.

C: Well, there’s a literal aspect; Weyrholm is a weird woodsman weather-druid and your girl Farrar is covered in butterfly tattoos.

A: Yeah, that one’s less obvious I guess, but when I was creating her, I made her vaguely supportive of Desna.

C: Who’s the butterfly lady.

A: Though actually these days Farrar’s attitude to gods is: tiptoe softly past and hope they don’t notice you. But when I was starting out, Desna was nominally her god, so it made sense to have the butterfly tattoos and also the ring.

C: There’s also subtler elements to the pieces too—like part of Weyrholm’s crisis of self is that he might just be someone else’s tool, which is why I like the idea of him being a chess piece.

A: And castles have rigid ways of moving, which reflect him being a dwarf.

C: Yep. And the piece is relatively short and squat like he is, so aesthetically it fits better than a literal pawn. I really like our pieces—and everyone’s pieces for our games.

A: Right, because we all use random objects for our characters. Like, Maddy in my game is a yellow stone, Saoirse is a Celtic ring, Petra is a cufflink, and so on. And they all tend to have some meaning behind them, or relate to the backstory in a way.

C: You can always find symbolism in them.

A: And if a player accidentally picks out the wrong piece for someone else, we all get really upset and are like, ‘That stone isn’t me.’

C: Yeah, everyone has their own Inception totem that they’re very attached to. I don’t want to disparage anyone who has a customisable D&D figurine, where you can create your little dude in plastic or whatever, and give him a book or a fireball, because they’re really cool too. But I’ve never felt that we necessarily needed them, kickass as they may be. And actually I like having random chess pieces as enemies. I think it’s fine that we draw out our own battle maps, and populate them with coins and bottle caps and the like. Relying more on imagination is pretty damn good, actually. For me, this is a pretty good blend of theatre-of-the-mind and battle maps—I like being able to provide visuals, but I know it’ll never look exactly like it looks in each person’s head, so why not let the imagination run wild?

A: Also, part of the reason why we don’t have the cool 3D battle maps like they have in Critical Role is because we lack the space. The maps for that show are incredible and so intricate—there are miniature houses that the characters can go into and stuff. But we rent a tiny flat already overstuffed with dice. I refuse to let us have any props.

C: Also we play Pathfinder on a budget. Lots of the stuff we have, like our Wyrmwood dice box, was a gift. An amazing gift, but nonetheless a gift and not something we splurged on ourselves.

A: Yeah, we have no money so pretty much all our pieces are things we found in our childhood bedrooms or in charity shops.

C: And I’m never going to have the artistic skill to construct super-realistic-looking battle maps, so I love being conceptual.

A: Also, let’s be real—you guys never do battles where I think you’re going to do them.

C: Yep.

A: It’s always like, ‘Close your eyes while I hastily draw this map.’ I don’t want to order expensive lair blueprints, or spend weeks constructing buildings out of papier-mâché when I know you guys are going to be like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to fight the necromancer in his dark tower. We’re going to wait til he goes shopping.’

C: Poor Matt Mercer with his finessed rules for ship-combat in a fight that never truly manifests. I have so much sympathy for him. And yeah, this goes back to our open world discussion—we’ve both given the players a lot of freedom, which is fun but I don’t know which shitty alleyway you guys are going to go down to fight my enemy dudes.

A: Speaking of enemies, one of the other nice things about having objects and trinkets rather than figurines is that you can reuse them time and again. You know who my enemies are on the board because I use a haematite ring and a shiny black stone for my creepiest NPCs. In a meta-way, you guys know they’re evil, even if your characters don’t yet, and that’s a lot of fun.

C: That’s true; certain pieces have a certain level of auspice. And like, even when a character’s represented by just a penny or something, people are still like, ‘That fucking penny! I hate this dude!’

A: Like Larra, who is a scratched pound coin, to reflect the fact that her face got horribly burned the first time we interacted with her, and now she is out for vengeance. Every time she sees us, she attempts to burn our Oracle to a crisp. I hate that pound coin.

C: But I want to reiterate, we’re not looking down on anyone who uses hyper-realistic figurines like the sort you get in Warhammer or whatever, or who has bought all the cool, official maps. That’s great, and campaigns which use those are awesome. They can really enhance the experience. This is more to say that you don’t need to have branded merchandise in order to have a great time.

A: Right. You even did a campaign for a friend for a while which was entirely theatre of the mind, so no props or pieces at all, and that still worked. You can do D&D with as much or as little as you want.

C: Yeah. I definitely don’t want to sound like a luddite. Props and extras can be super! Our friend Jacques, who is like the king of atmospheric encounters—he goes in for having NPC figurines that he creates with Lego, and he uses blu tack to make these cool, hyper-realistic boss pieces. It adds a really great element to his game. And he’s an amazing artist, so all his maps look fucking sick.

A: Yeah, he can actually draw trees, unlike us. We draw squiggly fried eggs for trees. This is maybe why we’re so keen on symbolism and metaphor and the like—we make pictures with our words because when we try to use a pen, it’s terrible.

C: Hell yeah!

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