d6 Fun Ways To Use Tokens
Whether you GM face-to-face or virtual games, tokens make fun and useful game props. Here are d6 ways you might use tokens behind your screen, on it, or in even in front of it!
What’s a Token?
First, what do I mean by tokens? My generation would call these pogs, heh. They’re representations of things like PCs, NPCs, and monsters in your game. Most GMs use them on zone maps and battle maps to track where things are and their relative distance and positions.
Here’s a screenshot of a bunch of monster and NPC tokens from The Demonplague, my D&D 5E 1-20 campaign. These tokens were recently made by Demonplague GM Caracal429 and sent out to all Demonplague customers (if you didn’t get the email, let me know). Thank you Caracal429, they look amazing!
And here’s an image of a single token from The Demonplague, NPC Ralekai Gravemore, that Caracal429 made from the book’s art:
Creating Your Own Tokens
There’s a fantastic and free online tool you can use to turn any image into a token. It’s called Token Stamp. You can customize borders, backgrounds, and add text labels. You can also upload your own custom borders:
d6 Interesting Uses For Tokens
I like tokens because they are tangible. They can help players visualize game elements better.
In addition to map use, here are a few other possible ways to use these GM props:
1. Initiative Tracker
At a physical game table, you can make tokens for the characters and foes, print them out, and lay them in initiative order. You can optionally glue them to index cards and fold them over your GM screen.
In virtual, if you don’t have an initiative manager already, use Google Slides to easily handle init. Paste in the tokens, including foes, and drag them into sequence.
If you’re using Campaign Logger, in both free and pro versions there’s already an initiative tracker. But it’s GM’s eyes only, with a turn timer for post-game analysis. For a visual token approach, you could do this easily in a Log Entry or Page you share with your players.
All you need to do is add tokens, optionally note the initiative roll, and cut & paste to re-order each round or combat:
2. Hex Crawling
I bought the awesome map hexagon Hexgaard tiles from Andreas Barbesgaard. Print or paste, and lay them down as PCs explore. Write or note the hex number for easy tracking in Campaign Logger or your notes system.
Because these beautiful hexes — or others you choose to use — are easy to print or copy & paste, you won’t hesitate to write on them. Unlike more expensive cardboard tiles that you wouldn’t want to mark, you can torture paper and graphics all day long without worry. 🙂
What might you add to these hex “tokens”?
- Resources. Type and count. “Mine, 10,000 gp. Village, 104 pop. Berry bushes, 23 meals.”
- Random Events. Add a table on the back or note what events get triggered as they happen for easy tracking.
- Tracks. Speaking of tracking, draw paths, tracks, and other details.
- Weather Table. Larger hexes might have local weather like lake effects.
- Reputation. Note current party status in a region.
- Secrets. As the party finds dungeons, clues, and buried treasure, draw them on the hexes.
I don’t know about you, but I have some virtual gaming fatigue these days. I look at computer displays all day for work and Roleplaying Tips. Having to get a deeper monitor tan from GMing is not my favourite thing.
So I’m thinking of making a physical representation of my Basilica sandbox region with a cut-up Amazon box. I’ll print a stack of paper Hexgaard tiles. Then I’ll glue them to the cardboard as the party explores the region. It would be nice to have more physical stuff around me for my VTT game!
3. Secret Voting
Give each player a set of tokens representing different choices or factions. Game-Icons.net is an awesome resource for designs. Use them with Token Stamp.
Players can then secretly vote by dropping their chosen token into a container, such as a Crown Royal purple bag, allowing for anonymous decision-making. This can speed up party planning or make for fun roleplay.
Players find a shattered map. Players must assemble Hexgaard tiles or other tokens to figure out where to go.
Those Game Icons can also be used as pictograms. Players must assemble discovered “tokens” and put them into a certain order to get a clue about what to do or where to go next.
Tokens can also be stacked like a totem pole. Once all tokens have been found, perhaps as pieces of a magic item, and players properly stack them, the magic item fuses and functions. Stacking an incomplete set or in the wrong order results in a curse.
5. In-Game Props
We can use tokens as currency, trade markers, tattoos, proof of identity, and other such in-game purposes. Having a physical or digital representation of what the character possess offers a visceral way to engage players. And, should a player misplace their token, maybe that means it’s lost in-game too, resulting in a new mission.
6. Player Rewards
Recently I shared my thoughts on awarding experience points for roleplay. Many GMs wrote in with various approaches, including giving action points or other expendable temporary bonuses. Tokens make great trackers for this. I use poker chips, but those aren’t very thematic. Why not use some cool tokens you design?
Alternatively, you can use tokens as achievement badges. I’ve always wanted to create achievement boards for players in a campaign. As achievements are unlocked, such as 100 points of damage in a round, voted best teammate for the 10th time, or tricked a foe more powerful than you with a spell, a player gets a token they can glue to their board.
Having a tangible reminder of past achievements, with future achievements available to unlock, can engage Achiever player types.
Do you use tokens in other ways in your games? I’d love to hear about it. Hir reply and let me know.
Have more fun at every game!
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