I thought I might try to pull together some tools for DMs running D&D Encounters. This is oriented primarily toward physical tools you can use at the table to make the session more vivid and enjoyable for players, as well as easier for the DM to run.
Please feel free to post your contributions, including links to tools you did not create but which could be useful. I'll do my best to link from this thread.Maps and Tiles
The supplied maps work really well. The only down-side is really the presence of fold marks, which you can alleviate if the store can keep them unfolded (or rolled in a tube) between sessions.
In addition, you could recreate them with Dungeon Tiles if you have them. I don't recommend using alternate tiles, as authors often really look at room size and layout to match the monsters.
It can be really cool to represent elevations and features. For elevations, craft stores usually have cheap 1" wooden square blocks
you can use to represent high areas. If you have dungeon tiles, you can place the tile over them, to keep the same look. You can do the same thing with some features, such as putting blocks under a tile for a dresser or pillar. Pillars can also be found in wood from craft stores.
It can be fun as a DM to add some three-dimensional terrain. Naloomi's workshop
has really nice terrain (available painted or unpainted for reasonable prices). You can also find sites that provide paper 3-D elements, cast mold plaster terrain, and even plastic pieces. Used here and there they can really make for interesting combats and help set the scene. My suggestion is to use a few pieces at a time so you become comfortable with using them without blowing your budget or making the combats too complicated. Minis
There are several threads on the minis for prior sessions. Session 6 2-2 spoilers:
Session 7 2-3 spoilers:
Fell Taints do not have existing miniatures, but you can choose any tentacled horror miniature to stand in. Ideally you use something distinct for each group.
Intellect devourer: Intellect Devourer (Unhallowed), or Canoloth (Unhallowed), or several older metal minis.
Pulsars: Anything small and blob-like can work. You ideally want three in case the table is strong. Flameskull (War Drums), Ochre Jelly (Archfiends, Against the Giants), Lemure (Giants of Legend).
Lashers: The more tentacles, the better. Grell (Deathknell), Yochlol Tempter (Legendary Evils), Ethereal Filcher (Aberrations).
Session 8 2-4 spoilers:
This one is hard. For the first part, you can just use the map. Or, you might look around the house for some sort of globe-like object that could be used. A craft store might have something out of styrofoam or frosted glass. If you like projects, this portal by Sly Flourish is an awesome idea (instructional video included!). You could stand it up and just pretend it is spherical or lay it down, maybe even with a glass bowl inside... or fill the whole thing with lights/stuffing. Anyone have other ideas?
For the second part, any eladrin figure could work, though ideally you find one that is a bit interesting or even something that looks less like an eladrin and more like a changed creature.
Female Eladrin Sorcerer (PH Handbook Heroes 1), Howling Hag (Dungeons of Dread), Wild Mage (Night Below), Female Eladrin Wizard (PH Handbook Heroes 1), Female Human Wizard (PH Handbook Heroes 2), Female Human Cleric (PH Handbook Heroes 2) / Combat Medic (War Drums).
This one is easy. There are a wealth of WotC and other minis that can fit the roles of the various creatures. Consider several different minis instead of using the same for each monster of a type. Having several wraith-like and zombie-like minis on the board keeps players guessing as to whether there are just a few or many types of creatures in play. They can make a knowledge check (DC15) to learn the names, of course, but it makes for interesting play.
There are many fine places to purchase miniatures. First, consider supporting your local gaming store - they are hosting D&D Encounters, they are local (support the local economy, be green), and they will only be around if they make a profit. For hard-to-find minis from older sets, there are various places to shop. This site can be useful for comparing prices
. This site is also useful
. NPC/Monster Table Tents
A table tent is a folded piece of paper (looking like an old fashioned camping tent) upon which you write information describing your PC. They are used by many RPGA living campaign players. They provide a quick capture of what the PC is and often contain a picture. You can read more about how I use them here.
An example Word PC tent can be downloaded here
. You can find others online or use the ones that came with the kit.
I have been working on NPC and Monster tents for all of the D&D Encounters sessions. Basically, I search my saved image gallery, the galleries on DDI, and my old pdf books for suitable images for each monster. I share the resulting pdf so you can print them out (grayscale is fine, and even low quality ink looks great). Cut out the images vertically, so you have a long strip with the image at the bottom. Fold in half, so you have an upside-down "V". When the players see the monsters you can bring them out. You can even put initiative tents (miniature folded paper "V"s with numbers on them) over them and give others to the players. Call out initiative ranges and hand out the initiative tents in order. ("Anyone over 20? Ok, you get the #1. Anyone above 15?...")The table-tents can be downloaded from here
. They are done through the end of Chapter 2. (The latest file covers 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4).Intro Scrolling Presentation
This cool downloadable flash presentation
makes for a nice store backdrop to have at a counter or near the gaming table. It was updated for week 6, so we may see more in the future.Dungeon/Dragon Articles and Sourcebooks
Dungeon (and sometimes Dragon magazine) often has articles that are relevant to the topic at hand. It can be useful to search the archives for pictures, monster ecologies, and other relevant topics. Spoiler for encounter 2-2:
General DMing Threads
Dragon 376 has an article on Fell Taints that can help DMs portray what they are like.
The Dungeoneering skill checks presented in the Monster Manual can be useful as a handout for players that make the DCs.
Several of the Chaos Star adventures (you can search through adventures here) have pictures and ideas that can help a DM approach the encounter in imaginative ways.
In addition to the above, here are some useful threads for DMs.Useful Links for Dungeon Masters
A WotC group
for trading ideas on Skill Challenges. You can also share ideas relevant to D&D Encounters here
Ok, that should start us off. Any other tools you would recommend?