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Reuniting the Band: A Token Effort

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Now that I had workable maps, it was time to get some tokens. Back in the day, when my group used to play face-to-face we were using 1st edition AD&D rules, and minis and battle maps weren’t terribly necessary. Back in those days I was a poor college student (and then a poor University employee) and I couldn’t afford to purchase minis. I had a few, but I also lacked the talent to paint them well, so I never used them, and none of my friends used minis either. I did have some cardboard figures (Steve Jackson’s Cardboard Heroes), but we only used them sporadically. Combat was largely “theater of the mind”.

Fantasy Grounds didn’t have a ruleset for 1st edition AD&D so I converted my campaign to D&D 3.5. Since 3.5 relies heavily on miniatures and a battle map, I had to do something about tokens for the characters and monsters. At the time (2008) FG only came with a few portraits, and they didn’t have many tokens for sale either. But I did have the Cardboard Heroes. In fact, I had purchased the complete set as a spiral-bound book at Gen Con the previous year.

So once again I turned to my trusty scanner. While scanning maps hadn’t worked out very well (see here and here for the gory details), I’m happy to say that scanning the cardboard figures worked quite well. Of course I had to open the scans in Paint Shop Pro, crop them to a square centered on the face, resize them, and save the result in PNG format, but that went pretty quickly.

While I had the scanner fired up, I scanned in all the monster figures from the set as well. I only did the cropping and resizing on the ones I expected to need soon, reasoning that I once I had the scanning done I could create the tokens pretty quickly, and I wouldn’t waste effort making tokens I wouldn’t use. Over the years I have built up quite a store of tokens this way.

As you have probably deduced, what I ended up with were “portrait style” tokens. I find I prefer this style over the “top down” tokens because I find it easier to differentiate one token from another, especially when the map is zoomed out, but it really is just a matter of preference.

Over time my collection of tokens has grown considerably. Somewhere along the line I picked up a couple sets of tokens from Fiery Dragon, which covered most of the monsters in the SRD, and that has been a big time saver. I also got a couple PDF’s of cardboard figures as part of an Order Of the Stick Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve converted some of those to square tokens for FG as well.

Once in a while I use a monster that doesn’t appear in any of those sources. When I wanted to use the animated skeleton of a horse to pull a necromancer’s wagon, I had to search the web to find a picture of a horse skeleton, and crop and resize it to make a token. Likewise, nobody does tokens of mind flayers or beholders because of copyright restrictions, so I had to find drawings on the web and adapt them.

Speaking of copyright, I feel the need to step up on a soapbox for a moment. Please bear with me.

All of the images I’m using as tokens are copyrighted by someone (not me). I’m not a lawyer, so please treat my advice with caution, but as far as I can tell it’s OK for me to use other people’s images in my own game. Distributing the tokens to other people, on the other hand, would be disrespectful to the artists at the very least, and more likely it would be outright copyright infringement. I’m not 100% sure if the “work” of cropping and resizing an image makes it “mine” in the eyes of the law, but it certainly doesn’t make it mine in my own eyes. As a person who creates intellectual property, and who expects other people to respect my rights, I feel I need to respect the rights of other creators as well, and so I wouldn’t be able to share such images in good conscience.

OK, that’s enough soapbox time. Back to tokens!

One nice thing about portrait tokens is that when a monster is killed you can rotate the token upside down to mark it. If the token is rectangular and non-transparent (as most of mine are) you can even rotate it 45 degrees so it looks like a diamond instead of a square to make it really obvious.

When all else fails, FG comes with letter tokens. I have used them from time to time, but always as a last resort. Now that I’m used to having a monster’s picture, a letter token just seems a bit jarring. Also, turning them upside down to indicate a dead monster doesn’t always work so well. Someone on the FG Forum used to have a signature that joked about this: “That damned O just won’t die!”

The last item to discuss is the scale of your tokens. But that dovetails into a discussion of map scale, and I have a fair bit to say about map scale, so I think I’ll defer that to its own blog post.

I hope you found this useful. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions, criticisms, or observations. Thanks for reading!

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Tags: reuniting, tokens


  1. Minty23185Fresh's Avatar
    What an inspiring blog post! I don't have any of my own tokens. They're an expense I have so far avoided. I typically run canned campaigns, so most of the tokens are supplied. But every once in a while... And now, thanks to your post, I'll be rolling in the tokens. I have tons of old paper material that's dying to be scanned and cropped. Thanks Phystus.
  2. Phystus's Avatar
    Thanks for your kind words, Minty! There are a lot of images that can make good tokens, depending on what you need. I have used pictures of cosplayers that I took at Gen Con, webcomics, scanned art of various types, and a ton of images I found with search engines. A while back we needed Old West images for a tabletop game, and we found tons of cowboy pictures that were good. More recently I needed a token for an animated heap of bones. I found the perfect drawing with a Google image search. All I had to do was paint in some red dots in the skulls' eye sockets, do a little cropping and resizing and I was in business.
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