Friday, October 5, 2012

Airborne Minis Tips


Last week I put are request in my Brief Word section for ways to represent flying or climbing minis on battlemats. Following is a surprising number of methods you smart folks wrote in with. Hopefully, if you use minis, you find a method below that works for you.
First, here is my initial request:

0. Bottle Caps & D&D Minis? 

I noticed recently that the standard medium-sized D&D minis have round bases that fit perfectly within a beer bottle cap (ahem). One of the challenges I'd like solved is three dimensional representation when we use battlemats. We currently put minis on a d6 to indicate they're airborne. However, the d6 takes up the ground space on the battlemat, so it's not optimal.
I'm wondering how I can use this most-amazing-discovery- since-the-loofah to improve use of D&D minis? I thought of gluing a dowel to the cap and you could just put the mini inside the cap to get it up in the air. But, how do you stabilize that?

1. Coffee Stir Sticks 

From: Aaron Chesny
Johnn,
Use 2 bottle caps: one for the airborne mini and one for the ground mini. Then go to Starbucks and get yourself a mocha. (Useful for late night game session too.) While you're there, pick up a handful coffee stirring sticks--the wood ones. Then, super-glue a couple of them to the outside of each bottle cap. See attached drawing.
Coffee Stir Stick Mini-Stand

2. Use Dice Boxes 

From: Rasmus Nord J¿rgensen
Dear Johnn,
Thanks for a great e-zine. One solution to the airborne minis problem is to use the transparent plastic cases that dice-sets are often sold in. A human sized mini can usually stand inside the case, and another one can stand on top of it. Doesn't work with huge barbarians with greataxes lifted high above their heads though.
[Johnn: here's an example box of the kind Rasmus mentions.]

3. Use A Strip Of Sheet Metal 

From: Jason Lord
To simulate airborne characters on a battlemat while still leaving the space below free try this. Get a piece of thin sheet metal from your local hardware store about 1" X 6". Mark out 1" at each end and bend the metal so you have a kind of elongated U shape. Turn it endwise so that one end is on the battlemat and the other supports the mini 4" above, and then you can still put a standard size mini in between.

4. Craft A Magnetic Axel Stilt 

From: Mike Simon
Here's an idea.
What you'll need:
  • Two bottle caps
  • A small dowel or plastic rod
  • Craft magnet sheet
  • A square plastic dice or card container
  • A rubber eraser, dry sponge, or something you can poke a dowel in
  • Model casting resin
  • A small loop of Scotch Tape
  • Krazy glue
Building it:
  1. First, cut the magnet into two circles the same size as the base of your minis. Then determine which sides of the magnets stick together. (This will be important for later.)
  2. Second, pour resin into one of the bottle caps and place it carefully in the dice container.
  3. Push the dowel into the eraser and use it to suspend the dowel in the center of the liquid resin in the bottle cap at the bottom of the dice container.
  4. Wait until the resin hardens.
  5. Pull the eraser up and remove it from the end of the dowel.
  6. Remove the hardened resin disc from the bottle cap.
  7. Fill the second cap with resin.
  8. Tape the first resin disc with the dowel to the eraser.
  9. Suspend the eraser/disc/dowel over the center of the liquid.
  10. When the second disc of resin hardens, remove it from the bottle cap and you'll now have an "axle".
  11. Now, go back to your magnets that are sticking to one another and Krazy Glue one side to one of the ends of your axel.
  12. When it dries, put some glue on the other side of your magnetic discs (that are still stuck together) and then place your mini on the top.
  13. Let it dry. Once dry, you should be able to pull the mini and the base apart. This will leave a thin magnetic base on your mini that will attach and stick to your magnetic axel stilt.
  14. Paint the base as you like, or use a colored resin. Some sanding may be required.

5. Use Pizza Centre Pieces 

From: Laura L (Michael Anderson and PatV also wrote in with this tip)
Hi Johnn!
I haven't used bottle caps, but something I just thought of while reading this is using the little sort of "barbie tables" that come in pizza boxes to keep the top of the pizza box from coming in contact with the pizza. They're on a tripod, so don't really take up much space. I don't have one handy, but I *think* they're tall enough for most minis to fit under.
[Johnn: thanks for the tip Laura, Michael, and Pat. As it so happens, we had pizza at Thursday's gaming session, and I rescued the little tables. Unfortunately, they're a bit short for many minis in my collection. However, I discovered that the legs fit perfectly in narrow straws, raising the tables to any height I want, and providing an easy, stable base for minis to stand on, yet allowing minis to be placed below without trouble. Sweet!]

6. Use Pill Bottles 

From: Brent Jans
Heya, Johnn! Just reading the latest issue, and I had a possible solution to the bottle cap question. If you could lay hands on either a large, clear, prescription pill bottle, or a clear film container, you could glue that to the other end of the dowel.
Then, if someone did move into the space directly below the flying figure, the container could be placed over them and people could still see where they are. Wouldn't work for anything bigger than medium figures, but it's a thought.

7. Use Clear PCV Pipe 

From: Mike Bourke
Get some 1" diameter clear PCV pipe (the stiff stuff, not the flexible) and cut it into strips of various lengths, probably 1", 1.5", 2", 2.5", and 3". Put a colour-coded sticker on the inside to indicate the height that each represents as 5' heights (the usual battlemap scale).
Glue your bottle caps (hollow facing out) to the top. Do a few from 1.5" diameter pipe as well. You should then have a transparent platform upon which a mini can stand, and which will fit over the top of most minis.

8. Create A Q-Tip Stand 

From: Andrew Marlowe
Two bottle caps? Glue one to the top to hold the mini, glue one to the bottom to create a base. You may also may need to glue something into the lower cap to weigh it down. Also you might want to try 4 smaller dowels or maybe even the plastic portion of a Q-Tip to allow another figure to sit underneath.

9. Use Star Wars Bottle Cap Minis 

From: Russ M.
I had actually been considering something similar like this idea for my Star Wars campaign. Awhile ago, when Episode 1 was on its big campaign blitz, many different advertisers tried to get the hype up by creating cool, themed collectibles with their products. One of these ideas was figurines attached to a bottle cap, and yet another was inlaid 3D "hologram" chips or disks in the bottle cap top.
Plastic soda bottle caps are the perfect size for miniature tokens and fit well on a battlemat, though I don't know how well they'd be on a hex grid. Probably similar.
Anyway, check eBay for figurines, and check outside the U.S. for other corporate sponsors. Pepsi and Coke are good ones to start with!

10. Create Posts With Ballpoint Pens 

From: Harlequin
You need four posts. The posts should be thin and strong and about 2x the height of a standard mini (2 - 2.5 inches). Possible posts are the thin ink tubes inside disposable ball point pens (use empty ones :).
Glue the four posts around the circumference of the bottle cap such that when the stand is placed on the map, each foot comes down on the corner of a square. This way, you can fit a mini underneath.

11. Use Two Bottle Caps And A Nail 

From: Bryan Barlow
Here's a thought. Try inserting a nail through the unprinted side of one bottle cap. This will be the top. Push the nail all the way through, up to the head of the nail.
Then push the nail into the printed side of another bottle cap. This will be the bottom. Push the nail in no deeper than the rim of the bottle cap.
You'll end up with something looking like an upended barbell. Then, stand it upright with the bottom cap resting on the table and set the miniature in the top cap. By using different lengths of nails, you can get different heights. Also, if you use thin brads (or even wire), and paint the bottle caps black, the nail is less noticeable.
If you want to get really fancy, here are some other finishing touches:
  1. Grind the tip of the nail flat after the device is constructed so that it won't scratch the table top.
  2. Apply rubber sealant to the tip of the nail and/or the bottle cap rims so as not to scratch your table or miniatures.
  3. Glue, weld, or solder the device to assure that it will last and not slide.
  4. If you want to get tricky, don't use the bottom cap, flip the device upside down, glue a paper clip to the printed side of another bottle cap (so that the clip protrudes by about half past the rim of the cap), and wrap the clip around the nail tightly so as to create an adjustable platform for the mini to sit on.

12. Use Magnetic, Stackable Miniature Markers 

From: Chris J. Whitcomb
Not exactly bottle caps, but magnetic, stackable miniature markers: http://www.aleatools.com/Default.aspx
[Johnn: thanks Chris. Those things reminded me of poker chips, so I grabbed one and noticed it covers a 10'x10' area on my battlemat nicely. So, most of the bottle cap tips in this issue could be used with poker chips as well!
In addition, I realized you could glue a poker chip to any mini and turn it into a large scale mini (for D&D scale, at least).]

13. Use Two Battlemaps For Normal and Elevated Views 

From: Tarl Gay
My group once discussed this same issue, and believe it or not, we had the same theory about minis on wooden dowels. In the end, we used 2 battle maps: one from an overhead view showing normal movement, and one measured elevation from a side view.
This actually made measuring area affect and ranges pretty easy since you could plainly count the squares on both battle maps and if your target was in range on both maps then the attack or effect was successful.

14. Use Snapple Lids 

From: Galen
Johnn,
We use plastic bottle caps from Snap20 (by Snapple) water bottles to represent airborne minis. The minis sit on top nicely and the caps are clear, lending an air of realism.

15. Use Film Cannister Caps 

From: PatV.
We use colored 35mm film cannister caps for most "conditions" (invisible, darkness, held, etc.)

16. Conflict Chips 

From: Johnn Four
I stumbled upon this web site recently. I haven't seen the product firsthand, but it looks to have potential:

17. Use Trimmed Water Bottles 

From: Fed Blogs
Here's the perfect recipe for awesome airborne mini stands:
  • Use any clear plastic water bottle
  • Cut off the bottom to desired height
  • Glue your bottle cap upside down to the bottle cap
Voila.
The bottle will fit over a mini of almost any size. Use bottles of various widths to accommodate wider minis below, or to place over a larger area of a battlemap scene. Cut bottles to desired heights to represent altitude.
Also, you can fit smaller, shorter bottles within larger bottles to stack airborne minis at different altitudes!
You can cut the top of the bottle off too, and glue cardboard to it to give you a platform if you need a playing area in the sky, at a different height, or whatever.

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