I like to think that I’m doing okay in life. Like, I’ve finally reached a point – and this is mostly thanks to my wonderful wife – where I feel like I’m no longer struggling to get by. In both cases, when Wizards of the Coast released Curse of Strahd and Storm King’s Thunder, I purchased the books straight away, without batting an eye.

I’m not trying to brag here, seriously. I’m simply setting the stage for what I’m about to say.

Given my mostly comfortable lifestyle, and my love for D&D, it should come as no surprise that I scoop up the new campaign books as they release. However, when it comes to other things – like actually playing the game – I suddenly become frugal. Why is that?

I look at things like dice towers, wooden card boxes, dice and mini storage boxes, and really fancy DM screens…and I say to myself, “Why would I ever need that?” I try to stick with the necessities. Now, I’m not counting the things that I find on the DM’s Guild website, because those are substantially cheaper than a dice tower. I’m talking about the hand-crafted stuff that people sell. The amber, or titanium d20s that go for sale (although those look super nice). The Dwarven Forge battle maps (again, drool-worthy). Things like Syrinscape, or a hand-knitted dice bag.

I’m getting by without all of those nice things, and so I cannot bring myself to justify their purchase. It’s kind of a bummer, sure, because they are nice things, that would be great to own, admire, and use – except dice towers, I still don’t understand their purpose.

That’s not to say I haven’t spent money on my gaming. I have these interesting, interlocking, dry-erase battle map pieces that you draw on. They’re easily stored and transported, but the dry-erase part of it can be unwieldy when you’re moving minis around on it, or if you accidentally smudge it.

That being said, I’ve bought minis. We don’t use them every game, but when something special happens, I like to break them out. We’ve used them, maybe, a total of 3 times in the Curse of Strahd campaign so far (a little less than a third of the total sessions). The “grab-bag” box of minis that you can find at retailers are about $15 each, for – usually – up to 5 minis. That’s cool and all, but my campaign calls for specific types of creatures, so these are always a gamble. I’ve, so far, only bought 2 specific minis online that I needed for CoS.

The other expenditure that I recently took upon myself was new binders for my players’ new character sheets that I made them, and sheet protectors for the pages. It wasn’t too expensive, so I didn’t mind it. Plus, I thought it would help my players, so I saw the justification for it.

If we were having a tough time with combat, if my players were requesting a better way to keep track of it, then I would probably bring up the possibility of us all going in together on a better battle map system. I have some ideas – like that computer monitor idea from a previous post of mine – that won’t be as expensive as Dwarven Forge stuff, so maybe that’ll happen someday.

We’re usually not hurting for space (well, I kind of am, but that’s because – as the DM – I have a lot on my table), so there’s no real need for things like dice towers or whatever they’re for.

To be honest, that’s really what I would want. That’s something I would love to drop a grand on…. a really freaking nice gaming table. One of those with polished wood, felt tabletop – or like the one found here, which is amazing. But…those are expensive, and I could probably never justify that kind of cost to my wife, let alone myself. Then again, there’s always DIY….

But, before I go and do that, I have to get a house first. This apartment-living thing is not conducive to hosting a D&D game of several players. I mean, we can’t all be somewhat funded, and broadcasting our games live to an audience of thousands who all want to help make it better…so I have to make due.

I’m trying to game and purchase materials out of necessity, and – even then – to a point where my wife doesn’t give me a funny look. This game is important to me, and to my players. It simultaneously warms and breaks my heart that they get bummed when we don’t meet for a week. Me as a DM, and them as players – we’re both something to the other, we mean something to each other, and that’s awesome. Because of what they mean to me, I like to take care of them, and make their sessions special and worthwhile. I like to spoil them a little bit, and get them all nice binders with character sheets, and stuff like that.

At this point in my life, though, I have to draw a line. There appears to be only so much money I’m willing to spend on this game…in certain ways…for certain things, which is strange, but it makes sense in my mind. A $40-$50 campaign book – which provides hours and hours and hours of entertainment – is far more worth it than spending $100 on a box in which to carry your dice.

Do you have any DM-hacks? Ways of having nice things for your games that don’t cost a lot of money? What was the most expensive thing you did/built/provided for your games? If money weren’t an issue, what would you want to include into your games?

Until next time – Well Met!