One of the first things I learned about being a better Dungeon Master is the importance of preparation. Your game will run smoother if you get your minis and maps ready ahead of time. But there’s more to it than that, as I mentioned in my reflections on running Cairn of the Winter King. A good DM is well organized, too. You need a good way to keep all of the dice, minis, handouts, and other gaming stuff sorted out and easy to find at a moment’s notice.
I call my solution to this problem “the D&D Box”. It is a Plano Model 737, originally intended as a fishing tackle box. I purchased this at my local Wal-mart for around $40. Dollar for dollar, it is the best purchase I have made for my D&D game yet. I thought it might be a good idea to share how I have all the stuff organized inside, so let’s take a closer look.
The very top of the box has a clear lid covering fourteen small compartments. These are the perfect size to store my collection of D&D minis. Admittedly, this collection is rather small compared to others, and it already threatens to outgrow the box. Still, you can store four or five medium sized minis in each compartment. That’s plenty of minis to have on hand just in case. I keep only generically useful minis in this areal; the specific minis used for the evening’s session are kept in the drawers below.
To the right of the minis is a lid that opens up into a deeper area. Larger minis, tokens, and other bulky items are stored here. This larger section is accessible without fully opening the latches, which is definitely a plus.
The entire top section, minis and all, swings up like a lid once the top set of latches is released. Large, relatively flat items like books can be stored in this section. I did have to modify this section a bit, removing a divider molded into the plastic, just below the left hinge. (These dividers were there to hold another Plano box, which wasn’t included.) On the right hand side, you have full access to the large minis area.
This is everything I had stacked in the large flat area: three folders containing PC character sheets and handouts, two Essentials reference books, the deluxe DM screen, an adventure, a map, and some homebrew notes. There is easily enough room for more, but this is all I needed for one session. In the deep compartment on the right, you can see a few baggies. These contain poker chips of various types, used by my players to represent action points, “awesome points” (which I need to write a post about), and gold pieces.
Removing the baggies, you can see how much room is available in this deep compartment. All of the huge tokens from the Monster Vault set, plus a good variety of large minis, fit in here easily. Huge minis fit, as well, but obviously you won’t be able to carry as many. There’s plenty of space to keep any bigger stuff like terrain pieces, Heroscape hexes, and the like.
This set of drawers is probably the best part of the entire D&D Box. Many Plano tackle boxes stick smaller boxes in this space, but the drawers are much better in practice. A separate set of latches keeps them in place. The three drawers don’t slide out all the way, but are easy to move around and deep enough to hold all sorts of stuff you need at your table. The only thing that bugs me about these drawers is that the clear plastic cover, when opened, prevents the bottom drawer from fully opening unless you move it to the edge of the table. It’s not a huge issue, but probably worth mentioning.
This top drawer is full of stuff, and is the one used most in play. A large assortment of dice takes up four rows, while the mini hair clips we use for condition tracking take up the remaining three. Large poker chips, as mentioned above, fit snugly in the front section. I also carry a few glass beads in various colors around, which are useful to denote difficult terrain, special areas, or whatever else comes up in play.
I use this drawer to keep all the items I’ll need for each encounter together. It looks almost empty in this picture, but that’s because the adventure we were on didn’t have very many encounters. Each row here contains the minis, tokens, and hanging initiative trackers needed for each particular encounter. Having all these things available at a moment’s notice made a huge difference in how smoothly our games ran. The drawers are deep enough that medium sized minis can stand up, and large sized tokens can fit without problems. Bigger minis and tokens can be kept elsewhere in the box.
This is pretty much the “junk drawer” of the D&D Box. On the left are the cards that came with the D&D minis; I’ve not used them yet but since they can be used for stat blocks, I keep them. Underneath are condition tracking cards, in penny plastic sleeves, and several mazes I hand out when the thief tries to pick a lock. Pens, pencils, extra initiative trackers, and all the large tokens from the Monster Vault round out the drawer. The blue papers in the front section are the PC’s initiative trackers, made from thicker cardstock.
The last section of the D&D Box is a small area sized perfectly to hold three Plano boxes. These boxes were included in the set. They are ideal for holding medium sized tokens.
As you can see, there are nine sections in each box, which makes 27 separate divisions. I decided to organize the tokens alphabetically, just like they are in the Monster Vault. Some letters not represented, which is good, since other letters requiring a couple divisions (lots of monsters start with “D”, for example). Every token from the Monster Vault box, as well as the DM Kit, can be stored here, with plenty of room to spare for future expansion.
My D&D Box has really been a game changer. Before, I was using a combination of small plastic tubs and the Essentials boxes to keep everything together. It was a nightmare of inefficiency. Though the box was not cheap, by any means, it has been worth its weight in platinum pieces since it makes our games run much more smoothly. I highly recommend any DM check out fishing or even scrapbook supplies for a similar box. You will not be disappointed.