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Friday, July 30, 2010

Elevation and Depth Marker : How To

I recently posted a "sneak peek" of what I'm using for an elevation or depth marker when my players either cast a flying or water breathing spell and decide to travel up into the air or down into the depths of the sea.  These are used for single figures and are just a quick way to show that a figure is flying or descending into the depths.  I'm also building (and will document later here) a full elevation platform game board using acrylic sheets similar to some other systems out there but again for significantly cheaper.  

After the jump I've included the instructions and materials list of how you can make your own elevation or depth marker similar to mine.  I'll also show you some alternative methods to indicate height or depth if you don't want to go this route.  Though these elevation markers are some nice gamer bling that your players will absolutely love.


Speaking of gamer bling, I also want to point you to another elevation marker system by one Walter C. Napiorkowski, who sells the Dr. Wizard's Patented Elevation Indicator on the Emerald's Emporiums website.  Walter is the inventor, and patent holder, of his elevation marker which uses an laser etched acrylic rod and some colored elastic bands, similar to hair scrunchies. After some initial concerns with my elevation marker (parties associated with Walter jumped the gun and sent a cease and desist order to me thinking I was selling my elevation or depth marker, which i'm not) were put aside, he explained the process of how he came up with the marker and the materials he uses.  Those materials are why it commands a premium price of $10. I have to agree, as Walter uses premium and durable products in his construction of his device.  Walter uses  optically clear, very dense, light transferring acrylic – the same material used in trophies and engraved awards, and one of the few materials that laser etches in "white" rather than just melts.  As noted he laser etches his acrylic rods and the rods have an indication system for 1 to 1000s of units of measure which is very easy to use and read your current characters elevation.  He also sells add-ons for his product.  You can buy various color bands to color coordinate your figure if you so wish or if you have a larger figure you can get add-ons to accommodate those figures. 

I don't own one of his products, so I've no direct observational data to provide but reviewers seemed to like them and if I didn't have a restricted budget I would have purchased a few of these myself.  Also if you do decide to go for the "golden standard" and pick up one from Walter please go to emerald's emporium's website as other retailers take a "chunk" of Walters profits and we want Walter to continue to do what he's doing!

Now for the tutorial on how to create your own elevation or depth markers or use an alternate method if on a restricted budget like myself...


old skewl method
(221 units of elevation)

First lets start off with a few alternate methods for indicating elevation.  When I first started playing dnd, we just used d10s to represent elevation changes if at all.  As you can see however it can get cluttered around the battleboard in a hurry not to mention one bad role from a wayward die and you're either skyrocketing or plummeting to your death.  We used one "large" d10 for the largest unit then a normal "tens" die for the next largest unit, and finally a mini sized d10 for the smallest unit.

using ROYGBIV (I don't have orange dice)
wavelength = height or depth
you just use one for a generalized indication
Red is highest/lowest etc.
So after awhile we started to use color "tokens" to just give a "generalized" height rather than a specific "to the foot measurement".  Being somewhat science geeks we used the standard visible light system for the amounts of elevation, aka ROYGBIV, or Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.  The color indicated height/depth, Red is a longer wavelength than Violet so depending on height or depth your either the highest or the lowest elevation in the game.  This is a pretty good system as players tended to hover around the same heights or fight monsters on the same height "plane" most of the time, so you could easily indicate if you were 1 level higher than the dragon, or 2 levels under the dragon if the dragon were set as "yellow" or "green" (if you had all the colors of dice green would be the middle).

d10s under a mini dice box
(221 units)
Then after acquiring a number of mini dice boxed I played around the idea again using d10s and having the d10s under the box which would be ideal as you could get "specific" if you needed for some reason protect your elevation from changes, and still have the figure look as if its flying and be able to move about the gameboard.

final height or depth marker
(63 units, the thousands, pink
and the hundreds, yellow
markers left off)
Then I decided to go one step further and use a similar idea as Walter and go with numbering system on the box itself or better yet a transparency (which you can customize if needed) insert and use the same ROYGBIV system to indicate 1000's, 100's, 10's, and 1's.  This method also allows me to place things "inside" the transparency to add to the effect like cotton balls for flying creatures or some colored paper for a water current and you can still read the numbers on the transparency!  I then also decided to using either blue tac to secure the figures to the base or this new product I found at tap plastics called gekko dots.  Its the same stuff they stick those fake credit cards or membership cards to a letter that you get in the mail, just on steroids, in addition if it gets soiled you can wash it under water and then re-use it, like a wacky wall walker!  They're a bit pricey at about .40 cents per disc however so my total cost of my elevation or depth marker would be $1.70 with or $1.30 with out the gekko dots.  Blue tac works just the same too.

So here are the materials list in, picture format, on how to create your own elevation or depth markers.  Please let me know what your DM/GM uses as a elevation marker in the comments below or if you have any questions about mine.   

Click on image for number template
print on transparency at 300dpi
(hint practice on real paper first)
cost (see below)
Dice Game Box, its a little big
(this one is 1.25 in x 2in tall)
cost 1box @ $1.15
cotton balls or other "stuff" to insert into the cube
to create a desired effect.(air/water/fire/etc.)
cost 2 cotten balls @ $0.01 
used to secure your figure to the dice box
cost 1 @ $0.40 

color cord, this is a plastic-y type of cord
typically found in the kids craft section
its somewhat stretchy and used to make
friendship bracelets.
cost 4 bands @ $0.02 total
after printing out the transparency you slightly "score"
the lines and then fold them, if you did this correctly
they will fit perfectly inside a 1.25 mini dice box that is 2in tall.
cost is $0.10
gekko dots are clear, when the blue plastic is removed, and are very
tacky to the touch, but leaves  no residue! perfect to stick
figures onto dice box. you can peal them off and stick
them back on too which I store them in the base of the box when
not in use.
storing the gekko dots into the base when not in use
keeps em clean.  if they do get dirty just run them
under water like those ole wacky wall walkers then
you can reuse em!
gekko dots hold surprisingly well and leave no residue!
After folding just slip the transparency into the dice box.
Followed by some cotton balls if the figure is flying if
you so choose or leave clear, up to you!  You can also
print out a water texture or use other things for various
effects.
Thats all there is to it!  As you can see you can use a variety of items to indicate elevation if you need to do so, the added gamer bling is always appreciated by the players as long is its not too fussy to use and allows them to better "imagine" the activity involved!

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by!