D&D 5e Compatible Game Boards

The main board with primary stats as well as areas for money,
languages, healing potions, downtime earned and renown. The dials
are magnetically held down firm and sit on a 1/4" acrylic surface where
the board image is face mounted underneath it. The back of the board
is finished with nice textured book cloth.

I have to admit it. While I have continued to play eurogames now all these years, there is a new champion game in my heart…D&D.

It sure isn't what I had thought it was! Somehow over the years I couldn't get past the geeky stigma associated with the title and the image I would get playing with our board game group in the opposite side of the game shop from the D&Ders. I suppose in my mind I limited this game to that grid mat dungeon crawl that I would see there.

What I was surprised to find was this is more of a long term, cooperative play, storytelling adventure. It's a game with a huge story arch and never ending possibilities shared with a group of friends. It makes for great fun and quite a lot of laughs, given the unlimited situations one can get into. Also, this is a game where people stare at people instead down at their boards. As such, I seem to experience a deeper feeling of connection with others when playing D&D.

Some typical character sheets used while playing.
These would be printed and then marked up during play.
Coming from the boardgaming side of things though, I found myself at a bit of a loss on the material side of things. While playing, I longed to have the bits and stuff to look at and see my game progress through. After all, this is a pen and paper game with tons of changing stats and infinite variability.  A bunch of numbers scribbled onto paper doesn't give me the rich feel I'm used to. Granted, I do understand that the storytelling nature of the game is central and, for some, even the complicated stats and dice can get in the way with the flow of telling the tale. Needless to say, I immediately set off to see if there was a way to bridge the gap between a rich tactile experience and the typical pen and paper tracking methods.

Crop from the main board. In addition to the dials being magnetically attached to the board, all the track indicators have magnetic connections. They stay put when the board is shaken and turned sideways or upside down. This is key for a game that needs to maintain its data from game session to session. No setup is necessary other than the first game played.

I have created 3 player boards which seem to capture the primary data I would be looking for: a main board (above), a spellcasting board and a combat/hit point board. (These will still need to be supplemented with some note cards for items and objects collected along the way.) The main board (seen above) is themed with a zodiac feel, which seems appropriate for the mystical legendary side of the game. The basic mechanic used on the boards are octagon dials (magnetically held to the board) which rotate to display the appropriate stat. The range of the stats are such that a few spinners (with increasing sets of numbers) are available for each slot. I've color coded the whole set with a magenta/red to indicate proficiency. Given that the dials are magnetically snug to the board (which has a layer of acrylic plexyglass over it), the board can be shaken and even turned upside down without any movement. This is key as the point of the boards is that the information be carried over from game to game without having to reset the board.

The primary area within the board is divided between the 6 core attributes – Charisma, Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom and Intellect – each of which have 3 layers: Proficiency/saving throw (inner circle), Basic Ability/ability check (central circle) and all the skills/skill check (outer circle). This works well to pair up skills to abilities and, with the help of the icons, aids in locating the correct number quickly. Along the top there are two dial areas for levels (one for multi-classing) and another dial for passive perception.

In addition to this we have areas to track (from top left going counterclockwise): Renown, Downtime earned, Gold, Languages learned and Healing potions. WIthin the skill area (along the bottom) is a space to track inspiration as well. The gold area can track up to 500k gold, which is quite a bit! Languages include an "other" space for future game expansions.

I absolutely love the effect of the clear acrylic plexiglass above graphics. In addition, all the dials have an acrylic plexy finish. This, in addition to the magnetic pull,  offer a deliciously magical experience while readjusting the pieces. It sort of looks and feels otherworldly in this way.

In future posts, I will showcase the spellcasting board and combat/hit point board. I've also created some note taking sheets which I'll be sharing. Being that I'm terrible at taking notes, these really help me to quickly organize and file information.

If you are a D&D player and see other things you think might be good to track or have any comments questions send me a note, I'd love to hear!

– mike