I recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons again (after not playing since I was in high school). I’m DM-ing a game for my son, Jacob, and a few other folks. We’re playing 4th Edition, which relies heavily on a battle grid and character tokens to represent combat encounters. In order to save money and hassle, I wanted an alternative to searching for and buying the correct miniatures for each encounter.

I don’t mind spending money on nice miniatures for player characters, but you can spend an insane amount buying miniatures to represent the monsters and NPCs the characters might encounter. Also, if you’re going to use miniatures for monsters and NPCs, you need to have the right miniatures; using a kobold figure to represent a needle demon doesn’t really help with the suspension of disbelief.

Maybe it’s just that I have fond memories of games that took place entirely in our heads, but I like the idea of using generic tokens to represent position and leaving the physical description up to the DM’s skills and the players’ imaginations.

A good way to make character tokens is to stick a 1” diameter, felt furniture pad to one side of a 1” (outer!) diameter, metal washer. The metal washer gives the token enough weight to stay put on the battle grid, and the felt furniture pad gives it enough height to be easy to pick it up and move it around. Then, you can just use those Post-It™ Flags to identify each token (and keep track of any active effects on it).

photograph of a 1-inch metal washer with a 1-inch felt pad attached
to one side

You could probably do the same with 2”, 3” and 4” diameter washers and pads for your bigger creatures, although huge and gargantuan creatures may be special enough that buying nice models for these is probably worth the money.

Giving credit where it’s due, I riffed on this process for creating tokens posted at Newbie DM. I just don’t bother with all the graphics editing and printing, and I like to give the height to all of the tokens (with the furniture pads), because washers by themselves can be hard to pick up when they’re laying flat.