Inspire Confidence – New GM’s Guide, Part 4: When office supplies attack

Pink stapler, aka Giant whiptail centipede

Sounds heard in the darkness, your ranger pulls an arrow from their quiver as the fighter draws their sword and slips a forearm through their shield straps. Everyone places their minis on the map, readying their dice. “What is it?” is the question in everyone’s mind. The GM reaches into their mini box and places the monster on the table – a pink stapler.

We’ve all been there, planning a game only to find that we don’t have the right mini for the monster in question, now what? The answer depends on where you are and what you have access to or on hand. This becomes especially challenging if you’re traveling and have limited carrying space.

Stand in monsters

Unless you are a bold GM who always plays on the fly, you probably have something in mind to use for combat representation before sitting down to play. Of course, you could use mini bases without anything set on them, or you could get creative.

Stand in suggestions

Original creature size/dimension Stand in items
Fine, Diminutive, Tiny (less than 5 ft. sq.) M&M, glass counter beads, dimes or pennies, small buttons, single LEGO pip
Small, Medium (5 ft. sq.) Starbursts, quarters or dollar coins, 1” buttons, 3 pip LEGO pieces, a die
Large (10 ft. sq.) Poker chips, staple remover (these things are scary looking on their own), pink erasers, tea light candles, fun sized candy bars
Huge (15 ft. sq.) Small staplers, small container candle, box of crayons, scotch tape type dispenser,
Gargantuan (20 ft. sq.) Small apple, pillar candle, drink coaster, dice tower, box of crayons, cell phone (may be Colossal, depending on your phone style)
Colossal (30 ft. sq.) Stapler, pineapple (if you have one laying around), cube tissue box, roll of masking/duct tape, large candle, household decorations


Starbursts lying in wait

Some of the benefits of using food items is the additional reward of landing the killing blow and if you’re traveling,there is always a gift shop, concessions stand, or commissary nearby that can provide some kind of small edible offerings. Chances are you have dice on you, you are a gamer after all, so they’re a solid fall back.

When using food, avoid anything that might provoke allergic reactions – no nuts of any kind on the table, no one wants to have to use their Epi-pen at the table.



Our horse line at the top of the image, right before the stapler scared them off.

In our Friday night game, each of our horses have individualized traits, in order to keep them straight, each is represented by a poker chip with an image of our PCs on them.







Elevation, image used with permission, by Paul Fields.

Sometimes you need to indication a creature has a special something going on, putting a coaster/poker chip under them is a great visual reminder. Same for creatures that are flying, a few washers, magnets, or dice box give that perspective.


Special effect (Enlarge) and elevation. Image used with permission, by Paul Fields.


Sometimes you can substitute out household decorations, but there is one creature you must never substitute out and that is the Stone Head of Lj, you must always use the authentic Stone Head of Lj.

Stone Head of Lj, by Lj Stephens, photo used with permission and by Jacob Blackmon.


Image used with permission, by Jacob Blackmon

Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.

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