|How much!? I could put a down payment on a REAL house for that.|
Head To The Dollar Store
Whether it's the Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Five Below, or some other brand of store where they sell stuff for cheap, pop in there are take a good look around. Specifically, you need to walk down the toy aisle. In the super cheap dollar stores, you'll find bags of plastic toys that are perfect for map deployment. Over-sized wolves, hulking zombies, skeletons, pirates, cannons, catapults, knights, and the list goes on and on. While a lot of these minis won't quite fit in a single space, and they have some trouble standing up, you can easily glue them to a pre-existing base. And if you don't have any bases lying around unused, you can easily cut some from cardboard or plastic. Take a Sharpie to blacken the base, and you have adventurers, monsters, and all sorts of props that could be cluttering up your dungeon. You can even add some small stones or moss onto the base, if you're super dedicated.
|It won't be Games Workshop quality, but hey, you're not paying Games Workshop prices, either.|
In addition to just looking for those $1 bags of cheap toys, though, give a long, hard look to the board games on offer. Because as I mentioned awhile back in Want Cheap Minis? Wizards and Five Below Are Here To Help! these stores often get games like Arena of The Planeswalkers (which has over 30 miniatures in it, as well as some useful map terrain like boulders, ice walls, etc.). And even if it's not a cast-off from Wizards, board games with interesting minis, a crap load of dice, or even a dice tower, can often be picked up for a handful of change.
Even if you don't find something in the toy aisle, relax. Instead, swing by the craft section, and the home and garden aisle if they have one. You know that red dragon "mini" that's about a foot tall? Well, if you don't mind it having a ceramic glisten, you may be able to find one for $5 or so that's meant to go in your garden. It will be pretty heavy, and will require a base, but you'll see the same look of utter panic on your players' faces when you deploy it, and that's what matters. In addition to colossal beasties the size of a house cat, though, home and garden aisles in these stores are replete with tiny cottages, wells, castles, and other stuff for people who want to build little outdoor scenes in their gardens.
And remember, if the castle you find looks too cheery, all it takes is a coat of black gloss spray paint to turn it into the decaying tower of the wizard Karthandrel.
If That Doesn't Work, Head To Michael's
Chances are you've been in a Michael's craft store at some point. However, unless you went all the way to the back aisles, you may have missed their miniatures crafting section. While it's meant for model train enthusiasts, dioramas, and other miniature still-life art, these aisles can be a godsend for DMs who want to spice up the map.
They literally have everything you could want back there. You want dragons? Got em. Stone walls to mark out dungeon barriers? There are probably half-a-dozen varieties there. You want a grassy mat you can mark off into five-foot-squares? Giants? Sea creatures? Done, done, and done. Some things may require a little bit of constructive trimming and gluing to be made into game-ready pieces, but they won't cost anywhere near as much as what you'd find at a convention.
Especially if you get a store membership.
Michael's has a program where, if you're a member, they send you daily coupons, weekly specials, and birthday perks. So even if that hydra you're looking at is $15, well, you can get it for less than a 10-spot if you wait for a 50% off coupon... which you'll get pretty quick. And while you're there you could pick up some paints and brushes to make each head a different color... you know, in case your players have earned you wroth.
That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday update. Hopefully you find the advice helpful, and if you know of any specific stores that always seem to have the goods feel free to share them in the comments. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, or just go to my Gamers profile to see only my RPG stuff. You could also stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out. To stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help me keep getting good content to you, then consider leaving my a small tip by Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or becoming a regular patron over on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Every little bit helps, and there's free stuff in it for you as well!