Dungeon Crate in the Making

Filling a box of loot seems easy: Pick some cool items, drop them in the box and send them off.

But it’s not.

Don’t get us wrong, working on Dungeon Crate is the coolest job in the world. It’s also lot of work.

Let’s give you a little behind the scenes look into how we put together your boxes of gaming loot every month. The Dungeon Crate you opened this month started several months ago.

We’re D&D and Pathfinder and RPG players with decades of gaming experience, and we know what we like to use when we play. If you’re anything like us, you’re going to love it, too.

The first thing we do is find a theme. Recent themes included Dungeon Lifestyle and Thieves. Once we have a theme, we start dreaming up ideas about what items could go into the crate including adventures, tokens, miniatures, terrain, cards and tons more. (If you subscribe, you know exactly what we’re talking about.)

And this is where we get a little pie-in-the-sky.

We come up with wild ideas about customizing items or dreaming up items that don’t exist. But here’s the cool part: A lot of times, those dreams actually come true.

Let’s look at the thief crate.

That started with our adventure, Against the Dead Hands, and ended with some awesome custom items.

We were finishing up the adventure’s final details while we were putting the box together, but we had an outline that got us thinking.

What monsters and NPCs were in the module? What was the story? What other pieces could we fit into the box that would complement the adventure?

One of the pieces we thought of early was the Dead Hands coin. The thieves’ guild that takes a starring role in Against the Dead Hands was first mentioned in the previous adventure, Xander’s Lost Orb, so we already knew a bit about them.

Could we make a custom coin for the adventure?

We started talking to our friends at Advanced Deployment and found out, yes, they could totally make us an acrylic token exactly like what we wanted. Awesome.

Meanwhile, our list of items for the box was getting bigger and bigger. We figured out what would work and what wouldn’t and started contacting our pals at Reaper Miniatures, Nord Games and elsewhere to get the items for the crate.

We also wrapped up editing the adventure and sent everything to our shipping facility.

We’re proud of that last crate, and it’s one of the most packed we’ve done.

Our next crate, done in partnership with the fine fellas at Nerdarchy, is shaping up similarly.

We’ve dreamed up a host of items, several of them custom pieces, and we’re trading ideas back and forth with the guys at Nerdarchy to make this a truly awesome crate.

We’ve been working on it for awhile and are just know locking down the details. And yes, we’re already getting items for crate after that as well as plotting out the next several crates.

If you want to know what to expect in your crates, there’s lots of information available. We review the crates every month right here on this blog, but there’s also tons of unboxing videos and reviews out there, too.

If you do a little homework, you’ll know exactly what to expect even if each month’s contents are a surprise. (That’s kind of the fun of it, you know?)

We pack tons of value into each crate. The actual retail cost of each crate is typically double what you pay, so you’re getting a deal.

If you’re already subscribed, we can answer your questions. We’re as communicative as we can be on social media, our e-mail newsletters and especially if you contact us in person. By the way, if you reach out, you’re talking to an owner, not some faceless minion. That’s how much we care about our customers.




Q&A with "Against the Dead Hands" Adventure Designer Kevin Coffey


We’re building the world of Halcyon.

This month, Dungeon Crate released the second in a series of adventures that take place in our very own campaign setting.

The world of Halcyon has everything - fiery dragons, forsaken gods, fiendish orcs, wild magic and lots more.

For starters, we’re diving into the area of Rhimms. Our first adventure, Xander’s Lost Orb, and our brand new adventure, Against the Dead Hands, take place in the region and mark our first expedition into Halcyon.

We talked to adventure designer Kevin Coffey, who wrote both adventures, about the direction of Against the Dead Hands and how it incorporates loads of items from Dungeon Crate.

Q. Is this adventure related to the last one?

A. It’s a direct continuation of Xander’s Lost Orb. DMs could run them back to back as part of a campaign. And a third adventure, which you’ll see in a future Dungeon Crate, comes right after this one.



They all take place in Dungeon Crate’s world of Halcyon. It’s been fun fleshing out the continent and its locales.

Q. Where does this adventure pick up?

A. It continues from where Xander’s Lost Orb left off. In that adventure, a young lord asks the adventurers to help him find an artifact, a magical glowing orb, that was once in the possession of his grandfather. He wants it to help fight off an army of orcs.

In Against the Dead Hands, the lord still needs some help. He’s busy prepping for a fight with the orcs, so he needs some help at home. There’s a thieves’ guild called the Dead Hands that is causing him trouble, so he asks the adventurers to help.

Q. What was the idea behind it?

A. I love the idea of a thieves’ guild with these bad guys having a private bar where they conspire, keep treasure and all that stuff. And what would it be like to raid the place where all these thieves are hanging out?

It’s always sounded like a ton of fun to me, and writing a den with all this treasure and drunk thieves and stuff was a blast.

Q. So it’s just a straight raid?

A. Not exactly. Even though it’s designed to be a single-session adventure, I tried to make it as robust as possible. The adventure presents several different ways to tackle it, depending on how the players want to do it. I don’t want to give too much away (check out the adventure!) but they could knock down the door or infiltrate the place as thieves or sneak in any number of ways. It should be fun.

Q. Where does it lead?

A. Well, it’s set up to take you one way, but it goes a slightly different direction by the end that sets up the third adventure, which I’m working on right now.

Q. This month’s entire Dungeon Crate box is centered around thieves. Are any of the pieces from the box usable in the adventure?

A. Actually, a ton of them are used in the module. As always, we wanted the adventure to be playable with little preparation, so we worked really hard to match up items from the box to the adventure. Some items were specifically picked to use in Against the Dead Hands.

My favorite piece is the Dead Hands coin made by Advanced Deployment. The thieves each carry a special coin that’s sort of an identifying badge, and if you have one, it makes getting in and out of the thieves’ guild quite a bit easier. The coin in the box bears the Dead Hands’ mark, and it’s beautiful whether you’re using it with the adventure or as an inspiration token or whatever. Advanced Deployment did an excellent job.




People should also be sure to check out the digital crate, which has a bunch of pieces related to the adventure including artwork and maps.


Kevin is a Dungeon Crate contributor and  and a writer for the Omaha World Herald. He rolls dice, writes adventures, and goes to a lot of concerts. His blog Crit for Brains offers more words and stuff to point your eyeholes to. 

July Crate Overview



Themed boxes are the best boxes.

And this month’s Dungeon Crate is all about one of our favorite RPG class archetypes: Thieves.

And there’s a lot to love here, starting with “Against the Dead Hands,” the thief-based adventure included in July’s Dungeon Crate.

Let’s dive into the box and see what we found!

Against the Dead Hands
Another new adventure from Dungeon Crate? Yes, please. This four-page, single-session adventure ties into the last adventure that came in the crate. After securing a magical orb for Lord Theophus, the noble asks adventurers to raid the local thieves’ guild. How awesome is that? We won’t get into spoilers, but we’ll say there’s more than just thieves and treasure waiting in the bowels of the guild hall. We can’t wait to run it.

Dead Hands Coin
This wooden token is pretty sweet. It’s a secret coin held by members of the Dead Hands, the thieves’ guild from the adventure, and it ties directly into the adventure. Outside of its use in that game, you can use this piece from Advanced Deployment as a status or condition marker, inspiration token or build your own gaming element around it. It looks pretty.
 
Treasure Deck
The fine folks at Nord Games produced this item, and it will fit into just about any game you’re gonna play. Created for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the decks let you randomize treasure in a dungeon by drawing a card. The deck has more than 200 items, keeping things interesting. Each deck has 52 cards, and each card has four treasure options. Each card has complementary items, so you could use each one together. The deck is also used in the adventure, but you can use it for any game you’re playing.




Valloa: Female Elf Thief Miniature
Reaper Miniatures really makes the best stuff. There are a few of their pieces in this box, all of which can be used in Against the Dead Hands. This miniature, Valloa, is clutching a set of keys, and (spoiler alert) you might need those keys in the adventure. She’s a sculpt by the wonderful Julie Guthrie, and she’s amazing.













Mocking Beast Miniature

Why would there be a mimic in the thief box? (Maybe read the adventure text closely.) Anyway, this is a snarling, nasty piece from Reaper full of tongues and teeth. We have one at home that we painted up, and it’s an ugly little spud.



Boxes Miniatures
Who doesn’t love a little dungeon dressing? This set of wooden boxes from Reaper paint up quick and look right at home on maps or 3D terrain that you’ve built.



Invisibility Stand-In
Thieves like to hide. So, you can use this awesome clear acrylic stand-in whenever they disappear. It also works, naturally, any time a wizard or other spellcaster casts invisibility. Speaking as GMs and players, we love versatile pieces like this. Any RPGer can use them in almost any game.

Trap Tokens
These are so sweet. In our days, we’ve had a few trap markers to put on the map, but it’s often hard to show the trap has been taken out of commission once the thief (or whomever has the highest DEX modifier) deftly disables the thing. These tokens from Advanced Deployment show traps on one side and a nice “trap disabled” on the other. We can’t wait to get them on the table.

Hidden Stand-In

Good thieves (and any rogue build, really) will hide behind anything they can, and this marker can act as a stand-in on the battle map OR you can slide the base under a miniature to use it as a simple token to mark that a character is hidden. It’s a sly little piece of black acrylic from Advanced Deployment.  



There's also a lot of fun stuff in the Digital Crate! Downloads of the adventure, maps, and other handouts you'll want to print. Wanna make your own papercraft Mimic? It's in there. But you need to be a subscriber to access it...


What To Pack In Your Gaming Bag



You have the bag.

You know the one: A tote or backpack or messenger bag in which you carry your all-important gaming stuff.

If you’re dumping your work stuff out of your briefcase and loading it up with your Player’s Handbook on the way out the door, you should get a dedicated bag loaded up with your stuff for game night.

Whether you’re a GM or a player, you can grab it as you walk out the door.

Here’s what you need:

A bag. Any bag, really. It doesn’t have to be fancy. How about an old backpack? Or, honestly, you could use anything sturdy you have laying around the house. Even a reusable canvas tote or grocery bag would work just fine.

Now, what to load it up with?

Rulebooks
Any core rulebooks for the game plus any splatbooks or printed Unearthed Arcana articles pertaining to your class should be in the bag. If you want to save on space and weight, an alternate option is to have a tablet (maybe a cheap one like the Amazon Fire) loaded with PDFs of all the necessary rulebooks.

Notebook
A simple lined notebook or legal pad to jot down initiative order, keep track of character hit points or even just to doodle in.

A campaign notebook or binder
This one is all-important. For GMs, this can include monster stats, a campaign outline, maps, handouts and anything you need for the night’s game. For players, this should include your character sheet and any important information or notes pertaining to that campaign. If you’re a player in multiple campaigns, you could have a folder for each.

Pencils
And we definitely mean plural. A bag of mechanical pencils is only a few bucks. Buy one, and shove them all in your bag. If you lose one, you’ll have plenty more. Plus, you’ll have a few to loan out.

Dry-erase mat and markers
Lately, we love using dry erase markers for games. We use the dry erase acrylic character sheet and dungeon board that came in recent Dungeon Crates. Add a gridded, laminated flip-map and you’re ready to roll for almost any situation.

Dice
You don’t need to keep that massive chest or bulging dice bag full of your collection in your go bag. Maybe keep one set of dice in your bag for game night. If you’re a GM, especially one who runs organized play, keep a loaner set in there for new players, too.

Miniatures
As a GM, some keep a cheap plastic organizer box from a craft store full of the miniatures needed. As a player, you can just keep a small container with your player miniature. If you’re trying to save on space or weight, may we recommend the flat plastic miniatures from our friends at ArcKnight. They look awesome and they obviously store flat. They’re also cheaper than pre-painted plastic minis.

Accessories
Once again, we keep little plastic organizer box with anything we might need. This includes card decks (critical hit and fail decks), condition tokens, coins and area of effect markers.


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If you subscribe to Dungeon Crate, you’ll end up with most of the stuff we mentioned here. Subscribe and get boxes full of the best fantasy RPG stuff delivered to your door every month.

How to Deal with Adventure Expences


Just like you and I use money to pay rent, eat food and have a little fun in the real world, our RPG characters do the same.

In most games, the players loot a dungeon after it’s been cleared and try to amass as much gold, electrum, silver and copper pieces as we can.

Of course you can spend them on magic items, potions, enchantments and spell scrolls, but games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder have rules for how much your character should be spending to maintain their lifestyle.

Though it may seem tedious, these kinds of expenses can make for some fun storytelling. What happens if the crew can’t afford to pay its tab at the tavern? How are they going to afford a Raise Dead spell when they’re spending so much on wine? What happens when someone tries to cheat them?


So how do you handle those costs? We have some suggestions.

Make lifestyle expenses a set fee. If you’re running the game, it can be tedious for each character to choose what level of lifestyle their character will live at and then calculate how much they’re working, what they’re doing in their downtime and how much they owe based on how many days they’ve played in the campaign. Rather, it might be better to establish a rule that says every time the party levels, each character has to fork over a set amount of gold pieces to account for their expenses.

Have characters purchase everything. If they’re staying at an inn for the night, have the innkeeper charge them. If they buy a meal, make them pay. If they’re heading out on an expedition, have the shop owner ring up a bill for rations, tents and other items. And make sure the players mark it down on their character sheets.


Find a place to store their cash. Keeping a few hundred gold coins in a small coin purse is no big deal. But once a group of adventurers starts carrying around a good amount of cash, where are they gonna keep it? You can determine whether your game world has banks and, if so, how plentiful and secure they are. They could hide their treasure or entrust it to an NPC. But what happens if someone robs them? That’s a story hook right there.

Pay taxes. The local noble may not just have a few good quests to hand out. He may also be looking for his constituents to pay their taxes. So, what happens when the characters are being tracked down to pay their fair share?

Find a profession. Some tables do downtime activities. For others, the characters are always adventuring. One way to earn some extra dough either to pay expenses or to save up for a new magic item is to give characters a job. Maybe your dwarven fighter is also a smith who crafts magnificent armor when he’s not delving into dungeons. Maybe your wizard sells spell scrolls on the side. Maybe your cleric takes a little coin at the local temple for casting healing spells.

Take out a loan. If characters are having trouble funding their adventures, a noble or bank or shadowy organization may offer loans (perhaps with steep interest rates) to cover costs. But what happens if the characters can’t pay? They may have to do some favors to avoid trouble.

Ignore expenses. Some argue that fantasy RPGs are just that: Fantasy. Why inject real world stuff like worrying about how much rent your character needs to pay in a game that’s about escaping real life for a minute to go slay dragons? If keeping track of your character’s monthly food budget is too much, it’s safe to say you can simply ignore that and still have a good time.