Craft & Dragons: Travel Battle Set

Welcome to Craft & Dragons!
A semi-regular post on The Worst blog that focuses on D&D inspired crafts.

As I thought out this project’s details, I realized we never explored that most magical of mediums – GLITTER! Now don’t flee in terror like a level one mage trying to outrun a marauding orc; glitter is your friend, and when you follow my simple tips and tricks, is a snap to work with it.

But, what kind of craft can we douse in the sparkling shower of unicorn tears that is glitter?

Chris suggested I make a marker. I told him the Sharpie corporation would get angry if we did that, and after he finished facepalming, he explained that he meant a character marker for a battle map.

This a great idea, but what kind of crafting alchemist would I be if I didn’t teach you all how to also make the battle map? Yeah sure, you can go out and buy battle map table cloths, but sometimes carrying a big one around for traveling games can be a hassle, especially if it’s a one-off session or small campaign. So, in this post, I’m going to show you how to make simple party member markers and a travel battle map.

As always, read all instructions before beginning. If you are sensitive to any of the supplies used, use caution in handling them. When working with any kind of aerosol, wear proper breathing and eye protection, and ALWAYS work in a well-ventilated area. Protect your work surface from paint with a craft mat or newspaper. I use baking parchment paper so glue won’t stick to your work table.

If you have a pet that gets curious when you craft, you need to keep them away from glitter and glue. When working with glitter, be conscious of your hands. DO NOT rub your eyes with hands that are covered in glitter. Try to work close to the work surface when working with glitter.

Also, I’m not a professional photographer, so be gentle.
Also also, please excuse my un-manicured fingers.

(Pro tip: When you go to the craft/fabric store for supplies, check out their store apps for your phone. They usually have coupons.)

This projects is rated:

LET’S GET CRAFTING!

For the party member markers, you will need:

Glitter – I used Wow! Extra fine glitter. I prefer extra fine glitter for this application. It’s smoother and compacts more easily. There are less expensive brands of extra fine glitter available at most craft stores. You’ll need a few colors.

Wood disks – I used 1” and 2” for this project. The 1” represents the players, and the 2” represents whatever invading creature from the depths of the monster manual you choose to throw at them. You can find these disks in the woodworking aisle of most craft stores. The wood disks are smooth out of the package, so sanding is not necessary.

Mod Podge – This is a liquid decoupage medium that works a treat on glitter. It comes in matte and gloss. I prefer the gloss for glitter work.

Acrylic craft paint – I used the Martha Stewart brand. You can use any brand, but try to use acrylic paint because it dries faster and works well on the wood.  Find colors that match the glitter.

Sticky-back felt – Available at most crafts stores. You can get any color you want, but make sure it has the sticky backing on it.

Clear acrylic sealer (spray can) – This is optional, but does help to preserve the markers. It also kills the Mod Podge’s tacky finish.

Craft paint brush – Doesn’t have to be expensive. When painting, keep a disposable cup of water and paper towels handy for quick clean up.

Let’s begin!

Paint the wood disks

I start with the top and then the sides. I let that dry and then paint the bottom. You can paint as many coats as you want (let each coat dry before applying another), but one coat will be sufficient.  Rinse and dry your paint brush with a paper towel before continuing to the next step. Make sure your painted disks are completely dry before continuing to the next step.

Apply Mod Podge and glitter to painted disks.

Apply a thin/moderate coat of Mod Podge to the top of the painted disk.


Working over a sheet of copy/notebook paper, and holding the disk by the sides only, over the copy/notebook paper, carefully sprinkle glitter onto the wet mod Podge. Put the disk on the work surface and gently pat down the glitter with your finger.

Holding the disk by the sides, turn the disk upside down over the typing paper and tap the back of it to shake off the excess glitter. Set the disk aside to dry for about an hour before continuing to the next step. It’s a good idea to set up an assembly line for your markers. Do each step to each marker together that way they are all ready for the next step at the same time. Be sure to wipe your hands after each glitter application so you don’t transfer glitter colors.

When you are done with a color of glitter, carefully fold the copy/notebook paper in half to form a groove, and gently tap one end over the open top of the glitter bottle.
You can reuse any un-glued glitter.

Once the tops have dried for an hour, paint the sides with a thin/moderate layer of Mod Podge, and repeat the glittering process. This part is a bit awkward because you’ll be dealing with a thin edge on the 1” disks. Just try to manipulate your fingers as well as you can to get all sides coated (Mod Podge is non-toxic and easily cleaned up when wet, so unless you are sensitive to glue products, you can just wash off the Mod Podge you get on your fingers with soap and water).

Once coated and glittered, let the disks dry completely. Several hours is best, but you can get away with a few hours in a low humidity climate (When making these, I let them dry overnight). Do not coat and glitter the bottom of the wood disks.

Top coat the disks.

Once your glittered disks are dry, apply a thin/moderate top coat of Mod Podge over the top and the sides. This coat is the trick to sealing in the glitter. Once top-coated, let dry completely. You can apply as many top coats as you want, but if you get enough Mod Podge on the first top coat, you should be fine with just one.  If you are skipping the acrylic clear coat layer, you should probably do at least two top coats, just to be safe.

Clear coating the disks.

Once the top coated disks are dry, place them top-up in an old carboard box (I put them on a couple of strips of painter’s tape to hold them in place while I spray).

Following all directions and suggested safety precautions provided by the clear acrylic spray manufacturers, apply coat to the disks. Let this dry completely before removing them. I did one coat and felt this was fine, but feel free to do as many coast as you feel comfortable doing. Just be sure to let the disks dry between coats.

Finishing.

When your clear-coated disks are dry, trace the shape of the disk onto the paper back of the sticky felt. Cut out the shape with scissor, just to the inside of the line.

This will ensure your felt backing will not stick out past the edges of the disk.

Remove the paper backing and center the felt disk’s sticky side to the bottom of the disk.

Your player markers are done!

For the battle map, you will need:

Canvas – You can get this at most fabric stores. It needs to be 100% cotton. If all you can find is a fabric called Duck, that will work, but won’t be as sturdy in the long run. For the size I made, you’ll need at least half a yard. The size is arbitrary, but once you know the process, you can make it any size you need.

1” Masking tape – Make sure to use regular making tape. Blue painter’s tape is not strong enough to stick to the canvas’ weave.

Acrylic craft paint – Again, I used the Martha Stewart brand, but any decent brand will do. It needs to be a contrast color to the canvas.

Steam a Seam 2™ – This is a paper backed fusible web that when steamed, will permanently bond fabric to itself without sewing. It’s available in a couple of widths. For this project, I used the ¼”. You can find it at most fabric stores.

Foam application brush – We’ll use this for the paint.

Steam iron – ANY old steam iron is fine. (I have strong thoughts on irons, please don’t get me started.)

Ribbon – You’ll need about ½ yard of ¼” ribbon for closures.

Scissors – They don’t have to be top of the line, but make sure they can cut the canvas.

Pencil

And here we go!

Preparations.

Before we begin, iron the back of the canvas to get out any wrinkles. There is no right or wrong side of the canvas for our purposes, but I always press to the back just in case the iron spits water and stains. Use plenty of steam as the canvas is thick.

Cut a generous square of canvas. Make sure it’s much bigger than you’ll need. My finished mat is about 17”x17”, so I cut a roughly 25” square to start with. We can always trim, but adding back is a pain.

When the canvas is pressed/ironed tape the corners of the canvas down to your work surface.

Taping the first axis.

Once your canvas is secured to the work surface, draw a light square in the center of the canvas with a pencil, as big as you want your grid to be plus about an inch (or more) in each direction.  Be sure to leave at least 1” around the outside so we can finish the edges (You canlay out the rows first if you don’t know what size you want, then clean up the outside edge later).

To the outside of the square you drew, apply a row of mashing tape to each side (I just had a little 1” tape to use for the grid so I used 2” on the outside). Because of how far apart you space your 1” tape, your outer tape might need to be moved a little on one or two sides of the square to get an even grid.

Begin applying rows of masking tape, in one direction only, within the square. Let the ends of the tape go over the square line just a little, so you get clean edges.  I started about 1/8th inch away from the outer tape. Continue taping to the opposite side of the square.

Now, this project is supposed to be fun, and NOT an exercise in complicated math, so please understand I’m not really measuring the spaces between the rows of 1” masking tape. Some are slightly thicker than others, and that’s OK. The 1” masking tape is doing the work here, so don’t panic about getting the perfect 1/8th inch space between rows; you should be more concerned with keeping the tape straight. Just eye-ball a thin space in between the rows of tape. When you get to the opposite side of the square for the direction you’re taping, adjust your outside tape placement on that side if necessary. We’re cleaning up the edges, so there is nothing to worry about.

Once you are done taping in the one direction, use a straight edge to flatten the tape against the canvas. A ruler works well for this.

Painting the first axis.

Pour a little of the craft paint onto a paper plate or old plastic container lid.  Using the foam brush, begin painting in the canvas spaces in between the rows of tape. You don’t want the brush too wet, so dab it a little on to the plate/lid before you touch the canvas with it.  You can apply as many layers of paint as you want, but once the canvas line is covered, it’s fine.  Continue painting the entire length of the square. Let this layer dry for about an hour before removing the tape from the inside of the pencil square.

Painting the second axis.

Repeat the steps for laying out the tape, only this layer is going to be perpendicular to the first axis. Paint the canvas stripes as before, adjusting the outside tape as necessary on one side. Let this painted axis dry completely before moving on.

Once the new paint is dry, remove all the tape to reveal your grid.

Border painting.

If you’re happy with just the grid and no border, skip to the next step.

I wanted to clean up the edges, so I made a masking tape square to the inside of the pencil square, and another one about 1” away from the pencil square on the outside. I then painted the “frame” and let it dry. I removed all the tape and continued to the next step. This step is optional, but it makes for a clean edge and cleans up any little bumps on the outside of the grid.

Finishing the edges.

On the back of the grid, draw a pencil line along the edge of the painting on all four sides of the grid. Draw another line ½” away from the first line, to the outside. With scissors, carefully cut along the second line.

Using a steam iron press in the ½” border you just drew, on all four sides, keeping the painted edge of the grid/frame just on the fold.

Open the pressed edges at the corner, and fold in the corner. Press (this gives you a preliminary fold line to make pressing later easier).

Open the pressed corner, and place a ½” piece of Steam a Seam, paper side up, near the fold of the corner. The Steam a Seam is sticky so it will hold in place without pins.

Using steam, press the Steam a Seam down for a few seconds. When cool, remove the paper (use a straight pin or awl to pick up the paper if necessary). Fold down the corner and press well with steam. Allow to cool. Repeat on the remaining corners.

When all the corners are fused down, open the pressed edge on one side of the canvas square and apply a length of Steam a Seam right along the edge of the canvas, paper side up (It’s OK if your edges are fraying a little, we’ll clean that up in a minute. Use plenty of steam and let it cool before removing the paper.

At this point, with your scissors, carefully clean up any major fraying JUST along the very edge of the canvas.

When you’ve cleaned up the fraying, fold the ½” edge down and press with steam. Allow to cool. Repeat with remaining three sides.

Ties.

Cut the ½ yard of ribbon in half. Clip the very ends of the ribbon at a 45 degree angle to help prevent fraying.

Fold one ribbon piece in half and mark the center with a pencil. If your ribbon has a right and wrong side, mark the center on the wrong side.

Place a ¼ inch piece of Steam a Seam on the mark, paper side up, and press well. Remove the paper backing.

Place the ribbon a few inches in from the edge, on the folded border. Press well with steam. Allow to cool. Repeat with the other piece of ribbon on the opposite end.

To carry the battle mat, roll up from the opposite side, grid side up, and tie the ribbons in bows to keep secure.

Congrats! You just made player markers and a travel battle mat!

You can make a swanky dice bag from the last Craft & Dragons post to keep your player markers in.
Now you can have fun dishing out mini TPK’s wherever you go!

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section. And as always, LOOT THE BODIES!!!

 

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