It is custom for members of the community to give something back to their respective supporters, and I wanted to do something for you as well. With the upcoming Con of the Rings event in October, I decided back in July that I wanted to make my own custom loot for my Patreon supporters and my fellow content creators on the blog. The question now became, what do I want to give?
Over the years, Cardboard of the Rings has made various items to enhance the gaming experience for many players who support them via Patreon. Just this year, they handed out an amazing set of deckboxes with custom art by Owen Weber. While I would like to say I have done the same, my budget was a lot smaller, and I wanted to start small instead of needing to top thát next time.
An oppertunity arrose when I started work at my old internship company GoodHout, who make biocomposite boards out of coconut husk. I worked there as a Design and R&D engineer this summer, giving me access to various raw materials, and (more importantly) a lasercutter. Since the base material (coconuts) is quite expensive (Holland doesn’t grow any, I wish…), I couldn’t make anything big, or else I would have only been able to make 3-4 items the size of threat trackers. So I had to make something small, flat, and easily carried in my bag to the Con of the Rings convention. The answer?:
They are light, small, and you can never have enough tokens right? I have made a bunch of unique 25mm, (mostly) circular tokens as promotion material for at the convention. These tokens are big when placed on cards, but are perfect to denote when you have used an ability (SBeregond, Arwen Undomiel, Beravor, etc) or when you are about to forget an ability (Cirdan, Kahliel’s Headdress, etc). Tokens are the perfect item to hand out and can be easily carried around in a pouch or deckbox.
I made several designs for the main promotional token on a 3D modelling software I use often, but eventually stuck with a copy of the Palantir artwork on the Palantir player card we get in the game, with art by Sandara Tang. You can also see this art in the browser window when you have the site open. It is a plain and simple piece of art, but one of only few without the eye of Sauron in the middle. I traced the image with some vectors in the program (which wasn’t easy) so that I eventually had a proper copy of the art that I could cut with the laser. I added two lines of text to the token, one being the title of the blog, and the other being the time and place of distribution, the convention.
But this wasn’t enough for me. Just having the Palantir tokens was nice, but I wanted something extra to hand out to those that have supported the blog either via Patreon or by contributing their own articles to the blog. I was trying to find out what to make, when I was playing a Dale deck on OCTGN. As you know, Dale has a lot of willpower boosts, and OCTGN has a feature to add and remove tokens for willpower, attack, defence, threat, and time. Can you guess where this is going yet?
Rough tokens out of the laser cutter
I decided to make a couple of designs for willpower, attack, defence, and hitpoint tokens which can be used to add to cards to denote an increase in stats. Given more time and material, I could have made Time and threat tokens, but didn’t find them nearly as necessary as the basic stat boosts on characters and enemies. The willpower tokens were pretty basic, being only a circle with 8 triangles around the edges. I made them small enough for characters like the Ethir Swordsman to have multiple tokens stacked onto them. The defence tokens are probably my favourite, as the design of the shield worked pretty well with the vision I had in mind. I added the name of the blog on one of the quadrants of the shield, to give it some extra flair. Given more time and more patience with the design tools, I would have made a small white tree on the shield instead, though I am not sure with how the details would end up looking after the laser engraved the image. I have had some problems with the Palantir being too detailed, so I kept the shield simple.
The hitpoints I modelled after the image used on RingsDB, as we do not have an official emblem for hitpoints like we do with attack and defence. The heart turned out fine, but I added some details by making it half-broken (not too much, else the token would snap in two) and adding the title of the blog diagonally as small as I could while maintain detail. The attack tokens proved to be the biggest challenge. The crossed axes from the game are pretty sweet, but a pain to design. Preliminary tokens were very thin and could easily be snapped at the handles and the intersection. I debated a little if I should exchange the axes for broader swords, but I didn’t like how the design looked. Therefor I went with the next best thing: engrave the axes on the token, and just make it round. This gave me enough additional space to put the title of the blog on the token as well, making the willpower token the only neutral one.
The end result was a large bag of tokens, which needed to be cleaned of soot and dust after they came out of the laser cutter. The final designs were a little hard to see, as it is black engraving on a dark-brown material. To make the tokens more recognisable in low-light conditions, each type of token has either a different shape, or a different size.
My biggest issue is that I had too few tokens to hand out to everyone, as I only had so much material I could use from the company. I was using their failed experimental boards that tended to warp or show large scale colour deficiancies, which they couldn’t use for promotional purposes. The boards I ended up with required some trials with the laser cutter to get right, losing me even more material to testing. In the end, I had around 40 Palantir tokens, 25 willpower tokens, 17 health tokens, 12 defence tokens, and only 8 attack tokens. I tried to optimalize the surface of the boards I had at my disposal, but eventually I ran out of material. The Palantir tokens allow me to give around 1/3 of the people I meet at the Con a token of appreciation (get it?) and I divided the other tokens in piles to hand out to my faithful supporters. While it wasn’t enough in my eyes, I am sure they will be appreciated.
That concluded the portion about the design process, but now I wanted to go into depth a little more on the material and how the boards came to be. As the process is still conceptual and a company secret, I will not disclose details, but I can answer your questions in person at the Con if you have any.
The base material of the tokens: 100% coconut husk
The only ingredient in the boards (and thereby the tokens) is 100% coconut husk, imported fresh from the Phillipians. The shell and the nut are removed, but the fiberous husks arrive at the company where they are conditioned and dried. They are then milled into a powder, and dried, so there is no moisture left in them. We then fill the mould with up to 2 pounds of the powder and spray it with water to an ideal moisture content. After that, the powder gets a cold pre-press, forming a mat of fibres. Then hydraulic
Final boards, ready for cutting
press is then heated and the mat is placed between two metal sheets to conduct heat, and put into the press. The mat is then cured in several minutes at high temperature and pressure, allowing the oils inside the fibres to be extracted. During the cooling process, the oils harden and form a composite resin with the coconut fibres acting as the load bearing ingredient. A fully cured board has a dark brown to black colour, with slightly light brown uncured edges, which get trimmed off. The board is then left in a conditioning chamber for a few days, allowing the internal stresses inside the board to be released, without warping the board.
The Con of the Rings Raffle Price
At the same time as the tokens, I wanted to make a board with one of my personal favourite Tolkien poems on it: The Aragorn prophesy. Since I had more material left over, I designed two of these board, using the Ringbearer font to write the poem in. These boards turned out remarkably well, and after a quick polish, it quickly became apperant that I should have made more of these. But I still have 2 copies of this board, so I kept one for myself. It is currently hanging in my living room, allowing me to enjoy it everyday. The other one I entered into the raffle for the convention as a price. I hope whoever won the board is pleased with it and gives it a nice place in their home. The board appears a little bit dark, but the engraving is deep enough to make the text visable from a distance. Should whoever gets the board find it too dark, you can always fill it with white paint for extra contrast. Also, try to keep it dry and out of direct sunlight. While the board is water resistant, long term exposure makes it swell. UV radiation bleaches the board a little, so you can leave it in the sun if you want it to be a bit lighter and get a bit more visable fibres in your board. Enjoy!
A text worthy of hanging in any LOTR room
I also made a name sign for my new house that I wanted to share with you while we are on the subject. I wrote the family name in it, and surrounded the edges with Tengwar script. From top left clock-wise, it reads a few lines from the Song of Durin, another favourite poem of mine. I couldn’t fit the entire poem on there, but should I ever get the chance to do this again, I will probably do so. The engraving on this board was very shallow in order to save time. As a result, the board was difficult to read, so I used a white marker to go around the edges of the name, increasing contrast substantially.
While the inscription is hard to read, it looks stunning in person
Tokens before final trimming and washing
The tokens were an ambitious project for me, making something with my own hands and designs into an actual object. I will be the first to admit that the material isn’t perfect for the tokens, since they tend to show fibres on the edges and are a bit too dark for my taste. But see it as a stepping stone to other pieces of swag to come in the future. I have no idea what I am going to make for next time or when the next time is going to be. But with the community backing the blog so much, I am sure that I will be bringing new and exciting loot to enhance your games. Hopefully I can get my hands on either a 3D printer or another laser cutter within a year, and with some inspiration, I am sure that I will find something sweet to bring to you. Until then, I hope to see the tokens in action, and hope they bring luck to your games.
To those at the Con reading this, if you still want one of the Palantir tokens, hit me up for a game or somehow make the Con more memorable for me (buy me food😁). Hope you guys have fun!