A 3x3 area on the battle mat

Two orcs are getting blasted by Todd's wizard using a 3x3 area effect: probably Thunderwave

Playing D&D 4E pretty much requires the use of tabletop miniatures (or some equivalent, like cardstock counters). During one of the early sessions of our current campaign, I realized that the wizards in particular were using a lot of area effects. Probably that’s because wizards have access to first-level powers that can be used at will.

I found that fussing over where exactly to place these area effects was slowing down the flow of play. So I went to a craft store and bought some pipe cleaners and made a few simple outlines of 3″x3″ and 5″x5″ areas. In Fourth Edition, all area effects are square, so you really need only a couple of different sizes.

These work amazingly well. Now every time one of the wizards casts a spell, his player plunks down the pipe-cleaner outline and we can all tell at a glance which monsters are going to have a bad day.

Warning: Apparently these carefully shaped pipe cleaners are the best cat toys ever according to my cat Merlin. So if you leave your pipe-cleaner templates unattended on the table, and you have a cat, you can expect to find them the next day, under the couch, crusted in dried cat spit and mangled into postmodern art. The one in this photo is all kinked because it has been resurrected from just such a fate.