Miscellany: Running a "Call of Cthulhu" campaign, part 6
It's no secret that role-playing paraphernalia is hideously expensive. Aside from the books and dice themselves (which tend to be somewhat affordable), all the stuff you can add to your game to make it more "fun" can cost a lot of money.
Take miniatures, for example. They're handy in many ways (I especially like the ones with numbers on the bases, so that you can track damage to monsters of the same type), but when the asking price is $10 for a set of eight or so miniatures, you can see how running a large battle can become cost-prohibitive.
My solution for running battles in my "Call of Cthulhu" campaign are decorative, irregularly shaped glass stones (they can be found at most arts & crafts stores, probably as fish tank stones). They have lots of different colors, but are abstract enough that they don't spoil the mood or turn the game into a farce. Best of all, you can get a huge bag of them for $6 - enough to represent a whole army if need be.
The grid that investigators fight on is another problem. Again, you can buy "dungeon tiles" full of colorfully rendered landscapes gridded with 1"x1" squares, or even a full battle grid (people can get pretty elaborate, as seen above), but there remains a fundamental problem: scale. Even with each square representing a 5'x5' space, you need a 60" run of squares just to simulate a 100 yard distance. The firearms in CoC, like in real life, are effective at much greater ranges.
So, I'm just using some basic graph paper and sketching things out from now on. I'm thinking that perhaps a 1/4" should be ten yards in some of the larger battles. That way, a simple 8-1/2"x11" sheet can simulate a 300 yard x 440 yard area - dozens of acres of combat.