Zelda games are about items, second only to dungeons. Without a vast inventory contained inside improbably spacious pants, a Zelda game is more like Mario, where you use a limited, static set of options to deal with ever-expanding problems. So additional to the campaign maps, I also created a few other things for the players to handle in the real world.
The most important thing was giving players physical objects to represent the items they collected. You can usually tell a player “it’s a +1 flaming greataxe” without further clarification, but when you say “they’re gloves that give you a bonus to Strength checks, but not Strength-based skill checks, but they also have a power that gives a higher bonus to both Strength checks and Strength-based skill checks”, everybody could use a written reminder. My players really enjoyed trading the cards to indicate who had what item at what time, and I enjoyed not needing to remember what item did what either. Near the end of the campaign I happened upon Zelda Yahtzee, and by happenstance the chest was just about the perfect size to hold an item card, so that became our preferred method of revealing a new item, particularly when accompanied by the “opening a chest” music from Ocarina of Time.
Ball Toss Minigame
Most Zelda games have mini games, and several of them require some sort of player ability like planning, accuracy, or the patience of a saint. The items above aren’t intended to help with these; a hookshot is great but it won’t help in the archery challenge, where the player has to quickly aim and shoot at moving targets. In keeping with the theme I wanted some games to challenge my players’ manual dexterity. Enter the Hastily Duck-Taped Tic-Tac-Toe Box. Players had to stand some distance away and toss balls into the box, trying to get three in a row. In a perfect world I would have had some sort of backing to let near misses roll into one of the wells, but I couldn’t get one that could stand up to a flying ball in the time and with the resources I had available.
Disk Shooting Minigame
I did eventually find projectile launchers I could tolerate: guns that launched foam discs. With them in hand I made another carnival game, this time asking players to shoot at the board and land discs in wells for points. The challenge here was more that the guns had a remarkable tendency to shoot in a random direction within a forward arc, and there quickly emerged a pitched battle between the kneeling, two-handed, meticulous aiming strategy and the “slamming the trigger to shotgun out as many discs as possible in two seconds” strategy. The latter won.
I spent the longest time trying to figure out how to do a fishing game. My first and longest-lasting idea was to make cards, attach magnets to them, give the players a magnetic fishing hook, and have them cast their lure into a pile of cards to see what stuck. The only reason I didn’t do that was the logistics of having a pile of magnets in the middle of a table with several computers, keeping them from sticking to each other but making sure they did stick to a different magnet swung around the room. It seemed unlikely it would work as planned. We ended up with a game of memory, where players made skill checks to determine how many times a fish bit on the line, and each bite let them flip over two cards. If they made a match, they caught that fish.
Block of Somaria
It’s just a one-inch wooden block. We have a surprisingly heavy box of them for terrain building (I call it the blox bocks). This one mattered because it’s the block that went down whenever a player used the Cane of Somaria, which places a physical block on the battlefield. Since the characters can push, throw, climb and otherwise manipulate the block, it needed a prop. The one on the left is how it looked for much of the campaign. The one on the right it how it looked when I stopped being lazy and made it look more like the original.
Foam Block Puzzles
Remember this guy? In the final dungeon the players finally got to them, collecting key pieces from guard captains and assembling them into Skyward Sword-esque keys to access the dungeon minibosses. The only difficulty I had was that the picture of the assembled key clearly shows the seams between pieces, which was a bigger hint to the solution than I really wanted. Still, it was nice to use them in a game after carrying them around for so long.
These weren’t part of the campaign. These were a gift I gave to my players after the campaign ended to thank them for putting up with me for eighty-six sessions, but they’re physical items so I’m counting them here. Each player got a glass with the symbol corresponding to the energy they channeled: the blackguard got shadow, the ranger got forest, and so on. I got them from CustomShot on Etsy, if you’d like some for yourself.