Pile of bottle caps

With DIY Bottle Caps, You Can be Cool Like the ‘Glass Cannon Podcast!’

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Pile of custom bottle caps

On The Glass Cannon Podcast, a Pathfinder actual play podcast, and its offshoots, great roleplaying and cool ideas are rewarded with bottle caps.

When a player has to make a d20 roll for an attack, saving through, skill check, or the like, they can choose to turn in the bottle cap to either get to roll two 20-sided dice and take the better result, or cause their game master to roll two d20’s and take the worse result.

In early episodes of the podcast, the game master, Troy Lavalee, was just handing out whatever bottle caps had come from the tasty beverages they were drinking, but later, the Glass Cannon Podcast created custom bottle caps with some of the great art that has been generated for their campaign.

Glass Cannon Podcast Bottle Caps
Some ‘Glass Cannon Podcast’ bottle caps, packed and ready to send to Patreon Subscribers. Image from GCP Twitter feed.

As an avid listener of the Glass Cannon Podcast, I have passed along this great entertainment recommendation not just to our GeekDad readers, but also to my gaming group (Wait… they’re GeekDad readers too, right… right?).

My Carrion Crown game master has been incorporating many of the great aspects of the GCP, including the introduction of bottle capping. For the first few games we’ve just been using the caps of our Not Your Father’s Root Beer, but I was interested in making us some custom caps– you know, so we can be cool like the GCP too!

It’s pretty easy to have custom caps made, but you need to buy in bulk. This is fine if you need 50 of the same bottle cap. For the Glass Cannon Podcast, this works great since they give out bottle caps as part of one of their Patreon rewards.

If you’re a store, running conventions, have giveaways, or the like, then the bulk option is the way to go. The bottle cap looks great, there is numerous cap color options, and it’s minimal work on your part. To try it out, I ordered the minimum 50 bottle caps from GrogTag.com sporting a GeekDad logo created by Nathan Barry. The caps were $22 for 50, plus shipping. I believe the orange edge was slightly more expensive than a basic black, but the orange was just too perfect with the GeekDad logo!

If you want one of these, find me a PaizoCon 2018! While supplies last…

Bottle Caps with the Geek Dad Logo
With just a few minutes work I was able to get an image on a GrogTag template and order 50 bottle caps. Bottle caps by GrogTag, Logo by Nathan Barry, photo by Ryan Hiller.

But, alas. for my home game, I wanted a bunch of designs, with just one or two bottle caps printed of each. The professional custom cap is not the economical solution here.

So I looked into do-it-yourself options and discovered DIY laser jet transfers. After watching a couple videos, I ordered what I didn’t already have on hand and got to it. You’ll need;

  1. Plain white bottle caps: I tried black as well, but the image was not visible. It would be nice to find some with colored edges and a plain white circle center.
  2. Gloss Varnish
  3. Cheap paint brush (I had these on hand)
  4. Laser Printer: I saw videos of people doing this with an inkjet, but that was not successful when I tried it with the bottle caps.
Supplies needed for making DIY bottle caps
Photo by Ryan Hiller.

I then came up with images relevant to our Pathfinder Carrion Crown Campaign, images of beasts that nearly killed us, images players used for their characters, some custom art drawn by a former student of mine, a map of the region, and more.

Using the free image editing software, Gimp, I made a one-inch circle and replicated it for a work area. I tried making both one-inch circular images as well as larger images that would bleed over the edge of the cap. I think in my next batch I’ll go with 7/8ths of an inch so there’s a nice border, but the bleeds worked well too.

You need to reverse all the images you use as you apply it face down and end up with a mirror image.

Given images, the process is pretty simple,

  1. Apply a light varnish to the bottle cap top
  2. Stick the laser printed image to it. Image down! (Remember to print a mirror image of what you want)
  3. Once dry, wet the exposed paper and gently rub until the paper is gone and the image is visible.
  4. Once dry, Apply a couple coats of varnish.
Application of varnish and image for DIY bottle caps
A light coat of varnish, then apply the image. Let dry. Goblin by Dave Allsop. Photos by Ryan Hiller.
Rubbing the paper off the DIY bottle cap
After the varnish has dried, you wet the paper. The image starts to show through. Lightly rub with your thumb until the paper starts to come off. Keep lightly rubbing. Careful though as it’s easy to peal up some of the image. You can see on this one that I didn’t reverse the image on my print, so it came out reversed once I pealed off the paper (you’re basically seeing the back of the printed image). Image from the Sloth Institute of Costa Rica, Donate! Photo by Ryan Hiller

My cousin’s witch keeps Baleful Polymorphing our adversaries into sloths, so a sloth seemed appropriate! And since I used their image, here’s a link to donate money to save a sloth! Really, given our campaign and the propensity for the witch to turn everything into a sloth, it’s not the sloths that need saving!

Speaking of images, though, before you start trading or giving away bottle caps, make sure you have the rights to use the images. These images were just a quick proof of concept. My goal now is to start generating our own art, images of the miniatures we use and the like.

For the Rise of the Runelords game I’m GMing, I kept making sketches between games of various occurrences. We have great minis we’ve painted that we could photograph and there’s always art commissions. For instance, a phenomenal art student I know (@osidinum) drew my magus from the Carrion Crown game. When she opens commissions again, I’m jumping in for more! Oooh, and the talented Taylor Fischer with be at PaizoCon this year– time to get some art!

Group of custom bottle caps
Here’s my proof of concept. Time now to come up with more images to use! Photo by Ryan Hiller.

Do you use bottle caps in your game? Want to start? Just collect ’em? Find me at PaizoCon and while supplies last, I’ll give you a GeekDad bottle cap! Got a bottle cap to trade– all the better!

Maybe we should make this the thing, instead of everyone making custom collectible pins like at PAX, we can trade bottle caps at PaizoCon!

Here’s a picture of me so you can find me!

Me and some bottle caps
Get a GeekDad bottle cap at PaizoCon!
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