It's always helpful to have figurines at hand whenever you play a tabletop role playing game. The visual representation helps with keeping track of every character in combat, it helps the players figure out where their character is in relation to the enemy, and it can help a game master with keeping track of the entire game overall. Plus, they just look good. Actual figurines are usually very expensive though, but with a few images, a sheet of paper, and some glue, you can easily make paper representatives of figurines. They can look great with the right base, and since you can pick the images, you could have any visual representation you wish.
Parental guidance: Use of scissors. Potential use of a knife.
Time: 30 minutes (more if you need to find images first)
Materials: Paper, scissors, glue or tape.
Optional materials: Cork, knife, magnets, anything else you'd like to use as a base, a printer if you wish to print the images, or a pencil or other drawing utensils if you prefer to draw everything yourself.
If you haven't already, find images you wish to use, then put them all on a single image file. I put mine in a rectangle, but you could change the shape as you wish, just make sure there's enough for a good base at the bottom. If you wish to use my images, look for the pdf at the bottom of this page.
Then copy and rotate (or mirror if you prefer that look) each image, and add it to the top of the previous images (like in the image above). Then print this sheet, cut out all the figures, making sure not to accidentally cut the lines dividing two of the same images, and fold them all double.
The next step will depend entirely on your base. I created 4 different types of figurines, which are as follows:
Simply keep the folded paper as is. They'll be able to stand straight, aren't very time consuming to create, require no extra materials, but they are a little flimsy. Still, they generally won't fall over unless somebody blows on them, but that's rarely an issue in most games.
For more sturdy figures you can glue together most of the inside of the folded figures, but leave room at the bottom. Fold the bottom part outward, creating a flat, foot-like piece on each side. The figure will now stand more sturdy, and they can still be folded back so transportation is very easy.
Repeat what you did for the folded versions, but then glue the folded flaps to a magnet. I used simple, cheap magnets used for magnetized white boards. I did this intentionally, as it allows me to use a white board as a canvas for a map. The magnets also make sure the pieces stay in place, and aren't accidentally moved by an overly enthusiastic breath or a clumsy hand.
This is my personal favorite, purely because of the aesthetics. Grab some corks, or buy some from an online store (I bought a big bag for spare change), slice off some smaller pieces with a knife, cut a slice in the center, and push the paper inside. You may need to wiggle the cork a little when you're slicing it with the knife in order to make it big enough for the paper to easily slide inside.
Alternatively, you could glue the folded versions to the cork, but it usually doesn't look as good. This is just my opinion though, of course.
If you want to get really fancy, glue a thumb tack to the bottom of the cork. Now you can use a cork board as a base for a map and other props, the figures can be pinned to the board with ease.
That's all there is to it. Easy peasy. You can spice things up further by using differently colored paper, changing the bases, printing borders, and so on. I think I actually prefer these paper figures over actual figurines, these can be personalized a lot more, which I'm a big fan of. You could even tailor them to specific story universes, for example. Plus, they're very cheap to make.
I've made a wide range of icons you can use, found in the pdf below, but I'm planning on creating way more in the future. I'll probably create a tool of sorts, which'll allow you to create and customize your own versions as well, similar to the monster/spell card creator, so keep an eye out.