Marching on the game board

Hey there readers

Ok so the post today is to distract everyone while I am working on the first Crazy Shit I Have Created post. The Random Deity Generator.

With that teaser in place lets move into the topic.

Not every table top RPG is going to be played using a table top map, but many do. When it comes to using the maps on a table top there are a lot of options for how to show where everyone is and to keep things all lined up. Hmmm, lets back up a little for readers who are not so familiar with table top games.

When playing a table top RPG there are times when it really helps some people to be able to visualize what is going on in the game by setting down a map of some kind and placing markers on it to keep track of everything from the characters to the objects in a room or on a battle field. The maps are usually made to some kind of scale so that not only position, but distance (or range) from one item to another is easily tracked. Also so that movement across the area can be tracked. And that specific position can be tracked. For people who have little to no experience with table top games this may sound really involved or complicated. Truth is it is only as involved or complicated as people want to make it.

When I first started playing AD&D back in the fourth grade the teacher who was running the game had us use regular old graph paper and push pins that had hole punch dots on them with initials of the characters to mark our places. Today there are a lot of options available depending on the amount of time and effort the players and the person running the game want to put into things. I will always recommend that if you can run a game on imagination alone, then go for it. If that is not feasible then you may want to look into setting up maps of some kind.

Just for the heck of it let me list out some of the options that I have used in the past.

  • Sheets of standard graph paper with penciled in notes, or push pins.
  • Large sheets of graph paper (24×36 ish) with counters of some kind (cardboard cut outs or miniatures).
  • Dry erase boards with taped lines and small magnets.
  • Wet erase vinyl maps (Chessex Battle Maps have always had my vote here), and counters of some kind (cardboard cut outs or miniatures).
  • Pre-printed  cardboard or paper maps/map tiles with miniatures. (WOTC Dungeon Tiles from 2005 or so up until about 2009 I think were some of the best I had ever seen, good luck chasing them down now though anywhere but Ebay)
  • Foam or plastic 3d map tiles and miniatures. ( Dwarven Forge is a great example )

Oh and in regards to the miniatures I have used…

  • Cardboard counters (Pathfinder does some cool ones)
  • Lead
  • Pewter (Reaper still makes some of the best out there)
  • Plastic
  • Prepainted (prepainted plastic fantasy D&D and Pathfinder are not too bad I really like the out of print Mage Knight and the Hero Clix by Whiz Kids though, even though Mage Knight is not in print any more)
  • Self painted (only once and never again… I dont have the patience for it)
  • Preassembled
  • Self Assembled (yeah this was the one I painted… I think I ended up making a gelatinous ooze for a miniature with all the extra glue and paint I put on that poor halfling… and no I am not stealing that from something Phil Foglio wrote years ago in Whats New with Phil and Dixie)

Something that is new that I have not used (cause its really freaking expensive right now) is virtual table tops. With virtual maps and markers. Least expensive of them is Fantasy Grounds, but I have seen others that you need to by a 27 inch touchscreen custom insert into a table to use correctly and those are the ones I am saying are way to expensive.

So there are tons and tons of ways you can work maps and miniatures into a game. And there are tons and tons and tons of options as to what to use and how detailed you want to be in their use. Personally my current favorite is to use Lego (ignore things like Friends and Duplo) to let players build the minis they want and then I can build an environment to suit.

In all this though you have one big thing to consider, and it is not just my usual find what you like and use what you enjoy. In this case its think about what you can afford to put into this in regards not only to money but in time. If you enjoy painting and assembling miniatures you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on paints and tools alone before even getting into the cost of an individual figure. And for folks running games just remember you will usually be the one setting the pace. So if you want the absolutely over the top personalized minis with custom paint jobs to represent all the characters in your games, then you better be ready willing and able to assemble, paint, and pay for every miniature your players will use. Because I can promise you not all of your players will have the time, money, talent or patience to do that sort of thing. Be willing to compromise, be willing to use things that are not quite right but close enough to get the point across (I used a Hawkeye Hero Clix figure in a fantasy D&D RPG for a long time and it worked well enough).

Anyway, I gotta be off to work on how to randomly generate dieties… so gimme the dice, I think a d27 should get this table to work…

  1. #1 by dantherpgman on August 16, 2015 - 11:17 pm

    I like having a map for combat situations; it’s hard to play any kind of tactical simulator without one.

    Every game I’ve been in that used a map was pretty simple: erasable map and wet erase or just graph paper and pen. I’ve always thought there was a lot more potential there but never got involved in a game that took advantage of those possibilities; but like you said, time and energy.

    Hey, what about Mr. Agents? He probably had some pretty involved maps but I don’t remember…


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