Sunday, August 24, 2008

Plexiglass and Battle Maps

While looking over Gen Con photos from Dave The Game over at Critical Hits, I couldn't help but wince at this one.

Oh, the humanity! The horror of trying to play on a crinkled battle map with ridges and furrows at every crease! *ahem* I will now tell a story. Those interested in just the payoff can skip to the last paragraph...

I started playing DDM a few months ago with a buddy who'd been trying to convince me to pick it up for months. He brought his maps over and, during the first game we played, the way the creases threatened to knock over the smaller and more unbalanced minis drove me nuts. Since he wasn't playing DDM anywhere but my house I made him leave his maps at my place. I spread them out on my game table for a week with books on them and then stored them by hanging them on the wall, still unfolded, suspended by Sparco binder clips from a couple of nails.

That helped, and the next time we played the maps laid pretty flat. They still weren't quite as flat as I'd like, though, and I kept looking around for a better solution. My search intensified when 4e came out a couple months later and I wanted to use the battle maps to have nice scenery for monster-killin' and stuff-takin'. Pulling one unfolded map out of clips for a DDM session was bearable, though a bit cumbersome. For a D&D 4e session where we might go through three or four combats in a session on as many maps it was horrible.

It was my wife who hit on the solution. She had a large piece of glass stored away from a frame she didn't need it in any more. We pulled it out, laid down a battle map, put the glass on top, and set minis on the glass. It worked like a charm. The map was visible, but the surface the minis were standing on was perfectly flat.

The only down side was the fragility of the glass, but we soon fixed that by cannibalizing a large piece of Plexiglass out of an old poster frame we weren't using. The Plexiglass is almost as clear as the glass was, just as flat, and much easier to whip out and slap down over the battle map. We've been playing both 4e and DDM on Plexiglass-covered battle maps ever since.


Dave The Game said...

While I can't say that our maps are always crinkled, you can cut us some slack for that one because we were in a hotel far away from home (where plexigless would be difficult) AND playing Drinking Dungeons & Dragons.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

Hi Dave, welcome to my little blog.

I didn't mean to come down on your setup (especially since it was at Gen Con). It was more that the sight of it gave me a post-traumatic flashback to the days before we started using Plexiglass.

Plus I hoped there would be gamers out there who would find the idea useful.

Donny_the_Dm said...

Works well too over a chessex battlemat. I have found that if you leave a complex map on your mat between bi-weekly games, it becomes semi-permanent...lame.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention how well the Plexiglass works with wet-erase markers. We don't use them very often, but when we have they've wiped up really easily.

Usually we use markers for stuff like showing temporary area effects like the goblin hexer's vexing cloud. You can't do that on a plain paper battle map...