Sunday, March 30, 2014

Battlemat Update

So I have continued my exploration of how to get the best bang for my buck with regards to battlemats. Here is what I found.

Flip-Mats from Paizo
For portability, I still can't beat the Blank Flip-Mat from Paizo. Given its cost, I can just buy another one. This gives me the ability to recreate any map a pre-printed adventure throws at me and if I take my time in drawing it (before the game), I can do some moderately evocative line art. Otherwise I can buckle down and buy more of their pre-printed flip mats for better presentation (at least for fantasy settings).

   Pros: They travel better than Chessex Vinyl maps, if I do need to make some specific counters using static cling vinyls, they will stick very well to the surface. Also I can conquer the fold and "lay flat" issues at home by putting a clear acrylic sheet over the map.
   Cons: They can warp over time and don't always lay flat when I travel. However those problems are minor and can be overcome for home games.

Home Made Maps
Since I won't always be constrained by modules, and because there aren't a lot of sci-fi maps out there, I'll make semi-generic, re-useable maps. Common battlefields that I can use such as a cargo bay map, maybe two or three battle station section maps , and just tailor my adventures to these locations. The hard part will be to either price out how much the large prints will cost me, or work out how to make these into my own flip mats using card stock, some sort of thin mounting board, and some permanent con-tac paper (it seems all the stuff at Staples is low tack so it keeps peeling back up).

   Pros: Art! Also I can pack up scene maps that I might need for a specific adventure. Once I have a map made, I may not need to make the same location again (unless I feel the map is getting too boring). When I am done with a map, I can share! Plus if I make decorations on static vinyl, then I can get a lot of mileage out of a basic floor plan by using the decorations to change what each room is used for.
   Cons: Art! It will take time for me to make my own maps so if the players go somewhere that I don't have a map for, I will have to rely on the blank Paizo Flip-Mat.

In theory they are cool but building a scene with tiles takes time. It takes less time to draw it. And if you aren't adding decorations (which means more tiles) you might as well just use a mat.

   Pros: Modular, but not that modular really. At least you can put down the visible elements so the your players have no idea what the full layout looks like.
   Cons: Takes time to put together. Too many fiddly bits to manage at an away game. Potentially may eat up a lot of travel space in your kit.

Keep your tiles in their place!

Sooo... here's a few tidbits on tile crafting I thought I would share.

To keep your floor tiles in their place, you might try placing them on these non-slip shelf liners. They are cheap and should keep things from sliding around. However they do have a thickness to them so you probably don't want to use them on decorations you stack on top of your tiles. For that I recommend...

Static Cling Vinyl
You can pick this up at a Joann's or an Aaron Brothers. Basically it's just like the stuff they put over the screens of new phones to protect them. You know, that plastic sheet that seems to hold on to any smooth surface without using glue? So if you have laminated or con-tac covered surfaces to your maps, you can glue some of this static cling vinyl to the bottoms of your decorations and they shouldn't slide.

Friday, March 28, 2014

RPG Scenery

So as you might have guessed from my earlier posts, I'm devoting a lot of my time to RPG scenery. I have been running a lot of Pathfinder Society games recently and I have been looking for a better method of map representation. For one thing, Paizo sells some of the maps for their scenarios, but not all of them. Also, many of those maps are now out of print. So sure I could just get a blank flip map and draw on it with wet erase markers but I have found this annoying for two reasons.

1) The flip mats are folded. They do not lay flat easily and mine has begun to warp with age.

2) It's not fair that I get to see what the tavern interior looks like but my players only get a line drawing with some hastily scribbled tables.

I want something that actually shows the room, lays flat easily, is reusable, not too expensive, and is portable.

So my choices are...

A) Either make my own tiles or buy tiles like these.
   Pros: They are generic and modular. As long as you are creating your own scenarios, you can design within the constraints of the tiles you have.
   Cons: They can get real fiddly if the tiles are too small, room decorations will have to be placed on as separate tiles adding to the number of fiddly bits, their is a finite amount of room shapes you can make unless you add a heap more custom tiles, and the maps in Pathfinder scenarios can't really be built with tiles unless you have a ton of custom ones. Finally, the more tile options (rooms and decor) you have, the more likely it will slow down the game as you set the scene.

B) Make a magnetic board.
   Pros: I just have to lay out the boards and I can place magnetic walls, doors, and other furniture around at will without fear that it will all tumble over when someone shakes the table. I may even be able to make the base tiles in 8x10 sheet for portability.
   Cons: The base sheet or sheets may get heavy if they are made of metal, this lends itself best to 3D terrain items which aren't very portable. There is some question as to weather it would be cheaper to make the base sheets metal and attach magnets to the terrain or to get magnetic sheets and attacked metal to the terrain, and finally I'm hearing a lot of mixed reviews about using magnets (depending on type) and terrible things about magnetic paint.

C) Make hardback tiles with plastic slip covers so I can change the tiles inside with custom printed images.
   Pros: I save the cost of not mounting every tile I make, the slip cover would accept wet erase or dry erase marks if needed.
   Cons: I would have to convert Pathfinder maps with my own art, maps wouldn't be reusable with other pieces.

Any thoughts or comments? As I go through the design process I'm going to keep a record here on my blog so other crafters can see what I did that worked, what failed, and hopefully it will sparks some ideas in you.

BTW on a lark I bought a bag of .75 inch cubes of wood from a craft store. There were 24 cubes in the bag I think. here's what I did with them.

I made a .75 inch crate texture and copied it six times to the side. Then I made copies of that group and slightly adjusted the hue and lightness for different shades of crate. I then printed out the sheet, cut out the sides and glued them onto the wooden blocks. I took a few of the blocks and glued them together into stacks, making sure I left one single crate unglued just in case.

Now I have crate stacks for whenever I need them, or  when I start running home games again. Best of all they are light and very durable.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Space Terrain Tiles have gone live!

Looking for the means to spice up your Star Wars space combats?

They're live and ready for download...
Right here at Drivethrurpg.

I had to take some sleeping pills to get over my insomnia. Let me tell you, Zzzquil is a heckuva knockout. Maybe now I can get beck to planetary design.
And some more miniature painting...

This was the plastic dwarf miniature that came with Warhammer Quest. I decided to make him a Minnesota Viking.