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View Full Version : How does one use a Battlemap?



Meridius
07-20-2010, 02:17 PM
Okay, first of all, this is a pure discussion topic. No maps to be found here. Secondly, I don't know if this is in the correct forum. It's about battlemaps, so it seems right at home in VTT/Battlemap Mapping, but it's purely discussion, and more in depth about roleplaying too, so it might belong some place else.

I've been cooking up a nice dungeon for a while now, and after mapping a region and a town, perhaps my next project could be to try my hand on a dungeon. Of course as a battle-map for my own D&D 3.5 game.

However, before the creation of awesome (or less awesome) mappage ensues, I'm quite curious how you people actually use a battlemap. Might sound a bit silly, but I really do wonder. :?:

I currently employ a vinyl battlemat for simple (and erasable) dungeon presentation. I draw while playing from my previously made 'design plans' on graph paper. It takes a couple more seconds, sometimes even minutes, but it adds a video-game-like element: "the fog of war". Players cannot see beyond the room they are currently in, and sometimes not even around corners.

Now this works fine when I draw a dungeon on a vinyl mat. But how (if at all) do you guys do this on these awesome pre-drawn/rendered battlemaps I see here on display?

tilt
07-20-2010, 02:27 PM
perhaps the general forum would have been better for this, but here goes :)
I used to use a vinyl battlemap (also used a black board some 15 years ago), now I use maps I print and I love a good battlemap (love making them too). So, the way we "roll" is that we use some scissors and only hand out the parts of the map the players can see - and the DM graciously supply some tape as well ;)
We do this for the small map (5 mm = 10 feet) and thus eliminate the player mapping process. When we arrive at an encounter we pull out a printed battle map - this could be supplied with cut-outs of traps and secret doors as the players discover those :)
hope it helps :)

Midgardsormr
07-20-2010, 03:27 PM
I use a laptop loaded with the VTT MapTool. I run two instances of MT: one GM's view, which I can see on my screen, and one players' view, which I display on my television connected via the HDMI port. This gives me the benefit of being able to use large, full-color maps every session with no printing costs, automatic fog-of-war and line-of-sight tools, and a handy way to show additional visual aides like NPC portraits.

Of course, this does lose a bit of the tactile interaction of using minis, but I never really used minis to start with so no loss for me there.

Scorpius
07-20-2010, 04:50 PM
If I had coffee in my mouth, while reading the last post I would have spit it out. Often I have a hard time justifying spending allot of time making maps since I'm the only one who sees them.

Generally my battlemap process goes like this: 1. Create map on graphpaper/GIMP. 2. Draw dumbed down version of map on Paizo flip-mat. 3. Fight! 4. Erase map. 5. Repeat steps 2-3 until it becomes needed to start back at 1

These days I'm doing less with paper and more with my Laptop. I've got Obsidian Portal for my Campaign, a Dropbox for my sessions/encounter and Gimp for my maps. I'm going to look into a connector for my Mini-DVI port to the TV. That way I can show them the detailed view as well. I don't think we'll stop using mini's.

Meridius
07-20-2010, 05:19 PM
@tilt
Sheesh, I'm feeling like some sort of idiot now... Why didn't I think of making the dungeon in a different scales? One for dungeon-exploration, and one for the actual encounter... That was amazing one-dimensional thinking on my part... Thanks for the tip!

@Midgardsormr
If I ask my players to abandon their minis some of them will probably want my head for such blasphemy. ;) Also, I care much for the analog approach to gaming... I'm seeing enough computer screens as it is. But it sounds awesome!

@Scorpius
I do not quite understand the reason for the spitting of coffee in your case, but when I read tilt's reply I had a similar reaction, even though I don't drink coffee. Justification for time spent making a battlemap is actually the reason for this topic. And the topic seems to function well, as some sense was beaten into me, some digital revelations where made, and some coffee was figuratively spewed around ;)

Scorpius
07-20-2010, 05:30 PM
Yes I should clarify.

For the longest time I've wanted a small projector, to hook up to my laptop, so that I could project my nice maps onto a blank blank table, from above. So far, I have not been able to justify the cost. The fact that I may be in possession of everything needed to at least put my maps onto a larger screen surprised me, mostly because I have never thought of something that, in retrospect, seems simple.

I have since procured coffee, so I would appreciate less shocking revelations.

Midgardsormr
07-20-2010, 05:46 PM
Laugh. Glad I could help. The projector route does at least offer the ability to continue using minis, but I tend to play without a table, anyway. Everybody just sets up on TV trays so they can lounge around in comfortable chairs in the living room.

I do use more physical aides for most other things. I still use notecards for combat tracking, for instance, and I definitely prefer to have a paper character sheet. The convenience of that HDTV, though, just demands its use during my games. Plus, it keeps people off the Wii during game time.

Scorpius
07-20-2010, 05:52 PM
Wii? We only allow TV during the playoffs, without the volume. I can't imagine how distracted a Wii would be.

tilt
07-21-2010, 10:22 AM
never allow tv while playing, thought about banning iphones as well, but the novelty has worn off now ;) ... that doesn't mean that people don't talk about computer games, but that mostly stops when we begin playing. I do however love playing with a physical battlemap, we don't use miniatures but just 1x1 inch counters, that gives us the advantage of being able to print all monsters with the right look, whereas when we used miniatures it was,.. ok.. these orcs are now drows .. next encounter, now these orcs are trolls.. so they take up more squares.. with printed counters we get the size right and the players can see what they are up against :)
I'd love a digital map, but it should be lighted from below (like that Micro$oft table), so we still could use our counters. And dice rolling is a must too - physical ones! :)

Jaxilon
07-21-2010, 11:30 AM
Here a couple you might want to look at if you want to still use Mini's - I don't own all the stuff to do this and I play so seldom these days I'm not sure I will but I want to:
http://www.rpgenome.com/digitalmap.html
and
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1339130

I also suppose if you were to place your TV in a box facing up (if it were flat screen) you could just use the setup Mid mentioned although I have no idea how bad it would be for your players to set minis on. I imagine it would NOT be good for the screen but perhaps if the minis were made out of nerf it would be ok :)

And one last little thing Torstan might enjoy - I found this shot (http://www.enworld.org/forum/members/falcarrion-albums-falcarrion-s-portable-vtt-picture924-my-portable-game-table-005.html) of a VTT being used by someone at En world. The user has a few shots of his own set up as well.

edit: Oh, and people who watch TV or play around with their phones too much - I just kill them off so they can go home, screw that.

Midgardsormr
07-21-2010, 12:18 PM
It hasn't been a problem for me in a few years, but I did used to have one player who would pull out the Playstation prior to session start while everyone else was getting organized. He was a good player, but it sometimes took a half hour to get him to shut it down and come to the table. Now, I avoid the problem by appropriating the TV and throwing up my campaign title screen. Nobody even seems to remember that it's a TV, and the games get running quite quickly.

I wouldn't want to try to run a flat panel TV face up. You could put a sheet of plexi across it to protect the screen, but even so they're not designed to be used in that fashion, and I have no idea if it would cause problems. I've heard that the screens of some plasmas can actually break under the strain of their own weight if tipped over.

Also, you'd need a very large screen to get a decent section of your map displayed at the proper scale for mini use.

NeonKnight
07-21-2010, 05:58 PM
never allow tv while playing, thought about banning iphones as well, but the novelty has worn off now ;) ... that doesn't mean that people don't talk about computer games, but that mostly stops when we begin playing. I do however love playing with a physical battlemap, we don't use miniatures but just 1x1 inch counters, that gives us the advantage of being able to print all monsters with the right look, whereas when we used miniatures it was,.. ok.. these orcs are now drows .. next encounter, now these orcs are trolls.. so they take up more squares.. with printed counters we get the size right and the players can see what they are up against :)
I'd love a digital map, but it should be lighted from below (like that Micro$oft table), so we still could use our counters. And dice rolling is a must too - physical ones! :)

Funny thing, I make ALL these awesome official D&D Module battlemaps, and never use them :P I still use a vinyl mat (have 3).

As to minis, we always use the minis, and between me an my buds, we have ALL the WotC D&D miniatures in spades, so when we play and I say "OK you enter the room and THIS comes at you (plopping a mini on the table)!" And when the players invariably ask "what is it?" 99% of the time I can reply, "Exactly what you see."

tilt
07-22-2010, 02:17 AM
@jax - cool clips ... I especially like the maptools table where you got functionality to go along with it. Now if Wizards could only make their online dungeon program that they promised 2 years ago - but I'm guessing that employees that even mentions that are just thrown in a dungeon *lol*.

@Neonknight - cool ... I have a little handfull of minis (lead ones) never bought the wotc ones as I wanna know what I buy - I don't want random minis. But since we started with simple paper tokens we haven't bought any more minis.. and having an illustrator as one of the players, we can always fix a quick token if needed :)

Meridius
07-22-2010, 05:17 AM
I love reading about all those amazing digital solutions, but I reckon that for a more analogue approach, basically the only way is to either make the entire dungeon on a (one inch) 2,5 cm square scale, or to make a big version of an area (the battlemat) complemented by a smaller sized, let's say 1 cm (2/5 of an inch), version for dungeon-exploration.

Are there a lot of people with the entire dungeon on a scale which allows 1 inch squares?

tilt
07-22-2010, 05:20 AM
when you play 4e it might be prudent to map most of the dungeon, or at least the adjacent rooms to the combat, in 1 inch scale since there is a lot of sliding and pushing in those games so you never know where you'll end up :)

Meridius
07-22-2010, 05:58 AM
I play D&D 3.5... Fair amounts of sliding and pushing are possible, though my players have a bit of a terminator mentality... So they won't retreat too often :P

eRaz0r
07-27-2010, 02:10 AM
Well for years we used mini's and a hand-drawn map on a dry-erase mat. That was great for 2 reasons : Minis can be fun., and it was pretty quick if you had to improvise. However, perversely enough, it was quite hard to get the dimensions right when I was copying an existing map to the table.
Also, as soon as the GM went for the markers people would know there was a combat coming up :D

Over the last few months, we've moved to Maptools.
The advantages of MapTools are many : We can jump to a new encounter nearly instantly, provided I've made the map ahead of time. And if you've got a stock of pre-drawn maps from, say, Wizards' Dungeon-a-Week, it's not too hard to come up with a map pretty quickly, even if you weren't prepared for it. The drawing tools are decent as well, even for quick stuff.
Also, I have some friends who live quite a distance away. Now they can join in over the internet much more easily than before.
Maptools also supports a fairly powerful macro toolkit - it has it's issues, but there are a lot of people who write frameworks that run inside Maptools to help automate the GM's job. It's pretty cool.

The downside? I bought a lot of mini's and I don't get to use them any more...

Xorne
07-27-2010, 11:21 AM
I don't run many face to face games anymore (wish I had the time) so the maps I make are used in Fantasy Grounds II. However I do love a good F2F game the one time a year or so that I get to run them. I print off my maps from CC3 then and I frequently use battlemats for encounter scale (I use a much smaller scale for exploration on a vinyl mat). The last time I did a face-to-face was running Kobold Hall, and I printed off the whole dungeon in scale, then cut it into the battlemap pieces, slid it into a plastic poster sleeve, and we doodle away on it with dry-erase markers (pretty handy, actually).

Anyway, this means that I run non-VTT games so seldom, I just can't justify buying minis. So when I ran Kobold Hall last time, I went out to the WotC website, copied pics of the minis I needed from the gallery, dropped them into Paintshop, duplicated/mirrored them, and printed off sheets of them on cardstock paper, folded them over, and put them in a board-game base. Instant minis!

Oh, found a picture of the poster sleeve I was talking about--that's a shot from 4E release Game Day at my FLGS:
http://www.eugee.info/dnd/poorman.dmscreen.jpg

Incidentally, here is the RICH MAN's DM Screen:
http://www.eugee.info/dnd/richman.dmscreen.jpg

Jaxilon
08-02-2010, 11:43 AM
Ok, I'm totally thinking about building myself one of those RICH MAN screens now. If I do I'll take some pictures.

Redrobes
08-03-2010, 09:05 AM
I would use a VTT and projector if I could but I also like rolling real dice and using minis. You can photo your minis and put them in as tokens in the VTT and then you get to use your minis in 2D but with the scale and shift advantage of a VTT. Thats also an option if your coming across a lot of goblins or orcs and you need to put more down than you have painted. Maybe someone should create a thread of mini photos top down & side view for use in VTT battle maps.

neofax
08-05-2010, 01:15 PM
Over on the MapTools forums Plothos one of the forum members was working on this. However, RL and the constant grind of updating his macros/framework, he stopped. He made me a really nice Warforged Warden when I was playing 4E with him.

jfrazierjr
08-05-2010, 05:17 PM
I would use a VTT and projector if I could but I also like rolling real dice and using minis. You can photo your minis and put them in as tokens in the VTT and then you get to use your minis in 2D but with the scale and shift advantage of a VTT. Thats also an option if your coming across a lot of goblins or orcs and you need to put more down than you have painted. Maybe someone should create a thread of mini photos top down & side view for use in VTT battle maps.

One guy over on the Maptools forum posted some pics of his set up. Basically, he used Maptool with a top down projector and then build up Styrofoam geomorphs(I think that is the right word) the the image would be projected onto and they then use real mini's. Quite frankly, it looked incredible in that format.

Redrobes
08-05-2010, 08:36 PM
I saw that it was a neat idea. Sort of made me think of someone getting 4 more projectors and doing the sides to them too... Part of me thinks tho that if your going to put blocks down then you might as well print card and stick to the top of them and use them like a normal raised up battle mat. Still its definitely is a good idea. There was this uber cool vid I saw a while back that I need to post if I can find the link where someone was doing shape recognition of stuff on a flat board using a projector and a web cam and then once it had figured out the 3D nature of the board it was projecting stuff down on to it based on the 3D... right - google skillz....

Here we are...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgrGjJUBF_I

Now look at 3 mins in to see the basics and then 3:50 or so with the car to really see how the blocks could be used. Ok bit overkill but with a little battery and some wifi or IR or something simple you could get all sorts of blank blocks, build a castle or whatever using any blocks and then hit a button and shade it all digitally.

Jaxilon
08-12-2010, 04:07 PM
RedRobes, that was cool.

tilt
08-18-2010, 07:46 AM
that was really neat.. but I want projectors IN my car to change colors when needed (like after a bank heist *lol*) :)

Jaxilon
08-19-2010, 03:37 PM
I bet it could be done with Leds tilt.

Troedel
10-05-2011, 06:50 AM
Perhaps you know of this project. If you have got the space it would be a nice thing to have. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PghNU-5PEPg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PghNU-5PEPg)
http://www.ultimatelcdgamingtable.blogspot.com/