I’m always on the lookout for something cool to bring to the gaming table. The one thing I’m never satisfied with? My battle map.
A few months back, I put the Battle Graph Dry Erase Boards to the test and they passed with flying colors. They remain a regular feature in my Game Master toolbox. But every session is different, and every craftsman knows that there’s a tool for every job.
Dry erase markers don’t hold up to the tests of time, so it’s hard–especially with a four year old in the house–to draw up an encounter in advance. By the time game day rolls around, the map is nigh unrecognizable. If I need to plan a session ahead of time, I don’t go for the Chessex mat or the Battle Graphs. I need something more permanent. And if I need to be in complete control of what’s on that map, I need a blank slate.
One option is to head to your local office supplies store and buy one of those huge gridded easel pads. They’ll run you about $15 a pad. Each pad has 50 27″x34″ pages, so you’re talking 30¢ per page. Each pad will net you about 320 square feet of surface area, in 6.375 square foot chunks. You can draw all over these with colored pencils, crayons, markers, paints, whatever you want. Then fold it up and hide it ’til it’s time to play. You’re good to go, for 4.7¢ per square foot.
But there is a better option.
Instead of coming in a pad, Gaming Paper, sold specifically as a gaming aid, comes in a 12′ roll of 30″ wide paper. That’s 30 square feet total, and they’re $4 a roll. That’s 13¢ per square foot. So Gaming Paper is three times more expensive than the easel pad, but it has its added benefits. There’s a coating of clay on one side that prevents bleed-through and somehow allows the roll to lie flat against the table surface.
Sharpies and wet-erase markers dry on the surface within ten seconds. It looks a lot better than white paper, too, almost like a browned and aged scroll. Even better, they have a version with hexes and even Gaming Paper Singles are in the works. Check out the Gaming Paper YouTube channel for a series of rather entertaining product demos.
What are the drawbacks of using paper-products at the table? If there are any potion/Mountain Dew spills, it will decimate the playing field. Then again, an iron apparently works quite well on drying out and de-wrinkling Gaming Paper, so you might be back up and running in no time. Also, keep that orange-fingered Cheeto away from either type of paper unless you want to employ a grease stain terrain hazard against your PCs. Gaming Paper is particularly prone to turning hideously translucent with the stuff.
Wired: Cheap. Totally blank, so your imagination is the limit. Can come gridded with one inch squares, which works with most RPG combat systems. About as cheap an option as you’ll find.
Tired: No hexes. Limited to height and width of pages. Occasional bleed-through, which wastes paper and can mess up your furniture.
Wired: Blank, so you get full license to create the dungeon of your dreams/nightmares. One inch grids or hexes. Awesome clay coating means it lies flat and never bleeds through to the table. Can have a larger continuous surface area than easel pad.
Tired: Three times as expensive as gridded easel pad. Greasy fingers will leave marks. And gamers tend to have greasy fingers.
(Full Disclosure: I received two free rolls of Gaming Paper for review purposes.)