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Coolest. Gaming Set-up. Evar.



Ok. There have been a number of posts lately that have suggested that miniatures detract from a session or create a disconnect between the role-playing aspect of a game and turn it all into some tactical tabletop wargame.

While there are clear meta-gaming concerns that do come more to the fore when using miniatures, the benefits are real, tangible and when done correctly, add a vast depth to the game and to the enjoyment of all the participants.

I’d like to point out what our group has done to make miniatures MORE a part of the session - not less.

The DLP Projector

We have been longtime users of miniatures in our gaming circle, Most of us have been gaming since the late 70’s. We did not use miniatures much in 1st edition – but we certainly did when we were playing Rolemaster for 16 years or so and we kept it when we moved to 3E.

We have thousands of metal miniatures, lead and pewter both. But I do admit that we took to the plastic minis very quickly and have amassed a collection of thousands of the WotC plastic minis, We love em.

We had made use of Battlemats for years. But last fall I saw a letter by Jans Carton in Dungeon Magazine and he got me to thinking. Jans group uses a LCD projector for their sessions and it sounded mighty cool to me. Every player in our group has a laptop and sessions these days are a mass of laptops all over the table. I wanted to bring the visual depth of a game like NeverWinter to our gaming circle – and at the same time cut out all of the restrictions that go with a CRPG. Keep the sizzle – cut out the nonsense.

So that’s what we did.

The 7 of us in our gaming circle each threw $100 CDN or so into the pot and we bought a used DLP projector off of e-bay last fall for about $600 USD.

We then took that projector and rigged up a portable pole (in this case, a portable joist support used for basement renovations available at any Home Depot) and we affixed a custom metal bar to it, kit-bashed a $1.99 wire ironing board rack to it and we had our baby up.

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While we always game in the same location, if we were inclined to take it down and move it around – we certainly could do so.

The projector is bright at about 1600 ANSI LUMENS. In English, this means that the image shows up in normal ambient room lighting fairly well. With the lights dimmed just a tad more than we would normally play in – the image on the table is VERY bright.

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For maps, we have resorted to a number of options:

1 – Neverwinter Nights maps, created on the fly. This is great for camp encounters in the wild, or terrain based encounters or things like a troll hole. The above map was created in literally two minutes using the NWN toolset at the gaming table to deal with an encounter with Ice trolls in the frozen wilds.

2 – NWN maps, more detailed. I pre-plan most of my dungeon crawls, and this allows me to use the Toolset to create several levels. I display the map in the toolset (not the game client) and simply pan and scroll as necessary

3 – Maps scanned from a product or created with Dundjinni - displayed with Tabletop Mapper: Tabletop mapper is a free utility that will take any .bmp or .jpg and slap a grid over it of arbitrary size, zoom in or out or pan your image however you like, and even allows you to prepare a map ahead of time and hide those defined areas one by one. In this fashion, you can take a map out of Dungeon Mag or what have you (now all the maps are available on Paizo’s site with each issue) and reveal the map a room or corridor at a time as the party explores. The output on the tabletop is excellent.

Since we’ve been using this setup – the excitement over the game has increased and we are all loving it. Seeing as this cost us each about the price of 2 to 3 hardcover rulebooks per person, it was hardly an expensive purchase when you think about it in those terms. The payoff has been stupendous.

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I have seen DMs crow about the wonder of Tac-tiles and preparing them ahead of time or the ability to scroll the Tac-tile map by moving and erasing as you go.

I have all my maps on my laptop. I don’t erase anything. They look FABULOUS and I can even include animated effects like fireballs, walls of fire, lava pits, etc.

Time to get it working in the session is literally less than one minute. Our sessions go faster with digital map projection vs overhead pens. The visual payoff is outstanding.

If you have discounted the use of miniatures in your sessions. Please – re-think your position. There is so much you can do with a setup like this. It aids in telling the story, it creates exitement and buzz over every game session and the player’s PAY ATTENTION to their surroundings. They ask for MORE descriptive detail – not less. They care where they are and ask about all kinds of things now.

Quite simply – it ROCKS.
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First Post
My wife would kick my behind if I told her I wanted to pull down our projector and start using it for games instead of watching DVDs...but still that is very cool.


First Post
Okay, you guys are in Toronto, the commute isn't that bad.....I can make it. That is freaking cool. We used to use one but not as a battle map, to just use visuals and other things. Amazing.

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