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Gamer Milestones

As tabletop gaming becomes a lifelong hobby, there are increasing levels of investment in the game as we get older. Here's mine.

gametable.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Buying Your Own Rulebooks​

As lifelong Dungeon Master for my group, I was always the one who had the core rulebooks. But it was telling who invested in those books and who didn't. Players who owned the core rulebooks were more engaged over the occasional players who borrowed books.

With the exception of the D&D core rules and anything I've published myself, I've moved to anything that's available electronically to PDF. I have two sturdy bookshelves to handle the rest, but if I buy anything else that doesn't fit on those shelves, I have to get rid of a book. This has definitely slowed my print RPG purchases.

Investing in Miniatures and Terrain​

Not everyone invests in miniatures and or use them in play. Terrain is similar, but tends to be limited to game masters. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons never required miniatures to play, but we always enjoyed the idea of having a miniature to perfectly represent a character. I was given a miniature as a gift to represent one of my favorites.

Buying a miniature is one thing, painting them is another. In the era of painted miniatures this isn't nearly as important as it once was, but it's still relevant as it goes beyond the initial purchase. Painting takes money (if you hire someone else to do it) or time (if you paint it yourself). My painting hobby increased as I got older and learned more about painting techniques.

I was a backer for every one of Reaper's Kickstarter campaigns but finally stopped because I couldn't keep up painting them all. After a certain point, I had so many miniatures and so much terrain that I had to put a limit on it. I bought a rolling tool case to hold it all, and if the miniatures don't fit in there, I can't buy more. This now takes up a significant amount of space in the game room (more on that below), but it's awfully convenient for games where I can pick out any miniature I need in a few minutes. Also, because I now have a 3D printer (also below), it's rare there's a miniature or terrain that I can't print the day before, thereby saving significantly on space.

Buying a 3D Printer​

If you're willing to paint your own miniatures and terrain, a 3D printer essentially frees a game master to make anything they can dream of. There are limitations of course; the miniatures may not be as detailed and the terrain may not be as sturdy. But the ability to 3D print obscure creatures or bizarre terrain is hard to resist. That said, 3D printers are not cheap. The price continues to come down though, enough that in a few more years they may be the next logical step from collecting miniatures/terrain to printing them.

I have two 3D printers and use them constantly to make everything from large miniatures to terrain. I've found they don't work well for smaller PC miniatures (I can't get nearly as much detail as I'd like), but for cultists and goblins it works just fine. I printed almost all the monsters from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, many of which have no plastic equivalents for sale or are impractical to buy in bulk.

Building a Game Room​

A dedicated game room is something that implies a lot of other firsts: owning (or at least renting) your own place, having enough rooms in your domicile to set aside one for gaming, and being able to furnish it specifically for gaming such that it's not just a dining room or a kitchen.

Inherent in the creation of a game room is the assumption that a lot of gaming will take place there. This may be easier to justify if there are kids in the household who will also use the room for other games (like video games) or for family game nights (like board games).

It took me decades before I was able to create a game room; when I finished my basement, I designed one of the rooms for this purpose. Even after it was finished, it took me another year to furnish it so that it was truly a game room.

Buying a Game Table​

All of the above steps can be done incrementally, but investing in a gaming table requires a significant upfront investment that not everyone can afford. Tabletop gaming can work with dining room tables, but it's not quite the same (the table typically needs to be wider and a different height than dining tables). Many gamers make their own tables while others purchase their table outright.

It occurred to me that in the gaming world, this is like buying a car -- it's a significant commitment that really forces you to face just how much you value your hobby. It also might require a serious discussion with your significant other when you spend that much money at once on your passion that might normally be spread out over months and years.

My original plan was to build a table according to plans of a Kickstarter I backed years ago. But increasing demands on my time made that impossible, so I decided instead to ask my contractor to do it as part of the game room redesign. But as he was nearing retirement, my contractor was less interested in completing the table, which was more complicated than he realized. He admitted to me later his son's friend had accidentally broken it in the shop. My contractor soon after left the country to retire and I never saw him (or the table) again!

I instead decided to invest in a table that could adjust to the room's size. I'll review Transformer Table 3.0 in a future article, but suffice it to say that even buying a table is not as simple as ordering it (or in my case, backing it on Kickstarter).

I've since played on the table with my kids, but the very concept of investing in a table during a pandemic (or even a game room) now seems quaint. Here's hoping that in the future in-person gaming won't seem like such a risky investment.
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

aco175

Legend
Good on you to finally get to the place you can finally have your own space and make it your own. Many of us are still sharing the kitchen or someone else's house. Although my wife is fine with the last part. I see on the boards that a lot of people kick around the idea of a dedicated space, but few have one.
 


Retreater

Legend
I have a gaming table, dedicated space, miniatures, terrain, etc. Since the start of the pandemic, we have made the shift to virtual games only - so the joke's on me. It's unlikely due to the convenience of online gaming, the location of our current group of players, etc., that I will be returning to frequent in-person gaming, maybe ever.
 


pogre

Legend
Here is my gaming table - a thick piece of 4' x 8' plywood, covered in felt, on a plastic table:
DnD_10_12_20.jpg


I have a custom gaming table I bought a few years back that we use as a kitchen table. It barely gets used for gaming. Not enough surface area and I'm not sure I like the lower gaming area, as opposed to a flat area.

I may build my own some day. However, two things are stopping me: (1) confidence in my carpentry skills (lack of); and (2) taking the time out of my hobby time to do it.

I do love having a dedicated gaming space though.

I know my room looks pretty messy - I'll be honest, it usually is.

What I really need to buy next is a set of super comfortable chairs that my cat won't destroy!
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
Oh the experiments in gaming my group has made. We made a touch board with a projector and cannibalized Wii remotes. The map was projected from the ceiling and the software running was Cartographer 3 I believe. This was before roll20. We used silicon to take molds of miniatures and then melted crayons into these molds. This gave us orcs and goblins that, when killed, could be smashed with a fist! We fiddled with papercraft stuff but found it too...fiddly. My buddy has a laser cutting table he made. As well as three 3d printers. A lot of strange things were produced, most of them useless to be honest. When my brother moved out of state we set up a webcam that could rotate so he could look around the room and battle mat, the glare off the vinyl was horrendous.

The best gaming table, to me, has always been a pool table with a vinyl cover because the dice can't roll off the table! And if you are brave, the pockets make built in cup holders.

I got into making terrain for the wargame Burrows & Badgers all thanks to the wonderful Mel the Terrain Tutor. I highly recommend him because he is also into penny pinching. I keep my kit for terrain in a large tub so that I can take it with me when I got to play. Inside the tub are other smaller tubs for the terrain and for miniatures. All my tools and what-not's are in there too.

My game book shelf is still expanding. The shelf itself is a 7th sin wine display from a grocery store in the shape of a coffin. The GF hates it with a passion but it fits all my games nicely. I often wonder what people with no game experiance what-so-ever think these enormous books are.
 

I don't host the game, although I bought one of the conference tables we play at. Living out in the country has only one drawback for me: impractical to host games. The sad thing is, I have both the room and the money for a dedicated game room and gamer table. :cry:

We use a VTT at the table, so 3d printing is not an option for me.
 

Retreater

Legend
3d printing is likely one I won't get into for a long time. I have researched it quite extensively, and it's still too expensive, time-consuming, impractical, with results of too poor quality for me to justify doing it. It's like asking why TSR didn't support VTT's with AD&D 1e in the 1970s.
 

Vicente

Explorer
3d printing is likely one I won't get into for a long time. I have researched it quite extensively, and it's still too expensive, time-consuming, impractical, with results of too poor quality for me to justify doing it. It's like asking why TSR didn't support VTT's with AD&D 1e in the 1970s.

For terrain, FDM printers will give you very nice terrain at a fraction of the cost of buying that terrain. For minis, a resin printer will give you high quality minis at a fraction of a cost of a regular mini.

In that list, the only thing that is true is that 3D printing is time-consuming.
 

pogre

Legend
For terrain, FDM printers will give you very nice terrain at a fraction of the cost of buying that terrain. For minis, a resin printer will give you high quality minis at a fraction of a cost of a regular mini.

In that list, the only thing that is true is that 3D printing is time-consuming.
I tell people who are interested in 3d printing it's great if you want another hobby. I would add frustrating in addition to time-consuming from my 3d experience. I do agree you can crank out some really nice looking stuff.
 

One thing I don't like about my house is that there's not really a room that can be a dedicated gaming room (I mean, for ambience I guess I could turn the sub-basement into a gaming room, but that's going a bit far). Not that that matters right now, granted.

One thing I'd add to the list of milestones is buying a fancy set of dice, like ones made of metal, wood, or gemstones. The pandemic has only made me that much more of a dice goblin, despite just using dice bots 99% of the time.
 

Retreater

Legend
For terrain, FDM printers will give you very nice terrain at a fraction of the cost of buying that terrain. For minis, a resin printer will give you high quality minis at a fraction of a cost of a regular mini.
I guess my research has indicated otherwise. Now compared to Dwarven Forge, yes, terrain that you 3d print will be marginally less expensive (if you can get it to work). But compare that to the Wizlock terrain, and I'd bet that the cost is comparable. And certainly what I make out of foam (using the Dungeoncraft or Black Magic Craft tutorials), I'd bet it's cheaper and quicker than anything that can be currently 3d printed.

And printing minis compared to getting them in bulk from repurposed boardgames, customized kit bashes from wargames, etc., I doubt that 3d printing comes close to the affordability, especially considering that you're buying the equipment, resin, supplying electricity to the machine, purchasing files, and probably failing a few prints (wasting supplies and time). Now if you're buying a single customized specialty figure from Hero Forge, maybe. But for rank-and-file goblins, undead, etc., 3d printing does not come close.

I don't deny that it could be a fun hobby to those who enjoy it (so is golf and maintaining a pontoon boat), but it's not nearly practical yet.
 

I guess my research has indicated otherwise. Now compared to Dwarven Forge, yes, terrain that you 3d print will be marginally less expensive (if you can get it to work). But compare that to the Wizlock terrain, and I'd bet that the cost is comparable. And certainly what I make out of foam (using the Dungeoncraft or Black Magic Craft tutorials), I'd bet it's cheaper and quicker than anything that can be currently 3d printed.

And printing minis compared to getting them in bulk from repurposed boardgames, customized kit bashes from wargames, etc., I doubt that 3d printing comes close to the affordability, especially considering that you're buying the equipment, resin, supplying electricity to the machine, purchasing files, and probably failing a few prints (wasting supplies and time). Now if you're buying a single customized specialty figure from Hero Forge, maybe. But for rank-and-file goblins, undead, etc., 3d printing does not come close.

I don't deny that it could be a fun hobby to those who enjoy it (so is golf and maintaining a pontoon boat), but it's not nearly practical yet.

I know a guy making plastic figs as good as anything on the market for about fifty to seventy cents each. It is slow work, but it is exact. I haven't bought figs in years (I use a VTT at the table), but I doubt they're in that price range anymore.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Like many RPG geeks, I've dreamed of a dedicated gaming room with a specialized gaming table, shelves of miniatures and terrain, medieval(ish) weapons hanging from the walls . . .

But as I get older, I'm moving in the opposite direction. I'm not sure I want a special gaming table anymore and I'm thinking about getting rid of the miniatures and terrain I already have. I'm even getting rid of most of my physical game books in favor of digital.

Now I dream of just meeting with a group of friends all sitting in comfortable chairs (once this covid nonsense is over) with nothing but a few PHBs and dice sets, maybe some dice trays to keep the things from rolling around the floor. Total theatre-of-the-mind style without any minis or terrain.

Gaming can be too materialistic, too easy to fall into the always needing more stuff trap that fills our homes with crap we rarely use. I've got boxes of minis and terrain that are super cool . . . but rarely come out of the boxes anymore. Pain to set up and tear down too when they do get used.

This more minimalist mindset works rather well for RPGS, unfortunately less well for board games and tabletop wargames. But even in those related hobbies I'm beginning to winnow down my collection.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I tell people who are interested in 3d printing it's great if you want another hobby. I would add frustrating in addition to time-consuming from my 3d experience. I do agree you can crank out some really nice looking stuff.
Heh. I'm a teacher and won a free 3D printer about a year ago. It's still in the box. I've had colleagues express surprise . . . they don't get that setting the damn thing up and figuring out what to do with it (in the classroom) is a lot of work, and I'm overworked as it is (as are most teachers).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
3D printing is new. Home ownership is old. I'm old. Did your list in a different order. :)

Well, no actual interest in a gaming table. But 15 years ago-ish while I was away at a convention my wife did a "While You Were Out", had a bunch of friends over, and completely redid a room as a gaming room. From painting (sponge treatment that looks like yellowed parchment - much brighter than faux stones), new lighting fixture, and some minor new furniture / accessories. Plus had a bunch of appropriate pictures from when we vacationed in England framed for on top of the bookcases.

Blessed I am.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
The increasingly upscale nature of gaming is kind of amusing to me--I used to lie about playing D&D. Now people spend hundreds of dollars on a literal game table. ;)
I still have trouble sometimes wrapping my head around it.

Fancy, felt-lined wooden boxes for your dice made out of meteorites . . . .

DM screens of carved wood . . . .

Tables with more transforming options than Optimus Prime . . . .

3D printed, and pro-painted, dice towers that double as terrain . . . .

Just collecting miniatures and terrain is so, I don't know . . . . boring? :)
 

MGibster

Legend
I was a backer for every one of Reaper's Kickstarter campaigns but finally stopped because I couldn't keep up painting them all. After a certain point, I had so many miniatures and so much terrain that I had to put a limit on it. I bought a rolling tool case to hold it all, and if the miniatures don't fit in there, I can't buy more.
This is pretty much the norm for people who paint miniatures as a hobby. We call our unpainted miniatures our piles of shame. I've made a concerted effort in 2020 to limit the number of miniatures I purchase and allow to remain unpainted. i.e. I won't buy any more Necron models until I've completely painted the ones I already have.

Since I haven't been able to play games face-to-face I've gone nuts with the painting. It is my intention to have more models to use for role playing campaigns. I'm going to use the little guy below for a campaign involving explorers in a fantasy setting inspired by Mexico.

Carnosaur.JPG
 

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