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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

Bravesteel25

The Good-est Knight
My wife and I recently bought a house, so I finally have a room that is just floor to ceiling bookshelves. It isn't big enough for a gaming table, as it has to be a modular office as well. That being said, it's great to have a dedicated space for my books, even though I still have to share it!
 

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John Dallman

Adventurer
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.
That's how all the (weekly) games I've hosted since I bought this house in 1998 have worked. The suitability of the main lounge for gaming was an important factor in choosing it.
 

The best investment I've made with my gaming room is to put the tv into the table and just project the maps through Arkenforge software. This has saved me so much time and money buying/printing maps and allows me to add effects or place spells like ice walls easily onto the map. I love terrain and 3D maps but having the maps digital and being able to add anything is must have for me now. Still use minis and pawns though.
 

Ace

Adventurer
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? :)
I hear you.

Comes with being a grownup and having money for hobbies I guess. Some people buy cars, boats, fancy clothes or pool tables.

Personally I haven't bothered with buying much stuff at all in years and I haven't played with people that give a fig pun intended about maps, counters or all for D&D or RPG's in very many years. 40K yes D&D no.

Also I refuse to buy game stuff I won't ever use. Its good for the industry and I certainly wouldn't tell someone else not to do that but I really hate clutter.
 

Ramaster

Explorer
Its sad to see that all of these are money related milestones.

We RPG players of the 3rd world (or just lower-middle class players of the 1st world) are being a bit pushed aside on this piece.

I worked very hard for a lot of years and was finally able to buy a couple of Pathfinder books that I treasure deeply... But what I consider to be my REAL RPG milestones are all achievements related to actually playing the game. Siting down and playing the game is what is all about IMHO, and that sometimes gets lost in endless message board discussions.

I've played with a lot of wonderful people and ran a lot of wonderful campaigns. I brought up political themes (the one-sided distribution of wealth on an old established empire), set up massive hex crawls (running one right now, its a lot of work but totally worth it) and ran exciting set piece encounters (like the climax of a pirate-inspired campaign that saw them battling a lich atop a glacier while skeleton workers tried to awaken a mighty leviathan by digging on the ice!).

THOSE are the things I remember the most fondly... not the time amazon delivered some book to my house.

I don't think that spending money should be the ends, its only the means (and only sometimes). Boasting about how much money you spend on your hobby is a bit pointless and shallow to me.
 

I hope that no one takes this article (and I realize that no one, up to this point, has done so) and interprets it as if the title is "You're not a real gamer until..." I am unlikely to ever be able to afford a bespoke gaming table, my groups and I have never really been into terrain or minis (butcher paper maps and tokens served), and one of the things that I've always loved about the hobby is that you don't have put a ton of money into it just to get started. When I first began playing D&D, we took my brand-new AD&D Player's Handbook and my friend's (permanently borrowed from a cousin) Moldvay B/X set and went to town.

I guess my point is that if you're having fun, you're doing it right. All of the "gamer bling" is great (I'm a massive dice hoarder myself), and if you can and want to use any of the tools in the article, I'm all for it (if I could ever fit it into my house and budget, I would love a dedicated gaming table). But as I have seen over the last 40 years or so the increasing commercialization and monetization of the hobby (and yes, this goes back to printed, rather than DIY, character sheets), I just worry sometimes that too many of the people watching Critical Role and wanting to get into the hobby are going to think you need to be doing it that way to be doing it right, or at all.

I don't know, maybe I just need to tell the whippersnappers that I keep imagining are on my lawn, telling me I'm too old for this now, to get off.
 

teitan

Legend
We went ahead and bought an Ender 3 and Photon 0 to save money on minis and terrain. The terrain from FDG is amazing! We are also all in on Iain Lovecraft's new Desert Adventures Kickstarter because I love the middle eastern and Conan-esque feel of the terrain and minis. It will probably consume my homebrew after my Theros campaign wraps up. My plan is to gift much of the terrain printed to the players at the end of the campaign. Still trying to dial in that Photon 0 but we've only printed 4 minis with 2 failures.

We are buying a house next year and shooting for a 3 bedroom with a basement so that the basement can be turned into a game room with a game table. Probably closer to Pogre's than some of the fancier ones. I'd love to have Joe Manganello's set up! If no basement then the dining room will be turned into the gaming room.
 

Richards

Legend
When we bought the house we now live in, one of my requirements was a dedicated gaming room. I took the largest bedroom in the basement and turned it into my man-cave/library/gaming room. It's got bookcases of my books (gaming and otherwise), a dresser filled with minis and maps, and my first purchase of new furniture for it was a six-setting wooden kitchen table and chairs.

Johnathan
 

MGibster

Legend
Its sad to see that all of these are money related milestones.
For those of us who are growing older, it's something many of us can relate to. I remember cramming 6-7 players into the cramped living room of my tiny apartment, not having enough furniture for everyone, and trying to find an acceptable surface to roll dice on. Now that I'm in my 40s, I have a nice dining room table that seats all of us comfortably. A lot of us aging gamers have noted with irony that now we have all the money we need to play but not the time. But lately I've found that most people my age have established careers and children who are old enough to take care of themselves for a few hours so they have more time than they did 10-15 years ago. And the best part is that they're grownups who know how to manage a schedule and are good about showing up to games on time.


We RPG players of the 3rd world (or just lower-middle class players of the 1st world) are being a bit pushed aside on this piece.
Every article won't resonate with every gamer and that's perfectly okay. You might find yourself better relating to this article in 10 years, or maybe not. The point is that we're a diverse set of people and what is relevant to my interest might not be relevant to yours. And that's okay.

I worked very hard for a lot of years and was finally able to buy a couple of Pathfinder books that I treasure deeply... But what I consider to be my REAL RPG milestones are all achievements related to actually playing the game. Siting down and playing the game is what is all about IMHO, and that sometimes gets lost in endless message board discussions.
I remember when I had to budget and really limit the number of books I could purchase. While I have much more money now, I'm more likely to avoid purchasing something because I'm not sure if I'll play it and I don't want the book cluttering up my office.



THOSE are the things I remember the most fondly... not the time amazon delivered some book to my house.

That's a rather cynical and unfair stance to take on the opening post. Like many things in life, having a larger pool of discretionary funds to draw fun can enhance your hobby experience. In lieu of gaming face-to-face, I've spent this year painting a whole lot of miniatures. I even purchased an airbrush.

I don't think any of us remember most fondly the stuff we have in our games. We remember our friends and the good times we had with them. That said, it's fun adding things to your games like cool miniatures, maps, dice, and other accessories.

Check out this banner I made for my lizard men. That's just going to strike fear into the hearts of adventurers.
Standard.JPG


I don't think that spending money should be the ends, its only the means (and only sometimes). Boasting about how much money you spend on your hobby is a bit pointless and shallow to me.

Who's boasting? I think the article comes from the point of view of how much things have changed for gamers as they've aged. From a financial perspective, most of us are in a better position than we were as teenagers and that is reflected in how we play the game.
 

For those of us who are growing older, it's something many of us can relate to.

Amen. I can recall running brown-book D&D sessions in 1979, where we had one set of dice for the entire group. That's one die of each type except d6 for a DM and five players. With photocopies of the key pages of the brown books to keep the originals from being thumbed to death.

Now I use a laptop, Ipad, and boogie board at the table.

I've paid my poverty dues.
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
The best investment I've made with my gaming room is to put the tv into the table and just project the maps through Arkenforge software. This has saved me so much time and money buying/printing maps and allows me to add effects or place spells like ice walls easily onto the map. I love terrain and 3D maps but having the maps digital and being able to add anything is must have for me now. Still use minis and pawns though.
This was my desire as well. I like using miniatures but I also like the ease of producing good looking maps. Also, you could throw in some graphic effects like 'splosions.
 

Vicente

Explorer
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.

Printing 3D terrain is much cheaper than anything in the market. Last time I checked my openlock tiles were running at around 90c a tile (just the materials, not counting electricity). Let's round that to $1, I would be happy to be pointed to commercial tiles cheaper than that. I have no experience with foam, so I can't compare. Of course, you need to print a significant amount of them to pay for the printer, so you should take into account how much you plan to use it, and how much time you want to invest in this.

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.

If you just one a couple of minis, I agree, it's not practical by far. But I have seen people with full battalions of resin battlemechs and vehicles, and those paid for the printer and everything else really fast.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Here is my gaming table - a thick piece of 4' x 8' plywood, covered in felt, on a plastic table:
View attachment 128577

<SNIP>
I note that as a true DM, you have your back to the sliding glass door so that you have an aura of radiant light around you, making it painful for your players to look upon you.

As it should be.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I had such a long gap in my gaming life that I don't have a neat, slow evolution. My gaming career has gone something like:

1. Junior High: red box D&D, pencils, and graph paper
2. High school: lots of books and modules for at least six systems and a lot of my summer job money spent on war hammer minitures. Had time back then to paint and was good enough to win some painting awards that local gaming shops put on.
3. College. Traded all my gaming stuff with a local couple active in the SCA for a few crates of homemade wine and mead. They auctioned it all at Gen Con. I stopped gaming.
4. 1990ish to 2014ish. * chirp * chirp . No gaming
5. Decided to try running a 5th edition game with friend. Got bit hard by the gaming bug. Went nuts buying terrain, minis, and various doo-dads from kickstarted.
6. Holy s**t! Too much stuff! I don't have time to paint minis. Stop buying so much stuff.
7. Last expensive purchase, a case around a TV to create a digital gaming surface. Used minis and sometime terrain decoration on digital battlemaps with software for fog of war.
8. COVID - spent a lot of time and money playing around with various VTT tools. Now have settled into a pattern. Wondering whether I'll ever go back to minis.

GAMING ROOM: Have a dedicated gaming and activity area. But the stupid design of my house makes it not ideal for larger groups. Am planning on moving to a new house in the spring. Having a proper gaming room is a prereq. But "gaming room" also means craft and activity room.

GAMING TABLE: Have yet to see a fancy, expensive gaming table that really meets my needs. I just got a used conference table and conference room chairs off of craigs list from a company that was downsizing. I also have a number of heavy plastic banquet and workmen tables of various sizes. Also bought some comfortable fold up banquet chairs (metal with good quality cloth padding) for overflow seating. I don't worry about scratching it, scuffing it, water rings. I increase seating capacity by bringing out more tables, put them away when I don't need so many.

For more important than a fancy table is having proper playing space where we can spread out and enough separation where we can be loud without bother family members who are not involved in the gaming activity. And I want to be able to easily move things around and rearrange things for different events and activities. And I want people to feel comfortable and not worried about damaging the furniture. My nirvana is:

A large room with good sound insulation and off to the side so non-players don't have to walk through it.
Bright lighting.
Good vinyl plank flooring (don't worry about spills, scuffing floor with moving furniture, etc.
Multiple, stout tables that can be moved around and folded up.
A fridge, sink, and long counter.
A well-behaved dog.

By my reality is playing from a tiny work-provided apartment, thousands of mile from friends and family, on a laptop with a VTT.

Someday COVID will end, I'll move, and be able to host games again....
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
The best investment I've made with my gaming room is to put the tv into the table and just project the maps through Arkenforge software. This has saved me so much time and money buying/printing maps and allows me to add effects or place spells like ice walls easily onto the map. I love terrain and 3D maps but having the maps digital and being able to add anything is must have for me now. Still use minis and pawns though.
I have not played in person for years since moving away from my groups, but if I did play in person again, I imagine I would look to set up a good, portable projector for the maps and tokens and forego having to have a pool of physical product. I used to have a couple hundred minis and make my own terrain (thank you DMs Craft!). It was a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, those things were not practical to bring in the last couple moves, and I am not really interested in building that up again. Having learned the ins and outs of Roll20 over the last several years, I have seen how a VTT can be integrated well into the play experience in person. I love the thought of a table with an integrated TV, but I think for my situation, the projector might be a bit more practical.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I have not played in person for years since moving away from my groups, but if I did play in person again, I imagine I would look to set up a good, portable projector for the maps and tokens and forego having to have a pool of physical product. I used to have a couple hundred minis and make my own terrain (thank you DMs Craft!). It was a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, those things were not practical to bring in the last couple moves, and I am not really interested in building that up again. Having learned the ins and outs of Roll20 over the last several years, I have seen how a VTT can be integrated well into the play experience in person. I love the thought of a table with an integrated TV, but I think for my situation, the projector might be a bit more practical.
Projecters are more of a chore than they are worth in my opinion. You have to control the lighting to where the dim light may not be comfortable to your players or you have a washed out looking battlemap because the room lights are too bright. Also, you get it all set up, handing from the ceiling and all that and you can only use it there. You can't take it to a friends or the game store or another room in your house. Also, how often would you find a use for a projector other than when gaming. A flat screen TV lain down horizontally, preferably in a case made for the purpose, is so much more convenient.

I had a case built by Collabrewate and it was worth every cent: Tabletop Gaming TV Case — Creative Graphic Art Solutions Winter Haven, Florida

I can store it away between games, take it to someone else's house, and currently, while my living room is being worked on, I have it stood up in the guest room and the kids use it for their Stadia games.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Projecters are more of a chore than they are worth in my opinion. You have to control the lighting to where the dim light may not be comfortable to your players or you have a washed out looking battlemap because the room lights are too bright. Also, you get it all set up, handing from the ceiling and all that and you can only use it there. You can't take it to a friends or the game store or another room in your house. Also, how often would you find a use for a projector other than when gaming. A flat screen TV lain down horizontally, preferably in a case made for the purpose, is so much more convenient.

I had a case built by Collabrewate and it was worth every cent: Tabletop Gaming TV Case — Creative Graphic Art Solutions Winter Haven, Florida

I can store it away between games, take it to someone else's house, and currently, while my living room is being worked on, I have it stood up in the guest room and the kids use it for their Stadia games.
I was thinking of building a tripod to have a small projector shoot down onto reflective material, but realistically, this was probably years in the future before I started being serious about it. I like the case. You definitely need a tv/monitor with good viewing angles though.
 
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I don't think I'll ever have the option for a "true" gaming table, if for no other reason than we take turns hosting the game.

My gaming wet dream therefore is using a projector for the maps, and use miniatures on the projected map. This will allow for fog of war, exploration, quickly having an unexpected needed map handy etc. But, as I said, we don't game at the same location, so I'm at a loss as to the logistics of mounting a projector.

Does anyone know of how to one can use a projector for this that
a) does not require drilling or otherwise permanently fastening a mount on the ceiling
b) does not require a huge tripod or similar
c) is portable without a having to use car?

Thanks.
 

emssmiley2002

Explorer
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.
Well, your welcome at my bar anytime.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
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.

I'm getting ready to abandon the city and move out into a more rural setting and the only drawback is now all the terrain, dungeon tiles, miniatures, etc are pretty much going to be going into long term storage and no idea if or when they will come out as I will probably be an hour away from the rest of the group. Already half the table is playing virtual which honestly may work better if we are all virtual but half and half IME doesn't work very well. Oh well, the peace of mind will be worth it even if one of my long term hobbies suffers. I'll probably try to setup monthly long term Sunday marathon sessions with some of the guys but who knows.
 

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