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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


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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I always thought that a ping pong table was the perfect size for wargaming and RPG and almost bought one a few times. But I think the 8x4 plywood tabletopper is better for me down the line. My current dining room table is 84x42 which is too narrow for my MondoMat.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
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 find that as I grow older I have more income to spend on frivolities like gaming. It makes the experience better IMO in dungeon crawley type campaigns which I prefer. Just because some may be in a different situation when they can't or don't want to afford it for whatever reason doesn't mean those of us who enjoy the other aspect of the hobby keep it to ourselves or feel bad about it. I like seeing gonzo gaming setups by people with a lot more disposable income than I have, good for them I say.

In the end you can have an amazing game with one book and loose leaf paper, or with thousands of dollars of terrain and minis.
 

That's always been the beauty of gaming - you can't buy your way to a better experience. Even a game with all Dwarven Forge terrain, exquisitely painted minis, shiny math rocks, a fancy gaming table, Syrinscape booming, will still be worse than a game run by a good DM with good players and just the three core books, some paper, pencils, and dice, if the DM with the bells and whistles is terrible and the players are a bunch of jerks.

In the end you can have an amazing game with one book and loose leaf paper, or with thousands of dollars of terrain and minis.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
That's always been the beauty of gaming - you can't buy your way to a better experience. Even a game with all Dwarven Forge terrain, exquisitely painted minis, shiny math rocks, a fancy gaming table, Syrinscape booming, will still be worse than a game run by a good DM with good players and just the three core books, some paper, pencils, and dice, if the DM with the bells and whistles is terrible and the players are a bunch of jerks.

Yep the quality of the game is 90% based on the people at the table. I just use "stuff" to make that even better for me.
 


Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
That is a fair ratio for a game as a whole, although money can drastically cut GM drudgery.
In some ways it can add to it, but I find the tradeoff worth it in some cases. Setting up a 3d dungeon using DF/Hirst blocks takes a bit of time.

The first time I laid out a dungeon scene with my Hirst molds stuff one of the players took a picture and said, "This is how I was imagining playing the game 20 years ago..." I was happy.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
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 followed your link to Collabrewate . . . wow, those are neat. Probably not going to go that route, but . . . wow! I agree, a better solution that mounting a projector above or below your gaming table.

The projector thing, as an example of ultimate game room bling, got started a long time ago when flat screen TVs were a bit more expensive than they are now. While projectors have certainly gotten smaller and cheaper . . . flat-screen TVs have gotten cheaper and higher in quality to the point where setting up a gaming projector is just silly (IMO).

It won't be too long before we have (affordable) touch-screen play surfaces, essentially an interactive version of your tv-in-a-box. They already do exist, but are small and very expensive at the moment.
 

In some ways it can add to it, but I find the tradeoff worth it in some cases. Setting up a 3d dungeon using DF/Hirst blocks takes a bit of time.

The first time I laid out a dungeon scene with my Hirst molds stuff one of the players took a picture and said, "This is how I was imagining playing the game 20 years ago..." I was happy.

I've never gone with the 3D route (although I wanted to). I went VTT as soon as it was practical.
 

Ace

Adventurer
SNIP

It won't be too long before we have (affordable) touch-screen play surfaces, essentially an interactive version of your tv-in-a-box. They already do exist, but are small and very expensive at the moment.
The D&D sizzle for 4E had a pretty cool Microsoft Surface setup with the rules way back in 2010 . It didn't seem to make it to market in any numbers for quite a lot of reasons.

Honestly while tech can make complex character generation easy (spreadsheets back in the 90's for Rolemaster made an hour task into 20 minutes) and keeping character sheets on a computer convenient (did that back in the early 80's) I don't think any tech gizmo will be better or more fun than paper, a map and minis or just theater of mind.

And as for cellphones, not counting real work issues (emergencies, work, etc) and maybe music for some groups, Just no. Like many gadgets far too distracting. You want a good game, put it on vibrate and don't answer non emergency/pre planned calls.

If younger gamers doubt me , try it once when you can. Paper, Pencil, Dice, minimal rulebooks and whatever minis, maps and so on you use, Leave phones in a box, tablets and laptops and home except maybe one if you use music.

It makes for a far better. YMMV of course.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I am bemused by this thread, I think. When we moved into out current house, we knew one of the rooms (a family room in the floorplan) was going to be the library/gaming room, and we loaded it with bookshelves and we bought just about as large a dining table as IKEA sell, and some chairs. It works for us both in-person and playing board games via videocall. In this time of COVID, when we play on Discord I end up using the gaming room table and my wife ends up in the dining room, because I'm usually DMing and I have stuff. We have a large battlemat, and I share pics into a Discord text channel as the situation changes. So far, it's worked well for us, but I look forward to being able to game in-person again. The idea of spending dedicated gaming-table money didn't even occur to us.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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.
No, I don't. Which partly why I quickly stopped considering projectors when looking for in-person play digital tools.

A flat screen TV in a case is the way to go.
 




As compared to a projector set-up?

Did you follow the link @MNblockhead gave us up above for a custom wooden case? Very portable. Of course, fragile and a bit heavy, not nearly as portable as a vinyl battlemap and some dry-erase markers . . . .
As compared to a suction-cup-on-ceiling projector, which was what I asked about, yes.

And yes, I followed the link. Very nice and all, but not portable from location to location unless you go by car.
 



MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Not in the sense that we don't have access to one, but let's just say is an issue. Point was, I was looking for a smaller, more portable solution than a flat screen in a case.
There are projectors made for frequent travel. The main challenge will be setting up to project down. If you use a VTT with digital tokens instead of minis, you can just project to a wall. Otherwise get a bunch of Blue Tack, kinda like poster putty but stronger. You could hold a lighter travel projector to the ceiling with Blue Tack with little risk to the ceiling paint.
 


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