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How do you all make use of your grids?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
This is all amazing. Do you have a dedicated gaming space? I doubt my other half would be happy about me storing a table sized sheet of plexiglass in the closet of our apartment.
I'm a middle-aged guy who owns a house, has a basement, and has disposable income. So yeah, my set-up isn't going to work or be available for everyone, and I realize the privileges I have that allow me to do this. Granted, a lot of my stuff is years, if not decades, old (my Chessex mat was given to me as a Christmas gift as a teenager, so I've had it now for 30+ years), so it's only through editions worth of cobbling together bits and bobs that have gotten me to this point.
 

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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I'm a middle-aged guy who owns a house, has a basement, and has disposable income. So yeah, my set-up isn't going to work or be available for everyone, and I realize the privileges I have that allow me to do this. Granted, a lot of my stuff is years, if not decades, old (my Chessex mat was given to me as a Christmas gift as a teenager, so I've had it now for 30+ years), so it's only through editions worth of cobbling together bits and bobs that have gotten me to this point.
I;ve had my Chessex for about 20 years and its a great product. Hours upon hours of gaming and stories told on that old reliable grid.
 

the Jester

Legend
I do both, but it depends on how sure I am that the pcs will visit a certain area. I let the group decide where they are going and what they are doing, so I often don't have a clue what encounters they'll be having in advance. Hard to do the full setup with fog of war unless I know they're going to be in a certain place.
 

Meech17

Adventurer
One approach I'd like to try in the future is Professor Dungeon Master's original Ultimate Dungeon Terrain (before he moved to the more abstract zoned version), a circular grid on a Lazy Susan with modular 3d terrain pieces. Used in combination with normal grid paper maps. Then just rapidly place the walls/terrain/dungeon dressing for wherever an encounter happens to occur on the UDT.
I'd like to make a few pieces of these as well. I don't get to play enough to justify the effort though. It's something I'm keeping in the back of my mind for if and when my play gets a bit more regular.
I do both, but it depends on how sure I am that the pcs will visit a certain area. I let the group decide where they are going and what they are doing, so I often don't have a clue what encounters they'll be having in advance. Hard to do the full setup with fog of war unless I know they're going to be in a certain place.
Yeah. This makes a lot of sense. I was pretty confident that the core of our last session would involve the house I drew. I took to the time to make the walls two lines thick, with crosshatching and everything. I was honestly pretty impressed with my own work and my players loved it.

I would have been so salty if they had unexpectedly made a u-turn on that adventure haha.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I'd like to make a few pieces of these as well. I don't get to play enough to justify the effort though. It's something I'm keeping in the back of my mind for if and when my play gets a bit more regular.
Yeah, I might start off lazy and try it out with just some wall sections and the 2'x2' foldable mat I mentioned.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
When we first started gaming on a VTT, we went all-in on the visual features. I would download high-res maps, rig them for dynamic lighting, set light sources and visibility for every character, create open-able doors, and all that. We had animated maps, animated spell effects, the whole shebang. And it...wasn't great. My amount of prep time went through the roof, because it took hours to rig the map for a single encounter! To make matters worse, the light rendering in Foundry VTT was so CPU-heavy that the game lagged, the animations were choppy, and it would take several minutes just to switch from one scene to another.

We have since gotten older and wiser. Now, here's how I do it.
  1. I create the map I want to use in DungeonScrawl, and save it as a .PNG file.
  2. Import it into the VTT on the Map layer (I use Roll20, another DM in our group uses Foundry, we haven't noticed an appreciable difference between the two.)
  3. Turn the Fog of War on.
  4. Reveal locations manually as the characters move from point to point, by clicking "Reveal Area" and drawing a polygon with my mouse.
That's it. No snazzy animations, no dynamic lighting, no walls that block movement. The VTT is just for keeping track of character positions, and we do everything else in Theater of the Mind. I'm not saying it's the best solution for everyone, but it's the best for me and my group.
 

aco175

Legend
A trick I used recently with the Against the Giants cavern is to use the 1 inch grid inside Christmas Wrapping paper. I bought some after the holiday for $1.00 and rolled it out. I worked great for set places like the cavern at the end of Forge of Fury and big fights or rolling places like the cavern in AtGiants. Although the one, long roll was not as cool as I though in play with coiling up one end and unrolling the other on the table without fiddling around with player space and moving a lot.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I've tried dry erase puzzle tiles after years of using a megamat and I ultimately went back to the megamat. The tiles just get too dinged up on the edges after the end of a Paizo AP (so over a year) campaign.

As far as how I use them, I've got a few mats of varying sizes so I usually have at least one for quickly drawn locations on the fly. But if there's a particularly elaborate setting, I may draw it ahead of time and just roll up the mat to keep it out of the way until I use it. I do NOT do that with red ink since that tends to stain most if left on too long.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've had to switch to VTT remote play, but when I was running in-person games, I used a variety of approach.

First, I don't have a dedicated gaming table or room. But I have a large space in the lower level of my house. I bought a heavy wood, conference table with sturdy fold up legs, and six high-quality but used, armless (task chair style but nicer than most) conference room chairs, from a business that was doing a clearance sale of old office furniture. I also bought three long fold-up tables in three different sizes from Home Depot. The main table I also had up and used for crafts, board games, and extra work space. During game days, I would expand the seating with other tables to allow me and my 4-6 players to really be able to spread out and still have plenty of space. I had book shelves behind the DMs seat, where my rule books, minis, terrain boxes, etc. were in easy reach.

Chessex Battlemap and Dry Erase
With all the fancier options I discussed below, my Chessex map was always there, underneath any other terrain. It is just handy for quickly drawing out basic features of an unplanned encounter, but I used it less and less as I started using more gridless options.

Dungeon Tiles
I bought a bunch of new and old WotC and Paizo dungeon tiles. I never really got my moneys worth. I spent more time organizing the storing of them than playing with them. I felt they took too much prep time, set up and removal time. They got more use when I stopped being precious with them and let my (then) young kids play make believe with them.

Printed Maps & Paper Minis and Terrain.
I did a lot of printed maps in my first campaign. I used Dungeonographer and the excellent 0one Games PDFs, and various products I found in DTRPG. I also bought a Silhouette Paper Cutter machine to quickly cut out paper tokens and minis. Also bought some paper terrain PDFs to build some cool looking but relativity cheap paper terrain, buildings, etc. Basically, print to card stock, cut with paper-cutting machine, and glue together. For tokens, I bought some 1" metal washers that I would glue the paper tokens to, to make them easier to pickup and move, less likely to blow away, and so that I could use them with Alea Tools magnetic token status markers.

The paper terrain took more prep time than I had time for so I only did that for set pieces or for pieces that had a lot of reusability. Also, they still take up storage, because while a lot of them you could unfold and flatten, many you glued together.

Paper standee minis, however, are awesome. I could print out small armies in an evening. Printed in full color. I stored them in envelopes and had a box with the envelopes in alphabetical order. I could carry a box about the size of a larger shoebox, with hundreds if not thousands of minis organized alphabetically. I used them with Litko plastic slot bases in various sized for tiny to gargantuan paper minis. I glued appropriate sized magnetic stickers to the bottoms, which I bought from Alea Tools, so I could use them with the magnetic status markers.

For my Curse of Strahd games, the artist who made all the maps for CoS sold an artwork pack of all the maps he made on his website. I bought those and printed on a plotter printer. It was cheap for me because my father, at the time, had a plotter printer in his home office. If I would have had to pay to print them at a print shop, I don't know that I would have done that. They looked great, but cutting out and placing paper pieces to cover unexplored areas was a pain.

Felt "Battlemaps" and 2D Terrain
This got me closer to my ideal for in-person play. Great for low prep, more sand-boxey games. DM Scotty of DMs Craft (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF-i5kmuwyV6N3xi5z1TElg) was my guru for this. First, getting rid of grids is freeing. Instead, I created measuring sticks based on DM Scotty's advice. I bought some thin square dowels (the kind used for moulding or millwork) from home depot. I cut them into one foot lengths. The painted them tan. Then I measured and added lines every one inch. Then I painted every other one-inch section black, so there was alternating black and tan one-inch sections. Makes it so easy to measure out move distances. For really long distances I had a tailors measuring tape (cloth measuring tape instead of the less flexible metal), but rarely needed to use it.

Then I made a bunch of 2.5D terrain. See the DMs Craft videos to see more. But basically, using cheap supplies from Home Depot or a craft store, or just old junk cardboard boxes, I created a bunch of easily placed, movable, and storable generic terrain pieces for caves and caverns, wilderness, dungeons, etc. I also bought and backed on Kickstarter plastic 2D terrain pieces, magic tokens, area of effect templates, etc. My time became increasingly limited, so I never did as much terrain as I would have liked and would often find myself using whatever was laying around to setup a battle scene. So it was more theater of with aids.

But the BEST low-cost aid was buying felt in various colors. Green, different browns, etc. I could lay down a big sheet of green felt, dropp some 2D or 3D terrain pieces for trees, rocks, etc. and be good to go for an outdoor combat.

In Person VTT
When I started my Rappan Athuk campaign, there were over 100 dungeon maps that I just wasn't going to be able to replicate with terrain pieces. So I bought a portable TV case from Collabrewate. It holds a TV display vertically, slightly elevated from the table (protect against spills) and has a plexiglass gover. It is in a nice wooden case with a handle. So I would stand it up as a TV on a dresser vertically between games, and during game It was placed vertically on the table. I would display the map using software that had fog of war. I started with Realmworks, then moved to Table Tools. But I've seen people do this with Fantasy Grounds as well.

This allowed me to pull up a map quickly, size it to display at one-inch scale, put minis on the display, and manually clear away fog of war as they went. It made prep so much easier that when I can start running in-person games again, this is what I'll continue using. It is much better than complicated projector setups, which just don't display as nicely, and which have no use outside of the game. When not playing games, I can use it as a TV. I can grab it and carry it to a friends house or game store. I can store it away easily. It is not exactly cheap, but much cheaper than special gaming tables. And if you need a TV anyway, spend some more money to make it into a portable gaming surface as well.
 

Meech17

Adventurer
A trick I used recently with the Against the Giants cavern is to use the 1 inch grid inside Christmas Wrapping paper. I bought some after the holiday for $1.00 and rolled it out. I worked great for set places like the cavern at the end of Forge of Fury and big fights or rolling places like the cavern in AtGiants. Although the one, long roll was not as cool as I though in play with coiling up one end and unrolling the other on the table without fiddling around with player space and moving a lot.
I've heard about the wrapping paper hack a few times. I was thinking about using it to wrap maybe some small boxes to set on top of my grid to add some verticality. Like maybe a little 6x6in box, and then a smaller 2x2in box on top of that and they could be like a raised dais. Or perhaps just one long box to represent a cliff face.
I've tried dry erase puzzle tiles after years of using a megamat and I ultimately went back to the megamat. The tiles just get too dinged up on the edges after the end of a Paizo AP (so over a year) campaign.

As far as how I use them, I've got a few mats of varying sizes so I usually have at least one for quickly drawn locations on the fly. But if there's a particularly elaborate setting, I may draw it ahead of time and just roll up the mat to keep it out of the way until I use it. I do NOT do that with red ink since that tends to stain most if left on too long.
Yeah, I've got the dry erase puzzle tiles from the Campaign Case: Terrain. It came with a ton of little puzzle tiles, and then the large board-game style board. I liked using the puzzle tiles because I was able to make my space just as large as I needed it to be. I was worried about them getting chewed up from being put together and taken back apart. So far they're fine but I've literally only used them once.
 

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