Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gaming Paper

Today, I was made aware of gamingpaper.com through a Twitter competition to win two cases of DnD minis. Obviously, I retweeted immediately…but shortly after, I decided to go check out the website I was helping advertise.

I have to admit, I am almost completely baffled by this product.

When it comes to running a Role Playing Game, you have a lot of options and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

On the high end you have things like Dwarven Forge sets that look absolutely spectacular, but are massively expensive… in the middle ground you have Dungeon Tiles which look nice but limit your options.

My particular favorite has always been vinyl wet-erase battle mats. You have to hand-draw your terrain, but they’re relatively cheap (around $25), give you total flexibility and, if properly cared for, will last for years.

Gaming paper, which is exactly what it sounds like, left me scratching my head. I just don’t see the value in it.

To be honest, my biggest problem was how it was marketed. The website claims gaming paper is the ‘reusable, cost-effective alternative to expensive battle mats’.

Well, the first thing I didn’t like was the ‘reusable’ part. Quite simply, it’s only reusable if you plan on running the same campaign multiple times, or re-using dungeons. They make it sound like you can erase and re-use the paper multiple times, which simply isn’t true.

The marketing blurb says you can make the paper reusable by putting it under a sheet of plexiglass and using dry erase pens on top of that, but if you think about that for a second, you realize how ridiculous the idea is.

They market this paper on how big it is (30 inches wide by 12 feet long), so unless you’re planning on carrying a twelve foot sheet of plexiglass with you, the size means nothing. Secondly, if you’re going to go that route with a more reasonably sized sheet of glass, why bother at all?

You can either spend around $40 on a 30x30 sheet of plexiglass, $4 for the paper, go through the trouble of fixing them together and backing the thing…or you can spend around twenty bucks of a battle mat that weighs a lot less, is much easier to store and can be rolled up and put in a backpack to take to a friend’s house.

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s hardly cost effective. Sure, a roll of this paper is roughly four times the size of a medium sized battle mat and only costs $4 to the battle mat’s $25…but you only pay that $25 once.

I’ve run two relatively short dungeon delves over the past two weeks which ‘filled’ my battle mat four or five times. If I keep going at this rate, I would be buying about two rolls of paper a month.

I can expect to get four or five years use out of my battle mat, so when you work out the cost over those five years, my battle mat costs me $25, total. Two rolls of paper per month for five years comes to $480.

$25 versus $480… Cost effective? Hardly.

Lastly, I don’t have to worry about my dungeon turning into a soggy mess when someone inevitably spills a soda, or tearing in half when someone leans on it. In all fairness, this gaming paper looks like it’s good quality, but saying ‘strong paper’ is like saying ‘aerodynamic brick’. The world’s strongest gaming paper is still going to be more fragile than the world’s flimsiest battle mat

The only real use I can see for this paper is if you want to have a really huge (well, really long) dungeon in your game and don’t want to have to erase and draw the next part during the session. Fellow blogger Kato also pointed out that it’s handy if you want to draw your dungeon ahead of time, because ink stains battlemats if left on for too long (over 24 hours in my experience).

So, in conclusion, if you’re running a convention game and will be running multiple groups through the same adventure, a roll of gaming paper may be a wise investment.

For anything else, use a battle mat or dungeon tiles.

Edit - Wow, huge response on this...and I'd just like to point out that I covered most of the points you guys are raising. Gaming Paper certainly has its uses, as I pointed out above, and you guys pointed out in the comments, it's useful for areas you use often, getting ready ahead of time or if you want to keep your dungeon for whatever reason.

Gaming Paper is a good addition to any GM's overall toolkit...but I don't see it as a battle mat replacement.

So let me re-state the whole point of this post. Gaming Paper is useful, but it's marketed as a cheap, reusable alternative for battle mats... but it's not truly reusable and costs more in the long run. Good to use in addition to your mat, but it certainly doesn't replace it.

This is my opinion. As gamers, you know we can argue about just about anything from which is the 'superior' gaming system to how you roll your dice. I'm not saying I'm right, so if you disagree, just continue doing what works for you. For my particular needs gaming paper causes more problems than it solves. Your mileage may vary.


Anonymous said...

Not bad points, I'll give you, but if you check around, you'll see the gaming paper is actually a lot tougher than you'd think. Also, if you really want to permanently re-use the paper, you could just laminate a roll. Not all that expensive, and you made your good paper great.

Dan said...

You know what I hate? Watching my players lose interest as I spend fifteen minutes illustrating the new room they just walked into or setting up the combat scene they just created by whipping their lightsabers out when it wasn't necessary. With Gaming Paper, I can set up everything in advance, and whip it out when the need arises, rather than risk their attention drifting for even a second.

Windsor Gaming Resource said...

Besides the aforementioned ability to draw out huge sections of dungeon ahead of time, I like being able to use colour crayola markers and even coloured pencils on my maps. I can do full colour maps this way that look great, not something I can do with 4 colours of wet erase markers.

Lastly, it's paper so you can cut it. I like to actually cut my dungeons out so I can lay out one room at a time, like you can with Dungeon Tiles, but I am not limited to the ones that whatever company has published. I can cut them out in whatever crazy shape I want.

Owen Stephens said...

I also find gaming paper useful to map out places the PCs are going to revisit. Superhero HQ? The local temple of their god? The troll market where everything and anything can happen? The dungeon complex they clear out and turn into a manor house? All easily maintained for the history of the campaign on gaming paper.

It's also great if you want to cut out some grid paper. I've used it to create quick roofs on 3D terrain, tactical maps for wars that lasted weeks of real time, and bases for creatures that are bigger than the mini I have for them.

I love my vinyl map and use it a lot, but gaming paper still fills a need for me.

R. Reeg said...

You say you like the dungeon tiles...well gaming paper is always expanding they now sell paper with the grid on it so that you can make your own dungeon tiles. It comes in the rolls of hexes or inch squares. I use it in conjuction with my gaming mat. I use the gaming paper to draw out the tavern, or place that the group likes to go back to a lot. A place that is going to be seeing a lot of rp on a regular basis and BAM! its saved! I can now make my own tiles or start to set things up for using hirstarts to create my own tiles. OH did I mention that gaming paper has one inch squares? So my sewing table can now use it to start making patterns for my less then easy body to fit and not have to whip out a tape measure until after i get the sections cut out?

As for gaming paper not being tough. Yeah it is actually OH and they showed about how you can spill on it and it doesn't cause things to run. Which by the way if you spill on those pricey mats. its now stained really badly. Trust me, I got one on mine.

but just some small points i thought I would make. Thinking in side the box, yeah gaming paper is kinda limiting. But thinking out side of the box like gamers have to do...its like the template for your own little world of fun.

Jonathan said...

I am in agreement with you, to a point. A single artifact of our gaming experience shines through, and that is the giant grid mats we got from office supply stores.. And the fact that, on top of being able to pre-draw the dungeon, when you dig out the pad a month or a year later, people will instantly remember those encounters you put so much time into. Then again, I'm a sucker for Nostalgia. I am going to use Gamepaper for some enormous set-piece encounters the little mats can't handle.

I have found that gaming paper is not as flexible as my mat for one-offs, and not as economical as cheap recycled pads, but for the flexibility and size, it's not a bad choice.

Johnny said...

I see the merit in both battlemats and Gaming Paper. But a handy tip, if I may, for getting more use out of battlemats: Use Crayola washable markers. Unlike dry erase markers, they don't tend to stain battlemats (test in an inconspicuous spot first), even when left on the mat for a week or two. As I'd start drawing next week's map after the conclusion of this week's session, while it was all fresh in my mind and most of my players had left for the night, it gave me plenty of time to draw it while still being accessible to any players who needed to level or create a character for the next session.

Anonymous said...

A shame you don't like the product, but it sounds like you have an existing solution that is working very well for you.

We revisit locations a lot, so mapping and saving makes sense for my groups. We also already have sheets of lexan and plexiglass at the places we game, because we got a killer deal this spring when a home improvement store. A 3'x6' sheet for less than the cost of a battle mat.