We've been planning for some time to show off Loke Battlemats on Board's Eye View but successive Covid lockdowns put paid to face-to-face Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games. We've been able to play RPGs online using Discord, Zoom et al, relying on 'theatre of the mind' and Roll20, but that means no proper maps, terrain and no minis :-(
Here then are a couple of products to help set you up for D&D and other RPGs when Covid is finally conquered and normality returns...
There is plenty of dungeon mapping kit out there. I've a large planning chest packed with Dwarven Forge terrain. It's all solid, chunky and three-dimensional. It's high quality and looks great when set up but it's horrendously expensive and far too bulky and heavy to cart about. Its outings will be limited to games in my games room: I'd need to hire a fork-lift truck to cart it elsewhere. I've tried various 3D cardboard alternatives, including TerraClips, but they tend to be fiddly to use. There are several two-dimensional tile packs around, and they offer a practical and affordable solution. They don't come close tho' to Loke Battlemats...
The Dungeon Books of Battle Mats is just over 12 inches (30cm) square but its two-volume book format makes it easily portable. Inside the protective sleeve are two ring-bound volumes of maps representing a huge variety of dungeon terrains, all broken down into standard squares for measuring movement. Because they are ring bound the maps lie flat and even fold back 360º so you can play on a single 12 inch square map or you can lie a book flat and play across the two connected areas. The books are designed so that their terrain matches up, so you can open up both books flat to create a 24 x 24 inch map.
The 80 map pages are all printed on heavy card and coated to create a wipe-clean surface - so you can write on them if you're careful to choose the correct (water-based) type of felt tip pen. The package also comes with a pack of 100+ 2D objects and additional terrain features printed in vinyl so that they naturally adhere to the map pages. You can peel them off after use and return them to their backing sheet to use on a future adventure.
If you're looking for portability, immersive visual appeal and value for money, you'll find it hard to beat Loke's Dungeon Books of Battle Mats.
If you look carefully at our Board's Eye View 360 you'll also see some unique minis. These are custom minis made using the Anvl.co website. It's a site on which you can create your own minis, making use of a seemingly limitless set of models, features, outfits, weapons and accessories. The site is easy to use, and you can save and make changes as you go so you can see which poses and facial expressions best suit your RPG character. When you're done, you can either order up the character for Anvl to print and ship to you or, for those with access to their own 3D printers, you can just buy the file so you can print it yourself at a cost of just $4.97.
Shown here are some of my characters from currently running D&D campaigns. Papageno is a halfling bard. He's a bird catcher and he is able to talk to the birds and to other animals - or at least, that's what he tells his companions. He mostly gets by by telling tall tales in taverns, so he only has a passing relationship with the truth. He is nonchalant, rashly overconfident and prone to take credit where it isn't due. Papageno's Anvl mini shows him with his crossbow and lute, but he is most at home playing the bells which he uses to attract and trap birds.
Zithradel is a high elf prince. He is a skilled diplomat and he was on a mission of embassy for his father, the king, when some unknown disaster befell his homeland. When he returned to the kingdom, it was gone without any trace: it had simply ceased to exist. Bewildered and confused, Zithradel initially took this hard. His quest to find what had befallen his people took him to the underbelly of society, where he had to learn unsavoury practices to survive. By class, he is now a Rogue: a smooth-tongued assassin often able to strike at enemies from the shadows. Seen here in this Anvl mini, Zithradel is diplomatically offering a hand of friendship, but he has only to utter a four-word incantation to place a magical blade in his outstretched hand.
You won't find any such subtlety from Tom, a human fighter. Tom doesn't know the meaning of the word subterfuge. Indeed there are quite a lot of words that fall outside Tom's very limited vocabulary. Tom learned to fight when he was drafted as a soldier and he has a soldier's rough manner but he's good with a sword and even better with two swords: one in each hand. He's not a racist but... he's convinced that the only good orc is a dead orc and he enjoys nothing better than delivering what he describes as a close-cropped haircut (ie: severing an opponent's head from its body). The Anvl mini of Tom shows him with both blades raised, which is probably the most appropriate portrayal since his other pastimes mainly involve propositioning female members of his party.
Anvl have done a great job with their customised mini site. Now all I need to do is find someone with more skill, dexterity and patience who can do a good job painting my minis between now and the next time (spring 2021?) when we'll be able to resume face-to-face gaming.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)