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I have a really nice projector for my home theater, and I am considering using it for a tabletop gaming setup as well.

What do I need to know about mounting it? What are the tricks or issues? What should I put on my table surface to get the best picture.

What tools should I use on my computer to make the best use of this display?

Please include whether you've played with this type of setup or whether it's just an idea as I'm especially interested in practical experience and ideas.

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Cool question. And something I've been itching to do. Just don't have the finances for a projector. –  Iain M Norman Sep 2 '10 at 15:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Pat and Scott both have excellent answers. Here are some other things to think about.

First there is this link where a guy goes step by step through building a digital game table with the projector mounted from below.

Remember you can project from above or BELOW. In either case you need to figure out how far your projector needs to be from the surface to get the surface area you desire.

Remember that many video cards have two video ports. Often the included software allows you, among other things, to slave both ports to each other, or to setup multiple monitors. What I recommend is using multiple monitors with two copies of maptools. One is the server which you move to the GM Screen, the other is the client which you move to the screen presented by the port the digital projector. This way you don't have to do the "Please don't look" request you find describe on the Pen, Paper, and Pixel site.

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Good suggestion with the two monitors. We usually used two computers. The DM would run the server and one of the players would connect and send the players view to the projector. –  Pat Ludwig Sep 2 '10 at 16:38
As an addendum, most laptops have an "external" projector port which you can typically use as a 2nd monitor so if you are running your game from a laptop you can have the DM screen running on the actual laptop monitor and the player screen running off of the external port. –  Scott Vercuski Sep 2 '10 at 18:39
Good comment and as a general point of interest this allows you to use that port as second monitor. –  RS Conley Sep 2 '10 at 18:55
I use a laptop, so that part is definitely no problem. I didn't realize the thing about running MapTools with two windows. Thanks! –  Mike Bohlmann Sep 7 '10 at 14:23
As a followup, if you're doing a ceiling mount, are there VESA-standard mounts that will allow the projector to swivel to point straight down? Googling isn't turning up much on the subject. –  GDorn Apr 26 '11 at 22:58

I created a blog about our new table. We just started using it. Most of the setup is shown on the blog posts and pics. I'm happy to answer any questions about it. http://ubergeekgametable.blogspot.com/2011/09/uber-geek-game-table-this-is-log-for.html

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Pen, Paper and Pixel here is an interesting website that has a mounted projector. You'd need free rafters, probably in a basement.

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We have played with the map projected on the wall. It worked very well and engaged everyone. The projector wasn't mine so I can't help you in answering that aspect of your question.

The software we used is called Maptool. It is freeware and well supported. There is a very active user community. It takes some time for the DM to prep properly, but it can handle most everything.

Main features:

  • light sources
  • built in map editor
  • each token can be assigned to an individual player
  • robust macros that can emulate 4th edition D&D powers (and many other systems)
  • networked with chat so you can support remote players if needed
  • token management so you can track health and statuses visibly on the map.
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+1 Just seconding this post, I am an avowed evangelist for Maptools :D Their forums also provide lots of help. Here's one on this subject > forums.rptools.net/… –  Jagged Dec 17 '10 at 10:55

If you have an opaque table, then you can't project from below. From above, it might be quite difficult to fix the projector to the ceiling, or that may not be far enough away.

I would suggest fixing a mirror to the ceiling, and putting the projector facing up on a table next to the game table. This will allow you to have a large projection on the table and you can access the projector easily. Personally I think ceiling mirrors are nice anyway, and I would leave it there as a permanent feature between gaming sessions.

The other thing you could do is put your projector on a high shelf, and have a mirror just off the shelf suspended right in front of the projector. This may be a lot harder, as mounting the mirror at the right angle could be difficult.

Either way, you would want to put something white on the table, experiment with a few things, perhaps a large piece of paper or even a whiteboard if you have one. If you use paper or a whiteboard you could even draw extra information on it, the whiteboard would be better as it allows you to easily erase the info if you change settings. If you wanted the draw and erase feature of a whiteboard, you could even experiment with white paper covered with a large piece of perspex (like you get from those huge cheap poster frames.

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I like this mirror idea. I already have the projector mounted to the ceiling for the theater and doing a second ceiling mount above the game table seems like a waste. I think the throw with my projector would be short enough to do straight down onto a table, but a mirror ought to make that certain. –  Mike Bohlmann Sep 7 '10 at 13:14

1) space to set it up. 2) the projector 3) content to project 4) control over the lighting in the area

Depending on how you do it, you might need 5) mounting materials, possibly even ceiling mounts 6) minis, 7) materials for a display surface 8) software specific for display of gaming maps.

I've used just an ordinary drawing program (with layers) and a big-screen TV for maps before. It's a matter of getting the amount of information you want visible into a form you can use.

Almost any of the virtual tabletop programs will be adequate for handling virtual tokens on the virtual map.

One consideration: a rear-projection mounting is often extremely useful; if the surface is glassed over (or is glass) you can further annotate with either overhead or whiteboard markers, and can put minis right on it, if that's what you want to do.

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+1 for comment about annotating it on glass with whiteboard markers, I hadn't considered that. –  Dom Sep 3 '10 at 10:02

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