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I want to start DM'ing regularly (I've played my share of D&D, but this will be a different group). Now, I like using grids from time to time, so I'm looking for the right equipment to do so. My idea is to create a toolset I can re-use from campaign to campaign.

My plan is the following: get pathfinder pawns, a larger foldable battle grid and one or two smaller non-foldable ones. I want all my grids to be (somewhat) durable, plain (white or otherwise generic) and usable with dry-erase markers (or something similar).

The idea for the smaller grids is that often you don't need the size that the larger battle grids provide you with as one of approximately A4 (21 × 30 cm) or letter (8½" × 11") size will often be enough, while being more manageable and naturally being able to stay flat.

However, I'm not able to find such a product. Of course I could make something, but I wonder whether such a product already exists.

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Cut a bigger battlemat down to size

A straightforward solution would be to buy a standard battle grid, like this one from paizo, and cut it into smaller pieces using sturdy household scissors, x-acto or carpet cutter knives.

The main benefit is that this works exactly like the big one with regards to what pen you can use or how to erase it.

The paizo one (and presumably others), comes folded into thirds, so if you cut it along the folds you get 9 pieces of 8×10" (≈20×25cm). Personally, I'd probably want to get rid of the old folds completely if it doesn't lie flat, so I would add some margins to the cut, making the maps just a little smaller (and the edge squares slightly non-square).

Also, I suggest keeping a 2×1 (i.e. 16×10") and a 1×2 (i.e. 20×8"), as well. With only a single fold, these pieces should easily fit into a normal notebook without being to bulky, and they will come in handy for medium-sized rooms and hallways.

Field test results

I went ahead and tried it myself. I used the flip mat that came with the German version of the Beginner Box. It's the same size as all paizo mats (30×24"), and as far as I can tell by direct comparison, the material is the same as with the paizo mats (unlike certain, incredibly ugly green pawn feet...)

I decided to cut the 3×3 into three pieces: a 1×1 (8×10"), a 2×1 (16×10") and a 3×2 (24×20").

I tried cutting it using a metal ruler and a carpet cutter, but I realized my carpet cutter is completely dull (I wisely tried it on a corner of the map first). I then opted for a good pair of scissors instead. I used one side of the crease as a guideline, and it went quite smoothly. I then proceeded to cut along the other side of the crease as well, cutting away about 2mm from the edge.

Examining the pieces, I can see no fraying at the cut lines, and honestly can't tell the "new sides" from the old ones. I tried fraying a corner with my fingernail, and that works the same on all corners as well, which makes sense, seeing that the whole map was cut from a bigger piece of printed cardboard in the first place. That being said, if you don't cut away the creases, it seems to fray quite easily at those edges (presumably due to the increased strain). This may or may not "spread" to the rest.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the results, and I'm sure the smaller mats will come in handy for smaller tables.

Here are some pictures I took with my magic potato (click to enlarge at your own risk), the folder and the 30ft. cone are for scale.
Image of the small piece Image of the medium and large pieces

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper There you go. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Apr 9 '15 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I forgot the before pics, but here are my field test results \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Apr 9 '15 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ My parents reminded me of the fact that they have a lamination machine at their place, which I can rather easily use to create the mats myself, so that's what I'll end up doing. However, I definitely would have done this otherwise and I did specifically ask for options other than creating them myself, so I'm accepting this. \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Apr 13 '15 at 9:16
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Dry erase markers work very well on clear acetate or poly page protectors. Print your grid, slip it into the page protector sleeve, and you're ready to map and erase. The protectors eventually wear out, but you'll get much more use for your dollar than any commercial whiteboard-like grid you're likely to find.

An alternative that I used to use (long ago) is pre-printed graph paper with a factory applied plastic coating. If you can still find a place that sells this stuff (I used to get it at a store that sold pre-CAD drafting supplies), it's supplied on a roll (like butcher paper), but usually sold by the foot. Cut it to the size you need, punch with a 3-hole punch if you want to be able to capture it in a loose leaf notebook. It works just like the acetate sleeves; and has a similar life.

Next step beyond that would be to buy commercial white board material and cut your own, then apply the grid with permanent marker. This has the advantage of being rigid, and will last longer than the above solutions, but it's a lot more work to produce.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper -- see edits. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Apr 9 '15 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the page protectors and will probably try them out some time, but rather as a supplement to the base kit I'm trying to gather here. I'm afraid I won't be able to find the plastic coated paper (even I do find the paper, they probably won't have it in inches, since we use centimeters here). Whiteboard is an option, but I'm not entirely sold on it just yet, for the reasons you mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Apr 9 '15 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can probably find graph paper marked in millimeters with 5 mm heavy marks; five of those heavy marks is close enough to an inch (25.4 mm)s. Alternately, if you're going to use graph paper in protectors, there are several web sites that provide free pdf documents with various grids. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Apr 9 '15 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Buying commercial white board material (rather than a retail whiteboard with frame and shelf and mounts and so on) is also wonderfully cheap. In college, we’d grab huge whiteboards from Home Depot for almost nothing; at least one of them, I believe, is still mounted on the wall where we put it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 9 '15 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, yes, and I know many ways around it, and finding or printing inch-square paper or maps really isn't the problem. I was specifically addressing the factory applied plastic solution, for which even adding a bigger line every fifth line is problematic. \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Apr 9 '15 at 15:33
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I used an online graph paper maker and purchased a large acrylic sheet from a hardware store (looked for a damaged one for a discount). The acrylic sheet works great with dry-erase markers.

The online graph paper maker includes grids, hexes, different weights of lines, etc. Basically, everything you could possibly need.

The acrylic sheet also works great over maps, tiles, etc as a steady surface and a place to draw out details like areas of effect, hazards, etc. as well as player/creature conditions.

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Many years ago, I bought a pad of 1" hex paper from a gaming store. I have no idea who made it but I'm sure a web search can find a supplier. For example, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1730454032/a4-numbered-hex-pad?ref=nav_search, http://tomeoftreasures.com/tot_nontsr/armory/hex_graph_paper.htm.

I also had access to a CAD program, where I made my own hex grids and printed them off at work onto transparencies (back in a time when every office had an OHP :-).

I have some transparent hex grids that came with GURPS and Millenium's End kits. You might be able to find those for sale second hand on the web.

You can also use small tiles that are designed to fit together, but only use a few of them.

Tiles that fit together uisng little magnets: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamenightlife/gnl-mats

Clear tiles that fit together like a jigsaw: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/307960505/automagic-tiles/description

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Both tiles solutions are quite interesting. I find the magnetic ones to be more attractive personally. They are both kickstarter projects, though, which is still quite a different thing than a store (risk and fulfillment time). \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Apr 13 '15 at 9:21

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