Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gaming Paper -- Do You Need It?

In the Summer of 2002, I attended GenCon in Milwaukee, WI. It was the final GenCon to be held in that wonderful city. The con had outgrown Milwaukee's accommodations. I had an amazing time at the convention, which made for wonderful tonic given that my wife's and my dog Oreo had died the week before the convention. In fact, Oreo died on the day I left town for work. She woke us up, as we anthropomorphize to this day, just to say good bye. She was a small dog, and an old one -- she was over 20 when she died. As one might expect, I was distraught and attending GenCon at the back end of a business trip was a wonderful anti-depressant.

At the convention there were myriad products for all kinds of games. The OGL boom was in full swing and the convention hall was abuzz with excitement regarding numerous new products. One of those products was the Savage Worlds roleplaying game by Pinnacle Entertainment Group another was a highly useful product manufactured by Skeleton Key Games. Skeleton Key Games, who are now a leader in PDF based game tile sales, had printed up sets of what can only be called "Cave Paper." The sheets of paper were brown and featured a textured print and a one-inch grid for use in playing D&D. DMs could cut the paper into any cave shape, a relatively easy process, and have a nice looking set of tiles which could be placed next to one another to form a cave complex. I bought a couple of packs and used them up rapidly as the textured image looked better than the vinyl surface of my battlemat as a cave complex. My gaming group enjoyed the verisimilitude the tiles offered as they ventured into the caves surrounding the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Skeleton Key Games quickly expanded their offerings to include a wide variety of city, dungeon, cave, boat, and water tiles available in pdf format. You are no longer limited to buying their pre-printed packs, you buy the file and print what you need. It's useful, but can be expensive once you start adding up all those toner costs and the various stacks of cut outs can take up quite a bit of storage space if you let it. Needless to say, the "Cave Tiles" were a needed innovation that spawned a product line.

This year Gaming Paper, Inc. is offering a product they hope will be as innovative and useful as the battlemat or those pdf dungeon tiles. Their offering is called, simply enough, Gaming Paper. To help sell the product, Gaming Paper, Inc. has used YouTube viral commercials featuring Gaming Paper founder Erik Bauer demonstrating the uses of Gaming Paper. We've enjoyed the commercials and have written about them before (be sure to check out their YouTube channel).
In the commercials, Erik demonstrates many of Gaming Paper's "uses" and ways it can be abused, but we are concerned here with Gaming Paper's use as a gaming product.

To begin, Gaming Paper is exactly what it says it is. It is a lightweight, but durable, paper product with a one inch grid printed on a tan wax-coated paper stock. The basic roll supplies a good amount of Gaming Paper for a reasonable cost at $4.00 a roll.

Given the widespread use of battlemats, one my wonder if their is a market for Gaming Paper or whether it is useful to someone who already owns a battlemat. I believe there is a market and can assure you that it is useful to those who -- like me -- own battlemats. This is because Gaming Paper has three traits where it has an advantage over a standard battlemat and only one trait where it is at a disadvantage.

The first advantage is how light a roll of Gaming Paper is to carry around. The fact that Gaming Paper is lightweight makes it the perfect surface for use on the Convention circuit. Let's say you are an RPGA judge who will be running 3 different Living Forgotten Realms modules at your local con. You can pre-draw all the maps onto Gaming Paper sheets -- cut to the size you need -- roll them up, and carry them to the Con all more lightweight than the battlemat.

This brings us to our second advantage -- which also happens to be the products chief disadvantage as well. Once you draw something on Gaming Paper, it stays on Gaming Paper. You cannot draw and erase, like a battlemat, but when combined with its light weight this means that you can bring multiple sheets each with a different dungeon level on them for multiple uses during repeated con events. If you were using a battlemat, you'd have to redraw each level as you came to them -- taking time away from the session -- and redraw them again for the next session. Either that or carry multiple battlemats, which might need to be retouched if the ink smeared, which becomes more cumbersome than Gaming Paper.

The third advantage that Gaming Paper is that it can be cut to create variable sized mats. Each roll is 30 inches wide and 12 feet long. You can cut out quite a few playing surfaces at that length.

I also like that Gaming Paper has a low cost. A roll of gaming paper can go quite a long way, is reusable (make sure you keep the cardboard tube), especially if you are just using it for the grid and have physical terrain you can place on it, and is only $4.00.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Gaming Paper has a similar texture and size to Gift Wrapping paper. Erik will probably blow a gasket for me writing this, but I think that Gaming Paper also makes ideal gaming wrapping paper. Draw a map of a dungeon on the gaming paper, wrap up a copy of the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay inside, and it's perfect. Just make sure that your friend or loved one is careful when unwrapping and isn't one of those ravenous tearing freaks.

My one complaint about gaming paper is that it is currently only offered in a tan color. I think it would be invaluable to my gaming group to have a variety of colors, especially "grassy" and "cobblestone" for use in creating various non-dungeon maps. If I could by a $4.00 roll of cobblestone for use in my Eberron game to lay as a foundation for all my city based adventures, I'd be a happy gamer. If they wanted to go crazy, they could pre-print some medieval city cartography as well.

Gaming Paper reminds me of the Skeleton Key "Cave Tiles." It is a needed product coming out at the right time, but I'd like to see the product line expand.

One more thing...apparently Gaming Paper makes a good parachute too.

1 comment:

SESchend said...

Erik won't blow a gasket over saying it'd be good for wrapping gamers' presents. It's one of the first things I told him as well. :)

Great review, Christian.

Steven Schend
Gaming Paper shill and gaming dinosaur