Whiteboard battle maps...anyone tried this?

30 posts / 0 new
Last post
So I'm wandering aimlessly around Wal-Mart and got this brilliant idea while walking through the office supplies area.  I grab a 17"x23" whiteboard ($6.87), an 8-pack of dry-erase markers ($6.87) and a 2-pack of thin Sharpies ($1.00).  I head home and spend about 30 minutes scribing a nice, clean, perfectly straight 1" grid pattern on it using the Sharpies.  Huzzah!  I have a nice big, magnetic, durable battle map!  Yeee-haw!

Until I actually draw on it.

Then I find out that dry-erase markers have something in them that ERASES SHARPIE on a whiteboard.  Who knew?  So now my nice grid is all hacked up where the lines crossed with the markers.

Has anyone else tried something like this?  Other than a Sharpie, I don't know what other kind of pen to use to make a permanent grid. 
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
Did you give the sharpies time to dry on the board? There may be a way to "stain" them (or something else entirely) on your marker board that wont come off when you wipe the dry-erase markers off.

You could also just etch the lines on the board itself. Get a pen knife or shingle cutter and very carefully cut the lines deep enough that your players can see it, but not so wide that it'll keep catching your markers everytime you go over them (making your lines look jagged).
So I'm wandering aimlessly around Wal-Mart and got this brilliant idea while walking through the office supplies area.  I grab a 17"x23" whiteboard ($6.87), an 8-pack of dry-erase markers ($6.87) and a 2-pack of thin Sharpies ($1.00).  I head home and spend about 30 minutes scribing a nice, clean, perfectly straight 1" grid pattern on it using the Sharpies.  Huzzah!  I have a nice big, magnetic, durable battle map!  Yeee-haw!

Until I actually draw on it.

Then I find out that dry-erase markers have something in them that ERASES SHARPIE on a whiteboard.  Who knew?  So now my nice grid is all hacked up where the lines crossed with the markers.

Has anyone else tried something like this?  Other than a Sharpie, I don't know what other kind of pen to use to make a permanent grid. 



It's a combination of the chemicals they use (the component that makes Sharpie wet is similar enough to dry erase markers wetness to wet it off the board) and the fact that white boards are designed to be as unfriendly to permanent markings as possible (after all, Permanent markers aren't permanent on all surfaces).

What I recommend is run some tape on the white board, then take an X-ACTO knife and make a thin gouge in the white board every 1". Use tape rather than just a ruler so you can measure twice and cut once.

Try using permanent marker on these gouges. The combined fact you've carved a more porous surface plus the fact that when you're erasing/drawing with dry erase markers, the erasing/drawing surface won't be able to reach into the gouges (even if the gouges are only 1mm deep) so the marks will be more or less permanent.

Kind of like how on a desk or cutting board, there are black scratches everywhere. The contents that make these scratches black are usually just grease or graphite--but because these scratches are so narrow, it's nearly impossible to get the contents out without specifically trying to.
I'll say from experience that the method dieffenbachj suggested works. I've been using a white board doctored up in that way for three years now.

The markers do catch a little like Face_Stab mentioned, but it's not enough to bother me.

Homebrew Necromancer A Shadow class, bringing undead back in the player's court.
Thanks for the input so far!  I was thinking of using a thin silver paint marker too.  Perhaps that would be "permanent" enough to stay on the board...?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
I ran into the same problem and I fixed it by filling the whole of the map with dots instead of lines. Then, when I draw a map, I draw the lines that I need for the walls and try to make them go past the dots instead of over them.

That has the added effect of making it very easy to see which lines are walls, and which lines are just the grid (since the sharpies are about as thick as the special markers you can hardly tell the difference)

Ocassaionly I have to redraw a few dots but that's just 2 minutes of work every other month so I can live with it Smile
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.




It was a great idea wasn't it?

Actually, we have been using whiteboards and dry erase markers for years now.  We faced the same problem, let the sharpies dry... do a few battles... need to regrid the board....


Then my wife had a great idea.

We went to home depot and bought a couple of 4'x4' sheets of particle board, a squeegie, a couple of rolls of transparent duct tape, some paint rollers, and some white paint.  Then we went to Meglo-o-mart bought some new fine tip sharpies, a new yardstick, and a few rolls of contact paper.

Once we got home, we painted the particle board sheets, both sides with a few coats of paint.  Let them dry completely.  Then the hardest part was to painstakingly measure out and put the sharpie grid lines on.  We used black sharpie, but if we do this again I think we are going to use another color like pink or baby blue.  Once the gridding was done we coverd the boards with contact paper.  We used the squeegie to make sure thee were no air bubbles in the contact paper.  Once both sides were covered we went around the edge with the transparent ducttape to ensure that the contact paper wouldn't peel itself off.

The dry erase markers will easily come off contact paper as any store bought white board, finger tip for quick adjustments even.  The sharpie lines are protected by the contact paper.   We pretty much use the 1" squares for combat encounter, though one side of one board we did in 1/2" squares for large area maps.  Also, having 4 gidded map boards, you can switch them out as needed during combat.  Though we generally only use one board per session, but we can have bigger boards for huge encounters if we need it.

The whole thing cost about $35-40 total.  Expensive for a white board, but having that big of an area to play on is awsome.  Also, it was time consuming, it took a couple days, mostly waiting for paint to dry and drawing on the grid lines mostly.

We have been using these "battle boards" for three years now.  Just last week we had to recover the boards with fresh contact paper.  The reason for this was not that they were worn out.  A few smudges adn stains but still very useable after three years,still.  The reason was that our cat decided she needed to shred the contact paper and ducttape for soem reason.  Actually, I think she did not approve of our going to the movies and interfering with her schedule, personally.  But she totally shredded one facing contact paper side adn thrashed the duct tape edge on both boards.

But even after all that it was far less time than the re-gridding of store bought dry erase boards which need re-gridding after a few battles.  They work great, but the re-gridding sucks.  Also, 4'x4' boards are more fun to play on.  DM can make bigger maps with more terrain to play with.  8)




~Swash~

Another thing you can do after cutting the lines into the whiteboard with the hobby knife (press hard enough to get good deep cuts rather than just scratching the surface) is to go over them with Testors hobby enamel paint, and then run the edge of a piece of cardboard over them to push the paint down into the lines and scrape off the excess. Use a paper towel to clean up any excess paint immediately and work on one small section at a time.
Enamel paint shouldn't be affected at all by wet or dry erase markers.

Show

I am the Magic Man.

(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

 

I am the Lawnmower Man.

(I AM GOD HERE!)

 

I am the Skull God.

(Koo Koo Ka Choo)

 

There are reasons they call me Mad...

Here are three ways I have tried to solve this problem:

1. Scour the lines in with a craftknife. Then, stain the whiteboard in some way (Eg, draw on it with a permanant marker and then wipe it all off with meths.) The scoured lines become permanantly black. The problem is that depending on the depth of the cuts, it becomes abraisive to the dry erase markers and wears them out quicker.

2. Draw the lines with permanant marker, then leave the board in the sun for about a week. Clean the board. Faint, permanant brown lines remain where the permanant marker was.

3. Skip whiteboards. Draw fine lines with black ballpoint pen on card, and then use clear duraceal (or whatever sticky film your country uses to protect books) to cover the card. The only downside here is that if your card is too big, you have to use multiple pieces of duraceal. The joins in the duraceal collect black in the same way that the scour lines in method 1 do, so make sure that the join is on a grid line.
The guy that hosts the game I am running bought a dry-erase board at Office Depot that was gridded in the sense that there were dots all over the board that divided the board into 1" squares.  They are somewhat faint but if you pay attention it's no problem to see them.  It did cost him some money but it has been worth every single penny he spent.  You can easily draw on it, erase it and be ready for the next map.

TheSeventhStooge...
Really though, wet erase mats from Chessex or that other place (which as an unfortunate phrase as the mat I use is FROM the other place yet I can't remember its name) work exceptionally well. They roll up for easy storage/transport, you can use vis a vis on them, which are cheap and easy to find, and they're pre-gridded with a hex grid on the opposite side.

So uhh... yeah... X-ACTO knife or just get a wet erase mat ;)

Another thing you can do after cutting the lines into the whiteboard with the hobby knife (press hard enough to get good deep cuts rather than just scratching the surface) is to go over them with Testors hobby enamel paint, and then run the edge of a piece of cardboard over them to push the paint down into the lines and scrape off the excess. Use a paper towel to clean up any excess paint immediately and work on one small section at a time.
Enamel paint shouldn't be affected at all by wet or dry erase markers.


Actually, I kind of like this idea for one specific reason.  I was in Michael's Crafts tonight getting the Indian ink artist pen (which I thought was a paint-pen but isn't...and no, it didn't work) and I saw Testors enamel PENS.  I have no idea how thick they are, but I figure they should definately work.  I was hoping to use a silver or light grey color, but it looks like all they have are white and black.  I might ask someone at Michael's what their most permanent pens are...
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
If you are willing to throw down some money, why not just buy a "battle-mat"?
I was trying to use white boards at the start, only small 30cmx30cm ones, but I was having your problem too where the marker is eraced. 

the battlemat we are currently using is about 80squares by 50ish (cant remember exact dimensions) and it uses wet erace, so they cant be smudged by anyone draggin their arms across it reaching for things.  Ours cost about 30$ if remember, but its definitly worth it, big enough to draw out 5 large dungeon rooms on it ahead of time.
I totally agree about buying a battlemap (I like the Paizo flipmat that's dry-erasable.)

But what I've recently found that works wonders for me is small pieces of bathroom tile. I went to a tile store and bought a square foot each of 1inch tiles and 2inch tiles, and they work great as monster tokens--completely dry erasable, so you can write the monster name, a letter, a number, or even draw a little picture. And then you don't have to erase and rewrite/draw every time it moves.

200+ tokens for under ten bucks. Best RPG-miscellany purchase I've ever made. 
I totally agree about buying a battlemap (I like the Paizo flipmat that's dry-erasable.)

But what I've recently found that works wonders for me is small pieces of bathroom tile. I went to a tile store and bought a square foot each of 1inch tiles and 2inch tiles, and they work great as monster tokens--completely dry erasable, so you can write the monster name, a letter, a number, or even draw a little picture. And then you don't have to erase and rewrite/draw every time it moves.

200+ tokens for under ten bucks. Best RPG-miscellany purchase I've ever made. 



Cool. I like this.

Does the dry-erase marker come of easily even if you let it sit on there for a few hours? Then I'd be able to make the monsters before the game starts, that'd be really cool.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
Actually, they make something like dry erase board tape.  I think mine's 1/8th inch thick but it works very well.  Just stick the lines down the dry erase board.  I looked for the packaging so i could tell you what exactly it was called, but looks like i threw it away.  It does work very well though, because I had the exact same problem with the sharpies.  (they're supposed to be PERMANENT markers.....)
Going out of your way to break the game and then complaining that it is broken is like beating a wall with a sledge hammer for an hour and then claiming its a bad wall.

13.jpg
D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium


200+ tokens for under ten bucks. Best RPG-miscellany purchase I've ever made. 



Cool. I like this.


Ditto.  As much as I'd love to have a complete set of minis for my games, WotC's sales model makes that prohibitive at best.  Having an affordable alternative that doesn't involve taping pieces of paper on quarters would be great.

I wanted to use the whiteboard for one main reason: it's magnetic.  I was planning (eventually) to make either wooden or foam "walls" with tiny rare-earth magnets stuck on the bottom of each piece; basically make a poor-man's Dwarven Forge set.  The magnetics would be mandatory so that people couldn't accidentally do urban reconstruction during the game.

I might have to just suck it up and do the battlemap thing though.
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding

Cool. I like this.

Does the dry-erase marker come of easily even if you let it sit on there for a few hours? Then I'd be able to make the monsters before the game starts, that'd be really cool.



Yep! When I was shopping I made sure to mention I wanted something dry-erasable, and the tile dude pointed out a bunch of gloss-finish ones. I've actually left monsters drawn between sessions (every Wednesday) and they still erased just fine. Just make sure you don't get tile with a matte finish.
I also recommend FlipMat from Paizo/Steel Sqwire. Dry and wet eraseable, and you can leave it on a long time if you use one of the wetnap eraser things (for dry erase).

Different styles, and they fold up to about the size of a piece of paper so they fit in folders.
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19670890/Keep_on_the_Shadowfell_Character_Errata
Yep! When I was shopping I made sure to mention I wanted something dry-erasable, and the tile dude pointed out a bunch of gloss-finish ones. I've actually left monsters drawn between sessions (every Wednesday) and they still erased just fine. Just make sure you don't get tile with a matte finish.


I actually went to Home Depot today and found a 12"x12"x1" set of glass tiles for $4.95.  It's called "Mojave Trail" and I think it's on clearance.  The color is a nice light beige, which gives a really nice contrast to dark colored dry-erase markers.  Also, they sell 2"x2" tiles of the same color for $2.49 for 4 per pack.

So I now have 8 large creatures and up to 144 medium/small creatures for under $10.  You can't beat that with a stick!  Now all I have to do is wait until tomorrow so I can use my 40% off coupon at Michael's and get an X-acto knife so I can make my whiteboard work.

OH!  I almost forgot.  I dropped by Staples too and found that they sell 8.5"x11" sheets (4 per pack) of magnetic "paper" for like $12.  It's a thin magnetic sheet with a glossy paper on it.  The idea is to run it through your inkjet printer (no lasers, please) and you can make your own magnets.  I figured I'd paint a little super glue on the back of each tile and stick 'em to the magnetic sheet.  Then just use the X-acto knife to cut around the tile and bingo...instant magnetic tokens!  That'd work nice on my magnetic whiteboard!

All told, it looks like I'll be able to throw together a huge battlemap with hordes of tokens for under $50 total investment.  That's pretty friggin' sweet...
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
I'm also a big fan of the Piazo flip mats as well.

When I was in the Navy we we're playing 2nd ed and used to use a 6' by 3' dry erase board for our gaming table.  I miss having that as it made tracking everything easier since you could just make notations on the board.
I actually made my own map not that long ago. I used a type of board that is often used for dressers (i'll get the name tomorrow). I drew the grid in a normal sharpie and for drawing the map I actually use crayolas washable markers. If I just use water the marker comes off just fine and the sharpie remains behind undisturbed, though if I need to redraw the grid the sharpie comes off with windex.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/12.jpg)

We always use miniatures.  Even if we're using a whiteboard.  It's too irritating to erase and redraw things all the time.

This is what we've found works the best.  They're cheap, you can draw on it with marker or pencil, and you just tear off a new sheet if you need more.  If you want to prepare stuff beforehand, you can create the battle map.  If you're really into it, you can even cut out dungeon rooms and tape them down when the party opens the door.

If you really want dry erase, you could get a couple sheets laminated if you want.

Other options would be Cheap Ruled Dry Erase (not tried this) or if cost is no object you can buy professional ruled whiteboards or even look into Smartboards.
Few people can see genius in someone who has offended them. -- Robertson Davies
I was dming a campaign for my brother, and realised we needed a quick battle map. So we ran down to Wally World and picked up one of the cheep poster frames that came with a generic picture (something like 20x15" big).

We then pulled of the molding holding the plastic cover on off, flipped around the picture, drew the grid on that and reassembled it. Quick and sturdy, but I wouldn't suggest leaving a map on it for too long.
Sig
Yes, I killed your BBEG with his own lair:
Setting: Tomb with a perilous bridge and cliff 100 feet above a lava pit. Mummy pops out of his sarcophagus, initiative: Felix, Half-Elf Artificer: Twin Strike with crossbow. Trump (ala Donald), Eladrin Warlord: Charges mummy with Opening Shove, pushing off the cliff. Mummy fails saving throw, and falls into pit. Sanshiro (ala Japanese "superhero" Segata), Minotaur Barbarian: Strength check to lift sarcophagus and carry to cliff. Free action, drop sarcophagus into square above mummy. Sarcophagus drops on mummy, shoving him further down into lava. Mummy: proceeds to make a series of horrible athletics checks to swim and climb cliff. Dies a horrible death with lava permeating every orifice. Entire Party: Watches on in delight, faces alit with the glow of lava and flaming undead.
Original CharOpper
I soap myself up, and turn up the hot water in the shower, so my sweat mixes with the soap, slickening my skin: +5 to grapple I use my own legs as a shield since only upper-body hits matter: +5 defense I use my teammates bodies to construct a vehicle for myself, and dual-wield their weapons because as long as I win, we all win: +10 attack, +10 defense I completely ignore the enemy, their attacks, the devastating damage they are dealing to me and my team, and strike directly for their base, completely obliterating them, their way of life, and any chance they had at survival as a species: WIN Ender: The Original CharOpper and Power Gamer.
I was dming a campaign for my brother, and realised we needed a quick battle map. So we ran down to Wally World and picked up one of the cheep poster frames that came with a generic picture (something like 20x15" big).

We then pulled of the molding holding the plastic cover on off, flipped around the picture, drew the grid on that and reassembled it. Quick and sturdy, but I wouldn't suggest leaving a map on it for too long.



Nice!  My mapping surface is similar idea, but a few more steps - but for around $25 I have a 36"x48" mapping surface for my kitchen table:

I hit my friendly local art supply store for some foamcore - 1/4" thick foam backed with paper on either side, used for mounting artwork, architectural drawings, etc.  Draw a grid on the foamcore.

Hit your home depot/lowe's equivalent for a few sheets of plexiglass - set these on top of the gridded foam core, et voila.  You can wet erase (NOT dry erase) the plexiglass for mapping, tracking spell durations and AOEs, etc.  The real bonus over a straight-up whiteboard, though, is that you can take pre-printed maps from adventures, lay the plexiglass over top of 'em, and mark up to your heart's content.

Cautions: as mentioned, plexiglass IS NOT dry erase friendly - but this does get back to the OP's lesson, that the solvent in dry erase markers will re-wet dry erase ink or Sharpies, and allow you to wipe it off whatever you shouldn't have put it on.  The dry erase will "ghost" the plexiglass if left on very long, though, and not erase completely.

Also, the firebug player who decided that we needed to play part of a session by candlelight taught me that candlewax does not come off of plexiglass easily or completely.  (I think mineral spirits were what I came up with, after some testing.)
I use gridded whiteboards made by Longtooth Studios.  They come in packages of four jigsaw-shaped boards, which you can fit together to make areas in the shape of any Tetris piece.  They're really handy because you can make maps of different shapes and sizes, and the 1" grid is carved into the boards, so it's easy to draw straight lines with a marker, as the marker falls right into the groove.
Melamene, that is the name of the type of board that I used to make mine.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/12.jpg)

Dry-erase markers do eventually erase Sharpie marks, but what I've found to be useful is to actually use a thinner pen when gridding, let it sit for a day or two, and then play on it. With a quality straightedge (even the lowly ruler should do for this), you can easily repair any damage to your grid. I have a dry-erase board that I maintain like this, and I love it.

The original core books said that this was our game too. It doesn't feel like that anymore.

Just buy one of these: www.staples.com/Quartet-3-x-2-Prestige-T...

It has a subtle dot grid pattern already baked in to the board.  It's only $73 as well.
Wow this just gets better and better.    As a last ditch effort, I bought a Testors enamel pen (silver) for a couple of bucks to see if it's work on my whiteboard.

Turns out that the paint stays on just fine after being written over by the dry erase.  Woohoo!

Except that when erased...the marker now stains the paint!  Cry  This whole situation is just getting sillier and sillier.

Tonight I'm going to break down and cut the lines in with a utility knife and just go with that.  I can't believe that someone hasn't come up with a whiteboard with gridlines on it that doesn't cost more than $10.  I mean really, is it THAT hard to do?
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding