I can’t imagine any devoted tabletop or role-playing gamer who hasn’t, at one point or another, sketched out his or her ideal gaming table, one that’s the perfect size and height, with proper places for dice, rule books, and beverages. One that is truly versatile and can handle all types of games, from board games to miniatures and RPGs. One with a built-in 40″ flat screen TV to use for software-driven digital maps that can even incorporate the “fog of war” (revealing only the parts of the map the adventurers can see).
OK, I have to admit, I’d never thought of that last wishlist item. But gamer Bum Kim has. And when he decided to upgrade his old gaming table to a fancier model, he knew he wanted to build in that feature. He’d been using a TV on the table as a digital mapping surface and was tired of having to place and remove it every time he played. In this over 50 minute build video, he runs through the entire process of planning, building, and finishing his 4′ x 4′ table.
Bum is not the safest builder I’ve ever seen — no eye protection, not the safest nailgun technique, and that outlet wiring looks a tad gnarly, but adjusted for error, the results are still the kind of table any gamer would love to have in his or her nerd cave.
Bum says he spent about $250 on the construction, by the time he was done adding all of the bells and whistles, but he thinks you could make this table for as little as $150 (by skipping the electrical system and cutting a few other corners). And, of course, there’s the cost of a dedicated LCD TV. But those are getting ridiculous cheap. I just bought a 32″ 1080p LED TV for under $150, delivered. At those prices, dedicating a TV to a digital mapping surface is not much more expensive than the cost of a high-end game.
To display the maps, Bum uses Roll20.net, a suite of online digital gaming tools, including a sophisticated mapping system. Here’s what he says about the digital aspects of his gaming table:
In terms of size [of the TV], it’s up to you. Our D&D group is going through Princes of the Apocalypse and the 40″ TV is plenty big enough to fit all but the largest rooms on-screen. What’s great about using software is that you can zoom out and see the whole map and then zoom back in at any time to the scale that you need. I’ve also been able to pull up scanned illustrations from the book to show players. I wish there was an option to get more of a square TV since the 16:9 ratio makes for a wide but short aspect. But it’s all good. If you go with a bigger TV, make sure it isn’t so wide that it won’t fit on a 48″ table. Or, conversely, it would be pretty easy to adjust the plans for a wider table to accommodate it.
I set up two accounts on Roll20, one for myself as Dungeon Master, where I can reveal the fog of war and still see the whole map myself, and an account for the players which is the one displayed on the TV. We only use the initiative tracker and the background soundtrack features but there is a whole slew of other options available. Heck, you could even have some players playing remotely with those at the table.
You can see more pictures of the build, read more background, and see other gamers’ comments and suggestions in the BoardGameGeek Forum topic on the table build.