Using Digital Maps on the Cheap

I have never played RPGs online.  I have always played in person.  Most of my experience has been with Organized Play, and those games are often played around a table with a random group of players.  I’ve played in game stores, mostly, until almost 2 years ago when I started my own game outside of the context of Organized Play (like Adventurers League, i.e.”AL”) with a gaming group of my own.

The maps provided for use with the adventures in AL were easily reproduced on dry- or wet-erase gaming mats.  A person could even print them out on paper if one had the capacity to do that.  As a DM, I sometimes printed them at home on my inkjet printer using PosteRazor and assembled them like puzzle pieces so I could bring them to my tables.  The larger printed book adventures sometimes had map packages that could be purchased from professional fantasy cartographers like Mike Schley and Jared Blando.  These maps were often used for playing online in Virtual Tabletop (VTT) programs and platforms like Fantasy  Grounds and Roll20.
But purchasing those supplements and rulebooks required a laptop to use them, and I didn’t have one of those.  Plus, I didn’t want to be sitting around using my laptop during a D&D game because I was purposely playing in-person to avoid the necessity of doing so.

But I yearned for something that could enable me to use “Fog of War” in a table-top setting with my friends, using whatever maps I had.  I coveted the setups that so many were developing, but couldn’t bring myself to invest in a laptop to take advantage of them.  Nor did I want to plunk down hundreds of dollars to use a very narrow range of each product’s full capacities.

Now I have something.  InfinitasDM.

This inexpensive $10 app is available for use on an Adroid or iOS phone or pad.  It’s also available on Steam.  I downloaded it to my phone, bought a $40 Chromecast device to hook up to my old non-smart 42″ LCD TV, and made a frame out of scrap 1×3″ wood and sheet rock screws.

Voila!  $50 later I have whatever digital map I want.  With Fog of War.

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This app has more capabilities than my group uses, but it’s perfect for what we need.  As DM, I can use my phone to reveal the parts of the map covered by the Fog as they go explore without having to draw it.  I can scale it up and down to whatever size I need.  I can also add a grid over maps if they don’t have one.  I can use any map I can download into my phone’s photo collection.  (The image above has a map of Castle Ravenloft purchased from DMsGuild.com.)  The players put their tokens/minis on the surface of the TV itself, moving them themselves without having to have an computer/phone interface as well.  They roll their own dice, and we don’t rely upon the program to figure out random encounters or populate cities or whatever…

For us, this is the perfect integration of digital and pen-n-paper mapping.  And it was cheap.  $50.  This is going to save me so much on printing costs it isn’t even funny.  And I can now create maps for my own use without needing to worry about whether they’re going to reproduce in print like I see them on the screen–I can actually make them for the screen instead.

I’m beyond excited!  And I had to share.  I think this app may be a cheap alternative that caters to the pen-and-paper crowd, which could be quite useful for Organized Play situations.

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