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Dry-erase vs. Wet-erase Maps and Battlemats (July 2007)

Treasure Tables is in reruns [1] from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month [2], and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Setting aside digital map projection [3], the two most popular reusable RPG mapping solutions out there are dry-erase boards and wet-erase mats.

The former come in a variety of sizes, from commercial white boards to options designed specifically for RPGs, like the unbelievably awesome Tact-Tiles [4]. The latter most commonly come in the form of gaming-specific flexible mats, offered with a wide range of grid and hex options.

I got my start with reusable gaming maps using one of those giant wet-erase battlemats, and have since switched to Tact-Tiles. I much prefer dry-erase maps to their wet-erase counterparts — here’s a point-by-point comparison of dry-erase vs. wet-erase mapping options.

Dry-erase

Wet-erase

Conclusions

Dry-erase wins on options, cleaning, messiness and stains; wet-erase wins on portability, grids and hexes and price.

If toting your map board/mat isn’t a problem and you’re willing to throw a bit more money at a good mapping solution, there’s no question that a dry-erase board or a set of Tact-Tiles will be easier to use and stay clean longer.

If you don’t have a permanent gaming space [6] available, if you travel to run games or if price is your main concern, then a wet-erase map may be a better option overall.

Different options may also matter more to you than they might to other GMs. For example, I’m pretty anal about cleanliness, so the messiness of wet-erase mats bothers me more than it might bother most GMs.

Knocking over the water, having sopping paper towels to deal with and getting to see the dungeon I stupidly drew with a red marker a year ago drove me up the wall — your mileage, of course, may vary.
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post [7], and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums [8]?