[RPG] How to make the own battle mats


Premise: I live far from the US, and for me, paying U$S20+shipping for Chessex Battle Mats is out of the question (I just spent U$S 114 for a full lineup of DnD Essentials, and this extra expense would be a great way of getting killed by my wife).

I thought that I could make my own battlemats, or having them made locally, buying the material in a hardware store / paper store and either having it etched / permanently colored with grid lines or doing it myself (a nice slow work for a rainy afternoon).

What I want is something

  • durable and persistent: paper sheets work fine, yes, but they're one-use only, and I have to redraw the grid for each new sheet.
  • portable: I think that this solution is a bit less encumbering than a dry-erase board, especially at the sizes I'm thinking: I want something I can carry with a backpack, if possible. With the proper materials, I can just roll the mats into a tube, or maybe have several small enough to carry around in a backpack.
  • cheap: at least, cheaper than what it'd cost me to buy them imported.

So the questions are:

  • What is the best material to build them from? Plastic, probably, but what kind? And it should be opaque, preferably in a non-garish color, possibly grey or brown.
  • What would be the best way to draw the grids on them? I was thinking of either drawing them with permanent marker, or, if the material is plastic, etching the battlemats with a hot knife, perhaps only with a small cross at the corners of the squares like you see in the official printed mats of DnD. Obviously, this would be way harder with hexes, but for starters, I was only planning 1 inch squares.
  • What are the best dimensions for a battle mat, especially thickness? I figured I can start with the 26 * 23 1/2 inches of the standard Chessex battlemat, but advice is welcomed.

Partial resolution
Today, I bought

  • a few sheets of cardstock,
  • a con-tact roll,

and got out my sharpies, a pencil and eraser, and a ruler. I penciled crosses on the intersection of each inch square, then re did them with the sharpie, then painted half of the first cardstock sheet with watercolors. I'm not a good painter, so it ended up less neat than I'd like, but I can practice. After it was dry, I laminated it with con-tact. Total cost? less than U$S 4, and a couple of hours well spent. I'm happy.

I might try other suggestions as these first attempts degrade. I just wanted to say that I'm very thankful for the suggestions.

Best Answer

You can make your own with paper easily.

  • Take a standard sheet of paper and put the grid on it manually. Graph paper will make this step easier.
  • Once you have one page with the proper gridlines, photocopy as many as you need for your mat (I'd estimate somewhere around 15 or 20).
  • Match the gridlines up and tape the pages together.
  • Now get some clear contact paper and place it adhesive side up on a table.
  • Lay down your gridded paper on the contact paper so they make a battlemat of what ever size you desire. For more durability, laminate the back side too.

The clear contact paper works well with wet-erase markers (I've never tried dry-erase markers).

As for size, I personally just use 2 sheets wide by 2 sheets tall (of 8-1/2 X 11 inch paper), so I guess that's something near 17X22.