Over The Top Epic Roleplaying

–Why Stop at 20?

Improving Your RPG Experience Vol. I: Make A Tac-Map!

Leave a comment

This post is a copy of a post I made to a Facebook roleplaying group I belong to. The permalink to the original post is HERE. But this post will expand upon it, and offer more photos. This post also partially duplicates a post I made on my other blog, which can be found by clicking right HERE. (I know, I know, I do a lot of cross-posting! Ha ha.)

What exactly is a “Tac-Map”? Well, the term “Tac-Map” is an abbreviation for a “Tactical Map,” which is the military term for the old, analog maps you see (in the old, WW2 movies) that are in the command center, and covered by a sheet of glass, upon which are laid small, plastic figures that the generals are pushing around with long rods, in order to show current troop placement and movements. Sound eerily familiar?

Old Tac-Map 001

Overview of my old Tac-Map, which took up about 80% of my old gaming table. Alas, improper care and storage was the doom of this map, which no longer exists. I did, however, make a smaller one last year, which is currently still in use.

My friend Joe (who himself is a U.S. Army veteran) came up with the idea to make the D&D version of a “Tac-Map” many years ago (circa 1998 or so) and I have been doing it ever since; what you do is, you get a piece of 3/4 inch or 1 inch (thick) plywood that is big enough to lay your vinyl map on, and still have about a 2-inch or so border around it.

Then you sand it down really well, and stain it. Then you varnish it and seal it. Once it’s dried and allowed to air out for a day or two, lay the vinyl map on it, and put some heavy books (Dictionaries work really well) on the map. Cover the entire map with books. Let ’em stay there for a day or two. This will get all the kinks and creases out of your map.

Then, buy a piece of Plexiglas (I prefer the kind that says it’s 250x stronger than glass; that kind is easier to drill, and won’t crack as easy; my old Tac-Map had the thinner Plexiglas, and it did indeed crack over time with usage.) the Plexiglas should be bigger than the vinyl map, but not bigger than the plywood. Drill four small pilot holes (1 in each corner) and then screw the Plexiglas down onto the plywood, with the map centered underneath it. Once the Plexiglas is drilled down, it will hold the map in place FOREVER, trust me. There’s no need to put the screws through the map.

Old Tac-Map 002

This is a close-up view of a battle in my epic campaign. The un-painted figures are demons, and the spell being cast is a heightened, empowered, maximized Cone of Cold. There used to be about 8 more figures on the board, just a few moments before 🙂

But anyway, what you’re left with is a tad less-portable than the vinyl map, so it’s more suited to staying put on your man-cave table, but the advantage is that you can now draw on the Plexiglas with a china marker! China markers STAY without smudging, so you can rest your hand on the Plexiglas while drawing maps.

New Tac-Map 001

This is my new Tac-Map, which is somewhat smaller than the old one, but built with tougher Plexiglas. Also, you might notice that I have switched from lead miniatures (which were a hassle to paint, store, and transport) to customized LEGO figures. The LEGO figures fit the scale of the 1-inch squares perfectly, and are far easier to customize and manipulate.

HOWEVER, the slightest (and folks, I mean SLIGHTEST, use this stuff sparingly!) amount of Orange Glo on a paper towel will wipe the board clean INSTANTLY and EFFORTLESSLY. China marker comes off with the slightest TOUCH from a paper towel with Orange Glo on it. A quarter-sized, single squirt onto the towel will wipe the whole board. Don’t go overboard, because using too much will leave a greasy residue on the Plexiglas.

Tac-Map Battle 001

An example of what LEGO miniatures look like in a battle situation.

Tac-Map Battle 002

The Lich Lord (on the throne) and the Lich King (at the bottom of the dais) have some hostile visitors! (Yes, I realize that I misspelled it on the Tac-Map. Hey, it was during the heat of battle! Ha ha.)


WhereYaGoing 001

The Lich King’s guards arrive, and are met by Osthelerin, who wants to know where they think they’re going in such a hurry?


WhereYaGoing 002

A bird’s eye view of Osthelerin’s one-man welcoming committee.

At any rate, I have been using this system for years, and my (new) Tac-Map has become a cherished piece of gaming furniture that I would never part with!




Author: tellerianhawke

My name is Christopher A. Altnau, and I'm a happy husband, proud father, scholarly librarian, dedicated writer, avid role player, and ardent airgun enthusiast. My in-game persona is Tellerian Hawke, Defender of the Weak. I run an epic-level third edition campaign.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s