Animated Dungeons & Dragons Boards Look Like The Future

Paper? Cardboard? Plastic models? That's some 20th century D&D shit. The adventures of the future look like this.

Dynamic Dungeons is a one-man effort to get tabletop gaming looking as good as possible through the use of animated maps. Birds fly overhead, water rolls in, that sort of thing.

Here's a woodland scene, for example, that has wind in the trees, wandering animals and the ability to transition from day to night.

And here's a fortress assault, again with a day/night transition, complete with fires on the battlements and flags snapping at the wind:

Perhaps most impressive, though, is this galleon board, 100% selling the look of a ship cutting through the waves, its sails rippling in the breeze:

These maps - which include ambient sounds as well - aren't designed for a some weird custom gaming setup; they're just animated files that you can use on a TV screen, whether you using your own main television (flipped and covered with a perspex screen to avoid scratches) or if you decide to go and buy another TV specifically for this purpose.

Which sounds expensive, but if you play a lot of D&D (or anything, of course, since these are just grid maps, meaning you can use them in all sorts of tabletop games), the cost of an old TV looks 100% worth it for this kind of effect.

You can get them here, and they range in price from $US2 ($3)-$US5 ($7) per map pack (the higher costs get you more effects, like the daylight transitions).


    This is a great idea with lots of potential besides a pretty background. Imagine this on a capacitive screen that knows where your characters are in relation to the environment, and monsters and NPCs etc.
    You wouldn't want to move too far away from what table-top playing is meant to be - otherwise you may as well just play Pillars of Enternity or DOTA - but it could help with calculating distances and obstructions etc.

      What you're describing is what I first though when I saw some of the early Microsoft Surface demos (back when surface was a huge table not a tablet/laptop). I love the idea of being able to track the characters using the screen not just use it for prettier maps. It'd be great to be able to say tap different icons to bring up music, or character sheets or other information.

      That said, I do wonder whether it's losing some of the originality and imagination by going the high tech route. Half the fun (as DM anyway) was designing your maps and encounters. While it may look awesome would it have your particular "flavour"?

        That's what I meant about it not straying too far from the reasons people play tabletop games. Admittedly, I don't play them, but I can see why there would still be some appeal in rolling actual D20s yourself rather than pressing a button and having a random number (or worse, the actual encounter result) appear on screen. On the other hand, measuring the distance between Warhammer figurines with a ruler is probably less engaging and a better candidate for automation. Maybe there are people who get off on some measuring action, I don't know.
        For designing maps, it could come with an editor - à la RPG Maker - that the DM uses to create their encounters. Then you're just replacing the graph paper, not the creative aspect.

          Absolutely. I have to say when I DMed I'd usually hide the rolls and in some cases it didn't matter what the roll was because the situation warranted a certain result. Usually in cases where a player would be insta-killed or they were going way off track and I wanted to push them back to the main story.

          If the software came with a good editor that allowed you to not only create the maps but also import objects (models, textures) then yeah that'd definitely be worthwhile.

    This seems like a missed crowd-funding opportunity. A cheap tv repurposed as a gaming table, with map packs included as tier rewards? This would have been a slam dunk crowd-funded project, and more lucrative than the $5 a pop they're currently charging.

      I dunno, he's got over 500 people signed up to the $5 amount. That's not too shabby to be getting a month for I assume a side project.

        It's just fine, but I would suspect that creating these digital tabletops takes more time than you'd think, and it's not really comparable to a large scale crowd funding campaign. Obviously crowd-funding would be a larger scale endeavor, more time consuming, in a different industry. It just seems like there are few occassions when you have a clear cut opportunity to create a market for a product you enjoy making. Just making an observation though.

    If I get myself a home of my own I think I'll be making a table for work. I do have a spare TV to use and friends who are not useless...

    It's a creative idea and good for if you're on budget but I'm more interested in the AR game boards that are starting to gain traction. Not only can you have animated scenery but you can have it in 3D and interactive with random events.

    I'm still disappointed that no one went with the obvious idea of a D&D game on WiiU with the gamepad being the DM's screen while the party was on the main screen.

    A previous iteration of MS' Surface played with this almost a decade ago.
    It looks clunky as hell, but bursting with possibility.

      Thanks for linking this. It's what I was remembering in my other post. Showed some interesting potential, but wow has it changed :)

      Yeah whats also interesting is that this basic functionality is there. I've played with a Surface Dial on one of the top desktop Surface models that would have come out maybe a few months back. These are very slick, very nice devices. Oh and suuuper expensive. But Microsoft want to aim them at the Designer/Apple market. They want to see big expensive shiny Surface machines on hipster designer desks, not Apple products. So due to where I was working, I got to play with them for free which was cool.

      Anyway, The Dial is really nice. You already have a good screen pen, the screen rotates weightlessly to flat or drawing angles. The Dial is this weighty little circle that you put down on the screen and rotate to tweak stuff, plus a button, This is the same basic functionality shown on the d&d demo with the options around the items that rotate with the model. For design, it allows the designer to make weighted strokes with the pen while also tweaking another factor (colour, alpha, fuzziness, whatever) in a freeform way using their other hand. You can just use it on the desktop as well as on the screen. So it adds to that more analog type feel - like you are converting the artists physical movements (like a brush stroke, tweaking the dial) directly to the output.

      But its also expensive. The beauty of the solution in this article is that it uses any old screen and figures. If you wanted a full interactive d&d experience you are needing the expensive screen, and multiple devices capable of the functionality of the Dial. Even if you worked out a modular system for the figures (like the bases are smart and you switch them) its expensive.

      Little expensive hardware with limited purpose is a hard sell. Microsoft have probably targeted the right market for that technology.

      The Augmented Reality stuff might be a much better bet for the D&D stuff though, longer term. Given a sufficiently advanced AR system, everyone would need an AR headset. This is a much more general device that has lots of other uses. They could sit around a table and AR could project a 3d map. Each player and the DM could arrange their own information in front of them that only they can see. DM could even be editing maps and scenarios on the fly to keep up with an unpredictable party.

      Each player at the table could have a full size model of their character standing behind them, or even projected over them in real time. The entire process of battle, rolls etc could be automated with the DM able to monitor and veto in real time. battles and scenarios would play out in real time with animated characters on the map, and through voice chat as guided by the DM. The DM could also have a range of effects and pre-cooked scenes to use.

      And while this would be cool around a table, old school style, it wouldn't be limited by geographical location. One or all members could be in different locations.

      I think AR is going to be killer tech for old school roleplaying.

        Yes and no, I like being able to see the real people at the same time. Maybe if the AR doesn't cover the faces. And while it's cool being able to play from anywhere in the world I really miss the actual physical interaction of being with friends in person doing stuff. It would however be great if someone wasn't able to be there in person - they could remote in.

        As for the minis on the surface, you wouldn't necessarily need them to be "smart". Just make the app smart. All the screen needs to do is sense something touching it. So when you put the mini on the screen the app pops up saying "what did you just put on the screen?" You identify it and from then on it remembers that object/creature as it's moved around. Only limit may be on how many simultaneous touches the screen can handle.

    Now we just need some roll out screens for easy portability!

    The tentacled sea monster is from the Conan board game, which these maps would be perfect for use with.

    I'd be worried that the light from the television screen would render the carefully-painted miniatures I use worthless. Project from above and you camouflage the miniatures. Use a screen and everything is underlit, unless you use a counter-balancing light source from above, which would create its own problems for the screen. Seems to me that if you care enough to want these beautiful maps, you'd want to see your painted minis in all their glory.

    The board gaming/miniatures gaming (think Necromunda or something) applications for this seem really unlimited. A 4k 60inch screen and the imagination of game designers.... why isn't this a thing already?

      At a guess, too small a potential market. It's a little too niche since it's kinda targeting the nerds within the nerd community :)

      Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see it available.

        Yup that seems about right. This has me excited for future tabletop gaming though - imagine being able to roll out a flexible screen/mat with dynamic scenery etc. Download the Middle Earth pack and away you go. IR sensors tracking where your miniatures are on the map etc. Too cool!

          Yeah roll out style flexible screens would be amazing if they can get them to work.

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