10/09/2015

Frugal GM Review: Modular Battlemats: Inn

Frugal GM Review: Modular Battlemats: Inn
This weeks review is on the brand new Modular Battlemats: Inn from Inkwell Ideas. The idea of a modular building appealed to me since it usually means I can get more bang for my buck.

The download consists of a 35.2 MB, 42 page PDF. The file information listed on the product page is a bit off, not just in size, but also in that the PDF is not watermarked. Usually a watermarked PDF has some security features implemented and this file does not, which is a big plus. Normally I want to be able to use this type of file in its printed form and cut up electronically for use with a Virtual Table Top (VTT).

The download is just the PDF, which means I'll have to do some slicing & dicing in Photoshop 1st. While the unsecured PDF should make this an easy task I'm thwarted somewhat by the fact that LibreOffice (4.3 to be exact) was used to create the file. I get that LibreOffice is free, but it falls short on PDF creation.

I've also noted that the PDF is Letter sized, but since the actual art doesn't take up the whole page, printing to A4 paper won't be an issue. Just make sure your settings are "Auto Rotate & Center" without scaling the page.

The modularity (if that is an actual word) for these inns comes from the fact that each "building" is separated into quadrants and the end user can swap out quadrants as desired. According to the product page, and the 1st page of the PDF, there are 8 "main" buildings with four parts each and two "uppers", or 2nd floors, both with four parts each.....

.....and this is where this product falls flat. 1st off, some of what the publisher counts as a "main building" is just a minor variation from a previous building. The number scheme for the layouts reflects this: 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, & 5b. Usually the difference is just a different floor for part of the sections. The buildings themselves have some decent enough variation, but there is still enough similarity between the different sets that it looks more like variations of modern model homes in a subdivision. Every building has the kitchen in the SW quadrant and beds in the NW quadrant.

You can see some of this in the free preview on the site, but here is a closer example of the NW quadrant of "buildings" 1 and 1b.
Is this really a separate building?

To make matters worse, the copy I downloaded was missing the SW quadrant for the second upper floor. Page 42, which should be labeled Inn5-upper.SW is just a copy of page 34, which is Inn5b.SW.

While I'm on the subject, I'm not a big fan of labeling the quadrants as they did. For me this comes down to an either/or scenario. If I wanted to use the green edging around the outside of each quadrant then I wouldn't want the label in the way. Personally I'd rather not have that edging at all since I'd prefer to be able to place these tiles on my own surface (at the table or the VTT). Ideally the pages would have been labeled outside of the graphics, or better yet, the labels and the border could have been layers of the PDF so I can toggle them at my desire.

Frugal GM 2 Star Review: Modular Battlemats: Inn
Overall I liked the idea of a Modular Battlemats: Inn I could change-up to suit my needs, but I am disappointed in the execution of this Inkwell Ideas offering. Just based on the description I expected a bit more modularity and it would have been nice to get 8 full buildings with 2 full upper floors. I still can get some use out of this download, just not what one would reasonably expect. The normal price for this download is $2.95, but it is on sale for $1.49.