As an unabashed fan of all things Pathfinder I guess it is not a surprise I like their GameMastery line of products. It runs the gamut from Flip-Mats to Map Packs (and I’ve written about both before here and here), cards to “compleat encounters” (minis an and adventure) and accessories. One of these accessories had always caught my attention, the GameMastery Combat Pad!
The description says it all, a wet and dry erasable board with a metal core that allows you to use magnets on the surface. The pad is double sided, with a sequence of numbers on the top to keep track of rounds, a column on the left to keep notes and a column to track initiative on the right, with spaces for ready and delay actions, simply slide the character’s magnet to the corresponding area. Did I tell you about the magnets? A series of blue (for PCs), green (for allies) and black (for enemies) magnets on which you can write with the same dry or wet erase markers you use on the board, along with arrows and marker magnets to keep track of different combat effects.
Since the first time I saw this I wanted one. I went as far as creating my own home made version with laminated print outs and magnetic tape some years ago. I left it on the wall of the room we played back then and I wish I had kept a photo to show you because as cool as the GameMastery Pad is, it’s not as good as the one I put together.
I wanted to love the pad, I did, but it did not live up to expectations. I knew it was small, about the size of a piece of paper, but on hand it just seemed minuscule. Before using the GameMastery Pad I used a small 11”x14” erasable board, sturdy enough to stand on its own when propped against the wall and large enough where I could write the names of combatants and players around the table could see it. In contrast the GameMastery Pad is small and the magnets, while useful, are little and players distant from the pad cannot see them properly. In my experience having the initiative order visible to all is a big advantage as everybody keeps an eye on who is up next on the initiative order and remind each other.
The GameMastery Pad is also flimsy. True the center is metal but the borders are more delicate, my copy was a little bent on the corners due to shipping, but nothing unusable. I propped the pad against the wall like I did with my old board, it slipped and fell, magnets flew everywhere and the corner was really busted. I also purchased the Extra Magnet Pack, which makes sense to replace lost magnets, but the idea of using these extra magnets for epic battles seems ludicrous, there is not enough space to put all the extra magnets in the pad.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize the GameMastery Pad is useful, beautifully printed and a great idea, just not really useful to me. I wish it was larger, sturdier, I wish I had kept that old home made version for it fit my needs much better.
But I’ll still put this pad to good use. I plan on creating a mock up of the surface to the size of my old board, print it on transparency paper and glue it to the old erasable board and maybe use a combination of the magnets that came with the board and some home printed images, laminated and stuck to magnetic tape. I want to make a pad that fits my needs; the GameMastery Pad is good, but not quiet for me. Like everything I write, this is just my opinion, lots of people love the pad, just read the reviews at the Paizo website, take what I say with a grain of salt, your mileage may vary.
Yeah, that was pretty much exactly my impression when I looked at it at Gen Con a couple years ago. Nifty idea, but ultimately not user friendly enough.
I bought one of these back when Paizo first started carrying them. Back then, at least, they shipped with a heavy black cardboard backer in the package. When I noticed the flimsiness of the combat tracker, I simply glued the cardboard to the tracker. It's held up great over the years – only the slightest of curls on one edge (the backer was just a hair short of the same size as the tracker).
Really? My Dad & I both love ours, we've convinced our FLGS to stock them and they have consistently sold. Now, one of ours was bought before it had the Pazio logo on them, and the other was the same design but newer packaging, so they may have changed the construction (both are different than the image). However, we don't show it to the players: It is just a DM aid. We don't really have anywhere to prop it up either, however, as we don't use DM screens most of the time.
Have you considered getting one of those kids chalkboards? They would be about the right size & magnetized.