Sunday, March 22, 2015

D&D: Add 3D Flair on the Cheap

Dwarven Forge City Builder -- beautiful but pricey
UPDATE: Many of Dave Graffam models just went on sale for just $1!

If you are not tuned into the crowd funding world, you may not know that Dwarven Forge has run a few extraordinarily successful Kickstarters. They're products look amazing on the gaming table, but they're not for the faint of wallet.

They're current campaign for the City Builder System looks just amazing, but has an [unpainted] entry point starting at $165 in order to get the stretch goals. With all the attractive add-ons, one could easily spend a lot more than that.

So what do you do if you want to spice up your table from time to time, but don't have hundreds of dollars to drop on 3D accessories?

Simple village set up using freebies
There are actually many cheap print and play options that can be had for the cost of some cardstock paper and printer ink (not that printer ink is that cheap, but relatively speaking...). Some can be had for just a few dollars at DriveThruRPG, but others are completely free!

For example, Wizards of the Coast released several PDFs from a their 3D Map Folio product:

There are enough models here for a nice little village, including two different cottages, a church, a large tavern, a bridge, castle towers, walls and city gates! One could build the entire Keep on the Borderlands with the free models provided by Wizards of the Coast alone!

Just a couple paper craft models makes
this Harkenwold encounter stand out.
In addition to what Wizards gives away for free, a number of the print and play paper craft model makers have free samples available through their websites or on DriveThruRPG.

Two of my favorite modelers, Tom Tullis at Fat Dragon Games and Dave Graffam often put their products on sale at DriveThruRPG. Even when they are not on sale, they have a wide selection of low cost buildings that can be mixed and matched to make an awesome display for less than $20.

Even with just a few models, you can spice up a simple village encounter... Or you can do what I did and go a little crazy.

The battle for Albridge just got epic!

Perhaps you're not looking to craft and store a large group of buildings, but just want to spice up the dungeon crawl a little bit. There are several resources for "2.5D" gaming. What is 2.5D?

2.5D example by Frank Turfler
Basically, when you mostly use flat pieces like dungeon tiles, but add small 3D elements for flair and depth, this is referred to as 2.5D. As an example, a Dwarven Forge tile has a 2 inch tall side wall on its dungeon passages. A 2.5D tile conversely, might only have a small cardboard bump up to represent where the wall exists. This also makes it easier to handle minis because there is less blocking terrain for your hands.

There are some great tutorials out from crafters like DM Scotty and Dungeon Master G as well as a Google+ group dedicated to 2.5D crafting. Several 2.5D PDFs are available from DriveThruRPG for very reasonable prices.

So, if you're looking to spice up an encounter or two, it doesn't take a whole lot of extra effort to make the world come to life with a little extra flair. Whether you go all out with 3D models or just add a little 2.5D to your dungeons, you may be surprised at what even the smallest extra visuals add to a game night.

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