Friday, September 22, 2017

D&D in 3D (printing)

Mixing existing OpenLOCK and OpenForge tiles,
I modified some arched corners for my dungeon.
You may have read in an earlier post that I funneled some funds that might have been spent on other terrain into a new 3D printer. It was a bit daunting, because there seemed to be a lot to learn just to get started, but I found an excellent entry-level printer, the Monoprice Select Mini V2, for around $250 (including the first spool of filament). [PS - Don't buy one off Amazon, they still only have V1's. Go direct to the Monoprice web site].

First Impressions

First, I must say the MP Mini is an amazing entry level 3D printer. The build area is a 120 mm cube, or just shy of 5 inches along the X, Y and Z axis. Note, this does mean some models may be a bit large to print without breaking them into pieces, but printers with a 6’ x 6’ build area are more than I was prepared to spend and I was ok with compromise on this one point. If you do have a little more to spend, consider one with a slightly larger build area.

The Mini V2 comes pre-configured out of the box. Sometimes a little plate-leveling is required, but there are a few YouTube videos to assist the learning curve on this. I had a small struggle getting it just right, but all in all, it wasn’t a major issue and the Facebook communities were a huge help. I selected PLA filament, which is better than ABS for my purposes (and no poison fumes), and I was off to the races!

A sample of the prints I've built
over the past few weeks.
Having missed out on the most recent dungeon tile Kickstarter, I wanted to find similar compatible terrain that I could print. here is a TON of it out there, and for FREE even (and you don’t need to wait a year for the Kickstarter fulfillment). Dungeons, castles, caverns, tudor building parts all for free. Even the paid tiles sets are reasonably priced from $10 - $20.

It does take a bit of time to curate the pieces you want to print (simply because there is so much out there to search!), but between Thingiverse, Pinshape, and MyMiniFactory you can find almost any pieces you’d desire. A large contingent of RPG related “dungeon tiles” exists on Thingiverse, and that’s where I’ve started publishing my own collection of modified tiles (more on that and the legalities below).

OpenForge, OpenLOCK, or Dragonlock

Printable Scenery OpenLOCK terrain
There are three main competing standards for 3D terrain. OpenForge, a standard developed the by excellent 3D creator Devon Jones, emulated the Dwarven Forge tiles which are 25 mm per square (slightly smaller than 1 inch). OpenLOCK, developed by Printable Scenery,  uses true 1 inch (25.4 mm) squares on their tiles. This may seem like a minor difference, but you would be surprised how a small width difference can add up over several tiles. Using OpenLOCK tiles with Dwarven Forge can be a challenge if the build area is large enough. With smaller rooms, it’s less of an issue.

One big advantage OpenLOCK has is that it uses a clip system to connect tiles together. You can build whole rooms or passageways and drop them on the table as needed. (Note: Devon Jones has been adding OpenLOCK compatible bases to his OpenForge collections).

DRAGONLOCK from Fat Dragon Games
Tom Tullis' DRAGONLOCK sets also use locking tiles, and he has some really excellent pieces including villages, caverns, dungeons and many accessories. Unfortunately the DragonBite locks are incompatible with OpenLOCK (although there are ways to get around this). Rocket Pig Games also has a tab-connector for its Tilescapes line.

UPDATE: Devon Jones (OpenForge) writes, "OpenForge has OpenLOCK compatible bases in both 25mm and 25.4mm sizes, so pretty much anything OpenForge can work with any of the above mentioned (Dwarven Forge, OpenLOCK and DragonLOCK). There are also OpenLOCK - DragonLock compatibility clips... so happiness all around!

There are also a 1.25 inch Wylock-style "True Tiles" which are intended to solve the Dwarven Forge the “walls takes up tile space” issue, but with OpenLOCK that problem is also solved since walls are attached at the edge of the tile, and not upon it. Mixing True tiles with other terrain is a little harder since they have a fairly significant scale differences.

For my part, OpenLOCK is the current leader for locking tile options, although I’m bound to spend a little on other products because you can even --

Roll Your Own

One of the other great advantages of 3D files, as opposed to traditionally cast terrain, is that it is so easily modified. Don’t like the floor texture? Change it! Wants a 3 inch high column instead of a 2 inch one? No problem. Want to graft some stairs to a platform piece to make a dais? Easy as pie (and cheap)!

Adventurers meet in a tavern...
With free tools like MeshMixer or TinkerCAD, modifying a dungeon tile can take under an hour (or several if you want to get really fancy). Microsoft even includes a 3D Builder program in Windows 10, though I can’t speak to its ease of use.

Want Dragonlock tiles but with OpenLOCK connectors? Sure thing! You’ve purchased those files and they’re yours to modify as long as you don’t share or sell them. Heck, there are a huge assortment of tiles on Thingiverse with Creative Commons licenses that would allow you to sell your modifications. I’ve even modified my own tiles and shared them for free back to the Thingiverse community (legally!). The Thingiverse Creative Commons licensing options encourages creators to share and modify one another’s works, and it’s an amazing community of creators.

So what’s the catch?

Build a stone dais for less than $2.
Well, 3D printing is slow. Really damn slow, actually. It can take an hour or more to print a basic flat dungeon tile, and several hours to print something more intricate. There are are also very few things as frustrating as leaving your printer to go for several hours only to find it stopped in the middle due to some error with the file or a clogged extractor. I’ve been fortunate enough to only suffer one extractor clog, and that was due to my own newbie inexperience rather than anything to do with the printer.

You will also have to paint. Hell, I still haven’t finished painting my Dwarven Forge Kickstarter from 3 years ago, so that’s nothing really new. If you are like me, you have to make sure you set aside time to work on your new terrain bits. And to be totally frank, 3D printing still doesn’t quite match the quality of a cast product… But it’s pretty darn close, and with a decent paint job, the difference is somewhat marginal. There is also something wondrous about coming back after 3 hours or so to find a beautifully arched corner tile that other gamers will be waiting until late 2018 to receive from a Kickstarter (at a fairly significant price, no less).

Final Thoughts

I am quite enthused to have joined the 3D printing community. The upfront cost may seem high, but you can print the specific pieces you’d like (albeit slowly) and in the long run, you will save a lot of money over the other terrain options out there because of the many free and low-cost terrain options. Even if you have an investment in Dwarven Forge or other terrain, 3D printed pieces can be used right along with your current collection of gaming bits. Time is your only real enemy.

Postscript: Dungeon tiles are easy enough to find, but now both Fat Dragon (DragonLock) and Rocket Pig (Tilescape) are having Kickstarters that include more outdoor terrain options. Check them out, too.

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