Papercraft & Dungeon Sets

gnunn
gnunn
edited June 2010 in General Discussion
Who around here uses paper-craft or other set elements at the gaming table? I have gradually been getting sucked into this little sub-hobby of D&D, ever since I downloaded the Gamers Help Haiti mega pack earlier this year. I printed out some of the dungeon tiles, mounted them to foam core, printed a few pages of 3D barrels and tables, folded and glued them up... and now I'm hooked.

My papercraft addiction has grown to the point that last night, when I should have been making notes on upcoming encounters for tonight's game session, I instead built a complete layout of the known portions of the dungeon my players are currently exploring. I justified this by telling myself, "They said they are going to backtrack and search the rest of the complex for loot, so rather than drawing it room by room, it's best to just set it up!"... right!? besides, I have a great big table that can fit the whole thing at my new place.

Anyway, I am not a rich man, which is why I go with "folded paper":http://www.fatdragongames.com/ rather than "sculpted plastic":http://www.dwarvenforge.com/ for my dungeon sets. As such, I have also made a couple discoveries that help me keep my cost down when creating mounted dungeon tiles & set pieces.

* empty grocery store pizza & cereal boxes make excellent backing for overlays. I mount most blank floor tiles on foam core, but usually put furniture, rubble, doors and other accessories on the free leavings of my breakfast habits. Unfortunately, while mounting the dungeon images to the obnoxious, printed side of said boxes produces a nice, neutral backing for your finished tiles, the printed surface does not like to hold glue. When it dries, it will often warp, causing your carefully applied binding to crack, popping the dungeon tile off of it's backing and unleashing the horrible eye of Capn' Crunch from its eternal bondage. I am currently experimenting to see if mounting on the unlaminated inside of a box will produce more permanent adhesion.

* 2 inch binder clips make excellent supports for raised platforms! I have a few papercraft columns I built from a Fat Dragon set, but last night I needed more. I have been unsuccessfully scouring art and craft stores for 2" spools or dowels to use for this purpose. Then, last night I realized a bag of large binder clips of dubious origins came with us in the move. I popped the little flippy-doohickeys out of their sockets, stood the clips on end and stuck loops of painters tape to the top... Voila! sturdy supports for that upper level balcony!

So, do any of you utilize nerdly origami in your game sessions? If so, for what purpose? What are your best practices for making dungeon sets on a budget?

...dang this post is long!

Comments

  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited June 2010
    Haven't tried the paper method yet. I actually did build an entire modular dungeon out of cement using "Hirst Arts":http://www.hirstarts.com/ molds. Unlike Dwarven Forge, which comes pre-built and pre-painted, Hirst arts produces molds which one then uses to make the individual pieces of a dungeon. From there you glue them together (I glued them to a foam board base) and apply several layers of paint and any desired aging effects. The problems I found with this project were as follows: (1) it was pricey; (2) it was far too time consuming; (3) storage can be an issue; (4) versatility can be an issue. That said, I was quite pleased with how the project turned out visually. My group has been playing in a this dungeon for a while now and I think the fact that the dungeon is 3 dimensional has really aided game play in allot of ways. Even with the problems I mentioned however, I would still consider building another dungeon, although this time I would build an even more compact modular dungeon, similar to what "this guy":http://hirstarts.yuku.com/topic/3134/t/Small-brick-dungeon-new-update-April-25.html built. This would take care of the last two problems I mentioned (though of course you time and money would remain issues).

    I wish I had some pictures to show of how the dungeon turned out, but currently my digital camera is broken. I might try to borrow a camera and take some shots of the dungeon though if anyone is curious to see how it turned out.
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Oh man, that Hirst Arts site is dangerous! but I agree, I would be hesitant about the issues you mentioned.
  • Hardhead
    Hardhead
    Posts: 65 edited June 2010
    I actually just started, using the paper models WotC put out way back duruing 3rd edition, and it worked out really well.. "Here":http://cdn.obsidianportal.com/assets/14268/30924_401151152137_554117137_4093752_5517251_n.jpg was my setup for the last two games where my players tried to infiltrate the orc-controlled city of Brighton.

    And as long as I'm posting pictures... "here's a wider shot":http://cdn.obsidianportal.com/assets/14267/30924_401151137137_554117137_4093751_6729184_n.jpg. For those that follow my campaign, they are (from left to right) the players of "Teagan,":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/teagan "Althea,":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/althea me, "Hovan,":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/hovan "Korgul,":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/korgul and "Brigga (center bottom)":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/brigga. "Hope":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/world-of-crucible/characters/hope is behind the camera.
    Post edited by Hardhead on
  • gaaran
    gaaran
    Posts: 740
    I do not use 3-d dungeon tiles, however, after looking at some of the links you guys posted and some of the results, I think I might start. Some of that stuff just looks absolutely fantastic. My only concern is that it does look quite time consuming. I already spend more time on here and working on my site than I probably should :). How long on average does it take to set up something for one of your games gnunn or hardhead? (Or arsheesh for that matter, the hirst arts stuff looks pretty awesome too.)
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Hardhead, that's a really nice layout you got there! I also like your gaming den allot, much more spacious than my own.

    Gaaran, yeah you can do some pretty amazing things with Hirst Arts, provided you have the time, money and inclination. However, after seeing Hardhead's spread, I think that if you want something that looks good, is portable and won't cost you an arm and a leg, your best bet is to go the paper route.
  • Hardhead
    Hardhead
    Posts: 65 edited June 2010
    Gaaran: Well, there's definitely an initial time investment. It's hard to say. The first time I put together those houses, the first one probably took me an hour. But the last one only took me like 15 minutes. And plus, now I have those houses to whip out any time I want. I'm trying to do one per week, and slowly build up a big paper model collection.

    Arsheeh: Thanks. That's my garage, obviously. As for the table, I made it myself (well, several of us did) because our existing one was too small. Did it for less than $60 at Lowe's.
    Post edited by Hardhead on
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Hardhead! That set looks awesome! Once I get my craft room set up and some additional shelves installed, I plan to start building more proper 3D set pieces.

    Hardhead has it right as far as the time commitment involved. It's really front-loaded while you get your technique nailed down and your supply of items built up. I use a lot of foam core mounted floor tiles. Foam core can be purchased in big sheets from art or craft stores. I lay out the tiles I plan to mount and then glue them all down. Wait a day for the glue to dry and then start cutting. Slicing foam core is the most time consuming portion of the creation process IMHO. You need to make sure your razor is sharp, and even then each cut should be done in 3 passes to ensure a clean result. (1 = top layer, 2 = foam, 3 = bottom layer) A large sheet can take an evening to cut out.

    Mounting to pizza boxes is easier, because you can just cut the tiles with scissors, but the cardboard likes to warp, even after it dries, so the end result is a little less polished.

    3D models can actually be pretty easy once you get the technique down. I have a growing collection of paper-craft tables, chairs, barrels, pillars and even trees. I actually wound up having to put my constructions on hiatus, because my laser printer ran out of toner. (This will probably be your biggest cost for DIY paper-craft)

    I have attached some pics of the set I built for last night's session. These were taken at the end of the night.

    * "Pic1":http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/_9p3Hx4i40WLb-FTOOJwGw?feat=directlink
    * "Pic2":http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/MRDaU1hsDx4OdL9cMjDeHQ?feat=directlink
    * "Pic3":http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/NlFfLT-AlIHJZb31u25qkA?feat=directlink
    * "Pic4":http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Sxq5Ln-OZ4xPf683TeOGgg?feat=directlink

    I also have several pics of my first paper-craft endeavor embedded into the "recap":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/the-westerlands/wikis/session-35 of the session in question.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Nice! I really must look into this paper method as an alternative to the cumbersome concrete dungeon of mine. I also imagine that with this method it would not be too difficult to design your own dungeon tiles (e.g. seen lots of homemade dungeon battle maps at the Cartographers Guild), send the jpgs to a print shop, and then utilize Grunn's foam core mounting method to give the pieces some stability. I used a similar mounting method with the Hirst Dungeon; at some point I'm going to upload some pics of it to my Age of Legends site, along with pics of some homemade minis.
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Oh, it would be totally easy to make your own tiles! In fact, I made a really nice 2D oxcart tile for one session using a compilation of free images from over at the "dundjinni forums":http://dundjinni.com/forums/default.asp?C=4 If you have preexisting blank floor grids, either from other downloadable tile sets, or from scanned pdfs of dungeon tile books, you can quickly create almost any custom tile you want just by importing the basic tile into a graphics program, and then adding layers of objects on top of it.
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    BTW, if you want to try out some free samples, Fat Dragon Games has a whole page of "downloadable freebies.":http://www.fatdragongames.com/fdg_free.html FDG had some stuff in the Gamers Help Haiti bundle that got me rolling on this whole escapade. I have been really impressed with their stuff and have gone on to purchase some of their full sets. Their model trees totally solve the (is that a tree or a stump? dilemma that occurs by just drawing it on the battle mat.) Now I can show characters perched in the branches directly above someone on the ground!

    Also, check out FDG's "beginner's guide.":http://www.fatdragongames.com/images/IntroCardModV3.pdf This is the document I use for my technique.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Cool! Thanks for the links. I actually bought some supplies from woodland scenics to construct some three-dimensional trees, however haven't gotten around to making them yet. Ahhh, so much to do, so little time...
  • gaaran
    gaaran
    Posts: 740
    those are some pretty awesome dungeon tiles guys! I might look into them, just for a more authentic feel. Right now, for mapping, I use MapTools. I have my laptop as the DM client, and then I have my desktop computer as all the PCs. I game in my living room, so I use my 52" TV as the battle mat. It's been working pretty awesome, as MapTools does line of sight and fog of war, and then I don't need table space for the battle map, but it makes things slow down if things change unexpectedly and I have to make changes to the map. Not only that, but these dungeon tile things look like fun :).
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Gaaran,

    I've used MapTools in the past to make custom battle map printouts, and even some graphics for my wiki, but I've never tried the online management feature, though I've recently been bugging my gf to take it for a spin with me. The one problem I found with MapTool is that it gets really resource intensive if you use realistic images like those on from the dundjinni forums.

    I could see it being an issue in my game with players trying to tell me where they want to move.

    Unexpected changes are also a bit of an issue with dungeon tiles because, unlike on a battle mat, you can't just draw on the tiles. I have thought about adding a laminated surface to the tile tops so I could draw temporary effects like walls of flame or acid clouds or globes of darkness onto the board. I've also considered making tokens that could be dropped onto affected squares, though both methods require additional money and time resources.
  • gaaran
    gaaran
    Posts: 740
    Gnunn, I agree with MapTools being a resource hog, I'm just lucky that both my computers are pretty up to date :). I only use the LAN feature of the program, so it allows me to use my laptop sort of as a DM screen, and only reveal to the players what they can actually see.

    The way I usually run is if I'm looking for a dungeon crawl type session(s), I find a pre-built and just tweak it to fit in my game, and then take the maps from the pre-built and import them into maptools. I also made tokens of all the monsters in the 4e monster manual, plus downloaded a ton, so I have stuff to work with there. When I'm running my story sessions, they tend to be role-playing heavy and very combat light so i don't find TOO much need of pre-prepared maps (you don't need one for a bar fight, although it would look cool). I have a few that I've made from scratch, but the wizards maps look so much better.

    As far as where the players want to move, they either describe it like a chess move (down two, left three) or they just stand and point to the square on the screen, it's only about 4 feet away :).

    My gaming buddies and I are hopefully going to be all renting a house together (we have a core group of 4) and we're trying to get a place with an extra room we can set up as a gaming room. Once we get THAT set up, I'll definitely post pics, should be pretty epic.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited June 2010
    Alright, so I finally got around to taking some pics of my concrete (dental plaster) dungeon. All of the pieces were made using Bruce Hirst's "Castle Molds":http://www.hirstarts.com/, and I used "Woodland Scenics":http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/index.cfm great product line to adorn the exterior sections of the ruins. These pieces have seen two years of wear and tear and so unfortunately have become chipped and scuffed, but hey, they still get the job done.

    1. "Basic Set":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Basic%20Duneon%20Set%201/015.jpg
    2. "Before the Altar of Genocron":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Basic%20Duneon%20Set%201/Before%20Genocrons%20Altar/020.jpg
    3. "The Ancient Sentinel":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Basic%20Dungeon%20Set%202/Exterior%20Ruins%20Set/067.jpg
    4. "The Pools of Amath Grall":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Cisterns%20Dungeon%20Set/096.jpg
    5. "The Crypt of Kings":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Basic%20Dungeon%20Set%202/The%20Crypt%20of%20Kings/119.jpg
    6. "Random Dungeon set up":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Dungeon%20Set%20Ups/126.jpg

    And there are LOTS more: for more pics, visit the "Homemade Dungeons":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/age-of-legends/wikis/homemade-dungeons page on my AOL site.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited June 2010
    Oh, and here's a "Frost Worm":http://i843.photobucket.com/albums/zz351/arsheesh2/Age%20of%20Legends/Hirst%20Arts%20Dungeons/Frost%20Worm/038.jpg I made (it was my first, and perhaps best attempt at creating minis).
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • gnunn
    gnunn
    Posts: 423
    Schweeeeeeeet!
  • Zmann966
    Zmann966
    Posts: 5
    I just migrated from player to DM and after running some pre-built campaigns from WotC I started using MapTools.
    I must say that I don't know about the resource hog of it, as my computer's built for intense programs, but when it works boy does it work! I'd love to use it for the built-in LAN tabletop ability, or even in conjunction with a projector onto the table, but right now I build in it and print it out. Then I use the tried and true method of scissors, glue, cardboard and foam to give it that realistic terrain feel.

    @gnunn I use the same sprites I use in the map built from MapTools as "sprites" on the table. Print out a jet of steam or acid, cut it out and place on the tiles. Same with flames and pit-trap holes, (love those, just print out the faded black 2x2 square and apply with double-sided tape when triggered.)

    We just got out of Keep on the Shadowfell, so I don't have any pics yet, but I'll post when I snap some next session.
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Zmann966, my dream is to one day have the "Microsoft Surface table":http://gizmodo.com/5385625/dungeons--dragons-on-the-microsoft-surface . Of course, they are $15,000. I dream big. Then again, the plasma tv in my living room cost me a little less than a grand, and a decade ago, it would have been about $15,000. Maybe in ten years, I'll be playing on a Surface (or it's more powerful/pompous/popular Apple version).

    I look forward to seeing your in-game pics.

    Arsheesh, WOW! I love the frost worm! Also, I do believe I will be buying trees from you, good sir!

    I often use the Heroscape tiles in my game. They are big hexes, so it's not a perfect solution, but I've invested about $100 or so in a couple of different sets, got a ton of cool minis and wall pieces in the deal, and because they are modular I never have a problem building a rough approximation of what I want. Also, the pieces come apart and stack easily. I rubber band about 20 of any given tile size together and shove them all in big rubbermaid containers for easy access the next time I need a cool dungeon set-up or battlefield scenario.

    I am jealous of how those molded plaster pieces look, though, They seem so authentic. I've always wanted to play on a Dwarven Forge set, but the cost of entry is way too high for me.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Yeah Dwarven Forge is definitely for more white collar gamers. If you've got the money it is well worth it though. Bruce Hirst's castle molds don't come cheep either though, and the molding and modeling process is fairly time intensive. But man is it fun!
  • Zmann966
    Zmann966
    Posts: 5
    Duskreign, Yeah I've dreamt that too, ever since I saw the Surface I've wanted one but for the same reason, I don't have one. XD
    Of course, with a home projector, a glass-surface table with one of those tinted films on one side, a wiimote and a computer you could probaby make one ala http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/
    Once again though, quite an endeavor. This time expensive in time, not money.
  • JimTriche
    JimTriche
    Posts: 483
    I want a Surface
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Never mind. JimTriche dreams big. My dreams are downright reasonable.
  • Zmann966
    Zmann966
    Posts: 5
    Wow yeah, There goes our dreams...
    I mean I agree with him whole heartedly, but I think I'd add the specification that I could get it for less than two arms, a leg and a firstborn child...
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