By - April 23, 2010 - 15 Comments

Going 3D with D&D

Recently I have felt the need to add a third dimension to my flat battle grids, using more than just miniatures. I want to see the chairs, the tables, the bookcases, doors, walls, and various odds and ends in my mansions, keeps, towers, and dungeons. I want the tavern to come to life on the small scale as well as in my players’ minds.

Anyone who has ever dabbled in 3-D terrain for tabletops learns three things pretty quickly: it’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it’s addictive. Ever the cheapsk- uh, bargain hunter, I budget my D&D money to the penny every month and scour the net, craft stores, and garage sales to find the best deals. Online there are two major players in the 3-D racket, and a third underdog who is rapidly climbing the ranks.

Saving Time and Spending Money

Most DMs know about Dwarven Forge. They are the leading 3-D terrain manufacturer in the business. Their work is top-notch, and their prices match. They’ve been around forever, they know what they’re doing, and they are in demand. The smaller stuff – furniture and barrels, etc. – comes completely built. You can custom-make your own buildings with their wall and floor pieces.

My complaints – they’re expensive, a lot of time they’re out of stock on the things I want, and they have very few, if any, prefab buildings.

Take a look at their medieval furniture set. 14 pieces for $35. There’s enough for maybe two rooms. I think we can do better.

Saving Money and Spending Time

You can always make it yourself, though. Hirst Arts is probably the number one dealer for fantasy molds (about $35 a mold). It’ll take a lot of practice and some money to get started. You’ll need to buy the paint ($2-3 per color of the good stuff) and the dental plaster (about $75 with shipping for 50 pounds) separately. You’ll also need paintbrushes (between $5-$100, depending on quality), glue (about $2 a bottle), and hours of free time. After about a $200 investment, you can start saving some real money.

Hirst does provide complete instructions, tips, floor plans, and even helpful videos for many projects. I just don’t have the time to invest. It’s also beyond my budget to get started. You’ll save money in the long run, at the expense of a lot of time I’d rather spend playing D&D.

Saving Money and Time

I stumbled across an eBay store called Odds, Oddities, and Fantasy Collectibles while searching for old Dwarven Forge products (remember, bargain hunter here).  Their furniture set is $30 and has over 50 pieces pictured. I bought it, and apparently Chris Pickett, one of the owners, likes to throw in bonus pieces like some kind of mad man bent on giving you back your money whether you want it or not. My set had 75, maybe more. I stopped counting.

It takes about a week for the product to ship since they make the pieces when you order them. That’s for typical orders, though. I ordered half a dozen different sets, including some not shown on their eBay storefront. It took a couple weeks for the order to be ready. I’m happy with that time frame. It would have taken much longer for me to make the pieces myself.

Chris is a great communicator. He gives me updates on the progress of my orders, he tracks down products I need if they’re not listed, and he’s a true gamer. The product quality is comparable to Dwarven Forge – the detail work is awesome, the material durable resin, and the buildings are already put together for you.

Of course, there are always a few things that can be improved. I would like to see all of their available products listed on the store. Chris has a wizard’s tower, a castle, guard towers, and multiple other buildings that are very versatile but aren’t in the main inventory. With all the buildings prefabricated, it also limits my creativity somewhat. If OOFC offered wall, floor, and ceiling pieces, that problem could be solved. For an instant-gratification DM like me, having multiple building types would also go a long way to beating the competition into a pile of grey ooze. Having an option to choose multiple colors on the furniture pieces would help to customize orders. In all fairness, I didn’t ask Chris if he would do this. It may actually be an option; I don’t know. I’ll make sure to ask with my next order!

Disclaimer Not Needed

If you’ve read my other articles, you know I don’t endorse stores or products (except my own). I bought OOFC’s products with my own hard-earned cash. No one paid me to say nice things about Chris or his products. I didn’t get any free products (other than the bonus items Chris throws in with every order).

I’m also not slamming Dwarven Forge or Hirst Arts. Both have great products, and all three stores have positives and negatives. OOFC just fits my gamer lifestyle better than the others. I’m willing to bet that some other gamers reading this will feel the same way. Check them out, form your own opinion, and let me know what you think.

Do you have a favorite gaming product store? Share your finds with us!

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Written by Krys

Krys Underwood has been playing DnD for a couple years, and DMs most of her group’s campaigns. Krys is graduating from Texas A&M Commerce this spring and plans on teaching elementary kids. Krys is married with a six-year-old gamer girl and has been 21 years old for six years now.

Krys is the author of Scrolls of Destiny which is available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com/scrolls-of-destiny/.

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Leave a comment (15 comments so far) »

  1. ColoQ says:

    I love to create three dimensional areas for my players. I’ve found that for me, the use of imagination in my players is paramount to the “look”. I personally use black modeling clay (~$10 at an art store), and make 3d terrain out of it swiftly and infinitely customizable. Fits my bill both wallet-wise and purpose-wise.

  2. I’m still using the furniture that I got with HeroQuest, 20 years ago!

  3. Geek Ken says:

    I stumbled across Worldworks Games and their terrain sets. They are definitely a DIY operation, but if you are willing to dabble around with cardstock terrain, I think they offer a decent alternative. Granted it is a big project working with their kits. However if you’ve got the time, I think they offer some nice alternatives to 3D cast terrain.

  4. Tourq says:

    I do two things. Half the time I print out stuff from Fat Dragon Games and then proceed to cut, crimp, and glue. The other half of the time I take foam board and other stuff to make really big sets. One set took me 20 hours to build. Yes, we used it more than once.

    -Tourq

  5. gull2112 says:

    I also use World Works stuff. If you aren’t familiar it is high quality cardstock models. You buy the pdf’s and then print as many as you want. The drawback is storage. You can minimize the storage somewhat, but it still takes up a lot of space.

  6. Charisma says:

    Man! I don’t even know where to begin with 3D gaming!

  7. Krys says:

    Keep the ideas coming! My paypal is going to empty faster than a keg of dwarven ale!

    ~Krys~

  8. Faelmar says:

    I have been making mini’s my self for a while now. I use paperclips to make a reinforcing skeleton (like rebar in concrete) and i cover that with Sculpey home bake clay. Once the minis are baked they take acrylic paint very well.
    as long as all the arms, weapons, etc…(anything that sticks off the main body) has paperclip reinforcement within it is super tough and resilient.

  9. Awesome article. I love gaming with minis and that Ebay store looks awesome. I just ordered a set from them. Thanks for pointing it out!

  10. dr. dave says:

    Anybody have kids with an extensive Playmobil collection? I don’t GM currently, but I know if I did, instead of fantasy miniatures, I’d be raiding my kids’ knights and faerie Playmobil sets for all the furniture and barrels and castle walls and whatnot. I’d even consider using the cutesy figures instead of traditional miniatures, just for the ability to swap what they are carrying at any given time!

  11. Anthony says:

    so i know it’s a little out of date but for anyone like me how is scrolling through older posts… what i have done is buy pewter, or lead if your not worried about it. both are easy melt metals and cheap to boot. then take the green foam people use for flower arrangement, some older pewter figure your parents or older dungeon friends have and press them into the foam. then use that to make plaster molds… then pore the metal… if done right (may require a little fine tuning and some art skill) you can make your own figures way cheaper then buying them..

  12. Vance says:

    Here’s another vote for paper models! I use mainly Fat Dragon Games stuff, plus a few other freebies from around the interwebs. I’m super cheap, so I refill my own printer cartridges, and that makes paper models the cheapest way to go for me.

    And my wife even likes to help me cut and fold, so it’s a win win!

    I also use a lot of paper minis from OneMonk as well.

  13. Jordan Silverton says:

    I have found that legos is an easy way to create most of the type of areas you would ever want.

  14. Stefan says:

    keep your eyes open for something from Dwarven Forge in the near future…..it may surprise you…it will be a good surprise…

  1. Friday Fireside chat: Making the rolls to role-play | Level 30 Yinzer linked here

    [... Recently I have felt the need to add a third dimension to my flat battle grids, using more than just miniatures. I want to see the chairs, the tables, the ...]

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