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!