While I’m a big fan of DIY gaming terrain from foam and cardboard and other materials, I’m also a major proponent of 3D printed terrain and the companies/organizations that provide it. Just Google “3D print game terrain” and prepare to spend hours and hours browsing photos and videos and product lines… all related to the hobby of creating and printing plastic terrain for gaming purposes. Free software such as Tinkercad and Fusion 360 allow novices and pros to turn castles and creatures and vehicles in their mind’s eye into digital objects. 3D printers and 3D-printing services (such as Shapeways.com and i.materialize.com) can then take those models and turn them into tangible objects that users can hold and paint and place on the gaming field.
For those who lack the time or skill or patience required to create 3D models, however, there are thousands of free files found on sites like Thingiverse.com that can be downloaded and modified and printed. Even better, there are many individuals out there creating eye-catching models related to fantasy and science fiction games and offering them for sale at very reasonable prices. Consider that once you buy an STL file (STL stands for stereolithography), you can print the item as often as you like. Buy a skeleton miniature digital file and print an army of 10, 50, or 100+ of the undead to place on your table. The same goes for terrain such as floors and walls—buy the files once, print as many as you need. Even better, you can prime and paint them to your own specifications, just like miniatures and terrain you purchase at a game store.
One of my favorite sources of 3D models for my D&D and Frostgrave games is Fat Dragon Games. I’ve been a fan of FDG since I began using its paper models—as with STL files, FDG sells files that you print on card stock as often as you like. The paper models offered include structures such as towers and ruins that you cut out, fold and glue, and use when needed. Below are some images of some of the cardstock models I’ve purchased from FDG over the years and used in my games—they include dungeon and cavern locales as well as structures such as the Wizard’s Tower, Dice Tower, and Cave of Keys.
While I enjoyed Fat Dragon Games’ paper models, I will admit that they are extremely time consuming. I spent hours and hours cutting and folding and gluing to make that Cavern terrain above. It was fun for my players, but I’ve only really been able to use it a single time as the various walls and doorways and bridge are all glued down. I guess I could have left them unattached, but paper tends to move around too easily when bumped or after a deep sigh from a player who just lost his favorite character to the lava pit. Still, I own the files for the walls and doorways and bridge and other items, so if I ever decide to create a paper cavern… all I’ve got to do is print and cut and glue.
But FDG has continued to push forward with its new product line called Dragonlock. These are also files, but not for printing on paper. Instead, you print these out on a 3D printer. The first Dragonlock Kickstarter raised funds in late 2015 to create a series of dungeon tiles and accessories—walls, doorways, arches, traps, and much more. Even better, FDG still makes available a free Sample Kit for those of you who want to test out the pieces before you buy more. (You can download here.)
Should you decide you like what you see, you’ll be happy to know that over the last two years FDG has continued to release numerous expansions that include cavern tiles, keep tiles (taller walls), devious wall and floor traps, creatures, furnishings, hazards, numerous styles of buildings (the primary focus of Dragonlock 2 Kickstarter in late 2016) and ruins, and tons more. Terrain pieces are locked together using the Dragonbite clip; the advantage here is that the individual terrain pieces can be separated later and reused again and again.
One of my favorite uses for Dragonlock files is to print out small bits of terrain to create displays for my miniatures. I also gave painted 2×2 tiles out as player rewards when we finished up the “Curse of Strahd” adventure. I continue to find uses for all my Dragonlock files, and when I find I’m short a doorway or dungeon wall… I fire up the 3D printer and out comes another one.
Take a look here at all the current Dragonlock sets and expansions. There are currently 30 different sets available! Dig deeper and you’ll find that none of them are what you would call break-the-bank expensive. How many of us drop $10 on a mini or two? Well, that same price can get you seven files in the Ultimate Dungeon Starter Set that includes the 2×2 tile, door and doorway (it opens and closes!), 2 variants of straight wall, a corner wall, a pillar, and a staircase (see image below). And again… print as many as you want!
I mentioned that FDG didn’t stop after the success of its papercraft models, and they don’t appear to be resting with their Dragonlock series, either. Starting today, Fat Dragon Games is raising funds for Dragonlock 3 over on Kickstarter.
Where do I start? I can’t even tell you which of the new models is my favorite. Is it one of the four unique Dwarven statues? Is it the numerous (over 50!) Mountain Adventure pieces that can be mixed and matched to build amazing high-altitude adventures? Is it the set of six different interchangeable wall traps that slide off and on as needed? Is it the three models that allow you to add a tea-light for special lighting effects? Or is it the various add-ons such as trees, rivers, and science fiction terrain pieces? Yep… all of them!
And let’s not forget the stretch goals! Fat Dragon Games is notorious for adding more and more rewards as the funding goes higher. And one thing I absolutely love about their Kickstarters are the sketches of the various pieces that will be developed as funding is raised. If you’re concerned that not all the 3D models are currently finished, don’t be—FDG has always delivered their promised models and they are frequently even better than the sketches showed. All this being said, Dragonlock 3 is looking to be the absolute best collection so far… and the most advanced in terms of model design.
The Kickstarter is tiered—each backer level also includes any previous (lower-priced) backer levels, so you can buy what you need or get everything in one shot. And for those of you who have missed the earlier Kickstarters, FDG is bundling them together so you can get entire collections for a much lower price—all Dungeon and Expansion files for $125 and all the Village and Street tiles for $69. And best of all, the highest backer level for Dragonlock 3 at $129 gets you ALL of the new models plus four add-on sets of your choice.
Yeah, I’m very excited about all these new models. Fat Dragon Games continues to push the limits of what can be done with 3D printed terrain, and they do it as very reasonable prices. I’ve created my own models, and I know the time and money that goes into designing and test printing and fine-tuning 3D files, so I’m never hesitant about paying for well-designed models, especially when I can print as many as I like.
You can view the official Dragonlock 3 Kickstarter page here. Check back often because FDG frequently updates it with new stretch goals, but don’t wait too long to back. You’ll get a great price break on the new models (and the older ones) and you’ll be providing funds for FDG to continue expanding its Dragonlock product line.
Now… it’s time for me to go print a few steel doors for Wednesday night’s game!