Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Missing Gen Con (again)

This is me not packing for Gen Con 50.
I am extraordinarily bummed I’m not to be going to Gen Con this year. Due to the 50th Anniversary, everybody is going to be there… and I mean every body. If a designer or artist once worked in RPGs or board games, chances are quite high they will be at Gen Con 50.

It will be an amazing opportunity to get your stuff signed by almost anyone you can think of. Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, Tom Wham (possibly?), Jeff Grubb, Larry Elmore, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, Darlene, Luke & Ernie Gygax, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Ryan Dancey, Peter Adkison, Steve Jackson, Davis Chenault, Jolly Blackburn, Chris Perkins, Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford… just about anyone old school or new school is going to be around if you can hunt them down for a chat and a selfie. If Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson were to rise from the dead like Lazarus, I'm pretty sure you'd see them there.

So, for all of you that are going, I hate you… Ok… maybe not hate… just mostly despise.  My one consolation is not having to stand within that press of humanity. I’m not agoraphobic, but even that mass of people would probably be uncomfortable.

But seriously, have a good time, but please be good to one another… and shower… and deodorize.

I think what I’ll miss most the opportunity to meet my childhood TSR heroes. I recall reading Tim Kask and Kim Mohan on a monthly basis when they edited Dragon Magazine. I loved Tom Wham’s mini-games that came about once a year in Dragon. I have fond memories of Jim Ward’s Gamma World, reading Dragonlance novels, and spending hours pouring over the details Darlene's freakin’ amazing Greyhawk map.

I hope all those designers and artists understand how much impact their works have had on a generation. It’s easy to underestimate the cultural impact these games have had. After all, they’re just games, right?

Not just games, but a gateway to adventure.

I did get to meet the exceptionally nice Larry Elmore in 2015
but I missed talking with Margaret Weis who I saw in passing.

Owlbear's Seriously Late Gen Con Post Game Report
Gen Con: This Is My Tribe Redux
Gen Con Day 0: This Is My Tribe
Missing Gen Con

Monday, August 7, 2017

D&D: Breaking My Dwarven Forge Addiction

My intrepid PCs invading the Caves of Chaos.
I confess I have an addiction to Dwarven Forge.

Years ago, I’d see their resin dungeon sets at conventions or online and always thought “Wow. Those would be so amazing to own and use in play.” Then in 2013, they kickstarted a light, durable plastic version of their Dungeon tiles and I was immediately sold. It was the first product I pledged on Kickstarter. I unhesitatingly pledged two unpainted sets for the amazingly low price of $120. I later regretted not buying painted sets, as I have still not finished painting all my tiles… but I still love the tiles.

In 2014, they introduced the Caverns and I promptly signed up for 2 painted sets at $220 (not going to make the unpainted mistake again). In 2015, I pledge the city builder, but at $250+, could only afford to buy enough for a few small houses and a bridge. In 2016, my Castle Builder pledge was another $200+, but that really only got me a few extra City Builder pieces, another bridge and some terrain bits. I couldn’t really afford any of the actual castles. The pledge amounts were getting higher, but the sets I could afford were getting smaller.

In 2017, Dwarven Forge kickstarted a new set of Dungeon tiles that solved a lot of the issues I’ve had in play with my own DF pieces. You could purchase base trays to pre-set rooms to easily move on and off the table. They added more magnetized parts to hold things together. They introduced large-size elevation boxes to allow easy creation of elevated terrain. They added all kinds of awesome bit and parts to make encounter areas just drip with detail and theme.

How much would you pay? But wait... There's more!
…and yet I just could not do it.

I wanted to pull the trigger. I really did. They even had “fan update” add-on, for people who already owned the older Dungeon tiles, but wanted an assortment of the new pieces. They almost got me with that… but with the items I wanted, I would have been in for another $200 to $500 easily.

I have kids to feed.

The sets were amazing, and there were even cool starter sets for the new DF consumer, but the pricing was getting steeper for the bits I wanted. The other issue is that I just wanted a few pieces from this add-on and some from that one… but there was no single set that included the assortment I could really use to compliment what I already owned without spending hundreds. I don’t blame Dwarven Forge. The margins on DF sets are probably small enough that they really do need to spread the highly-desired parts across different sets in order to make a reasonable profit. It’s their business, and I totally get that.

But I bought a 3D printer instead… a Monoprice Mini V2 for just under $250 shipped.

The PCs approach the Dripping Caves... Hey, this looks awfully familiar.

You see, I’ve gotten to the point where I just need specific pieces here and there. Spending $400 to get those dozen or so bits I really want just doesn’t make sense for me financially. These days, there are plenty of 3D models available for free or at a low cost on the internet such that going the 3D printing route makes a lot more sense.

My players consider their options
in the temple of Orcus.
I admit, the quality of the terrain pieces will not meet Dwarven Forge, especially using a consumer-grade 3D printer… and I’m back to the grind of painting again. But the flexibility of printing what I need (albeit slowly), instead of buying a large set to get the few pieces I want, was a key decision point for me. I haven't completely lost my religion. One day in the future, I will probably still pick up the occasional small set to fill out my existing DF collection, but I think I finally broke my addiction.

Fat Dragon offers a
Try-Before-You-Buy option.
If you are curious about 3D printing Dwarven Forge-like terrain, check out OpenForge on Thingiverse, as well as the excellent offerings of Fat Dragon Games on DriveThruRPG. I will likely follow up with another post on my progress and experiment more with my new toy.

To Dwarven Forge, I propose an idea. Consider added an adjunct digital line to your physical products. I know you would not want to be in competition with yourself, but you might consider creating some digital sculpts that might complement the physical Dwarven Forge product. As a consumer new to the DIY scene, I’d still love to also be able to support the company that has gotten me here.
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