When Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created the legendary Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) tabletop role playing game it is unlikely that they had any idea that it would become unquestionably the most popular RPG of all time. For over forty years the game has been a cultural touchstone for multiple generations of gamers and fans and has even endured and thrived in the age of the video game. That endurance has a lot to do with the themes of the game itself, thanks to its liberal use of modern fantasy mythology and iconography, but it is also due to the game’s ability to reinvent itself regularly. While not every new iteration of D&D or new game mechanic has been met well with fans, the evolution into a more visually-based game that allows users the option of using grid maps and mini figures has generally been a welcomed change.
When avid D&D player and Shapeways user Miguel Zavala was encouraged by his fiancée to pick up 3D printing as a hobby, at first he wasn’t sure it was for him. He had already worked with 3D printing while he was in college and never really pursued it after he graduated and got a job. But after finding that his local library offered 3D printing services he decided to go ahead and give it a try. As a fan of D&D, naturally, the first thing that he 3D sculpted was a Black Dragon miniature that could be used in his next game, and by the time it had finished printing he was hooked. In no time he had his own Printrbot Simple at home, and decided to 3D sculpt and 3D print all of the hundreds of creatures from the game’s Monster Manual.
“I actually started playing [D&D] when I was 17 and haven’t stopped since. While I’ve grown up a plenty, D&D is the one thing that I will always feel like a kid around. I’m just as excited now when I sit down and start rolling the dice as I was when I was a teen. I love this game, and it makes me feel absolutely fantastic knowing I’m helping improve the experience for fellow gamers like myself,” Zavala told me.
The 350 page Monster Manual is one of the three core rule books that are required to run a D&D campaign, and it is packed full of just about every fantasy creature that you can think of, and quite a few that you probably couldn’t (I’m looking at you, Owlbear) so this was quite the challenging project that Zavala took on. So far he’s 3D printed well over 200 of the monsters since he started back in the fall of 2014. The monsters range from role playing game mainstays like his incredibly detailed dragons to banshees, giants, demons, ghosts, specters and elementals. But he’s also 3D printed plenty of the odd, weird and ridiculous creatures that the game has to offer, like the Flame Skull, which is exactly what it sounds like. Naturally he’s printed what is probably one of the most iconic and weird D&D creature ever, the floating eyeball monster called a Beholder. And yes hardcore RPG fans, he’s also 3D printed the Dread Gazebo, because of course he would.
Zavala gets the reference materials for all of his designs directly from the source, the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. All of the 3D models are designed in Blender, which he then sends over to Cura to prepare for 3D printing. Aside from the first few dozen models, all of his miniatures were 3D printed on his Printrbot Simple in PLA. Zavala then hand paints all of the minis using standard acrylic model paints. He’s uploaded a huge gallery of all of his models onto Imgur, and all of the 3D models can be downloaded from Shapeways. He originally had the models up on Thingiverse, but it turns out that Wizards of the Coast, the owners of Dungeons & Dragons, weren’t crazy about someone making their own D&D minis.
“Wizards of the Coast requested my models taken down from Thingiverse. At first I was a bit surprised as I wasn’t trying to make money off of this or anything. Thankfully when I reached out to them and explained my intentions, which were just to share my files so that fellow players could have just as much customization in their games as I have, they were pretty fair. They just preferred the models were on a site they had an agreement with. So that’s why all my stuff is now on Shapeways. So long as I don’t try to sell any of their IP I can post away here,” Zavala explained.
Zavala’s only goal with his project is is to give other D&D gamers the option to completely customize their own games and have as much fun playing as he has all these years. He plans to keep going and continue to design and 3D print new models regularly, until he runs out at least. But even with the two hundred plus figures that he has already made the sixteen year Army vet isn’t even close to 3D printing all of the monsters, races and creatures found in the game, so I hope he has a lot of filament handy. Let us know your thoughts on this story in the 3D Printed Dungeons and Dragons forum on 3DPB.com.