Whether you’re a 5th Edition D&D player, a Pathfinder stalwart, or a fan of any number of OSR games, 3D printing can offer a wealth of opportunity to up your tabletop roleplaying game experience. I’ve truly relished delving into this world in the last few months, but I’ve found some of the attitudes on popular forums dismaying. A prevailing idea exists that 3D printing for tabletop is best suited for individuals with resin printers, and those of us in the land of fused filament fabrication (FFF) should not proceed. That’s goblin spit!
Let’s take a look at the lay of the land and see how you can use your 3D printer to score a critical success with your players or Dungeon Master.
DnD Minis STLs
Gamers have run theater of the mind games for decades, but there’s no denying that there’s something extra special about looking down at the 20 you rolled sitting next to your heroic character. Character minis are often the first pool many players and makers dip their toes into, thanks to the ease of services like HeroForge that allow you to design a character, purchase an STL, or order a print in various materials. And, who knows, even though the service seems defunct now, Hasbro could potentially bring back its tentative steps into 3D printing minis, as well.
Something you might notice about both of the above minis is that they’ve got broken weapons. Arms, legs, swords, spear tips, fingers—any thin or long features that hang off a mini run the risk of damage during the support removal process or just regular play. I would advise HeroForge newbies to print minis without long weapons or limbs too far from their bodies.
I know what you’re saying, “That’s boring.” You’re not the only one who thinks so. This is what makes designers like BriteMinis so important. When faced with the issue of meddlesome supports and snapping minis, what did he do? He started designing support free characters for FDM printing. Adam offers a generous portion of his catalog for free on Printables—certainly enough to run plenty of sessions, but for a $5 Patreon subscription you open up his entire catalog. I generally print these minis at 80% scale and a brim for bed adhesion and they look fantastic.
When you’re ready for prints that are a bit more challenging, Miguel Zavala has spent the last several years modeling the entire 5th edition Monster Manual and creatures from popular 3rd party supplements like Tome of Beasts. You will need to print most of these with supports. I recommend a brim, tree supports, and messing with your support overhang settings (start at 70°). Some monsters will require being printed in pieces and assembled, but the results are well worth it.
Tiles, Terrain, & Scatter
There are a variety of dungeon tile sets out there. The Openlock system is incredibly popular, as are various tiles that feature embedded magnets in the print. These sets have many adherents, but I personally found that I needed a tile set that, a.) printed quickly and, b.) would be easy to store and transport. No one wants to spend 45 minutes printing a single tile. Hence my contribution to the 3D printed tabletop scene: LAZY DUNGEON TILES. They print quickly, they’re enhanced using various colors or filament types, and they’re thin enough to store in a shoebox.
Check them out over on Printables and share a make.
Regardless of what tiles one chooses to use—you might just go with a battlemap or the back of some wrapping paper—scatter objects can help to flesh out your settings just a bit. Everything from barrels to treasure chests and notice boards can be made to add a little extra tangibility to your game.
The best part is: you don’t even need to look for objects designed for tabletop gaming. Anything scaled properly and easy-to-print can make a good piece of scatter. Use the blocks from Zelda as a dungeon obstacle to give a wink to your fellow gamers. Your endless number of Benchies could be an invading naval fleet commanded by an evil King. You’ve got options.
There’s also a lot of fun to be had with buildings and backdrops. I adore this Western Town set by mrhers2. It prints easily and looks fantastic on a tabletop. There are tons of models of buildings, real and fictional, to toss on your table. If you want to really dig in, check out some of the options available for designing custom terrain.
Props & Treasure
In my opinion, where 3D printing really shines on the tabletop is its ability to make the intangible, tangible. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: It’s six months into the campaign. Everyone is getting prepped for the next session, when someone asks “Hey, who has the immovable rod?” After ten minutes, you realize you left it at a cavern three sessions ago.
Magic items and other valuable treasure can sometimes get lost on character sheets. But players are unlikely to forget about a cool item they claim after you hand them a 3D printed version.
I 3D printed this magic item and created a QR code tile puzzle. All a player would need to do is find all four elements, arrange them in the right order, and scan with their phone. Voila, new magic item in their inventory.
Generating the QR code online and splitting it in my slicer was easy. I imagine that someone more creative than me could come up with a bunch of fun ways to use this in a tabletop session. Gifs of anime attacks? Sound effects? Maps for the party? I think the possibilities are endless for creating new ways for players to interact with your world.
Free and paid STL files exist all over the internet for some of the most iconic magic items in tabletop gaming and pop culture as a whole. You can remix them to your hearts content. I remixed this Bag of Holding miniature, by scaling it up, removing the base, and printing it in vase mode.
As with scatter, when it comes to props and treasure, scaling is your friend. Printing objects large enough for your players to interact with ensures they won’t be forgotten.
We certainly haven’t scratched the surface of everything 3D printing can do for tabletop gamers. There are folks out there casting their own dice in molds they’ve printed and terrain can get much bigger than what we’ve shown. That’s to say nothing about the endless array of dice towers and trays to print for simple table management. It also goes without saying that while this article focused on a few fantasy roleplaying games, there are folks out there designing for games like Car Wars, Warhammer, Dead Lands and countless others. Print something fun for your table! And if it doesn’t exist, design it.
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