Nice room. So where’s the loot?
It’s been a while since I’ve had the occasion to craft much, and even longer since I’ve made a post. But even when life keeps me busy, I keep one eye open for ideas and inspiration. I ran across a stray comment on DM Scotty’s Crafts N’ Games Facebook group, mentioning a triumvirate of RPG craft personalities—namely, DM Scotty, DMG Info, and Wyloch. I knew of the first two, but the third was a mystery. I was intrigued.
We’re Off to See The Wyloch
The experience of watching Youtube craft tutorial vids is an eclectic pleasure, I’ll admit. Yet there’s a tingle of excitement when I come across a new video, even if it’s a bit of a rehash of an old idea. It’s a thrill akin to getting a letter, or a postcard in the mail. Anyway, Wyloch’s channel is an absolute gem, and it’s strange that, as I write this, he’s relatively undiscovered. His videos are amazingly well produced considering that his equipment consists basically of a PC and a smartphone. He keeps everything in frame and focused. He narrates clearly and is easy to follow. His edits keeps the pace interesting. From start to finish, you understand clearly everything you need to do to produce a similar result.
Some Compact Tile Issues
Over the years now, there have been a couple of 3D tile products that I wouldn’t mind having, but were too expensive to buy, or too messy to make—involving molds and plaster or resin, and that’s simply not in my sphere of expertise at this point. I’ve had some measure of success in making small interior tiles with 3D walls, but there’s a number of issues I ran into that discourages their use and manufacture. First, the walls are a hindrance at the table. For a small room, everyone has to stand up to see or move the figures inside. Secondly, wall thickness is problem. If the width comes out of the tile, then a miniature simply can’t sit on a perfectly legal space. Add the wall on the edge of the tile and you’ve got a tile that doesn’t line up with its neighbors.
Some 3D tiles from yester-year.
The Big Deal
Building off the notion that it’s not necessary to fully represent the height of every wall, Wyloch tiles suggest the wall in the vein of the DMG Info, and DM Scotty 2.5D tiles. What’s innovative, is that he retains the grid, yet sacrifices the “one inch equals 5 feet sacred cow. And that cow makes for a tasty brisket.
For the complete rundown and tutorial check out his channel, but the secret? Make the spaces big enough to support a wall while retaining the same sense of scale. It’s simple and elegant! This is the kind of brilliance that invented the combustion engine or the electric light. So, after watching and re-watching his videos numerous times, I decided to try my hand at making such tiles of my own.
So You Wanna Make Some Tiles?
One of the first things to consider is that with these tiles it’s all about precision. It’s kind of like the difference between being an artist and being an engineer. You have to put your hard hat on. To be fair, what you’re still doing is art, but it requires a bit more care and deliberation than what’s usually “close enough” or a fair approximation. Each tile, and each tile component, must be painstakingly measured and re-measured and cut precisely or things won’t line up right. You can’t rush these things, and for me, that’s probably the biggest detractor.
I do enjoy crafting. Yet cutting out scads of carefully measured card stock squares, to me, is definitively tedious. When each tile has 4 spaces, and each space needs two squares, we’re talking 80 carefully measured and hand cut squares for only 10 tiles. Painting and assembly is only less tedious. As mentioned, there’s a lot of components, and some things really should be painted first before it even gets glued on. Depending on what you count, there are no fewer than 20 steps for each tile: measuring each component, cutting each component, sub assembly, black-basing each assembly, cutting bricks, embossing bricks… you get the idea. Yet the kick I get for seeing things come together is enough Pavlovian reinforcement to keep me at the assembly line.
Many tiles organized through a lens darkly.
Well, These Things Won’t Make Themselves
I started this project about or almost three weeks ago. I’ve spent several days and evenings working diligently each week. I’ve so far produced some 64 tiles. Aside from the labor, the cost was negligent. Most of the materials are basically free. I had some trouble locating double thick cardboard believe it or not. That stuff’s kinda like the Mafia. You know it’s out there, but you just don’t see it every day.
I had some initial concerns about the durability of these tiles. Even with a chipboard backstay, the foamcore wall connection with the tile seemed to be a weak point, that is until I started gluing on the spaces. The thickness of these spaces I thought were a bit extravagant, but they serve to reinforce the wall from the front, and give the tile a bit of heft and rigidity.
I went to some greater lengths in cutting the spaces with interesting patterns of distress. I avoided perfectly straight lines. I only distressed the top layer with chips and cracks. It gives the floor interest and dimensionality, and the color scheme keeps the floor at a visual baseline without screaming for attention. That’s really a job for the minis and the furnishings.
I’ve been painting stuff for longer than I can remember. I’m not an award winner by any measure, but I know how to use a brush. That said, I’ve never used a sponge. Most of the time, if I want texture, I build it on the model, and use various paint techniques to bring out the texture. I’ve been aware of the sponge technique for quite a while now, but trying it for myself was educational.
I find that with a properly loaded sponge on a flat surface you will get some impressive results. You always want to “daub” the surface, never smear. Having a mostly dry sponge with a vigorous stipple will get you a speckle look, while a moist sponge with a single stamp will get you a veiny or cratered look. There’s always a danger of leaving patterns of lines with the edge of the sponge, which is definitely undesirable. When I dab, I pinch the sponge to make a convex surface, which leaves fewer or no traces of the sponge’s edge.
As for painting the wall with the sponge, I didn’t care for the result. I stuck with it, but in hind sight, I would have gone with brush techniques. Using a sponge on a varied and porous surface left me with less control than I usually find tolerable. Trying to brighten up the lower part of the wall, I generally only succeeded in over saturating the upper part of the wall with paint. As it was, I went back and evened out tones with a brush. Part of the challenge is to get a look that’s consistent from tile to tile without spending too much time on each tile, because, again, you want to make a set some time within your lifetime.
I went with the two part gray over black and the occasional brown brick to break up the monotony. I kinda wished I’d have used a slightly less bright gray to finish, But I can live with what I’ve made. I am happy with the shade of brown “camel” which is a more subtle shade compared to the rich browns I’ve seen used. I think it helps to sell what is an otherwise sub par paint job.
Overall I’m pretty happy with them, and I can’t wait to use them in a game. I can foresee these getting a lot of mileage, so the time and effort was a great investment. I haven’t made curved or dead end halls yet, So I actually have a few more to go. The 2×2 form factor is easy to store and even the whole set is very light weight, which is good for a DM on the go. Now to start furnishing my dungeon!
Some of my home made minis. Sayin’ grace over some goodies.
Ok, so don’t mention the Owlbear in the corner.