Hank: ” I wonder why there are no guards here?”
Eric: “Because no one is stupid enough to ever try to come here, that’s why!”-Dungeons & Dragons (the ’83 to ’85 cartoon)
So caves are a fairly common adventure location. In years past, I figured I had a decent solution with a full 3D modular cave tile system. Visually, they achieved the “wow factor” for most of my players, and I got a lot of use out of them. Yet they posed a few challenges that the whole 2.5D craft revolution addresses-mainly, accessibility.
Wyloch’s You Tube channel is one of my favorite crafting resources, of which I’ve gushed about before. I’ve made a few dungeon tiles in this style, so cave tiles seemed the next logical iteration and expansion.
As with the dungeon tiles, it takes a lot of patience to make these things. Thankfully, the design of the cave tiles is a bit less labor intensive. You need fewer cardboard squares, and you achieve the texture with crumpled tinfoil and hot glue rather than by sculpting foam and cutting multiple layers of card. Also, the base tiles are more uniform in dimension, which makes production smoother.
The result? I’m rather pleased with the look. They all fit together reasonably well. My innovation to the project is the addition of the occasional crystal cluster on some of the tiles.
For this, I used a razor saw to cut square, green plastic stir sticks, the kind used for parties, and sand the ends into points with a fine grain sand paper. That part is tricky, since the plastic is a kind of resin that likes to turn white and bead up when abraded. I glued the bits together into a cluster of three and applied them to the tiles.
The drawbacks became more apparent over use and time. Even though I used a good quality varnish, the paint wants to flake off the aluminum as you would expect, especially if you toss these tiles into bins with any level of recklessness. Also the acrylic gems and any applique, like the crystals, glued on to the aluminum will withstand no rough handling before popping off.
In play, I found that emulating specific caves from a module, like Phandelver, is hard with any generic tile system for caves, due to the nature of caves. In this case, the two by two format was versatile enough to approximate the configurations I needed, yet was also an exercise in problem solving on the level of a jigsaw puzzle in the middle of a game. To make these tiles work, you need a substantial amount of them to depict a region of the cave complex. Finally, the weight on these are negligible, and without a non slip surface to lay them on they will shift about. I resist the pennies on the bottom solution, it would add unnecessary height and make them less compatible with my other Wyloch tiles.
I still love these tiles. Likely, I’ll use them primarily at home, even though by weight and form factor they travel well. For a more durable solution, I’m taking a hard look at DM Scotty’s Tilescapes for something fast and easy. But that’s a subject for next time…