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How I 3D Printed Cragmaw Castle for $117
Last week's D&D session so cool because we had a 3D battlemap of Cragmaw Castle to explore. It took some time, but it only cost $117 total.
Last year, I bought a 3D printer, the Elegoo Neptune 3, on Black Friday. I had never used a 3D printer before, so I went with a plastic filament (FDM) printer because resin is toxic, and I am honestly pretty careless. I’d definitely poison myself.
After some trial and error, I figured out how to get it working well enough to print miniatures and various bits of D&D terrain.
Lately, I decided to pick things back up since I have a monthly(ish) game I DM of the new Phandelver & Below adventure. You know, the one that expands The Lost Mines of Phandelver starter set into a full campaign. It’s awesome.
Since I have the time between sessions to do so, I decided to break out the 3D printer again and print up and paint maps for my group instead of relying on flat tiles and dry-erase marker.
The first one I tried was Cragmaw Castle. In the book, it looks like this:
I had to edit the design a bit for time since our other DM had to miss and asked me to fill in. That pushed my deadline up few weeks. So I was limited in which pieces I could feasibly get printed and painted in time.
Here’s what I ended up with:
One of my players took some cool pics from inside the castle, too, if you want to check out that album.
Also, this is my first 3d printed dungeon. I have never painted the terrain before, nor have I really assembled anything. So It was a total learning experience, and I am pretty proud of it.
I also found a very cool Patreon called Custom Minature Maker via Reddit that taught me how to use air-drying clay and 3D printed texture rollers to make floor tiles.
I never would have been able to finish in time if it hadn’t been for their content. You can see the clay tiles in the image above by looking at the ones with brick textures instead of the smoother stonework tiles.
Time Investment for 3D Printed Dungeons
Overall, the printer has been going non-stop for about 2 weeks now, maybe closer to 3. I’d say it’s running between 18 and 20 hours a day.
I can generally get 3 2x2 floor-and-wall tiles done in a single print, taking 9-10 hours. I would either print 2 corners and a wall, or 4 rounded corners at a time. Those were my main batches.
In other words, the bottom two corners of the castle (or equivalent) would take all of a single day to print, running 24 hours a day:
That’s not including priming and painting, but that was minuscule compared to printing. I could batch that and be done with 6-10 tiles in an hour total.
With the clay tiles, not counting the printing time for the roller and tile cutter tool, I could roll out about sixteen 2x2 tiles in 5 minutes (or technically, four 4x4 tiles), and it would be dry enough to prime and paint by the next morning.
As you can see, using clay tiles for flooring is much faster. And as you will see next, much cheaper.
Money Investment for 3D Printed Dungeons
I use Rustoleum 2x Matte Grey to prime, and it’s about $6 a can. I got this entire thing primed with a single can.
Then, I just used Apple Barrel and FolkArt paint from Wal-Mart to actually do the painting, and those are about $0.50 a bottle. I haven’t run one dry yet. I followed this tutorial and used the same colors they recommended: black, country grey, territorial beige, and pewter grey. So…about $2.
Then, as I said, I signed up for the CMM Patreon at the $4 level, bought some DAS air-drying clay for $10 off Amazon, and I’ve only used half the 2.2lb (1kg) block so far. I do think my tiles are too thin, however, so I will be using a bit more in my next batch.
And then there’s the 3D printing filament itself. Which is where the real cost comes in. But it’s still much cheaper than purchasing pre-made 3D dungeon tiles.
I suggest using eSun PLA+ (or PLA PRO) filament. The white is the best I’ve found so far for either minis or terrain, and it runs between $20-25 per 1kg spool on Amazon. Most of my prints were between 70g and 90g, with 2 corners and 1 wall being 90g.
That means I could get roughly 30 2x2 dungeon tiles out of a single spool of filament. At $0.025 per gram, each single tile would then average of $0.75 per tile. 75 cents is not a lot at all for a dungeon tile.
(Remember, I did almost all wall tiles, so that means you could get ~60-70 floor-only tiles out of the same amount of plastic. Cura tells me 6 2x2 floor tiles is 74g, for example.)
For comparison, Dwarven Forge tiles are ~$5 each, and I think some sets get them down to right at $3 each since you’re buying in bulk. But not always: one set that comes with 172 pieces is $918, averaging $5.30 per tile.
By comparison, at max, my Cragmaw castle is 20’x30’, or 150 2x2 tiles. For the plastic alone, that’s $112.
Plus paint and primer, that’s…$120. But then considering the roughly 50 dungeon tiles I made out of clay, that brings the total down to about $75 in plastic and paint, and $5 for the clay. So $90 total.
But, then I didn’t fill up every square, I think there are about 30 spaces on the foamboard I didn’t use. So take off $22.
So $78. And then there’s the foamboard, which I used to glue the clay tiles for stability ($1 each), and the blue poster tack I used to adhere the tiles to the second board, so that’s another $4 total. (Time kept me from doing magnets or anything fancier.)
Then there are the STL files themselves. I downloaded the Dragonlock Ultimate tiles by Fat Dragon Games from DTRPG as my base. I caught them on sale around Halloween, so I was out about $35 for the absolute crapton I bought.
Back up to $117 total.
Note: You can also find free STLs of pretty much everything you need on Thingiverse by searching for OpenForge or just looking at Devon Jones’ profile. So you can do this a lot cheaper than I did, but I found I like the Dragonlock ones just a bit better.
And That’s It!
So for roughly 1/10 of what it would take to buy pre-made dungeon tiles, I 3D printed exactly what I needed over about 2 weeks and painted them.
I think that’s pretty dang awesome. Next, I am working on the Redbrand Hideout from LMoP/Phandelver & Below because my party went goblin-crazy and abandoned the town until that part of the story was over.
I can use a lot of the same tiles I have already made for this one, and the ones I make special will be for the cavern and chasm in the middle and furniture.
I wasn’t able to use any set pieces like I wanted in Cragmaw Castle, so I think this one will be fun to dress up with coffins and tables and beds and such. I want to give it a real lived-in feel for my players. As long as I have the time and resources.
While I can’t say that spending over $100 on a D&D map is inexpensive, having reusable tiles that I can bring to my FLGS is great. The initial investment in time is pretty high, but the monetary cost is relatively low in comparison to other 3D dungeon tiles.
All in all, I am very pleased with how it is going so far, and I can’t wait to get a wider variety of terrain types printed and painted and see what I can make.
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