Puzzle-Lock

After working on my Caves project, I started thinking about all of the different “locking” options that are being used to connect the terrain tiles on the tabletop. I had an idea of interlocking the tiles with a jigsaw puzzle connection, which would be identical on every side. That would allow you to lift a tile from the table and replace it with a “trap” tile or “secret door” tile without disturbing the rest of the dungeon!

Puzzlelock_WIP_01

I started with a standard 2″ tile (50.8mm), and started working out the geometry for different polygons: 4-sided, 6-sided, 3-sided, etc. to allow the most flexibility for laying out a dungeon…

Regarding scale, I wanted  the walls shorter than the standard 2″ height, because terrain blocking line of sight for the miniatures was one of the complaints that I read in the Facebook group (3D Printing for Gaming Terrain).  I decided to design the walls about 32mm tall, which would be about 8′ tall at 28mm scale. This should leave enough height to detail the terrain, but give greater visibility to the miniatures.

Another thing that I noticed when I looked at other terrain systems, was that the details and the “dungeon dressing” of many props was not at a consistent scale. For 28mm miniatures, the scale is supposedly 6′ from the soles of the feet to the top of the head (for a human sized miniature). That scale (1:56) is 4.17mm per scale foot.

Puzzlelock_WIP_07

Using this as a guide for my measurements, I hope that this terrain will look better with the 28mm miniatures that players are using for D&D, Pathfinder or similar RPG.

Puzzlelock_WIP_02

The Caves system that I already designed, also works well with a puzzle-lock. And since the hexagon is designed with 2″ sides, the caverns will easily work with the dungeon tiles.

Puzzlelock_WIP_04

The puzzle-lock system should work with any type of tabletop terrain tile, such as sewers, burrows, etc.  My plan is to finish up my own set of puzzle-lock .STL terrain files, and then launch a Kickstarter campaign to sell it.  Part of the set will be the basic puzzle-lock shapes, which can be used to adapt existing terrain .STL files to this system using Meshmixer! So if you have already purchased .STL terrain for your game, you will be able to modify it.

I would also like to make the shapes available to other designers, so that they can offer a puzzle-lock version of their 3D printable terrain.

PuzzleLock Caves are now a part of the Caves terrain set available on DriveThruRPG:

Puzzlelock_Caves_Chart

Caves of Chaos

KeepontheBorlderlands
Artwork from “The Keep on the Borderlands” by TSR Games

When I first played Dungeons & Dragons as a teenager,  the first adventure was the Keep on the Borderlands. The monsters were in an area of the map called The Caves of Chaos! I have a lot of great memories of those years, so when I started thinking about designing some 3D printable terrain for table-top gaming I naturally started think of those caves….

There are a number of kickstarted companies that are selling .STL files for 3D printing. I realized when I started checking them out, that the gaming community has eagerly adopted this technology, and there might be an opportunity for me in this area.

Before 3D printing, a company called Dwarven Forge was already making a very high-quality hand-sculpted and hand-cast resin terrain for gaming, but it is very expensive. What I noticed right away about the designs from these newer companies is that they were basically copying the designs of Dwarven Forge– The tiles were all 2″ squares, about a half inch thick, in all sorts of configurations to help you layout your dungeon.

However 3D printed PLA plastic is a lot lighter than Dwarvenite resin… So the 3D printed pieces have to be clipped or glued together so they don’t get scattered all over the table. I felt that the designers had failed to approach the problem from scratch with the strengths of 3D printing in mind. On top of that, the Caverns and caves were all rectangular and ugly….

I decided that I would start from scratch. One of the strengths of 3D printing is the ability to create complicated shapes that would be difficult or impossible to create through traditional manufacturing.  I wanted to build complete pieces that were ready to paint and play, with no assembly.  Instead of squares, I started with a hexagon and began to calculate the number of possible passageways that could come in and out of a 6-sided tile.

Photo Jan 27, 10 00 26 AM

The biggest tile that I can print on my Printrbot is 6″, though that is pretty small compared to a lot of FDM printers, which would be big enough to not get knocked over during play. Since it doesn’t have to attach to the other tiles for stability, That gives you the freedom to rotate the tiles and quickly reconfigure the game map.  Because the 3D print is starting from the ground, and there is no need for the additional structure to clip tiles together, I decided to make the floor 1/8″ thick–thick enough to be sturdy, but not wasting plastic.

I kept the 2″ standard for the openings of the passages, and the 2″ overall height (taller than that interferes with visibility of the miniatures).

My wife and I visited Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville Tennessee, which is the largest cave complex in our state, for some inspiration.

Once I was back home in the studio, I opened ZBrush and created a template for the tiles, ensuring that I could make all of the tiles mate up perfectly when printed.

Caves030

I ended up creating 22 Hex tiles, which could create and endless cavern across the tabletop. The tiles print with no support, and require no assembly.

Caves_set

Here is just a quick sample of the types of cavern layouts you can create:

Once I had the pieces sculpted, I decimated the models to create a high-resolution polygon mesh, and exported the .STL files.

Caves032

Edit: I have gone back an added some Cave Entrances as well as Hex rings with OpenLOCK and Magnetic connection (because people kept asking for it), and an OpenLOCK compatible dungeon entrance so that you can connect these Caves to the rest of your dungeon:

Caves_Entrance_C4

Caves_Entrances_3

If you are a gamer, and would like to print your own endless caverns and caves, you can get the set of .STL files here:

On MyMiniFactory:
https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-caves-77276

On Cults3D:
https://cults3d.com/en/3d-model/game/caves

On DriveThruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/232472/Caves

On RenderHub:
https://www.renderhub.com/zandoria/caves