Dungeons & Dragons & 3D Printers


Role-playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder have long enjoyed legions of fans.  More recently, Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” has also served to drum up interest, as Dungeons & Dragons serves as a major plot point. Some libraries have sought to capitalize on this interest by offering meetups/gaming sessions and by purchasing rule books. Even if your library doesn’t actively offer programs, you may have noticed a role playing group using your floor space or meeting rooms.

While some role playing groups simply utilize pencil and paper, many prefer to use miniatures to represent their characters and the various monsters/foes they encounter. Miniatures can be extremely pricey–some simply use paper stand-ins rather than shell out for costly pewter or plastic commercial options. For libraries in possession of a 3D printer, you have the potential to offer these patrons a dynamic service/program designing and printing tabletop miniatures.

Offer a Public Print Service:

Elf ranger schematic
Elf Ranger D&D miniature by MattDB

With 3D printer and a public print policy, you likely have an affordable alternative for those wishing to utilize tabletop miniatures. Existing schematics for game  pieces  abound at Thingiverse and other open-source 3D model repositories. In this scenario, you need only make these your gaming groups aware of the service. This could be as simple as a quick sales pitch when you see the group meeting. Alternatively, you could place a poster near where you house your games and/or rule books or go one step further and place a flyer inside them!

Offer Programs and Workshops:

While printing someone else’s model can provide value to the RPG crowd, teaching these patrons to design their own can be a truly rewarding experience! Every player has a unique character they’ve created in the game world. The crux of 3D printing is its ability to prototype inexpensively. Combine these two truths and you realize what a perfect partnership they form! Rather than rely on a stock file, which is effectively settling for something that looks like the character they’ve imagined, an original design allows for a far closer creative expression! Sensing this, some companies are offering custom 3D printed miniatures–at a significant cost.

TinkerCAD miniatures
Dungeon Delvers by Dutch Mogul. Designed in TinkerCAD

Free software that is up to the task abounds. At entry level, a course centered on TinkerCAD  can provide an effective tool for creating miniatures. If you or your patrons have access to an iPad or Android tablet, 123D Scultpt+ is excellent for creating characters and creatures. More confident designers can utilize Blender (Mac, Windows, Linux). When designing, plan on printing scaled to 25 or 28 mm, which is the standard size in most tabletop RPGs.

3-D printed and painted "female knight" by Stockto
3D printed and painted “female knight” by Stockto

Once these miniatures are printed, you can offer companion programs! Generally, the designs your patrons print will come in a single color. Offering follow up workshops on painting and accessorizing these miniatures can continue to draw crowds. Beyond character design, a more narrow focus on printing and assembling terrain are natural progressions. Finally, the library can take advantage of inexpensive print costs and open source models to include miniatures in library-owned box sets for public use. If pieces go missing (they will), simply print and replace!

Fans of tabletop RPGs are a natural audience for 3D printing programs and services. Libraries increasingly cite a desire to draw in “new adults” age 18-30–a core constituent of these games. With a little work and creativity, you have the potential to better serve current library users as well as draw in new ones!

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