I’ve been taking a look at my box of Dungeon Tiles lately, and realizing they aren’t getting much use. Normally, I tend to find maps I like online, be it from Wizard’s Map a Week archive, Dungeon magazine, or published modules, scale them up in Photoshop and print them out at a 1″ scale. This led to two things, both equally important to me. One, my players really do dig it. The maps are just a cool visual aid at the table that drawing on a flip mat can’t compare to. Two, I’m wasting a lot of ink in the process, and it’s coming out of my wallet alone. Now, I make a decent living, but I’m not in the business of supplying Cannon with a steady income because of my D&D habit. So enter my Dungeon Tiles.
I tend to pick up a pack whenever a new set is released, but ultimately they haven’t been seeing much use at the table. It’s just really tedious to pull them out and arrange them in the middle of a session, so I’ve ignored them. But not anymore. The past few days, I’ve been creating rooms with the sets I own, and I’ve found that they really open up your creativity. You can arrange so many different encounter areas, that it’s very easy to build, then craft a story around the room you’ve just designed, rather than the other way around.
For the climax of my heroic tier campaign, transitioning towards paragon, I needed a battle map of a library. I searched all my usual map haunts, but couldn’t find a good one, so I made my own using Dungeon Tiles. I found that the room wrote itself after a bit of arranging and playing around with the tiles.
I’m sure you all know this trick, but holding down the tiles unto foam core with a bit of putty really does the job of keeping them in place. You can place tiles on top of each other this way as well, adding layers of terrain to the scene. I wouldn’t recommend the putty staying on for days though, as it may harm your tiles. Set the scene whenever you are prepping, take a picture, then using the pic, build them early on the day of your game with the putty to hold them down. You may want to own several sheets of foam core to have several encounter areas pre-built the day of your game.
For a while I was making the mistake of designing a room, or looking at a published campaign, and trying to figure out a way to make the tiles fit the scene. Obviously, it didn’t work most of the time, and that’s what led to me giving up on them. So the moral of the story here is, use your tiles. There are plenty of forum posts that I’ve read where people say that they are just tossing them aside for the exact reasons I’ve mentioned. Don’t! They have great artwork, and can inspire things you hadn’t though of before.
So if you’ve got sets of tiles you’re not using, take them out of storage. Start arranging them and see what develops. Come up with a cool room, then build a story around it, work it in reverse. Design blindly then populate it with ideas. You never know what might come out of it!