Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Retrospective: Dungeon Floors

I have a conflicted relationship with miniatures. On the one hand, they played a big role in drawing me deeper into the hobby. Seeing painted minis used at local games days was a huge thrill. Even seeing unpainted ones in the display glass cases at the hobby shops I frequented fired my young imagination. My friends and I would spend a lot of time staring at these tiny metal figures and discussing which ones most looked like player and non-player characters in our campaigns. 

I bought quite a boxes of Grenadier miniatures, as well as loose figures by Ral Partha and others. I tried my hand at painting them, but never developed any significant skill at it. Consequently, most of my miniatures remained unpainted. Despite this, my friends and I did make some use of them, typically for representing marching order and similar mundane purposes. 

That changed somewhat when I came across Dungeon Floors by Heritage USA. Dungeon Floors contained a collection of set of cards on which had been printed stone and wooden floor pieces, in addition to stairs, doors, and other furnishings. By cutting them apart, the cards could be arranged in any number of ways, thereby creating the layout of a dungeon or other adventure locale. 

This was a revelation to me at the time. I had previously seen photos of gamers who had constructed elaborate three-dimensional dungeons for use with their miniatures, but I can't recall ever encountering them "out in the wild," so to speak. Even if I had, I lacked the talents and resources to make such dungeons. Thus, the appearance of Dungeon Floors was a godsend. I went through a brief but intense love affair with this product, which I supplemented with additional pieces I made out of cardboard. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but, until I came across this little box, I had never really considered the idea of using cardboard geomorphs scaled to 25mm miniatures. Such a simple idea and yet it was beyond my adolescent mind!

My love affair was Dungeon Floors eventually ended, not because of the floors themselves, which served me well. Rather, the issue was that I didn't have enough miniatures, nor did I have the "right" ones. If I were going to make good use of Dungeon Floors, I'd need figures to represent all the monsters they characters would encounter over the course of an adventure. Even had I unlimited money with which to buy these minis, I don't think it was possible at the time to find figures for every creature or opponent I had in mind. This realization took the wind out of my sails when it came to using miniatures or dungeon floors. I drifted away from both and only in recent years have I begun experimenting with them again.

It's a pity, because I continue to see the appeal of visual representations in an adventure. I simply lack the skills or, frankly, finances needed to support such an approach to the hobby. Fortunately, there are inexpensive alternatives, like the Cardboard Heroes line from Steve Jackson Games. I also understand that 3D printing is becoming better and less expensive, though, again, I have no real experience with it. For now, I'll stick with the "theater of the mind" approach I've been using for years, though part of me will always look back wistfully on Dungeon Floors and imagine what it'd be like to use them again.

1 comment:

  1. I had this set too! Had a lot of fun with them for a while, but eventually drifted away from them. In our case, battle mats replaced tiles because we could draw whatever shapes we wanted and theater-of-the-mind the details.

    But something always remains compelling about the tiles.