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Powerful Paper: Cardstock Modelling in Your Game

February 18, 2014

Fat Dragon Games’ Depths of the Drow

Today ended a successful Kickstarter campaign for Fat Dragon Games‘ medieval village of Ravenfell.  The village of Ravenfell, and the products of the inevitable stretch goals, are paper modelling products:  You print them, cut them, paste them, and viola! you’ve got as much scenery as you could possibly need (for that particular setting anyway).

I got into this many years ago, and spent a week toiling away cutting out bits and pieces for my planned game of Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords.  That module (30 year old spoiler alert) takes part largely in the Slaver City of Suderham, and several bars come into play.  I printed and prepped several key barroom items and I was able to mix and match my way into the appearance of several unique appearing locations.This is before I sank unmentionable sums on the last Dwarven Forge Kickstarter, (in fact, it predated kickstarter) but I think it added something, and could potentially be quite worthwhile to produce decent scenery on the cheap.

Paper Modelling is in some ways superior to your plaster and plastic backgrounds and scenery, in that they are objectively quite beautiful and not subject to your potentially substandard painting skills.  You also have as much as you care to print, and could potentially manufacture an entire city for the price of the PDF and an ink cartridge (or two).  I’ve been using Posterize to great effect to get the benefit of the beautiful maps from Paizo’s modules, as I stated a few blog posts ago, but this is a higher order entirely: Three dimensional, and now stacked in layers, if Fat Dragon’s Tom Tullis is to be believed.  I clicked in at the “Beggar $1.00” level for a while before finally being sold to jump in at the Knight level at $50.00.  It’s a lot for some PDF’s but I appreciate the effort and support the project.  And what do kids really need with a college education anyway.

There are significant downsides, to be sure.  Paper modelling takes time.  Precise cutting and gluing can be tedious work, and sometimes things don’t seem to come out quite how you expected they would.  Ink isn’t cheap, either, and depending on your printer, you might wonder if you’re really saving money or not.  Traditionally, the items are not as durable as a resin or plaster product (though are infinitely more replaceable) and can be tricky to store without crushing.  Fat Dragon has apparently attempted to address this with collapsible pieces, which I look forward to giving a try.

Should you choose to download a copy of their other products, I believe you’ll be pleased with the quality of the artwork, and you’ll find that your time invested can be richly rewarding.  You’ll want to pick up a few items to complete your ‘kit’ for paper modelling.

1. “Self-healing” cutting mat – these come in various sizes and serve to protect your tabletop while allowing your blade to cut the template cleanly.

2. Exacto knife – You don’t want to try this with scissors…. you might have one of these already from your miniature modelling, which will save you a few bucks.  A must for these sometimes complex templates.

3. Water based glue – a type of craft glue that is tough yet forgiving (you may want some super glue at some point for certain models, however).

4. Markers – You’ll find that darkening the edges of the scores and cuts that compose the corners of your models will drastically improve the quality of their appearance.

5. Metal Ruler – Typically with a cork back, this will avoid slipping while cutting and make sure your cuts are a little more clean.

Consider going out and buying a set or taking a shot with the various free samples out there on the internet.  You may find that you’ve got a new hobby, or at the very least the perfect prop for that encounter makes a particular encounter special.

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