I hadn't decided to make a blog when I built and ran the initial two encounters of LMoP so this is going to be more of a retrospective than a walkthrough. I think I'll start with the equipment I'm using to print all this stuff:
From left to right I have an Anycubic Photon, retail is around $400. It's a resin DLP (Digital Light Processing) printer so it uses UV LEDs to cure thin layers of resin eventually producing a model. I use it almost exclusively for miniatures because it manages excellent detail but there is some clean-up and post processing involved, also resin is more expensive per print than plastic filament that my other printers use.
Next is my Prusa MK3 FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer, retail for the kit (highly recommended over the assembled version because knowledge is power) is $750 plus shipping. This one uses spools of plastic filament that it feeds into a heater and out through a small nozzle to lay down thin lines of plastic tracing the shape and infill of a model layer by layer. This is the printer I use mostly for my tile sets and scatter/decor. It's a little less precise than the Photon and it takes longer to print similar sized models (especially with the smaller .25mm nozzle I use) but there is very little cleanup and the filament is relatively cheap.
The third printer was the first one I bought, a Prusa MK2.5 (originally a MK2S but I upgraded), retail for this kit is somewhere around $600 but at this point I think the MK3 is enough better to justify the extra $150. This is the printer that I use for whatever I need at the moment, I pretty frequently swap out the nozzle to do faster prints (.4mm or .6mm nozzles) when I need basic support structures or storage or even board game inserts. Or I use the smaller .25mm nozzle to double my production of tile sets if I need to generate them faster (usually when I start a new set or if I want to print a second set to paint differently than my original scheme for that texture, I'm planning to have two different dungeon tile sets with different color schemes eventually). Both of the Prusas regularly run prints that take well over a day, they run constantly, and they are extremely reliable.
On to the Campaign
I am running this adventure for three women I work with who are all relatively new to DnD. Lost Mines of Phandelver is built for 4-6 players so I expect to be tweaking a lot of things in preparation and on the fly to adjust to my slightly lower player count. But let's get into it. First the characters they built:
From left to right we have Whisk an Air Genasi Sorcerer, Loraina a Protector Aasimar Cleric, and Rinna a young Elf Ranger. These were all designed by my players on HeroForge and printed on my Photon. This was the first print on the Photon for me and I've learned some things since then that would make these a little better but they are totally fine for now. HeroForge is a decent place to get a customized mini from, it's $10 for the printable file and you can print as many as you need so for player characters I could print multiple copies and paint them differently (like injured, invisible, etc). It's also decent if you need multiple copies of the same thing, say you want a bunch of zombies, you could design a zombie there and for $10 plus materials print as many as you need. The site is limited to humanoids but they are regularly expanding their build options. My long term plan for PC minis is to update their HeroForge model again at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th level (assuming we play that long which is probably unlikely but it will be cool if we do). I like the idea of them having a set of minis that shows the physical progression of their characters. On the topic of minis I'm real bad at basing so I just don't do it, it's on my list of things to improve on though.
So we have the characters built, we did a session 0, and we were ready to start. I used the "Meet Me in Phandalin" hook to avoid any confusion at the start of the campaign, letting my player know that the game I was planning to run developed from this plot hook. The first encounter in LMoP is a goblin ambush that takes place on the road to Phandalin as the players come upon two dead horses in the road that they recognize as having belonged to their current employers. There is no map in the adventure, DMs are expected to run this encounter as Theater of the Mind or with minimal visual aids but I don't play like that. I wanted to start with something immersive so I built this:
Based on the description in the book this is the map I came up with, it's a fairly simple layout but the elevations and shrubbery make it a nice platform to start on. Whenever cover or hiding came into play everyone could see why so there was no confusion and players could take in the scene to make decisions that fit their circumstances. I inserted a weak NPC named Chuck as the driver of the cart (described as an old carriage that was repurposed into a work vehicle, mostly to fit the model I was using). Chuck's entire purpose was to soak up a hit or two if it looked like the players were in trouble. It didn't end up coming to that so Chuck hid under the cart after the first couple rounds. The Axolote Hex system includes risers but they are single hex sculpts and I needed to elevate large areas so I whipped up a simple model made of hexagon outlines that I can use to raise bigger parts of the map. These help out a lot with keeping the maps dynamic and giving everything a sense of depth. I still use the risers to transition to the raised areas but it's a lot less material and printing time to make the space risers and hide them in the middle, downside is raised portions don't lock in to the rest of the map (which ends up being a plus in the next encounter). I expect I'll eventually upload that model to Thingiverse with dimensions to scale to for various elevations
I'll list the resources I used for both encounters in this post at the bottom.
The crew was successful in fighting off the goblins who ambushed them, leaving no survivors. They tracked the footsteps through the forrest, avoiding both traps, and arriving at the entrance to the Cragmaw Hideout:
I might have given a bit too much away with how big the initial scene was. I should have left off the clearing across the stream for them to discover through perception or just walking over there. I think this encounter shows a lot of what hexagons are really good for, organic, jagged, rounder structures that are mostly hindered by a square grid. For reference, here's the map from the book(copyright Wizards of the Coast):
Because of the different elevations needed to be mostly true to the descriptions, I ended up building this encounter in detached sections. I kept all of the rooms on a shelf off to the side of the playing area and set them up as players explored the map. This took a bit of extra time, but I think the time I spent setting up each room, the players spent taking in the surroundings so nobody was sitting around bored or anything. This map used a lot of scatter from a lot of different sources, I'll try to remember them all at the end. Players did trigger the first flood event and I didn't have a great way to represent that, in retrospect I could have built a slightly lower level area with the cave tiles to keep under the sections with water reservoirs and just remove the water if it is unleashed. Missed opportunity but it was still fun. Here is the complete map:
Since I ran this encounter, Axolote Hex has released curved walls for all of their existing tile sets. Those would improve this encounter pretty significantly. I don't like putting every wall up because it can hinder gameplay, instead I use walls to suggest boundaries and to make certain areas stand out (like Klarg's quarters in this one).
In addition to player minis I used these in the scenario:
9 small goblins in the back(I think there were 12 or 13 total in the scenario but 9 minis was enough to cover that), 3 small wolves, a Redbrand Thug, Yeemik the big goblin, Ripper the big wolf, Klarg the bugbear, and exhausted Sildar Hallwinter gender swapped to female.
I made a couple changes to the characters here. I decided to introduce a Redbrand in the scenario to get them into the story early and because the link between Sildar and the Redbrands seemed strong enough that they could have heard about her capture and their leader would feasibly send someone to bring her to their headquarters. That would have been unlikely but it was his reason for being there. He came out of hiding and interrupted Yeemik's attempt to negotiate with PCs. He was hurt enough that he ran around a corner and escaped while the players were preoccupied but the introduction worked. Sildar as a woman was the first of probably many implementations of balance to the genders in the adventure. I don't think it's terrible, but games in general don't tend to give enough good roles to female characters. I built her in a full suit of armor on HeroForge and then altered the same model down to plain clothes in a different pose to serve as a prisoner. $10 for this one time use model was a little steep but I want Sildar to be at least a little important to the PCs and I think this model helps with that.
Rinna spoke with the small wolves and made a deal that they would be well fed and freed if they helped the players through the caves. They offered simple directions and information and did some support fighting as needed. When the players faced Klarg and Ripper one of the wolves was pretty brutally murdered by Klarg which deeply upset Rinna. Ripper was killed and Klarg made a run for it, barely escaping Rinna as she chased him out of the caves. I'm excited for the next time the party meets Klarg (probably Cragmaw Castle) because Rinna has a major score to settle. So, Yeemik was killed because he wouldn't budge on his ransom for Sildar after players ran Klarg off. The players stabilized Sildar and left the caves making their way back to the cart that Chuck was handling. The remaining wolves were set free. This was what the end state of that session looked like:
I'm happy I got to start with two encounters that show off the strengths of the hexagon conversion before I get into the issues with interiors of buildings, 90 degree angles, and the problems with hallways in the coming encounters.
Axolote Hex Frames and Axolote Hex Core Tiles for the terrain and walls.
Axolote Hex Traps and Obstacles for shrubs, trees, rocks, rubble, barrels, crates.
HeroForge for PCs and Sildar
Duncan Louca Shop or Duncan Louca Patreon for stalagmites, Bugbear mini, Thug mini, large goblin mini.
Hobgoblin 3D Adventurers Campfire for the fire and pots
Hobgoblin 3D Raghaven Hamlet Travellers Carriage for the cart
Treasure Chest on Thingiverse
Horse 1 and Horse 2
Townsfolke Tavern Patrons for Chuck
Bedroll on thingiverse
Potion bottle on Thingiverse
Small Goblin minis and oxen are from Wizkids.
Edit: I forgot - Wolves from Printed Obsession on My Mini
My intention for this blog is to show some of my process building encounter maps for DnD 5e, currently running through Lost Mine of Phandelver. This campaign is my first real try at DM'ing and I happen to be running the game for 3 new players as well.
It all started last year when I bought a 3D printer, hoping to upgrade boardgame components, maybe print some inserts, just for fun. I ended up designing a little tile holder for 18XX games for my own use and a friend who publishes the games saw them, liked them, and asked me if I could print a run for him to sell on his site. I made enough off that production to purchase two more 3D printers and suddenly I found myself in a position to print a pretty large volume of models for my own use.
Around the same time I backed a kickstarter for 3D printable full tile set upgrades for Gloomhaven (Axolote Hex) and the campaign mentioned hex conversions for DnD as an additional use for the tiles. They linked to this site showing some of the basics and I was sold.
I've played DnD enough to learn the rules and I had been toying with the idea of running RPGs for a bit. The possibilities I saw for constructing maps had finally given me the motivation to get a game together. I had met a few women who had less than stellar experiences trying to join existing groups so I offered to put a game together for them focused on teaching, running the game at their pace, and fostering an inclusive environment to play in.
So, why am I here? Well beyond that first page on hex conversion I couldn't find much else in the way of content so I felt like I should make some. I'm planning to show some of my processes for printing/painting/construction, compiling resources I use for models and modeling, and showing examples of the pros and cons of hex grids in DnD 5e. There will be lots of photos, like these Gloomhaven scenario maps (in spoiler tags, just in case)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Scenario 7 (map only)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Scenario 72 (the first time I used the upgraded tiles)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
As for why hexes? Well, in addition to already having the files I need to create them, I just like how hexes work. I think they make movement more organic and they make encounters look more dynamic. That being said, there are some obstacles to workaround, but we'll get to those as I tackle them.