Here’s an early Xmas present from the gamers at Claw/Claw/Bite.
Wizards and others have provided cardboard cutouts to enhance the gaming experience. This is great, but they’re pretty pricey and limited if you want a collection of tiles the represent the breadth of your imagination. I recommend making your own, so you have more creative control over your adventures. In a few simple steps, you can have terrain tiles in a variety of shapes and colors.
Step 1: Download Images And Print Them to Your Scale
Most standard tiles are 1″x1″, representing 5′ squares in most fantasy and sci-fi games. There are a host of good tiles on rpgnowand elsewhere on the web, easily found with a g search. Use a color printer, ideally one that leaves a waxy resin on the page. This way the spray epoxy used in step 4 doesn’t warp the paper.
Step 2: Cut Images from Printouts
Use a regular pair of craft scissors, the kind they have at work, or that you can buy for a few dollars at a craft store. Leave a few mm to a cm along every edge so you can apply a goodly amount of pressure along the edges of the images later to ensure a tight seal along the edge of the final tiles. X-acto knives also work for this purpose; just make sure you place your work on a cutting board to avoid injury and damage to your furniture.
Step 3: Raid Your Recycle Bin For Light Cardboard
Use cereal and oatmeal boxes or any other post-consumer packaging. Cut them at the edges so you have flat surfaces to work with. Ask your neighbors or take home used dry food boxes from work. Or go spend money on a thicker cardstock as others have reported online. Personally, I prefer using what I’ve already paid for, taking advantage of the second R in the reduce, reuse, recycle cycle. If nothing else, it makes me feel less guilty about buying food that comes in a cardboard box.
Make sure you gently bend the cardboard to straighten them out before you glue the terain printouts to them; otherwise you may loosen the seal between the two.
Step 4: Spray Cardboard with Epoxy
I recommend using Elmers or 3M spray epoxies for this task. Use these spray expoxies outdoors where there’s plenty of ventilation. Try to use evan coats by holding the can 12″ away from the surface, and gliding across the surface quickly. Alternately, use epoxies that come with applicators that allow you to apply an even coat of epoxy to the surface of the cardboard.
Step 5: Press Cutouts to Cardboard
Starting in the center, run your hands to the edges of the images. This way, you avoid air pockets between the paper and the cardboard. If you’ve kept enough of a lip around the exterior of the image, you should be able to press to the edge of the image without getting residual glue all over your hands.
Step 6: Wait Overnight
Overnight is best to ensure that the epoxy is fully dried. These should be stored indoors to prevent air pockets due to moisture or temperature changes. Keep these away from where you sleep, as there are epoxy aerosols and other air pollutants that leech out from the tiles. If you do not wait long enough, the bond may not be strong enough to hold the pieces together in the long term.
Step 7: Cut off Excess Cardboard
I cut mine all the way to the edge of the image so I can place the tiles together to create larger rooms and dungeons. They fit together pretty neatly if you make straight enough cuts.
Once this is done, you may want to touch up the edges with a marker to hide the white cardboard underneath from view when your terrain is deployed on your gaming table.
I have found that for a $10 can of spray epoxy, I easily get between 120 and 150 8×8 tiles worth of tiles in a wide assortment of styles. I’ve put them to use in science fiction stories, Gamma World settings, and Dungeons and Dragons encounters. This variety of tiles is a must for any storyteller who likes to mix up their adventures using a variety of terrains.
Have fun with it and make your players proud!
Note: If you use these tips, please take photos and send ‘em our way. We love to see what other gamers are up to in their creative construction and use of terrain.