So I'm at the office, busily working away on those things that you do in an office, when my friend, Alex, IMs me. He works at the same office, and also happens to be a member of my game group, The Dead Orcs Society. Alex is a casual DM himself, and has been interested of late, with the new dungeon tile sets Wizards of the Coast are releasing with the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials line. Alex is also interested in the DDI tools, and we've had frequent discussions about what WotC might do with their online assets.
Today, those two interests combined to form what I hope is a pretty cool idea. I told Alex to throw it up on the WotC forums to see what others have to say about it (not sure if he'll do that or not). I also asked him if I could do a blog post about it. He told me, "Yes". So that's the point of this post. Just wanted to cover that. The following idea is his:
Alex proposed that WotC create (as one of their DDI tools) a tile mapping tool that would allow you to either draw your own maps OR use any of the existing tiles from WotC's current and previously released sets. WotC does have a tile mapper, but it's my understanding it's not really updated with new tile sets (I might be wrong on this point). Here's the kicker. Once you create your map, you could send it to WotC who would print the tiles for you and ship them to you. Basically, you build your dungeon (using their tiles), and WotC would print it off and ship it to you (for a fee, of course).
The model isn't exactly new. LEGO® has been doing this for several years, now. You can build an object using their online tools, and they'll count the bricks, add up the cost, and send you the model. It's not a cheap process (you pay a premium), but it apparently gets plenty of use, since the feature is still available. Beyond the usual corporate reasons (money, resources), I'm not sure what reason they'd have for NOT wanting to do this. Just in case though, here are a few reasons they should:
- WotC could continue to sell old tile sets - Many of the encounters and published modules use these older (and now rare) tile sets. A customer could recreate those online (using the online tile mapper) and have it shipped. Essentially, WotC would be getting money for a product they no longer sell.
- Print on demand is a reasonable technology - While it's true that WotC could simply store dungeon elements in a big warehouse somewhere, it's more practical to just have them printed to the cardstock on demand. With laser cutting, each dungeon set is packed and shipped for you, as though you ordered a boxed product off the shelf.
- WotC could make money hand over fist - Well, that might be an exaggeration, but there's money to be had, charging a premium for this kind of "on demand" product. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I suspect they could make enough to cover their printing costs. You could even charge by the tile, like LEGO® does. Maybe they charge $.25 for a single tile item (a boiling pot tile, whatever), or a $1.00 for a 2 x 6 corridor tile. I think the demand would be high enough, you could work out a profitable system (and still make it attractive to users). You could even build the online tool so that if forms a certain size template. You could charge by the template, allowing the user to put as many tiles as possible in the proscribed space.
Obviously, such a program would not replace the current tile sets that WotC releases. Like LEGO®, their model builder program hasn't stopped them from releasing scores of sets each year. A program with dungeon tiles could work the same way.
If you're listening, WotC, give this some consideration. Imagine your customers laying out their own custom dungeon using YOUR dungeon tiles. It would be a BIG deal! Thanks, Alex, for such a great idea. If WotC hires you, remember the little people that helped make you famous, okay?
Until next time...
Game excellently with one another.