Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your Map, Your Way - A Proposal


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.


  1. Great idea! I don't know if WoTC has the same scale financial resources as LEGO does though. I think it might be a little harder for them to pull off, but there is definitely money to be made.

    Just one more service they could add to DDI, CB/MB are great but 70$/year warrants a little more love than just those + articles IMO.

  2. Anonymous10:31 AM

    This is definitely a good idea.
    I don't see why it should be a DDI tool though (i.e., why only offer it to subscribers?)
    @Jerry, Hasbro (the biggest toy/game Co. in the world) owns WotC. No question, they have the same financial resources as Lego, if not more.
    Now, if someone is just listening....

  3. I'm trying to make something like that possible with my Dungeonographer project. It isn't pre-made tile based, but you build your dungeon (pick which squares are stone floors, wood floors, filled stone, etc, draw the walls by clicking each vertex and adding objects like stairs, chairs, beds, etc.) Then you may toggle it into a battlemat mode (actually you can toggle between classic line art and battlemat at any time) and print the whole map or any portion (a room, an intersection with a planned encounter, etc.) as a 300dpi 1" battlemat.

  4. @Jerry - Thanks, Man! I'll pass that along to Alex. Whether it's a part of DDI, or not, I think it's a must have.

    @Anonymous - Hey man! Speak up an identify yourself! Regardless, you're right. Hasbro does have the financial clout to make it happen (if they so desired).

    @Joe - Sounds like an awesome project! I wonder though, if the printing costs for individuals (who largely probably still use ink jet printers)would be prohibitive. It would be similar to printing from Dunjinni or similar mapping tool, I'd think. Beautiful (and in your case, really easy to use), but pricey. However, that said, I'd totally use such a tool for online mapping needs. Look forward to seeing it!

  5. I would totally pay a premium for such a service/product.

  6. @Gerald Villoria: I know, right? Maybe someday. Thanks for visiting!