D&D 101: Learn All About Tabletop Terrain

In the previous article, we discussed Dungeons and Dragons miniatures, which are a huge part of the tabletop hobby.

Once you go down the road of collecting minis you will for sure want to give them an environment to live in, which inevitably ends up in the world of tabletop terrain.

What is D&D and Tabletop Terrain?

There are various kinds of terrain for roleplaying and wargames, but the intention behind every kind is to enhance your game experience, by giving context, flavor, and a feel of the setting, as well as adding things to climb over, hide behind, or explore.

The classic terrain that most people start out with is dungeon terrain. You might start with tiles, which helps players know where characters are in relation to each other, and then there are walls, doors, obstacles, sewers, and loot.

Crafting Terrain

Crafting terrain is extremely popular, and for many it is kind of seen as a must-do “right of passage”. I worked backwards into crafting terrain from the 3D printing world, so I am a little more relaxed about the whole thing!

The main materials for “crafted” terrain are insulating foam, card stock, dollar store craft foam, and lots of paint.

Check out fellow Canadian, Black Magic Crafts for excellent videos on the cheap and effective creation of terrain.

3D Printing Terrain

As mentioned, I 3D print my terrain using my Prusa Mk3s and Ender 3 3D printers. For terrain, using a resin 3D printer such as the Prusa SL1 or Elegoo Mars would make sense for things like detailed furniture and scatter-terrain such as skulls or treasure chests, but 3D printing large rpg pieces on a resin printer is overkill.

I like to buy the Fat Dragon printable terrain, but there are free options on Thingiverse too.

Casting Terrain

Before 3D printing, the main way to mass-produce terrain at home was to buy molds and cast them.

The most famous company involved with these molds is Hirst Arts.

Hirst Arts

Hirst Arts Molds

Buying Terrain

While there is a growing hobby associated with crafting and creating terrain, there are also many companies willing to sell you pre-made, even pre-painted, or self-assembly terrain.

You can find MDF, plastic, resin, and even plaster cast terrain, from Games Workshop and other big companies down to individuals. Check out eBay, Etsy, and your local game store for the more “artisanal” options. Just keep in mind that you are paying for the convenience and time associated with making these items, usually by hand, so the price increases appropriately.

Painting Terrain

I will go into more detail about painting in a future article, but one thing that makes terrain different from painting minis is you do not need to use expensive paints or brushes. Rattle-can primer and dollar store craft paints are sufficient for large terrain pieces, and looks absolutely fine.

You should for sure look into getting a cheap airbrush and compressor if you live in a cold place like I do. I made a video about the compact compressor I bought recently.


Bottom Line

Adding terrain to your adventures adds a lot of fun and visual flavor to your games, and is enjoyable to make, paint, and collect. I hope you will look into adding it to your hobby!

Chris has been a geek for as long as he can remember, certainly since 1984 when his family got a Vic-20 microcomputer, he played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons, Ghostbusters was released, and he was obsessed with the Secret Wars Marvel comic series.

You can follow more of his geekery at Geekahol and maker stuff at Maker Hacks.