I have been tabletop gaming, mostly Dungeons and Dragons, for some 30 years now. The problems I have had with scenery and storing it have gone on for years.
So I set out to design a solution!
Creating D&D Card Box Buildings
I wanted strong durable good looking scenery, but I also wanted it to take up very little room when stored. So I started to look into cardboard boxes. They had to be believable buildings, but for D&D flat roofs would be much more common than pointed ones. The print quality had to be awesome, and the surface finish had to be a Matt gloss or it would just look silly.
After many days of scouring the web and a few weeks of waiting for samples, I found the boxes I wanted. I then had to decide on and create some building designs.
An artist and friend, Mark Laiman, produced the art to my specifications: Photo-realistic full colour laid out on templates provided by the printers.
I spent a great deal of time deciding and the size and proportions of the boxes, as I wanted them to be highly re-usable and versatile. Once sizes were settled, I moved onto what style the buildings should have, as well as the palate of colours.
At the last moment, before committing them to print, I decided to change which way the flaps open up to. On all but the shed box, both tucks occur at the roof line. The reason for this was that I hoped, at some point, to be able to do pointed roofs for the buildings. Having the tucks there would provide the easiest way of attaching the roof’s.
From Card Box Buildings to Castle Boxes
After the town’s boxes and buildings proved to be a success on Kickstarter, I took a deep breath and started work on my dream, which was to make believable castles that still folded flat for easy storage. In essence, they had to remain pop-up boxes.
I spent many weeks making prototypes, not worrying about the artwork, but concerned with the mechanics of the paper engineering.
The wall-box was the first. It was tricky to create crenulations that would stand up straight and not fold over, yet still allow the user to tuck them away and out of sight if needed.
My first attempts at a tower had the top section with the crenulations as a single piece of card, along with the rest of the tower. Later, I dropped this idea as this compromised durability.
Instead I started again (something I realised is hard to do, but often a good thing to do during any design process).
Now the tower is made from a simple box (although I did decided to change the type of flap closure on the bottom to help the box stand in a more stable fashion), though this made attaching the top rather tricky. In the end however, I found a creative, durable and creative solution!
With the main elements of the structure defined, I started to look at the art aspects.
Adding Doors & Windows
As much as I love the original Tabletop Towns I created, I have to admit that they were not quite as flexible as they might have been. This is mainly due to the decision to print the doors and windows onto the boxes themselves.
With the castle I therefore decided to print the doors, windows and other features onto separate pieces, allowing for a lot more flexibility in how the are placed.
I realised people might even want to use the towers laying on their sides, so I made printed arrow-slits cross shaped, allowing them to work in both orientations. Other than those slits, the only other feature I decided to print onto the boxes themselves was a single trap door in the middle of the top of each tower box.
I was lucky to have found another talented artist in Mortis Logan who worked tirelessly on the boxes and the artwork for the separate doors gates and windows.
Where we are now?
At this moment, we have the three card components for our Tabletop Castle prototyped by the printers and everything seems to work well! The Tabletop Castles Kickstarter is live now and is some way towards being funded.
The boxes are wonderfully versatile – many more pictures can be found on my Facebook page!
About the author
Tabletop Towns, his little business, is looking to grow steadily and organically over the next few years, adding more product lines using cardboard and plasticard and moving into scenery for everything from scfi to steam punk.
Tabletop Towns is now on Kickstarter looking to fund pre-cut cardboard castles for D&D, Pathfinder and tabletop wargames!