Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Walls!!

One project I've been working on, intermittently, alongside making the tile pickup-truck and tile ship, are tile walls. There is an example of these (albeit limited) in the previous post.

I started working on this while running an online Encounters game, using the Season 3 campaign, Keep on the Borderlands. I have some 3D walls and terrain made from Castlemolds (, but due to persistent procrastination, most of the pieces were still unpainted bone-white dental stone at the time, which didn't show up very well over webcam. So, as a quick setup for one session, I grabbed a bunch of the tile walls from my Harrowing Halls D&D tilesets, and I interconnected them around the tile map I put together for the encounter. Note: I could have just used the large poster map provided in the adventure, but I decided I wanted to use the tiles instead.

The walls worked fairly well, but there was some disappointment with them. You see, the Harrowing Halls and Desert of Athas wall tiles are made exactly the same length as the floor tiles. So, when you slot them together, the edges of the wall that stick out past where the walls slot together will be flush with the edge of the tile. Thus, they won't interfere with the squares around them. So, when I slotted all these walls together around the map, they sat inside the tiles, cutting off about 1/4" of space from the squares around the edge of the map.

Well, I wanted to have the walls there, and still let my players access all the squares on the map. It wasn't really that important. It didn't ruin the encounter. I didn't have everyone complaining at me about it. Neither did I obsess over it and brood because it wasn't perfect.

I just thought it would be neat to have walls that would stand up around the outside edges of whatever tile map I laid down.

My first idea for this was to just make a bunch of the little 1/2 inch pieces that came with the Harrowing Halls set, which are used to hold up the door tiles and such. I copied a bunch of those and mounted them on chipboard. It worked quite nicely, but there was one problem.


Just slotting in these 1/2 inch supports at the ends of the wall tiles worked, but when you set them all up, it amounted to a house of cards... or a string of dominoes. One slight bump of a hand or shake of the table and a wall could easily come tumbling down and take all the rest of them with it!

So, I sat down and got to thinking about the problem, and it seemed that I needed to just make walls that would slot into each other, like the ones that come with the D&D tile sets do. That would solve the stability problem. The issue at hand was that the wall tiles, as given, were just too short. So, the obvious thing turned out to be... make them longer!

As it is, a 4x2 wall is just that, exactly 4 inches long by 2 inches tall, with slots cut about a 1/4 inch in from either end of the 4 inch length. In order to make walls that would slot together but be long enough to fit around the tiles, I would have to make them so that the same tile was exactly 4 inches long between the slots!

So, going back into Photoshop, I grabbed the scans I had of the various wall pieces, and I set to work elongating them. It wasn't difficult. The only hard part about it was maintaining some kind of consistency in the pattern of the tiles... the wood planks match up, the grey stones don't cut into each other at perfectly straight angles, the stucco patterns don't change abruptly, and the sandstone bricks match up. It takes a few seconds each, and really, I'm not even sure how noticeable it would be if I didn't do any editing at all. I just liked it looking more consistent.

Printing these out and mounting them on chipboard, I now had walls that would conform to the outside of any tile maps I laid down. Of course, on my first use of them, I ran into one small, unanticipated snag. Alright, three, actually.

The first came about because the farmhouse and guesthouse I was making the walls for were irregularly shaped.



The 5-foot wide walls that the red arrows are pointing to are the problem spots. When I produced the wall tiles for these pieces, I just followed the same plan as the others. It's a 5-foot wall, with a 5-feet = 1 inch scale, so the space between the slots should be 1 inch. Right?


The problem comes from the fact that the two wall tiles that this 1 inch piece is connecting together are positioned so that they lie outside the squares they're surrounding. The wall tiles are represented by the blue lines.

The red line on the left represents the 1" width of the square, which is the distance between the two "inner" faces of the walls (the "inner" face being the one that will rest against the outer edge of the floor tiles), and red line on the right represents the less-than-1" width between the inner face of the wall with the door, and the outer face of the wall with the window. The chipboard walls are roughly 0.05" thick, so if I want everything to line up perfectly (which would be nice), I need to shave off that much space between the slots on that 1" piece.

I feel a little like Indy in Raiders. heh.

The second problem is, if I had decided to use floor tiles instead of (or in addition to) the map, I wouldn't have been able to fit these walls perfectly around those tiles. The corners formed by the short 1 inch pieces cause a further problem. The extra bits of the 1" wall tile and the 3" wall tile with the window, when they are slotted together, intrude into the interior space of the building, and would rest on top of any floor tiles I put down in there, and mess up the alignment of the walls.

It's an easy fix, though. Some more complicated ideas took a run around my brain for a short bit before it came to me... I can just cut a bit off the bottom of the ends of each tile, the thickness of a floor tile, to allow any of those ends that might come to rest on a floor tile to do so without causing any problems.

The third problem that I ran into can be seen in this picture, taken during the encounter...

As you can see, I just grabbed a couple of the Streets of Shadow roof tiles to drop on top of the walls, not taking into account that those tiles are 8x4 and 4x4 exactly, and I made these wall tiles to fit together around those sizes. If it wasn't for the irregular shapes of the buildings (and the fact that the longer roof tile overhangs that building by an inch at either end), the roofs would have just collapsed inward! There won't always be a need for roofs to go over these tiles, but I'll probably make a few, just to be thorough.


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