by Mike Shea on 28 June 2010
Note: This article was written back in 2010, before Dwarven Forge began to release their Dwarvenite sets and launch a bunch of Kickstarters. The Kickstarters, while expensive, give a much better value than ordering directly but if you missed out, the Dwarvenite versions of Dwarven Forge are fantastic. Give them a look. I'm keeping this article around for historical purposes but consider it's views out of date and take a good look at the Dwarvenite sets.
If you're a continuing reader of the site or you've visited my Flickr album of D&D pics, you'll notice I'm a big fan of Dwarven Forge. I wrote about these heavy resin-based 3D dungeon props in my Dwarven Forge Review, and my Battle Map Comparison articles. I recently received an email from someone who had about $600 to spend on Dwarven Forge and wanted to know how to get started.
First off, the disclaimer. Dwarven Forge is expensive and addictive. A single set of Dwarven Forge costs as much as 14 Dungeon Tile packs and you can't buy just one set. You don't buy this stuff if you want a low or even average cost solution for your game. There's no reasonable explanation when spending this much money on your D&D game. You simply buy Dwarven Forge because you want the best.
That said, there are ways to maximize your dollar when you're buying Dwarven Forge. It is this maximum Dwarven Forge per Dollar that we're going to talk about today.
Rooms and Passages
With your first $600, your best bet is to buy a few sets from the Rooms and Passages line. These are relatively generic brick-style pieces that can fit in just about any setting. You can build ancient temples, crypts, castles, buildings, basements, or catacombs with them. They are the most universally usable pieces in the Dwarven Forge line.
This is a double-edge sword, of course. Too generic and your players will become bored of it. It loses the excitement after your first few times using it. There's a way around this, however, and that's to use a lot of the unique accessories that fit in well with this set. These accessory packs, however, come at a price.
Here is a list of the sets you will want from the Room and Passage line:
This is enough sets to build out a variety of rooms and interconnecting hallways. If you want fewer wide-open rooms and more hallways, buy an extra set of the Room and Passages instead of the extra Room set.
The detailed accessories of the Wicked Additions and Fantasy Floor sets will give you nearly unlimited options to make the rooms different and exciting. They add a whole variety of floor and wall pieces as well as much-needed stairway pieces to help you build upwards with your Dwarven Forge sets. Building multi-platform 3d environments is what really sets Dwarven Forge apart from flat maps and tiles.
Though not nearly as universally usable as the Room and Passage set, the Cavern line is easily my favorite line. It uses large 4x4 pieces instead of the normal 2x2 pieces. The detail is amazing and the look is just awesome. It works well for any ancient chambers, caverns, or underdark realms. You don't need as many sets of this to build out a few nice rooms. Here's a buyer's guide priced out at $550.
If you want more elevated platforms, consider adding a Cavernous Chasms set into the mix for another $119.
Realm of the Ancients
Finally, if you're looking for something more detailed than the room and passage set, the Realm of the Ancients set is the most detailed set I've used. It's very well designed with lots of options and setup arrangements. It isn't as universal as the room and passage set but it is very highly detailed. It works perfectly for ancient temples, crypts, castles, and other ornate setups. You can also build a lot of different arrangements with only three sets:
Your Set of Expensive Golf Clubs
Dwarven Forge is for those who want to take their hobby up a notch. It doesn't work well if you travel a lot or play at any other home than your own. It's heavy, expensive, and not as flexible as your standard dry-erase mat or a bunch of Dungeon Tile sets. That said, Dwarven Forge will make your encounters look as cool as they ever can. I have never been disappointed with my purchases. Be warned, however. Once you buy a set, you won't be able to stop. There is a reason Dwarven Forge enthusiasts call it "The Addiction".
That said, the above guide can get you on your way with the best bang for your buck.
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