by Mike Shea on 28 December 2008
Note: This article was written back in 2008, 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 I'm keeping this article around for historical purposes but consider it's views out of date and take a good look at the Dwarvenite sets.
Every time I open a new box of Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles I am always surprised how much I love them. All concerns about the price, all concerns about the "investment", all concerns that my money would have been better spent elsewhere disappear when I start to lay them out, build some rooms, and imagine the encounters I will run within them.
After using the cavern sets for a couple of months now I can say without doubt that the Dwarven Forge cavern set is the best set I've used. The size of the pieces, being mostly four by four blocks, make it easy and quick to build out a nice-sized cavern complete with stalagmites, platforms, and other interesting scenery. Adding in the Cavernous Passage set, the Chasm set, and the Cavernous River and Wall set all work together to build large and detailed caverns.
My primary intent for the cavern set was to run the module "King of the Trollhaunt Warrens" and I believe these four sets will do the job very well. Beyond that, however, I was able to use the set immediately in my Pyramid of Shadows game. All of the players remarked at the detail of the set.
With most of my collection consisted of the Fantasy Room and Passage sets along with the Fantasy Floors and Wicked Additions sets; I was nervous about getting into a set drastically different from the original. The nice thing about the sets I had is that they all worked well together, but the cavern sets look so different I worried that I wouldn't be able to use them together.
My fear was unfounded. The two sets work very well together. The cavern set includes seamless transitional pieces that take you from the room and passage set into the cavern set. It is very easy to use all of the Dwarven Forge pieces together to build out an infinite array of encounter areas.
Dwarven Forge enthusiasts refer to their hobby as "the addiction" and it's easy to see why. Starting with only two sets - the Medieval Building set and the Medieval Expansion set six months ago, I now have twelve sets. At about $120 each, that's a hell of an investment for a roleplaying game. When I use them, however, there is no doubt where that money went. Sure I could us an erasable battle mat or D&D dungeon tiles or even large sheets of graph paper, but when I use Dwarven Forge, it's a whole different game.
My only real worry, the only disadvantage I might apply, is that you better have a good consistent group of players to use this. I always worry that my gaming group will break up and I'll be sitting and staring at a large pile of dungeon accessories I can't really use. Getting a good roleplaying group together is the hardest part of the game and the one most likely to invalidate an investment of this magnitude.
My only other complaint would be with the Cavernous Chasms set which is harder to use than the others and doesn't clearly integrate as well as the others. It's still a good set and has a lot of nice pieces for building multi-level rooms, which I think is a clear advantage of Dwarven Forge overall, but doesn't fit quite as nicely together as the other sets.
Last year I had a chance to chat with the owner and creator of Dwarven Forge. He made a bold statement but one which is easy to defend once someone puts their hands on the pieces or sees them in use in a game. His statement was that Dwarven Forge are the best 3d dungeon models in the world. I couldn't agree more.
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