This month’s RPG blog carnival is about cartography and mapping. So, I thought I’d talk about D&D tiles, of which I have several sets, and I like them a lot.
If you own more than a couple sets of D&D tiles you understand the challenge in organizing them. The tiles are double-sided, so you want to see both faces when sorting through your sets. You also have a lot of tiles to choose from, so you need a way to sort through them all without taking forever picking through the pieces. And many tiles have specific functions, such as doors and stairs, and you need to keep those handy to flesh out your floorplans.
Here are a few ways to keep your dungeon tiles organized. No one solution is perfect for the reasons stated above, but hopefully you find a method that works most of the time for you.
1. Put them in binders
Get plastic sleeves used to hold paper, CDs, cards, and coins. Put them into a large binder, and then slot your tiles into the sleeves. This lets you sort your tiles however you want.
The key benefit to this method is you can see both sides of your tiles this way. You can flip through your binder, pick out desired tiles, and you are done.
2. Photograph your dungeon tiles layout
From Dave Chalker
I love WotC’s Dungeon Tiles. However, I kept running into the problem of how to lay out the tiles when making a dungeon during my planning. The online generator they provide is nice, but I prefer to actually play with the real tiles and rearrange them to taste.
Plus, I wanted to have a way to place the monsters and traps in each room in the diagram. For awhile, I was setting up the dungeon, copying it all down in a notebook, then packing it back up.
Finally, I hit upon inspiration. I laid out the tiles where I wanted them, placed the minis for the monsters in the room they’d be on, and arranged any other features I wanted. Then, I took a digital picture of the whole thing.
I loaded the picture back onto my computer, and printed it out sized to a regular sheet of paper. Voila. I had my dungeon.
Then, I placed all the tiles and monsters in a box, so I knew I’d have everything I needed right there, and wouldn’t be fishing them out during play from among extraneous minis and tiles.
I also scribbled notes in each room for features that would be less obvious, like what was a secret door, where there was hidden treasure, which way the doors swing out, and so on. I’m definitely going to use this method for every dungeon I design from now on.
3. Pymapper software
Pymapper is a dungeon tile mapping program available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Features of the software include:
- Drag and drop tiles inside the software to arrange your maps
- Print maps to scale for use with minis, or resize to a single page
- Create your own custom tilesets
- View both sides of a tile at the same time for easier selection
- Overlay a grid that you can turn on or off
- Use layers you can turn on or off to help organize tiers of tiles
- Save maps as jpg or png
- Generate random dungeons
- Add in your own background images
- Add text labels and simple notes to maps
- Add longer notes and descriptions through linked icon and a rich text editor
There are tilesets available for download so you can mirror your tile collection in the software for layouts and tile selection. Just make your maps fast in Pymapper, and then duplicate the layout at the game table following your recipe.
4. Organize tiles by type
When reaching for a tile while designing a dungeon or laying one out ad hoc during a game, you most often need functionality most.
For example, you need a room, corridor, door, or special effect tile.
While you can keep tiles organized by set or colour, it probably helps you most to sort your tiles by function.
So, put all your door tiles in one container, then put your corridors in another, and your special tiles in a third. Have a stack for your big rooms, and so on.
5. Use baggies
Lots of tile owners put their tiles into Ziplock or other plastic bags. You can see both sides of the tiles this way.
In addition, you can group tiles however you want:
- Keep your sets together
- Put specific layouts in bags ready for game time
- Group tiles by function – doors, corridors, and so on
- Keep layouts together for repeat locations
6. Drawer units and storage systems
Go to a department store’s storage section to find lots of container configurations for tile organization.
- You can get stacked drawer units, with or without wheels.
- You can get craft and toolboxes, with or without configurable row and slot sizes.
Again, group tiles how you want, and then just file them in your storage bin of choice.
7. Put them in their original frames
Keep the die-cut frames that tiles come in. Replace tiles into the frames after you have finished using them.
This method not only keeps sets together for easier dungeon theming, but it helps you find specific tiles mentioned in products that use tiles for their maps. It is a pain trying to locate specific tiles after you’ve mixed them up with other sets.
8. Lay tiles on cardboard
This method only lets you see one side of a tile, but if you use a system like Pymapper software or photos, then it becomes easy to find tiles as you need them.
Cut cardboard sheets to size, get a non-skid material like shelf lining, and lay out your tiles as you like on both. The non-skid surface is key, and you should be able to get the shelf lining for cheap at dollar stores.
You can store tile sets intact this way, or create dungeon designs that you can easily pull out during games.
The cardboard stacks well and efficiently.
Do you use tiles? If so, you will find my dungeon tiles tips over a Roleplaying Tips useful as well: Dungeon Tile Mastery: 9 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Tile Collection.
If you don’t use tiles, check out a few sets I recommend at Amazon.