I have to admit, I bought my second 3D printer (an Ender 3 Pro) with the sole purpose of using it to print terrain for a Pathfinder game that I am the GM for. However, after buying, downloading, as well as designing my own terrain, I feel that something is missing.
It takes over an hour to print a single 2" (50.8mm) terrain wall. It takes 2 hours to print a single textured floor tile. Multiply that by the size of a typical dungeon layout and you're racking up some serious time on the 3D printer. Add to that the cost of filament and it gets expensive, in both time and money.
3D printed terrain has taken off and there's an entire community built around it. I have been wondering, is it here to stay, or are people going to start to feel like I do about the time investment and switch to another form of terrain?
I spent some time looking through online stores for papercraft terrain and was impressed with what I found. I was excited about it until I had a short conversation with Tom Tullis of Fat Dragon Games who informed me that paper terrain died when 3D printing terrain became popular. It makes sense that companies like Fat Dragon Games put their efforts where the demand is, but it saddened me that something as elegant as paper terrain that you can print on a color printer in a few seconds has been supplanted by something that takes hours and hours of printing (not to mention the amount of time it takes to paint it).
Honestly, I have secret hopes that papercraft products will return. I'd love to see more of it available for purchase.
I didn't mention miniatures because I think that 3D printed miniatures are here to stay. They are cheaper to make the more you print. Need an army of skeletons, orcs, or goblins? No problem. Just print them up and throw some paint on them. Need a custom hero to play? Easy. Just download and print one.
To me, terrain is different. Personally, I don't feel that I need accurately textured and scaled terrain pieces that I have to fiddle with to piece together (please ignore the fact that all of the articles I've written lately have to do with creating 3D printed terrain).
I know that the art of handcrafted terrain is far from being dead. In fact, it's seeing a resurgence. The existence of DM Jim's game crafting magazine Bexim's Bazaar is a positive sign that the hobby is strong and only getting stronger.
I don't think there's any chance that 3D printed terrain will outnumber good, old-fashioned hand-crafted terrain. There's something satisfying about building things for your game. But, it's not for everyone. There's also a certain amount of excitement and satisfaction in having a well-tuned 3D printer that you can use to print out your terrain, as well.
I'm just sad that paper terrain had to be a loser in this marketplace. I was just beginning to warm up to the idea of 2D printing my terrain and putting it together. Then the market dried up.
What are your thoughts?