Sunday, 10 February 2013

Classic Dungeon Tiles PDFs (Arthur Braune, Skullduggery Press, Skeleton Key Games)

Promises, promises to designers and authors... I'm well overdue in running a summary of these Classic Dungeon Tiles and putting in a separate shout for the latest products by at the Papercraft Dungeon (the latter will be featured in a forthcoming post). 

In this post I'd like to draw attention to the remarkably versatile, easy to print and use Classic Dungeon Tiles by Art Braune of Skullduggery Press who publish through Skeleton Key Games.

Classic Dungeon Tiles
Base Set Volume 1
on DriveThru
Mr Braune's "Classic" tiles contrast greatly to textured or multicoloured tiles that I'm used to drooling and getting jealous over. In fact they are so sublimely simple that they are a perfect accompaniment to 1970s-80s blocky module maps. The blue lines and optional blacked-out (blued-out) surrounds look deliberately chosen to emulate the one colour maps from those old wrap around module covers. Naturally, if blue is not your thing they print just as clearly in black and white greyscale. If you choose to print the outlined tiles without backgrounds your ink consumption will be very low (unlike with many other tile sets).

Every set in the range has a huge number of tiles per pack (Base Set 1 boast 100 designs alone). Many tiles are practical variations of simple chambers and corridors (Set 1 especially). DM's should still plan carefully when printing, in case of needing multiples (as with large chambers of variable size) - to help with this each pack contains a comprehensive thumbnail list.

In play there are counters for numbering areas, recording damage, up/down markers for stairs - again emulating the tradition map styles of early gaming but at a scale for 25,28,30mm figures.

Nearly all of the tiles are handily sized for printing with wide margins.  Each tile is typically 5x5 1in/5ft squares - but if you are truly an old school player the scale of the grid with it's abstract details should be flexible - i.e. you could state that the scale is 10ft per square perhaps. To DnD4e players some of the rooms may appear quite small - but small rooms on a large table make for a much more interesting dungeon to explore - in fact tactically in may make for interesting play indeed. The exits from each tile are consistently placed in the middle of the edge (the third square along).   Tiles from the different sets work perfectly with one another and are totally interchangeable.

Classic Dungeon Tiles
Base Set Volume 2
on DriveThru

Classic Dungeon Tiles
Lesser Temples of
Greygax and Arnemoor

on DriveThru
Whilst looking at the simple designs I was suddenly aware of a fusion of very old and relatively recent tabletop practices. Looking through photos of games mid-play in blogs and photoblogs, it's very apparent that some DMs who use wipe-able battlemats take pleasure in embellishing hand drawn areas and adding small details in different colours, or even cross-hatching impassable rock (cross-hatching on a battlemat!?). This reminded me of my own early gaming experiences, when floor plans weren't to hand, we often drew on graphpaper during the game (as many still do today) -adding that extra magical moment of a world being created from nothing and improvisation.  At least that's how it used to feel... This type of tile is perfect for those DMs. In preparation or during a game a DM can draw on extra chests or room contents - whilst the tiles themselves allow for a prepped "reveal" of the basic architecture as the map is laid out. Should the Dungeon Master wish, the tiles are perfect for customisation and personalisation with pencil or pen - unlike colour-detail tiles.  Naturally I'd be adding 3D walls in pencil and scribbling elven sigils on the flagstones. There could be plenty of mileage in customising tiles like these. If laminated they can be re-used just like a an easy-wipe battlemat - but to be honest, the printing of these tiles costs so little in terms of ink that replacement tiles could be printed in a snip.

Another advantage of any square tile system is that they lend themselves very well to random exploration - with of course a little rotation and some common sense when fitting the cards together. With some encounters written on index cards and maybe the odd random contents or events matrix - you'll soon have built a DM-less or solo-play dungeon system.

Example map layout using tiles from
Classic Dungeon Tiles Perilous Passages
(tba - link to follow)
One of the recent additions to this range is very original, Perilous Passages (I have a preview copy - link to follow).  It's round geometry prompts the imagination to dream up strange hive-like dungeon level or root systems, the laboratory-warrens of mad drow mages etc. The grid is still clearly defined - whether or not your rules system or your combat tactics can cope with winding passages is something only you will be sure of. The Perilous Passages tiles are abstract enough to be used in almost any setting.

Example layout using tiles from
Classic Dungeon Tiles
Unusual Rooms and
Summoning Chambers

(tba - link to follow)
This abstract universality is true of many of all of tile sets - 1930s sewers, spacecraft - change the meaning of statue symbols to bio-terminals - doors to fleshy portals and you enter into a whole new dimension of application.

I was surprised at how such simple designs could be inspiring - but simplicity and projecting imagination onto the props was very much what the tabletop hobby should be about.

To summarise the Classic Dungeon Tiles are practical, versatile,customisable, and, at times, ideally suited to recreating an older style of map - but in my opinion they are more than that: they really can become anything you make them into.


  1. Interesting how things have come full circle. We originally started out with dominoes stood on edge to lay out dungeons as they were explored, but they fall over all the time. We soon moved on to pre-printed cardboard floor tiles, cut to size as needed - I'm still using those tiles today. There was that period in-between when we were so uncool for using minis and floorplans, but the kids are back with the programme now!

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