Tag Archives: dungeons and dragons

Anatomy of A Remix



One of the highlights from World Maker Faire 2013 in NYC was meeting Thingiverse All-Star cerebus333. He’s friendly, engaging, and incredibly prolific; I can’t recall a week’s recent passing where he hasn’t posted at least one new model to his collection.

I was honored to take home an autographed Rock Frog from Cerebus’ collection, and I promised him that I’d take a shot at remixing his work when I got back home. Here’s the original model, standing about 7 inches tall.


Cerebus has designed the Rock Frog to print reliably on an FDM printer, and print reliably it does: the mesh is manifold and it’s physically quite stable on the build platform. My plan is to re-pose the original and turn it into something usable as an RPG elemental or golem miniature, and that’s going to require some geometry edits.

Step 1

Cerebus designed the Rock Frog’s knuckles to lay flat on the printing bed. If they’re going to potentially be raised up in the air they’ll need to look more like fingers. I’ll delete the old flat surface and replace it with some vaguely-knucklelike ridges. A little sculpting here and there and we’ve got something that looks good enough for now– my experience with 3D printing tells me that much more detail here isn’t going to print at this scale so there’s not much point in overworking the model.

Note the strange triangulation in the sole of the foot, because I’ll fix that in step 2.

I’ve split him in half down the YZ axis so I only have to fix one hand before mirroring and rejoining the model.

edited fist

Step 2

The foot geometry is fine for printing, but not so good for deformations. This should be a straightforward fix, and afterwards Rock Frog will be able to put some weight on the ball of his foot.

fixed feet

Step 3

Rock Frog’s mouth is closed in the original. I’ll find the inside crease of his mouth, split the geometry, and then open up his mouth. A note for folks not used to working with character models; it’s generally easiest to work on one half of a model and then mirror it, which is why the original Rock Frog has been split down the middle here.


Step 4

Bipedal 3d characters are usually modeled in T-Pose, with arms outstretched. This pose helps when assigning weights to vertices, step one in rigging a character. I’m not going to invest a lot of time in a full animation rig here, just enough to intuitively bend Rock Frog at his joints.

Rock Frog’s legs are already in a good position for vertex assignment, so no adjustments need be done there. Once I’ve got him in T-pose I’ll inspect the mesh one more time to make sure the mesh is closed and manifold.


If you’d like to pose Rock Frog on your own, go ahead and download the t-posed model.

Step 5

I reach way back into the mists of time for inspiration, back to a time when Xiao Zheng was a fifth grader surreptitiously poring over the 1st Edition AD&D monster Manual under the covers. I move some joints around here and there until Rock Frog more or less resembles David C. Sutherland III’s classic drawing of an earth elemental, with allowances made for the gravity-plagued medium of supportless FDM printing.

The posing created some self-intersecting geometry where I didn’t bother to weight the vertices properly. Bad mojo. I can easily fix this by painting the vertices with a smoothing algorithm, but doing so while the model’s rigged to joints can be slow and produce unpredicatble results.

At this point it makes sense for me to detach the geometry from its joints, freezing Rock Frog in this position. I’ll save a version of the rigged model in case I want to re-pose him later.


And now a test print. Almost everything prints OK, but the heel of his right fist hangs out in space just a bit too much. Frankly I should have seen this coming. Part of the problem is that I’m printing at a .3mm layer height for the test, but there’s just too much overhang there even with a higher-resolution print.


The model’s now detached from its joint system, so if I’m to edit that fist I have to do it without the benefit of a weighted joint system. This is a small tweak, so I just throw a lattice around the fist and forearm instead of backing up to the beginning of step 5.

lattice fix

The fist on the second print looks much better, so I’ll go back and add some aesthetic tweaks. I’d like to roughen up the surface with some stony protrusions. Much of this can be done with Maya’s poly sculpting tools, but I add some nicely geometric gems for contrast too.


The gems stuck in the Rock Frog’s back are easy to model but they don’t retain their sharp geometry in the final print. I’d like to see how this prints at a higher resolution.


This model and others like it are of course available for free download in The Forge. This post is the first in my series of Maker Faire Gems, wherein I’ll be blogging interesting stuff I discovered this year that might have slipped through the bigger outlets’ coverage. #staytuned

The Rat Pack

Rat Pack

As promised, I collected all the models from #ratweek and put them into one archive.

download The Rat Pack contains six, count ’em, SIX rat models, suitable for use with Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, or wherever you need a rodent of unusual size.

Left to right in the back are Biggie, Stretch, Hambone, Cody, and Adam. Skritch is up front.

Just go ahead and download the models for free! More miniatures like these lurk in The Forge, so get downloadin’, son. This rat pack ain’t gonna print itself.

This model sucks.


We held a bracketed Magic: The Gathering tournament in celebration of Elder Zhengspawn’s twelfth year on Middle Earth, with a custom MTG token as the prize. Mrs. Zheng3 completely crushed the assembled children, as she is wont to do.

In all fairness, the runner-up was fighting a 101° fever, so we decided that he, and not the house, should get the custom token. He chose Vampires to go with his black deck.

The party eventually devolved into freestyle wrestling, because 12-year-olds and sugar is why.

My research into Magic: The Gathering Vampires has convinced me there are three main kinds of vampires in the fantasy world.

Handsome Male Vampires.
Monstrous Androgynous Vampires.
Slutty Female Vampires.

I opted for Handsome Male vampire, in no small part because I didn’t want to hear from the winner’s parents about how I’d given their son a lewd handful of 3d-printed boobies. This is the American Midwest, after all.

Once I had a few hours into the design, Zhengspawn informed me of the radical differences in appearance between the Stromkirk and Markov bloodlines, and rather than go down that rabbit hole I decided to just go with a generic vampire for use in any fantasy setting.

His original design had a crew cut, which looked very American Civil War-era True Blood-ish. The consensus around the house was that Fabio hair was more apropos.

At this scale, the Replicator’s resolution is a handicap, especially compared to the miniatures cast by big commercial foundries like Games Workshop. Communicating “vampire” without really being able to print fangs and pointy ears is a challenge.

So I’m limited to pose and wardrobe. I had to get the model up off the base to make this a flying vampire, so I appropriated the cloak and gave the vampire a regal bearing.

I added the cavalry saber and started thinking backstory, like this guy was an army officer before he got seduced by one of the aforementioned slutty vampires 200 years ago and suddenly why am I in this rabbit hole and got to get back to modeling again.

I decided not to tatter the cloak, because although it would look cool, no self-respecting vampire noble would float into combat looking like a schlub.

If you’ve got your own 3D printer, get cracking on printing your own vampires. You can download the model here, completely free.

No printer? I’ll print you as many as you need at my Etsy Store. A half-dozen should do it for most games.

This model is distributed under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US license. Please remix and enjoy.

The Emperor Wears No Kapton

The MakerBot 2X was just released, and I’m a little disappointed to see that MakerBot Industries hasn’t gotten rid of the Kapton tape part of the printing process yet. It’s easily the most frustrating part of working with the printer, and in a lot of cases it’s completely unnecessary.

For non-3D printer people who have stumbled across this blog post, Kapton tape is a space-age amber adhesive tape that one lays down on a build platform to help prints stick while printing. Kapton tends to bunch up and self-adhere, making the process of affixing it to the platform a real exercise in patience.

Without some adhesive assistance, prints slide all over the platform and you get a big bag of fail.

I haven’t had the opportunity to use a 2X yet, but I’ve been printing on a Replicator 1 for about a year and I’ve found a few workarounds that let me concentrate on designing stuff rather than getting my prints to stick to the first layer. Presumably these tips will apply to your shiny new 2X, too.

The models in all of the following photos were printed on a Replicator 1 using ABS of various colors, using the original Replicator firmware. I’m using ReplicatorG to slice.

HBP 110°
extruder 240°
layer height: .25 to .27
feedrate: 45
travel feedrate: 65
ReplicatorG 037
Skeinforge 50

I’m generally printing small models onto painter’s tape. The base on this squirrel is maybe 5 centimeters in radius.

squirrel token with NUNCHUCKS!

I get at least a 95% success rate printing these. (I need a lot of them because the kids and I use them as tokens in Magic: The Gathering.)

If you’d like a nunchuck squirrel of your own, download the STL here. Unarmed squirrel tokens also exist.

I was having such success printing tokens of all kinds on painters’ tape that for a while I was thinking Kapton was completely unnecessary until I tried to print a Dungeons and Dragons dice plinth.

painters tape plinth

See that circled gobbet of filament? That’s caused by not covering the entire platform with tape. The plastic won’t stick to bare aluminum, so when the extruder does its pre-print nozzle clearing it takes the extruded plastic along for the ride.

These gobbets can mess with your print if they get caught up in the print area, so it makes sense to cover the extruder path with a strip of tape.

Note where the edges of the dice plinth curled up from the platform. My understanding is that as layers of plastic cool, they contract and pull the lower layers of the print upwards. If you want to avoid this pulling, the first layer really has to stick to the platform.

The Sharpie marks around the print help me to make sure the build platform is locally level in the print area. I hardly bother with MakerBot’s platform leveling script anymore. I don’t see the point of having level platform corners if I’m not printing that far out, and getting level corners is a second exercise in patience that I just don’t have time for.

So. I lay down a small piece of Kapton in the build area only. Don’t bother trying to cover the whole build platform if you don’t need to. It’s much easier to work with that way.

I spread a liberal application of ABSynthe in the build area and then hit the print button again. Success. Those bubbles in the kapton are usually a problem, but with enough ABSynthe anything will stick to the HBP.

plinth with absynthe

Take a look at the difference between these two prints from the side. Painters’ tape on the left, Kapton with ABSynthe on the right.

plinth comparison

But, there’s a small downside to using ABSynthe: look at the bottoms of these prints:


The ABSynthe I have at the workbench is a noisome slumgullion of every ABS filament color I have, which leaves a murky film on the bottom of the print. Note to self: make mono-colored ABSynthe for higher-quality prints.

Why not use ABSynthe on painter’s tape? I’ve tried it. The ABSynthe fuses with the tape and it can’t be removed from the bottom of the print without a lot of sanding.

100th blog po–SQUIRREL!


Once we found out there were cards like Squirrel Nest, Nut Collector, and Deranged Hermit, we couldn’t not build a Squirrel deck. This is a token designed for use with such decks in Magic: The Gathering.

Gnawing your opponents to death with a swarm of chattering rodents is particularly gratifying, especially when they underestimate your deck because squirrels.

Dr. Doom owned by squirrels

If you’ve got your own 3D printer, you can print as many squirrels as you need. You can download the model here, completely free.

No printer? I’ll print you as many as you need at my Etsy Store. A half-dozen should do it for most games, unless you go nuts (ha!) with the Squirrel Nest/EarthCraft infinite squirrel combo.

This model is distributed under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US license. Please remix and enjoy.

Ain’t Nobody Got Slime For That

slime counter

Last week I made an ooze creature token for Magic: The Gathering. I was all excited to Gutter Grime my kids when I realized I’d forgotten to make slime counters.

So I opened the Strategic Vertex Reserve, stoked the Forge, and LO! the world now has slime counters. If you’re printing on your own, you can download the model here.

I’m also sliming it up at my Etsy Store. Get ’em while they’re wet and clammy.

This model is distributed under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 US license. Please remix and enjoy.