I have a very distinct “design language” in my head, as evidenced by the above image. It’s my go-to “sci-fi wall” design, for some reason, and I have remade this once again from scratch. Whereas previous attempts were aiming for digital assets and/or straight up rendering, this one is shooting for 3D printing.

Emboldened by my success with *checks notes* a… custom fucking bracket…I thought that maybe all of my latent Blender skills weren’t for naught as they could be turned towards creating custom printed terrain. If you’ve looked into 3D printed terrain for TTRPGs then you’ll know we are completely drowning in high-fantasy stuff like castles, medieval town flavors, and ruins. In the sci-fi space, however, every fucking thing is Warhammer — sorry, “grimdark space marines”. I suppose one could creatively turn those elements towards, say, Starfinder or Traveler or Star Trek Adventures or Aliens or Coreolis or something, if all of your campaigns existed in a world of decrepit industrial refineries with overt religious overtones, but why should those designs be the only ones? I didn’t find a whole lot of clean, “working-astronaut” science fiction terrain models, so I dusted off Ye Olden New High Tech Flavor Wall Design. The above model is actually just one piece, from 1/2 vertical strut to 1/2 vertical strut, which is mirrored across a reference object in the scene so I could see how two parts side by side would look.

The one thing I had to deal with, though, is that since this asset is intended to be printed and painted, it really shouldn’t contain tons of details. I certainly cannot have decals or colors added. Surface areas should be accessible with a paintbrush, with enough open surface for a painter to apply a personal touch. Making too many assumptions on how the wall should look as a finished product would limit the creative expression of the user, which is why I only added some pipes at the bottom and the segmented panel at the top. The face of the wall has a vaguely purposeful feel to it, but the design doesn’t explicitly say what that purpose is.

There’s also a floor which could be printed, but there’s some work to be done on that. The one issue I have been dwelling on — the same as other terrain designers, according to my research — is how to connect all of these parts. I’ve seen a lot of innovative designs which use a clip system, though I’ve seen far more people talking about gluing small magnets into recesses designed into the bases.

Like the walls, the floor is “designed once” as a beveled-edge platform which is then arrayed in a 4×2 pattern. I have imported a free “cyber-soldier” model from Thingiverse for representative scale; the base of the character is 20mm, so a single floor tile is 20mm as well. Not only does the bevel look suitably sci-fi on the floor, but it does a good job of creating a “hex” for the mini to occupy during gameplay. I would probably print one wall section attached to a 2×2 floor section to provide not just a play surface, but a proper geometry so the walls don’t need to find a way to attach to the base. I would then need to figure out how to connect two 2×2 floor sections with walls together, so they don’t move during play. Alternatively, I could only worry about connecting the walls to one another, forcing the players to use the walls on top of, say, a hex mat. That would be the most flexible option for users and would save printers on filament or resin but would also put all of the structural design on the walls themselves.

At this point, I think I am ready to export a wall and 2×2 floor segment to .STL and throw it into the printer for a test. Should things work out well, I would need to continue to use the existing floor square as a base for placement as well as for printing and might have to implement an attachment method before I get too far into designing other walls (windows, doors of various kinds, as well as wrap-in and wrap-out corners).


  • Tipa

    September 20, 2022 - 10:51 PM

    Given the issues you had with the printed thing re: scaling and all that, I really think I like your idea of not printing a floor and just using a grid or hex map underneath. With the wall segments, you could make rooms — and not just square ones — corridors, docks, whatever. As for joining them together, I don’t know that that’s necessary. If they get jostled a little as people move minis around, no big deal. Adding floors just limits options.

    • Scopique

      September 21, 2022 - 9:43 AM

      I think will at least separate the walls from the floor so I can use the walls on a hex map, but also so the floors could be printed on their own. Grilledcheese mentioned that he prints his walls and floors apart, and then superglues them together, which is another option for those who want to go that route.

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