In 2012, I wrote an article here on Lit.Org (my most recent piece, so long ago) regarding the rebound of tabletop gaming being facilitated by .pdf distribution over the internet. Indeed, via http://www.drivethrurpg.com and its associated sites, tabletop games, particularly roleplaying games, are seeing a wider audience and the site has become a mainstay. Designers, writers and artists are making serious money from that site. Additionally, old-school publishers from well before the time of widespread use of .pdf technology have been scanning their back catalogue of work and posting them there at a discount.
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So, what is the newest development in tabletop gaming?
As seen in many recent YouTube videos, 3D printing has become a mainstay of gamers who use miniatures in their tabletop gaming. Miniatures gaming, long an element in tabletop wargaming and roleplaying, is receiving a massive boost from 3D printing technology in the home. Many game masters are printing their own miniatures and sharing their designs over the internet, and providing tips via YouTube on how to produce one's own collection of miniatures for their own games.
This can include characters and monsters but also scenery, such as dungeon walls, treasure objects, gates, doors, traps and the like. Science fiction gaming receives treatment ala space station settings and planetary installations.
Considering the potentially massive cost of miniatures in tabletop wargaming, for example in the notoriously expensive Warhammer 40K by Games Workshop, this is a huge boon to gamers. A new market is suggested for 3D printer designs rather than in selling finished miniatures.
I can say for myself that I was put off of tabletop wargaming with miniatures for years by Games Workshop's pricing: I originally began playing the game with friends during its first edition, in 1989. In those days, one could for example buy three of the basic tank vehicles for the Space Marines in one box, for a low price. Just when I was beginning to build a collection, Games Workshop retracted this deal and put ONE tank in each package, for the same or higher price. Since much of the game's community culture is built around their boutique stores and the purchase of hordes of miniatures to create an entire tabletop army, I knew I could no longer stay in it, and divested myself of the game. It's only gotten worse.
While it is possible to get good deals on miniatures via sites such as http://www.miniaturemarket.com , collections can still be expensive to assemble. While prepainted miniatures have become more available and are popular, these are still expensive and can become hard to find very quickly, particularly for Paiso's Pathfinder rpg.
So, I would definitely tell any gamemaster who wants to incorporate miniatures and physical environments into their tabletop gaming experience to start investigating good deals on 3D printers. While there is a learning curve in terms of software, design and execution, as well as an initial layout of funds, by all appearances it is highly rewarding and makes for an essential element of the hobby as it continues its rebirth and new evolution.