Where’s the Web Shop?

I wanted to address this question because it keeps coming up (for good reason), especially during Origins.

Really I should answer the preface question first before getting into this one. Where can I buy a DW box? Right now we are focused on three areas for sales. Local retail stores (hopefully a couple more before the pending holiday season), a handful of conventions in the Midwest region, and direct contact orders. So if you see a box you like, or have a request for a specific graphic/layout combination, send us a message and we’ll make it. I love working with people to get them the box they really want.

Why so limited right now? I can only do so much. Keeping a good handle on inventory levels is a challenge (a good problem to have) considering the shop is small (2/3 of a 2 car garage) and there are only two of us doing all the work (one of which has a full time job). So, I have to balance work load and life in order to avoid burn out. I want this thing to be long term.

Back to the original question. Where’s the web shop? These days it’s almost seen as a business killer to not have a “click to buy” option. Normally I would agree, if the main goal of the business is paying the bills. Long term, yes, I would like to make a regular living from doing DW full time. Right now it’s about connecting in person, validating the product, and just being a part of the community in general. It may be an unconventional business plan, but I want to run the business, I don’t want the business to run us.

There will likely be a web shop in the future, but not until I can expand the shop to increase my production. The plan for that is moving to a new house with enough space to have a dedicated shop building (instead of renting a space, which would increase overhead). With the state of the housing market right now, moving is on hold. We need a bit more stability to be comfortable with that decision.

For now we will continue with the slow ramp up of DW. Creating a footprint in the table top game industry is the priority, not profit. We’re here for the long haul.

Origins Report

Last I heard, attendance was about 1/3 of what it normally is. Despite that, it was absolutely amazing for us. Day one was overshadowed with imposter syndrome. Do we even belong here? Will we sink in the ocean of seasoned vendors and gamers? Day two was more of a “is this actually happening” moment. Day three we settled into the groove of the convention, and realized that this is who we are, and where we belong.

So much love to the community. Not just the attendees, but the other vendors as well. We played games, talked shop (games, really lol), connected for possible projects in the future, made trades for cool stuff, it was so much fun. Big thanks to everyone who made it a great con!

Considering that DW is just the two of us for the most part, things that happen outside of the work tend to translate into larger disruptions in the business. I haven’t posted updates as much as I like recently due to this, and due to the fact that prepping for Origins was a huge push for us. I almost cancelled our booth honestly. Ultimately we made it work, and I am truly glad we did.

Thanks again, and happy gaming!

The Table

There have been a lot of new players in the D&D world over the past 10 years or so. On the surface, that fills me with joy that so many people are playing the game that got me through a pivotal time in my formative years. The more I think about it, the more I ponder what it is that makes it good in my eyes. As much as I love the game of D&D specifically, it’s not really the game itself, but the group at the table that is most important. Noteworthy in the discussion is where the game came from, who played, and why. How does that all translate into the game we play today? The game has changed over the years, but has “The Table” (I use the term “table” to mean the group of players)?

My perspective may be one of many, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark.

I was introduced to D&D in 1989 by a fellow 6th grade classmate who was doing a class presentation on it. Up to that point I was very interested in medieval history, and disappointed that our history books only included one page on it. Here was this game that nurtured my romanticized mental image of knights in shining armor. On top of that, the people who played were other kids like me that were outside the popular cliques.

So it was that I was introduced to my first TTRPG. We played periodically at recess with what few minutes we had. I would flip back through my history book before each break, then head out to roll dice in an effort to do heroic deeds. Not surprisingly, my first character was a human fighter. It was later that I realized that my first character was really a personification of who I wanted to be. Big, strong, valiant, and good natured. It was important for my character to do right even if it meant going against laws of the land (yes, chaotic good). This was it, I found my thing, and I found my people. It was as if I had found myself, really.

Unbeknownst to me there was an old D&D box set buried in the top of our game closet, it had been given to my parents years earlier but they never played because it wasn’t the typical board game of the time. The box was given to me not long after telling them about my experience at school. It was the old blue beginners box from 1978 with the B1 module in it (Into the Unknown), with the original Holmes dice. It had a list of pre-made character stats, which I used to make a new version of my original human fighter, and I studied those books whenever I had time. I even played solo now and again (which may or may not have been legit, seeing as how it was difficult for 12-year-old me to not fudge rolls).

Going from elementary school to middle school made it a bit difficult to play at first. Some of the original group didn’t end up at the same school. It didn’t take long however, to find a solid bunch of unpopular kids to form a new adventuring group. Really, it was too big of a group for one table, so we played with various people and random times. Getting in dice rolling when we could. None of us were popular, all of us were trying to figure out hormones, and who we were, but none of that was really that important because we had each other, and we had D&D.

Then came high school, this is where we get to the critical part (for me anyway).

For four years people came and went. The friends circle, and the table was a mix of all the classes freshman to senior. We were drama geeks, band nerds, chess players, bone heads, advanced placement overachievers, book nerds, hicks, and yes, even football players. There was such a mix of backgrounds it was amazing. While I missed the era of basement playing outcasts that was seen in Stranger Things (though that stereo type still persists today) it grew into something greater for us in the 90s. Everyone was welcome at “The Table.”

Regardless of what was going on in life at the time, it was usually fairly easy to meet up with a few people and play. Not everyone was available all the time, but there were always enough. Because of this play style there weren’t many long-standing campaigns, or regular meeting times, just random one shots and short story-lines, revolving DMs and stacks of new character ideas. It was a relief from the stresses of teenage life, an escape from problems, a way to have fun and connect without being required to compete on some popularity field. No judgement, just imagination and excitement. These days I see a lot of this still exists. Tons of tables filled with nerds (I use nerd as a term of endearment, also a word I use to describe who I am).

This is not to say that everyone at the table will always get along all the time. Sometimes personalities just conflict and don’t work well at the table. That’s ok. There are enough people playing, especially these days, for everyone to find a group that they vibe with. Out of all the people I played with over the years, there are three of us that stayed in contact consistently for 25+ years. The real point here is that no one should be forced to play, or pushed away from a table because of a sensitive plot line or subject matter. Part of why session zero exists now is to address these things. Steer the game away from subjects people don’t want to face for various reasons (be it general awkwardness, personal trauma, or anything). The DM (or GM) may write the game, but the whole table is responsible for how the story plays out.

“The Table” is there for a reason. In many cases it is the very foundation for mental stability, social acceptance, friendship, tribe, personal expression, self-discovery, love, laughter, memories… and the list goes on. There is no story line that is worth sacrificing any one of these. None. Period. Full stop.

There is no game mechanic rule.

There is no genre.

There is no specific game.

There is nothing, nothing, worth sacrificing on that inexhaustible list.

Of all of the things that make up who a person is (background, skin pigmentation, medical conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity, career, family, another inexhaustible list) none of it is worth overlooking or trivializing for story-line or game-play. “The Table” should vibe and play like it is its own living entity.

Today I feel like we need to be reminded of where TTRPGs came from. It frustrates me to no end when I hear about people (new players, and old) who join a table where these things are not taken into consideration. Tables where some players don’t feel welcome, or where the story line is seen as more important than the players and who they are. With so many people playing now, more and more of these tables exist. Fortunately, that means there are more tables out there to jump to, until you find “The Table” and the vibe that goes with it.

With that in mind, I want to say this loud and clear:

It’s ok to leave a table you aren’t comfortable with.

Period.

Full stop.

Don’t stay at that table because they need your tank, or heals, or damage.

Don’t stay at that table because you have a friend there you don’t want to disappoint.

Don’t stay at that table.

There are other tables. This community is huge now. I know it may be hard, I am an introvert too, I have anxiety problems too. It may be hard, but it will be worth it.

To emphasize, as previously stated, mental stability, social acceptance, friendship, tribe, personal expression, self-discovery, love, laughter, memories, background, skin pigmentation, medical conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity, career, family, and the continued inexhaustible list, none of it is worth overlooking or trivializing for story-line or game-play.

Period.

Full stop.

On the other side of all this, if you are at a table that people keep leaving for various reasons, maybe ask yourself why. Maybe ask the other players why. Then take a long hard read again, and consider why you are still at that table. What is it about that table that pushes people away? I’m not one to tell people how they should run their tables, or what tables they should be at, but there should at least be a little personal reflection here. What is important to you about the table you are at?

The DM (or GM) may write the game, but the whole table is responsible for how the story plays out.

Period.

Full stop.

Redesign Alert: Small Box and Tower

Another “not a new project” redesign. The small square box always felt like an afterthought to me. I made it because it was simple, and it worked. Over the past few months I decided I should try to make it rectangular, like the medium and large boxes. I wanted it to look like a DW box. The square boxes were nice, don’t get me wrong, but this takes it to a whole new level.

After changing the internal “swoosh” pocket of the dice tower I realized that It could be put into a smaller form with minimal modification. It helped with the mini tower design, and now we have a small tower that fits standard sized dice. Small box, small tower, then there’s the medium box, medium tower. I know what you’re thinking… I may mess with a large tower design.

The other change I made to the small box is a double open pocket (as I like to call it). Meaning you can fit a set of dice+ and a mini if you want. Or you can go cafeteria tray style and separate your sets of dice. Either way, it’s a super compact way to travel to your game tables in style without having to lug around oversized accessories.

Both tower and box measure in at 3.5″ by 5.5″ and about 1.5″ in total thickness. That’s about as small as I am going until I mess with mini dice storage and towers more (maybe). I also think the lid is more usable as a rolling tray than the square version, there’s more room to roll.

The only issue I have with the tower right now is the bottom notch. The weight pushes the whole thing so it leans back a little, but really it should work best with the whole tower outside the tray anyway. Either way, it works.

For the dice goblin that want’s to store their higher end math rocks There is still the 7 hex version.

Yes, those are radical glass dice by Level Up

I will still offer the fully open base, I just haven’t cut any yet. Really I think the double open does the job and then some, so the fully open may only be available by request.

The next step in the process is to figure out how the space works with graphics and resin. There’s a thing I might try that could be specific to small boxes. Not sure yet. I may also try some laser graphics, but I’d have to drive across town to use the one our friends have (someone buy me a glowforge for my birthday lol).

Here’s a few extra pics for fun.

Stacked
Inside the tower

These will definitely be on the table when we get back to conventions.

Feel free to ask questions, give insight, or tell me how they could be better.

Happy gaming!

Updated Mini Tower

An updated design isn’t a new design, right? So I found a loophole in my own rules. This really needed to be done though. I was experimenting with a completely different design for the mini towers, but with a new rolling pocket design (dice swoosh?) I revisited the old pocket sized box.

It’s almost the same as the old one I did, but now it fits two sets of mini dice inside and has four sets of magnets instead of two.

The standard sized D20 is for scale, but it’s 4″x3″ just like the old one. I have a handful that I am working on finishing, but none of them have graphics or resin yet. This is one of those items that would look great with a laser cut graphic, maybe later this year I will look at getting one.

This is one of those niche within a niche products that always sells out at conventions no matter how many I make.

This box is smaller than my phone.

Stay tuned, I have a few things that I am “updating” that I want to share with you.

Happy gaming!

Inventory and Custom Orders

Over the last couple years I have started having a presence at regional conventions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and despite the fact that I am somewhat introverted, I absolutely love being at cons. The 2021 downtime have given me the opportunity to streamline how I want things to run. The big subjects I have been focusing on are customs, cons, retails stores, and developing new products.

The largest overall factor is inventory, which is what I am focusing on now. With Origins Game Fair on the horizon I basically have to make boxes nonstop from now until September to feel comfortable having enough to not run out. While it is a good problem to have, I have no idea how much is enough since this will be our first large convention (not to mention the pandemic makes attendance levels an unknown right now). As a result of my own anxiety I will be limiting custom orders to a few slots a month.

As far as customs go, I love doing them, and I spend more time making sure they meet expectations. While that is in no way a bad thing, it does take me away from focusing on overall inventory. The one thing I have been putting off this whole time is adding a few bucks to spend the time making a custom box. I want to make sure that customs are still within a reasonable price, so I feel like $10 is a modest enough charge.

Speaking of cost, there has been an increase in wood prices in many parts of the country. Somehow we were insulated from it for the most part here in the mid west, but walnut has gone up (which is a pain since it was already more expensive than most domestic woods). I am considering a small charge for walnut on customs, but we’ll see. Really it just means there will be fewer of them in stock in the long run and more cherry, ash, maple, and likely a return of coffee wood (which looks like ash and oak for the most part, but will have the caffeine graphic by default).

The last two items on my list (not last in priority) retail stores, and new products. You can find DW boxes and towers in two stores locally, and I plan on adding a few more this year. Likely the big retail store push will be for the next holiday season. As for new stuff, I have to put it on the back burner somewhat so I can focus on inventory levels. Once things get to a comfortable level of operation I will start working on the new ideas I have rolling around in my head.

That’s where I am at right now. Feel free to comment with insight, or suggestions. Also, don’t forget to get on the custom order list if you want something made, it could fill up fast.

Happy gaming!

I wrote a game for you…

The small town of Ravens Roost is a way point of trade between major cities. It sits on a tributary river about half a day’s ride west of Konbjerg (or a home brew city of your choosing). The town was originally a garrison several generations ago when the wilderness was a larger source of unrest, and danger. On the western side of the river is a fortified garrison, and a temple (which now serves as a logistical center for trade caravans). Around the fortification arose merchants, inns, and a warehouse district on the water. On the eastern side of the river is a sparsely populated farming community, and local trade village.

Normally a fairly uneventful hamlet, Ravens Roost has recently been the target of a series of break ins over the past couple of weeks. Rumors fuel wild guesses as to who or what is responsible, and the list of stolen items is no help. The garrison constable doesn’t wish to dedicate what little man power he has to the issue since the break ins do not directly hinder the trade routes. The adventurers are hired to stop the break ins by a representative of the little-known merchant house Envaris, with the blessing of the garrison constable.

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 1989 (why does this feel like an addiction meeting). For all the games that I made up over the years this is the first one I actually put on paper. Well, it’s digital. With no real plans to do hard copy runs any time soon.

Despite it taking so many years to actually publish something, I will say that it is much easier now than it would have been back then. WoTC really hit on something when they created the open gaming license and started supporting community content with the Dungeon Masters Guild.

This is something I have always wanted to do. I recognize that my first attempt is just that, a first attempt. I don’t plan on getting wealthy on one module (or multiple for that matter). The important part right now is that I put it out there. Step one complete. Project done.

Also important, which I believe is paramount in the TTRPG community, is contributing to the community. Even if no one buys it ever it is still a significant game module to me. I introduced a number of new players to the game with this content, but back then it was mostly in my head. You don’t even have to buy it to run it. You can pay $0 to download it from dmsguild dot com, or you can pay the 1.99 if you want and I’ll put it in the coffee fund.

I want to make more. I also need feedback to know if it’s any good. So let me know if you read it, or run it. What works? What didn’t work? Or, better yet, are you a brand new DM (GM) that want’s to run it? Ask questions, I’ll help you learn how to run it. I want to help make the TTRPG community a better place. I feel like I need to after playing for 32 years.

Enjoy!

Small Box Prototype

The new small box design is 3″x5.5″ as opposed to the old 4″x4″ square small box. Why the change? The medium and large boxes are rectangular in design, so the small will match the shape. I like the look, there is just something more aesthetically pleasing about it.

Along with this design is a smaller tower, which fits well with the idea of travel utility. They are both sized the same, something the old tower slot would not be able to do. It’s actually about the same size as the mini tower redesign, but it will accommodate standard sized dice up to a d20. For DCC players you would still have to use the 4″x7″ tower for your d24 and d30, or roll them by hand if you were using the small tower.

Keep in mind these pieces are not fully finished. No sealer, no magnets, no velvet. Also, the smaller size on direction (the 3″) means there would be limitations on graphics and resin pours. It would be great for laser etched graphics (still on the list to buy… eventually).

Despite my opinion on the small box prototype, it’s not up to me if it replaces the square design. If no one is interested, then it wont be a thing. So, here’s some additional comparison pics. I’d love to get some feedback.

Normal tower vs small tower.

Happy gaming!

21 Expectations

I have high hopes for 2021. Of course, I had high hopes for the year that shall not be named, but the thing about planning is making sure to be flexible. If you can’t adjust then expect disappointment.

My first priority right now is inventory. I keep getting excited about new projects I am working on and want to make the things. However, with the conventions that are already on the books for later this year, and the retail stores that need to be restocked, I have to make sure that boxes are available.

Full disclosure, I did do some redesigns and updates while I had downtime on the cold days. Expect to see a new small box because I just wasn’t too happy with the square box. I just didn’t put a ton of thought into it originally due to the simplicity, I changed it to a rectangle shape to match the medium and large box shapes. Small change but I think I will feel less “meh” about it.

I redesigned the dice slot in the rolling tower. It was never as clean as I wanted it to be, but I have yet to cut the new one so the jury is still out on the result. The benefit to the new slot is sizing. I can now make a smaller tower that matches the dimensions of the redesigned small box and I think it will make a great matching set. I also made a micro tower for fun, but there’s not a lot of micro dice out there so we’ll see how it plays out.

For pending redesigns I have the three piece tower box, and the travel size DM screen. The tower box doesn’t need so much of a redesign, more just figuring out a better way to streamline the build process. It’s a bit tedious right now but I have had people ask me about it so it may become a priority. The DM screen is a similar story. The build process is wonky and I need the pieces to not have tear out in the wood, but I did upgrade the magnets so that feels like progress.

DW is in two retail stores right now, Saltire Games, and Hometown Comics and Games. I am happy with the result of the holiday season, but am unsure about off season sales. Regardless, I will make sure they are stocked with boxes and towers. I also intend to add a couple more stores to the list soon (again, inventory) so if you are local to Indy then go take a look and support your FLGS (friendly local game store, for the muggles).

Conventions are starting to come back, albeit slowly (which I support). InCon and Indy Pop Con in July, and Origins at the end of September. I don’t know how much I can stress the importance of Origins to Dirty Woods, it’s like hitting the big time. I don’t know what other cons will pop up, but I do know that for the most part we are going to try to focus on the ones in state. Connecting to the game community locally has become more important to me over the last two years.

Dirty Woods online footprint is something I have given a lot of thought to lately. I’m not happy with Etsy right now, don’t expect to see listings on there any time soon. Obviously DW is on WordPress, and I’m waiting on a domain transfer so the .net address will be alive again soon. I also plan to list available products on here, once I have more products available (buzz word, inventory). My experience with the FB shops was just ok, it works but there are little things that make it just “meh” overall.

There is more happening behind the scenes at DW but I feel like I’m rambling at this point, and I want to save some for more posts. Feel free to post questions or suggestions. Community input means a lot to me, and is a big factor in what drives Dirty Woods. Also, if you are playing games in person, send me pics of your boxes and towers in action. I love seeing DW stuff “in the wild”

Happy gaming!

Bringing a Box to Life

I have gone back and forth about sharing the entire process of making boxes. Is it a secret process like an age old recipe handed down through the generations that only one person is allowed to know? Honestly, not really. There are a lot of small makers doing dice boxes and rolling towers out there, and many of them are doing wonderful work.

What makes DW boxes different? I told myself early on that I will only make my own designs, not recreate someone else’s design. I want people to look at my boxes and be able to recognize that it’s a Dirty Woods box. Did I redesign the wheel? Maybe, but I like my wheel. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

If you didn’t know by now, it all starts with CNC. After running a slice of wood through the planer to make it the thickness I want, then it goes on the machine (affectionately known as Dusty Sr). I load the desired layout design into the control computer, check my zeros, and press go. Some woodworkers say that CNC isn’t real woodworking, I don’t participate in those arguments because it’s just a tool I use to get the job done.

After the CNC is done I take it back over to the planer to take a little bit off the back side so I can pop out the box from the surrounding waste material (I say waste, but I save what I can to use on other projects or give to people who want it for other stuff). Please excuse the mess, this process generates some excess which seems to multiply exponentially (like rabbits) when I cut a bunch at a time.

Next up is the router. This is something that I only started doing mid 2020. Before this the boxes were super square, and had a hard edge on the outside. The were good before, this is one of those little finishing touches that just makes them better.

Sanding is self explanatory, but very important. Cutting corners sanding will change the end quality. I sand multiple times in the process, at least 4 times I think.

This CNC is Dusty Jr. Really it’s the original CNC I bought at then end of 2018, but it’s dinky. Like, fits on a desk dinky. Jr is Jr because it’s small, and only does the graphics carving for me. I get a lot of people who ask me if I use a laser for the graphics. Nope, all CNC router. A laser is on my wish list still if anyone needs birthday gift ideas for me.

Yes I can load up custom graphics and carve them in boxes. No, they don’t always translate well. I do it this way because it works well for the resin inlay, and it’s what I know how to do.

Speaking of resin inlay, this is what it looks like for step one of the resin process. It took time to figure out the best way to do this, and resin isn’t cheap. Also note that the box is sealed at this point. Three coats before resin, otherwise it’s a higher risk of bubbles (which translate to holes later). This resin pour is a rather simple two color fade (accent? blend? mix? I don’t know the official term, we just do it) carbon black, and crimson.

The resin takes a full 24 hours to set before I can move on to the next step. In all honesty I should probably wait longer, but sometimes we get anxious to see the result of the pour.

After the resin is set I run it through the planer to knock the high points down, then sanding again. I make sure to sand up to around 1000 grit to make sure there are no scratch marks in the final product. After sanding I seal the whole thing, then sand again, then seal again. Yes, it makes a difference.

Finally, I install magnets, then velvet, then foam (if it has a miniature pocket). The magnets are countersunk Neodymium, a rare earth element, and fastened with stainless steel screws. The velvet has an adhesive backing (so far I have not heard of the velvet coming apart from the tray) and I either hand cut the pieces, use a punch for the hex shapes, or cut a bunch with a Cricut.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a final fancy pic of this custom box before I sent it out, I’m just always excited to get the boxes out the door to their forever homes.

However, here is a pic of a different finished box just for funsies.

I hope this was an enjoyable post for anyone who hung in there and read the whole thing. This process took two years to get to this point, and in two year from now the process may look different. If it’s the exact same, then I failed. I hope to always be chasing a better process and better end product.

Happy gaming!