Back when I first started gaming we had to make do with plotting our dungeons on graph paper – uh – diverted from our math class, but these days gamers have a great many more options. If you’ve been following my Dungeon Crawl reports (and for the sake of my own fragile, precious ego I’ll pretend that you have) then you might have seen that my group uses Dwarven Forge: a modular system of interlocking pieces that can be used to create countless evil lairs, caves systems and more. While I love my good old Chessex Battlemat and can’t say anything but nice things about Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeon Tiles, nothing can compare to the quality and pure immersive glee of gaming with Dwarven Forge. As one of the guys in my group said a few weeks ago, once you’ve gamed with Dwarven Forge, there’s no going back…especially to graph paper.
I recently spoke with Jeff Martin, president of Dwarven Forge about his product line, and what it’s like working in the gamer version of Santa’s Workshop.
Tell me about yourself. How did you get into gaming?
It was 1977 and I found a copy of the original Basic D&D game at a neighbor’s house. I immediately broke open my piggy bank and bought a copy for myself. I have been a big fan of D&D ever since! I also enjoy an old the Avalon Hill Game Co. game called “Third Reich” which is a semi-historical wargame based on WWII. My friends and I have been playing that for the last year or so. Our last game took five months!
Tell me about Dwarven Forge. How did this all get started?
Dwarven Forge was the brainchild of a talented artist and DM Stefan Pokorny who wanted to make something really cool for his players. He dreamed up a modular 3D tile system and he chose polystone as the best medium for his sculptures. He took a huge risk placing an order for his creations, and the responses was incredible. It has been 13 years now, and the demand for his art continues to grow.
How are these pieces constructed anyway?
The pieces are first sculpted by Stefan and then cast in rock-hard polystone. He then paints the masters and sends them off to a casting house that mass produces the pieces based on the original masters.
What is it like working at Dwarven Forge?
It is a dream come true. was a big collector before Stefan offered me a chance to help run Dwarven Forge, LLC. I still get chills when I see a new set for the first time. He keeps topping himself! It is a very enjoyable job since I get to help other collectors like myself very happy by keeping the Dwarven Forge machine running. It offers some very creative opportunities, and I get to interact with a great group of collectors.
What was the initial reaction in the hobby to your products?
Awe. Pure awe. Sounds overblown…but I was one of them. When we first saw them we all immediately started to calculate how much we could buy at the Convention — and still have enough money for food and gas home.
Tell me about your customers!
They are incredibly loyal and patient! Stefan only produces sets when he sees fit and we don’t follow a production schedule. Sometimes we can go almost a whole year without a new set. Yet our collectors patiently wait for us. I think they appreciate his level of commitment to quality. They also are very giving with feedback and product ideas, and I know Stefan reads our Forums all the time.
Have you seen an uptick in business due to the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which kind of seems to emphasize miniature use?
We have noticed an uptick which is nice. Our stuff is perfectly suited for 4th ed. Dungeons and Dragons as it uses 1 inch squares like our sets do.
Ever thought of doing any licensed product lines, like for established fantasy or science fiction settings?
We do have our own sci-fi line and many Star Wars minis and Space Hulk gamers collect our stuff. However, I don’t think Stefan would be interested in someone else’s design ideas. He does Dwarven Forge as an artistic outlet, and he has turned down lucrative deals in the past that had no artistic interest for him.
What would you suggest as an initial purchase for someone looking to bring Dwarven Forge merchandise into their game?
I would get one of our Room and Passage Sets and then maybe one of the Wicked Addition Sets. That would give you a chance at a lot of interesting encounters.
Where can we find your products?
We used to be sold all over the world in various retail outlets, but a few years ago we went direct-to-collectors via our website and at a few gaming conventions. We like the immediate interaction we now have with our collectors, and it is great that our customers are all gamers who understand what Dwarven Forge is all about. Our website is www.dwarvenforge.com.