Designing Unique Dice for Cartograph - Part 2

Work has been ramping up now as the Cartograph Atlas Edition launch date approaches (who knew running a Kickstarter was this much work?), and I'm excited to show off the dice we have for the deluxe pledge. If you haven't read part 1 of the Cartograph dice making journey, find it here. If you haven't already, follow the Kickstarter here to be notified on launch! So, lets get into it. Last we left off, the design process had been finished, and we polished up our 3D printed master dice ready to make some molds.

Production Proper: Making the Molds

For our dice at the Ravensridge Emporium, we like to use a quick set, quick pot life silicone to make our molds. This allows us to make a mold, (both lid and base, which have to be cured separately) in just under a day. I opted to go with 4 dice per mold, so it would fit into our pressure pot nicely. A pressure pot is used to "push" all the air bubbles out of the silicone so you have a nice smooth mold as it cures and hardens. Some people opt to do the reverse with a vaccuum chamber, but I've never found the need. I've oriented the dice at odd angles here to reduce the chance of bulging. Bulging occurs when the walls of the silicone aren't strong enough to support the resin in a cast, and your dice end up having a big warp on one side. This way, the internal walls of each hollow dice cavity should have enough strength to keep the resin in shape as it sets.


A box of lego encasing 4 master dice ready for mold making

We use Lego to create the frames for our molds, Lego-lovers, please don't hate me for this violation.


Half made dice mold dusted with white baby powder

The ominously named 'baby powder' (seriously, who's babies are they turning into powder anyway?) is used to keep the lid and the base from sticking together.

Pulling the First Cast of Cartograph Dice

In Cartograph, you'll need 2 different dice (well, technically 3, but the third dice type just works like either of the first two), one to determine the various biomes on your map, and one to determine the landmarks. I wanted both the landmark dice and biome dice to feel distinct, and I wanted them to evoke their purpose too. So, for biome I went with a natural duo-tone, green and blue, with added shimmers, for you know... Magic. For the landmark, I went with purple and pink, to evoke the more mysterious and unknown feeling of arriving somewhere substantial, and often wondrous. Here is the first pull from our new mold; not too shabby!

A collection of 4 blue-green dice and 4 purple-pink dice

Sanding Polishing, and Watching Actual Plays

So, there's no real way to make this part of the process seem glamorous. Polishing dice is BORING. I tend to set up the polishing wheel and binge some of my favourite actual play streams, VOD's or podcasts. A couple of great Aussie productions I've been watching, if you're interested: Chronicles of Aelwyn, Fate's Grip, and Tomes and Tales. Definitely check them out. Anyway, much like the polishing of the master dice, polishing the casts follows a tedious process of sanding down the sides on wet/dry sandpaper, polishing the sides with compound and polishing papers, and finally a Dremel buff. Here's my usual setup, part way through polishing:


A pottery wheel spinning a polishing paper, and pad, with laptop in the background


Quality Control with Copious Salt

We are a team of two at the Ravensridge Emporium, so we strive to make the best art possible while still maintaining quality. Each of our dice undergoes two stages of testing. The first is a float test. By floating the dice in a super saline liquid, we can see if there are any weight issues with the dice. If there is a disbalance, one face will continually attempt to face upward:

a single purple dice floating in a plastic cup filled with salt water


Our second test is a durability test (this is the test the first version of the dice failed at). We try to roll the dice over and over, around 100 times onto a hard surface. This ensures the dice will be durable for practical use.

Bringing the Dice to Life with Inking

This step is by far my favourite step of dice creation. Designing the dice themselves is fun, but once you ink a set, they really start to sing. This was no exception. I was already pretty happy with the colours of the dice, and I wanted to reinforce the elegance-factor more, so I opted for a metallic gold ink. I think the gold really ties the two designs together; the two different dice now feel part of a set. Please, enjoy the glamour shot:

8 cartograph dice scattered across a handdrawn map


There you have it! I hope you've enjoyed seeing how these dice are made. If you want to get your hands on some, the only way will be via the limited deluxe pledge, so make sure you follow the Kickstarter to be notified when the project goes live, or put a reminder in your calendar for February 6th!

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