Wednesday 24 June 2020

Thoughts On 'Mine' Tiles.

Whenever we head down into the mines in our fantasy games (both as players and as GMs), we often think of sprawling complexes lined with minecart rails reminiscent of those found in the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie (or at least I do).

As an example, here's one of my own maps from not so long ago:

However, from what I've been reading - the whole 'wooden sleepers with iron/steel' rails didn't become commonplace until steam-power took off (as in steam engines) - so they're a little bit out of place in our faux-medieval worlds.

Now, I understand that most folks won't be troubled by things like that (I myself wasn't for the longest of times) - but now that I'm about to start work on some 'mine' textures for the print & paste range, I've been giving it some thought (because I'm a bit weird like that ;) ).

So, while I'm no expert on the matter (far from it), it looks as though something like this might be more fitting:

So, the cart/tub (above) is little more than a box on wheels - with a downwards facing 'pin' that is guided along a couple of planks of wood via a gap between those planks (below) ...kinda like a scalextric/slot-car.

However, I think if I were to draw my tiles to look something like this (and call them 'mine tiles'), most people would be left scratching their head (I know I would have been).

That being said, according to wikipedia, the following picture is a minecart from the 16th century (so probably more renaissance than medieval ...but I think there is some overlap) ...and I think this is more in line with what folks would expect.

So, I was wondering if you could help me out here? What style would you like to see me tackle?

Would you prefer the expected wooden-sleeper/iron-rails kind of thing? Or the plank/slot-car type of set-up? Or something else entirely?

The above picture is a prototype that I did a while back (and it's a bit of a cross between the renaissance example and a modern rail) I think this might be a good middle ground (seeing as how it's still instantly recognisable) - but I'm still not quite sure.

So, please do let me know what you think (or if you have any further insight)!


  1. Many of the Pathfinder and D&D flavored systems have firearms of some tech level as well as dumbwaiter style elevators, so I don't see an issue using the your prototype. The level of tech in place can always be modified by a scene description if the DM is super concerned. I have always viewed maps as a player visual que rather than character experiences anyway.

  2. They had metal swords. Why metal railing.

  3. I would prefer if you kept it like Temple of Doom.
    I'm unlikely to be using dungeon tiles in a historically accurate game, and in the D&Ds, they have magic and dragons, so, go for it.

  4. Except you're forgetting they have something our ancestors/we didn't..."contra gravity". Any serious mining company would be using open topped crates enchanted with /floating disk/ to negate the weight and since it automatically follows the user, no guide trackn is necessary.

  5. I like the prototype style. The iron rail mine maps/tiles have always bugged me. First problem is the sheer amount of wasted metal in a society that in theory doesn't have 19th century mining or smelting capabilities. The peasants are using wooden rakes and shovels, as well as wooden ploughs to grow crops because using metal tools would be too expensive. Small gauge tracks would be around 15 lbs/ft of rail times two rails. That's a lot of metal that could've been used to arm and armor troops instead.

  6. I would suggest the easily understood rails. D&D and most fantasy games are rife with anachronisms.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone :)

    It's quite clear that the first (slot-car) method isn't very popular ...but at the same time, steel rails still don't sit well we me (what can I say, I'm strange ;) ).

    So, it seems that I was on the right track (excuse the pun) with the prototype that I made at the end of last year - so I think that's what I'll go with.

    Thanks again!

  8. Have both - use PDF layering to turn them off and on.

  9. As to being anachronistic in a D&D game... for a human civilization they might be... but for Dwarves they would not be. Dwarves would easily be at least a century or so ahead in mining tech than Humans. With that in mind, the tech could have spread to Human use and by that logic they are not anachronistic, the mine tracks and mine carts just have a different origin in a D&D world then they do in the real world.

  10. I agree with Griffonbait and Jenn, make all, that way you not only have some variety but it's up to the DM to decide plus hey who says you only have to use these tiles with D&D?

    1. Unfortunately, I don't have the software (or the know-how) to make layered pdfs it's had to be a 'one size fits all' kinda deal.

      And yeah, that's why I've gone with wooden rails in the final pdf - as steel rails are very much tied to a specific time period in the real world ...whereas wooden rails seem to have a broader usage.

  11. Wooden sleepers, metal rails. :-)