Interview with: Chris R. Chivers of Naloomi's Workshop

What is your history with miniature gaming?

I started playing with miniatures well before I started school. My favorite were Lego's because I could do anything with them I imagined. Later I started creating stories for my Lego guys and adventures they could take part in. A friend and I played Dungeons & Dragons, without the rules, on maps drawn on grid paper. I've been hooked on it ever since.

What games do you still play?

I primarily play Dungeons & Dragons and get in one to two games per week. I used to run quarterly D&D conventions (primarily RPGA games) locally and was on the local triad for a couple years until Living Greyhawk ended. I enjoy other games though, like Descent, Space Hulk and Star Wars. I don't get to play them as often as I would like.

How long have you been doing this?

I've been doing D&D on and off for close to thirty years now. I've been building terrain for a little over five years. I also do miniature painting, but nothing near the level I've seen some achieve.

How did you get interested in gaming?

I have always been interested in fantasy and ancient historical settings. Mythology was one of my favorite things to study (heck it still is) as a kid. When reading stories or mythologies I always liked to envision myself as one of the characters in the story. I would try and read along as if it was me making the decisions, sometimes wondering why I would make this decision or that, and sometimes questioning the decisions made by the character entirely. This lead to a deep love of role-playing. I have always enjoyed pretending to be someone or something else, whether it be the 6 foot plus great-axe wielding barbarian, the grouchy wizard who only uses his spells in the most dire of circumstances, or even the cyclops they are going to destroy.

How did you get interested in making terrain?

On my gaming table I used Dwarven Forge. My biggest problem was that I always had larger rooms than I had floor tiles. A while later, while at Gencon, I came across the Hirst Arts booth, saw the terrain displays he had to showcase what could be done with his molds, and fell in love. Now, I didn't want to betray my loyalty to Dwarven Forge, but it was expensive. I bought one mold from Bruce Hirst that year, Mold 203 (Cracked Tile Floor) to supplement my Dwarven Forge collection. After bringing the molds home, and perusing the Hirst Arts site, I started buying more and more molds, and replacing my Dwarven Forge collection with Hirst Arts built terrain that I built and painted myself.

What made you start your business?

In the past I had considered selling my terrain online but never got around to it. I had always wanted to make enough money to keep me in new molds and other materials. When I was unexpectedly released from my job in March of 2009 I started to look at the alternatives for income. I had missed much of my daughter's young years due to working tremendous overtime which I did not want to repeat. I had gotten quite a bit of good feedback about my builds on the Hirst Arts forums and my wife and I talked it over. We decided I had enough molds to make my earlier idea work. This way I could keep my own hours working out of my home selling casts and terrain as well be around the house if my family needed me.

What are some unique challenges?

Each and every build I work on has its own set of challenges. My most recent build was a 4 foot wide by 2 foot deep by 1 foot tall defensive fortification for a client. Some of the challenge was making it modular so I could ship it to Utah and he could swap out certain sections of the walls for damaged pieces. As you can see, my two kids fit inside the two side walls. The various miniatures are to show scale.

More often than not it's figuring out what would be the best way to design modular terrain. I've revised my personal dungeon design seven or eight times now, always trying to figure out the optimal way to do it. I've come to the conclusion there is not an optimum way. I can always come up with good and bad points for each design.

What do you feel real proud of when it comes to making the terrain?

There are two points in the process that I am most proud of. The first is the phase of the project where I verifying how practical and feasible the build can be using SketchUp. I love to take a basic design idea and end up with a plan which will look incredible when finished. The second is the final reveal when I show the piece to my friends and family. The amazed look on their eyes at how something so small can be so incredibly detailed. Then my five year old daughter starts to play with it. When she asks me to build her one it makes me feel fantastic.

Why have you focused in on the sci-fi genre?

I'll be vending at an annual science fiction convention hosted by the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association. In addition sci-fi has been generally ignored by terrain makers. There are the occasional items consisting of ruined buildings or ships. Otherwise no complete sets of sci-fi which I'm hoping to change with my modular pieces.

I'm starting off with the general designs that Bruce Hirst has already created. I make single mold casts so people can spruce up their games. Next I'm developing basic interiors such as medical labs and cargo bays. My terrain uses an arena style design where the walls and floors are intended as separate pieces. This allows players to position the walls on the floor pieces as they desire. The result is fewer floor pieces needed to build the terrain players want. The first sets will use a one inch floor designs with wall pieces to fit either one or one and a half inch tiles.

My Space Hulk projects are quite different. They utilize one and a half inch tiles with low walls, or trim, to still give a solid 3D feel. This is accomplished without taking away from the visual appeal of the game. Players need to be able to see the entire board to make informed decisions. The low walls I designed facilitates this with plans to add optional higher pieces for those who would want them. The old Space Hulk miniature bases are slightly larger than an inch and a half as well as having overhang which could make contact with high walls. The low trim technique I use allows for those miniatures to be used and still stand flat on the floor. I plan to offer all the tiles from every Space Hulk set and game expansion.

My first piece, an end access floor panel, is already on my store. This center access hatch is one and a half inches square. As you can see the trim bits allow for slightly larger bases to fit in the square just fine. With a little work, the access panel can be made removable as well. I hope to soon have a T-Intersection, a 2-Tile long hallway, and three other additional tiles available soon. All tiles are single cast pieces which requires no assembly. Just paint and they'll be to be placed on the gaming table.

© 2010, Gabriel Landowski