Many of us have been there. Playing Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder or some other epic table-top rpg. The GM is rocking a glorious tale of adventure, the players are killing all sorts of evil (or not) creatures while simultaneously solving the puzzles that come with any quest for glory.
Someone goes to roll their dice and the dice fly off the table. Then it happens again. The disheartened men and women of the table shake their fist’s at the drudgery. After much ado, everyone decides to get a dice tray. Except now there’s no room on the table for anything else. No maps, no mini’s. Just dice trays. Large, over-sized dice trays.
I’ve been in the situation above way too many times and honestly, many more scenarios as well where a large dice tray with a tower and tray combo (or even just a tray) is just impractical. I went through the time about 2 years ago to make a few dice towers and trays for the group I play Pathfinder with, mostly because I just love building things with wood for friends and family. We have a nice, 4 x 4 gaming table that we play on but, we also play with custom built terrain and miniatures as well so most of that space is for exactly that. The walls on the side of the table don’t exactly fit the dice trays and towers I had built. Sadly, everyone loved their tower’s and trays, but the issue was simply space. Now only the GM really has the space for such a commodity. Mostly because the GM get’s what the GM wants.
Most of the time, you roll 1 or 2 dice at a time, sometimes maybe 10. You don’t need a football field to do that. You need a small, compact tray that can simply keep your dice from flying off the table without taking up all the space for other materials. Tower's are nice but, your hands work just as well for "randomizing" your rolls.
Enter, the Nomad’s Dice Tray, appropriately named. We designed this tray and dice box system with space in mind as well as quality craftsmanship, so it won’t bugger out on you if you drop it or spill water (beer in my case) on it. We also took into mind transportation. We designed the dice tray to actually break apart and become its own box of sorts.
A lot of us travel as well to conventions, someone’s house and so on. I typically have more things to carry with me than I want so every little bit of extra space is much appreciated. With this in mind, we also designed our dice boxes to fit inside the tray when closed. So, in transport, the two systems can fit easily into the side pouch of a bag or even a cargo pocket.
If you are asking yourself, "Wait! Didn’t you just say the tray works as a dice box?" Sure did. But I also hate the sound of rattling dice. As do a lot of people and everyone I embark on glorious adventures with. Unfortunately, we haven’t designed our dice yet that, when bumped together with other dice, sing Benedictine chants. So until then no dice rattling is a good thing.
The last thing we factored in, is the amount of dice to be carried. I’ve never seen anyone only need 1 set of polyhedral dice. Even if a game does require exactly one set and no more, what if that one set buggers out and you need to switch them out for a better set?
It didn’t really make a lot of sense for us to even create a dice box that housed a single set of polyhedral dice. Then I need to buy 2 dice boxes to carry my favorite dice? No thanks. That’s double the money, which, until our hybridized money tree starts growing golden seeds, that’s another issue we can’t solve just yet. We created our dice boxes to house 2 sets of dice. No need to decide which dice set gets the box and which gets the pocket, bottom of backpack, tube sock or a sandwich bag leftover from when grandma packed your lunch.
There’s a few steps we took to make this a true Nomad’s Box and Tray. It’s designed for the traveler and player who have small table tops or coffee tables to play on, or, in many cases, a table at a bar.
It has been quite a long journey to get here though. We wanted to keep the size as small as possible for both the tray and the dice box so as to keep the space needed minimal but, also needed it to house dice and protect them while. Especially anyone out there buying those woolly mammoth tusk dice. I would be afraid to even roll those things. I still want some…
We also wanted them to be both masterfully crafted and beautiful. We were not happy with what is out there in terms of customization and appearance. Sure you can find wood anywhere. But, we are going to do what we do best, make the dice boxes into a work of art without breaking your piggy bank doing it.
Without further intro, this blog serves as our journey from start to finish of our Nomad's Armory Campaign, going back to day 1.
December 2016. It was cold everyone, except in New Zealand where I was at the time. Strange that. The toilets also swirl the opposite direction and some people wear expensive suits with no shoes or socks. Our journey as a company actually began around this time. It was also around this time my father and I thought of the concept for what is now the Nomad's Armory. We wanted to house dice inside the tray. At first, it was just the tray and you would put your dice inside that when not in use. But then OCD hit and a dice box was also a necessity to be able to line my dice up and keep them from banging about during transport.
We had been selling our Catan compatible wooden game boards at this point for some time and were getting a lot of great feedback. I made a dice tray for myself from the concepts mentioned in day one. All things aside, it turned out pretty well except the magnets were a smidgen too weak. We also began working on the designs for our wooden pencils and pens. Don't get too excited. We are a small team and don't have the time to be making a plethora of pencils/pens from wood. Yet.
Quite a gap in timelines eh? I was going through a lot of transitioning at this time. I was applying to a job in Boulder CO, my wife for a job in California and the business up till this point was more of a side gig. Needless to say, it wasn't until August that we finally settled into our new home in California. My wife took the job out here so I could dedicate my full attention to our small but growing business. It was at this point my father and I hit the drawing board hard. He still had a full time day job so things were very frustrating at times. I would need to call for various things throughout the day and usually would end up having to wait. I spent about 2-3 hours a day learning about how to even run my own business, especially when it comes to marketing. I was the... worst... (still not much better) at marketing. I didn't even use Facebook, let alone Twitter or any other app. I had to get back into using them. It's been a fun transition back into tech for me to say the least.
If you were with us in the beginning, you probably saw some of the first concept pictures of our dice boxes. I think at this point I had tried 10 different types of magnets (not an exaggeration) to determine which would be best for the dice box the be held closed. We tried latches, hinges, a slide mechanism. I even have one dice box that's so hard to get open, most people just can't. Those magnets were really strong. We actually ended up giving it away to one of our fans at Lexicon. They got to pick any of the dice box prototypes and they really wanted the impossible to open one. They will have huge arms and very strong fingers very soon.
Not a lot to say in terms of change. I was still working on dice boxes and also deck boxes, custom orders, and a lot of random side projects. It was also getting really close to Christmas and we had to put new designs on hold to keep up with all the orders coming in. I even had to fly back to KY for 2 weeks to help with production. Which was nice as I got to see my family for the holidays. Unfortunately it didn't leave a whole lot of time for working on our new project.
A much needed breath of fresh air came around the 2nd week of January and we were able to switch gears again. At this point, we decided on a name for our next Kickstarter and what it was going to be: our dice boxes with the trays, henceforth, the Nomad's Armory. We also bought a brand new CNC machine. 😀
We finalized the design of our dice boxes for prototype #1. We finally got the right magnet. They're black. They're also neodymium. Now we start to get into the meat and potatoes of what makes us different. So a lot of magnets have little issues here and there. Either they are too weak, to big or bulky, or don't glue properly, or a combination of issues. We wanted the magnets to be as small as possible to maximize space in the box while keeping structural integrity for as small of a box as possible that can hold 2 sets of polyhedral dice. There's even a some wiggle room believe it or not. We looked at the screw in washer style (countersunk) magnets. Hated them. Too weak. We would have to have put 8 magnets total in 1 dice box just to be able to hold dice. Not to mention metal dice would still make the box fall apart. Those were off the list. Then came silver plated (nickel). There's a wide range out there and you can find any size or strength you need. Problem is gluing them bastards. I don't know who decided that they should be coated in a material that glue virtually refuses to adhere to. That person is the worst kind of troll. *Shakes fist*. You may be thinking "I have used them and they don't come out". And chances are they might not. But after enough time and use, they will.
Yes it took us this long to figure out magnets, among a few other things. Mostly waiting for new orders to come in honestly. Order 3 or 4 different types, wait a week. Try them out, they suck, try new ones, rinse repeat. We also do other stuff for Thinking Monk believe it or not. Anyways, then we found black neodymium magnets. They are coated with a substance that is actually meant to be glued without any loss in magnetic strength. And they are black which looks really nice. At this point I had done up the concept art for 5 of the dice boxes.
Yes there's only 4 in the picture. #5 is out there on one of our social media platforms. We sadly had to stop sharing some of the photos of inlay as we are already getting people trying to copy what we are doing. Once we get a week out from the Kickstarter I will share more photo's. I promise. We also went to Lexicon in April. It was our first convention as Thinking Monk. It was also my (Teejay) first convention. Definitely was a tad scared. Here we finally were, at the point where we are sharing our creation with the world. What if they hate it? What if they think it's stupid? "It's a box for a box?! Good job "genius" way to re-invent the wheel". I knew it made sense to me, you want a box to hold your dice box because they can't rattle around. I know I'm not the only OCD person out there. Turns out I am not. In fact. I think tabletop gaming attracts us OCD folk. EVERYONE is OCD about their dice, with a few exceptions. People loved the concept. Hearing it from people online is one thing, talking with people who are genuinely excited? That was a good feeling for sure. I also still fumbled my way through that first convention. I spent more talk talking about my current pathfinder campaign I was in I and nerding out over peoples painted mini's and terrain than I did talking about dice boxes. I had a blast though 🙂
We also perfected our CNC machine cuts. Yes, we are using a CNC machine to cut out the insides of the dice boxes. There's a lot of issues that come along with a CNC machine, but also a lot of great advantages. The first advantage, is you end up with a way nicer cut, if you know what you're doing. The problem with hands is that they can only hold a piece of wood so still. A 75lb vice clamp? That piece of wood is the last thing to ever move. This actually solves vibration problems which leads to poor cuts among a few other issues. One of the problems we had, is that you have to adjust the cut speed and spindle speed for every different type of wood, a step many people skip. If you don't you get burning on the wood or worse; areas where the bit "eases" up and you get gouges in unwanted areas or obsessive tear out. Thankfully, we were able to solve all those and a few other issues. Not gonna say how and bore you to death, but they look really, really clean.
Strategicon. By this point we changed a few minor details on the dice box (you won't notice anything different). Raised the floor a tad, needed to make the headliner foam inserts a little bigger so they wouldn't fall out. All the little details that we needed to perfect that no one likely cared about. Although we forgot to change out the inserts for Strategicon and foam inserts were falling out. Le Sigh. I threw them away now so that should be a non-issue going forth. We also talked about all the little details we want to offer people on our Kickstarter in July of 2018. Engraving options? Yes. Top or side. Both are OK. Thick leather for the inside to replace the headliner foam, check. -- OK, so headliner foam is the same stuff they use it cars below the fabric in the car. It's basically foam with a cloth backing to it so it doesn't wear out and fall apart like typical foam does over time. We use black fabric backed headliner foam. --
I met some really, really awesome people at Strategicon - Gamex. I still have to reach out to a few people I promised I would. If you are one of them and reading this, I will email you I promise. If I forget, you can always email me. I even learned that the first magnetic dice box likely came from the Norse hundreds of years ago. Don't quote me on that for fact but, yeah. Vikings needed to get their roleplaying on apparently. At this point we updated our trays. Same concept, little bit different of a design. Originally we were going to do them in a similar style to the dice boxes. Router out the inside. Problem with this was we needed to use thicker wood. <em>NOTE: If you aren't into learning about the intricacies of the box and woods/why we are making them, go to June for the next update. </em>For the dice boxes it's two 3/4" thick pieces for each side. You get that from what is called a 4/4 un-surfaced piece of lumber. Un-surfaced just means is super rough cut and needs to be planed down and sanded. Finish, you usually end up with 7/8". The dice trays however, needed to be 1" thick AFTER being surfaced. Which means 4/4 wouldn't work. So we had to go to 5/4. (1.25" un-surfaced). Problem there is, you can't get very many woods in 5/4 and have to jump to 8/4 (which is 2" thick) and we only needed 1". But you can't get two pieces that are 1" thick surfaced from an 8/4 so you need so piece 8/4 for each side of the tray. 8/4 is also twice as expensive if not more than 4/4, so prices for some woods got stupid real quick. It just didn't make sense to continue that route. Since we aren't exactly a lumber mill we can't make our own lumber at the thickness we need. So now we are literally hand crafting the entire tray. Honestly, I think they look way, way better this way too.
Emails... all the emails. Site updates... emails. Pictures. Food. Coffee. Emails. Coffee. Kickstarter page stuffs. Video. Oooh a new phone...
So the new website was being worked on as well as the Kickstarter landing page. We've been doing a lot of "behind the scenes" work and I am still trying to get better at sharing what's going on with people. We have also talked to a friend about helping us do pencils that fit inside the optional "Nomad's" Lid for the Armory system. At RAGECON, we also worked out details of getting leather pouches that fit the armory system and can clip to the outside of a bag, or even a belt. We met, once again, some really awesome people at RAGECON. We also got to go to "The Glass Die", a really awesome board game bar in Reno. If you live in the area and are looking for people to game with and grab a drink, I would go. Really great vibe in that place.
July 3, 2018:
The official "new" site launch happened last night while we were simultaneously watching the newest Maze Runner movie (Spoiler: it's worse than the second). The site is not a whole lot different, mostly just a way better website for us when it comes to blog posts, shipping, custom orders, etc. User friendly might be the word. I also released the newest concept Armory inlay art on our facebook page. It's a rose if you haven't seen it. We are working on getting more woods available for the Kickstarter as well. There have been a lot of requests for peoples favorites so we are doing our best.
July 4, 2018:
We've officially announced our launch date, the 16th of July, 2018. If you've ever had to take photos for a business and you are not a photographer yourself, you probably understand how the next week is going to be for me...
July 6, 2018:
Photos, videos, naps, and old friends. Lets start with the fun bit! Old friends from when I was living in Hawaii came to visit for a day! It was really great to see someone I hadn't seen in over 5 years. We went out to eat, had some drinks and really, I had a day off which was really nice. That was more on the 5th of July. Today, is more pictures. Back to pulling my hair out. It seems like for every 100 photos I take, I get 1 good one. I need to up my ratio. Doubling it would even be nice 😀 I also got a gimbal in the mail today. If you don't know what that is, it's OK, i actually called it a wiggle stick (and still do) when I first tried to find them online. My brain said "If this was to be called anything, wiggle stick would definitely be it". I was wrong but I'm still calling it that.
In all seriousness we are mostly just finishing up the details for the Kickstarter page at this point. We have a few "surprises" in the works for the Kickstarter as well. Everything is priced out, I have pictures of most of the wood varieties we will be offering. We were unable to get trays made in all the different types of wood we will be offering. Kinda sucks, but really it's no different. You will see what the wood looks like (we will show a picture of the wood grain) and the idea is literally the same. You get the same item in that wood variety.
We also finished up 3 more inlay options. Though photos of 6 are the only ones out there, there's actually 9 of them already finished. We are just not gonna release them till the launch. I called a few suppliers to try and find more of that awesome poplar. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Hopefully soon as we want to be able to offer as many as possible rather than a limited amount.
July 9, 2019:
Yesterday we took a bunch of videos for the Kickstarter. I think we got more bloopers than not, but it was actually kind of fun to shoot a video. I got to play with my new phone stabilizer stick (aka wiggly stick) and used that to get some footage. Now today I get to put it all together. For today, that is all so far. Just video editing and more video editing.
August 2nd, 2019:
Busy busy! Of course it is always the behind the scenes work which keeps you in the dark. Still getting better at that. But we have some great things that have been happening. We got a sweet review done for us talking about our quality vs pricing (yay!). I was a super scared before it was published. Kind of like the first time you send your kids to school. You're nervous. What happens if people don't like them, or they say something weird... who knows. I imagine it's a bit like that. Anyways, here's that link. For behind the scenes work, we have hired 2 new employees to the company. Not gonna say what they do, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. It's also really good to have some new members that really want to be a part of the team! We're definitely excited to have them become part of Thinking Monk. Anyways, that is all for now. We have a few events in the works but I don't want to say anything just yet, at least not till be have tentative dates and what not.
END NOTE: Things have been moving very quickly and our fans/supporters have been absolutely amazing. At this point I don't know how much time I will have to update this blog. I will attempt to do week to week updates as things progress to keep everyone informed of what's happening behind the scenes. Thanks for joining us on our journey!