The world’s finest dungeons are locally sourced.
Role players from across the country are spending thousands of dollars on a Williamsburg sculptor’s model terrain for the pen and paper game Dungeons and Dragons, which are renowned to be the best miniatures money can buy — even if he does say so himself.
“We’re heads and shoulders over everybody else,” said Stefan Pokorny, who runs a full-time model making company called Dwarven Forge.
Pokorny relies on crowd-funding and his own love of high adventure to produce hand-painted scenery made from a highly durable synthetic plastic — which he calls Dwarvenite — that can be assembled to create endless variations of dungeons, sewers, caverns, and cityscapes upon which to quest and battle.
The sculptor pioneered the modular gaming terrain business in 1996 and has since launched four successful Kickstarter campaigns, each raising roughly $2 million to fund his fantasy sculpting endeavors.
The famed roleplaying game doesn’t require anything more than a healthy imagination and a pencil, but miniatures add a whole new dimension to the activity, according to one fan.
“It’s really cool to have a mental picture of something and then actually be able to build it,” said filmmaker Nate Taylor.
Taylor just released a documentary about Pokorny and his work called “The Dwarvenaut,” and also creates videos for Dwarven Forge’s Kickstarter campaigns in exchange for Dwarvenite models — a stronger currency than the U.S. dollar, as far as Taylor is concerned.
“It’s the most valuable substance known to gamers,” Taylor said.
And other gamers agree — Pokorny’s most recent crowd-funding effort, to finance a castle set, had about 1,700 backers who pledged an impressive average of $1,500 each. But that amount pales in comparison to backers who have spent as much as $30,000 to pre-order the fantastical gaming terrains of their dreams.
“For that amount, you can cover your table with cities and castles, it will be the layout of your dreams, something like the Macy’s display at Christmas,” Pokorny said.
But the model citizen also brings his epic battlefields to the masses, hauling them to gaming conventions where he presides as dungeon master over games set in Mythras, a fictional world of his own creation.
Not surprisingly for an artist who’s dedicated his life to a game that allows average folk to live out heroic fantasies, Pokorny is a bit of an idealist, describing his efforts to promote and share Dungeons and Dragons as a noble quest to save humanity, which is slowly being dominated by digital gizmos and video games that have pilfered our imaginations.
“You see people on the streets looking at their phones like zombies,” Pokorny warned. “People have to tell stories and be with their friends. Now they have VR coming out — it’s a battle to save our souls!”