Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cavern Pillars

Interesting what two feet of snow will do. I've now posted more blog entries today than I did in the last 4 months of 2015 combined. Hmmm... of the things I have noted in our first few sessions of using my new Underdark terrain set is that there are a few kinds of pieces that were not in my initial build that would be very useful to have. A few of those, begun over the last week or so, and completed today are:

90 degree pieces of 2 inch tall cavern wall for forming passage entries into larger caverns. I had been using simple gaps in the walls, and while these new pieces are not really necessary, they look nice and work well.
Cavern passage entries (at left)

A few more pieces of rocky scatter terrain which character models could climb up on.
Rocky scatter terrain

A few pieces of floor-to-ceiling 2 inch terrain. This would serve to break up larger caverns, and represent areas where the rock goes from floor to ceiling. In my terrain pieces, this is represented by the black painted centers. Our rule is that if there is enough gray for a miniature to stand on, then a character can climb to that spot (and claim the high ground, for whatever purpose). If there isn't enough gray painted area for a miniature, then it represents sheer wall. The picture below shows two new "floor to ceiling" pieces for breaking up larger spaces.
Cavern with entry, scatter and floor-to-ceiling pieces

I also took a few pictures today as I made the new floor-to-ceiling pieces. The process detailed below is consistent with every piece of terrain-making in my Underdark collection (as well as most of my dungeon terrain as well...).

Step 1 - Carve the basic shape out of the appropriate sized foam, in this case 2 inch soft blue insulation board. The blue board is softer than the pink, which is grainier and stiffer. I just had some blue scraps, so I used them. When in doubt, use what you already have (and have paid for...). It took me maybe one minute each to carve these pieces.
Step 1 - Carve simple shapes with a knife

Step 2 - Base coat the pieces with your gray base color. I use Behr "Iron Mountain" as my base (from Home Depot). A quart of interior flat is maybe $12 (US). It took perhaps 2 minutes each to base coat these pieces.
Step 2 - Paint gray

Step 3 - Dry brush with a lighter gray (in this case, I use Folk Art brand craft paint from Michael's, specifically "dove gray"). On terrain pieces this size, I use a large semi-stiff artist's brush (shown). Pay particular attention to dry brushing "top to bottom" so that you make a point to catch the top edges of the pieces, as these will be the most visible to the viewer. Once the base coat was dry, it took about 30 seconds to dry brush each piece.
Step 3 - Light gray dry brush

Step 4 - Add a couple spots of tan and/or white dry brush to break up the monotony of all gray. And another 30 seconds for this step.
Step 4 - A little tan and white

Step 5 - Add black paint to mark out of play areas. As noted above, in our games, if there isn't enough gray area to fit a miniature on, the area is unplayable, and represents vertical walls. In the case of these two pieces, no miniature can fit anywhere on the top surfaces... And a minute each for these. In all, paint drying time is longer than the time spent in doing the different steps.
Step 5 - Add "theater black" to mark out of play areas

The finished product - the picture below shows the two new pieces, along with the 90 degree passage entry pieces and the new scatter terrain, making a large cavern with some interesting features. A large open area is never as interesting for an encounter area as one with a variety of features that the characters can interact with.
Finished product

So that's pretty much how I have made all of the stuff in the last few posts. Easy. Readily available. Cheap. All good things. A sheet of nominal 1 inch thick foam insulation board (4 foot by 8 foot by 3/4 inch thick) is about $15. A 2 foot by 8 foot sheet of 2 inch thick foam is about $18. A quart of paint, which can coat dozens of pieces, is about $12. Craft paints for highlighting are maybe $1.69 each. Add a couple of paint brushes and a knife, and you have all you need. Other than a place to store this big pile of foam...

I'm not aiming for fine art, which this is clearly not. And I am not aiming to make diorama quality detailed pieces. I want to make simple but effective pieces that enhance our gameplay, and these certainly seem to do that.

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