Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dungeons and Dragons - Underdark Encounters

As I noted earlier, we have had a 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons game going since October of 2014. We play sporadically, every other week when we can manage it, but sometimes 3-5 weeks between sessions. We have seven total players, and typically have between 4 and 6 at any given session. Plus me. It's kind of odd, but in the entire time we have been playing, we have never had all 7 players at a game at the same time. We planned to a few times, but something always happens for somebody. This actually works out fairly well, as running a group of seven 4th and 5th level characters would be quite large, and a typical group of 5 is almost ideal purely from a game-management and encounter building perspective.

Anyway, the point of this post was just to show some pictures, as promised earlier, of the new modular Underdark terrain we have been using. The new terrain (and related binge miniatures purchasing) has really added a terrific dimension to the game.

For Underdark encounters in passages or caverns, I have a "stone" painted sheet of foam insulation board approximately 3 feet by 4 feet. This serves as the generic base for whatever needs to go on top of it. There are other custom pieces, but this is our starting point.

Passage walls, when needed, are typically laid out from a collection of 1-inch thick modular pieces of foam (cut from the remainder of the base sheet). These have been bevelled on one side (45 degrees or a little steeper), carved up (simply) on the bevelled edge to give texture, and then painted. The same colors are used on the modular walls as are on the base board. A medium-darkish gray flat interior latex house paint (Behr "Iron Mountain" in this case) is the base coat, over which "dove gray" craft paint is sponged and dry brushed. Small bits get a white or tan dry brush just to break up the monotony. The solid rock areas are given a coat of "theater black" paint to denote them as "off stage."

The scene below was a night's rest in an alcove off a passage, interrupted by a giant spider.
Resting for the Night, with a Giant Spider

For larger caverns, I have made an assortment of modular pieces from 2-inch thick insulation board, using the exact same process as for the thinner pieces.
2 inch foam cavern and passage walls

The larger pieces, laid out over the same baseboard, provided the scene for an encounter in a large cavern. In addition to the walls and floors, a number of foam chunks have been spread around as scatter terrain, marking rises in the floor of the cavern as well as serving as stalagmites and other rocky protrusions jutting up from the floor.
Large Cavern Encounter

The combat between our party and some bugbears and grimlock slaves is shown below.
Combat Closeup - Bugbears and Grimlocks

It doesn't take much effort (or skill) to make these pieces, just time and a few basic and cheap materials. They serve to make a multitude of different configurations, and the basic pieces, in conjunction with a few special pieces, can make a huge difference in the visual appeal of the game.

I'll show some of those special pieces and some current works in progress soon.

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