Multi-game modular Battle Board!!!

As I've written about many times before here on Creative Dungeoneering, I'm a big fan of modular Dungeon Terrain and wargaming boards.

I like the versatility, and for my small and not-often-used-enough gaming space, the storability of it.
But with my love of a bit of Warhammer 40K, and a growing Black Templar army, I am finding need to have a more adequately sized battle board for weekend skirmishes with the despicable Tau and Ork kind kind friends and family are somewhat partial to.

Herein however, lies the catch with wargaming boards:-Too large and you spend all your time in the movement phase.
-Too small and there is no tactics, movement, or strategy (or less of it) inherently required as your into close combat before the first move. Now running Black Templars, this is perfectly fine, as this is where my little zealots excel.

But for the enjoyment of not only the other players, but also the usability of the terrain for more than just Warhammer (primarily larger-scale Dungeons & Dragons modular dungeons or outdoor wilderness miniature terrain), I needed a board with enough space that additional modular features could be added later; buildings, ruins, mountains, forests, rivers, etc.

So this means that essentially, featureless terrain needed to be included, or terrain that would likely be eventually covered by something else. I needed flat sections.
So the trick then was creating a board that could offer some creative usability but also the interest to potentially serve as a basis for future adventures, both Sci-fi and Fantasy based.


I work in a creative department and acquire a lot of extra materials made of what, in the industry we refer to as gator board. Essentially thick foam core with heavy-weight paper backing on both sides. Most of these are done for advertising examples, wall art, photos, etc. In this case the piece I am using is roughly 48" x 48" and about 1/2" thick, with a heavy-weight photo paper on one side (a juice advertisement) and a slightly-lighter weight black paper backing, sandwiching the foam core in between.

The smaller example pictured here shows the two varying sides, but any foam core board could work. The key is the thick paper on the bottom side 'supporting' or creating a 'base' for the foam core. This could easily be replicated with even better material, such as cardboard or even wood.


Creating the terrain:

To start creating the terrain features on my larger piece, I used a set of odd tools including an old serrated butter knife (crucial that it be serrated), a Play-Doh putty sculpting tool, and even more odd and tricky to find, a vintage walnut cracking pick. This stainless steel tool is my go-to tool for everything from pushing glue to creating bubbles, and is featured in just about every terrain tutorial I do here on Creative Dungeoneering.

I started with simple pencil markings of a rough area where I wanted 'terrain features' like the  trench, craters, and cracks. The hardest part was resisting too much creativity. Less is more here. Remember, that open space and 'blank surface' area is going to work perfect later for adding additional modular features and using this for multiple types of terrain.

I started by scraping away the paper backing and into the foam using my trusty walnut pick, and then slowly peeling away each piece with the putty tool and knife.

 One one corner, where the crater was at its deepest, it actually compromised the structural integrity of the photo paper beneath.
This required reinforcing the foam and strengthening up this edge corner. One fo the best things I have ever found to do this is standard Shoe Goo putty, for shoe repair.  

Once sealed up, the corner was adequately strong and the essential detail of the board was finished. But resisting adding more was a constant struggle! 

Next was measuring with actual models to ensure that the trenches and craters were adequately sized and would work for game play. 

The trenches were only about base-deep, so they didn't provide "cover" in war-game terms, but enough of a drop that they do create a terrain 'feature' which gang augmented with additional modular items such as rocks, foliage, trees, etc.


For surfacing, especially for larger flat, or open areas, little works better, and faster, than standard textured spray paint. I somehow feel like I'm cheating when I do this, and it's not cheap, about $10 a can. And this board took an entire can. But it works fast, it works well, and it really looks pretty good when all is finished. 

It is also somewhat durable, textured, and easily accepts accent colors and paint finishes to add additional colors and textures, giving the surface more depth and character. 
The standard stone gray available at most craft and hobby stores is so great, in that it can, like in this application here, be used for both Sci-Fi and Fantasy based terrain and cover creating anything from a cracked alien planet to a forest floor, dungeon cavern base, or even a city scape surface. 

I used the Citadel Skulls pack to add some small individual terrain features that again, could work for just about any terrain or location other than snow or desert.

The small skulls gave the board character and a bit of mystery for war-game play but could just as easily be game hooks or dungeon dressings for fantasy and RPG use too.

I also added hues of purple to the cracks, surfacing, and edges of the holes and trench.

This served the purpose of adding a bit of character to the board and most importantly, matching with all other modular terrain I use in this same style. Again, it's all about versatility and storability.

Because I intend too sue this with fantasy table-top gaming as well, I wanted my current modular terrain to match as seamlessly as possible with the battle board, making this piece even more versatile for sue in both Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons. I am a huge fan of the Gale Force 9 Caverns of the Underdark set, and they are done primarily in a gray-blue-purple hue.

Adding complementary colors to the Battle Board here will make this a fantastic piece when coupled with those as well, either as additions to Warhammer alien terrain, or for a D&D mega-dungeon-total-party-kill-Drow-battle-royale...

A Proper Templar SCA Shield...

I have a love hate relationship with the Templars. Mostly love. Deep and long suffering. Since childhood. I do not, however, like how they are often portrayed in Hollywood. And this seems to seep into the SCA a bit as well.
I am not, what I would consider, an overly active participant in the SCA (the Society for Creative Anachronism-, but more of a dabbler of sorts. But due to participating in  fantastic little province with some fo the finest people I have ever met, I have the freedom to pursue the historical persona and research I find so close to my heart.
In an on-going effort to improve the historical accuracy of my current kit, albeit within the necessary guidelines of SCA combat, I have recently taken on a project to make the ultimate SCA Templar shield.

Not only did I want this to be thick wood, as historical as I could find, but covered in canvas and sewn with bolts and leather strapping. And resisting the desire to add colorful heraldry, I went with the standard Templar Black and white (pictured above from period manuscript resources), as I pursue research on the Templars more esoteric orders and offshoots, namely, the Order of the Priory of the Abbey of Mt. Sion outside of Jerusalem at the close of the 12th century.

The main catch to the shield was creating this look while still making one that could meet the requirements of SCA combat. This meaning edging, adequate hand protections and durability (as time will tell).

I started with a standard Museum Replicas wooden shield, wanting to purchase a pre-made shield and then add to it from here to create a more beefy SCA adequate version. This shield is made with heavy wood and padded with durable canvas. I purchased one unpainted, as I wanted to match the black to the same black used on other heraldry and shield applications already in-use. (*And really, how hard is it to paint a single horizontal black rectangle? Save the cash and buy the unpainted version in the same size).

 Once painted and sealed, I went with a black leather cowhide  edging over thick confusion padding edging. Concussion padding?
Concussion padding. I had a lot of extra left over from helmet  padding, its thick, black, pliable, and takes a lot of abuse. I lined the entire shield in 1/4" thick black closed cell foam padding, sealing it to the edging with small strips of black duct tape. This would then be covered over by the leather edging anyways, but still kept this to the minimum.

After the foam padding was lined all the way around (and I do mean ALL the way around-even down to the very tip), I measured, sized, and cut the leather in strips that were long enough to overlap the front of the shield onto the back.
3 strips, with a bit of overlap.

I wanted to really make this edging tough, so I used black Shoe Goo brand sealant at the edges to ensure the leather stayed glued to both the shield and the foam, and sealed the edge gaps at the corners and the bottom point. This creates a thick rubbery layer of protection, blends well with the more matte leather cowhide edging, and adds a bit of protection all the same time. Remember though, this was done with the desire to really create a beast of a shield, not a lightweight fighter. Time will tell how I did though.

After the leather was cut and sealed down flat, the tough part came: keeping it that way. In the past, I have used round-head furniture tacks to varying degrees of success, but after seeing one fly out and almost get stepped on by a fellow fighter, and having to constantly replace ripped out tacks, I needed a stronger option. I found small black tacks that looked a bit like small forged iron nails and hoped these would work a bit better, as they have no real head to speak of once in place.
These were pounded into the leather and the wood of the shield at regular intervals, and when finished, provide a fairly seamless, if not almost win-noticable finish to the edging.

The compression on the edging is about 1/8" when really pushing, so it will be interesting to see two this plays out with regards to standard SCA rattan sword pressure.

Our current Master of defense is one fo the best teachers I have encountered, but seems able to break just about anything he puts his mind to. It was his hefty stroke that snapped the bottom point off my last heater (another repair tutorial on that coming soon maybe...) so facing him will be the ultimate test of this shields usage.


The next area to tackle would be the hand coverage for the back of the shield hand strap. 
On my previous heater shield, I had created a leather hand covering that works fantastic, but it needed a bit more sculpting and shaping as well as strapping. 
This was done with thick leather, and sandwiched with even thicker plates of leather in between, with a soft suede leather undercoat and a single 4-finger strap overlapping the main shield strap. This provides a good solid guard for the fingertips should a wayward blow come crashing down behind my shield onto the fingers.

Once completed, dried, a nd dyed to match the black leather, it was tooled with some crusader symbology, a nd riveted into place, then atatched to the main crossing shield handle straps with standard screw bolts to allow for removal if needed and because riveting at that angle seemed nearly impossible.

The result is a strapped shield that covers the bulk of the hand, especially when coupled with a  good leather vambrace. In some kingdoms Marshall's may require a demi-gauntlet on the shield hand as well. Mine does not thankfully, so I can shave a bit of weight and flexibility on the left arm. 

Total weight for the shield is just over 8 pounds, and the final look is clean, simples and hopefully, strong.

For the Love of Nostalgia...


It's been a while since I've used this (rarely visited) blog to wax nostalgic about good ol' fashioned table-top role playing. But I have recently came across a FB gown called Black and White RPG art that I absolutely love and that's re-kindled my love of old school gaming.

I have always held a special love for used books. Especially damaged, worn, torn, water stained, and even fire-damaged covers and pages. The more "adventure" a book, especially a role-playing book seems to have undergone the better.

And nothing captures this nostalgic look and feel of 'real adventure' to me better than the vintage late 70's to early and mid-80's Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons black and white artwork. The above image was probably one of the first I ever remember seeing at an early age. Something about it captured me entirely. I just fell in love with the idea of a group of adventurers walking down this long forgotten hallway deep within the earth somewhere, and seeing something so out-of-place as a mouth built into a wall. But many more similarly-inspiring images would follow in the years to come.

Let me preface this by saying I hold no credit for any of the artwork represented here obviously, but just want to share some thoughts and inspiration on it. Hopefully if someone stumbles upon this blog like some secret hidden door deep within a dungeon depth it can inspire a bit of creativity in them as well. In it's essence, the entire purpose of Creative Dungeoneering, to inspire just one idea or creative fellow Dungeoneer.

So breath in deep that musty papery smell, crack open that old TSR manual, and sometime, just pause through the pages as you did the very first time you'd delved into the realms of Imagination and started on the journey of fantasy role-playing, long before you understand things like "THAC0" and "skill mechanics" or even had the skills and spells for a 15th level Half-Elf Cleric-Druid multi-class early memorized...just artwork and inspiration.....

Dungeoneering work...outside the Dungeon...

As the fall turns to winter, the shoulder season provides the opportunity to spend some creative time doing project work both indoors and out, so a lot of the creative work going on in the Dungeoneering Workshop right now has more to do with SCA combat than table-top role-playing or wargaming, but soon enough it will.

I can feel the winds of creativity pulling me back to the tabletop already, as the smell of paints and the desire to feel a brush and a foam cutter in my hand pulls at me from deep inside once more. Maybe it's just the holidays, but the winter always makes me turn inside a bit, and focus more on the imagination.

For the time being though, I am finding the creative Dungeoneering skills being put to the test in a somewhat new direction; that of historical research, Medieval combat and arms & armor with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

It's with the good folks of the Province of Arrows Flight, in the Kingdom of Artemisia, that I have been fortunate enough to begin learning the intricacies of the Society. And having had a somewhat less-than-warm introduction nearly a decade past makes me all the more grateful for the caliber and chivalrous quality of the populace whom I have encountered thus far; examples of exactly what I had heard the SCA was supposed to be!

And so, I find that while the creative winds call to me from the eerie western mountains once more, this time they are bringing with them the smell of leather and paint and metal. And while some would say there is an element of "Larping" to SCA combat, I would say I lean a bit more towards the Living History with a  touch of historical fiction" side. 

My own personal interests lie in the late 13th to early 14th century, spanning the late Crusades, and especially the more esoteric Crusader Orders. And here is where the "historical fiction" part of my "persona" as we call it, comes in-the developed persona that one designs and builds their armor, clothing, and history around when re-enacting this particular time period of the "Middle ages as they should have been."

Fact, fiction, or just a questionably good yarn, one of my favorite books is Holy blood, Holy Grail by Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent, and Richard Leigh.
Now, putting Dan Brown's The Davinci Code aside, the historical basis by which the legends of the Saunier conspiracy and the Prieure de Sion are based, is in and of itself, esoteric enough to provide an intriguing basis for creating a crusading persona slipping away from Palestine at the end of the fall of Acre in 1390 and quietly returning to his families lands in the Rosslyn area of Scotland, there to compete in the Medieval tourney circuit for fame and fortune. Neither of which in this modern middle-ages I have nor plan on acquiring anytime soon, given that I am neither exceptionally fast, or strong.

But the craft of both training and creating both the armor and soft kit for this SCA persona known as Tristan Cenowülf de Cawdor are an exceptionally fond past time. Enjoyable enough to rival even the most arduous Dungeoneering experience.

So for this first post regarding specific crafted gear for Medieval combat, the cross embossed leather shield hand was undertaken, and turned out, all things considered for a first try...not too shabby:


As time permits, more details, photos, and intricacies will follow culminating hopefully in full kit completion shots. A difficult and ever-evolving task.

The History of Tristan Cenowülf de Cawdor

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, within the Kingdom of Artemisia, on the far south-western slopes of the mountains of Loch Salann, and on the borders of the Province of Arrows Flight, lies a small manor house owned by Tristan Cenowülf de Cawdor.
This past week he found himself at tourney practice, back from crusade and seeking a life as a potential man-at-arms or sword-for-hire at some future date. Perhaps even someday, to owe fealty to a house or a Crown. 

Finally home and once more seeking to settle down more established roots in the Society and Kingdom, Tristan seeks ever to improve his standing and service to his fellow nobles, but his getting here was a long and tumultuous journey. 

Having been born into a sacred brotherhood and risen since birth to serve in his families order, Tristan took up the Cross and served alongside many of his brethren who took oaths to the Order of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon. 

But Tristan's path was less notable and known. 

Similar to his cousin before him, who served both in their families loyal order, and then with the Temple Order, Tristan served only with the Order of the Knights of the Priory of Notre Dame de Mont Sion outside the Holy City, never fully joining the ranks of the Knights of the Temple Mount, but assigned to them as a special envoy when his Order was needed. 

His cousin died prior to the attack on Acre in 1291, as the Temple Order fled west with after the last fall of Jerusalem. 

Tristan's Order, the Knights of the the Abbey of Notre Dame' de Sion (FrenchChevaliers de l'Ordre de Notre Dame de Sion) were a selective and secretive enclave founded in the Holy Land in 1099AD, during the First Crusade by Godfrey I, de Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine, as a Sovereign French Military Religious Order.

Their Order was located to the south of Jerusalem on the high hill of Mount Sion overlooking the city and the Temple Mount. In 1099, when Jerusalem fell to the crusaders, there stood on this hill the ruins of an old Byzantine basilica, dated supposedly from the fourth century and called the Mother of all Churches. 
According to numerous extant charters, chronicles and contemporary accounts, an abbey was built on the site of these ruins. 

This abbey was built at the express command of Godfroi de Bouillon. It was an imposing edifice, a self contained community. In 1172 it was described as being extremely well fortified, with battlements and towers. An most imposing site and this structure was called the Abbey of Notre Dame du Mont de Sion.

It is to this order that Tristan is dedicated and assigned still. Loyal to the Temple Order as it's more visible house, but serving first the greater purpose of the Knights of the Order of Mount Sion: the protection of the pilgrim, and an intense faith in the living Christ, the protection of his lands, and faith. 

After the Orders gathered their forces at acre, the Knights of the Order de Sion worked to rescue and accompany pilgrims and the Temple Order's vessels from Palestine back to Christendom and eventually, north to the Scotland. It was only under the less-visible and well-known banners of the Order de Sion that the Templar vessels were able to slip west into Christendom, undetected and unseen by many a watchful enemy. It was on these ships that Tristan's Order fled along with most of the women, children, and good Christian pilgrims that would flee the Mamluk invaders. 

Once back in Christendom, Tristan seeks a quieter life in the lists. But his allegiance is ever to the secretive order to which his faith and heart truly belong: The Chevaliers de l'Ordre de Notre Dame de Sion. 

From his family's estates in the lands of Cawdor Scotland to his ancestral home in Norman-Brittany, to his residence in the quiet hidden mountains of Western Artemisia, Tristan's Order goes virtually unknown and even less understood. 

Many think him to just be a simple crusader come home, filled with tire and weary of war. Many see the rose croix of his service and think him just another servant of the Order of the Temple Knights of Solomon, and while similar, his allegiance to the Temple Order bellies his true service to their own hidden order and that of his family; the Knights of the Order of Sion.
Now long gone, and under Saracen control, Tristan continues to serve his Order when called upon, but seeks his fame and fortune now, working diligently to improve his skills as a potential man-at-arms in the growing tourney lists.