Something that works...well...adequately.
And when it comes to gaming terrain, and the fact that I am primarily a solo RPG'er, adequacy goes a long way.
I don't have a "huge" space for gaming. I hope to, one day, turn the lower level of the Ursus Templari into a traditional gaming area. But until a suitable group of gamers can be found, (I am skeptical of that ever happening, as my "ideal" requirements for a solid group would likely be so out of touch with reality that I doubt any players possess such specific creative requirements) the "Tower" or the upstairs portion, serves as the primary small gaming area.
One of my favorite pastimes above and beyond even the actual "gaming" portion of table top RPG's is the setting up, creating, crafting, and building of miniature terrain and 28mm worlds. But in a small space, that can prove challenging.
Add to this that I have additional, more expensive hobbies, and the allotted space gets even smaller. But again, it's perfectly "adequate"for solo RPG's and for even small 1 to 2 player games. But the key here is "levels."
This shows the 4-level campaign world for the next build, each "level;" going deeper and deeper. This could be replicated onto a larger tabletop, but with no real solid group of players, it works "adequately" for solo RPG's in a pre-set 3D Terrain world. Our storyline for this world starts with the adventurers having hired a wagon and horses from the nearby town, where they are traveling towards the ancient tomb lands and the ruins of a once fabled kingdom, now long-forgotten and believed to be little other than a scattered set of forest ruins.
Across the old King's Bridge lies the forest of Andulüth, where once sat the Elvish fortress of Tar Avinon. The bridge, crossing over a meandering bog, fills the distant woodland with a thick mist, the ruined walls barely visible beyond the damaged cobblestone and crumbling borders.
The forest tabletop was made from an actual table piece, where I have utilized the underside of a flat black tabletop (again, the emphasis on saving space) as a forest-colored surface. This was done by creating a textured spray layer onto the underside and then hand painting with a forest colored mixture giving the surface a generic green, brown, and forest mottled texture.
While this works, it's nice to sometimes just use standard grass matt, sized and cut to the shape of the inside of the table, as pictured here. Accessories are hand made and also include elements made by
War Torn Worlds (one of my all-time favorite war game terrain companies: http://wartornworldsstore.myshopify.com
They're customer service is amazing, shipping is solid, fast, and friendly, and their prices aren't bad. and the terrain is just bombproof and very, very nice looking. Just can not say enough good things about these guys.
Ok, so back to the story...err...adventure:
So over the small pond and looking west into the forest are signs of the once great kingdoms downfall. The distant spires of natural rock, and the two Elven trees, now burnt and black with foul magic from the wizardry of the Goblin cults.
So I LOVE trees. LOVE THEM!! Every adventure in my world starts, ends, or passes through a forest. Not sure why. And of all trees, pines and high mountain evergreens are my favorite. But getting these to look just right by hand-making is tough. Mine often end up looking more like eucalyptus trees, or at best, lodge pole pines. Not bad, but not very "lush."
At my local hobby store, I can purchase a cheap pack of snowy Christmas style trees for $1.99. I soak these in warm water for several hours, sometimes overnight, and the snow dissolves away, leaving a very "blue-green" pipe cleaner in return.
So to combat this, I spray them with a nice matte forest green spray paint, but don't add any additional flocking. I then put these on sculpted foam core bases, and add stone accents and coloring, and have been pretty happy with the result. To add weight, throwing a glued pebble or dollar-store rock onto the base help stabilize the weight too.
The pond is actually a small terrarium lizard pool, filled with hot glue, painted, and then sealed with a thick layer of Minwax Polyeurethane to give it a greenish gloss. Notice the actual stones added at the base and edges too. These come from a simple dollar store bag of flower arrangement rocks. I added bits of foliage to the edges, and used cropped pieces of plastic IKEA grass for reeds. Cutting the reeds at different lengths gave them a more natural look and feel too, and allowing them to slip and slide a bit when glueing them into the sealant also helped, creating ripples within the drying sealant over the dried hot glue.
INTO THE DUNGEON....
For the second level, underneath the forest floor and through a cavern rock piece above, the characters enter the large cavern dungeon down a winding set of stone pillars on the left.
The majority of the enjoyment with creating these pr-designed layouts is imagining the stories to be had at every twist and turn.
A combination of hand-crafted and Dwarven Forge brand cavern terrain is used together, along with accents from war Torn worlds.
Of course everyone knows Dwarven Forge, and as much as I love War Torn Worlds, Dwarven Forge is just epic. Albeit, pricey.....
And I have even made hand-made versions of these to match previously. But I wanted some that were larger. FAR larger. At my local Hobby Lobby I found a set of 4 mushrooms, actually designed to be a mushroom table and chairs set, in the garden and floral section. these were perfect for large, overgrown mushrooms, and with a bit of paint and a nice brown stain, they look the part for an overgrown mushroom forest.
From the far side of the cavern can be seen the magic door to the lower levels, and the winding stairway leading from the central dungeon chamber to its wide balcony. Both of these were made from foam core, sprayed in a stone texture spray paint, and then added with bits of green and especially, purple, to match the Gale Force 9 Dungeons & Dragons caverns of the Underdark adventure set. This allows hand crafted pieces top match seamlessly with the pre-generated pieces.
The third-level layer is another small modular table reached by a bridges and is not yet complete, but allows the dungeon to grow even larger, or to be broken down into small areas of specific adventuring sections. This will likely be surfaced with a textured matt beneath, giving the illusion of a stone floor to the upper caverns, and emphasizing a structured city or ruined temple at the very lowest depths. Perhaps even a Draw city.
Modular dungeons, for group, and especially, solo play can be fun, and also challenging,. If for no other reason alone, it allows us, as Dungeon Masters, to use our own creative juices to generate potential storylines, plot twists, and side adventures for our players and add to the rich and growing story that every game group brings to their own particular realm.
BUT FOR OUR ADVENTURING PARTY, THERE IS YET STILL MORE TO COME...