Ben’s been little hell bent on making a memorable city experience out of the typical get-up-and-go module transition. So much so that he wanted his Thunderspire town terrain to pack a little more personal punch. Several NPC mingling encounters were planned but why not give each proprietor’s storefront a quirky name and engaging ye olde shop sign? Well, that’s just what the gang at the Pile did. Come on in – we’re open.
Let’s start by briefly recapping our Thunderspire vendor types, monikers, and owners.
- Wizard’s Shop: House of Books
- Blacksmith: The Heavy Anvil
- Stables: Horse and Hitch
- Wares Merchant: The Bottomless Backpack
- Tavern: Halfmoon Inn
Early on we struggled a bit on the physical dimensions of the signs (balancing readability with overall scale). In the end, we determined readability was a little more important and didn’t mind them being a bit larger than traditional 25/28mm. The goal was just to avoid having them look like massive freeway billboards.
Our sign mounting material of choice was basswood. It’s tougher than typical balsa wood and more importantly, less likely to later warp. You can do the DM’s Craft proud and also use good ol’ cardboard if ya like.
To cut your wood material, we suggest a smaller saw from Home Depot (as opposed to an X-Acto knife). Have a nail file handy to smooth the edges.
We used Elmer’s Spray Glue to adhere our printed color cutouts to the basswood. The trick here is to do just two sprays (one left to right spray swipe and then another spray swipe right to left) – just enough so it doesn’t pool up on you.
Finally, grab a black sharpie marker to cover up that lighter sign material edging.
We borrowed the rock formation idea from our severed heads project to create our free-standing shopkeeper signs. There are lots of pluses to this particular technique. If you’re building-less, you can still make a simple sign and raise the stakes on your dry erase or pre-printed game matte presentation. As the DM, you’ll also have a technique for making future sign markers for stuff like town roads or caverns.
The base itself was made up of different sized rocks from the Woodland Scenics outdoor molds. To construct, simply form a circular-style outcropping and glue them down to some old cereal box pieces. Then place some black Milliput in the rock cluster center to bond the sign post and base together. Remember, you don’t need a lot of mixed Milliput…Ben overdid it (as usual) so he made some impromptu cannonballs.
After gluing them together with Titebond Premium Wood Glue (our favorite sticky stuff for Hirst Arts hydrocal casting material), it was time to prime them black. Ben usually follows that up with a little GW Chaos Black touchup paint to ensure all those pesky white-ish flecks are covered.
Finally, finish the pieces of with some subtle flock and a Matte Finish spray. Use a tiny amount of green flock on the undersides of rocks. And then sprinkle in a pebble mixture around the post itself to cover up that Milliput material.
We’ve mentioned our trusted terrain core color schemes in past project posts but it never hurts to recap our Rock and Wood paint motifs again.
- Black Prime
- Bestial Brown (two coats, straight on)
- Snakebite Leather (dry brush)
- Bubonic Brown (lighter dry brush)
- Citadel Gryphonne Sepia Ink Wash
- Black Prime
- Codex Gray (dry brush)
- Fortress Gray (lighter dry brush)
- Menoth Highlight White or Skull White (even lighter dry brush)
A tricky trap of modular terrain is accidentally making the pieces too similar to one another. You certainly want utility in your terrain but you need to be mindful that you don’t fall into IKEA-factory-mode.
Once everything is cast, do some practice assembling (kinda like a jigsaw puzzle) to map out the different combinations. We broke them out like so…
Did you notice that boss tree for the House of Books? We had a few lying around in our bit box and thought one would make a nice touch. Again, we’re always trying to make the signs unique as best we can.
A little elbow grease went a long way into giving our town some too-legit-to-quit-persona. We came up with the shop names and built the RPG sign accessories as a team. Even better, we have a nice hobby blueprint going forward for future campaigns. So don’t be afraid to pick your favorite bits from this post and point your own RPG town in the right direction.
Questions to Ponder: Have you ever made a sign for your terrain? Did you like our mounting material? What else could we have used? Got a better shop name or symbol suggestion? Is there another sign configuration we could have explored?