Steadfast at the helm of his mighty terrain ship, Captain Ben stares sternly into the eyes of the great White Whale. The time has come for this mighty beast of intimidation to be dealt with directly and decisively. No longer shall his Hirst Arts cavern floors scour the seas of disappointment. Avast Ye Maties! It’s time for a showdown of mythical proportions – let’s show these tiles who’s boss.
One Idea to Rule Them All
Back in October, Ben’s inspiration journal contained an absolutely stunning cavern game table from Gen Con. The builder’s out-of-the-box treatment of the floors was just brilliant. Ben was officially inspired. So much so, he spent the next four months gathering, researching, testing and mustering up the courage to create a similar set up for his own campaign.
The aha moment came when Ben took Bumyong’s paint scheme and combined it with his Gen Con Polaroids (that’s old man speak for “photos”). He finally had an actual map to navigate the treacherous open waters. Even better – the RPG community made a fine first mate by giving him critical pointers along the voyage.
So, without further ado, here’s how to make a great Hirst Arts cavern floor. Let’s stick with this buccaneer theme since everything is better with pirates.
- Cavern Floor Mold #281
- Cavern Floor Accessories #282
Our floor technique is going to allow for a wide-eyed imagination of tile configurations without ever worrying about how those gaps will look.
Batten Down the Hatches
Your first key ingredient comes courtesy of a fellow gamer (Zoe) who suggested filling in those empty spaces with a common spackle material: specifically DAP Fast N Final Interior and Exterior Spackle. You can snag a one-quart tub of this whip-cream-like-substance for under $10.
This material choice was epic! Ben previously tried using the Vallejo products and Bruce’s dug up earth tip but those were a disaster for his skill level. Vallejo was insanely hard to apply in tight spaces while the HA idea required some mixology that Ben just couldn’t master (and it was really messy).
The spackle is super easy to use (just smooth on with your finger) and fills in the cracks perfectly with very little mess. It was a match made in heaven.
Once the spackle material has dried (which takes no time at all), you will want to lower the filler lines. Ben used a Norton Multisand Very Fine sanding sponge for this step ($2-ish). Just run your sander in the crevices to create a small trough. This TLC step ensures our flock application will go off without a hitch. Your newly spackled piece should look like this.
Swab the Deck
This painting step gave Ben a wretched case of sea sickness. All his color tests were dreadful. Thankfully, Bumyong’s paint scheme combined with the spackle filler and flock application got Ben the end result he wanted.
So here are the simple floor paint steps (after the spackle has been applied):
- Prime with Valspar Satin Brown Velvet (85044)
- Apply a heavier dry brush of Walmart’s ColorPace brown blend
- Use a lighter dry brush of Americana’s Toffee
- Your painted piece should look like this
The ColorPace paint step is not a base coat. You purposely want some darker spots to come through. Ben has always been a one dry brush and out kinda guy so these simple brush applications fit nicely with his energy comfort level.
Splice the Mainbrace
Now we’re going to make our floor tile truly sing by emulating that soul-soothing flock technique from Gen Con. Your previous spackle and sanding steps make this step finger snap task.
To ensure success, we’re going to pull one more hobby weapon from our belt to ensure this flock application goes well. And once again, the RPG community saves the day. RubbishInRubbishOut encouraged Ben to always have a pre-mixed bottle of PVA glue on hand (60% Elmers Glue and 40% water). AwesomePaintJob recommended the perfect bottle to hold and apply your liquid concoction. You want a small squeeze bottle with a fine point and a cap that seals tightly. Ben picked a three-pack of Americana bottles at Hobby Lobby for $3.
So here’s what you do next:
- Use your squeeze bottle to fill the crevices with your liquid PVA
- Pop any big air bubbles with a toothpick
- Pour a very fine sand flock all over the piece
- Wait about 2 minutes for the flock to bond
- Shake off the excess
- Gently push down any raised sand spots so its smooth and level
- Your flocked piece should look like this
A very fine sand flock is a critical material here. Haphazardly taking a cup from your child’s sandbox is ultimately going to be too thick and clumpy. Ben fell in love with Skullcrafts’ Oregon Beach sand flock but alas it’s no longer available. No worries – you can always use oceanfront sand (or have a coastal buddy send you a jar). To play it safe, just put that beach sand through a strainer to ensure its granular enough. A couple Pile crewmates harvested/sent Ben two types of beach sand: San Diego and Florida. The San Diego was a near perfect match to Skullcrafts. Florida was heavier on the shell side and lighter in color.
Thar She Blows
Finally, you’re going to want to seal in the goodness with Krylon Low Odor Clear Finish ($6). Not only does this spray cement the flock down, it also darkens it up a smidge to really bring that dirt feel home.
Yo Ho Ho
Now we can do a legitimate before and after shot of our cavern environment. Ben is extra happy with the results. The spackle filler also allows for a slew of new cavern floor stone configurations and the not the same old square 3×3 layout routine. The combination of the sand and smaller tiles also makes d20 square identification a snap.
As Ben’s game group prepares to enter the Pyramid of Shadows, he’s now able to add a second level of underground mystery and danger. Thankfully, he finally has the cavern floor tiles to back it up.
Next week? Well, we gotta make some big cool rock pieces to go with these new floors, right?
Questions to Ponder: What do you think of the new cavern layout? Does dirty sand beat green rock gaps? Do you have a lot of your RPG games take place underground? How often do you stray from a module’s setting? Did you know what all the pirate phrases meant?