Super Market Saturday

D&D, Dungeons & Dragons, Hirst Arts, Home Brew, Terrain Add comments

Ben is feverishly working on finishing his custom creepy cavern crawler lair – his homebrewed underground add-on level for the entrance room of the Pyramid of Shadows module. Water effects are now involved and as many of you know, those pieces can take a painstaking amount of time to produce. Don’t fret – there’s still plenty of D&D goodness to talk about this week (while we all wait for Ben’s new terrain to dry). Let’s mosey down the Pile aisles and see what we can pull off his RPG shelves.

Forging Options
First and foremost, if this particular DIY cavern set build scheme isn’t your cup of hobby tea, you can get everything you need from Dwarven Forge. Their cavern line is exquisite. And while you do have to pay more for these pre-made, out-of-the-box quality pieces, many DMs consider this investment a worthy one. Underground environments require a lot of personal touches (like dirt, water, shadows, etc). Ben actually likes to mix and match homemade Hirst Arts terrain with Dwarven Forge…especially those amazing hallways.

Rubble Piles
Ben is a huge admirer of Hirst Arts master “Caveman” – a legend hobbyist of the terrain community. The Pile has always admired his dungeon rubble piles from afar. The good news is Ben finally has a handle on this eye popping technique.

And while rubble accents might be obvious to some people, the proper technique has always eluded Ben…with tutorials being few and far between. Once again Hirst Herculean hobbyist, “Bumyong,” recently gave Ben an impeccable forum thread to get things rolling.

Here’s your rubble-making materials checklist:

  • Woodland Scenics Coarse Brown (C1276) flock
  • Woodland Scenics Medium Gray (C1279) flock
  • Akasha Sand Natural Mix (available at Walmart)
  • White Glue (Ben’s Favorite: LePage)
  • PVA Glue Mix (50% water | 50% Elmer’s)
  • Matte Sealer
  • Admire the final product

Your first step is to glue your tiny rubble cluster to the appropriate tile. That white glue will take some time to dry (don’t pour it on too thick). Once complete, go back over your rock pile with that watered down PVA mix as this step cements those little rocks in place. Finally, spray on the matte sealer to seal in the stoney goodness.

You can place these rock piles on certain terrain pieces or go the modular route and mount them on chip board, thin cereal box cardboard or even small miniature bases.

Caverns Water Spots
Back in the 2-2-13 blog post, Ben shared some tricks and tips for making a sandy stone floor. Well, this past weekend, he decided to include some standing puddles by sprinkling in some Woodland Scenics Realistic Water effects. There’s very little sweat equity as long as you follow the steps in the right order.

  • Glue down your Hirst Arts cavern stones
  • Smooth on your DAP filler
  • Sand out some ridges (while wearing a breathing mask)
  • Prime your piece
  • Apply a heavy dry brush of your basecoat brown
  • Highlight a light dry brush of Americana’s Toffee
  • Add your moss flock (and let it fully dry)
  • Add your sand flock (and let it fully dry)
  • Spray on your matte sealer
  • Paint the open water grooves (GW Knarloc Green/Loren Green)
  • Pour your water effect on (ever so slowly)
  • Let it dry (by being very patient)
  • Admire your work

This type of cavern piece may seem like a lot steps but they’re all quite quick and easy. Never fear – the payout is certainly there.

Ben tried a deeper blue water color (GW Midnight Blue) but that particular color was just too pristine. The darker green was more musty and realistic. Ben would love to use the Vallejo water effects line but he still hasn’t found a clean way to apply it. Suggestions are certainly welcome. Ben is pondering a painter’s tape technique.

Room Dynamics and Game Play
With our first encounter’s terrain nearly done, it’s time to talk about the dynamics of the two rooms. DM Ben needs to flush out the area’s properties (heights, skill checks, terrain effects, etc).

The encounter goal is simple: draw the characters to the stack of bodies in the center of the room and hope a few players fall through to the underground cavern chamber. This tactic forces a party split and makes it a more manageable fight for the Headtaker villain.

Here’s the list of our bad guys:

  • Gurrak, the Ettin (added a boulder toss ranged attack)
  • Zombie Rotters (beefed up the attack bonus)
  • Carrion Worm Dweller (tweaked the Carrion Crawler stats)

As your adventurers morph into this area, our resident Ettin monster quickly goes on the offensive by making it rain heavy boulders. In round 2, some of those dead bodies will morph into melee zombie minions.

Here are the notable room and terrain properties:

  • Body pile (new bad guys rotating in)
  • Shiny object bait (Perception DC 16 to entice greedy)
  • Pit collapse (30 feet; 3d10 falling damage)
  • Wall climb (Athletics DC 21)
  • Cavern mud patches (50% bugs wandering monster)
  • Character grab and throw (Rules Compendium, pg. 243)

Assuming the fighting dust settles, there’s some nice treasure to be had here:

  • Get to meet their new NPC (in the fifth bag)
  • Coins: 300 gold, 75 copper, 120 silver
  • 2 Potions (Fleet of Foot and Saving Grace)
  • 2 object relics (before they disappear – Athletics DC 26)
  • Crawler Nest: two random fortune cards from mundane items
  • Any other Crawler nest items are ruined by saliva acid decay

What are those “cavern mud patches,” you ask? Tune in next week to see the what and the how (and hopefully a full view of this encounter’s entire two-level game board).

Questions to Ponder: Have you ever made rubble piles for your terrain game board? If so, is your technique similar to our steps? How did you like the water cavern effect? Is Realistic Water your wet material of choice? Have you ever used Vallejo water effects in your terrain – how do you apply it? What did you think of our Carrion Cavern Worms? Got any power suggestions?

Read the How-to Cavern Floor Tutorial | Download our Items PDF

5 Responses to “Super Market Saturday”

  1. Dave Says:

    Not exactly where I wanted to post this but I was reading your blog and was hoping you might be able to help me out.
    My friend and I just launched a project on Kickstarter to produce Precision Machined Metal RPG dice. You can check it out at You have much greater reach than I, and if you like the concept, any publicity on your blog would be awesome in making these kick butt dice available to the world.
    Thanks so much. Let me know if you have any questions.

  2. BensRPGPile Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Oh sure. However, I would suggest you post the info and link on our Facebook fan page. That gets much more traffic. Blog post comments are rather targeted/buried.

    Best of luck!


  3. BensRPGPile Says:

    Oh here’s the link:

  4. Brigitte Says:

    I started saving scraps from all my HirstArts castings a year ago thinking I might use them for something. Now I know what and how. Thanks, Ben.

  5. BensRPGPile Says:

    Good job, Brigitte! A wise hobbyist rarely discards their extras. Better to throw them in a box for a rainy day rubble pile build (or another mish mash piece).

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