Saturday, 30 July 2022

15mm Dungeon: Bones and Boulders


Continuing on the theme of working on ‘plot points’ or encounter pieces for the dungeon crawl, I’ve been making use of the excellent ‘Dem Bones’ skeletal set from Alternative Armies in the UK:

Available from their extensive and varied 15mm ranges, the set contains some useful skull piles and other skeletal remains - de rigeur as decoration for any self-respecting dungeon ! - you’ll note that one of the prone skeletons (co-incidentally the largest body) has been sliced amidships - all part of  my cunning plan.

So - I started with the following sanded and crumbled blue foam offcuts:

 Only to put them all together for the following:

The skeleton has been ‘stretched’ by the aforementioned cut, enabling a more impressive squashing by the falling rocks - a natural tunnel collapse, perhaps - or maybe the hapless victim fell into a dastardly trap ?
In any event, the adventure party might have to discover something about the tragic event, loot the body of an important item, or perhaps the skeleton will revive and attack them ?

The base is some more scrap plastic card, and the collapsed earth some old flocking gel, suitably stained brown - I’ll probably want to finesse the form with a few more loose rocks, scrubby vegetation, etc, and look to add an aforementioned item of import - perhaps a magic weapon, or a piece of treasure ?

I had great fun putting this simple piece together, just with what were some left-over scraps, but topped off in style, I think, by the skeletal remains !

Next up, I have been working on an evil altar - somewhere as a focus for unpleasant goings-on, or where the party might encounter a big bad guy, up to no good:

Another scrap of foam serves as the altar top, pin inscribed with some dark symbology, and either side of the base, a gruesome pile of the skulls of the previously sacrificed…..
A skeleton from the same set fits nicely on top, if required:

I finished this off with a fire bowl from the Crom’s Anvil range at CP models, with an attempt at an unnatural green-glowing flame (Hum, maybe a bit more pistachio ice cream swirl than spooky fire…oh well…)

The circular base has some eldritch zodiac style signs/sigils painted on, but the silvering doesn’t show up too well in the photos - or perhaps only those with a magical ability can divine them clearly and gain knowledge for the party……?

Next up, I’ll be taking the plunge with some monstrous dungeon denizens, and looking at what miniatures I plan on using to produce the various factions and adventurers - so stay tuned !

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

15mm Dungeon: Steppin’ out….


Having had a go at carving out some terrain pieces from blue foam in the last post, I was considering how the Dungeon might have multiple access points, or entries to differing levels, so looked around for something to create more steps. Some time ago, I’d picked up a giant bag full of small foam ‘bricks’ on EBay with a view to using them for scratch building projects, so thought I’d have a go at some building work and see how it went.

From the Lead Mountain, I pulled out an old resin set of steps of unknown origin that seemed to be a fit for 15mm, and then roughly duplicated them using the bricks…… I wish I was going to continue with some clever tips or hacks on how to make easily homecast duplicates in resin or plaster - but why be sensible when it comes to the Hobby ? …….. so…….for a project that was supposed to be simple and easy, I actually went about constructing the staircases, to coin a phrase, ‘brick by brick’ - I think I need my head examining…..!

How many bricks does it take per tiny staircase ?…… well, about this many: (sigh)…..

So, tweezers and smears of ModPodge (I really should buy shares in that company) at the ready, I painstakingly, or should that be painstupidly came up with the following:

At least I kept true to the simple ethos by basing them on cut up scraps of old store and discount cards !

Some precious time had elapsed, but I now had three staircases, a collapsed stair, a rubble filled corridor type thingie and a brick walled well/water feature of some sort.

More ModPodge  mixed with black paint was applied overall to bind everything together and harden it off some, then as per usual, drybrushings of various greys and greens, and just for fun in this case, some greeny-greys….. !

A couple of scrap plastic shards were thrown into the ‘water’ to represent maybe the ruins of a broken statue, and then a bit of vegetation added to help break up the blocky outlines a bit:

For a long time, I was considering whether to include walls to the dungeon set-up, but for now, I have decided to keep to these stand-alone pieces that can be placed as and when required - with a sort of 2D Dungeon, a suspension of disbelief is always required, seeing beyond the flat outlines and filling in the confining walls in your mind’s eye….. it will also mean I don’t have to do any more bricklaying with tweezers !

Next time: what to do with these foam offcuts? 

Friday, 22 July 2022

15mm Dungeon: Harry and the Yonder Stones


Meet Harry - he’s a 15mm Grey Ape originally from the superlative Crom’s Anvil ranges, now stocked by CP Models in the UK - he’s also the first 15mm sized figure that I have painted in years - so be kind!

I had originally envisaged him to be a troglodytic albino Morloch type, looming white and blind in the depths of the dungeon, but, well, he’s come out a bit fluffy-looking and more Yeti or snow beast than Haunter-in the-Dark…… oh well….. he is cute though, and currently as the sole prospective occupant of the dungeon, will be standing in to give some idea of the scale of various items as I progress - hopefully he won’t have to wait around too long for company…..

Here he is atop the TT Combat room tiles, looking the part:

I’ve yet to finish the tiles off completely, and the edges of the set need some tidying up, but I laid out some, just as an example of how they look - below is around a third of the complete set on a round table just shy of 2 feet in diameter - so you can see that you get quite a lot of bang for your buck - I would imagine all of the tiles laid out in a dungeon set up would easily cover around a 4 foot by 4 foot space, allowing for elbow room:


My plan is to start off with various scenic and terrain items, both scratch-built and shop bought, before tackling the miniature occupants - I’m chickening out on plunging into painting figures for the moment - sort of working my way up to it…… I think the fixtures and fittings of the dungeon will be an easier entry in this, to me, a new ‘giant’ scale ! 

With this in my mind, I set about something simple and easy, namely some stone arches made from blue foam, that could serve as entry points to the underground world, or as plot points for the dungeon crawl itself.

These were formed by rough cutting the shapes, then sanding them down to roughly the right proportions, and then going to town in a ‘roughing-up’ process - chunks cut out with a sharp blade, various holes poked in to form pockmarks and wear, and some vague tracings of maybe Eons-worn carvings - the whole is then covered with a couple of layers of diluted Mod-Podge tinted with black paint - this also serves to harden up the edges as they dry, and give a bit of weight to the piece - then I went in with liberal drybrushing of greys and then some greens to act as mossy growth, with faded white outlines on the inscribed areas:

So we have a couple of large arches, and a stone portal with whirling event horizon to transport you to who-knows where, or to serve as the entry point for who-knows-what……. Well, alright, then, I freehanded a yellowy-gold spiral on the clear base of a flight stand and stuck it between the uprights - but you get the general idea ! 

Emboldened by how these turned out, I had a go at something a bit larger, with an idea to create a ‘Way Out’ to serve as the end of the adventure - the last point a party might have to pass to reach safety and the daylight……. I had envisioned a towering set of stone steps leading up to an arched exit, blasted by dragon breath, en-slimed and en-sorcelled, but ended up with a kind of giant stone armchair ! - well, at least it looks that way in the photos as Harry gets in on the act:

The Easy Recliner of Dooooooom:

The rear view with a sheer drop - oops :

Fixed it with a separate stone stairway - have to give the adventurers a chance at escape :

So, a bit of finite progress, and some fun with Harry - I’ll  leave him to disappear back through the inter-dimensional portal until the next time:

Saturday, 16 July 2022

15mm Dungeon: Dirtying it up !


One thing I have noticed about most of the scratch-built dungeon scenics out there, is how darkly painted they are - and for some reason, this just doesn’t look right to me - I know that sounds counter-intuitive (erm, it’s a dungeon, Steel - you know, deep, dark and dreary….), but bear with me - I find that working with smaller scale figures, it is always better to keep backgrounds and basing light coloured, in order to make the miniatures ‘pop’ and be more visible - so as this is going to be in 15mm, I wanted tiles that weren’t going to be monochrome black, or for example, a very dark grey.

Now if you’ve got brightly painted miniatures against say, black wall pieces, they should be more visible, right ? - but I felt that if the floor tiles were black, the walls black, any scenic pieces black, then it might just be too much, well……black ? -    :-)  I mean, we’re supposed to be having fun with this dungeon crawl, right ? - not just getting depressed ?

So, with just such torturous logic, I decided that I wasn’t going to have tiles that were lost in the blackness of Stygian gloom, but rather were damp, and dank - more verdigris than darkness, more soggy than obscured in shadow…… maybe my tiles are actually just a sub-basement, rather than an actual Dungeon - more sort of Bourgeois cellar than an honest to goodness crypt? 

Anyway, this was going to be all about dirtying things up - so after my customary blast of acrylic sanding sealer to both sides of the tile frame pieces, I went in with a medium grey base coat, followed up with drybrushings of some cheap craft paint samples called ‘granite dust’ and ‘chipped stone’:

Over this I went with a light wash of a medium green sort of splodged on, and then liberal splashing of diluted Army Painter soft tone to add to the browny-greeny-ness….. I think this gave the impression I was after, whilst retaining an overall ‘light’ background - the stone floors are visible, but not overwritten in gloom…..

This was quite fun to do in a sort of kindergarten art class sort of way, and although I had ambitions of doing a graduated soft-tone in the corners of each square, to add some depth, this soon flowed into an overall grubbiness - but given the size of the tiles, I don’t think this looks so bad - maybe for 28mm pieces you would need to be more circumspect in the application, but I was having too good a time to worry !

I kept the tiles in their frames just for ease of application, and hopefully a more consistent look across the board, although it occurs to me that a bit of re-touching at the edges might be necessary as sometimes with MDF they can separate around the sides a little when being freed from their structure - the odd bit of bare ‘wood’ can re-appear - but all I’ll need to to do is smear on some more grubbiness…..

Finally, I had a go at filling in the inscribed runic symbols with some colour to add a bit of interest - is it some code that needs unscrambling to reveal a message, or a hidden Indiana Jones-style floorplan where you must only tread on the stones with certain symbols, or be flung into the depths below…. ?

This failed to be anything other than underwhelming, however - particularly given that I had used some ostensibly ‘neon’ colours (or so it said on the side of the bottles) - ending up with some really flat, matt-looking tints - these photos are not the greatest, but believe me, they’re even worse in real life…..

I ruminated about trying to highlight the colours, but the width of the letters is so teeny-tiny, that this wasn’t really practicable whilst keeping neatly within the outlines….. oh well - maybe a re-do is necessary - it all looks a bit child’s alphabet book rather than Eldritch symbology…… !

So, a thoroughly dirty start so far, but more importantly quick and easy - no scribing lines into XPS foam, texturing with crumpled tinfoil or layers of black-tinted Mod-Podge…….well, not yet anyway !

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

New Project: 15mm Dungeon Adventure !


“You find yourself facing a low stone arch, its surface pitted and scarred - beyond, an unnatural light pierces the gloom, and you see a pile of golden treasure - gemstones, crystals, giant pearls, buried in a mound of coins…….What does your party do next…..?”

A huge departure for me, climbing up the ladder of scale, to the dizzying heights of 15mm ! - now, I haven’t painted anything bigger than 10mm in about 35 years, when I daubed Humbrol enamels in the general direction of some Ral Partha, Citadel, Asgard and Aurolea Roccoco D&D figures, back when I was a schoolboy - so this project is sort of taking me full circle…..

I’d had a hankering to do something a bit different from the usual small-scale fare in a while, and having spent a lot of time during various lockdowns perusing YouTube catching up on more recent developments in the Hobby, I had become fixated on all the amazing work out there scratch-building scenery, particularly dungeons and adventure tiles - it brought with it a whiff of nostalgia, whilst offering the possibility of a new challenge.

Although my gaming entry was really 1/300th MicroArmour, I am of a generation where D&D loomed large, and I fondly remember adventure campaigns fought with my friends, AD&D manuals at the ready, dog-eared character sheets littering the table, and odd-shaped dice scattering every which-way….. so was keen to revisit those glory days when the opportunity presented.

Now modern gaming offers an absolute cornucopia of scenics and terrain for D&D, but I wanted this project to adhere to my frugal nature, and allow for the use of basic, modular scratch-built or re-purposed items, so was going to be more about wrangling with blue foam and bits and bobs, rather than buying in lots of pre-made items - but I got a bit stuck when looking at the basic ideas of dungeon set-ups; there was plenty of inspiration out there in 3D, 2D, full wall, half wall, tiles and mats, but all seemed to mean either some expense, or a time commitment that was going to be a bit beyond me - for this reason I was delighted to come across the tile pieces produced by TT Combat here in the UK:

Now although ostensibly 25mm ‘sized’, these seemed to be a good fit for smaller scale miniatures, so the temptations of 15mm beckoned, thanks in no small part to a selection of the Crom’s Anvil (now at CP Models) fantasy minis that I had been gifted by Mike Stockin - they seemed the best compromise in terms of creating a manageable project at relatively small expense - outside my comfort zone, yes, but containable in terms of painting and building, with large, varied and well established ranges of miniatures to draw on, whilst keeping the tabletop simple and cheap.

I opted for a basic set to start with to see how things went - containing 5 separate frames of variously sized tiles, they look like they will provide plenty of fun options:

Variously sized rooms, corridor strips and single tiles, even some fun looking drain grilles, along with a rune-marked main chamber - all topped off with cracked stone paving - what’s not to like ?

There’s a good YouTube video here of one of the available sets, if you want to see them in the flesh, so to speak:

In line with all of TT Combat’s products, the pieces are nicely produced in MDF and clearly scribed - so just needed a basic painted undercoat with added details to begin to bring them to life. - a quick, if careful pass around the edges with a sharp knife, and they pop neatly out of the frame.

The squares on the tile measure 25mm exactly, functionally making the corridors in particular on the small side for based 28-32mm figures, particularly when considering monsters/baddies etc on larger bases, but for 15mm should be just fine:

A UK tuppence and a penny give the general idea, alongside a plastic ‘giant’ figure approx 35mm tall, who is on a very narrow integral stand:

My intention is to produce all sorts of scenic items and terrain parts that can add to this modular set-up, hopefully keeping things cheap and cheerful, as well as producing a range of adventurers and dungeon denizens for them to stumble into !

So, the overall idea is to ‘go large’ whilst keeping it small - stay tuned for more to come !