EDIT: Updated with info on making simple trees, shrubs, and water.
As a DM for our games, i am always looking for better and more visually appealing implements for our games. And i think i stubled onto the ultimate.
When we battle in dnd, i used to use a 1 inch grid map laminated and used dry erase markers on it. It worked well, but it wasnt as visually pleasing. I searched the internet near and far, and found several solutions, but most were usually too expensive or time consuming. Like worldworksgames products here.
Then i found something else. There is a tabletop strategy game made by Hasbro alled Heroscape. It utilizes stackable hex tiles, creating some awesome landscapes. This would be a simple easy solution to making visually appealing and dynamic terrains and settings, but again its waaaaay too expensive, and it uses hex tiles.
So i got an idea. Does anyone remebers the family board game called UpWords? It was pretty much a game of scrabble with stackable letter tiles. See where im going with this?
I had figured out a way to make that boardgame into 1" square stackable terrain for our DnD games, and it works GREAT!
Here's what i figured out:
First things first. You go out and raid every single local thrift store you can get your hands on, and purchase all the copies of the game UpWords you can find. I was able to find 8 copies (thrift stores usually sell these things at around $2 a box). You are gonna need these letter tiles. Lots of them.
Next i would recommend washing the letter tiles. These thrift stores are 2nd hand, so you dont know where they've been. Once you have them washed, you want to glue some of them together. The reason for this is you want the tiles to be a quick and easy setup. Something you can do on the fly on the gaming table. If you are having to stack up each and every individual tile one at a time, it takes a while. So with some of them you glue them together. I would say about 30% made into 2x2 tiles, 30% made into 1x2 tiles, and the rest singles. Glue them together and make sure they have a set spacing so they fit easily on the game boards they come with.
Once you have your tile groups made, paint them. Spray paints do great for doing the base colors. I will explain how to do the details in a bit.
Now that we have our tile sections made, start thinking of what kind of terrain you want. Of all the tiles had made, i was thinking of a combination of:
- rocky ground (outdoor set)
- cave floor dirt (dungeon set)
- dungeon floor coblestone (dungeon set)
- outdoor road coblestone (outdoor set)
- grassy (outdoor set)
- volcanic rock (outdoor set)
The quickest way to do this is get some printable sticker paper, and find on the internet some textures (google images was invaluable for this) and print the textures onto the paper. Cut them up into squares that fit the tile tops and stick them on.
Now for your game board. As you may notice, one of the game boards isnt nearly big enough for what you need (around 10" x 10") so i had the idea to combine them. I took 4 of the boards and cut off some of the sides and glued them together on the bottom.
Then spray painted the top. I did this too for a dungeon set.
And VOILA! Quick and easy stackable gaming terrain. We played with these and they were quick to setup and visually appealing at the same time. We also played with the dungeon set and i came up with a cool way to pull that off. I noticed that there was some space inbetween the tiles. So i printed off some cardstock with textures of cave and dungeon walls. I found i could stick these inbetween the tiles and they would stay standing. This made it feel as though your characters were actually enclosed inside, as apposed to just moving around on a map.
There you have it. The best way i found to make things all the more awesome for your games. It took a lot of time to make and set up, but the ending result is very pleasing. And all this from several copies of the old milton bradley game of UpWords.
UPDATE: Simple trees, shrubs, and water.
My whole purpose with this project is simplicity. To make you terrain all the more pleasing, i could go into using sculpting clays and painting, but i wont. I like to keep it simple and yet make it as good as possible.
You can add more realism to your outdoor terrain by adding things like trees and shrubs. For this i went out to a pet store and got a bunch of cheap aquarium plants.
You will end up cutting these up a lot, and you will use pretty much every part, including the reddish roots at the bottom of the big ones.
First i plant to mount them to some of my greenery tiles. You will need to 'drill' some holes into them for mounting the plants. I just used my x-acto knife.
Next by trimming off the thick bottoms of the trees, i glued the bases and inserted the trees.
I did it on a 1x2 tile because a single may be too small and could tip over easily. Also i would recommend mounting trees and bushes near the outer edges of the tiles so you can still fit mini's on them.
That's pretty much it.
Next i move onto making simple water terrain. I just measured how big a 2x2 and 1x2 tileset was, and printed off some water texture on some cardstock. I then cut them out into pieces like this:
The greener ones are smaller and for my indoor dungeon set, for murky cave/sewer waters. These pieces fit easily into spaces between tiles, so it looks like actual receding water.
Now for a showcase of all these principles:
Thats it. Again you could make this look a lot more realistic by individually texturing each and every tile and detailed painting and flocking, but for this im just keeping it simple and cheap.
EDIT: Some of the photos keep dissapearing. Visit my profile page for all of them. All here are uploaded there.