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Terrain Tidbits

Do you aspire to make something like this terrain? Then read on!Are you ready to “go vertical”? To discover the “third dimension” of tabletop gaming? Terrain adds something visually visceral to your miniatures gameplay. Even something as small and simple as barrels, boxes, walls, and trees can make a difference in player attention spans. (You can also buy terrain. There are many fine places to get terrain pieces, and they’re nearly perfect. This article is aimed at the artistic and/or thrifty gamers with an iconoclastic streak.)

So, how do you get started? Many start with small hills. With those, you cut a piece of foam out of a huge pink sheet, paint it, flock it, and presto! You have a hill. You can fill a box with them and reuse them. There are tons of tutorials on the web and in various miniature game guidebooks. But, what if you’re ready to go a little further?

So that big hill at the top of the article? Looks great, right? Here’s how I did it.

Assemble foam insulation, a piece of plywood for a base, some hot wire foam cutting tools, artist’s gesso (for primer), and paint. You need to cut out and glue down four layers of foam (or however many you want) to make your hill. The more layers you add, the steeper it gets. What if you’d like something a little more? A hill, after all, is big and hard to store in your basement. Still it’s a lot cooler if there’s a secret involved.

How about this?

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Inspiring Terrains: Alleyways (Part 5 of 5)

Via Dolorosa“Inspiring Terrains” looks at encounters—fundamental building blocks that bring together PCs, conflict, and environment. With a little inspiration and a few mechanical bits, it’s easy to make the terrain in an encounter just as memorable as the foes. [Part 1][Part 2][Part 3][Part4]

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For the fifth installment, we leave the wilderness to explore a shadowy, refuse-strewn alleyway.

Betwixt and Between

Clandestine meetings with informants, grisly murders by cultists, stealthy urban rangers tailing their marks, thieves casing their next score—scenes set in alleyways figure prominently in urban fantasy. Typically, though, the narrow lane serves only as a convenient hiding place. To enhance an alleyway, think about why the passageway exits, and then, use its essential characteristics to make it an active participant in the encounter…

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Inspiring Terrains: Playas (Part 4 of 5)

salt flats“Inspiring Terrains” looks at encounters—fundamental building blocks that bring together PCs, conflict, and environment. With a little inspiration and a few mechanical bits, it’s easy to make the terrain in an encounter just as memorable as the foes. [Part 1][Part 2][Part 3]

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For the fourth installment, we endure the stinging winds of the preternaturally flat playa.

Trapped Water and the Hot Sun

Through a quirk of topography, some of the flattest surfaces in nature occur in the most rugged regions. Mountains and ridges channel water to the lowest points in the basins they surround. Once there, the water has nowhere to go, so it remains, forming lakes which slowly disappear as evaporation and seepage take their toll. The flat expanse of sand and salt left behind in the dry lakebed is known as a playa…

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Inspiring Terrains: Soggy Fens (Part 3 of 5)

swamp“Inspiring Terrains” looks at encounters—fundamental building blocks that bring together PCs, conflict, and environment. With a little inspiration and a few mechanical bits, it’s easy to make the terrain in an encounter just as memorable as the foes. [Part 1][Part 2]

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Stagnant Water, Sucking Mud

Fen, bog, marsh, swamp—whatever the name, standing water and thick mud define the unique environment of the swamp. The slowly moving water saturates the soil, clumping it into low hillocks and thick layers of silt. Dead plants and rotting animals do not wash away. Instead, they suffuse the area with a fetid odor of decay and fertilize the life that remains. Still water, oozing mire, and a profusion of life endure year-round…

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Inspiring Terrains: Underground Mines (Part 2 of 5)

copper mine“Inspiring Terrains” looks at encounters—fundamental building blocks that bring together PCs, conflict, and environment. With a little inspiration and a few mechanical bits, it’s easy to make the terrain in an encounter just as memorable as the foes. [Part 1]

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Deep, Foreboding Mines

Mines have been part of fantasy literature since its earliest days. In the game, though, mines usually feel like little more than renamed dungeons or caves—just another dark, underground environment with a different name…

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