D&d diy terrain

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How to buy or build D&D terrain for your game

One of the best parts of Dungeons & Dragons is that you can start playing with very little. Beyond the starting rule set, you only need some dice, character sheets, and some pens or pencils.

But once you start playing D&D is easy to start collecting painted minis, costumes, and dice – lots of dice. But when you really want to take your game to the next level, introducing 3D terrain helps the game come to life. This article will help you with everything you need to know about using terrain for the first time.

With terrain, your players get a visual representation of the environment that they are adventuring in. It boosts the imagination, helping people get more immersed in the game. And, to put it frankly, it’s just cooler, which makes it more fun and enjoyable. Instead of moving a mini around a grid on a flat table, players get to really feel like they are in the world of the game.

D&D 3d Terrain

With the pandemic, many of us are playing D&D virtually, so we cannot use terrain in our games (unless you showcase your terrain on your zoom calls). But now is an excellent time to start gathering or building your terrain sets.

Finding Terrain for your game

One of the hardest parts of starting to use D&D terrain for the first time in choosing what to buy and which terrain company to go with. Here’s a quick overview you can use to help you make your choice.

Dungeons and dragons terrain

Dwarven Forge

Dwarven Forge is one of the best-known and most-loved terrain options out there. It was founded in 1996 by artist and avid D&D player Stefan Pokorny. The company is all about creating pre-painted, ready-to-use terrain set pieces that can be mixed and matched to create different fantasy settings. They’re made from a durable material they call "polystone," and are built to last.

This is a great, high-quality option for people with some money to spend who don’t want to put in the effort of painting their own terrain set. Just expect to have a hard time getting your hands on the more popular sets, which sell out quickly.


Dungeonstone products are made to look like, well, stone. They’re highly detailed and cast out of resin and carbon-infused diestone composite material into a single piece that is made to last for years of play. The products are made in the USA and pretty affordable, at that. They do not come painted.


EnderToys are 3D-printed in Las Vegas, Nevada, from eco-friendly PLA plastic. They come unpainted and arrive with many separate pieces that you put together yourself. The product is pretty affordable and considered to be a good deal for the price. If you like to customize and are on a budget, these might be a good option for you.


GriffonCo is a small business grown out of a hobbyist couple’s attempt to make a little money on the side. They’ve grown a lot in less than a year of business, and now the company is run by the whole family. GriffonCo’s products are 3D-printed, come unpainted, and are sold by theme so that you can buy various pieces to put together a cohesive environment. They also offer a painting service if you don’t want to do that part yourself.


DrakenStone‘s products are magnetic and stackable, making them easy to piece together. They’re offered on their website, eBay, and Etsy. Their terrain comes in kits with detailed explanations available for how to put them together. They come pre-painted and are slightly on the pricier side, though the convenience can make it worth the cost.

D&D forest

Building Your Own Terrain

If you want to get even more crafty and make your own terrain, it’s a great option to consider to save on cost. DM Scotty offers in-depth instructions for building what he calls 2.5D dungeon tiles, which are flat tiles with 3D embellishment. RPG Ready has collected has advice and instructions into this easy-to-understand guide.

Going this route is the ultimate in customizability and affordability, provided that you’ve already got necessary tools and materials, including rulers, box cutters, glue guns, paint, and cardboard. However, the downside is that it requires much more time and effort. If you enjoy DIY projects and have more time on your hands than money to spend, this might be a great 3D terrain option for you to explore.

Person holding brown leather material Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels

3D Printing Your Own Terrain

You might have noticed that several of the terrain companies we mentioned above 3D-print their pieces. If you have access to a 3D printer, you might be wondering why you can’t just do that yourself. Well, you totally can. Obviously, it’s not going to be an option for everybody, as most of us don’t have a 3D printer or the know-how to use one. But if you do, then you should definitely consider going down this road.

There are several resources out there where you can buy .stl files for systems, sets, and pieces you can print, paint, and use in your games. The Facebook group "Tabletop 3D Printing Guild" is a great place to start for advice. Beyond that, here are a few options worth considering.

ZMorph VX Multitool 3D Printer Photo by ZMorph All-in-One 3D Printers on Unsplash


OpenForge is a popular option made to be compatible with Dwarven Forge’s products. They use OpenLock, Infinitylock, and Dragonlock, making it compatible with many other companies’ terrain products. You can find OpenForge sets on Github, Thingiverse, and Pateron. This guide is an excellent place to get started.

Hero’s Hoard

Hero’s Hoard are well-liked, high-quality sets. They currently offer three products and have KickStarters up for a few others. They also have free resources to provide to the community, including STL files for models and 2D printable battle maps.

Printable Scenery

Printable Scenery sells files for a variety of games, including Dungeons & Dragons. They also offer many helpful resources for 3D printers like their 3D printed terrain for Dungeon Masters and Getting Started forums.

Fat Dragon Games

Fat Dragon Games is one of the first companies that has offered printable gaming terrain. They offer lots of helpful content on their YouTube channel and even give away a sample set for free for those who want to try out their product before committing to buying it.

If you want to try out one of these 3D-printed options but don’t have access to a 3D printer yourself, you can also usually buy the sets pre-printed from Etsy.

Just Do It

If you’re interested in trying out the 3D terrain world but don’t want to commit to any of the options above just yet, no problem! Use legos. Use random objects lying around your house, like cans and boxes. Like with D&D in general, you’re only limited by your own imagination and creativity. Your very next time, even if it’s tonight, could include 3D terrain if you want it to, and for free. Give it a try. You’ll see how much of a difference it makes. And then, you can start dabbling into the more complicated world of purchasing and 3D printing.

lego, children, toys Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

Once you start playing around with buying and printing different terrain sets, don’t forget that you can always mix and match them. Even if they don’t easily snap together, there are ways you can hack it. That way, you can create the perfect terrain for your game and wow the other people you’re playing with to make your – and everybody’s – D&D dreams come true.

AuthorJen P.

Jen is a tabletop RPG writer, designer, and editor, and published author of science fiction and fantasy fiction.

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Sours: https://www.dndtomb.com/how-to-buy-or-build-dnd-terrain/

Taking my D&D terrain game to the next level

So you’ve managed to get your friends together to play some D&D. It’s taken bribery, a little blackmail, and some inventive excuses to partners as to why you can’t look after the kids this weekend. You’ve got snacks. You’ve got dice. You’ve even got cool minis for everyone. But how do you take your D&D game to the next level?

With 3D D&D Terrain.

Recently I wanted to enhance my D&D sessions, so I began investigating the D&D terrain options and am pretty excited about the results.

This article is part of a series of Dungeon Master Resources for Geekdad.com. Also available are:

D&D Essentials, Lairs and Locations, Making Maps, D&D Minis

3D D&D Terrain

I’ve written previously about my adventures with D&D terrain. From using LEGO and whichever toys my kids have left lying unguarded about the house, to printing off dungeon tiles from Fat Dragon games and using the official WotC tiles, these forays into creating outstanding, fantastic locales for playing our monthly Dungeons & Dragons games have been met with varying degrees of success. Some are time consuming, some are fiddly and fragile, and some require quite formidable leaps of imagination on the part of my players. But they have all been fun and entirely suited the requirements of our gaming table.

My players have always seemed impressed with my meager attempts. However, I have always been left feeling unsatisfied. For me, there were never fireworks. The earth never shook. I wanted more.

Throughout these endeavors I have, in the back of my mind, always imagined the scenes I create as awe-inspiring. Terrible volcanoes spewing forth lava. Epic towers, 300 feet tall. Murky sewers shrouded in mist. But in reality they have fallen short. Maybe it’s because of live shows like Critical Role or Acquisitions Incorporated tainting my expectations with their beautiful dioramas and 3D maps. Maybe it’s a lack of ambition and expertise. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I hadn’t braved the world of 3D terrain.

So perhaps it’s time I did.

3D Starter Dungeons

After deciding to investigate the options for 3D D&D terrain I came upon a dilemma. There is an impressive assortment of options out there, with a similarly extensive price range to boot. Every week there seems to be another Kickstarter set up offering the “next level” of immersive 3D gaming terrain. But before I could dive too deep into the bubbling slough of variety, I had to decide what I was looking for.

Currently, I’m running a Dragon Heist campaign. This is a city-based story, so it made sense to focus on the options that will help that campaign the most. I also wanted to pick some D&D terrain that I could use again in the future and that would be versatile. My aim is to be able to build the set for the finale of the campaign in the Vault of Dragons.

I decided to look into the options for 3D starter dungeons. And I wanted to try a small selection of different options for a solid comparison. I was also willing to put some of my (paltry) artistic ability to the test in the process. So I picked three options: Dungeon Tiles from Endertoys, Dragonlock Starter Set from Fat Dragon Toys, and the Painted Starter Dungeon from Dwarven Forge.

It’s worth saying now that none of these options alone were going to deliver the magnificent mega diorama I was hoping for, but they were certainly the next step in reaching my goal.


The first set I looked at was this starter dungeon from Endertoys. 21 pieces of terrain, all 3D printed from PLA plastics designed for 25-30mm scale minis. Perfect for D&D Terrain. The pieces come unpainted, so I knew I would be putting my skills to the test and at $34.99 I thought this seemed a reasonable price for my first 3D dungeon.

d&D terrain

Once they arrived, I got out my can of Citadel Grey Primerand began working.

D&D terrain

I needed two coats of the primer for the color to hold and to smooth out some of the rough plastic, but once that was complete I could start on the layering and detail. I was following a basic terrain painting tutorial from YouTube, of which there are legion if you know where to look.

D&D terrain

Once primed, I used more Citadel paints for occasional brickwork and to give some relief to the pieces: Karnak Stone, Stag Brown, Dark Reaper, and The Fang.

D&D terrain

Once the initial layering was dry I used a sponge brush with Celestra Grey for sponging the brickwork and adding an aged faded effect to the stone.

D&D terrain

Overall these tiles are great for using as D&D terrain. The quality of the printing is consistent throughout, with minimal flashing. The tiles took the paint nicely, although it did take a couple of primer coats, but that could have been more down to my incompetence than the quality of the product. The level of detail on the brickwork is very basic and the floor tiles really show the layers of PLA plastic that the terrain is printed from, but for the price that’s understandable.

There are also lots of other sets available from Endertoys, all of which could be added to this one to enhance the versatility and create the perfect dungeon space you’re looking for. In particular this basic dungeon set without pillars, these ruined walls, and this brick staircase.


D&D terrain

Having seen how good 3D printing could be, I set to looking for other options. I found Dragonlock available via Fat Dragon Games. Available to a degree. In actual fact these 3D Printed D&D terrain pieces aren’t available in printed form at all from Fat Dragon Games. Instead they sell the .stl files for the sets. This means that in order to own the terrain tiles you either need to own a 3D printer, or find someone who does.

Here at GeekDad we love 3D printers and you don’t have to look far to find the latest GeekDad Daily Deals or Kickstarter Alerts for the technology. But I don’t have access to that, so instead I turned somewhere that does. The internet.

D&D terrain

Sites like Etsy are great for finding people who can help you out in situations like this. It’s where I was able to have my custom D&D minis printed. On Etsy there are numerous sellers who have downloaded the Dragonlock files and are selling the sets, and individual tiles are very reasonable prices. For $20 you can find the starter set, complete with exclusive Dragonbite clips.

D&D terrain

Like the Endertoys D&D terrain, Dragonlock tiles will require some paint work once received. They also have a helpful painting tutorial on their site.

D&D terrain
D&D terrain
D&D terrain

One significant difference between the Endertoys and Dragonlock D&D terrain sets is the doorways. For the Endertoys, doorways are represented simply by an arching piece with a section missing where the door would be. But the Dragonlock tiles doors include the actual door piece.

Overall the Dragonlock starter set is very good. Dragonlock D&D terrain is fully modular, snap-locking, multi-level, and suitable for 28mm scale. Whilst the starter doesn’t come with as many pieces as the Endertoys set, it is very versatile and as you are usually able to find a seller who can print the additional pieces you need for very little extra cost. I found a couple of sellers who are selling extra wall and floor pieces for less than $2 each.

Like the Endertoys set, Dragonlock really showcases the versatility of 3D printing, whilst also allowing you to add your own style and creativity to the pieces. However, as these are created in a less commercial setting you may find a few more issues with flashing and print quality, depending on the material and the quality of the 3D printer used.

Dwarven Forge

d&d terrain

My final option is the one which I was most excited about. Like many others I was introduced to Dwarven Forge via Critical Role and have often had to dab dry the saliva drooling from my chin as I watched Matt Mercer bring out his latest dungeon creation. But I have always felt the cost of owning a set of Dwarven Forge to be prohibitive. True, if I wanted to produce a mega-dungeon this might be the case, but for a simple basic dungeon room, like the ones compared above, the cost isn’t too dissimilar.

For $49 you get 19 pieces of expertly hand painted D&D terrain made out of Dwarvenite (a unique non-toxic, PVC-based compound that is cast and set like resin and is unbelievably hardwearing).

The pieces all come hand painted in far greater quality than I could ever achieve. You even get a small piece of treasure for adventurers to find in your dungeon.

Like the other sets, the pieces are fully modular and can be assembled in any formation you like. But unlike the sets from Endertoys and Dragonlock, these tiles do not connect through snap-lock systems. Instead each pieces houses a tiny magnet in its base and is designed to sit on a metal terrain tray which keeps them all in place. The terrain trays are sold separately.

Overall the quality of Dwarven Forge D&D terrain makes the extra cost all the more worthwhile. The only problem is getting hold of it. The store sells out quickly, but they do hold an annual Kickstarter campaign to launch their latest range. Last year it was the Caverns Deep campaign, which raised an incredible $3,300,000 with over 3,000 backers. This year’s campaign is Hellscape and launched on 16th June and is sure to be as popular among D&D fans new and old.

Modified and Combined

D&D terrain

Once I had all three sets together I really wanted to maximize their full potential and create one large dungeon section using all the pieces. But first I had to work out how to hold them all together. Each snap-lock system is different, so the Endertoys and Dragonlock pieces don’t latch together and the Dwarven Forge are magnetic.

d&d terrain

To get round this I found some self-adhesive magnets which I attached to the base of the 3D printed tiles and then used a large magnetic sheet as a terrain tray which worked perfectly.


Whichever option you go for, there’s no doubt that using 3D D&D terrain adds an extra element to your games that your will blow your players away. When I first showed my D&D group the dungeons I had been collecting and working on, they were amazed at the versatility, quality, and affordability of the options out there.

D&D terrain

For the highest quantity, Endertoys gets you the most for your money. For affordability, Dragonlock tiles can’t be beaten. And for sheer quality and wow factor, Dwarven Forge is the way forward. But with a little imagination and creativity you can combine all three to create some really fantastic locations and exciting dungeons for your players to explore.

They might not be the devastating lavascapes, the impossible towers, or the underdark caverns I have been dreaming of, but the 3D dungeons created from these fantastic D&D terrain sets take me one step closer.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!


Sours: https://geekdad.com/2019/06/dungeon-master-resources-getting-started-with-3d-dd-terrain/
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Here's How to Build Your Own Realistic D&D Ruins

If the video player is not working, you can click on this alternative video link.

Are you into tabletop wargames like Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, or Dungeons and Dragons? Then why not consider making your very own amazing terrain?

Read on to find out how. 

Like any project of this nature, you are going to need a few bits and bobs. For this build, you will need:

The first step is to grab the foam board and begin to cut it, using a knife, into small blocks. These will form the main "stone" blocks of the scenery piece.

You can use a variety of tools for this, but a standard kitchen chopping knife is more than sufficient. You can, if desired, consider using a polystyrene hot knife cutter, but this really is over the top.

Cut in a smooth action to get a nice cut edge. 

You don't need to be too accurate with this stage, but try to make them roughly the same dimensions. In fact, the more variety you have with the bricks, the more "realistic" the final piece will look.

This will take some time, so brace yourself. 

Once complete, collect the pieces, place them in a metal box with some stones, and shake vigorously to give them a "battered" and weathered texture and appearance, and to smooth off the sharp edges. 

Next, it is time to build the main scaffolding and base for the terrain piece. Grab your pile of scrap cardboard -- you can use anything really, but old cereal boxes are great. 

Using your kitchen knife again, cut the boxes to make various shapes of walls. Let your imagination run riot here. Include doorways, windows, ruined sections, etc, as you see fit. 

Thinner cardboard is easier to handle and hide with your foam bricks, but regular cardboard boxes can also be used.

A handy tip is to paint the cardboard black before the next step. This will save you a ton of time when you come to priming or base coating the model terrain later. 

Next, make some bases for your lovingly crafted buildings and affix them using your hot glue gun. Try to make the building's overall layout look somewhat plausible -- but it is completely up to you.

Try to also keep the bases fairly small to allow you to assemble them into complexes on the tabletop. Again, this is completely up to you. 

By making the bases only big enough to allow the buildings to stand, you will also save on paint, flock, etc, later down the line. 

Next, it is time to clad the cardboard walls with your cache of foam blocks. "paint" each surface using PVA and individually stick each block to it.

This will be a time-consuming task, but it is very rewarding in the end. Take your time and enjoy the process. Cover all edges, except the base, and ensure you hide the cardboard skeleton underneath. 

 The next step is to add some ground texture to the buildings. You can do this with a variety of materials including sand, small pebbles, bark, moss, etc, that can you gather for free from a place called the "outdoors". 

Use this as an excuse to get close to nature for a few hours. Pine bark works very well, for example.

You can chop this up using your kitchen knife. 

 If you opt for materials like bark, you can separate out the different grain sizes uses a basic sieve. Once you've gathered the flooring texture you want, stick to the base as shown in the video and to your own design.

Like the walls, this will take some time so enjoy making your own fantasy world. It is usually a good idea to place larger debris first, and then finish off with smaller bits like flock or sand.

But the way you do this part is completely up to you.

Let's get ready for the next phase -- painting!

Once the PVA has cured, it is time to make your buildings look realistic. Grab your acrylic paints, including primer, and get ready to make some magic happen.

The first step is to prime, or base, all of your model terrains. You can either paint by hand or use a spray primer to save a little time. 

Painting by hand is preferable as you get into all the nooks and crannies with ease. Be sure to think down your paints with some water so the paint runs nice and even. You can add some PVA glue to the black undercoat too.

Next, mix up some dark brown paint (thin with water) and apply liberally to the base. You may also want to consider painting a few random bricks on the walls too to simulate different stone types -- but you don't have to. 

This will act as a sort of wash on the base and give it some lovely visual texture when dry.

Next, mix up some grey, and light blue, and paint the blocks and any stones on the base. The less monotone the walls, and floors, the better the final look.

Don't obsess too much on this stage, you will be applying washes and dry brushing lighter shades later if you make some mistakes. 

Next, take a larger brush and dip into some grey paint. Wipe off the excess and "overbrush" all the bricks on the walls. 

Try to let some of the black undercoats seep through. You can practice this step on a textured surface like some toilet paper, or even your hand if you don't want to "ruin" your ruins. 

But, again, you can use thinned black, or dark grey, paint to "wash" the surfaces later on to restore some tonal depth. 

If you like to paint miniatures, then enjoy this step -- it is very cathartic. Also, take the time to over brush some parts of the base too. 

As always, when it comes to painting miniatures, make sure the previous layer of paint is dry before applying the next unless you want paints to mix and run, of course.

Next, on to the main event -- dry brushing!!!

Mix a tan color using white, brown, and green. Remove most of the paint from the brush, and begin to firmly dry brush all surfaces of the walls and applicable base sections. 

Dry brushing, as a technique, can take a little practice if you are a novice, but the investment of time learning it is very worthwhile.

Pro-tip here, older brushes with splayed hairs make excellent brushes for this technique -- just make sure the paint is basically dry before applying (you can remove excess water by dry brushing toilet paper or kitchen towel).

You may need to go over surfaces a few times for a nice even coverage. Depending on the look you are after, you can keep toning the tan color up with white and dry brushing all areas over, and over. 

Next, it is time to make the wooden parts of the terrain.

Popsicle sticks are a great material for this, but you can also replicate them with strips of cardboard. The former, however, has natural wood grain for you to take advantage of. Cut or snap into shape, and affix to the ruined buildings using PVA glue. 

For this build, the floors are intentionally "shabby" and makeshift, but you can design as you see fit. Once you are happy, coat them with a brown wash or commercial wood stain.

While the paint is drying, you can now apply some flock (if desired) to the bases. Apply watered-down PVA glue to the areas you want the flock to be applied, and evenly spread the flock over the area. 

You can use old cooking spice jars for this. 

You can either use commercially-available flocks or make your own. Try to use several different shades of the flock to give added depth to the model. 

For added realism, add some flock to certain spots on the wall too. You can also add other materials like moss. 

Leave to dry.

Now it is time to make the wooden sections look awesome. Use some dark brown washes to stain the wooden sections using either a sponge or a brush.

Again, you can use commercially-made ones, or make your own by thinning paints down with water. 

If you want to add some other details, you can make mushroom-like pieces using beads of hot glue. Simply make small blobs on some greaseproof paper, let dry, and then paint as desired. 

Make some stems using small pieces of matchstick, stick the mushroom caps to them, and then the entire mushroom to strategically selected places on the bases. 

Of course, you can skip this step if you want to. 

The next, and final step, is to add some washes to the walls and bases. Dilute some brown paint with water, and apply to the walls and bases -- try to focus on the lower sections of the wall.

You can also add a darker brown wash to the wooden planks too. 

With that done, your new terrain is effectively finished. You can go further and use weathering powders, etc, to the model but that is completely your decision.

Now, you just need to set up a wargame to show off your hard work! Well done you. 

Interesting Engineering is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and various other affiliate programs, and as such there might be affiliate links to the products in this article. By clicking the links and shopping at partner sites, you do not only get the materials you need but also are supporting our website.

Sours: https://interestingengineering.com/video/heres-how-to-build-your-own-realistic-dd-ruins
The Comprehensive Newbie Crash Course for DIY Terrain for Dungeons \u0026 Dragons

Gaming terrain that's easy to build and easy on your wallet.

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Easy enough for Beginners. Deep enough for Pros.

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Terrain d&d diy

OnThe Geek & Sundry Painters Guild, host Will Friedle (who is new to the hobby) is joined by veteran hobbyists who show him the ins and outs of painting minis. Join him on his journey this Monday for another episode on Alpha.

There’s something about painted miniatures charging across a custom built table full of scenic terrain that gets the dice clattering in the biological dice cup I call my heart. Miniature wargames are cinematic by their very nature and a well-crafted backdrop elevates the experience. The downside is that scenery can often take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Fortunately, it doesn’t always have to be that way. For about $15 USD and some painting supplies, you can send your warriors into battle across these stunning stepped hills and mountains. I made these in only two nights!

Step 1 – Gather your supplies. The base of these hills is pink insulation foam. It’s about $10 for a 4’x8’ board at the local orange-colored home supplies store. You’ll also need some PVA glue, a sharp knife or box cutter, sand, and paint. You can get sand and dirt from the local playground or your backyard; no need to buy the fancy stuff unless you want to. You can also gussy these up with some basing supplies if you have those at hand.

Step 2 – Cut out your hills. Trace irregular shapes onto your board with a pencil and then cut them out with your knife. Long narrow crests, big round hills, or weird irregular shapes are fine. Be creative. If you want to stack pieces like I did, make sure your bases are big and you draw some smaller shapes that will fit on top. You want to make sure there’s room on each level for your miniatures to stand. Note: some brands of foam have a plastic film on each side that you can peel off to make this easier

Step 3 – Form the edges and ridges. Flip your knife over to the back edge and drag it along the sides and edges of your hills. You may have to push hard to get the foam to begin crumbling and flaking off, so take great care around sharp blades. If you have one, I recommend a normal kitchen knife or butter knife for this step. As you push, dig, and drag your tool across the foam it will begin to break and flake off, giving your hills the rough natural edges you want. In the picture below the foam on the right-side of the knife is clean after cutting, on the left I’ve started the ridge-making process. This step is messy so do it somewhere that’s easy to clean up!


Step 4 – Stack pieces on top of each other and glue them down! Let dry for a few hours.


Step 5 – Brush PVA glue onto all the flat surfaces and cover with dirt, sand, and tiny pebbles. These are available from any FLGS that sells miniature supplies but can also be collected outside. Take your dog for a walk and pick some up along the way!


Step 6 – Paint or prime your hills black. Spray primer is much easier, just be careful it doesn’t dissolve the foam. Krylon H2O and Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2x Black Matte Primer are the two brands I know for sure will work. Make sure the paint gets into the deep recesses of your ridges; this will do half the painting work for you!


Step 7 – It’s drybrushing time! Once the primer has fully dried (about 24 hours) you can start turning these lumps of foam into mountains. If you aren’t familiar with drybrushing, it’s a super simple technique used to lighten up the edges of things. Exactly what you need for this. You can watch Teri do it in her tutorial video here . The basic premise is that you load up a dark grey on your brush and then wipe most of it off on a paper towel. I’d say about 75-80% for this first coat. Then you rapidly flick and drag your brush back and forth along those ridges.

When the dark gray is done, go to a medium-light gray and repeat the process – only this time take about 80-90% of the paint off on the paper towel. When your brush has more paint on it, it will deposit it deeper in the recess, with less paint it stays up on the brighter parts.  When that’s done, do it again with light gray (90-95% paint wiped off). The final pass is done with pure bright white and this time you want to take so much paint off the brush you can’t see any on the paper towel when you rub it. This will deposit white paint only on the highest and brightest ridges of your mountain.

At this point, you could call it a day. Leaving the tops painted black could make for a cool scorched earth terrain. However, with just a few more steps you can diversify your terrain.


Step 7 – Drybrush the sand and stones on the top of your terrain. Using the exact same technique as the sides, use reds, beiges, and tans to match any landscape you want.


Step 8 – Go for gusto with details. Static grass, flock, and little puffs of grass can really make your terrain pop. Use the same materials you use for basing your miniatures!


A coat of Matte Spray will help these decorate your tablescape for a long time. The great thing about these hills is that they’re light and easy to transport. By using foam that’s 1/2″ thick it’s also easy to measure them for games where it’s important to know vertical distances.

Happy crafting!

Do you enjoy building terrain? Any tips for making your own? Share them in comments!

Image Credits: Raf Cordero

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.


diy, miniatures, terrain, wargames, Warhammer 40K

Sours: https://geekandsundry.com/how-to-make-gorgeous-tabletop-terrain-for-less-than-15/
Just starting? Terrain you should build FIRST.

22 Terrain Hacks For the Low Budget Game Master


Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #516

Last week featured minis tips on the cheap. This week, the series continues with ideas for doing terrain without breaking your budget.

  1. For scenery, keep some rocks, pebbles, lichen and large chips of bark in a shoebox. You can increase the atmosphere a lot with simple terrain.
  2. Junked tire. Cut an old tire from a car, bike or lawnmower into strips or squares for use as terrain markers, burned out building ruins, strange floors, and so on.
  3. Playdough. Easily moldable into virtually any shape, and near infinitely reuseable (just add water) it makes for excellent terrain with minis. Use the various colors combined with some cookie cutters or mini molds to craft forests, trees, building shapes, boulders. Let key pieces harden overnight to give stone walls more durability, and leave more easily destroyable things (such as bushes) soft and deformable to the encounter’s conflict.
  4. Use playdough to make enjoyable area effect displays (from things like spells or explosives) to spice up combat. Most players I know love to deform the terrain when using minis if given the opportunity. Google for easy playdough recipes.
  5. Aquarium decorations make great cheap alternatives for terrain. For example, plastic coral makes great mountains.
  6. Use styrox, or as some call it, expanded polystyrene (EPS). It is available for a pittance or for free. Use a sharp knife to make near-instant 3D landscapes. Make them modular for easy storage. Add key features from toys or crafts. Glue felt or canvas on the styrox for colour, or use spray paint that does not melt the shapes.
  7. Use water-based paint to temporarily paint dried playdough figures and terrain areas, or to add a splash of color to dry erase style boards and battle mats without burning through the colored markers. (It generally washes off dry/wet erase boards without staining them, but check in a small corner to make sure first.) This can be good for adding trails of blood, splashes of acid or fire, or other sudden special effects to terrain, and gives them a more natural 3D quality than a marker would.
  8. Legos. These are fun and easy enough to acquire in bulk from yard sales or eBay (or raid a family member’s toy box for the evening). While a little pricey when buying new lego kits, the reusability factor alone makes them worth the cost (and with a little paint and artistic flair, they can be further customized easily). They have the added benefit of being destroyable during combat encounters, adding another level of interactivity to scenes.
  9. Lincoln Logs. Another reusable terrain option you can buy on the cheap at yard sales or eBay. They can be used to quickly construct buildings or barricades on mini maps without much fuss, and can be reused endlessly. For sci-fi games, a little paint can turn them into passable steel tubing or metal walls without much effort.
  10. Sugar cubes and hot glue. These work well to quickly build walls or ruined building structures without a lot of money or effort. Perfect for winter settings, a quick hit of gray spray paint after building can turn them into castle or stone walls in no time.
  11. Carpet and linoleum scraps. Nearly any furniture, tile or carpet store will have a ton of these they’ll be happy to part with for free. You can find pieces ranging from as little as 1 foot square to as much as 4 foot long strips several inches wide. A little model knife or scissor work later and you have lots of ground material for forests, rivers, buildings, and so on. Trim tall carpets with sharp scissors so minis stand on them well.
  12. A small sand box. Play-sand makes perfect terrain. Use brown sand for desert, white sand for arctic or winter. Mold sand into all sorts of destroyable terrain with minimal effort and a few drops of water. One small caution: if used in an area where cats are present, keep the box covered when not in use to avoid unpleasant random encounters.
  13. Zen garden. Did you get a zen garden as a gift one year and now it sits unused? Put it on the game table as a cool special effect area or use it as a physical puzzle.
  14. Printable paper terrain works great.
  15. Putting together furniture and other objects commonly found in taverns and houses is a good investment since they can be reused quite often.
  16. For zones or spell effects, I like to make custom templates from paint swatches that are available for free from the hardware store. For walls, I take a pipe cleaner and attach 1″ squares along them to mark out the shape. After that, I make a 1×2 stand-up card to represent the effect (fire, ice, smoke). I’ll be writing a post on how to do this on rpgmusings.com, where I’ve also explained how to make zone effects, under the title DIY Templates.
  17. Add 3D relief to your battlemats. Cut out sections of gridded paper and glue it to different sized cardboard boxes.
  18. Players shouldn’t be scared to make their own mini monsters. Good times making soap monsters, golems out of any material that will dry or stick together, cutting up farm animal figs or other toys to make giant abominations.
  19. Christmas time at the dollar stores is ideal for cheap minis terrain. I’ve picked up packs of trees for a buck. I even found some dungeon type walls. Some minor painting gets rid of the xmasy look on them.
  20. To make blast and burst templates, use pliers to open up a metal coat hanger. Bend the hanger into the appropriate sized shape. Cut the ends with a cheap pair of wire cutters. Use a file to dull off the sharp wire ends. Bonus step: I use heat shrink (you can get this at Radio Shack) to close off the square to eliminate the sharp ends and help keep the square whole.
  21. For swarms and minions, I make tokens out of Sculpey and write letters and numbers on them once they’re done. You just roll the clay into a ball then press down with your thumb to make the tokens.

Scratched and old CDs (AOL and WoW discs, anyone?) make ideal bases for do it yourself terrain. Paint the disc, glue on your rocks, peddles, trees and other terrain, and then place on the battlemat whenever you need.

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A Brief Word from Johnn

Riddleport Session 19 Log

We played last week, after an unscheduled month away from the campaign.

It was a great session, but so much happened to report on that I moved the log from where it usually appears in this spot to its own article later in the newsletter.

Let me know if the long format is too much.

5 Room Dungeon Volumes Zipped into Single Download

All 18 volumes of the 5 Room Dungeons series are now available a single zip file. This should make downloading easier. The single PDF of all the dungeons is still available, but for those who want to use or print volumes individually, you do not have to download all 18 one at a time any more.

Thanks to C.W.Holeman III for this idea.

Get the 5 Room Dungeons!

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Riddleport Session 19 – Power Struggle

This ended up being a tricky session to GM. Just four of six players were present.

In addition, instead of continuing further into the cavern complex discovered last session, the PCs unexpectedly decided to return to town and take care of some business.

Finally, the PCs triggered an investigation-pursuit mini- plot, and it was interesting playing out something forwards in time that I developed by going backwards in the timeline.

It’s a miracle

Last session ended with Fane the dwarf being slain by a family of arumvorax – vicious dungeon cats. The dwarf’s player and I met between sessions over coffee to chat about how he wanted to proceed. His first choice was to somehow continue playing his character.

No problem; we settled on his character having a conversation with his god in the afterlife. His god has a stake in Riddleport, so it was easy conjuring up a plausible quest in exchange for bringing the character back to life. A miracle!

At the metagame level, as we played a month ago, I wanted to keep the game moving along at a fast pace. I wanted to forestall an in-character party debate about whether to pay to resurrect Fane, and whether to venture further into the caverns. It would have been a great discussion, but the game needed to advance to get some wind back into its sails.

With Fane back, the party would not have to wring their hands about continuing onward or metagaming and getting Fane rezzed so the player could participate in play sooner than later.

A mysterious watcher

The party is glad to have Fane back, but decide to return to town, rest up, and take care of a few items of business. Leaving the caverns into the abandoned lighthouse above, they exit into the early morning air. A glance at the sea reveals ominous clouds – another storm is coming to besiege the port city.

Following the path back the group senses someone watching them. They get a sound fix on the spy and charge, but the watcher escapes. The group discovers clawed footprints that just disappear after a few steps. The PCs conclude the spy was tengu, a mysterious bird faction they’ve encounter before, and move on.

A gang leader is green lit

Before hitting their home base, Crixus the pit fighter PC snags a Red Cap messenger and sends a message to Krug.

Krug is a street boss for the PCs’ patron. The message reads, “Klash retires today.”

Smooth move and good call. The PCs have given their boss notice they are taking out one of his minions, whom they have had violent encounters with in the past.

I overheard the players talking last session, and I think their plan is to take over Klash’s gang. That’ll be fun, if it happens. The gang is responsible for collecting extortion money from the neighbourhood merchants, for keeping the peace on district streets, and defending the district from rival Crime Lord gangs.

An angry lady

Back at The Chalice Inn, the party is confronted by a livid Lady Warren.

In session 18, the Lady returned to the inn carrying a wounded companion. She told the heroes her crew of mercenaries, the Diamond Rats, had heard there were caverns with untold treasures beneath the lighthouse. They indeed found a cavern, but were promptly struck down by a fire- breathing creature with five hideous heads. The Rats retreated with only Lady Warren and one other escaping alive.

The pair fled back to the Chalice, whereupon the Lady confided all this information to the PCs.

The next day, the PCs left for the lighthouse before Lady Warren awoke, apparently keen on getting all the treasure for themselves. I use the term heroes to reference the PCs with sarcasm hereon in.

So, the heroes return from the lighthouse and Lady Warren is waiting for them. She pounces. “You were supposed to take me with you!” Crixus responds with deadly insults. She storms out of the inn. It looks like the PCs have lost an ally – a rich ally, unfortunately.

Clash with Klash at the arena

The big moment arrives. After taking care of things at the inn, the party heads as one to the arena, where matches are scheduled to start at 12 candles. They arrive at 11 candles, spot the section in the stands where their district sits, and saddle on up to Krug, their Crime Lord’s street boss.

Klash and two of his thugs sit beside Krug. The street boss acknowledges the PCs, stands up and says he has business to attend. The stands are packed, and this move gives at least one PC room to sit beside Klash, murder in their eyes.

The PCs surround their three targets and attack. Spectators flee, many out of respect for the violence the PCs are getting a reputation for.

Klash jumps out of the stands and down into the arena. He makes it halfway across the sandy floor before getting cut down by fierce arrow fire. The muscle, Scab and Grim Fang, are no match for the heroes. Grim Fang falls unconscious. Scab surrenders and offers his services to the PCs – a true mercenary with his former employer’s blood still pooling.

As the PCs negotiate a weekly payment of 50 guilders for Scab’s services, an arrow strikes Crixus. Poison seeps into the wound. Crixus staggers, but rallies. Then a PC spots the assassin crouching on the topmost wall of the open-air arena.

In an amazing surge, the wounded pit fighter flies a hundred feet through the air and charges the archer. Crixus lays down the damage and the assassin collapses, then topples over the side to hit the street far below.

That little matter taken care of, the PCs dismiss Scab, pick up the bodies of Grim Fang, the archer, and Klash, and return to the Chalice. They are now leaders of a new gang, replacing Klash’s, all with the street boss’s blessing. Well done!

Another recruit, Klash’s plans revealed

The group revives the archer. He says his name is Tiger. Everyone thinks it is an alias, but do not press the point. They broker a deal in exchange for information. Tiger agrees to not attack the PCs for a year and a day, as his contract to kill Crixus is technically not fulfilled. However, Tiger reveals it was Klash who contracted him, and as Klash is dead the temporary truce becomes possible.

The PCs revive Grim Fang next. He quickly offers his services like Scab did. The Chalice Bastards, as the PCs are known in Riddleport, now have two henchmen.

The break-up

After matters are settled with Grim Fang, he asks about Scab and cannot believe his ears when the PCs tell him they let the man go. Grim Fang says Scab has probably returned to the Green Daggers’ headquarters and looted the place, with Klash now gone.

Everyone immediately heads to the Green Daggers’ HQ and find Klash’s girlfriend, Mira, on the stoop crying. Klash had given her a dear John note earlier in the day, before heading to the arena. Klash wrote he was headed out of town and not taking her with him.

She also confirms that Scab had been by an hour before and left with arms full of stuff. Mira is also the PCs’ barmaid at their inn. They calm her down, then send her to work. What kind employers.

The group then enters the HQ and confirms Scab has looted it all.

We owe how much?

The Green Daggers worked for Rictus, the local Crime Lord. Rictus is also the PCs’ patron. Now that the PCs have killed off or recruited the Daggers, they are now the gang. Grim Fang delivers terrible news that Scab’s treachery is more than just a missed opportunity to loot the Daggers.

The deal was the Green Daggers collected 15,000 guilders every Moonday from the neighbourhood merchants for protection fees. The PCs are now responsible for that payment, due Sunday. And Grim Fang says that Klash and the gang had blown through all the money this week partying.

But that’s ok, because Klash said he had a plan for getting more money to pay Rictus, and everybody would be ok. However, Scab has just taken all the money while looting the HQ, and Klash died without revealing his plans. The PCS have three days to come up with 15,000 guilders or risk the wrath of Rictus!

The group ponders their plight. Night falls. They need to find Scab and get that money. They decide to head to Mira’s apartment, on a hunch.

A gruesome surprise

The group heads to Mira’s. The door is ajar. Cautiously they enter and discover a body in a sack, tossed in a corner. With reluctance, they uncover the corpse. It is their fence, Wren.

Last night the party gave Wren all their undesired loot to cash in. She was to return with the guilders in two days. But now she lies dead in Mira’s apartment, penniless and with no loot.

Further investigation reveals the body was cut in many places and most of her blood would have bled out. A smart player reasons the fairly clean apartment is just the dump spot, not the scene of the murder. Another smart player asks why someone would want to frame Mira with Wren’s murder?

With no answers, the group leaves. In the darkness, returning to the Chalice, the PCs spot a flickering torch in the distance wending along the path to the lighthouse. “Must be Lady Warren,” Crixus mutters.

Not a ghost of a chance

The PCs bring Wren’s body back to the inn. They want to have her resurrected to find out who killed her and to get their loot back.

Way back in the campaign, the PCs’ neighbour Astrinus offered them free resurrections if they would sign a contract that gave their soul to Astrinus in the afterlife. Some PCs signed. The group’s plan now is to offer a soul to get Wren raised. Hey, it saves a buck, right?

The group approaches innkeeper Illium. Will he sign Astrinus’s contract to save Wren? No.

The party cannot believe it. They demand to know why. That is when Illium reveals a secret he’s been keeping since the start of the campaign.

Illium is a ghost.

Everybody is stunned. But it is true. He can make himself corporeal when needed, but he can also go ethereal at will, which he proves by fading out and passing his hand through Thorne’s shoulder.

So, Illium cannot offer a soul he does not possess to help Wren. Muttering, the PCs look for another…and eyes slowly turn to Thorne, a recent addition to the group. Thorne does not like it, but he agrees.

Smuggler’s treachery

They go next door, Thorne signs a contract, Wren gets rezzed.

Then the group interrogates her. The last thing she remembers is taking away the party’s goods to the port where her smuggler contact lairs. A shadowy arm grabbed her from behind and she lost consciousness.

Taking Wren along with Grim Fang, everybody heads to the port to see Wren’s smuggler.

Klash again

The smuggler tells a strange story of Scab bringing Wren to him drunk and barely conscious last night, with the PCs’ loot. Scab gets the smuggler to pay him for the goods at the standard rate, and then Scab leaves carrying Wren.

The PCs realize Klash is a step ahead of them yet again!

Furious, the group forces the fence to take them to his stash to give them the monies from the goods, which he had promptly sold after Scab’s departure.

The fence leads them along the beach to a hidden cave that contains just blankets and rotting furniture. He goes to the back and uncovers a secret hole in the rock. The smuggler jams his arm deep into the hole and then shouts in alarm. His money is gone. He has been robbed!

Scouting outside the cave, they find a set of footprints. They follow these along the beach, up a hill and to the lighthouse path. Whoever stole the money is in the lighthouse.

The scrying game

The PCs are furious. But they are nervous too. The deadline to pay Rictus looms.

They resort to magic. They send Velare to his guild to buy a scroll with a scry spell on it. He returns and casts it, questing for Scab.

An image quickly forms in the mage’s mind. It’s Scab basking in the warm glow of a hearth fire, surrounded by beautiful wenches and a crowd of sycophants.

He seems to be regaling all with some tale. He pauses, orders a new round of drinks for everybody, and then resumes amidst cheers from all. Velare pans back in his mind’s eye and realizes Scab is just up the street at the Gold Goblin tavern. The nerve of the guy, living it up and spending all their money!

We ended the session there. Next session the group will storm the Gold Goblin and seize Scab to collect what they are owed.

The players have put most of the pieces together. They figured a lot out during the game, and then puzzled out more stuff afterwards. Here is the backstory, with some extra details added in, just between you and me. (Spoiler warning for any of my players reading this!)

Klash knew the PCs were about to attack him, so he made a hasty exit plan. First, he pretended to spend the 15,000 guilders his gang had extorted. Though he did spend some, he hid most of the rest. Then he had his man Scab Ambush Wren to take her profits from the PCs’ loot. Klash knew the PCs did business with her, and counted on them needing her services this week, which they did.

Then Klash ordered Scab to follow the smuggler to discover where his stash was so he could rob him too, which ended up being pretty easy to do.

Next, Klash ordered Scab to kill Wren and put her body in Mira’s apartment to frame her for murder. That would take care of two loose ends at once. Klash left Mira a note and was preparing to head overland out of Riddleport, pockets bulging with over 25,000 guilders.

However, Klash made two errors. First, he did not count on Krug setting him up at the arena. Krug summoned Klash under the auspices of having good news for him. Klash went, then Krug took off, leaving him at the hands of the murderous Chalice Bastards.

Klash also did not count on the Bastards going to the extreme of raising Wren from the dead and letting them know about Scab plus the identity and location of her smuggler contact.

It is too bad, as Klash seemed to have a good plan. Poor guy.

As GM, I made a couple of mistakes. One resulted in a minor retcon between sessions.

First was getting the date wrong. I thought the PCs had given Wren their goods for fencing two days before, not one. That resulted in me making some hasty changes to Klash’s timeline. Fortunately, it worked out and no logic problems presented themselves.

Second was missing out a detail on Klash’s note to Mira. Klash had not only broken up with her, but had written he was leaving town with Wren. He did that to provide damning motive for Mira to kill Wren – a jealous lover dumped gets her revenge – as part of his setup of Mira.

The third was the worst. Scab was supposed to be in the lighthouse when the PCs scried him. The tracks at the smuggler’s cave were his. But when the PCs surprised me and did not follow the tracks, I forgot. During the scrying, I said on-the-fly Scab was partying it up at the Gold Goblin tavern.

The first mistake I fixed in the timeline and let the players know. No issues there.

The second mistake I will fix by saying Mira left out the detail about Wren when talking with the PCs. It is something a humiliated person would keep a secret anyways. The characters sensed motive on her, and she did reveal some information. If caught, Mira and I will come clean and just say the PCs did not press her enough. The third mistake causes no logic issues, at least.

I will rule that Scab went to the lighthouse, got bored, and went down the path to town and to the Gold Goblin. Klash hid most his money elsewhere in the city, and Scab only has the 5,000 guilders Klash gave him. And those guilders are going quick.

However, Scab must know the PCs are after him. And he’s partying just a block away. I will need to think on this before next session. I could just say Scab is being stupid. However, I’d prefer an answer with more adventure in it. We’ll see.

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy session log. A lot of stuff happened in session 19!

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Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Three Ways to Game with Casual Players

From Mark of the Pixie


I agree with your epiphany that we should play more.

One way I am looking at to help facilitate this (as work, children, and other responsibilities reduce our time) is the logistics of how we play.

Most of my games are fortnightly three-hour face-to-face table top sessions in the evenings with a regular team of players in campaigns that last several years.

I have also run a few monthly 20-70 player free forms (or LARPs) similar in format to most Camarilla games, also over several years, but have stopped because of the work involved and the lack of player and co-GM support and interest.

There have been a few convention games, as well – single – sessions with pre-generated characters.

However, I am experimenting with other way of doing it.

The Player Pool

One of my most successful tricks is the player pool. I have a roster of 10-16 players, each with a full character. Each game night some will turn up and some others won’t. I have nights with just 2 players and nights with 15, but most hover around 5 to 7 players.

I have to be flexible with which plots I run (and often have 2 to 3 in reserve), but the game is episodic enough that I am able to resolve each plot in one night.

Each character must have something else they are doing that explains any absence (one character is an academic and is occasionally be away at a conference, another often spends time with her family). Having these reasons means it never feels forced when a character is away, and they add depth to the world and the characters.

Players Play NPC Guest Stars

I also have some players guest star as regular NPCs. If the player is free, I work their NPC into the plot. Once or twice a year, I have a mini-freeform where I get 5 to 7 guest stars in to help me do a wedding or similar for the PCs.

Run Interlinked Campaigns

An idea I am currently trying is running 3 interlinked tabletops monthly. Each has 5 to 7 players, and take place in the same world.

I will hold occasional BBQs or dinners where I invite everyone in-character to chat and socialise “at the tavern.”

They can swap adventures, pass on information, trade quests and info on NPCs, or warn each other about different threats. They can even break up teams and reform into new groups.

My hope is for a low commitment game with a lot of PC-to-PC social interaction possible, but still a neat tabletop format for quests and personal plots.

I would be interested to hear how others run their games.

Organize Your Information with Evernote

From Jared Hunt

Evernote is a free service that I’ve used on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. There are versions for other mobiles and for Windows as well. It is a simple word processing program that incorporates online storage so you can share your notes across any number of your computers and devices.

One of the problems I’ve always had as a GM is keeping my notes organized. I’m one of those people who likes to have a way to record good ideas no matter where I am and, in the past, that meant lots of paper scraps, napkins with notes scrawled on them, and journals. Trying to find a specific idea was quite the chore.

Now I just use Evernote. No matter where I am, I’ll almost always have access to either my phone, my iPad or a computer with internet access. As long as I have at least one of those things, I can easily record my ideas and they are instantly synced across all my devices.

I also appreciate the ability to create and store notes via text, picture, or audio. If it’s useful, you can also add a geotag to sort by location.

Evernote has a robust system for tagging your notes that makes searching and sorting easy. I have a tag for each campaign, one for NPCs, world info, magic, and so on. You can add as many tags to an idea as you want.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect it could be a great way to take notes in-game too.

When You Need to Cast In Secret

From Morgan Joeck

One thing that bothered me when I first started gaming was identifying the spell I was casting when those around me would not have known what it was.

My solution to that was to print out colorful fractals or other designs on index cards and fold them into little envelopes containing the spell name and other information the GM needed inside each one.

Creating one envelope for each spell allowed me a simple way of knowing which spells I had prepared for the day and how many castings of each I had left.

I also thought it would make sense for the other players to learn something as we all adventured together.

Therefore, I used the same design each time I prepared a given spell and tried to coordinate the main colors of the design with the type of spell.

A Trick for Easier In-Game Communication

From Joseph Rapoport


In regards to creating simple communications in games, I play in two campaigns and DM one in which we have all arrived at the same solution for communication. The solution is an item, a small hollow metal tube, which acts like a Message spell.

The item comes in two forms:

  1. An expensive tube that doesn’t use charges
  2. A less expensive tube with charges that must continuously get recharged (great way to suck wealth from the party)

The party can communicate with anyone else they know who also has one of these items, as long as they are on the same plane. Prices are up to the DM.

Speeding Up Combat

From Len Henderson

One of the most enjoyable parts of roleplaying for many gamers is combat. However, especially in large groups, players can wait for a considerable amount of time between turns. This sort of wait leads to boredom and cross chatter, annoying the GM and the player whose turn it is.

Here are things I do to speed up combat.

Create Character Ability Cards

In my group, any ability or spell players might use should have an index card representing it. On the card are things the GM needs to know, such as range, casting time, requisite save, duration, and effect.

If a player says “I cast X,” he grabs the card and tells me what I want to know about X, rather than searching through the books to find it.

You should only need cards for those spells or abilities you actually use in combat, but I have players who have all their PCs’ spells and abilities on cards.

Create Rules Cards

I have a small box next to me with combat cards in it. Each card details a particular action that can occur in combat with the relevant rules for it. If one of my players says, “I attempt to trip the monster,” I can pull out the Trip card and the rules for tripping are detailed thereon. This saves having to pull out the book and finding the rule.

Create Foe Summary Cards

I write down on a card the combat statistics and special abilities of monsters or NPCs I know I’ll be using in the next game, especially if I’ll be using several different monsters in the same encounter.

This leads to less flicking through the monster manuals for statistics. If the monster or NPC uses spells or special abilities, I’ll do up a separate card for that as well. Magnetic Strips

Each player has a magnetic strip with their character’s name written on it. When initiative is resolved, I then put the strips on a metal backing board, in initiative order.

If initiative changes during combat, it is a simple matter to switch the strips around. I do the same with monster initiative.

Sandbox Delaying Players

I only give my players a short amount of time to complete their actions. If they are obviously delaying or are unsure of what they want to do, then I say, “Your character is delaying.” I then move their initiative strip to the side and do the next player’s turn.

When a delayed PC is ready, I move their initiative strip back into the order at the current point in initiative, and the player can take their turn.

PCs should be ready to take their action on their turn. There is plenty of time to plan whilst the other players are having their turn. Enforce In-Character Talking

Cutting down on cross chatter is a big thing in my games. If you want to chat to the person next to you about how little Suzy is the apple of your eye, she’d better be a character in my game, otherwise go elsewhere to do so.

Cross chatter destroys the atmosphere the GM is trying to create, and it distracts other players, which slows the game.

Reinforce with Body Language

I have found that the body language shown by the GM is mirrored by the players.

I generally lean forward, speak a little more softly but with more intensity, and increase the tempo of my speech. The players notice this and do the same.

Looking in books for rules, or any activity that breaks eye contact with the players, slows combat.

Beginning GMs will spend ten minutes perusing a monster manual for a particular rule or ability. This breaks the mood and lowers the tempo. It is better to make things up on the fly. If you we are wrong, so be it. Look the rule up and remember it for the next game.

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How-To Game Master Books

In addition to doing this newsletter, I have written several GMing books to inspire your games and make GMing easier and more fun:

NPC Essentials

Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for any game system and genre. This book will make a difference to your GMing.

Free preview: http://www.roleplayingtips.com/url/npceprev

Filling the Empty Chair

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One More Tip

I Smell Props

From Johnn

A discussion recently popped up in the GM Mastery Yahoo group when group member Randal asked about using smells in games:

“Have you ever noticed that when you smell a familiar smell it brings back all these memories? Just curious if any of you have tried to set the mood by burning incense or doing something else that brings out the imagination/memories of scent.

I was thinking of trying to find an incense that smelled a bit like camp fire smoke. Not only would it remind all of my players about their times camping and cooking around the fire, but when we actually go camping it would remind them about the game. Just a random thought.”

Here was my response:

Scent is powerful. Use it for key moments.

Avoid filling the room with scent. Not only might you affect allergies, but the scent lingers beyond its moment of use.

Instead, use props with scent, and pass them around:

  • A strip of leather
  • A strip of leather treated with a certain oil
  • A piece of firewood or coal
  • Oils and candles (no need to light, just smell the candle wax)
  • Moist dirt
  • Flowers
  • Grease

Put stuff in plastic containers or baby jars or whatever you can find so you can seal your prop up and reveal it at the perfect moment.

Others in the group responded as well, with tips about using essential oils, man candles, incense, Chinese pharmacy items, and cooking.

Sours: https://www.roleplayingtips.com/maps-minis/rpt516-22-terrain-hacks-for-the-low-budget-game-master/

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In such an environment, I did not want to think of anything else as beautiful. Oh, this is a real bottomless topic. Beetles flew overhead, they dived like heavy bombers, but very well emerged from any spin, flying around all kinds of obstacles. And somewhere even higher, whole flocks of some insects circled.

She could not see them, very high, but their bodies merged into a single mass of small flocks, if you can call them that.

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