Terrain – Rocks and rubble

I’ve gone back to terrain with a project that’s taken much longer to complete that I would have liked. It’s been cold and getting dark soon after I return from work, so I haven’t felt much like hobby work except on weekends.

My D&D campaign is underground and currently in a huge cavern, so rubble and rocks are quite normal on many of my battlemaps. I wanted something physical to go with the maps and figures, that makes it obvious to everyone where the terrain isn’t something you can ignore and walk across. It also means the terrain may actually be interacted with – cover, climbing, higher ground, etc.


None of this is carved foam or cardboard. I’ve used gravel (left over from past landscaping) and small stones from work, smashing some larger bits up to fill in gaps. I like the shapes, and that they have a bit of weight to them.

I picked out an assortment of square and rectangular bases, collected an assortment of stones (washed & dried) and started assembly. Each base got a bit of “multiple purpose cement”. This is a plaster-like material that I’ve been using to repairing cracks in interior walls. I’ve got a big tub of it and I keep seeing uses for it with miniatures. Stones were pushed into it and left to dry.

A second pass glued in small stones, and a third pass was more glue into gaps and then sand sprinkled on top. Everything got a few washes with thinned black and dark brown paint and some separate dabs of paint to darken anything that still seemed too light. Mostly I’d aimed for darkening rocks with black and using brown (and dark grey) in between the rocks.

The last stage was a mid grey paint on edges and a light dry brush to bring out some of the patterning in the stone, and then the same again with a pale grey. I went round the base edges in dark brown, and need to come back to touch up a few spots.

The sun came out yesterday so they went outside and got a good spray of varnish.

I’m very happy with they way they look. There isn’t overhang on all sides/bases, so its easy to position them close together or spread them out. I’d still like to do a few more pieces. I’d like to have a couple of very large bits, with some being flat on top.

Terrain – Taking a room from 2D to 3D

I’ve spent a lot of time recently learning a new (for me) mapping program – but I think that’s worth a post of it’s own. I’d decided to use it to re-do a few important rooms in my mega-dungeon and then expand on that by constructing one of the rooms. So the last week has been a terrain making experiment.

I have a room that is likely to see use in more than one D&D session, and it’s not a single level room. I’ve been thinking for a long time that chambers like this could be better represented on the table than by a simple 2D combat map. I’ve also been wanting to try something a bit different than simply painting figures. I can’t justify the expense of buying a lot of the terrain I’d like to have, but I have seen other blogs I follow where people are painting or scratch building stuff. I’ve really wanted a bunch of ruined buildings for use in multiple RPG’s. It was time for me to see what I could produce.

Here’s the finished model. It’s made from cardboard, light card, heavy paper and masking tape. It’s in three pieces to be able to move it around and store it without too much difficulty.

The first piece I made is the rear wall. This is double-corrugated cardboard – I’d wanted something solid to help support the balcony, and thick supports (on the pillars) for the side balconies. After painting I noted the horizontal corrugations create lines that resemble layers in the wall. It would be easy to use this as a guide and sketch in or mark bricks. It was something more time consuming that I wanted for this project. I could have made “proper” stairs, but I went with basic platforms to better support miniatures. Learning point 1: Thinner cardboard walls make folding/cutting easier and are more likely to stay in the shape you want as well as the dimensions. Most of my pillars turned out too thick on the corners to be square, and ended up a bit wider than they were meant to be even with some inner corner trim.

I was going to have the side balconies supported only by pillars, but then decided to construct another corner to brace the second set of stairs. I didn’t want walls to surround the entire structure as that would make positioning figures and lines of sight around the table much more complicated. This way you can see pretty much everything except from one end.

All the main components were glued. Once dry I sprayed them all black, then from slightly further away gave them a top down spray with white – leaving the lower sections darker. The effect of spraying (rather than brush work) leaves a nice speckled effect that I think gives a good stone effect. Most pieces were then dirtied-up (brush work) with thin black and various greys.

The balcony edges/railings are printed on thick paper (or very thin card). I found a bunch of useful fence templates online. Clipped a section, duplicated it in a line and stretched or compressed slightly to get the height and wide required. Learning point 2: Don’t print black on white – the contrast against grey walls is too strong. Next time I’d use a lighter grey as the base colour.

Initially I taped over most of the exposed corrugated edges, tried filling a few with moulding paste, and lastly painted exposed edges. The tape gave the best edges and painted well. Tape too thin tended to come away, so if I do this it needs a wide overlap. The bad side of this is that the tape edge is hard to hide. Moulding paste requires a LOT to fill gaps. What probably worked best overall (and not intentionally) was actually glue in the exposed gaps and then paint. I could do with a new craft glue, especially if I start a whole set of buildings. The one I have is quite viscous and tends to clump and/or string. Once fussed with enough, it does give a very firm bond and sets like a resin. (I’ve been considering using it for bow-strings on archer figures.)

The whole construction sits on a laminated colour print of the chamber. Laminated so that (when surrounding rooms are trimmed off) I can reuse it as a columned hall. My combat maps are usually black and white since they may not see much use again.

Overall I’m very happy with the way it looks, and it will be great setting it up for play when required. The next step is thinking about structure and drawing plans for maybe a dozen partially or completely ruined building sections. They may not be professionally constructed, but even a basic level construct adds a lot to a game compared to 2D printed sheet.

Painting THAT Dark Elf

I should have finished this one last weekend, but I got distracted… wanting to work on a dragon I had been given. That mini is coming along nicely, but this morning I made an effort to get the last of the detail and highlights down on Drizzt Do’Urden.

This is a single part metal figure by Ral Partha, 1988 for TSR “10-550 Drizzt”. I probably bought it on its own in a blister-pack way back then, and most likely because it was a figure with two swords, rather than for the character himself. I do have a lot of the novels of the Icewind Dale / Dark Elf / etc series that date from the late 80’s so I should have known ‘who’ I was buying.

The figure has been in a figure box for so long that when I picked it out for painting I took it for someone’s copy of Drizzt and not a licensed production until I went searching for some details.

I have a separate bunch of drow figures, and was more interested in this now for the two swords… so not painted as Drizzt. I’ve been playing a lot of Lord of the Rings Online recently, so I looked at images of the rangers from the game, picking a palette of mostly browns.

I really enjoyed painting this, once I worked out my colours. It was also great trying to do more work with highlights. I’m pretty comfortable with shading and washes, but getting the fine lines for good highlighting can be a struggle based on a combination of sculpted detail, focused eyesight and holding a fine brush steady. The sculpting on the figure itself helped a lot in this case. I’m also impressed that I didn’t just get the hair and the eyes right, but even managed eyebrows!


This guy is probably a very appropriate mini considering Christmas and New Years just past. He was completed on the Christmas weekend, but he’s only been taken outside this morning for a varnish where the bright sun and 30 degree heat (celcius) probably won’t do his hangover any good.

I was looking through mini boxes for some other figures and found him mixed in with painted figures that were being used in a D&D campaign run by a mate a few years back. He got my attention over the other three figures (started but not finished) on my desk.

I’ve done a bit of searching but can’t work out the manufacturer or anything on this specific dwarf. When he was chosen as a character to play, I filed the base flat taking off all the interesting things like names and dates. I’m sure that I’ve had him for at least thirty years… so he should be 1980’s, or early 90s. One piece metal with a round base. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a Citadel Bugman’s dwarf, but he’s not cluttered with detail like I expect from most of their figures and should also be slotta-base. I’m guessing Ral Partha.

Painting was fairly easy, and straightforward and not fussy like the two soldier figures I’m still working on. To give him more balance on the table top, the original base is glued to a 25mm thin round, with a little bit of extra stone decoration. I like the figure, and he certainly looks much better painted than as dull metal. This is very likely the only figure I have holding something as simple as a tankard, and not some weapon or magical device, etc.

Happy New Year!

Terrain – An assortment of plants

For what is probably a few years now, I’ve had the idea of creating some terrain for the various games I play. While a lot of ruined walls and buildings are high on the list, I’ve been thinking of an assortment of different plants for tabletop use too.

My work involves a wide range of artificial plants and plant related products. I’ve been collecting “bits” that would normally be thrown out that I thought I could utilise for a long time. Unfortunately, it looks like I threw some bits out when we moved house, but I’m collecting again.

I did have a bunch of pieces that required minimal work to be table ready and yesterday decided to finally see what I could do. I’ve completed 14 individual specimens.

Each of these is plastic (or rubber) and is a single piece – I haven’t had to assemble or glue the ‘plant’ itself together at all. All the round bases are 25mm plastic slotta-bases, where I’ve filled the slot and made a slightly wider (than the slot) hole in the middle. I had a whole lot of “second-hand” flocked bases that repainted would do for rough ground or desert-like terrain once repainted.

The flock on the bases had been a mix of greens. I glued a little sand for added texture, then gave them all a splotchy brush over in burnt sienna and yellow ochre. I have a ‘Nubian Flesh’ which is very thick and awkward to use on skin. (When thinned to a good painting consistency it looses a lot of its colour) I realised today that thinned it makes a great replacement for my Army Painter Quickshade Dark Tone, and it’s a much cheaper alternative. Finally a hint more yellow ochre and flesh, dry brushed on bits of the base tops.

The largest two plants have a short “stem” with a wire rod through the centre, that was trimmed short enough to stick into a prepared base. The others have had their wire removed entirely leaving the stem long enough to push into the base holes. All have been glued into place firmly.

The tall cactus with the pink-purple flower on top have a bit of stem still visible (though not in these shots) on top of the base. When I was taking photographs I realised that I should have used a bit more glue on the bottom of the plant, and pushed it all the way down onto the base, then trimmed the ‘stem’ that stuck out the bottom of the base. It’s not worth the effort to break the seal and rework them now… but in future that’s what I’d do if I make more. The smaller cacti with the red flower have two sizes – I made up three of each.

The main idea for all these is for use in Gamma World, where in addition to terrain, they could also be Green Folk (mutated plants) NPC’s or “monsters”. They will work fine in fantasy or other sci-fi games too.

The last image here shows the plants with the PC’s in my Gamma World campaign.

I really want a few more of the larger ‘spiky’ plant – I think that looks really good. It’s also time that I bought or created a proper saguaro cactus to do my wife’s PC justice. The one in the pic (on the left) was created from a garden twig. I’m sure I can do a much better job now.

D&D vs Warhammer 40k

I completed three figures yesterday and got them varnished today. These have been quite enjoyable to paint.

Two Mimics and a Ultramarine Terminator…

The pair of Mimics are from ‘Nolzur’s Marvellous Miniatures’. Both had almost no mold lines, and are great figures with a fair amount of detail, particularly with the transformation from inanimate object to hungry shape-changer. I’ve wanted this pair since they came out in 2020. Most of the online stores that I get figures from (and a bunch of other places that tried to get them from) over the last 18 months or so have been out of stock. One or two places had them (like eBay), but I wasn’t going to pay what they were asking. Mid this year, I checked again, and finally found places with stock at normal prices. I love the finished pieces.

The Terminator (a veteran Space marine with rare and much heavier armour than usual) has been painted in Ultramarine colours. He’ll go into my Space Crusade game box for now, since that’s where the rest of my 40k figures originate. This figure was given to me by a mate. I think he got it with a GW magazine – possibly White Dwarf. It was a multipart figure that snapped together allowing you to move the arms separately and swivel the upper torso. He’s glued solidly together now.

Painting Battletech (Part 4)

Here’s the last two of four Iron Wind Metals BattleTech mechs. I finished them just over a week ago, but I’d been waiting for some warmer weather to be able to spray varnish and let them dry.

The Dola (on the left) is quite large and was rather fiddly to assemble. A complete rethink of the basing helped made it stand up properly and I feel looks really good. The sword it holds has a fine joint between hand and blade, and bends too easily. It would be easy to break off if care isn’t taken with handling. The Gurhka was a bit easier, but I would have spent more care positioning the legs at the time of gluing if I’d realised that early that it could end up bot being entirely vertical in stance. By the time I was basing it, and realised, I wasn’t going to pull it apart and try again.

The DOL-1A1 is an Inner Sphere mech used as a skirmisher, primarily by House Liao’s Capellan Confederation. As such I’ve gone with a colour scheme used by the Capellan dragoons. It mounts a pair of medium lasers in addition to the sword.

The Gurkha, also an Inner Sphere mech, was developed by the Word of Blake. The GUR-2G is fast with good armour. It has a four-laser hand, sword and particle projector cannon. (I presume the PPC is the chest mount.)

I’m very glad to have these all done and even happier with the way they all look now. Here’s a shot with all four together:

That almost completely clears my painting tray. Of the six figures remaing, I only want to paint two of them – a Warhammer terminator and a possible Drizzt figure. (Warrior with two scimitars) Two more are old skeletons that need paint removed before I could start on them, and that’s part of the reason I’m not enthusiastic about them. Then I have a metal two-part black orc shaman, and a bones priest. I have a non-bones prepainted plastic of the priest already, and the shaman doesn’t really fit with my other orcs.

Painting Battletech (Part 3)

Two of the four BattleTech mech’s are completed. I’ve been doing a little bit each evening during the week and thoroughly enjoyed painting these.

On the left is the Roadrunner RD-1R (also called an Emerald Harrier) and the right the Lament LMT-2R.

For those who may be interested:

The Roadrunner is a Clan Jade Falcon mech, 15 tons from the Late Succession War (2901-3019, and used up to 3058). It’s a fast, lightly armoured mech with two medium lasers.

The Lament is a heavy Inner Sphere mech, 65 ton created for the armed forces of the Republic of the Sphere about 3127. (Dark Age 3131-3150) Mostly used by regiments of Stone’s Brigade. This heavily armoured mech has a heavy particle projection cannon on each arm, and three medium lasers on the upper torso.

Painting Schemes:

I couldn’t find specific colours for the Jade Falcon Clan (and didn’t look too hard) but did find many other JF mech’s painted in dark green with yellow panels… worked for me!

The Lament is painted in Stone’s Brigade spec’s, specifically following that of the 52nd Shadow Division. I’m not a Battletech nut, so I’ve ignored the “fact” that this divisiion was mostly active about 50 years earlier. I like the colours! The figure had a distinct hole/dimple in the lower right leg. I tried filling this, but wasn’t entirely successful and decided to do it up as battle damage.

EDIT: Got my colour scheme and mechs confused. Shadow Division is actually ‘Word of Blake’ which should be the Gurkha. Stone’s Brigade has a bunch of designs (not red) that were possibly beyond my skill, but I still like the red and black I used.

Here’s an outside image taken which brings up the colours differently for some comparison.

If I had decals or much better freehand, it would be nice to add insignia on some of the panels, but I don’t… so this is it. Two done, two to go!

PS: Hope you like them my friend Asmodeus!

Painting BattleTech (Part 2)

BattleTech has been around in multiple forms since 1984. The closest I got to it myself was watching Robotech (and similar anime) and playing a little bit of the Robotech RPG (Palladium 1986).

These metal figures were produced by Iron Wind Metals in 2011-2015, though I noted the Gurkha actually had Ral Partha 2002 on the frame.

Separation and clean up was pretty easy. Lots of flash and a fair number of mold lines, that meant I spent a fair amount of time with clippers, knife and file.

The Roadrunner is the simplest of the lot, but the other three are exactly what I don’t like with multi-part figures. The only advantage I see in multi-part is if it allows alternate posing or positioning.

The Gurkha is 5 parts, and could have been two. (I would think the arm with the sword is good being separate)There’s really only one way to put it together without bending the metal.

The Lament is 8 parts and the feet should have been part of the legs. You can, at least, swivel this at the waist, and with careful filing possibly tilt the arms.

The Dola mech is the best and worst simultaneously. 8 parts, almost all with ball and socket joints, do allow some potential for posing, but making sure it all stays together and can still stand upright is going to be… interesting!

Two of the figures had no bases, and I’m not using the two small thin bases that were supplied. I was thrilled to find some good sized metal hexagonal bases (and a round one that’s had some filing) in my stuff to better suit the size and weight of all this pewter!

Left to Right: Dola, Gurkha, Roadrunner, Lament. From assembled but unpainted, through varying degrees of painting.

Making sure that legs line up in three dimensions has been harder than I’d expected. I’d been mostly concerned with gluing the legs “straight” and having the mech stand properly on the base. What I hadn’t considered was doing this and having the rest of the body in a balanced looking position.

The Lament intentionally leans slightly to one side because I positioned it with one leg slightly raised as if stepping forward. The Gurkha has legs cast in different positions and he ended up with the feet somewhat closer together than they should have been giving him a bit of an unintentional lean. (I’d done him first and once I realised this, didn’t want to break or dissolve the bond to try repositioning) The Dola was last, and all looked good until I realised the arms when joined to the rear of the broad flattened torso, would make it look like it was leaning back. It is sculpted to be stepping forward, which isn’t as bad as if it was meant to be standing upright. Not the effect I wanted, but only distinct from a side/rear profile. My image from the net has the torso at a steep forward angle that I didn’t like, and this is likely the reason why that was done. I’m going to re-do the base with a slant that he’s walking down. I’ve got some nice pieces of slate that need trimming and filing/cutting.

Painting Battletech

I haven’t really had the interest to paint much this year… the summer heat, the distraction of reading, computer games, and writing role-playing stuff have all been factors. My tray of stuff to paint has been nine figures (four of them daemonettes I’d prefer to sell or give away) for months and aren’t inspiring me.

On Friday I had lunch with a friend who gave me four Battletech mechs to assemble and paint. These are quite different from my usual figures, but are interesting enough to keep my attention for a while.

These are a Gurkha GUR-2G, a Dola Mech, a Lament LMT-2R and a Roadrunner RD-1R. The first three are Inner Sphere mechs, and the last a Clan mech, all from slightly different Era’s – Jihad, Civil War, Dark Age & Late Succession War. That all means very little to me, but I’ve only started my research so that I know both what I’m painting, and how typical colour schemes should look like.

All are metal figures produced by Iron Wind Metals. Finally some painting to look forward to!