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Crafting Immersive Dungeons – A Place for Long Rests
Jan 11, 2023

Article by Tabletop Witchcraft

Hey there, and welcome back to the fifth and final article on how to craft an immersive and mesmerizing experience for your tabletop gaming sessions.

So far we have created some pretty exciting, modular, and extremely useful crafts that can be used not just for dungeon encounters but many others as well.  We have a nice stack of highly detailed dungeon tiles, a set of walls that can be used to direct our players or used for vertical gameplay, scatter terrain to fully immerse our players and keep them anxious to see what’s around the corner, and lastly, we created a final boss monster lair where our hero’s will test their wits in a fight for the ages!

Assuming you’re a merciful game master, and your friends make it out of the dungeon alive you’ll want a warm and welcoming environment for them to regroup, heal up, and talk about all the excitement of the adventure you just laid out before them.  We will accomplish this by making a multi-level tavern for them to explore.

I’ll touch upon some other buildings you might want to add to your village as well that will help to broaden your knowledge of crafting structures and give you ideas for other cool special effect options!  I’m even going to briefly discuss the impact of sound and smell at the game table.  Finally, before we get started head on over to DriveThruRPG (one of two sites I sell plans on, the other is itch.io) and download your free set of tavern plans so you can follow along with the build here, and by watching the full tutorial on YouTube.  Ok, it’s time to make our way to the tavern.

Imagine this, battle weary and tired your party returns to town victorious and eager to lighten their load.  The first stop, the most bustling building in town at this time of night, the tavern.  Your adventures enter, and are greeted by a myriad of sounds, smells, and the warmth of the roaring fire is a welcoming feeling, much different than the dark and dank dungeons they just finished exploring.  Your party spots an unoccupied table in the corner of the tavern and heads towards a table shuffling past the packed house.

Eager for some merriment, ale, and a home cooked meal the party lays down their gear under the table and you all take a seat.  Across the room stands a small fellow, famous to those that frequent the tavern, who is playing his lute and singing tales of epic journeys and heroic adventures.

The party’s attention is quickly diverted as the barmaid brings over a tray full of bread, local fruit, cheese, a bottle of mead, and some grogs of ale.  As these items are offered to the table, one of your party members says to leave the tray, and you all grab a drink and toast to your spoils of yet another successful quest.

Now imagine having all of that on your gaming table!  Many things can enhance the game experience for your players.  Choosing the right music when playing, or crafting, can make a huge difference in the overall experience as well as the smell.  I always have candles burning when crafting, and when we sit down to play. I match the setting, in this case a tavern, to any tavern ambiance music I can find on YouTube.  Placing this well-crafted tavern on the table full of NPCs, tables, chairs, a fireplace, and any other random scatter terrain, along with some cool tunes and the candle for ambiance I feel really connects the player to their miniature and increases immersion into the game.  So, let’s chat about how we can build this tavern for our collection.

There are a few parameters I like to follow when constructing buildings.  Each floor I try to keep at a height of three inches and buildings with playable interiors are held together with 3mmx6mm magnets. I use ShiftingLands windows to increase the detail of my builds while saving a bunch of time and use their shingle and brick jigs which does the same and keeps both items to scale.  Also make sure to step back from your craft from time to time to see where you can start adding minor details that really make your craft stand out from the rest!

Building Height

I find that when creating buildings, a standard wall height of three inches is best in most cases.  It allows the crafter just enough room to add windows and doors, and build out frames around each without looking too cramped.  You can also add other fun details like wood supports and columns and the scale won’t make them look too small.

Like all things, there are exceptions to this rule in both directions.  You might have some levels, usual foundations, that are around an inch in height or less.  You might find yourself building a cathedral or a grand hall and your wall height might be five inches or more!

miniature castle walls for tabletop games like D&D

Castles need high walls to keep invaders out!

When it comes to crafting materials, I love making my structures out of half inch XPS foam especially if the interior is a playable one.  With this thickness you can carve out recesses for windows and doors, chip away at stone to add a more 3D look, and it provides a much wider frame to embed magnets into as opposed to dollar store foam core to snap the different levels together.

Looking at the free plans you’ve downloaded, mentioned earlier, you can see the overall height of the walls and where the windows will be placed.  Try and keep all your main doors the same height and keep your windows to scale.  You can certainly vary the shape, size and style of each to make the build more interesting but avoid going too big or too small.

In this build I made my window frames out of XPS foam, and that’s fine, but they lack the overall detail you can get from a set of laser cut windows from ShiftingLands.com.  More on windows later in the article.  The walls are held together with hot glue as I don’t like waiting for regular PVA glue to cure.

Magnets

Anyone that watches one or two of my videos will quickly notice my love of magnets, especially the 3mm x 6mm magnet.  I find that adding these to the different levels of my crafts makes putting together and breaking down the different floors of my buildings much more enjoyable, not to mention they hold them together like a rock!

If you decide to use half inch XPS foam placing a six-millimeter magnet in the wall will leave you with about an 1/8” of foam on either side of the magnet.  To ensure that they line up properly I place one magnet in the foam and add a dab of paint to the magnet.

I then line up the next piece of foam and the paint leaves the correct placement for my other magnet on the opposing piece of foam.  Carving out a small hole is easy with an X-Acto knife, or you can burn a small hole out with a hot wire knife like the one made by Winons.  Finally, a bit of hot glue over the magnets will ensure they don’t rip out of the foam when in use.

Windows

I spent years trying to design window frames that were both quick and easy to make and something that I thought looked great on my buildings.  This for me proved to be a long and arduous task.  I’ve made windows out of foam, popsicle sticks, chipboard and more.  While I was happy with the outcome of some of these options there was always something that just didn’t sit right with me.

A haunted house miniature with large windows for tabletop games like D&D

Those who go in never come out!

I had always believed that these were such a small part of every craft that it had to be easy to make them, quickly and easily.  Fast forward to September of 2020 and a conversation I was having with Gerard Boom of ShiftingLands.  We both had decided to collaborate on a haunted house project just in time for Halloween.

After agreeing on a design, Gerard supplied materials and tools offered by his site, and I was to create the craft.  This craft had an immense number of windows, so Gerard agreed to supply all of them.  I’m glad he did!

These highly detailed windows not only looked great but shaved off at least a week or two of crafting time if I was to make them all myself.  See for yourself.

Compare my tavern windows, admittedly an early craft on my channel, to my haunted house build and you can see the difference.  You can even place clear packaging from toys, mylar sheets, or stained-glass sheets (available at ShiftingLands) behind your frames to really enhance their look.

Shingles and Bricks

A fantasy house with shingles. There are foam cutouts beside it showing how the shingles are made

Keep the rain and snow off!

Back in 2019 I had adopted a method of making shingles that was much like working at a deli counter cutting meat and cheese.  The tavern required a bunch of shingles, and I didn’t want to cut hundreds of individual shingles from chipboard or foam.  Granted that makes for a very rustic and unique roof, it also takes a very long time and is a very monotonous task.  Afterall, you must enjoy crafting if you plan to continue crafting for the long haul.

This leads me back to the deli slicer.  I took a half inch piece of XPS foam and stood it on end.  I then drew on that end the rough look of a single row of shingles.  Next, I cut out this shape on a Proxxon Hot Wire Table and was left with a bumpy three inch wide piece of foam.  Finally, I shaved that piece of foam at about a sixteenth of an inch thick to make many rows of shingles.

This is a great method but one issue I see with this time and time again is scale.  Many shingles that I see on crafts are about 5 times too large.  Today you can buy jigs for this at ShiftingLands that greatly reduces your crafting time while improving the overall look of your craft and keep those shingles at the correct size.

If you’re catching on to the gist, ShiftingLands.com is an excellent site for many different jigs when working with foam.  I recommend using tacky glue when placing shingles on your roof.  When working over dormers or oddly shaped sections, hot glue will hold them in place much better… just make sure the heat is low, so you don’t melt your foam as the shingles are very thin.

Special Effects

Smoke effects coupled with an LED or two can really enhance the look of any craft, by leap and bound!  Take for instance my alchemy shop.

A miniature fantasy alchemy shop with arcane smoke billowing out its chimney

Do you smell what the apoth(ecary) is cooking?

That is one of my most favorite buildings to date regardless of the smoke machine I have hidden inside.  Now you add a smoke machine billowing out smoke illuminated by a vibrant purple LED and you went from cool to mesmerizing!  The smoke machine is controlled by remote control so you can pump out the smoke as desired.

Easy to install, you just run the tubing to wherever you want the smoke to exit.  The biggest challenge is trying to hide it inside your craft.  If you don’t feel like taking on that challenge you can always run tubing across the table and keep the smoke machine behind your DM screen.

I sincerely hope you’ve taken away something new from this set of articles that will help improve your craft or has inspired you to pick up a piece of foam and begin your journey!  There is so much to experience and learn in this hobby that is why I’m still at it over thirty years later.

For more great crafting inspiration and content please visit me on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon at Tabletop WitchCRAFT, or visit my website that has links to the most common items I use, links to all my plans and merchandise, as well as discounts for all my affiliates.  May your crafting journey be a lifelong one, and until next time I’ll see you around.

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