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Crafting Immersive Dungeons – Scatter Terrain
Sep 28, 2022

Article by Tabletop Witchcraft

Hey there, and welcome back to the third article in our dungeon dive series where we are going to talk about a fun and limitless craft category, dungeon scatter terrain.  So far we have discussed the logic and methodology of crafting dungeon tiles and walls for our tabletop adventures.  Now we will prepare ourselves for what lies deep in the belly of our dungeon and a set of crafts that will no doubt have your friends coming back for more.

When it comes to scatter terrain there really is no right or wrong media or ideas.  Whatever you can imagine lives, grows, or exists in your dungeon is what you should craft!  Now keep in mind that dungeon scatter terrain can come in the form of many different things such as, obstructions, traps, furniture, structures such as fountains, pools of water, treasure and more!  I’m going to touch a bit on each of these builds.  You can see how it’s possible to really get lost on this topic so let’s keep our map out, and try and navigate these crafts as best we can.  Also keep in mind the description of all my videos (and soon my website) have links to all the items I discuss in this article.

Obstructions

Runestone Grim Hollow

Runestone

Obstructions are a craft that can be very forgiving and can be made relatively quickly.  For the purpose of this article, we’re going to talk about a large rock pile.  Now I know this sounds simple, and it is, but I love detail and that’s how we’re going to turn this dungeon from boring to exciting.  Rocks can be made from many different things from plaster to foam.  I really enjoy making boulders out of foam for scatter terrain.  When making a diorama or larger object pieces I’ll sometimes use plaster or clay.  Check out my “Interactive Runestones for Dungeons and Dragons” video on YouTube to get a better idea of what I mean.

To start our craft, we’re going to want to cut up some XPS foam in about 2” chunks.  If you don’t have foam this thick you can always glue sheets together.  They don’t have to be perfect as we’re going to cut and carve these up… a lot.  Taking an Olfa knife you want to cut these at an angle and form them just like any boulder you would see in nature.  Do a quick Google search if you need some inspiration.  Once you have these cut into round and oval shapes ranging from half inch to two inch stones grab some aluminum foil and texture the rocks.  Then break out your hot glue gun and start gluing them together working over a piece of parchment paper.  This will keep the rockpile from sticking to your table.  Next you can add some Sculptamold (papier mache and plaster mix) in between each crevasse.  Once it’s hardened you can then add a bit of PVA glue and sand to really bring this rock pile together.  Check out my “Exciting Cave Scatter Terrain” video to see my result.  I even added a skeleton under the rock pile for added details!

Skeleton Grim Hollw Ghostfire

Skeleton trapped under rocks

Next like our other crafts we’ll add our Mod Podge and black paint mixture.  This adds a nice black base coat and provides a bit of protection while the craft is on the table.  Next, we’ll want to base coat the stones in a medium grey.  This is where many crafters fall into the trap and end up with a very blah looking dungeon.  Try and add other colors to your stones like tan, brown, even small amounts of yellow, blue or green to make them more interesting to the eye.  Once dry add a black or even a brown wash to the foam.  Let that dry for twenty four hours then do a final dry brush with a light tan or warm white.  This will make all the angular pieces of the stone really pop!  Ok, here’s a pro tip… we’re not done yet.  Grab some dark brown pigment powder and dust the crevasses of the stones where they meet.  This will add an amazing look and tone to the rock pile, trust me!  Next place a bit of pigment fixer over the pigment to lock it in place or you can even spray it lightly with some rubbing alcohol to achieve the same result.  Finally give it a light dusting with Krylon Matte Finish and this is ready for the table.  

Traps

What a fun and exciting topic for our dungeon.  These can be as PG or gore filled as you want them to be.  Keep your audience in mind when creating these crafts.  I have a handful of traps on my channel ranging from acid pools to spike walls, to walls with circular blades sliding out to take out your players.  Let’s tackle the spike wall as I feel this has great replay value.  I originally crafted this trap to be placed around the inside perimeter of my Colosseum ADD COLOSSEUM PIC.  Since then, I have used these countless times in gameplay in my dungeons, caves, castles and more!  Make sure to check out my “Spike Wall Trap” after you read the article.  

To start we’re going to want to grab some popsicle sticks and cross hatch them to make a grid roughly three inches by three inches.  Once we have the grid held together with hot glue, we can then take a small pin vise or power drill and drill out some holes where they intersect, the diameter of a toothpick.  Next, we want to use a pair of wire cutters or your fingers and snap off the pointy end of a handful of toothpicks.  Stick them into the holes of your lattice work and hot glue into place.  Now to add even a bit more detail to this wall we’re going to cut out a square piece of granny grating and glue that to the back of our wall.  This piece can be painted up to look all like wood, or you can make it metal and work on your rust effect skills!  I recommend a combination of Thyphus Corrosion, Ryza Rust and Nihilakh Oxide for the latter.  Make sure to add a touch of silver paint to the tip of your spike to make that point stand out!  Finally, you can make your own capes or shields out of green stuff and spear them though your spikes as I did in my video or purchase some premade ones to really stress the danger level your players are about to encounter.  Also don’t forget to add some blood by mixing up some five minute epoxy and red paint to add all over your craft… if it’s appropriate for your audience of course.  

Furniture

Blacksmith Grim Hollow

Blacksmith accessories

Here’s a craft that has a tremendous amount of replay value, to be used in a dungeon, tavern, home, courtyard and more.  You can make many different pieces of furniture, and to be honest these are great beginner crafts.  Working with small pieces of foam these can be made in just hours, and if you mess up you can try again and get a finished result quickly.  I don’t need to tell you all the different options here, but I will suggest one to make, a crafting table!  Watch my “Blacksmith Accessory” video after reading this for a very versatile piece of furniture for your collection.

This is a piece that can be placed in a room in your dungeon, tavern, or even outside in a village or city.  Carved completely out of a solid block of foam you don’t have to worry about small bits breaking off.  You can place pegs on the back wall of your table with toothpicks and hang tools (purchased or made from green stuff) from it.  Making a small bit of rope from butcher’s twine is always a fun little detail.  You can add some wood grain detail to the foam using a pointy end clay sculpting tool.

Fountains

Water Fountain Ghostfire

Healing fountain

When it comes to exciting finds in a dungeon, nothing adds more uncertainty than the choice to drink from a mysterious fountain!  This is a build that’s a bit more complicated to discuss in this article but know that it is a great beginner craft for those that want to get into crafting buildings and working with resin.  I made a fountain inspired by the “Water of Healing” card from HeroQuest.  Making use of foam, resin, flocking, and chipboard you can create a very fun modular craft to be used in or out of your dungeon.  The video on YouTube is called “DIY Modular Healing Fountain & Crypt”.  This craft transforms from a fountain to a crypt in seconds.  I’m a big fan of modularity in your crafts.  With all the time we spend on them, getting as many uses out of one craft as we can really makes a craft worthwhile in my book!  If you’re feeling up to, give this craft a go and follow the tutorial step by step.  You got this!

Water Tiles

When you think of dungeon or cave settings and have your players come across a deep pool of water, typically the first thing they want to do is dive down and see what they can find at the bottom.  This is where the immersive visual tabletop crafts end and theater of the mind begins.  I wanted to overcome this issue and did so by creating watery passages and tiles using chipboard, acrylic sheets, and resin!  My video labeled “Ocean Tiles and Flooded Cave Tiles” will give you a good representation of this craft.  You’ll want to start by cutting out some chipboard to any dimension you want.  The obvious six by six tile is great, but don’t pass up the two inch by 6 inch corridor for your players to swim down.  You can then place a water tile six by six at the end of this one with a small island placed at the center for a hidden underwater grotto!  Place some cut pieces of 1/8” acrylic sheets around the chipboard.  This will act as your dam for your resin.  I place some sand on the chipboard and add a glue wash to hold it all together.  Once this is cured, take a disposable brush and paint on a thin layer of resin over the sand.  This will eliminate a ton of bubbles in your final build.  Next mix up your resin, I recommend Superclear Epoxy, and pour it to the top of your frame.  Once fully cured you can pull your acrylic sheets off and you’ll be left with a watery tile for your next game session.  For more details, again check out the video.

Treasure Tiles

Grim Hollow DnD Treasure Hoard

Dwarven burial chamber

Nothing will have your players jump off their seats faster than loot.  You can place just a few small, overfilled chests full of gold and gems on the table or you can go big time and create an entire treasure filled room.  I’ve done both on my channel.  The chests are hand carved with a very sharp X-Acto knife and are filled with fine jewels and gold.  The key to realistic looking gold is adding the right mixture of Gloss Mod Podge to your gold or silver glitter.  You want the mixture to be very dry looking as it doesn’t take much Mod Podge to hold tiny bits of glitter together.  This will make each piece of glitter stand out and look like an individual coin, adding too much Mod Podge and you’ll be left with a shiny looking turd!  Check out my “Miniature Treasure Chest” video to get the hang of this craft, then watch my “Dwarven Burial Chamber” video for massive loot piles the size of houses!

Ok, you now have the knowledge to craft a great set of dungeon scatter terrain that can be used in other settings making them much more valuable to the game master!  Be sure to check out a video or two from each section of this article to give you an idea of which craft you want to tackle next!  In our next article we’ve finally made it to our boss battle deep within the dungeon.  We’re going to talk about what it takes to make a killer craft for a final setting for our boss battle!

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.  Ok, until next time I’ll see you around.

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