Sunday, March 4, 2012

Instant Easy Lazy Dungeon Blocks

Oh my, wherever did this solid dense chunk of dungeon scenery come from? Surely Mister S such craftsmanship and verisimilitude must be expensive, not to mention heavy?

BY NO MEANS! It did, in truth, begin life as a humble pale hunk of mere styrofoam.
The nice part about using styrofoam is you pretty much get a new chunk of dungeon every time you have to replace a major appliance. This here Ghost Tower of Inverness-style dungeon trap came with my new Mac...
So really, this is cake easy--you can do it in like 3 minutes, seriously.

Get some black acrylic. Thin it in water. Why acrylic? Because enamel and oil are sticky and smell bad and hard to thin and because tempera flakes right off and gouache is just expensive tempera and ink and watercolor are just for people who don't know that acrylic is cheaper and does the same thing if you thin it down.
So you get a big floppy brush and dip it in there. Be SURE to use a Cherry Dr Pepper bottle--other bottles will not work.
Remember: Do all this in a clean, dry area--or not, you could just do it on your 80-year old hardwood floor. Fuck it, it's acrylic, cleans up with water.

It might kinda look wrong at first, just add lotsa paint and lotsa water, it'll settle...I personally find the texture can be either Old School Gray Dungeon or do double duty as Brutalized Postapocalyptic Concrete...

It dries pretty fast and voi-fucking-la...
Also, it's fun to throw them at people and they're like Aaaaahh....ohit'sjustafakerockaren'tyoucharming

So, yeah, ReduceReUseRecycleDumpsterDive all that good stuff and pretty soon you'll have an insane looking dungeon and your players will be like Wow where did you get the idea for that 3-tiered-arena? and you can be all It came to me on a vision quest in the desert instead of saying it's actually just the negative space around a coffee maker.


  1. As a wargamer, I'll warn you that after a while you'll end up with a garage full of odd-shaped polystyrene lumps that will definitely be useful and just the perfect shape one day...

    Also, for making ruins or weird rocks, poly cement (model airplane kit glue) or acetone will dissolve polystyrene and make crumbly/broken textures. Can take a little practice to get reliable, so do in little steps.
    Also please do outside or well ventilate unless you like headaches and stuff.

  2. I just crack it in half. Looks like crumbly stone instantly and no headaches or acetone.

  3. Have you tried watered down white glue and sand before giving it a wash (maybe a 20 second dry brushing after if you feel like it) also looks really good for little effort.

  4. This is why I have piles of negative space sitting around in a cupboard waiting to become awesome scenery. Just as soon as I finish tatting about with dagger and painting a dead hand.

  5. Daggers. Plural. I am tatting about with many daggers.

  6. That's awesome. Now if only the sound of Styrofoam didn't drive me mad.

  7. @orion

    Oh, I forgot: you have to play Formulas Fatal To The Flesh at maximum volume to get the blocks to come out right.

    1. Really? I find Bach yields perfectly satisfactory results.

  8. Actually, the trick with the acetone is that it will dissolve the styrofoam into ooky looking holes that look like giant spider-aliens live in them.
    Still gotta do it outside though... then paint with elmers glue and then some color that is right for ooky looking alien-spider holes.

  9. spray paint on polystyrene works awesome, i.e. gives it a nice shiny finish and eats it away in really cool ways before it dries.

    I got interrupted on a 3 day bender by some polystyrene used to pack fridges, they spoke to me with their curves and arcane linearity and demanded I stop the bender and built a giant aztec sun out of them. I did so and It Was Good.

  10. hey, isn't that the eight diagrams pole fighting devil?

  11. Do you apply just one coat of paint to the block, or a bunch?

  12. I'm pretty sure that was the negative space around my DRAGON (red) shaped humidifier. Way more appropriate that a coffee maker.

  13. I used to tdo this, and use polystyrene cement to warp and melt the blocks for my 40k scenery. Great stuff!

  14. I really appreciate the writing style in this post. It could have been so much more boring. It could have been as mundane and workmanlike as this comment!

  15. I don't use terrain in any of my games but this:

    "Get some black acrylic. Thin it in water. Why acrylic? Because enamel and oil are sticky and smell bad and hard to thin and because tempera flakes right off and gouache is just expensive tempera and ink and watercolor are just for people who don't know that acrylic is cheaper and does the same thing if you thin it down."

    This will save me lots of art supply cash.

  16. Zak, I love you! Man this is genius, and way cheep! So do you "tile" the dungeon then, or do you and the peeps freeball without a "tactical map?" Thanks again!

  17. Zak, I love this look. it's everywhere in your art, of course, so i've had a chance to feel like 'hey i want to make stuff that looks that way'.

    BUT -- i've never been able to get it though. i mean, i knew you were watering down mars black acrylic. but when i water down mars black acrylic, i get something distinctly unlike what you've got here. the little particles of carbon all cluster differently and the end result is distinctly milky-looking. it doesn't look tar-like, like the stuff in that plastic bottle there. i've never gotten to the way the acrylic settles and doesn't settle in your paintings.

    can you give me some guidance?? does this happen to you at different concentrations?? are there any 'don't do that's' to this technique??

  18. @LeThinkTank

    I don't usually run 4e so i don't need a tactical map but I often will create scenery and use Warhammer-style movement rules (in inches, 6" movement) if I feel like it'd be fun.


    1. try a less glossy black

    2. the paint sitting in the jar looking milky does not mean it will look milky when it is dry

  19. @Zak S

    ok thanks. i will try a less glossy black and have a bit more faith in the power of evaporation next time i play with water and acrylics.

    on a related note, i enjoy the way phthalocyanines end up looking with the same technique. (hell, they're just fascinating chemicals, even at the lewis structure (little geometrical lines and dashes) level.)

    but but carbon is, of course, one of the coolest elements in the periodic table, as any nanotech enthusiast will gladly admit... the carbonaceous aspect of your art is something i have always relished.