Monday, February 29, 2016

Ruined City Redux

When we started playing Frostgrave back in the fall I got thinking I should make some MORE ruined city terrain. The Ruined City Terrain I originally make I've used for everything from Cold War Gone Hot to World War Two to Weird War Two to Post-Apocalyptic to VBCW and such and much, much more (that I can't find quickly enough  to add to this post...). Many have asked me to do terrain making tutorials when I got to making stuff again, so I tried to take pictures as I went to try and put together a tutorial afterwards. but as I get going I forget to take pictures as I get involved in MAKING STUFF. So what follows is less of a "Tutorial" or "How-To" than a few process pictures and an attempt to briefly explain the madness that goes on behind the scenes in Tim's Terrain Building Workshop. 

The first pictures were taken last autumn when I got started on this. I spent an afternoon or two working on this stuff and then it got cold or I got lazy or simply busy with other things (you know how it is...) and didn't do any more work on any of this until about three weeks ago when I started ramping up preparations for the Frostgrave Campaign Weekend - which just finished (expect a full report of the weekend's shenanigans shortly...).

First I cut a bunch of MDF panels into strips of 1/8", 1/4", and 3/4" on a tablesaw. The 1/8 and 1/4 I bought panels specifically for hobby projects, the 3/4 I recycled from some shelves that had been built in our house by the previous owner and were torn out a couple years back when we did some extensive renovations. Don't ask what the widths of the strips were - I don't remember... and I didn't take notes... and to be honest I didn't even have much of a plan - with terrain building (especially RUINED terrain building) I kind of just make it up as I go. If I had to guess the strips ranged from 4" wide to 6"...?

Next I cut a wavy/jagged line down the middle of a  bunch of the 1/4" and 3/4" strips... both halves will be used as ruined walls.

a bunch of the 1/8" strips were roughly cut to make bases for ruined bits of walls...

...and then rounded off.

More bases for ruined bits - walls... small buildings...

I also took two blocks of 3/4" MDF....

and made one into sets of stairs (on the left) - trying out small steps that will look mroe realistic, and one with bigger steps - less realistic but more likely that figures will be able to stand on them. On the right are two bits I intended to be stepped ruined walls that figures would be able to climb up to get to a higher level of the building or wall where there aren't any proper steps anymore. I have yet to use either of these in a building yet... but I had the pictures so I thought I'd include them...

Here's an example of a partly built ruined wall bit - the base is one of those pieces of 1/8" MDF. The wall is 1/4" MDF - I made the broken tops of the walls more jagged by cutting them with an Olfa utility knife. This is really the most time-consuming part of hte process - carving the edges of the MDF to make it look like broken wall..

I put some sand on the base and little bits of extruded polystyrene which were then covered with small bits of gravel. There will be more detailed pictures of this process below.

I also made some simple piles of rubble - to block line of sight (or at least give some cover) and create areas of bad-going. These were simplpy 1/8" MDF bases with extruded polystyrene glues on.

Some sand was added to the bases.

Then some gravel was glued to the polystyrene and the base - in some cases this was left to dry and then I glued more on in patches to make it look more like a pile than stuff glued  to something cut at harsh angles...

Then the whole mess is painted - first with black over everything, then brown on the base part. Then I did a heavy drybrushing with a grey over the stuff that's going to be rubble, followed by a second lighter drybrush with a lighter grey. The I did a drybrushing of a lighter brown on teh base parts and wasn't terribly careful about it (on purpose) as bits of the lighter brown just end up looking like people have walked in mudified dirt and tramped it over the rubble - or dirt has simple blow up over teh rubble...

The rubble piles with some recently make wall bits.

This was teh beginnings of a ruined temple I started in the fall. There was a bit more planning that went into this one... but what plans I had were pencil notes and diagrams of scrp paper that would only have made any senst to me and have long since been recycled...

When I got workign on it again a few weeks back I decided to add a pool (or maybe that had been my plan all along...?) as well as a few freestanding pools - that could be used for the Well of Dreams and Sorrows scenario (on of my favourites) or something similar.

I made these pools by cutting pairs of circles in 1/4" MDF with hole-saws. (I think they were 2.5"...?) and then one of each pair I carefully drilled out with a spade bit.

Afterwards I carved them with the utility knife to make them look like rough (or worn) stonework and found bases for the standalone ones - not circular bases, but odd-shaped.

The top (hollowed out) bit was glued onto the bottom bit and then glued to the base with Weldbond (a carpenter's white glue - which is what I do pretty much all my terrain gluing with). then some sand was added to the bases and a bit of gravel to make some rubble or loose stones.

Well and bits of rubble added to the ruined temple. Teh hole from teh hole-sae drill bit was filled in with some kind of spackle/filler... Had to do it twice...

Painting - as the walls above - black, then grey, then lighter grey for the ruined city/rubble. One of the wells/pools I made to go with my Mud-Brick Village - it just got successive layers of browns and tans...

More shots of the painting stages.

I did some "experimenting" with the liquids in the pools... layes upon layers were added until I was not so much satisfied as sick of it and decided what I got to was good enough (look for the finished pools in game reports!) and then added a layer of gloss varnish to make it look a bit more reflective.

a ruined building - made from those same ruined wall bits above - fashioned together on a bigger base. This one I tried adding a partial second floor.

 I wasn't totally happy with the results - I think I made the second floor 2" above the ground floor - which just wasn't tall enough. When I get to doing more I'll make the second floors AT LEAST 3" above ground level!

Sand and gravel rubble added.

I also made the doors and windows to low...

I suppose this could be a ruined Halfling bakery...?

And with the final paint job...

Just not enough room under that second floor to get figures and my fat little fingers under there to move them about...

Another ruined building - this one is only one level, but has a few interior walls.

Bits set up with the walls set in place where they will eventually be... the walls will be carved and then glued into place and then bits of polystyrene to bulk up areas of piled rubble... sand... gravel... painting... I neglected to take pictures of all these steps...

Here is what the finish product looked like...

Same thing from a different angle...

Yet another, smaller building that I took no process pictures of...

This was meant to be a mausoleum or some such building with a single entrance, but walls crumbled low enough in one corner that they could be scaled.

I left a flat enough area in the center so I could place this Sarcophagus from Reaper Miniatures - which I also just finished up this week!

Hmmm... that looks a less like a "final resting place" and more like "fresh linens"... Who could be residing in here!? Find out in the Frostgrave Campaign Weekend game report - coming up next.

While not exactly step-by-step instructions with plans and measurements all laid out, I hope this has been helpful and/or inspiring to at least some of you! If you do make anything inspired by these please post a link to pictures of them in teh comments section below!


  1. Wow! Fantastic work there, I'm very impressed =]

  2. Brilliant...and very handy. Sadly I'm crap at DIY and consequently don't have much in the way of decent tools but I'm inspired...I may even have a look in the local DIY shop!

    1. Thanks Gordon. This is partly the reason I don't do a THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE IT sort of post with precise instructions and measurements and lists of tools and supplies involved - because I know the vast majority of gamers out there simply don't have access to the sorts of tools I do. My hope is to inspire rather than instruct. Take what you can from it and incorporate it into what you do know how to do or use materials you do have access to in a different way. A lot of what I am doing could just as easily be done without powertools and MDF - I'm sure a lot could simply be done using card, foamcore, and extruded polystyrene instead of MDF - which would mean all you need is a good sharp utility knife.

  3. Blimey, Tim - excellent work, really impressive!

  4. Thanks Tim. Fantastic post. The rubble piles look really effective even though they're so simple: I'll definitely have to make some of those. The wells are really clever too. And the ruins look great. Top post all round!

    1. Can't wait to see what you come up with! Thanks!

  5. Excellent pile of ruins! I like the way you carve up the mdf for things like the archways and well stonework and cracks and such! Mdf is a good material, sturdy and yet soft enough to carve easily. I also like the halfling bakery and your comment about filling the wells "until I was not so much satisfied as sick of it" made me chuckle. Knowingly.
    Definitely inspiring work. (and you're right that similar pieces could be made with materials like styrofoam and foamcore and even corrugated cardboard. It often comes down to what materials and tools people have access to and what they're comfortable working with. I do like using mdf myself, but haven't done any carving like you have; just simple painted on details. Like the mill in an old post of mine at or other buildings under the terrain tag.)

    1. Cheers!

      Your mill reminds me of a mill I made - back in the day - that I'd, until now, completely forgotten about. It is long gone. It was made of foamcore and card - as were most of my early attempts at miniature building. All but one of them are gone - destroyed because I am a bit of a slob... and a bit of a klutz... This is part of the reason I started using MDF ( a LARGE part of the reason...) - to stand up the the harsh treatment my terrain gets when not being played with.

  6. Tim, thank you for giving us a peek behind the curtain on your craftiness!
    Your ruined buildings are first rate! Rubble piles look very natural.

  7. I'm envious of your workshop. Great selection of what looks like cheap and hard wearing terrain.

    1. It is handy having access to power tools... thanks!

  8. This makes me want to dust off my handful of 28mm figures and buy a bigger house so I have room for them.

    1. I'm sure it could all be scaled down to whatever scale you happen to have!

  9. Having had the fortune of playing on Tim's terrain on several occasions, this stuff is hardy! More likely the dice would shatter before his terrain! We did get to use all those buildings above this past weekend & they worked extremely well!