Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hirst Arts Fantasy Dungeon Set

My First Hirst Arts Adventure ( Its like Lincoln Logs for adults)

As I mentioned in my earlier posting  here. I was looking to get into something to pass the winter months while work was slow and began painting figures. It was about this time I came across Kiltedyaksman's sites over at Discourse and Dragons and Red Box Niagara. I thoroughly enjoyed these blogs, especially the posts about his gaming sessions. When I saw his dungeon sets he had created using Hirst Arts I was quite impressed and totally obsessed with them. I had seen Hirst Arts here and there but the idea of making my own dungeon sets seemed daunting.

Up to this point I was also rather happy investing in my Dwarven Forge collection. But, somehow the idea of making my own dungeon sets appealed to me.Don't get me wrong, I love my Dwarven Forge stuff, but I have to say there are many configuration I am unable to do and I'm also stuck with their design pieces. As i painstakingly studied Kiltedyaksman's pieces, I became aware that they were a lot more user friendly for a DM. So I contacted Bruce over at Hirst Arts and he was VERY helpful in getting me started with a few molds.

I got a few wall and floor molds and started with plaster of paris. This was a good way to get used to working with the molds and the process of doing them. It is rather time consuming especially since I did them all by myself. The  problem with plaster of paris is that it was too chalky and brittle. So I then tried out Quickcrete which was readily available at my local hardware store. This product was much better than the plaster of paris, but often shrank a bit so all the pieces I created were slightly out of proportion and when I went to the gluing phase things didn't line up that well. They were also easy to chip or break if handled roughly or accidentally fell on the floor ( which happened a lot). I was pleased with my first few dozen pieces that I had made and after I glued them up  it was off to the painting phase.

I tried to duplicate the color Kiltedyaksman was using but couldn't get it down. Although I did manage to get close to the color scheme used by Dwarven Forge. But in the end  I decided to use a more grayish cast which was dark enough to work in with Dwarven Forge pieces and also showed off the miniatures pretty well.

I called Bruce back over at Hirst Arts and had a chat with him about some issues I was having. He gave me some feedback on my construction methods and advised me of some options for casting products  and I decided to go with dental stone by Merlin's Magic. This stuff was kinda pricey, especially since they had to ship a 50lb bag from their store in Oregon. But I was able to make a lot of pieces and I still have a few pounds of the stuff left. It definitely made the process go along more smoothly and the pieces didn't need as much work when they were ready to be glued together. They also held paint well. and didnt chip as easily. I spent countless hours casting pieces, baking them in the oven, sanding them down, gluing them together, and painting them up.

I studied the pictures posted to Discourse and Dragons very closely so I could figure out how he managed to get each piece to come out the way he did so they would connect up together.  I made some adjustments here and there as I saw fit and of course made some embellishments of my own. I liked his approach to making his dungeons look very aged. I used my dremel tool to add pitting in the floors and walls that I filled with colored glue to make look like slime, standing water or blood. I added broken stones and skulls and bones and lots of mold on the walls. The whole process was creatively cathartic.  All the while I came up with dungeon themes I wanted to make and special pieces for those themes.  I once again tapped into the excitement I used to get many years ago when I would sit and draw a dungeon adventure up.

It really was a labour of love and took me the rest of the winter and into the spring to complete. I have started using them in my online game I am running as they are easy to shift around as the adventuring party moves from area to area. Here is the process and what I came up with so far:


  1. These look completely awesome, and you gave me some ideas too!

    If you were having trouble you should have emailed me. I will help any way I can, although it doesn't look like you need any :)

  2. Thanks you were definately my inspiration. But I think by trying to figure out the process out myself, I learned alot about what works, what didnt and got some cool ideas that spun off during the creation. Glad you like them.