Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hirst Arts: Three Dimensional Dungeons

I've been spending much of my time, lately, casting Hirst Arts blocks.

Hirst Arts is an web-based company that offers a line of rubber molds. Those molds produce plaster-of-paris blocks that can be used to build castles, dungeons, buildings and table-top gaming terrain elements.

From the 20 Hirst Arts molds that I currently possess, I am creating a set of three-dimensional dungeon tiles, complete with walls and dungeon dressing, to add some visual interest to our dungeon-delving sessions. Thus far, I have produced nine different kinds of dungeon floor tiles.

Each dungeon tile shown below is 3" x 3", comprising a 10' x 10' section, so that the tiles can fit together to make hallways and rooms. The walls will sit on the inside edges of the tiles, providing sufficient room in the middle of the tiles to have two 28mm miniatures walking abreast down a hallway.
The above picture shows my favorite set of tiles so far. Those dungeon tiles have a decorative edge running along the borders of the tiles. The edging appears to be made of runic script. I will use those tiles when the players find a section of dungeon that is more skillfully hewn from the surrounding rock, and the path of the runes will carry them to specific encounter or dungeon elements.
Most of the dungeon tiles will be comprised of these chipped stone numbers.

The benefit of this tile configuration (with the one-inch blocks in the center and smaller blocks around the edges) is that you can put the tiles together and the half- or quarter-blocks on the edges create full blocks when placed side-by-side. Those tiles can be used both for room and hallway tiles.

For a time, I agonized over the configuration of my dungeon tiles. Based on the design, the floor scale is 1" = 3 ft. 4 in. Compare that to 28mm figures, which translate to a vertical scale of 1" = 5 ft. Ultimately, the convenience of laying out connectible dungeon tiles (with the walls internal to each tile) won out over my need to keep the horizontal and vertical scales congruent.
This 10' section of dungeon tile is for cobblestone floors. It has an irregular edge so that the seams between floor tiles are less obtrusive.

I envision using this style of dungeon tile for hallways such as the entrance to the Tomb Of Horrors. In the ToH, a path of differently-colored stones winds its way down a 20' wide hallway.
Here is a dungeon tile with a herringbone pattern. The tiles lock together. This particular set will take some time to produce, since there is only 1 of the 1" blocks on the Hirst Arts mold, so I need to cast that mold 9 times to create one 10' x 10' section.
The same is true of the above tile. This decorative tile will be a good choice for royal chambers, temples and other lavish rooms.
The above dungeon tile has a neat octogonal pattern, however, the seams between the blocks is too pronounced. I'm still trying to find a way to fill those seams so that they don't distract from the tile pattern.

Don't ask me to tile your home. As you can see, I didn't do a very good job of laying down these smaller blocks to create floor sections that have tiles set at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the hall or room.

The first of these two tiles is of chipped stone, the second in smooth tiles.
This last dungeon tile is made up of cracked, smooth blocks. I prefer these less than the chipped stone blocks, since it's more difficult to give the final, painted version of these tiles visual interest.

My next task is to start working on the walls and dungeon dressing. Fortunately, I have well over 120 different elements to choose from, based on the Hirst Arts molds I already have access to. I will post some pictures of some of those other block elements so you can see the breadth of elements available in creating a three-dimensional dungeon environment.


christian said...

You did a great job with your molds. I bet that over time investing in mold and dental plaster is waaay less expensive that Dwarven Forge.

Unknown said...

Looking good. Are you going to paint them up as well?

Having vaguely considered buying some Hirst moulds I was wondering how much you had spent and whether you thought you needed to spend more to complete what you were trying to achieve?

Dangerous Brian said...

James, you took the words straight out of my mouth.

Arkhein said...

HA Molds are great. They create awesome looking stuff and are very fun to build with. The big thing is the casting time. It takes forever to build up enough blocks for a project. I started a couple of years ago. I still have 35 pounds of Excalibur plaster staring at me in the face, wondering when it will turn into a mighty fortress. :)

- ARk

HitAdjacentAlly said...

BAD ASS. Gots to get me some.

Chris C. said...

Those are some great tiles -- very nicely done.

Aaron E. Steele said...

@Christian: i've never really priced out Dwarven Forge, but I gather it is rather pricey. The advantage of Hirst Arts is that you can customize your terrain.

@James/Brian: many hands make for light work. The process goes faster when you have more people involved. It's a labour intensive process, making the blocks, but once you get the hand of it, you can start building your own molds to speed up the build process. Yes, i'll be painting the tiles, but right now i'm creating my tile "masters". These won't be painted, just used to create my molds.

Aaron E. Steele said...

@Arkhein: we've already gone through one 50 lb box of Excalibur and half-way through the second box. I usually have 20 molds going, 5 per batch. By the time the last 5 are poured, the first 5 are ready to de-mold. Once you get into a rhythm, you can produce blocks pretty quickly. It helps to have a buddy or two to help. Plus, there are some blocks that i'm not interested in, while my buddies are, so you can split up the blocks between you when you're done.

Aaron E. Steele said...

@OMM: see if you can find someone locally that already has some, it helps to have someone to step you through the process.

@Bard: thanks, a work in progress!

RobChandler said...

Man these are seriously cool. I've looked at dwarven forge and while their stuff is great, it is way too expensive IMO. Being able to custom design your own caverns/castles/dungeons in this method is much better and probably a lot more cost effective despite a little more work.

Aaron E. Steele said...

What are the prices for Dwarven Forge?

I do like the variety that is possible with the Hirst Arts molds