Tuesday, October 9, 2012
How much more terrain do you need for RPGs?
Chuck Thorin left a comment on my post yesterday that made me realize I didn't say anything about what terrain I would use for running RPGs with minis. Of course, right now, I don't use minis because all of my games are online. If I did run in person with minis, though, I'd probably want to make it as visually interesting as possible. Just thinking off the top of my head, here are some ideas about that.
First, I need to say something about paper models. Some of the paper models are nice, and I have quite a few sets that I bought through RPGNow. If you don't have the time, skill, or materials to make your own terrain, these are an acceptable option. I don't like them nearly as much as constructed terrain, though. Also, if you're traveling, the paper models don't hold up as well unless they're reinforced with foamboard or heavy cardboard.
A lot of people say they cost less than terrain made from other materials, but I haven't found that to be the case. If you buy cheap materials and use a bit of skill, you can easily produce a ton of terrain that is cost comparative with paper terrain. And the time to do the construction is about the same once you master the techniques for each.
So, assuming that I would make my own, here's what I would use for running RPGs with minis.
For wilderness encounters, a lot of the terrain would be the same as I would use for skirmish-level minis games. Hills, rivers, forest, and so on are adaptable. I would probably build a lot of custom terrain pieces for the big, showcase encounters for an RPG, though. If you are going to have something like the encounter at Weathertop, having a custom piece of terrain could really help make it memorable. And while that could create some storage problems down the line, I think it would really enhance the game.
I would probably have a lot of town and village pieces that I could rearrange. Things like streets, basic buildings, fields, and various bits of street furniture would have to go in my kit. There are plenty of different pre-made buildings and accessories, but I would probably just build my own. Having spent some time working at Games Workshop when Mordheim was on the shelves, I can knock together buildings pretty quickly. Street furniture and dressing is also fairly easy to do if you know where to get some cheap supplies.
For dungeons, I'd probably keep it simple. There are several different manufacturers that sell modular dungeon terrain. Most of it is beautiful, but it has a price to match. I'd rather save the money and spend time.
That said, I don't really want to spend a lot of time casting blocks to build dungeons. I had some Hirst Arts molds that I used for a while. I love what you can do with these, but it took so long to cast the bricks you need for basic walls that it just wasn't my thing. I would rather cut some foam to shape, texture it and get it done. Most likely, I would build several straight hallway sections, several corners, basic floor pieces, some stairs, a few doors, and some open doorways. Everything else I would build to suit as needed. Like the wilderness, I would probably build special pieces for the big encounters or really unusual construction.
I would also look at some of the simpler ideas for mocking the basics in a dungeon. This is especially true if I were running games away from home. You can have a large terrain collection at hand if your home, but not if you're traveling somewhere. Some dowels cut to various lengths with a simple paint job are great to use with a battle mat for laying out the bulk of a dungeon. I have also had great success modelling things with Lego. With the Lord of the Rings Lego sets available now, it's even easier to build dungeon scenery. In fact, if you have enough minifigs, you could just use Lego for everything. It would be expensive, but it could be a lot of fun.
Ultimately, it all comes down to issues of usefulness and space. I don't want to build a ton of specific terrain that is only going to be used once. A few special pieces are great, but I want most of my terrain to be more flexible. I also don't want to have to get a storage space just to house my terrain. Again, keeping pieces small and flexible is much better. I love having nice terrain, and it really does improve the game. There's no sense in overwhelming yourself with it, though.