Lucky players at Chad’s D&D Adventurers League tables have been treated to incredible terrain dioramas. Here’s the story behind these amazing displays.
Q: How long have you been playing in the D&D Adventurers League? What got you started? Did you play any earlier versions of D&D or other Role-playing games, or anything else similar to D&D?
A: I started playing in late 2013. About the same time they started play testing the new D&D 5e rules. Prior to that, I have never played a table top based RPG. Oddly enough, I started playing because I showed up to the game store in search of some table top games to play with my family. I had just happen to show up during an Encounters night and started talking to the organizer. I have played plenty of online RPG’s, as well as console based ones, but to me they seemed to be more of a quick to please the customer type of game, leaving out depth and true adventure.
Q: What is it that you like about being a DM? How long have you been DMing?
A: So far from my limited experience of DMing, I really enjoy watching people’s reactions to situations and what ideas they come up with. After that, with my feeble attempt at voices, I enjoy becoming multiple characters and seeing the big picture of everything that is going on in the world at that point in time. As of this interview, I will have been DMing for 3 months and only about 6 sessions. So, I still have a lot to learn.
Q: Describe the process of creating one of your terrain models. What materials do you use? How long does it take? Was it a similar process for the Arena as it was for King’s Pyre?
A: The first module I ran as a DM was “Shackles of Blood.” I realized that the arena fight would go a lot smoother and give the players a quicker understanding as to what they were seeing by building a diorama. So knowing what I wanted to do I began to utilize the good old internet as to what methods would prove to be the way to go. Unfortunately I don’t have a single person that I can give credit to because I watched multiple different videos to see all types of ways to do things. Then with the materials I had in my garage and only needing to buy a few things I began creating the diorama. Both dioramas were crafted differently because I am still in a trial and error phase. The arena was created with cardboard cut outs and taped together then encased with plaster. I used balsa wood and clay for the smaller details. As for the King’s Pyre, I used insulation foam to create everything, then used clay to cover and form the details on the statue. All the other details came from water colors and woodland scenic items. It took about 3 weeks for each one spending about a couple hours a night on them. The weekends were usually the big catch up days. Needless to say, I’m hoping my future diorama’s will convey more and more detail. Because like DMing, I’m still only a beginner.
Q : Are they durable / reuseable? Or do you recycle each one to build the next one?
A: The durability seems to be there, however, the trees seems to require regluing so far. As far as recycling, the only thing I would be able to reuse would be the base I put them on and certain terrain features, otherwise, I’d have to scrap everything. But, I have created a shelving unit in my garage to store them for the time being.
Q: Do you have any particular skills or background that you think have helped you to do this? Is this the sort of thing that anyone could do, or do you think it helps to have some particular qualities or talents?
A: Hmmm, this is a tough question to answer. I really don’t know what skill would be required, except for patience and the desire to do so. For myself, I use to draw all the time and I do a lot of woodworking. So utilizing those two traits, I draw out on paper the plans, and use multiple tools and methods to construct it. I just enjoy building and creating things and attempting to bring to life something that was on paper or in my mind.
Q: Is there anything you’ve learned from “trial and error” in what you’ve done so far, that you wish you’d known at the beginning?
A: Oh, I think every thing I have done so far has been from trial and error. Each diorama that I do, I now know what I can do to make a better end product. As for DMing, every session is a new experience and another lesson learned.
Q: What effect have you seen this have on your players? What’s your favorite reaction / response you’ve had from players at your table?
A: First off, I enjoy seeing the smiles from players as they get to put their mini’s on a diorama and I get to see a different type of strategy take place. So far, my favorite response/reaction is the overall joy they have while at my table and the hopeful positive experience they had that will encourage them to come back, and maybe come back with friends.
Q: Any advice for other DMs who may be interested in trying to build something like this themselves?
A: If it is something a DM would like to do, pick a part of the story that will either 1) have the party at that location for a long period of time or 2) help dismiss any puzzling features or terrain. Also, there are many different ways of building a diorama. I typically choose the least expensive route, which leads to more work, but you can spend the extra dollar for the hobbyist labeled resources which make it easier to cut/carve/paint/mold. Example would be using the woodland scenic foam and cutting supplies vice using cardboard and cutting each piece to shape to create a skeleton.
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