Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cultists of R'lyeh pt.2- the Pits of Despair

It took me longer than I would have thought to come up with the terrain types for the Cultist of R'lyeh board. I needed five distinct terrain types, plus a wasteland. They needed to be visually distinct, they needed to be within my sculpting capabilities, and they needed to have cool names and produce resources that sort of made sense. I bandied around several options for a few days until I finally decided on; Pits of Despair, which collect Tears of the Forsaken; Ravenous Caverns, filled with Echos of Anguish; Cyclopean Ruins, strewn with Dust of Lost Aeons; Sanguine Gorge, steeped in Blood of the Innocent; and of course Mountains of Madness, where one finds Nightmares of Delirium.

The Pits of Despair was the first terrain type that I made for my Cultists of R'lyeh game board. It was also the first time I had ever worked with cold porcelain, so it was a bit of a learning process. I chose this one to start on because I already knew how I wanted to do it, and I thought it would work out pretty simply. My design plan was to create a low jagged ring, like the edge of a crater. After painting, I would fill the crater with some polyester resin (the kind used for fiberglass), which would look like water collected in the crater.
After reading about the shrinkage factor of cold porcelain, I decided it would be best to use an armature of aluminum foil for the dead space, rather than a thick piece of the clay. I rolled up some foil into a long snake and bent it into a circle of the desired diameter. I was a little concerned about adhesion of the cold porcelain to the wooden tile surface, so I spread a thin layer of the clay onto the tile first, then put down my circle of foil. Then I covered the foil ring with more clay.
I tapered the ring upward to a thin jagged point along the ridge. I wanted it to look uneven and natural. Using my fingers, I pinched off the top edge of the clay, pulling it away, and leaving a sharp serrated edge. I also smoothed the clay out along the base, blending it into the tile surface. This would serve to give me more surface contact for better adhesion, as well as provide a seamless transition from tile top to crater edge. It also provide more surface texture to the otherwise barren tile surface. I made sure not to over extend past my edge boundary, or the clay might interfere with placing the roads and cities.
At first the surface of the crater looked too smooth, so I got out some carving tools and started tracing vertical lines all along the crater sides running from the base up to the rim. I didn't try to remove any clay that balled up in little pieces on the sides, as that would just add more surface texture. I still wasn't thrilled with the way it looked, but I didn't know what else to do to make the texture more realistic, so I just left it and hoped it would look alright after painting. I figured I might be able to do a little carving after it was dry if necessary (you can't).

In the game,each of the terrain types is repeated 3 or 4 times (except the wasteland). Since this one was a pretty easy one to sculpt, I made four of them.
It took about two days for the clay to air dry (the first day was rainy and cool). In reality, I sculpted all of the terrain tiles before I painted any of them, but for the purposes of these posts, I'll show each tile start to finish.

Painting started with a coat of flat black primer for all of the pieces. Then I had to figure our my color scheme. Since I didn't have any iconic symbols, like sheep or bricks, that I could use to easily identify and associate my terrain types with my resource cards, I decided to do matching colors. For the Pits of Despair, the definitive color was yellow.

To give me an organic natural look, I used a sea sponge stippling technique to paint almost all of the tiles. I also used layers of similar colors in differing shades, because the real world isn't just one color. Even dirt is a mixture of colors. I used four different shades of yellow, from a golden brown to a neon florescent yellow, as well as some grey and light brown. I stippled heavy on the edges, to create a border of nearly solid (layered) color, and then lighter towards the center to let more of the black base show through, like the black rocky earth being thrust up from below the surface by the impact of whatever caused the crater.
Most of the stippling was done to the tile surface. The crater got a little stippling to blend it in, but its coverage was fairly light. I finished up with the florescent neon yellow stippled around the edge and dry brushed along the surface of the crater, so that it would pop in the UV lighting in our game room.
After the paint was dry I gave it a spray of matte clear coat sealer. Then, when that was dry, I started mixing up some polyester resin. I mixed 2oz. of resin, which dries a sort of translucent yellow, which is why I thought it would be good for this tile. To make it pop in the UV lighting, I mixed in a few drops of UV reactive dye, which was much harder than I thought it would be, as the dye was water based and didn't want to mix with the resin. I had to just stir the crap out of it and make the tiny droplets of dye smaller and smaller until it looked like an even color.
After it dried, the resin separated a little bit from the sealed surface of the sculpt. The effect was odd and not what I had originally wanted, but it looked acceptable, and it was still stuck in place, so it is what it is.
Stat tuned for the rest of the board pieces!

See also:
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.1- the Desolate Waste
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.2- the Pits of Despair
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.3- the Ravenous Cavern
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.4- the Cyclopean Ruins
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.5- the Sanguine Gorge
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.6- the Mountains of Madness
Cultists of R'lyeh pt.7- the Game Pieces, Portals, et Fini
Cultists of R'lyeh - After four years of wear and tear

1 comment:

  1. I'm assuming that the resin was the type used in auto body/boating applications. While it has a minor shrinkage rate, something less than .005%, it's usually enough to cause it to partially pull away from the "mold". When using it in an application such as this, I've Found that it's a good idea to resist the piece so the casting can be removed and then glue the casting back in place.