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The Outpost

This is a structure made out of a cardboard packing material. The large rounded side opening and its texture gave us the idea for an entry way into an outpost, sort of like the architecture of Mos Eisley.

The small rectangular projections (originally support elements for the box contents) make nice elevated stations for guards and lookouts. One of the projections was about an open area that was reminiscent of a fire place, so that’s what it became. We used a small battery powered tea light with tiny sticks hot glued on to make the fire (see right photo).

The entire inner surface of the structure is painted black so that any characters deep inside cannot be seen. We did paint a light grayish yellow in the fireplace area only to give that area a dim fire glow effect.

For the outer surface of the walls and roof, the entire structure was painted a dark brown. After it dried, we used a big stiff brush to barely dab into black paint and lightly brush from bottom up on the walls. This added a shadow effect to the bottom of the texture bumps on the cardboard. The heaviest application was nearer to the bottom to give a feel of weight and dirt to the bottom. After that dried, we mixed some white into some dark brown paint to get a light brown. We then used the same technique as with the black shadows, except the strokes were from the top down. This gave the textured cardboard highlights. To finish off, we used a stiff brush to add hints of white highlights where it looked like they were needed.

The floor of the structure started as two identically sized pieces of poster board. The top piece was cut into three pieces with the center piece being 2.5 inches in width. The two larger pieces were hot glued down. The skinny center top piece was not glued so it could slide forward and backward. The painted structure was then hot glued down to the top two side pieces of poster board. The structure was not glued down to the narrow centerpiece as it needed to remain free to slide. For the detail on the structure, we used a spare piece of balsa wood and hot glue to fill a pre-existing notch in the rounded arch opening. We painted on an identifying symbol with red and white paint and then used a screwdriver to add scratches for a primitive feeling texture. We then then made some runny brown acrylic paint and painted over the dried symbol to make it and the wood look aged.

The final bit of detail was applying the plants on the floor and outer walls. We used more tiny sticks for a firewood stack and as a handle placed at the very front of the narrow sliding top piece of the base. A couple different colors of turf were used to break up the terrain to make it flow from the ground and appear to be growing up the outer walls of the structure. This was super easy to do. Elmer’s Glue and a tiny bit of water to make a glue that lays flat is brushed onto where you want the turf to go. Turf is sprinkled onto the wet glue liberally and lightly pressed down. Once dry, just turn the structure over and tap to get rid of anything that’s not attached. You do this with each color and location where you want plant growth. Regular Elmer’s can be used to hold larger clumps.

The last detail is the sliding middle panel of the floor. We added some vegetation around the logs to provide cover for a character at the mouth of the structure. But the real purpose of the sliding panel is to reveal the big meanie. When it’s time to bring the meanie into action, just grab the logs and slide the panel forward and the character emerges from the shadowy recesses of the building (center inset).

Castle, Castle Tower, and Dungeon

This was a simple build out of black foam poster board, some sticks, some wooden sticks (like match sticks without the match head), a few toothpicks, cheap acrylic paint, and hot glue. It is three pieces; a dungeon base piece, a castle hall room that sits on top of the dungeon, and a castle tower than can be set next to the rear left corner of the assembly. It was designed this way so the castle and tower could be played through then removed to reveal the underlying dungeon.

Step one was to cut two identical size floor pieces, one for the dungeon floor and one for the castle floor.

A rear wall and two side walls were hot glued together for the dungeon.

A side and rear wall for the castle hall were cut with a box cutter to sort of look like broken stone walls. The floor was trimmed with the box cutter to look like a cave-in that revealed underlying stairs. After cut as desired, they were hot glued together.

The castle tower is two long and narrow pieces of foam board, with notches on top to look like turrets. A small floor piece was cut, just large enough for one character (left image). All three pieces were hot glued together to form the tower (bottom right inset).

The dungeon was fitted with a jail cell. Half inch tall strips of foam board were hot glued into place to form the base of the cell. Wood sticks were painted using metallic paint and were then jammed into the foam strips. Identical strips of foam board were then carefully pressed down on the tops of the sticks (to make sure they were vertical and looked like bars) and then the strips were glued in place to the walls.

The dungeon was also equipped with a set of stairs made from foam board, a torture table made from foam board, and an open fire made from sticks and hot glue. The flames were hot glue beads that were poked with a stick and slowly pulled up so they would cool and stay elongated. Acrylic paint (white, yellow, red, and a hint of blue) was used to try to make the fire look like fire. Toothpicks were painted and glued into the fire to look like torture instruments. Blood and mud were painted on the floor and torture table. And we tried to add a little rust to the jail cell bars with light brown paint over the metallic paint.The castle and castle tower were painted gray inside and out. A light black wash (watery black acrylic paint) was painted onto the walls with a small brush to approximate a stone wall pattern. A larger brush was used to build up shadows in the corners and edges of the structure. To build up the darkness, the light black wash was painted on, let dry, and then repeated until we were happy with its appearance. Using the wash lets the lines of the stone remain somewhat visible and it looks like shadow, if we just used pure black or gray it would just look like spots of paint. The wash technique was used to build the stairs from the castle hall up through the tower (see in top right inset). A few game specific feature were painted onto the castle hall floor.


Don’t throw stuff away! With a little imagination, some electronics packing materials, some sticks from the yard, some Walmart acrylic paint (and cheap paint brushes), some foam poster board, and some various size model turf from Hobby Lobby, you can come up with several interesting visuals for your RPG of choice.  

A Random Mountain

For this project, there wasn’t a purpose, we just took a piece of soft foam packing from a PC monitor box and used a box cutter to cut it into a three peak mountain shape. Used an entire large tube of black acrylic paint to get the whole thing black. A couple days later painted on the white snow caps. Then a day later used Elmer’s to glue on the vegetation. It’s good as a photo backdrop or potentially as part of a quest. There are a couple flat areas on top that a character can sit on. There are two trails to follow, one around the mountain and one through a valley.