I’ve got a game coming up, it’s the first live game I’ve participated in since the pandemic started so I’m pretty excited. Since I’m the forever dungeon master, I will be running this game, but that’s okay because it’s been such a long time that I’m actually really excited about getting this game off the ground.
One of the things that I have started doing since I started crafting my own terrain, was building my encounters according to the terrain I was inspired to build. It’s almost like I’m building a set for a movie and this will be where the movie plays out, at least for a portion of the scenes. My group is going to be traveling to this place in our homebrew world called the Wylderynn. It’s a very old, ancient forest full of old-world Fey magic. This is where all, well most, of the fairy folk in the realms live. It is a place that has its own set of rules, it is unique in the world so you won’t find really any of what you encounter in the Wylderynn elsewhere in the world.
Whenever I build terrain, I first give it some thought as to where my party is going. Once I have that location in mind, I build the terrain according to how I think it looks. This conveys the unique look of the area to the players. I don’t have to describe it too much because it’s sitting there right in front of them, I can fill in the blanks a little bit here and there, but really, they know exactly what the land looks like.
When I was giving thought to what the Wylderynn looks like, I thought it would look something straight out of Middle Earth. It would be fantastic; the trees would not be just any old tree that you could see walking through the woods down the street from you. They would be old, crooked, large and gnarled. They would have leaf colors that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world.
Where do I start? It’s a forest, so it makes perfect sense to start with trees. But when I was giving some thought to the trees I initially didn’t know where to begin. I’ve made trees with woodland scenics armatures and it worked fine but these trees aren’t going to project the image of an ancient forest. They were just trees. I’ve made trees before out of toilet paper rolls, tinfoil, and a ton of hot glue and that’s not off the table but I wanted something that was going to be quick, something I could customize, while still projecting that image of ancient, fantasy, middle earth like forest.
I didn’t know where to turn. I searched YouTube, the Internet, I just couldn’t find anything that worked for me. One afternoon, I was sitting down watching the karate kid, The one from the 80s, not the new one. As I’m watching it, the part where Mr. Miyagi is tending to his bonsai trees, a light bulb went off. It was then that I realized that the perfect tree for my ancient fantasy forest terrain was going to be a bonsai tree. It was then that my quest began. I knew that a real tree just wasn’t going to cut the mustard, but I imagine they must have fake bonsai trees, right?
The cheap in me immediately did a search of all the dollar stores that came to mind. Nothing, but I did later on find some really nice Halloween themed pine trees but that’s for another blog. Finally, my old friend Amazon.com came through. I found quite a few ranging in price from around six dollars all the way up to $26. I know I wasn’t about to spend 20+ on a tree but I did find some that were $14 and some change and they came in two packs. I could get down with seven bucks a tree. On top of that I had quite a few points on my Amazon credit card so that cut the cost down so it seemed reasonable. Yeah, they’re still a little pricey but this isn’t about cheap terrain, it’s about building terrain that fits with my vision.
So it was, that I purchased several plastic bonsai trees to begin building the Wylderynn for my game.
I knew these trees were not going to convey that ancient fantasy forest feel all on their own, there would need to be some other elements to those trees. Certainly, they would need to be doctored up quite a bit for them to be exactly what I was looking for, but that’s okay because I knew exactly what they needed.
Nothing screams ancient fantasy forest more than giant mushrooms. I wanted some mushrooms that were treelike in size, abnormally large, but I also wanted some that were a more reasonable size. I wanted that variation. Back to Amazon I went and found exactly what I was looking for.
I wanted to give the trees an appearance of there being a symbiotic relationship between the trees and other woodland vegetation. I was thinking Moss, vines, and of course fungus. This was perhaps the easiest to come up with and I’ll show you what I did a little later.
For basing, I went with my old standby cardboard and foam core, the dollar store stuff because really that’s the only kind to use. I’ve been using this a long time as a basing method for my terrain because, well, it’s cheap and effective. You can get a case of the Dollar Tree foam core online for 25 bucks, that’s half the price if you buy by the sheet in the dollar store. Furthermore, cardboard is free. I was using cardboard from last year’s Christmas. Yeah, I keep it that long.
I hope you decide to come along for the ride, and see how I built the Wylderynn for my players. Down below there’s a list of materials I used and the links associated with them.
I hope to see you next time in the Wylderynn.
Foam Core – Any dollar store but the paper has to come off easily
Cardboard – Save your boxes!
Tin Foil - Get the cheap stuff at a dollar store
Reindeer moss – This comes in a variety of colors. I used blue, red, and green.