Hirst Arts III: Design of Modular Dungeon v1

We finally decided to pick up two Hirst Arts molds and try building a dungeon.

First up we needed to gather our supplies. And then prepare for the eventual mad construction by casting a lot of blocks. We went to a builder supply and bought dental plaster. Our experience with plaster of paris is that it’s softer and takes longer to set, which offsets the small extra cost of the dental plaster. Ours was less than $50 for a 100 lb bag. If you go to the hardware store you pay about the same amount per pound for dental plaster.

The next step is to plan out what your dungeon will look like. A modular dungeon works best, since you can change the configuration to whatever you want at the time.

The Hirst Arts website has a tutorial on how to make the dungeon pieces. You should check it out, man. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll want a base that’s more rigid and durable than cereal box card. This is because you might pick up the dungeon block by a corner, which means all the weight is supported by a few weak glue joints between blocks. Better to have the weight supported by the base. For that base, we chose 1/8″ thick plywood. You can get it from the hardware store for a tiny fraction of the price of balsa tiles at a craft store. Ours cost $4 for 24 sq feet.

The next part is line-of-sight. For us, it was very important that people sitting next to the table be able to see their figurines in the dungeon without standing up. That meant the standard 1/2″ wall height (two standard bricks high) was too much. We’re doing just one brick high (1/4″). The floor bricks are 1/8″, walls are 1/4″, and lengths are all in 1″ and occasionally 3/4″ for special pieces. So everything fits together very well!

Next we need to actually set out the floorplan.

The website tutorial has three floor bricks across for a standard hallway. That’s 3″. But if you make a hallway piece, you’ll have a wall sitting on top the outside floor bricks. So you have a center row of floor, and a pair of half-inch floor spaces on either side of it. Effectively the hallway is 2″ across. But in reality, you can’t fit two figures in it side by side. So instead we’re counting any half-bricks as non-walkable space. So a dungeon block 3″ across actually only has 1″ of walkable space, and at 25mm scale is 5′ across. This will waste some table space, but it’ll be much easier to use.

We also need intersections. We’ll need a 90-degree corner, a T, and a four-way. We’re making the rooms modular as well. That is, instead of a whole room, we have room pieces. For that purpose we need tiles that have some number of open corners. Check out this diagram:

(Note: this is actually an old unposted post that I edited to reflect what we actually did. We have a second-generation tile configuration and I like it better, but we actually did make the set described here. I’ll update this post with pictures when I take them. I’ll take pictures of the Version 2 set at the same time and make a new post about it.)

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3 Responses to “Hirst Arts III: Design of Modular Dungeon v1”

  1. Ian Harac Says:

    HI! I’ve been using Hirst Arts for about a year now, and I am curious — what kinds of builder’s supply stores sell dental plaster, and what’s it called there? I am ordering Merlin’s Magic, and the shipping costs are almost as high as the cost of the material. I’d love to be able to avoid them.

  2. 1d30 Says:

    My odyssey started with art stores. They sell plaster of paris in tiny plastic bottles for hell of cash. Bucks deluxe. So I figured I would try a home improvement store like Home Depot or Ace Hardware or something. They sell plaster of paris in 20-pound bags for cheaper, but still sort of spendy.

    I tried plaster of paris, but it was weak and solidified slowly.

    I called around to builder supply places thinking they might have this stuff. Go on Google and look around. They will probably be situated in an industrial area of town, maybe you will have to drive for an hour to get it depending on how upscale your urban gets. The builder supply place I went to seemed to specialize in rockery, and they had concrete faux-stonework products they made and installed. I think other builder supply places might specialize in other things like lumber or siding or plumbing.

    I got a bag of dental plaster, which I found was the strongest material after looking around. You need to be careful mixing it if you’re used to plaster of paris. The stuff is denser and the time between dumping powder into water and pouring into molds is much shorter. It hardens faster, too, much faster, but stays moist longer after that. So you can make a lot of blocks faster but you have to wait longer before using them. A humidifier really helps – you can shorten the curing time on the shelf from a week to just a day. It also helps to work in a not-cold, not-humid environment.

  3. Ian Says:

    I have found that Hydrostone is a good balance between functionality and cost. We have a pottery supply near us, so it is just picking up a 25lb bag for $30.

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