Thursday, September 23, 2010

Arena Update

I should have pictures and a detailed post about making this after this weekend. I picked up filler, clay, and balsawood for the walls. All that's left now is, you know, working on it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brief Update on the Arena

The base arena is basically finished! I've done the following:

Purchased styrofoam
Drawn the basic shape
Cut out the shape with hot wire tools
Laid out a grid with masking tape and paint
Etched the grid with hot wire tools
Cut out a staircase up to the arena floor
Base-painted the arena
Sprayed the arean with Fleck-Stone texture
Inked the arena with darker paint
Painted several layers of highlights over the floor to give it a more organic look
Picked out Hirst Arts floor tiles for the stairs

Still to come:
Smooth and fill the stairs and mount the stairs
Smooth the stair walls
Wrap the entire arena in basswood or plastic to make a wall around the arena
Coat the wall with Makins Clay and then use a mold to texture the walls like brick
Mount a door to the wall where the stairs enter the arena
Decorate the wall with hirst arts columns and torches.

What got nixed:
Modular floor sections. I still like the idea, but it was clear that that wasn't going to wrok out the way I liked. So, instead, my modular sections will be mounted on board/styrofoam.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Building a Gladiatorial Arena (For real)

I picked up a 4'x8' sheet of 1.5" thick Formular pink styrofoam for $13 on sale at my local Home Depot, and brought it home. A few minutes with a razor blade later, and I had a sheet for my arena... I settled on a 24" x 46" rectangle, as that seemed the largest feasible size for my gaming table.

After cutting, I realized I failed to have a good way to grid the board. Due to the properties of styrofoam, I didn't have a perfect square, so using my T-square was failing. After realizing I wasn't going to be happy with this, I flipped the board and went at it again, and still wasn't happy.

So, I punted. And played a lot of Dragon Age. Tonight, I'll simply take some 1" thick masking tape, tape it off horizontally, and brush on gridlines with green paint. I'll let that dry, pull off the tape, mask it vertically, and grid it again. Then I'll etch the gridlines with my foam cutter.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Building a gladiatorial arena (layout and design)

Continuing my plan to build a large arena for my Dark Sun campaign, I wanted a play surface that would evoke a lot of potential concepts... the something that could be used for any type of gladiator combat, be it the Roman Colosseum, or the Battle Arena in Star Wars. So.. first off, graph paper.

Oh, the possibilities.
 For graph paper, if you don't have any handy, but do happen to have Photoshop, it's pretty easy to make a piece. I created a 30cm x 50cm canvas, filled it with white, and then turned gridlines on. I went into the grid options, set the grid lines to one per cm, colored them a nice shade of blue, and done... a perfect 30x50 grid.

Then, I used some very basic tools to layout the arena itself... after just a few minutes, I had this:

It's actually less interesting now, isn't it?
Here we have a very basic layout of my arena. I'll take a sheet of 30" x 50" 1.5 inch thick pink styrofoam insulation, and I'll grid the whole thing via a carpenter's square and a Sharpie. You can purchase this stuff at Lowe's or Home Depot... it's actually called 'Sheathing' and comes in 4'x8' sheets. 1.5" thickness sheets cost about $20 here, which is a huge piece that you can use for many, many projects. I'll be buying a sheet for my arena, and use the other 2/3 of the sheet to build various arena modules, and still have enough left over to do another huge project later.

This will get me a bright pink work surface with a battlegrid on top of it. I'll rough out the curve of the arena walls with a pencil, until I get the curves right, and I'll also mark out the 'light' areas. Once I've gotten my board marked up apropriately, it's time to get to work.

An Exacto knife along the edges a few times will cut deep enough that I can snap the pieces off the corners. I'll probably do this in three-four chunks per corner, just to keep the breaks clean. Then, for the harder parts.

First, I'll want to carve out the gridlines. I will use my Hotwire Foam Factory for this... I have an engraving tool, and I simply use it to gouge a shallow rivulet down each of the gridlines. You can use a guide for this, but I have fairly steady hands and like it to be a little organic, so I will do it free-hand.

The three large areas of lighter color are where I want my 'modules' for the arena. So, I need to cleanly and carefully cut these out. For this I'll use a straight craft saw, and cut them out along the grid lines. If I am very careful, you'll not really be able to tell they are removable.

At this point, I'll have a basic 1.5" thick battle surface with three removable pits. The other light areas are going to be the stairs the are used to enter the arena... I will carve out 1" wide steps, each step .5" high, so that you will walk up onto the battle surface. Now the structure of the arena floor will be done.

The next step will be relatively difficult, and I'm not certain how to handle it right now... I want a low wall around the entirety, with the two entrances with doors. Normally, I'd use Hirst Arts molds, but this is a huge surface... so I can either try to smoothly cut styrofoam in a curve (not likely), or use flexible material... plasticard, light cardboard, balsa or basswood. During the planning phases, I'm not really sure what I'll be using, so a trip to Hobby Lobby is clearly in order.

Before I do that, though, I'll want to paint everything. I paint every surface with a thick, brush-on primer. This will allow me to safely use aerosols (primers, paints, sealants, whatever) without melting the styrofoam. I'll take out the modules for this part, so I can get the sides as well. When I'm done, you'll no longer be able to tell it's bright pink home sheathing.

So that's it for theory... if I have time this weekend, I'll do this in reality and take some pictures so you can see it as it comes together in real life.