Dungeon Accessories: Making and Using a Portal

This entry is part of a series wherein I show how to use Hirst Arts molds to make new dungeon accessories for your 3D terrain of choice.  If you don’t have any Hirst Arts molds, that’s no problem.  At the bottom of the article you’ll find a bunch of ways you can use the accessory as the centerpiece for an encounter or story arc; you don’t need the actual accessory to use the ideas.  So feel free to read the whole article, or just zip to the bottom, and get your creative juices jumpstarted!

 From the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide p.54:

“On Toril, magic portals link diverse places in various ways.  Most portals are simple teleportation devices that whisk travelers between distant locales, possibly even on other planes.  Others allow or limit passage based on the designer’s criteria.  All portals are created for a reason, but they often last longer than their creators, so a portal’s purpose can be lost to time.”

Ah, portals.  Nothing inspires curiosity more than a random doorway standing all alone in the middle of a room (or a field, for that matter).  At the same time, nothing inspires caution (and a bit of dread) in the same way either.  Whether your intentions are simply faster travel for your PCs or something more nefarious, every campaign could use a portal.

There are several ways to make an open doorway, from plain blocks to arches to using a completely different medium altogether (like Basswood), and the decision will largely be informed by the feel you’re going for.  A plain block doorway feels utilitarian, arches feel formal, and wood feels earthy.

I may do some other portals in the future, but we’re going to start by using Hirst Arts blocks, and following the plans laid out by Bruce Hirst himself on his own website, with a few tweaks to suit the look we want to end up with.

To start, we only need two molds – 201 and 45.  If you have a different floor mold, that’s fine, as long as it has those little tiny triangles in it.  If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t need to do any casting because you have the pieces for this lying around already.  But if you do need to cast, you only need to cast each mold three times.

First, we’re going to put together the base.  You’ll use a full sized floor square (1″x1″) and two half sized floor pieces (1/2″x1″) as well as two of the tiny triangles.  Glue them together like this:

Portal Base

While that’s drying, you’ll follow numbers 3 and 4 in the Basic Set Pieces setion from the Hirst Arts site (scroll down, you’ll see it…) to make the archway, with the following changes:

  • On either side of the pillars, you’ll use ¼” blocks, not ½”
  • There will be 2 ¾” blocks resting on top of the pillars on either side of the arch.
  • (If you’re confused by this, scroll down for a picture of the completed portal.

 Let it all dry overnight.

Next, you’ll glue the doorway to the base, and add 3 ½ size floor pieces to the top of the archway.

Finished portal

Still not painted

 Paint it, and you’re done!!  What’s that? You’re feeling like an overachiever today?  No problem, let’s take it a step farther. 

  • Make another doorway, just like the one above.
  • Get some colored cellophane.
  • Carefully glue some to the back of one of the doorways.
  • Glue the second doorway to the back of the first, so that they’re facing out in opposite directions.

This second portal has a bigger footprint in your floorplan, but the colored cellophane really conveys the idea that this isn’t any ordinary doorway.  It also encourages entry from either side, which opens up all sorts of possibilities as well.

Either way you decide to go, here are some ideas to help you come up with a way to use the portal in your campaign:

  • Read about Keyed, Restricted, and Variable portals in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, pages 54 and 55.
  • Is the portal functioning or broken?
  • Where does it lead?
  • How can the characters find out either of these things?
  • If it’s broken, is there a way to fix it?
  • If it’s broken, does it malfunction in some way, or just not function at all?
  • Who made the portal and why?
  • Do the characters need a key or password to make the portal function?
  • What happens if a character tries to enter the portal from the back?
  • Does anyone else know about the portal, or use it on a regular basis?
  • Is there something that needs to happen to trigger the portal to turn “on”?
  • Save Versus Death has this idea for a trapped portal.  Scroll down until you find “Portal of the Six Curses.”

What other things should be considered when inserting a portal into a campaign?  Have you ever used one in your campaign?

One thought on “Dungeon Accessories: Making and Using a Portal

  1. Pingback: Decorate Your Dungeon | Roving Band of Misfits

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