Tag Archives: Dungeon Accessories

Dungeon Accessories: Lectern

This post is part of a series showing readers how to use Hirst Arts blocks to make accessories for 3D dungeons.  For the rest of the series, click the “Article Series” link on the menu bar.  If you don’t own any Hirst Arts molds, have no fear! You can skip right to the bottom for adventure ideas that do not require the actual accessory. 


“You enter a room that is completely empty, save for a lectern with an open book on it.” Such a scene, of course, sparks a myriad of questions in the player’s minds.  Added ambiance, like a sourceless beam of light illuminating the book, only serves to bring them to the edge of their seats even more.  Of course, showing them the lectern makes it that much cooler.  And let me tell you, this accessory couldn’t be easier.  I mean, so easy I almost didn’t post it, for fear of a resounding “duh” from the collective internet.  Let’s get to it. 

You will need mold 201 or 202.  I do not own 202, but I would have preferred it for this project.  You’ll need two of the long skinny floor pieces, two of the tiny triangles, one of the 1/3 rectangles, and a 1 inch square floor piece.  See the picture. 

Gather the pieces

 Glue the two triangles together, smooth sides facing in, and the skinny long pieces the same way.  Then, glue the triangles to the skinny long pieces as shown. 

Glue the triangles to the skinny rectangles

Congrats! You’re practically there.  Now, the tricksy part.  You need to stand the lectern up, and glue it to the 1″ square floor piece.  This will add a lot of stability, as well as giving it a “raised off the floor” look.  Since it’s pretty top-heavy, you’ll need to lean it against something so it doesn’t fall over while the glue is drying.  I just used another Hirst Arts block, as shown.

Once it was dry, I added the final piece to the triangular support, for the book to rest on.  The final product is pictured at the top of the post.  If you don’t want to make the lectern “raised” up on its own floor piece, you can integrate the floor piece into a 2×2 or 3×3 modular floor section, also as pictured at the top of the post.  You do cast your Hirst Arts to be modular, right?  Also, if you don’t want the triangle pieces as supports, you could also leave them off, and sand the top of the skinny rectangles at an angle.

As I said, this project couldn’t be easier.  Start to finish (not counting casting time), it came together in about 1/2 hour.  That’s counting drying time!

Some ways to use the lectern:

  • The PCs are given a quest to find a certain book. They find this lectern in the middle of a library, with a book open on it. Is that the book they’re looking for? Or, like Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail, is it in a more humble location?
  • When a ritual book or spell book is placed on the pedestal, rituals or spells cast from it are more powerful. (In “crunch” terms, a spellcaster is given a bonus for casting from beside the lectern)
  • The book on the lectern cannot be removed without performing an action, quest, or ritual.
  • If the book on the lectern is removed, a trap is triggered. (Who didn’t think of that one? Raise your hands… you should be ashamed.)
  • The book on the lectern acts as a “deck of many things.”  When approached, the book flips itself to a random page.  A PC reading that page pulls a card out of the deck of many things. (Yeah, I know the deck’s not out yet. It’s coming out this year though….)
  • The lectern stands alone in the middle of an empty room, with a book on it, illuminated by a sourceless light. It is completely mundane, as is the religious text on it… but the players don’t know that.

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination.  Do you have an idea for the lectern not listed here? Leave it in the comments!

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Dungeon Accessories: The Well & Pool

 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!

A well or pool usually seems out of place in a dungeon, and players approach them with caution; for good reason, as you’ll see if you read some of the adventure hooks at the end of this post.  There are instructions on the Hirst Arts site (in the Tips & Tricks) on how to make water features.  I’m not going to duplicate any of them, but rather show you one of the methods I use.

Getting everything together

All you need to make a well and a pool is either floor mold 201 or 202.  If you have mold 45, you can use pieces from that mold, but it’s not necessary.  For the well, you’ll need 4 of the long thin rectangular floor pieces, and 4 of the smallest rectangular pieces.  For the pool, you’ll need 8 of the half size floor pieces, and 4 of the smallest rectangular pieces.  Is that specific enough for you? How about a picture:

You’ll also need something called Water Effects, which you can also see in the picture.  It’s basically really really thick Elmer’s glue – think “whipped cream” thick.  You could also use resin, but I don’t have any experience with it; if you want instructions for resin, you’ll have to check out the Hirst Arts site.  I will say this – resin looks like a lot more work, though the finished effect is probably more water-like.


Putting this project together is incredibly simple.  For the well, form two of the short pieces and two of the long pieces into a square.  Then, add another layer, placing the long pieces on top of the short pieces this time.  That’s it.  For the pool, glue two half size floor pieces together for each side, and use the small short pieces for the corners.  Make sure that the smooth sides of the floor pieces are facing inwards.  The pool will be fairly fragile until the water effects have set in it, so don’t go putting too much pressure on the walls.  Let everything dry overnight.

When they’re ready for the water effects, tape some parchment paper to your work surface.  This will keep the water effects from drying to your table. Hold the well (or pool) steady as you fill it with the water effects.  Then, take a toothpick and swirl it around the surface to texture it.  Be sure to get it into all the corners; it may need a little coaxing.  You can see how mine turned out below.

I will note here that the water effects took a LONG time to dry, especially on the pool.  In my dehydrator, over 48 hours.  Hey, I said it was easy, not fast.  Once the water effects was dry, I decided I wanted to have steps leading up to the pool, so I used another of the long and short skinny pieces to do that.  You can see in the pictures that the finished “water” in the pool and well has some air bubbles in it.  For now, that doesn’t bother me, but I may end up painting the surface of the water later.  If I do that, it will be a coat of blue, wash of black, and dry brush in light blue or white.

What can we use these for?

  • The water acts as a scrying device, showing the PCs a possible future, or something happening far away.
  • There is something at the bottom of the well (that they really want!) and a trap of some sort about half way down.
  • Swimming to the bottom reveals an underwater tunnel to a hidden room or cavern.
  • Drinking the water does something special: regenerates a daily power, acts as a potion of healing, or perhaps something more…sinister.
  • A monster comes out of the water and attacks
  • If you throw a coin in, something happens
  • The PCs need to figure out a way to drain it
  • Something triggers it to overflow and fill the room with water

What would you do with it?

Dungeon Accessories: The Wheel

 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!

 I don’t remember where I got the idea for this accessory, perhaps it just popped into my head one day.  I wanted a dungeon feature that the players could interact with, something like a puzzle, a trap, and a toy all at the same time.  The wheel is what I came up with.   The finished wheel rotates on the base, so players can actually turn the wheel to where they want it.  What you put on the wheel and what it’s used for (or triggers) is completely up to you, but at the end of the article we have some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

 The only Hirst Arts mold you need for this project is #45, and you’ll have to cast it four times.  In that mold there are three pieces that fit together into what I call a “corner pillar.”  Pictured below are these three pieces.


You will also need a wooden disc.  You can get these at any craft store, usually in the wood crafts section.  The disc I’m using is 2” in diameter.  Because the disc is so large, I’m going to make the base 2 blocks high instead of 1 – otherwise, the disc would completely overshadow the base.  If you want a shorter base, I’d recommend a 1 1/2”  diameter disc so the finished product looks proportional.

 Choose any one of the three “corner pillar” pieces to be the base for the wheel.  I wanted basic, so I’m going to use the one on the left, and I need four of that same piece.  Since I’m going 2 blocks high, I’ll also use four of the ones on the right. Glue the four pieces together so that all the “pillar” sides are facing out. 

 While that’s drying, get a 1/16” drill bit, and drill a hole in the center of the wooden disc.  Then, mix up some gray paint, and paint your wooden disc the same color as your stone tiles.  You could also leave it looking like wood by staining it.  Now it’s time to make an “indicator” for your wheel.  You know, something that shows the players what the wheel is “set” to.  Wire is perfect for this; I’m going to use a paperclip for my wire, and needlenose pliers to bend it.  There are two ways to affix your indicator to the wheel.  The first is to glue the indicator to the base, making it immobile.  The second is to add a loop to one end of the indicator, so that it swings around the center axis, making it moveable.  Generally, you would add a moving indicator as a secondary indicator.  Using two indicators for the wheel allows you to add complexity to the wheel’s “setting,” and therefore add to the complexity of the puzzle.  Finally, if you don’t want to mess with bending wire, you could also have a fixed point in the room (like a pillar) act as a fixed indicator.

At any rate, if you want an indicator on the wheel, bend the paperclip into an “L” shape, making sure it fits on the base with the wheel. 

One indicator glued on, the other with a loop for the axis

Add a loop to one end if you want the indicator to be moveable.  Make sure the loop is big enough to snugly accommodate a straight piece of paperclip (which will be the wheel axis).  If you’re going to have a fixed indicator on the wheel, simply glue it to the wheel.  (You may need to prop it up with something so that it doesn’t fall off the base before the glue is dry.)

 Let everything dry overnight. 

 The next day, you’re going to take your 1/16” drill bit again, and drill a hole down the center of your base for the wheel axis.  Cut a piece of straightened paperclip (or other wire) so that it will stick out of the hole and poke out of the wheel just a tiny bit.  Get some glue on the wire, and stick it in the hole.

While that’s drying, think about what you want to paint on the wheel; symbols, colors, something else.  I’m going to paint some runes on it for the PCs to decipher.  (If you want to do runes, and aren’t sure what to use, check out our article Ancient Runes in Ancient Ruins.)  You can paint as many things as you want on it, but keep in mind the number of combinations that will be possible – especially if you’re planning on using two indicators.  I’m going to keep it fairly simple, and use four runes. 

The great thing about this setup is that you can make more than one wheel to put on the base.  It’s a very versatile and reusable dungeon accessory.

 Once everything is dry, your wheel is ready to use!

The Finished Wheel

Here are some ideas for using a wheel:

  • Paint a compass rose on it
  • Use four colors to indicate seasons – yellow=summer, brown=fall, white=winter, green=spring
  • For extra mystery, just use ticks (lines) on the wheel
  • Runes

What turning the wheel does:

  • Opens or closes certain doors in the dungeon
  • Shifts the PCs from the Shadowfell to the Feywild and back to the material plane
  • Changes the terrain in the room or dungeon
  • Sets the destination of a nearby portal
  • Awakens a monster
  • Shifts fate
  • Changes a character’s sex/personality/race/class/player

There are really too many ideas to write here.  Basically, the wheel is a complex triggering mechanism; think of it as a series of levers, but cooler.  Anything you can think of to turn on, off, up, or down can be done using the wheel.  What are some of your ideas?

Decorate Your Dungeon

I know I’ve only made one installment of my Dungeon Accessories series, but I’m already taking a break.  Lately, I’ve been using my Hirst Arts molds to make a clone set of Dwarven Forge’s Rooms and Corridors set.  Unfortunately for you, that’s taken up most of the time I have for molding and building.  Plus, I only mold the pieces I need out of each mold, so there’s not a lot of extra pieces sitting around for me to play with.  I didn’t really think the “clone a set of Dwarven Forge” project warranted a post, since anyone can easily go to the DF site and see what the sets consist of.

I didn’t want to leave you high and dry, however, so let’s make a dungeon accessory that anyone can do, even if there’s no game or story mechanic behind it.

Rugs & Tapestries

It’s nice to be able to fill out a room with little details.  Since many dungeons were once castles, and some dungeons still house intelligent monsters, it’s fair to say that adventurers will come across rugs and tapestries in some of the rooms.  Hey, goblins like nice things too!

Lucky for us, the internet is rife with images of oriental rugs, and tapestries aren’t that hard to find, either.  I’m sure some of you see where I’m going with this.

  1. Do an image search for “persian rugs” or “oriental rugs” or “tapestries.”  When searching for tapestries, it helps to be specific about what kind of tapestry you want, e.g. “King Tapestry.”
  2. Download the images that you like, and open your favorite image editing program. (I use the free program gimp)
  3. Now, you’re going to want to shrink down the images to something that (roughly) covers a convenient portion of the map.  Most rugs are going to have a ratio of about 3″:2″ length: width once you’ve shrunk them, though you can probably also find some long hallway sized rugs as well.  Tapestries vary in their size, and as long as it’s not too tall for your room, you can make it any size you want.
  4. Print them out on cardstock, cut them out, and you’re ready to use them in your dungeon!
  5. I’ve found the best way to affix the tapestries to a wall is to use sticky tack.  Cheap and easy.  You can also do this to keep the rugs in place.

Other than mundane decoration, what can we use these items for?

  • To cover a secret door in a wall, or a trap door in the floor.
  • The tapestries may tell the PCs a story that ties some plot arcs together, or reveal the one weakness of the Big Bad Evil Guy.
  • The PCs have to arrange the tapestries in chronological order to trigger something (History checks, or leave the dungeon to do some research)
  • Anyone feel like designing an animated rug stat block for us?
  • Unweildy treasure.  The rugs or tapestries may be worth quite a bit, but are the PCs really willing to lug them around the dungeon?
  • One of the subjects in the tapestry is holding the magic item/artifact/quest item the party is searching for.
  • You could make the tapestries themselves into a quest: the PCs need to find several tapestries that belong to a set, but have been separated over time.
  • Two words: Flying rug.
  • What are your ideas?

Bonus feature! I’m offering a PDF of rugs and tapestries ready for you to print and cut out immediately.  Check out the downloads page to get it! What you get:

  • 5 Pages
  • 24 Oriental Rugs, different sizes
  • 8 Oriental rug runners (hallway rugs), different sizes
  • 34 Tapestries, including the famous “Unicorn Tapestries” Note: Tapestries are 1.25″ (33mm) high


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?