Monday, July 14, 2014

The Forbidden Temple

Top-down view of my newest Southeast Asian temple
 It may seem weird that I felt compelled to construct a new temple for the upcoming scenario of Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures. After all, hadn't I scratch-built four of them already? They certainly filled up the game board when I ran the "Dakota Smith and the Lost City" scenario.

My storyline for my 28mm Pulp miniatures games has the archeologists searching for the temple containing the legendary relic, "The Tears of the Buddha." It is meant to be hidden away from the rest of the world. Thus, the explorers had to cross "The Valley that Time Forgot" to get there. I envisioned it as a solitary temple, high in the mountains. Sure, I could simply have used one of my earlier builds and placed it there, saying it was the Forbidden Temple. However, I wanted this one to have secret rooms they would have to discover. To go along with that, I wanted to use the really cool piece of Lizard Terrarium terrain -- a statue of a sword-armed deity -- that I'd picked up at Petsmart earlier this year.
Sighted through the tress, the Forbidden Temple...!
So, my thought was to simply use two boxes for the Forbidden Temple itself -- disguised as a two-layer, rectangular plinth for the statue, which would sit atop them. Each box would represent a hidden chamber inside the temple. I wanted to be able to lift off the roofs and place an altar and set of spiral stairs inside each, too. The construction of the whole thing would be modular, so that I could use each layer of it individually as well, if I wanted.

The statue was actually already completed. I used it in the Pulp game I'd run in March at Cincycon 2014. I'd picked it up on clearance for just a couple bucks, making me wish the Petsmart with Lizard terrain was closer to my house! I had painted over the whole thing -- not liking the garish gold paint on the sword and other parts of it that it came with. Instead, I wanted a gray stone statue overgrown with encroaching jungle. So, first, I painted the entire thing black. I then wet-brushed a dark gray, followed by a light gray dry brush. A black wash then was applied to the whole statue to soften the brushwork lines. To give it the overgrown, jungle appearance, I used Woodland Scenics flocking liberally over various surfaces. Different shades of green clump foliage was glued into places that I thought vegetation would sprout most. As a finishing touch, I used a hot glue gun to affix two wire flowering bushes from model railroader's terrain. This gave it that "Angkor Wat"-style overgrown look. The statue is really an incredible piece, and all of this brought out its detail.
Two boxes sit atop each other, held in place by their decorated, styrene roofs
As I said, the statue would sit atop the two boxes, forming the decorative base or plinth for it. Since this is for a Pulp game, there HAS to be hidden doors which lead to interior compartments. That simplified my job, meaning I didn't need to actually construct a visible entrance to them. They could appear solid state. I already had one good sized box that I planned to use for one level. A quick trip to Hobby Lobby scored a paper mache box to utilize for the second level. The first step was to create a roof for each box. I cut two rectangles of black styrene plastic for these, and then affixed a rectangle of foam core material to the underside so that these set inside the box and kept the roofs from shifting around too much. The roof of the first level would also form a base for the second level to sit upon.
A close up of the roof decoration assembled from odds and ends from craft stores that I had in my boxes
For the first level's roof, I cut a rectangle of wooden decorative molding and epoxied it to the stryene base of the roof. I sized the rectangle so the second level would fit snugly inside the moulding, keeping it in place and from sliding off and bringing the whole three-level structure crashing down. Some beads were glued down along two edges of the roof for decoration, as well. The roof of the second level was what the statue would sit upon. I decided to decorate the edges of the roof with various bits of birch wood odds and ends I'd purchased over the years at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or JoAnne Fabrics. Four, stupa-like mini towers rise from each corner. Their base is an upside down "flower pot." On top of that rests a wooden spool. And finally, crowning each is a plastic, fasceted "gem." More gems were glued along the edge of the roof. Once put together, both roofs were then sprayed with black, acrylic paint. I dry brushed them in a darker and lighter shade of gray, and did an final ink wash to give them a stone appearance that I hoped would match the statue's. The roofs turned out okay, but the lack of a real texture to their surface means they don't necessarily match the nicely-pitted statue that well. I should have sprayed them with "stone paint" or something similar to make the match better.
Close up of the Khmer frieze (printed paper) from downloaded and Photoshopped from CG Textures
 For the walls of the boxes, I wanted to try something different than I'd done in the past with my temples. I was intrigued by a comment from one of my friends, Keith, and wanted to try his suggestion. He had been looking at the interior of one of my jungle huts. For those, I had simply gone to the CG Textures website and downloaded high quality photographic images that looked like the wicker floors and walls I wanted to represent. Like Keith, I was impressed with how they had turned out. His comment was that you could possibly use the images for the exterior of buildings, too. CG Textures is an amazing resource, which I thank one of the posters on the Lead Adventure Forum for suggesting. Among their many excellent images is a selection of ones from Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples. I decided to utilize one of their stone carved friezes of seated gods. I measured the box sides, then opened the image in Photoshop. I resized, cut and pasted the images, finally printing them out on my laser printer. I did the same for the interiors, selecting a rough stone wall and mosaic floor pattern, as well.

I measured the inside and outside walls carefully and then cut each paper print out to size. I then painted the top and bottom edges of the boxes in black paint. I did this with the interior seams between the four walls with each other and also with the floor.  This is in case any of the paper doesn't extend all the way to an edge. The gap shows  black and gives the appearance of shadows or cracks. To affix the paper images, I painted each surface, one at a time, with straight white glue, then quickly applied the image. I smoothed it out, then went on the next. I did the floor interior last, after completing the outer and inner walls.
As always, the interiors look great using the printed paper. Note the spiral staircase and the Buddha altar inside the hidden chamber of the temple.
 I wasn't sure how well the marrying of two dimensional, paper walls with the 3-D roofs and statue would look. If I were to do it again, I would probably play with the color of the images more in Photoshop to try and get them to match the tone of the painted pieces. All in all, it looks okay, I think. I don't like it as well as my completely scratch-built temples. However, it was quick and easy to do, I think will look acceptable on the tabletop. Would I do it like this again? Hmm...probably not. However, I really wanted a temple with a Khmer-style frieze since my scenarios are set in French Indochina. It will work for the game, and I'm sure my players probably won't grouse about playing on second-rate terrain...ha, ha!

1 comment:

  1. It looks fabulous, Mike. You can be justly proud of it, sir.

    -- Jeff