Journeys in the Deep

I finished the modular cave system for the kids D&D campaign, I think it will also get a lot of use in other games as well. In particular for Empire of the Dead, or even Achtung Chuthlu. I started with the usual raw materials of water based calking compound and chux cloth. This time for the second layer I used a technique that plasterers use called bagging. This is when they use a hessian bag and pull it away from the wet surface to get a raised texture. I used a lightweight plastic shopping bag. The thing to remember is that the bag will pick up the calking compound and that will make it more sticky and result in larger peaks, use a small section of the bag and hold it rather loosely.

The Raw Materials

First coats
After bagging

Once all the cloths were done with both coats I had to wait until they dried, which was about 6 hours. After it dried I cut the cloths into the various shapes that I required. I used the “Dungeons & Dragons” scale of 1″ = 5 feet as the basis for my size calculations as the primary function of this cave system was to play the next adventure of my kids D&D campaign.

the initial painting

I got a large pot of what was called licorice black from our local hardware superstore (Bunnings) and then rolled it on. I discovered that rather then being a true black it was actually a deep purple and took 4 coats to get as dark as I wanted. Initially I was a little annoyed but after it dried I found that I actually liked the dark purple effect better! After the 4 coats it came out a deep purple that I then dry brushed with a medium gray sample pot that I also got from Bunnings

After 4 coats
Dry brushed Gray
the final system

Because of the uneven drying the sides tend to curl up. The simple fix was to paint the other side and allow to dry. that straightened the curl quite well. I also flex the tiles a bit and that also helps, finally ironing them will also flatten them out, just remember to do it on a low heat and also between some newspaper otherwise the iron can get coated in things that are best not transferred to clothes!

A sample at work

I was happy with the end result and the best part is that it is endlessly repeatable, meaning that I can expand on it continually. I will probably build some more caves and chambers in the not to distant future. However I did build some stalagmites and a couple of pillars to give some cover. I really like the new range of accessories available from both Mantic and Deep Cut that I will get to fill up the space.

One of the side affects of using so much calking compound is that I have a heap of nozzles left over as I don’t use them when making the mats. I used Hot Glue to attach them to MDF bases that I had. I used some tablet tubes to make the columns

I then used a heap of Hot Glue to make the actual flows and this looked rather good. Again Bunnings was the source of the glue and it was cheap at about $2.50 for 12 sticks. I ended up using about 60 sticks for the final effect. I found this process actually rather quick and remarkably fun. It took about 3 hours to do the ones that I had. I did manage to cover my fingers in hot glue a few times, and it was a little painful. The fluid nature of the glue while it was hot was perfect and it flowed well.

After the Glue

I then spray painted them black with a cheap flat black spray can. The end result was a little glossy but I was not worried about that.

Sprayed black

A quick dry brush with the same gray that I used on the tiles picked up the details quite nicely.

After dry brushing

Finally I airbrushed them with about 4 colours to just pick up some interest. Again this process is endlessly repeatable and as I need more it is a fairly quick process to get these made.


This particular project took about 15 hours from start to finish. I am fairly pleased with the result. Cost was about $40 dollars and most of that was paint. The primary motivation to make this stuff was so that I could have something that was endlessly expandable and a happy side effect is the cost, or rather lack of it. I initially costed a commercial system and after I recovered from the shock I started making the one above. I will make some underground river sections next and perhaps some pits and stairs. Not really sure. Sewers are definitely on the to do list.

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