Friday, June 29, 2012

The Necromancer's Cave Entrance

Excerpt from "The Necromancer" by Rush

[I. Into the Darkness]

As grey traces of dawn tinge the eastern sky,
the three travelers, men of Willowdale,
emerge from the forest shadow.
Fording the River Dawn, they turn south, journeying
into the dark and forbidding lands of the Necromancer.
Even now the intensity of his dread power can be felt,
weakening the body and saddening the heart.
Ultimately they will become empty, mindless spectres...
stripped of will and soul, only their thirst for freedom
gives them hunger for vengeance...

The Necromancer's Lair (oops! I forgot to turn on the lanterns!)

The entrance to a small Dwarven Forge set-up

Angle shot

Here's a short video of the piece showing the flickering lanterns:

(This is quite a long post, so if you just want to see more pictures of the finished piece then just skip to the end)

A while back, I decided to try and make my own Dwarven Forge compatible piece. I always thought that their Realm of the Ancients Ruined Entrance piece was pretty cool and that got me thinking of other kinds of "entrance pieces" that would be more generic to use with their Classic Dungeon Sets.

Inspired by the song, "The Necromancer" by Rush, I thought that something a little darker and sinister would make for a great look. While out picking up pet supplies one day, I saw this cool aquarium decoration:

Resin skull decor for an aquarium

I thought the teeth on the skull looked somewhat vampiric which got me thinking that they'd be pretty cool in the opening of my cave entrance piece. So I started by cutting the bottom teeth off, making a mould of them, and casting two resin copies for use in my project.


The original teeth and the rubber mould I made of them

I started by using polymer clay to shape the base and walls. I inserted the resin teeth that I cast in the front opening and added more clay to make it look smooth and fill any gaps. After baking it (so it hardens), I sprayed a grey primer on the entire thing then afterwards thought to put the shelves on each side of the opening to later add some lanterns. I wanted to see how it looked with a pathway leading up to the opening so I put some brown gravel on (I later removed it).

Overall view

Close-up of the opening

Side view

As usual, I thought it'd be cool to add some electronics to the project. I drilled holes in the shelves to install LED's and used a dremel tool to cut slots in the clay on each inner side for their wiring (to route to the back of the piece). Then I embedded a tiny, yellow LED into each shelf so that it's flat with the surface and showing through the top, then filled any gaps with putty.

Slots drilled for the lantern wiring

In the picture above, you can see on the outer left side I added a big lump of putty. Once it was dry, I drilled it out and installed the electronics from two flameless tea candles in there. I connected the lantern LED's and a power plug (in hindsight, I wish I had of made this piece battery powered instead of plug-in). ANY-way....

I began to put the individual "boulders" on the walls one at a time. As you can probably imagine, this took quite a while to complete as I had to shape each one by hand so the overall look of the walls wasn't too repetitive.

Adding the boulders was.....

a slooowww process!

I had a bit of a setback after a while. When I initially started making this piece, I was actually just winging it - not really thinking too much about compatibility with Dwarven Forge products. After I had a rough prototype done, I decided that I did want it to fit with their products. At that point the project underwent a major overhaul and restructure to get one of the walls in proper alignment (went from Chaotic Evil to Lawful Good! ;) And of course, when I was hacking away at the wall, I nicked the wire for one of the lanterns. Cursing ensued. But I eventually managed to fix it all up nice and spiffy!

Major overhaul underway

Rewiring the lantern

Aligning the wall with a Dwarven Forge piece


Ok, after that fiasco was done, I finished putting the boulders on the outside and puttied the inner floor like the Dwarven Forge Passage piece. I then started installing the inner boulders and got that part all done. I slapped on a dark black wash to fill in all the spaces then did the best I could to match the paint scheme of actual Dwarven Forge. This took quite some time as I'm simply not that good at painting much less paint matching.

Outside boulders are done!

Starting the inner boulders (floor is done)

Back view with black wash applied (the power connector can be seen on the lower left side)

The painted boulders (the base is still in progress)

To make the small flames, I glued a little dollop of cured, clear silicone seal over each LED. Once powered up, the flickering light from the flameless tea candle circuitry shines into the silicone and makes them look like small flames.

I made the lanterns by soldering some small metal pieces into a square-ish frame. I used a small pyramid shaped piece of plastic that I cast from a Hirst Arts mould as the top and added a loop from an old chain as the handle. I painted it black then dry brushed some other colours on to give it a weathered look.

Assembling the lanterns by soldering some small metal pieces together

I wanted the overall look of the terrain to be sort of barren and desolate, as if a dark and twisted evil has moved in and taken over the surrounding land and because of this evil, mostly dead, dry plants and no wildlife remain. I decided to give the base a more grey "dead earth" look. The teeth are an off white and I painted the gum line reddish to make it seem like the opening might be a real mouth. Is it a trap that closes on those who attempt to enter? Only one way to find out.....

So for the ground debris, I simply added some Woodland Scenics flock and bushes. I looked around outside for some sand, twigs, wood, and small stones that worked well for the ground scenery. The dead tree is actually a part of a root from a dead plant I found. The sign is made from some driftwood. I simply tied the two pieces together with some fine thread. The cross on the grave is from an old piece of jewelry I got at a flea market. I made the ruts in the path by simply carving them in the clay with a knife.

For the skull, I simply painted a small skull from Secret Weapon Miniatures. When I was looking for ground debris, I found a small, dried up twig that had tiny thorns on it. I thought they looked like small spikes and I wanted to somehow incorporate them into my piece. As I was removing them from the twig, I noticed they were close to the right scale as the skull so I put them on as horns and loved the way it looked!

Here are a few more pictures:

A close-up of the skull

Overall look

Side view

The "EVIL" sign and cross grave marker

I hope you enjoyed this blog posting. I think this is my favourite piece to date. I have a lot of ideas for more projects so stay tuned in. Thanks!


  1. LOVE this. Love the lair, love the awesome entrance, and particularly love the idea of you sitting in your den with RUSH on repeat, carving and wiring away, stopping only to rock some epic air drum solos.

  2. Okay, now that is epic! How long did it take you? Man, I wish I had some of those skills but methinks I'm probably far too lazy to put in that kind of time.

    1. Thanks Shannon. I think I started working on this in January. The boulder work and painting took a lot of time (also the rework to the one wall). I worked on it 3 or 4 days a week (with the occasional week off). As with most projects, some days were productive on the piece and some days were more productive on my air drumming to Rush! :)