I recently began playing Rangers of Shadow Deep, a game by Joseph A. McCullough of Frostgrave fame. As with Frostgrave, Rangers of Shadow Deep is full of scenarios that provide plenty of opportunities to make interesting terrain pieces. The second scenario in the core rulebook is set in a forest with some “nest trees”. So I decided to make something a little more interesting than just using model train trees that are so familiar in miniature gaming.
I started with a piece of PVC sheet as a base and hot glued down a few strands of florist wire. The wires were twisted around each other and roughly shaped into a tree trunk and branches.
I then wrapped the wires in chunks of air-dry clay and made something vaguely resembling a tree. Once all that was in place, I ran a pointy tool along the trunk and branches to create some exaggerated tree-like texture.
Once the clay had dried, I found a lot of cracks in the structure, mainly where I tried to merge separate chunks of clay. I assume this is because the joins were not blended well enough, so as the clay dried, it shrunk and separated. These cracks were easily fixed with some filler/joint compound. I also noticed that the base had warped. Since the PVC sheet is non-porous, I figure the shrinking roots of the tree had just pulled the base up. This was also easily fixed by pushing down on the base to flatten it out. There was a few crackling sounds as some bits of clay detached from the base, but overall the tree was still firmly attached.
For painting, I just covered the whole tree in a dark brown, dry brushed a mid grey, and then washed it black. I put a layer of textured paint on the base, followed by a dark brown, a dry brush of light brown/tan, and then a wash of black.
For the leaves, I used PVA to glue on clumps of Woodland Scenics Medium Green Foliage Clusters to the branches. I also added a few chunks of Light Green Clump Foliage for some colour variation. The final touch was to spray it all with watered down PVA glue and sprinkle Green Grass Fine Turf over the foliage. This gives the foliage clumps a more fluffy look and blends the different colours together. I then gave it another quick spray of watered down PVA to nail it all down. The base was a typical affair of static grass, grass tufts, and a little fine turf.