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Tabletop RPG, Terrain Building and a Little English Village

Hello, blog! Hello, dear blog reader! Been a while, ey? Never thought my first post after a long hiatus would be about my little diorama. But it’s September now (Would you believe? How time flies!), meaning my favourite season, autumn, is just around the corner. Time to post something already! 

Autumn is energising for me, thanks to the amazing burst of colours in nature, like a last attempt to be beautiful before the dark and dreary winter sets in. Right now it’s raining in Tokyo, that short wet period when summer transitions to autumn, but that means the temperature has dropped from the 30s to the 20s (degrees Centigrade). Which is a good thing – even if, say, I get to live in the tropics for years and years, I’ll always be that girl who prefers the cold over the heat. 

Anyway, enough about the weather. Let’s get ourselves up to speed with what’s going on at Hana’s Blog.

D&D Terrain Building

There was a time, back when I was a student, when I prided myself in being a competent Dungeon Master in the world of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Of course, whether I was really ‘good’ or not is something only my fellow guild members could vouch for, but I reckon I wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t bad because I really enjoyed it, being a DM. 

Rolling the dice in D&D

Fast forward to 2021, I’m out of school and part of the rat race. Gone are my dragons and goblins and wizards and monster figures – I put them in a box and mailed them to my younger cousins who are into tabletop RPG. For some reason, however, I kept all the buildings I owned. It took me years to collect them and I couldn’t part with them just like that, even after graduation. There’s something about a town and being the mayor of it, or pretending you’re a famous city planner-cum-architect who (with a bit of magic) could just move buildings about as you please, that I find to be great fun.

In D&D and other tabletop RPG, terrain building is a big thing. To do it right, which means making it really immersive, we need foundation pieces (foam boards, game mats, terrain trays) to cover the entire table, elevation pieces (skill checks, environmental hazards), focal point pieces, and scatter filler (plants, wheeled objects, signs, etc). Then there are the mini figures, of course. Plus the special effects, like glowing lava and fireworks, to tie everything together. This requires tons of objects, meaning you need $$$ to buy everything. 

But back when I was part of a D&D club at school, we all contributed to the tabletop. There was someone who brought their monster figures, someone who had an impressive castle collection, someone with all the buildings, someone with all the farm animals, someone with all the tools and carts and market stalls and whatnot. And then there were the rest of us who brought a little bit of everything. Part of the fun was knowing we truly needed each other – not just as adventurers or game masters but because the tabletop terrain would look poorly without everyone’s contributions.  

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Sadly, after graduating, I’m no longer part of a group, and whatever quests I go through I do it on my own, mostly in my head. There are RPG groups in Tokyo and around the Kanto region that I could join, not to mention the bazillions of groups online, but honestly, work has taken over my life these days and I could no longer muster the energy. After sitting staring at a computer screen all day, my head turns into scrambled eggs and all I want to do is sit vegetating in front of the telly once I get home. Or read manga. Or catch up with an anime series. Or shop online. I guess this mindless consumerism is a by-product of being a cog in the capitalist machine. But that’s another topic for another day.

Back to the Basics

It’s bad to be just a consumer, though, bad for creativity, bad for brain plasticity. I know this for a fact. Since I put fanfic writing (or any kind of creative writing altogether) on hold, I’ve been less happy with myself. I feel I’m turning my brain to mush by watching too much telly and not doing stuff with my hands. At the beginning of this month I began writing once more, but at the snail pace of a paragraph per day. Writing, while fun, is also quite taxing. What to do to relax? 

I’m an anxious mess a lot of the time, which is common in my industry, it seems. One of my colleagues swears by knitting’s ability to help her relax. She says handling yarn helps rest her mind by concentrating on the movements of her fingers, providing a respite from compulsive worrying. 

While I have plenty of respect for those who can knit, I just can’t imagine myself as a knitter. So I’ve been thinking of something I enjoyed as a kid and came up with:

Clay modeling. Modeling clay.

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Child’s play

Ahaha, yeah, I’ve regressed back to my kindergarten days. I used to enjoy making dinosaurs and other animals, mostly. Instead of buying stuff for my diorama, perhaps I could make some of them. I mean, everybody’s making miniatures these days! Or maybe I’m just following too many game terrain builders and dollhouse makers on social media, ahaha!

My pipe dream is to own a 3D resin printer where I could print my own figures and stuff, but OMG I cannot afford a good one. So back to the basics we go! xD

I’ll be putting up my little hand-made trees and such on IG for anyone to make fun of, so I suppose that’s one new thing I’ll be doing for this new season xD

The English Countryside

So as you’ve seen in the cover image, here’s my setup:

Taking up space in my small flat is this layout board

I’m thinking my little European town looks somewhat like a slice of Olde England, but I guess that’s because half the miniature houses really are from over there: they’re a hodgepodge of Lilliput Lane, David Winter, Penthouse & Pavement, and Lakeland Studios – all of which are handmade/handpainted in the UK. 

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Shaftesbury, England

The French village-style group of buildings is from a series called Benny’s that I got in Japan from a garden center and a Rakuten online store, while the buildings at the bottom (series name: Ueki Original) are also purchased here from another garden center and a Rakuten online store. I’ve always thought of completing the sets one of these days, but sadly they’re no longer in production. That’s what happens to me thinking ‘one of these days’. That phrase basically means ‘never’. 

It has an old steam train I need to repaint

With these hand-painted miniature models, becoming defunct (due to lack of demand, I guess) is something far from rare. I mean, the famous Lilliput Lane manufacturer went belly-side up in 2016! I’m really gutted about the Ueki Original miniatures, though. In the past, I contacted the Rakuten store about the four they had listed out of stock that I’ve been eyeing for a year, but they told me they’re no longer being made. *Sigh!*

Anyway, I only have one small layout board (60 x 90cm) and there’s barely enough space for more buildings. I’ll need to build upward, like houses on the mountainside in Cinque Terre along Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

Liguria, Italy

What my layout also needs are more plants and water features. So I’ll be making a bunch of trees, bushes, ponds and such. Should be fun and healthy! It’d really be nice to be looking at something that’s not a digital screen for long periods of time. 

Needs water features and greenery

Cute Over Cool

I remember in my former D&D club about aiming for realistic, medieval fantasy terrains. They look really cool, and that’s the look the popular terrain builders on IG have. 

Mine is more cutesy, though, more like period drama Cranford in the wonderful BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic works. In anime it would fit the Sword Art Online look, I think, or any work titled with the words 魔法 (mahou, magic) or 騎士 (kishi, knight). 

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Cotswold, England

I’m all about making things look pretty these days – I’ve given up on trying to be cool, ahaha! – so I want to make a lovely town with sweet flower beds and a kawaii fountain and a serene lake with a little rowboat on it. Those are things I can make out of modeling clay, right? Right? Let’s see! xD

As for the diorama itself, it’s less a board for playing tabletop RPG and more a backdrop for figure photography. If I put my JJK figures on it that’ll create an entire 異世界 Isekai thingy! xD

Perfect Isekai backdrop for my JJK and other figures

My other goal for the new season is to begin updating this blog once again at the rate of one post per week. 

That’s it for updates on what is happening in my part of the globe. The pandemic rages on in Japan: it’s unwise to be partying all night long with a maskless crowd in an unventilated room, so better stay home and make mini flower beds, is the name of the game right now. For people like me, at least. Stare at the computer screen and have online meetings all day, make miniature clay garbage with your hands at night. Not a bad way to live, I guess xD

So, what about you? What’s going on where you’re at?

Thank you so much for reading! Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. Your comments give me life and are a real source of encouragement. xoxo – hana

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