Friday, January 25, 2013

Simple Waterfall Terrain


Have received several kind compliments on the waterfall seen in Giglamps in the Heart of Darkness.

Thought I would write a short piece on how this was done. It's definitely cheap and cheerful versus master terrain and that by design.

Like many of you, I imagine, space for "one off" terrain items is getting to be a problem. I mean how often am I really going to need a waterfall in my games?

With that in mind I decided against store bought or bespoke terrain making and went with things that were already to hand.

First thing, as always, was to scour the internet for photos of real waterfalls. I am sure we all have a picture in our mind of what a waterfall looks like but is it a detailed picture?

Having never thought much about it before it turned out that mine was not. First the obvious. A river or stream flows off the edge of some steep slope and dramatically falls with a roar onto the ground below.

Really large waterfalls are quite er, foamy, but smaller ones have these characteristics:

1. Looks like a normal watercourse at the top.
2. Spray obscures the actual drop.
3. The falling water is actually quite clear, not being so "deep" (from the horizontal) as it is before or after the fall.
4. Quite a bit of foam at the bottom.
5. Either a pool or just a very fast flow downhill once it reaches the bottom.

Above you can see the ingredients used to represent these effects:

2x Mesas constructed from foam packing many years ago
3x River sections from Miniature World Maker (also many years old)
1x Piece of plastic wrap (believe it is Glad Warp)
Some bits of cotton puffs teased out int irregular shapes

First step: Stack the mesas to get a greater height effect. I wanted a great big waterfall to separate one side of the table from the other. Also place the lower river section running from the base of the cliff.

Second step: Place the plastic wrap. The piece of wrap has to be long enough to overlap both the top and bottom river section. Then bit on the top will go under the top piece while the bit on the bottom will be folded under itself on top of the bottom section.

The wrap itself should be a few layers thick to give the impression of depth. Unless your river is really wide this will simply be a matter of folding the wrap that comes out of the box into a narrow enough piece to not overflow the banks of your river.

Third step (optional): To reinforce the notion that this terrain was impassible I flanked the bottom river section with a couple of escarpment pieces (from Battlefront in this case). It actually looked fine without these raised banks.

Fourth step: Place the upper river section being sure to tuck any excess wrap underneath.

Final step: Place the teased out cotton on the ledge above and at the base of the waterfall to represent the foamy spray.

That's it. Couldn't be simpler.

Hope you found some inspiration for your own terrain needs and thanks for stopping by!


  1. Nice, simple, and effective.

  2. Just a s Dale said! Very effective too!

  3. Effective, easy and straight forward to do. Just what I would expect from a monkey with a monocle. :-) Good stuff, thanks for posting this. I enjoyed reading it.


  4. Wonderful and inventive.
    Do you have any more creative terrain ideas like this one?
    Care to share them?

  5. A great piece of unique terrain.

    very well done.

    (I also liked the after action report - I think I mentioned this.)


  6. What a cracker! Thanks for sharing how you created this waterfall. A very easy production method, but with good results and no problems to pack away!