My campaign storyline revolved around the evil schemes of a Lord of Hell, bent on getting his claws on as many souls as he could harvest, even if that meant invading the Material Plane. There were various routes by which the players might end up in Hell but all ultimately involved passing through the Gates of Hell. So I set about doing a little research for inspiration. Time and again I was drawn to the etchings of Gustave Doré that accompanied Dante Alighieri's most famous work the Divine Comedy.
The tortured detail of Dore's etchings were a fertile guide to how I wanted my gates to look. I was also greatly impressed by a sculptural work called The Gates of Hell by the French artist Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from The Inferno.
I started off by buying the Warhammer Arcane Ruins set by Games Workshop. This would require a far bit of conversion work to achieve what I wanted but working with plastic is very easy. I created the top of the door archway from two sections of monolith lintel. I then 'decorated' the columns with a selection of body parts from my plastics bit's-box.
I took advantage of the melting effect of polystyrene cement to make the pieces sink into the column so they looked like carvings rather than stuff I'd struck on the outside. The completed model was then left for 24hrs to dry and was then washed and undercoated before being sprayed in GW Rough Coat Spray. I then dry brushed an orange 'glow' from gate itself. This was a relatively quick conversion job because I knew this model would probably only get used once.
Below is a photo of the finished Gates as used in the game.
When my players realised that they were going to have to enter Hell (having been tricked into opening the portal by the subtle machinations of the Lord of Hell himself) I got responses ranging from incredulity to hostility to stunned silence. I, however, just laughed maniacally. After all, being Evil towards ones players is a perk of the job as a GM.