I draw the occasional D&D map

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A simple map today – I was experimenting with grid design and and layers of elevation, and more fiddling with steep cliff-like elevation changes, and this circular stony hill was the result. It should work well for a obvious place to set up camp when travelling, or more likely, where travelling PCs discover that others have already set up camp along the route.

There’s a spot where a small campfire has been kept on a few occasions, in the lee of the taller portion of the hill, and the rocks have been set up at the slope up to the main hilltop to help make it more defensible.


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God damn, you make me want to bust out my Rapidograph pens, and start creating again!!! I have been spoiled by Photoshop for so long, but your stuff is always inspiring, even for this 40-something guy!!!

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Instead of continuing along the southern edge of Prince’s Harbour, this month I decided it was time to draw the heart of the town itself. This really shows off how the town is a low-density unwalled affair. While located at the edge of the Flindlands, the actual wilderness around the town is more hazardous because of wild animals than any kind of organized hostile forces. This is the kind of place where there is more to fear from a rabid bear, or the slow encroachment of a chaos cult within the town itself.

The heart of Prince’s Harbour includes a number of small docks and wharves for fishing in the Gnoll’s Ear River, and behind a screen of trees from the river is the heart of the town itself – the cluster of structures around the large building just north of the centre of the map is the priory that took in the prince that the town is now named after, with the church set directly across the main street from it.

The Priory is now the heart of the town administration, and serves very little religious purpose anymore. For town meetings and announcements the prior uses the Prince’s Commons – the empty block with only a small gazebo-like structure in the middle. In the winter town meetings are often moved to the church instead otherwise no one would stick around.

A small island in the Gnoll’s Ear is home to Caft Manor, heart of the Caft family who own a lot of the tenant farmland around Prince’s Harbour. Caft Manor is passed down to the head of the family from generation to generation, and is currently home to “Elder” John Caft who is only 26, the youngest head of the family in anyone’s memory.


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We must travel deeper via the third eye!

There are depths beyond this world to which we must travel. We must open the third eye and follow what lays beyond. The true challenge is finding out how to open it. The eye is closed and no matter what we whisper into the ear, it does not open for us.

It is the expansion of the mind we explore for the clues to open the third eye. The mushroom folk who live there claim to have the secret. But they will not give it to us willingly. They misdirect and obfuscate. They speak of states of mind we are not prepared for. Only when we have killed each and every one of them are we satisfied that they do not have any secret keys to the third eye.

But we start to see things differently. As if the ichor of these mushroom "people" has infected us, transitioned us somehow. And when we return stumbling and hallucinating to the chamber of the third eye we can all see how it opens, and reveal the stairway beyond.


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“Vymrrysian scholars have long theorized as to the true nature of the Black Monolith, that totemic object which stabs out from the Infrared Octagonal Hills to the southeast like a knife. While some holdouts still cling to the notion that it was constructed by a long-since-exterminated civilization, most modern academics believe it to have originated from one of the many thousands of suns that dot the night sky. Many an aristocrat has sent scouting or raiding parties to the Monolith, bringing back a variety of alien gems, metals, and the like, assuming they were able to get past the structure’s formidable security measures.”

– From the Ynemvelt Archives

The Zealous Geometers have claimed the Black Monolith as their own, but how can you resist the call of adventure and treasure?

The Black Monolith from Another Sun was originally drawn by Jesse Goldshear and posted to his blog, Yenemvelt – Another World. This redraw is done in cooperation with Jesse’s blessing. The fully stocked level can be found on his blog (linked to from the map page).

Over the next month or two I’ll be redrawing the map of level 2 of the Black Monolith, and then I’ll keep up with Jesse’s expansions to the Monolith as he develops them.


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The ancient house appears to be a massive sprawling mansion from outside. Inside it shows all the signs of unplanned and almost cancer-like growth and change. New wings added haphazardly, sections renovated to new purposes and sealing off other sections in the process. Rooms and sections that can only be accessed through windows from gardens. Stairs that lead nowhere, doors that open into brick walls.

This sprawling Winchester House-inspired map was crafted for jim pinto’s “House of Keys” RPG, the first of several in the Iron Medusa setting – a lawless RPG setting inspired by Slavic folklore.

It was drawn with a Sharpie marker and a black gel pen on an 11 x 17 page.


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Overlooking the grand ballroom of the House of Keys is an upper level balcony,a hint that perhaps one of the sets of stairs in the building actually leads upstairs instead of into a blank wall.

The upstairs is, of course, a confusing maze of tight corridors and small rooms, and of course contains a number of rooms that are no longer accessible – including a small complex of rooms and a space full of dusty life-sized statues. One of the garden light shafts pierces up through the second floor, and is then bisected by a small hallway on the third floor.

This is the second map of the Winchester Mystery House-inspired map created for jim pinto's House of Keys RPG, the first of several in the Iron Medusa setting - a lawless RPG setting inspired by Slavic folklore.

It was drawn with Sharpie markers and black gel pens.


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The first thing you note when descending the stairs into the ancient jungle temple is a hissing sound, like sand pouring through a massive hourglass. The walls down here are a heavy greenish stone, set in massive blocks without mortar. The main chamber at the base of the stairs is a multi-leveled affair, with piers, stairs and columns breaking up the large space.

Then the skeletons slip forward from the darkness and begin firing volleys of arrows at intruders while giant spider crawl down behind the cover of the columns to attack.

More skeletons, these ones riding on the giant spiders, are based in the two chambers behind the stairs leading into the temple. And the hissing always seems to be getting louder from the doors at the other end of the chamber.

In the oddly shaped chamber beyond, the hissing continues but the waves of skeletons & spiders cease. Old spider webs criss-cross this space and in the northern most portion of the chamber there is the MacGuffin – the (chest / sword / orb / skull of a minor god / preserved toe of a saint / egg of the bullywug queen / ceramic pig) that you have been seeking.

It is only when you pick it up that the hissing stops.



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Beneath the Bastion of the Prince of Clubs are the dungeons – consisting of great halls, deep galleries, the hollow library, and the Grey Oubliette – a small island fortress in a cavern, accessible only through the fortress above.

Beyond the Oubliette, forgotten by most and rarely even remembered by the Prince of Clubs, is the Sanctum of the Entwined, a chapel dedicated to the conjoined twin gods of the last days who grant the prince his immortal form and awaken him from his ennui via the Archon Tamaru when they feel a nudge is needed to help push events to the brink of destruction whence they will finally be freed.

The Archon is much less aware of the puppeteers behind her partners actions and sudden bouts of activity and destruction. She remains unaware that they work through her to awaken the lust for destruction within him when needed.


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We trekked across the Dry Reaches, searching for the lost Ziggurat of Mur. On the fourth evening we came across the ruins of an old palace or temple, slowly being conquered by the sands.

Originally we aimed towards it as an obvious location for a night camp to keep out of the cold desert wind as well as to conceal our fire from other (less friendly) explorers. But immediately we spotted the signs of habitation – trails in the sand, scales, and buried dry scat. We explored quietly but found no actual residents – although one of the upper rooms was being used as a sort of larder with a number of desert lizards hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

They waited until most of us were inside exploring to strike. They climbed out of the sand around the palace, attacking our pack animals and burro handlers before surrounding the palace. They looked like lizard folk, but orange, yellow and brown in colour. They slept in the sands, mobilizing to hunt in the morning and evening. The sand devils were ferocious, fearless, and fought until there were but a handful remaining who ran off into the desert making strange howling noises.

We did not sleep that night, waiting for their return.


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A small asymmetric square tower, Brentil Tower stands alone overlooking Banrior Chasm where the hordes of modronic rats once came crashing into these lands.

Currently secured and locked down by the the Sorcerer Lord Iosselmon, barring the use of magics to break in, the only way to unlock the doors are the magical keys distributed to the lieutenants of his Red Rangers.

On the nights of the new moon, you can sometimes see the luminous form of someone pacing in the enclosed balcony on the upper floor of the tower. It is said that Iosselmon’s Red Rangers don’t just use the tower to rest on their tours, but that they have to come here in order to feed whoever or whatever is prisoner up there.


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This small “dungeon” is home to a circle of elementalists who focus on water magics (who call themselves the Blue Warlocks). Excavated and expanded upon from a small cave that linked to an underground river, it now serves as workshops, training and teaching space, and as the repository of a small library of elemental lore.

As the name suggests, the waters here are magical in their own right – the Blue Warlocks use these waters to both enhance their magics and potions, as well as in the research into new spells and items. One of the original Blue Warlocks linked the source of the river to the elemental plane of water as well as a trickle of energy from the positive energy plane.


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Home to the elven bandit Illsong and their dozen-or-so fellows, the Hollowstone camp sits atop (and cuts into) a small rocky promontory in the False Loch Woods.

HollowStone is slowly developing into a small fortress. If Illsong remains untroubled in their occasional banditry and adventuring pursuits, HollowStone will gradually be built up into a potent little keep with its shadow extending over much of the False Loch and perhaps into the bordering principalities.

For now through, the camp is a mix of magically-cut passages through the natural stone paired with defenses built out of the tailings from the excavations and some “wall of stone” spells.

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Raised by a talented Wizard-Noble of old Phalorm, the Seven Spires is a small ornate castle made of seven overlapping towers set on the edge of the Neverwinter woods.

The small castle was used officially as a research space for the wizard-noble, but also served as an escape from court politics in the young war-based nation of Phalorm, and as a watch point over the growing orc menace in the region. Being fairly close to the settlement of Neverwinter, ties were maintained with that growing settlement and information about the movement of the orcs was exchanged.

The Seven Spires were unfortunately built on a dirt plain where bedrock was too deep to dig down to. In time this means the spires are doomed to slow collapse as the weight of the towers presses down and outwards on the foundations.

Whether or not Phalorm survives the orc hordes it was meant to defy (it doesn't, the orcs destroy it less than a century after it was founded), there is only so much time before the years will do the orcs' work for them and the towers begin to collapse upon themselves. Less than 900 years later, the seven spires will look more like a jagged collection of broken teeth than the castle as shown here.

With full credit to +Mike Schley for the original Cragmaw Castle map upon which this is based. I love that map and found it really inspirational.


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“You have in your possession a sword and a shield together with a rucksack containing provisions (food and drink) for the trip. You have been preparing for your quest by training yourself in swordplay and exercising vigorously to buildup your stamina.”

The very mountain is menacing – it seems to have been savaged by the claws of a massive beast. Not an actual volcano, the top of the mountain is covered in strange red vegetation that gives it its name.

This is the setting of the first of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone – The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I got a copy of this book some time in 1982 and fell in love with the rich detailed illustrations of Russ Nicholson throughout and the mix of RPG game elements into a choose your own adventure book.

Through dozens of playthroughs, I only actually finished the adventure once – I even have an instinctive routing through the dungeons following the right-hand path to the bridge over the river – but I have thoroughly explored the passages and rooms leading up to that river. It was on the other side of the underground river that my adventures routinely went wrong.

Last month, I finally sat down with the old tattered book and gave it another run – this time marking every choice, every room, and every passage. It took me a day to complete this map of the southern half of the dungeons – everything up to the underground river.

Now I just need to map the chambers on the other side, and the maze between them and the warlock himself…


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“The Warlock himself was a sorcerer of great power. Some described him as old, others as young. Some said his power came from an enchanted deck of cards, others from the silky black gloves that he wore.”

Once you have crossed the underground river (across the rickety bridge, by boat, or swimming in piranha and crocodile infested waters), the areas under Firetop Mountain feel… different. Where the earlier portions contained many guards, once you get past the immediate structures around the beach, the dungeons become winding, confusing, and home to wandering patrols. Many secret doors here are one-way affairs and dead-ends often have teleport traps instead of secret passages…

It is thus a great relief to stumble into the final caves, only to discover that before you even face the Warlock in order to get to his treasure, you must deal with a fierce dragon that lairs in the cavern.

Through dozens of playings of the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I only got through the maze a few times before giving up (often because I was playing it at school during a break). You could navigate the rest of the book without a map, but if you failed to map this section, you were effectively wandering blind – doubly so if you made the mistake of triggering one of the teleportation traps.

So last month I finally sat down and navigated every bend, dead-end, secret door, nook, and cranny of the maze. In my head the maze was small – maybe 1/4 the size it appears here. But getting the corridors to fit together well ended up stretching them out significantly until the north side map was nearly as big as the (much more densely populated) south side.


Gonna have to "barrow" those Seven Spires maps for the current Blackmoor campaign. I've gotten tired of the players always going to the dungeon, so I am putting a door in the dungeon that leads to a wilderness. Kind of like the wardrobe in the CS Lewis books.

Thanks Dyson!

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Once the source of a small river that ran through these badlands, these caves are still home to the river, but it remains underground now instead of working through the nooks and crannies of the slate fields.

Broken up into multiple elevations throughout, these caves have been home to beasts and men alike seeking water and refuge from the badlands. Now they are home to Mohkath, a reclusive mantisfolk necromancer. He uses the space to study and is attended to (and defended by) a very strange assortment of animated giant beetles and skeletal constructs.

Some locals are happy to have a potent wizard nearby, even if it is a creepy one. They bring Mohkath offerings of food and skeletal remains in order to try to curry his favour in case they ever need his intervention in local affairs. But most are wary of a necromancer living nearby – and more than a few would sleep much better at night should someone take care of the whole “bug necromancer” issue.


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Mayer’s Fort is a small mountain village backed by a fierce stone walled keep. Initially a small mountain keep for a retiring adventurer, the addition of a monastery outside the keep walls slowly encouraged a small village to build up around the keep and across the river on the grassy verge.

Mayer’s Fort lacks an inn or tavern, and instead social life in the small community centres around the open garden at the monastery (the H-shaped building in the bottom middle of the map) and the bakery across the road from it.

With only 150 people, and a nobleman’s keep here, there are very few visitors that need a place to stay who don’t either already know someone in town (that they have probably come to trade with), or who have high enough social standing to seek the lord’s hospitality.

On the other hand, the town is high-brow enough to offer a magic shop (not where you buy magic items, but where you can get spell components, foci, and the other things that wizards, druids, and clerics shop for), a bookbinder, and an illuminator – all based out of the monastery and the building just southeast of it.


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