I draw the occasional D&D map

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The mysterious Ten Crown River Caves are a set of five entrances cut into the limestone walls of the Ten Crown River by another watercourse that no longer travels this way. Four of the openings are into a single cavern that runs adjacent to the river (typically referred to as a “gallery” cave). Somewhere deep inside is an old hole where the prior river ran into the caves, but it has been filled in with dirt and rubble for untold years now, leaving the caves dry and almost hospitable.

Drawn in 2014, this map is being re-released through the blog under a free commercial-use license thanks to my awesome supporters on Patreon.
 

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As we continue exploring the undercity along the riverbanks, the structures take on a much different feeling. Remnants up here are really that – the remains that didn’t get filled in, but just built over. Things get wetter as river water seeps into these basements and ruins, and of course, sections were sealed off in the process of building the sewers during the last Ditlana.

The largest section of this map is a series of interconnected flooded basements. Pressed down into the riverbanks and unmaintained, these spaces have flooded and have been interlinked by something that lives down here – perhaps ghouls, or something altogether alien that has settled here.

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This map is relatively isolated from the overall undercity – accessed by wandering down the sewers from map 1R, or through secret doors to the already isolated sections of map 1P. The flooded basements have been sealed off from the surface for a generation or more now, but the moisture seeps up and the housing here suffers from it. The only surface access is a sewer maintenance access on the lower right.

I’m particularly happy with how this section came together. It feels run-down and decrepit – a reminder that there’s a lot of garbage under the city – that the history of the place isn’t all grand temples, cults, and the great clans – but also half-assed construction work, forgotten soggy places, and crumbling debris.
 

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Gruthren the Excessive (also known as Gruthren Lord of All That Shines and is Buried, Gruthren the Obsessed, Gruthren Master of All Things Great and Small, Gruthren The Builder, Gruthren the Immense and Gruthren Of Too Many Titles) had this great hall constructed on level 3 of a local dungeon that he had cleared out by a team of mercenary adventurers. Purely so he would have something this insanely big for others to discover. Once the reconstruction of the level was complete, he abandoned the site and encouraged it’s repopulation with various foul beasts by leaving behind a significant quantity of gold, gems, foodstuffs, and even some mighty magical treasures he had accumulated.

Sure enough, his plan worked, and foul beasts moved in from below and above, warring over control of the hall in the centre of the dungeon. Finally a potent mind controlling beast took residence here and used one of the magic statues left behind by Gruthren the Foolishly Brave as a magical link back to him, and drew him here to meet his doom.

Well, that’s the story at least. Others say that Gruthren died choking on a chunk of overcooked mutton at the local whorehouse, and the stories of his luring back to the Great Hall was just to conceal how much treasure his advisers and staff took with them when they vacated his palace.

(Originally drawn in 2014, resampled and cleaned up with added grid in 2018)
 

Welcome back, travellers, to the Heart of Darkling – a series of free maps tied together by the underground Darkling River and the deep blackness of the Darkling Lake.

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The Darkling River finally spills into the Darkling Lake in a region known as the Augite Shore. Augite is a black igneous stone with a glassy luster and the propensity to shear at nearly 90 degree angles, making it a remarkable stone for building with. To those coming down the river here, there is a sudden change in pressure and atmosphere as the roof opens up over the lake, and the walls reflect torchlight like shattered windows erected by giants.

About a hundred feet from where the river opens up into the lake is a small fortification built from augite blocks. Part of a guard post built by slaves of an earlier Aboleth overlord, it likely sits eerily empty now. But not unguarded.

Cheig’shun, the twin-tailed mutant Aboleth who controls this territory now, has no fondness for surface creatures and their methods. He leaves the fortress abandoned because he guards the area from under the waters, where his slaves anchor themselves to the lakebed and watch for boats and other intruders and wait...
 

Duke Dorian (although we always called him Duke Eyebrows because… well… it looks like he has a pair of dire caterpillars arguing over which one gets to eat his eyeballs)…

Let me start over.

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Duke Dorian isn’t really a “duke”, more of a “guy who has a small private mercenary force, a lot of skill with a blade, and enough underground contacts to buy a real title if he wanted one”. He handles most business at his “cottage” – a squat and well defended stone structure back on Iron Chimes Lane. In traditional overblown badguy fashion, in front of his dais where he holds audiences is a pit trap that slides the unwary down into his fight pit where he keeps a quartet of rust monsters and a naked and violent hill giant with some serious brain damage.

There’s even a little room set aside to watch the festivities in the pit below, with wall made transparent through some strange alchemy or magic.
 

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In the heart of the swamp, Stirge Rock is a small fortification and settlement named after the best known of the local wildlife.

An outcropping of rock that has pushed up above the swampland (or at least not been completely drowned in it), Stirge Rock has always had a problem with the damned bloodsucking beasts it shares a name with. The folk of Stirge Rock are quite capable and hardy from generations of living in this hostile swamp environment.

Originally established a few generations ago, the inhospitable locale has lead to a fairly regular turnover in the local leadership and the fortification and settlement are currently “managed” by Lobouth Redgut, a red-bearded dwarf of incredibly foul temperament and brutality. Lobouth is nonetheless respected because he has lead the people in multiple battles defending the settlement from lizardfolk raiders and he has spent a significant portion of his personal funds to help import foods and other aid for the people of the town.
 

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The Skittering Caves? Did the sage really suggest the skittering caves? The only way from here to there is through the Skittering Caves? You know I’m arachnophobic, right? Yeah, we’re going to take a break out here and prep every fire spell known to man and god alike.

The Skittering Caves are absolutely, incontrovertibly, 100% not based on the encounter between Sam and Frodo against Ungoliant’s daughter, Shelob. Honest.

I had a lot of fun putting this one together, with a lot of variation in line strength and thickness, including working on multiple thicknesses of lines in the hatching as well. An experiment that came out well.
 

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About 40 minutes upriver from Kreland’s Ford is the old Blackhall. Sitting on a small hill, now nearly overgrown with brush and trees, the squat stone house has been abandoned for at least a decade, and is of course said to be haunted by the ghost of the previous owner who was slain in his sleep by creatures unknown.

Blackhall is obviously not a standard house – it is made of dark stone with very thick walls and narrow windows. Only a single story tall, the squat dark structure is heavy with the promise of mystery and creepiness. Of the windows, only the one looking into the overgrown garden is still intact. Leaves and other detritus covers the floors of the other rooms.

The current master of Blackhall hides from the sun in the small central secret room, and spends a little time in the chamber with the intact window, reading by candle light and occasionally walking the hall.
 

“No, seriously folks, wasn’t there a giant emerald castle RIGHT HERE last time we were out this way?”

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A sure sign that player characters have been somewhere is the smoke, bodies, and sheer scale of destruction left behind.

In this case, we once had a massive fortress on the edge of a ravine. Now we have a big damned (smoking) hole with a few bits of the fortress dungeons and research chambers left and one set of cracks leading all the way out to the floor of the ravine (left) and a set of ruined “steps” that lead up to the edge of the crater above (bottom right). The floor of the space is home to debris from the ruins above, huge boulders, and structural debris from the massive machinery that was once housed down here.

This map was used when we played “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” in a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign. We played through the original Emerald Enchanter adventure in a previous campaign, so it was a great flashback to the prior campaign without any spoilers.
 

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Occasionally when delving through archaic tomes about the prehuman denizens of the world, one comes across references to the Lost City of the Naga Queens somewhere around the Donon Basin. The city is supposedly home to arcane technologies that the Naga Queens once used to attempt to wrest domination of this world from the elven empire.


Turns out the Nagas never lost it - the defensive energy screen is still in effect, held in place by the pylons their servants maintain to keep the city safe. They just prefer that everyone else forget about the place so they can go about their business. The energy screen protects the city from scrying, teleportation, and from being accessed via other dimensions or planes. 
 

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