I draw the occasional D&D map


Vault of the Cave Morphs!

Based on the cave work I did for the Descent into the Depths of the Earth tunnels and passages, here are five cave geomorphs that can be used to link up to any existing tunnels. They are all 2 squares wide at the entrances just like the existing encounter area maps for that adventure, so they mesh best with the secondary tunnels but can be used as constrictions in primary passages or widened areas in tertiary tunnels.

These were my first experiment using a sharpie marker as the foundation of my map drawing – for a number of these geomorphs the outer walls were drawn using a dying marker instead of my usual felt-tipped technical pens. They were drawn using a 07 gel pen for most details and hatching (the same pens I used back when I first started drawing maps), and the sharpie marker for the walls. I used a Squarehex PoGI (Pad of Geomorphic Intent) and drew them while watching “The New Girl” on TV with MissGladiator (and while digging through my Twilight 2000 materials, as you can see in the photo below).

This experiment with a sharpie marker in February (I drew these in February and am finally posting them now? WTH?) is what inspired me to buy a bunch more Sharpies which has lead to my current line of “Daily Doodles” that you can follow along with if you follow any of my social media feeds (on Twitter, FaceBook, or Google+).

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Pushing out of the cliff face like a partially exposed egg, this small dungeon complex was evidently not built here but transported in some manner. Either that, or the craftsmen were purposefully annoying in the design as the whole interior structure is at an uncomfortable 7 degree angle with the right edge of the map being slightly more than 36 feet above the height of the entrance doors.

In addition to the awkward angle, the interior of the structure bears a strong scent like a mix of musk and nutmeg. The walls and floors are painted gold, but are scratched up badly enough that most floors and west walls appear to be grey stone with gold streaks on them. Doorways, where open, have golden hair on them from some mighty beast having to squeeze through.

Prowling this space, of course, is the Golden Wolf – an extraplanar beast that must squeeze to push through the 4 foot doorways and is much more comfortable in the wide circular hall of the complex. All doors here open as it approaches, but are often stuck for others. The Golden Wolf guards its treasure jealously – the carcasses of seven platinum geese, each with its neck snapped.


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Pushing out of the cliff face like a partially exposed egg, this small dungeon complex was evidently not built here but transported in some manner. Either that, or the craftsmen were purposefully annoying in the design as the whole interior structure is at an uncomfortable 7 degree angle with the right edge of the map being slightly more than 36 feet above the height of the entrance doors.
The layout itself reminded of that episode of Star Trek TNG with Riker's old ship phaseshifted into an asteroid. The description just seals the deal.

The layout itself reminded of that episode of Star Trek TNG with Riker's old ship phaseshifted into an asteroid. The description just seals the deal.

I could just not get into TNG. I tried again about six years ago, and got through Season 1 and part of Season 2 before I just couldn't anymore.


Foul things are afoot in the town of Melad Crossings. One of the two mills has stopped, the smell of death creeps by in the wind from many buildings, the streets are barren, and those who live are not likely to be out of doors except as is necessary.

The water along the west fork of the river is running milky white, and none of the fishermen are among the living, struck dead two weeks ago just as the river began to change. But that doesn’t explain all the deaths – something else must be working it’s way through the townfolk… while the headsman says it is disease and begs for the church to send healers or paladins, others believe something far more sentient and sinister is behind the continued deaths.

Or, you know, it could just be a pleasant little town for your adventuring party to chill out at en route to their next adventure.


Two hundred years ago the foul giant Auruxvor terrorized the lands along the western shore of the Krumpt Basin from his fortified lakeside “manor”. Padreth Warcton and a group of mercenaries and adventurers put an end to the giant’s reign of terror and with powerful magics they tore his house asunder.

Two of Padreth’s acolytes remained at the site of the old manor and assisted the locals in building a few small fortifications from the stony debris left behind. Over a few years the fortifications and homes became the southern portion of Warcton Hold. The walls and tower on the south side of the hold have many massive stones that still bear the markings of the giant Auruxvor as well as the magical violence that ended his time.

The hold continued to grow. The initial farmers who moved to the hold would leave the town walls to work their fields and herd their animals. Over the years the hold became the centre of local activity and farmers from further away would come to town to trade goods and eventually to acquire fish for a change in their diet once a few local families moved from agriculture to fishing in the Krumpt Basin.

Today there are few farmers who live within the hold itself. A few families who maintain very large farms that are then worked by local tenants are now ensconced here, along with two merchant clans, the local fisher families (who have to clean their catch at an island in the Basin to keep the smell out of the hold), a retired adventurer or two, and of course a number of worshipers of the church that originally brought Padreth Warcton and company here.

The three most obvious details a traveller notes when visiting Warcton Hold for the first time are the walls, the watchtower and the u-shaped building attached to it.

The walls are of mixed hard stone, much of it worked by the giant Auruxvor and his kin prior to it being repurposed by the locals, and stand fourteen feet tall with battlements mostly along the outer edge. Access to the wall top is via a number of small stone towers built into the wall that are of the same height but have ladders within them to the walls themselves. The walls on the north side of the hold are primarily made of field stone, but share the same construction style.

The octagonal watch tower is a stout four-story affair also primarily made of the giant’s stonework. It is connected by a wall and walkway (with an archway to pass under it) to the large wooden U-shaped structure which acts as the home to the local church and the acolytes sent here to maintain it from the distant capital.


Nestled into the Shadow Woods is Guimond’s Tower – a crumbling multi-story stone and wood structure that looks ready to slide down into the woods at a moments notice. Up on the top of the aged stone is a wooden house-like construction looking down on the tree tops in the area. Some believe that the ageless druid-lich (who goes by various names in various stories) of the Shadow Woods lives in the small house at the top of the tower – which explains both how the wooden structure seems to be outlasting the stone tower, and why the stone tower has not collapsed yet.

Like most rumours and sage’s tales, there is more than a small kernel of truth to this. The wooden house is indeed maintained by an ancient nearly-blind hermit who lives here unmolested because the druid-lich lives quite nearby – under the tower in fact.

The tower’s dungeon cannot be reached from within the tower, but by a secret trap door in the grounds just outside the tower. The druid-lich keeps the trap door well hidden by controlling the growth of grass over it, so it is always entirely overgrown and concealed.

The secret door leads to old stone stairs, and in turn to the crypts under Guimond’s Tower. From the old crypts, caves lead deeper underground towards the sound of dripping water and to earthen and stone caves with tree roots hanging from the ceiling and working down the walls. A small pond is back here, and a smaller altar where the druid-lich worships and works in darkness and near-silence.


The ruins of Saurguard Haunt are but burned stones and bits of rain-cleaned charcoal. But it is a harder task to burn down the small dungeon that sat beneath it.

Used as a traditional dungeon to hold prisoners under Saurguard – the dungeon was being expanded to include a temple to the proscribed lords of damnation when construction breached into a a cave slightly beneath the level of the temple and proceeded down through the limestone to the hillside beneath the Haunt.

Of course, you can’t just leave places like this open and unguarded and not expect foul things to move in… The lower entrance to the savage caves has been claimed by giant spiders who have killed off the entire bat population that once lived here, and who knows what foulness has taken over the ancient dungeons?


Old Wharton Mine was a small local source of onyx in its prime, but its location deep in the jungle made it nigh impossible to maintain supply lines or defenses. In the end the mine was abandoned because of prowling beasts and the difficulty in maintaining a workforce out here.

But onyx is a troubling stone. It is the standard material component for animating the dead, and it seems some dark magic is present in the old mine as well as many chips and bits of black and white banded onyx. Now the dead crawl the mine, waiting for prey to kill and try to consume. Animals that came here to get out of the heat were the first victims, but the other beasts of the area have learned to avoid it.

Now the dead wait for those foolhardy enough to try to reopen the mine, or to claim the onyx that remains.

[PAGE 14? Whoa... for those discovering this thread part-way through, all these maps are available in higher resolution versions, many with a free commercial use license, at the blog: https://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com ]


Heart of Darkling – DiTullio Islands

Several rivers run into the Darkling Lake - the vast underground "sea" at the end of the Darkling River. The Ditullio Islands are a small fishing community of mad derro tucked against the shore of the Darkling Lake where two smaller rivers enter it.

The DiTullio derro are paranoid and hostile to everyone, and often to each other. But they truly fear the aboleth lords who lurk in the darkest depths of the Darkling Lake. They have erected a number of small stone houses on their islands, and laid claim to a heavy stone tower that predates their settlement (likely crafted by magic as the stone is nearly perfectly smooth).

They fish on their boats when they seek solitude, but most of their food comes from the nets set to capture fish that come from the smaller river outlet which pours into the Darkling down a twelve foot waterfall. The constant sound of the waterfall only serves to heighten the paranoia of the Derro, but they dare not move away from it as it is their best food source.


While much of the city is served by “surface sewers” to move waste and water, in parts of the old town there exist proper underground sewers that date back to the previous empire’s attempts to clean up the city as a whole. Basements in these neighbourhoods occasionally incorporate parts of the sewer construction, or vice versa. And of course, in the trope of D&D sewers, they have become home to wererats and other foul creatures that represent the decay and seedy side of civilization.

This map focuses on one of the more interesting parts of the sewers under Delren Street. The central location (top centre of the map) is an old basement that is no longer connected to the structure above it and that is linked into the sewers by a secret door. This basement is currently in use by Skittler, an old wererat sorcerer who maintains a small study and bedroom in a side chamber. The rest of the basement is kept fairly clean, with Skittler sweeping it out regularly (and leaving a small pile of dust right outside the secret door).

South of Skittler’s lair is the lair of a couple of less “human” wererats. The entrance to this lair are a pair of large rat-holes in the walls of the sewer – however recently they’ve taken to bringing in larger items to make themselves more comfortable, and have had to enlarge one of their holes to do so – meaning that it is only a matter of time before someone discovers this hiding place.

To the right we have a maintenance access to the sewers (a hatch leading down stairs to the sewers themselves. Extended sections of this area have been barred off with a permanent portculis-type wall. At the upper-right edge of the map we have a section of these structures that has been sealed off from the sewers proper and converted into the basement of a small inn above.


Along the blighted coast, beyond the lands of snow and ice and the adventurers’ boom-town of Gravelthorpe there is an old white stone pier on a quiet lonely shore. In the right seasons you can sometimes find the ruined road that leads into the hills from there and eventually to the valley of the Three Pillars of Ssa-Tun.

The three pillars of Ssa-Tun are massive spires of marbled white and purple stone that reach up over a hundred feet from the ground and descend to unknown depths. Leading to these pillars are a few old ruins reduced to small mounds of rubble, and a much more intact set of ruins built up around the pillars themselves.

And of course, these ruins are inhabited by something unpleasant, alien, and milky white in colour. For the pillars of Ssa-Tun are used, when the stars are right and the proper incantations made, to travel to three specific sites in the Alabaster Hells.



When activated through specific rituals “when the stars are right”, the three pillars of Ssa-Tun act as portals to anchor points in the Alabaster Hells. One of the three pillar-gates leads here, to a small cavern containing a lake of milky-white fluid. As with most things in the Alabaster Hells, everything here is not-quite-white in colour – from the pale grey walls to the heavy quartz pillars that seem to hold up the ceiling of the cave, to the milky-white liquid that seems to be slowly filling the cave.

Guests here quickly discover that the pillar in the centre of the alabaster node doesn’t act as a return gate – and instead they must return through one of the four other gates that can be summoned. At the end of each row of quartz pillars a gate can be called with a quick ritual and splashing the milky waters on the inward faces of the two pillars in question. The ritual, fortunately, is inscribed on the walls of the hall to the “west”. The waters, unfortunately, are both toxic and strongly alkali.

And most importantly, it would be foolish to thing that nothing resides under those waters...



The Hag's Swamp

“Yes now, the Hag’s Swamp you say? It is to the southeast of the keep – mostly swampy wetlands with a few hills and a copse of fir trees. Some say there are lizard folk what live in them swamp, but I figure you stick the the higher ground and the fir trees and you can keep safe from ’em.”

The Hag’s Swamp is best known for the lizard folk lair in the middle of it, and less well known for the giant poisonous spiders that live in the fir trees. But there are a few other points of interest marked out on this close-up of the map.

An old burned out village once belonged to fishing community on one of the river islands. When the fisherfolk fell into conflict with the lizard folk, they moved to the keep and torched the place themselves out of spite.

A second house, in much better repair, is on the edge of the forest just east of the giant spiders. Obviously the resident here has some “arrangement” with the other local creatures – while she claims it is that she offers them no competition, the reality is the swamp hag that lives here does so in peace because all other residents of the area live in fear of her.

On a hill to the northeast is a set of three black menhirs set over a small cave. The old mound was used by the druids living among the fisherfolk, and a couple of times a month they still come together, sneak out of the keep, and return here for their rituals.



The Cockatrice Pit

A number of townfolk head out to the Old Grant Farm about once or twice a month in a semi-secretive manner. They are a motley crew, a mix of the well-to-do and grubby farmers and the woodswoman ranger.

It turns out this town has a very draconian “legal system” where punishment for not fitting in or disturbing the way things are involves the cockatrice pit.

Behind the barn at Old Grant’s farm is a deep square hole dug into the ground. At the bottom of the hole is a small cave, home to “the chickens” – a pair of cockatrice that are used to dispense a very final “justice” to those who fall afoul of the locals.

Most people are just thrown in and left for the cockatrices to petrify and consume, but some are instead lowered on ropes to be fished back out afterwards and used as displays in some of the finer establishments in town.



As the month rolls into the dog days of summer, it is time to tally up the votes of the awesome patrons who keep the site alive via the Patreon campaign and release some of our older maps under the commercial use license. This month we start off with a town drawn five years ago – the Fortress at Hawksford.

While this was once a fortress of the Ukho Confederacy, the citadel fell forty years ago to mercenaries of the Udruviel Dynasty. With the collapse of both those polities over the next decade, the Fortress at Hawksford has managed to remain ungoverned. And while no external governance has been imposed on the people of Hawksford, they have also resisted the creation of an official government of their own. Which isn’t to say the place is completely disorganized – commerce continues as normal and the walls are patrolled by various “concerned citizen groups” who try to track the comings and goings of visitors and locals alike.

The stone walls and gatehouses remain in good shape although they see little maintenance now so it is only a matter of time before they start to wear down. A large number of dwarves make the town their home, happily away from the governance of humans and elves alike.



Beneath the Immortal Fortress are a number of small dungeons, tombs, crypts, and oubliettes. As the fortress itself is still inhabited and the residents know better than to explore these lower areas, they remain generally unmolested, with the entrances of the more dangerous areas under guard in case anything should creep out.

These particular crypts were considered inconsequential until a planes-hopping sage showed up with a map indicating something important within – so if you can get into the fortress, getting to the crypts themselves shouldn’t be too hard of a task.

Behind the scenes, this is actually a redraw of a small crossword puzzle posted during the Alternate Reality Game that was played online leading up to the Stream of Eyes event where they announced the upcoming release of the two 5e Waterdeep books this autumn.


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