The Next Megaproject?

Photo Credit: Stijndon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, I have an idea for a new map project and I want to get your opinions on it.

The photos above are from the Initiation Well in Portugal. That isn’t what I want to draw, but I think it illustrates my idea fairly well.

Imagine a large, cylindrical pit in the middle of a small village. The villagers don’t know who made it or how deep it is. But it’s deep. If you drop a rock, you won’t hear it hit the bottom.

Looking down into the pit, one can see walkways and chambers dug into the sides. The villagers didn’t dig them, but they use them as homes and shops. The village tavern is down there, too. Below the village are the mines, where most of the villagers work, digging for copper ore.

The tunnels circling the pit go deeper, but the villagers rarely wander beyond the mines. They know there are giant bats living down there, which come up at night. And there are goblins, or at least there used to be. They haven’t seen one in years.

Here’s a rough outline of what each level of the pit might look like:

  • 1-3: The village
  • 4,5: Villagers’ mines
  • 6: A maze of tunnels and collapsed chambers overrun by mold
  • 7: Caverns inhabited by giant bats
  • 8: Ancient crypt
  • 9: A goblin settlement. Possibly friendly. They eat the bats.
  • 10: Caves inhabited by giant spiders. Huge webs strung across the pit (which caught the rock they threw in earlier).
  • 11: Rough, partially-collapsed tunnels and chambers inhabited by monsters
  • 12: Night Hag’s lair in ruins of an ancient temple
  • 13, 14, 15: Ruins of an ancient settlement
  • 16: Ancient prison covered in mushrooms
  • 17: Myconid colony around a crumbling fountain
  • 18: Ancient catacombs
  • 19: Ancient oracle and library with a long-abandoned scholars’ camp containing notes about the pit’s history
  • 20: Mushroom caves. Below this, the pit is filled with water
  • 21, 22: Underwater ruins with undead
  • 23: The bottom (Sealed vault? Trash and debris? I have no idea what goes here yet)

That’s what I’ve got right now, but it’s all subject to change, especially once I figure out the story of how the pit came to be and what’s at the bottom. If you’ve got a better story in mind, the whole thing would basically be modular, so you could rearrange the levels or remove the ones you don’t need.

Anyway, is this something you’d be interested in? I’d love to know what you think or whether you have any ideas to add. Right now, nothing is set in stone, including whether I draw it at all, so by all means, if you’re into the idea, please let me know!

Castel Sant’Angelo (Work-in-Progress)

These are four of the five floors of Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo. I’ve got the rest drawn too, but, as you can see, I ran out of desk, so someone had to get cut from the class photo.

As big as this is already, there’s actually one more thing to draw: the outer walls. I’ll draw those in on my tablet. This place is extremely unique as castles go, so hopefully you like it so far. It’s been a ton of work, but I think it’s looking pretty good.

I also had an idea for a new megaproject and I’d love to get your thoughts on it, but let me put that in a separate post. Until then, let me know what you think of the map so far!

The Chateau de Breze in Saumur, France

The Chateau de Breze is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been. If there has ever been a place that looks like a real-life D&D map, this is it.

You cross a drawbridge into a castle, then down some stairs into a long, underground tunnel. Then, after going through an ancient, underground settlement, you get to the bottom of the moat, where there are even more tunnels and two more ancient, underground settlements, all connected by a complex network of passages and chambers carved into the rock. I mean, a lot of castles have a cellar, a crypt, maybe a cistern underneath, but these guys have their own personal underdark down there.

Now that I think of it, this place would make a pretty good underdark entrance. Or, wait… what if the lord of the castle was secretly in league with the drow, who were helping him seize power in the region so they can have free reign to raid the surface? Hmm… that might be the start of something interesting.

Next, I’ll be starting on the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. This is the last of the three historical castles I’ve been drawing lately and I don’t think it’ll disappoint. Dating back to 134 AD, it was built as the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, later becoming a fortress and eventually being occupied by the pope. I’ve had a look at the floor plans and I can tell you right now: this will not be a small map.

Anyway, if you have any questions about the Chateau de Breze, by all means ask. I don’t know everything about it, but I’ll answer if I can.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you like the map!

Chateau de Breze – The Underground Tunnels (Work-in-Progress)

These are the tunnels underneath the Chateau de Breze. I’ve got to tell you, there is no way I’d have been able to draw this place if I hadn’t visited it and taken photos of everything myself. Like, my only reference for the upper levels of the castle is a photo I took of the fire escape plan (it’s a solid floor plan, though). And I’d have no idea how these tunnels underneath the place connect to each other if I hadn’t seen them firsthand.

Anyway, I’m coloring this now, but I thought I’d give you a look. Back to work!

Chateau de Breze (Work-in-Progress)

This is what I’ve drawn so far for the Chateau de Breze. I’m currently drawing the network of tunnels and caves connected to the dry moat. That’s pretty big, so I’m drawing it on my tablet rather than trying to draw it across 5 or 6 sheets of paper and Frankensteining them all together.

Anyway, I just wanted to keep you all updated. I’m gonna get back to work. If you’ve got any thoughts or questions about any of this, let me know!

Scaligero Castle – Sirmione, Italy

So, there are eight buildings called Scaligero Castle in Italy. They were built by the Scaliger family, who ruled over Verona and were not very creative at naming castles. I mean, being fond of your own last name is fine, but maybe mix it up a little.

This is the Scaligero Castle in Sirmione, which has a very unusual feature: a fortified port. The port once held a fleet which the Scaligers used to control Lake Garda and its waterways. It’s mostly a fortification rather than a noble residence, so it’s fairly utilitarian in design, with most of the castle being defensive structures. The only two buildings inside are a barracks and a tower.

If you’re looking for a way to use this map in your game, allow me to suggest pirates. That’s what I’d use it for and something tells me I’m not alone there.

Next, I’ll be drawing a map I’ve been looking forward to making for a while now: the Château de Brézé. This is a French castle that looks like it was made for RPGs. There isn’t one photo that can explain this place, so let me walk you through it:

  • This is the Château from above. Note the dry moat surrounding it.
  • At the bottom of the dry moat, the walls of the moat are lined with tunnels and caverns. Here’s a photo of these. Here’s another.
  • Some of these lead to very long tunnels. A lot of them are interconnected. And a lot of them predate the castle, having been dug as an underground settlement in the 1100s.
  • So, to recap: people dug tunnels, creating an underground settlement. 400 years later, someone built a castle over that settlement. Then, they dug more tunnels. This place is unbelievably fascinating.

So, that’s the place I’m going to draw for you. I’ve been wanting to draw the Château de Brézé for years and it is time. Wish me luck.

The Digging Machines

This map is an underground mining complex run by mechanical constructs. It has equipment for stamping and smelting ore, as well as a factory for making more constructs. I imagine this place being built by deep gnomes or duergar, since they are:

A) Good at engineering, and

B) Crazy enough to think building self-replicating machines is a good idea.

For patrons, I’ve got a version without the machines in case you just want a regular mine. And there’s the unfurnished version as well for anyone who just wants some caves.

There’s some good stuff coming up, so let’s talk about it. Do you like castles? I hope the answer is yes, because castles are happening. Bullet list mode, engage.

  • Next up is Scaligero Castle, a very unique Italian fortress with its own walled harbor.
  • After that, I’ll be drawing the Chateau de Breze, a French castle with a complex network of tunnels running underneath it. I visited this place a while back and took hundreds of photos of these tunnels so I could make a map of them one day. That day is soon.
  • A few months back, the Castel Sant’Angelo came in second to the Chateau de Breze in a vote for the next big historical map. But Shawn proposed the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Cartographic Congress last month and won, so I’ll be drawing that too. In case you’re unfamiliar with the place, it was originally built as the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, but was later turned into a fortress by the pope. It’s another very unique place.

So, that’s our future: a France sandwich with two slices of Italy. How’s that sound?

The Vagabond Queen, or “The City of Sails”

If you’re planning to run an adventure on the Vagabond Queen, here’s a good way to kick things off:

  1. When the party boards the ship, have an NPC mention that there’s a tavern on board.
  2. The players will head there because 90% of all D&D characters are degenerate alcoholics.
  3. When they walk in, there’s a bard in the corner tuning up his harp. After the players sit down, the bard gently runs his fingers across the strings of his instrument and he begins to sing this song…
  4. Play the song “I’m On A Boat” by The Lonely Island.

If you’re at work, be sure to unplug your headphones and max out the volume before clicking that link.

I’ve got a bunch of ideas for adventures involving this map in the DM notes, along with a list of possible backstories about who built this ship and why, so if you’re a patron looking for inspiration, you may want to have a look.

I’ve got a few more things to make for this map, but I wanted to get it posted anyway. I should have the Foundry module and the Roll20 wall commands done later today. I’m also making some tokens for the smaller boats and some artillery. And, of course, there’ll be a spelljammer version of the map.

In a couple days, I’ll be leaving to see my family for a week, but I should be able to get the spelljammer version up the day I get back. Everything else should be done before then.

Well, drawing this map has been a ton of work, but I really think it turned out well. I’d love to hear what you think. And if you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask!

Giant Ship Update. Also, Baldur’s Gate 3.

Well, the color is taking a bit longer than I expected, but I’m over halfway done and I decided to finish up this deck completely to give you a look at it.

There’s one other thing I wanted to say before I get back to work. I just started playing Baldur’s Gate 3 with my wife and it’s pretty good so far, but there’s something I can’t help noticing. I’ve played the whole series and, at the end of Baldur’s Gate 1, I was a powerful warrior. At the end of Baldur’s Gate 2, I was a legendary Bhaalspawn. And, at the end of Throne of Bhaal, I was the actual, literal god of death. It’s been a while, but I remember that much.

Then Baldur’s Gate 3 starts and I’m some guy with a magic brain tumor who’s getting slapped around by goblins. Excuse me? Larian Games, I’d like to speak to your manager, please.

Big Ship Update: Everything is drawn and inked. Time to color this monster.

After almost a month of planning, drawing and inking, this thing is ready for color. I’d guess that’ll be around two weeks of work, but we’ll see.

People seem pretty excited about this map and I’ve already had people tell me they’re planning campaigns around it, which is really cool to hear. I’ve also had people say they’re going to use it, but they’re not sure how, so if anyone has any thoughts on what to do with it, by all means, leave a comment.

Also, before I get back to work, I’ve got a question for you: what do I name this ship?