The Stygian City: Into the Pit

Our gigantic dungeon starts here, in a small village called Ekersfield. The villagers live in and around the top of the pit, mining iron ore from the level below. This is the nice part of the pit. The welcome center, if you will. Past this point, most of the pit’s inhabitants get a lot less friendly.

So, there’s an unusual problem with this project and its kind of unavoidable. See, the map above is finished… but it’s not. If you look at the uppermost level, you can see the windows in the sides of the lower levels of the pit. But on the bottom level, there aren’t any. That’s because I haven’t drawn the maps below this yet and I don’t know where they’ll be. So I’m going to have to update these maps after I draw the next ones. Which will also have to be updated later. And so on. A bit of a pain, but no big deal.

For patrons, I’m also making modular versions of the maps. These are individual floors which can be rearranged as you like. Here’s how they work: first, the lower level windows won’t be shown on the sides of the pit. And second, all the stairs descend counter-clockwise. The stairs won’t always be in the same place, but they’ll always move in the same direction and, if you want, you can rotate the map to get them close to each other. With only three floors, that isn’t super relevant just yet, but there will be a day when there are 20+ floors and it will be then.

Thus begins another very large project. They always seem too big to ever get done, but they always do. Brazenthrone took two years to draw, but it got finished. The Black Loch took a year and a half, but it got done too. I think this will take less than a year, but we’ll see. In any case, it’ll be done one day and, hopefully, you’ll like it. But for now, how’s it looking? Off to a good start?

The Pit: Ekersfield (Work-in-Progress)

The surface level of the pit is done. It’s not quaint, exactly, but it’s about as quaint as a village can get with a huge, ominous hole in the middle of town.

I’ve got the two levels below this about halfway done as well and they should be finished in a few more days. All right, I’m gonna get back to it.

The Pit: The Village of Ekersfield and the Mines (Work-in-Progress)

These are the first three levels of the giant pit megadungeon I’m working on. I’ve got 23 levels planned, but I get the feeling it’ll end up being closer to 30 by the time it’s done. You can see the current plan at the link above, but I think some of those areas are going to end up having more than one floor. And I’ll probably let patrons propose ideas for and vote on a couple more levels to add to the pit as well.

Anyway, I’m gonna get back to coloring all this. Let me know what you think so far!

The Goblin Queen’s War Wagon

It’s a little awkward when the party travels a long distance and nothing happens along the way. I mean, if they’re going on a 300 mile journey, I don’t want to just tell them, “Okay, you’re there. Now what?” But I also don’t want to involve them in some complicated adventure that’s going to take 5 sessions, because that’s a little more of a detour than I’m looking for.

Traveling encounters are almost their own category of adventure. Not so long that you have to spend more than a session or two on it, but enough to avoid giving the players the impression that they just teleported. And a little something more than, “2d6 giant rats cross your path, roll for initiative.”

I like this map as a traveling encounter. A bunch of goblins in a Winnebago isn’t something you see everyday and it’d make for a fun fight. But it’s low commitment as well, so they can get back to reassembling the Sacred Crystals of the Ancient Ones or whatever they’re up to. Simple, but not boring.

Someone should write a whole book full of traveling encounters. That’d be really useful. I know some of the people reading this write and publish adventures, so feel free to steal that idea.

Anyway, I’m going to make an alternate version of this map for patrons, which shouldn’t take more than a day. It’ll be a “de-goblinized” version for DMs who want to use this map for humans or… well, anyone else that isn’t green. It’ll have elephants up front and be moderately less filthy. All right, I’ll be back with that soon. In the meantime, let me know what you think!

The Forgotten Place

The Forgotten Place is an ancient ruin unearthed from the sands. It’s the perfect place for your party to do some archaeology, or– perhaps– some “archaeology.” In case you’re not aware of the difference between those two words, let me explain: the one with the quotes means grave-robbing.

I’d probably go with the second option in a D&D game. Brushing the dust off of pot shards to learn about the customs of ancient peoples may be morally and academically superior to scoring fat sacks of loot from a dead guy, but, well, moral superiority doesn’t buy you full plate and a castle.

I also want to mention that some of you may have more use for half of this map than you do for the whole thing. Maybe you like the desert ruins, but you want them to lead down into a different dungeon. Or maybe you like the underground part, but you want to put it under an old cathedral. Either way, go for it. Mix and match. There are no rules in RPGs*.

Anyway, the next map will be the Goblin Queen’s Carriage. This is going to be a giant carriage/war wagon that a tribe of goblins use as a mobile raiding camp. If you picture it looking like something out of Warhammer Fantasy, then we are very much on the same page. I think it’ll be a map that offers a lot of fun possibilities. After that, I’ll be getting started on the giant pit megadungeon that I’ve been talking about.

Well, that should do it for now. If anyone’s got any ideas on what might be pulling the giant goblin carriage, let me know. I feel like horses would be boring, but a giant seems like a bit much. My best idea right now is yaks, so if you can top that, I’ll consider it.

*There are multiple books full of rules in almost all RPGs.

The Defiled Monastery

The premise of this map is simple: for many years. this monastery was occupied by the peace-loving followers of the god of wisdom and happiness. Then, some non-peace-loving followers of the god of smoking meth and shaking babies arrived. And, after the liberal application of a technique known as “violence,” the former occupants were driven out. Then, they smashed the statues, burned the books and started sacrificing nearby villagers.

There’s a fairly simple adventure to be run here, which starts with a monk approaching the party and saying, “Help.” I’m fairly sure I don’t need to elaborate on where it goes from there. It’s not a complicated adventure, but they don’t all have to be some ultra-sophisticated Game of Thrones type of thing. Sometimes The Witcher is more your speed. “Please kill dudes, I have money.” “Dudes are dead. Gib money.” Had a busy week? Drop a dozen cultists and a demon into this place and let ‘er rip.

So, let’s talk about the giant hole we discussed a few weeks ago. That megaproject is officially happening and I wanted to share some details. A lot of people had ideas on how to use the location and I want to make sure you can do what you want with it. Since it’s a giant pit, the most important thing is what’s at the bottom. People have proposed an imprisoned entity, a planar portal, an artifact, an aboleth lair, a pile of trash and debris, and more. My version of the bottom will be something different, but I’m going to draw alternate versions with at least those options as well. I think I’ll be able to get started on this in about a month.

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. If you’ve got any thoughts, by all means let me know!

The Castel Sant’Angelo – Rome, Italy

When I first started working on this map, I didn’t know much about the Castel Sant’Angelo. I knew that it was in Rome and once belonged to the pope, but I wasn’t aware that it was originally built as the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian. When I read that, I had to pause for a second and process what I had just learned. So…wait, the pope used to live in a gay man’s tomb? Huh. That was my fun fact for the day and now it’s yours.

That also helps to explain why this place is so unusual. The long, circular ramp at the entrance and the long stairway up the center aren’t things you’d see in many castles, but they were a part of the original mausoleum and are still there after 1900 years of renovations.

There’s an alternate version of this map I want to make for patrons and it should only take a day. I think there are a lot of things this map could be used for if it was just a bit less of a castle, so I’m going to remove the outer walls and leave the keep in the center. At that point, it could be a temple, a monastery, a small village, an unusual wizard’s tower, etc. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Well, I’m gonna get to work on that and I should have it for you tomorrow. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the Castel Sant’Angelo. And if you’ve got any questions about the place, feel free to ask. It is genuinely a strange castle, it’s not just you. I promise.

Castel Sant’Angelo (Almost Done)

I’ve got the Castel Sant’Angelo almost finished, but I thought I’d give you all a look at it anyway. These are the 2nd and 3rd floors of the castle, which has five levels in total. I should have the whole thing wrapped up in a couple days.

In the previous post, I proposed an idea for a new megaproject and, after your overwhelmingly positive response, I will definitely be drawing it. I should be able to get started next month. By the way, I’m incredibly relieved that you liked it so much because, honestly, I really wanted to draw it. It’ll be an amazing hole in the ground, I promise.

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!