Sewer Running Through Dwarven Ruins (Work-in-Progress)

Here are the drawings for the next map. I wanted to design the sewers in a fairly realistic way, so I did some research. It turns out that, for most people, your toilet does not lead to a place that would make a good fantasy map.

There are some exceptions, though. Are you in London? Your waste actually does goes to fantasy map sewers. Vienna, too. And in Cologne, Germany, there are two chandeliers in the sewers. I mean, you expect a place to be classy when it’s literally called Cologne, but that is really above and beyond.

The Sanctum of Psor’il

Here’s an alternate version without the worm.

For a number of reasons, I don’t draw monsters in maps. It might look like that’s what I did here, but… it is and isn’t a monster. Allow me to explain. Psor’il, the aboleth who resides here, is trying to bring a creature from a bizarre, hostile dimension into the Black Loch.

To allow it to cross over, the aboleth’s minions are making a substance called “schismic flux,” which weakens the barrier between dimensions. They’ve weakened it quite a bit, but not enough for the creature to pass through. So, at the moment, the creature is stuck in between planes. And it’s visible in this world, but it’s not tangible yet. In other words, the monster is scenery. Weird, scary scenery, but not a monster. Yet.

I’m very curious what your opinions on it are. I was trying to make this place as strange as possible and that was one of the things I came up with. I also made a version without the worm in case anyone objects.

Next, I’ll be drawing the map chosen by last month’s Cartographic Congress: a sewer system with tunnels that cut through ancient, dwarven ruins, leading deep into the earth. After that, I’ll be back to the Black Loch to draw one of the last 3 locations.

Anyway, I’d love to know what you think about the map. And I know it’s kind of a strange one, so if you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask!

Aboleth Lair (Work-in-Progress)

Here’s the aboleth lair I’ve been working on. Man, where do I even start with this? Let’s go with the horrific worm thing on the left. That’s a creature the aboleth has been trying to pull into the world from the Far Realm (aka “Weird Hell”). I’ll make a version without it, of course, as well as a token of the worm.

The big dome is an ancient temple to Bylir, the ancient evil I mentioned in this post. The aboleth lives inside it now. There’s also a layer of underwater tunnels below all this.

If some of the things here seem really strange and hard to understand the purpose of, that’s intentional. Aboleths are strange, unknowable creatures and I wanted to make this place as absolutely bizarre as possible. I’m going for maximum R’lyeh here.

Anyway, let me know what you think so far! And if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

The Blind Colossus

The Blind Colossus is a huge, eyeless statue in the Black Loch. Sailors who have seen it think it depicts a human, which is a strange sight deep in the underdark.

The truth is that the Blind Colossus was built by a tribe of humans called the Ardyeni, barbarian raiders who were driven underground thousands of years ago. They lived in the Black Loch for over a millennium, building a city and several outlying towns in the deep reaches of the loch. They are the ancient ancestors of the race known as “grimlocks.”

There’s a long story about how this happened in the DM notes, but I’ll try to summarize it for everyone. A few hundred years after the tribe was driven into the underdark, an Ardyeni mage created a device to speak to the gods. It sort of worked.

The Ardyeni king spoke with an entity named Bylir, who wasn’t a god, but a being from the Far Realm. The best explanation I can give is that Bylir is the sort of thing H.P. Lovecraft would write a story about. Not a god, not a demon, but very powerful. Definitely not your friend.

Anyway, the Ardyeni started to worship this thing. Bylir gave them blindsight, which let them see in the darkness. Then Bylir took their eyes away. Then it began demanding blood sacrifices. And finally, after a few centuries, Bylir gave them to an aboleth as slaves.

Several thousand years later, the device used to contact Bylir still survives inside the Blind Colossus. The descendants of the Ardyeni survive as well, but have changed a lot and are no longer considered human. Many of them still serve the aboleth, who lives in the ruins of their ancient civilization.

Speaking of which, the next map will be the lair of that aboleth. It’s one of four more maps left to draw for the Black Loch and I’ve got some interesting ideas for it.

Anyway, I think the Blind Colossus came out pretty well, but it’s a fairly unusual map and I’m curious what people think about it. If you’ve got any thoughts, let me know!

The Blind Colossus (Work-in-Progress)

Here are most of the drawings for the Blind Colossus, a huge, eyeless statue in the Black Loch. It’s definitely a little something different, which is hopefully a good thing.

I’ll explain who built it and why when it’s finished. I started coloring it yesterday, so I should have it done in a few days. Anyway, I hope you like it so far. If you’ve got any thoughts, let me know!

Scarhide Yard

Scarhide Yard is a shipyard run by deep gnome engineers and grimlock laborers in the Black Loch. This strange partnership began when a group of gnomes approached a tribe of starving grimlock hunters with 300 pounds of meat. The gnomes needed workers to build ships and the grimlocks needed food,  so they came to an arrangement. The gnomes got their laborers and the grimlocks got as much meat as they could eat, forever.

Sixty years later, the gnomes are still overseeing operations, but the shorter-lived grimlocks have passed the torch to the next generation. This is good, but, potentially, also bad. The good part is that this generation of grimlocks wasn’t raised to hunt. They were raised as carpenters and shipwrights and they’re a lot better at it than their parents were.

The bad part is that they eat a lot. And, unlike their parents, they have never known hunger. They’ve never been without the endless supply of meat that the gnomes send for every week or two. And if that meat stops arriving? That’s a scary thought for the gnomes. Best not to let that happen.

If you’re looking for a ship for your party to purchase (or steal) from here, you might have a look at the Grinning Widow. It’s a ship designed for the underdark and it’s exactly the kind of thing Scarhide Yard would build.

This map was partly inspired by Leo’s proposal to the Black Loch Conclave. I was always planning to have a grimlock settlement here, but Leo made me realize that I’d forgotten to put a shipyard in the loch, so I sort of hybridized the two ideas into Scarhide Yard. Anyway, I hope you all like how it turned out!

Next, I’ll be drawing another one of the five remaining locations in the Black Loch. This time, it’ll be the Blind Colossus, a huge, eyeless statue standing in the deep reaches of the loch. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing with the place, but it’ll definitely have some mysterious rooms and passages inside it, built by an ancient civilization for unclear reasons. Ideally, I’d like it to be unsettling, but highly intriguing. The kind of place that your players feel like they shouldn’t go into, but feel compelled to explore anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

All right, I’m gonna start sketching. Let me know what you think!

Brackenbury Manor (Inspired by Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, England)

Brackenbury Manor is almost a real place. If it were a real place, the real place that it would be is Little Moreton Hall. Little Moreton is a 16th-century manor house in Cheshire, England, which looks unsettling in a way that I’m not sure really comes through in the map. Here’s a picture to show you what I mean. If that building looks completely fine to you, you’ve had too much to drink.

I didn’t originally plan on including the gardens in the map, but after my last post, someone suggested that I should. And they were absolutely right. See, here’s the thing: these are the hedges. They’re cut into tunnels. You can walk through the hedges! I don’t know about you, but the DM part of my brain couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it would be to have a monster hiding in there, waiting to jump on someone the second they come around the corner. In any case, I think the extra effort was well-spent.

Next up, I’ll be drawing the grimlock settlement from the Black Loch. It has a shipyard, where most of the ships in the loch are built. The basic story is this: a team of deep gnome engineers builds ships using grimlock laborers. The grimlocks, who don’t care about money, are paid in meat. This situation has been working out for years, with rich gnomes and fat grimlocks. And there’s no reason to think it won’t. Unless they run out of meat. That would be a problem, especially for the gnomes. This is a bad place to be the last thing made of meat.

The grimlock shipyard is one of only 6 maps left to draw for the Black Loch. Aside from that, there are some tokens to draw, as well as a few generic backdrop maps (caves, tunnels, etc), but it’s getting pretty close to being finished!

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hope you like the map! Let me know what you think!

Gothic Manor House (Work-in-Progress)

Here’s the gothic manor house I’ve been working on. Shawn, who proposed this idea to the Cartographic Congress, mentioned an old manor in Cheshire, England called Little Moreton Hall as something that might be good inspiration. Well, it was such good inspiration that the map is actually pretty close to just being Little Moreton Hall.

Have a look at Little Moreton from overhead. And here’s a picture from the courtyard. This place is screaming “Ravenloft” at the top of its lungs. If you’re not seeing it, try to imagine the place at night.

Anyway, I’m gonna start coloring this thing. Should be done in a few days. Let me know what you think so far!

The Lost Catacombs of Auldbaern

The Lost Catacombs of Auldbaern are ancient, dwarven catacombs in the Black Loch. The winding, labyrinthine tunnels are lined with niches holding the bones of long-dead dwarves. I’m sure your party will be deeply interested in all those remains– for academic, archaeological reasons, of course.

But they’ll be particularly fascinated by the royal tomb deep within the catacombs, with its gold and silver sarcophagus and lavish funerary offerings. Oh yeah, they’re gonna archaeologize the hell out of that.

Nearly half the time I spent drawing this went into the royal tomb alone. I wanted it to be so much more ornate and splendid than the rest of the map that the party would be completely unprepared to find something like it. I think the appeal of exploring old catacombs is the possibility of finding something unexpected and amazing. And the royal tomb is the unexpected thing I put there for players to find. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy the scenery while they’re killing the king’s revenant and arguing over who gets his magic battleaxe.

Next up, I’ll be drawing the map chosen by last month’s Cartographic Congress: a gothic manor house with a moat, in which a knight or lesser lord resides. It’ll be a little bit Ravenloft, a little bit Mordheim and it should make a good home for a bad person.

Well, I believe that’s about it. Let me know what you think of the map!

Dwarven Catacombs (Work-in-Progress)

I decided that the ancient crypt in the Black Loch would be lost dwarven catacombs with a royal tomb deep inside. In order to make the royal tomb look as splendid and impressive as possible, I learned how to draw celtic knotwork and basically covered the thing in it. I did screw it up in a few places, but less than I’d expected. Nothing that can’t be fixed.

Anyway, just thought I’d give you a look. Back to work!