The Astronomer’s Tower

So this is a fairly classic wizard’s tower. I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I did want to make it more interesting than your average, military-issue wizard tube.

The top floor has a telescope and an armillary sphere, which is basically a 3-dimensional astrolabe. It calculates the position and movement of stars. Beyond that, I’m not sure there’s too much to explain.

I drew a ruined version of this map for patrons, which should be done by tomorrow. After that, I’ll get back to drawing more of the Stygian City. Anyway, I hope you like the map. Let me know what you think!

The Ruined Tower (Work-in-Progress)

This map was originally meant to be a ruined mage’s tower, but I decided to make an intact version as well. Having two versions of the same map lets you do some interesting things, like have the party fix it up and move in. Or you can have the party enter the ruins, then find a magic orb that sends them back in time to when the tower was occupied. If you’ve got any other ideas for it, let me know.

Anyway, I’m coloring these now and they shouldn’t take too long.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what that thing by the big telescope is, it’s an armillary sphere.

The Black Ziggurat

This map was heavily inspired by the Great Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu in Iraq. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a ziggurat, that’s probably the ziggurat you saw. I designed this primarily as the headquarters of an evil organization, but it could be used as a temple, cult lair or just a dungeon in the desert.

I made a bunch of alternate versions of this place for patrons, one of which was unintentional. Here’s how that happened. I was trying to make a version where the ziggurat was floating through the astral plane and I figured I’d do it by changing the colors. I’d make the sand blue so it’d look like nebulous waves of… you know, astral stuff in the background. My thinking was, it wouldn’t look like sand anymore since sand isn’t blue. Then I got up, grabbed a cup of coffee and, when I sat back down, I realized I had just made a night version of the map.

Anyway, I also made a proper astral version and another version without most of the interior (which is more accurate to the Ziggurat of Ur). Then there are unfurnished versions with and without the statues. Hopefully this fulfills all your ziggurat-related needs, whatever they may be.

Next, I’ll be drawing a ruined mage’s tower. I’ve got some ideas about how to make this place interesting, but let’s see how they look on paper. It’s definitely not going to be just a big cylinder, though. The world has plenty of maps like that. Once that’s done, I’ll get back to drawing more of the Stygian City.

All right, that’s it for now. Hope you like the map!

The Stygian City: Goblin Village, Spiders’ Nest and Temple

The 7th level of the pit is home to a clan of goblins, who get by on a healthy diet of giant bats, giant spiders and mushrooms (which are basically a vegetable). Below that, the 8th level is overrun with spiders and in dire need of a treatment that only Dr. Flamethrower can provide.

Then there’s the 9th level. Most of this floor is a giant temple to Ghanya (the deity of the people who built the pit). But there’s a smaller group of rooms that are disconnected from the rest. This was once a tomb, but is now the residence of a vampire named Khrani, who sleeps here during the day, then flies out with the bats at night. Compared to the rest of the pit, her rooms are pretty nice. Just because you live in a literal hole in the ground doesn’t mean you can’t live in a nice hole in the ground.

For patrons, I’ve updated the DM notes quite a bit. There are new entries for these three levels as well as a new section with suggested creatures to populate each level with. When this is finished, the DM notes are going to be… not quite a campaign, but as close as I’ve come to writing one for any of my maps. Have a look and let me know what you think so far.

Next, I’ll be drawing the Black Citadel. This is going to be a ziggurat that serves as the lair of an evil organization. Imagine the party is finally heading out to confront the National Association of Sinister Wizards and, after an arduous journey, they finally arrive and they see this. No need to double-check the address, that’s definitely the place. Even the word ‘ziggurat’ sounds sinister. Ziggurat.

Anyway, I’m gonna get started on that. Once it’s done, I’ll be getting back to the pit. Speaking of which, tell me what you think so far!

The Stygian City – 7th, 8th and 9th Levels (Work-in-Progress)

These are the next three levels of the Stygian City and, as you can see, they’re a lot bigger than the previous floors. From left to right, they’re a temple, a spiders’ nest and a goblin village.

I’ve had a few new ideas since I wrote up the original plans. One of the bigger additions is an underground river that runs through the city. Kuo-toa have found their way there and moved into that level and the one below it. I’m not sure where this will be, but probably around the 15th-18th floor. I’ll probably put them near the myconid colony to give them a rival (and because they both like it damp).

I’m also moving the prison closer to the bottom because I want players to learn a few key things about this place. (Read the History of the Pit before this if you haven’t already). These are the main bits of information for players to learn as they descend, in order:

  1. A goddess named Ghanya told people to dig this pit. She promised that they would find a gateway to paradise below.
  2. Holy crap they built a whole city in this pit.
  3. Unlike other deities, Ghanya spoke to these people often. They heard her voice clearly in their minds and she taught them things and gave them instructions.
  4. Once they dug down to the gateway, they sent people through when they became 50 years old. The reason is unclear.
  5. Some people didn’t want to go through the gateway and Ghanya said they should be arrested and sent in anyway. (This is what the prison was for).
  6. At the bottom, the players learn that the “gateway” is just a giant monster that tricked these people into letting it eat them.
  7. Also, that circle-and-star symbol that’s carved into the floors all over the place isn’t just a symbol. It’s a visual depiction of the mouth of the creature at the bottom.

I’m trying to give the players enough information to intrigue them, but keep the discovery at the end (6 and 7) a surprise. What do you think? Should I change any of that or reorder it? If you’ve got any thoughts or ideas, let me know.

Drow Academy of War, aka “Black Metal West Point”

This is a place where drow men– the ones who weren’t smart enough for magic school– go to learn how to bludgeon each other to death with assorted metal objects. The lower level of the map is an obstacle course and I suspect that some people might not be into that, but I think it’s a very drow thing and I want to try to sell you on it.

Here’s how I imagine it. The students don’t run this course solo. They’re running it alongside other students and it’s a race to the end. And the person who comes last is punished. That’s important because one of the main points of the course is to foster ruthlessness in the students. The real danger here isn’t the obstacles in their way, it’s the other drow who are trying to impede them. “Be ruthless” and “Watch your back” are important lessons to learn in drow society and I can see them building something like this to teach those things. I’m not sure I’d like this idea for anyone else, but I think it works really well for the drow.

Next, I’m going back to Das Pit. I’ll be drawing the next few levels of the city, which are going to get a lot more interesting. The upper levels were dug early, when the residents lived around, rather than in, the pit. But now we’ll be getting into the city itself, which is much more elaborate. The next few floors will have a goblin settlement and a colony of giant spiders (which are the main thing the goblins eat). Anyway, I’m looking forward to drawing it and, as soon as I stop typing, I can, so

The Stygian City: Caves and Catacombs

The next three levels of the Stygian City are finished! As promised, I updated the previous levels with the lower level windows. I also renamed all the previous levels. I’d originally named the first three floors 0, 1 and 2, but I realized that it would take less time to change them to 1, 2 and 3 than it would to answer questions about that for the next several years.

For patrons, I updated the DM notes with an overview of the history of the pit and how it came to be. I made a copy of this story for non-patrons as well, which you can find above. I’m very curious to know what everyone thinks about it. In any case, this whole place is designed to be very flexible, so if you’ve got a better idea of what to do with it, you can tell your story instead.

Next up is a drow academy of war, where drow males can go to become useful for something other than reproduction or being beaten for the entertainment of others. There’ll be an arena, training areas, maybe even a classroom where students come to study Drow Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. After that, I’ll probably draw another few levels of the pit.

Well, I hope you like how it’s coming so far! Check out the DM notes and let me know what you think of the story. And if you’re not a patron, check this post tomorrow and I’ll have a copy for you too.

The Stygian City: Caves and Catacombs (Work-in-Progress)

The next three levels of The Stygian City are drawn and ready to color.

I realize that this “city” doesn’t look much like one yet. But I promise it will, starting with the levels after this. The upper floors were carved out when the builders were still mostly living on the surface.

By the way, when I post this, I’ll update the DM notes with an overview of the history of the pit, so you’ll have a basic idea of what this place is and why it was built. It’s kind of horrible and I hope you’ll like it.

The Pyramids of Cuamiztli

Gods expect different things from their followers. Some simply want people to believe in them. Others want people to follow their teachings, honor them or pray. The Old Gods of Mexico weren’t into that kind of touchy-feely crap. They wanted human hearts. And they wanted a lot of them.

At the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs were said to have sacrificed around 4,000 people over the course of four days. Here’s how that goes: the priest cuts open the victim’s chest, rips out the heart, puts it in a stone bowl. Then, they chuck the body down the steps of the pyramid. And finally, someone chops off the head and puts it on the skull rack. Repeat 3999 times.

I’m not going to say I approve of that sort of thing, but the Aztecs were certainly dedicated to their gods. And you’d think that if they ever needed a little divine intervention– like, say, blowing a few Spanish ships off course– they might get it. Alas.

Next, I’ll be drawing the next few levels of The Stygian City. These will include caves inhabited by giant bats and a series of catacombs.

Well, I think this is the first map I’ve drawn that was inspired by something in the Americas. Or maybe I’m forgetting something. Feel free to correct me about that. Either way, let me know what you think!