Frog’s Haven Crannog

In the last post, I talked about my plans for the first island of the as-yet-unnamed big project. There will be two civilizations living on the island, one of which will be a kingdom of wild elves.

Over the past century, the wild elves have been shifting from a tribal, nomadic society to a settled one. While the elves have become better at building large structures of timber and stone, their skills at architecture are still well behind those of other civilizations. To reflect this, many of the wild elves’ settlements will be inspired by Iron Age Celtic buildings from Ireland and Scotland. Here’s a breakdown of what I have in mind:

Crannog – A crannog is a man-made island with one or more houses on it. The island was often surrounded by a wooden palisade and had either a narrow causeway or a path of stepping stones leading to the shore. Crannogs were most common in Ireland and Scotland. Frog’s Haven will probably be the only one.

Broch – A broch is an old style of Scottish towerhouse, which looks like this. I think I’d draw this fairly similar to the one pictured, perhaps with some farmland around the walls. I’d also give it a slightly more elven, tribal look.

Motte and Bailey (or something similar) – A motte and bailey is an old style of wooden castle, which looks like this. I’d probably use a more elaborate version of the design and I’d make it more of a walled village rather than a fort. Again, it’d have an elven style to it as well.

OakenholdThis is one of the first maps I ever posted. I’ve never redrawn a map, but I want to redraw this one and I want it to be the seat of power for this wild elven civilization. I’ll change plenty about it, but it’ll be the same basic design. This is where the king or queen lives.

That’s the plan so far. There will probably be other locations as well, but I want to get your opinions on these ideas first. If the response is largely negative, I’ll come up with something else. If it’s positive, I’ll get started on a map of the island and we can start figuring out where things are and who the elves are sharing the island with.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the Celtic wild elves. Positive or negative, I really want to hear your opinions!

The Black Loch: The Collected Free Versions – Also, news about the next big project.

I compiled all the free versions of the Black Loch maps and tokens, which you can download here. The image above is something I made to post on reddit. I think it explains what the Black Loch is pretty well.

I also wanted to talk about what I’m working on now. A while back, I discussed the next big project I had planned: a series of islands. I finally have a plan for the first island and I want to see what you all think.

There will be two civilizations on the island. The first will be wild elves, or “wood elves,” if you prefer. I haven’t decided on the second, but I’d love to hear your suggestions if you have any. In the lore, the two civilizations will be in conflict.

The wild elves will be transitioning from a nomadic, tribal society into a more unified, settled one and will have a more primitive architectural style, inspired by Iron Age Celtic structures. The map I’m working on now is based on a crannog, which is a dwelling built on an artificial island in a lake, usually surrounded by a wooden palisade. Here’s a good example of a crannog.

The crannog I’m drawing is a little more elaborate than that, with a whole village spread across two islands connected by a bridge. Other locations for the elves might include a brocha Scottish style of Iron Age towerhouse— and a tree fortress based on Oakenhold, which would serve as their capital. I drew Oakenhold years ago and it’s the only map I’ve ever considered redrawing. I think it would fit in very well here.

I’ll go into more details when I post the crannog, but nothing is set in stone yet. Before it is, I want to show you the first map and give everyone a chance to let me know if you like it and want me to run with it or if you aren’t that into the concept. If you like it, we’ll do the Celtic wild elves. If you don’t, I’ll figure out something else.

If you’ve got any ideas for what the other civilization might be, let me know in a comment or a message. I said before that I wanted to give you more input on this project and I thought I’d do that by letting you take the wheel on one civilization while I do the other. Call it an experiment in collaborative worldbuilding.

Okay, I’m gonna get back to work on the crannog. If you’ve got any thoughts on any of this so far, positive or negative, I’d love to hear them!

Murud-Janjira: An Island Fortress in Maharashtra, India

I made an annotated version of this map, which was only possible with the help of Aditya, who translated the only labeled map of this fort I was able to find, which was in Hindi. I’m very grateful for the help and the least I can do is pay it forward and give the annotated version away to everyone.

Murud-Janjira was built in the 1400s and was only taken by force once. The Maratha Empire assaulted it about a dozen times. They climbed the walls, they tried to dig their way in, they even built a fort nearby called Padmadurg to use as a staging ground for an attack. None of this succeeded. The Virgin Padmadurg was no match for the Chad Murud-Janjira.

So how was it taken? With booze. Let me explain. The fort was built by Ram Patil, the Admiral of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. Once it was finished, Patil and the Sultan had a little falling out, Patil stopped taking the Sultan’s orders and they unfriended each other on facebook. The Sultan appointed a new admiral named Piram Khan and ordered him to take back the fort.

So Khan dresses up as a merchant and sails to the fort. He says he’d like to leave some crates of silks and wine inside for safekeeping. You know, temporarily. “Sure,” says Ram Patil, “You can leave your booze and loot with us. We’ll be happy to hang onto it for you. You know, temporarily.”

So they start bringing in the crates and Khan decides to throw a little party for Patil and his men for doing him this favor. At this point, you have to imagine that Ram Patil thinks he’s talking to the dumbest man alive. Still, Khan cracks open a few casks of wine and everyone spends the evening getting drunk. Later that night, once Patil and his men are completely hammered, Khan goes back to those crates they brought in earlier and starts opening them up to let out the soldiers hiding inside.

You can probably guess where it goes from here. They attack the drunken garrison and take back the fort. The moral of the story is that sometimes thinking outside the box means literally getting into a box.

Anyway, I’m gonna go to bed. I hope you like the map!

Murud-Janjira Fort (Work-in-Progress)

I meant to post this yesterday, but here’s the art for Murud-Janjira, the island fortress just off the western coast of India.

There’s a temple to the Hindu god Shiva here, but I couldn’t find a picture of the interior, so I had to do a little research to find out what a temple to Shiva would look like. Along the way, I learned a few interesting things:

  1. Shiva is the god of destruction and is known as “the Destroyer of Evil.”
  2. Shiva is usually depicted with a cobra around his neck.
  3. Shiva has a third eye which, when opened, vaporizes everything it sees.

So apparently, Hinduism is surprisingly metal. I respect that a lot, I really do.

Anyway, I’m gonna get back to coloring the map.

Akshardham Temple: The Interior

Several months ago, a patron said that India was underrepresented in fantasy settings and I agreed. Take the Forgotten Realms, for example. Faerun is inspired by Europe, of course. Then you’ve got Zakhara, the Arabian part of the world. And then there’s Kara-Tur, which is East Asia, and Maztica, which is Mesoamerica. Technically, there’s an Africa, but almost nothing is written about it, so that doesn’t really count. But there’s no India.

Well, I can’t make a whole Indian setting, but I can draw a map of something Indian and I decided to go with Akshardham Temple. I’m going to draw another map of a historical place in India next, but for a different reason. The island fortress of Murud-Janjira won last month’s Cartographic Congress, so we’re going to have a subcontinental doubleheader.

For a few reasons, I’m going to draw the place in ruins as it is today. The first is that I think it’s more interesting that way. And it doesn’t prevent it from being used as a fort, since, in FRPGs, ruins tend to be occupied by pirates, goblins, ogres, cultists, etc.

The second reason is that, after an hour of searching, the only labeled floor plan I’ve found of this place is in Hindi. Or possibly a different Indian language. In any case, my keyboard doesn’t have those buttons on it, so I can’t use Google Translate to find out what everything is. But if it’s in ruins, that’s not really a problem *taps forehead*.

Anyway, I’m gonna grab some coffee and get started on that. Let me know what you think of the map!

Akshardham Temple: The Exterior

Akshardham is a Hindu temple in New Delhi, India. This monument to the gods was constructed long, long ago, back in the year… *checks notes* 2005. Few remember what life was like in those ancient times, but historians say the telephones of that era could be folded in half. I didn’t actually realize this place was so new until I’d already started drawing it, but I’m really happy that people are still building places that would make good fantasy maps.

Akshardham is dedicated to several deities, but the primary one is Swaminarayan. I’m not actually clear on whether Swaminarayan is a god or not, but he is believed to be the manifestation of Krishna, who is definitely a god. So, does that make him a god by extension? I don’t know enough about Hinduism to answer that question, but in any case, they did build a pretty spectacular temple in his honor.

Next, I’ll be drawing the interior of the temple, which should only take a few days. After that, I’ll be drawing the map chosen by last month’s Cartographic Congress, which is also a real place in India: Murud-Janjira, an island fort just off the western coast. Having just drawn the map above, I am very pleased to say that Murud-Janjira has no roof whatsoever. THANK GOD. You make a lovely roof, guys. You really do. But they’re not easy to draw.

Anyway, I’ll have DM notes and all that once I’m done with the interior, but until then, I hope you like the map!

Akshardham Temple (Work-in-Progress)

Here’s Akshardham Temple almost fully inked. I’ll be drawing the interior as well, of course.

This is definitely one of the most elaborate maps I’ve ever drawn, if not the most. Between the tile pattern on the central walkway, the gardens and the roof of the temple. this place is full of tiny details.

On a side note, I got a little confused while I was looking for information on this place. There was an Akshardham Temple in Delhi and another one in New Delhi and they looked really similar. As it turns out, they were the same temple. Apparently, New Delhi is in Delhi. I’m not that knowledgeable about Indian geography and I guess I hadn’t considered that possibility. I didn’t even know you could do that. Just put the new one inside the old one. Huh.

Anyway, I’m gonna get back to work. Hope you like it so far!

Great Bombard: Spelljammer goes brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt

The Great Bombard isn’t a ship, it’s a gun. A really big gun. This gun does has a ship attached to it, though. This accessory, mounted under the barrel, allows a crew to move the gun through space and blow things up in a variety of interesting and exotic locations.

If you allow your party to acquire a Great Bombard, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. But you do need to keep it in mind when planning adventures from that point on. Ask yourself, “Can my players solve this problem using nothing but their big gun?” If so, you may want to make a few adjustments so the party has to put a little more work in. That said, you’ve got to let them blow something up every once in a while. That’s half the fun of having a ship like this, after all.

Since the new Spelljammer was recently released, I’ll probably draw another spelljammer map sometime in the next two months. I’ll hold a vote to let patrons decide which one you’d like to see.

But first, I’ll be drawing India’s Akshardham Temple. Then, I’ll be drawing the map chosen by last month’s Cartographic Congress: the Indian island fortress of Murud-Janjira. I’ll be drawing it about how it is in this photo: overgrown and in ruins. Personally, I think that’s much more interesting (and it also gets around the problem that the only labeled floor plans I’ve been able to find are in Hindi).

Well, I hope you like the Great Bombard. I’m gonna get started on this Indian double-feature. Let me know what you think!

The Generalife: A Palace of the Alhambra

I visited the Alhambra a few years ago and, before I went, I was considering drawing a map of the place. When I got there, I realized how completely insane a task that would be. Here’s the entire Alhambra complex. This map– the Generalife– is the little thing in the top right. I’ve drawn a four-level map of Mont-St-Michel and I’m pretty sure the Alhambra would take longer than that did.

To give you an idea of how big this place is, there are six other palaces in the Alhambra. And if that sounds crazy, there used to be two more. If you plan to be in Spain, I highly recommend going to see it. There are a lot of castles in the world, but only a few of them will make your head literally, physically explode and this is one of them.

Next up, I’ll be drawing the Great Bombard spelljammer I promised a few months back. It’s basically an enormous cannon with a ship wrapped around it. You could call it the A-10 Warthog of spelljammers. I’ll make a seafaring version as well for those running monoplanetary campaigns.

After that, I’ll be drawing Akshardham Temple, a Hindu temple in New Delhi. When someone builds something that looks this good from the top down, I basically have to make a map of it.

Okay, that’s it for now. I hope you like the map! Let me know what you think.