Skywatch: A Castle in the Clouds

Skywatch is a little unusual as castles go, for a few reasons. The obvious one is that it’s on a rock in the sky. Historically speaking, the most common place to build a castle is on the ground. I’m told that’s where over 50% of castles are.

The less-obvious quirk is the castle’s defenses. Most castles rely on the idea that the lower parts are easier to get to than the higher parts. So there’s a curtain wall. And there’s a big, strong gate at the bottom. That doesn’t work here, since, presumably, anyone attacking Skywatch can fly. Any door is, more or less, as easy to get to as any other. And a wall? The only thing that does is block the view.

Another special necessity for Skywatch is the observation platform and arrow embrasures at the bottom, which prevent the sky beneath the castle from becoming a blind spot.

So how do you defend a castle in three dimensions? I suppose that depends on the wider setting. Are there airships? Dragons? Griffon riders? Aarakocra? In any case, I’d imagine that the main thing is to handle them at a distance, since the usual plan of setting up a height advantage for the defenders isn’t going to work out very well.

Thanks to Roose, who proposed this map to the Cartographic Congress! Next up is Brazenthrone‘s Opaline Grotto, one of the more interesting residential areas of the city.

There’s an annotated version of this map and DM notes available to patrons.


Here are the tokens.

I’m running a 2e module called “A Darkness Gathering,” which… hang on a second–


Right, let’s just get that out of the way. So, it’s the first of a three-part series of modules where the party discovers a mind flayer plot to darken all the suns in the universe. It’s actually quite a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.

So, in the first part, the players discover the plot. In the second, they have to find and repair an illithid spelljammer. And in the third, they travel to the mind flayers’ homeworld, find an artifact, kick in the door of the sun-destroying machine and blow it up. Then they walk away from the explosion in slow motion. Wearing sunglasses.

It’s a great story and I’ve wanted to run it for a long time. And now I am. Feels good man.

Brazenthrone – The Old Quarter – Third Level

With this done, the shattered wreck that is Brazenthrone‘s Old Quarter is now finished. Next up is last month’s Cartographic Congress winner: a small castle on a floating island in the sky. Following that, we’re going back to Brazenthrone to do the Opaline Grotto (24 on this map). Then it’ll be the most recent Cartographic Congress winner, a city built on an active volcano. So, you know, Hawaii. Not really. Kind of, though.

I’ve got another bunch of tokens I made for my game as well and I’ll have those up in the next few days. There’s some town guards, pirates, mind flayers and a hill giant that one-shotted an NPC in my game the other week. The dude valiantly charges forward and says, “You take the goblins, I’ll handle the big guy!” And then that giant did to his head what Tiger Woods does to golf balls. Good effort, though, buddy. Good, solid try.

There are DM notes and hi-res print and VTT versions of this map available to patrons.

Brazenthrone – The Old Quarter – Second Level

My computer finally died for good. I actually took it into a repair shop, which was a first for me. I’m usually the kind of geek who fixes his own computer. If it’s a software problem, I can probably work it out. If it’s a hardware problem on a desktop… maybe. But this was a hardware problem on a laptop, which put it ALL the way out of my league.

Turns out there was a short on the motherboard and, since my computer was an unusual make, it couldn’t be replaced. But I happened to have the money for another computer, so everything’s fine. The new one’s a desktop, though, which is taking me some time to get used to after around 12 years of laptops. Like, this keyboard is enormous and it makes so much noise when I type. And I have to keep this thing in the same place all the time? Sigh, fine.

On the other hand, I now have a monitor the size of a bus windshield, which is nice. I’d been meaning to get one for D&D anyway. I’m not installing it in a table or anything, but I think we’re going to be using digital maps from now on.

So anyway, the map. There’s one more level of the Old Quarter to go and I’ve got it drawn already, so I should have it done in a day or two. Talk to you then!

Brazenthrone – The Old Quarter – Ground Level

Here’s the annotated version.

These are the ruins of Brazenthrone‘s Old Quarter. Known in its time as the “Temple Quarter,” it was once the heart of the city, much as the Great Hall is today. The Quarter’s downfall was brought about by a force more powerful than any other: geology. A tremendous earthquake, brought on by the shifting of magma deep underground, shattered one of the chamber’s support columns and brought down huge sections of the chamber’s ceiling.

After being declared irreparably unsafe by the Ministry of Engineering, the entire area, as well as the Old Palace to the north, were reluctantly abandoned and sealed off.

Today, the Old Quarter lies ruined, infested and partially flooded due to a leaking ventilation shaft. Going in there for any reason is a terrible idea, but your players will charge in headfirst because this is the kind of place where there’s cash and prizes to be found. And besides, making prudent decisions is the DM’s job.

I’m thinking this will be three levels in total. The to-do list for Brazenthrone is getting shorter and shorter! I can’t wait to get it all into the one image and see how it looks!

There are VTT and print versions of this map, as well as an expanded annotated version, available to patrons.

My players are terrible at tanking, so I made this landing page to help them with a little educational mockery.

Tanking– you know, the thing where the person with the full plate and the battleaxe stands in front of the person with the walking stick and the bathrobe. My players are not completely on board with this concept.

Where do I start? How about the wizard? She LOVES opening doors. And if you suggest that front line combat may not be her strongest position, she’ll be happy to tell you all about her AC and her mage armor. It’s 18, you see. She can’t be touched. Do the dice even go that high?

Then there’s the ranger. This ranger does not and will not lead the way ever. He’s focused on archery, which puts him in the back line, but he’s convinced he’s a glass cannon and, should any harm come to him at all, it is OVER. When someone opens the door, he won’t just be in the back, he’ll be another entire room away. Maybe two. That’s not me being funny, either– he is terrified of damage. And this is a character with a d10 hit die, 16 CON and the highest HP in the party.

The rogue will open doors, but only when the rest of the party is engaged in another fight and he thinks he might be able to sneak off to score some loot he doesn’t have to split. This is, of course, the D&D version of Russian Roulette: this room has nothing, this room has nothing, this room has some gold, this room has OH GOD GUYS HELP OH GOD PLEASE IT HAS SO MANY TEETH

Anyway, they thought this was pretty funny, so I thought I’d share it with you. If you’re wondering about the sword (or whatever you want to call it), it’s just a picture I found on the internet. It’s so over-the-top badass that I had to throw it in there.

By the way, Brazenthrone‘s Old Quarter is coming along nicely. The pencils are almost done and I should be getting some of the ink done tonight. Speaking of which, I’m gonna get to work on that! I do love drawing destroyed stuff.

Brazenthrone – Updated Overview Map

Sorry this is a little late, I had something come up last night before I could get it done. Anyway, here it is! I reserve the right to change 19 and 27 if I come up with a better idea for them, but I’ll update the map again if I do.

Here’s the non-annotated version. You can download the print and VTT versions for free from my patreon here. The VTT versions aren’t marked with dimensions, they’re just a smaller file size you can use as handouts.

All right, time to get started on the Old Quarter!

Brazenthrone – The Eastern Halls

Here are the second and third levels by themselves.

These halls are the “suburbia” of Brazenthrone, which makes them a little hard to say much about. They’re where normal dwarves live. They’re neither the wealthiest commoner district nor the poorest. The wealthiest is the Promontories, of course. The poorest will be the Hollows, to the west of the Anvil Quarter. It hasn’t been drawn yet, but that’s where it’ll be. Ye olde hood.

With these chambers done, a finished Brazenthrone is starting to come into sight. As I promised earlier, I’m going to redo the overview map of the city to include all the unmarked chambers. That won’t take long and it should be up later tonight. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve been using it as a handout recently and, with six chambers drawn that aren’t marked on there, it’s probably a good time to do it. Anyway, I’ll be back with that in a few hours!

Brazenthrone – The Eastern Halls – Ground Level

Here’s the annotated version.

These are the residential chambers on the lower-right side of this map surrounding 17, which is the fountain in the center. I’ve got all three levels of this drawn already, so the rest should be up in a day or two. I just need to color them. I’m also going to update the map in the link to include all the residential chambers. I’ve been meaning to post my Roll20 landing page too. It’s… a little different. There are going to be a lot of posts this week.

Once those are up, I’m going to start on something a little more interesting: the Old Quarter (7&8 on the map above). Originally the center of Brazenthrone, it was abandoned and sealed off following a disaster that left the entire chamber in ruins. What that disaster was, exactly, I’m not sure. But I’ll know by the time I’m done and it’ll all be explained in the DM notes.

All right, I’m gonna go knock out the rest of this thing!