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.

The High Temple of Mystra

 

This is the main temple of Mystra, the goddess of magic in the Forgotten Realms. In addition to its religious functions, the temple also houses a massive storehouse of magic in the caverns below. I only included the first level in the map, but there’s a stairway on the left side of the caverns to allow you to expand into another map if you want.

The symbols at the bases of the towers are meant to be glyphs that teleport people between levels. But if you’d prefer boring old stairs, I made another version with those.

My game is starting soon, so I’ve gotta wrap up this post. Next up is more Brazenthrone!

The Library of Gravenhollow – Everyone’s Edition

 

Here’s the annotated version, an alternate version and the DM notes.

Gravenhollow is an unmapped location in the 5E D&D module Out of the Abyss. It’s a place where space and time work differently and a person can travel from one place to another just by thinking about where they want to be.

Since there are quite a few peculiarities of Gravenhollow that make this map a lot less useful than it could be to DMs wanting to use it for something else, I made an alternate version as well with a few changes. It’s not exactly standard fare either, but, should you need a map of a strange, mystical place full of crystals, obelisks and other weird crap, it might get the job done. Worth a thought if your party might be headed to Limbo anytime soon.

Thanks to Fraz-Urb’luu who proposed this map to the Cartographic Congress! Next up is Brazenthrone. A whole lot of it. Let’s kick it off with Gnomestown and see where the mood takes us from there, shall we?

As I’ve been doing all month, I’m giving away all the patron content for this map for free. You can download it from the patreon here or from Google Drive.

The Drow City of Vlyn’darastyl – Everyone’s Edition

 

First, the annotated version, the DM notes and this other version.

This was a slightly unusual map for me. When I say I’m drawing a “city map,” it usually means something like Brazenthrone or Finbarr’s Marsh. Drawing an exterior-only city had me a little worried, since the last one I did was this piece of white-hot garbage. God, that’s embarrassing. But I think Vlyn’darastyl is big step up from that.

So, Vlyn’darastyl is a drow city that’s accessible by airship, which isn’t a characteristic shared by many other cities two miles underground. But the Great Breach– a 300′ (100m) hole in the roof of the cavern leading to the surface sea above– makes this possible. There are more details in the DM notes above, but if you’ve got any other questions I didn’t cover, feel free to ask.

Thanks to Senator Matt for proposing this map to the Cartographic Congress! He and I were talking about an idea I had for the future which I’d like to let you in on.

At some point, I want to make a map of a small Underdark sea. That sea is the Black Loch, which the map above shows only a small corner of. I want to make a larger, region-sized map of the whole loch with 10-12 locations marked: maybe a kuo-toa village, a duergar outpost, a few islands with some ruins, a series of caves, maybe something underwater, stuff like that. Then I’d draw maps of each of those locations at a 5′ scale, so you’d have this map of a whole region and, wherever you wanted to take your players in that region, you’ve got a map of it ready to go.

When Matt proposed a city next to an Underdark sea, I thought that seemed like a good addition, especially since the Great Breach makes the area more accessible for DMs whose parties aren’t currently below ground. But– to be clear– this is the only part of it I’ll be making for a while. This is a big project and I’m not going to be starting on it until Brazenthrone is finished, which will be a while still. But I thought I’d share that with you and see if anyone had any thoughts.

As I said when I posted the last map, all patron content is free to everyone this month. You can download it from this post or from Google Drive.

Thorren’s Cross: A Mountain Outpost – Everyone’s Edition

 

So, look, a lot of people are stuck indoors for a while and getting bored out of their minds. There’s not much I can do about that, but what little I can do, I want to. So I’m giving away all the patron content for this map for free and I’m doing the same for every map I make next month as well. I may keep doing it for longer, I don’t know. I just decided to do this five minutes ago and a month seems like as much as I should commit to on the spur of the moment. Anyway, hopefully it helps some people stay occupied for a bit. You can download everything from my patreon page or from my Google Drive.

So, the map: Thorren’s Cross is a small outpost in the mountains guarding a stone bridge. It could be garrisoned by soldiers or it could be a ranger outpost. I sort of had both in mind when I drew it.

The little caves on the bottom left are secret rooms. Instead of indicating them the normal way, I decided to leave them detached from the wall a bit in order to make them a little easier for DMs to hide.

Speaking of which: I made some alternate versions for you. Since not everyone will need the secret rooms, there’s a version without them. There’s also a version with the drawbridge raised. And if you don’t want the secret rooms but you do want the drawbridge raised? Well that’s too bad.

I’m kidding, I made one of those too.

Thanks to Senator Adrian, who proposed this map to the Cartographic Congress. I’ve got two more Cartographic Congress maps to draw before I’m all caught up from the backlog created by Mont-St-Michel. After that, we’re doing a big, fat chunk of Brazenthrone. Next up is a drow city on the edge of an underdark lake with a giant hole in the roof of the cavern that creates a huge waterfall from the surface sea above. Not many drow cities are coastal and accessible by airship. This one’s a little different.

Predjama Castle – A Slovenian castle built into a cave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The non-annotated version is here. EDIT: Bonus alternate annotated version.

EDIT: Apologies, I was recently made aware that Slovenians do not like being referred to as Eastern European. Sorry about that.

This is Predjama Castle, a real place in the Eastern CENTRAL European nation of Slovenia. That’s right: Eastern Europe– the most brutal and merciless of all the Europes. Leading cause of death in the middle ages? Dracula. Number two? Gypsy curses. Number three? The church.

How do you survive all that? You build this place. Predjama is the castle a paranoid person builds. Start by constructing it in the mouth of a cave. Put a drawbridge on the front door. Then, put another drawbridge on the top level, leading to an inner citadel in the caves behind the castle. Then, dig an escape tunnel leading through those caves to a hidden exit in a nearby well. That just might do it.

This place is one of the most Ravenloft things that has ever happened. Like a vampire reading Edgar Allan Poe on a chair made of lost hope. I love it.

One last thing: this map was proposed to the Cartographic Congress by someone who has since had to delete their patreon account, but I’d still like to give them the patron content for this map if I can. If you are that person, please email me and I’ll send it your way. Also, thank you for suggesting this map.

DM notes and VTT versions of this map are available to patrons.

The Silent Vaults – A Prison for the Magically Adept

 

When a person of great magical power breaks the rules, you can’t just throw them in the pokey with the cattle rustlers and meth dealers. Imprisoning someone with the ability to fly, teleport, and otherwise bend the rules of reality takes a place like the Silent Vaults.

Enclosed in an antimagic ward generated by a powerful device (in the dungeon, left side), the Vaults nullify the abilities of those contained within. The facility also has a guard barracks, warden’s residence and a chapel that is definitely not dedicated to Mystra.

Floating above the prison is a tiny island with a heavily-warded containment vault, designed to hold a person or entity of incredible arcane power. If you need to make a demon or an archlich sit and think about what they’ve done, this is the place to do it.

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

Saint’s Rock – A fortified cathedral inspired by Ireland’s Rock of Cashel


 


This is the Rock of Cashel
, the inspiration for Saint’s Rock. Before it was a cathedral, it was the castle of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. Fun fact: Brian Boru is the reason there’s a harp on your Guinness can. He’s also the reason that there are pictures of harps all over everything in Ireland despite the fact that no one plays it or has any interest whatsoever in harps or harp music.

Anyway, Brian Boru’s great-grandson gave the castle to the church, who rebuilt it into a cathedral. While the castle was dismantled, the gates and curtain wall were left in place, which, combined with the Rock’s location on a steep hilltop, made it a very well-protected church.

There are a few differences between Saint’s Rock and the Rock of Cashel, the biggest of which was the removal of a secondary chapel building and the addition of the cloisters. The passages through the walls are actually real. This photo shows what the second floor passages look like from the ground (you can see them at the bottom of the windows).

So, with this done, Brazenthrone‘s Noble Quarter is next. It’s the second-largest chamber of Brazenthrone and it’s going to take a minute. I’ll get you some work-in-progress photos along the way. Sound good? All right.

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

The Assassins’ Monastery

If you like this map, but you’d prefer to hide the secret rooms from your players, here’s a version without them. That’s also the version for people who’d prefer this monastery to be occupied by honest, wholesome monks who actually spend their days thinking about god, growing herbs and killing as few people as possible. Also: boring. Just kidding, do your thing.

In case you missed the last post, this place was inspired by Rudkhan Castle in Iran, which was actually controlled by the historical assassins at one point. I think this place could be used for plenty of other things, though. Maybe they’re cultists. Or vampires. Or werewolves, or bandits, or… bandits who are also werewolves. You get the idea. Anyone who wants to hide in plain sight.

I said I was going to do a residential part of Brazenthrone next, but I changed my mind. I’m doing the Grand Temple instead. After that, I’m doing one of the bigger maps chosen in the Great Vote. Then, I’m not sure, but I can tell you this: I want to make a push to get Brazenthrone’s Anvil Quarter and Noble Quarter finished. That gets the core of the city done, along with entrances from the surface and the underdark, and puts the whole thing in a much more usable state. I think I can get those both finished within the next two months or so. All right, I’m going to get to work on that temple.

As always, there is patron stuff for patrons.

The Great Library

The Great Library is a fantasy version of the Great Library of Alexandria. The historical Library of Alexandria is famous for being the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world. Its construction, ordered by the Pharaoh Ptolemy II, was probably the greatest accomplishment anyone who slept with their sister has ever made.

In addition to its large collection of books, scrolls and maps, the Great Library features living facilities for resident scholars, a lecture hall, shrine, scriptorium and more. It truly is a great milestone in mankind’s eternal quest for knowledge. You should send your players to burn it to the ground.

There’s the usual patreon stuff for patrons. You know the deal.