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.

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.

Mont-Saint-Michel – Fourth Level

Here’s the annotated version, the elevation guide and the DM notes. If you need the free VTT stuff, it’s on the patreon.

It’s been quite a journey, but here we are at the end. Time to chuck the ring into the volcano and start on the next adventure.

To all my patrons, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to make this. I try to draw maps that no one else makes and create unique settings for your games. Hopefully Mont-Saint-Michel will serve you well.

The elevation guide is up there. The French version isn’t, but my French language consultant is coming over for D&D in an hour and I should have it up tomorrow morning. Tonight, I’m gonna DM my game and celebrate the end of this project with fermented beverages.

Starting tomorrow, I’m getting to work on the backlog of Cartographic Congress maps. First up is Predjama Castle, a Slovenian castle built in the mouth of a cave.

There are hi-res print versions and a whole lot of VTT versions of this map available to patrons.

Mont-Saint-Michel – Third Level


Here’s the annotated version and the finished DM notes. The free VTT stuff is on the patreon.

This is almost everything. The DM notes are done too, although I reserve the right to change my mind about that tomorrow. There are a couple things left to do:

  • Color the roofs. Easy, easy stuff.
  • Make furniture tokens. I promised someone I’d make them so they can mod the Mont. Even easier.
  • Stacked floor maps for VTT. Here’s one that’s finished so I don’t have to try to describe them. A patron told me this is how he used Finbarr’s Marsh: he’d use the roof map when players were outside, then, when they entered a building, he’d change to a map like the one there, with all the levels in one. I liked the idea and I’m making them for this. Let me know what you think.
  • The elevation guide. I’m making that from the roof level, so it should be up at the same time.
  • I’m still planning to make an annotated version en Francais, but I need my French friend to check it first, so it might be a minute.
  • Anything else I’m forgetting, which is hopefully nothing. Slap me if I’m wrong about that.

Mont-Saint-Michel – Second Level


First: here’s the updated DM notes and the non-annotated version of the map. And the basic VTT files you’ll need to use this on Roll20 or FG are attached to the bottom of this post.

I’ve talked about the map a lot. I feel like talking about my D&D game today.

So I recently started running a game for my friends again after about a year and it feels good to be behind the screen again. Our group is… a little atypical.

First, it was almost the case that every person in the group was from a different country. I, the DM, am American. The wizard (and my wife) is Irish. The druid is Spanish. The monk is French. And the paladin is Norwegian. But, at the last minute, we went double-Spanish, which ended up being a good thing, since he played a rogue, which is a good thing for any party to have. And since, during the first session, he was the only person who seemed to be able to roll double-digit numbers on a D20, allowing the party to slowly but eventually kill the small number of poorly-armed goblins I’d put before them.

We also later got another Irish player who became the party’s ranger. Which brings me to the second unusual thing: the names. Oh my god.

So, the ranger is, ahem, “Polycarp Manius.” Um. Okay.

The monk is “Morzaninov,” which has something to do with how “more than enough” is pronounced with a French accent.

The wizard has a mile-long super-elvish name that I can’t remember.

The paladin is “Adobos,” which is passably normal.

The druid is “Blyantspisser,” which is the Norwegian word for “pencil sharpener.” Seriously.

And the rogue is “Garrett,” which, in this party, seems so oddly normal it’s almost mundane, like a character named “Bob” or “Gary” would be in most parties.

So that’s the group. They’re making their way through Lost Mine of Phandelver at the moment and they’re getting better at rolling dice. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mont-Saint-Michel – Ground Level


Here’s the annotated version and the DM notes.

This is what the last few months have been leading up to. Hopefully it’s everything you were expecting. There’s still the upper floors to color and a few other little things to do, but we’re almost there.

A few things. First, DM notes for everybody. There are some things we need to talk about with this one and that’s where we’re talking about them. It’s all under “Important Things.” Feel free to stop reading after that if you want.

Second, non-patrons will notice a ZIP file attached to this post on the patreon. If you play on a VTT, you’ll need those. They’re individual sections of the map so you don’t have to try to get Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds to try to choke down the whole island at once. There are more VTT options for patrons, but I want everyone to be able to use this and those files are necessary for that. I care about those of you who aren’t giving me money too, you know.

Third, the DM notes are only half-finished. I wanted to get this posted and I’m not letting a little thing like incomplete DM notes stop me.

Finally, there’s going to be an elevation guide and some other VTT options to come, but those will require multiple floors to be finished, so they’ll come at the end.

Anyway, what do you all think? If you’ve got any questions, just ask. I may not know the answer, but I’ve been living and breathing this place for the last few months, so it’s worth a shot to ask.

Mont-Saint-Michel – Work in Progress 13 – Les Roofs


There she is. A whole lot of trees died to get us to this point. Seriously, I’m gonna post a picture of all the originals at some point. I think this may have taken more paper than Brazenthrone, which is a little nuts.

That reminds me, I need to buy more. Unfortunately, I have to order the paper I use from overseas, which is a bit of a pain, but only the finest French graph paper will do. *adjusts monocle*

All right, I’m gonna grab some more coffee and get started on coloring this thing. My next post will the the finished first level!

Mont-Saint-Michel – Work in Progress 12 – The 3rd level, now with rocks, trees and other nature-type stuff


So, this is the whole island. In the back, there’s the Chapel of St. Aubert on the left, then toward the center is a fountain. It’s kind of a strange fountain. I guess you get the water out of the hole? I don’t know.

The leftmost tower has the windmill I mentioned before. I can’t show you a photo because it’s not there anymore, but some old French books assure me it used to be there. Well, Google Translate assures me that some old French books say it was, anyway.

The last and uppermost level (the roofs) are all drawn and I should be able to assemble them tomorrow. And then I spend the next week coloring away like a preschooler. I’ll be back with the roofs. Until then!