The Castel Sant’Angelo – Rome, Italy

When I first started working on this map, I didn’t know much about the Castel Sant’Angelo. I knew that it was in Rome and once belonged to the pope, but I wasn’t aware that it was originally built as the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian. When I read that, I had to pause for a second and process what I had just learned. So…wait, the pope used to live in a gay man’s tomb? Huh. That was my fun fact for the day and now it’s yours.

That also helps to explain why this place is so unusual. The long, circular ramp at the entrance and the long stairway up the center aren’t things you’d see in many castles, but they were a part of the original mausoleum and are still there after 1900 years of renovations.

There’s an alternate version of this map I want to make for patrons and it should only take a day. I think there are a lot of things this map could be used for if it was just a bit less of a castle, so I’m going to remove the outer walls and leave the keep in the center. At that point, it could be a temple, a monastery, a small village, an unusual wizard’s tower, etc. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Well, I’m gonna get to work on that and I should have it for you tomorrow. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the Castel Sant’Angelo. And if you’ve got any questions about the place, feel free to ask. It is genuinely a strange castle, it’s not just you. I promise.

The Chateau de Breze in Saumur, France

The Chateau de Breze is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been. If there has ever been a place that looks like a real-life D&D map, this is it.

You cross a drawbridge into a castle, then down some stairs into a long, underground tunnel. Then, after going through an ancient, underground settlement, you get to the bottom of the moat, where there are even more tunnels and two more ancient, underground settlements, all connected by a complex network of passages and chambers carved into the rock. I mean, a lot of castles have a cellar, a crypt, maybe a cistern underneath, but these guys have their own personal underdark down there.

Now that I think of it, this place would make a pretty good underdark entrance. Or, wait… what if the lord of the castle was secretly in league with the drow, who were helping him seize power in the region so they can have free reign to raid the surface? Hmm… that might be the start of something interesting.

Next, I’ll be starting on the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. This is the last of the three historical castles I’ve been drawing lately and I don’t think it’ll disappoint. Dating back to 134 AD, it was built as the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, later becoming a fortress and eventually being occupied by the pope. I’ve had a look at the floor plans and I can tell you right now: this will not be a small map.

Anyway, if you have any questions about the Chateau de Breze, by all means ask. I don’t know everything about it, but I’ll answer if I can.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you like the map!

Scaligero Castle – Sirmione, Italy

So, there are eight buildings called Scaligero Castle in Italy. They were built by the Scaliger family, who ruled over Verona and were not very creative at naming castles. I mean, being fond of your own last name is fine, but maybe mix it up a little.

This is the Scaligero Castle in Sirmione, which has a very unusual feature: a fortified port. The port once held a fleet which the Scaligers used to control Lake Garda and its waterways. It’s mostly a fortification rather than a noble residence, so it’s fairly utilitarian in design, with most of the castle being defensive structures. The only two buildings inside are a barracks and a tower.

If you’re looking for a way to use this map in your game, allow me to suggest pirates. That’s what I’d use it for and something tells me I’m not alone there.

Next, I’ll be drawing a map I’ve been looking forward to making for a while now: the Château de Brézé. This is a French castle that looks like it was made for RPGs. There isn’t one photo that can explain this place, so let me walk you through it:

  • This is the Château from above. Note the dry moat surrounding it.
  • At the bottom of the dry moat, the walls of the moat are lined with tunnels and caverns. Here’s a photo of these. Here’s another.
  • Some of these lead to very long tunnels. A lot of them are interconnected. And a lot of them predate the castle, having been dug as an underground settlement in the 1100s.
  • So, to recap: people dug tunnels, creating an underground settlement. 400 years later, someone built a castle over that settlement. Then, they dug more tunnels. This place is unbelievably fascinating.

So, that’s the place I’m going to draw for you. I’ve been wanting to draw the Château de Brézé for years and it is time. Wish me luck.

The Ruins of the Torre Scola – Dehumidified Version

As promised, here’s the alternate version of the Torre Scola. It’s occurred to me that I draw quite a lot of islands and that I should probably draw non-island versions of those maps as well for those DMs whose campaigns involve ungulate-based travel.

So, the voting has ended and the final map for Tir Thelandira will be a valley of wizards. This will be a small community of 3-5 wizards, each with their own tower. I’ll probably make a map of the whole valley as well as individual maps of the towers for anyone who wants to use them separately.

After that, I’ll get started on the giant ship megaproject that I talked about in this post. I’ve been champing at the bit to start on that for a while now and I’m really looking forward to it. Anyway, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think of the map!

The Ruins of the Torre Scola

The Torre Scola (“Scola Tower”) is a ruined tower off the coast of La Spezia, Italy. Built in the 1600s, it was heavily damaged during the Napoleonic Wars, then later used for target practice by the Italian Navy in the early 1900s.

Personally, I think the historical value of this place should’ve been enough to keep people from pounding it with naval guns. But even if we ignore that– even if we say, “It’s fine, there’s no shortage of old stuff in Italy and it’s not like this is the Colosseum,” there’s still one more important thing to consider: THIS THING IS ONLY 200 METERS OFF THE COAST. So, you know, try not to miss. No pressure.

Anyway, I’m going to make a non-island version of this map as well, which should be done later tonight. So I’ll be back with that in a bit and we’ll talk about what’s next.

Fiachna’s Knoll

Fiachna’s Knoll is an elven town in Tir Thelandira. With this done, there are only two more maps to draw before the island is finished. The next will be the one proposed by Magpie and voted for by patrons: the ruins of a monument built by a civilization so ancient that it preceded even the elves’ arrival on Tir Thelandira.

I’ve been thinking about what this place should be and I’ve decided to make it the absolute last thing you’d expect to find on an island full of wood elves. And what would that be? The most dwarven thing ever. These ruins are going to be more dwarven than a drunken axe-throwing contest. Of course, the elves of Tir Thelandira have never actually seen a dwarf, so they wouldn’t know what to make of it, which could lead to an interesting conversation if a party with a dwarf passes through.

After that, there’s still one more map to go. I’ll be sending out a message to all patrons asking for proposals for location #2 in the next few days. Here are a couple guidelines: first, the location can be anywhere on the northern island. And second, Tir Thelandira is very isolated, so the location can’t be a major city.

Anyway, this megaproject should be wrapping up soon and then I’ll get started on the next one, which will be that giant ship I mentioned earlier. Hopefully that sounds good to everyone!

New Giltwater – A Gold Mining Colony

Here’s a version without the mines.

New Giltwater is a gold mining colony in Tir Thelandira. After the last colony was burned to the ground by the island’s native wood elves, the colonists have taken a few more precautions this time around, building a palisade and keeping a few companies of mercenaries close by.

There are only three more maps to draw before Tir Thelandira is finished. After that, I’ve got a few ideas on what to start on next and I’ll probably let patrons vote on which one you want to see first. Here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. Dhasra. An incredibly wealthy city built across a river delta. The main location on the island would be the White City of Dhasra and I’d draw an overview of the city, then detailed maps of different locations within the city. There might be a couple other locations on the island as well.
  2. A very bleak island whose noble families all became vampires long ago. The peasants are little more than livestock for the nobles, who have established an upper caste of commoners to keep the rest in line. The nobles live in lavish palaces with fountains of blood, while the serfs live as prisoners in their own lands. A few groups of wanderers roam the forests, living free from the predation of the nobility. Deep in the shadows, there is talk of an uprising.
  3. A new version of Tortuga. I’ll redesign it and it’ll probably be a bit smaller, but the same basic idea. Since I’m drawing a world full of islands, it seems like an interesting way to travel between them. It lets the party stay on the move, while also having a community of people they know around them.

By the way, the runoff vote for the next location in Tir Thelandira is open, so if you’re a patron, go over there and participate in democracy. It’s really close right now, so your vote very well might change the outcome.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on those three ideas. What you like, what you don’t or what might make them better. I really want to draw all three, but I’d like to hear your opinions first.

Saltiron Prison – Reduced-Moisture Version

Here’s a drier version of the naughty box for those of you who need to send your party to the hoosegow but aren’t near a coastline. Hopefully everyone enjoys their stay and learns some respect for the authorities. Unlikely, but possible.

The next map is going to be a submarine, but I’m going to make a spelljammer version of it as well. Why a submarine? I’m curious about that too. I’ve been getting asked about doing a fantasy submarine quite a bit over the last few months and I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or if there’s a new module out there that involves one. If you can think of a reason submarines might be in demand lately, I’d love to hear it. But, in any case, I’m going to draw one.

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

Saltiron Prison

I really like how this map turned out, so I’m giving away all the patron stuff to everyone. You can download it here.

Prisons have never been a great place to be, but they seem to have been particularly godawful in the days before the concept of “human rights” became a thing. The prison this map is partially based on– the Chateau D’If— held 3500 prisoners at one point. Now, there are differences between that place and this map, but the prison building itself is about the same size. So imagine 3500 people in that space. A guy named Céphas Carrière, who was held there in 1708, wrote about the experience. To summarize, he said it was hell and people were constantly dying, which is about what you’d expect.

Of course, he and everyone else there at the time were horrible criminals who were guilty of… *checks notes* being the wrong religion. I mean, yes, technically they were worshipping the exact same god, but they were doing it wrong and– look, it’s a problem, okay? It had to be done. Maybe. It’s hard to say.

Anyway, next I’m going to make an alternate version of this map that isn’t on an island. I’ll probably have that done later today or tomorrow at the latest. Okay, I’ll be back with that soon!

Hohenzollern Castle

Here’s the annotated version. No reason both of us should have to type a bunch of text from old, German maps into Google Translate.

I’ve had a few people working on academic papers message me about my historical maps and I want to make something clear for anyone who googled their way here: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT USE MY MAPS AS REFERENCE FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH. If you can’t find a complete, contemporary floor plan, I probably didn’t either. And– this is important– I’M ALLOWED TO FILL IN THE GAPS BY MAKING STUFF UP. The idea that I might inadvertently rewrite history by making D&D maps is slightly hilarious, but ultimately something to avoid.

*ahem*

With that out of the way, Hohenzollern Castle, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, was the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern Dynasty. The Hohzenzollerns were the rulers of Prussia and, later, Germany. They also produced some of the most potent mustaches in Central Europe. Without getting too far into it, let’s just say things went well for the Hohenzollerns right up until they didn’t.

This map turned out to be a ton of work, but I hope you like it. Next, I’ll be drawing the map chosen by the last Cartographic Congress: a small, fortified dwarven port town. Erik, who proposed the idea, plans to use it as a part of Brazenthrone, so I guess you could consider this an unofficial expansion of the dwarven city.

Okay, that’s it. I’d love to hear what you think of Hohenzollern Castle!