The Stygian City: Into the Pit

Our gigantic dungeon starts here, in a small village called Ekersfield. The villagers live in and around the top of the pit, mining iron ore from the level below. This is the nice part of the pit. The welcome center, if you will. Past this point, most of the pit’s inhabitants get a lot less friendly.

So, there’s an unusual problem with this project and its kind of unavoidable. See, the map above is finished… but it’s not. If you look at the uppermost level, you can see the windows in the sides of the lower levels of the pit. But on the bottom level, there aren’t any. That’s because I haven’t drawn the maps below this yet and I don’t know where they’ll be. So I’m going to have to update these maps after I draw the next ones. Which will also have to be updated later. And so on. A bit of a pain, but no big deal.

For patrons, I’m also making modular versions of the maps. These are individual floors which can be rearranged as you like. Here’s how they work: first, the lower level windows won’t be shown on the sides of the pit. And second, all the stairs descend counter-clockwise. The stairs won’t always be in the same place, but they’ll always move in the same direction and, if you want, you can rotate the map to get them close to each other. With only three floors, that isn’t super relevant just yet, but there will be a day when there are 20+ floors and it will be then.

Thus begins another very large project. They always seem too big to ever get done, but they always do. Brazenthrone took two years to draw, but it got finished. The Black Loch took a year and a half, but it got done too. I think this will take less than a year, but we’ll see. In any case, it’ll be done one day and, hopefully, you’ll like it. But for now, how’s it looking? Off to a good start?

The Forgotten Place

The Forgotten Place is an ancient ruin unearthed from the sands. It’s the perfect place for your party to do some archaeology, or– perhaps– some “archaeology.” In case you’re not aware of the difference between those two words, let me explain: the one with the quotes means grave-robbing.

I’d probably go with the second option in a D&D game. Brushing the dust off of pot shards to learn about the customs of ancient peoples may be morally and academically superior to scoring fat sacks of loot from a dead guy, but, well, moral superiority doesn’t buy you full plate and a castle.

I also want to mention that some of you may have more use for half of this map than you do for the whole thing. Maybe you like the desert ruins, but you want them to lead down into a different dungeon. Or maybe you like the underground part, but you want to put it under an old cathedral. Either way, go for it. Mix and match. There are no rules in RPGs*.

Anyway, the next map will be the Goblin Queen’s Carriage. This is going to be a giant carriage/war wagon that a tribe of goblins use as a mobile raiding camp. If you picture it looking like something out of Warhammer Fantasy, then we are very much on the same page. I think it’ll be a map that offers a lot of fun possibilities. After that, I’ll be getting started on the giant pit megadungeon that I’ve been talking about.

Well, that should do it for now. If anyone’s got any ideas on what might be pulling the giant goblin carriage, let me know. I feel like horses would be boring, but a giant seems like a bit much. My best idea right now is yaks, so if you can top that, I’ll consider it.

*There are multiple books full of rules in almost all RPGs.

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!

The Digging Machines

This map is an underground mining complex run by mechanical constructs. It has equipment for stamping and smelting ore, as well as a factory for making more constructs. I imagine this place being built by deep gnomes or duergar, since they are:

A) Good at engineering, and

B) Crazy enough to think building self-replicating machines is a good idea.

For patrons, I’ve got a version without the machines in case you just want a regular mine. And there’s the unfurnished version as well for anyone who just wants some caves.

There’s some good stuff coming up, so let’s talk about it. Do you like castles? I hope the answer is yes, because castles are happening. Bullet list mode, engage.

  • Next up is Scaligero Castle, a very unique Italian fortress with its own walled harbor.
  • After that, I’ll be drawing the Chateau de Breze, a French castle with a complex network of tunnels running underneath it. I visited this place a while back and took hundreds of photos of these tunnels so I could make a map of them one day. That day is soon.
  • A few months back, the Castel Sant’Angelo came in second to the Chateau de Breze in a vote for the next big historical map. But Shawn proposed the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Cartographic Congress last month and won, so I’ll be drawing that too. In case you’re unfamiliar with the place, it was originally built as the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, but was later turned into a fortress by the pope. It’s another very unique place.

So, that’s our future: a France sandwich with two slices of Italy. How’s that sound?

The Hall of the Bearded Men

This is the ancient ruin found on Tir Thelandira. The wood elves who inhabit the island don’t know who built it or why, only that it was here before they were. The “Bearded Men,” as the elves call them, are a great mystery. They certainly weren’t elves and they don’t look like humans, either. A few claim to have seen a Bearded Man who arrived on a ship centuries ago, but few believe them. Perhaps, one day, another Bearded Man will arrive, if any still exist.

This map is the ancient, mysterious ruin that patrons voted for. I hope you like the way I went with it. I thought it’d be funny to put this big, obviously dwarven ruin on an island full of elves who don’t know what a dwarf is and think of them as an almost mythical race.

There’s one more map to draw before Tir Thelandira is finished and I’ll be sending out a message to patrons asking for proposals for what it should be as soon as I post this.

The next map will be the guildhall of the Imperial Society of Extraordinary Adventurers, including their library, vault and exhibit hall. If that doesn’t sound like something you’ll need, don’t worry. It’ll basically be a large, well-appointed mansion and that’s something everyone’s got a use for. “Adventuring” usually involves a lot of burglary, in my experience.

Anyway, I hope you like the map! I used to draw dwarven stuff a lot and it felt good to be back in that saddle again.

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.

Thanesridge Landing: Upper Level

The upper level of Thanesridge Landing is done and there’s only one more part of the map left to draw: the rest of the ship.

By the way, I got an answer about how they pumped the water out of the drydocks back in ancient times: an Archimedes screw. Speaking of Archimedes, did you know he also invented an ancient Greek death laser? Not bad for 200 BC.

Anyway, I’m gonna get to work on the ship. I’ll have DM notes for patrons once it’s done.

Thanesridge Landing: A Dwarven Port

Thanesridge Landing is a dwarven port settlement. Dwarves aren’t famous for their love of ships, but they’re pretty fond of money and trade is a proven way to make a lot of it.

This map wasn’t intended to be a part of Brazenthrone, but I’ve started thinking of it like it is. In my head, this is the end of the Bitterwash River that runs through town. I’m not going to add it to the giant map of the city or anything, but you can consider it an unofficial part of Brazenthrone if you want.

The drydock on the right is called a “graving dock” and it’s actually below water level. It’s gated off from the sea and the water is pumped out. Then, when you’re ready to launch the ship, you just open the gate and sail it out. I didn’t find out how the water was pumped out, but these things date back to at least 200BC, so apparently it was possible. If you happen to know how they did it, I’d love to hear.

Anyway, I’ve got two more parts of this map to draw. First, I’m going to make a roof level, which may have some more buildings on top of the mountain ridge at the back. And I’m going to draw the rest of the steamship at the docks and make a separate map of it. It’ll be useful if your party shows up and steals the thing. I mean, they steal everything else, right? Maybe that’s just my players.

Well, I’m going to get to work on the rest of this. It shouldn’t take long. Let me know what you think so far!

Ptarmigan Bluff: A Mining Village on a Cliffside

First of all, this is what a ptarmigan is. They live in the mountains. The “P” is silent, but is included in the spelling because the English language is designed to inhibit the spread of literacy at all costs.

I really like the idea of a village built against a cliff, but drawing one turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. Still, I do like a challenge and I think I’m happy with it. The hard part was putting this all together in a way that makes sense.

You see, drawing a five-story building is one thing. But drawing 10 different buildings with five floors among them, all tied together with stairs, walkways and bridges… well, that’s a little more complicated. I numbered the buildings on the sideview to indicate which buildings are on which levels and I hope that’ll make it easier to understand. But if you’ve got any questions, by all means ask.

Next, I’ll be drawing another map for Tir Thelandira. Specifically, I’m going to draw the ruins of the burned mining colony. You can see a list of what’s left to draw in this post.

Speaking of Tir Thelandira, the poll for the first of three undecided locations is still open for patrons who want to cast a vote. Since there were 21 ideas submitted for the first location, I’m dividing them up into three votes of 7, then holding a runoff for the winners to determine what the location will be. I’ll start the vote for the second group of 7 in a day or two.

Well, that’s it for now. If you’ve got any thoughts, let me know!

Caergyd Point (Complete)

Since this is fairly big, here’s the cave and the castle separately.

I just have one piece of advice for any DM whose party takes up residence in this castle: that cave is not a safe place to dock a ship. It’s out of sight and it gives a group of thieves plenty of time to get it ready to sail without anyone seeing. So, if they don’t station a guard down there to watch it, have somebody steal it. Maybe one of the PCs wakes up in the middle of the night and sees their ship pulling out of the cave.

It doesn’t have to be more than a short encounter. You could give them enough time to grab their swords and leap for the mast as the ship is pulling away. I’m just saying, a completely unexpected, butt-naked pirate battle in the middle of the night sounds like some pretty good D&D to me. Worth considering, at least.

Next, I’ll be updating the Tir Thelandira map with all the locations I’ve got planned. I just want to give everybody a better idea of what the island is going to look like once it’s finished. I’ll post that tomorrow, along with a brief description of what I’m planning to do with each of the locations. After that, I’ll pick one and draw it. Okay, see you then!