The Stygian City: Goblin Village, Spiders’ Nest and Temple

The 7th level of the pit is home to a clan of goblins, who get by on a healthy diet of giant bats, giant spiders and mushrooms (which are basically a vegetable). Below that, the 8th level is overrun with spiders and in dire need of a treatment that only Dr. Flamethrower can provide.

Then there’s the 9th level. Most of this floor is a giant temple to Ghanya (the deity of the people who built the pit). But there’s a smaller group of rooms that are disconnected from the rest. This was once a tomb, but is now the residence of a vampire named Khrani, who sleeps here during the day, then flies out with the bats at night. Compared to the rest of the pit, her rooms are pretty nice. Just because you live in a literal hole in the ground doesn’t mean you can’t live in a nice hole in the ground.

For patrons, I’ve updated the DM notes quite a bit. There are new entries for these three levels as well as a new section with suggested creatures to populate each level with. When this is finished, the DM notes are going to be… not quite a campaign, but as close as I’ve come to writing one for any of my maps. Have a look and let me know what you think so far.

Next, I’ll be drawing the Black Citadel. This is going to be a ziggurat that serves as the lair of an evil organization. Imagine the party is finally heading out to confront the National Association of Sinister Wizards and, after an arduous journey, they finally arrive and they see this. No need to double-check the address, that’s definitely the place. Even the word ‘ziggurat’ sounds sinister. Ziggurat.

Anyway, I’m gonna get started on that. Once it’s done, I’ll be getting back to the pit. Speaking of which, tell me what you think so far!

Drow Academy of War, aka “Black Metal West Point”

This is a place where drow men– the ones who weren’t smart enough for magic school– go to learn how to bludgeon each other to death with assorted metal objects. The lower level of the map is an obstacle course and I suspect that some people might not be into that, but I think it’s a very drow thing and I want to try to sell you on it.

Here’s how I imagine it. The students don’t run this course solo. They’re running it alongside other students and it’s a race to the end. And the person who comes last is punished. That’s important because one of the main points of the course is to foster ruthlessness in the students. The real danger here isn’t the obstacles in their way, it’s the other drow who are trying to impede them. “Be ruthless” and “Watch your back” are important lessons to learn in drow society and I can see them building something like this to teach those things. I’m not sure I’d like this idea for anyone else, but I think it works really well for the drow.

Next, I’m going back to Das Pit. I’ll be drawing the next few levels of the city, which are going to get a lot more interesting. The upper levels were dug early, when the residents lived around, rather than in, the pit. But now we’ll be getting into the city itself, which is much more elaborate. The next few floors will have a goblin settlement and a colony of giant spiders (which are the main thing the goblins eat). Anyway, I’m looking forward to drawing it and, as soon as I stop typing, I can, so

The Stygian City: Caves and Catacombs

The next three levels of the Stygian City are finished! As promised, I updated the previous levels with the lower level windows. I also renamed all the previous levels. I’d originally named the first three floors 0, 1 and 2, but I realized that it would take less time to change them to 1, 2 and 3 than it would to answer questions about that for the next several years.

For patrons, I updated the DM notes with an overview of the history of the pit and how it came to be. I made a copy of this story for non-patrons as well, which you can find above. I’m very curious to know what everyone thinks about it. In any case, this whole place is designed to be very flexible, so if you’ve got a better idea of what to do with it, you can tell your story instead.

Next up is a drow academy of war, where drow males can go to become useful for something other than reproduction or being beaten for the entertainment of others. There’ll be an arena, training areas, maybe even a classroom where students come to study Drow Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. After that, I’ll probably draw another few levels of the pit.

Well, I hope you like how it’s coming so far! Check out the DM notes and let me know what you think of the story. And if you’re not a patron, check this post tomorrow and I’ll have a copy for you too.

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 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 Black Loch is Finished.

I’m giving away the Patrons’ Edition stuff for this map to everyone. You can download it all here. When I drew those cave and tunnel maps earlier, I was thinking about giving those away, but I decided I should give you a good map instead. So here it is.

With Charwall finished, the Black Loch is finally done after a year and a half. It’s been a huge amount of work drawing around 30 maps and 100 tokens and writing lore for it all, but I feel pretty good about it and I hope you like how it all turned out.

I want to say that I’m truly grateful to all the patrons who have supported this along the way. It felt like an incredible honor to be given the ability to spend two years drawing Brazenthrone and it’s no less an honor to have been able to put another year and a half into making the Black Loch as well.

Moreover, I’m grateful to be able to have your support for this despite the fact that I’ve given away usable versions of all the maps for free. I’m fairly sure that costs me money. I have no idea how much, but my rent gets paid and I’m not going to stop doing it. I feel very fortunate not to have to.

Well, it’s 9am and I’ve been up all night, but let me mention a few things before I go. I’ve updated the Black Loch Codex and the History and Lore Overview with Charwall. Remember when I made a post titled “The Black Loch: History and Lore Overview – FINAL UPDATE FOR REAL THIS TIME“? Okay, that was a lie, but this is the final update for real. Like, really real. Actually, legitimately very real. Anyway, it’s in the codex and you can download the new version here.

Well, that’s it for now. It’s been quite a journey and I hope you like where it all went. I’ve got another one in mind and I’ll tell you all about it in a day or two. Until then!

The Complete Black Loch Token Collection

These are the rest of the tokens for the Black Loch. You can download the complete collection here.

The collection also contains the previous tokens I made for the Black Loch, as well as the ship tokens, so there should now be tokens of every creature I’ve mentioned in the lore, as well as every significant character.

With that crossed off the list, there’s only one thing left to do: draw the last map. The final location is a place called Charwall and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it until I found some inspiration in a couple of proposals for the Black Loch Conclave.

The first proposal was for a colony of dragonborn who worship Kaliphex the Immortal (the dragon in the picture above). The second proposal was for a kobold settlement in a series of watery tunnels– a sort of “Kobold Venice,” if you will. Those proposals sparked some ideas and I put them together to create Charwall.

Basically, Charwall is a settlement of draconic races, with dragonborn, dragonkin, half-dragons and kobolds living together. Most of the residents aren’t from the underdark and they’re not exactly sure why they came to Charwall. They just know that they were drawn to the place, by something.

That something is Kaliphex the Immortal, an 11,000-year-old red dragon who resides nearby. It’s unclear even to Kaliphex what’s causing this, but she came to the Black Loch to be alone and now a group of dragonkin appear to be worshipping her. I’ll figure out the details of what’s going on as I work on the map.

As I said, this will be the last part of the Black Loch. It’s been quite a journey so far and I hope it’s turned out as well as you’d hoped. I’ve got another journey in mind after this is done and I’m looking forward to telling you about it.

Well, I’m gonna get to work. Let’s get this thing over the finish line.

The Black Loch: Caves and Tunnels

I’m fully prepared to admit that these are some of the most uninteresting maps I’ve ever made, but that’s basically the point. There are plenty of interesting maps in the Black Loch, but sometimes that’s not what you need. Sometimes you just need a cave or a tunnel without anything special in it, because it’s random encounter time and the party will be fighting *rolls dice* …giant bats.

That’s what these are for. They’re not specific locations marked on the regional map, they’re for the places in between.

Of course, the Black Loch is a sea, so there will be plenty happening along the coast as well. For those encounters, there’s the Black Loch naval battlemap. While I originally made it as a backdrop for ship battles, I think it’s just as good for encounters on land as well. And it’s plain enough to be fairly reusable.

There’s only one thing to do before I get started on the last map in the Black Loch: draw tokens. I’m going to make tokens for all the various creatures mentioned in the lore, as well as the notable characters. I already made tokens for some, so I just need to knock out the rest.

Anyway, I won’t ask what you think of the maps because, let’s be honest, they might be the most boring maps I’ve ever drawn. But I hope they’re useful.

Well, I’m gonna stop typing and start drawing. I’ll be back with some tokens in a few days!

The Black Loch Codex

You can download the free version of the Black Loch Codex here.

The Black Loch Codex compiles the Black Loch History and Lore Overview, as well as all the DM notes, in one PDF.

I made a version for non-patrons as well, which has all the DM notes I’ve given away for free so far. I also threw in the DM notes for the Grinning Widow, since I think some of the suggestions about how to handle the crew might be useful, particularly for newer DMs. It’s basically about how to deal with your party traveling in a ship with 20-30 crew without letting the players treat them as their own private army. And make no mistake: they will try.

Anyway, I hope everyone’s happy with it. I’ll update the codex with the last map once it’s done.

Next, I’ll be drawing some simple cave and tunnel maps. Nothing fancy, just something to use as backdrops for encounters that happen outside the marked locations. I’ll be back with those in a day or two, then I’ll get started on drawing the rest of the tokens. And after that, I’ll draw Charwall, which is the last map left.

Okay, I’m gonna get to work!