Category Archives: Maps

Murderer’s Drop

Murderer's Drop

Murderer’s Drop

I ran this map for a new player to my campaign as an introduction to his particular plot. His troublesome partner had gotten in over his head and needed rescuing from the infamous Murderer’s Drop.

Built inside a seaside hill near the docks, this neglected home once belonged to a corrupt Harbourmaster. This monstrous man took payments in return for help disposing bodies. Being incredibly lazy to boot, he built a chute that led into a fetid pool beneath his own home. A rear entrance, only by rowboat, also sufficed.

Even after he was found out and executed, his abandoned home remained. The worst kind of derelicts moved in and broke down the walls that separated the civilized from the depraved. And in the dead of night they would deny seeing two men carrying a drunk friend into this building… to join the mass of others.

“They were faint, but Lucius followed the trail of blood droplets to this room. He’d passed quietly by several other rooms and was met with blank stares and mindless muttering. Behind a ruined wall was a cave where men fought bare-knuckled to a roaring audience, but they did not see him. He hoped that remained true. The only thing in this room was mold, encrusted filth, and a heavy-looking trapdoor. He opened it carefully, expecting the worst, but there was only a filthy metal slide. Lacking other options, he flung himself down it and hoped he would he would find his friend one way or another. Above him, a maddening laugh became a screeching wail. A murdered body had just sent itself down the Drop.”

Fort Narin

Fort Narin

Fort Narin

This small fort was built a few miles from the town of Narin in order to help protect the road from bandits. It was built at the top of a sheer-sided hill that overlooked the farmlands. After a brief conflict with hobgoblins a century past, the fort had been destroyed by fire. The people of Narin was disorganized, focused on their own defence, and weren’t able to properly reclaim the countryside again for another decade. By then, plans for rebuilding the fort were too expensive and dangerous to undertake.

Having fallen into ruin, only the basement is in reasonable condition. The armory is to the left of the anteroom, but is protected by a heavy steel portcullis. To the right is the brig where captured bandits were often kept until they could be tried in town. Otherwise, there is a small mortuary, a shrine to a minor god, a training room, and a newer hidden chamber that is used, perhaps, by an exiled mage who wants a bit of privacy.

This was the first dungeon I ran with a new group of players a few years ago and one the first maps I’d drawn with a pen. You might notice some corrections I made to the map to clean it up; my lines weren’t as straight as I’d like back then. The dungeon mostly contained animals; the breaks in two of the rooms indicate animal tunnels through the wall.

“The thief and the barbarian had heard there was treasure hidden away by the fort’s commander and were hoping to ‘liberate’ it. The thief noticed that a hole had been dug into the wall of the corridor adjacent to this room, so they entered cautiously. A warning hiss met their advance; a troupe of badgers had made a nest at the back of the room. The barbarian noticed the treasure chest behind the badgers and said, ‘Well, we’re in for a long fight…’”

Rynth Flat-Dagger’s Hideout

Trapper's Fort

Trapper’s Fort

The main feature of this map is the extensive set of linked trap doors at the front entrance. When meddlesome adventurers come breaking down the door, they’ll find themselves dropped into a steel cage below. Once inside, the first two options for exploration offer the same fate. At the rear is a hidden exit, a supply cache, and a path down the cliffside behind the hideout.

“We had a good lead that Flat-Dagger was holded up at his manse overlooking the beaches. They told us he was paranoid… and rich too. The comically large ‘welcome mat’ was obvious and easily sidestepped. In hindsight, the two iron golems that charged towards us as soon as we opened the door must have been illusions; even he couldn’t afford the expense. Still, we ran down the first exit we saw and slid face-first down into a cage. The guard’s laughter shamed us… I hope someone pays our ransom soon…”

Blood Witches Coven

Blood Witches Coven

Blood Witches Coven

The cave entrance on the surface wards away intruders with the heads of men who dared challenge the coven of witches that dwell below. If the heads aren’t enough to dissuade casual visitors, the Glyph of Warding just underneath them might.

The entrance tunnel opens up into a large cavern with a babbling stream running through it. A stone bridge allows crossing, though the water isn’t really deep enough to be an effective barrier.

On the left is a windowless tower with a conical top, but a hidden door grants access. The obvious door in the center is trapped to seal when whoever opened it reaches the room on the other side. This leaves the unfortunate person in an empty courtyard, devoid of cover and surrounded by arrow slits 30′ up. Skeleton archers usually man the guard posts. A hidden exit leads to the last exterior feature, an octagonal platform with an elaborate ritual circle in its center.

Otherwise, there are small cells where the witches sleep, a small (but disorganized) library, and a temple to their bloody, goat-headed god. Only the witches’ matriarch, a swamp hag, has access to the males she keeps captive next to her rotten quarters.

“The sound of rushing water was reflected by the sound of shifting gravel as the party half-slid down the steep tunnel. Their thief had gone ahead to scout, but didn’t return after several hours. Assuming the worst, they headed down anyway to find him.

The tunnel opened up onto a high ledge in a huge cave, poorly lit by cracks in the ceiling and a brazier glowing next to a large wooden door in a cobblestone fort. Water flowed, fast and loud through the middle of the cave. The water flung itself from a stony waterfall into darkness and the sound drowned out all else. However, the elf spotted the thief’s head above the lip of a platform embedded in the fort’s walls. Oddly, the halfling thief just stood there on the edge staring at nothing. 

The Elf was about to shout to the halfling, but another figure slid from the darkness behind him. She had long, lank hair and a crone’s face. Standing behind the entranced halfling, she stroked his short hair, shot a hateful look at the party and drove her long, taloned fingers through the back of his neck.

As we rushed down the ledge, the hag pushed the halfling’s body off to thud wetly on the stone below. A bloody aura of black magic surrounded the hag and the sickening light it gave off slid behind her as she slowly moved back the way she came. The party collected themselves at the fort’s door and swore they wouldn’t rest until they had revenge for the murder of their comrade.”

Pus-lick Goblin Burrow

Puslick Goblin Burrow

Puslick Goblin Burrow

I really enjoy drawing maps with multiple elevations and overlapping tunnels. I hope this one isn’t too confusing, but I think it makes a great natural goblin stronghold.

From the bottom, the first elevation is ~20’ above ground, the next elevation is ~40’ high, the next is ~50’ high, and the last is ~70’ high. You can be sure that there will be numerous goblins with shortbows raining down arrows on intruders, though there is some cover in the form of  some large boulders that they’ve been too lazy to move.

There are two major burrows where the goblins make their nests. One is near the entrance is for the lowest-ranking goblins, so the floor is likely cluttered with detritus, and the other is protected by a door and features the rare concept (among goblins) of privacy curtains.

“You can smell the goblin warren before you find it. The usual smells of unburied waste, unwashed bodies, and rotten meat is undercut by a much more putrid smell. As you approach the cliff-side, you spot more than a dozen dark vertical gaps in the rockface from which a gabbling of goblin voices echoes. Also issuing down from each hole is a dark brown stain that fades to yellow, then white, near the hole. A crude door level with the ground has a skull-and-crossbones painted on it with the same brown substance. You have a feeling you’re going to need a long bath afterwards.”

Pus-lick Goblins

Goblinoid, CE, 20’, 1-1 HD, 1d4 or by weapon (shortsword or shortbow), F1, Mo 8, xp ??

Diseased weapons:

These goblins coat their weapons and arrows in the foul pus of goblins that have been deliberately given festering infections. The smell and inherent disgust that these weapons instill in their enemies is often enough to incapacitate them.

It takes 1 round for a goblin to apply the coating to a weapon or a bundle of 4x arrows. Goblins typically carry up to three clay bottles (or 1d4-1 bottles if you wish) and are considered to be proficient in its application, so there’s no chance of accidental exposure. Those dealt damage by such weapons must make a Save vs Poison or be Nauseated for 1 round (only Move actions) and have a 50% chance of being infected with the Purple Shakes.

Symptoms start in two days and the disease causes circulation to be restricted to one’s limbs and brain.  This results in extremities turning a deep purple or blue and a feeling of intense cold, numbness, and uncontrolled shaking. Once symptoms start, movement and speech is impossible. There is a 10% chance of naturally recovering and death occurs in 1d4+CON bonus days later (min 24 hrs of symptoms).

Barrow of King Winterwolf the Cold

Barrow of King Winterwolf the Cold

Barrow of King Winterwolf the Cold

Inspired somewhat by the numerous barrows featured in Skyrim, the anteroom has curved stone walls and weather-worn stone steps. Dried offerings in urns line the walls. The central room is locked and barred to prevent looting, but the north wall has crumbled somewhat where a log support has rotted through and collapsed. Stairs inside lead down to a tunnel.

South of the anteroom is where his loyal banner-men of Clan Umbra are interred and, perhaps, to guard the entrance to the rest of the barrow.

The north tunnel leads into a very large dining hall, though none no longer feast there. Below the balcony is a study table covered in fine earthenware and the dusty remains of the food that had been laid out when the barrow was sealed. Corridors on either side of the table lead to additional tombs.

To the North West, the corridors lead to trapped rooms and a hidden entrance into the barrow. It’s also the method by which the builders had left the barrow after it was sealed shut. To the East of the hall is where the King’s family and most trust guards are interred. Hidden there is a magic token that opens the hidden door into a temple of The Rivermaster, and where King Winterwolf and his second born son are interred.

Even after finding this chamber, the room is not very richly appointed. There is a final hidden door that leads to the treasure room where his enchanted armor Rimecoat and greatsword Frostblade are kept safe.

“The fat innkeeper had asked for a lot of gold for the location of Winterwolf’s Barrow; too much. He won’t be telling anyone else where we’ve gone, either. Now that we’ve found it, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s where he described. They were atop a tall, wind-swept hill of jagged rock that jutted out of the ground towards to the south, so they’d had to climb up from the north. Above the entrance was a stone wolf’s head with snarling jaws and a spiked collar and carved writing in the barbarian’s scratches was too faded to read. Snowdrifts piled against the arched entrance, but once they cleared it away, wide, icy steps went down on other side into the barrow. They split up to see if they’d meet up in the middle, but Rorge found a cave-in at the bottom and came back. Worthless offerings lined the plain walls, only a few coppers and silvers glittered in the whipping torchlight, but the handle-less door proclaimed in Runic, ‘Disturb not the resting Place of King Winterwolf the Cold and his Sons or be Cursed by the Gods.’ Rorge offered to break it down and threw his shoulder into it, but some magic thundered and threw him back to slam into the wall, crushing some old pottery. This would be a tough nut to crack, I figured, but at least we were in the right place.”

Fort Blackcove and the Forgotten Chambers – Part 2

The Forgotten Chambers

The Forgotten Chambers

Behind Fort Blackcove, built into a huge stony hill on the shore of a salty sea, there is a tunnel that is hidden when the tide is high and protected by treacherous rocks. During low-tide, though, the narrow opening can be found and the tunnel traversed. The current can be swift, however, so if one isn’t careful, one’s boat will be dashed on the rocks further downstream. If one is sharp, one will notice the stone ladder built into a ledge (once there was a rope ladder as well, but it has since rotted away). At the top of the dank ledge is a heavy door, perfectly sealed and rusted shut.

The old lords of Fort Blackcove learned not to open that door too often, for it may let the sea in, but they used the chambers to build a secret prison. In this prison the lords kept the captives they never wanted their allies to know about, where they could torture whomever they please and let them waste away in the damp darkness. The goalers never cared that it was originally built by Naga, only that none ever escaped. The serpentine artwork and frescos are painted over or washed away.

Over the years, the salt water and underground streams have worn away the walls around some of the rooms, causing floors to collapse and flooding during high tide. One cave has been worn away so far it’s nearly washed some of the cells away.

No one can say what might be found in the dark torture chambers that have been forgotten by all living men. Perhaps what remains are only anguished souls, a monstrous goaler who never left the defunct prison, or perhaps the Naga have returned to restore their outpost.

“You’ve hit yet another impasse. Ahead of you and to your left are thick iron bars, though rusted at their base. Behind you is the hidden passages you passed through to enter this gods-forsaken dungeon. To your right you can see the other side of the thick door that keeps out the seawater at high tide. The air here is moist and smells of salt and seaweed. In fact, everything below a handspan’s height on the wall is encrusted with salt and tiny sea-creature’s shells. As you’re looking around the walls for a way to raise one or the other portcullis, you hear a high-pitched screech that echoes from all directions. You hope that whatever did that is still on the other side of those bars and doesn’t know another way around…”