Mountains and Buildings

Pencil sketches of mountains ranges and hills

Mountains are hard

Continuing in my exploration of cartography and topography, I’m finding that with mountains, it’s hard to not get them too large and take over the whole map. My second map effort end up with huge mountains and awkward buildings.  I didn’t have the book in front of me to follow along with, so it’s not quite as put-together looking as the first effort.

2nd Map effort - Big mountains, weird towns
My second effort at a map didn’t go quite as nicely as the first one.

Also those buildings are just killing me. They need to be tiny to fit proportionately on these 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets, but I haven’t mastered that sort of fine detail with the pencils I’m using. Truth be told, I’ve abandoned this sad effort.

Practice! Practice!

So some practice sketching mountains, trying to follow predetermined paths

Still haven’t quite gotten the hang of mountains in proportion to the rest of the maps, but that’s what practice is for, right?

Pencil sketches of mountains ranges and hills


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Map Sketching First Effort

Final version of 1st Map with signature & date 1/26/2018

Taking a short (indeterminent) break from the Dreadstorm Campaign and indulging in hand-drawn map making fun. I’ve really been enjoying learning how to draw the classic style of land maps with tutoring from Mr. Blando’s book, How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps. This is the same book I mentioned in my prior post, Castle with “Moat Dragon”.

When I started the map I felt pretty silly and thought it would look pretty dumb, but was pleasantly surprised by the final outcome.

Map Sketch Process

Map Sketch Pic #1 – Establishing the continent shape and islands

Step 1 in drawing a fantasy map - outlining the continent, islands, and lakes
After doodling a rough blob of a shape, I went back and added some interesting coastline bits, islands, and lakes.

Map Sketch Pic #2 – Penciling in some mountains.

Added Mountains. Mountains were surprising difficult. A lot of erasing and redrawing here.

Map Sketch Pic #3 – Mountain details

Added those funny lines to mountains. Huh. They do look more mountain-ee. Might need to do less inner lines next time.

Map Sketch Pic #4 – Let there be hills to hug those mountains

Added hills around my mountains. I might have gotten a little carried away with mountains and hills.

Map Sketch Pic #5 – Adding in some rivers and coastline

Rivers! Rivers are cool. Added rivers and outlined the land masses.

Map Sketch Pic #6 – Forests

Trees! There must be forests, right? With all those hills and mountains, I didn’t leave a lot of room for forests and fields.

Map Sketch Pic #7 – Final-ish version

Final version of 1st Map with signature & date 1/26/2018
Went back and shaded in the trees. Tried to erase the smudge in mountain tops and other pencil smears to make it look like I meant to do that … cause, yeah, totally planned it that way!

I wasn’t brave enough to try adding cities and lettering to this one. I felt this was a good place to stop. For a first effort, I thought it turned out kinda cool.

Things I learned

  1. Mountains are hard
  2. Leave room for more than just mountains
  3. I drag my hand all of the page, making a smeary mess
  4. I need to do a better job of erasing lines
  5. Maybe trees in a forest don’t need to be quite so compressed together
  6. I should probably try to plan the whole map out ahead of time. But who am I kidding. I’m not a planner. I like to do things organically and see where they end up!

Coloring Digitally

I downloaded GIMP, a free & open source image editor, so I can work on coloring maps, and probably the lettering. I’m still figuring out how to deprogram my brain from thinking in Photoshop terms and learn how things work there. My muscle memory is surprisingly strong from all my many past years of using Photoshop. I find my self doing keyboard and mouse shortcuts that don’t really work with GIMP. I can’t tell you how many times I hit CTRL+D to unselect and got a duplicate file instead.

I like the idea of being able to use layers. With pencil sketching, drawing something on top of something else, like trees over a river, that erased bit is gone for good. Not just masked out. Huh. I think working digitally has gotten me a bit lazy and spoiled.

The above images were in no way modified in GIMP or Photoshop.

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The Dungeon of the Dori

Percolating Ideas

The Dungeon of Dori is an idea percolating in my head for a Dungeons & Dragons session (could be used for any RPG, really). This is the initial sketch of the dungeon/castle/place-to-cause-mayhem including hidden doors and a huge slime monster … or maybe a water feature … who knows?!

I picture a drab, gray stone castle with odd nooks on the outside, leading visitors to think they’ve found an entrance only to find it’s an architectural feature of the insane Dori. There are a couple of exterior doors, which are hidden … naturally (the squiggly lines are hidden doors). Even the interior is full of hidden doors, which make for quicker movement for those who are familiar with the interior.

The inside is dark and cold, with a constant echo of dripping water. I also like the idea that the filled in areas area actually pillars hiding secrets inside of them.

And Traps? Oh yes. How could the insane Dori not have wicked traps?!

Trap Resources

Speaking of traps, Roll 20 has a nice summary on traps and some sample traps in the D&D 5th Edition Compendium here.

And  covers some traps and hazard examples in the article A Collection of Traps & Hazards (D&D 5E)

I also found the Power Score’s  Dungeons & Dragons – Traps in 5th Edition had a nice gathering of information on dealing with traps and trap examples.


#8 – Champions’ Manor – Dreadstorms Lost

Dreadstorms Mansion - Ground Level
The following blog post is Part 8 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)



The lower level of the manor has been trashed. Bandits and townfolk alike have been tearing through the house looking for treasure; broken furniture, artwork torn from the wall, holes dug with pickaxes into the stone floors and walls; books, glasses, mementos and broken and crushed the floors. Signs of bloody fights are everywhere. Both bandit and townsfolk are among the half dozen dead scattered throughout the lower level.

Hidden runes provide permanent “protection from evil and evil intent” in the private areas of second floor and the wizard tower. There may have been some looters that made it passed the wards, but the 2nd floor is in reasonable unmolested. Note, any player that has an evil alignment will not be able to go up the stairs or enter the wizard tower in the middle of the courtyard.

As trainees in the Protector program, the players would have spent some time in the the public spaces: meeting room, dining hall, library, and office. It is doubtful that they would have been in the tower, kitchen/pantry, mudroom, or stables. The stables and the other exterior backdoor are secret egress outside the city walls. When Kazel had been asked how they got outside of the city gates and with the horses, Kazel would wriggle his fingers and eyebrows and say “Magic!”


Due to the various strewn about debris, all rooms are on the lower level are Hindering Terrain (half movement). 

If your players need the occasional combat to spice things up, feel free to toss in a random encounter or two of bandits looting in the lower rooms or beating on a townfolk, demanding to be led to treasure.

A. Exterior of the Manor

  • [PERCP 10] Shrubs and flowerbeds pulled
  • [PERCP 12] Many holes of varying sizes dug in the
  • [INV 12] The body of a townfolk (Corchel) with his throat slit has been shoved into one of the holes
  • [INV 14] Signs of fighting, blood splatters, a broken shovel, arrows (d6), a rusty knife laying in the dirt

B. Entryway

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. The front door is hanging by one hinge, the lock brutishly smashed
  2. Across foyer (20′) is the door to courtyard -also left open
  3. To the left is entryway leading to the Meeting Hall room where Protector Meetings took place
  4. To the right is the opening to a general pre-meal gathering area
  5. [PERCP 10] Broken shards from shattered vases and artwork litter the floor
  6. Carpet rolled up and pushed off to the side
  7. Holes in the wall, large chunks chipped out of the stone floor
  8. [INV 10] Muddy foot prints and dark, liquidy smears stain the floor (blood) – Some of the blood has been there for days, some is more recent
  9. [INV 15] The mayor’s bowler hat lays flattened in the corner (he loved that hat!)

C. Quadrangle/Inner Courtyard/ Inner Ward

  1. A round tower dominates the middle of the courtyard
  2. There is a well-maintained path between the foyer door and the door to the south
  3. [PERCP 10] Holes of varying depths dug in the grass. Shrubs and flowerbeds pulled up.
  4. [PERCP 10] Door to on opposite side of courtyard -Library (E)- has been left open
  5. Several dead bodies from recent fighting. One or two you might recognize as  One or two you recognize as townsfolk – [WIS/Medicine 10] Bodies haven’t been dead more than a day
  6. [INV 15] Trail of blood leads from the library door to tower
  • [WIS/Medicine/Surival 12] The blood is at least 3-4 days

D. Meeting Hall [Left of Entryway]

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Podium knocked over
  2. Benches smashed
  3. Artwork tossed on floor, shredded
  4. Door on southwest wall to hallway
  5. Hallway 20′ long, right turn 12′ to door
  6. Door on east wall

E. Library, Public

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Book pulled from shelves, tossed everywhere
  2. Cabinets pulled from walls, pushed over
  3. Carpets shoved off to the side, smashed furniture
  4. Door to courtyard left open (north wall)
  5. Door on west wall
  6. [PERCP 18] Book of Level 1 Illusion Spells

F. Office, Public

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Carpets rolled up and furniture knocked over
  2. Desk rifled through, drawers pulled from slots; dumped out
  3. [PERCP 15] Secret Door to the stable left cracked open

G. Private stable

Protection from Evil/Evil Intent
  1. Via Secret door from Office-Looks like storage for horse feed & riding
  2. Smells like a stable – hay and horse shit; There’s a couple bales of hay and dried horse shit here
  3. [PERCP 12: (+2 bonus if already spotted trail in courtyard] trail to pool of dried blood; possibly a heavily bleeding body had rested here
    [WIS/Medicine/Surival 12] The blood is at least 3-4 days
  4. [PERCP 13]: Wards over doorway on stable [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] to identify as Protection from Evil/Evil Intent permanency spell; bloody hand print on the back of the door (stable side)
  5. [PERCP 15]: Barn door to outside-hidden; pops back and slides to the side, blends into the wall
  6. [PERCP 20]: A well-hidden small door blends into the wall to the rear stairwell; there’s a spot to push to trigger the door to swing open (into the stables)

H. Mudroom/Stairs

Protection from Evil/Evil Intent
  1. Door to the outside (and outside the city wall) next to stairs – Not visible from outside; no outside [PERCP 22] from the exterior there is a hidden latch to open door
  2. You feel a slight resistance/tingle as you move up the stairs; evil alignment/bad guys are not able to go up stairs
  3. Door/exterior wall: There are a few trees are within 20′ of the The dense forest starts about 100′ from the door.
  • [PERCP 12] Outside along the tree-line, to the North, you spot a body slumped against a tree. It’s hard to immediately identify who it is. Up close, you recognize Clemens, Foreshot’s apprentice. Based on the huge gaping hole in his chest, you’d say he’s very dead.
  • [WIS/Medicine 12] He’s been dead at least 3 Some of the bruising on his face seems older than that.
  • [INT/Arcana 15] Cause of death was a close- range explosion.
  • [PERCP 20] Wards on walls leading up stairs. [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] to identify as Protection from Evil/Evil Intent permanency spell

I. Kitchen

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Broken jars, plates, glasses
  2. [PERCP 15] Trap door to cellar
    • Cellar is mostly undisturbed, though obviously not used in a while. It’s dusty and smells of damp mildew.
      [INVG 20 will find a mechanism in the ceiling that reveals a well-hidden trap door on the floor that lifts up and out. Revealing stairs down into dark, dark tunnels. Note this is the entrance to and the beginning of a dungeon crawl. If the players report back to the mayor before heading down, he’ll give them a map of the Berlstrum Underbelly, lanterns, and some possibly some minor healing potions. More on this in a future installment!]
  3. [INVG 16] 2 bottles of wine, unbroken
  4. [INVG 20] Bottle of expensive rum hidden under the cutting block

J. Apprentice Clemens’ Bedroom

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Mattress shoved over against the wall, stuffing ripped out
  2. Papers crumbled up on the floor (notes on different animal tracks; how to identify scat; which berries to eat on the trail, list of items to pack for trail)
  3. Broken long bow
  4. Some random male garments of low quality
  5. [PERCP 15] +4 bonus if actively looking out window; You spot a body slumped against a tree. It’s hard to identify the body from this angle and distance.
  6.  [INVG 15] Moving the shredded mattress, you find a loose stone hiding a small nook carved into the floor. Inside is a 5 gold and a thin, ratty book worn with age and bearing the rather grim title of “Gratimortus”.
    • Skimming through the book reveals many disturbing sketches, arcane symbols, and neat, cramped elaborate script in a confusing mix of Common and Draconic. It will take time to decipher the book (couple of hours with Arcane proficiency).
    • Upon closer inspection, you suspect this is only the front half of the book.
    • Images from the pages and the text will be provided in blog post #10 – The Gratimortus – Dreadstorms Lost [not yet posted]

K. Pantry

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Shelves ripped off of the walls
  2. A few sacks of grain ripped open
  3. Some nice table lines tossed to the side
  4. [PERCP 16] Mixed in with a pile of grain on the floor is a Ring of Protection +1

L. Dining Hall

Space is hindering terrain due to debris hazards.
  1. Tables and benches pilled against one of the windows;
  2. Sideboard tables shoved to the middle of the room
  3. More attempts to put holes in the walls and flooring

M. Gallery – Wide hallway/gathering area [Right of Entryway]

  1. Open space used for indoor combat practice. Some broken vases.


Protection from Evil/Evil Intent

Ground Level of Tower

  1. You feel a slight tingle through the doorway, bad guys are not able to enter [INT/Arcana/Religion DC 12] Protection form Evil ruins around the door
  2. A high ceiling space (12′) with stairs on the spiraling up wall to the right up to the next Barrels and crates stored under the stairs.
  3. [Arcana 5] Seems mostly storage for magic components
  4. [PERCP 12; (+4 bonus if already spotted blood)] Some blood smears on the hand rail going up the stairs

Second Floor of Tower

  1. Shelves reaching 14′ high cover every available wall space and are filled with books
  2. A ritual circle is permanently etched into the floor of the
  3. A couple of comfortable reading chairs
  4. A trunk with some smelly, grubby robes
  5. It’s messy, things moved around, but not carelessly
  6. A few sheets of paper with hastily scrawled notes; handwriting is
  7. Sample books in library if searched:
  8. Identifying aquatic creatures,
  9. guide for spell uses of herbs,
  10. how to harvest basilic blood;
  11. [PERCP 15] *A small book smeared with bloody fingerprints, Gratismortus-Book of the Iredeemevile; back pages ripped off – Difficult to read, will take hours to translate the scrawled notes.
  12. [PERCP 18] Book of Ritual Spells: TBD
  13. ladder leads up to trapdoor

Top Tower Level

  1. Parapet (a narrow wall built along the outer edge) with crenelations (like a crown)
  2. Can see most of the town of Burlstrum and the city wall from



N. Solar

  1. an open landing at the top of the stairs with long narow windows on the western wall; single large window to the north, southwest, and
  2. Open, quiet conversation area.
  3. Cozy conversation knook in the southwest corner.
  4. Door northeast corner and southeast corner

O. Guest bedroom

  1. Tidy, neatly made bed, dresser (empty), wardrobe (empty), some random knick-nacks on shelves.
  2. Door on east wall

P. Private library

  1. Personal interest books/animal studies/fiction/erotica- books not intended for public use
  2. Papers on the desk organized in neat piles: various trainee reviews, notes on schedules, journal with dates and times of sightings of animal and monsters in the outlining area – handwriting is small, neatly written

Q. Hallway

  1. one window on north (see courtyard) and 2 windows along the south; 35′ long

R. Private dining

  1. A nice table with seating for six

S. Private indoor practice area

  1.  Door to balcony on the east wall

T. Balcony

  1. Overhangs the front entrance of the manor

U. Hallway

  1. Two doors on the north wall, a window directly across from the second door

V. Baby room

  1. A room beautifuly set up for a baby with nappies stacked on the dresser, toys sitting neatly on shelves, basinet at the foot of the perfectly made cradle
  2. A door in the northwest corner leads to the master bedroom next door
  3. [INT 10] As far as you know, Foreshot and Kazel have no child. Nor have you heard of Foreshot being pregnant. How could they have kept this a secret? Why?
  4. [PERCP 12] There is no smell you’d associate with a baby

W. Master Bedroom

A large, unmade bed dominates the On side of the room is tidy, with the pants, shirts, et all put away inside a dresser. On the other side robes looks like they were half-heartedly tossed in the direction of the wardrobe.

X. Alchemist room, potion making

  1. Door in northwest corner leads to the solar (with the stairs)
  2. Empty vials, shelves full of unidentifiable ingredients in unlabled jars
  3. [PERCP 12] Based on the un-dusty spots, several containers have recently been removed
  4. [PERCP 15] Amidst all the random jars and vials, you recognize 3 Healing Potions (2d4+2)

Next Up: What was really happening while the players were guarding the tower up next! #9 – The Mystery of the Missing Champions – Dreadstorms Lost

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#2 – Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

Drawing of a village with small creek, footbridge,
The following blog post is Part 2 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)


This next installment of my D&D 5th Edition homebrew campaign settiing is the town where this  adventure begins. I find a lot of the details of the city (and the rest of the world) were in my head and only really cemented when a player asks for clarification. 

If there is some detail about the campaign setting that you would like to know, please leave a comment below.

The Town of Berlstrum

Map with buildings identified on the second page [PDF]: Berlstrum_with_index

Berlstrum 2

Berlstrum perches atop briarstone cliffs along the eastern coast of Briarstone. The cliffs under Berlstrum are riddled with hard-to­-reach caves. Those who have try to explore the caves haven’t returned.

On the sides not protected by sheer cliffs, the town has a thick wall guarding it from predators. The wall is 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, topped with crenelation for patrolling guards. By land, the North and South Gates are the only way in and out of Berlstrum.

The raging Thornbreaker River drops thousands of feet from the cliffs into Forlorn Bay. A large land bridge arches over the waterfall, connecting Berlstrum to the southern part of the country. The Free Road travels over the land bridge and is vital for the country’s North-South trading route.

Due to the many brutally sharp briarstone protrusions littering the Forlorn Bay, a harbor guide is vital to ensure a ship’s safe passage to and from the Obsidian Sea. Roaming sea monsters add to the difficulty of navigating the harbor entrance.

Town on a cliff with bridge over waterfallBoats are elevated to the docks with clever gnomish machinery. Captains willing to brave the harbor find it an excellent location for hull maintenance. Teams of workers use specially designed rigging repair and clean the underside of ships.

Small channels of water run throughout Berlstrum. Small foot bridges are common.

Berlstrum is relatively isolated from national politics and enjoys relative autonomy due to the distance to capitol, Greater Breen. Most of their official news comes the Sovereign’s Free Road patrols.

The town has a reputation for being accepting of different races shunned by the more “civilized” town. Tieflings, Orcs, Dopplegangers, Drow, Dragonborn are common sights within the city walls.

It is rumored that in years long past, a dragon once lived in the caves below Berlstrum. Most think it’s just a story to scare the kids.

Berlstrum is run by a mayor and 7 council members. They deal with local governing, decide punishments for mischief, and adjudicate disputes. Exile is a severe punishment for crimes within the town. The town’s champions provide protection and coordinate with the mayor & council on possible threats. The Champions of Berlstrum have a well-known reputation that keeps most sentient beings at bay.

The government

Mayor: Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson (Halfling)
*Stats below

Council Members:

  1. Mostrad Ust (Human, Owner Katrin’s Cafe)
  2. Wabae Txatin (Human, Cleric at Medical Aid Emporium)
  3. Gwantomo “Tomo” Prok (Elf, Farmer)
  4. Grant Tan (Orc, Owner Survival Gears Store)
  5. Agosta Amagoste (Dragonborn, Farmer, Fighter Trainer)
  6. Xendric Hornblower (Dwarf, Owner Xendric’s)
  7. R’dsche Albreckt (Elf, Head of one of the Churches in Berlstrum, Cleric Trainer)
  8. Stand-in Hammond Seedrikson (Human, Farmer)

Cobblekeep Lightdiggerson

small humanoid (lightfoot halfling)
Armor Class 13 (no armor)
Hit Points 9
Speed 25 ft.

STR 10 (+0) ♦ DEX 17 (+3) ♦ CON 13 (+1) ♦ INT 10 (+0) ♦ WIS 12 (+1) ♦ CHA 17 (+3)

Proficiencies (+2 proficiency bonus)

Saving Throws DEX +5, INT +5
Skills: Perception +5, History +2, Insight, +3, Persuasion +5, Performance +5

Halfling Traits:

Halfling Nimbleness. You can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than yours.
Lucky. When you roll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.
Brave. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Naturally Stealthy. You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured by a
creature that is at least one size larger than you.


Next up: Who are the Champions? And why do they matter to our story?  #3 – The Champions – Dreadstorms Lost

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

#1 – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign – Overview

Map of Briarstone
The following blog post is Part 1 of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign, Dreadstorms Lost. These blogs are intended for other game masters who might want to use this campaign setting and the scenarios to inspire their own role playing games. (Free for noncommercial reuse.)

Notes: World Building

I created the Dreadstorm Lost Dungeons and Dragons campaign and the wider world of Briarstone to run some friends through a D&D 5th Edition game. Why? Because I’m crazy? Probably. World building is exhausting, thrilling, frustrating, and ever-changing in a role-playing game (RPG) thanks to the decisions, interactions, and observations of players in the game. In a pre-generated story like the Curse of Strahd, I don’t feel like I have the sort of flexibility and creativity that I can in my own world. That and I like coloring within my own lines, thank you very much.

To start, here is the map of the continent: Briarstone-Continent Map-Hz [PDF] (Free for noncommercial reuse.) This is an every changing map as I add more details, towns, and roads. And thus begins the campaign setting information dump!

Dreadstorm Lost Campaign: Continent

Continent overview

The continent is divided into three countries, Briarstone, Heshtia, and Glort. The enormous, raging Roone River divides the southern half of the content and is the much-contested border between the nations of Briarstone and Heshtia. The country of Glort controls the northern half of the continent. Briarstone is by the far the largest and richest of the three nations.

The Obsidian Ocean has violent storms, aggressive sea creatures, and sudden whirlpools. Only the bravest or foolhardy venture into these perilous waters.


The nation of Briarstone has the largest influence of magic users in positions of power. Humans make up the largest percentage of the Briarstonian population, but the other races are well represented.

The capitol city of Briarstone is Greater Breen on the Southern Coast where the nation’s Sovereign resides. The Sovereign is a shadowy figure that is both feared and respected, though very little is know about them.

The Sovereign selects Champions of Briarstone as reward for heroics to crown and country. The Champions are awarded a town to protect and in return receive a comfortable stipend. The position of Champion is considered retirement for exceptional adventurers lucky enough to survive that long.

Briarstone gets its name from the briarstone rock that can only be found along the cliffs of Northeastern Coast.

Briarstone – The Rock

Briarstone is an opaque black rock formation with small, jagged protrusions resembling thorns. When the brittle rock shatters, it creates more jagged protrusions.

The Shredding Cliffs of Briarstone along the northern coastline are made up almost entirely of Briarstone, making them impossible to climb. The cliffs run hundreds of miles along the coastline and in places are several miles deep as well as high.

The Forlorn Bay is littered with small islands of Briarstone, making passage from the Obsidian Sea into the harbor of Berlstrum a perilous task. The Forlorn Bay is rumored to be haunted from the numerous ship wrecks caused by the thorny stones. Without a Harbor Guide, navigating the briarstone hazards is suicide.

The Free Road is a major trade route running the North-South length of Briarstone. The Sovereign’s military regularly patrols the length of the Free Road. The patrol gathers taxes, shares general news, pays town protectors, and reports any town requests back to the Sovereign. If additional assistance is needed from the capitol, additional taxes are levied on the towns.

The lands south of the Marmont mountain ranges are considered the “civilized” areas of Briarstone. In the North, most townsfolk stay within the protection of the town walls.

The Roone River marks Briarstone’s western boundary On the Heshtia. Heshtia covets Briarstone’s mineral rich mountains, bountiful farmlands, and tropical beaches. Constant tension in the form of skirmishes and raids occur, but the countries are offi cially at peace. Skalia, Kantodo, and Zanzobar, Briarstone towns on the riverbanks of Roone River, all have a regular military presence because of tensions with Heshtia.


Heshtia has predominately an elfish and human population. Humans and half-elves are considered lower class citizens in Heshtia. Human slaves are a status symbol for the wealthy.

The east half of Heshtia is rolling green mountains, the west mostly arid desert lands. The capitol city, Alamorey, is nestled within the central hills.

The majority of Heshtian population live along the Roone River and along the Southern Coast. Tensions have been brewing over Roone River water rights.


To the north is the country of Glort, a mixed population of orc, dragonborn, dwarf, and gnome. Each race has areas of geographic majority. Glorters are a rugged, no-nonsense type people.

The capitol city of Glort is Taje Tgem on the northern edge of Lake Iver.

Glort is a cold land made up of a many frigid lakes, jagged, snowy mountains, and rocky hills. Herd animals and fish are the primary sources of food for the nation. Grains and produce are luxuries shipped in from Briarstone.

The Terrunium metals mined from Glorter mountains hold special properties. Once processed, items made with Terrunium are lighter weight, stronger, and bond more easily with magic [ie: versatile, more durable, advantage to stealth, can hold more than one enchantment]. Only Glorter Blademasters know the secret to molding and enchanting Terrunium into the world-famous Terrunium armors and weapons.


Nomadic tribes roam northwest of the Roone River between the desert lands of Northern Heshtia and the barren planes of Southern Glort. They claim loyalty to no nation and ignore political boundaries and petty disputes between countries. These nomadic tribes are often mistaken as the vicious Torken Raiders by outsiders. 

Next up: Where it all starts, the Town of Berlstrum #2 – Berlstrum – Dreadstorms Lost Campaign

#1-4 of the Dreadstorms Lost Campaign are backstory and setting information. If you want to jump ahead to where the players comin in: #5 – The Adventure Begins – Dreadstorm Lost

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Old-School, Hand-Drawn Dungeon

Grid Paper and Pencil

I found myself alone with grid paper and idle time back in October 2016. I couldn’t help but want to start creating a maze-like dungeons, possibly reliving some of my 80s childhood at the same time. While sketching, I imaged dimly lit stone hallways with sweaty, slimy walls. And secret doors. Clever traps. Wondering monsters. The big baddie waiting in the center for the big showdown. And marvelous treasures!

It occurred to me that I’m always looking for maps to snag for my game, so it occurred to me that I should share what I’ve made too. Here’s a result of that particular compulsive sketching, available for noncommercial reuse to the interwebs: maze-with grid [PDF version]

Here’s another post of another maze I created around the same time.

Donjon Random Dungeon Generator Screen CaptureDonjon’s Random Dungeon

For those of you who prefer computer generated maps, with or without a grid, Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator is a really awesome, free tool for making random dungeons. Along with detailed maps of varying sized and shapes based on your selections, the generator creates encounters for the party size and level you need in your chosen environment.

I will caution that for a 1st level dungeon, DCs (Difficulty Classes) of 20, 25, and 30 felt really unrealistic if you want your first level players to have a chance of success. So read over the included encounters and modify as you see fit.