Been working on this idea for a city hidden inside of a cave, currently called “Cave City”. Apparently the people who live there aren’t very creative sorts. Maybe they spent so much time trying to squeeze in their architectural dwellings that they didn’t have time for clever words?
Some of the angles got a little wonky, especially the top swath of road. Some day I may see if I can improve on this digitally.
I needed an encounter map for the D&D 5E game that, due to COVID-19 and players’ locations, I’m running over the internet. I created this using the drawing options available on the Google jamboard app. Thought it turned out pretty good considering I was drawing it with a mouse. I mean … you can tell it’s a path and a mountain, right?
The Pillar House straddles a canyon where a tributary of the Irewrathe River rushes past 50 feet below. This is the narrowest spot to cross the wild Irewrathe River for many miles. This tributary was always popular with those wanting to avoid the main routes guarded by local constabulary.
The owner, Galspar the Delightful, built the original house as revenge for a mostly forgotten squabble. All right. You caught me. That is a lie. The story is a bit of a legend in these parts.
The squabble goes something like this … Four bandits demanded a toll to cross a rope bridge at this crossing and the wizard Galspar and his party of adventurers were not inclined to pay and killed those 4 bandits. The Bandit Master was not terribly happy about Galspar’s response and a mini war ensued. By the time the dust settled, only the Bandit Master and Galspar were still standing. An agreement was reached between the two, but little of the details are known.
At the spot where the original rope bridge stood, Galspar the Delightful crafted great pillars of stone jutting out of the raging waters. (There are rumors that a bargain was struct with a clan of earth elementals who guard and reinforce the pillars. But surely that is just a rumor?) The pillars created a deadly maze for anyone trying to navigate the river by boat. Atop these pillars, Galspar built his house and settled into retirement. Did he allow others to cross the canyon there? No. He did not. He and his house sat there like an angry, bloated toad. Travelers went around the long way. Somehow though, those affiliated with the Bandit Master (know thieves cant?) were able to safely get through maze of pillars in the river below.
After a few short years, Galspar the (Less than) Delightful, grew bored with retirement and sold the house to Dovilynn Warmdelver, an entrepreneurial dwarf who had grown tired of the smugglers life and had a great idea for Galspar’s place.
Dovi converted the house into a tavern & inn and named it the Pillar House Tavern & Inn. Past associates appreciated a place to quench their thirst and rest up. Though the law would occasionally raid the place, they were never able find any evidence that the clever dwarf giving shelter to wanted criminals or storing illegal goods. Of course, both were absolutely true.
There are several hidden rooms in the River Pillar House. One of the secret rooms has 4 beds for those the law is after. Another is for storage. And the third is the owner’s bathroom, because being a tavern owner means not sharing your damn bathroom with a bunch of drunkards. Two trap doors can be accessed from below if you know where and how to climb the right pillars.
Beneath the house, earth elementals (2-6) and water elementals (1-4) make their home. If a boat tries to navigate the pillars without the right Thieves Cant signals, they will attack. They get first choice on any of the items from the slain. The rest they leave in a cave for the tavern. If you DO have the correct Thieves Cant signals, the water elemental smoothly carries you through the pillar maze to the other side.
Eight beds for rent
The River Pillar House Inn & Tavern has 8 beds for rent to the public. All but one in shared rooms.
On the main level is a room with four regular beds in one, as well as one room that has an extra-large bed for larger bodies or who just like to sleep in groups. For the smaller folk such as halflings and gnomes, an optional bunting board can divide one of the regular beds into two smaller beds.
On the mezzanine is a room with three regular beds next to the shared bathrooms. The bathroom has three holes and a semi-private bathtub.
Hidden on the mezzanine level is a room with 4 regular-sized beds that the Thieves Guild rent when someone needs to stay out of the public eye. There is a second secret door from this room that allows the sneaky visitors quick access to the bathrooms, but they will still need to use their stealth to ensure that others in the inn do not spot them. Otherwise they can use the bed pans.
Includes the maps showing all 3 floors labeled with and without color-coded levels, individual level maps with their secret rooms, and one with no text or furniture.
A fantasy hand-sketched building map for role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (Dnd). I would use it in a D&D 5th Edition game, myself, ’cause that’s my jab. I’ve been drawing more floor plans of late and have a couple of more that will be coming along.
Calling this large, brick edifice a “house” may be a bit of a stretch. It has the look of a building that started out with the best intention and then had rooms randomly added on without much concern for square corners or aesthetics.
A large deck on the west side faces the Hespharla Stream. On the east side, low rolling grassy hills protect the house from the winds coming over the meadows.
Original pencil-sketch of the Hillsworth Manor. When I brought the file into Photoshop, I had the walls all cleaned up and straight, but decided that this house really wanted to keep it’s crooked personality.
Fantasy hand-sketched city map for Dungeons & Dragons (Dnd) or other role playing game.
About Manifort’s Freedom
Manifort’s Freedom is a small, river town. On the east side, a sandy beach separates the town’s buildings from the raging waters of the Ogleri River. Rough mountains protect the north flank.
The original founder meticulously planned out the roads and neighborhood blocks, many of which have become crowded and dirty over time. To the West and South, orchards and farmland surround the tightly packed buildings.
A huge tower dominating the center of Manifort’s Freedom is an outpost for the Royal Troops and serves as a defense against potential attacks from the North or the East.
Manifort’s Freedom Modified in Photoshop
Original sketch of Manifort’s Freedom
Between having a 4-day weekend and quarantine going on, this seemed like a good time to dust off my sketchbook and pencils and have some cartography fun. While this map sketch is a totally fictional town, it is based on an actual small town near where I went to college.
I tend to think of these maps as something I’d maybe use in a Dungeons & Dragons game someday. What else might this map be used for?
… now with shanty neighborhoods surrounding outside the city walls
Took the hand-drawn map of Obsidian into PhotoShop and had some fun. (The original sketch of Obsidian is here.) Added the shanty neighborhoods outside of the city walls. Sat it on a black background and change the color pallette of the map.
Labeled City of Obsidian
(most of the information below in the extended legend is a repeat of the information in the orignal post)
The Frenzied Ferret Dance Hall & Eatery – wild dance parties, gambling, and talent contest. Great place for a bard to practice their arts.
Salty Swan Retreat – Bathhouse and adult entertainment/companionship
The Tipsy Unicorn Tavern & Inn – Cheap drinks & small rooms
Dizzy Dragon Den – Nicer place for travelers to eat and rest for the night. Rooms 1gold per night; Stables 6 silver per mount Food Specialties: Dragon Pepper Poppers, Dragon’s Breath Ale Yahkle Arodite (Dwarf); talkative cheery fellow; closely shorn red hair; no beard nor eyebrows; happy to spin a yarn about how his beard burn off and how lovely life as a dwarf is without a beard
Mayor’s Office – Mayor Kayrem O’Riley. Male gnome with greenish hair, vibrant blue eyes, plaid red/black suit with black button up shirt and matching pocket square. Glenarra, Mayor’s Assistant. Female halfling, flaxen haired, tired rings under her dark brown eyes, horribly hung over from partying at the Frenzied Ferret last night.
Military Barracks for Sovereign’s Troops – Colonel Bodo Mutah. Male gnome, gray & grizzled
The Congregation of The Somewhat Virtuous – a collection of chaotic good god kiosks; layout is a maze of cubicles that changes everytime you enter the building Calista. Seerer. Human androgynous. Royal blue; follower of Daghdha Cleric Zorbit (Cleric of Aphrodite). Halfling female, short bobbed orange hair; grey eyes
Temple of Eternal Song
Keepers of Balance
Paragons of Pelor
Sparks Refinery & Warehouse – Entrance to the diamond mine is inside the warehouse; most of the surrounding warehouses are also owned by VonBellor and used for processing the diamonds Buric VonBellor. 1/2-Elf male. Head honcho of mines – technically, the diamond mines belong to the country of Briarstone and the sovereign The mine tunnels below the town of Obsidian twist and turn, up, down, and back upon itself … who knows how far out or down this mines might go?
The Pounding Hammer Smithy – Industrial and normal smithy (horse shoes, wheels, pipes, etc.
Metal Mayhem – Specializes in basic armor and shields; some +1 magical armor and shields
The Majestic Gray Blade – sells well-crafted bladed weapons; some magical Can do some custom work for the right price
Berttle’s Bloody Blades – shadier magical items and slimy proprietor; Berttle is a angry, greasy gnome who bellows at his apprentice, Goffenmauker, but is cloyingly nice and ingratiating to buyers
The Raven’s Maze – basic magic items (potions/scrolls)
The Dapper Dandy – magical cloth items made to order (cost 2x normal) Also makes beautifully embellished sword sheaths and quivers
The Royal Yeti – fancy clothier
Duke’s Castle – Not much is known about the Duke by the locals. The royalty here is rarely seen out mingling with the commoners
Darkhallow Gaols – Prison for unruly minors and adventurers. Rumor has it that there are hidden levels of the dungeon where the Duke tortures keeps the vilest of his enemies
Open Market – From fresh produce, meats, jewelry, and random other vendors that may change with the seasons
I kinda like leaving it unlabeled and without towns. It feels like it has more possibilities this way. And it has nothing to do with me being lazy and not wanting to deal with labels and whatnot. Or being too cheap to buy Photoshop.
I’ll confess that the first version has the “dramatic warm” filter on it. The real color is a bit more chipper.
Unlike many of my past maze-like doodles, this one actually has a start and end point and at least one verified path to success. (The squares are the exit spots.) Sorry about the smudging! From my testing, I know there’s more than one path to success on this puzzle… Which I find philosophically satisfying.
Finally Using that Journal!
I have a beautiful, black leather journals filled with hundreds of lined, empty pages. I’ve had the thing for years and have never known what to do with it. Until now.
Now it is my official spot for doodling mazes, dungeons, castles, and other whatnots when I don’t care so much if a bunch of lines run through them. And it only took me ten or so years to figure this out!
I am still working on drawing fantasy cartography maps (is cartography and maps redundant?), but not as diligently as earlier this year. I’ve been distracted with traveling and running D&D games and all the other stuff that takes up one’s day. And there’s this game on my phone … man, is it a time sink!
But to prove that I’ve been doing something, even if I have been ignoring my blog, I’m including a couple of in-progress sketches in the early stages of creation.
The nameless ones
These map doodles are currently without names. Ideas are welcome.
[pause a beat] … cause the town is in ruins! [insert polite laughter].
As my first sketching of a town map, I think it works pretty well. It’s really clear that the town was destroyed quite a while ago, right. Do you agree?
Are you reading this?
I hope none of my players actually visit my blog, since the group hasn’t been here yet. I’m reasonably sure they don’t. Maybe I should sneak some important clue on this posts just to find out!
Cause this is in-game stuff
The Ruins of Amara is a key location in finishing a big story arch the players have been working on in my current Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign. The current arc takes place in the same world as the Dreadstorms Lost campaign and is actually like a Part 2 continuation. This is a large part of why I’m having a hard time finishing the Dreadstorm Lost campaign on this blog. My brain has moved along to where we are currently in the game. The end of the Dreadstorms Lost happened in real life a couple of years ago now. Trying to drag my head back there is challenging. Especially when I’m trying to plan what might happen next in the current story.
The history of Amara
The citizens of Amara had been harrased by a decidely evil dragon that was destroying their crops and livestock and demanding they pay tribute. Even giving into the extorsion, the dragon continued to pillage the town and the surrounding area. The townsfolk went to a nice, friendly elder dragon and asked if it would be so kind as to remove the dragon from their lives. The nice dragon was welcome to all the treasure that the evil dragon had extorted from them.
There was an epic battle between the two dragons. Magic flew. Breathes of fire and acid spewed. Buildings were hurled at the enemy. By the time the battle was done, the village was in ruins and the entire poplulation was dead. The spirits of these dead villagers haunt the ruins to this day, demanding to know why their savior failed them.
The continent of Luapi is a hand-drawn fantasy map with towns and topography. No labels. Some buildings turned out better than others.
How would you use the word cartography in a sentence in this instance? Because Google isn’t happy that I’m not using the key words (tags/categories) in the body of my blogs.
Why yes, this doodle is an example of my attempts at hand drawn cartography. This map includes mountains, lakes, forests, and other examples of topography. I’ve also included sketches of towns, villages, huts, towers, and docks.
This map and all the others are the sort I would use in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. You too are welcome to use them in your campaign (D&D or otherwise) as long as you don’t claim you drew it yourself or make a profit from the sketch.
I originally posted the black & whitish pencil sketch of Yewnaria here. Below are descriptions of the areas of interest on the continent of Yewnaria.
Continent of Yewnaria (Mainland)
Largest settlement on the mainland of Yewnaria
The recognized seat of power for the mainland
Sits at the mouth of the Kale River
Often battered by brutal coastal waves that floods the lower areas
The wealthier live in communities built upon elaborate, multi-level platforms perched on stilts
Nearest neighbor to Kalenar
Sits between the Kale River and the base of Orgool Hills
The Kale River widens and slows down at this point, making it feasible for larger ships to sail from Kalenar up to Goya
Next closes territory to Kalenar
Has a large wall around the city which helps brunt the worst of the coastal batterings as well as keep out unfriendlies
Between Anika and Happychance are rich, fertile farmlands
The eastern mountain range of Yewnaria are riddled with tunnels and passageways to the other side of the range. Many of the passageways are controlled by various clans of trolls, kobolds, dwarves, humans and the like that charge tolls and/or offer protection for travelors
Upriver from the violent coastal tides
Happychance straddles the water where three rivers merge
Northern most settlement in the Valley of Lakes
Large bridge over the Al’alwan River leads into Psíanth from the east
In the center of the Valley Loslagos
On the banks of Kershmire Lake
Does a lot of trading with Xan and Zemr
South eastern coast is primarily dry, arrid steppe land
Hate Kalenar and deny that Kalenar has any sovereignty over them
Monokron Isle (Between Northern Yewnaria and the Mainland)
This once beautiful isle changed … elementals battle … death … dispair …
The entire continent of Anzorea is controlled by the monarchy, currently lead by Queen Kezarrae (Razorclawed lineage)
The northwest coastline is a barren, desert wasteland called “the Sacred Lands” due to the twisted, ruined landscape caused by past battles between powerful gods
Taxes for cities/towns/villages range from 10% – 25% depending on the level of favor the royal has with the crown
Any found magical items must be presented to the court and can be gifted to the royals or be assessed a stiff tariff if the person wants to keep their spoils; sometimes the royals will claim the item for themselves and the “good of the nation” regardless of the presenters wishes.
30% of any coins gathered in the act of adventuring shall be paid to the crown
Individuals who cannot prove ownership of a magical item (provenance documents, bill of sale, etc) or who show signs of gaining unexplained wealth not reported to the court are dealt with harshly
Points of interest in Anzorae
Large, walled city
Capital of Anzorae
Home of the royals and Queen Kezarrae
Nezor Harbor protects the city from the harsh northern seas
Wardrum Forest –Home to a large tribe of druids who react violently to intruders
it’s often difficult to tell the druids from the animals
the wiser citizens of Saleece avoid this forest
Vargox Mountains – Mined for the wide range of precious metals and gems
Full of angry monsters and the corpses of would-be adventurers
Primarily a fishing and trade town
Started off as a small fishing village, but has grown as a popular destination for smugglers and others who want trade outside the eyes of the law and avoid imperial taxes
Forgery is a popular sport here
An embarrassing thorn in the royals’ pristine ideals for their nation, especially since it’s so close to the capital
Queen Kezarrae’s army often runs raids on the town, but have little success due to the many secret doors and hidden tunnels running beneath the Hargth
Hargth Harbor and the surrounding lands are riddled with underwater passageways, which connect to the land tunnels under Hargth
It is not common knowledge that within the harbor and water tunnels is the sub-town of Hargthsdowns that is inhabited by merfolk and the like
Fairly autonomous and isolated from the politics of Anzorae
Being on the edge of the Sacred Lands they get the occasional wave of strange mutated creatures that attack the walled town with mindless rage
Adventurers that survive the Sacred Lands will often go to Sakura to trade found magical items to avoid the high crown tariffs
Forgery is a popular sport here as well
Lake Drom – as long as you stay near the banks, you’ll be fine
Medium size city
At the mouth of the Joramara River
The land to the north of the Joramara River is lush, fertile farmland
A lot of small homestead dot the lands north of Ellim and are technically considered under Ellim’s protection
Known for the inexperienced mages drawn there for the Wizard College
Home of a wide range of eccentric artisan types
Moordrae Forest – rangers like it here; no crazy druid tribes
Surrounding land to the North is mostly swamp and the Hargrove River
Home of the coldly logical schools of thought
Several monastic and scholarly temples call Zomarra their home
Absolutely no hidden prince or princess wishing for a more exciting life here, just boring laborers.
Magic users? Bah! No use for that sort here. Go to Ellim if you want to play with the arcane. (Caves in the mountains have several thriving businesses run by clever wizards, sorcerers, witches, warlocks)
Large coastal town
Rivals Saleece in population, though more of residents live outside the city walls
The royals here are secretly plotting to place the crown on their heads
Small village on the largest of the Western Golsmar Islands
General Artist Notes
This was my first try at adding buildings and labels to a map. I can’t draw consistent, level squiggly horizontal water lines, but otherwise I think it’s coming along nicely.
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.
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.
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?
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
Map Sketch Pic #2 – Penciling in some mountains.
Map Sketch Pic #3 – Mountain details
Map Sketch Pic #4 – Let there be hills to hug those mountains
Map Sketch Pic #5 – Adding in some rivers and coastline
Map Sketch Pic #6 – Forests
Map Sketch Pic #7 – Final-ish version
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
Mountains are hard
Leave room for more than just mountains
I drag my hand all of the page, making a smeary mess
I need to do a better job of erasing lines
Maybe trees in a forest don’t need to be quite so compressed together
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!
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.