The Great Spire – work in progress

I envision this massive round structure with landings every 35-50 steps. A large, wide archway leads immediately to imposing steep stairs going up.

To the left of the entry arch are 3 smaller arches that lead into the stables.

A door on the right at the base of the stairs leads to the only room accessible inside without climbing stairs. (Visible on the second, color drawing.) This is where visitors are met and left to wait for their host(ess).

The rooms themselves are often insanely tall. There are several secret doors high up on the walls that shortcut to areas farther up the spiral.

The owner of this tower is a natural flyer and uses the stairs to slow down and exhaust potential enemies. There are likely traps along the way the turn these stairs into the biggest slide ever.

Original pencil sketch of the Great Spire with room numbers.

By the time I got to identifying the levels by color, some of the rooms changed which landings they opened onto. At the bottom is a newer color version with the updated room numbers.

Color-coded map of the Great Spire. Rooms of the same color are on the same level.


Level 0 – ground


Reception Room (1) – windowless

Level 1 – light green rooms

On the first landing (30×10) are 2 doors on the left (2, 3) and a door on the right (4). There are no windows in the rooms on this floor.

Level 2 – dark green rooms

On this landing (20ft x 10ft) is a door on the right (6) and one on the left (5).

The room on the left (5) is about 45×30 with a 40 foot ceiling. Large picture windows on the back wall do not open.

The room on the right (6) is 20×10 with a 400ft high ceiling, shrouded in darkness. It feels more like a chimney than a room. In the right back corner is a small hidden panel (gnome size) about a foot off the ground that leads into a 10×15 storage area (6b). On the back wall, abutted against the ceiling is another secret door that leads to landing #13.

Our flying homeowner uses this as a shortcut to the upper levels.

Level 3 – light blue

On this landing (30×10) are 3 on the left (7, 8, 9) and a door on the right (10).

Level 4 – orange

Landing is 15×10 with a door on the right (13) and 2 on the left (11, 12).

Level 5 – pink

Landing is 20×10 with a door on the right (16) and 2 on the left (14, 15).

Level 6 – red

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the left (17, 18).

Level 7 – fuchsia

Landing is 30×10 with 2 doors on the left (19, 20) and 1 to the right (21).

Level 8 – dark red

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the left (22, 23).

Level 9 – dark purple

Landing is 30×10 with 2 doors on the left (25, 25) and 2 on the right (26, 27).

Level 10 – dark orange

Landing is 20×10 with 3 doors on the left (28, 29, 30).

Level 11 – green

Landing is 20×10 with a door on the right (31). Going up the stairs, it would be easy to miss this door.

Level 12 – light yellow

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the left (32, 33). The smaller room has a small hidden panel (gnome size) on the right wall about a foot off the ground that leads into a hidden room (33b).

Level 13 – reddish orange

Landing is 20×10. On the left wall is the hidden door that connects to the 400-foot tall room on level 2. Falling through this door could hurt a lot.

On the right are 2 doors (34, 35). The room directly across from the secret door has a 160’ high ceiling. In the far right corner, abutted against the ceiling is another secret door that leads to room on level #17.

Level 14 – purple

Landing is 20×10 with a door on the left (36) and the right (37).

Level 15 – aquamarine

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the right (38, 39).

Level 16 – yellow

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the left (40, 41).

Level 17 – gray

Landing is 20×10 with 2 doors on the left (42, 43).

Top Level – dark brown

A single door at the top of the stairs leads to a large room (44) with curved walls. The top of the ceiling comes together at a point in the center. Windows circle the point, looking up at the stars.

Great Spire with numbered rooms and levels.

I want to figure out how to represent this building in 3D. I think there are some clever things I can do between levels, but it is hard to visualize in this 2D format.


Bestosa in Color

Bestosa continent color sketch

Revisited this pencil-sketched fantasy map I sketched out a year ago and gave it some color.

Fantasy map of Bestosa in color
Bestosa (colored 2/17/2019; original pencil sketch 2/28/2018

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.

Fantasy map of Bestosa (original color)
Bestosa’s true colors

Town of Obsidian

multi-level steampunk town

Check out the improved upon version of this map of Obsidian posted in April 2019

Ground Level of the Town of Obsidian

The town of Obsidian lies along the northern stretch of Briarstone’s Free Road, between Berlstrum and Goremont.

The population is primarily gnome. The ground floor is “human” size and scale, where the rather random levels off the ground are more comfortable for the shorter races.

Beneath the city is a well guarded secret, or at least not widely advertised to enemy forces. A large diamond mine runs many levels and tunnels underneath. The town has a dark gritty layer of coal dust that covers much of the town. Processing plants are a large source of employment here.

Places of Interest


The Frenzied Ferrett Dance Hall & Eatery

Nightly contests based on performance scores (dancing, instruments, bands, solos, comedians, etc.)
Gambling room

Salty Swan Retreat

Bath house and optional adult entertainment/companionship

The Tipsy Unicorn Tavern & Inn

Cheap drinks & small rooms

Dizzy Dragon Den

Rooms 1gold per night

Stables 6 silver per mount

Specialties: Dragon Pepper Poppers, Dragon’s Breath Ale

Yahkle Arodite (Dwarf); talkative cheerie 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 Ferrett last night.

Military Baracks for Sovereign’s Troops

Colonel Bodo Mutah. Male gnome, gray & grizzled

Places of Worship

The Congregation of the Somewhat Virtuous

Collection of various Choatic Good kiosks
Calista. Seerer. Human androgenous. 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

Buric VonBellor. 1/2-Elf male. Head honcho of mines – technically, the diamond mines belong to the country of Briarstone and the sovereign


The Pounding Hammer Smithy

Basic metals smith; armors

Metal Mayhem

Armor/shields; some basic +1 items available

The Majestic Gray Blade

Weapons, bladed

Berttle’s Bloody Blades

Blades and other shady magic items

The Raven’s Maze

Basic magic items, potions, scrolls

The Daper Dandy

Leather and Cloth goods and armor

The Royal Yeti

Fancy clothing

Possible Side Quests in Obsidian:

Mining Pests

The owner of Sparks Refinery, Buric VonBellor, is losing minors in a new vein of the mine to a territorial Bullette that finds gnomes and halflings tasty. Buric is offering 500g per claw (12 claws per bullette) as proof of success. Buric volunteers Svensen, a portly gnome with anxious brown eyes, to take the party to the end of the new vein. Svensens not excited to be bullette bait.

Each adventurer is provided with a basic hooded lantern, if needed.

They will be escorted blindfolded by guards and Svensen through the building, down the mine shaft elevator, and into the tunnel entrance to this vein. The guards will stay at the tunnel entrance.

Berttle’s Bloody Blade

Located in the poorer part of town, behind a greasy food stand Berttle’s Bloody Blade sells questionable magic items, mostly bladed. Berttle is a angry, greasy gnome who bellows at his apprentice, Goffenmauker. Though Berttle is excessively polite to potential buyers.

Berttle has intel that there is a large boulder that contains the rare terrunium ore hidden way below the diamond mines of Obsidian. (For a description of terrunium, look under the Nation of Glort here: Dreadstorms Lost Campaign – Overview) The diamond mine operators want nothing to do with some stupid rock with terrunium. He sent his apprentice to find someone to sneak through the minds and retrieve the stone, but the hapless Goffenmauker has had no luck. No one familiar with the diamond operations wants to risk getting on their bad side.

Our adventurers enter the premise as Berttle is scolding Goffenmauker for his failure to procure some “dumb-ass idiotic adventure types” to get the stone. If the party is interested in taking the job, Berttle will offer to make a single bladed with terrunium with two minor enchantments in exchange for sneaking the boulder out of the mines.

rough sketch of path through mines to Berttle's rock
The roughly sketched path to Berttle’s terrunium boulder through the diamond mines below Obsidian (Player Version). While the path looks flat, the tunnels are constantly slopping off in different up/down angles. The round space is a huge cavern with hundreds of tunnel entrances. There are zig-zagging paths with color-coded flag posts at the bottom of each section. (Sketch on the bottom left for GM clarity.)

To aid in the task, Berrtle will provide the party with:

  1. Rod of Tensers Floating Disc. Has 3 uses of the Tensers Floating Disc spell. Activates by pushing the button on the end of the rod. The button must be held down to maintain the spell. The button is stiff and takes effort to keep active. Trying to secure the button with glue or “tape” will cause the rod to fall apart.
  2. Two scrolls of Pass Without a Trace. 
  3. One scroll of Mass, Disguise Self – As the spell “Disguise Self”, but can be applied to up to a total of 6 willing creatures. All those under the effects of the Mass, Disguise Self spell must stay within 30 feet of the caster or the effect ends.
  4. A poorly drawn directions to the terrunium rock hidden beneath Obsidian

In the Works

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.

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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