Today I began work on a new dungeon and this time I decided I wanted to take a sort of tutorial approach and show how I approach a map, from start to finish. I am focusing here on maps made using my iPad and a App called ArtStudio.
I had seen a few maps that started with a ruin at the entrance, and to me this makes complete sense. If you took the time to carve out this massively huge underground kingdom, wouldn’t you want to protect it? Sometimes I draw these totally freehand but for this map I wanted to think things out a little instead of just charging in like a Viking and thrashing around.
Not that Vikings are bad, or their thrashing about for that matter.
I started with those ideas. I wanted a ruined fortress as an entrance to a large, possibly ‘mega’ dwarven fortress. Then I got to thinking what else, I wanted and remembered a session journal I had read recently about a group of adventurers in a B/X game. The group would enter the dungeon, head towards a staircase that led to multiple levels, get their asses kicked, head back up the stairs, rest up, do it all again. Frequently they seem to be carrying the bodies of their buddies back up the stairs with them. Sounds like my kind of game. 😉
One fact that I loved about games I played as a youth was the unexplored possibilities. Standing at the entrance to a dungeon, hearing of the unexplored depths, not knowing what the future held for my character is what got me excited. I need something like that. How about a staircase that I could use as a central means of going up or down? But I want it big. So the idea came to me to make it a huge staircase, with a large opening in the middle (see the really bad concept drawing to the left). I want the players to stand before a large, gaping pit of black. How far down does it go? I wonder if they would toss the dwarf down there, see how long until they hear the thud.
So with these two thoughts in mind, I drew up what I call the ‘blueprint’ (get it? blue ink! HA!) of the dungeon. I used ArtStudio on my iPad and it took me about 10 minutes to draw this.