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I’ve been seriously busy this week and haven’t had much chance to work any Loot The Room/DMs Guild stuff; I’m due to present my MA research project in a little over a week, so that’s taken up rather a lot of my time. Rather than come up with something new, I thought it might be wise to go back and redraw one of my old maps. So that’s what I did.
The Hall of Whispering Gods was one of the first maps I posted to this site, back in August 2015. It wasn’t very good, frankly. So here it is again, but better.
[No grid – click to embiggen]
[Gridded. 1 square = 5 feet]
Here’s what I wrote about this map the last time I drew it;
The Hall of Whispering Gods serves as the last test for initiates wishing to gain access to the mysteries of the Ancients. The long, narrow corridor is lined with statues of the Ancients embedded in the stone of the walls themselves. Each statue whispers unholy secrets to those who pass, testing their will and their sanity and leaving them either dead or wise beyond belief.
Their long walk is observed by Elders and tutors from the balcony rooms set to either side of the hallway. Their discussions are not for the ears of the initiates, but their judgement will be cast down in the ritual chamber that lies at the end of the walk. There initiates will either be welcomed in to the fold, or else sacrificed to the Ancients to atone for their unworthiness.
I intended to turn this into another one page dungeon, but – as I said – time has been an issue. I’ll add it to my list, along with redrawing those Mapvember maps people voted on. I haven’t forgotten about that.
I’ve been playing around with isometric maps, since I haven’t drawn any since I tackled Mapvember towards the end of last year. I’ve always felt that my isometric maps were a little plain and boring – I’m still not confident/skilled enough to tackle some of the amazing detail work that other people working in isometric do. I haven’t seen many attempts at making a more Dyson-esque style of hatching work with isometric, though, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I’m actually fairly happy with the result. The map could still do with more detail in the rooms themselves – or any detail, really – and there are a few rough spots due to me being out of practice working in this format, but I’m pleased with how this shading looks. Next time I’m going to try combined this with more traditional overhead floorplans or cutaway sections for the tunnels and rooms beneath other sections of the map; I think that could yield some nice results, along with producing something a little more usable in play than this currently is.
Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your feedback, either here or on Twitter.
The Keepers of the Holy Relics, in the northern desert city of Al Khuth, are tasked with protecting and preserving the ancient ruins that are peppered throughout the vast sands. From time to time, southern adventurers unaware of the customs of the desert peoples take it upon themselves to enter these tombs and reliquaries, triggering ancient defenses that turn the sites to rubble and looting any and all treasure they can find.
When they’re caught – and they’re always caught – the Keepers come down on them hard. Should they survive the encounter with the strange magics wielded by the Keepers, these raiders will inevitably find themselves brought to the Sala Pasa – the Raider’s Ruin, or the Raider’s Destiny (there is an ongoing academic debate about the exact translation of the name, and a paralel philosophical debate about whether ruin and destiny may hold the same meaning in the barren northern steppe) to face m’hakmeh te ml – Trial By Deed. Should the hapless ‘adventurers’ survive the long fall down the Pasa’s central pit, they will have to contend with the small custom-built complex that serves as both a literal dungeon and a final test for would-be heroes – a gauntlet that they will find no respite from, and be hard-pressed to survive.
Though the floor-plan has been discovered, the exact contents of the Sala Pasa are known only to the Keepers and those foolish enough to end up inside it.
This is just a small section of the mines that the party explored in this week’s Friday Fight Night – the entrance with the trapped chamber, the corridor of death (as the party called it), and the kobold’s murder maze. The walls and islands in the maze itself are constructed of the same stone and rock as the earht walls of the mine itself, but are only 10-12 feet tall, versus the 40 feet ceiling in the cavern itself. Ziplines traverse the top of the cavern, linking the stairs in the northeast section of the map with those raised platforms.
I’ll be updating this post with the full scale, gridded version later today.
I know it’s Stat Boost day, but I’ve been working on this entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest and now that it’s finally done I wanted to share it. So, no Stat Boost article, but you get a bonus mini-adventure.
The nature of the contest means that everything has to be system neutral – so you won’t find any stat blocks or references to any official WoTC (or any other RPG) material. You should still be able tp run this adventure with a minimum of effort, though – and I’ve included high-res, 1-inch scale maps for your convenience, too.
[Click for PDF]
[Just the map, no labels]
One of the weirder things to come out of AD&D was Spelljammer, Jeff Grubb’s idea of what space would look like in a universe powered by magic rather than science. I won’t get into all the details – I could go on for days about it, and you’d probably be better served by reading the Wikipedia entry on Spelljammer if you aren’t familiar with it – but trust me when I say that it was weird as hell. Oh, and fun as hell, too.
I always enjoyed the fact that so many of the ships were designed to resemble animals – particularly fish and birds. If you can get hold of a copy of it, Lost Ships by the one and only Ed Greenwood has some really cool designs in it, and a lot of cool information that fuelled a lot of my early D&D games. Today’s map is an homage to Spelljammer, and in particular that book.
[Click to embiggen]
The Anglership is a fighting vessel designed to play the long game. It lies in wait, its crew sustained on the supplies stored in two cargo bays, until its prey draws near. Once the lure has drawn in the fatally curious it lashes out, crippling the prey with lightning. With that done the lure can be whipped up and out of the way, both to protect the rear of the ship and to allow the jutting ‘jaws’ of the Anglership to ram their new conquest and crush any hope of escape.
You may have noticed I’ve been enjoying going through my old D&D books recently. Drawing up this ship was a lot of fun and I’m keen to spend more time in that universe, so let me know on Twitter if you’d like to see more Spelljammer-related content on Wednesday’s Stat Boost.
Last time I gave you a partial map of the lava caverns. This week you’ve got the next section leading up to the island that holds the tower of Wendrake Shadowmend, along with a floor plan of the tower itself.
[Click to embiggen]
[Click to embiggen]
Check out this week’s Friday Fight Night if you want to know more about the tower.
This week saw the release of the new Unearthed Arcana – Traps Revisited, which provides an update to the existing rules for traps in 5e. This just so happened to coincide with me digging through old game books and finding my collection of Grimtooth’s Traps books, and I decided to take the UA update and create something to go with it. That something is three new traps – but before we get to that, there’s a little bonus to today’s Stat Boost.
I’m not the only person who was inspired by the new Unearthed Arcana. Glen Cooper – who you may remember as the creator of Deadly Dungeon Doors – offered to write a guest post about Traps Revisited, and I was more than happy to give him the reins. What he came back with blew me away – seriously, keep reading, there are illustrations and everything. So today is a two-fer. And first up is Mr Cooper…
by Glen Cooper
What’s the one word which strikes fear deep into the hearts of any experienced adventurer?
Is it “DRAGON!!!”? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s “KOBOLDS! Thousands of em!!”… possibly.
No, there’s one word which means certain doom to a party without a fit and healthy rogue, and that’s…
With the recent release of ‘Traps Revisited’ from Unearthed Arcana, I thought that I would take a closer look at what this new material may mean to us; DMs of the worlds most loved tabletop roleplaying game. Dungeons & Dragons…& Traps.
In the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), the level of detail with regard to the building of new traps and understanding of how they work in D&D was decidedly lacking. Therefore we were all in serious trouble of accidentally killing our entire party with an over zealous trap design. I have to say though, as a connoisseur of traps and their mechanics, I did manage to gather together enough information from the PHB and DMG, to write my own handbook on deadly dungeon door encounters, with traps obviously.
So has the new Unearthed Arcana – Traps Revisited (UATR) changed anything? Yes. Yes it has.
For starters WoTC proposes that we should now look at traps as either ‘simple’ or ‘complex’. The former is exactly as we expect, a trap which in its basic form is straight forward and can be circumvented by a bit of luck, quick thinking or a successful disarm trap skill check. The latter, complex traps, are designed to be an full on encounter in their own right. They will possibly have their own initiative value, plus they will involve a series of skill checks (skill challenge) to fully disarm the trap. Or at the very least slow it down long enough so our heroes can escape.
Once you have understood that, UATR then introduces us to the three functions which make up a simple trap.
- Trigger – description of what causes a trap to activate.
- Effect – what happens when a trap is triggered/activated.
- Countermeasures – a series of ways to defeat the trap.
Using the trap damage severity tables which we already have in the DMG, UATR discusses the idea that we should apply a Threat Level to each trap which we decide to spring on our brave adventurers. This is good DMing and should be encouraged. There are no CR ratings, plus no experience award allowances for simple traps. They are simply there to divert or slow a party’s journey on to their intended goal. What this means is that your poor rogue is working overtime for no additional rewards, which really bugs me. As a DM I always apply a 50xp bonus reward for the successful discovery and disarming of a simple trap.
UATR then gives to us several simple traps as examples or templates to inspire our own designs. This is an excellent addition by the way. Bravo!
Finally UATR goes through the process of helping us to design simple traps for our own adventures; and this is yet another set of welcome suggestions.
Half way through new simple trap design WoTC drops on us probably one of the most important ‘ideas’ that UATR gives to us, and that’s an explanation of the difference between Perception and Investigation from a trap’s perspective:
Perception and Investigation
A Wisdom (Perception) check that reveals a tripwire doesn’t tell the players what happens if they break the tripwire. They spot it before blundering into it, but must still decide what to do next. The nature of the item is not in question, but you might not spot it. A successful check reveals it.
An Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals that the scuff marks and wear pattern show that a doorknob can turn both ways, but is most often turned clockwise. The players must still decide how to open the door. The item is obvious, but its true nature is obscured. A successful check reveals the clues that point to the item’s purpose
There you have it, probably the least understood skill check in 5th Edition, written so that even an 8 year old could understand it. Awesome stuff guys.
Next up UATR deals with Complex Traps. This is a HUGE step change in our understanding of traps. We are now in the realms of monsters and encounters – rather than a humble hole in the ground, pit-fall trap. A complex trap has processes, which continue to function unless a party somehow halts them. In fact I touched upon this whole idea in my Deadly Dungeon Doors handbook and introduced the idea of Legendary Doors. Glad someone’s listening out there 😉
A complex trap gets a backstory, a series of active (dynamic or constant) elements, an initiative, the obligatory trigger, a map so that character positions are taken into account. Oh my god; they are different animals altogether!
UATR even goes so far as to telling us that a complex trap is kind of like a legendary monster. These fiends are designed to protect an area by killing or disabling intruders. I have one massive ‘malfunction’ with all this though. I may have missed it in the text, but I could not find anywhere where they mention experience point rewards for surviving these insidious traps. In the absence of guidance to what rewards should be forth coming, I would consider them story milestone encounters, and then award players experience points for their satisfactory completion.
Please read through Unearthed Arcana: Traps Revisited yourselves and tell me what you think also; but I’d like to finish with my personal thoughts on what this new play-test material could bring to 5th Edition D&D. I do have quite a lot of recent experience with traps as a DM and a designer and I find them to be one of the most misused elements of D&D. Reading many published adventures I have come to the conclusion that trap encounters are at best improvised and at worst designed to railroad party members in order to soften them up for an end game encounter. With that conclusion in hand, no wonder most players (and as a result DMs) feel that traps are simply a waste of time, energy and detract away from the all-important story arch.
This new framework is a great addition to the game, as it will help us as DMs to provide a consistent feel to the threat level of our traps from a player’s perspective. Trust between the player and their DM is everything in D&D, and should we continue to throw improvised traps at our players, then eventually we will lose so much detail that it becomes too obvious that we are just messing with our players. Bad times.
Having said all this, one of the largest criticisms of providing additional rule frameworks for traps has been that it goes against the so called spirit of 5th Edition D&D… which is, less rules = more fun. To this I say the ‘trust’ between player and DM trumps all cries for a less detailed rule set. Deploying something as simple as this 13 page document may well have powerful an effect on your future sessions, especially if you choose to invest some time in complex trap design. Yes you heard right, do some preparation. Your players are worth it.
Warning: over doing trap encounters will no doubt reduce your dungeon crawls to a real CRAWL… as your players proceed to inspect each and every 5ft square of your meticulously planned and ‘fun’ dungeon adventure.
So I really hope you enjoyed my take on the new Unearthed Arcana: Traps Revisited. Have fun on your dungeon runs and please, don’t have nightmares.
Glen Cooper runs Dreadful Dungeons and recently published Dreadful Dungeon Doors, a DMs Guild Electrum Bestseller at the time of writing. You can find him on Twitter @DreadfulDungeon. As an added bonus, Glen also provided this sample door trap!
[Click to embiggen]
I hope you enjoyed that and got something useful out of it. I’m really grateful to Glen for offering to take the time to write it. Glen’s issues with the existing rules for traps echo my own, and one of the things I really loved about his Deadly Dungeon Doors was his use of the existing rules for legendary actions to make encounters with doors more interesting. I had already been thinking about this with regard to environmental hazards (I’ve got a half-completed set of Natural Lairs using lair actions to simulate volcanos and the like that will be coming to Stat Boost at some point in the near future), so it’s really nice to see WoTC moving things in the same direction.
Now, I promised you a two-fer, and a two-fer you shall get. This post is getting on towards 2000 words now, though, so I’ll skip over the talking and just deliver the goods. I’m pleased to present you with three new traps, complete with artwork, utilising the new rules presented in Unearthed Arcana. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts on them and Glen’s post in the comments.
[Click to download PDF]
Don’t forget to go and check out Glen’s Deadly Dungeon Doors if you haven’t already!
EDIT 07/09/17: If you like traps – and why wouldn’t you? – I just released an old school trap dungeon on DMs Guild. It’s called Breaker of Chains, and you should check it out.
I’ve been looking through my old D&D notes from back in the ’90s, rediscovering my old campaign world and trying to decipher notes from games I don’t remember playing. I’ve also been looking at the old TSR adventures from when I first started playing. I’d forgotten how much I used to like the old blue maps – they were pure function over fashion, simple and easy to read, designed to be used as a visual key to an adventure rather than a piece of art. A lot of people dislike them, but I’ve got a lot of nostalgia for them.
With that in mind, I decided to take one of my old dungeon maps and give it the blue TSR treatment. I couldn’t find any notes that corresponded to this map, so you get it just as I found it – a blank slate, to be filled with whatever kind of adventure you desire.
[Click to embiggen]
You may have noticed that last week’s Friday Fight Night didn’t show up, and that this post is currently 14 hours late. I got swamped with work (and other stuff) this last week, and fell behind on… well, everything, really. I’m planning to take the next couple of days to work on content for the site at the exclusion of everything else, so that I can get back to the other stuff that is still keeping me busy without having to worry about missing deadlines here. With any luck I’ll be able to get all the content for the next few weeks written tomorrow and Wednesday; I’m sure I’ll shout about it on Twitter if I manage to do that.
At home, my girlfriend and I have recently upgraded our PC. We used to do a little bit of Twitch streaming, and we’re looking at starting it again. I’ve been toying with the idea of drawing maps on stream, so let me know if that sounds like something you’d watch!
I haven’t really had a chance to draw a new map this week – I’ve been doing a lot of work continuing the geomorphs I started last week. I’m about halfway through drawing a set of 30 of them, and I’m playing around with different workflows to ensure that they all line up perfectly.
One of the things I’ve changed about my process is extending the paths beyond the boundaries of the hex – this will greatly speed up the process of colouring the hexes (though, as you can see, I need to move beyond basic flat colours if it’s going to be actually worth doing colour work), and I can trim them exactly to the edge of the hex so that there aren’t any gaps. I’ve also made sure that every possible entrance/exit point on the hex has something coming from it, in order to cap any passages that run into nothing.
Designing the geomorphs involved printing off an A4 sheet of 30 hexes arranged properly and drawing a whole dungeon complex onto them, that I can then re-draw at full size. This means that I can guarantee there’s at least one configuration of the tiles that will work and flow properly. WIth the caps, though, I’m much more confident that there will be tons of different combinations that will be playable.
I’m looking forward to releasing this bigger set. The current plan is to provide the tiles in both black and white and colour; if you thoroughly hate my colour work, please od let me know so I can decide whether it’s worth continuing with!
For those of you still waiting for Tarnswood – it’s coming, but it’s been pushed back. It’s turned into a much, much bigger project than I anticipated, and I don’t want to rush it and release something I’m not completely happy with. I’m still working on it, though, and I can’t wait to share it with you. It’s just taking longer than I exected.