Category Archives: Maps

Bits & Bobs

Bits & Bobs, surprisingly not a new retro-clone!

It’s been a stream of consciousness day, so this post is going to ramble more than a little.  With apologies to The Rambling Roleplayer.

You’ve been warned.

I was looking for the source of an old Roger Raupp illustration that caught my fancy and it turned out to be from a story in Dragon magazine, issue #54.  The article’s title is “Ruins: Rotted & Risky – but Rewarding”.  I ended up reading it through.

I found the article to be quite good.  It discusses the similarities and differences between using surface ruins and underground dungeons as adventuring locals, a topic that has been on my mind off and on for several months.  There are some wonderful examples of doing this kind of adventure, certainly in the source literature.  Conan, Elric and their ilk spent more time in lost cities than subterranean vaults.  Module I1, Dwellers in the Forbidden City is an all time classic adventure that is almost entirely set in a lost city.  A more contemporary example would be found at the Dreams in the Lich House blog, where the author’s Black City campaign has combined an extensive alien ruined city over top of a vast underground complex.

Our own Google+ hangout game recently had our party encounter the ruins of the City of Gygaxia!


Back on topic, the article included a nice collection of tips for designing ruins, including tables for seeding monster lairs in the abandoned structures.  It’s quite a good article and worth a read.  My arsenal of DM’s design tools is pretty extensive at this point, but this fills a design niche I hadn’t given much thought to.

The result of this was that I finally revisited an idea that’s been rolling around in my head for a long time.  I love dungeons and some of my favorites are lost dwarven cities.  Give me a site where the dwarves delved too deeply and too greedily and I’m a happy gamer.  To that end I’ve been doodling with such a city off and on.

Taking cues from Moria, I envision this city as having once been a center of commerce and passage between realms on opposite sides of a mountain range.  Borrowing from Erebor and Dale, outside one of the city gates is a ruined city.    The article prompted me to pull out my sketch pad and start working up a rough draft of the city map.

This in turn reminded me of an app for my iPhone that I recently picked up.

I did warn you that this post was going to wander.

I have an extensive collection of materials, some of which I’d like to be able to scan in for online use, but much of it is in books that don’t easily fit on my little desktop scanner.  I also love to make maps, which I still prefer to draw by hand.  I’ve had some fun with mapping on the iPad, but I still prefer a good pencil and pad.  However, I have little practice scanning them in and cleaning them up.

Scanner Pro by Readdle aims to help me fix that by turning my iPhone into a handheld scanner.  The software has several features that set it above just taking pictures.  It has an auto-detect for the borders of your subject, saving the effort of cropping the image.  It takes images in color, grey scale, or high contrast black and white, which is good for line art.  You can adjust the contrast and brightness of the image on the fly, and you can save the file as either a .jpg or a .pdf.  The latter when combined with the multi-page feature allows you to make a multi-page .pdf file from your phone.  From there you can email it or upload it through a variety of means.

Below are examples of my city-in-progress, both in grey scale and contrast formats.  I need more practice holding my phone horizontally and the grey scale image has some shadows, but I decided to leave the flaws in.  Like the subject, using the software is a work in progress.

Click to see larger versions of the images:


All in all, not too bad.  The drawing is straight #2 pencil with no inking.  Considering that, I’m pleased with how well the software picked up the details.  The contrast version also completely removed the shadow. The only adjustments I made to the pictures were the built-in contrast and brightness settings.

It also allowed me to capture a digital image of one of my favorite illustrations from any game book.  This is a straight shot with no cropping using the contrast settings.


Scanner Pro shows promise and I’ll be playing around with it more.  Not to mention developing my adventure setting.

Thank you for taking this wander through my thoughts.  And hey, this is my 100th post!  I’ve had a great deal of fun since I started this weblog and look forward to the next 100.

Until next time, happy gaming!

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Dungeon Design, Gaming, Maps


Tags: , , , , ,

Oblivion Maps

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion may be the only entry in the Elder Scrolls series that I have played, but I have played the heck out of it.

I purchased it on sale from Steam when it was quite an old game and it may be the best bang for my buck of all the video games I’ve owned.  Why I love Oblivion could be a post of its own, but suffice to say that I hold this game up to the same level as the Ultima games.

One thing I particularly like is that the world is filled with small to medium sized dungeons.  They’re everywhere, each is unique, and many have a specific flavor to them.  They’re perfect if you want to just dive into a dungeon and go delving, putting whatever quests you have on hold for a while.

The dungeons come in four flavors.  The first are mines, which are often goblin lairs.  The second are caves, which are similar to mines and are often bandit lairs.  Next are ruined forts, which may be home to goblins, bandits, undead, or other forces.  The last are the ruins of ayleid cities, the ayleid being the ancient race that ruled in the distant past.  Undead or demons tend to haunt the ayleid ruins.

These dungeons have a nice variation to them.  The creatures are not randomly generated, but specifically placed in each site.  They may scale based on character level, replacing skeletons with specters or raising the level of bandits for example, but it stays true to the theme.  There are traps that a cautious player can spot and avoid.  And of course, there is treasure to be had.  The level design is mostly linear, but they do a decent job of hiding the rails by giving you one or two paths and a few side branches to explore.  Just the thing for a quick dungeon crawl fix.

Which makes them handy for your table top game too.  If you want to throw in a short side encounter with a ruined fort or cultist-filled mine, the maps from Oblivion are just the ticket.  Thanks to the Unofficial Elder Scrolls wiki site, you can find maps for them all online.

Here is the master list of Oblivion Places.  Scroll down to find maps for all the dungeons, broken out by type.  You can also find city maps here too.

The maps from Oblivion are another tool in a DM’s arsenal for quick adventure generation.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Computer Games, Dungeon Design, Fantasy, Gaming, Maps


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

More Tablet Mapping

I finally got back to playing around with mapping on my iPad.

Sketchbook Pro continues to satisfy me, though I’ve added to my wish list of features.  I would like to be able to better organize the files into sub-folders, as opposed to in order of file creation.  Also, I have a fine point stylus on my Christmas list.

My first foray into tablet mapping was back in this post.

Following that up, I did this map as a “level two” to the iDungeon of Doom.  One nice advantage of digital mapping is that I can take the previous finished map and use it as a transparent layer for my new map.  That makes it easy to match up the paths between floors.

A few notes:

Area 4 is a waterwheel fed from the whirlpool’s cascade in Area 12 on the first level.

Area 16 is a three-level chamber.  Each entry is at a different height.  I’d probably need to include an inset map of the room to convey it properly.  I’m playing around with trying to do an isometric map for the room, but so far it’s beyond my meager stylus skills.

Area 13 is an elevator.  When it rises up it uncovers the secret door.

The circular areas 18-22 have pools in their centers that act as teleportation devices.


And here’s the first level of a tower complex:


Eventually I may stock these maps with something like the one page dungeon format and see how it goes.  But for now I’m just enjoying the sketching.


Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Dungeon Design, Maps


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tablet Mapping

I enjoy making dungeon maps.

I’ve enjoyed that since the time when I’d only heard about Dungeons & Dragons but hadn’t yet played.  One of the things that I love about the Old School Renaissance for gaming is the wealth of maps that fans are creating and sharing.

(And if you also like old school maps, make sure you’re reading Dyson’s Dodecahedron!)

I’ve been experimenting with using GIMP for my digital mapping needs and I enjoy it, but haven’t had enough time to really dig into it yet.  I love using a good old pad of graph paper, but I’m not fond of the results I’ve had scanning files in.

However I do have an iPad and I love playing around with it.  For the moment that’s going to be my playground for digital mapping.

I did some research on the web and hit up a few Google+ communities and Sketchbook Pro looked like a good tool.  The application and a cheap stylus cost me just under $10 and for the price it does the job nicely.

Sketchbook Pro has most of the standard drawing tools you’d expect, including plenty of pen styles with adjustable thickness and hardness, color and fill tools, and a built-in square grid template that’s perfect for dungeon mapping.  It also offers plenty of layers to work with, a must for digital dungeon design.  Numbering rooms is a snap too.  It didn’t take me very long to get the hang of it and knock out a basic layout.


Sketchbook Pro does the job nicely, but it does have limitations.  While it does have a line tool it doesn’t have a “snap to grid” feature, which accounts for some of my less-than-straight lines.  Drawing with the stylus takes practice and trying to get my lines just where I want them can take a few tries, the undo feature is my friend, but this could be alleviated with a finer quality stylus.

Sketchbook Pro does have a transformation tool for layers, but surprisingly it doesn’t have a selection tool.  So you can copy entire layers but not lasso and copy sections within a layer.  Also, while there are plenty of stamps built into the pen selection, there is no way to create your own stamps.  So any frequently used icons will have to be drawn each time.

However for a $10 total investment I’m more than satisfied with the results.  A basic dungeon can be created quickly and while a more complex design takes longer than good old graph paper, it’s still something you can accomplish.  Combined with the portability of an iPad and stylus over a desktop and this is a tool that’s going to be staying in my DM’s arsenal.

Here’s a level from a more ambitious dungeon design. I could easily add color or a background texture, but I prefer the simpler old school scheme both from an aesthetic and practical concern.  Colors and backgrounds tend to be distracting.  For a more printer friendly version a white color fill on the grey areas does the trick with a few clicks.

The iDungeon of iDoom!



Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Dungeon Design, Gaming, Maps


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,