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The Rook Tower – isometric illustration of a wizard’s tower

Originally constructed three-hundred years ago by the late wizard Belfador, “the Tower of the Four Avians” is commonly referred to as “Rook Tower” due to the large colony of rooks that inhabit the old spire. The tower is located north of Fourtower Bridge, at the base of the mountains overlooking the moorland.

The rooks of the tower

The rooks of the tower have lived there for generations. They are intelligent, and quite vicious birds that have effectively warded off any attempts to occupy the tower. Brigands as well as adventurers have tried taking the tower by force, but none have so far been able to stomach more than a night or two in the tower. The rooks employ various tactics ranging from petty theft to proper terrorization of intruders.

A work in progress

Rook tower is an idea that I’ve had for some time. It is loosely inspired by “Claws from the Night” by Fritz Leiber, and of course to some extent by Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. This is my first illustration for the adventure, and I will (hopefully) soon draw maps for the interior of the tower. As I work further on the adventure, any updates will be posted here.

More maps – more adventures

If you enjoy my work, why not hang around for a bit and browse like it was 1996? Here are a few of my latest posts:

Medieval fantasy inn map

Since my map of the Nightfall Lodge became quite popular I though I’d expand a bit on it and create a “template” inn map. Use it to create your own inn, tavern or lodge for your fantasy campaign.

I’ve added top-down maps/floor plans for the floors above the surface. Whatever is going on below you’ll have to come up with on your own 🙂

Feel free to download and print this map. I’ve intentionally left some blank space on it for you to add your own notes. The sign is also left empty for you to fill in with a hairy pig, drunken beaver or whatever other colorful representation you want to give your inn.

Free download link

Here’s the download link. The file is a 300 dpi png image in a4 format, so should be quite suitable for printing.

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. I don’t make a living on drawing (I wish!), so don’t feel comitted to do so, though. I use the tip I get either for art supplies, supporting other creators or a beer or two at the local pub.

The Nightfall Lodge – isometric inn map

The Nightfall Lodge – an inn deep in the woods, far from civilization. It’s a strange place, this twilight tavern. A candlelight cantina that seems to exist in a perpetual state of evenfall.

Perhaps located in the dense forest west of Drowner’s Lake in Western Thistlemoor, the Nightfall Lodge is a secret to most, yet so many have a faint memory of visiting it.

Have you ever been hopelessly searching for that bar you were almost certain would be just on the corner of that street you can’t seem to remember the name of? You undoubtedly recognize the general area, and you’re almost certain you’ve been here before. That street sign seems so familiar, and you recall clearly the sloping alley snaking its way down to a … square? Or do you really? The more you try to focus on the memory of the Nightfall Lodge, the more blurry it gets.

That’s the magic of the inn of flickering candles. Many have been there, but only once. Previous patrons can’t seem to find their way back, and the more they try the less details they manage to reproduce from their previous visit. You only stumble upon the Nightfall Lodge when you have absolutely no intention of finding it.

Download this map

Feel free to download the Nightfall Lodge map for personal use in your campaign by clicking the link below. Please do not publish my art online or in print without first having my written consent.

More maps, more adventures!

Check out some of my other blog posts, here are the latest ones:

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. I don’t make a living on drawing (I wish!), so don’t feel comitted to do so, though. I use the tip I get either for art supplies, supporting other creators or a beer or two at the local pub.

Ancient and Dreadful – isometric dungeon map

There’s something about this design I find unnerving, but I can’t really put my finger on what it is. It just feels … wrong. Ah well, probably just my imagination playing me tricks while I drew it. In any case, here’s an ancient burial site that you can use as a point of interest in your campaign.

There’s probably something nasty down there for the player characters to find. Like the eerie stone carved to resemble a skull. If that thing isn’t cursed then I don’t know what is.

Here’s a download link, feel free to use it in your personal game (like always it’s free for personal use, but I ask you not to publish it elsewhere without my written consent):

More tombs to explore

You know me, I like to draw old and dusty tombs, crypts and burial sites. Here’s a few more:

Perchburrow Point – isometric village map

Perchburrow Point is an old fishing village located at the wind-harrowed Howling Coast. It is (literally) the last point of light before the vast and stormy sea, and whatever horrors await in and beyond it.

The settlement is located on top of a underground system of caves and rivers. As these freshwater rivers meet the ocean the water in the caves is brackish, and there’s an abundance of perch to be caught by veteran fishermen.

Perchburrow Point is an important maritime mark due to the ancient lighthouse that is managed dutifully by the people of the village. Many ships pass by here, and some lay anchor to allow crews a night at the inn before braving the sea (or returning from it).

Please feel free to download the map and use it in your campaign. It should be useful to represent any coastal settlement in a semi-medieval setting.

Like all content on this website this map is free for personal use (I just ask you not to publish it elsewhere without my consent).

Free download (300 dpi .png file)

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. Please note that tipping is appreciated, but not expected. Don’t donate if you’re short on cash, I’m sharing content because I like to, not to make money.

Surf the web like it’s 1996! Here’s a list of my latest blog posts

Playing D&D without Wizards of the Coast – alternatives to 5e

What if I told you that Wizards of the Coast is just one of many publishers of Dungeons & Dragons? Sounds strange? WotC are the commercial owners of the D&D brand, and anyone stupid enough to use it without consent would get sued to oblivion. That, however, does not mean other publishers aren’t releasing great games that are just as much D&D as the game made by the trademark owner.

Why consider avoiding Wizards of the Coast?

But let’s just take a step back and discuss why you consider alternatives to Wizards D&D.

Well, first of all – maybe you shouldn’t. If you really enjoy the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and don’t have a problem with the company Wizards of the Coast, then you’re all good. You should do what makes you happy. If you’re happy with D&D 5e then by all means – play it!

However …

  • Perhaps you just don’t like fifth edition D&D.
  • Maybe you have a problem with how WotC conducts their business or,
  • you’re worried that they will step into the NFT (safe link, Wikipedia) space like their parent company Hasbro?

There are many valid reasons why to step away from whoever owns the commercial rights to put a Dungeons & Dragons logo on their book cover. Also; you don’t even need a reason other than being curious and wanting to try something new.

But is it really Dungeons & Dragons if it doesn’t say so on the cover?

Short answer: yes!

Longer answer: yes! You see, there’s something called the Open Gaming License (OGL), which makes it legal to create clones of D&D. You can basically copy the rules and publish them under a different name than Dungeons & Dragons. The OGL is what Paizo used in 2009 to create the Pathfinder RPG, which outcompeted fourth edition D&D.

Here, let me quote whoever described the OGL on Wikipedia:

Dungeons & Dragons retro-clones are fantasy role-playing games that emulate earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) no longer supported by Wizards of the Coast.

They are made possible by the release of later editions’ rules in a System Reference Document under the terms of the Open Game License, which allow the use of much of the proprietary terminology of D&D that might otherwise collectively constitute copyright infringement.

These rules lack the name D&D or any of the associated trademarks.

Wikipedia

Many of such clones exist today, and they’re gaining popularity as roleplayers are switching from fifth edition to other alternatives. Some of these games are bunched together under the Old-School Reinassance movement, but wether you like that specific playstyle or not these games can be played in any way you prefer.

Games created and published under the OGL are sometimes exact clones of earlier editions of D&D (like Old-School Essentials), but more often they are tweaked, keeping the D&D core but making adjustments and additions to the rules and mechanics. In any case, most of these games are usually compatible – so you can use adventures from one game and play it with the rules of another!

So you see what I mean when I say it doesn’t need to say Dungeons & Dragons on the cover of the book to be D&D.

Ok, so what are my options?

Plenty, believe me. There are tons of D&D clones out there. Some of the most popular ones are Labyrinth Lord, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Swords & Wizardry, White Box and OSRIC.

I’d like to put the spotlight on two major alternatives to fifth editions Dungeons & Dragons – Old-School Essentials and Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Old-School Essentials – for the D&D purist

Old-School Essentials (OSE) by Necrotic Gnome is an exact replica of the Basic/Expert mechanics of the game from 1981. If you choose the basic OSE you get the rules from D&D, just presented in a modern and more intuitive layout. It’s easy to read, wonderfully illustrated and just a really solid product that oozes quality.

OSE also has “advanced” supplements that add options that are not cloned from D&D but harmonizes really well with it. I recommend starting with the basic “classic fantasy rules tome” though, it’s just awesome.

The rules of D&D Basic Expert, ahem I mean Old-School Essentials are available for free online in the system reference document database.

Photo of old-school essentials rules tome

Dungeon Crawl Classics – for the D&D rebel

If OSE is loyal to the roots of D&D, Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) by Goodman Games is quite the opposite. While the core of DCC is certainly and unmistakingly Dungeons & Dragons (in my opinion somewhat close to third edition), this game is full of wild and imaginative innovation. Everything from character creation to spells to the imagery is tweaked, remade and re-imagined. DCC is D&D’s feral cousin. It’s a thick book, but don’t let that scare you – the rules really aren’t complex.

A myriad of great adventures have been published for Dungeon Crawl Classics, so even if you don’t choose this specific game you should keep an eye out for their supplements (remember when I said these games are usually compatible?).

Oh, it uses really wonky dice as well, which is fun.

Photo of Dungeon Crawl Classics rules book
Wonky dice is part of the experience of Dungeon Crawl Classics!

Wrapping up

Anyway as you can see there are many ways to play Dungeons & Dragons without using books that says Dungeons & Dragons. For whatever reason you migh have to step away from Wizards of the Coast there are plenty of good (better?) options to chose from.

While a big company might own the commercial rights to the trademark, they do not own the hobby. We do.

DISCLAIMER: I am not in any way sponsored by the brands mentioned in this article. I've bought the products myself and have not been sent review copies or anything like that.

Stay awhile, and browse

I hope you liked this article. I’m not a great writer, but I’m pretty good at drawing so if you’d like to stick around for a while and check out my D&D maps, please feel free to do so! Here are some recent posts to get you started:

The Black Tomb of the Wight Knight

The Black Tomb of the Wight Knight is a short dungeon that should be suitable for a night of D&D adventuring. I haven’t written a lot of information on the dungeon itself, other than what you see in the image so it’s up to the dungeon master to make it her own adventure!

I have a loose idea about nearby villagers sacrificing people on the big stone slab by the “entrance”, pouring blood down the shaft to keep the wight knight calm and content.

The giant skull in the chamber below could be made of stone, or even the remains of an ancient creature. Either way it should set the tone of this eerie and grim place.

Feel free to download the image and print it for your own campaign, like always my content is free for personal use. I just ask you not to publish it elsewhere without my written consent. Enjoy!

Free download (300 dpi .png file)

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. Please note that tipping is appreciated, but not expected. Don’t donate if you’re short on cash, I’m sharing content because I like to, not to make money.

Twinstone Fort – “viking style” great hall

Here’s an isometric map of a “viking style” fort that you can use in your campaign. Feel free to use the background story below, or just make up your own!

Earl Birger the Bloodnose

The great earl (or “jarl”) Birger the Bloodnose got his ephitet after surviving a mace blow to the face, leaving it permanently bloodshot and deformed (the incident also made him forever prone to sudden bursts of nosebleed when excited).

Despise his grim visage, Birger is a fairly good-hearted man. His twelve hirdmen respect him and nearby farmers find him fair and just. The few shield-maidens as well as the seers have acknowledged the Bloodnose’s right to rule. Even Birger’s thralls recognize that they could be considerably worse off.

In terms of standing manpower Birger is one of the less powerful earls in the country. However, by fair treatment of the beforementioned groups he has managed to form a strong bond to his people. This bond has proven exceptionally useful when the need to quickly muster fighters arise.

Even though Birger is in his fifties he is unmarried, and has no children. His three older sisters live with him. They are also unmarried.

Birger the Bloodnose is a ninth level fighter with the title of "Lord" (D&D B/X).

Twinstone Fort

The fort is named after the two ancient runestones located just outside the gates. The stones tell the story of twin brother and sister who slew a vicious wyrm on the small motte now housing the keep tower.

The wooden pallisade is sturdy enough, as is the newly built watchtower. The gates are closed at night, but usually open during day hours.

Birger Bloodnose is a man of tradition, and will welcome travellers into his great hall. As tradition dictates guests will always be offered food, ale and a place to sleep. Adventurers, especially bards, are appriciated guests.

Free download (300 dpi .png file)

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. Please note that tipping is appreciated, but not expected. Don’t donate if you’re short on cash, I’m sharing content because I like to, not to make money.

In the mood for browsing? Here are my latest blog posts:

Medieval merchant guild – isometric map

In any pseudo-medieval fantasy city there will be various classic factions struggling for power. One of the most influential ones is probably the typical merchant guild.

Controlling trade is as close to absolute power as it gets and there are many historical examples of merchant associations outmaneuvering kings and nobles alike.

This map can be used to represent a medieval merchant guild hall and it’s immediate surroundings in the canals district. Will the player characters be able to gain favour among the merchants, or are they there to rob the place?

Free download (300 dpi .png file)

3D model of the Merchant Guild

The below 3D model of the merchant guild is made by CGI artist Andrei Pék (link to Andrei’s Instagram account, opens in new tab). I’m astounded by the way he breathed life into my simple drawing, and honored that he chose to do it with my work.

Here’s an external link to open the model in a new window, if somehow the embedded version doesn’t work properly.

Support my work – buy me a beer

If you like my stuff and want to give me a tip to cheer me on, please click the button below. Please note that tipping is appreciated, but not expected. Don’t donate if you’re short on cash, I’m sharing content because I like to, not to make money.

Science fiction moonscape map for “Lycaon”

This map was made as a commission for the novel Lycaon by author Wes Parker. Here’s the blurb:

Harvey Howlett, Astronaut and Robotics Technician is nearing the end of his six-month rotation on the surface of the moon. What started as a dream mission quickly turned into a nightmare when Harvey finds a woman from a neighboring base covered in blood and wandering the lunar surface.

The woman's appearance raises a few questions that are quickly answered when Harvey and his team come face to face with a horrible monstrosity...

WEREWOLVES...IN SPACE...

I love drawing science fiction themed maps, and especially retro-futuristic, pulp or horror sci-fi. Illustrating this map was a lot of fun, and I’m really quite pleased with the outcome.

The hardest thing with moonscape maps it that the “palette” is kind of limited to rocks and craters. This goes for any barren landscape map, really. Such maps can easily get a bit monotonous and uninspiring. However, for this map I got the opportunity to play around a bit with the different space stations as points of interest. By not doing them to scale, but rather as map symbols/illustrations, I could add some simple architectural features. I also chose to add curvature and a starry sky to the top of the map. This brings contrast and frames the map quite nicely. These are just a couple of tips and tricks on how to make a barren map more interesting and aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Lycaon is published on 20th of October 2021, just in time for Halloween. You can pre-order it for Amazon Kindle now.

More science fiction maps

I’ve done quite a lot of sci-fi maps, expecially for my Termination Shock setting. Here are a few samples: