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Dungeon Crawl – a creepy crawly dungeon trap

Not only is this trap designed to harm the victims physically, it will also teach an unfortunate tomb robber the true meaning of loss and despair.

How the trap works

The three trapdoors opens when (and only when) pressure is applied to all three simultaneously. This means that the trap will trigger only when there is a victim on top of each trapdoor, dispersing them in one pit each. Two of the victims will fall into the lairs of giant dungeon centipedes (feel free to switch to other monsters if you wish). The third one will have to helplessly watch through the iron bars as his comrades perish.

All hope might not be lost, though! Perhaps the adventurers falling into the monster lairs are mighty warriors able to fend off the abominations. Perhaps the trapped man or woman in the middle can lay down fire support by spell or missile weapon? Maybe after all there is treasure and glory at the end of this nightmare?

More dungeon traps

This trap is part of a series of isometric dungeon maps of deadly design, check out the others:

Click here for a larger version of this map. Feel free to download it and use for your personal campaign, but please din’t publish it online or in print without my consent.

Dungeon pit trap – Entombed

Do not fall into the pit, and if you do: do not pull the lever. When the three-hundred metric tonne dormant golem “LORD SLABATHOR” comes crashing down he’s not getting up again. There is little that could save you from spending eternity in this dark tomb.

This is a one-time trap, and you need to a be a special kind of stupid to trigger the full severity of it. How curious are your players?

Click here for full a size image.

For more nasty dungeon traps, check out Boulder Dash and Leap of Faith.

Isometric castle barbican map – Rosehip Gatehouse

Someone, or something, has ripped the doors from the hinges and killed all the guards at the Rosehip Gatehouse. Do you stay and investigate, or push further into the keep? What horrors await in the dark castle corridors?

Just a small isometric map of a castle barbican. Suitable as hand out to the players.

If you want a larger castle map, feel free to check out the Medieval Castle Map I drew earlier this year.

Would you like to try drawing your own isometric maps? Have a look at the isometric map tutorial.

Dungeon pit trap – “a Leap of Faith”

Yet another unfair and deadly dungeon trap to make your players hate you. The “Leap of Faith” trap consists of two pits with spiked floors. The first one is easily spotted and likewise easy to jump over unless you are encumbered or wearing heavy armor.

The other pit, however, is more sinister as it is covered by a trapdoor that is activated by pressure. Jumping over the first pit and landing on the other side will therefore trigger a nasty surprise.

The mechanism of the trapdoor can be locked by turning any of the two torches 45 degrees clockwise. This is apparent for a character examining the torch holders. Turning the torch will temporarily deactivate the trapdoor and make it safe to stand on for one turn (10 minutes) as the torch slowly moves back to its upright position. The trapdoor mechanism makes a sound when the torch is turned. The characters may hear this sound if the party is otherwise quiet. The mechanic sound could give a careful party a hint about the trap.

The Dungeon Master should probably place some treasure at the bottom of the covered pit trap. Perhaps the remains and equipment of a not-so-lucky thief?

A word of warning on traps in roleplaying games

Keep in mind that some of the traps like this one and the rolling boulder trap will almost certainly kill characters that walk into them. You might want to consider the experience level of your players (players, not characters) before implementing them into your own dungeon adventures.

Players experienced in old-school dungeoneering are usually careful when exploring. They have a decent chance to find or forebode the traps. OSR games (Old School Reinassance, clones of early eighties D&D) ususally doesn’t have rules for spotting or avoiding traps, but relies on the players figuring it out.

Less experienced players, or players used to later versions of D&D, might find such traps extremely unfair and get turned off if their characters die an instant, gruesome death.

To tone down the difficulty of this trap, you as a Dungeon Master can choose to:

  • roll skill checks to see if the characters can spot the trapdoor,
  • allow for saves or ability checks to avoid or mitigate damage,
  • substitute the spikes for water

Boulder Dash – rolling boulder dungeon trap

Traps should be unfair, deadly and combined. The poor sods triggering the boulder trap (by opening the doors) will get a chance to dive into the alcoves for cover. Too bad for them the alcoves are really pit traps.

Depending on your playstyle, you can either let players roll suitable saving throws (such as reflex or vs. breath) to avoid the different traps, or you could go for the more grim approach of OSR games – “no saves, if you didn’t look for traps it’s on you”.

You could also reward clever, quick and creative thinking, spellcasting, etc.

Players who approach this situation carefully, examining the alcoves, should be able to find the pit traps, and perhaps realize something sinister awaits them on the other side of the door. I would probably not allow the mechanism of the rolling boulder trap to be found, but that’s really up to you as the dungeon master.

I didn’t have a specific reward in mind for surviving this situation, but if you want, there could of course be a hidden cache or an important inscription behind the boulder.

Option: you could also decide that the boulder is an illusion, and enjoy watching the player characters needlessly throw themselves into the pit traps 😀

Draw your own maps!

Would you like to draw your own maps? It’s a lot of fun! I’ve done several tutorials to help you get started. Check them out here!

Vertical Underground Necropolis Map

I’m working on some kind of conceptual framework/campaign environment for my fantasy-horror themed dungeon maps. I wanted an environment where maps like Arcane Chambers and SVART GRIFT could be placed without feeling out of context.

The idea is an ancient civilization obsessed with death, digging deep into the earth to reach their dark god, and then committing mass suicide in order to be “blessed” with the breath of undeath. A huge necropolis filled with absolute horrors and blasphemy.

Background

In ancient times, this civilization was flourishing, and its realm was vast, centered on what today is a putrid swamp. Its scholars and magi and warriors were unmatched, and the people were living in prosperity. But the civilization drew to it the attention of the arch-demon ABZU ABYZOU, a necrotic duke of Hell.

Slowly, ABZU ABYZOU mainpulated people of all castes. Initially small cults started to form among the poor, but within decades the demon’s whispers reached the nobles and even the mighty Czar. Worship of the demon came with great rewards for those who submitted themselves, and ABZU ABYZOU demanded little tribute of its followers. At first.

It took several generations before the arch demon decided to take the next step of its plan. Natural disasters struck the lands: storms and drought and great fires. Insect swarms ravaged the fields and villages and even the capital. And the demon whispered salvation into the ears of his followers, and convinced them that they needed to take shelter within the earth itself. So they dug.

The great excavation

An entire civilization relocated from a now barren surface into the sheltering depths of the earth. It was an incredible achievement by its architects and labourers, even considering they got infernal assistance. During the great excavation, the teachings of ABZU ABYZOU became more grim. While the darkness of below might provide shelter, it is not a place for human life. You should bury the dead, not the living. And so slowly the absurdity of undeath became less absurd. After years in the darkness, the people did not only consider unlife, they yearned for it. Anything to relieve the pain and melancholy of a life devoid of the light of the sun, the wind in the branches and the memory of a gentle spring rain. They had become obsessed with the thought of death and dying. It manifested in everything – art, architecture, magic and worship.

They were ready to die, and to rise again immortal.

The night of relief

So came the night of the great turning. A ritual mass suicide orchestrated by the priests of the Ashen Basilika, the Czar Necromancer and the members of the Grand Council. When a bleak sun rose over the Wraithbog, ten thousand ghouls and ghasts rose in the necropolis below it.

This is still just early thoughts, notes and sketches, but thought I should share it so you can follow my trail of ideas from the start.

I will probably not develop this with any specific game system in mind, but needless to say it would fit most OSR-games, or the grim darkness of artpunky MÖRK BORG.

This is not so much a map as a mindmap, and absolutely not to scale!

Abutment of the Nephrite Walkway – isometric map

The city of Amun-Shar, “The jewel of the East” was once the pinnacle of human splendor. It was the cultural capital of the eastern continents and envied by kings and queens and emperors and tsars of all other realms. The great spires of Amun-Shar carried libraries of vast knowledge – science and magicks alike. Its nobles were rich beyond comprehension, and the bustling bazaars were filled with everything any man could ever desire.

But the nobles grew arrogant, as they so often do.

A caste-system started to evolve as the nobles, encouraged by the (just as rich) priesthood, began to regard their wealth not as a reward from the gods but as evidence of their own divinity. And so they rose, and built a city on top of the city to never come in contact with the rabble of ordinary people. They built “The Nephrite Walkway” – a sprawling system of jade-adorned bridges connecting the many noble towers and spires of the city. Now they could walk around the city without having to share streets with the lowly commoners. They were truly the god-masters of Amun-Shar.

And the commoners grew angry, as they so often do.

In time, the ordinary citizens of Amun-Shar grew more and more resentful of their masters. At the boiling point they rose up to slay the aristocracy and cast them from their towers. The spire-dwellers fought back with all the magic power they had stored in their minarets, and on a cataclysmic night the city crashed to the ground, drenched in sulfur and burning in hellfire. The carnage was absolute. The angel of death swung his scythe over nobles and commoners with no discrimination.

Today Amun-Shar is a ruin city, a whisper of its former glory. Vengeful and angry spirits dwell in its streets and structures, jealously guarding the treasure and knowledge that lies buried in this enormous desert tomb. In a ironic turn of events the Nephrite Walkway and its abutment towers are haunted by the ghosts of commoners and nobles alike.

To download a larger map for personal use, click here.

Miranda’s terrible dream – isometric dungeon map

Some dreams are real and dangerous, as mankind’s imagination can breathe life into beings and places most sinister. This is what happened when Miranda van Sonner dreamt about the Rickety Man in the Sandstone quarter. Miranda is no more, but her unfortunate creations are very much still in existence, and poses terrible danger.

When and where the veil between our world and the dreamscape is thin, due to arcane manipulation or vivid imaginaton, we can slip into these dimensional pockets. What awaits us on the other side is sometimes strange and wonderful, and sometimes wicked and dreadful. A creature like the Rickety Man can latch onto a dreamer, and follow her back to the waking world, or keep her trapped in his eternal domain. Other, more benign entities can offer help and knowledge. Some dreamscapes can even hide powerful artifacts and wondrous treasure.

The Sandstone Quarter is a silent and arid place. It floats in a vast, cosmic void. There is a constant, gentle wind that whisps up dust and sand. A withered plant rustles softly in this wind and dried sloeberries grow from it.

The buildings are larger on the inside than their appearances suggest. There are winding stairwells and many strange, empty rooms inside.

A strange portal in the Sandstone Quarter activates when the veil is thin, and allows travel from the waking world – but does not allow the dreamer to go back unless the Rickety Man grants it.

The Rickety Man is an insidious being. He is thin, dried out, and has a piercing gaze. He is not always here, but fades in and out of existence.

This map was drewn with artists like Errol Otus and M. C. Escher in mind, as they inspire me greatly.

Click here to download a larger version of the map, for personal use.

The Scarbrough family crypt – dungeon map

In the spirit of Halloween, I drew this map picturing the horrible crypt of the depraved Scarbrough family. Should provide a spooky adventure location for dungeon masters wanting to add a little horror to their campaign.

The crypt is the final (un)resting place of the noble Scarbrough family. These awful people terrorized the countryside in life, and continues to do so in death.

In their mansion in the moorlands, the Scarbroughs practised foul necromancy and other perversities. Lord Edgar Scarbrough and his cousin and wife Elsbeth had five children, each newborn more sinister and depraved than the previous – culminating in little Pamela who’s cruelty became the stuff of moorlands legend.

The family sealed their fate in a grand ceremony, the “Scarbrough Bloodbath”, where they murdered the villagers of Worthon and reanimated them as ghouls, and then committed ritual suicide in the family crypt. The newly risen ghouls buried the Scarbroughs according to their instructions, and then sealed the crypt.

The ghouls of Scarbrough estate roam the vicinity of the mansion and attacks (and eats) any intruders, keeping the crypt safe from inquisitors and grave robbers alike. The ghosts of the family haunt the countryside, and most feared of them all is little Pamela – commonly referred to as “the tooth fairy”.

Click here for a larger version of the map

Click here for a version without the legend

Medieval fantasy castle map

A medieval fantasy castle map I drew using the same techniques described in these tutorials:

I added a side view to this map, mainly because I think top-down maps of large structures can be a bit hard to interpret. The side view is also a useful tool for the dungeon master to show the players when describing the scene.