The Vault of the Shattered Sword – isometric map for “Swordtember”

Apparently there’s this thing called #swordtember, where artists dedicate the month of September to drawing sword. Well, count me in – I love swords! I’m also a mapmaker though, so I just couldn’t resist drawing a fitting dungeon for this entry.

Standing guard over the ancient, shattered sword is a demonic statue. The room also hosts six plain stone plinths, each with a heavy stone bowl containing rusted iron residue. In the southern part of this dungeon section there’s a round room with a large half-sphere made of the darkest black obsidian, and covered in mystic symbols. What secrets can this strange vault hold?

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Magic items for D&D: The Vulture Scimitar and the Shield of the Sun and the Moon

The Bazaar of the Sun and the Moon is usually a deserted place where commerce is just a whispered memory. However once per month, under the full moon, the ghosts of the merchants rise and peddle strange and peculiar goods. Here are a couple of magic items that can be found at the bazaar.

The Vulture Scimitar is a magic +2 scimitar which provides it’s wielder with the ability to detect (through scent) corpses and cadavres over large distances. Whoever carries the Vulture Scimitar can accurately point out the direction to any corpse or cadaver (dead or undead) within 1000 feet. There must be some flesh still left on the corpse, i.e. skeletons cannot be detected through this ability.

The Shield of the Sun and the Moon is a magic +2 shield. It is sturdy, but weighs next to nothing.

  • If used as cover from sunlight the shield keeps it’s wielder comfortably cool (not subject to envornmental effects).
  • If used in a simliar fashion under moonlight the shield is inhibited with the Conjuring light effect as per the Light spell. It needs to be “charged” by moonlight for one hour, and will provide light for eight hours after fully charged.

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The Bazaar of the Sun and the Moon – isometric map

The Bazaar of the Sun and the Moon was once a bustling marketplace, filled with exotic trade goods from far and wide. A deadly sickness befell the merchants and other residents of the bazaar and it is nowadays a deserted place, void of life. Every full moon, however, the spirits of the dead tradesmen rise and for just one night haggling whispers fill the air as ethereal (and most peculiar) goods are exchanged for prices just as peculiar.

It is a dangerous place, this bazaar of the dead, but for those who require items not of this world visiting this market might be the only chance to acquire them. Living customers must be careful though, as the ghosts might sometimes demand more than one would be willing to pay.

Download high-resolution image (300 dpi):

This map is free to download for personal use (but not for publishing without my consent). Feel free to use it at your gaming table should you need a map of a desert marketplace.

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More desert fantasy maps

This map is part of my series of “desert fantasy” maps. If this is your jam, make sure you check out the others as well! (links open in new tabs)

The Chantry of Desecration – isometric map for D&D

Here’s a simple isometric map for you to use should you need a spooky, desecrated church in any horror-themed Dungeons & Dragons adventure. I intentionally skipped drawing details in the rooms on the floor plans. Treat it as a blank canvas to fill with whatever creepy things you can come up with!

In my own campaign I plan to use the Chantry of Desecration as a non-combat encounter. A place where atrocious deeds have been committed in the past, but where remnant energies still linger.

Here’s a link to download the map!

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The Deepwood Lodge logger’s camp

I made this map for a short horror adventure I ran with my players. Deepwood Lodge is a logger’s camp and lumber mill located along the river in the the outskirts of Deepwood. The adventure was inspired by horro movies such as The Thing and Dawn of the Dead. It all started when a fungus infected, zombie-like lumberjack came floating down the river all tangled up in a timber raft, crashing into Fourtower Bridge.

The adventurers were tasked by Majken the cleric to investigate a remote logger’s camp called the Deepwood Lodge, about a day’s march upstream. At the scene they discovered the lumberjacks had been infected by some type of necrotic fungi, killing them and reviving them as undead.

I might write out the full adventure at some point, but as for now I don’t have an active InDesign subscription so that will have to wait. Until then, please feel free to use the maps with your own gaming group.

Maps of the logging camp:

I have prepared two maps for you. The first map has a legend to fit into the Fourtower Bridge campaign environment. The other map is without legend (and I have removed the dead body laying on the ground), so you can modify it to fit your own campaign. Both are free for personal use. Click the links below to download the maps as .png image files.

Overland map of Fourtower Bridge and its surroundings
An overland map of the Fourtower Bridge campaign environment

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The infernal monolith – isometric dungeon room

”Deep in the bowels of this forsaken labyrinth stands a strange monolith adorned with blasphemous runes. The stone whispers ancient curses in maddened voices. Its language is that of the Abyss – infernal and sacrilegious.”

Just a little bit of “dungeon dressing”. I’m imagining the monolith to be somewhat sentinent, so a player character with the right knowledge can communicate with it. Initially it would be very helpful and provide sound advice, but sooner or later it would require something in return. How far will the players go to please the monolith? What would they be willing to pay?

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Rubik’s Dungeon – a cube shaped, isometric dungeon map

Created in ancient times by the great (and sadistic) dungeon master Rubik, the cube is an artifact that can alter the layout of his underground lair. To attract victims, Rubik would intentionally spread rumours about great tresure hidden in the depths of the labyrinth. As adventurers delved into the dungeon he would use the cube to constantly switch rooms and corridors around until the spelunkers lost their way. As Rubik would place food, water and other supplies in the dunegon, some adventuring parties roamed these maddening hallways for years until finally perishing.

I drew this map mostly as an experiment to see if I could pull it off. While probably not very useful for using as an in-game map, it was a lot of fun to make.

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How to create a D&D campaign world – a step-by-step guide

A wonderful and inspiring part of the roleplaying game hobby is worldbuilding, however many dungeon masters feel it’s a daunting task to create their own campaign world. In this guide I will do my best to outline my method of building fantasy worlds. I hope it will help you by making worldbuilding more inspiring and less of a chore.

My core worldbuilding philosophy: start small and expand

In my opinion the biggest mistake many worldbuilders do is biting off more than they can chew. If you create a huge world map and then try to fill it with everything that could possibly exist in a world you tend to either overwork yourself and lose interest, or stretch your imagination too far and end up with something quite bland “like butter scraped over too much bread”.

Not only does “starting big” risk draining your inspiration, it is also (most of the time) unnecessary. A typical adventuring party in a quasi-medieval D&D campaign won’t visit every far corner of the world, and even if they do this is not something you need to plan out years in advance.

A campaign world isn’t necessarily a “world”. It might not even be a country. It might start out as just a small town and its immediate surroundings. We could call it a “campaign environment”. It might or might not develop into a world but for starters let’s concentrate on what you need rather than what you might need in the future.

What you need is a playground for your players’ first few adventures.

A list of things that you probably need to know right now:

  • The overall theme or genre (high/low/dark fantasy, steampunk, etc.)
  • What monsters lurk in the woods just north of town
  • The name of the local innkeeper and some other important NPCs
  • The most relevant deity in your starting region, and how it is worshipped

A list of things you probably don’t need to know right now:

  • The name of the king in a neighbouring country
  • What lies beyond the sea or the mountains far to the west
  • Every significant faction in the country and how they interact with each other
  • Details on every organized religion in the world

Creating your homebrew campaign world – a step-by-step guide

Step 1 – the overland map

Create an overland map or get one online. A few (7-10 or so) hexagons of terrain will do. Each hex is 6 miles. Fill the hexes with the general type of terrain you want for your theatre. Woods, mountains, grasslands, hills, moor, swamps, etc. Add a few interesting landmarks.

Note: you don’t need to use hexes if you don’t like them. I find them really useful for making maps and tracking both travel and exploration in a campaign, but if you prefer to measure distance differently go right ahead and choose another method.

Fourtower Bridge Hex Map

Step 2 – the starting town

Create a small town and a handful of non-player characters (NPCs). Some of these NPCs need help with stuff, and they need adventurers to take care of their problems. The NPCs are some of the best roleplaying tools you have to shape your campaign and influence players/player characters.

Here’s a town you can use if you don’t want to create one from scratch: Link to Fourtower Bridge.

The Bulette's Barrel inn - isometric map
“Meet the locals” – the inn is often a central location for roleplaying in a fantasy campaign. A great place for the players to learn more about the world.

Step 3 – adventure sites

Make up a few adventure sites and connect some of them to the NPCs in town. A deserted mine, a desecrated temple, a ruined old tower, a brigand hideout, etc. Draw some simple location maps and mark the sites on your overland map. Place treasure and monsters.

Note: You don’t have to make up all of these adventure sites from scratch. There are plenty of free resources online, or you could buy short adventures from websites like DriveThruRPG.com. You can also find a lot of free maps and adventure sites on this website, for example The Haunted Cloister, that can easily be dropped into most fantasy campaigns.

Top-down dungeon map of a druid's cave
The druid’s cave is a small adventure site, perfect for an evening of gaming

Step 4 – build your world by playing in it

Start playing. The player characters are a bunch of adventurers in search of gold and glory. They arrive in town and have just enough money to spend the night at the inn. Drop rumours on them. Let townsfolk seek their aid. And then let them decide what to do next.

Breathe life into your little world but don’t plan everything ahead. Roll on random tables. You deserve to be surprised just as much as the players do. Between games always keep a notepad with you. Write down cool stuff you come up with. Inject it into your campaign. As you come up with new places to explore, draw new hexagons or add to existing ones on your overland map.

Ask the players what they want to do. Let them inspire you as you expand on the overland map. What do they look for, and how can they get it? What lies beyond the mountains in the west? What’s the origin of the strange idol they found in the abandoned mine?

Build as you go. Make stuff up. Allow yourself to get surprised. Use free stuff from the community. Work with your players. Build a world – not a story. You don’t need an endgame yet (if ever). You have a lot to discover, so enjoy the ride.

Bonus tools: random tables and rumours

Random encounter tables

Random encounter tables have been a staple of fantasy roleplaying games for many years. They are not just relics of old, but actually really good tools for worldbuilding that animate your world and make it feel more dynamic. By creating random encounter tables you define what creatures inhabit an area of your world and you make it significant. The probability of encountering a certain type of creature tells a lot about your world.

If there’s a high risk of encountering orcs in your campaign environment it should be reflected in the encounter tables, let’s have a look at an example:

Random encounter table – west moorland road

Roll 2d6

2-6No encounter
7-8Merchant caravan
9-10Orc raiding party (2d6 orcs)
11Troll
12 Hill giant

What does the above random encounter table tell us about the campaign environment? Well, first of all it seems commerce and travel is a thing in this part of the world – there’s a fair chance of bumping into merchants. We also learn that orcs seem to be the dominant non-human race in the area, and that they’re on the prowl making travel risky (but not risky enough to fully deter humans from travelling). There are also more powerful monsters (trolls and hill giants) lurking nearby, but apparently they’re not common enough to outcompete the orcs – perhaps they are allies? It’s just a simple table, but all of the above are important and defining elements of your worldbuilding.

Remember that you can have random tables for more things than encounters, such as weather and other types of events. For example, a random weather table tells a lot about the climate in your campaign environment. If you’re aiming for an occult feel to your campaign perhaps a table of mystic omens would make sense to create.

Rumours

The Internet doesn’t exist in a fantasy medieval world, and the adventurers can’t google “nearby adventure sites and treasure”. Rumours are perhaps the most common source of information and will play an important role in determining how the players will decide on what to do in your world. They do not know about the old tower ruin two hexes to the north unless you somehow tell them about it, so creating such rumours for them to pick up when interacting with NPCs is a good way of helping them learn about the world beyond the hex they’re currently exploring. Again: The NPCs are some of the best roleplaying tools you have to shape your campaign and influence players/player characters. Plant rumours to guide players without forcing them in a certain direction.

Not all rumours are (nor should be) true. Some have just grains of truth in them, and some are just nonsense. However all of them help bring your world to life.


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Retainer sheet for D&D B/X and Old-School Essentials

This retainer sheet is made for use with Old-School Essentials and other OSR games based on Dungeons & Dragons Basic/Expert. Please feel free to download and print it for personal use.

Note: if you use ascending armor class and attack bonus, just use the field for THAC0 to indicate the retainer’s attack bonus value.

The checkboxes doesn’t serve a specific purpose. I added them because it’s always nice to have checkboxes, right? You can use them to track rations, torches or any other type of relevant resource.

Looking for a full character sheet?

Check out my hand-drawn character sheet for D&D B/X based games here!

Support my work through Ko-fi (if you want)

Let me be very clear: the content on this website is free for personal use, and it will stay that way. That said, I sometimes get questions if there’s any way to support my work. If you insist on giving me a tip my Ko-Fi account is https://ko-fi.com/pathspeculiar. This will make me very happy, but is not expected!

The Spudfield Good Girl – free D&D adventure

The Spudfield Good Girl is a free two-page adventure for use with Dungeons & Dragons. It was made with the B/X edition of the rules from 1981, but can easily be adapted to any edition of the game.

The adventure is meant for a party of low level (1-3) adventurers but can be adjusted for higher level play by introducing tougher enemies. If you choose to make the adventure harder you should consider increasing rewards/treasure as appropriate.

The Spudfield Good Girl is a fantasy adventure with light horror elements, but nothing too gruesome.

Download the adventure

The Spudfield Good Girl - click iamge to download free pdf
Click image to download the adventure in pdf-format

Adventure background

Conrad and Eliza Spudfield and their five well-mannered children are in need of adventurers. Two days ago, when Eliza was about to bring up some potatoes from the root cellar under their kitchen she spotted a monster! An undead abomination peered at her from the shadows. She quickly escaped up into the kitchen and slammed the hatch shut. Eliza heard growling from below, and then everything went silent.

Conrad bolted the hatch securely and just to be safe they moved their large cupboard onto it. They need adventurers to go down the hatch and dispose of the monster so that they can gain access to their food supply or there will be no spuds for the children trickin’ and treatin’ on Olde Hallow’s Eve.

Free to download for personal use

The adventure is completely free to download and print for personal use with your gaming group. Please do not re-publish the adventure without my written consent. You may never sell copies of this adventure.

Would you like to translate this adventure?

Some of my previous adventures have been translated by other gamers to their native languages (for example Italian and Portuguese). Please reach out to me if you’d like to translate The Spudfield Good Girl into your own native language and I can provide you with the source material. E-mail me at niklas@wistedt.net.

In loving memory of Doris

This adventure is dedicated to the best friend I’ve ever had, who I miss so dearly. You were such a good girl.

In loving memory of Doris 2010-2020

More from my world

The Spudfield Good Girl is set in my own little campaign world, next to the small settlement of Fourtower Bridge. Fourtower Bridge is a town module that is also free to download, and can be used together with the adventure to provide more context for the player characters. Click here to read more about Fourtower Bridge and to download the module.

Support my work – buy me a Ko-fi (if you want)

Let me be very clear: the content on this website is free for personal use, and it will stay that way. That said, I sometimes get questions if there’s any way to support my work. If you insist on giving me a tip my Ko-Fi account is https://ko-fi.com/pathspeculiar. This will make me very happy, but is not expected!