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!

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 tomb of the Dire Knight and his vile retinue

Isometric map of an ancient tomb, holding the remains (and spirits?) of a dark knight. Fill it with traps and treasure (and why not a couple of undeads?) and send your players on a classic D&D grave robbing adventure!

Click here for a larger version of the image.

Would you like to draw your own isometric maps? It’s a bit tricky when you first get started, but with a bit of training you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve written a free tutorial on it, that you might find helpful! Click here to get to the tutorial.

Impossible temple?

I think I’m going insane, which I guess would be fitting, considering the theme of this map. I’ve been staring at it for so long my brain is turning into liquid, and can’t for the life of me understand the “gap” marked red in the image.

Is the map cursed by the Great Sleeper in the sunken city of fucked up geometry?

Leave a comment if you can help me solve this riddle.

Edit: so I got an answer from a friendly fellow in a Facebook group. I’ll leave the post here anyway, for your amusement.

Isometric map: The Key & Tankard inn

Now who doesn’t like a proper inn? It’s a classic staple of fantasy roleplaying games, and rightly so! The inn is a meeting place, perfect for establishing interesting NPC’s, introducing new quests, gathering rumours and making the fantasy world seem a little bit more real to the players and their characters.

Not everything is about fighting horrible abominations in dark catacombs – what’s the use of courage unless you have some place to brag about your exploits? What good is gold if you have nowhere to spend it?

A map of the Key & Tankard. Feel free to download and use for your own campaign. All adventurers need an inn to rest at, and aquire new quests from the mysterious hooded man in the corner.

The temple of Gozer

Are you a god?”
“No?”

“Then…DIE!”

This is one of the very first isometric maps I drew, honouring one of my favourite movies ever – Ghostbusters. The temple of Gozer the Gozerian, with the loyal demon-dog-minions; Zuul the Gatekeeper and Vinz Clortho the Keymaster.

Reed more about Gozer on the Ghostbusters Wiki. This ancient Sumerian entity is definitely campaign-worthy stuff.

What a great movie!

Isometric dungeon map – The howling gate

I really enjoy isometric maps, probably because I am also a huge fan of isometric RPG:s like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Isometric maps are great at telling a story, as you can cram in quite a lot of artistic elements, more so than in top-down maps. Still, the perspective also provides the dungeon master with a good overview.

The only downside is probably that isometric maps are quite tricky to draw – at least for me!