Map – Guest House

I put this together for my games as a generic guest house map – largely because of the reverse heist that we’re doing for the one-shot adventure. Its a town-based guest house with three floors. Five rooms are for guests, while the sixth is a master bedroom for the owner. There is a latrine on the first floor. and a bathroom on the top floor. The whole map is geared for a 39×22 grid which leaves a small border around the whole thing – and the floors go from left to right as they ascend.

There are two doors on the ground floor – one from the garden at the top, and one from the alleyway on the left hand side – and various odds and sods plonked into the map by Dungeon Alchemy. I’ve included a zipfile below with the map jpeg export, original dungeon alchemy file, and the generated text file that defines walls, doors, windows, and light sources for Roll20.

As ever, for Roll20 you import the jpg to the background layer and then, while the dungeon alchemy api script is running, paste the text file contents into chat. That will resize the map and graphic and line up all the walls and features. Let me know what adventures you have with it…

Source file – guesthouse.zip

Map – Volcanic Lair

I spent most of yesterday quietly rumbling through a low patch with making maps, watching old Time Team videos, and playing on the XBox in between conversations with people. It was an unashamed day of taking care of myself, and my partners very wisely let me get on with it and made sure I ate properly and didn’t mumble into my beard too much. I ended the day with the beginnings of a migraine (light flashes and loops of a song fragment) but the near total shut down was very much needed.

And so to the map: I was looking at potential lair ideas and followed on from the bridge maps I’ve been experimenting on. There’s always an epic feel to raised areas over a lava field so went with something that could possibly once have been natural and that now shows signs of having been coopted and adapted.

To the right of the map is a fiery magical portal at the top of carved steps coming down onto the broken circle of level ground. Obsidian walls reach down to the cooling lava surface that still puffs with flames and shimmers of heat below. There’s a lit brazier in the middle on top of an obsidian column in the centre of the “donut” and to the north of that, an eldritch obelisk next to a broken altar. There are bundles of books on that and a broken ramshackle bookcase nearby and some scattered timepieces. To the very west lies a tomb slab. Could the old tomb be what this chamber was built for, or was this space found and then repurposed? Perhaps clues are inscribed on the triple-sided obelisk?

This chamber could therefore be the last resting place of a buried being whose grave goods contain something the adventurers seek. It could be where a missing field researcher is found, overcome by heat or monsters that must be overcome. Maybe it is the lair of some dark spirit risen from death and seeking some elder knowledge or to overthrow the lands below the volcano, or far above this hidden space.

The map is based on a 30×40 landscape grid but doesn’t have one superimposed so you can import it to a VTT of choice and grid scale that suits you – I’ve assumed five foot per grid square as a standard measurement when planning this. If you use it, have fun! Let me know if you remember and tell me what story you told with it.

A Warforged Gathering

There’s definitely a therapeutic aspect to playing in HeroForge alongside the creative exercise of the emergent storytelling. As part of my preparations for the next phase of DDC adventures I’ve been toying with a series of Warforged antagonists, so thought I’d put them up here to give them an airing.

Warforged were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons in the world of Eberron – and are the products of a recently ended continent-wide war. House Cannith looked for ways to bolster armies by reverse engineering old giantish constructs. Somehow during their creation process, the warforged developed souls and a struggle began to be accepted alongside the biological races. One of the treaty conditions at the end of the war was a universal acceptance of the warforged as a people in their own right – something that still sits uneasily in some quarters.

In terms of naming conventions, the warforged often adopt functional or simple descriptive words associated with forging, machinery, or construction – but exceptions are growing as confidence grows in developing their own identities and culture.

So from top left we have Link – a sorcerer channelling lightning; Chain, an assassin; and Hook – a swashbuckling pirate. On the bottom row from the left we have Watcher – an investigator and his dog; Iron Ryan – a bare knuckle pit fighter; and Coal – gentleman rogue about town and his favourite Mimic

I’ve already used Iron Ryan and Coal in the adventures – Iron Ryan started as a foil for Thorin in his pit fighting career and for a while was a romantic entanglement for Kerne. The amount of time the DDC was away on adventures led to the romance fizzling out. While it was amicable enough, I’m sure there’s a rematch due in the future – and then there’s always the reactions of Karkanna to factor in as well to this imposing ex. Coal adventured alongside the DDC as their designated rogue before semi-retiring to raise Odif while the group headed off to Clan Amberhammer. He created a “Youth Club” for local tearaways that may or may not also be the core of a new Thieves Guild if the rumours are to be believed…

Map: Sewer Test

I’m experimenting with some of the new features being rolled out in Roll20 – namely interactive doors and windows, and how to use dynamic lighting settings to restrict movement. The latter is nothing new but I’ve not really been using it. In large part that’s because it’s been fiddly and has had big impacts on people using older kit, but I’m still playing around with it.

The other excuse for this map was to experiment with exporting maps assembled from resources inside Roll20 so that I could then stitch them together with other assets to meld elements together

Today’s map falls into that category, having been assembled from a series of floor tiles before I grouped them together and took a screenshot that I then imported into Paint and cropped to save as a jpeg.

Its a simple enough layout, suitable for an encounter. In this instance I inserted a couple of unlockable grates, put in some light sources, and populated it with two iron defenders for an encounter that a group of third level characters would find easy on their way to some further destination while also allowing some world building from the abandoned desks, crates, and fallen rubble in the sewer space.

Well, it appears to be working, and it only took a little bit of swearing under my breath and some casting around to find where the laptop had defaulted to saving the image so I could import it here. Enjoy!

HeroForge – Faye Hagsworn

An influential background character who hasn’t had much visibilty so far is Kerne’s younger sister, Faye – who went to study in the Feywild after their family was split up. There’s been a loose connection between the sisters by way of an enchanted journal, which each has a copy of, and that they can read and reply to each other by writing in it.

It was fairly late in the first year – as the group closed in on a group of Hags who had kidnapped an alchemist – that the DDC realised that Faye was apprenticed to the same Hags, and had been learning their crafts. When they defeated the coven, there was no sign of Faye – and it looked like she had fled with some of their research and materials after chaining up the nearby portal to the Feywild with iron. Removing the chains allowed Faye’s warlock patron – the Winter’s Knight – to emerge into the swamp. He too wanted to know where Faye was – but on learning that Kerne didn’t know anything permitted the group to leave.

Later investigations determined that a block on the group’s memories about their first adventure had been put there through the actions of Faye so that they would not remember Faye’s involvement in an ambush that took place by Morgrave University, and for a while there was a chill in relations between the siblings.

During their most recent adventure, the sisters began sharing knowledge again. Faye confirmed that she was on the run from the Winter’s Knight as the research she had taken pertained to making a drug that the Hags had been creating and planning to spread that made people more susceptible to magics cast by the fae. She was keeping that knowledge hidden to frustrate those plans while the DDC acted against Knight. Cooperating, the siblings were able to create a potion to cure lycanthropy, with Faye passing on the Hag recipe and Kerne interpreting the instructions and ingredients to what was available locally.

What is known is that Faye is Dragonborn, and a warlock sworn to the Winter’s Knight or some other high ranking Fey. She may or may not have taken on Hag-like characteristics as part of her training with the Broken Eye Coven – and quite what her plans and allegiances are remain somewhat nebulous.

As ever, feel free to appropriate character design and concept for your own uses

New Sourcebook? Oh Go On

The world of Eberron, in which our D&D games are set is the brainchild of Keith Baker, and he’s been involved through the various reboots in different editions of the game but has had limited opportunity to expand published materials.

By way of various shenanigans a route to publish through the DMs Guild was arranged, and a companion book to Rising From The Ashes has been produced in the form of Exploring Eberron.

New Sourcebook, Much Reading

After merely hours of dipping in, I can recommend this to anyone running games in Eberron as it adds depth to the materials presented in the core 5th Edition book. Needless to say, this has arrived just in time as I plot the next section of the game. It has already spawned ideas for future stories with the group.

More importantly, it has clarified things I’ve not quite got my head around before now.

So at least I have something new to peruse while propped up chasing sleep. I’m counting it as a reward to myself for how much the group is enjoying the game.

Map – Closer View of Amberhammer Environs

I’ve been catching up on shows this evening through the fog of painkillers and decided to spend a bit of time fleshing things out around the DDC adventures – so I’ve just drawn this up on Inkarnate. Its only a first draft to get used to a different style of map so I’m not sure yet if it will get used in this format or see major revisions.

parchment-style map of land bracketed by mountains and hills with extensive forested areas. A river and lakes descend along the left hand side. Various unnamed icons are dotted around suggesting ruins, farms, a mill, and a main settlement within a shield shape

I wanted to suggest features I threw in off the top of my head while describing the area during sessions – with hilly approaches from the south east and north east, and a mountainous pass to the north west. I also made mention of a forest that the DDC fled through after their first encounter with the denizens that had taken over the Hold, so that had to make an appearance. I’ve dotted a few farms – two grain and one gourds to the north, and marked good fishing to the west along with a mill.

During the attempts to draw together allies I mentioned an abandoned settlement near a depleted mine so reasoned there would likely be several of those in the area – marked with ruins and mine signs dotted around. There’s also a nice big open plains area to the north of the Hold where the main pitched battle took place, but that can also develop into a location for a trading hub now that House Sivis has opened the teleport circle. I’m still mulling over how much of a time elapse there will be in-game before the next game chapter – if only so the poor adventurers can have a rest and catch a bit of a break to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Campaign Break

We’re not doing any more D&D until the New Year – busy time and seeing folks and all that – and hand on heart this week I’m glad because everything hurts from yesterday (especially my rib). It does however give me more time to come up with both a story and resources for the one-shot planned as light relief as well as work out the next chapter for the DDC.

Part of that preparation has been spending more time in HeroForge to come up with concepts as well as fleshing out sample characters in dndbeyond. I generally find the process suggests characters whose stories need telling. As the D&D sessions are an ongoing story-telling venue, well who am I to ignore potential new characters or plot points.

Four of these characters started in D&D Beyond, and the fifth – on the right in the picture above – has sprung entirely from playing around in the HeroForge toybox.

From left to right we have Fane: a warforged priest that the group has already encountered and defeated once; Hook: a warforged scout; Arnaud Gloomstalk: a bugbear ranger; Perrip: a tabaxi rogue; and Rekkem: a dragonborn monk. I’ve roles in mind for the warforged already, connected to the wider plot, while as for the rest, I haven’t decided whether they’ll be allies, foils, or adversaries in the stories to come. I look forward to finding out.

Map – Winter Amberhammer Gardens

It would be rude to do the write-up of Sunday’s game and not put up the battlemap we used. The map shown here is a very much cut down version of the bigger map I’d put together of the whole Hold. That original map was generated using Dungeon Alchemist and exported as a jpeg before my then painting snow in with Photoshop Elements. Then the whole thing was imported into Roll20 and some animated spell effects used to simulate the portal (specifically Black Tentacles overlaid with a gaseous cloud)

The characters were placed anywhere they wanted to be within 20 foot or so of the entrance at the North. The snowy stone was treated as rough terrain with rolls to keep footing every time they moved. The grassed areas were easy to travers as it was only light snow. The entrance hall is where the beholder, mindflayers, and a gazer familiar were staged, and the portal was in the structure on the right of the map. The layout therefore gave lots of options for cover and breaking line of sight with opponents with trees, hedges, and ornamental objects.

This version is a relatively low-resolution image that nevertheless scaled well for the purposes of the VTT – just as well as the photoshopped version was nearly 30Mb in size due to my editing options and I had to drastically resize and compress the file.

Still, here we go – feel free to grab and use. I’ve made up a zip file with the original non-winter cut down map, this winter version, and the associated lighting and sizing text file so that you can import either or both versions to your Roll20 vtt – you’ll need to be running the Dungeon Alchemy API, import the graphic to the mmap layer and then copy and paste the contents of the text file into your Roll20 chat. That will resize the map and add lights for the torches on the map.

Amberhammerv4.zip

Unused Scenario – The Frustrated Sculptors

I published a map yesterday, based around the idea of a wintery landscape claimed by a couple of stone giants who were perhaps not the best at crafting and sculpting and so had gone looking for quiet in the wilderness to try and find inspiration. There have been some very nice comments from people, both here and on Reddit – I posted the map in r/Inkarnate – which have put a smile on my face. I’m easily pleased.

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the concept a while as a potential encounter, and while I could crowbar it into the current story arc of the DDC, it feels a bit crowded already. So, instead, to match the map from yesterday, here are the HeroForge portraits and tokens and some ideas of how the encounter could be run.

Meet Modjard the Quiet and Midjeed the Lesser, brothers from a reclusive tribe of Stone Giants who live in the Blackcap Mountains. Their people love working stone and crystals to create masterpieces that are rarely seen by the surface world, let alone the wider world. As lesser talents among their folk, Modjard and Midjeed were therefore overlooked and generally not given much attention and so they decided to risk working on the surface to see if that brought better inspirations.

Sadly, the brothers have got a long way to go – they have a certain rough talent, but they will need to work hard to hone it, and they are not patient. Their attempts to create new statues or installations tend to end up flawed, or even fall apart – and the brothers are prone to violent fits of rage in their frustrations.

When encountered then, the adventurers are most likely to be drawn to them by their cries of anger and the sounds of things breaking. Their latest statue has just collapsed all over their supplies and the brothers are blaming each other for the disaster. Modjard blames Midjeed for making the ankles too thin. Midjeed blames Modjard for being sloppy and leaving their supplies flung in a corner behind the workshop area rather than stacking them in the cave as told earlier.

When they spot the adventurers, this can then go several ways. Things could well start getting thrown, first at each other and then at these intruders. Alternatively, depending on how they’re approached, they might start asking the group’s opinion on who is to blame, and shenanigans then proceed from there. The brothers are ordinary Stone Giants – they live a simple life but other than their blind spot of blaming each other for their own shortcomings, they are otherwise quite perceptive. Who knows, they may even hold local lore that the intruders need?