Friday, January 8, 2010

Maps of caves

After about 3-4 months, I had drawn maps for 5-6 cave complexes. Those were caves on a single page with anywhere between six and twenty chambers. Only 5 or 6? Well, life (i.e. everything else) kept me busy, and I couldn't devote all that much time to it. But I was enjoying it.

One thing that I was trying to do was make cave systems that appeared (at least to me) more 'natural' than those I had seen in most adventures. I didn't try to follow the grid; in fact, I tried my best to ignore it. I was trying to distance myself from caves like those that appeared in the Keep on the Borderlands' Caves of Chaos. Now don't get me wrong: Classic adventure. I think it was the first module that I ever played. LOVE IT. But I wanted my caves to look more cave-y.

[I did some caving in my younger days. A few of those caves were mapped. They didn't look anything like the caves that appeared in D&D adventures. I wanted my caves to look more authentic. I think that I succeeded.]

But just as the caves were approaching what I considered "authentic", I decided that I had had enough with caves. I wanted to map something else. So I mapped a keep. Then another one. Multiple levels. Spiral staircases. Battlements. All of it.

Then I decided that keeps weren't doing it for me either. What, then? I decided to combine the two: I wanted to create a massive underground keep. I decided to map a hollowed-out column in a vast underground cavern. When I first thought of the idea, I believed it to be a unique. So I started mapping. Actually, what I did was draw a side-view diagram of the thing. I marked off where the levels were going to be. I planned for it to contain 18 levels, lots of rooms, and multiple means of ascent and descent. I started at the bottom level and then worked my way up. About half way through drawing this column, I read a review for a gaming product (can't remember what now) that contained a hollowed-out column. I was a little frustrated by that but wasn't going to stop. Kept going until I worked my way all the way to the top of the column.

While mapping the column and regularly updating the side-view diagram to properly depict it, I came up with a general story for the setting. After finishing the column itself, I decided that I needed to map the rest of the cavern to make use of the story that I had developed. The column became known as the Column Fortress at Deep Rushing. It was named so because it overlooked the fastest and deepest portion of the underground river that flowed through the cavern. It was the military center of the cavern. [If one were to play 4E, most its inhabitants claim martial powers.] The cavern itself became known as the The Cavern at S’siyerteresk Falls, named after the deep-gnome-named waterfall at the highest end of the cavern. To this day, I am extremely proud of the column, the cavern, and the backstory.

Then I decided that I wanted to try something different. My next idea was to create a dungeon that, through powerful magic, wrapped in and around itself. I wasn't sure how or why, but I didn't concern myself with that. I started mapping the first "level" that was basically a large ring. Where the ring was about to re-connect with itself, I stopped on that page and started a second page. The dungeon wrapped until about to hit itself, and then it was time to shift to a new page. In the end, the map was five sheets of paper. I liked it as much as the cavern fortress.

So what caused this dungeon to violate all rules of space and time? Well, at its center sits a tomb, wrapped in the most powerful magics known to all the races, designed to hold the corpse of the demon prince Bgixilidynon. It is those magics, powerful enough to keep the Lord of the Great Corruption trapped within, that are powerful enough to wrap space around it.

To get to this point, with 6 cave complexes, two keeps, and three more fully fleshed out locations, took me a little over a year. During that year, I continued to visit, continued to lurk around ENWorld, and continued thinking about D&D in general. Then my life got really busy, and I stepped back from all of it.

Yes, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it for awhile.

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