Saturday, August 11, 2012

Old Maps 3: Under-River Morphs

Everything old is new again. So they say. In the course of rummaging about in some of the boxes of old D&D debris left-over from all the previous purges, moves and water damage, we re-discovered a bunch of old maps. The more embarrassing ones we'll probably use for packing material for glassware going back into storage. Or burn. A few we'll probably re-do. Like Tanch. There are several dozen experiments in different types of 'geomorphs,' for use on other planes, along some outrageously steep cliffs, across a wickedly caustic desert, and more, including the page of crudely hand-drawn 'morphs for use in exploring the deep-reaches of an underground river. That was a lot of fun to run, back in the day.

Inspired by Gygax and his classic (and under-appreciated) Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, and getting back to the whole notion of Node-Mapping, but in a slightly different, more hybridized approach, we're revising these old Under-River Morphs to serve as modular plug-and-play pieces to refer to whenever a special section, junction, or location pops up in the course of exploring a much larger, multi-tiered node-map similar to the one featured in DItDotE, to get outside the megadungeon-as-constructed-complex and get back to the more organic 'Underworld Wilderness' approach that the whole D-Series of modules opened-up. This will get us back on-track in doing more Cave and Tunnel Hazard Tables, give us a good place to set-up a bunch of Weird Lairs and Dangerous Dens, plug-in a few Lost Cities or Bizarre Caverns, and to put some of our more subterranean-inclined monsters like the Ceiling Gulper to good use. We're about to send a play-test group into the depths below Wermspittle and at least one of the new player characters has a connection to Aman Utal, as does Leeja from Bujilli's current adventures (They first met in Episode 27) and Dearn the Half-Morlock from the in-house play-test group that survived Zilgor's Repose and are now out in the Kalaramar there's plenty of connectivity leading into this strange locale from the current goings-on. Aman Utal is one of the more notorious Deep Realms known to the Sewer Militia and Scholars of Wermspittle.

Another old map dug out of the box is the one on the right there. This is literally an attempt to map-out an underground wilderness combining hexes and topographic lines designating differences in elevation. The red lines are massive waterfalls. Like really, really BIG. Going over one of these waterfalls meant rolling for random encounters that included projecting rocks, natural cauldrons, jagged projections, highly slanted rapids, and so on--they could extend for miles (each hex equaled roughly 1 or 2 miles...). Going over the edge led explorers into a mostly vertical pseudo-hexcrawl, one where they often were at the mercies of both gravity and the frothing water. It was a lot like the opening sequence from Land of the Lost meets Burrough's Pellucidar and Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth...with a touch of The Mole People, Symmes and other 'Hollow Earth' derived fun stuff. We had a whole Derro Empire down there, just for Shaver's sake. The Derro stuff got pulled out and revised for 3.0, so all those notes are in another box.

It's not a node-map, but it does a decent enough job of keeping track of the relative elevation, location and access to under-rivers and the like. Special encounters and the placement of mini-dungeons, roving bands, wandering critters, prowling monsters or patrols were all handled by series of nested tables. Very old school.

Taking the feedback we've received so far into consideration, we're going to incorporate more hand-drawn elements into the process. Right now we're considering breaking all of this stuff down into discrete posts featuring tables, maps, morphs and a few modular/plug-and-play adventures and then gathering it all  into something resembling a compilation later, after getting revised and edited and all that fun stuff (with bonus content). Maybe it should form a weekly series? That's certainly something to consider...

Who knows if anyone will ever reach Aman Utal? We just want to make the journey exciting and entertaining. And if they ever do make it to their destination...there's quite a few options for further exploration, adventures and looting from there. We've got plenty of worlds to go mucking about in...


  1. I am really enjoying seeing your rediscovered dungeon maps. Archaeology of the present and all that, but they actually are quite attractive. Nice curlicues to show direction of waterflow!

    I've always wondered why hex maps weren't used more often for dungeons. (And maybe they were in home games.) Of course, from the purely materialist standpoint of political economy, blank hexmaps are harder to find (smaller print runs, less distribution, and rarely found in art supply stores), and more expensive to produce because the demand for blank hexmaps is so much smaller than for graph grids. Thank the Lords of Humanspace for copiers!

    Please keep posting these. They are inspiring.

  2. I'm with John. It's a great idea for a series and the fact that they're your maps makes them even more interesting. The concepts and the visual presentation are both stimulating and the scope of the second map is especially impressive. Water is something that still feels to me very underused in more natural complexes, and the potential extent of such complexes also often seems underdone.


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