Thursday, January 19, 2023

By Hand

Last month, I mentioned that I'd be participating in Dungeon23, a challenge to create a 12-level, 365-room megadungeon one room at a time over the course of 2023. One of the reasons I decided to take this up was because I'd already intended to begin more extensive playtesting of the rules for my The Secrets of sha-Arthan RPG this year. Having a large subterranean locale ready for players to explore would help me in this effort, as well as providing me with an opportunity to flesh out the setting further. Thus was born the Vaults of da-Imer.

Though I was very excited by the prospect of detailing the Vaults, one aspect of this project gave me pause: mapmaking. Even in my youth, when I had the time to devote to such things, I was never very good at cartography. Of course, back in those days, I also wasn't very self-aware and so my obvious shortcomings didn't much affect me. I'm not so lucky in my middle age; I am keenly aware of the inadequacy of my mapmaking skills. However, I am elected to proceed nonetheless, drawing the Vault's maps by hand, in the hope that doing so might, if nothing else, encourage me to keep at it until I reach some mediocre level of proficiency.

To that end, here's the first map I drew for the Vaults of da-Imer. It's from a section of Level 1 known as "The Threshold." I've opted to give the Vaults a node-like structure rather than the more traditional approach to dungeons. Hence, Level 1 consists of five complexes of 4–8 rooms, each effectively its own "mini-dungeon" within the larger whole of the Vaults. I've never done a dungeon like this before, let alone one consisting of 365 rooms, so it'll be interesting to see how it turns out in the end.


  1. When I built a megadungeon last year, I just grabbed a load of cool maps to represent each level from Dysons Dodecahedron , the free RPG map guy, and just filled it in. In fact I found having pre-existing maps stimulated my creativity and helped with the process.

  2. James, there is nothing wrong AT ALL with your hand-drawn dungeon map. It has character, which is more than I can say for any of the fancy computer maps I've ever seen. Your map makes me want to play D&D. The "good" maps make me want to weep for the hobby.

  3. I love drawing maps by hand. I like that I start thinking of what's in the rooms before I even finish the map. And I like running from my own map as well, it's great. But I would need to do a LOT more work before I published any map I drew.