Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pretty Dungeons Are For DMs


The art of the dungeon.

Literally, the ART of the dungeon... for Dungeon Masters.

Not players.

A cool map is for inspiration. A cool map makes the DM want to run the adventure. A cool map makes the DM want to BUY the adventure.

The players never get to see the maps. They might get a glimpse. They might already be aware of the adventure's existence, but they never get to study the beauty of the maps and the maps can go a long way in conveying the feel of the adventure. But ultimately, it is up to the DM to translate that feel into a language that inspires the players. If you think about it, the only version of the dungeon map a player gets to see, is the one they draw for themselves. Now we've all played both sides of the screen, but I've never really pondered this before.

So why even bother drawing pretty maps?

Because we like to. 


There's just something about the maze. Creating that space. Perhaps you, as a DM, first have to inspire yourself.

There's the classic grid, the isometric, and the side-view vertical. Interestingly, I've only toyed with drawing isometric maps a few times. They're fun to look at, but not as much fun to draw, and they only travel in one direction, meaning, they're like stairs. A true 3-D dungeon isn't possible. And isometrics are a pain for players to map.

Lately, I've been into the side-view, vertical dungeons (not sure what the official term is.) They're just fun to draw and you can put stuff into the drawing that gives you ideas for what's going on, other than, statue in the corner, fountain in the center.

The picture above was the first doodle that I drew for DATE OF EXPIRATION. It was just a doodle, no pencils, just ink -- pens and markers. Had no idea what is was. But it was so satisfying to draw, that I drew another, and then another, and another, and so on until I started to develop a plan. Over the course of a month I drew 43 of these and pieced them all together into what is referred to as, The Sapion Structure. That was almost two years ago. 

In DATE OF EXPIRATION, I think I've constructed one of the most visually interesting dungeons ever. Hopefully what I've created will inspire DMs to run it.

Keep rolling...


  1. I've photoshopped out the secret information and key numbers for a lot of nice maps and used them on Roll20, precisely so players could get the full effect.

    1. Your players are lucky to have a DM willing to go the extra mile for them. Depending on the map, can be a ton of work.



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