Epic Maps #2: Piece Together your Dwarven Hold

Of course, with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug out, it’s hard not to do something that isn’t themed to the movie. I have a hard enough time keeping the stuff out of my next adventure, when I do go see a movie. But, that won’t stop Epic Maps from being epic, let the movie inspiration carry us away! I present to you…

Epic Maps #2

Piece Together your Dwarven Hold


(Click the image for full view)

That’s right, background free and easy enough to edit in any photo-manipulation program. This Dwarven hold seems like it is rather small. In fact, it is. It’s meant as a more private plot of mountain for a greedy or evil dwarf, with secrets to hide. Now, to inspire you!

As you can see, the map is clear of items, and secret markers. Each room could have it’s own setup, but here’s what I was thinking as I made this.

  • Tunnels: You can start the dungeon from just about anywhere. Dwarves are known for their secret doors. I was thinking that it would start from one of the tunnels. Perhaps there is a cave-in at the end of them, or long abandon mine-shafts, maybe even elevators that must be repaired before descending below. I figured that the tunnels would naturally connect to each other, the face, and the quarry. I like the long abandoned feel. Perhaps a faint aura of evil magic still lies about these tunnels, old dwarven bones scattered about, a good place for lesser evil creatures to be ready to ambush any food that happens to wander by.
  • The Quarry: The idea here is to reward player exploration, but not let that be a shortcut to the ending. My idea was to have the horde or the portal be the ending, perhaps both with the split tunnel. In either case, it’d be neat to have ghosts of dwarves still working the quarry. The sounds of dwarven songs, pickaxes striking stone, ore being hauled up and down the quarry; the dwarves would vanish into the cave at the very bottom, and into the mine-shaft above, only to return with empty wheelbarrows.  The bottom cave is actually protected and warded from intruders.  If you wish to use the horde, players can use detect magic to pick up magic some 60 to 120 feet away. The aura(s) can be strong or faint depending on what you wish to fill the horde with.
  • The Face: I love puzzles in my dungeons. Riddle puzzles are fun, but often overused. However, that doesn’t mean don’t use a riddle puzzle here; it’s the perfect place for one. I thought of this dwarven face as more of a lonely, crazy, old man. It’s a stone dwarven face carved into a giant marble door. I figured he’d be happy to talk to anybody by now, he’s likely forgotten his purpose all-together. He’d confuse genders, calling females males and vice versa. All he’s looking for is a good laugh. Ah yes, tell him the funniest joke you can think of. If the players can make the DM laugh for ten seconds straight, then they can get in through his open mouth. (Laughing so hard he can’t shut his mouth to prevent them from getting in.)
  • The Gemway: This is where I would send players next, but that’s up to you. I figured there would be this massive ruby, glowing with magic, right in the center of a chamber with three large marble doors. I wouldn’t have these doors locked, but that’s me. And who knows what the gem does, perhaps this stone powers what lies beyond the doors. Maybe it isn’t glowing, but needs magic poured into it by a powerful mage to start up (cast x amount of 4th level spells or what have you.) Maybe it only starts up by a keyword or phrase and then powers up; allowing players to use the doors.
  • Midas Room: My players have learned their lesson from this place, a trap I crafted to punish greed. Now I’ll share it with you. You see, I prefer to make traps that players would fall for, rolling dice around for traps can be boring (not that I don’t use it, I just use it where it’s needed). This room holds a shimmering pond of golden water. Players will soon find that anything that touches the water, turns to gold. A perceptive player, or someone who can detect magic will notice something fourty feet down. Maybe it’s a key, or an item, perhaps a treasure chest. It’s up to you. The trap is, if they jump in, they too turn to gold. They cannot breathe and begin to sink. You can throw hints like, there are golden statues at the bottom of the pool, scattered about. It’s all up to you. Me, I don’t come up with solutions to all of my puzzles. I let the players be crafty and creative for things like this.
  • The Sword: This room has a barrier of arcane light and something hidden at the end of the chamber. What happens when a player touches the light? Can the players see through it? This room is a complete mystery to me, fill it as you wish. I’d like there to be some sort of rod that powers the room behind the arcane barrier. Players may have to sling spells or physically overcome the barrier to get to the rod. The problem is, they may only have limited time to do so. Perhaps they must divide up and hit each side of the barrier to do so and then get to the rod before the barrier comes back up.
  • The Hammervault: A large metallic dwarf statue is at the center of this room. Ten small doors sit two feet above the ground. Perhaps they are locked physically or magically. What lies beyond these doors, who his the statue of? Does it come to life when the players do something? It holds a large hammer and protects itself with a shield. Perhaps it guards what lies in the ten vaults.
  • The Hoard: Led here by secret, or through the quarry, a vast pile of treasure awaits the adventurers. There are MANY possibilites of what may guard the treasure, perhaps a dragon had taken hold over it, having carved and tunneled its own path in. Maybe the spirit of the dwarven hold’s original owner still guards it. Dwarven lich anyone, anyone? One really cool idea I had was that this was just an illusory pile of gold, hiding the real secret, the portal. When the illusion is dispelled, players see the spirits of dwarves again, this time going in and out of the portal. But, it could still have real treasure, you know, if you want to be nice or something.
  • The Portal: The portal is highly active, my thoughts of spirits going in and out still remain. Maybe it’s a portal to the shadow plane, or the astral plane. Perhaps it brings you to a mirror version of the world, like the shadow plane, a dark and timeless version. Maybe this is where the dwarf who owns the place still resides and protects his most prized possessions. In this realm the dwarf spirits fight on, the things they mine become material but darker versions of them, shadowstone, black gold, and more. That’s right, two dungeons out of one thanks to a portal. Perhaps you must get to the shadow version of the face, who is angry  instead of lonely, sane instead of insane; perhaps you must trick him to open his mouth long enough instead of make him laugh (get the DM to yawn!)…

The possibilities are endless.  I look forward to hearing any stories you have to share about using this map! As always, check out our weekly poll below (new one every Thursday). Last weeks results are in and I’m going to be opening up a way for you to share your stories with us and get featured on the home page!

Keep up the hard work! Whether it’s good or bad, it’s so unfortunate to wake up during a dream. ~Vexar


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