Showing off some Pre-Production DCC Lankhmar Maps

I want to share what I got in the mail today. I previously wrote about the 2018 Purple Sorcerer Pledge drive. What a great, free, resource! You should check it out. Well, I am thankful to have been one of the folks who received a special prize for donating 🙂 All of prizes listed were really cool, but I happen to have received exactly the one I was most hoping to see! This is listed as “An amazing collection of hand-drawn pre-production maps created by the one and only Harley Stroh for an upcoming Lankhmar adventure!”


Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard of DCC RPG at the time of the DCC Lankmar Kickstarter campaign. My guess is that these maps are for this box set, which the Kickstarter site says is to fulfill later this year? Maybe all this is ironic, but I happen to be finishing up the Fafrd and Grey Mouser series at this time (I’m on The Swords of Lankhmar); I’m really stoked to look at these. And, I can’t wait to see the final box set; I guess I’ll be trolling the eBays for anyone selling their print stretch goals 😉

I believe this is a street level map of an area in Lankhmar. It is sketched in pencil over two separate pages. I’ll give you one guess as to which street I’d be eying to purchase some prime property 😉

And then 3 detailed maps of “Grindstone” which is listed as 1-1.

You’ve got to love the comment in the corner “weakass attempt at a dirk”ROFL!

And then 2 pages for 1-2, “Dogfish”. I’m thinking this is a tavern? And, the name matches a theme I see now in the naming of other taverns of Lankhmar named after aquatic animals/fish?

And, 1-3, “The Hole”.. surely there’s nothing bad down there for the PCs?

3-1 is “The Aerie”. From my reading so far, I have no idea what this would be. My guess? This is where the military keeps highly trained and armored, man-eating, war wyverns that they ride into battle? Or, maybe this is like a local animal shelter and there is a social program to domesticate and save injured pigeons? I’m betting neither of these are correct 🙂

And, lastly, Sewer Tunnels!

Looking at these sewer tunnels, I notice what look like numbered spots, and then I look at the main map, and Yep, there are the same things there. Then I suspect the little dots look like manhole covers. I wonder if they match up?… Yep! So, a judge has a direct way to guide PCs who wish to go underground and do such things as run away from the guard, or sneak up on a villain, or… you get the idea!

Thank you Harley Stroh for donating these for the Purple Sorcerer campaign. Thank you Jon Marr for creating your free web resources. And, thanks to anyone else who donated this year!

Free Graph Paper

I have set up a page linking to various types of graph paper I have created for free download. All are in PDF and are suitable for printing on regular paper via printer. Currently, I have squares, triangles, isometric, and hexagons in a couple different sizes/orientations.

Link to this will remain at the menu on top of the blog under “maps”.


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Study in Drawing Pens and Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper

As a follow up of a prior post, this is a more comprehensive study of two sets of pigment based drawing pens and 4 different types of paper. The focus for this is in the hand drawing of RPG maps.

TL;DR: The Sakura pens on Canson paper is definitively the best when you compare side by side. however, if you are only using the thinner pens, the Prismacolor pens is very close in quality.


  • 0.5 mm mechanical pencil
  • 0.7 mm mechanical pencil
  • Routine “office quality” printer paper:
  • Low Quality Graph Paper: Office Depot Graph Paper
  • Routine Quality Graph Paper:
  • Better Quality Graph Paper:
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Apple MacBook Pro 2017
  • GridMaker iOS app for creating any type of graph paper you need for printing

Scanning Methods

  • Imported through Adobe Photoshop on a MacBook Pro running High Sierra
  • Kind: Black and White
  • Resolution: 600 dpi
  • Format: JPEG
  • Image Correction: None
  • Unsharp Mask: None
  • No modification to image except to add text for which paper (probably should have just written it). Then saved with embedding color profile as jpg with Quality of 10, Maximum, Baseline Optimized


Regarding current prices, the above materials are linked to product pages.

Click on images to view a larger version to see the detail.

Printer Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Universal Paper

And then a scan of the back of this printer paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Universal Paper Back

Office Depot Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Office Depot Paper

Scan of the reverse of this Office Depot paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Office Depot Paper Back

Ampad Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Ampad

Scan of the reverse of this Ampad paper:

Pen and Paper Comparison Ampad Back

Canson Foundation Series Graph Paper

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper

And for the scan of the back of the Canson paper, I want to mention that with the naked eye, you can barely see any bleeding on the 08 Prismacolor pen. The scanner shows a lot more than what you can actually see.

Pen and Paper Comparison Canson Paper Back


I had some ideas regarding using pencil and couldn’t get all the variations I needed, so didn’t complete that idea.

I should have included a separate row using a dye ink pen like the  to demonstrate the accentuate how much better these pigment based pens are.

Regarding the feel and utility of the pens. I like the Prismacolor pens best. This may be subjective, but the inner ink cartridge doesn’t jiggle like the Sakura pens do. Also, the caps on the Prismacolor pens snap to the back end better whereas the Sakura ones fall off sometimes. In a very small way the Prismacolor feel like they grip a little better. The Prismacolor pens come in a simple but nice little box whereas the sakura pens are in a package that isn’t any good for keeping them in. And, lastly, I like black… so the Prismacolor pens just look cooler.

There are many more different variations in thickness for the Sakura pens, if you need something specific. For example, the . (see this listing for the other versions too)

In regards to value, with the sets that I am using, the Sakura set costs $4.38 more than the Prismacolor pens, but does come with one more pen. So, for a cost per pen ($1.59 for Prismacolor vs. $2.06 for Sakura). If you want really cheap and don’t care about bleeding (didn’t show here, based on prior experience), get the 12 packs of the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point pens for $0.51 per pen and I’d guess that a dozen pens will last forever.

The Office Depot graph paper is noticeably lesser quality than either the Ampad or Canson paper (via Amazon) AND costs twice as much.

The cost/value/quality of ‘printer paper’ is going to vary widely and so is a little difficult to compare. The cost for the Ampad and Canson graph paper is very reasonable, but could be limiting if you are using quite a bit of it.

If you are scanning these, the Canson paper has thinner/fainter lines than the Ampad, which makes it much easier to remove with post-processing. The custom graph paper I am making using the GridMaker app is a smidge thinner than the Canson, but overall the quality of the Canson paper is much much better than printer paper.

I’ll have to do a separate post regarding using the GridMaker iOS app. There are many options to customize your paper. But in short, it is free to use for making basic graph paper with a small logo on the bottom. For $0.99, you can unlock the capability to make hexagons, which allows you to make isometric paper. And then, for $0.99 you can remove the logo (and make titles, etc.), which isn’t necessary, but is nice to remove. After making any paper you like, you can save as a PDF for future use however you want.

I notice less bleeding with the Sakura Pigma pens compared to the Prismacolor. This is evidenced by looking at the reverse scans of the paper that shows more ink on every paper used. This is most pronounced with the thicker pens. Bleeding is still evident with the thinner pens (005, 01), but still noticeable. I am unable to really show this here, but this is most pronounced on the reverse side of the Canson paper, where with the naked eye, you practically can’t see any bleeding through with the Sakura pens except on the corners of the hex (where lines cross) with the 08 pen.


You can’t really go wrong with the Prismacolor pens and there are some pros with them. However, if you are looking for the ‘better’ pen in regards to performance, it’s the Sakura. But, to break this down into 3 different use scenarios:

  1. If you are looking for the cheapest and easiest way to draw maps with pen and paper, go with the Prismacolor pens and a decent printer paper. This gives the added benefit of being able to print various types of graph paper. You really can’t go wrong with this combination.
  2. However, if you want a better quality, the Sakura pens are definitely better. Especially on a good paper, like the Canson.
  3. In the middle, is to spend a couple more dollars and use the Sakura pens and use the Canson (or the Ampad) paper when drawing on regular 1/4″ boxes, but then print up isometric or hexagonal when you want it (until I find a ‘high quality’ equivalent graph paper).

Hope this helps someone else. For me, it was a little fun to nerd out and learn something about pens and paper and to see what may work best for different purposes.

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Maze Map

Maze Map

While I’m learning to draw maps; it’s probably obligatory to at least craft one maze. There is a lot going here in this one. There are two entrances/exits. An arcane circle. A small pool of water, certainly with something deadly beneath the water… Piles of rubble which may, or may not have anything to be found buried beneath. A couple secret doors, a puzzle, and an altar (or sarcophagus, or whatever else you want it to be).

Above is the DM version of the map.

Here is a “player” map if you were using online and revealing a fog of war.

Maze Map Player Version

And then a basic version without the secret door markings.

Maze Map Basic Version

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Basim Temple

Map Basim Temple

Also called “The Temple of Pedestals”, Basim Temple is set into the end of a box canyon far from any civilization. Few sages remember to whom the temple was dedicated and rumors persist that a secret order of priests continue to maintain the temple.


Included in this temple are pedestals of various sizes. My personal idea is to create a puzzle involving these; note that there are 8 small ones in the entrance as well as 8 medium ones within the temple proper. Then, the one large one for …. Treasure? or DOOM!

In the northwest corner is an underground lake leading to…

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Prisons Below

Prisons Below

A good Dungeon Master should always have a spare prison they can can pull out for when the PC’s get into trouble (which never happens, right?)

  • The north section of this map includes ten 10’x10′ cells along with multiple areas for guards to hang out and keep watch.
  • The southern section is a large room for what else? Torture and interrogation of course!
  • Connecting both arms is a defensible choke point with a large circular staircase to freedom.

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Map: Tower of the Black Sun

Tower of the Black Sun Map

First version of a map for an adventure I’m working on. I don’t want to give away too much, so just a simple map this time. Key points include multiple small rooms behind secret doors, stairs to upper and lower levels, and an astronomically aligned summoning circle.



Map & Plot Idea: Pools of Sacrifice

Pools of Sacrifice Map

How’s this for a first isometric map? I found a nice way to print isometric paper on iOS devices, will have to put up a how-to later.

So, for some ideas for this map:

The top level has an arcane circle. Maybe PC’s find a portal here? Or maybe they are unwittingly sent here by an evil cult in order for the PCs to unknowingly set off a blood summoning?

On the second levels are sacrificial blood pools. Populate these two levels with some big baddies. I mean big, as in at least large in size. The bigger the bloodier!

Then, the idea is that their blood channels down through the tunnel all the way to the bottom where it fills a sacrificial cult alter. And then what happens??? Nothing good, I’m sure…

Have fun!

Map & Plot Idea: Fortress Under the Sun

Under the Sun MapSuper busy night at work, but I found some downtime to unwind and draw another map. Listening to some music and a weird thing a patient told me gave me an idea..

In the immortal words of Ozzy Osbourne:

Well I don’t want no preacher
Telling me about the god in the sky
No I don’t want no one to tell me
Where I’m gonna go when I die

Sitting at the bar of yet another overpriced roadside inn. At least this one has a gorgeous innkeeper’s daughter serving large mugs of spiced ale along with a nice smile. A gruff old dwarf pulls a chair from the table next to the adventurers, and without asking for permission, he sits it right next to the party and begins to to tell them:

“I’m goin’ ta die tomorrow, so I may as well tell someone, and it may as fucking well be you all.”

He pulls out a large map and unrolls it onto the table, pushing your mugs to the side to make room.

He points to a long range of mountains and says, “Right there. You get up this ravine here, and head north, you’ll practically walk right in to the entrance of the Dwarven fortress, Solitude.”

“Our king betrayed us. Cursed all of us. All for the love of a girl. You probably can’no’longer save our king, but kill the witch. Kill ‘er dead. Then sack the place if you wish, but free his lustful soul and avenge us.”

  1. The Dwarven king is Boot Flagonslayer who broke faith with his God (insert name a of Dwarven God from your setting here) in order to gain favor with a girl whom he fell in love with. Then the new queen banished the entire dwarven clan.
  2. The girl, is actually a succubus. Ya, you probably saw that one coming….
  3. The name of the succubus is Amai’ha
  4. When the clan was banished, a curse was placed on each member. The curse kills each dwarf on their next birthday. The gates to the dwarven fortress are permanently sealed until the curse is fulfilled upon every dwarf affected. The dwarf who has approached the group is celebrating his birthday a day early, drinking his sorrows away at the inn. Of course, he is also the last dwarf alive from his clan.
  5. The map above, is for the second floor of this underground fortress.

  1. Feasthall. 1a is a royal sitting area; essentially the feast hall doubles as a dwarven court as well. Secret doors allow escape in a pinch.
  2. Treasure rooms
  3. Armories
  4. War rooms and administrative office areas
  5. Stone bridge across a large crevasse
  6. Wide staircases allow easier transportation of armaments from the workshops below to the armory here. Likewise, large staircases allow transportation to the upper levels where the market district is located.






Map & Plot Idea: Tomb of the Sun

Tomb of the Sun Map

The following is a small plot idea I created to go with this map. I’ve been doing a bit of research on Archaeoastronomy (specifically, I’m a huge buff!) and have been jotting down some ideas for maps, encounters and even entire adventures based around areas, puzzles, and beings centered around cycles of celestial bodies.

Here you go… My first hand drawn map! (and… my first handcrafted scenario now I think about it… even if only a part of one)

Set within a hill 10 miles outside of town, whoever (or whatever) created the Tomb of the Sun, that knowledge is now lost to history. Nevertheless, a local circle of druids gather at this site every year on the Summer Solstice. However, the druids were never seen returning from last year’s ceremony.

And the Summer Solstice is tomorrow.

Inspiration for this simple tomb was taken from the real world site, Newgrange. The entrance is on the southeast corner of an artificial hill.


On the day of the Summer Solstice, light from the sun enters and streams all the way to the back of this cross shaped structure. This does not happen any other day of the year. Also, the shape of this tomb matches a constellation in the sky (Cygnus), as it would be positioned on the ground.

Some ideas for this encounter:

  • The adventurers come across a disheveled old sage with opaque, cloudy eyes. Although he is clearly blind, he seems to have no problems interacting with the world. He tells the adventurers of a  legend concerning the return of an ancient demon “when the stars and sun align with the tomb”.
  • The druid circle is actually more of an evil cult. One obsessed with a belief that the world was created by the sun and that the circle of life must be completed by the earth returning to the sun.
  • Currently, an evil druid is completing a year long ritual that began with the sacrifice of the other 12 druids within his circle this time last year. He believes that when he completes the final step, a ritual suicide at noon on the Summer Solstice, that he summons the elder God, Sol’gadon.
  • The belief of these druids is that when Sol’gadon is called, that he will resurrect them all as immortal beings on earth with the power to “return the earth to the sun”. Of course they’re wrong in this belief; if summoned, Sol’gadon ‘resurrects’ them, but as slaves under his control.
  • Sol’gadon‘s domain is one of the stars (of the same name) in the constellation for which the Tomb of the Sun matches
  • There is an altar at the rear of the tomb crafted entirely out of one enormous block of stone that shines as bright as a small star when light from the sun hits it. Various glyphs decorate this alter in the shape of the sun (which, of course is, itself a star)