These are the playing surfaces for the next dungeon adventure I'll be DMing. The Maps are based on the working draft I published a few days ago.
I drew the maps on some industrial packing paper that we throw tons of away at work--it's very heavy duty stuff.
One inch on this map is, for all intents and purposes, five feet in the dungeon environment. This will be a departure for us from the squared and hexagonal maps so we'll have to use rulers for movement, but I thought this was more appealing than dry erase and the maps can be rolled up and saved for a long time.
You can compare the playing maps with the working draft they are based upon. There is a minor difference or two. The secret room is not pictured.
I plan to cover the map with 6" x 6" squares of black construction paper, 6" since that is 30' of space on the map, the radius of a standard torch. As the party delves deeper and uncovers the map, I will remove the squares.
Pictured here is the square pool of brackish water in the first hall--I have decided the pool of brackish water is replenished from time to time by small stream which falls into the pool from above the dungeon and occasional rains.
There are holes in the dungeon ceiling that permit some sunlight and elements into the place.
The pool has no monsters or magical properties but at its bottom is a rusted, sealed iron trap door that leads to a lower level. The pool must be drained before the trap door can be accessed, and the mechanism which opens the drains is operated by closing and turning the screws all the way down on an iron maiden which rests in the southeast corner of the hall. The maiden stands open with a skeleton impaled within on her spikes--it's parts are extremely rusted and worn but maintenance and oiling will permit the mechanism to be applied.
I plan to give the players a portion of the map and some clues in the form of a damaged adventurer's journal--for this game prop I will "age" the paper with coffee and tea and burn its edges and parts of the text so that they will be left to figure out most of it themselves. They will, however, know there is a lower level, that the door is hidden, and, when I think of one that is suitably challenging but not impossible to figure out, a clue to the iron maiden.
As for the Bugbears encamped here, they will be in the upper chambers of the Map shown. If players are not warned by the magical birds outside the place, they will disturb a shrieker near the entrance, alerting the Bugbears, who will set an ambush.
I have decided that the Bugbears will utilize holes in the dungeon walls as crossbow slits for part of any ambush or straight combat. I have also decided that they will have a gnome prisoner, the last of a band of gnomes they captured and have been eating. The gnome will provide for some role playing opportunities and help in the dungeon. The gnome will also relate how the Bugbears fear the sub-level. where something hideous lurks that has drained two victims of their blood. Hopefully, this will mislead the party into suspecting a vampire lives below...
Pictured also is the Flooded Hall--water from nearby marshes has seeped into the broken and sinking floor, forming pools as deeps as 5' in places. The floor is very uneven in here--and lurking in the water is a giant leech from the AD&D Monster Manual. Of course the leech is what consumed the blood and organs of the Bugbears...
Anyway, I am having a lot of fun designing the game.
Personally, I like to have a lot of preparation into the Mazes before playing--it takes me a while to get ready for a game. It's less important to me that we play every week of that I get to DM a particular session than it is that a game I DM flow easily and be challenging.
I have begun to use smaller dungeon maps as time progresses so that I can shorten the number of sessions it takes to actually complete a quest, as well as so that I can have time and space for interesting visual elements. I am working on 3D models for some encounters so rather than have a huge mega-dungeon, I want to have two or three very memorable scenes that can have maximum visual interest as well as good strategic play during notable battles.
The Map has no name as yet, I know its the ruined castle of an ancient warlord from the days of the Old Empires--not Jennerak. Castle Something, I'm thinking. On my Avamere Map it is found in the Valley of Ghosts at the very edge of the Bitterroot Mountains.
I'm really looking forward to the game!