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View Full Version : February Entry: Werthers Skull



Redrobes
02-10-2008, 08:27 AM
I spent some time thinking about what sort of place to make and I wanted something a little more unusual than an inn. As I mentioned in the synopsis, my party were forever clearing out old places and converting them. The most notable of these was Obsidian Castle which was taken from a picture by a local fantasy artist called Rodney Matthews (www.rodneymatthews.com).

http://www.rodneymatthews.com/gfx/elric5.jpg

Last month I mentioned HeMan and thought that Castle GraySkull might be silly enough or maybe Skeletors Snake Mountain... which led me to think that I remembered that there was another very similar Matthews piece that had this great skull castle in it called Werthers Skull.

http://www.rodneymatthews.com/gfx/elric7.jpg

So this looks like just the place that some evil arch wizard might have made for a home and a medium to high level set of adventurers might hole up. A place that is so remote and barren that no ordinary person would travel to. Perhaps its on another plane of existence where there are a thousand miles of wilderness and desert from every direction.

So I have sketched it out again and tried to figure out what it looks like from the front and put in some levels. I have decided that the skull is the petrified remains of a real skull and that there exists the whole body under the earth. The spiral stairway is a metal framed type that travels down the spinal column going deep into the ground though it has long ago caved in and filled it up from the lowest available level. The party has never tried to excavate it beyond this point.

I'll add some more detail to the levels as a proper map shortly.

Robbie
02-10-2008, 12:26 PM
Whoah there!...Thats too awesome! Slow it down a bit...make it less awesome please!!!

Just kidding...seriously though...I like the idea a LOT...very nicely done...especially the possibilities of exploring the entire body of the creature with some excavation by summoned elementals...

I don't however like the squareness of the levels...I would expect the rooms and areas to be a bit more organic...with vaulted and arched ceilings that conform to the "chambers" of the skull and the cavities of the sinuses the rooms occupy. I imagine the structure would naturally conform to those spaces the skull provides...Maybe grab some cross sections or x-rays of some animal skulls and make the rooms similar to the cavities already in place...

Still...I'm inspired by this piece because its soooo unusual.

thebax2k
02-10-2008, 02:31 PM
Wow Redrobes! That is a very impressive cross section and I await the level maps that you come up with for it. Great job.

I do agree with Arcana to some extent. If the skull is the site of an Archmage's lair (or former Archmage's lair), it would stand to reason that there would be some extradimensional space or rooms. Let the first few levels conform to the shape of the skull, but as the party descends lower into the dungeon, the levels need not necessarily conform to the outlines of the body. There might be unusual archways (permanently opened two way gates) that serve as the ingress and egress to the extradimensional spaces. To some extent my thinking is influenced by the maps of some of the structures in Ptolus by Monte Cook--the Tower of Shade and the stronghold of the good outsiders have levels that do not conform to the shape of the building they are located in.

Regardless, looks good so far, keep it up.

ravells
02-10-2008, 02:41 PM
Definitely....lots of curves and 'bone like' curved columns, arches and pillars - this is looking fantastic!

Redrobes
02-10-2008, 04:39 PM
That Whoa effect is what I got with the Obsideon Castle - thats the Matthews effect there not my map.

I agree that maybe I should do some better shaped chambers. My thinking was that originally the skull was solid. Petrified not fossilized. Theres no way in, no door or anything, you have to teleport in. Originally, some wizard would have disintegrated sections out of the solid block and then use some kind of pass through stone. Of course he could have conjured some stone elementals or stone shape so it might not necessarily be so square. A bit easier to map if square but maybe I should put a little more effort into it for such a neat exterior.

Right, so columns, bone structures, blobby shapes with interconnecting spaces. Hmmm. What about a half way between the two. Otherwise its all going to have to be done in 3D which would mean making that skull in 3D first ! Yeah, I reckon theBax has it. I think maybe round at the top, more square but with arches and pillars as you get lower - perhaps sinew type shapes. I'll see what skull sections I can find.

Ok then treat the current map as the outer border and ill round it out a bit when I start mapping. I still like the spiral stairs and the steps up to the top level.

thebax2k
02-10-2008, 07:25 PM
One question Redrobes, why would the creator of the skull lair leave no exit/entrance to the outside? Sure he was probably a big, bad, evil guy up to no good, but I would assume (being a paranoid, evil, secretive wizard) his lair was warded against scrying and teleportation from the outside and it would easier for him to have a trapped/ guarded entrance for his minions and flunkeys to come through than leave a hole in his magic defenses. Its another kind of vulnerability in his defenses to be sure, but the lair is in a remote place and the creator would likely have some kind of nasty debuff/trap at the entrance.

Also, although you'll be doing 3d maps for the levels, I'd appreciate it if you could provide 2d overhead renders if you chose. I guess I'm hopelessly oldschool in my map preferences, but I have a future vile necromancer villain for my pcs in mind engaged in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know who would find a skull lair highly useful....

Keep it up, your lair is shaping up to be an evocative and memorable location....

Redrobes
02-10-2008, 09:47 PM
Well I was thinking that this skull represents some very very ancient race - maybe even divine who had some kind of cataclysmic battle with something potent enough that could turn somebody this big into stone. I leave it your fullest imaginations but I figured that this remaining skull would probably be on some outer plane and that millennia has passed by such that wind erosion has taken the sandy soil away revealing this skull which must be made of stouter stuff.

I'm guessing then that the area around this skull is barren and vast and that really there is nowhere to go once you exit. Theres really no reason to exit and no roads within miles and miles of it. Its probably barely known or else known only in some mythical sense like Noahs Ark would be now.

To my mind, if it were somewhere that you could get to more easily then it would have been fought over, made into some shrine and a city would have evolved around it. I can't imagine that anyone other than powerful wizards could fight over it and they don't need doors like normal folk do. Also, if a wizard had a lot of minions then maybe an abode which could house more minions would be different to this kind of place. A whole mountain, castle, island, or larger structure.

This is a retreat. A place to get away from other people.

I had a lich once who had his abode in a solid wall of dungeon disintegrated out. The only way in was a teleport and he had an emergency exit which was a thin tube where he could go gaseous form if required. I used to have things in my house rules where you got the teleport error in D&D but that you could craft some expensive and permanent items to a point and make that special teleport sites that removed the error. A sort of unique thing that was so familiar that it would not need the check.

In terms of scrying I reckon that he would indeed place protections over it. I would think that there would be some effect in place before any wizard cast anything that had something like that going on in order that this skull was never detected by the usual means. Perhaps it is the skull itself. Maybe the creature of this skull was naturally magic resistant to these weaker spells. Perhaps that is a good reason why the abode should be in the skull and not 100 yds to the north under the sand which would be less obtrusive... Maybe there are indeed lots more spaces in the rock surrounding this point which have bundles of books, pentagrams, alchemy labs etc.

Back to reality tho... My plan is to create top down 2D maps though I think it might necessitate making some 3D models to get a slice through them in order to figure out what the shape might be. How I get the arches and sinew shapes in to that I have no idea at this point. Maybe disintegrate does not work on the actual bone bit of the skull, thats why there is no door and the shapes will be defined inside. I was going to put a kind of window in the nasal bit - as shown on the sketch. Maybe thats the only way in.

Straw poll, what does everyone think ? If you were a wizard capable of going to this remote place and able to teleport would you think you still need a door ? I'm sure you might gather that I don't think it would need it.

I only started this cos my machine was chugging endlessly calculating terrain but its now turning into a bigger job... still, its always fun.

NeonKnight
02-10-2008, 10:42 PM
I thought of it like the following from the Dungeons & Dragons game:


Astral Plane

The Astral Plane is the plane of thought, memory, and psychic energy; it is where gods go when they die or are forgotten (or, most likely, both). It is a barren place with only rare bits of solid matter; some creatures, such as the tyrannous githyanki, use the petrified corpses of dead gods as floating fortresses. The Astral Plane is unique in that it is infinitesimal instead of infinite; there is no space or time here, though both catch up with you when you leave. The souls of the newly dead from the Prime Material Plane pass through here on their way to the afterlife or Outer Planes.

The most common feature of the Astral Plane is the silver cords of travelers using an astral projection spell. These cords are the lifelines that keep travelers of the plane from becoming lost, stretching all the way back to the traveler's point of origin[attribution needed].

ravells
02-11-2008, 06:36 AM
I'm curious as to where the name 'Werthers' came from. I have visions of casting about for a name, and seeing a butterscotch sweet next to the computer and thinking, 'ah!'.

For the non Europeans, 'Werthers' is a popular brand of butterscotch sweet in these parts!

NeonKnight
02-11-2008, 07:22 AM
I'm curious as to where the name 'Werthers' came from. I have visions of casting about for a name, and seeing a butterscotch sweet next to the computer and thinking, 'ah!'.

For the non Europeans, 'Werthers' is a popular brand of butterscotch sweet in these parts!

I thought the same (and I'm not European). Mmm Werther's Originals!

Redrobes
02-11-2008, 09:12 AM
Hey Neon, Thats a fabulous quote. I have never heard that but its so fitting. The painting image does not look like the Astral plane tho so maybe some dark wizard(s) battled a Gith (or many) and stole it transporting via teleport to this place. Perhaps in battle, the wizards just dimensionally flung it anywhere out of the sphere of battle and it was teleported or gated randomly into the ground of another plane and now the erosion is revealing it once again.

So that would mean that the original interior would have been 'carved' out by Githyanki perhaps with a more fortified theme than I was anticipating from that created by a wizard... Its says this in plural so I figure that this would not be the first or last skeletal remains to have been converted so I reckon they would have a good idea how to do it and would optimize the space better than square block shaped interiors. Maybe this explains why the skull is so hard too. Either skulls of deities is hard stuff or that the Gith have made them harder - though I like the first option better.

Edit -- The painting is from the Elric series of books by Michael Moorcock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Moorcock) and he has a character in one of the books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dancers_at_the_End_of_Time) called Werther which is based on some old text of which there are details here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther). As you can gather, I haven't read either tho a long ago friend used to rave about the Elric series.

Looking at the Wiki there are bits of Gith etc but also an entry called God-Isles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-isle) so this idea of the Githyanki using skeletons from fallen deities must be fairly well known (by everyone except me it seems !).

Redrobes
02-11-2008, 09:01 PM
Made a model, sliced some sections out and made some floors roughly in the shape of the sections. Its come out a little more regular than I thought it might have.

Midgardsormr
02-13-2008, 12:09 AM
Straw poll, what does everyone think ? If you were a wizard capable of going to this remote place and able to teleport would you think you still need a door ? I'm sure you might gather that I don't think it would need it.


Steven Brust explored that very topic in one of his Vlad Taltos novels. It was well-known that the only way into a wizard's tower was to teleport. Except that the peasant servants had to be able to get in, too, so there really were normal doors.

I think I'd go "halfsies." Much of the lair would be accessible by normal doors, so guards, underlings, and servants could bring in supplies. (What's a diabolical wizard without underlings, after all?) The Inner Sanctum(tm) would only be accessible by teleport, or perhaps intangibility or smoke-form. You'd still need air to get in, after all, unless you want to burn a portion of your sorcerous power to conjure it. I can think of better uses of my mana. The same goes for food and water.

NeonKnight
02-13-2008, 02:20 AM
Steven Brust explored that very topic in one of his Vlad Taltos novels. It was well-known that the only way into a wizard's tower was to teleport. Except that the peasant servants had to be able to get in, too, so there really were normal doors.

I think I'd go "halfsies." Much of the lair would be accessible by normal doors, so guards, underlings, and servants could bring in supplies. (What's a diabolical wizard without underlings, after all?) The Inner Sanctum(tm) would only be accessible by teleport, or perhaps intangibility or smoke-form. You'd still need air to get in, after all, unless you want to burn a portion of your sorcerous power to conjure it. I can think of better uses of my mana. The same goes for food and water.


On a counter argument, any wizard worth his salt could have dimensional portals to allow visitors and such in.

Redrobes
02-16-2008, 10:08 PM
Hey guys, just wanting some feedback on the WIPs below. I have had a bit of an inspirational block and also short on really nice mapping elements to use too. I have took a few from RPG Map Share site but I think the problem is that if this were my high level wizard abode I would have lots of really weird custom stuff in it and I havent the time to make it all in nice 3D so finding images to use has been a problem. I wanted some persian rugs and though I can get them from a google image search I want free to use images and that was an issue so I made some fractal rugs. All the items are mine except the chairs, bed and table. It could do with more book cases, tables, racks, benches etc.

Anyway, comments most welcome because I feel I am getting lost with this one...

Redrobes
02-19-2008, 04:49 PM
Well my machine is chugging MeDem textures out again so I have another hour to throw at this. After having an opinion whip round, I think that the top floor is going to be the treasure room, meeting room, map room and thieves abode - if you stick him with all the treasure he cant steal any can he ?. Next level down is another meeting room with the big table, mess hall and the abode of the clerics and fighters so some armour, swords and the odd mace might have to go in there. Next down is the wizards chambers so ill see if I can get anything spell like in there. Also, general opinion is that the rug is too bright. Lastly on the ground floor is a shared wash room.

ravells
02-19-2008, 06:24 PM
My only suggestion is to have some elements which repeat throughout all the floors to tie them together - unless you want the feel of each floor being a world unto itself! That fractal rug is pretty funky! Looks like a portal into another world!

Redrobes
02-19-2008, 07:58 PM
My only suggestion is to have some elements which repeat throughout all the floors to tie them together - unless you want the feel of each floor being a world unto itself! That fractal rug is pretty funky! Looks like a portal into another world!Thats a good idea and its given me another. What I ought to do is finalize the maps and then render them as levels inside that 3D skull model where that is virtually transparent so that the 4 levels line up and are in scale then the spiral stairs can link the bottom layers together and the bone stairs link the top level on. It would be pretty trivial now that I have already done all the bits to make it.

I chose the floor patterns because I liked them but in hindsight I ought to have used the same texture for at least the top three levels and made the decor a little different. The checker does clash a bit. I figured that a wizard would be able to whoop up any kind of pattern he wanted but its not so easy on the eye.

The rug is a monster eh ? I want a real one like that ! It needs toning down a bit I think. Next time I do a portal tho, I'll know exactly what to do !

Got side tracked tonight again... sigh ! Got a few swords & axes but no armour - anyone got any 3D armour models ?

I have another question too ? Do you think that there should be people in the map or not ? Generally for VTT's GMs dont like stuff thats too 'ephemeral' to be on the map but some balk at even chairs and movable objects like that. I reckon that it would suit this particular map.

ravells
02-19-2008, 08:21 PM
Now you're talking! Use a transparency map on the skull so it's transparent closest to the viewer but opaque at the back..nice bone texture on the visible bits!

As far as putting in people or furniture is concerned, it's your map...put people in if you want to. You can always take them out again if you want to use it for a VTT game. The competition is really a means to get people drawing maps against a deadline so that they have an incentive to finish the project. The prizes are really incidental.

Redrobes
02-19-2008, 08:33 PM
Ok ill try that bone texture thing. My skull model was really rough but if its nearly transparent then it ought not to matter too much. It would be a good excuse to use it more effectively than just for getting some floor slices.

Ill put people in on the top down one but not for the 3D view mainly because I have some neat top down icons (which aren't mine I should add) and they wont render in 3D anyway.

Redrobes
02-20-2008, 09:58 PM
Ok Im done. Just as a refresher, I took this image as a starting point :-

http://www.rodneymatthews.com/gfx/elric7.jpg

and the back story is basically above which is that in some out of time, out of place on the Astral plane the Githyanki were holding fort inside their converted deity skeleton battling some unknown high magic force when the whole thing was hit by multiple prismatic sprays sending the, unusually magic resistant, skeleton hurtling dimensionally across the aether landing buried in sandy rock on some distant and very inhospitable outer plane.

The party consisting of a few extra high level characters have discovered the skull as time has whittled the sand away leaving the hard bone skull. Still with some of its Gith interior apperel, the party have converted this as their hideaway and base.

On the top floor is stashed the mountain of gold pieces and other valuables. On the next level down is the warriors and clerics. The next is the powerful wizard (wearing red robes of course...) and then on the lower level is the continually full water pool.

The four levels are drawn top down scaled to fit, then there is the piece de resistance cutaway (which was a lot of fun to do).
:)

pyrandon
02-20-2008, 10:08 PM
Nice work, Redrobes. That 3D view is great; I'm glad it was fun to create, for it sure is fun to view! Good entry.

ravells
02-21-2008, 05:54 AM
Very Cool cutaway!

NeonKnight
02-21-2008, 06:44 AM
I like the cutaway view as well, but the spiral stairs from the bottom floor does not appear to line up with the next level up.

The Cartographist
02-21-2008, 07:55 AM
Really cool stuff - but ditto what NeonKnight said.

alucard339
02-21-2008, 08:45 AM
Hi RR,

I really like your bone stair and you fractal rug, plus the cutaway view as everyone else.

Just one question: does any of you room get and outside view?
On the first map, the second level from the top seems to be at the eye level of the head. It could be an idea to put some kind of window (maybe magical one) that would let the mage see outside and let the light enter.

Redrobes
02-21-2008, 09:10 AM
Thanks guys.

@Neon, your right. The intention of the map was to follow the spine which is an S shape but I had all the 3D bits and didn't want to spend any more time with it. So it should have a spiral and S shaped stairs. This cutaway view is a late addition. To have done the job properly I should have made this first and got the levels to line up properly and then mapped the floor. As it was I just guessed on the 2D maps. Theres lots of other issues in that the floors are just flat 2D textured so that the bed, table etc is not modeled.

@Alucard, the skull is supposed to be made out of really hard stuff so I could have windows where there might be holes in the skull. The 2nd floor was set at the nose height so that maybe I could have had the hole at the nostrils which might have been the entrance out to the mouth. Did you see the original painting ? Well from that I would figure that there is nowhere to go and not much to look out on to.

I reckon there is much more that could be done with it but I am pushed for time really. All the misc 3D bits were nicked from other projects and stuff I had lying about and the odd download. I used a 3D search engine and a sword came from here - http://www.baument.com/, then I got some 2D textures from CGTexture for the armour and shield etc. I made the bone, the skull, stairs but thats it really. I did the 2D fractal mats and floor outlines and the rest is textures, icons, and stuff. Chairs and bed came from RPGMapShare bits.