View Full Version : Midgard and Call of Cthulhu Maps and Illustrations for Kobold Press

10-25-2012, 10:30 AM
I’d like to share a handful of the maps I’ve done over the past year-and-a-half or so. I’ve been writing, illustrating, and creating maps for three Open Design projects for Kobold Press.

Open Design is a patron-based publishing enterprise producing roleplaying supplements, mostly for Pathfinder. Patrons compete for writing opportunities, submitting proposals on which all patrons on a project vote. I wrote a wild-west adventure and co-wrote with Tim Connors a Spanish Inquisition adventure for a Call of Cthulhu project called, “The Red Eye of Azathoth”. The other two projects are are set in Midgard, Kobold Press' Pathfinder Campaign Setting. For “Journeys into the West”, a project developing the islands of Midgard's Western Ocean, I wrote both an island-hopping adventure called "The Ship that Never Was" and a Mythos-infested island called Meshong-Lir, loosely based on Cthulhu’s R’lyeh, as a major location setting. Most recently, I wrote a Viking adventure for “Midgard Tales”, a massive, hard-cover book of adventures illustrating the varied regions of Midgard.

For each of these projects, I created maps and illustrations to accompany my writing. For “Midgard Tales”, I’m presently painting the book cover.

I'll start with three deck plans I created for "Journeys Into the West" and "Midgard Tales".

10-25-2012, 10:34 AM
Sounds Great!

10-25-2012, 10:38 AM
This galleon is the big prize that becomes the heroes’ ship, “The Ship that Never Was” in “Journeys”. I’ve never seen an impressive deck plan for a galleon in D&D, so I pulled out the stops on this one.

10-25-2012, 10:40 AM
This outrigger canoe features prominently in “The Ship that Never Was” too. It’s the craft the heroes steal from the cannibalistic pygmies in the Savage Isles and sail through a storm to get to the Accursed Isle of Meshong-Lir, where hundreds more pygmies in outriggers are headed to sacrifice the heroes’ crewmates.

10-25-2012, 10:41 AM
The longship is the heroes’ craft in my Viking adventure in “Midgard Tales”, although it’s also likely to appear in the Pirate supplement to “Journeys into the West”.

10-25-2012, 10:48 AM
Here’s my archipelago map for “Journeys into the West”. The Savage Isles are populated by cannibalistic pygmies, cyclopes, and other nasties. Yes, some of the islands fly, which is why a handful cast shadows.

The Accursed Isle of Meshong-Lir spent centuries, perhaps millennia, on the ocean floor, imprisoning a Great Old One I named Noth-Nyarthogu who almost destroyed reality before being bound by the Gods. The island itself is comprised entirely of the twisted ruins of a Titan city, warped into nightmare forms during the gods’ battle and thereafter by the Great Old One’s influence. Now, in its sunken tomb, the Great Old One stirs, and its servitors scattered descendants sense its call. Shoggoths crawl into Meshong-Lir’s submerged remains to claw at sealed doors. Aquatic chaos beasts and gibbering mouthers follow. Noth-Nyarthogu’s agents travel the Western Islands, teaching others sacrificial rites to raise Meshong-Lir and spells that unravel wards, spells and rites the gods’ ancient magic prohibits Noth-Nyarthogu’s minions from performing themselves.

On moonless nights, when silhouettes dance abhorrent rituals, Meshong-Lir rises. Water cascades from its mountainous ruins. While the island usually submerges before dawn, rituals have recently kept it surface-bound for a full day. Within, labyrinthine crawl spaces spiral into mind-bending gulfs of blackness, the cyclopean ruins warping into ever-deepening nightmare. Beyond the harrowing guardians and insane titan ghosts, symbols of blasphemous power pulse like living things across treasures unimagined. And throughout, unspeakable abominations haunt the echoes.

Yet they come, people seeking abandoned wealth and secrets to alter destiny or bind the gods. The eager, the foolish, and the damned. One by one, they open forbidden doors. And somewhere far below, the Great Old One waits.

You get the idea.

One fun aspect of this map is that the Midgard Atlas, a new App for tablets that presents all of the lands of Midgard, includes this archipelago right out in the middle of the Western Ocean. That's my first archipelago to appear in an App!

By the way, if you love Midgard or D&D or Pathfinder and you don't have Midgard Atlas, you must get it! If you just love fantasy maps, you must get it! It totally rocks!

10-25-2012, 10:50 AM
Here’s a quick illustration of the Norn Tower, a tiny dot you can see on the archipelago map closest to Meshong-Lir. Titans built it after the gods first sank the Accursed Isle as a watch tower to watch over the sea where the island sank. Yeah, yeah, it’s not a map, but I couldn't resist tossing it in for color.

10-25-2012, 10:51 AM
I created six more maps for my adventure, “The Ship that Never Was.” Most are battle maps or encounter maps. All serve their purpose, although all look fairly pedestrian. Here are two examples.

10-25-2012, 10:53 AM
Here’s and example of a map that tanked. It’s a horrid example of both too much and too little, of oodles of detail but lack of vision and design.

In the adventure, the heroes chase an armada of cannibalistic pygmy outrigger canoes through the night to front of the Accursed Isle. The pygmies bind the heroes’ companions, and any heroes they’ve captured, to the tops of cyclopean pillars just barely jutting above the water. These sacrifices are supposed to weaken the gods’ spells imprisoning the Great Old One in the island’s foundations. When the heroes arrive, nasty mythos monstrosities are crawling up out of the sea to feed on the prisoners, and a battle ensues.

The map is dizzying. The grid is too faint to make calculating distances easy and too prominent to make the water look compelling. I ran out of time to render any real texture on the cliff front, so it looks like plastic, and it presents no feeling of loft or scale. I would have loved more time to try to work out these problems, but this may just have been a bad idea from the start.

Sometimes less is more.

10-25-2012, 10:55 AM
On the Call of Cthulhu RPG project “The Red Eye of Azathoth”, I co-wrote a Spanish Inquisition adventure with the genius Tim Connors. Set in Valencia, Spain in 1487, it is a linear adventure, starting with a torture scene, then an imprisonment scene, then an escape sequence, then an infiltration of the Mythos-possessed Grand Inquisitors secret library and laboratory, and finally a massive battle in the city’s main square. Throughout, the heroes are plagued by black sorcery, psychopathic ghosts, Byakhees, Denizens of Leng, and other horrors.

I decided to combine all of the setting maps into a single page. The one regret that I have about this map is that I started it small, not realizing I'd end up putting so much time into it. It's resolution will never permit zooming in as closely as I'd like. Poor planning.

10-25-2012, 10:57 AM
The “The Red Eye of Azathoth” is a millennia-spanning Call of Cthulhu campaign in five parts. It pits the investigators against two Mythos factions battling over whether to summon Azathoth to destroy the world. It starts on an island off the coast of British Northumbria in 887 A.D., just after Viking raiders raze a British monetary. The investigators reincarnate four times to continue their battle to save the world, in medieval Japan, Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, colonial Roanoke Island, and finally the Arizona Territory in 1887. Tim Connors wrote the Viking/monk adventure, Tim and I co-wrote the Spanish Inquisition adventure, and I wrote the Arizona Territory installment, which we all came to call Wild Westathulhu.

Here’s the main map of the wild west adventure setting, Cañón de Espiración, a small box canyon east of the Mojave, named for the sound of the desert winds sighing between its cliffs. Ten years before the adventure, three thousand souls filled the canyon’s gold-mining boomtown. By 1887, most of the town’s mines have been tapped out, and its population has plummeted to fewer than two hundred. Many buildings stand vacant, and everyone simply calls it “Desperation.”

I cannot tell you how much fun I had with this map! Of all the maps in this set, this is the only one of which I’m really proud.

Take a look at the street pattern. They form the Mythos symbol for summoning Azathoth: a humanoid body whose head forms the pupil of an eye. It’s the image in the tiny black-and-white file attached. The players’ investigators have been bumping into this symbol through five lifetimes, but they likely don’t notice the pattern until they try drawing their own map of the streets they’re walking.

10-25-2012, 11:00 AM
Here are the local jail and church. I like the jail! Great colors, convincing illumination, nice composition. It cries out for a jail-break sequence.

The church is the location where the entire millennia-spanning adventure comes to its climax, the site where the insane antagonist finally opens the dimensional doorway to summon Azathoth and end the world. I’m disappointed with this one. Too muddy and dark. No real sense of light despite the high contrast.

Not the best map for the place where the world likely comes to an end.

10-25-2012, 11:05 AM
Here are four illustrations of investigators the players likely play in the Wild Westathulhu adventure. In the published adventure, space limitations required Wolfgang and his art and layout editors to publish only cropped-down images of their faces. No one has seen the full images before. I drew myself as the gunslinger in the lower-right corner, with extra-gaunt, scarred and sick-looking, and with a Doc Holliday mustache. Not the first or last time I'll be my own model. I'm cheep!

10-25-2012, 11:09 AM
My Viking adventure for “Midgard Tales” produced eight maps. All will be redrawn by another cartographer to ensure a consistent look in the final publication. That should free me up to share a couple now, before the book hits the bookshelf. Better than that, they might serve as advertisements inviting roleplayers to snag the book when it comes out! You really should. Putting my adventure aside, I've been involved in playtesting many of the others. They are spectacular!

Here’s one of my maps of a traditional Viking mead hall and another of the ground floor of a tower three-quarters encased inside a glacier.

10-25-2012, 11:19 AM
Last and surely least, here’s an overview map of the village of Viezla (which means “meeting place” in Old Norse). I did not get anywhere near finishing this one. The town hosts the annual Ice-Break "Þing" (Old Norse for festival, pronounced "thing"), where you can by any of the wares available in the Northlands, drink yourself unconscious in the mead halls, and watch or participate in numerous events. Longship races. Archery and melee competitions. Dog, wolf, and bear-pit fights. Combat Dogsled Race (many two-person teams, blunted melee weapons only; disqualified for harming another’s dog). Fear Not the Axe competitions (throwing axes at a companion by torchlight; whoever comes closest without hitting, or companion flinching, wins). Even a rousing round of Take the Maiden (like capture-the-flag, but with women instead of flags, played with blunted melee weapons while riding charmed-bear-drawn war sleds).

Yeah, yeah, I've slipped into another advertisement for "Midgard Tales". But it's such an awesome collection of adventures!! How can you resist!!

I may go back to it some day, even though this map will never get published. I’d like to drape snow across the mountains and rock forms and pull the forests up over their footings. I’d like to pull in a wider variety of subtle colors. But most of all, I’d like to plunge the scene more deeply into darkness. Then I could add all of the buildings and light them from within and the squares from without with torch and fire light. The center of Viezla could glow with a radiant warmth pouring out over the snow, and the outlining structures and mead halls could flicker like candles in darkness. Ah, that could be glorious!

Some day.

10-25-2012, 11:25 AM
So there are a few of the maps and illustrations I've been working on recently. I'm now up to my neck in painting the illustration for the Midgard Tales cover. Since that one WILL be published, I cannot show you even a glimpse of the drafts.

Kobold Press remains one of my favorite publishers to work for. Wolfgang and his crew are fantastic, and they have an endless stream of projects. If you're interested in producing fantasy cartography, you ought to consider contacting them!

10-25-2012, 11:38 AM
Wow - that's a ton of cool stuff. Thanks for sharing - and good luck with the MT cover! I couldn't agree more. Kobold Press are fantastic, and always put out excellent work.

10-25-2012, 11:49 AM
I love the way you do your water on the ships and boats ... very nice.

10-25-2012, 12:41 PM
Yeah thats some real nice work there - all of them. You can do free hand work, 2D maps, 3D boats the whole 9 yards. Very good stuff.

10-25-2012, 02:32 PM
Thanks, guys!

The deck plans were particularly fun. It's the first time I've done thorough deck plans since the maps for my adventure, "Freedom's Flight" for Serenity Adventures, by Margaret Weis Games. (I won an Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Supplement for that one.) Wicker and wood proved just as enjoyable as space craft!

10-25-2012, 02:35 PM
Likewise, the Midgard Western Ocean archipelago with the Savage Isles and the Accursed Isle of Meshong-Lir was the first island map I've devoted real time to since Zombie Sky Press had me do their continent-sized "Monsters Island" for their monster manual a couple years ago.

10-25-2012, 02:39 PM
Great maps as always Ashenvale. I had not been to Ashenvaleart.com in quite awhile. Two questions, first, was Ashenvale Cathedral ever published in any type of module or setting? Its a cool location that really deserves to see the light of day. Second, were you the artist/author that sent that massive package containing oil paintings and other drawings unsolicited to Dungeon magazine?

10-25-2012, 02:52 PM
Great maps as always Ashenvale. I had not been to Ashenvaleart.com in quite awhile. Two questions, first, was Ashenvale Cathedral ever published in any type of module or setting? Its a cool location that really deserves to see the light of day. Second, were you the artist/author that sent that massive package containing oil paintings and other drawings unsolicited to Dungeon magazine?
Ha! Thanks thebax2k. Ugh, no, and yes!

I haven't updated Ashenvaleart.com in several years. Mea culpa!

No, the cathedral never saw the light of day. And yes, I'm the fool who sent the massive package to Dungeon Magazine a gazillion years ago. I just checked. Paizo still posts that ridiculous escapade on its website's archives: paizo.com - Dungeon / News (http://paizo.com/dungeon/news/v5748eaic9js7). Anyone reading this who wants a laugh should check it out.

I was such a moron!

Dungeon greenlit the adventure that massive box contained, but it died in the infamous Black Hole when Wizards pulled Paizo's contract to produce the hard-copy magazine. It all ended well for me. Had Dungeon Magazine not died, I never would have met Tim Connors or joined the Werecabbages, and that would have denied me most of the contacts and support that have me still writing, illustrating, and mapping adventures today!

10-25-2012, 06:07 PM
These are a great set of maps, love the first one, the large ship.
Great story on shipping the package to Paizo, I could see me doing the same thing. I have emailed them maps a couple times and have received no response of any kind. I thought it was rude not to respond, now I know it was the Stupid Rules Lawyers! LOL:)

10-25-2012, 06:20 PM
There is a pretty bad river violation in the northwest, a river that connects two rivers which flow into different oceans. Great style though, love those mountains!

10-25-2012, 07:16 PM
There is a pretty bad river violation in the northwest, a river that connects two rivers which flow into different oceans. Great style though, love those mountains!

Yeah, isn't that hilarious? We're in a service industry. If your publisher wants magical rivers, you eventually just go with it!

But I like the newer stuff on the earlier posts more than this old one.

10-25-2012, 08:58 PM
Lovely work on these maps Ashenvale, and those illustrations on page two were fantastic!


10-27-2012, 09:24 PM
That is an amazing collection of maps Ashenvale! Beautiful pieces. I cannot wait to see more from you. :)

Alex Clark
01-26-2014, 01:34 PM
Very nice maps