View Full Version : The Donnerholm Project

10-29-2012, 03:30 PM
So, as was promised in my introduction, I start my very own thread, hoping i will bear it ill the fruitful end. In this thread I want to share my working progress and thoughts on my project with anyone who is interested. I also want to hear any bit of thought or advice you want to share (though I'll try not to ask "how do i?" - there are still tutorials for me to read ;)).
I want to think of this thread as my journal in which bypassers may add their notes.

Backstory: Donnerholm is the reason I joined the guild recently. I'm running a D&D campaign set in Faerun, and last session the group decided to retake the home of their dwarven comrade. Since the player of said dwarf is the one most into roleplaying, I thought he deserved not only a nice, but splendid home to retake over several sessions. Hence Donnerholm, dwarven stronghold, was created. It is a city/fortress/gem mine in the harsh Thunderpeak Mountains. Sadly it was lost about a hundred years ago, and lately an "army" of Hob-/Goblins, Orcs and Trolls have taken over the whole site.

General ideas: So much for history, let's get down to business. I whipped up some sketches of what I want to do.

1. Area map

I want to create a map of the valley the place is located in. Basically it is surrounded by impassable mountain terrain. The only way in big enough for conquering troops and merchant transportation is controlled at a bottleneck via the Mountain Gate (the towers in form of dwarven ancestors). The other entrances are a dangerous and easy defendable Mountain Pass and a rough climb at "1000 steps", which leads to the backdoor of complex 2.


The Mountainstronghold itself is divided in two parts: the main complex (1) containing most of what the city is about: seats of power, markets, living quarters, military thingies... . The 2nd complex is the expansion, a second mine with living quarters, small market and military outpost. The entrances and gate are connected by a huge bridge/highroad across the lake, that origins in mountain springs and is fed through a waterfall. The complexes are further connected by the skybridge, for easier passing. At last we have some farms and fisher buildings to produce food.

2. Complex map

Here I get to my first tougher decision I have to face. Which view will one have when looking on the map of a "3-dimensional" place? Top down, which will allow easier understanding of the layout of the seperate levels (if there will be such - sounds a little bit too symmetric for my taste) ? Or a front/side view of different wings, so one can get the idea of the literal depth of the place. Also, I can outline the height and the design of the major rooms and halls.


I think I want to stick with one of these options. A 3/4 look might be good for a more complex place, on the other hand I want to keep the map simple enough to be readable later at (game)night.
Thoughts and experience on this matter are appreciated. I will look into any thread that might grant me insight on this and will look for material to give you (and probably me) a better idea of what I want. More on this next post.

3. The Merging

The third piece I want to create is a scenic view from inside the valley - a picture I will draw by hand, something for the mantlepiece.
The thing that sprang to my mind is a map, that contains all three: background artwork, area overview and the interior maps, possibly connecting the last to the first.


I'll have to wait and see how each part works out seperately, than I can take a look at them and how to merge them. But I'll have to keep that goal in mind while creating them, don't I? What do you think of this idea? (No, I haven't looked up if some guildmember did it before - yet. Priorities!)

At least the maps, better yet as well the artwork and best the merging I want to have done by the start of february. Now you know what I'm up to. I'll be happy to answer and/or face questions, any response is welcome. In any case I will keep on posting my progress and train of thoughts as it keeps on steaming.

Thanks for reading. :)

10-29-2012, 03:43 PM
Sounds like a great project. Well thought out and conceptualized. I look forward to watching progress. :)

10-30-2012, 06:52 PM
Gotta agree with JT, that does sound like a great project. It actually sounds like you might be thinking of doing the layouts in an Isometric view.....one of the harder views to pull off imho, but if you think you can by all means I would love to see what you come up with.

About the first picture, I am not sure what sort of scale you plan on having for this map,but that looks like a MASSIVE bridge. I think it would be better if the road from the Mountain Gate eased west of the lake and then crossed at the falls then made its way to the Mountain Pass. This way there would only be the two smaller bridges, each of which have the potential of being defensible from the 2 complexes.

I do like that third map idea of combining them all into one show piece.

I am really looking forward to seeing this develop.

10-31-2012, 04:48 PM
Thank you so far for support and input. You guys make a new member feel welcome!

As promised I return to the topic of no. 2) Complex Maps. I played for a second or two doing this in an isometric view, as you suggest. But since this is my very first attempt in digital cartography (or digital drawing for that matter) I dare not to spoil my motivation by trying too hard. I decided to go for the tried-and-proof top-down-view. I got a little confused when I tried to layout some rooms from the front-view, and if that happens to me while creating the map, the reader won't fare any better.

So, top-down it is. To avoid the simple dungeon-level-design I'll try to give each Level (let's think of them as different city-districts) three different sub-levels, that are postioned just a slight above or under each other. Do you get what I mean? E.g. there is Level 5 (seats of power), first level/district below surface level. This level/district is represented in one map, that displays levels 5.1 (royal housing), 5.2 (court) and 5.3 (temple). The ones lying deeper are coloured slightly darker than the upper ones. Drawback: none of these sub-levels may contain rooms that are located exactely above another one in this level/district. But since they are supposed to be just slightly deeper, I can take it.

Ah, I better sketch something up...


So much for that. Right now I try to think of all the areas, places and halls the stronghold might contain and assign them to one of the 8 levels/districts I want to create right now - for the major complex. There are not that many layers in the second one, but there is a second set of levels/districts. Not every one of them necessarily needs 3 sub-levels, yet still there are going to be looooots of mapsies. Let's see if that are too many of them to contain in my show piece.

As for 1)Area Map: i definitely suck at scaling. I have a hard time measuring distances and heights and proportions just fail me. The valley is supposed to be as big as to contain a medieval-fantasy city, a capital. When i started to map the location in my mind, the idea of a massive road/bridge across the rough terrain and lake hovered before my inner eye.
But thanks for pointing it out, the bridge is more than gigantic. So I applied your proposal to the area map I created using the "artistic maps in gimp" tutorial. See for yourself:

49548 49549

Sure, it's the quick&dirty solution I used, but the feel of the road is much more natural than the huge slash across the map that's supposed to be a bridge, and that even beyound just size. It also solves the problem of logically connecting the farms to the complexes.

The map is really just whipped up rushing through the tutorial, because I wanted something more than just the first sketches. I did not even meant to post them at first, but the before/after effect of the removing of the bridge is what changed my mind. The sky-bridge is missing, because I was too lazy drawing one. The road to the mountain pass is much smaller, for this is a rarely travelled path and not even worthy of cobble.

So much for today. I'll go on tutorialising, toying around with the area map and assigning locations to levels/districts.

11-01-2012, 09:50 PM
yup, the new road looks much better. :)

As for the scale, I wasn't asking for exact measurements, just a general idea like half mile long or 100 miles wide, that sort of thing. A small valley that can house and feed a decent sized city is good enough ;) Given that, a few suggestions; Bring the mountains right up to the Towers of the Mountain Gate, and make the Mountain Pass a bit narrower. Possibly bring the south branch of the river out through the Gate as well in order to give the impression that the valley is higher than the path up to it.

Remember, these are only suggestions and I will not be heart broken if they do not fit what you need. ;) This is your map and your vision so go with what you feel is right. You definitely have a vision in your head, so run with it :) You are doing good so far :D

11-08-2012, 04:59 PM
So, after a little refining my brushes and such I created an area-map that comes close to what I wanted to achieve. Some of the advice Korash gave me I took thankfully, since they may be mere but very good suggestions. ;)
I let this part rest for a while, for I'm out of ideas at the moment. Instead I turn my focus on the interior maps. At the moment I draw some by hand to get an idea what approach to take. Somewhere here I read about clouds making good cavern shapes. I want to try that one for some map-levels and see how it works out. Until next time - feedback is welcome as always.


11-08-2012, 07:58 PM
I am liking where this is going :) An interesting style developing here. Nice work. Looking forward to what you do for the interior.

11-14-2012, 11:03 AM
You have a unique style - I really like this map and I love how its developed. I would advise you go a bit lighter on the bold black outline of your fields.

11-21-2012, 03:54 PM
So. lately I had little time to go on with this. Also I've been pretty unsure about what aproach to take for my interiors. My running mind came to a rest with the idea of picturing the map as it would have been by the dwarven inhabitants of Donnerholm. It is a mostly iconic map without detailed borders for quarters and such, merely giving an idea about what to find where. The idea appealed to me, and I found ways of realising it, but I'm far from being satisfied. I still want to bring in more details, names and a rough, chalky look for all that plain black.

Take a look, leave a comment. Should I follow the chosen path? And how might I better do so? Or should I change tracks and create the interior maps more like I did the area map?


11-21-2012, 05:06 PM
I like the idea of a "functionnal" map, and I'd go this way if I were you. Not least because it will be easier to draw and use in your campaign:
One important thing to consider when mapping for GMastering (and in other cases too...) is to think how your players have access to the map information. In this case, I think a beautiful, very detailed map is less likely than an old scrap of parchment passed down through the generations to your sturdy Dwarf, showing the then-important places, even perhaps annotated by an old ancestor. That way you can introduce easily the map, and, more importantly in my opinion, filter the information you want your players to have --- and you can still have a rough sketch for yourself with all information. The player's map could even, if you fell a bit sadistic (I know I am), include outdated information...

As for the style, I guess either a really crude handdrawn map (drawn by said ancestor), or an "official" map, with straight lines and official builidings indicated (and some annotations by the ancestor about more specific places).

Just some ideas here, not sure if it can be helpful...

Good luck with your project though!

11-26-2012, 08:13 PM
I like the functional map idea too. I would suggest doing the maps as you have done here, then do some stressing of the lines once all said and done. That would create that chalky feel and age the map, but those kinds of things are usually done near the end of the work. I also like Eochiad's idea about having it be an older map that had a few notes and stuff. I always thought that Dwarves took care of things and would hand things like this down from generation to generation. Nothing wrong for players to receive some misinformation ;) Just make sure to keep a GOOD copy for yourself :)

Keep it up. I think you are doing great here :D

11-28-2012, 01:57 PM
Thanks for your feedback guys! I've already been experimanting with some GIMPressionism to have that chalky style going, but nothing good yet. And as you were saying, it's better to worry about it once the maps are in place. Speaking of wich, I'm now and then hand-drawing sketches of the eight level for the main complex. Only one of them made it into the digital world yet, I barely can get the time to work on the maps these weeks.

The misinformation is in the nature of these maps: they are supposed to be drawn from memory by the dwarven group member. And he's not been at this place for a few decades. Instead, orcs and goblins and the like fester the once mighty stronghold, which means I totally intend to have a second set of maps with red labels like "big bad guys here".

Hopefully this weekend I can spend an hour or two with my GIMP. When the first four levels are complete I will post them right away. Until then, cheerio!

12-04-2012, 05:36 PM
So, here they are level 1 (top) to four (ground). Some things I noticed already, like that I should decide where to put the level-"numbers" in relations to the staircase symbol. Legend isn't available for now, since I don't plan to put it next to one of those maps rather than in the complete compilation. At least for now. Just look at the older post, there is a rough legend to get the idea of what is what. The square in the middle marks a chimney through which steam rises up to the top. It feeds the wells as well as the waterfall, thanks to lava-boiled water.

Level 1 50376 Level 2 50377

Level 3 50378 Level 4 50379

I hope you like how it turned out. Any comment and suggestion is welcome. And hurry, the next 4 levels are in the tube ;)