View Full Version : 'Heart of Shadow' cavern encounter map

11-17-2012, 06:02 AM
I am doing an encounter map for Myrhdraak's Prince of the Undead Conversion (here wizards.com (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19921178/H1-H3:_Demon_Prince_of_Undeath_Conversion)). The map is for encounter G16: The Heart of Shadow of the P3 conversion, a sinister underground place in the Shadowfell.

The brief: 'My thinking so far is a cavern with different "platform levels", each one with a blood shadow pool where the "water" runs down the platforms in a number of waterfalls to meet in the central pool at the bottom. Rough staircases have been cut out from the stone platforms to allow access between the platforms. As the players arrive, they will be divided and appear randomly from different pools in the area. Isilus with his False Keepers will try to prevent the adventurers from reaching the central pool. The shadow slime moves "invisibly" under water to attack the adventurers. Isilus can also move the Living Walls hazard by sacrificing one attack.' There are living walls, blood pools, different ground levels and stone staircases on the map. Here's the sketch by Myrhdraak.


EDIT: First WIP - just trying out some concrete textures for the feel and colour. I am going to try and stick with the original sketch's colour scheme.


11-17-2012, 10:46 AM
Looks interesting!

11-17-2012, 12:45 PM
Finalised the wall and floor textures and tried to work on the complicated multi-level contours - not sure how successful I've been.


11-17-2012, 04:01 PM
Looks good. I like how you have worked with the shadows to add depths to the cave.

11-18-2012, 05:42 AM
It looks great. It's probably not the easiest task, but it looks nice.

Maybe you could put some objects on there to give a sense of scale? And make the deeper ones a bit smaller so that to give an impression of distance?

11-18-2012, 06:27 AM
Not a bad idea Simon. I think the steps will help to give a sense of scale. I've started these now, and added some rough bridges. I don't think the map will really come together until I have done the blood streams gushing down the slopes - I've no idea how I am going to do this but I still have a fair amount of shading to do on the steps and sloping rock first anyway.


11-18-2012, 09:32 AM
Do not make too many bridges. As I want to have some negative effects by passing through the water (no healing in the water), as well as the shadow slime creeping around in the water. It is more challenging with only brigdes for reaching the central blood pool from one entry, not all the entry options.

11-18-2012, 09:37 AM
The steps do help give a sense of depth.

11-18-2012, 11:53 AM
Steps completed, slopes completed (?) and bridges removed. Next up -the rivers of blood!


11-18-2012, 02:42 PM
This is awesome...love the steps and cliff.

11-18-2012, 02:44 PM
Thanks anomie. First attempt at the rivers of blood. I'm not sure how I feel about them.


11-18-2012, 03:05 PM
I actually really like the texture your using for the river...but, at the moment it looks like the river is at a higher elevation than its surroundings. I think you could fix that by playing with the river banks. Might also suggest increasing the transparency of the river slightly also.

11-18-2012, 03:44 PM
Yes I agree anomie - the next stage is to work on the banks, and hopefully then the pool and rivers will 'lie down' on the map like they are supposed to.

11-18-2012, 03:44 PM
That is very cool. I'd agree with AC about the textures they look perfect for this. The river is a bit "thick" it almost looks like a river of "Blood Pudding" which is creepy and scary in itself but probably not what you were looking for. :)

11-19-2012, 05:24 PM
I started work on the banks - I did five of the ten pools (half). This is pretty time-consuming work, but it's worth it. I'm really glad nobody has a problem with the blood texture - I assumed that finding the right colour and texture for the slow-moving coagulating blood would be the hardest part of this map, but since JT and anomie like them I consider that sorted.


11-19-2012, 05:31 PM
This is really very good. It's got such a great feel to it. You've nailed the vibe for this. :)

11-19-2012, 06:10 PM
Thanks JT - though I'm having doubts about my crawling-hive cavern wall texture. I think I either need to desaturate it a lot, or swap it out for a much plainer rocky texture. I just think it detracts from the blood a little.

11-20-2012, 05:24 AM
I swapped in a photo of some barnacles instead of the hive/ants for the walls. I think it works better. I may need to play with the exact colour of it however.


11-20-2012, 07:58 AM
First attempt at a whirlpool for the central pool. This is not very good - I'll have to come back to this at the end. I'm not sure how best to show it. I think the central pool is supposed to have a swirling whirlpool portal that is like a wormhole to another dimension.


11-20-2012, 08:07 AM
Wrong entry

11-20-2012, 08:09 AM
That is very cool. I'd agree with AC about the textures they look perfect for this. The river is a bit "thick" it almost looks like a river of "Blood Pudding" which is creepy and scary in itself but probably not what you were looking for. :)

I think it is perfect, it is supposed to look like coagulated blood, but darker

11-20-2012, 08:14 AM
I love it. This is going to be perfect for the environment! I like the new cave layer as well. It looks more alive and fitting for those living wall features that is included in the encounter

11-20-2012, 10:06 AM
Couple comments...I think the new barnacle texture does work better, but there's something not quite right about how the pools of blood butt up against it (imho...can't really explain why, but it looks strange to me). I actually kind of like the whirlpool effect you have there. Finally, did you temporarily get rid of the other rivers/pools of blood or are they permanently gone? IMHO, I liked the overall composition better with them in it. (But...this map isn't for me, so you gotta do what makes you happy).

Would rep if I could....this is really looking amazing.

11-20-2012, 10:46 AM
Thank you for the detailed feedback anomie - exactly what I am looking for when I post here.

-I'll take another look at the whirlpool when I get home and am back on my normal computer - perhaps its not as bad as a I thought.

-The rivers and pools of blood will all be included in the final map. The previous rivers/pools were just colour-blocks as I worked on other parts of the map, then I finalised the blood texture. Now that I am working on the pool and river banks, I have put a layer mask over the blood texture, and am bringing it back slowly as I do the banks. I still have not decided how to do the rivers yet.

-regarding the something 'not quite right', I have looked again and actually I think that I agree with you. Perhaps this is because the wall texture has a hollowness to it. I am going to try and darken it slightly by overlaying the walls with a 30% burn layer of pale pink, and maybe it will fix that. I'll post that up tonight, along with another couple of pools.

11-20-2012, 12:11 PM
The barnacle texture works very good IMO. It's a little more "There's something living in there" than the other texture. I think you nailed the whirlpool too. Those are tough to create and I think you got it just right. Maybe you could try to darken the "far" side of the whirlpool to show it goes somewhere or put a little bit of what's supposed to be on the other side. This is really turning out great as all of your maps do. :)

11-20-2012, 01:17 PM
Thanks JT - you are right about the whirlpool - it definitely needs a black bottom. I was working on it on my laptop at work and the screen there is MUCH darker so it looked completely different. The whirlpool isn't on this version but I'll insert it back in at the end.

Current WIP: added the pale pink burn layer to the barnacles to deepen the colour of the walls a bit; added another three pools of blood. This time I included my blockouts of the blood pools and rivers. I'm still dreading doing the rivers.

Perhaps some of the those pool banks are a little bright - not sure. I may need to adjust the brightness of some of them at the very end, once the rivers are done.


EDIT: Adjusted brightness of the pool banks. It's better now.


11-20-2012, 06:36 PM
Looking great Jack! Not sure about adding 3 more pools. They look great, but I think that many pools might make the map look to "busy". It is hard to tell without actually seeing them, so I'm on the fence.

11-20-2012, 07:33 PM
I'd agree with Bogie but If they are integral to the encounter then I guess you don't have any choice. This is really great. Makes me want to create something like this for my Abyssal Plane series. :)

11-21-2012, 02:16 AM
The number of pools and rivers and placement and so on is all pre-decided so they are going to be placed; if it looks too busy then that is my fault for over-complicating the map.

However, what you have to realise is that this is a very zoomed in view of a HUGE map. At 40 x 40 squares it represents 200 feet x 200 feet. If printed out, this map (4000 px x 4000 pix at 72 ppi) would take up 55.5 Inches each side - that's four and a half feet (1.5m) tall and wide. It's the biggest map I've ever attempted and my (relatively decent) computer can barely handle it.

11-21-2012, 01:05 PM
Finished the pools; added in the whirlpool; adjusted the wall colour (still not thrilled with the walls, but at least they are not too offensive). Now the very last part of the map, and the bit I am dreading - the rivers.

The entire map might be too pink; I'll have to think about it for a while.


11-22-2012, 04:18 PM
First attempt at the streams of blood. I'm finding it difficult to portray the steeply sloping parts.


11-22-2012, 05:02 PM
I think the streams looks very good. You perfectly nailed them. The sloops looks too "gentle". I can imagine the players saying "I just walk up that slope". It will need to show it is an area you will have to climb in order to reach. Maybe find some mountain sides from google map and overlay that on those areas???? (But I am not the expert here....)

11-22-2012, 05:30 PM
Thanks Myrhdraak. I agree the slopes look very gentle, however this is a function of your base map. Most of the slopes shown on the extract above are five feet in level difference. I know you put rules for climbing the slopes in your conversion guide, but since the distance is just five feet a hero can simply leap up to the next level - according to the rules (PH1 - jump) this is an autosuccess for a level 19 PC with a running jump (as it should be, quite frankly).

*Note that I tried to use the number of steps to indicate the difference in levels: 3-4 steps is a five feet difference; 7-9 steps is a 10 feet difference.

EDIT: but that's a really good idea about mountains on google maps. I can find a photo of cliffs, then copy that and overlay it over the slopes. I'll do up an example tomorrow.

11-23-2012, 11:24 AM
I agree, the slopes for the 5 feet difference should be ok (maybe those squares should be marked as difficult terrain then?). But you have several slopes that compared to the bottoms, should be 10, 15 and 20 ft that might need to look more harder to negotiate.

11-23-2012, 01:03 PM
Okay, here's an attempt to make a cliff-type edge. Let me know what you think. Do you think this treatment would look good on the 10-20 feet drops?


11-23-2012, 02:11 PM
That looks great and I think its also going to probably help you sell the rivers going downhill.

11-23-2012, 04:42 PM
The cliff texture looks great! Can't wait to see the final map.:)

11-23-2012, 05:23 PM
Shouldn't be too much longer Bogie.

I'm still playing around with the wall textures (I shrunk the barnacles by 50%), and I need to finalise the map colours.

Here are the finished rivers and a second cliff. Just one more little cliff left.


EDIT: Sightly different version - fixed some errors at the edges of the walls, and also altered the shadow layer (to overlay). Not sure if this is better or not. Also check out my really gross-looking slimy barnacle wall texture on the E wall, NW and SW.


11-23-2012, 09:53 PM
I liked the first version better than the second (the shadows became too strong on it). I also think you should add shadows on the northern cliffs, just in order to give the eye impression that you have incoming light that cast the northern cliffs in shadows, but lights up the sourthern cliffs (now it is very little difference in shadows on them). I would also suggest that on the souther cliffs, where you have "two consecutive slopes" which in total should be 10 ft height difference - make them one cliff as well.
These are of course minor details - I think the new cliff faces looks very good.

11-25-2012, 11:28 AM
Latest version, with more cliffs and mini-cliffs elsewhere.

I have not added the shading to the cliffs, because I want to be sure before I do. In your notes, there is no directional lighting, rather a sort of ambient lighting from the pools of blood. If I start shading one side of the cliffs as if the light is coming from one direction, I will need to do the entire map.


Also, here is a gridded thumbnail


11-25-2012, 05:22 PM
I am very happy with this last version. If you are happy with it as well, I think we should use it as the final version. Thank you for all the hard work.

11-25-2012, 05:34 PM
Ok - we'll call it done. Thanks for the kind words.

11-04-2013, 09:01 AM
Wicked stuff bro!! Love it!!

01-03-2014, 12:40 PM
Jack - Any chance you could do a brief explanation of the process you use to make those cliff type edges in the map? I have been trying to do something very similar and have not found a good method yet.