MAP – Thieves End

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Deep within an intertwining system of caves that drive deeper and deeper into the earth lies a set of massive iron doors. Emblazoned on these doors is the crest of the bustling city above. This crest is the last sign of civilization that many who enter here will ever see. This is Thieves End, a brutal chamber where criminals meet their doom in a battle against a savage beast, while spectators watch from above.

The contestants in this grotesque game come from all walks of life, but have one thing in common. They have each committed a crime in the city above, and are being removed from society because of it. They are sent into this complex in groups of 4-6 and are given some basic equipment in the hall before the arena, just to make the fights a little more interesting.

The beasts they are to fight are often rare and exotic. They have been captured by private monster hunters and brought here for this purpose. They are lowered into the arena in a large cage. Some of the areas more nefarious nobles and select guests gather around grates in the ceiling to watch the bloodbath ensue below.

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Thanks for reading!

Fantasy cartography and the suspension of disbelief.

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The suspension of disbelief is not a new term. It has been used for over 200 years to define the idea behind immersing yourself in fiction. It’s what allows you to set aside logic and judgment, and simply enjoy something fantastic. Genres like horror, sci-fi, and fantasy rely on it to pull you into the story and invest you emotionally. This technique is not always easy to achieve, however. There are many skeptics and critics that love to pull apart the threads of a work of fiction. Fantasy cartography is no stranger to this. There is a fine line between making something utterly unbelievable, and making something that the viewers will allow themselves to believe.

When I began drawing continental or world maps I admittedly did not know much about geography. Upon posting one of my first pieces to the generous world that is the internet it was absolutely torn apart on the grounds of my geographical errors. “Rivers don’t split like that, mountains don’t form like that.” yeah yeah, I told myself it was fine, its a fantasy world after all! But after doing my research, and slowly implementing more believable geographical features, I was blown away by the results. Some of these geographical “rules” are:

Rivers always flow downhill (we know this) and they always become larger as other rivers may join them. Rivers will not cross over one another and branch out again, once they meet, they’re stuck with one another. Rivers may form deltas, in the low lands near the sea. Here they may actually appear to branch out. This is a great place for swamps or bogs. Rivers will form in the mountains and wind down toward the coast. Where there are rivers, there are plants (usually).

I could go on. But you get the point. Using rules like these will result in a better looking, and more believable map. To someone who know what these features should look like, it could make or break your piece of art. Glaring imperfections will not allow the viewer to really get into it. To suspend their disbelief and think “this looks like a place that could actually exist”. It really does make a big difference.

In addition to your placement of things like forests, rivers, mountain chains, lakes, deltas, deserts, etc. You should also consider your placement of settlements. Life usually thrives where there is plenty of vegetation and water. So cities and towns are often formed near rivers and the coast. On a larger scale, civilizations and entire kingdoms will use the features of nature to distinguish their territory. Things like large mountain ranges make for good natural borders.

City and town maps are no stranger to this concept either. Does it make sense that all of your town’s shops are spread across the map, intertwined with residential dwellings? Probably not, they are probably all localized. If it’s an established city, there will most definitely be areas of nicer homes separated from the lower class homes. Roadways should connect to all important places in the most efficient way for quick travel by foot. I remember something that specifically helped me was to look up maps of actual small villages, even using something like Google Earth to get inspiration and to help create an aspect of realism.

Walking the fine line between believable and absurd can be tricky. Its totally OK to push the boundaries of what is real… after all, that’s why we create these things! But be prepared to explain yourself when someone inevitably calls you out on your unrealistic choices.

It’s important to not get too caught up in all of this. Although it is important to uphold a level of realism, it’s also important to have fun and to create something fantastic! My advice is to do your research. There are a ton of excellent websites out there that will explain in depth how all of this works. There are even many websites that will explain all of this information in direct regard to fantasy maps. The suspension of disbelief is effective for those who WANT to enjoy fiction. At the end of the day, its YOUR map! So get out your pen and get drawing!

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5e CONTENT – Oswald’s Potions!

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After a falling out with his instructor (potion master Judiah Lee), young Oswald moved back to his home town and quickly began setting up his mobile potion cart. Confident in his abilities, the young half-elf hit the open road to peddle his wares and make a big name for himself in the custom potion scene. The only thing more dangerous than an over-confident potion maker, is an over-confident potion maker without his license…

As a DM, you may want to allude to Oswald’s incompetence. Or if you’re really diabolical, you can conveniently forget to mention that these potions may have some… adverse effects. You may choose to add some regular potions into Oswald’s stock as well, to make things more believable.

Here are a few of Oswald’s more peculiar custom concoctions: Upon consumption, roll a d6.

Potion of the Web Weaver: This potion claims to bestow upon the consumer the 2nd level transmutation spell spider climb. These effects last for 1 minute.

Roll 1-3: This potion works as intended

Roll 4-5: During use, this potion has a 50% chance of wearing off unexpectedly.

Roll 6: For the duration of this potions effect, you become overwhelmed with the urge to create a massive web out of any materials you can find. In addition, you contract an insatiable appetite for insects and will go to great lengths to find and eat them.

Potion of Mega Growth: The label on this potion indicates that its imbiber will enjoy the benefits of the 2nd level transmutation spell enlarge spell for 1d4 hours.

Roll 1-4: This potion works as intended.

Roll 5: The only thing that seemed to grow was your hair… all of it. Your body becomes covered in thick hair growing up to 1 foot in length. It’s going to take a good barber to get that off!

Roll 6: This potions effects are that of the reduce spell, instead of enlarge.

Potion of Invincibility: Oswald’s crowning achievement. This potion boasts a big claim! It promises to keep its consumer safe from all types of harm for 24 hours. Too good to be true? Yes, yes it is.

Roll 1-2: You become violently ill. For the next hour, you must succeed a DC 15 Constitution saving throw to be able to complete any simple task.

Roll 3-4: For one hour, your body goes into overdrive. You have advantage on initiative and all saving throws. When the effects wear off, you suffer one level of exhaustion.

Roll 5: Your body becomes paralyzed for 1d4 minutes.

Roll 6: This potion works as intended. Wait, really? You become impervious to pain, but for a much shorter duration than advertised, the effects wear off after about 60 seconds.

HOT OFF THE PHOENIX PRESS:

A Potion Makers Journey

by Remy Stumbleroot

Judiah Lee is a household name in the potion business. He began crafting potions from scratch on his families farm when he was just a child. He had a fondness for the healing properties of plants and saw them as a cheap alternative to medication for his livestock. He spend much time neglecting his duties as a farmhand to expiriment with these herbs. After years of refining his processes, Judiah finally devised a particularly stable red liquid that can heal most injuries. This healing potion became a staple in the industry after he sold the recipe to a potions mass production firm in a nearby city. This red concoction can still be purchased today in varying degrees of potency, and is a saving grace for adventurers far and wide.

Using his lump sum of gold from the sale, Judiah left his farm to construct a potions workshop and laboratory not far from his home town. There he was able to dedicate his life to the creation and research of consumable potions. Some of these potions are even able to mimic certain spell effects. Judiahs passive income from royalties and patents allowed him to work around the clock to carefully concoct some classic creations. As his workload increased, he felt the need to hire employees. Certain employees would apprentice under him and rise to the ranks of Master Potion Maker. Many of these new masters would go on to begin their own potions companies.

Judiah is still making potions today at the ripe old age of 674. His springy personality and surprising agility are somewhat of a mystery, but with his skills, we suspect he will still be brewing for a few hundred more years.

Story by Remy Stumbleroot. Remy is a reclusive herbalist and rune scribe who travels the land in search of interesting plants. She is an avid writer and top contributor for bewarethewizard.com