23 November 2018

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - The Landings Level

I began this mega-dungeons maps "series" (more consistency in posting would help with that label, I'm sure!) earlier in the year with one of my oldest surviving maps, but that map (and its associated key content) does not reflect the quality of designs that I create today.  "The Landings Level" map and key more-accurately reflect my current design sensibilities.

I created "The Landings Level" map (the first in a group of similar types of maps), over a few days in early December ten years ago, and it marked the beginning of a new phase in my (ongoing) redesign work for my version of Castle Greyhawk.  Over the past decade, I've focused primarily on the creation of new levels and keys, rather than an overall structural schema or holistic design guided by a top-down vision for all of the inter-connections between the levels.  That approach has its own disadvantages (making the levels fit together into a rationalized, coherent whole is somewhat more difficult this way), however, its primary advantage rests in that during the several years that followed this first map, I've created a pile of new, well-designed levels, many of which I've playtested at GaryCon, the North Texas RPG Con, KantCon, and various smaller gatherings. So, volume of inspiration and creation vs. perfection in overall design won-out, in the short term anyway! 

The Landings Level was the work that kicked off this phase of creation, and was itself inspired by my research into various unpublished Castle Greyhawk levels, discussions with Rob Kuntz about the Castles Greyhawk and El Raja Key, and my overall engagement with the old-school AD&D online communities at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Dragonsfoot, OD&D74, and elsewhere. 

This is my first draft version of the map, drawn in one night's work:

The Landings Level - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level Map - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
First Draft

Over the next couple of months, I detailed the level's features that went largely unmarked during its genesis:  I added intra-level stairs, more doors, columns, elevations, water, etc., etc., and did so working on a photocopy of the map so that I could explore different options (and you can see various notes scribbled away where they didn't work out):

The Landings Level with sketched notes and features - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level Map - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
Keying Sketch Notes

Charley "Druvas" Phipps  was so kind as to render my first draft of the map in classic TSR blue back in 2010 as well:

The Landings Level Map - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
Charley Phipp's TSR Blue version

Life got busy, in the usual fashion, and we didn't get around to completing the level, which is just as well in the end, since...

...in March of this year, in preparation for running the level again at GaryCon and North Texas (the level debuted in play at the first North Texas RPG Convention in June 2008), I decided to rework the map, transferring it from its original 5 squares-per-inch graph paper to 6-squares-per-inch, in order to have a little more room to build out the level's features (the stairs and corridors along the top and bottom edges of the map were crowded by the physical edge of the sheet of paper), to correct/update the map symbols (one of the disadvantages of drawing in ink the first time around!), as well as to have some more room to expand some of the features further, in particular the caverns (which I wasn't terribly happy with in their original rendering).  That rework is ongoing, but here's a peek:

The Landings Level clearn redraw - grodog's Castle Greyhawk map
The Landings Level - grodog's Castle Greyhawk
Updated Map Rendering

This is one of the levels that I plan to publish, although it's not the first in line for production.  

The previous articles in my Mega-Dungeon Maps series include: