When the Notes Change…

Hello! I am Bryan G. McWhirter, and since this is one of my first blog posts, I’ll introduce myself a little. I am a freelance cartographic illustrator and my maps have been published by New Comet Games, Dire Corgi Games, Adventure A Week, BAEN, and TOR. My work can be seen in D.J. Butler’s Witchy Winter, Dragon Awards finalist 2018, and Ben Burns’ Devil’s Swamp, Three Castles RPG Design Award Winner 2019. My maps are also featured in Kevin J. Anderson’s new release Spine of the Dragon.

Last month I received the notes and rough sketches for the Citadel of Terror maps. I had a city shared by Gnomes and Halflings, a city in ruins, and a tower. The cities were fairly straight forward, however the tower offered a challenge. The roughs for the tower had square levels, four corners. The cover art depicted a round tower, no corners. I was asked to make the necessary changes so that the cartography matched the art, but stayed as faithful to the notes as possible. Mental gymnastics were in order.

The Roughs

The first thing I had to do was figure out how the rooms were going to be transmogrified. I couldn’t just make the outside a cirlce and keep the rooms as they are, there would be problems with either scale or cropping. I had to figure out how to rearange the layout. So I created a template.

The Template

This guide allowed me to recreate the rooms in an orderly manner and would make matching up the stairs a lot easier. Not all the levels were complex, but the guide allowed for the simple levels to match the style of the floors that demanded a more complex layout. The key to making this work was figuring out the stairs.

The New Roughs

From the template, and a lot of staring at the original notes, I was able to figure out how to make the stairs work. It wasn’t a simple wrap around spiral staircase… I wish it was, but it wasn’t. By the notes, the room to the right of the top left corner had to be the stairs leading second floor. The notes for Tower First Floor had “To Basement” squeezed in a similarly positioned room. The next step was to wrap the rooms around the edges and to figure out what that one symbol I marked at “?” was supposed to be… it was a bathtub.

Phase 2 Sketches

Once I got all the Floors looking like this, I sent the page in Ben Burns at New Comet Games to make sure I was on the right track. After a “Looks good and that thing is a bathtub…” I started adding in the color and detail.

Final

After all that, I think it came out looking pretty good. If you missed the kickstarter, you can pre-order Citadel of Terror over at New Comet Games.

From Roughs to Final

If you are in need of maps for tabletop roleplaying games, novels, and so forth, I am open for commisions. Please send me an email at bryan@cartography.games.

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