The Curse of the Lich King

by Christina Trani

High in the peaks beyond the Hills of the Seven Sisters is the luminous, dark tower said to be the home of an evil Lich King, named Drech Za’Uul. A dark, cursed land beyond the shores of the Brimspire River, few dare cross to stop the wizard and his evil doings and none have survived and returned to tell tales. Ghosts, ghouls, and wights feed on souls who get lost among the Forest of the Dead. Hordes of zombies and skeletons wander the Hills of the Seven Sisters. Who dares seek the hidden Phylactery of the Lich King and destroy it, so once and for all the evil Drech Za’Uul can be killed and free the land from this curse of evil and darkness?

When I was first approached by Ralf to do an issue for the ProFantasy Annual, I realized quickly that I had no talent in drawing, so I set out to create a series of maps for an adventure featuring a Lich King.

The maps, I knew first off, should be created with just the core products, CC3+, DD3 and CD3. Considering I am known for being one of the faster mappers among the ProFantasy Forum users, I am also known for my use of the photorealistic symbols provided by the free CSUAC, Bogie’s, Dundjinni Archives downloads, and other purchased artwork, so going back to basics and using only the core products would most certainly be outside my comfort zone of mapping.

Overland MapAlways up for a challenge I set out to create a regional map first. As some of the forum members may recall, I often mention overland and regional mapping is “not my bag” and quickly found myself frustrated and deleting a lot of maps. Then, while perusing the forums, as I do daily, a fellow member made a map using the 2011 Overland Perspectives Annual and posted it. Well, his map inspired me to try that perspective using the Mike Schley and Herwin Wielink styles and came up with The Realm of the Lich King. In this map, I muted the color palette using the Adjust Hue/Saturation effect to get the look I was hoping for with this perspective style.

Next came a series of “battle maps”. In the Lich King’s Tower, I thought to map out a tower where the Lich King himself, Drech Za’Uul, would reside on the second floor, accessed via teleport circle on the tower’s roof. The tower, appearing abandoned and in ruins to any wandering adventurers, is full of dangers seen and unseen.

The TowerThis map, and those that follow, include a GM layer showing some traps and their mechanisms that the Lich King has placed within his lair. Creating this map, I layered the rocks for the tower’s base first, then copied this layout three times, one for each additional floor of the tower. Each copy I rescaled a bit smaller to imply the increasing height of the floors. I’ve also placed Blur Effects to help with the illusion of height. Then I placed the round room with walls for the floors before dressing the rooms.

Below, deep in the earth, lies a maze of epic horror. Carved by evil magics, the Lich King has created a maze meant to trap any intruders that dare to seek his phylactery he has hidden in the depths below. Here, within the dizzying maze of tunnels, the Lich King has set loose wandering beasts of ferocity. There are acid pits and hidden traps throughout, and they lead anyone foolish enough to traverse the maze out into the Caves of Confusion, where no man is every seen or heard from again.

Hopefully, a group of wise and intelligent heroes manage to find the secret door leading to a flight of dark, narrow stairs, deep into the earth…. where they are one step closer to the phylactery of the evil Lich King and saving all the realms!

The MazeThe maze on this map was created using a free maze from some public domain site. however, you can use any maze from a maze generator if you’d like to create your own. I traced the maze map with the Freehand Sketch tool, then changed the line width and fill to represent the carved cave walls of the maze. The earth around the maze was done by creating a multipoly of the maze cutout in the center. I copied that multipoly to several sheets, with several different bitmap fills and effects on them such as Bevel, Transparency, and Fade Edge Effect giving me the puckered/dimpled rock lock I was hoping for. Sometimes it may take MANY sheets, but you can really get the looks you want using just about ANY fill style – realistic or not!

The final map in this series uses the most recent February 2018 Annual technique creating “irregular” dungeon walls. Here the Lich King’s Vault is set to confuse anyone seeking his phylactery. Any quad that is chosen is fraught with dangers and life-threatening traps and monsters! Where is the Phylactery? It could be in any one of the quads….it could be any one of the items…. only YOU can decide if your adventurers succeed in locating the Phylactery and return to the Tower to destroy the Lich King once and for all!

I hope you all enjoyed my map series and have gotten a glimpse of how I put together some adventures for my own players in my homebrew campaign I run at home games. It is those games that brought me to ProFantasy in the first place, hoping to map out all the ideas I had in my head that I couldn’t put down on paper due to my utter lack of drawing ability, which is suspect, a lot of you out there suffer from as well. Thankfully, products like this, and users like you all make it possible for the likes of us to create fantastic art in our own way.

Happy gaming!

About the author: Lorelei was my very first D&D character I created more years back than i’d like to remember. When I decided to venture into creating maps for my and others rpgs, I thought I owed it to her to name myself Lorelei Cartography, since it was her that led me to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming in the first place. Since then I have been honored to have worked with companies such as WizKids, Pelgrane Press, and ProFantasy. 

[Note: The map collection Curse of the Lich King will be published as the March issue of the Cartographer’s Annual 2018. You can see a preview of the issue here.]

3 Responses to “The Curse of the Lich King”

  1. Oh wow, Lorelei 😀

    That’s beautiful. Thank you very much for putting all that hard work into an annual 😀

  2. This looks fantastic Lorelei. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done here and what goodies you’ve given us. 🙂

  3. Looks great! Thanks for sharing your process with us, too. I eagerly look forward to the CA issue!