[Mapping Competition] - The Hive

When Lorelei announced her contest of Mapping for Dice with its deadline at the end of May 2020, my first thought was, "Drat! No time!", as I had other things in-hand which made it impractical. And then the deadline was extended to June 30th. Double drat! What can I think of...?

On first examining the Dreadlock Valley map, my attention had been especially caught by The Hive on the eastern side of the valley. This was largely because back in the 1980s and early '90s I constructed a lot of mapped D&D scenarios that were all nominally linked, if often rather loosely, one of which had been a giant ant nest.

The map for that had been drafted using one of the Judges Guild random cave design systems, which turned out OK-ish, but had a lot of long, straight passages in it, and I'd not been happy with the final set-up, which was never used for gaming. I like playing around with random design systems though, and had recently chanced-upon what became the basis for this map, a variant of the Goblin’s Henchman Pay-What-You-Want booklet Carapace, available via DriveThru RPG.

The booklet contains three methods for randomly constructing complexes like The Hive on-the-fly. One of these produces essentially 2D layouts, either horizontally or vertically, though it's not intended for generating detailed maps. My variant was to set up three vertical chamber layouts using this method, then randomly assign each chamber to one of three vertical planes per layout - front, mid or back - in hopes of lessening the "sliced bread" feel a little. After that, the chambers were connected using the normal semi-random number of passages within and between the three vertical layouts. Think three linked ant-farm panels, basically.

The nature of each chamber in the complex (size, shape and notable feature) was then randomly chosen using the Appendix 2 tables in Carapace, with a few amendments. Notes added to the map from this process are given in a PDF accompanying the final FCW map file as well, for clarity.

The designed layout was then scaled for the creatures as described in D&D 3.5e, where most giant ants were around 6 feet long/tall, and the queens were at least 9 feet long. This led to assuming the passages and most chambers would be around ten feet high, and helped better size the chambers, since these are ordinarily classed as just "small", "medium", "large" or "corridor" in Carapace.

I then decided each level - the Carapace system means there are five in total - would be vertically separated from the next by an average of 50 feet, from the floor of the higher level to the ceiling of the lower, although chambers on a given level need not be always in the same horizontal plane as one another. Areas with pooled water would tend to be somewhat lower (or the chamber floor might slope down towards such pools), while those with warmer air might tend to be higher than the average, for instance.

From that decision, the angles shown on the maps for tunnels connecting levels could be approximately estimated, and a series of hand-drawings prepared on graph paper showing how the layouts for each level were supposed to look. After that, it was "just" a matter of importing the scanned drawings into CC3+, and then actually constructing the map. And so...






Each Level's contents were set up as a separate Layer in the FCW file. Then a schematic block showing the three vertical sections through the complex was prepared to go alongside the main map. This is in essence what the Carapace system generates using the Point Crawl method. This was given its own Layer too, and it hopefully helps to better visualise the whole 3D system:


In case the illustrative ants should prove too distracting, they can be hidden using the Ants Sheet - example of Level 2 with the Section Drawings alongside, but sans ants:


With a full complement of giant ant inhabitants, I'd say for adventurers this would be no picnic - sorree... ;)


  • Fantastic. Very impressive
  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 10 images Mapmaker ProFantasy

    Excellent work, Wyvern :D
  • WyvernWyvern Surveyor
    Thanks folks!

    One of these days I may work out how to post reasonably-sized drawings that don't look like they've been blown-up beyond their resolution. Not holding my breath though...
  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 43 images Mapmaker Administrator
    This looks seriously cool, and with your typical attention to detail, like the side view. Love it.
  • RalfRalf 🖼️ 16 images Surveyor Administrator, ProFantasy
    Very, very cool! Also amazing seeing parts of my old modern cavern drawing style reused. That was one of the very first I created for the Annual!
  • WyvernWyvern Surveyor
    Thanks very much!

    I found the modern caves style very appealing when I was working on a map for the Community Atlas recently, and it just seemed ideal for what I was thinking of here too.
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