Marine Dungeon - a Cartographer's Annual development thread

LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

With Darklands handed over to Ralf we have decided on a new project.

A marine dungeon style.

I'm right at the beginning here, but despite the lack of symbols there's been a lot of hidden work getting the textures and sheet effects to work together.

WyvernTheschabiMedioDoubleDoublemike robelWeathermanSwedenJulianDracosCalibrefgerdsDaishoChikaraand 1 other.


  • Very Nice. I can imagine flowy underwater vegetation, bits of shipwrecks, colorful coral decorations... I'm excited for this one.

    I think one thing to keep in mind is that some maps could be pulled off just by applying a tint and effect over the whole map, if the whole thing is on the ocean floor or something - like this example I'm just pulling from Google.

  • As I've spent the last 18 months on and off mapping elements of the deep undersea (lightless, yet still intelligent-creature inhabited, parts of the Community Atlas world), I'll be very interested to see how this project develops.

    The biggest difficulty I found was the lack of prior examples to draw upon (it's a long-ignored topic even in fantasy RPGs for some reason), though for shallower, sunlit, seas, at least there are things like aerial imaging to draw upon, and there are established real-world mapping styles for the near-coastal seas too (like the Marine Maps CA style).

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy
    edited April 12

    Thank you DoubleDouble :)

    Yes, this is very true. And you could even use the ripple texture that I've made for this new style if you wanted.

    Did you know there was a video to go with that map?

    @Wyvern - I never saw your comment when I made this one! I must have been looking for the video link above.

    The whole concept of underwater fantasy mapping has been very neglected, even though the scope for different types of submerged dungeon maps (using dungeon only loosely as a scale indicator) is just as great or greater than the scope of different types of above water dungeon maps. From where I am standing right now this is actually a sort of handicap. Which way to go? I will have to chose pretty soon, or waste valuable time hesitating or changing my mind.

    I am tempted to go for a straightforward sunken dungeon right now - something that will be useful in RPG. Though of course I still have lots of stuff to do aside from the usual stuff, like rocks and weed and fish, and sharks, and... and now you can see how this could quickly get right out of control.

  • I'll mention it here to. I can make own sand atolls, but a symbol so I can make them easier would be nice to. And an atoll is a good jump off point for land adventurers looking for undersea ruins.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    I imagine there will be a drawing tool or two to go with the style when it's done, Jim :)

  • Interesting that the sample map double double posted is a Jon Roberts. Good luck with this Sue, I’m sure whatever you come up with will be brilliant. I think the style will also need tools or symbols fo4 shipwrecks above and below the water...

  • Okay. I can see just adding an atoll or four to the maps made with that Annual issue.

  • Can more be said about what is meant by marine dungeon style? Is this going to be wreckage/land formations under the water, caves that can only be accessed underwater, or a dungeon that is actually filled with water where people will need to wear scuba gear?

    Just trying to picture the concept beyond just some pretty blues.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    That's the main decision to be made.

    I'm leaning heavily towards flooded 'normal' dungeon with added symbols, such as fish, sharks, octopus etc.

    At least this time around.

    We have to start somewhere ;)

  • A good example of a whole underwater realm is from the Mystara TSR line - PC3 The Sea People. It details the Twaelar Merrow empire.

    A free download is available here:

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    Wow! That's quite a wall of text there, Quenten. Unfortunately, I really don't have time to read much (if any) of it.

    I think the main use for this annual will be flooded dungeons - places that have been lost to rising sea levels.

  • I think the flooded dungeons is a good starting place. It should open up a lot of possibilities depending on the art:

    1. Fully flooded dungeons
    2. Some areas underwater (that can be explored) and other areas out of water
    3. The idea that the ruins were underwater at some point, but are not now. There is still 'water damage.'
    4. Can connect this up with some of the ice/snow themes
    5. Might be able to mix this up with ship deck plans for an underwater exploration

    While you mentioned sharks and other underwater symbols, you might want to think about different trap symbols that are designed to work underwater Gates instead of walls/doors would probably also be useful. These are assuming the areas were intended to be underwater though.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    The possibilities are almost endless Julian, which makes it very difficult to satisfy everyone. I hope I will be able to satisfy at least some.

    The style is designed primarily as underwater, but there is no reason why you couldn't combine this with, for example, a DD3 map to have a half and half map. That would require a reasonable level of understanding to accomplish, however, since you would need to add all the relevant sheets and fills from one to the other.

  • There are quite a few symbols already in DD3 and its add-ons that will work equally well underwater, or which can be repurposed to resemble something of that sort with a bit of imagination. Stone doors will work just as well undersea as on land, for example, while things like fungi groups will work nicely for any colourful creatures underwater - like small sea-anemones, for instance, especially if you make use of the varicolor options. But I'm sure Sue has this well-covered already!

  • Like Quenten I went and looked at a copy of the Sea Peoples as well. The "wilderness" areas are mapped in a hex style, so not really much help there. There is some drawing to do ridges and stuff like that. The dungeon maps in the book are all in black and white, which was pretty standard for the whole Known World (now called Mystara) line. The result is that for the most part they look like any other dungeon map, other than artistic embellishments around the page. I have fond memories of the book though.

  • amerigoVamerigoV Newcomer

    My wish list :)

    1. Coral - individual items to place (which could double as scifi planet flora)
    2. Coral - and fills/tools - backgrounds and walls for a "coral castle"
    3. Pre defined layers for underwater. Probably the RBG filter that shifts along the ROY G BIV spectrum the deeper you go (as you go deeper, light defuses and knocks out the brighter colors)
    4. Fish, sharks, and any other see critter
    5. Debris/sunken ships
    6. Bubbles (them scuba divers)
    7. Wavy overlay - the distortion of vision
    8. Pony (I mean if its a wish list, may as well ask for everything)

  • Sea Creatures - mermaids, sahuagin, tritons etc

    Sea Flora - seaweed etc

    Sea Fauna - jellyfish, anemones, starfish etc

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    Keep going...

    (I can't do everything, but it would be interesting to see what people want)

  • For me, in order to have the feel of underwater, there needs to be an effect that makes it look as if we are looking at things underwater. That is probably the wavy overlay mentioned above. I am not sure if CC3 can do that. Of course, while that looks nice, it could make it difficult to use the map.

    There will need to be a few different stone wall types: normal stone, damaged/distressed stone, stone with things growing on it, and then colored stone variants, e.g. aqua.

    I would like to see some high quality detailed water options: light to medium aquas as well as light to dark blues.

    While coral has been mentioned, I think you will need to give a few different colors, sizes, and shapes.

    You should add sea weed, sea anemones, and star fish.

    Schools of fish to aid in the underwater feel.

    There should also be an effect that distorts light as thought it is underwater. That is, if there is a light on the wall it will defuse as though it is underwater.

  • One thing I liked from their black and white map was that they had rotten/ruined wooden doors since they were submerged in water.

    Autumn Getty
  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    @JulianDracos - What is meant by 'aqua' in this context. The existing hues go around the colour circle from shore to deep: red, yellow, cyan, and blue (though not in their pure form).

    Generally - distortion effects can be added to any sheet, but I will be leaving that up to you to decide on. They look pretty, but are definitely a hindrance when using the map. The basic style will be sharp and clear, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment with... (hint) a sheet with transparent White 10, a blend mode, a few flowing polygons, and a blur effect ;)

  • @Loopysue By aqua, I am thinking greenish blue. Technically I think it is a cyan. These hex codes should give an idea of what I am thinking of:




    The greenish-blue water here is what I am thinking of:

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    That's cyan with more green in it.

    When this is published you will see that you can change the colours yourself if they are not to your taste.

  • The reason I ask is that I have only used the water textures in the overland maps. If I change the color, it never does anything. I have to change the fill pattern. The fill pattern does not have color options. Just what sea options are available. So I would either have to download the textures and change the color in another program or just use a color fill instead of the sea textures that will be available.

    Of course you may not have textures and this is a dungeon map so it may work differently than water in the overland maps.

  • I think this will be dynamite when you finish, although it probably will not fit well into what I work on. I really enjoy following your development process.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    @JulianDracos - You can change the colour of textures in any map using a Hue Saturation Lightness sheet effect on the sheet the fill is drawn on.

    By chance, this style is designed with colour patches blended into a sand background, so the colour depends on the colour of the colour patch and therefore the colour palette. You will see when it's published ;)

    @mike robel - Thank you Mike :)

  • This preview is absolutely fantastic! What a gift you have. I have a specific project in mind that I'm going to tackle as soon as this is released.

  • That reminds me of an old Judges Guild module called Modron. As I recall it had both a land component and and accompanying underwater adventure. Perhaps it can provide some inspiration for additional symbols and embellishments. Here's a link to the Wiki

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 26 images Cartographer ProFantasy
    edited April 17

    Thank you pkfrye :)

    Sadly, I haven't been able to find copies of the maps online, but don't post anything that may be copyright (quite often the reason there are no online copies). I'm probably just looking in the wrong place.

    Anyone got a link to the maps?

  • In case it may help Sue, you can find a moderate-res PNG of the seafloor map in the discussion on this blog from last April. The JG terrain symbols won't be much assistance, I fear, as they're the old dry-transfer rub-down-by-hand type (the map is from 1977, when this was state-of-the-art), but some of the information on it - and in the blog notes too - may be more useful.

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