Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lower Stoutfellow -- Alphatia's Underworld

Mapped with Hexographer
Here's Part II of Stoutfellow.  It's another large map, so feel free to download the file from HERE.

A few thoughts

Stoutfellows control the following cavern complexes and their fortresses: Denwarf-Hurgon, Drakon Hollows, Dimholm, the Grand Vault of Bar-Zaram, Duerhold, and Fangholm.  Stoutfellows enjoy a theoretical claim over the Great Swammholt and most of the Swammholt Trench, although they do not actually control its monster-infested fungal expanse.  Cave trolls occupy the Trollmark, but so far have failed to capture surrounding dwarven fortresses.  A mysterious race of Shadow Dwarves own Shadow Deep and its fortresses, threatening the lowest reaches of the Swammholt Trench.

Food in the under world comes from four main sources: moss farmlands (also known as the dwarven breadbasket), fungal forests, fishing, and breeds of cattle indigenous to the under world.  The remainder comes from the surface.  All cavern complexes featuring lakes and rivers experience regular condensation rainfall.  Colossal stone pillars support the caverns' vaults arching often more than three thousand feet overhead.  Dwarven runes and carved decorations adorn the surface of the rock near towns and cities of the under world.  Inexplicably so far, larger caves also experience winds and updrafts near high cliffs.

Access to the under world is available through various "Gates."  These are fortified stairwells with many intermediary portals.  Additional defenses come from underground fortresses, which are part of the rock walls separating cavern complexes.  They feature massive doors and defenses carved directly into the rock.  High ledges and turrets provide platforms for siege weapons.  

Travel throughout most of the under world can be expedited through a unique and marvelous device called the Dragon Express, a steam-powered machine pulling wagons along a set of steel rails.  The engine is a relic created by dwarven, gnomish, and Alphatian master crafters.  It is used for passengers traffic, food transportation, and emergency military deployment.

Most of the caverns are imbued with light radiating from Brighstones or from the vegetation.  It is diffuse and much dimmer than sunlight.  Brightstones are brittle and of varying intensity.  Some generate the full spectrum of light, others only ultraviolet or infrared  The best veins can be mined.  Other mining resources include Firestone (a black mineral that can be burned to produce steam inside the Dragon Express's engine), gems, gold, iron, marble, salpeter, and sulfur.  There are rumors of Darkstone mines in Shadow Deep, but their powers remain hopelessly unknown and feared.  Nothing good ever comes from Shadow Deep.

The Great Swammholt & Trench:  this large area of complete wilderness stretches all along the under world's eastern reaches.  Hunting parties often travel the land in search of more exotic catches to sell in the streets and markets of Denwarf-Hurgon.  The Firegrims of Naragdûr consist of a ring of bubbling lava surrounding a shaft that rises to an dormant volcano on Haven's surface.  A mountain ridge contains the lava.  Steaming mudflats spread from the Firegrims' foothills, featuring geysers and ponds of boiling water.  Dwarven master crafters sometimes come to this desolate and dangerous place to collect rare minerals.  Fungal jungle and mycofloral swamp fill much of the Swammholt.  Three immense cataracts interrupt the flow of the Nad-Dringol River.  Aside from the fortress guarding the entrance to Denwarf-Hurgon, two other access points exist, located atop vertiginous cliffs overlooking the massive trench.  They are used to watch for any incursions from Shadow Deep.

Denwarf-Hurgon:  it is the most highly populated cave complex of the under world.  Its city was carved out from a towering stone pillar nearly sixteen miles across, and stretches more than 3,000 feet to the surface.  The city's lower level is located on a plateau surrounded with waters from the Nad-Ithryl River flowing northward.  The city features the Dragon Express's grand central station.  The railway extends north and south across the river, via stone viaducts guarded by towers.  The northern segment continues through a mountain side across the river before heading down a steep slope toward the next cavern complex.

Drakon Hollows:  this cavern complex is unusual as it harbors a breed a small wyvern-like creatures living in holes high up in the rock face or in the vault.  These creatures can be captured and used as mounts by trained specialists.  The main source of wealth comes from a strategic Brightstone mine near the fortified Gate of Nalnorë.

Dimholm: as the name implies, natural light is scarce in that area.  Fishing and farming are the main activity here.  However somber, the Dimholm features unique pure-white mineral lace and coral-like stone excretions covering its walls and vaults.

The Grand Vault of Bar-Zaram: it is essentially a vast underground sea of fresh water supplied by the Nad-Ithryl River.  Water drains through a whirlpool on the northwest side, spiraling into an unexplored abyss.  Fishing is the main industry here.  Over the centuries, Stoutfellows carved a precarious ledge along the east wall just large enough for the Dragon Express to reach the other side.  Visiting Alphatians traveling this way usually pull shut the curtains of their compartment rather than watch, as the Dragon Express boldly hurtles along the edge of the cliff.

Duerhold:  as may seem obvious, its value is mostly strategic, as a crossroads between multiple cavern systems, and a site of Brightstone mining.  Its central stone pillar housed Zul-Barad, a city that rivaled with Denwarf-Hurgon in more ancient times.  It was destroyed during an invasion from the Trollmark.  The entire structure is filled with the rubble of destroyed great halls, caved-in floors, and crumbling stairways all the way to the surface.  The ruins are now home to a host of monsters.  Another passage was later built, called the Gate of Zul.

Fangholm: this cavern complex would be a worthless waste of rocks, gravel, dust, and tar pits, if it wasn't for its mines of gems--priceless goods for any dwarf worth his muck-incrusted beard.  As a result, Stoutfellows maintain a vigilant presence in Duerhold and the dark confines of Fangholm.  Like Duerhod, this cavern once boasted a pillar-city, which was destroyed by a feat of mysterious magic.  No one knows for sure what really happened, but many whisper among themselves the ancient sigils for Shadow Deep.  One thing is certain, however.  The ruins are home to the undead.  Very few among Stoutfellows ever venture up the ornate stone ramp leading to Dag-Atûr for even fewer ever return.

The Trollmark: it isn't part of Stoutfellow's under world, yet it remains a constant source of trouble, as its denizens mount relentless attacks against dwarven fortresses blocking the exits.  However badly wounded, cave trolls always return for more.  A river is said to furnish brackish waters and untold wildlife to the salt fens in which the trolls thrive.  It is an inextricable, spore-infested morass of mycoflora run amok, oozes and slimes of all sorts, and muddy swamps.  A rumor persists about the existence of a shaft leading to a deep dungeon beneath Trollhattan, through which Limn rulers obtain troll champions for use in their military.  It has never been proven.

Shadow Deep:  so very little is known of the mysterious depths of ashen lands and petrified woods, thus it is best that it remains unvisited and unspoken of, for its denizens harbor dark truths and soul-wrenching secrets.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks.

      I managed to get this one through, scraping by despite operating at or near my computer's processing capacity. Call me lucky. I had to make use of endless series of polygons to gray out partial hexes. That or generating fractal shapes really gobble up processing ability or memory, slowing down the computer or causing it to crash. Then of course, I found out I could have saved myself a ton of time halfway through the project. I'm still kicking myself for not coming up with that idea earlier -- chalk it up to experience. Ultimately, this map is now done. I can rest for a bit! Peace.

  2. Reminds me of the underground map from Iron Dragons only 100x cooler. I'm not a fan of undercows. I prefer munching on cave crickets and albino crabs.

    1. I'm sure such roasted delicacies can easily be found in the taverns of Denwarf-Hurgon. On a related topic, do undercows have beards?

    2. There ought to be a law about tossing undercows too.

  3. Astoundingly excellent map. Did you do all of this in Hexographer?

    1. All, except for the layout of the map key and the decorative border.

    2. Actually... it would be a nice feature if Hexographer could automatically add such decorative borders and/or a title banner as options (a choice of multiple styles perhaps?) A function to allow a map key based on all terrain and icons used would be great too.

      Another suggestion. What if a coastal styled line would automatically fill with sea color one side of hexes through which it is traced (toggled by the user like hashed lines), in order to mask any terrain color and graphics otherwise present in those affected hexes? This would prevent having to use polygons to do the trick, which is extremely time-consuming. It would be my single biggest gripe about Hexographer mechanics.

    3. I'm with Erin on this, it's beautiful.

      I use Hexographer, but I never imagined I could get something as lovely as this..

      How did you accomplish the black-line border on your 'rock' faces? Are you using the polygon tool with a border fill for contrast? It's strikingly effective.

    4. Yes, I used polygons for that. It's the only way I could have achieved that effect and made the map visually attractive (short of using an art-based map.)

    5. A function to allow a map key based on all terrain and icons used would be great too.

      Hexographer Pro does have a map key function, which behaves as you say. Not sure if this is in the free version.

      What if a coastal styled line would automatically fill with sea color one side of hexes through which it is traced

      Very much with you on this. It would also be great if a that tool actually drew the coastline in whatever colour you selected. As James says, having an actual border line between sea and land is striking.

    6. I tried Hexo's map key function and failed miserably to make it work. After a few tries, I gave up and made one manually.

  4. Wonderful map! I'm impressed by its superb quality.

    Just wondering: is the Nad-Breyn river actually draining into the depths of Alphaks' Volcano? If so I suppose untold monsters and undead could swim/float/move upriver to infest Fangholm and Trollmark, just to add more trouble.

    Wondering part II: in GAZ13 there is a note about shadow elves' tunnels reaching Alphatia (they are used by the shadow elves for spying and other covert operations). I suppose the large underworld below the Kerothar Mountains could be a fine location to place some carefully hidden shadow elves outposts.

    1. ##Just wondering: is the Nad-Breyn river actually draining into the depths of Alphaks' Volcano? If so I suppose untold monsters and undead could swim/float/move upriver to infest Fangholm and Trollmark, just to add more trouble.##

      The Nad-Breyn flows into the Trollmark, where excess water drains away through cracks. Actually, infesting Trollmark is the easy part. Where monsters go from there is any DM's guess.

      The connection with Shadow Elves is entirely up in the air. :-)

  5. That is a truly spiffing map, not just for its looks but also the content!

    1. Thank you very much. Nice website by the way! :-)