Through a friend, posted signs, or by catching the right conversation in the right tavern, the PCs have found that one of the Three Sisters (settlements in the Klavek Kingdom south of its capital, Mohkba) is looking for tax collectors—an easy gig for great pay.
Recently a showing of the Broztavya Circus went awry in Drak’kal and the resulting destruction has weighed heavily on the settlement, as a particularly large and out-of-place aquatic sideshow attraction tore apart the city’s docks. Summer is right around the corner and it is vital for repairs to be made, so the pay for tax collection right now is extremely high (and for good reason; Klavekians are quite hardy, can be incredibly stubborn, and are generally not terribly fond of taxes.)
As the PCs arrive in Drak’kal there’s some commotion outside of the home of Dockmaster Antonio Casta—they may soon find out just how violent and dangerous a Klavekian mob can get!
As you near the middle of the Three Sisters the bustle of a city reaches your ears, but something else comes along with it on the winds—the sounds of dissent. Drawing nearer you make out a mob of common folk outside of one of the settlement’s nicer homes, a panicked looking fellow frantically pleading for help from inside the dwelling. Just outside is a huge Klavekian with the kind of face one only earns through many, many brawls; he’s shouting loudly, inciting the crowd to violence. It seems that if someone doesn’t do something soon, this might become a most unhappy day for a certain someone in Drak’kal.
Antonio Casta, the man responsible for gathering the taxes from Drak’kal’s citizens to repair the damaged docks (something for which he is complicit), is frantically waving and pleading for help. A Perception check (DC 10 + 1 per 5 feet away from the house) overhears his shouts for aid (“along with an increased salary if you like!”), but if no PC notices he resorts to crude, hastily made signs instead.
The man leading this small rebellion, Ivan Creed [or “Rabblerouser”, tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday! —MM], is a retired Klavekian soldier. Unlike his angry peers he’s stayed in shape adventuring, but all of them are upset with the unexpected tax (as there are normally some exemptions for those who’ve served in the Klavekian army).
If the PCs deal with Ivan quickly enough or manage to diffuse the situation without resorting to violence, they receive experience points as if they had defeated both enemies, but otherwise they face the harsh wrath of the people of Aventyr’s cold northern climes!
KLAVEKIAN MOBCR 2 XP 600 Human (Klavekian) commoner 4 N Medium humanoid (human, troop) Init +0; Senses Perception +5
DEFENSE AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +1 Dex) hp 28 (4d6+12) Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1 Immune grappled condition, single-target spells, multiple-target spells Weaknesses vulnerable to area effect spells
OFFENSE Speed 30 ft. Melee troop attack (1d8+2) Space 20 ft. (contiguous 5-ft.-squares); Reach 5 ft. Special Attacks chaos of combat
TACTICS Before Combat A Klavekian mob only seems to be a bit rowdy at first, but not overly aggressive—although not an intentional deception, it often leaves those lacking social awareness (DC 14 Charisma check) wandering directly into the center of the creature’s space as it forms. During Combat Klavekian mobs move into enemy squares and grapple, pummeling foes into submission. Never keen to authorities, after an opponent is felled they ignore them, moving on to other targets. Anyone who survives is severely humiliated afterwards, but left alive. Morale A Klavekian mob disperses when reduced to 5 hit points or less (becoming 5 commoners without the troop subtype, each with 2 hit points left).
STATISTICS Str 14, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 8 Base Atk +2; CMB +4; CMD 15 (cannot be bull rushed/tripped) Feats Armor Proficiency (light), Great Fortitude, Toughness Skills Climb +6, Craft (common items) +3, Perception +4, Profession (common career) +5, Survival +4, Swim +6; Racial Modifiers +2 Survival, -4 Charisma checks with non-humans and non-dweorgs Languages Common, Klavek SQ Klavekian proficiency (longsword), skilled Gear leather armor (15), longswords (15), slings (15), sling bullets (150)
Once the adventurers have successfully driven off the Klavekian mob (through force or silver tongues), Dockmaster Casta thanks them profusely and offers them lucrative (10 gold a week!) jobs as tax collectors, assuring them that even greater opportunities await anyone who will come to know the people of Drak’kal so quickly!
Last time I talked a little about how I got to work in this industry, and mentioned I was lucky enough to land a commission in Snow White, a hardback edition of the critically acclaimed adventure from AAW Games.Snow White is a tale we all know—at least the Disney version of it—but the talented writers at AAW Games have taken a new twist on the story, while keeping true to its Hessian roots. In this article I’ll talk mostly about Snow White, but also about how I approach cartography in general.
My involvement with the project started before the Kickstarter launched as I drew two stretch goal maps for it, a treasure map styled sketch of the town of Morsain, and an isometric map of the surrounding region where the adventure takes place. The fun starts when the stretch goals start kicking in—there are quite a few of those with my name on it!
My approach on mapping a project is typically always the same. First I read the product, then plan on what style I want to use in it—maybe try few different styles first—and then start to sketch. Most of the time the client has a specific style in mind already, but Jonathan G. Nelson from AAW Games often gives me pretty free hands and doesn’t restrict me artistically (and I respect that immensely).
When it came to Snow White, I wanted to embody that magical fairy tale feeling in maps too and isometric maps are great for this kind of product. It’s certainly possible to make top-down maps in a style suited for fairy tales, but with this style of cartography it’s an easier transition. Isometric maps are more personal and have that feeling of adventure no matter what style they’re drawn in—I remember seeing some as a child and imagining myself adventuring in those locations.
If we think about isometric vs. top-down in regional maps, there are many times where isometric maps come in handy. For example, inSnow Whitethere is a large haunted forest near the town where the adventure begins. As a top-down map I’d draw it with trees, thick bushes, and round shapes, but with isometric I instead make the forest evergreen, drawing sharp and dark spruce trees to really emphasize on the haunted aspect of the area.
In my mind the key to a successful illustration—especially a map—is attention to details and patience. In cartography patience is needed as it’s often needed to draw the same thing hundreds of times. I never use copy & paste with my maps (unless the use of texture patterns for backgrounds count), because I think the effort really shows in the final image. Even when making more digital styled maps I like to make every object individually and not duplicate anything.
Copying objects does come to mind when drawing city maps, but I think that the patience to draw every house separately really shows in the end, as seen in the next examples (these are not for Snow White, but from my Rite Map Pack – City by the Sea).
That map is not meant to be looked at that closely, but I want to show on what level I want to detail my maps, even if the details don’t come out very well in the finished piece; the same thing applies to dungeon maps. Little details set the mood—objects on tables, little cracks in the floor, or just texture on the wall, like on the next examples—make a big difference at the end of the day.
Details in maps are not only for visual purposes though. When doing cartography I want to enhance some interesting locations here and there—maybe add some ruins near the mountains, a lonely tower in the middle of the forest, a waterfall in the cliffs, and so on. I think it’s good to have some additional details, not just the ones written in the adventure or source book, but something that gets the gamemaster’s imagination running. I like to think this encourages GMs to add stories of their own, or helps the PCs see the location as a living, fantastic place of adventure. Of course these are things I need to run by the customer I’m drawing the map for, but usually those extra efforts are well received.
I’m really happy to get to work on a project as large and great as Snow White, and I’ll most certainly honor that chance by giving 100% of my effort when making the maps for it. I have a lot of patience stored in me for these pieces, and promise to make them shine!
I hope you enjoyed these insights on my approach to cartography. Please go and see the Kickstarter page for Snow White, read some reviews if you’re still undecided on whether to pledge or not—it’s an awesome adventure, and with more of the enthusiastic support the gaming community has shown for it, is bound to get even more amazing!
Also feel free to comment on this page, ask away if you have something to ask, or let me know if there’s something you’d like me to write more about. Thanks for reading and farewell everyone!