Friday, November 28, 2014

The Ruins of Cullen Moray - level one-south

The first level extends southward, twisting and turning through the rock as it crosses Blackrood Creek, a small underground river that plunges over a steep waterfall and drops into a large pool before disappearing to the east. The twisting and turning passages will confound any adventurer and leave them guessing out to escape the dangers of the deep...

 a little more shading

pure B&W 

some color

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Delving deeper into Delving Deeper, part the fourth

Fourth in the series, continuing with the classes section.

The Cleric
These are stripped down rules and leading right into it clerics are immediately hit with some restrictions:
Clerics must choose law or chaos; they cannot remain neutral in the eternal struggle. Either type must remain steadfast in this choice or be stripped of his status.
I like this too, reminds me of the games I played as a kid. And then a few more restrictions:
In performing their duty clerics are allowed shields and any armor but the use of edged or piercing weapons is forbidden.
This too reminds me of my youth. Clerics are hallmarks of good, shining beacons of what heroes are, they are a touch more powerful than the fighter and certainly their healing ability is a good thing to have around. Shouldn't a more powerful character have some limitations to make the character a little harder to play? I totally agree with this, a cleric has powers granted by a benefactor and nothing is free in the world, thus, there should be a cost.

In my adult games I have rarely imposed any sort of restrictions or forcing punishment for characters that are not devout but I did as a kid. Spells failed, bad things befell the character and I remember distinctly a session where the character's deity appeared before them.
A cleric begins play with a spell book containing the 1st level spells and can thereafter cast a number of spells each day appropriate for his experience level.
I do not recall clerics having spell books in any of my early games. I always had the cleric pray to their deity who then grants them the spells. Additionally, looking at the following table, clerics do not even get a single spell at first level! Certainly makes a cleric an interesting choice at first level and gets rid of the magic-user folks crying foul that their class sucks at first level.
So long as he adheres to his faith a cleric will gain access to spells of successive spell levels as he advances in experience, and can devise spells of his own besides.
It is not clear to me how clerics get later spells. Are they given to their by their deity and somehow added to this spellbook or are they found? The rules are not clear here so we must leave this up to the GM. My interest is also piqued by the statement can devise spells of his own besides, so they can make their own spells? Interesting.
Clerics of the chaotic sort are called anti-clerics. They are intended as villains and their purpose is to vanquish good
Anti-clerics is interesting because this essentially means that the players are intended to play GOOD characters, that they are a force of good in the world. I too remember all the games of my youth being this way with only a few dabbles into the world of playing evil or not-for-good characters.

Others posts in this series:
Part one.
Part two.
Part three.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lunch Box Heroes - NaGaDeMon?

Last January I had a conversation with a fellow gamer about wanting a quick one-shot game that would take literally zero prep and could be ran over lunch. An idea struck me and I wrote some ideas down but never finished it.

Fast forward to Wednesday this last week and my friend Bryan was running games for his kids. He tried a few I have owned but never ran (Bean!, Hero Kids, and Faery's Tale). You can read about it here This made me think back to my little game I had written and so I dug around and blew off the dust. I was too busy to really sit down and look at it until this morning when I pretty much tossed it all away except for a few thoughts and rewrote the game.

Tonight I was left alone while the girls went out shopping. I am not brave enough for insanity like that so I thought I would play test my little game a little.

I quickly made three character sheets and tossed (this game used coins) together three characters, aptly a warrior, a rogue, and a mage. Her are their sheets:

Next I thought it might be fun to get out Mythic GM Emulator but instead I was predictably lazy and did not want to go looking for it. So I made my own. :-)

It uses coins (the #c notation) to randomly determine what happens in the underground tunnel my heroes have ventured into. So now that I have my heroes and a way to determine the dungeon they were about to explore, I was ready to go!

I started at the entrance to the dungeon and tossed the coins. The tunnel went for a bit before it opened up to a medium sized chamber. Luckily there were no monsters but the rogue in the group, Lydia, found a trap and tried to disarm it.
I rolled four pennies and determined it was a Trap2, then tossing Lydia's 2 coins for her Rogue stat and an additional 1 for her Trap Detection (I should have named it something more like Trap Expert or something).

She got two heads and I had mentally noted while writing the game that all ties went to the players. Lydia found and disabled the trap! I then checked for treasure and found one normal item, I thought a moment and added torches to the groups items.

Tossed more coins and determined the tunnel lead farther into the ground and came to another room, unfortunately this one was occupied by four goblins! As Lydia was leading the party she leapt forward to strike the first goblin. Lydia gets three coins, two from her warrior stat and one for her short sword gear. The goblin gets two, one for his warrior stat and one for his spear. Each rolled one heads and of course a tie goes to the defender so the goblin manages to block the attack!
Next, Ragnar the warrior steps up, not to be out done by a rogue, he slashes sword at the goblin, besting it with three heads to its two. The goblin goes down immediately!
I had not thought about multiple attacks, and it felt like Ragnar should have gotten another, but I decided to let it go for now.

Burton the mage stepped up and cast a magic missile at the fourth goblin in the fray. His mage 3 and magic give him four coins to toss against the goblin's 2. Here I ruled that as the mage was firing a missile 'weapon' at him the goblin should get to avoid getting hit so I allowed him to use his Rogue stat to try to dodge. Amazingly Burton tosses terribly and gets only one heads, the goblin matches, and steps aside as the magic missile flies past him.
I honestly get a little nervous here. This is not going too well, but I press on. The third goblin charges Ragnar and Ragnar easily cuts him down (forgot to photo).

It cuts back to Lydia and her goblin. This time Lydia manages to best the goblin and cuts him down.
Back to Ragnar again and he yet again easily cuts down the last goblin.
They do a quick search and I randomly determine they find a lantern and some gold. So at the end of our first encounter the group looks like this. I award XP. Burton has failed everything he has done so far and so he gets zip. Ragnar has defeated three goblins but I mess up and only award him 2 (bad GM!)Lydia has bested one goblin and a level 2 trap, thus getting 3 XP.
This chamber has two tunnels leading off into darkness and I randomly decided to to to the one to the left. A few rolls later the party comes to a cliff. I randomly determine it is a Cliff2. Each character is going to need to make a test using their Rogue to climb down safely.
We don't roll so good. And of course, I forgot to put something sensible like ROPE on the character sheets. Duh.
Lydia and Ragnar both fall as they climb down and take a point of damage. Burton does not. Afterwards I thought it would have been smarter to simply cast a spell and float the group down, but hey, learn from our mistakes, right?

The group continues and come to a large room, a man-made structure which I determine to be a tomb with a false door. The group searches the room but finds nothing and return to check the other tunnel.

They continue along the other tunnel and find another room, this one is a tomb as well with a large statue. Lydia discovers a trap at the entrance to the room and is able to disarm the trap.
As they step into the room the giant guardian statue roars to life and charges towards the party. I quick like made up the stats for guardian statue.
Burton unleashes a magical blast upon the statue, scoring one hit before the statue can cross the distance to the group.
Ragnar charges to meet the statue, after a brief struggle Ragnar goes down, taken out by the powerful attack of the statue.
Lydia realizes that she cannot take on the statue directly opts instead to dip into the shadows and use her stealth to her advantage. Its a bit of a long shot but with just a one in Rogue the statue is blind to her move. She slips in behind the statue hidden by the shadows.
The statue moves towards Burton who takes the unlikely stance for a mage and stands his ground. As the statue barrels towards him, he unleashes another magic blast and another success! He bests the statue by one and reduces the statue's hit down to just 1.
Now Lydia strikes from the shadows, her short sword striking from the darkness and landing a solid blow! Two heads against one tails. The statue crumbles into a pile of dust!

All in all it was pretty interesting and fun to test out the mechanics, as an added bonus I had a great time coming up with the random dungeon generator.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Ruins of Cullen Moray - level one

Not had a chance to put my notes on this level down to paper yet but wanted to show you some of what I have been working on. This will be the level just below the previous map posted here on the blog: The Castle level

Some day I will get a chance to continue the old halfling's tale about his exploits here, and how they went so badly.

Other versions of the map:
massive version, really, really big file

pure b&w version, and not so large, should fit a page of paper decently

a slightly colorized version

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Delving deeper into Delving Deeper, part the third

Third in the series, moving along to the classes section. The first page alone, before we even get to the first class, has some doozies in there!

Hit Dice
A return to the old days of gaming, DD sets the hit dice at just d6s, all of the races, monsters and characters are to use the d6.
The numbers of hit dice given on the following charts are always six-sided
I like this. For me, for whatever reason, I like the d6 so much better than all the rest of the dice. The d4 weird to hold and just an odd die. The d8 I hate, just an annoying die for me.  The d10 is cool with me, likely due to my love of the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG. The d12 is another odd dice, don't care for it. So sticking to the d6 is cool with me. Yes folks, I am prejudice against certain kinds of dice. D12, ugh, hate it. And that blasted d30 that shows up, yuck.

Experience Points
First and foremost, DD jumps in immediately and clearly states that 1 gold piece is equal to 1 experience point.
(XP) are earned primarily by recovering (not merely finding) treasure
No question about it here, this is a game about finding monsters and taking their treasure. One point I like here is that they point out it is not just the finding of treasure but the recovery of the treasure. I take this to mean the gathering of treasure and getting it out of the dungeon. How many of us have sat at the table and had a player jonesing for their cut of the XP the moment they find the treasure? Not here boys, gotta get that shit out of the dungeon and all the way back to town.

This brings up a question of sorts. I typically hand out treasure and XP as the adventure continues. In my mind this reflects real life as you learn through doing things. If we take this course of action, instead characters would progress in levels typically when exiting the dungeon.  Not sure how much I like this approach but I do see the value in making it treasure that they recover to the surface. After all, would Indiana Jones be famous if he found the treasure but never actually got it out of the tombs? "Really guys! I found it! Really!!! I swear!"
Experience points are also earned by defeating monsters. 100 XP are awarded for each hit die of each enemy defeated. The referee may increase the base award for especially dangerous enemies including those with poisonous, paralyzing, or multiple attacks.
Going along with what appears to be a continuing theme of the game is the GM here has the opportunity to provide additional XP for the characters defeating especially vicious and tough creatures.
Experience awards for defeating monsters are scaled according to the ratio of the dungeon level to the character level so that higher level players are encouraged to seek appropriate challenges. If a party of 1st level characters were to defeat a dozen 1 HD orcs on the 1st dungeon level they would be awarded 1,200 XP between them. If a party of 6th level characters defeated the same orcs they would earn one-sixth as many XP because they are 6th level characters exploring the 1st dungeon level.
Whoa. This is like the 4E challenge level taken to a whole new level. I guess this makes sense but damn, it would make getting to those higher levels that much harder and really, really makes the claim that 1st dungeon levels are easier than the lower levels. As most my dungeons are only one level, I guess this means that odds are I would ignore this rules and simply award XP in accordance to the struggle the characters faced.

Now comes the big kick in the teeth:
Note that no character can advance more than a single experience level in a single adventure. He will always fall at least 1 XP short of gaining a second experience level with any excess XP discarded.
Ouch! Really? This will surely mean that character MUST return to the surface and get a breath of fresh air now and then. This coupled with the rule above regarding treasure recovery would mean the characters will need a locale to return to so they might recover from the hardships of the dungeon. Which, I guess, makes some sense actually. Even seasoned warriors need a break from always being on alert and in combat, otherwise PTSD ensues.

I missed it during my first read, but even the first paragraph re-enforces this idea that returning to a base of operations and resting is how characters go up in level:
by returning to a safe haven after accumulating the necessary number of experience points
All that is from just a single page in the book! Whew! It is going to take me a bit to get through the book, eh?

Others posts in this series:
Part one.
Part two.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Ruins of Cullen Moray

The old halfling sat back, his eye glossing over as memory flooded his vision.  He let out a long, low breath before he continued again.

"Aye, the Cullen Moray, a bastard of a place," He said in his gruff and scratchy voice, no doubt a result of the horrible scar on his neck. I had asked how the old timer had gotten the scar and that was how the discussion had begun. "From the outset we knew the place would be hell. That is why we hired porters to help carry our gear. Only one made it out alive, and that is a questionable statement."

"Why did you go if it was notorious for being dangerous?" I asked, my naivety  coming to the surface.

He stared at me a moment as if in disbelief and then broke the silence with a deep laugh. "Whores and wenches my boy!" His thunderous laugh turned heads our way. "Whores, boy, we wanted gold and fame and the warm bodies that follow when you have done a great and heroic thing. The Cullen Moray was famous for being full of wealth and neigh untouched, the place was dangerous and had produced more bodies than gold but old Ferith knew it was ripe for the taking. Bogort and Veyleen agreed and off we went."

He took another swig of the stout I had purchased for him. I motioned for the maid to refill it, I wanted as much information from the old timer before I headed into the depths of Cullen Moray myself. Information is power they say and I was not going to look away when fortune dropped one of the few men to have survived a trip into its blackest levels.

"Ferith had stumbled across a map, a rough map at that," He leaned in and winked his one good eye at me. The other was hidden beneath a horrible scar that marred the right side of his face. This fellow had seen some shit, that was for sure. "Came across it in the Felled Kracken of Dorven, a rough map drawn by a madman to be true. It proved to be less than accurate but enough to wet our appetite and get our hopes up. Traps and tricks were written on it. We happily ventured into the place thinking we had one up on fate. Ye know what happens when you think you can one up fate boy?"

"Uh," Was all I could muster and this proved to less than satisfying for the old timer.

"Gods boy! You think you are ready for Cullen Moray?" He slammed the mug down on the thick table causing a loud crash to echo through the pub. "Do ye, boy?!"

"I...I," I coughed to clear my thought, and to stall to clear my thoughts. "I was hoping that with any information you could provide I might be able to survive the first few levels."

He studied me again. His eye danced over the leather armor my father had given me and then moved to my sword as it rested at my side. The sword had been in my family for well over six generations and was rumored to be magical, especially against unnatural creatures.

"Old steel, dwarven-forged, its a fine blade boy, but you are going to need more to survive Cullen Moray. You asked about the place, I shall tell you, keep me mug full," He finished the current mug and  slid it across the table. As if on cue, Melanae stepped up and filled it to the brim. I gave her a quick smile and she winked back. The halfling took a long sip.

"Cullen Moray is an old keep, long disused. It is only two levels but the levels are taller than normal, allowing for the thick floors and walls, the keep was meant to defend against the giants that make the valley their home. Aye, just getting to the keep is a challenge, the road is washed out and steep and the giants are everywhere, having enjoyed the valley once their attack on the keep proved successful."

"It is said their attack was lead by a horde of large bulettes, nasty beasts they are, and they tore down the gate on the northeast corner and left a gaping hole, goes straight to the top of the keep. That's where we went in...the first mistake we made. Gulan, our master thief, climbed the walls and hooked up a rope for the rest of us to climb up to the second level. We were figuring it would be safer to enter from the upper levels. We were not alone."

He takes another drink. When Melanae slides past I stop her and order two of their their biscuits and gravy. I am hoping I can keep him talking as he is finally getting to the meat of the information.

"Ghost, damned ghosts. They cover the second floor, scores of 'em. Pilgrath...he was our second holy man, tried his whole turning bit. Ghosts did not like that much and jumped him. By the time Duniden...our other holy man...and the rest of us got them off of Pilgrath his hair had turned white and he was physically drained. Scratches covered his body and he sat there, muttering nonsense. Took us an hour to calm him down. Gulan did a thorough search and found enough gold that we could not carry it all, also some trinket on a chain he put around his neck. Some fancy metal work and was most likely some religious thing or another. When Pilgrath calm around we headed down to the main floor. Where they were waiting..."

His voice trailed off and he got quiet again, his good eye staring off into the distance over my shoulder. I waited, now I was hooked and sure he was giving me good information. The biscuits and gravy arrived and I tore into them, starving. The halfling let the plate sit before him. Moments past quietly between us and I am certain I saw a tear start to form but he held it back, clearing his throat before he continued again.

"The main floor was terrible. The bulettes that tore down the gate? Their kin were waiting for us in the floor. We were just at the bottom of the stairs on the main floor when an explosion of dirt and rock filled the air and they were all around us. Pilgrath and Gulan were the first to go down. Luckily Bogort had encountered these beasts before and made quick work of two of them, Duniden was able to heal Pilgrath and get him back into the fight and I held one at bay so Gulan could scamper away from the thing's beak. It was bloody and terrible."

"It sounds terrible!" I let slip and he gives me a hard look. Then his eye lit up as he noticed the food before him and dives in. Seemed his tale had made him thirsty and hungry. "Sorry about that, it sounds horrible. Never crossed paths with a bulette but I had heard tales, fiercesome creatures. Heard they can snap a man in two with their..."

He stops and looks at me, spoon halted halfway to his mouth. "Boy, let me stop you right there. Gulan got away but it was minus one arm. The bulette took it clean off, right at the elbow."

"Oh," I said, biting my tongue. "Poor Gulan."

"He was fine, tough lad he was. Duniden patched him up after Bogort and Veyleen took care of the remaining bulettes." He took a few bites. "It was good Duniden was there, turns out we would need Gulan later, in the depths, even if he only had one good arm remaining."

to be continued......

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Delving deeper into Delving Deeper, part the second

Second in the series, just going to look at a few pages this time, continuing at page 9 of the POD, 4th version of the rules. My goal when I started this series was to merely ramble about on my own thoughts as I read through the rules but as I am reading through this rulebook it is really causing me to step back and look at what I consider ODD and what I thought was 'correct' when I think about my own games. Excuse the rambling about midway through this post. ;-)

First thing,you should know I like simple game rules. You add a bunch of rules and complexity, odds are I am not going to like it. Here DD strips the alignment down to the core: Law, Chaos, and Neutral. You either like order, hate it, or don't give a crap. I can dig that.
Law is civility and order and upholds the greater good. Chaos is anarchy and brutality and undermines the greater good. Neutrality is neither for law nor chaos but for the individual and for those with no stake in the grander contest.
I like this approach as to me, as a modern person order, law and 'good' are all essentially the same thing. Perhaps not exactly the same thing but if you look at them with broad strokes I think we can agree that they are similar enough that they could all be equal. The same could be said for chaos, anarchy, and evil.

I like this simple angle the game takes. It fits well with the rest of the game rules and the idea that a simple definition has a ripple effect and causes the referee and player to put their own thoughts and ideas into the simple structure. That thief who breaks in and steals from a rich merchant, is he good? Evil? Or neutral? I think he could be any of them. You need to look at the whole character to get a clearer picture.

As I have read this rulebook one thing has become more and more clear and has helped me revise and tighten my own definition of what OSR means to me. For me, the OSR is not a particular ruleset, or even a genre of games, instead it is a particular way of gaming. In my own personal belief, the OSR has come to mean that a character is not solely defined by the written down information on their character sheet but they are so much more. A character in an OSR game is an amalgam of the character on the character sheet and the player, it is not merely the information on the character sheet. The character sheet is a foundation upon which the player builds the character they want to play. I think this is a powerful statement on why I like the OSR much more than other games out there.

But, this is not a thesis on the OSR, so I will let that rest until another day.   ;-)

Determine Abilities
Each is determined, in order, by the referee with a throw of three six-sided dice producing scores between 3 and 18.
You catch that? Yeah, 3d6 in order. I get that and have seen it before. That is not what I am referring to. I missed it the first time I read through it. Look again. You might have missed by the referee. This is interesting and I am not sure I would implement this rules. Taking the dice away from the player and putting them in the GM's hands feels to me as wrong.

I mean if the player rolls the dice it is random but it is random at the player's hands and that feels right to me. Then again, it would be interesting to essentially create the character skeletons to the players and let them build their characters around that. I find this interesting, but iffy.

I find the idea of putting players in a bit of a bind, forcing them to think a little harder by putting constraints on them, to be very exciting. Perhaps a player always plays a mage but he comes to the table and gets handed a character with abilities that are not well-suited to being a mage. Perhaps the player is the sort that takes this poorly, but perhaps we are lucky and we have a player that takes this seemingly negative situation and spins it on its head. Perhaps they create a much more interesting character to play. In my experience, limitations breed creativity, so perhaps this could be a very interesting angle to take.

Movement Rates
Movement rates allowed by load are for man-sized and man-like types. These should be scaled appropriately for other types but any character reduced to half his movement rate is considered to be encumbered.
Remember my earlier post where I discussed man-types? Here it adds the "man-sized" and "scaled appropriately for other types" but I don't think that changes the base intent here. In the previous entry in this series Man-Types were defined as "all men and other creatures of same basic proportions" and thus, by my reading, DD makes no distinction on movement rates based on race.

Others posts in this series:
Part one.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Delving deeper into Delving Deeper, part the first

Yeah, pun intended.

So I recently picked up Delving Deeper in the POD version mostly based on the fact that I own the little whitebox version from Brave Halfling Publishing. I liked it then but have never had a chance to run the game. I have had the book for about two weeks now but am just now getting a chance to take a look at it. So I thought it fun (for me anyway) to do an in depth look at the rules and compare the text to my own impressions and thoughts on the game. This will all be my personal thoughts on the POD version of the game, currently version 4 of the rules.

Cover & the book
First thing, I really like the cover. Pure black and white goodness. It is a bit busy but therein lies the magic. Every time I look at the cover I find something I previously missed. The cover reminds me of the early artwork I encountered when I was first exposed to Dungeons & Dragons thirty years ago.

The book is perfectly sized. The book just about matches my tablet, a seven inch Asus MeMo Pad HD, and would be perfect to slip into a bag or backpack at a convention. This takes me back to my early days of playing D&D where I would show up at a friends house, grab some dice, a pad of paper and some graph paper and run with it. This may be totally nostalgia but THIS is how I want to game. I do not need nor want three big hardback tomes to run my games.

Coming in at 130 pages this may not fit the so-called "Matt's Rule" of twenty pages but there are enough rules to cover most situations and provide a foundation upon which we could build a massive gaming campaign. The text is not too small that the words are hard to read and the author +Simon Bull has done a splendid job with layout and text, providing a natural and easy read of the rules.

The introduction covers some of the typical bits and pieces but then I came across something that caught my eye:
"Volume III is intended as a reference for referees. These contain all manner of monsters—from androids to zombies.."
Ok, ok, wait, what? Androids??? Hmmm, this interesting, perhaps this is not what I expected. Paints this game in a different light than most other seemingly fantasy based games I have read (owned).

The next piece that gave me an eyebrow raising moment was the following passage:
"Heroic-Types include all man-types of heroic stature and all monsters that represent a heroic threat. Collectively these are all creatures with 3 or more hit dice but fewer than 7 hit dice."
This game clearly defines and spells out that people, and all monsters, 1 and 2 hit dice are considered normal joes. So at first level a player should not expect to be doing amazing feats or superhuman acts of heroism. This ain't your son's D&D.  ;-)

Also of note, and this will come up later, the use of the term "man-types" in the first sentence. This curious term caused me to scan ahead and look at the definition of this term.
"Man-Types are all men and other creatures of same basic proportions including androids, cavemen, dwarfs, elves, gnolls, gnomes, goblins, halflings, hobgoblins, kobolds, lizardmen, mermen, nixies, orcs, and pixies."
Again, androids shows up. Cavemen? This wide swath of different creatures is quite interesting.

The next thing that caught my eye was a further defining of the level of play. Creatures at 3 hit dice to 6 are considered heroic and those 7 and up are considered superheroic. This means that there are three levels of play in DD: normal folks, heroic, and superheroic.
"Superheroic-Types include all man-types of superheroic stature and all monsters that represent a superheroic threat. Collectively these are all creatures with 7 or more hit dice."
Continuing along this caught my eye:
"Dice (three six-sided dice and one twenty-sided die per player)"
Uht oh. Six-siders and a twenty-sider, you know what that means. Everything does damage in versions of d6. Most likely that means all weapons causing d6 damage. This will irk many players. Me? I am cool with it, but I can feel the grumbling amongst the players already.

So ends my first in this series. Already I am starting to see a few things that will not match up with so called 'modern' games or what many think of when they think of Dungeons & Dragons. This, despite the fact that DD comes from the very same roots that modern D&D comes from. More to come.....

The Crash of the San Lucent

Another quick map from the desk of SFC Jackson:

The San Lucent crashed into a large asteroid during it seven year mission to explore the unknown universe. Unfortunately all they found was mushrooms, death and some alien crystals.

Sucks for them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quick Map from last week

Last week I posted a photo of a map I made at work over a quick break. I think I spent around 15 to twenty minutes on it, so nothing really special but I thought I would scan it for those so inclined and interested. This was inspired by an adventure posted to G+ by +Matthew Lowes

The Original Map:

Color scan:

Cleaned up black & white for my old school fellows: