This is a mapmaking competition entry from Sven Myrin.
I designed the Free Kingdoms map with Photoshop 7 per my usual style using many CC3 elements and with a healthy dose of blending effects. The map took about 20 hours of work to complete. Since I had to create the map from scratch for the contest, I did not have a real plan in mind to start. Going into the project, my main goal was to design a long bridge that would connect the mainland (in this case a peninsula) with a large island. The initial plan focused on the bridge and when that was complete, everything else fit (or was made to fit) into place. The bridge was created by carefully cutting and manipulating exist CC3 assets. It’s too bad I don’t have a game that I can use the map in right now as I really like the way it turned out.
The Kingdoms of Laderia, Hiver, and Theroland represent the Free Kingdoms south of the Devilspine Mountains. Together they form a loose knit coalition that share similar interests centered on trade with the northern nations. The three kingdoms celebrate freedom as their mantra and vehemently oppose any challenge to their fiefdoms, especially from the overbearing and militaristic Ghalerian Empire, their closest northern neighbor. Major challenges to the Free Kingdoms come from the Ghalerians, pirating, and trading disputes.
Free Kingdoms Points of Interest
This body of water is frequently traversed by trading ships and the pirates that hunts them. The pirates that ply these waters have learned not to kill unnecessarily and more importantly, not to steal so much as to draw concentrated fire from the nations to the north. Nevertheless, patrols from the north are common enough as well as escorts for trade shipping. Seas are generally calm year round with an occasional strong storm to two during the winter and early spring months.
The southern peninsula has been laid claim to by the closest neighbor, the Ghalerian Empire, but it is more of a token assertion. The ability to enforce their dominance in the region is usually just out of their reach. They occasionally send an army to try to collect taxes and enforce their will but are always met with strong resistance from the three kingdoms. The Ghalerians have begun a new strategy through secret political machinations and hope to break up the coalition.
- Devilspine Mountains – So named for the sharp, spiny like stones that can be found throughout the varied slopes. Despite the name, there are no known devils that lair here. The mountain range is formidable and almost impossible to navigate across.
- Obryn’s Tunnel – Constructed and operated by five dwarven clans, the tunnel is the quickest route through the Devilspine Mountains to the northern nations. The dwarves maintain neutrality and allow nearly anyone the use of their tunnel. Fees are collected, of course, including a tax on trade goods. There are rumors of underdark connections. Lord Obryn Rorn was the original architect of the tunnel system. The Stoutgut Clan is the majority stakeholder at present.
- Olias – This trading town was the brilliant idea of Olias Rorn. Brother to Obryn, Olias contributed his financial genius with Obryn’s architectural plans and built an economy around the tunnel that would support it indefinitely. The town is the primary stop between the north and the free kingdoms.
- Freebooter’s Walk – If you cannot pay or have been turned away, this old road is the only way north around the Devilspine Mountains. However, it is rarely patrolled, fraught with raiders and barbarians, and a long, long way around.
- The Infernal Pines – These red needled pines produce a palpable heat and seem to attract a host of vile fire sympathetic creatures. However, their wood is valuable having heat resistant properties and a number of useful magic components are also available here.
- Wolfhound – Tucked away in a corner of the Devilspine Mountains, this bastion is home to an adventuring company. They have often come to the aid of the free kingdoms during times of need and occasionally desperate people seek them out for aid. There are twelve members within the organization but only half as much are present in the tower at any one time.
- Lake Nereid – So named for an unusual high density of fey creatures that live in and around the lake. Some can be dangerous, but for the most part, they live in harmony with nature. Fishing is excellent here year round.
- Kelpie Village – This village is home to a small community of water breathing elves and a few fey. They are shy and mostly keep to the lake but a few valuable trade goods can be acquired here when negotiations are expertly managed.
- The Wailing Tower – A ruined old tower from which a long moaning can be heard from miles away. It is said to be haunted perhaps by ghosts or a banshee. Sailors use the tower as a sort of light house and are able to hear the moan (hence land) when coming down the coast.
- The Hallows – This centuries old graveyard contains many stone monuments to unknown heroes of the past. Many of the stones are so weathered that it is not known what lays buried there. Newer graves have appeared from the time to time as well, dug by unfortunate explorers that have suffered loss while on the road. Grave robbers have been known to frequent the site but many are turned away or killed by unseen guardians.
- Silverwick Forest – The Silverwick ranges most of the Laderian Peninsula and is home to many creatures both wild and dangerous. Wood is plentiful and so is the hunting. The name of the forest comes from a rare tree that has silver tipped needles. The needles are magical in nature and are used in sewing, medical practice, and the tattoo arts. Anargarging Banewing, a large green dragon, dwells somewhere deep in the forest and sometimes take meals and treasures from travelling caravans along the road.
- Luckstone Castle – This ancient castle has stood the test of time. Although its walls are showing signs of collapse, the site has withstood countless assaults and attack from northern armies to local wildlife. A repair project is underway overseen by dwarves from Olias. King Bradbert Niss calls the castle home and has laid claim to a small niche of land that includes Primperton and Brenna’s Point. A hearthstone at the center of this castle is said to provide luck to those that kiss it. Once a year, King Niss opens the castle and allows the local population as well as visitors from other lands access to the stone.
- Primperton – This wealthy town lies between the trade routes of Theroland and the north. Its central location makes it a stop for nearly all trading that comes this way including those by ship. The land is too poor for more than minor farming but fisherman can yield large bounties from the nearby sea. Artisans have flocked here from nearby regions for the good weather and ample opportunities to sell their wares.
- Brenna’s Point – This small community is only just getting back on its feet having been largely raised to the ground by goblinoids of the Silverwick. King Niss put an end to that threat over two years ago, but rebuilding has been slow. The only surviving structure was the town windmill. It has since been converted into the town hall and garrison.
- The Feywild Marsh – This large and foreboding morass is home to many creatures including bullywugs, lizardfolk, and kobolds. It is also home to a pestering swath of mosquitoes and flies that can obscure the daytime sky in the summer months. Navigating this land is dangerous as well as difficult. There are few civilized folk that live here and those that do are usually reclusive.
- Redscale Village – This unfriendly lizardfolk village kills all interlopers that stray too close. They have even killed their greenscale brethren. It is said that the redscales worship a great reptilian beast that lairs in hidden ruins under the swamp.
- Greenscale Village – This peaceful village of lizardfolk trades with civilized communities a few times a year, usually between here and Brenna’s Point. They provide swamp harvested herbs and plants that have medicinal and magical uses that can be very valuable. On occasion, there are disputes, especially when they are taken advantage of, but things have always ended well for both sides in the past. A halfling ranger by the name of Worill Hobbin keeps residence here. Under the direction of King Niss, Worill helps to look after the greenscales interests.
- Mount Venom – The monstrous mountain looms out of the marsh in a most unnatural manner. It was as if the land heaved it from its breast in one fiery moment. Shrouded in mystery, it has become a magnet for adventurers seeking glory and treasure. It is called Venom Mountain for a cloud of noxious gas that erupts from the sides of it steep and jagged slopes. The gas rises, cools, and then falls as a thick fog around its base daily, killing most creatures that dare breathe its fumes. There has been long mention of a lich that keeps a dark and perilous dungeon somewhere within its depths.
- New Haven – This newer community of farmers are independent of any of the three free kingdoms. They trade a few goods via shipping and are surprisingly not harassed by pirating. It is thought that the roots of the town were planted by several pirate captains as a means to create a respectable shelter against northern persecution, but nothing can be substantiated. The relative isolation of the town is the primary reason that none of the other kingdoms has cared to investigate or make alliance offerings.
Hiver’s span is an interconnected series of tower like fortresses connected via long stone bridges. The connection dates back to a time when shipping was nearly impossible between Theroland and Laderia. The bridge was the brainchild of King Hiver and was constructed with a great deal of magical means over a hundred years ago. The huge expense of the project bankrupted the kingdom at the time, causing much internal strife. Sometimes the bridge is referred to as Hiver’s Folly for this reason. Today, the bridge controls the vital trafficking of trade goods. Prices are cheap to use the bridge in lieu of alternate means of trade such as shipping and magical transportation. To supplement the kingdoms income, several of the intervening towers has been leased to private parties who use them as homes and shops. There is even a prison operated by the Therland government.
- Dornica – The only town of this free kingdom, Dornica has a weak economy, and prices are usually quite good here for common goods and services. King Donam Borke has been working on the problem and is currently bargaining with a fledging trading company to secure desperate future bids on trade traffic. There are also rumors of secret negotiations with the Ghalerians. Since the town sits on a small island between six massive tower fortresses, there is no real town defense to which the king’s military advisor often gripes about. The island itself is surrounded by high rocky cliffs and has only one beach. It cannot be easily assaulted from the sea.
- Sacknoth Keep – The mainstay of Hiver’s military might lies here. Within the walls of this castle are the housed nearly 500 regular infantrymen, 200 horsemen, and an assortment of highly specialized troops. Hiver patrols are common as far east as Primperton and to the southern ruins of Old Vigdis. Both King Niss and King Hustimar have balked at such a force within their midst during times of peace.
The third of three kingdoms and the wealthiest, Theroland strikes as far north as the Ironshod Peaks to the as far south as the Emerald Basin. Despite such a wide claim of land, King Thegor Hustimar actively controls only half as much. Most of the kingdom’s riches come from the Ogrepick mines, the Auburnmoss Forest, and some rare trade goods from the Emerald Basin. As the richest of three kingdoms, it is also the target of the most pirating. Theroland is the only kingdom that keeps its own navy for obvious reasons. In the end, the use of Hiver’s Span has been very convenient. King Hustimar knows that Hiver relies on them for its economy and fears the day when shipping overshadows their usefulness.
- Ironshod Peaks – These dense peaks are home to a small tribe of goliath barbarians who peacefully keep to themselves. A few pockets of giant kin, ogres, and the like call the place home and can cause trouble for those that use the adjacent road from time to time.
- Dokkum – This small isolated town keep to themselves, taking a living from the local forest and lake. The town is supported in large part by the church of Pelor that maintains a large temple there. Most of the townsfolk are of a similar bent but there have been whispers of secret rituals that supposedly take place there. An investigation is long overdue.
- Rigo’s Rest – This tiny community is a way stop between Abiron and the north for traders, caravans, and the like. The town is home to no more than 50 people centered around a large tavern and inn that caters almost exclusively to travelers. Besides a few outlying farms, the town has only three other buildings; a smithy, a shrine to Avandra, and a general store. Rigo’s claim to fame is his award winning venison stew.
- Old Bones – This recently discovered bone yard contains the remains of hundreds of monstrous creatures that have presumably come to die here. Necrotic magic pervades the area and a number of wandering hunters and explorers have gone missing. An expedition is underway to discover the meaning of the site.
- Tent of the Traveling Minstrel – This mysterious magic tent has been standing here for over 25 years and has been a passerby’s emergency shelter time and again. Stranger still, sweet music provides a warm distraction to all whom visit yet no one has ever seen the player. Some say it is the work of an invisible spirit. Bard’s annually visit the tent and learn new songs while playing at games to try and find its source. To this day, the creator of this magic camp has never been discovered and no attempt at taking it down has ever succeeded.
- Old Vigdis – Another of Theroland’s mysteries, Old Vigdis was once a growing community until one day, all of its citizens suddenly vanished. No sign of them was ever found and since then, the place has been shunned as cursed and thought to be haunted by evil spirits. Bandits that live in the Auburnmoss sometimes lair here until chased off by the Theroland or Hiver militia.
- Auburnmoss Forest – This forest is names for a priceless moss that grows only during the fall. The moss, when collected and processed, cures many ailments and can even heal wounds. Harvesting is done annually during the festival of the moon. The moss is then processed in Abiron and sold as a trade good. Banditry is the most common forest danger in these parts.
- Navor’s Tribute – This gold hued statue has been on the road longer than anyone can remember. It bears only the word Navor. There have been a few attempts at vandalism but most have adopted the statue as symbol of the kingdom’s prosperity. Its creator and purpose remain unknown.
- Shadowfall Dungeon – An ancient and dangerous dungeon sits here, nestled at the base of a small mountain chain. Rumored to have a connection to the Shadow realm, the dungeon is lair to a number of foul creatures. Adventurers frequently visit these haunted halls looking for treasure and fame and have reported a peculiar quirk of the dungeon. Light sources carried by explorers in its depths always case two shadows.
- Abiron – Abiron is the capital of the Kingdom of Theroland and its seat of power. King Thegor Hustimar resides here alongside his subjects in a small walled city. The main castle is a testament to the power and riches of King Hustimar. A great white tower reaches skyward where a flight of trained griffons roost; the Royal Elite Air Force. The free city boasts a number of assets including a large library, three temples, a naval academy, and the largest trade center of the three kingdoms.
- Ol’ Smokey – Somehow this small mountain got the name Ol’ Smokey yet it never has created a plume or other similar natural occurrence. The mountain is the home to a few hermits and once a year a festival is held at its base in which men at arms have contests for prizes.
- Weyrcliff – Here resides the famous twin towers of Theroland, a school of sorcery and wizardry. Each tower is an independent college of magical arts. The white tower is the School of Wizardry founded by Yagadish Nalluri of Ghaleria and precedes the School of Sorcery founded by Elmeara Olpesh of Abiron. The two schools constantly compete with one another and each year there is a contest that crowns a winner.
- Solumney – This quiet town is the main farming community of Theroland and provides enough food to feed two kingdoms. There is a small garrison of armed forces that watch out for the farmers as their efforts have come under attack in past conflicts with other nations and the occasional wandering menace from the Auburnmoss.
- Queslin – Queslin is the hub of much activity including mining to the north, some local farming and fishing, and trade negotiations with explorers and natives of the Emerald Basin. It is a small community but heavily populated and growing fast. Patrols from Abiron arrive daily checking on the local garrison, keeping the road clear and providing escort services as needed.
- Ogrepick Mines – These mines have been in operation for decades and are still producing precious stones, gold, and other mining resources. Every time the mine seems to be on the verge of exhaustion, a new discovery is made and more fortunes dug from the earth. The mine gets its name from an ogre that once lived in the area many years ago and whom wielded a huge magic pick. The very same pick still hangs over the main mine entrance to this day, having been taken trophy when the ogre was dispatched.
- Calavan’s Deep – This naturally deep lake is a fisherman’s paradise. The variety and size of the animals that lair here are great indeed and provide an alternative food source to the local community. There have been tales of other larger and more dangerous creatures and a few fishermen go missing each year, but nothing has yet become a nuisance.
- The Emerald Basin – This large and thick jungle is rich with resources and the envy of the other two kingdoms. However, is it comparatively more dangerous than the Feywild Marsh and has resisted attempts at exploration and colonization. So far there have been three failed attempts at setting up communities within its boundary. The latest attempt, Ford Shaad, is barely holding its own.
- Fort Shaad – Fort Shaad is more of a military outpost than an exploratory one. Although the fort is home to explorers and adventurers alike, the majority of its populace are Abiron militiamen. Attacks from the jungle are a common occurrence at the fort. It is as if the jungle itself wages a silent war against them. The more pragmatic of the soldiers blame a giant albino, six-armed ape that often accompanies coordinated attacks against the fort. The reward for the killing of the white beast is substantial.
- Q’Hyjanoth – Little is known about this vine choked temple. Explorers caught sight of it some time ago, but no one has ever visited the site in any detail. The most recent attempt to visit the ruins uncovered ancient elven petro glyphs. Translations of the stones are still being done in Weyrcliff.
- Wreck of the Sea Wolf – This large sailing vessel was attacked by pirates over a decade ago. Rather than surrender her cargo, Captain Senecus Weems ordered the ship grounded. Her hull was smashed on the rocky shore tossing crew and cargo into the sea. What remains is rumored to contain vast riches. However, a powerful sea creature now protects the wreck preventing anyone from salvaging anything of value.
This southern island is home to pirates and wild lawless savagery. All manner of humanoids can be found here including orcs, gnolls, ogres, and the like. At any one time there are perhaps a dozen pirate ships docked at Blackboar, more during the storm season. There have been attempts to wipe away the pirate threat in these waters, but like roaches, they always return.
- Blackboar – This lawless town used to be a Ghalerian outpost many years ago but was overrun by pirates. The Pirates of the Cousarian Sea now call it home. It is named after the famous pirate ship Blackboar. In her day, the ship was the queen of the seas, taking from any who got in her path thanks to a ruthless gnoll captain known by his crew mates as Loup-Garou. At the end of her days, the Blackboar was permanently dry docked on Pirate’s Island and later the focus of a new community. The Blackboar still exists on the island and serves as a tavern in the very town that bears its name.
- Geyser of Blood – This horrific event occurs each month during the full moon. A geyser of thick, warm blood erupts from a gaping hole in the jungle floor. Some say it is the death site of a great dragon killed many hundreds of years ago on the very spot. Others claim that the geyser is infernal in nature, perhaps a vile connection to the nine hells or worse. The blood draws many predators from the surrounding jungle so few ever witness the geyser and live to tell of it. Fresh, magically preserved blood from the geyser is extremely valuable in some markets. It is said to cause vampirism in the living that drink it.
Isle of the Dead
An uncanny number of undead creatures roam under the canopy of this overgrown jungle giving credence to the island’s name. The origin of the undead abominations is clearly a side effect of having a necromancer living there. Whether by purpose or not, it is very dangerous to explore this infested island.
- The Iron Tower – Home to Nezhegol the Necromancer, the iron tower is an unholy place devoted to the study of necromancy. Thanks the seclusion of the island, Nezhegol is able to study the dark art of necromancy and to conduct experiments without having to look over his shoulder. On occasion, priests of Orcus visit with Nezhegol, perhaps trading secrets or maybe to work in collusion. Little is known about Nezhegol other than he is powerful and ruthless. He is known to have in his possession the Staff of the Withered Arm, an evil lesser artifact, and an unholy collection of tomes precisely describing the process of becoming a lich. The tower itself is entirely composed of iron as if cast in one pouring from a titanic cauldron of molten metal.