My players are adventuring in Dweredell, a city setting by Justin Alexander. In that setting, the local Guildmaster tried to get rid of the newcomer adventurers by sending them to the Dwarven Quarter, a semi-ruined area between the inner and outer walls, where drug addicts known as Silecs squat and dream. The Guildmaster told the adventurers there was a growing spider problem there, based out of an old fort, the Sezaran’s Dwarfhold. They went to sort it out, and to everyone’s surprise, survived.
To the victor go the spoils! So there was an order of monastic dwarves, centuries ago, who built this dwarfhold in the Dwarven Quarter of Dweredell. I went over to Dyson Logos’ map collection to pick something fun to represent this spider-haunted former monastery fort. This is what I picked.
So far so good! But I don’t like using things like this without thinking through how the people who built it used it. Adding monsters is easy compared to making sure the space flows and makes sense for the original users. So, this is how the dwarves used the space.
For the main sanctuary to the east, I added a tower you can climb a ladder cut into the wall to reach, to look out and add ventilation. The standing stones in the courtyard are carved with symbols the size of a thumbnail, each one an individual, with constellation shapes for family and legendary connections. The trees in the courtyard are Dwarven Ash, with gnarled pale gray bark and gray and silver leaves that flutter in the wind. Many narrow windows to the courtyard for light and air, but only one door big enough to fit through; even if attackers come in through the courtyard they still have a fight on their hands, and lots of projectiles aimed at them while they try to batter down the door.
The tavern right off the entry way was built to look like a dwarven tavern, right down to the bare wooden rafters (not seen elsewhere in the compound) and the brewer’s symbol carved into the fireplace. (You will note I added fireplaces and Franklin stoves all over the place; the circles are Franklin stoves.)
The secret door out of the water closet by the dining room is a poop chute for emptying chamber pots and such, and it is barely big enough for a dwarf to squeeze through. A tasteful grove of trees and brush is around the exit point, 1.5 meters off the ground.
There are runes carve on the wall across 1/3 of the pantry that keep the area cool, almost refrigerated.
So, already with these few details you get a better sense of the dwarven monastics that lived in this place. Why they put things as they did, how the life of the fortress would flow.
Then the fun part; the players picking out their lairing areas in the fort. A cleric chose the quarters in the sanctuary. The wizard chose the fancy guest quarters, and plans to convert the servant quarters appended to it to his library and lab. The hardened rogue leader chose the butler’s space, to keep a finger on the pulse of activity in the compound (its door, its tavern, and a secret entrance to the garden.) She needs only 4 hours of sleep a night, so that’s a good place for her. The brute plans to sling a hammock in the kitchen, to stay near the food and have room to stretch out (no tiny cells.)
Meanwhile, the Silec are won over as good neighbors because the characters did them a favor. So, 15 of them (including an influential person) moved in to cohabitate, cook and clean, and generally share with the adventurers for mutual convenience. They’ve been shown the escape tunnel, and told to stay out of the courtyard and chapel, but otherwise they have the run of the place.
And that’s how a couple maps and NPC sketches become part of a living, invested game.