While working on the release of the Lake of Xuanwu free adventure, I want to show some of my early drafts to the dungeon map and the boss map. You can find the image of all the maps here.
The first version of the map was originally a set of inter-connected rooms. You can see some elements that I kept for the final version of the map such as the entrances, the library and the plum poles. As I started to build out the temple, I found it to be visually boring as felt like a parade of room, after room, after room. At this time, the lake map itself had no particularly interesting features and I was a bit at a loss of how to improve it.
Eventually, I started playing around with adding landmasses throughout the lake. By the time I added the first island, it knew that this was the direction I wanted to go in. I felt that by segmenting a cluster of rooms over their own islands, and forcing players to cross bridges to reach them, it really gave this dungeon the breadth and complexity that I felt this map needed.
The final picture is how I first envisioned the final battle with Lo Ting would run. Players would be forced to dive down into the depths of this cavern which would be consist of scattered air pockets and a variety of obstacles. This map is particularly deep and, given the rules for underwater combat and movement, felt that this battle would have been extremely punishing - especially for new players.
Instead, I decided to shorten the map and widen it out. The hazards were reduced to the geothermal vents and the fish-folk spawning points. Water could be reduced by turning the valve. These maps are one of the few times that I had run battles vertically, and I have to say - it's pretty thrilling.
What do you think of the changes? Would you have preferred a longer dive into the depths of the lake or did you think that choosing the shorter map was the better call?