Just curious how you handle treasure maps that are detailed in the adventure text. In my mind, the ideal solution would consist of several steps, but it would be a good bit of work:
- Write up a dungeon & stock it, matching the gp reward with appropriate risk and challenges, making sure that the total treasures add up to what's indicted in the Dwimmermount text
- Draw a treasure map for the players, which would consist of a crude overland map, not so much a true hex wilderness map, but rather a path of notable landmarks (towns, roads, rivers, etc)
I suppose a big downside to going to such lengths is that the PCs may never come across your map! On the other hand, perhaps one of the rival adventuring parties could and use it as a bargaining chip in some future negotiation.
The simpler solution may be just to spell out what this map details (it leads to location X and has 20k gold), so if the party takes the time to travel out to that spot, they get the treasure. But, that strikes me as way too easy. Either way, this all ties in, I think, to an earlier question I posed about random encounters in the wilds around Dwimmermount.
Treasure maps make for great one shot mini adventures. They kinda force the GM to expand the world. They also entice PCs to explore more than just the dungeon.
One of the things I did was to include a few treasure maps showing hints or hidden locations inside dwimmermount. That led the PCs to other levels. I did slightly bump up the treasure in those spots to make up for the overall decrease in treasure.
Also consider non-standard treasure maps. Maybe it's a diary, maybe it's a magical compass, maybe it's a letter,etc. I replaced a treasure map to a Thrassian tomb with a mummified ancient lizard man head that could talk. It allowed me to introduce the idea of an ancient advanced lizard man civilization and create a little one shot adventire to return the skull and raid the tomb.
In old versions of d and d treasure maps came up all the time on the treasure lists. In the old days I ignored this. No, along with a lot of other subtleties in the old rules, I recognize that they serve a vital purpose in a sandbox - giving players agency and providing alternative competing time pressures. This really is part of what makes a campaign feel alive.
The mummified lizard man head is a great idea. But, I wish you had been a little more specific with regards to my questions. It sounds like you definitely have the map lead to a lair or underground complex of some sort, which you have to draw, stock, etc. So, if your PCs come across a physical treasure map, what do you show on it? Some kind of overland map with directions? Or is it a map of the actual dungeon containing the treasure? If the map is supposed to be some kind of overland map, how do you translate that to gameplay exactly? In my game, the PCs are traveling over the vicinity hex map. So in my head, I'm wondering how the party is supposed to take a crudely drawn prop and turn that into instructions that are relevant to the real overland map.
Yeah, I also grew up on the old D&D, where treasure maps were part of the magical treasure. At the time, I just assumed it meant a map of some part of the current dungeon, not another complex. But, this is good. Yeah, you bring up a good point: it's a good way to introduce some variety and player agency. Plus, it exands the scope of the campaign. Always a good thing!!
So one of the maps was a letter from a termaxian necrolyte to a fellow termaxian. It talked of how he had control of the great library of Lloreac. It included 2 'maps' a rough map of Lloreac showing the general location of the library (which I had randomly generated from a website online and altered it to look like it was drawn in charcoal using powerpoint) and a map of the first floor of the library (which I again got from the internet).
Lloreac was a city in ruins in the Murklands. I had fleshed it out as a city destroyed in anger by a cleric of Zues and a 7th lvl ritual. I rolled 2d6 for the number of lairs and got 6, so I then rolled on the swamp charts, ending up with black dragons, 2 trolls, lizard men, ogres, and goblins. I placed each lair in the city. As for the library I stocked it with a single necrolyte, some arcane cadavers, and 4 termaxian husks. There is also a lair generator listed somewhere that I used to develop the tribes (cutting and pasting them into a word doc) for the lairs inside the city.
The party paid some sages to research and had an explorer henchman find the city. Then they planned the expedition, complete with mercenaries, supplies, etc. It took up two sessions and was a blast (see the actual play forum to see how it turned out).
If you send me an email address I'll be happy to send you the treasure map and keys for the city and library. Hope that helps.
I also had a dwarven map that was procedural. It took me a while but was basically a diagram showing rooms as squares and hallways as straight lines. The map showed you which way to turn, but ONLY the turns, so if a hallway turned, but they were no branches, it would be a straight line. The thief rolled his read languages ability so I gave him a hint oh how it worked. The party managed to figure it out to get to a lower level in the dungeon.
Finally another map was simply a copy of part of the 4th level map with a short note explaining what was there and what floor it was on (by name, not #). The party had to identify a landmark on the map and in the dungeon, then they could follow the map. They also had to ask the head on the first floor to figure out what level was the lesser hall of secrets and how to get there.
Apparently, my timing on asking the above was good. My kid recovered the treasure map in the Laboratory (level 2A), in the Archive (area #15). It's a map, written in a cipher, which leads to a dwarven vault containing 20k gp, somewhere in the Hearthstone Mountains. So, what do you think? Should this map be for Ghaz Droonan? I'm thinking that such an undertaking would be much too ambitious, and that a map to a smaller outpost maybe a couple of hexes from Ghaz Droonan would be more appropriate. But, I'm gonna need to put in some random encounters for the surroundings!
So, my inclination is to make a crude overland map that would show the location of this outpost relative to major landmarks, like Adamas, the Macrono River, and Ghaz Droonan, probably locating the outpost on the farthest spur of the Hearthstone (29.14). And then include directions for travel within the hex itself - that's the part that would need the cipher to be decrypted. What do you think?
The small vault is the way to go. Here is a possible map of the vault:
Maybe have the cypher be a clue or riddle to open the vault. Once you find a particular landmark, maybe have the next landmark visible in the distance, with the last landmark allowing you to see the location of the vault entrance at a certain part of the day (a classic trope) and make the cypher related to that.
For 20K, it shouldn't be too hard. Make sure that if you have the vault stocked with monsters that you add the dwarven 20K to the treasure of the monsters in the vault.