Perched above the clouds is silhouetted a multi-tiered castle, its layered keep hidden behind yet more layers of walls. Could any army stand a chance here after that climb?
I visited Japan for the first time in 2017 and spent my time jumping from one castle to the next, only stopping for shrines, museums, and other historical sights along the way. I adore the architecture and the fantastical feel of it all, despite it being very much real. Since then I have drawn a modest collection of Japan-inspired maps, but I have always meant to draw a huge castle.
It so happens that my players are currently storming a mountaintop fortress in my personal fantasy-Japan-themed campaign, so I bit the bullet and finally made it!
Below you will find my short blog post, preview images, and some immersive writing by Troy. Alternatively, you may skip straight to the downloads.
In the lands of Wei these heroes have been seeking the ancient O-Daiko drums in order to perform a ritual and close a vortex-rift that is acting as a gateway for an army of extra-planar baddies. They have two already and now seek the third, and have tracked it to this fortress where it is possessed by a greedy lord.
The lord in question built this secluded mountaintop castle in order to pursue his studies in secrecy and solitude. He is well known in Wei as the sole craftsman of puppet-prosthetics (wood-and-rope limb replacements) and also as the man behind the Wooden Samurai that the neighboring daimyo employs – sleepless, unfeeling guards born from the processed souls of their prisoners of war.
Besides the puppet lord himself, these Wooden Samurai are the only creatures to reside in this frigid castle. They go about mindlessly sweeping, repairing, pruning, and otherwise keeping the place immaculate while their master goes about his secret business in the keep.
I’m sure that I will share more some time in the future, but my own players have only just infiltrated the place, so I must keep my secrets for now!
This map is an immense 32×44″ so I recommend you either use it as a town map printed on on modest page or you play at a 0.5″ grid scale like I have personally been doing. That said, the PDFs are at a crisp 300 DPI 32×44″ size, so they are quite ready if you want to print out the whole thing. Do show us the photos if you take on this challenge, and godspeed!
I have shared a preview of my puppet-filled-fortress encounter. What else comes to your mind?
An arrow, as large as a spear, streaked past Washi’s side. It struck the tower ahead of him, carrying a section of stone with it as it pierced through. Atop the same structure, another of the automaton sentries drew its bow as a green flame filled its eyes.
Washi dashed faster than the string could be pulled, his footsteps like a rapid drumbeat across the rooftop. Moments before another lance could pin him from above, he threw himself against the tower wall and out of its sight. He took a long breath and checked each of the other towers. Another form of wood and metal stood on the apex of each roof, enormous bow in hand. They were all motionless. And then, across the courtyard, green glowed to life.
The light of the shifting consciousness had transferred into the archer opposite Washi. Immediately gaining its bearings, it pulled and released an arrow. Freezing mountain air whipped past the intruder’s face as he narrowly dodged the projectile. Instead of drawing another, the green eyes blinked out and reignited in another puppet, loosing again.
Washi’s only option was to minimize injury. The blow had followed too quickly from the last, shattering into the stone only inches from his body. Fragments of debris shot out, bludgeoning his right side. He gritted his teeth to stifle a cry. The only advantage was that all three had now attacked and must reload. This could buy him a few seconds.
A grinding of bricks cracked behind him. It seemed the tower had taken all the damage it could sustain and was now giving up. Stones began to slide, the roof tipping and beginning to topple off the mountain castle. Time to move.
Washi clicked his heels together, a torrent of magic rushing through his body. Snowflakes in the air began to hover and the destructive sound slowed to a deep rumble. Washi’s body flexed in enchanted adrenaline as time was brought to a crawl. The first sentry was preparing to take its next shot.
With a grip of the fractured wall behind him, Washi vaulted into the crumbling tower. He flashed through the small room and leaped out of the opposite wall as the upper half fell away. Above him, still readied and clinging to the tower roof, an archer fired.
The sound of the string reached Washi first. He stepped to the side, letting the javelin crash into the tiles some feet ahead. The explosion cast large chunks of wood and stone upward, which Washi deftly weaved between. He came to the castle wall, tilting back as he jumped forward. Another flash of magic sparked as his feet met the verticle surface. Washi ran upwards as the green light flickered to another archer.
The puppeteer had clearly grown either agitated or nervous. His grasp on one puppet faded the moment an arrow was loosed, igniting in another and drawing again. The speed, coming from all three archers, resulted in a barrage of spears. It was just as Washi had hoped.
Sprinting up the wall and coming to the ledge of another level, he leaped backward off the surface. Arcing through the open air, his foot found purchase on one of the flying arrows. He quickly hopped, maintaining the speed from his boots. Another step found another arrow, and then another. He returned to the rooftops moments later, now outside the top floor.
Three more arrows had already been loosed. They were all on target, ready to reduce him to little more than shreds. With no more need for theatrics, Washi simply turned to the side. Beyond him, in the arrows’ path and inside the building, he could see the meditating puppeteer.
Green eyes shot open in realization, a gasp of pain following the arrows through the back wall and rendering the remaining archers inanimate.
– by Troy McConnell
More content by Troy
Download the Japanese Castle Maps & Assets
Here is a quick break down of all the map variants and where you can find them…
The FREE Japanese Castle and night-time version
The $5 Japanese Castle Pack’s variants & assets
The free map bundle above is also included in this Pack.
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