This map was a personal challenge to mimic an authentic watercolor painting style, and I think we just about did it. Obviously, it’s far from perfect, but it has character, and I stretched my skills trying to make it so. Those two things are what I aim for with each map, so I’ll count this as a success, even if I’m not quite satisfied with it!
The first punch impacted like a horse’s kick. It slammed against the opponent’s panicked guard, throwing him back to the edge of the ring. His foot caught the ground in time, redirecting the momentum before it could disqualify him.
The old man, Grandmaster of the Air Temple, scratched at this chin. Kaito adjusted his posture and regained his stance. The Grandmaster’s expression was flat and emotionless. He brushed the arena’s sand from the white of his sash and monk’s robes. The disguise of relaxation might tempt other trainees, but Kaito could see the ki filling his muscles.
“You will not find air to be quite as predictable as the others.” The Master’s voice was calm, but his words tensed with his body. He was about to strike.
Kaito was not fast enough. His reactions, despite his youthful advantage, could not match the Grandmaster’s speed. He knew he would have to accept whatever came next and attempt to use it for himself.
With a rotation of his arms almost faster than sight, the Master thrust his palms forth. With them came a torrent of air. The gust blasted a sandstorm at Kaito, and he felt his feet losing traction. With one palm outstretched, the older fighter extended and struck his other fist in Kaito’s direction in a flurry. The speed of movement might have seemed crazed, but his eyes were fixed on his opponent. Each new punch sent a shockwave of air at Kaito’s footing, loosening the sand and weakening his posture in the pain.
Kaito had no choice. The air was too strong, and the barrage of punches meant he could not sidestep. He focussed his mind, calling back to the other Masters he had faced. Water and fire. Find them. Use them. Use HIM.
Maintaining his guard with his right arm, he extended his left behind him. His fingers reached out and his mind searched. The pools outside. Water. His fist clenched. He bent his knees and closed his eyes. Every hair on every inch of his body felt the movement of the wind. Feel the current, and move with it.
Kaito leaped into the air, the wind throwing him back. His body flowed and danced with the gust, his left hand pulling a tendril of water from somewhere out of the temple doors. It connected to his fingertips and extended in his airborne pirouette. Regaining his composure in the spin, Kaito sent the watery whip outwards, binding it around the Grandmaster’s wrist. In the moment of contact, he pulled.
The air fell still as the two traded places. Kaito crashed to the ground, using the momentum to throw his Master into the air. But he did not fall. The acrobatic summersault called air to his side, suspending him in an effortless vortex. Not a moment later, he was rocketing back for an assault. Now, strike with fire.
Kaito thought, for just a second, that he noticed the Master smile. He certainly noticed Kaito’s. The younger man twisted on the ground, carrying the force of his impact into a slide. The water tendril retracted, stowing itself along his arm. The Grandmaster was almost upon him. His free hand tensed in a claw, embers striking in his palm. He rotated to face the human projectile barreling toward him. Too fast to hit directly. The fiery strike continued its path, transferring from aiming at the Master. He carried it down, conjuring a vicious explosion against the ground.
In the instant of the eruption, watery anchors drilled into the ground. Kaito extended the tendril, pushing it into the dirt and stone beneath. The explosion’s force threw him back once again, this time snapping to a halt as the tendril reached its limit. His left arm dislocated violently from the whiplash.
Through ash and agony, Kaito rose up. His blast had destroyed the arena and filled the temple with smoke and sand. He glanced back, hoping beyond hope that his gambit had succeeded. Indeed, behind him was the Grandmaster, blackened but unharmed save for clothes torn from impacting the dirt. Though the attack was not to harm. Rather, it had obfuscated.
The Grandmaster turned, this time allowing Kaito to see his proud smirk. Between them, and not a foot away from the Master’s grounded feet, was the ring’s edge.
– by Troy McConnell
More content by Troy
I also rather like the line-only version of this map, so I have gone ahead and added that to the download package. So, you can choose a watercolor-esque style or a brush-pen-only style.
As for the contents of the map, we went with a theme of threes: three trees, three temples, three carved faces, three bridges, and three gates.Whether you work this into the lore of the town or not is up to you, but it was a fun rule to design by!
You will have to excuse my un-creative naming when it comes to the kanji, I usually name things in very simple Japanese because my players don’t know better. For your benefit, the town is called “three trees,” and the temples (from left to right) the “water-, wind-, and fire temples.” Original, I know! I suggest you tell your players these mean something much cooler, and pray that they don’t know kanji.
This map was a fun challenge, and I hope you have fun challenging your players with it. Please, let me know what lore, NPCs, and other tidbits you come up with!
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