Checkpoint is perhaps my new favorite battle map.

I knew I wanted to make a multi-layered structure, but it was too simple to make a cut out set piece, so how should I portray elevation? I decided to try long shadows cast by a rising/setting sun, and I am overjoyed with the results. As well as communicating the height of the wall, it adds a whole new convincing element to the scene.

Checkpoint RPG battle map

Troy’s Tales

The newest recruit stood atop the checkpoint’s wall, pulling his gloves taught in an attempt to have his fingers reach the ends. His knee fidgeted violently, clanking the plates of ill-fitting armor against each other. It drew looks from the rest of the men, but they said nothing. They had all been in his position once.

Their leader knew of his disposition, and had given him the job of watching the approaching road. It was an important, but easy job. The young man’s gaze had been fixed on the view in front of him for what felt like hours. The bridge, the grassy hills, the forest of stumps; he knew every detail of them, and every change or movement brought his head whipping to identify it. Below him, the sound of the river drowned out that of the men preparing in the camp. He again tried to stretch his arms, loosen his shoulders, and fumbled the straps to tighten the guard’s uniform.

He returned to staring forward. It was his job to watch the road, and the road ran east. Looking north would mean not looking at the road, and not looking at the road meant not doing his job. He would be disobeying orders if he looked at it. But he knew it was there. Even without turning, it seemed to creep into the corners of his vision. That thick pillar of black smoke. That beacon of guilt.

Sweat dripped from his brow, chilled by the autumnal winds. By now he reeked of sweat, but it wasn’t enough to cover the other stench, metallic and ashen. The winds had been blowing north though, carrying the distant smoke further towards the horizon. It couldn’t be the fires that he was smelling. Afraid, he leaned down and inhaled. His throat tightened and heaved as he confirmed his suspicion. It wasn’t the smoke, but himself. More specifically, the armor he now wore still held a reminder, a final attack, from its previous owner. For all their cleaning and scrubbing of the checkpoint’s camp, they couldn’t quite be rid of the smell in their clothes.

The shaking in his knee spread to fill his body. He struggled for breath and his knuckles gripped white around the handle of his sheathed blade. Taking a few moments to labour longer, steadier breaths, he managed to force his eyes back open. He gasped another lungful in surprise.

A few hundred feet along the road was a group of travellers, approaching on horseback. He stepped forward, leaning over the palisades to focus. Four in total, they were a strange sight. One was clad in shining plate and another in only robes, while one more seemed to only carry a lute. Their uniting feature was the armoury of weapons they carried. They were not just travellers.

The young guard stumbled back, stopping only as he impacted the other side of the walkway. They were headed right this way. He turned his head, catching the eye of his leader below. The larger man read his face without so much as a change in expression, lifting a spear from the rack next to him and moving to the front gate.

“Positions!”

Now when I go for my evening walk I can’t help but stop and stare at street lamps and such. Shadows ain’t easy, and real life is an excellent teacher!

Irritatingly, my screen capture was corrupted, so I have no video to share. Despite this, I have other plans for tomorrow’s video, so the schedule is intact! Still, grrr.

Checkpoint is now available!

If you have any questions, encounter ideas or stories, leave a comment! I’d love to hear them.

What next?

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Ross McConnell

Ross McConnell

Artist and DM, I draw the maps, record the videos, and write the articles here at 2-Minute Table Top. It's my ideal creative outlet, and it's all thanks to you!