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The Arcanist’s Mill – A Wizard’s Tower

I wanted to map a wizard’s tower with a twist – somewhere a mage with a little bit of
a steampunk leaning could hide out and experiment. What would such a mage need?
A good cover story, and a source of power. Well, mills are the heavy industry of the
medieval era – and if you’re milling flour you have power to spare.

So – the hook of the map was a wizard’s tower in a water powered mill.

It’s hard to see the progress through the final sketch – but I began by listing out the
features that the map would need:

 A magic room with a lightning machine


 Mill room
 Lab and observatory
 Automata factory
 Study
 Multiple access points (for this to be run as a non-linear adventure)
 Cave and hidden labs
 Bedroom
 Kitchen
 Paddock
 Treasure Room
I admit the ordering is a little haphazard. My wizard has an odd hierarchy of needs.

Any wizard’s tower should be a little unusual, and have multiple levels. In this case I
decided to have the mill overhang the cliff, and have levels going down as well as up.
In addition, it would be remiss to have a waterfall, and to not have a secret hidden
cave behind it.

Level 2 (the ground level) should be the most benign of the levels, along with the top
tower level – as they are both visible for all to see. Levels 3 and 4 are where the
secrets are kept.

Ground level, what should a visitor see?


The first section that I detailed out was the ground level – the most banal of the
areas. This has a mill room, and a bedroom. A horse grazing in the paddock, and a
creaky old wagon. Why would there be anything of concern here? The river runs
placidly over the cliff, and the waterwheel creaks, turning the mill stones every day.

Beneath the simple exterior, there’s a few things going on here. The bedroom has lots
of windows. The tree overhanging the cliff is directly outside the windows, and
provides a spying route, or potentially an acrobatic access to the tower. In addition,
once you’re out on those tree branches, you’d be able to see the lower levels, and the
Arcanist’s Mill will begin to give up it’s secrets.

The other interesting feature is the eddy in the river. Just above the tree, there’s a
mini spiral in the river. This is an access point – a small waterfall that sources a
secondary waterfall inside the cave lair of the Arcanist. It’s here on the map, but a
player who sees the map won’t necessarily know that this is more than an illustrative
flourish.

The Wizard’s Tower


Next up – the top of the tower:

The tower top is simple and benign. A telescope, a fire, and kitchen supplies. Anyone
visiting would accept that this is the wizard equivalent of a bachelor pad with a beer
fridge and a massive flatscreen tv.

Hidden cave – where the secrets are kept


But, if we descend deeper to Level 3, we find the true nature of this mage.

The first hint that not all is as it seems is the lab (5). Here mechanical automata are
constructed from raw materials, and sparked to life by the water powered lightning
machine in 6. The lightning generators are powered by a vertical drive from the mill
stones directly above.

Those that can make it through the lightning room, will fid locked and trapped doors,
that open onto a rope bridge that leads behind the waterfall. Once within, the true
scope of the operation becomes apparent. The cave complex has a second waterfall
(entering from the river above). supplies and stores, and a second lab. Here prisoners
from the pen (12) are dissected for their vital essence to infuse the automata with
their terminal needs. The completed automata live in 11 – ready for the Arcanist’s
call.
The cave section was designed to have a clear entrance, but allow for a fun running
battle between 8, 10, and 11 – with cover, difficult terrain (the river), choke points,
and flanking opportunities. This allows for players to use some clever trickery to turn
the odds on the denizens. This level can also be accessed 5 ways:

 through the mill, down the stairs, and over the bridge
 down from the tree and along the cliff
 flying (this is D&D after all)
 on the mill-wheel – then jump through the waterfall
 through the interior waterfall from the river eddy
All of those routes come with advantages and disadvantages – but the players will hit
all the major locations. If they come into the cave first, they’ll discover the bridge,
and come at the lightning room having found the horror already. If they come from
the mill they’ll already have an inkling of what is ahead.

Treasure Rooms
Finally – level 4: loot!

For the lowest levels, the map is fairly sparse. The lowest tier of the round tower has
an outside staircase (remember that element on the side view?). That comes to a
locked door, and if the adventurers barge in, they find a massive statue, that clearly
has to be a construct protecting the wizard’s most prized treasures. A GM might
decide to have that statue be able to bull rush a bolshy adventurer back out of the
front door, over the staircase, and into space.

This is a very small room, and a very big statue. Many adventurers handle golems by
staying as far away as possible and destroying them with ranged attacks. Unless they
can fly, that’s going to be tough here. This is a nasty, close up, melee fight with a
brutish statue. They’ll have to work for their treasure.

The study is another meditative room – with the soothing sound of the waterfall, and
creak of the waterwheel. They can get here through the trapdoor in the lightning
room, or they can get onto the waterwheel, ride it round to the lowest point, jump
across to the window sill, and break in through the window. I’m not sure why you’d
do that, but players are players, and this provides a clear option for daring heroics.
And, as any player worth their salt knows, those bookshelves contain the real
treasures here.

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