I recently won one of Inkwell Ideas' Geomorph Mapping contests, and the prize package included two volumes of Matt Jackson's Moleskine Maps.
The maps are typically mini-dungeon size, most having 10-12 encounter areas. Each map is paired with a complementary notes page for keying the map with a brief outline of background, locations, critters, and treasure. This makes for a very usable on the fly creation format for a side adventure, ancillary area for a larger scenario, or when those pesky PCs wander off the map...
Matt's mapping is spare and clean, with features indicated but not crowding the spaces (along with the ever-popular crosshatching borders...). Plenty of information, or inspiration, is hinted at. And for being small dungeons, several have either multiple entrances, or enough tortuosity, that they aren't a bunch of one-way streets.
Matt is one of the more proficient and prolific OSR mappers. His Patreon maps include colored variants, as well as designs suitable for SF gaming, such as maps intended as futuristic bases or spacecraft interior layouts.
So, I randomly selected a map from Moleskine Maps IV, and did a evening's worth of populating and storyline creation:
|P. 19-20 of Moleskine Maps IV, numbering mine.|
And, for old-times sake, stocked and statted from Moldvay, including the venerable d6 room-stocking matrix (page B52). (Although I use Donjon's treasure generator, 'cause the alphabetical treasure system is awkward [3000 cp anyone?]; however, I still used the associated value ranges as a loose guidance).
A merchant caravan came under attack a few days ago, with its guard slain, and one of its wagons stolen. The wagon held a frieze destined for the local temple, and the priest is very distraught at its loss. The wagon was found along a forest track, with a broken wheel and its mules slain and partially butchered. The wagon was empty, but drag-marks were found leading toward a local cave system where bandit activity has been suspected.
Two caves are visible on the sloping limestone cliff band. The left-most cave is approximately 30 feet up the face, with a passable ledge from ground level. The second cave is approximately 150 feet right of the left cave, and about 20 feet higher on the cliff face. A ledge extends from this cave, but has eroded away.
1. Main entrance to the cave system, approached by a narrow ledge. Drag-tracks are visible in the dirt and rocks along the ledge. Anyone observing closely will see two figures sitting near the cave entrance, apparently arguing.
2. Secondary entrance to the cave system. No guard or lookout is visible here (the bandits don't use this entrance, nor do they watch it closely). The entrance may be approached by climbing the crumbling cliff (1d6 chance per climber of a sliding fall or rockfall causing 1d6 damage to the climber).
3. A warband of four hobgobins has been 'hired' by the bandits to help guard the caves. The hobgoblins are outcasts from a nearby tribe, the Night-tusks, and fell in with the bandits on the promise of spoils and power. The promise has been weak so far, and they are arguing over the loot scavenged from a slain caravan guard.
Two are at the cave entrance, but distracted by the negotiations behind them (four hobgoblins - HP 9,4,3,2, AC 6/13, dmg 1d8 (axe or iron-bound club), treasure: 216 sp, suit of chain mail, short sword with jeweled scabbard (150 gp value), bone scroll tube with a map of another nearby cave system and scroll of detect evil.)
4. Empty cavern. The walls of the cavern (as well as other caverns in the cave network) are lined at rough intervals with torches or small clay oil lanterns that cast guttering light.
5. Empty cavern. Used as a storeroom by the bandits, there is nothing of value here currently. There are several large shipping crates (broken open and empty), straw and wool packing material, and tarps strewn about.
6. Two bandits are in here, playing knucklebones. They are really unnerved by the hobgoblins, and keep their distance from the brutes. Likewise, they think that their boss is a bit off his rocker, and are quietly considering vacating for other employment opportunities (Morale 7). (Bandits - HP 8,7, AC 6/13, dmg 1d6 (short sword), treasure: 33 gp, 70 sp, onyx earrings (14 gp))
7. The mouth of the cavern has been roughly walled off with several carved stone panels. A light is seen and the sound of boastful laughter can be heard from behind the panels.
Isaac 'Shiny' Iraka: bandit leader (3rd level fighter, 12 HP, AC 3/16, dmg 1d8 (axe) treasure: 180 gp in small chest).
He is unpredictable, throwing up his hands and offering to parley or negotiate when the PCs first enter, then calling on his guards (three bandits, HP 6,4,3, AC 6/13, dmg 1d6 (short sword), treasure: 94 gp, 484 sp, vial of holy water) to attack if the PCs let down their guard.
If the two bandits are still in room 6, they will join the fray after two rounds. Conversely, if the bandits in room 6 have been dispatched, this group will be warned and will have taken up positions to surprise/backstab anyone entering the room.
Iraka is an impulsive sort, and stole the wagon with the marble frieze. The frieze has been dragged to the cave and assembled as a screen across the entrance to the cavern (because it ties the room together). (Marble frieze displaying several bucks chasing maidens, in four sections, 200 lbs apiece, 800 gp).
8. A giant gecko (15 HP, AC 5/14, dmg 1d8 (bite)) has recently taken up residence in this cavern. The bandits are not yet aware of it. It is dozing on the ceiling of the cavern, and will surprise on 4 in 6. The bottom half of a partially-consumed halfling is on the cavern floor (20 sp in purse, good pair of boots, sling with 12 stones, wine flask and flask of oil).
9. Empty cavern, the floor is slick with slime molds (harmless) but negotiating the stone steps must be done with caution (1d6 chance of slipping, 1 pt damage).
(I'll close my eyes and point at a random map in Moleskine V later....)