Friday, March 18, 2011

ICE MERP Towers from Dol Guldur Module

The tower layouts below were drawn for Iron Crown Enterprises for their Middle Earth Role Playing module of Dol Guldur back in 1995 using AutoCAD.  The mountain where the citadel is located is in southwestern Mirkwood and before Sauron's occupation it was called Amon Lanc or "Naked Hill".  After Sauron came to reside there, it became known as Dol Guldur or the "Hill of Sorcery".  Dol Guldur is first mentioned as "the dungeons of the Necromancer" in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This module was written for ICE by author David Woolpy who provided me with preliminary layouts to base these drawings on.  The layouts shown here are pre-press layouts and are missing some of the descriptive text including drawings titles which was added later, although the room numbers, north arrow text, and graphic scale text is present.  If you want to see what the final layouts looked like you will have to refer to the module.

The layouts below only represent the outer fortifications of the massive citadel - there are a whole slew of levels some of which I may end up posting later but the towers are the coolest drawings of the bunch.  The fortress citadel is honeycombed with seven levels cut through the volcanic mountain, three precipice levels cut through the upper opening of the volcano itself at the top of the mountain and five stratum levels descending down into the earth below the first level.  The level numbers go up in ascending order (they increase in number the higher up you go) and the first level is accessed from the front gate below.  The stratum levels go down in number from the first level into the earth below and are also accessed from the front gate.

Dol Guldur - The Front Gate

The second level is home to two Kragor Lug watchtowers cleverly hollowed out from rock outcrops on the side of the mountain by the orc guards of Dol Guldur.

Dol Guldur - 2nd Level with Kragor Lug watch towers

There are many outer works and towers surrounding the mountain istelf some of which are connected to the citadel by underground passages.  Most of these towers are guarded by orc or goblin guards and were built in order to keep an eye on the approaches to the citadel.  The first of the outer works is the Smalug watch tower.  I think there are supposed to be several of these around the mountain but again you'll have to refer to the original module if you want more info on that.

Dol Guldur Smalug Watch Tower

The next watchtower type of the outer works is the Lugash.  These are very gothic looking with the buttresses and gargoyles perched atop the battlements and are my favorite of the bunch.  I actually drew the evilly smiling faces on the gargoyles if you zoom in real close to them in AutoCAD.  I'm not sure why I did this because you'll never see them in these layouts but I guess it was just a desire to fully detail the evil guardians or something.  I'll post a close up of the gargoyles later.

Dol Guldur Lugash Watchtower

The last of the watchtowers is the Lugdom which I think served as a fortified postern gate for the citadel (the back door).  Note the Cthuloid looking balcony support at the front of the upper tower.

Dol Guldur Lugdom Fortress

You've probably noticed that all of the towers have the word "Lug" in the name.  I can't say for sure but my guess is that this is the orcish word for "watch" as in watch tower.  This is the first of a series of blog posts that I plan to make in order to showcase the game art I did for ICE back in the day.  More to come...

For a brief background and introduction on my time working for ICE as a freelancer go here:
Game Art and ICE Illustration Background

Copyright notice:  All original artwork on this page is displayed for self promotion purposes only and is copyrighted by the original artist, Daniel Cruger.  This artwork may be downloaded and used for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes in any way without the express written consent of the owner.


  1. I have always thought that MERP modules maps were the best. Both the world maps and the buildings and fortress ones.

    I'm eagerly awaiting your next posts on this subject. I truly love your work.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this great work! Thrilled to see it again :)

  3. I'm happy to post this stuff considering how much OSR content I've downloaded recently. Hopefully, some of you guys can make use of it in your games.

  4. Just found these and downloaded them. They're amazing! Thanks!

  5. I love your maps and illustrations, and this blog is a top read as I own a few of the ICE game books. I was wondering if your detailed maps have ever been converted into GIS files, such as for ESRI's ArcGIS software ("shapefile" format)? Then, they could be mapped together onto some sort of Middle Earth map projection.

    BTW, have you seen what this group has done?

    As I work in the GIS/cartographic industry and am a huge Tolkien fan, I would love to see (and have) a fully detailed interactive map that can be viewed in GIS software. I think it would be great for your plans to be integrated into 3D visualisations of the ME landscape.

    Anyway, thanks for posting the drawings!

  6. Hi Dan. Nice to see some Dol Guldur online. You did such a great job interpreting my crude design concepts "back in the day". Hope you're doing well.
    David Woolpy (author of Dol Guldur)

  7. Wow - great to hear from you and thanks for the compliment. I thought you did a great job of coming up with the original writing and drawing concepts as well. It is probably my favorite work that I did for ICE back in the day.

  8. Going to be re-purposing this module for my OSE campaign later this year. It was a truly lethal classic!