The Map Mine: Chaos House

The Map Mine: Chaos House
Every Wednesday Alex will walk through a map he's created and discuss some of the design choices behind it.
Chaos House

Alright, so this map... is an extremely obvious attempt to show the collection of icons from the OSRaon icon set. The rooms themselves make very little sense as a collection in a house, but they are an attempt to be semi-coherent as a means of showcase. So for this week, we'll talk about how to try and balance "showcase all of the things" with a semi-coherent structure to the house.

The main feature that's missing from a normal house is that there's no food preparation area. The "kitchen" in this case has been replaced with an "altar and storage area".

What it does have, however, is a bathroom. Ever notice how dungeon maps tend to omit the toilet? What's the deal with that?

The actual deal with that is that indoor plumbing doesn't exist in more historically-accurate games - but in a world of high magic, I'd expect to see some magical powder-rooms, it's basically the first thing a magical society would solve.

Starting with the exterior, I wanted to show off a variety of the exterior features of the icon set. There's a campsite, situated next to a spear (to showcase that yes, the icon pack has top-down weapons), a variety of flora because what house is complete without some trees and vegitation on the outside, and an open grave... it's all very welcoming. Doesn't it just say "Welcome Adventurers! Step inside, you'll be right at home here"? Does the pile of broken swords and a random fishing rod help?

No? Right. Okay. Moving right along.


Stepping inside the threshold, things get a little more normal for a showcase piece. There's a porch with a large decorative rug for cleaning your shoes off before you enter, and a nice welcoming hall right off of the front door. The shelves of books give you a feeling that the host is quite the avid reader and wants to convey that to their guests. The secondary rug gives the sense of "rolling out the red carpet" straight to one of those bookshelves as if to say to the guest "come, read this book" - in a house like this it's the perfect place for a scythe or spear trap extending from the wall when a curious adventurer tugs on the book that's just barely jutting from the shelf.


Off to the west, the adjoining room is a fairly standard parlor. We've got chairs and a side table for placing books on that you might have brought from the adjoining library as well as a candelabra for providing light in the darkness. The cluttered desk in the corner notably doesn't have a chair, it seems like the owner of the house is just using it for storage. Or, it could be a mimic. Players absolutely love it when you surprise them with mimics.


Proceeding clockwise to the north, this is where you'd likely expect there to be kitchen. In the "showcase" map, I decided that I wanted this to both show off some of the less-likely-used icons, but also to subvert the party's expectation as they move through it. Yes, it does contain some more "traditional" kitchen things, like a prep table and some storage barrels. However, it also contains an altar, a bench, a treasure chest, and some shelving that's covered in candles. Is the owner praying to some eldritch deity in order to have meals magically appear in the dining room? (I've answered that question firmly in the affirmative, how would you do it?)

One of my favorite parts of map / adventure design is subverting expectations, either overtly or subtly. The key is balance, you don't want everything to be completely incoherent all the time unless you've taken the players to a place where that is expected, like a dream-plane or weirder locales.


Exiting the "kitchen" to the east leads you to a cluttered hallway. Boxes everywhere and a summoning circle sitting under them. Now, a box-filled hallway isn't actually too unusual. Lots of people collect clutter - this house is no different. What is "weird" is the summoning circle. As the rest of the design, it's primarily there to illustrate that "hey this icon pack has summoning circles", but if I were writing this into an adventure, I'd leave it unexplained. A faded circle carved into the floor, its edges frayed by the scraping of the barrels and boxes as they've been moved around.

In a more oddball game, you could have the circle summoning the boxes. Have the number of boxes change every time the players stop observing them. Make them move around.


Every house needs a giant clawed bath tub for luxurious bathing - right next to the hole in the ground that represents your latrine (remember what I said earlier about magical toilets?). The latrine in this case would likely be an extraneous detail, but it also provides the opportunity to present the house as "modern" in a more medieval setting...... yeah, no, that's a stretch. It's entirely in there to ground a modern reader's expectation - bathroom needs a toilet, and therefore there should be a toilet.

Dining Room

The last room / stop on our whirlwind tour of post-facto justification is the dining room. I like this room because it's extremely normal right up until you look in the southeast corner and realize that there's an Iron Maiden sitting right there (as a fun aside, read the article - there's not a lot of evidence that these actually existed). Back to subversion of expectations - this is one of the more subtle options you can use. For some more eccentric homeowners this could simply be a reflection of a "fun" design aesthetic for them. Perhaps they just like weird decoration.

It could be something more sinister - do they enjoy the screams of someone trapped in one of those things during a meal? That sort of a twist can play very well in a horror game, especially if the noise doesn't start up until the characters actually approach the weird fixture of the room.


I hope you enjoyed this installment of The Map Mine. Join me next week where I'll be walking through a mad-alchemist's multi-room laboratory, and will introduce some more icons to the pack.

As always, if you liked the icons used in this map and would like to make your own, check out the OSRaon Icon Pack over on