Throwdown Thursday: Bog Hollow, a swampy pool battle map for 5e D&D
I did a search for cool swamp battlemaps to run encounters for my weekly group not too terribly long ago. I had a big section that was supposed to take place in the fantasy equivalent of the Amazon in my homebrew world, the Tanglewood. Imagine my surprise when, despite the apparent popularity of Tomb of Annihilation, there’s a dearth of ready-to-use maps that show big swampy morasses from which Bog Gulpers can burst forth to swallow a Dwarf whole. So, I did what I do and I made one. Now, I’d like to hand it over to you guys.
It’s pretty no frills at first blush. It’s basically a baobab pool with some old-growth trees, a bunch of scummy green water, some reeds, and a rocky outcrop poking up. Let me walk you through my thought-process here. The Bog Gulper’s got a big swim-speed, which means that it can threaten players from the other side of this pool. And it’s a siege monster, so I needed a couple of places where players could get their characters up out of the water, and then give the Bog Gulper the chance to smash their cover to ruins. That’s got a cool, cinematic feel, I find. Let players treat this encounter like Tremors and then hammer the safety right out from under them.
Of course, if I build the battlespace to be totally in favor of the heroes, I might as well be making the whole map underwater, right? I prefer to build with an eye for balance. There’s some stuff that the players can interact with here. They can climb trees, roll that precarious looking rock over and try to smash the big bug. There are some reeds that they might be able to set on fire…that might not be a good thing, but it’s an option. Most importantly, there’s an area that they can use to lure that big Bog Gulper away from its element and fight it on dry land where it’s no longer at the advantage. Give your players chances to be clever. They’ll love you for it.
If you want to make this encounter a little nastier, don’t let on that this little hollow is actually water. They might suspect, just looking at the map, but describe it like the Okefenokee Swamp, a place of matted marsh-grass and moss thick enough to walk across, and they may not realize that something’s waiting to gulp them from beneath until it’s too late. Plus, how cool is that moment where the thing busts upwards, and every motion the PCs make has to be carefully wagered so everyone can keep their feet. Maybe treat it all as difficult terrain, or else require a check to keep your feet as you move over it at full speed. Hmm. There’s something there.
Try it out this weekend and let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to hear your war-stories.