Legend of the Crab Wizard

A giant frozen crab turned into a fortress with a ship stuck in ice.

Who dares enter the lair of the Crab Wizard?

From the Storm Coast to Hookspire to the shining spires of Sahn-Sah-Ree in the south, fishermen deep in their cups spin stories of the the legendary crab wizard. Are they casting fish tales, or is there truth to be found in their ramblings?

If the stories are true, the crab wizard holds court on his frozen throne far to the north. Brave sailors that manage to survive the treacherous Hullbreaker Deep and its legion of ship-killing icebergs may come across a vessel embedded in the arctic ice, its stark lines a chilling reminder that gentle beings do not belong in this place. Where is the crew? Long gone or somehow still surviving in this wasteland? The surface of the ice pack seems stable, but a thin layer of snow covers everything, and there may be hazards lurking below.

A map of a frozen giant crab turned into a fortress with a grid.
With Grid (1 square = 5 feet)

Rising beyond the shipwreck is the colossal carcass of a long-dead monstrous crab, embedded in the frozen tendril of an icy spire. A third of its shell reaches up into the sky to the southwest, reaching a height of nearly fifty feet at its spiny tip, forming an overhang against the icy wall of the mountain. One gargantuan fore-claw, hollowed out and re-purposed as a watchtower, looms over the approach to twin tunnels which lead to frozen stairs into the main chamber. The other claw, long since gone, has left behind an icy void containing unknown horrors (or perhaps treasures?).

Inside the cavernous shell, most of the space is given over to a single chamber, its ceiling formed by the curved, sloping inner surface of the carapace. Beyond the central chamber, a curving staircase leads down to a sunken room and a hole in the ice from which the crab wizard summons his servants from the deep. A secondary chamber to the north houses various supplies, prisoners, and perhaps some minor treasures. The most valuable of artifacts are said to be hidden in chambers hollowed out of the icy mountain only accessible by diving below the surface of the frozen waters.

A map of a frozen giant crab turned into a fortress without a grid.
Without Grid

A passage to the northeast leads upward to the watchtower and its overwatch of the approach to the lair. The claw and an adjoining side chamber have been given over to a pest of ice mephits1 summoned by the crab wizard to do his bidding; he seems to have forgotten about them and left them to their own devices, but they can’t figure out how to leave their bondage on the material plane. They get into whatever mischief thy can manage within those bonds, usually harassing those who approach past the shipwreck below their vantage point.

Hidden under the tip of one monstrous leg, especially dedicated searchers might find a passage leading into the main chamber that tunnels under the ice and through the intact carapace. How this passage was preserved is a mystery, but it ends inside the main chamber at a magically-camouflaged secret door almost indistinguishable from the ice surrounding it.

There’s probably a much deeper tale of the crab wizard, but it’s being stubborn about letting itself get told. I intended this map to release with the Season 14 premiere of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch, but kept hitting mental roadblocks trying to get the story out. This probably the third or fourth pass through trying to get something worthwhile to bring this map to life. Sometimes—most of the time—perfect is definitely the element of done2.

I’m not 100% sure yet who or what the crab wizard is, but my idea for one its minions is some kind of humanoid crab-man, similar to an ettercap. Instead of spider-like features, however, it’s more crabby. Perhaps re-skin the web ability as a magical spray of ice that entraps their prey, with maybe a hardened carapace for improved armor. They could be lying in wait inside the shipwreck, or perhaps secreted in hidden ice holes just beneath the snow drifting across the ice pack.

Process video exported from Procreate

This map was brought to you with about 12 hours of doodling in Procreate, 29 layers, and 10, 276 strokes. I hope you like it, and it’s available at full 3600 × 2700 @ 300dpi resolution for patrons. Patrons also get to download the PSD exported from Procreate.

If you pay close attention to the video, you might see I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to render things. Most of my practice has been in Photoshop on a Wacom tablet, so getting the same effects in Procreate is an ongoing learning experience. I especially stalled right near the end, puzzling through how best to render the crab shell in a way that showed how it was sticking out of the ice on one end. Did I succeed? Does it “scan” well? I hope you’ll tell me, so I can get better. As with most art I make, I didn’t finish this map so much as just stop working on it.

Do you have thoughts on the legend of the crab wizard? Drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter. Follow me on Instagram for occasional previews of upcoming work.

  1. I couldn’t think of a collective noun for mephits, so I put out a call on Twitter for help. Mike Mearls answered with this one, which was perfect for what I had in my head. You you think you have a better idea? I’d like to hear it.

  2. Not that I think this is perfect. Far from it. But I’m always trying to make something of the highest quality I can manage, and I wanted the story to be on par with the map. 

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