An Interview with Dark Realm Maps

We’ve got an interview for you today!

What do you do when you’re an avid board gamer stuck at home alone? That is the question that so many of us face in these weird times. While sites like Tabletopia are gaining popularity, and Discord servers seem to popping up like crazy (just like ours, for example!), it’s surprisingly difficult to nail down your friends for a consistent time to sit and play at their computers. Add in unreliable networks or game mechanics that don’t particularly blend well with a digital format, and frustrations continue to rise.

Or is that just us? Please tell me that isn’t just us.

Dark Realm Maps logo

Well, we recently discovered another solution that allows you to satisfy the urge for a board game that you can play entirely by yourself—for FREE. And these days, that’s almost as good as toilet paper! We are really excited to both introduce this game to you and to share a fun announcement.


Introducing: Dark Realm Maps

It is our absolute privilege to feature Toby Lancaster of Dark Realm Maps in today’s post. We began following and admiring Dark Realm Maps over on Instagram and Twitter several months back, and it was an absolute delight when Toby reached out to us recently to connect. We learned about his latest project, Dark Force Incursion, a single player “Print and Play, Roll and Write” game.

Inspired to help alleviate the tedium that comes from isolation, Toby released the game rule book and a few starter maps for free. Taken from the Dark Realm Game’s website:


Your land has been invaded by a powerful Dark Force. The speed of the invasion was frightening, and they have taken all the defensive forts in your land. In desperation you have gathered your dwindling army and now must push out to recapture these forts to secure the safety of your people and drive.”

Sounds fun, right? (It is!) You can download it here. The game was a hit, and thus Toby began a Kickstarter to help develop some expansions. It was funded in less than 12 hours, and is still going until April 28, 2020. Be sure to check it out in the next few days before the Kickstarter ends! But if you miss out, the expansion will be available on DrivethruRPG in June.

So what is our fun announcement? Well, we are stoked to tell you that we are partnering up with Toby to develop additional map packets compatible with Dark Force Incursion. They’re still in development, but Brenton is working tirelessly on creating new bundles to add to your game experience, and we’ll be sure to let you know when they’re ready for publication!

Now then, without further ado, I am honored to introduce you to Toby!

An Interview with Dark Realm Maps

What’s your story? What inspired you to start Dark Realm Maps? 

I have studied and taught art for many years. I have also been involved in gaming on many levels from RPGs to online survival games, to being an avid board game player. In 2017 I spent some time in Australia studying for my Doctorate, and when we returned after a year, I had some time to spare before taking on a new teacher role in September. It was at this stage, over two years ago now, that my love of art and RPGs mashed, and I drew my first serious map. I liked the result, and I set up my Dark Realm Maps (Dark Realms because I was drawing tombs and crypts) Twitter account and posted it. It grew quickly, and I began working on commissions and started an Instagram account. The natural progression for me was to move into more game design. This came into existence at the beginning of the year as DR Games, and currently we are Kickstarting a print and play game called Dark Force Incursion Expansions. It [is] a success and will hopefully help us make way for new and bigger games in the future.   


What’s your favorite TTRPG?

I have been involved in lots. When I was younger, I played many editions of D&D as well as Warhammer in all its forms and many Games Workshop games such as Dark Future, Blood Bowl, Hero Quest and Space Hulk. I do love Dark Future and Warhammer Roleplay. We also played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG which was a blast. Once the kids came along (we have three), I was more inclined to play online, but now that they are older, I run D&D for them as often as I can. I would like to play more, but I’m pushed from pillar to post with my teaching job, the games company, and my map commissions.


What about favorite board game?

My favorite board game is Talisman, for which I have many fond memories. It is worth saying that it was actually the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy Books which got me involved in fantasy worlds and then sparked my interest in roleplay.


Is there another artist or content creator that inspires you?

Many artists have inspired me. I guess one I love is Gary Chalk, and I’m a big fan of Russ Nicolson. They have very different styles than me, and they are what some might perceive as old school, but I look at their work with fondness. As far as map making is concerned, I hark back to some of the old D&D module maps and that cross-hatch style they used back then. Of course, all the amazing cartographers on social media at the moment—there are too many to mention now—all inspire me.

What has been the most challenging part of starting and running Dark Realm Maps? What about the most rewarding?

Keeping up with commissions can be challenging but it’s not too much of a problem really. There is little that really stresses me to be honest. I enjoy doing what I do.  Every time I draw a map it excites me, which I know sounds crazy as I’ve drawn hundreds, but I just love imagining being in those spaces. Moving into game design has been more of a challenge. Writing the Kickstarter and organizing myself has been far more demanding. I make lists and try to cover all the bases, but I’m really a creative deep down. Thankfully my wife supports, me and it’s been a success so far.

You’ve mentioned that your wife and daughter help with the business. What are their roles? How much of the artwork does your daughter contribute?

The business is in its infancy really. My wife’s job has grown since we started Kickstarter and she manages quotes, logistics and such. She also helps with creative decisions. My daughter is seventeen and still learning. Kai specializes in digital colouring and hopes to do character design at University. She did much of the colouring for the characters in a previous project. As she develops her own style, I hope to incorporate it into future projects.

Tell us about Dark Force Incursion. What was the inspiration for it?

Dark Force Incursion is a Solo Print and Play, Roll and Write game that is free to download. It is a game of war and strongholds that sees the player trying to recapture a series of defensive forts in their land. It has been out for a few weeks now, and we are currently Kickstarting the expansions—which is going very well indeed. The idea for the game comes from these strange times and my own interests. It seemed like I could offer up a free game for those in isolation, so I began working on the project. The idea took a few days to evolve as I played around with dice and hexes.


What was your process for developing Dark Force Incursion?

Narrative was an important aspect of the development of Dark Force Incursion:

“What was the aim of the game, and what was the story?”

This really helps drive the rules and adds excitement to: not only the playing of it, but also the creation. Once I had the rule set and the first maps, I sent it out for play testing and played it loads myself. I had some very constructive feedback and made a few adjustments. Because this is a PDF based game, we had a lot less to do, and the product was easily corrected if needed. I launched a 1.2 version of the core rules, and then we were ready for the expansions. I had already formed concepts in my head regarding new land features and encounter hexes and so started the same rules process over again.


The game is currently set up for one player. What was the inspiration around that? Do you have any plans to offer alternative game mechanics in the future for multi-player?

The one player aspect was as a result of our current climate. People are isolating, and I wanted to offer something up for those folks. And yes, we are working on a co-op version of the game and hopefully a multiplayer too. I feel like I’d be getting too ahead of myself though if at this stage I sunk too much time into these as I still have to deliver the Kickstarter pledges in a week. But I am very excited about this aspect of the game.





What is the Kickstarter expansion offering that’s different than the original version?

There are four expansion packs as part of the Kickstarter. We have the Forest, Marsh, Lakes and Muster and Ambush packs. They include rules and 5 specific maps with each expansion. They are designed to bring more variety and interest as well as embellish the narrative of the game.

Without telling us ALL your secrets, what’s an upcoming product or update that you’re excited about?

Thanks for asking! Our up and coming project (which has been played tested and the graphics are being designed) is a card game called Trade Nation. It is based around buying and managing stock–the market for which can be affected by the players. But this is naturally taking a back seat at the moment as our focus is on Dark Force Incursion.



Thank-you Toby for taking the time to share your story with us, and I hope you all enjoyed getting to know him a little more. Again, be on the look-out for our upcoming companion map packets for Dark Force Incursion!


Here’s where you can find Dark Realm Maps:



Thanks for checking out the blog! For more highlights, you can check out our Product Spotlight page. To see some of our work, check out our Side Quests for free maps and encounters, or find us on Instagram, Twitter, Discord, and Patreon

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