[Ed's Note: Let us know if you like this style, and with Flavio's permission, we'll create an Annual from it]
My fiancée recently asked me if it would be OK to make a Viking character for my Al-Qadim campaign. I thought about the role playing possibilities for a moment: Viking gets lost at sea en route to pillage and plunder; Viking gets shipwrecked in hostile desert environment; Viking PC makes for a very interest game indeed. I then thought about where such a Viking would come from in my world and set about creating a map of his home.
Myrr is a semi-arctic region largely inspired by Scandinavia, Iceland, and Alaska. I spent a great deal of time looking over maps of their fjords and river systems in the hope that I could create something similar and believable in my own map. After an hour or two tinkering around with the fractal line tool (adding a river here, indenting land mass there, etc), I finally had a landmass and set of islands I could be happy with.
The next step was to create the mountain range. I first drew the main ridge of the mountain and all the little ridges that branch off of it with the smooth poly tool. This is what the looked like without effects on.
I gave it a rather long and dark wall shadow, a deep edge fade inner (with 75% inner opacity), and a large lighted bevel effect (so that the two sides of the bevel met in the center of the polygon). I then added a Mountain Hills sheet that encircled the range with a smaller edge fade inner and lighted bevel effect. Next, I added a Mountain Base sheet that encircled the Mountain Hills (also with a smaller edge fade inner and lighted bevel effect.) Because I wasn’t thoroughly happy with the colors that were coming out, I finalized it with a Mountain Cover sheet. This shows the details of the effects:
And this is the final mountain range:
As you can see, I also used the Mountain Base sheet to layout my hills. I further added a Hills Base sheet that encircle these hills and had a deep edge fade inner to give the illusion of height. From there I added some forests (very subtle), rivers, text, (about a dozen assorted sheets to get the ocean, landmass and desert looking right) and called it a day. All of the textures came from Herwin Wielink annual and CGtextures.com.
This map was a great deal of fun to make and I learned a new technique for mountains in the process. Of course, the best part is now crafting a history about this region to help fill in the gaps of my fiancée’s character’s back-story. Although I’m far from done, you can check what I have so far (along with a full resolution version of the map) at my blog.
[Ed: Bill Roach is best known in the CC3 community for creating the free Terraformer enhancement to Fractal Terrains 3. Here he turns his attention to water courses; a features which is often added to maps without much thought.]
(Images in this article not created by the author are either courtesy of the EPA, FEMA, USGS, or NOAA, or are licensed as Public Domain, or under the GNU Open Document License by their respective authors.)
The rivers on your overland maps will be the life blood of your simulated world. Most of the plant and animal life on your maps will cluster next to them, near them, and around them. Settlements, towns, and cities will grow alongside them, and fishermen, hunters, trappers, farmers, and merchants will depend upon them for their livelihoods. They will act as major arteries of commerce, major zones of cooperation, and points of contentious, sometimes vicious geopolitical dispute. In peace they will be places of celebration – and in war, they will be places of intrigue. They will be signposts for travelers, and form the borders of nations. They may even be the focus of religious pilgrimage. They will be some of the most important and essential key elements of your maps.
When you design your overland maps, also remember that your riverways, lakes, and seas will influence weather.Agriculture depends upon rain – and farms are typically found in water rich places. Rivers and lakes mean farms, farms lead to hamlets, villages, and towns, towns give rise to cities, and cities give rise to nations.
This is the second part in my overland mapping tutorial. If you want to read the first part before continuing you can find it here. As usual this is my view of mapping and you might agree to it all or just parts of it. The important thing to remember is that this is one view of mapping, and not the only one.
Ok back to the map. We have some landmass, islands and seas so what’s next. At this stage I always try to place mountains and hills. If you desire you can try to work out where you would have tectonic plates and from that information decide where to put the mountains. I never do that, I’m more going for the “if it looks good it looks correct” path here.
First of all I often try to use my mountains to divide the landmass into different areas. It is an easy way of making natural borders in the map that you later can use when it is time to decide where to put the borders between different countries.
Secondly I try to make my mountain chains curved. If you make them straight the map will, in my opinion, look a bit stiff, which will give you a less good looking end result. When I say curved I don’t mean that they should look like circles. Curved mountain chains will give more life to the map, it will get more fun to look at.
Also try to break up the mountain chains at some points. It will give you some interesting valleys and passes that can trigger the beholders imagination in a good way. Is there really a more interesting place for a campaign then a mountain valley full of orcs or strange creatures, maybe a deserted watch tower or an old haunted burial ground.
Around the mountains I place some hills to make the transition from mountain to field look more natural. A good idea might also be to put some hills between two mountain areas that are quite close to each other. It will connect them in a nice way.
When you’re done with your mountains it is time to start on the rivers. The basics when it comes to rivers are that they flow from high ground downwards, they don’t split downwards, but they can have more than one starting point. Usually they also try to get to the sea the shortest downhill way. If you try to follow those two rules the rivers will look more naturally.
Another thing to think of is that the straighter the river is the faster the flow of the river will be. Most rivers tend to be straighter and faster in the beginning and closer to the sea they usually will slow down, which means more curves. When I put rivers in my maps I tend to do them quite curvy. It will usually look better, straight rivers just don’t get the right feeling, at least that’s my opinion.
Joseph Sweeney has posted a couple new video tutorials on his YouTube channel. These cover some more advanced techniques like creating your own symbol catalogs from PNG bitmap files and adding new catalog settings to your buttons in CC3.
This time I thought it was time to make a tutorial on how you can make a convincing overland map. This will be more of an overview tutorial on how I think and plan when I make a map, so it won’t be very technical. This means that you can use this tutorial regardless what program you use when you map, even though I in the tutorial will use a map made in CC3 as a reference and example.
The first thing to take into account when you start an overland map is the landmass. How much of the map will be water and how much will be actual land? This is probably the most important step in your map because it will set the boundaries for what the end result will be. So already here I’m having a quite clear view of where I want to go with the map, shall the map be land based, island based or something in between.
Below you see my map “Sagorike”, that I’m using as an example in this tutorial, with only the landmass viewable. I’ve also written some things on the map that you can have in mind while drawing the coastline.
A good thing to do before starting on your landmass is to look at the real world (Google earth is great for this). If you want a lot of fjords, have a look at Norway, Island based, look at area outside Stockholm for example, and so on. It is always good to find inspiration in the real world. It will make your map look more believable, and believable maps tend to look good.
However when I make maps of worlds the most important thing for me is that they look good and in some part convincing. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t work geologically or physically, as long as it looks convincing. To make it look convincing you have to get the things right that the majority of people can spot, like rivers, they will NEVER split downwards, lakes, there is always only ONE outflow, or deserts, make sure that you place them in a way that it looks probable that no rain will get there, and so on. If those small details are correct it is more likely that the viewer will believe in the whole map, regardless if everything in it is possible according to our physical laws or not.
That is all for now, in the next post we will start by placing the mountains in the map.
Up to now we’ve mostly been working inside the city walls, where space is short and buildings necessarily packed
Historic map of Oxford in 1643
closely together. We’re now going to turn to the area outside the walls. In this installment, we’re going to turn back to some theory.
First we need to talk about why businesses decide to set up outside the walls of the city. After all, they are forgoing the protection that walls bring, so there must be some good reasons for it. It turns out the reasons are pretty simple:
Avoiding authority: This is monetary, avoiding taxes, but also includes regulation, attention of the town watch, even to avoiding the prying eyes of neighbors. The city’s authority ends with the city walls, and some people find their business flourishes where there is less oversight.
Accessing markets: Gates into the city are notorious choke points for people entering the city. The gates typically only open at certain times, guards ask questions, and just the physical size of the gate all conspire to leave large numbers of people waiting outside to get in. And where there are large numbers of people waiting or stranded, there is money to be made selling goods and services to them.
Space: In many cities, space is at a premium. So businesses that require lots of space such as cattle markets, or that need space from neighbors, such as tanners, will often set up outside the city walls.
Historic map of Bristol in 1582
What this leads to is a mini city just outside the city walls, where crowds are most likely to form. This is where taverns and inns, and potentially more reputable shops can be found as well.
As you move away from the gate, more space opens up and larger markets and establishments have more room. Typically these spread out along the main roads leading away from the gate. Over time, some side roads may form if the population of the city continues to grow.
You might guess that citizens of the city are unlikely to approve of markets being established outside their walls. They will object to being undercut on price, object to the less savory businesses that occur outside the walls, and complain about customers journeying to their city experiencing the underside of the city before coming through the gates.
Over time, as the city outside the gates grows, the city will expand its limits to incorporate land outside the walls. Then the pressure will grow to expand the walls to encompass the new land. Once funds can be raised to build the wall, the city will expand and cannibalize the old walls.
Next time we will run through using CC3’s automatic building tool to populate the area outside the walls.