Saturday, February 29, 2020

Maps Galore - Fractals and World Maps

Most holidays I poke fun at my wife for making hosting guests harder than it needs to be.  She'll demand to do things "the right way", which usually means cooking gigantic dishes from scratch.  Not quite growing your own wheat in the backyard for a season and milling it to make your own homemade flour, but it's usually close to that; we've grown our own pumpkins in the garden for pumpkin pies.  There were many years of trying to make pumpernickel rolls from scratch.  We discovered a nearby Amish market last year and holiday cooking has never been better.  The Amish are spectacular bakers.

So it is with some chagrin I must to confess how I became distracted when I sat down to make a map for Erda.  Somehow "sketching an area map for my new campaign" devolved into "Gee, I should learn various fractal mapping softwares and create a full fractal world, with climate, wind patterns, ocean currents, and naturalistic erosion".  So that's where I've been hiding out a couple of weeks.

I've owned a piece of fractal mapping software for a while, "Fractal Terrains" (FT3) that's part of the Campaign Cartographer suite (CC3).  I hadn't used Campaign Cartographer in a few years, so I needed to dust it off and re-acclimate - it's a powerful CAD-style drawing platform, but the learning curve is real.  My mapping journey took me into fractal world building, leveraging a free fractal tool called "Wilbur" to apply naturalistic erosion and generating rivers on a fractal world, and ultimately importing maps back into CC3 for finishing.  (There are tutorials out there, and the various online cartographer groups with the pros are filled with helpful folks, so it's not like I could've done this without the wisdom of actual experts).

Onward to the maps.  First up, here's the actual fractal world itself after development in Fractal Terrains, erosion in Wilbur, and then brought back into Fractal Terrains to add rivers:

Erda in Fractal Terrains
Here's the same map but switched from an equidistant rectangular projection to a globe, shifted to view the main continent that's acting as my equivalent to fantasy Europe.  (I love the globe view, I should do a version with "earth-like" coloring and some wispy clouds).

Erda Globe View
Below is the same map after some treatment in Campaign Cartographer.  This is very much a working version, as I still need to name the continents and oceans, make sure the rivers carry over, add arrows for currents and prevailing winds, that kind of stuff.  The jpg export isn't a good resolution.  Anyway, I'll be working on the CC3 version during the week to add those elements (names, currents, winds).
Work in progress - the Fractal Map in Campaign Cartographer
Here is a zoom on the starting continent in the northwest corner (created in Fractal Terrains).

Northwest Erda
...And below is an actual "fantasy version" of this section that I could use as a world map to start writing about the game world.  I'd have to check scale, but the continent is fairly massive - probably 50 miles to the hex like the original World of Greyhawk.  This would be akin to a parchment world map the players could have as a starting handout about their "Known World".  As I add notes about the places, I'll circle back to the map and put in major cities.  The starting area will be a zoomed in version of the area called the Midlands, at a reasonable hex scale (6 or 8 miles per hex or thereabouts).

Erda - The Known World
The Midlands are a chaotic collection of small holds and warring kingdoms, something like Dark Ages Britain at or before the time of Alfred the Great - Mercia, Wessex, Anglia, Northumbria - the area map will have all those types of small kingdoms mapped out.  There have been Northmen invasions, and areas carved out from the coast reminiscent of the Danelaw from real-world history.  Seems like a cool area and time period to give the D&D treatment, add lots of fantasy and magic, with plenty of strife and threats of invasion.  The megadungeon, Harrowdale, is on the western moors of the Midlands.  Beyond the western hills is the Gloaming, a region of misty highlands and kings of the old folk.  The Gloaming is Celtic / Irish / Gaelic in flavor - a place of druids and faiths that predate the church.

Heading east is the sprawling empire of Caronia.  I've had it titled this way in one of my notebooks since last year - but I may need to rename it depending on what happens with this scary carona virus!  As it stands now, Caronia is a sprawling homage to Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire.  The Great March is a military zone manned by border nobles of Caronia and mercenaries of The Folk, the barbarians and woodmen of the southeastern vales (including Grossval).

The southern coast of the continent is home to the principalities of Aurum and the theocracy of Topaz, inheritors to civilization after old Valorum fell in the magical apocalypse that reconnected the magic worlds and allowed fresh invasions from Jotunheim and Niflheim, creating the current dark age.  Beyond Valorum (and off the map to the south) the lands turn dry and desert and we find the ruins of antiquity.

Above the whale road are Scandia and Greatland, the two nordic realms of the setting.  Invasions of giants and dragons from the west have made the northern cultures tough and fatalistic in the face of ever colder winters and darker nights.  A culture of "vikings" has developed, with sea-faring reavers attacking softer targets from Aurum all the way along the whale road to Caronia.  North of the Calden Sea is Thule, where I'll place the Black City when I work on a 5E update to that one.  So far my kids have been pushing me to build out Harrowdale rather than revisiting the Black City first, but we'll see what the rest of the player group says.

Anyway, this what I've been doing instead of writing blog posts for a week or two.  I've been on a map-bender!

No comments:

Post a Comment