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jeffsheets
06-10-2010, 01:32 PM
For quite a long time now I've had a campaign world thought up in my head, and even had a go at mapping something out a few years back. The basic concept is that after a cataclysm, the game world is something of a waterworld; giant helical seatrees, tall coral pillars, sprawling seaswamps, the occasional giant mangrove tree, rare volcanoes (the last testament to a foundation beneath the water), and the gravity defying floatstone islands. Everywhere else is the sea, having long since flooded over the landmasses of the world. If the peoples of this world regained civilization (as they do in the campaign), and gained a way to travel beyond the scrap of land, coral, or wood they cling to (which they do), they would eventually need maps.

Here is the beginning of my map, a small archipelago of some of the features I listed earlier. This is just a small section of a much larger sized map, but presented at 1:1 pixel ratio.
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tilt
06-10-2010, 02:20 PM
Hi Jeff,
looking really good there, but I'm a bit disapointed that I can't zoom in to check out the details - but great idea and nice art ... have some rep for your first upload :)

jeffsheets
06-10-2010, 03:59 PM
Hi Jeff,
looking really good there, but I'm a bit disapointed that I can't zoom in to check out the details - but great idea and nice art ... have some rep for your first upload :)

Thanks! Actually, these images are just showing what tiny bit of progress I have, and this one, at 500 by 360 is just a small portion of what will be the final map, 6000 by 4800 pixels. So, in essence, this is as zoomed in as it's going to get. If it ever got printed, the full size map would be 20 inches by 16 inches, at 300 ppi. For reference, I'm drawing everything at 400% zoom with my beloved wacom tablet.

This update shows the basic coloration I'm starting with (though suggestions are welcome... and I want to give it a faded watercolor kind of look if anyone has a good way to do that), as well as a mangrove forest. As for scale... Each of the sea trees (the spiral things) can hold perhaps 5,000 people comfortably, including all of the internal flora and fauna that lives there. The floatstone islands, which currently look more like floating potatoes in my self-critical opinion, are rather large chunks of solid rock, all formed from the peaks of mountains and large hills that were torn from the ground when much of their composition became floatstone. Thus... the mangrove trees are exceptionally giant, perhaps not as big as the night elf starter zone in WoW, but still rather big. The coral pillars (there's a group of five on the east side of the archipelago) are about the smallest of the features, but particularly old ones reach half as high as the taller seatrees, so they're quite usable spots. The seaswamps are beds of vegetation growing on other submarine vegetation. One would not want to try to walk on it.
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tilt
06-10-2010, 04:30 PM
very nice.. good colors - and I look forward to seing the whole map when you're ready :) ... although I do believe the guild limits on size are smaller than that.. 4600 or there about, but you can always post on Deviant Art if you got something bigger :)

jeffsheets
06-10-2010, 05:19 PM
Hmmm... I had to decrease the quality of the full size Jpeg map, but it seems to have uploaded. It's possible I may run into issues when more details gets added. More progress, and the full size map showing what little bit I'm currently working on. Also, I need to track down RobA's tut on parchment texturing in GIMP. He deserves some newbie rep for it.

I toned the colors back a bit in this version, and I think I like it more this way. Not quite so vibrant, but still very identifiable.
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Edit - I also realize that now is probably a good time to decide how I'm going to color the water. As it stands now, with the colors of the floatstone, coral, etc., it looks like all of this is coming out of a big desert, instead of a big ocean. Hmmm...

jeffsheets
06-10-2010, 11:33 PM
More work done... and as I look at it, I can't help but feel like it looks overly cartoonish. :? I may have to use a different mapping style, but I rather wanted a style of map that would actually be used by people of the campaign world. :|

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Gidde
06-10-2010, 11:39 PM
The cartoony feeling may be a result of the size of your symbols; try reducing their size relative to the area you're mapping and see if that feels better.

jeffsheets
06-10-2010, 11:59 PM
The cartoony feeling may be a result of the size of your symbols; try reducing their size relative to the area you're mapping and see if that feels better.

Actually, after a little bit of number crunching and tinkering I've realized that the little spot I was working on is a little over two inches wide when printed out. :o Unless the map is drawn by tinkerbell with a tiny pen... this map is actually impossible in the game world. :|

I definitely think I'm going to restart... after reading up on some other tutorials. I'll still have to figure out on my own how to adapt a map for a near complete landless archipelago. And I may reduce the size of the overall map somewhat, 6000x4800 might be a touch too large.

Then again, if I can decide on a good look for the seatrees and the giant mangroves, I think I can make a big bunch of random brushes for GIMP to make placing things easier.

Too bad there's not an emoticon for going back to the drawing board... :)

Gidde
06-11-2010, 12:01 AM
No kidding, I'd certainly use that one often!

jeffsheets
06-11-2010, 09:13 PM
Well, I've gone back to the drawing board and have a general idea of this concept. Still not certain I like it, but I can't honestly think of any other way to show a map in this campaign world. The good news for this change is that I can accurately calculate distances traveled on this map, as it is a full overhead view. It also gives the sea-trees the proper form, the spiral shape in the previous concept didn't really do the things justice.

I've also decided that I need another type of "land-mass", so to speak. So, I've come up with Marishrooms, a type of huge mushroom that grows out of shallow but murky water.

I also learned and put to use the ability to make custom animated GIMP brushes. I really need, now to decide on the scale of the map, so I can have a good idea how big everything is. Time to pull out my trusty 3d modeling program...

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Steel General
06-11-2010, 10:30 PM
Definitely an interesting style - looking forward to seeing where you take this.

jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 12:19 AM
Thanks!

Next up, I believe I have the scale that I want decided. Not a big region by any means, but big enough. At the scale given in the map, sea trees are one kilometer in diameter, which might be a bit too wide. The coral pillars in the map are also 1 km wide, and this is something I need to make new brushes for, if every one of them is that big, they'll be too uniform. The giant mangrove forest is broken up enough that I think it looks fine without messing with that. I still haven't placed any of the new Marishrooms, but mostly because I don't want every map feature to be in every place all at once.

I also added in my current version of the sea-swamp kelp beds, using the small galaxy brush from GIMP. I actually kinda like it, but I might run an emboss/bump filter on it to see if it makes it look any better.

If anything, I think I need to get more than just the five variations of each brush. I need something more like 20 variants per brush, and sometimes including smaller features.

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jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 12:40 AM
After doing a bit of research, I realize now that a 1 kilometer wide sea tree is definitely not the size I want it to be. That would make it unbelievably huge. I want them to be more along the width of an average skyscraper, or perhaps bigger.

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(Image stolen fair and square from a google image search. I most certainly did NOT create that myself.)

What this means is that I need to make my sea trees about 10% of their current diameter. I may need to do similarly with the coral, if only so I can make the coral more sprawl like. I'm actually happy with the size of the floatstone islands... I intended them to be amazingly huge.

Gidde
06-12-2010, 01:18 AM
If you don't want to make whole new brushes, try just setting the Brush Dynamics size to random (for the coral that you didn't want uniform, that is).

tilt
06-12-2010, 02:57 AM
the new style of map is looking good - but I did love the old one ... but I'm looking forward to seing a lot more of your world :)

jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 11:34 AM
If you don't want to make whole new brushes, try just setting the Brush Dynamics size to random (for the coral that you didn't want uniform, that is).

Only problem with that is that I generally want the line widths to be identical. And I have a good idea for making the corals less uniform and more like what I really envision them to be.


the new style of map is looking good - but I did love the old one ... but I'm looking forward to seing a lot more of your world :)

:)

Here's the changes I've made so far, I scaled the mangrove trees a bit smaller, which makes each individual cluster about 500 meters wide. You can see a single cluster to the east of the group of five of the new sea trees. The new sea trees range in size from 200 meters across to 250 meters across, which I am happy with. A bit thicker than most skyscrapers, but I'm fine with that.

My next goal is to get the coral brushes fixed up and replace that layer. After that, I'm going to work on a way to shape the shallows and depths of the water based on the drawn layers, pretty much any of the above water vegetation in this world occurs over shallow waters (around 100 feet depth). The coral pillars grow from the sea floor, forcing new growth under the pillar (which is only possible because of the unique magical hand-wavey nature of the pseudo-elemental life that creates it), so they can often occur at deeper depths. There will be some exceptions, and the floatstone islands can occur nearly anywhere.

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Gidde
06-12-2010, 11:45 AM
This sounds like an incredibly interesting place!

jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 01:35 PM
This sounds like an incredibly interesting place!

:) Exactly the effect I wanted. I have the coral pillars re-worked, using smaller brushes with more variety. I like the result, especially since, like the mangroves, it's stackable.

More background on the campaign world: Unlike most fantasy worlds, humans are decidedly NOT the predominant race in the Archipelagos. Instead, dwarves and elves compete (amicably) for that title. The dwarves survived in the mountains, which became the floatstone islands, while the elves are the very reason there are giant mangroves, marishrooms, and sea-trees. The dwarves have learned how to mine and use floatstone to create large floating sky-ships, and this technique has spread somewhat to other races. The elves, and indeed druids everywhere, cultivated the surviving flora and fauna, and have preserved griffons, hippogriffs, and pegasi. Obviously, horses have long since died out, cats have thrived, as cats always do. Dogs are only found on the floatstone islands. Many other small creatures have either died out completely or thrived. Birds are just about everywhere. Gnomes have become almost a subclass of dwarves, predominantly living among dwarves and rarely among other groups. Halflings have taken to the coral pillars and have even developed a sense for empire building that they lack in other worlds. Humans... humans are found everywhere. Just not in the same numbers except in the few floatstone islands they have claimed for themselves.

One of the things that always bothers me about standard fantasy fare is the perception that goblins, hobgoblins, kobolds, etc. are inherently evil. This quality stems from their roots as evil fey in our European folklore. In the Archipelagos, however, such creatures can't afford to be evil. Thus, like humans, they are often found in any community, mostly in lower class positions, but no longer are they considered evil by fiat, even by elves and dwarves. It is because of this that half-orcs and orcs have actually become rather accepted and relatively civilized, though orcs generally tend to live in the mangroves. As a result, half-orcs exist anywhere the populations of humans and orcs overlap.

The general quality of the world is predominant, though not exceptionally powerful, magic is everywhere. Anyone you meet may be able to use a cantrip or two, and some people will learn a cantrip well enough to use it at will. In game mechanics, the campaign is going to be D&D 3.5, capped at 6th level, and thus restricting spells to 3rd level spells. Some higher level spell will be accessible in the form of rituals, none of which can take less than four hours to complete. For details of the house rules, look up Ryan Stoughton's E6 rules. (I think I spelled his name right...) Some of the racial characteristics of even the basic races have changed slightly to reflect the different world they live in.

And now... progress:

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tilt
06-12-2010, 02:31 PM
thanks for the background - always nice to know whats behind the map :) ... only thing I don't understand is capping the level - I can understand that one might want to limit spells, but capping the level at 6th is pretty early on, and one would think that people develop beyond that ... it also limits the number of monsters - but then again, in your world they might not exist at all... anyway, very exiting - good job :)

jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 03:20 PM
thanks for the background - always nice to know whats behind the map :) ... only thing I don't understand is capping the level - I can understand that one might want to limit spells, but capping the level at 6th is pretty early on, and one would think that people develop beyond that ... it also limits the number of monsters - but then again, in your world they might not exist at all... anyway, very exiting - good job :)

Although the level is capped at 6, every 5,000 XP after that, characters can gain an extra feat. And a LOT of feats are available. The choice of 6 is simple... a number of people calculated that the level 1 to 5 range is accomplishable by real human beings. At 6 or higher and you progress to a level of inhuman ability. Jumping, balancing, research, science, strength, etc. are all far more astounding beyond that point. Here is the best explanation I have ever seen for this evaluation: The Alexandrian (http://www.thealexandrian.net/creations/misc/d&d-calibrating.html).

As for monsters, well, I have to adjust some things, but in my humble opinion, the overabundance of higher level monsters is caused by a need to provide more and more complicated and challenging monsters as characters progress beyond 6th level. In addition, it makes those battles against CR 8+ enemies all the more epic for it. Generally CR 10 is at the top end of the range, and at that challenge rating and higher, some extra benefits will be needed to take down such a monster.

At 6th level, a single character can take on a few 1st level enemies... but he can't go and annihilate an entire city. If anything, the level cap is there to make an unrealistic game a bit more realistic. Also... at higher levels, there is a greater chance that certain classes will far outshine others. This is why the Tome of Battle sourcebook was created... and in effect, that book just made fighters and such into--- Magical fighters. :/ I prefer to solve the problem by eliminating the top end imbalance, by reducing the top end.

The average population is 1st level, not including children. Any blacksmith can ply their trade well enough at 1st or 2nd level, and a legendary blacksmith will be only 3rd or 4th. Leaders of militaries and governments can easily be lower than that. I think a few of our recent American presidents don't qualify as even 3rd level. The biggest reason I've seen against this play style is the fact that 20 levels is what's shown. People tend to think that people like Gandalf HAD to be a 20th level wizard, despite the fact that he never did anything in the novels or movies above the capacity of a 3rd level wizard. Aragorn, for instance, was probably not a high level character. He was depicted as a real human being, who had real limitations and abilities.

Then there's the fact that spells such as resurrection and stone to flesh are only accessible with a long and drawn out ritual in the Archipelagos, and thus death and the evil "save-or-die" spells are much more realistic threats. Though I'll also be using a system where a player can risk the potential death of their character at limited times, in return for a bonus to other actions. All other times, their character may be defeated, but won't die just because.

Finally, one of the best reasons for this style of play: A GM can afford to be lazy when playing this way. Specing a new 5th level enemy is much easier in comparison to an 18th level enemy with 6 monster hit dice. Thus, I can spend more time creating the unique languages, cultures, and world, rather than depend on expensive, and more and more rare, sourcebooks. I use house rules that give the game world the flavor I want... such as a variant of the Defense Bonus house rule from OGC Unearthed Arcana, which will support a more swashbuckling style of play, and reduce the need for full plate armor. (How fast does a person wearing heavy metal armor sink into the world covering ocean?)

Okay... back to work on the map after the digression. And thanks for the "good job"! :)

jeffsheets
06-12-2010, 09:54 PM
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Two new things in this version: The marishrooms can be seen in clusters to the south, with caps as wide as 500 meters in some cases, the trunks of these gigantic fungi are about 100 meters across. (I am unsure if I am going to keep shrooms this big...) In addition, this version has my new technique of generating the shallows. I use the seatree, mangrove, shroom, and swamp layers' alpha channels to paint white on a blue layer, then gaussian blur that about 500 pixels or so. The resulting layer is set to be 50% opacity and Multiply effect, which, I think, gives the color of the deeper areas a nice subtle blue.

My next goal is to add at least five more floatstone island frames to that brush, and possibly redo some of the floatstone layer. I'll do the same to add at least five more sea-trees, perhaps to a separate brush so I can place them individually when art/nature demands it. I'll probably do the same for the shroom brush, and might redo that layer to make shrooms a bit smaller. I am still quite happy with the sizing of the mangrove clusters.

tilt
06-13-2010, 02:59 AM
looking better and better, one just wishes one could zoom in further - so when you're finished, you have to make some regional maps :)
and nice explanation about the level cap - I understand your sentiments, and with feats still comming in, the characters still have "something to work for" other than gathering wealth and fame of course :)

jeffsheets
06-13-2010, 01:30 PM
looking better and better, one just wishes one could zoom in further - so when you're finished, you have to make some regional maps :)
and nice explanation about the level cap - I understand your sentiments, and with feats still comming in, the characters still have "something to work for" other than gathering wealth and fame of course :)

Thanks! Yeah... I really do want the view to be closer, but at the scale this map is, a microscope would be needed. :) Don't worry, closer maps of important locations will be made. ;)

I think a better sense of scale than the... scale... in the bottom left corner, would be to compare sizes. The big floatstone islands are 46.4 pixels across (thank GIMP for the measurement tool!). 40 pixels, as can be determined by the scale on the map, is equal to one kilometer. This means that the bigger floatstones are about 1.1 to 1.2 km wide. Floatstone islands are generally taller than they are wide, so that means any one of those floatstones is bigger, generally, than one of our real life skyscrapers, and the bigger floatstone islands are bigger even than the biggest planned skyscraper in any dimension. Long story short, the big floatstone islands can have the population of medieval cities if they are fully inhabited, and most of them will be in this region. Some of the smaller floatstones may serve as naval forts, or personal clan homes, or merchant hubs.

More scale: Each of the spiral sea-trees is about the size of extant US skyscrapers. Though filled with wildlife inside the spiral, they can easily support a population of 1,000 or more citizens. (This is reduced from my earlier "claim" of 5,000... I just can't see that many people living self-sufficiently inside even something that big. It would be CROWDED!)

Even more scale: In this latest version, the largest caps of the Marishrooms is about 375 meters. That's generally the size of an average American city block.

Even more more scale: The map, from edge of image to edge of image, is 90 km. The map depicts a region about the size of the Chicago metropolitan area.

So..... technically? This is by no means a world map. :) It already is a regional map. :D Rest assured that the rest of the world is similarly in a state of deluge with similarly exotic methods of living.

And here is the latest version, with individual seatree brush, reduced size marishrooms (which I'm now comfy with), and 5 more floatstone island brush frames to add to the variety.

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jeffsheets
06-13-2010, 05:09 PM
More work has been done. I'm starting to get comfortable in the style of the map, and finding less I need to learn/discover/teach myself. I think the new coral, mangrove, and sea-swamp are looking really good, enough so that I might go back and redo the starting area. I also like the method I have worked out to fade the ocean blue color out.

First I clear the ocean blue to the base ocean color. Then I set the selection to the sea tree layer's alpha. Grow by 10 pixels. Add the alpha layers of the mangrove, shroom, and swamp layers to this selection, then grow the selection by another 5 pixels. I then paint white on the ocean layer within the selection. After that, I clear the selection and do two 250 pixel gaussian blurs (with the alpha of the ocean coloration layer locked all this time to keep the blur and fill from growing into the scale or beyond the borders). This ocean tint layer is set to Multiply at 50%, just above the parchment layer.

Here is the next version, with the first two place names added:

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Ilvarin
06-21-2010, 08:13 AM
Dude (if I ma be so familiar) this is unbelievable (in the best possible sense). My yardstick for interest in any fantasy novel/game/setting is "Would I want to visit there?". With your stuff, the answer is a resounding YES! It is so original, from the map to the cultures and races, to the mechanical implementation of your ideas. Completely awesome. I hate you ;-) I can't wait to read more. I would love to have this as a single pdf some day (hint hint). One question: I would suppose that with all that open sea storms are ghastly. What are your weather patterns like? Weather in that setting could almost be like some chaotic villain that shows up and raises hell because he can. Definitely something to vie against. Anyway, please keep this fascinating world coming, and thanks for sharing.