View Full Version : A Steam Punk Teutonic Dwarf City

Aval Penworth
07-22-2010, 11:16 PM
I thought up this city on the fly, last week and my players are absolutely fascinated by it. So I want to map it. I am going to force the action away from the city for a while to give myself a chance to better flesh it out.

It is a big, noisy, clanging, city spanning a canyon. 9 heavy duty bridges connect the two sides. There are loads of steam punk elements including a steam rail system. Steam powered elevators and travellators. Unreliable ornithopters hopping from roof to roof. Vacuum powered message tubes. Dwarves and Gnomes getting about in tailored waistcoats, top hats, brass rimmed goggles and fob watches. Sweaty, dirty teams of Dwarves pulling ropes and turning wheels.

This city will be set out in a very strict grid 9 x 9 major thoroughfares plus interconnecting alleys and streets.

I don't want to go the individual building path. Way too time intensive and my computer will just crash any way. I am going to avoid textures and photo realism. So I thought, in PS I would just represent the city blocks on a colour layer with a slight bevel and draw the streets on another layer etc. And the just put loads of labels to denote points of interest. But then I thought maybe PS is not the right tool for the job.

If anyone thinks that they know of a program or technique that would work let me know. Otherwise I will make a start in photoshop in the next few days.

Bill Hooks
07-22-2010, 11:48 PM
I think PS would be fine, although it's been a while since PS6 so I don't really know how techniques translate from CS3. For example, Bevelling is a Layer Effect now, but it seems like it was a Filter in PS6. Anyway, it seems like the logical start would be to block out the silhouette of the city as a solid shape, and erase lines through it to represent the streets as negative space (like so, for example (http://www.venere.com/img/hotel/2/4/2/3/103242/image_location_map_city_1.gif)).

07-23-2010, 03:53 AM
If you want super clean lines and resolution independence, then I'd suggest that vector is the way to go, although it comes with its own challenges.

07-23-2010, 08:51 AM
I concur with Ravells. If you have a vector program use it.. though it is a bit different than PS. If you have never used a vector based program you might be better off with PS or any app that you know, unless you have the time to get to know the new app.
If you do go with PS, you can always break the city down into sections, work on the smaller sections, then near the end combine the various parts into the final map.

Aval Penworth
07-23-2010, 08:31 PM
I have City Designer 3 but I have 50 times more experience with photoshop.

07-24-2010, 02:20 AM
I concur with ravells and DevinNight on the vector thing. Although it can be somewhat difficult to grasp the way it works, it's definitely worth the time and effort to learn it.

Aval Penworth
07-24-2010, 09:38 AM
I had a go at starting this thing in CD3 but I don't think that it is gonna work. To test, I put a few hundred random polygons and into a file with effects and it crashed.

Anyone got a more stable vector program suggestion? I don't mind buying a new program if it will do the job.

Sorry if this is becomming a software disussion.

07-25-2010, 08:17 AM
Try inkscape then

07-26-2010, 06:10 PM
I had a go at starting this thing in CD3 but I don't think that it is gonna work. To test, I put a few hundred random polygons and into a file with effects and it crashed.

Anyone got a more stable vector program suggestion? I don't mind buying a new program if it will do the job.

Sorry if this is becomming a software disussion.

Try inkscape then

If you want stable, please don't put all your hope on Inkscape. While I think it is great and use it exclusively for vector work, it is not at a 1.0 release, can and will crash, and can be slow when using filter effects.

-Rob A>

07-27-2010, 02:00 AM
If you don't mind parting with cash, then I can recommend Serif Drawplus X4 (which is what I use), it's about 60 and has most of the functionality of Adobe Illustrator, is pretty stable and has a very easy learning curve. Another one to look at as well is Xara which Gamerprinter and some others use. If you have loads of objects using filter effects you are going to get a slowdown, whatever application you are using as the effects need to be redrawn everytime you make a change and the calculations your processor has to do can get phenomenal. You can (in Serif anyway) disable the effects to speed up rendertimes and enable them again when you want to see you image in all its glory.

Aval Penworth
07-27-2010, 09:46 PM
I have downloaded the trial of Adobe Illustrator but I couldn't make head nor tail of it. I hope Drawplus is easier to get started with.

I wanted to begin this project so I have gone ahead in Photoshop while I experiment with the vector programs.

Function over form is the idea at the moment, although I am planning to add some decorative art like Ravs has done in his "city madness"
I made a fill layer and then erased the non-building parts. Followed by a find edges filter, 1px drop shadow and a 1px black stroke. It was pretty quick and easy to get this far. I think about 90-120mins so far. The labeling will take some time but the map should be quite usable by the weekend.
I want to name the streets of the main grid as 1st street, 2nd street etc and have intersecting avenues numbered as well. I will give the alleys names to suit their uses.

Any of you language buffs out there have an idea for pseudo Germanic-dwarven words for "big street" and "small street"

07-27-2010, 10:19 PM
Good start! I feel your pain with the vector programs; I have yet to master the learning curve on any of them, and I've tried Illustrator, Inkscape and Xara. One of these days I'm going to bite the bullet and get over my vector block ;)

07-28-2010, 03:48 AM
Looking really good, Aval. If you do decide to get Drawplus X4, it has an incredibly good autotrace function. You can import your buildings layer into drawplus and it will trace the image into vector for you.

07-28-2010, 03:48 AM
Looks good so far! From the cliche of dwarves being excellent miners you should consider to avoid a "chaotic" street layout. For the names you could label the map with a rune font to avoid creating lots of new words.

Aval Penworth
07-28-2010, 07:16 AM
Looks good so far! From the cliche of dwarves being excellent miners you should consider to avoid a "chaotic" street layout. For the names you could label the map with a rune font to avoid creating lots of new words.

Do you think that the layout is chaotic? I thought it was quite orderly, with neccessary variations due to building useage.

07-28-2010, 08:19 AM
No, I don't think it is chaotic. Orderly, angled shapes like cubes or pyramids mixed to new forms as buildings. That's how I imagine such a city.

Aval Penworth
07-28-2010, 10:03 AM
For naming the streets, I can't just use a rune because I need to say the word in game play. So far I have come up with 1st Strad, 2nd Strad etc for the East West streets and 1st Aven, 2nd Aven etc for the North South Streets.

@ Katto : so is there a part of the layout that you think does not work?

07-28-2010, 12:23 PM
According to wikipedia, Tolkien's Dwarf language, Khuzdul, sounds much like Hebrew. You could try a English-Hebrew phonetic free web translator and then kinda muck about a bit with the results?

07-28-2010, 01:14 PM
I don't know the history, setting etc. of your campaign, but your wip intro sounded very promising. I even don't know the scale of the map, but some of the clusters look very detailed, so I think it is a very big city.
Here are some of my thoughts:
- I'm not a fan of the american city layout, but here it makes sense and fits to the setting
- I miss the spontaneous WOW effect so far. The shape of the city could also be an xy city and it is not necessary in a higher technology level to place it next to a river. So there it is a dwarven city it could be completely built into a mountain (steampunk Moria) or just a part of it and the other outside.
- Have you ever played Sim City? I mention it, because you wrote of a steam railway system. Try to implement a railway into a finished town layout ;) that's fun.
- With a high technology level the city expands in 3 dimensions. Not just x,z also in height. You could map e.g. a 3 level city: ground level (poor ones, because of gravity), mid level (50-100 meter, workers, transit system etc.), upper level (100-150 meter, elite, parks, art, monuments etc.)
- some important places can't be generic and should be drawn individually
- the style you chose is an abstract one. This works fine for medieval societies, but I have a problem to imagine it in a steampunk setting. So much is possible there, may it be the transportation system or architectural wonders.

Ah, and your question: have a look at the most detailed cluster you have created. Without a scale the city must be enormous and this level of detail is the base for the other blocks.

Aval Penworth
07-28-2010, 10:46 PM
@ Katto The city is very big. 50% Dwarves, 40% Human, 10% Gnome population. The city has already been introduced in the campaign, so I am not going to be able to change the layout too much or move it to a mountain side.

The shapes are meant to represent city blocks, rather than individual buildings. With that in mind I have de-cluttered the busier blocks. The walls are 100 feet thick in some places, but there are many rooms and passages inside them. The main gates are so massive that the are very rarely opened. People gain access through the many smaller gates in the side. The small side gates are 20-40 feet off the ground and the access ramps and elevators would be withdrawn if there was a serious attack. The city straddles a 300' deep canyon. Ocean capable steam ships dock on the river banks 300' below the city and giant elevators operate night and day to carry goods up and down the cliffs. Much of the power for the dock machines in generated by piping river water into underground chambers where specially placed heat emitting minerals create steam.

I imagined that there would also be an undercity and mines below that. I imagined the buildings to be quite tall and also have several floors below ground as well. There would be a lot of steam release points in alleys and on rooftops. So as you travel on the ground level it would be noisy and smoggy. Visibility would be quite low in winter, making for interesting adventure opportunities. Rich folk get about in air balloons, and ornithopters or rotocopters.

I am going to put in an underground rail system that will also run across the canyon through the center of the bridges. The ground level map will just show where the station access ramps and travellators are located.

As cool as it would be to draw all the marvels of the city, there is no way I could reasonably represent them on a single map. So I am going for usability.

@Crayons. Thanks, I did not know that about the Hebrew base. But it is already long established in my campaign world that these folk sound German. Still I can use your advice ..I guess I will google 'phonetic free web translator' and see what comes up.

I have however decided to make this a diplomats map which has been translated and has a few clumsy turns of phrase and spelling.

Latest wip is attached. Hopefully this more clearly displays what I am trying to achieve.

07-29-2010, 08:37 AM
The backgrounds sounds very cool. And with the new map you have a consistent level of detail.

Aval Penworth
09-11-2010, 10:27 AM
I am considering taking this project in a different direction. WIP Attached

Aval Penworth
09-13-2010, 09:59 AM
Or maybe I stick with the black and white...which is more evocative of steam-punk?

09-13-2010, 03:41 PM
I certainly like that better than the color one. I'm also thinking that maybe a tan with dark brown lines might look good as well ala Ramah's current work.

Steel General
09-13-2010, 05:20 PM
I was thinking maybe some kind of copper/bronze-ish tint would help to convey that steam-punk look/feel.

09-13-2010, 06:52 PM
Yeah, I usually think of a sepia scheme as being the most steampunkish feel to go with.

09-15-2010, 04:59 PM
I agree with Rythal, sepia would be best for this setting. Along with some "cloud blurring" above some areas of the city. And I would like to see some 3D views of the city in the border of your map :).

Aval Penworth
09-15-2010, 11:35 PM
Here we go with a sepia version. As for 3 D views of the city...that might be beyond the scope of my talents just now.

Unfortunately, my grand vision for this project has not come to pass...too much for me to learn at this stage to carry it out, ah well.

10-13-2010, 03:45 PM
Thanks Aval! I tried some things, but the results were poor. I think of breaking the town down to blocks. The last three pictures look like you have added geometrical figures in different colors and blurred them. I really should have known better that this is not you style! The creation of a complex roof pattern was a very good idea I have never thought of.

Aval Penworth
10-13-2010, 06:41 PM
@ Katto Okay. So to make it 3D, what would suit better? If I made the city blocks in vector?