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View Full Version : Hi folks. I need to learn how to map the *entire* Spelljammer universe



Big Mac
10-10-2010, 03:10 PM
Hi Cartographers.

I'm a big fan of an out of print Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting called Spelljammer. Spelljammer is a (sometimes misunderstood) fantasy setting that takes Dungeons and Dragons adventures into space. Built around Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms (and Kara-Tur and other FR subsettings) the game wraps worlds in things called crystal spheres (http://spelljammer.wikia.com/wiki/Crystal_sphere). Each crystal sphere contains a number of worlds (which can be of four elemental types) and the game involves the PCs visiting other worlds in the Known Spheres (or exploring strange new spheres). Dozens of worlds have been created (but not fully detailed) by TSR and GMs are also encouraged to sandbox their own planets.

I've been looking at maps drawn by others for a few years now, but need to learn how to make them myself. Robert S. Conley (from Bat in the Attic) has put up some sandboxing tutorials (http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3019) which I hope to adjust to create a process that will help me create (or expand) Spelljammer worlds. Robert has made me realise that I need to design the geography of the world alongside its history and other details. Robert was really only aiming his tutorials at people designing a single world, but I'm going to want to knock out dozens of them (eventually).

BTW: I highly recommend Robert's tutorials, for anyone who wants to flesh out their own world maps, but isn't sure how to do the non-cartographic stuff.

Spelljammer has four types of worlds (based on the elements) and I'm expecting it to be hard to find tutorials for some of the weirder types.

Earth worlds,
Water worlds,
Air worlds and
Fire worlds.


Earth worlds are terrestrial planets. While some are excessively large or small, I'm figuring that most of the tutorials and experts here will help me with that sort of thing.

Water worlds are worlds that are mostly made from water. They might have floating islands on them or might have underwater cities. I'm figuring there are some people who have mapped things like Atlantis or done maps of sea currents. I'm guessing that regular cartography would be harder to do, but I could add details like bands of plankton or ice caps to make world maps be more than sheets of blue.

Air worlds are usually giant gas planets. They might have rocky islands floating or tumbling in their atmosphere.

Fire worlds are suns, or smaller balls of fire. But being D&D these often have fire creatures living on them. So I might need to make maps for some of them.

If that isn't enough, Spelljammer has some unusual rules for gravity that make it possible for people to walk around on celestial bodies as large as Saturn or as small as asteroids. So the normal geological forces (that shape the land in most maps) may well not apply to a lot of the maps I'll need to create.

And with small objects like asteroids (or the ships that sail in space) having double-sided gravity, I will often be needing to make a pair of maps with mirrored outlines that represent the top and bottom of something.

Spelljammer also allows some weird shaped celestial bodies including:

Cubes,
Flatworlds,
Ribbon worlds,
Dyson spheres,
Clusters (of asteroids) and
Any other funky shape that someone can think of.


So I could be needing to make all sorts of maps that break all the normal rules. :o

Obviously that is a lot to learn. And I want to learn how to make country maps, town maps, building plans and (for SJ the all important) ship deck plans. And Spelljammer needs to have the sort of crystal sphere charts that you would normally see in a sci-fi game, like Traveller. But these need to be rendered in a fantasy style to help sell the fact that SJ is not a SF game.

Needless to say I'm not entirely sure where to start. But looking at Rober S. Conley's tutorials, I think I need to start off with global maps and work down in size.

Anyhoo. Hello!

jtougas
10-10-2010, 05:51 PM
Spelljammer Woot!! thats a very ambitious idea and It should be fun to watch your progress (I remember trying to do a small map of Greyspace a dozen or so years ago but never got very far) Check out the tutorial section and post up a WIP we're a friendly bunch and love to offer feedback.. :)

mearrin69
10-11-2010, 12:48 AM
Welcome to the Guild! That's an ambitious project. I never played Spelljammer but always thought it looked like a fun setting. Some of what you want (mapping Earth-like worlds and locations) is right here. A few of the odder things you mentioned can be cobbled together from the techniques you'll learn along the way. A couple of them you might have to pioneer on your own. It's a worthy project, though, and I'd be happy to help out with advice if I can. I've been working on a ship battlemap for a bit now (link (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11592-WIP-Battlemaps-for-Curse-of-the-Emperor-s-Stone...&p=130520&viewfull=1#post130520)) and have maybe a little experience that can help with deckplans. So. Yeah. Pick something and start working on a map and then post a work-in-progress in the appropriate forum.
M

NB Neogi kinda rock. They're from Spelljammer, no? And those colonial hippo things?

geamon
10-11-2010, 01:34 AM
Are you doing world to regional to city/town all the way to encounter? And by encounter I mean its like dungeon type areas and popular locales/points of interest? Because that's a lot of work haha. :D But worth it in some ways. I know that the Cartographer's Guild has the CWBP (Cooperative Worldbuilding Project) but unfortunately with the project all maps aren't in nearly in the same style or range of styles. If you do this their will be a much more cohesive note throughout the world. Wish you luck and welcome!

NeonKnight
10-11-2010, 02:04 AM
Google-Fu......HEEEEEEEEEYAAAAAAAA!

http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&source=imghp&biw=1920&bih=927&q=spelljammer+maps&gbv=2&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

And, there is talk of a 4e version in 2011: http://www.theweem.com/2010/09/14/spelljammer-4e-in-2011/

Oh, and Welcome to the Guild!

ravells
10-11-2010, 05:34 AM
I really like that sandbox write up as a disciplined approach to creating a fantasy world. Take a look at the mapping quickstart thread (at the top of this subforum) for an overview of tools and basic techniques. It's sounds a huge project, don't rush the mapping side of it. Work on finding a style that you're comfortable with and which is easily replicated.
Best of luck

Steel General
10-11-2010, 07:17 AM
Welcome Aboard!

Big Mac
10-11-2010, 06:12 PM
Wow! That is a lot of replies! 8)


Spelljammer Woot!! thats a very ambitious idea and It should be fun to watch your progress (I remember trying to do a small map of Greyspace a dozen or so years ago but never got very far) Check out the tutorial section and post up a WIP we're a friendly bunch and love to offer feedback.. :)

There is a ton-o-stuff to be done for Spelljammer. Probably far too much for myself alone. I'm in touch with some other people who make Spelljammer art. In fact I got press-ganged into being an admin at the Spelljammer Image Group (on Flickr) (http://www.flickr.com/groups/spelljammer/).

I'd love to see what your map of Greyspace looked like. I've got to say that I'm slightly dissatisfied with the original canon sphere map style, as it looks far too like science fiction art for something that is supposed to be fantasy space. I would rather see crystal sphere maps that retain the SJ symbols, but look a lot more like sea charts. I was talking about this to a guy called John "Paladine" Baxter (on the Spelljammer Mailing List) about this and he knocked up some pretty great looking maps of Greyspace (http://spelljammerportpaladine.isgreat.org/greyspace.html).

(One of the things I really like about Paladine's charts, is that he has altered the positions of the outer planets, in order to chop off the outer parts of the orbits and get more of the central area onto the page. That is something I'd like to do myself, when I eventually attempt a sphere map.)


Welcome to the Guild! That's an ambitious project. I never played Spelljammer but always thought it looked like a fun setting. Some of what you want (mapping Earth-like worlds and locations) is right here. A few of the odder things you mentioned can be cobbled together from the techniques you'll learn along the way. A couple of them you might have to pioneer on your own. It's a worthy project, though, and I'd be happy to help out with advice if I can. I've been working on a ship battlemap for a bit now (link (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11592-WIP-Battlemaps-for-Curse-of-the-Emperor-s-Stone...&p=130520&viewfull=1#post130520)) and have maybe a little experience that can help with deckplans. So. Yeah. Pick something and start working on a map and then post a work-in-progress in the appropriate forum.
M

I love your ship. Over on The Piazza, there is a guy called Twin Agate Dragons, who is hoping to get blank deck plans (http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4539) done for all of the ships of Spelljammer. A guy called Leroy Van Camp III started doing this years back, but only did some of them. I figure that blank ships would be great images to load into the bottom layer of a drawing package (GIMP, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro) and then use as the basis of a bespoke ship plan.


NB Neogi kinda rock. They're from Spelljammer, no? And those colonial hippo things?

Yep. Neogi and giff (the hippo-headed guys who love guns) are from Spelljammer. Some of the SJ monsters were actually raided from an earlier TSR sci-fi game, so I might need to buy that for further inspiration on "racial style" of maps that are supposed to be designed by an NPC from their race.


Are you doing world to regional to city/town all the way to encounter? And by encounter I mean its like dungeon type areas and popular locales/points of interest? Because that's a lot of work haha. :D But worth it in some ways. I know that the Cartographer's Guild has the CWBP (Cooperative Worldbuilding Project) but unfortunately with the project all maps aren't in nearly in the same style or range of styles. If you do this their will be a much more cohesive note throughout the world. Wish you luck and welcome!

I might need to do world, to region, to city/town, as I don't have a map-monkey to do them for me! :P

I actually had a brief look around that Cooperative Worldbuilding Project. It looked very interesting. With the different styles it reminded me of a BBC TV program where Rolf Harris (yes the guy that draws kangaroos) got a ton-o-people to all do pictures that were stuck together to make a gigantic painting. That seems to be what you lot are doing (only with a giant map instead of a painting).

I think there is going to need to be an element of colaboration among Spelljammer fans, as I don't think that any one person can do everything by themselves. (Although we have a couple of guys in the fan community who come pretty darn close - they actually went to Kenzer and Company and got them to buy and publish a SJ reboot called HackJammer.)


Google-Fu......HEEEEEEEEEYAAAAAAAA!

http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&source=imghp&biw=1920&bih=927&q=spelljammer+maps&gbv=2&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

I actually see a few of my SJ motivational posters in there! :D


And, there is talk of a 4e version in 2011: http://www.theweem.com/2010/09/14/spelljammer-4e-in-2011/

I already heard that rumour (and did my own bit to spread it about (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7336686@N03/4984398045/in/pool-519353@N21/) with a picture I planted in a few places :twisted: )

But that cover picture is great. I'll have to "distribute" that to some people that I know will appreciate its beauty.


Oh, and Welcome to the Guild!

Thanks!


I really like that sandbox write up as a disciplined approach to creating a fantasy world. Take a look at the mapping quickstart thread (at the top of this subforum) for an overview of tools and basic techniques. It's sounds a huge project, don't rush the mapping side of it. Work on finding a style that you're comfortable with and which is easily replicated.
Best of luck

Thanks. I think you are right. The "replication" thing is something that is vital if I'm going to give a feel of consistency to a bunch of maps that are supposed to be parts of the same world.

I've been floundering around trying to complete a few projects for ages. Robert S. Conley's method is something I want to try to come at this from another angle (and actually get some meat onto the bones via maps). It's been a few years since I did any art stuff. I've had a couple of lessons with Photoshop, but I've got a lot to learn.


Welcome Aboard!

Thanks!

Now I'll have to actually do something! :o

robertsconley
10-13-2010, 12:56 PM
I've been looking at maps drawn by others for a few years now, but need to learn how to make them myself. Robert S. Conley (from Bat in the Attic) has put up some sandboxing tutorials (http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3019) which I hope to adjust to create a process that will help me create (or expand) Spelljammer worlds. Robert has made me realise that I need to design the geography of the world alongside its history and other details. Robert was really only aiming his tutorials at people designing a single world, but I'm going to want to knock out dozens of them (eventually).

BTW: I highly recommend Robert's tutorials, for anyone who wants to flesh out their own world maps, but isn't sure how to do the non-cartographic stuff.


Appreciate the compliment.

As for adapting my sandbox tutorial I do have a Traveller Sandbox post (http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-make-traveller-sandbox.html). What I am trying to do with my How to create a Sandbox tutorial is manage the amount of detail you need to create. I focus on a 200 by 150 mile regions due to my experience with D&D style fantasy campaigns but different sub-genres and campaign styles could have different focuses. As you observed Spell Jammer wouldn't focuses on such a small area.

What I would recommend is that you use the Traveller Sandbox to get your broad overview and then apply the Fantasy Sandbox steps to various worlds "of interest". Substituting world for region. For example the home base I describe in Fantasy Sandbox could be the main city or rather the most interesting city.

Good luck.

Rob Conley

ravells
10-14-2010, 03:59 AM
Hi Robert and welcome to the Guild. Just had a read of your Traveller sandbox tutorial and it looks like a great way to go about populating a sector (although personally I would build the information around plots). Do you have a finished sample (either Traveller or fantasy) which we can look at? I had a poke around on your blog but couldn't find one!

Regarding maps for Traveller, have you seen Isomage's sub-sector and world map generators (http://axiscity.hexamon.net/users/isomage/traveller/world/)?

(Apologies to Mac for jacking the thread, if this goes on I'll create another one).

All the best

Ravs

robertsconley
10-14-2010, 09:55 AM
Hi Robert and welcome to the Guild. Just had a read of your Traveller sandbox tutorial and it looks like a great way to go about populating a sector (although personally I would build the information around plots). Do you have a finished sample (either Traveller or fantasy) which we can look at? I had a poke around on your blog but couldn't find one!


Not for Traveller yet. Right now I am focusing on the Fantasy Sandbox. If you go to the original post (http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-make-fantasy-sandbox.html) you will see at the bottom that I link to a series of other post detailing each step. The posts are linked together so you can go from step to step from the post themselves. It not finished yet but I am pretty far along and currently working on the next step which involves detailing some buildings in the main town.



Regarding maps for Traveller, have you seen Isomage's sub-sector and world map generators (http://axiscity.hexamon.net/users/isomage/traveller/world/)?


Looks interesting thanks for sharing this.

ravells
10-14-2010, 10:15 AM
Ah found them, Thanks!

Big Mac
10-17-2010, 07:56 PM
Appreciate the compliment.

You're welcome.

Thanks for materialising in my thread! :D


As for adapting my sandbox tutorial I do have a Traveller Sandbox post (http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-make-traveller-sandbox.html).

I've seen that. It is good. Spelljammer might actually have been better organised if it had the sort of hex maps that Traveller has for sectors and subsectors. Instead Jeff Grubb made gigantic spheres, in which you get a fantasy solar system. And outside of that, you have The Phlogiston, which was never really mapped out in the early days. So it is pretty hard to do SJ on the sort of scale that Traveller maps are done on.

But, despite the fact that you designed this for Traveller, I think that some elements in the Traveller Sandbox post would help with sandboxing the crystal sphere that a spelljammer planet was located in. They certainly would add to the suggestions in the Universe Building rules in Chapter 5 of Concordance of Arcane Space. And I suppose that that needs doing before the worlds get worked on, so I should go back and make a Sandboxing a Crystal Sphere thread, so that interplanetary politics can be worked out and the number of spelljamming ports can be decided upon.

Thanks for the poke! ;)


What I am trying to do with my How to create a Sandbox tutorial is manage the amount of detail you need to create. I focus on a 200 by 150 mile regions due to my experience with D&D style fantasy campaigns but different sub-genres and campaign styles could have different focuses. As you observed Spell Jammer wouldn't focuses on such a small area.

Logically, Spelljammer should be dealing with a much larger area than your sandbox campaign area, but in actual TSR SJ products the complete opposite has always been the case. The PCs come into a system of several planets (but a couple of them are uninhabitable), they get to the world the need to go to and despite being able to land any-where, they inevitably land in a small area the size of a town or city.

Believe me: your sandbox is a big improvement on that, because it will allow fans to build a buffer zone around that small "railroad" landing site and allow the GM to deal with PCs who move off of the edge of the map (or description) that TSR provides.


What I would recommend is that you use the Traveller Sandbox to get your broad overview and then apply the Fantasy Sandbox steps to various worlds "of interest". Substituting world for region. For example the home base I describe in Fantasy Sandbox could be the main city or rather the most interesting city.

Good luck.

Thanks. I think I'll try that.

Maybe I'll go back to my Sandboxing Plata (http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3683) experiment and go a couple of steps backwards (to create a crystal sphere around it).

Big Mac
10-17-2010, 08:00 PM
Hi Robert and welcome to the Guild. Just had a read of your Traveller sandbox tutorial and it looks like a great way to go about populating a sector (although personally I would build the information around plots). Do you have a finished sample (either Traveller or fantasy) which we can look at? I had a poke around on your blog but couldn't find one!

Regarding maps for Traveller, have you seen Isomage's sub-sector and world map generators (http://axiscity.hexamon.net/users/isomage/traveller/world/)?

(Apologies to Mac for jacking the thread, if this goes on I'll create another one).

Don't worry about it, Ravells. I've got Robert S. Conley joining a forum and hanging around in my "hello" thread. 8)

And while not directly transferable to Spelljammer (because of the different mapping styles) Traveller resources are a good source of inspiration for space mapping.

bartmoss
04-03-2011, 03:44 PM
This link may interest you: http://spelljammerportpaladine.isgreat.org/Paladine%27s%20Maps.html

Big Mac
04-04-2011, 08:05 AM
This link may interest you: http://spelljammerportpaladine.isgreat.org/Paladine%27s%20Maps.html

Thanks Bartmoss. I have seen Spelljammer Port Paladine. The guy who runs it is really great.

I definately like his style. I might want to modify it a bit, but the basic structure is what I want to do myself.

Big Mac
05-02-2011, 02:27 PM
Thanks Bartmoss. I have seen Spelljammer Port Paladine. The guy who runs it is really great.

I definately like his style. I might want to modify it a bit, but the basic structure is what I want to do myself.

The Port Paladine webmaster has signed up to Cartographers' Guild.

I've also set up a Spelljammer group (http://www.cartographersguild.com/group.php?groupid=9) here (for SJ fans to find other SJ fans) and hope to get some specialist help there.