View Full Version : Hidden in plain sight.

12-15-2010, 11:28 AM
I am looking to create a city for my campaign that is extremely ordered in terms of its construction. The basic idea that I want is that the main city streets form a large magic/summoning circle that is hidden in plain sight. The problem I am having is creating this city and hiding the thing. Any attemps I have made have resulted quite poorly and the shape of the circle is obvious. So I am wondering how I can hide this thing from my players by integrating side streets etc to hide the shape. Don't have any images at the moment as I am not currently at my PC. Any ideas?

12-15-2010, 11:53 AM
This is the rough idea of the magic cirle I want to imbed into the streets.
May be a bit difficult to hide, no?


12-15-2010, 12:42 PM
It's a very regular shape and will be difficult to both hide (from residents in your game worlds) and show (to viewers in the real world via your map). It could be the result of a planned layout by the city founders...out in the open as you find in Washington DC and similar cities. Anyone that knows magic, and looks at a map, however, will realize what's going on.

Have you seen Iron Man? Tony Stark's blueprints for his whatsit were drawn on several sheets, containing other drawings - and you could only see the final result by layering them and holding them up to the light. You might take that idea, with part of the shape contained in the construction of the sewers, part in the roads, part in the buildings themselves. Individually you can't see what the symbol is but, taken as a whole, the thing still works like a magic circle. Then again, it'd be hard to show that on a map I think.

12-15-2010, 01:06 PM
Hide the symbol within other streets.

Build them as streets and alley ways that cover a nicely rounded hill, and each street or alley way has a convenient gutter that runs down the middle of it. All other street's gutters nicely bypass the shape's gutters/drop into covered sewers.

When it comes time to use the great summoning symbol or whatever, someone at a temple/hidden store house on the top of the hill takes an axe to a huge store of oil barrels, and sends a wave of oil down the gutters, gives it a good ten count (or whatever it would take for the oil to flow through a good chunk of it.) and then drops a torch on it.

Whoosh, magic symbol the size of a city. You can even hide the circle inside others that wrap around the contours of the hill.

12-15-2010, 01:13 PM
Thanks for the responses! I will look into doing several versions to see what I can come up with. I like the idea of using alleyways and perhaps not using main streets as my circle but the back streets and more sublte avenues etc... Here is what I came up with just using main streets and making a bunch of connections but it is way too obvious in myu mind still.

I was trying to disguise the circles etc as parks and public areas, and add in more streets and connections to keep the geometric thing going, but adding more confusion to the layout. I think I will have to do another version and maybe hide several smaller circles through out the city that are connected somehow. A bit more low profile... :P


12-15-2010, 01:31 PM
Quick and crude example of what I was talking about.

The shape is still there, but by copying general elements out of it and moving them around at random, and then putting masking lines through the pattern, you basically destroy the pattern at first glance.

12-15-2010, 01:31 PM
my first thought here about throwing people off would be the make the 3 circles into towers. Perhaps devoted to some aspect or another: temple of X, Mages guild, City Hall... or whatever else. People tend view things that are NOT there (parks and empty land) vs things that are such as buildings. Perhaps the central triangle is a pyramid or some other such structure OR even a query/pit. Of course, it totally depends on your world. The designs will be a lot more obvious with the green areas you have for empty ground. I would suggest putting buildings in most if not all of those with a few small alleys. Finally, people are fairly used to the concept of "wards" within a city (as in sub-division), so you would instead of using walkways as the ONLY means of making the design use a combination of walkways and walls, and perhaps even color code the rooftops based upon the district(depending on how realistic you want this to look). Another thing that might help break up the design and make it look more intentionally made is to have the outline be walls with the 6 points being defense towers, again depending on your world.

12-15-2010, 01:49 PM
Sometimes, the best way to hide something in plain sight is to call attention to it. You could place some of your main governmental buildings around the central triangle and call it the the three-corner forum or something. The roads that lead out from it could be named as being points on a triangle. Instead of noting the larger surrounding triangle, instead point out the arrowhead shape made when ignore the bottom segment in favor for the two connecting to the central triangle. Don't tell anything as a whole, but point out all the elements. If you aren't working to hide them, they aren't important. Instead this is happy shape town/etc. That'd likely take care of them noticing the overall pattern while they're there.

Also, what about drawing the overall city map from a different angle or trying an isometric map? That would obscure a lot of the connections and pattern without you having to change too much. Then, instead of providing an overall map, make small neighborhood maps. If you do the smaller maps at different scales, it'd be difficult for your players to put them together.

12-15-2010, 03:24 PM
I appriciate the replies and all the assistance! Thank-you all. I was thinking of making the 6 outter points a guard towers and perhaps a wall around the whole thing. I like the idea of adding a building at each circle and as for the centre, I was going drop a castle there. My original plan for this was to be a completely square city and somehow fit this in without drawing attention to it. Angled lines would really appear in a perfectly square backdrop... so thats a no go. I will play around with the idea of mixing up walls and walkways as part of it as well. I will certainly expland the city out beyond the confines of the circle to further throw things off and misdirect people. I am not sure an Iso map would accomplish what I want, and my players are used to getting a full topdown view of the city (As per all my previous games). Changing that up may be nice for them, though they may suspect something. In addition to that, I am not sure I have the time or skill to do one up :P I will re-work it again and see what I can come up with. Of course all of your suggestion will be quite handy in helping me improve and refine this.
Thanks :)

Hopefully I will be able to post again soon, have a rather busy day ahead of me. :(

12-15-2010, 03:52 PM
Oh... one other thing from a top down point of view... bridges or houses that span over a street/ally will also help break up the view. There are plenty of examples of houses/buildings built with street going through them( of course.. most such examples are fairly thin streets...)

Keep us updated on what your doing... sounds like a cool idea.

12-17-2010, 07:18 PM
So here is the next rendition of this city that I am working at. I think I am kind of happy with how it turned out so far. I added a lot of smaller paths and am blocking out the city. So now I am adding in buildings to get an idea of how everything will work out. I cut out a lot of circular parts of the original circle for now... maybe I will find a way to add them in later. I still cant figure out if I want to to be a detailed map or just all black for the buildings (save the red ones as they are noteworthy) and grey for streets and walls.


12-20-2010, 12:26 PM
I fear that I will be scrapping this idea in favor of something less time consuming. Given holidays and work I don't know if I will have the time to finish this to what I want before my campaign starts. Thanks for the comments and I will hopefully re-launch this idea sometime in the future.

12-20-2010, 01:09 PM
Cities are MONSTERS of time devouring nature.

12-20-2010, 05:13 PM
Well... maybe I didn't quite scrap the map yet... The idea of hiding the circle within, yes, for now. However being that this is the main city of my campaign, it has to get done. So sice Photoshop was annoying me to no end and I couldn't concentrate, I decided to go do this by hand. This I have to admit is turning out much better than the last iterations I have been working on. Here is a bit of the in-progress of it. I do plan to take it into photoshop afterward and clean it up when I am done, plus add marking and major landmarks etc...


12-20-2010, 07:33 PM
Here is an update, I have the lower tier of my city done. This includes the commons, and the slums in the top right section. The next tier up is the merchants tier, then nobles, and finally the top is reserved for the castle. I still haven't decided the height of each tier yet... but that will come later... My hand has cramped but I do believe the hardest part is done now :P Sorry for the bad lighting aswell.


12-21-2010, 12:02 AM
Now that the tedium of drawing this map is done I can progress to photoshop to make it look all spiffy-like.


12-21-2010, 02:13 PM
So I find myself with a bit of a problem. I am wondering what the best way to take this map into photoshop is... Not sure if I can get all the detail out of the buildings without having to go back and trace over everything. Anyone have ideas?

12-21-2010, 06:21 PM
Well, scan it first :) Like, duh, right? First, you have to fix the slant. So, set up some guides (screen 1). Zoom in to 1600% and make sure that your ruler is turned on and set to pixels (View - rulers then Edit - preferences - units & rulers). Click on the ruler at the top of the screen and while holding down the button drag a guide down or click on the side ruler and drag across. Put these guides where the corners are and the reason for turning on the rulers is important here (so is the 1600% zoom) when placing the guide make sure that it lines up with a line on the ruler otherwise your guide will be slightly offset (by like a half pixel) and when me make selections things will adjust to include the whole pixel and not just part of a pixel...so line it up right. You can zoom back out now if you like. Use the polygonal lasso tool and go around the corners of your slanted square - this will turn it into a selection once you've gone all the way around. Since we have guides the tool will snap to a guide if you're close enough. Edit - transform - distort. Grab a corner node and drag it until your square lines up with the outermost guide then hit the little checkmark to confirm the move. Repeat for the other corners. Do one corner at a time or else it has a way of affecting everything else. Now your slanted square is almost a perfect square (screen 2) - there might be a few stray pixels outside the guides but you can crop them out by using the rectangular marquee tool and Image - crop. Now you can get rid of the guides (View - clear guides or View - show - guides).

Now you have to separate black and gray pencil lines from the background grid paper. I've been working on this part for about 90 minutes now and I can't get anything good so I would suggest two things: 1) leave the color of the grid so that I can remove that and 2) ink the buildings (or at least the outlines) because the smudges and the gradient from the flash and angle are preventing me from cleaning it up...I've tried every trick I know of and invented a few more.

This last image I did a bunch of stuff. Black to white radial gradient on a new layer set to hard light at 25% opacity to darken the middle and lighten the edges. White airbrush at 2% flow with a mode of screen and painted some of the darker areas to pump up the white a little bit. Duplicate the layer and set it to hard mix at 50% opacity. New layer, merged everything together (ctrl-shift-alt-e). Hit it with paint daubs (brush size 1, sharpen 40, sparkle), then faded that 50% (edit - fade works only on the immediate previous filter) then set the layer to multiply. This is the best I've managed to get so far but if you ink it then a simple brightness/contrast should do the trick.

12-22-2010, 12:16 PM
Thanks for that! I wasn't expecting anyone to put work into figuring it out, so that is greatly appriciated. I was also unable to get anything good for a selection in photoshop and I was at it for a while aswell. I went out today a bought some outliners that should hopefully be thin enough to do the fine line work. I also started on doing another quicker version of the map to have it ready for use. I just added a parchment backgorund, some light color to divide out the sections of the city, and red buildings for the notable ones. Afterwards going to number and label everything of importance. Nothing fancy for this one at the moment.

I would like to get this map in a nice shape for later, so this way I wont be stressing myself if I take my time with it in photoshop. I might have to go in and re-work some buildings to square things off a bit (especially on the important ones).

Here's what I have so far.

Once again, the input and assistance is greatly appriciated!


12-22-2010, 03:52 PM
Anytime, man. I like to solve problems...especially ones that I already know the answers to. ;)

12-22-2010, 04:39 PM
It looks awesome !! I know how it is to spend years working on a large hand drawn map.. :) IMO it looks just perfect

12-28-2010, 05:35 PM
Happy holidays everyone! Now that I am back I have had some time to put a bit more work in. This version is finished for now as I need something functional for my upcoming campaign. I will hope to get this map to a much nicer state when I can afford the time. There is still a lot left to do and I will likely start another thread when I get to making a more polished version of this map!

Thanks for all your comments and help! Hopefully sometime in the future I will also be able to incorporate the idea of a magic circle in the streets of a city, I have many more to make :P


01-18-2011, 07:00 PM
i like it!