View Full Version : January 2011 Challenge: To Ravenkhor

01-09-2011, 06:39 AM
This is what happens when you merge a trip to Alaska, Anasazi ruins, the Burmuda triangle, a Cartographer's Guild challenge and a lunatic:

I have an absolute ton to do for this but I hope to pull it off. I haven't yet finished with the endpoint and what exactly it will be but I'm working on it.

The idea is a series of Way points that will take you to the heart of a powerful long dead(?) civilization (that's the part I'm still trying to work out, maybe it'll be dragons at the end). The end point needs enough of a reward to make it worth the risky journey. A GM could place anything they wanted there but I'll have to come up with something. (I'm currently thinking along the lines of a quest to bond with a young Dragon or gain some epic mount, maybe a fountain of youth or some other incredible power item. Possibly the wisdom available from this vanished race.) Just arriving gains safe harbor until the test or audience, etc.) The journey is fraught with peril however. It is a harsh landscape of eternal near dark. The moon and stars move around the sky but the sun never comes. Terrible storms, and a plethora of vile creatures inhabit the land. While it is never safe to journey therein it is especially deadly during the night cycles (a time when all the worst beasties come out to hunt). Few survive a night cycle out of doors and none survive it unscathed. Thus, the way stations. I have one of these sketched out in my sketchbook but need to "draft it up". These stations are more than just safe havens they are the only sure way to navigate through the landscape. More on that once I get the drawings done and have time to write it up. These stations are spaced appropriately so a party can make it from one to the next during a single day cycle. Providing of course they know the direction to take and don't get too caught up in any pitched battles along the way.

The canyons are filled with bones of those who failed. Entire parties are strewn across canyon floors, their bones picked clean or charred black. I may also have tombs of Kings and Heroes buried in the mountain sides. More powerful or loved ones will be deeper into the range as it would take a strong army to hold off any attacks while the burial took place.

For now here is the map I am working on. I'm curious as to how the mountains come across as they are another new experiment. This is a regional area a couple thousand miles wide. It consists of marshy swamp areas and jagged mountain peaks that surge up from the earth. There are hundreds of trails through these mountains and hills, it would be very easy to get lost.

### Latest WIP ###

01-09-2011, 06:44 AM
looks good, nice colors ... I like the bigger mountains, not completely sure about the small ones but I get the idea with them :)

01-09-2011, 09:22 AM
Looks like a strong base and a great concept you've got, looking forward to seeing more :)

01-09-2011, 12:21 PM
looks good, nice colors ... I like the bigger mountains, not completely sure about the small ones but I get the idea with them :)

LOL, figures because those big ones are the ones I've worked over pretty good by hand. I'm probably just going to have to do all the rest in order to get it to the next level.

01-09-2011, 01:02 PM
Couple of comments Jax: the smaller mountains look metallic, or perhaps plastic is the word used in the light rending facility. Also, this enormous, stippled field of uniformly-sized mountains doesn't feel quite right. I'm no geologist mind you, but if I came up with something like that I'd crank up Google Earth and start looking for guidance from Artist #1.

01-09-2011, 01:23 PM
A good point you make Imm. Thanks for the comment. I'll do some more research and see if I can find anything similar to what I'm after. I may end up ripping most of that out of there and just making what I want by hand anyway. More work but probably worth it in the end. Film at 11...

Edit: I thought I would have to go to Mars or something but lookie here. I'll still have to do some work on the plasticism. Of course, if you are bringing plastic miniatures... :) I think working a more natural erosion might help. I may need to change how large an area it is as well. It's fantasy so I'm not going to burn too much energy. Someday when I am confident that I can finish my maps because I know everything about what I'm doing I may start working on being more like su-liam and some of you others who go for all the real stuff.

01-09-2011, 02:04 PM
I like the blue, very impressionistic. The green might stand to be just a tad lighter, not too much, and the rusts could stand to be a lot lighter, more towards a medium where these are dark. Maybe you just need to lighten the rusts and then the greens would be fine, shrug. That would give the whole thing an impressionist painting feel - which you might not be going for so use at your own risk.

01-10-2011, 02:07 AM
Ever look at something so long you just want to toss it in the garbage? I feel like I spent hours getting nowhere with this tonight. Grrrrr.

I reduced the amount of the base hills. Made one tweak to change the coloring and it might be better than what I had before?

About the only thing that came out pretty much the way I desired was my foray into Sketchup to make the pedestal that goes inside the way stations (second illustration). This is the pedestal that if you have the Gem-key you will be able to know the correct direction to the next station. I still have to draft up the building but this is at the center of it. I plan to have the illustrations integrated somehow, probably as inserts around the border.

That's of course, if I don't chuck the whole thing before I get to that point. I probably just need a break from it.

01-10-2011, 02:44 AM
Well, on the plus side, the mountains look better. :) Looks like you lost most of your land color but the rusties.

01-10-2011, 03:03 AM
Actually I didn't mess with the rust much but here is a version with the land colors and most of the "rusties" removed just for comparison. **I would have been out of here but I was updating the Lite challenge and saw your post**

last update for the night:

01-10-2011, 03:21 AM
Dude, I like that. Seems a shame that you have to stick words all over it now. :)

01-10-2011, 11:30 AM
You got a pretty nice style coming along there Jax :) I really liked your Experimiante, and this is shaping up very nicely also.

01-10-2011, 01:10 PM
Another great start my friend. :)

01-10-2011, 01:16 PM
Thanks guys, I needed a little boost to carry on. You guys will probably see when I have a style long before I will. I'll consider myself as having a style when I can repeat it consistently. The way I keep experimenting with things I feel like I never know what's going to come out on the other end. I have maybe a half dozen tricks that I use in various orders to accomplish some of the heavy lifting and then I go to the hand work. At least now I am getting better at making the entire piece look like it goes together. I remember when I first started with you guys and my hand stuff was way off from the generated portions. It was eye-jarring. Anyway, last night I was feeling like I pushed this thing to the edge and wasn't sure I was up for the walk home. Which reminds me of one of my favorite movie scenes ever:

You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back.

Anyone know what movie that came from? No cheating either :) It was my favorite line from movie.

Sometimes my take on art is like that. Push as far as I can and then force myself to wrap it all up into a nice bundle. It's a one way trip but I know my personality usually will force me to see it through. The danger is burn out. I have an awesome looking rattlesnake I started on years ago that is sitting partially complete in an artpad because drawing individual scales ran out of interest for me.

So, in this case I was on the fence of whether or not it was worth it to try and bring this home. So thanks, and sorry for the diary entry :)

01-10-2011, 06:58 PM
I haven't found a style after two years, unless brute force is a style.

01-10-2011, 10:14 PM
Gattica was indeed a good movie, although I'm not quite sure I spelled it right. Gattaca? Loved the premise. My favorite line was always "keep your eyelashes where they belong." And as a years-long wearer of contacts, taking two out with one hand and one motion was epic.

01-10-2011, 11:25 PM
Style? hmm maybe the undo button is a style.. (no thats a habit..) :) I know where your coming from Jax I "burn out" at lest once a week and need a little help to get me back. You have a gift my friend thanks for sharing it with us :)

01-12-2011, 03:43 AM
Well I haven't done much with my map. Been trying to figure out how to do the presentation. I did finish up drawing of a Way station or "Bearing" station which is what I call them. So I guess it's time to tell more of the story:

[If you hate reading just read the bold type as that should explain the building's purpose. If you want some history, read on.]

Ravenkhor was once a grand city of immense power that now lies in near ruins. Inhabited only by the enigmatic Ankhai it is possibly the most isolated place in all the world. Based upon partial sculptures and faded frescoes the race who vanished long ago were bloodthirsty warmongers who ruled ruthlessly for centuries. Whatever role the peaceful Ankhai played in their downfall is unknown to all but perhaps the Ankhai themselves. The quiet Ankhai are often sought for their wisdom and knowledge and have been known to grant great boons to those who brave the wilds leading to their domain. It is my opinion that the Ankhai had been enslaved somehow by the military power of Ravenkhor and chaffing under what was undoubtedly a brutal regime found a way to strike back. Seeking out an Ankhai boon is not something to be taken lightly however. The path one must traverse in order to arrive at Ravenkhor is of the deadliest nature.

Sickly swamps filled with poisonous creatures, rocky volcanic canyons filled with criss crossing trails and perpetual darkness overshadowing all make this area extremely dangerous. Sudden storms that ravage the landscape are filled with ghastly creatures of nightmare that consume flesh like thousands of screaming piranha. Anything that dies in these hills is bone within days. The sun has never shone upon these lands and the moon slides an elliptical route kissing each horizon before repeating. A compass is worthless and will only lead one in circles. Getting lost is an ever present reality.

It is worth noting that just as in our part of the world we have day and night, so to these creatures operate on a cycle. The moon's location in the sky relative to the horizon indicates a 'Night cycle' and a 'day cycle'. This is important because while it is always extremely dangerous to travel it is especially so during a night cycle. It is at this time the most powerful creatures hunt one another and any living thing that dares to enter their domain. Being caught outside during the Night cycle is most likely a death sentence. Even an army would be hard pressed for the smell of warm flesh triggers what amounts to a feeding frenzy. It is partially for this reason that the "Bearing Stations" were built.

For an unknown reason the population of Ravenkhor had begun to dwindle. There were fewer hunting parties scouring the countryside slaying the fell beasts therein and travelers were perishing more and more often. For this reason three sons of the king, were tasked with finding a solution. The first son was an astronomer. The second an engineer. The third and youngest, was a Gem cutter. They designed and began building the Stations that to this day make it possible, albeit just, to navigate the land. Although the two older brother's names have been lost to history, the youngest evidently left his homeland in it's dying days and roamed the world as a scholar. His name was Dyressian. He was a master Gem-cutter and as of this writing, Dyressian gems are among the most valuable to be had.

The Bearing station is a solid fortification spaced throughout the land at distances reachable within a day cycle by a healthy traveler on foot. The only way to enter one of these safe havens is with a Gem-key. The Gem-key is then used upon the pedestal in the compass room atop the structure to locate the next station. When moon and stars align with the apertures cut into the dome of the Compass room the light from these is reflected through the facets of the Gem into a single beam that points directly in the direction of the next station. By advancing from station to station it is possible to reach Ravenkhor alive.

Whew, that's a lot of writing. Now, I don't claim to be a writer although i wish I was. Maybe someday....anyway here is the sketch I made with Google Sketchup and then tweaked in Gimp adding the beams of light and so on. Now I just have to determine how to share this on the map. I guess a border with insets or something.

Oh and obviously it's going to be way smaller than this on the map.

01-13-2011, 03:05 AM
Holy cow, this entry is going to push me in all sorts of directions. I am wanting to make some art for all the creatures and experiences that would be seen on this journey. So, I picked up my sketch pad and went to work, once again complaining to my wife about my not having a tablet, hehe.

Anyhow, inspired by the setting I wound up taking one of my sketches and going to town (I dunno, maybe I just needed a change of pace). This is my first real painting on computer (I don't really count maps) and I don't know much about painting but so be it. If I keep doing this I'm going to need a book for this one. Not sure how it's going to scale down for my map either. Hopefully I can use it. Oh, and the writing is me being very sloppy, practically holding the pencil sideways.

Our story picks up with the party coming across a small stream and therein lies the skeletal remains of a fallen hero still clutching the standard of his homeland.

01-13-2011, 11:41 AM
Looks good, but the standard is very sharp. You might want to fade it just a bit so it matches the rest.

01-15-2011, 04:49 AM
Nothing is written in stone on this and I'm open to suggestions but this is what I've been up to when I've had the chance the last few days. I have a bunch more illustrations to do and might need to tweak some of these now that I see them in small size. Also, I'm about ready to see if I can NOT screw it up when I label the areas. Still have to create an icon for RavenKhor as well.

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01-19-2011, 04:38 AM
Got a few more sketches in there. I like the Snakeman myself. :) I started adding labels as well, which I'm still not comfortable with but oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe it has something to do with my stupid inkscape crashing half the time when I'm sizing up my labels...grrrr. Also, I've been playing around with the light colors.

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01-19-2011, 09:02 AM
wow, nice artistic ability you have there Jax. The sketches are awesome. Is that repeating dome building just a place holder for other sketches?

Your map is looking great. Looks like a piece of art. Sorry if you mentioned already, but how are you going to incorporate the "nasties" into the map?

01-19-2011, 09:28 AM
It's all really good, but I especially like that bit on the right with the multitude of scattered islands. I don't think we put enough scattered islands in our maps!

01-19-2011, 11:33 AM
Thanks for the encouragement guys.

@RjBeals - It depends on how many sketches I can get done. So far those have ranged in size from 2 x 3 to full 8.5 x 11 inches. Originally I was thinking to have sketches go all the way around. The Bearing Stations are what guide you through the area and make for a sort of rest area between navigating the nasties. I'm not sure if I will keep them like that or just show one at this point. As you can see on the map there are a bunch of them so it seems fitting. Open to suggestions on this however. I do have to start planning my time line in order to wrap this all up for the deadline.

I am also thinking about putting a little icon in the corner of each sketch and then showing those icons on the map to indicate that particular monster's domain. I'll have to see how that looks I guess.

01-20-2011, 02:38 AM
I got a few more of the illustrations done and moved things around a bit so I know how many more I need to go. I've got to come up with something for the corners but I'm not sure what. Perhaps something to do with the moon since that's all that shines upon this area of the world... I could also mention that I did look at a couple monster manual images for reference but changed a lot as I made my own sketches before scanning them in and painting them. I just don't have that many monsters in my head and I don't have time to dream up a whole bunch.

### Latest WIP ###

PS. Interestingly this was the first time I've had a thumbnail issue since the change and it happens on a file that is 2.13mb and larger...as soon as I dropped it below 2.1mb things worked. That may be incidental but I am pretty sure that's been the case with me before. Just something to keep an eye on I guess. I tried 4 times before I lowered the quality so it was closer to 2mb.

01-22-2011, 04:00 AM
Made little icons to indicate the various areas creatures inhabit. The icons correspond to the illustrations. I could drop an icon in the corner of each illustration to help tie them in but it seems unnecessary. I dropped in a Moon I created using Vue and tweaked it in Gimp.

In putting the icons down things felt crowded so I started fiddling around to see if I could help the map "pop" a bit more. I now have a dark version and a light version. I could use some help in deciding which direction I should proceed with as I am uncertain. The first, darker map or the 2nd brighter more saturated? Perhaps something in between?

01-22-2011, 06:21 AM
I prefer the darker one, but that's just me. Looking good mate.


01-23-2011, 03:21 AM
More labels, a sketch of the gates. Settling in on color schemes.

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01-24-2011, 04:40 AM
A bit more..step by bleeding step. I'm pretty happy with how my sketches are turning out. I just have to make sure I don't overwhelm the map with them.

Also created a Lunar Cycle chart.

Hmmm, not sure if the scroll is going to work, I can barely read it myself.

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01-24-2011, 11:44 AM
I think you need to stay black on the font for the scroll but add a white glow, that should help its legibility. Seeing as you use GIMP, I usually like to create my own glow effect on a layer beneath growing the selection of text by ~50-75% its size and applying a Gaussian blur, up to you of course.

01-25-2011, 11:28 PM
Small update. Changed the color of the font on the scroll per Geamon's post. I also added a dream-like image of part of the City in the upper right corner. Let me know if I should keep that or not. At this point I'm kind of grinding down to a halt as I'm not sure what else to do with it?

Oh yeah, I need to create a map scale - I'll try to do that tonight if I can stay awake long enough. For some reason I'm beat - hopefully my second wind will kick in here soon.

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01-26-2011, 04:21 AM
Added Map scale - Created another illustration and put icons on the map for it - juggled the border images around to try balancing the whole thing.

I set it as my desktop so unless I get an idea this may be it. I have a few more days so if anyone has any suggestions I'm happy to listen.

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01-28-2011, 12:23 AM
Looks good Jax! I havn't posted much in your thread here, because your map doesn't really "sing to me" I guess you could say, but it's a good solid entry and I can't see anything that could obviously be improved. Keep it up :)

01-28-2011, 12:45 AM
Thanks Moutarde, I have been looking at this thing for a while now and I think I've figured out what I want to try to accomplish next time. I may try a couple things but not sure if I'm going to go hog wild on it at this point because I've got a commission I need to get on and there isn't a lot of time to redo what I would like. While I think my map is very pretty and might look good as art I'm not sure it's sucking the viewer in as a map. That's what I hope to change next time around (Hopefully anyway). If I keep at it, I'm sure I'll get it straightened out eventually. I guess we'll see what happens in the end here soon. I've found that you never know what is going to trigger people to vote for something so just keep on keepin on.

01-30-2011, 02:09 PM
Minor update. I was thinking about tweaking the colors of the map area but while it changed the look of things a bit I couldn't say it was any better or worse. It did make the map more colorful but then in my mind I'm thinking the dark is better for the points of light concept. So, I guess I'll leave it alone, unless I change my mind in the next 24 hours.

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01-30-2011, 04:10 PM
First off let me apologize for not following this more closely. Secondly let me say that as usual it is an awesome piece. I love the concept and the execution :)

01-31-2011, 06:31 PM
No worries jt and thanks for the good words.