View Full Version : September/October 2013 Challenge: Jantoos Bogway

10-01-2013, 07:11 PM
Just two entries? Can't have that. I'll see what I can do to add to the mystery this month.

Long, long ago - and I really do mean decades - I had devised a world with many semistandard fantasy characteristics. There were a variety of races, some swashbuckling, a bit of adventure to be had, and of course some maps. Had I been able to find my originals, probably rolled up somewhere about the house, I could have revamped the continent I focused on and showed the Guild my world of Verdeenen Godarligoggstyd, for the recent "redo an old map" contest. Verdenen was a bit of a cooperative effort, with friends each having a continent. Mine had a significant peninsula rimmed by mountains in which Standard Dwarves (tm) had been mining and manufacturing for enough centuries to have gotten up to a tech level of steam locomotion on railways. Neighboring folk in flatter land benefitted from extensions of those railways, though the technology was beyond their ability to duplicate. The dwarves declined some, drew back to their hills and peaks, and the rail lines in the flatlands languished. The odd catastrophe and climate shift occurred, and a former grassy plain wound up thousands of square miles of marshes. More time passed.

"Now"adays, this stretch of squishy terrain is overgrown with hummocks of scrubby trees, cattails, floating scum, stretches of peaty water, scarce a current nor clear channel to be seen, and a general swampy reek. The fauna include reptiles that could play the part of crocodiles in a b-grade movie, mosquitoes capable of carrying off small dogs, a consequent shortage of small dogs, and fish ugly enough to curdle milk. Oh, and a scruffy sort of passably human mud-dwellers who eke out a living safely apart from any authority or governance. The Jantoos Bogs just aren't desirable enough to generate any enthusiasm for ownership by the various dwarven duchies and human petty monarchies around about. Or maybe it was the fact that the last pair of antagonistic armies that ventured to contest a territorial dispute within the Jantoos, sank. Gone. Finito. Vanished. Never heard from again. The squad of ranger ninja types sent to investigate likewise disappeared. As did the usually successful Auditor Corps expedition. As did the subsequent entrepreneural individuals trying to cash in on the modest bounty for information on the whereabouts of 4200 Galdoniterians, 3600 Nisfrentirals, 176 allied Posznats, and sundry venturers of unrecorded provenance.

The Jantoos mud-men just shrugged, opined that things get lost in the swamps, and offered to sell mudgill croakers to any enquirers. Hint: don't buy any. Or if you do to be polite, don't eat them.

In this environment, about the last thing locals care about is a bunch of dwarven railway routes beneath the water. The iron rails haven't quite rusted away - iron tending to form a rust crust, instead of flaking away as does steel. But where they wander? What does that matter to a fisherman?

Well therein lies a tale. Which I'll get to later, lest this post get ToTaLLy TL:DR.

To make this initial contest post adequately mappy, I took some clouds (real not digital, though captured digitally) and did a bit of differencing, overlaying, blurring, and whatnot. A Serif PhotoPlus filter called Paper Cutouts does a nifty job of generating some tasty random shapes, which I'm going to tease into a map. "Posterize" is a filter on this and other graphics packages that does about the same effect. Since my Verdenen maps are out of circulation AND you lot have never seen them, it really doesn't matter how I lay this out. I mention this only because like a lot of your creations, the imaginary landscape has taken on a life of its own, and I almost feel I have to apologize for being inaccurate. Crazy, huh?

Here's a start:

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Not much map yet, but one has to start from the very beginning. There's a song in there somewhere....

10-01-2013, 09:38 PM
I don't care how this map ends up, I want to hear more of the story :)

10-02-2013, 08:24 PM
Thanks, HoarseWhisperer. I promise no matter what I'll finish fleshing out the backstory.

Spun about, and tickled into a peninsula, we get this. NE there's a coastal range. NW and SW there used to be coastal hills sufficient to protect the inland flats... but a bit of subsidence breached the sothern barrier, and left an increasing swath of former grasslands as wet, wetter, and wettest. In the present Year of Lunar Ascendance 1,206, the sea level and land level are fairly stable, so the coasts as shown have developed a thin veneer of habitation. That big southern bayis shallow, and several town sites now lie a meter or three underwater, eight or a dozen kilometers 'out to sea'. Matter of fact one of those, the Drowned Vosport Town (as opposed to the current Dry New Vosport) managed to sandbag and dike its way into a sort of Venice-analog for nigh on a century, after the Start Of Subsidence in about YLA 849. Not having nearly the commerce capability of Earth's Venice, it dwindled and sank, as it got harder and harder to keep the houses dry. But what passed for local Notable Personages developed a longstanding irritation for All Territory Submerged, and the House Grendanian still treats the whole of the Jantoos Bogs as a personal affront.

Lucius Grendanian is a fourth son of that line, and Town Administration, Soldiery, and Clergy having been exhausted by his siblings, he had to take up something else. Lucius always did have an overactive imagination, and the Town Annals - besides causing intermittent mold spore asthma - held clues to some intriguing circumstances of the dim past, circumstances that might let him eclipse Juan, Ernesto, and Binjamon. Or which would at least get him away from their beer-fueled taunts, gloating, and thickheaded insinuations. See, Lucius was short in a family of talls, redheaded in a family of browns, and (crowning offense) smart in a family of dims. As fourth son he was also poor, with few prospects for marriage. Some fourth sons took to thieving, others to the sea. Some took up a trade, others went a-venturing. Some turned bard, or worse, poet. Ewww. Besides, Lucius couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.

What he could do was read, and infer, and speculate. He'd met traders from the Dwarven realms off to the northeast, and had chatted with enough to form opinions about their character. Character as a race, that is - as individuals they were of course more outgoing than the norm; most Dwarves being rockbodies and loath to leave their tunnels. Lucius reckoned there wasn't a people less interested in history than these Dwarves, and less interested in past glories. None of his contacts had even known that railways once extended across the Jantoos Plain, indeed that his town (the former incarnation of it) had been a terminus of a line where good Lekhensian Anthracite and Ticksweld Iron were loaded on coastal ships headed for the smithies of the southlands. Nor did any make the connection that a northward flow of trade had trickled supplies of Benrar sherry, Benrar asbestos, and Benrar figs back to the DwarfHolms. The asbestos presumably helped shield Dwarven smiths from forge heat. The figs were apparently a dietary weakness of the day. The sherry, though - that was a rarity even back in the YLA 300's-500's. Today it was a beverage beyond desire, a treasure past the desiring of princes. And the Annals had given Lucius a possible line on several hundred bottles of the stuff. True, odds were that a thousand years had killed its taste.... but that actually didn't matter much. The eleven bottles that were known in the area of Dry New Vosport were more tokens than consumables. It was just KNOWN how terribly, terribly valuable they were; no one ever DARED to open one. Instead they quietly got older and dustier, occasionally changing hands as dowry of payment for an entire estate.

Oh, the map? It progresses. I'm pretty sure i don't want to leave it in the current palette or style, but here's a look at the topography that sunk the sherry and spawned a search, a life of searching, an obsession of monumental proportions, a quest, a.... well, you get the idea.

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10-03-2013, 06:42 PM
Better colors, if I want a more modern / schematic view, and/or the first hand-drawn mountains I'm even halfway satisfied with (thanks for the method, Torstan! ), if I want to do more of a monochromatic, period piece.:


THen slap on some rough shading - like so at full opacity:


Or dial back the shadow opacity and suddenly the crude mountains and crude shadows look better:

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10-03-2013, 07:13 PM
I kind of liked the old pallette. It was cool, and arresting, and different.

10-03-2013, 07:22 PM
Ugh. So much symbology. Better if I back it all off to faint enough so it's just a texture?

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10-04-2013, 09:58 AM
Whoops - and there went the freshwater marshes. I'll have to drop .gif and go to .jpg now. I work in a web shop, and I'm hypersensitive to filesizes :-). Hence I like to leave maps in thrifty format as long as their color complexity stays below 256.

Thinking of symbology and visibility, given how overwhelming that sea of mountains is until I faded it, I better leave the marsh indications sparse or faint, if my intrepid explorer is going to indicate his traces of old rail lines. Oh, yes - this map still has a mysterious purpose, even though I'm focusing on the mundane aspects first.

10-08-2013, 01:37 AM
Progress, just not while near wifi. I've decided to use the above as a physical-feature inset, do another political inset - maybe one for "current-day" and another for "way back when". Then the largest part of the map will focus on just the Jantoos Marshes - maybe just the parts Lucius wanted to investigate.

Meanwhile -- and this is NOT a contest-WIP but a real intermediate-step WIP -- showing how I'm doing curved labels. I have read how some of y'all do this, but I've never poked around enough in tutorials to see the steps, so here's a how-to, based on my exTREMEly limited Inkscape chops... The main work I've shown thus far above has been in Serif PhotoPlus - think inexpensive but useful subset of PhotoShop capabilities: raster editing. The prior curved labels have been snipped from rotated straight labels - I was too lazy to do it right (go figure takes longer that way!). Now I need fifteen or so nation labels curved, so I dug back out the commands needed - draw path (http://tavmjong.free.fr/INKSCAPE/MANUAL/html/Paths-Creating.html#Paths-Pencil), and text-put-on-path (http://tavmjong.free.fr/INKSCAPE/MANUAL/html/Text-Path.html). This below is after I've typed in a bunch of potential names, and created a bunch of individual paths. I drew w/ pencil tool, then simplify-simplify-simplified till smoother. Three or four nodes is plenty for the curves I am doing here.


A few of those names I've referred to in the story already. The rest I'll just see how well they fit. I'm not above naming a political unit or physical feature based on what name fits the space :-).

Kingdom, Dwarven Kingdom, Independent Grand Duchy, Constituent Grand Duchy, and Dwarven Grand Duchy, to answer the obvious question about abbreviations...

10-08-2013, 02:32 AM
So here I've placed all the names I need, and have taken the stroke off some of the paths:


10-08-2013, 03:57 AM
And both insets together - the main map being just a section of the Jantoos:

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At this speed, I better forget the comparative long-ago political inset.

One relevant section of the Vosport Annals from YLA 657 (or 637 - the date is indistinct on the bound volume) :

Way Stations on the Findstaal Coastal Railway having both semaphores and company vaults, including the Eastjulster Branch Line:
Yuldaan Junction, Hurin, Cabersted, Zinraffle, North Crotaan, Crotaan Junction, Pinstaar, Jurginfeld, Post Road, Nuuvin Town, Gorutestanfeld, Market Royn, Kloos, Jesperbridge, VosportCenter, Vosport Harbor.

Crotaan Junction, Doraanford, Gucheska, Swienpenn, Eastjulster

Of those, towns having accounts with Vosport Export Guildbank: all but Hurin, Post Road, and Gucheska.

Of those, towns having accounts with the Dwarven Zhugestindorp Bank, all but Cabersted and Gucheska.

Of those, towns having trade factors from Benrar & Sferistan, only North Crotaan, Nuuvin, Market Royn, Eastjulster, and Vosport.

Of those, towns having Imperial Trade Factors, all but Zinraffle, Kloos, and Gucheska.

Of those, towns having Ducal or Realm Revenue Offices - all.

Of those, towns having local accountancy firms or licensed individuals, all but Gucheska and Post Road.

Lucius Grendanian had deduced relative importance and trade patterns from these records and a hundred more, of towns long since vanished in the bogs of Jantoos. He had guessed at likely routes for a railway whose tracks included temporary sections, reroutings, and diversions. Few town folk cared any more about dusty records in the town hall - certainly not those from six hundred years ago. And none of the handful of genealogy researchers and amateur historians had connected the dots suggesting that railway stations of over a half millennium ago might STILL possess strong boxes or vaults with valuables intact. Certainly no dwarf nor man held any suspicion that some three dozen bottles of vintage YLA508 sherry were logged as being in transit when the Great Shakes tore the coastal hills and let the sea seep in. Lucius wanted that ignorance intact, right up till he found some lost liters and got them registered as legally his by "salvage, possession, or discovery".

So Lucius learned mudman patois, acquired the tattoos of a mudman weathersage, and read up on Farmers & Sailors Almanacks from all around the Luury Peninsula. With a pirogue, an urchin as pole-pusher and synthetic minion, and a pack of surveying ("meteorological") tools, Lucius headed north into the Jantoos. His siblings got notes explaining he had taken ship for the Dwarven Kingdom of Dhavaad, which they dismissed as yet another useless historian quest by their useless academic of a little brother.

Really, he was aimed at Dhavaad, only his "ship" was but five meters long...

10-11-2013, 05:49 PM
And another intermediate stage. This one's got the hills added, at full opacity to show them clearly. They seem too dense to me, for foreground use, so I figure I'll fade them as much as I did the mountains. I have to say it was probably more work to cut and paste all the fiddly bits of hill territory than it would have been to just draw them in the right places. What you see is eight or nine repetitions of the original patches of hills I drew and shaded. The missing hills in the NW are on purpose - I figure I'll have one of the insets covering that area anyway. Wish I'd thought of that before I covered 100% of the mountain area with symbols.

If anybody wants clear copies of these mountains and hills I'd be glad to extract them - they're not really foreground work though.

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This is probably the furtherest I've ever taken a map without adding rivers - I guess if they seem necessary for Lucius' needs, they'll go in later.

10-11-2013, 08:22 PM
Here's the sort of presentation I'm aiming at. The city symbols seem a bit big, but I'm going to be distinguishing between olden cities and modern ones.

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10-12-2013, 12:53 PM
Aaaaand now finally I'm telling a bit of the story on-map. We'll call this a rendition of what Lucius had accomplished, published years later. For one thing it looks more typeset than like hand-drawn notes.

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The title looks unbalanced - smallest of the four inset blocks... Maybe that's okay. Any opinions? There'll be more content in the bottom right key block.

The names of the towns off the marshes don't matter a bunch to Lucius' quest, but for completeness I'll be labeling them all. Hmmm. Wonder if I need roads or any other cultural features.

10-12-2013, 03:28 PM
I agree about the title box being a bit unbalanced - maybe just up the size of the box and the title itself a bit?

This is looking really good, by the way.

10-14-2013, 06:21 PM
Near done; if I have time the 30 or 40 modern towns will get named.

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10-14-2013, 07:05 PM
This'll do, unless anyone sees something I blatantly goofed up? I'll fill in a bit more story too, but that doesn't HAVE to be done for the contest deadline like the map does.

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