View Full Version : Cheles'Vaar, a city, 5th attempt.

01-01-2014, 08:16 PM

So, I've been working on this map for over a year. Well okay not this particular map. I've been trying to map this particular city for over a year. I'm getting closer, but still it lacks.. well what I envision in my head. I've forgotten a graveyard or two, and any mills or anything "industrial". This map is an area of 1.9 miles on a side. The river is way too small. The delta is.. its sad. I hate the way it looks.

What I did here is run the RPG City map maker several times, generating towns, and one large city. I then turned and twisted and cropped them until I got a "towns grown together" kind of effect. My trees are the clumps, the individual ones are from the generator.

The terrain is adapted from a regional mapping tutorial, just with lower detail settings on the cloud filters. I plan to break this down in to district maps, and I'll likely use the symbols from the Vyntri project, RPG Mapshare and the Dundjinni forums. Great stuff there. This is all being used in the Roll20 VTT.

Any advice and critique is totally welcome. I'm wondering should I increase the scale of the map? Like double the area and leave the city the same to get the terrain right....

01-01-2014, 09:59 PM
I don't think it looks bad at all. But I do have some critique that I hope might help.

The sea looks horrid to be blunt. =P It has more texture than the rest of the map put together which is sort of the opposite of how it should be in my mind. The sea should have less texture than the land. You should aim for a flatter blue colour I think.

On the topic of the sea - your river (not sure if it should divide like that at the end either - but anyway) is a completely different colour which makes it look entirely divorced from the ocean it is feeding in to. Also I think that thick black coastal outline isn't appropriate for the style you are aiming for.

I am not sure if you should increase the scale - it depends on how detailed or close up you want your map to be really. This scale is fine I think even though I prefer something more up close for my own maps - but that is also more work which can be uneeded.

01-01-2014, 10:30 PM
Okay, Thank you. The ocean is something left over from the regional map style I used as a basis. I agree. Maybe that is part of what makes the map look wrong. Its perhaps a case of me not being able to see the forest for the trees. The river mouth is what I mean by the delta looking wrong. I think its too small. The entire river I mean.

I prefer more detail also is why I want to break the map in to districts and map them at a closer scale.

Thanks for the insight. I'll work on it.

01-01-2014, 10:59 PM
From what I know of river deltas they seem to be really BIG systems and the land form around them tends to be more convex -sort of almost like a peninsula - as they carry a lot of silt out into the ocean which gradually builds up.

01-02-2014, 03:47 PM
I agree with Larb's assessment. I'd also recommend decreasing the bevel on the rivers, it looks unnatural. I do like how you've done the fields.


01-02-2014, 03:51 PM

Here is the next version. I'm liking the terrain a bit better at this point. I hope the water looks okay?

01-02-2014, 04:11 PM
Yes I think that looks much better now.

01-02-2014, 06:10 PM
Alright! Thank you both. Arsheesh, I've learned lots from you. The fields are the "agrarian economy" texture from genetica I think, layer mode to hard light, opacity at 55%.

The river bevel is to simulate some of the riverbanks I see here in Oklahoma. They have a pretty good drop to a lot of them. I'm considering going with a muddier water color also. I dunno.

01-06-2014, 12:23 AM
The second one does look a great deal better. I do have a question, I do not know if your city will have one. Where is the sewer run off for the city. Many medieval cities along a river of waterway would dump their sewage right into the water. Even today modern cities do the same thing, but fortunately the sewage is treated before they release it.

The map looks great, I was looking at it from an adventurer's point of view.


01-09-2014, 11:15 AM
The area's fine - any mapper could legitimately choose to focus on the city 'proper' without environs.

Think about what you're portraying. If it is supposed to be a photorealistic aerial photo, that's one level of detail / realism. If it's admittedly a map somehow drawn to look like an aerial view, then some generalization / symbology / approximation is fine. If the latter, is it to be 'out of character', hence modern is ok, or is it somehow 'in character'? If in character, you have the problem that people with no actual aerial travel capability nor photographic capability wouldn't be expected to do a good aerial photo view - they just didn't think that way. Unless they were blessed with really high terrain nearby, I guess, to put them in the right mindset.

If you're doing the best you can to simulate a real aerial view, sameness is your enemy - all the roofs would hardly be the same color or construction... Unless you put in enough detail to suggest something like tiled roofs. I see a bit of bevel, which does visually lift the buildings into 3D... But are they all the same height? What kind of roofs ARE they?

If it's supposed to be somehow drawn or painted photorealistic, the walls, roads, docks, and water need some more subtle variation, and the texture needs to be smaller size. If those are *symbols* for those feature types, the level of uniformity and roughness are okay. Unless with the river you want to actually indicate depth/ current/ filth?

I like the 'towns grown together' effect, and the 'used to have walls' indication. It would be okay for the wall remnants to be even sketchier - castles and walls once no longer needed became easily mined sources of building stone. Having most of your buildings back from the shore seems good too - lots of folks forget the danger of tides and storms. Considering tides, it would be okay to show via shadows that the dock surfaces are somewhat elevated. And your admission of the lack of industry is apt - surely that many docking locations would at least call for a bunch of warehouses.

It's a great start, and even if you quit now it would be a decent product!

01-11-2014, 09:20 PM
Thanks to all of you for the suggestions and thoughts. I've been doing more thinking than actual work on the map. I did do a bit of illustrative work though.

I'm looking at Google maps a bit and I see a few interesting things. https://maps.google.de/maps?q=51.512402,10.259339&ie=UTF-8&ei=fnDNUpjwJoKHtQbjwIGYBQ&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAg Those roofs are pretty much all the same. They're that clay tile that I read about in the Vintyri Project stuff. I was thinking something similar, with most roofs made of baked river mud. I do want to add some flat roofs and some roof bridges, a la Sanctuary and Lahnkmar.

I did a render of the local area in Vista Pro, it looks like this.602556025660257

The buildings are varied in height. Many of them are pretty tall, especially considering the "tech level"... How tall were medieval buildings? I know cathedrals were at max 200 feet or they would collapse. I remember reading that somewhere. I'm not real sure how I can show the height of the buildings. I'm figuring with shadows but I'm not sure how to do that exactly.

My original plan with the city was to form the buildings in to "Courts" with buildings facing both sides, like built back to back. I may try to work out something like that.

As far as the scale of the textures.. I'm not happy with any except the fields. I also think the whole color scheme is over saturated. I'd like it to be a bit more washed out. I dunno how to do that yet. I'd rather the docks be wooden. No texture I've found can illustrate that at this scale. You simply can't see the detail. Its all pixelated mush. The water is too green. I was thinking of the Lake Havesu area of the Colorado River but... there is no way this water is anywhere near that clean!

I have seen some really great water effects on a couple battle maps, but I have no idea how they were done. Like this one.
There was another with a bunch of buildings and a pier but I can't seem to find it now.60259 I found it!

I've got everything but the base terrain on layers still, so I'm going to try some stuff tonight.

01-11-2014, 11:33 PM
I don't know about any of the rest... but...

As a lay-person with little to no map experience, here's how the height of things in your map looks to *me* at first glance:


If that's right, or close, since I'm not great with top-down views anyway, then you've probably accomplished that goal with shadows :D

Medieval building could be tall... most (wealthier) ceilings were high, and a lot of buildings were as much as 3-4 stories. So, you'd have about a 40 ft building, without a roof. for manors, meeting halls, anything with higher ceilings, you'd have even taller buildings.

Castles, forts, lookout towers could be even taller.

In crowded cities, with land space at a premium, people would often start to build UP instead of out... so even your commoners would have taller buildings there.

The reason cathedrals couldn't have ceilings beyond 200 ft is a combination of things... larger bases and fewer interior walls gives less structural support. Cathedral domes/spires were made out of heavier building materials... they were often built more for beauty than with a mind to stability...

Finally: 200 ft is really tall. In Washington DC they have a restriction (or did) on building height that caps out at 160 ft. 200 ft is a skyscraper. It's not large as far as skyscrapers go, but it's still a skyscraper. To illustrate: Here's a 288 ft building. Keep in mind, nearly a third of that is the spires.


How tall do you want your buildings to be? :)

01-11-2014, 11:48 PM
Ah.. no. You misunderstood. That map, the excellent battle map isn't mine. I wish I could do something that good. It was meant as an illustration of a water effect I'd love to know how to do on a city map scale. I've also been studying maps like that for shadows and the like.

I figure I can draw some pretty tall buildings without destroying suspension of disbelief. Especially if they are in clusters and leaning on each other. There is a section of the city that is a total slum where they've built everything all together out of junk and whatever material they could find. Its really tall and unstable. That's gonna be really fun to map...

I've got this idea of some really large waterwheels on the river also. Maybe windmills on some of the hill sides...

01-12-2014, 01:42 AM
Oh, I see... sorry about that. Still.. on that map, what I see is mostly shadows.

Since it's not your map, but an example, we can learn from it, right? So the shadows... coming from a light source in the North/NW, so all the shadows go to the southeast side of the objects - but not quite evenly. The largest house has a lot of shadow under the south, and the other houses have much less... smaller objects have shadows entirely to the east. That might add to the illusion of height.

I see that the *paths* or wooden sidewalks go a bit UNDER the edge of the larger objects. That could give it some of the 3D feel... The larger roofs are on the tallest houses. That would make sense. The closer the object is, the bigger it looks.

The stairs add to the illusion of depth at the shoreline. I think the reason it looks *extra low* is that the shadow of the land, on the top of the stairs is going the *opposite* direction to anything else.... it's just so small your mind won't notice it unless you're looking for details.

There are (what are they called? eaves?) projections on the roofs of the taller buildings... it makes those roofs look like they have a bigger slope.

The stairs at the end of the wooden sidewalks have slightly southern shadows, and the wells are slightly off center - which makes them look deeper. The angle of the main path gives a slight rise to the land, and the shadow on the *wrong side* of the larger of the two paths to the NW house makes it stand out more.

And I've yet to find an object in the picture which *doesn't* cast a shadow... even when the shadow covers other objects.


I'd guess you could achieve a reasonably similar effect with mostly shadows, and by layering lower items (balconies, window boxes, paths, barrels on the ground).

It may or may not end up as the same quality (depending on your skills/patience) but it should achieve the effect you want. Also, tall, rickety, ill-constructing buildings won't necessarily be quite straight, will they? So parts of the lower building may lean/jut out/whatever.

Waterwheels and windmills... you might try shading opposite sides of the rungs on the waterwheel... like the stairs here...

If I were doing an art project (which I am decent-ish at) rather than a map (which I'm lousy at), I'd start by drawing a fairly large, faint shadow on two sides of the tallest building.

I'd then pick several other tall buildings, and draw a shadow around them (and the first building, because the shadow should get darker closer to the building, anyway)... but I'd make the shadow for those a little smaller on one of the sides. Then repeat the process for each progressively smaller group of buildings.

... and then I would shadow the trees, and rocks, and miscellania with faint lines.

Finally, I'd hit all the really deep items, like stairs, waterwheels, windmills, with shadows on the opposite side. :)

And.... that would probably take me 30 years, lol :P

I'm sorry, I wish I could be more help, but I really don't know what I'm doing, I can only say what I see. :)

(and as for the 3D view - it's very neon... maybe because the water is so much darker. Could you lower the brightness on just the top half of those maps somehow? that might help. Or is that not a thing you can do on that program?)

Okay, I'll run away now! Best of Luck~