View Full Version : WIP - Hala on Parnem

02-28-2014, 10:22 PM
(Moderators. This is my second try. If I've managed to do this twice feel free to delete this thread. Thank you.)

I have some interest in maps, and made the mistake of saying "OK". So I am now the cartographer for my brother's campaign. Fortunately he expects less of me than I expect (eventually) of myself.

I'll be using GIMP for now. I figure I'll use Inkscape for labels but that's another learning curve down the road.

Parnem is an earthlike world. Hala is the continent on which we'll start our campaign, and whether we see anywhere else remains to be seen. Though not completely relevant, it's a fantasy campaign. "Because magic" will be used as little as possible, but it's there.

The good news from my point of view is that I've been given only a few constraints and otherwise a free hand. I'll mention constraints as they appear necessary or as questions need answered.

Here's my current sketch for Hala.


Hala started life as an equilateral tectonic plate. It got bashed from the west forming a first ridge of mountains, then bashed from the east a few eras later to form the second line. The only other major event is the comet; is the bulls eye you see. It's the marking for a complex crater with the center being water. Complex meaning yes, it has a spire in the center that's not visible at this scale. Yes, it's large enough it may have been a planet-killer and I may need to make more gross terrain adjustments. On the other hand "because it's neat" may apply here as well.

The 'because magic' here is that the lake isn't a dead sea. Instead for reasons I'll not get into it has a subterranean channel to the sea. Yes, that center lake is sea level. The outermost ring around the crater - the terrace rings of a complex crater - is the 'high point' for catchment in the center north and south. The crater caused an interesting jumble where it ran into existing mountains that I'm looking forward to designing.

The next major step I'll be posting will be after I mess with it using Geoff's Climate Cookbook (http://jc.tech-galaxy.com/bricka/climate_cookbook.html). That will let me decide rivers and climate (especially forest/plain/steppe sorts of decisions).

03-02-2014, 02:11 PM
The map now:


A few comments. First, this is still roughing. The browns are general indicators of contour, not precise yet. The labeled climate zones are rough approximations - while I'm reasonably happy with what's where I suspect I'll move boundaries a bit. (It helps that climate zone boundaries are naturally fuzzy, of course.)

The three unlabeled zones are mountainous terrain; I think it obvious but have learned not to assume too much. The western arc is older and will be rounder-topped (think Appalachian mountain range in the US). The eastern range is newer, taller, sharper - except for where the hammer of the gods crunched it a bit.

Next rough will be river placement. Possibly it will also have national borders roughly noted as well. I figure I'm within a few days of making up my mind what style I'll use for now.

03-02-2014, 10:26 PM
A general question comes to mind. What are the guidelines for updated map images? Should I stop loading, only load after a bunch of updates, feel free to continue as I am, or what?

Don't want to blow up the server storage limits, but thought letting people comment as the newbie learns might be educational in the long run.

03-03-2014, 10:56 PM
I'm waiting on input from the GM before the next stage. He'll note where he intends various nations should be placed, then I'll add rivers and other terrain features to justify those borders -- and get on with making it a better map instead of the current sketch. In the meantime a couple of things. For one I'll be working on a city map for this continent. That will show up later in the appropriate forum.

Immediately and in this post, another sketch map. This one adds longitude/latitude, and scales. I'm proud of the latter but have a little question for the masses. Map first:
All longitude/latitude lines are 15 degree increments. It should be obvious the longitudes are approximations drawn with a mouse. I intended it mainly to show the size of the continent of Hala.

What I want to point out and ask about is down in the bottom right. In addition to the mileage distance bar (bottom left) I've got 'travel scale'. Distances traveled by most common means over a five day period. While I sort of like what I've done and will have similar on the later maps, I think it can be improved.

That's the input I'm asking at this instant. What recommendations do you have for improving those scale bars?

03-03-2014, 11:39 PM
A general question comes to mind. What are the guidelines for updated map images? Should I stop loading, only load after a bunch of updates, feel free to continue as I am, or what?

Don't want to blow up the server storage limits, but thought letting people comment as the newbie learns might be educational in the long run.

I think you're fine as you are. Sometimes people just don't have much to say, and if you have relevant new info to add to your own thread, it's sure not spamming in my book.

I like the travel times scales; that's one thing I always mean to add in to my own maps and seldom do. One thing that always trips me up about it is the scale seems to be assuming relatively neutral plains or farmlands terrain. One would guess that five days by foot through a mountain range is quite different than five days by foot through a peaceful shire, but how to accurately show that? (And show it without taking up a third of the map in scale descriptions...)

03-04-2014, 11:33 AM
Thanks, Diamond.

That question is why the gray bars, and I realize I didn't label that portion. The gray is expected when all is smooth, the black is rough but not tortuous. It gives a range.

And in-game if something is in the gray part it's five to six days - another reason for choosing the five day block.

03-04-2014, 11:52 AM
I agree with Diamond, the scale bars are particularly well thought out. As far as concerns about terrain I just use scalars for terrain. There is no need to put travel times over every terrain type, though it can help with clarity to state something like "by level road" or some such.

03-10-2014, 12:35 AM
Taking a break from the city, not least because the GM wants his continent before the game begins in a few weeks. As usual, C&C appreciated and I've also a question or two as well. WIP first:

First: hand drawing with a mouse is a pain. Someday I will have extra money and will purchase a pen. Or so I dream, but I digress.

Biggest request for comments is the crater. There's enough there to get an idea where I'm going, and you can look upthread for the contour guides. Do I need more hill/cliff, or is what is there doing a good job of suggesting a near-continuous naturally terraced crater?

When I start doing the rest of the crater, and in particular the south, should I be hatching the cliff 'down' toward the lake in the center? (I think so, I'm double-checking)

Shadows for the mountains are coming. Are there particular recommendations for hills and mountains as presently drawn? I'm a neo, I'm going to listen. (I'm stubborn, I may not do what you say, but I promise to listen.)


03-10-2014, 01:16 AM
I think you have the right idea for the cliffs. But personally I'd make the ledges more continuous and maybe the descending lines a bit longer.

As for the mountains, I think the size difference is a bit too exaggerated. Not that there can't be a large difference in the scaling but as it currently is I think they look like they're from two different maps. I think a few shorter peaks mixed among the tall ones will show that the scale difference is intentional.

One way to get a bit more control when you don't have a tablet is to draw things by hand and scan them in, then go over them with the mouse as necessary. If you're using a laptop, finger painting with the trackpad can also be pretty effective once you get the hang of it.

03-10-2014, 05:00 PM
Thanks Flocko. In addition to adding some smaller mountains in the east I added some larger ones in the west. And rivers.

I might have made too much taper on some of the rivers. I'll let them ride for now because that's just some eraser work if I decide to thin them. (Yes, I'm drawing them with a mouse.) Map as of now:


Barring GM requests for changes and C&C here, mountains, hills, and rivers are done. That leaves:
Vegetation (forests, swamps, possibly grasslands)
Labels and legends.

03-13-2014, 12:59 PM
Request for assistance, and additional comments.

Request for help first. As you can see by the WIP that follows I hand-drew the latitude lines. I'd like something that looks a lot better. Is path the best tool (for GIMP) or is there something that'll help me get the curve right - not just even but correct for the projection? (Earth-type world, northern hemisphere, continent lies between ~20th and ~60th parallels. Scale bars on bottom are approximate regardless how precise they seem.



First, after some stumbles I realized the reason I was having trouble loading was I'd done the background and the oceans. Given the size of document I'm using it's way too big - especially for just WIPs. I made my WIP images with those two layers stripped and it drastically decreased the size. Just some advice for other Guild Novices.

Second, we had (almost simultaneously) a brief player insurgency and a GM's sudden realization of scale, both of which are having major effects on the rest of the map. So it's on hold while the GM decides how to deal with both issues.

The latter is actually more relevant (I think) to the list. The GM printed the WIP I have here and actually looked at it, with scale, in comparison to Europe. And he realized his population was tiny for the size of the land and development of nations. Since one purpose of maps is graphic guidance to 'what is' I consider it a win even if it never progresses.

The former deals with the GM's "story". RPG discussion follows, feel free to quit reading. The GM was considering a low-level fantasy world (system is called E6 or P6 if you care), and had developed a backstory of a black-plague like event that had caused massive depopulation. Most of the players didn't care, but a couple decided they wanted a full-level world - basically because for the past decade they've been involved in multiple worlds where nobody got past low level anyway and they just wanted to see what higher levels were like.

So the GM is tossing between pre- (possibly never) and post-plague. It'll change forest coverage, it'll change the number of cities that are large enough for a map of this scale, it'll change parts of the road networks. And me, I'm too lazy to do it twice. Especially since the GM's realized his current nations are probably too big and therefore too few regardless of decision, meaning we've got a lot of city placement to do anyway.

03-13-2014, 01:49 PM
Are you using this projection ?
Lambert conformal conic projection - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambert_conformal_conic_projection)

And your image could be bigger. Don't worry about using the storage space, you can always delete some of the WIP files later.

03-13-2014, 02:57 PM
In approximation, yes.

I was given a flat (equal area) sketch and the GM wanted longitude and latitudinal lines. I'm aware I'm going to have to recalculate and redraw for "right" but knew a conic/conformal conic would give me an approximate first rough.

Image - the problem was that when I tried to load the full pretty it told me my image was too big - over the upload cap for this forum. No problem while it's a WIP, and when I got to the point of posting a final I figured I'd either have stumbled across or asked for instructions of how to deal with that. In the meantime it turned out about 3/4 of my image bits were in the oceans and background (a faux vellum).

03-13-2014, 06:34 PM
Create a blank transparent png, load it into G.Projector, pick your conic projection, enter appropriate standard parallels (slightly inset from the top and bottom) and central meridian, export the resulting image, drop it in over top of your map.

03-13-2014, 10:01 PM
Cool and thank you. (and with that the GM decided to wreak havoc with the continent because it didn't work for his story. Next whatever will be radically different.)

03-19-2014, 03:25 PM
Since there have been a number of changes I thought I'd post the WIP. Bonus (or boredom) - I get to talk about some of my worldbuilding techniques. Map first:

Broad changes first. The continent's position got changed. The crater/caldera got moved.

The next thing I did was climate/weather work. I did a brief on my tricks for starting this in jbgibson's 'Where does the wind blow' tutorial thread (my post here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/11964-where-does-wind-blow-3.html#post240880)) so will let you go there. One thing mentioned there is that I needed to cut a notch in the north mountain ridge to let the rain into the interior. That's on this map.

What's not shown here is the next climate step - temperature and currents - that lead to biomes. Not least because it's not relevant for this map. See, what my reading says is that the basic biome for populated areas is 'developed'. Farmland, orchards, cities, that sort of thing. I'll still be pegging all that but it'll be later.

Instead what I'm doing here is working out where the developed area is. That's a little long-winded, so bear with me.

First, the GM/client only wants gamers to really know the human nations. Those are the areas bordered by red in the south. He's named each nation and for short-hand convenience given it an analog. Some are medieval, some are fantastical, but they're working shorthand analogs that will go away in the final map.

The other thing he's done is worked out respective nation populations and the ten largest population centers/cities. I then get the pleasure of figuring out where everybody is. And so we come to the map.

I've got this working theory that almost everyone lives in or near 'hamlets'. Supporting a group of hamlets are 'towns'. A town provides the things a hamlet isn't large enough to support alone. These vary - perhaps specialist shops, perhaps the local professional military that provides the hard core for the local militias. Possibly it's the most convenient location for travelling traders. Regardless its keystone is providing for local benefit.

Cities are towns that have become critical trade nodes. It's really that simple. Traders meeting and trading with traders, exchanging very special goods to go out to the towns or exchanging goods to trade from east to west (or other directions). A lot of supporting activity develops around this: heavy military, government (to take a few taxes off this flowing money), services for the tiniest fraction of population (but with enough people here the shop can stay in business), and so forth.

So the first cities (big black dots on this map, for now) are near where cities meet coasts. In general every major waterway gets three cities - the coast, a place that's notionally the furthest upriver oceangoing vessels can travel, and up near the end of navigable river. Since most of my rivers are acting as national borders I can forego the river crossing cities. Instead I need to place a bunch more cities. For this I draw slightly wandering lines from the existing cities, and place at the crossroads. Finally I put some cities on the coasts between the rivers.

So now that I've got cities I can place populations, and that's where those little squares you see in two nations come in. Each is about 10x10 square miles at this map style, and each represents a nominal density of 70 people per square mile. That's about 80% higher than the density using the entire nation's farmable/livable area and the GM's population estimate.

What this is going to do is let me know where to place the 'undeveloped wilderness' within each nation. Often forests, it could be other vegetation and terrain - the actual type will depend on that biome work I mentioned earlier.

For what it's worth, I'll be retaining these population distribution maps as part of the GM package. They won't be part of player reference, though.

And that should be it for a few days as I tediously place a few thousand small squares over the map, calculate and place wilderness biomes, and work on improving the appearance.

03-21-2014, 05:57 PM
A minor digression. I don't like the mountains in the map I've got, so I've been playing with styles. While the final vote is the GM's I'd appreciate your thoughts on the two styles I've come down to. Both are (obviously) in my admittedly low skill range. Both have room for improvement but are likely to be long-term as is. But I'm torn as to which is better for this map.


03-22-2014, 03:36 PM
Hmm... I like the ones on the left better. The glow and shading on the caterpillar ranges doesn't work as well in my opinion with the rest of the layout.

03-24-2014, 11:25 PM
Since I'm tossing comments at other maps that look better than mine, might as well update the WIP and take as I have given. (grin)


Forests need added. City dots are just place markers while GM decides which city is at which point. Labeling will be last.

Some things which will be in the legend.
- The 'fog' marks the unexplored area, more clearly denoting that 'here be ghoulies and dragons and orcs, oh my.' Since I'll keep it as a layer I can easily uncover it after it's explored in play.
- Each dot of the roads/trails (the round blue dots) is one day by caravan, and more-or-less where a caravan on that route would stay. I used a grid for positioning and tried to make them closer together where rough terrain would slow the movement.
- I do not like the current border. I didn't like the last one, either. I'll be playing with different styles till I find one that both the GM and I like. At present it's only partially complete. It's the small brownish-red dotted lines.

Oh, I used both the original and the shaded overlap mountains combined. I somewhat like the effect though still need to do some cleanup work.

Long term plan. This map is going to end up an overview. I'm then going to do smaller, more detailed country/region maps and apply lessons learned.

Comments and recommendations are welcome.

03-28-2014, 06:00 PM
Enough done it's time for an update, and as always comments and recommendations are welcome.


As you can see the GM's requested I focus only on the 'known world' of the continent. The rest is on a back burner.

I like the font I'm using. I'm frustrated but learning (gradually) how to path text. City icons other than capitals will be going through a minor change - basically, hollow circles for 'big' cities and solid (but smaller) circles for 'small' cities. Towns, hamlets, and so forth remain to be placed as they become relevant during play.

What color I've got so far is heavily desaturated to almost black-and-white - except for the nations' border lines. I think the contrast works well but am open to thoughts.

The Spire is a tiny (at this scale) island, and I'm torn about adding the ocean rings found around the rest of the land around it. Thoughts?

I'm beginning to ponder background. Vellum, aged linen paper, and bleached oilcloth are tempting for various reasons. I'm just turned off by the yellow of parchment. (And yes I know the historical difference between vellum and parchment.)

04-05-2014, 12:13 AM
Update, and getting a lot closer to done.

Terrain labels (mountains, forests, rivers).
Legend (to include scale markings).
Possibly adding latitude and longitude markings.

04-07-2014, 09:33 AM
Cool progression and nice map. Only the forests in the northwest and southeast part of the map seems strange to me, it's borders are too round.

04-10-2014, 07:01 PM
Well this certainly looks different from the last time I checked. It's got a nice feeling about it.