View Full Version : The Spire

03-04-2014, 02:18 PM
One of the places I'm mapping for my brother's fantasy campaign is the city of Paridon on the Island of the Spire. I'm having mental twitches on how to present the actual city plan so I'm tossing this here for suggestions.


Above is a quick sketch of the island and spire in profile (top) with a very rough of the city grounds: both the harbor and the rise. The spire itself is presently the north point of the island but there's some discussion of making it the south end (yes, shadowing the city for large chunks of the day). As you can tell from the lower drawing the spire is about 2 2/3 miles high. It's a "there be magic" element; rather obvious, I think, but the big deal for city-building is that nothing can be built on the spire itself. The low flat remainder of the island is mostly farmland with some wooded area.

There are a couple of issues I need to resolve and will listen to (but can't guarantee taking) advice.

- If I decide on a top-down, how do I draw/represent the spire? (Not an artist, seeking what may be basic presentation advice.)
- I'm torn between oblique left (sort of what's showing above), oblique right (the backside of the harbor), and front (looking frontally down on the slope). What's bothering me in particular about all three is whether I should stay far enough out to show the whole spire, or should I cut off most of it and 'just' display it as a cliff face? Thoughts?

I'll save the back-story of the city for a later post as I start actually adding, well, the city.

03-04-2014, 02:34 PM
Which view you want to use is closely related to how you are going to use the map. If you want to get a feel for the city, the oblique views are more aesthetic and have a lot more character to them typically, but are hard to plot peoples actual movements through and one of the harder ones to execute. If its intended as a map for tracking the actual movement of characters through the streets top down is much better. For anything with a lot of height in top view the magic comes from the shadows. Do them well and you won't have any trouble indicating height. The straight on view has a lot of the same benefits/drawbacks as the oblique but isn't either as sleek looking nor as hard to accomplish. That's my thoughts on the matter, don't know if they help you at all.

03-04-2014, 07:18 PM
Thank you, madcowchef. That's just what I needed to see to make things 'click'. For the first one, a top-down look. I may do an oblique after I see what I've really got.

So here's my initial palette for the city of Paridon on the Spire. Just a countour map which will (probably) go away when I'm done.


03-06-2014, 02:58 AM
I like the idea of showing two different views as part of the same drawing. Maybe there is a way to use the profile view to frame the edge of your map...? I don't know if you caught Djekspek's October 2013 Challenge entry, but maybe that could serve as a little inspiration?


If you look close at Djekspek's plan view you can see that he gives some hints using highlights and shadows to emphasize the elevation differences.

Looks like an interesting project! Good Luck!

03-06-2014, 05:44 PM
Cool, Redkettle. Nope, hadn't stumbled on that one while walking through archives, and too new to have seen it when it was made.

hmmm. and profile...


03-06-2014, 09:16 PM
More rough, and some explanation in case I have an idea someone wants to steal. First, of course, the rough map.
Several things are going on here, but I want to remind this is a rough. All I'm doing at this point is getting a feel for my city - its layout and character.

Let me start with my personal idiosyncrasy: water. Both in and out (waste). While the inner sea is a freshwater sea that provides a great source, it's still a long way up to the top of the rise. The solution is a series of dammed cisterns, fed with slightly exaggerated bucket hoists. By slightly exaggerated I mean that something that normally gets a lift of up to 20 meters is 'stretched' to about 80. If I get to detail on this I'll draw those in. Anyway, it creates a string of pearls of water that go up to the upper fortress. Overflow comes back down.

Waste is the reason the road on the left is shaped the way it is. Romans, Minoans, and Greeks all got away with piping their sewage away, and so will the Paridons. I'm running it off the western cliff. Slope of the road is so any rains wash effluvia away from drinking water. I thought hard about sloping them the other way to add to the drinking water and having the pipes cross under the roads, but figured this was better in the long run given human laziness, stupidity, and simple error.

The most obvious thing after is the coloring of wards (neighborhoods, districts, or whatever your label of choice might be). As I get to mapping out actual details this will help me keep the right things where I intend them.

A bit of background in case there's suggestions. The concept is that this was a refugee city formed about four generations ago. Old-town was tremendously paranoid and defensive. But as the feared attack never came people gradually moved closer to the harbor where the food and trade was. Now the fortress maintains the primary military barracks/training, the 'high' patricians (and those who want to be seen as such), secondary stores of merchants who deal in those sorts of goods, and market for the soldiers and patricians. Oh, and the university that came along is up there as well.

I'll be heads down on this for a while. I'll shift and adjust some of the wards. Then I'll actually start getting it into a map - making the switchback road follow contours instead of the hasty flat zig-zag, getting better walls and gates, turning the contour into 'land', all that sort of thing.

but it's finally coming together.

03-07-2014, 02:50 AM
Cool. I'm interested to see this one develop.

03-07-2014, 09:55 PM
This isn't the final. But a) I got impatient and b) I wanted to play with a style while learning a bit more about Gimp. So here's the city in the style of Pyrandon's tutorial. Ugliness is my lack of experience plus translating his PS instructions to GIMP - I shall do better (mwahahaha). ahem.


03-08-2014, 12:49 PM
So now that I've had a good night's sleep, some comments and requests for advice.

Comment one: the final map style will change significantly. There will also be some large changes to what is where on the map.

Request for advice: The switchback trail is going away. BUT, I'd like to have suggestions as to how it should change if I were keeping it because sooner or later I'm going to have to add switchbacks to later maps. I've got this Grand Cliff in the world...

Request for advice: The shadows are rather sharp. In particular there's the problem where overlapping strokes created lines. While I'll try blurring them to soften the edges, is there a (relatively) easy way to prevent the sharp overlap?

Major changes coming after discussing this map with the GM. The switchbacks are going away. We're going to add a, well, a medieval/magic-based cablecar/gondola system from Lowtown to just outside the fortress with a road in parallel. Lowtown is going to change significantly to reflect the 'history'. It's a two-part city. Unwalled southside will be a zone for un-vetted visitors and unapproved immigrants. There will be a mix of shanty-town, markets, and merchants. Within the wall is the admin for immigration, the businesses that have to relate to the sea (fishing and trade), and immigrants who don't want to live uptown. Oh, and the 'forward' military district which also doubles as law enforcement.

Uptown will change and be where everyone else - the majority of the population - lives. I've got pencil work to do on all this before it goes to maps, but that's the broad outline.

I want to thank Pyrandon here for his tutorial guide. While it's not what I want for the final style, it was a great tool for seeing the ground and realizing where changes needed made, and for getting an idea of where I am and where I need to go. And now that I know how it works I could toss a town together in this style in pretty swift fashion and know it would work for story (but not for 'the inn of three ducks is /here/').

03-09-2014, 08:23 AM
It's been a while since I've used gimp so I don't remember exactly how, but there should be a way to make a brush with a lower 'hardness' value. Lowering it should make the edges of the brush strokes less sharp. Basically the brush will get progressively more transparent toward the edges.

As for the switchbacks: I think what you want to try to do is gradually shade the bottom edge and corners of the road. Currently they're just floating in space on top of the shadows rather than casting their own.

I hope that helps.

03-09-2014, 12:41 PM
The switchbacks look to regular to me. They don't seem to follow the terrains lumpiness. For shadows I often use a full opacity brush then adjust the opacity of the level so that I don't have to worry about going over my previous strokes, if I need deeper shadows I just add another layer over the previous one.