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View Full Version : June/July 2014 Lite Challenge - Jade Mountain Pass



Meshon
06-23-2014, 04:38 AM
Edit: Just to clarify, what I'm trying to do is end up with a map of a ruin that has a history, based on several periods where significant things happened to the site. To that end, each WIP post (other than this first one) will be a new time period. I think they'll vary from a few hundred years to just a decade or so. Still trying to figure out what to do when I need the final map to display... So if you have time, check through and see how the Jade Mountain Pass changes!

The Jade Mountain Pass was long known to be a place where the barrier between this realm and the Throne of Creation was often permeable, and so it was that the Architect Priests of the Porphyran Empire chose this place for their tombs, carved from the solid rock of the cliffs on the west side of the pass. Each priest was mummified and placed in a symbolic throne which faced a false door, the latter representing the doorway to the Throne of Creation through which the deceased priest would pass. As well, each priest was accompanied by sacrificial slaves for which three chambers were prepared, where the bodies of warriors, scribes, and servants would be stacked like cordwood. Elite warriors were chosen to guard the pass from those who might attempt to steal the wealth and scrolls of knowledge that accompanied the Architect Priests to their graves. As the priests were so long-lived, only six were laid to rest in the cliff-face tombs before their order was overthrown in the viciously-fought Portalist Revolt.

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I'm having another go with my tablet. I'm still not sure if I'm going to continue drawing the river banks the same way through the whole map, but I'm pretty sure I'll stick with black and white.

It's not a ruin yet, but each WIP post (thereabouts) will be a new time period. I'm hoping to have the Jade Mountain Pass go through several periods of change before the "present".

cheers,
Meshon

Francissimo
06-23-2014, 05:20 AM
Welcome to the challenge meshon;) Cool start, the style of your "towers" is already great, impatient to see more!

Bogie
06-23-2014, 08:38 AM
Nice work Meshon, looking forward to see where you go with this.

Meshon
06-23-2014, 12:19 PM
I figured since everything after this will build on this base map I'd work a bit more on it. I'm accepting (though not totally satisfied with) the river and the little bits of grass and stone scattered around. I've realized that working in black and white (and gray I guess) means you have to find things to fill in the space! So this is still the first stage, taking place about 1000 years after the founding of the Porphyran Empire. A thousand years of those nasty Architect Priests has to come to an end soon!

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I'm just trying out this style, and by "style" I mostly mean seeing how much I can do with my little tablet and pen, so critique is certainly welcome.

cheers,
Meshon

Francissimo
06-24-2014, 06:33 AM
you're already doing really good stuff with your tablet, the stones and shadows are nice.

Meshon
06-28-2014, 04:54 PM
First, an update of the initial map. I think it's got all the elements I want on it (this doesn't count, so I won't label it as a WIP entry):
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And the continuing story:
The Portalists espoused a radical new philosophy. Unlike the Architect Priests, who claimed the right to enter the Throne of the Architects as theirs alone, the Portalists believed that anyone who was properly prepared and knowledgeable might be able to find their way to the Throne. Not only that, but they went so far as to claim that one did not have to ascend to that realm after death but could enter it alive and return with the knowledge of the gods themselves. Of course this idea threatened the absolute power held by the ruling class and so, naturally, there was war. The revolution proved very popular; the Portalist philosophy not only raised the status of the common citizen, it also promised release from centuries of slavery. Within two years the priests were overthrown, and their tombs in the Jade Mountain Pass were buried by the jubilant and recently-freed slaves.

Sadly the democratic ideals of the Portalist leaders did not last much beyond the destruction of the priests' dictatorship. The elite among the Portalist faction installed themselves as Emperors and immediately turned the resources of the empire towards getting themselves into the Throne. Most were unsuccessful and so they built mausoleums in the pass, certain that if they could not reach the Throne in life they would still ascend to that realm after death, like the priests before them. However, a few emperors did manage to ascend in life, or so it was believed; none of them ever reappeared after passing through the portals they constructed. Some went alone, others with companions. Most notable of these was Virnak the Unyielding, who passed through his portal along with six thousand soldiers and as many more civilians in his train. Though the Emperors' rule persisted for almost three centuries, the unpredictable disappearance of its rulers did not bode well for the stability of the Empire itself.

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As always, critique is welcome. I'm doing this to learn, after all!

cheers,
Meshon

Meshon
07-01-2014, 02:21 AM
Doh! Forgot the shadow on the southern gate house...

I'm hoping to complete two more maps, one more period of settlement and then a final map with the Jade Mountain Pass in its final ruined (and ready for adventure) state.

I had thought (and said) that each WIP post would be a completed map of the next stage of (de)evolution but I think as I work on ruining the second iteration I may post more maps that are actually of my work in progress.

jkat718
07-02-2014, 05:01 AM
I'm liking both the style of these maps and the backstory behind it. Great job, Meshon!

Meshon
07-02-2014, 10:43 PM
Well, some raiders burned down the first keep and had a go at one of the mausoleums. I'll write it up proper once I get the whole map sorted. Drawing rubble is my new achilles heel. Like doing roof shingles, I searched in vain for some way to do it more quickly, like with a brush or something, and so far by hand is the way that I get the results I like the best. Here's a zoom of the ruined parts.

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cheers,
Meshon

Francissimo
07-03-2014, 05:38 PM
Nice WIP Meshon, and the idea to represent the evolution of your map through time is really cool

Bogie
07-03-2014, 10:57 PM
This is coming along great!

Meshon
07-06-2014, 01:46 AM
Jade Mountain Pass - 1371

Story, if you want...

Because of the occasional disappearance of its rulers, and the significant resources those rulers devoted to finding a way to reach the Throne of the Architects, the Portalist Empire soon became fractured and weak. The final straw that broke its back was the rise of the tribes of Sendak to the south. The tribelands had been a source of slaves for a millenia and the brutal oppression of the Architect Priests ensured that no power ever rose in the south. Freed from their yoke it was not long before Sendaki tribes united and moved to take revenge for generations of misery. One of their invasion routes was through the Jade Mountain Pass. The soldiers stationed there put up a fight, but they were sorely outnumbered. The southernmost keep fell on the first day and the rest of the soldiers could only watch from their walls as it burned. Within three days the tribes had overrun the walls of the main stronghold but already there were mutterings in the invading army of spirits on the mountain slopes, and they soon departed once the Empire's soldiers were slain. One of the mausoleums had been slightly damaged, but fear of vengeful spirits discouraged the Sendaki tribes from tarrying. They erected a totem to keep the spirits from leaving the pass and then left, never to return. In the years that followed the Jade Mountain Pass and the necropolis it harboured passed out of memory as the Empire was reduced to warring states that no longer looked beyond the mountain borders.

Though the rule of the Architect Priests had ended some three centuries earlier, a cult had persisted in secret, dedicated to the worship of those undeniably powerful sorcerers. Members of the cult still sought the power of the priests and a few followed old writings to rediscover the necropolis. Over a hundred years after the invasion a small cult temple had been raised within the crumbling walls of the old keep, and the cultists had begun to excavate the ancient tombs in hopes of finding a way to follow their long-dead lords into another world or, at the very least, to uncover the powerful artifacts buried with them. For their cult was always viewed with suspicion and not a few of the petty rulers of the former empire's provinces had instituted inquisitions against them, so they kept their work secret and looked for ways to defend themselves.


Oh, wait, what? I'm supposed to be drawing, not writing? Oh dear! ;)

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cheers,
Meshon

Diamond
07-06-2014, 02:32 AM
I think I'd vote for this just based on that background snippet. That is begging for a short story or even a novel...

jkat718
07-06-2014, 11:10 AM
If you don't mind, I would love to write a D&D encounter for this, once it's finished. Either 3e or Next (once it comes out, of course).

Meshon
07-06-2014, 01:54 PM
I think I'd vote for this just based on that background snippet. That is begging for a short story or even a novel...
Thanks! I will have to think hard about a story. Coming up with a point of view from which to tell about such an extended time period has my hamster wheels spinning...

The part of this that has actually had the most time spent on development is the Throne of the Architects, the place that most of the powerful people in this history are obsessed with getting to. It came out of a D&D campaign a few years ago and I have copious notes, though no maps yet. It's been fun to think about this side of the story though, and I'm sure I'll keep working on this stuff for awhile!


If you don't mind, I would love to write a D&D encounter for this, once it's finished. Either 3e or Next (once it comes out, of course).
Absolutely, that would be great! After the next map it should be a place with a few possibilities for adventure, but you're free to use any of the maps in your games. I'm pretty excited about Next, actually collaborating on an adventure for that system in my spare moments. Did you know that the basic rules have been released for free?

Thanks again for all the positive encouragement and kind words.

cheers,
Meshon

jkat718
07-08-2014, 01:52 AM
I did not! I knew that they were going to be released, but I thought it wasn't going to happen until the end of the month. Thanks, I'm going to go read the entire PDF now. :D

Francissimo
07-13-2014, 07:00 AM
Hard to think you're still a beginner with your tablet! If you already do such a nice map while you're just starting with the tool i'm impatient to see your maps when you mastered the tablet:) The map is great and you already have a real personal touch, i'm particularly fan of the effect you give on the ruined roof of the sacked fortress.

jkat718
07-14-2014, 04:39 AM
Mesh, how are you working on a Next adventure already? We don't even have the PHB yet...

Meshon
07-14-2014, 04:04 PM
After the collapse of the Empire and the battles that followed, anything to do with the portals was viewed with great suspicion. Though the cult of the Architect Priests had kept itself secret for centuries word soon got out that the necropolis at Jade Mountain Pass was occupied again. A nascent group who called themselves the Lustrators were dedicated to ending the influence of the gods in mortal affairs and they were not known for diplomacy or mercy. A well armed band quickly made its way to the pass and joined battle with no desire to take prisoners. The cultists fought back as well as they could and, to this day, the remains of a magic they unleashed can still be seen in two places where a cold black fire burns from the ground. However, even with the aid of the artifacts they gained from the tombs they were soon overrun, their buildings pulled down and their members slaughtered. The Lustrators, however, did not remain long, though none of those on the expedition would say why. After hastily closing the tombs that had been opened they retreated, leaving the Jade Mountain Pass to be forgotten.

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This was great fun to do and an excellent way to learn more about using my tablet. It was all done in Illustrator, so I think I will have to move on to Photoshop next, but I'm very happy with how this turned out. I would have liked to add in some subtle elevations to represent the older ruins being slowly overgrown, but I tried lots of experiments and none of them made me particularly happy. I guess the Jade Mountain Pass is high enough that it's not particularly prone to overgrowth.

I may get one more map up if I can figure out a way to put all four maps in one image without breaking the bandwidth bank.

Thanks for all the encouragement and kind words along the way!

cheers,
Meshon

PS jkat718: I'd like to say I have gotten hold of a developer rules set... but that's not the case. My collaborator and I are currently designing the adventure without any rules mechanics. If we need to refer to any of that sort of thing we just use plain language. So mostly we're designing encounter flow, NPCs, and soon... maps! This also gives us a bit more freedom to adapt it to a different system if we want to later.

Francissimo
07-14-2014, 04:27 PM
It was all done in Illustrator, so I think I will have to move on to Photoshop next,
Wow, even more awesome map if you only use illustrator!

Meshon
07-14-2014, 04:36 PM
Okay, I think the size is reasonable here. I tried making an animated gif but man that was annoying to look at.

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Is a .png file alright? It was about 1MB smaller than the .jpg.

Meshon

Domino44
07-14-2014, 08:25 PM
I love the symbols on your legend as well as the dragon compass! Lovely work!

RedKettle
07-14-2014, 09:15 PM
Very nice! I like the dragon as well.

There are lots of interesting details to explore and watch evolve, this is a lot of fun to look at!