View Full Version : [WIP] Canthar: World Map

07-03-2009, 05:43 AM
Hi All

Itís been a while since I posted anything new. You see, Iíve been busy developing my 4th Edition D&D campaign setting. Iíve put a lot of thought into my setting and think Iíve developed an interesting world.

Iíve actually been running adventures in this setting since 4E was released, 12 months ago, but itís taken this long for the setting to develop, as I learned more about 4E. Originally this setting was very different from the creature it is today. It was very much a Tolkienesque setting, but I realised I wanted a D&D, roleplaying setting. Something not quite as serious, more fantastic in the way of fantasy, completely compatible with the core 4E canon but entirely my own at the same time. At first my thoughts were all over the place, but I soon realised how utterly flexible 4E is for campaign design. All I had to do was somehow separate core canon from my own ideas, yet allow room for core canon to expand, through the release of new rulebooks, supplements, the addition of new races and classes, etc., without that expansion continually forcing me to adjust my setting. To solve this problem I decided to divide my settingís history into two distinct parts separated by a world-changing cataclysm and a 2,000-year dark age buffer zone, so to speak.

Iíve now detailed my world, how it works, given it a history, developed the major players, threats, and powers that influence the setting, and have arrived at the point where I canít really continue without visualising and mapping the world, and thought Iíd post my progress as a WIP for you guys to read, examine, comment on and critique, and help me make a great map.

This will be a whole world map, so at this scale I only want to depict continental masses, islands, mountains, rivers and major settlements. Iíll zoom in with other maps when this one is finished.

For the style of this map I want to try and emulate the way navigators and explorers make maps in my world, using a combination of traditional ink and parchment, but enhanced by magic. Imagine a map scroll that comes to life when you unravel it. Iím thinking an almost holographic map, but I need to represent this 3D magic-holo-map in 2D so I can print it out for my players without losing the illusion of 3D. I hope you can visualise what Iím trying to describe.

Anyway, with a single exception, Iíll be exclusively using CC3 to create this map. I want to create a new mapping style to show what can be done with this software. The single exception is the drawing template below. I created this in a really old paint program called MGI Photosuite. MGI PS is really just an advanced MS Paint program, but itís easy to use and has always been a favourite of mine.

Iíll try to explain any techniques I use to get the effects I want along the way to help other CC3 users, and will share details of my setting to help everyone understand why I do certain things or want things to look a specific way. So, without further ado, Iíll beginÖ


07-03-2009, 05:45 AM
This is the drawing template I created in MGI Photosuite. I like to work with a template when doing world maps. It helps me determine distances and shape, and helps gives boundaries that I can work within to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Iím going to insert this template into my new CC3 style by creating a new sheet and layer both called BITMAP. Then I just insert the template onto the BITMAP sheet as a drawing. Next I move the BITMAP sheet to the top of the sheet list so the template sits beneath all the other sheets. That might sound a little confusing to some people, but in CC3 the higher a sheet (akin to layers in other art software) is on the list, the lower it is in the actual drawing.

Iíve decided that this map will depict my world in both plan and plane view at the same time, hence the two sections.

Next, Iíll start by drawing the land.


07-07-2009, 08:25 AM
Now Iíve created some drawing tools for the land.

I used the Cartographers Annual 2009 Fantasy Realms Tan bitmap fills for the land drawtools, adding a simple black coastline as an extra entity on a separate sheet. I like this bitmap fill because it has a parchment look to it, and fits the magical parchment feel I want to give this map. I created three drawtools for the land in three shades of the Tan fills. The different colours will represent whether the continent will have a cold, temperate, or hot climate, with dark tan as cold, medium tan as temperate, and light tan as hot. I also forced each of these drawtools onto its own sheet.

Using these tools I drew the first continents as shown below.

07-07-2009, 08:29 AM
One of the continents in my world is actually part of the Shadowfell. When the cataclysm I mentioned hit Canthar, its effects rippled through Cantharís twins Ė The Shadowfell and the Feywild. While the Feywild remained largely untouched, the Shadowfell actually collided with the natural world, piercing the planar boundaries and creating a planar breach. This planar breach has created an area of violent storms, known as The Dread Expanse, from which protrudes part of the Shadowfell itself.

Where this Shadowfell continent enters Canthar, I need to create the illusion of a jagged area of land emerging from a region of dark, necrotic storms. To do this I first selected the coastline and split it in two places along the top, and deleted that piece of the coastline. This edge will become the part that disappears into the Dread Expanse.

To make the exposed edge fade into the Shadowfell, I created a new drawtool called ďLand, EdgeĒ, but didnít add a coastline to this tool. I used this drawtool to draw a smoother edge to the Shadowfell continent and forced this drawtool onto a new sheet which I placed above the sheets with the land on.

07-07-2009, 09:08 AM
Ambitious project!

I am extremely curious to see how you will handle the plane view (the better to pilfer your skills and knowledge!)

07-07-2009, 09:39 AM
I am extremely curious to see how you will handle the plane view (the better to pilfer your skills and knowledge!)

I haven't actually decided how I'm going to handle the plane view myself, yet. I know it's going to be the part of the map with the least detail, so I'm going to leave that view until the end.


07-07-2009, 09:42 AM
Right, now Iíve drawn the continents I wonít need the template for a while, so Iíve created a parchment background using the CA 2007, Issue 6: Parchments, and inserted it into my Canthar map.

For the Dread Expanse Iíve created three new sheets; low, mid and high clouds. I then just drew a few cloud-like blobs on these sheets. I fiddled around with the sheet effects for each of these sheets, using blurs and transparencies to try and create a roiling necrotic storm.

I was hoping to add my first ďmagical, 3DishĒ effect to the map with this storm, and found it pretty tricky to get the colours and effects right. I think Iíve got it right, but if anyone is good with CC3 sheets and effects Ė please let me know if you have any good techniques to get this kind of effect. Finally, to begin adding more map magic, I added a dropshadow sheet effect to the land.

Anyway, this is what Iíve managed so far, and I hope itís beginning to capture the feeling that the Shadowfell continent is emerging, or thrusting out of, a raging necrotic storm. Iím going to look at adding some purple necrotic lightning later on, but thatís something I need to think about first.


07-07-2009, 05:01 PM
No real comments from me other than I like it so far :)

07-09-2009, 08:48 PM
Nice job on that cloud effect; I really like the way that looks.

07-21-2009, 06:59 PM
Hi All

I've been playing around with different effects and styles for this map, so my progress has been a bit on the slow side. Anyway, here's what I've added.

I only want to add mountains and rivers at this scale, so Iíve been experimenting with using symbols to depict the mountains. However, the look didnít keep with the magical "pop-up" style Iíve envisioned. The symbols just looked too flat, and thatís not the effect I wanted. Because of this, I decided to use the tool from CA 2009, Issue 24: Shaded Reliefs.

I put the reliefs on a new layer, called reliefs. I had to play around with the settings for a while until I got what I think is the right look.

At first the effect was too strong, and the mountains looked too large and out of place, so I reduced the size of the reliefs and crowded them closer together, even overlapping in places.

Next I added the rivers by drawing fractal lines, splitting them and increasing their thickness as they got closer to the coasts.

When I took a look at my progress with the sheet effects on, the mountains looked too transparent, and didnít really stand out on the map. To remedy this I added a contour layer, placed it beneath the relief layer that my mountains were on, and added a blur and transparency effect. I think this makes the mountains stand out a bit more.

Now Iíve just got to add some settlements, features, etc., and label the map. Once thatís done I can start working on the plane view.


08-10-2009, 04:39 PM
Sorry itís been a while since I last posted. Iíve been working on the plane view and coming up with the naming conventions.

I didnít use any more unusual techniques to complete the rest of the map. I hope Iíve created something that you wouldnít expect to have been created with CC3, so hereís the final draft for your comments and critiques.

Iíd be happy to answer any questions I can, whether theyíre about how I created any aspect of the map, or whether theyíre about the setting itself.

For anyone who is interested in why Canthar is a world of floating continents, here's a bit of my worldís history to explain.


During the Golden Age of Nerath, Nerathian scholars and arcanists, delving into research that was beyond their comprehension, inadvertently opened several portals to the Far Realm and unwittingly released an ancient primordial called Rham-Tothlak the Scourgebringer, who was imprisoned there.

Rham-Tothlak exploded from the insanity of the Far Realm and immediately set about destroying the natural world. His release took the gods completely by surprise and they were painfully slow to move against him. Canthar was ripped apart in the terrible battle that ensued, but not before the gods managed to save several continent-sized chunks of the planetary crust and cast them adrift in an elemental demiplane known as the Endless Sky. Millions of mortals died in the conflict, leaving only a handful of survivors.

The destruction brought about during The Sundering caused part of the Shadowfell to plunge through the planar boundaries and pierce the Endless Sky like a dagger. Now the tip of a great Shadowfell continent protrudes into the mortal world amidst a roiling storm of unleashed necrotic energy called the ďDread ExpanseĒ.

Ultimately, the gods defeated and destroyed Rham-Tothlak, but the struggle against him was so great the gods were left exhausted and powerless to help the mortals who had survived. They severed all mortal connections to the divine power source in an effort to conserve their dwindling strength, hoping such an act would help them recover.

Steel General
08-10-2009, 04:44 PM
Cool stuff here...

...the only thing I don't care for all that much is the font (merely personal preference, no knock on your choice), I find it a bit difficult to read.

08-10-2009, 04:56 PM
Tanks, SG (love the new avatar, btw!)

I imagined an arcane navigator made this map, and wanted a handwritten kinda font. The majority of fonts I have were just too unreadable when I tried them. This one was really a compromise and, I agree, some of the letters are difficult to make out. Any suggestions would be welcomed.


08-10-2009, 05:36 PM
Nice job! Wouldn't have known you created it with CC3 if you hadn't said so. It's a run of the mill map anyway. Have some rep!

10-05-2009, 10:09 AM
I've left this map for a while now. I'm happy with it, so I'll call it finished. I may go back to it as my campaign develops, but I don't know how that's going to unfold yet.

Thanks for your comments, guys.