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Absinth
08-10-2009, 06:22 AM
Hello fellow guildmembers,
I'm proud to show the final version of this map, that I worked on for the last few months - Port Sol, City of the Pirate Kings. Many of you followed the painfully long process of its creation in the maps WIP-Thread (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=5410). I'm really happy that this is finally done and I don't think that it would've turned out the way it did without the help of the great community on this board. There were many helpful advice posted to the WIP-thread and many helped to improve the map.
I'd like o thank Alecthar, Neon Knight (pleased with the scale bar?), Ascension and Steel General for their insightful comments on certin features of Port Sol. A special thank you to RobA for helping with the domes and to Gandwarf, who never failed to point out, how huge the walls are and that the map "loses some of its charm when zoomed in". :)

Note: This map was created to be printed at size A3. When it's printed out, it's not as detailed as in the 'zoomed in' resolution the board provides.

The story behind the map
The city of Port Sol will be an important location in our current D&D campaign. Port Sol is a nearly lawless town, run by a council of pirate kings, that divided the quarters of the city between the most powerful captains. It's a haven of trade for all kinds of illegal stuff - drugs, poisons, contrabands and the like.
Port Sol was founded on the southern peninsula of a big, tropical island, that's mostly overgrown with thick rainforests. The port city was built on the ruins of a far older civilization, that was long gone by the time the first of the ambitious pirates showed up. There's not much known about these people, but they must've been of giant kin or descendants of titans, because the building structures that are left over from these ancient times, indicate that they were far taller than humans. The only buildings that are still standing today, are parts of a massive city walls and several temples, once dedicated to dark and long forgotten gods of the sea.

Today, Port Sol is a busy harbour city. Despite its reputation as a dangerous place, where only the strong and cautious can survive to make a living, ships from all around the world set sail to openly trade in goods, that are banned in most kingdoms and free cities. Though its exitence is a thorn in the eye to many rulers of the southern kingdoms, the cities ties to some of the most important merchant guilds and its connections to shady but powerful noble families, that make a fortune out of trading drugs and other vile substances, keep it from being bothered by the navy ships, that patrol the mayor trade routes across the Nighted Sea. The city is bustling with visitors from all over the world, trading or seeking amusement of all kind in the countless taverns and shops, that are lining the streets in the shadow of the giant walls that dominate the cities skyline. Besides bing able to buy nearly anything imaginable - from exotic spices and goods to magic items and even powerful, cursed artifacts - Port Sol is also a haven for cultists of dark gods, hunted criminals or people with radical political or social opinions. As long as the peace on the streets is kept and the trade isn't disturbed, you're free to do as you please and enjoy the diverse and often dark and forbidden pleasures that are offered in this city of scoundrels and cutthroats.

Mapping goals
When I thought about how to do the map, I set myself some goals to achive while doing it, so that I won't get lost in the options a powerful program like GIMP offers. I first wanted to take a more artistic approach and make it look like a handdrawn pirate map, but I quickly skipped the idea, as I couldn't think of a nice way to make it work with my other goals towards the map. The most important aspect of the Port Sol map was its practical usabillity at the gaming table. This isn't something to hang up my wall. It will hopefully see hours of exciting game play while lying on the table for many sessions. So, with this in mind, I aimed for a clean look and style. I wanted everything to be easily recognizable for every player around the table and from any angle of view. Diverse colors and clean contrast hopefully help the player to discern buildings from ruins and so on. I tried to give most buildings (at least the larger ones) a unique look, so that it's easier for the players to recognize and remember important locations in the city. On top of this, I wanted it to be nice and interesting for the players to look at, without it having too many details that would turn out distracting. Well, in some places it looks a little crowded, but hopefully still clean. I have to admid, that I cramped as much city as I could into this A3 map...

The creation of the map
The creation of this map presented a serious challenge to me. It was the first time, that I created a city map entirely in GIMP. I used a Wacom Bamboo to draw buildings and other structures and it was a strange experience to actually draw digitally for the first time. Prior to this map, I only used the Bamboo as a kind of advanced mouse and in tandem with the real mouse to hurry things up. I guess, if I'd do this map again, I'd use Inkscpe to draw the outlines and then do the rest in GIMP. The lines just look smoother when done with a vector-based software.
The process of creating was frustrating from time to time. I did lots of time-consuming things that didn't make it to the final map. At one point, I guess I juggled with about sixty layers. It was pure madness...
The trees took much of my remaining sanity...
I didn't touch the map for days several times during its creation because I was very busy at work or got stuck with certain problems. Sometimes it was a good idea to just let it rest or a few days and then tackle it again. Many scary looking "poblems" just disappeared, when I took them on again after a few days, because in the meantime I came up with an idea to do certain things in a different way or realised a mistake I made and so on. I guess I really know how to use about 75% of the software now. Layers, masks and filters aren't strange things to me anymore. Many of the (sometimes frustrating) things I learned while builing Port Sol will be very, very useful in future maps. But I also got rid of the illusion that digital mapping isn't as time consuming as the old school ways. No, it takes much, much longer... :D

I'm mostly pleased with how it finally turned out. I could've tinkered on endlessly with it, but I guess you just have to stop at some point and consider it finished. I'm still not pleased with how the sea looks (it's just too silent...) and there should be ships in the harbour and so on... I'd do many things different, when I'd do this anew, but I guess it'll be more fun to unleash this gathered knowledge on a new map!

Well, thanks again to all that were along for the ride. Any questions regarding Port Sol or its creation will be answered here or in the WIP-thread.

Steel General
08-10-2009, 07:51 AM
Neat stuff, love the very simple compass rose.

Gandwarf
08-10-2009, 07:58 AM
Those walls are huge and did you notice that when you zoom in, the map loses some of its charm? ;)

Anyway, I do like the map. You made me sound so negative :D
The walls give the map a very distinctive feature. The layout and colors are great. Nice job!

ravells
08-10-2009, 08:56 AM
Lots of great textures. I can appreciate the hard work that went into making this one. Particularly if you drew all the buildings by hand!

Excellent work which delivers a map with lots of character.

Absinth
08-10-2009, 12:24 PM
Oh, I didn't want to give the impression, that I drew the buildings free hand! I - of course - used the rectangular and elliptical selection tools like any sane man doing a map like this should! But I drew them one by one, as I couldn't come up with a way to make it easier while achiving the same result. :) It was a tough part, though...

I updated the initial post in this thread and added the 'Mapping Goals' section!

Lwaxana
08-10-2009, 07:47 PM
Oh wow... I'm lucky lately, so many good maps posted in the last few days fit right into my epic campaign, including the name in this case.

I don't think the map loses anything when you zoom in, on the contrary. I love the ruins.

Patrakis
08-10-2009, 07:55 PM
Indeed. Very nice map with a lot of details and character.

I'm impressed.

Pat

NeonKnight
08-10-2009, 08:56 PM
Very nice map. The Scale bar represents 50 meters?

Absinth
08-11-2009, 03:42 AM
Very nice map. The Scale bar represents 50 meters?

Yes, it does!
Thanks for all the kind words on my map! :)

Coyotemax
08-11-2009, 09:25 AM
In the WIP thread i recall you mentioning that people were living in the walls too.. Any chance you're working on maps for the warrens? :)

Scorpius
08-11-2009, 10:16 AM
A map of the inside of the walls would be slightly righteous.

I love the rough story and idea behind this town. The map looks clean and easy to use. It makes me wish I was earlier in my own campaign so I could use this city.

Karro
08-11-2009, 01:12 PM
Holy Super-thick walls, Batman!

Absinth
08-12-2009, 03:33 AM
Well, I already toyed with the idea to do a dungeon map for some time! I'd just like to give it a try, because I imagine it to be quite different from designing city maps. I'm not a big fan of DMing dungeon crawls (at least not on higher levels) and - until now - couldn't think of a dungeon worth mapping. Mapping the vaults nd sealed crypts within (and under) the (freaky damn huge) walls is a great idea! I wonder why I didn't think about this myself... Well, I can't promise that my next map will feature these dungeons (first I have to see, how the campaign evolves and which locations need mapping first!), but there's quite a big chance, that there'll be a Port Sol dungeon map in the near future...

Coyotemax
08-12-2009, 03:51 AM
Excellent plan, I look forward to it!