View Full Version : Feeding Hills - (post-challenge) WIP

10-01-2009, 09:56 PM
It's time to move this map forward (beyond the September Challenge) towards eventual publication. And I still want all of your help! My first step is to decide whether to follow the author's suggestion to simply number buildings or to insert tabs with building names instead.

Most D&D adventure publishers, particularly Paizo, frown on keys in adventure maps. I've been urged repeatedly (sharply castigated might be a better description of some instances) to make everything I present in a map so recognizable that no key becomes necessary. In keeping with that tradition, this adventure's author suggests that this map contain numbers only. The manuscript contains numbered paragraphs linked to the maps numbers, with each paragraph describing the numbered building in depth. For instance, "The Crooked Man" is the town's favorite pub.

In the September Challenge thread, gilgamec helpfully pointed out that the map, standing alone, failed to identify any buildings, risking leaving the viewer with something of a "pretty . . . but who cares?" feeling. When the map stands alone, as it did in the Challenge, I whole-heartedly agree with gilgamec. When published, of course, it will be accompanied by the text, so if it has numbers, descriptions are but a page-flip away.

So the question is descriptive tags or just numbers?

Here's my first cut at descriptive tags. I can play with font sizes and colors and bevels and embossing until the cows come home (yes, this thread welcomes all farming metaphors), but if I use a larger font size than this (it's presently 10), I'll have to start overlapping buildings with text and using arrows to designate which tag attaches to which building. The author didn't name roads or woods or rivers or ponds, but I'll encourage him to do so if tags appeal more than numbers.

What do you think?

10-01-2009, 10:30 PM
First of all, beautiful map. I really like the style.

Second, I like your labels find and, stand-alone, the descriptive labels are better than numbers - but that might not be the case when it's presented in an adventure format. The font looks like papyrus, which is the butt of some jokes I think :) I kind of like the font...

I have no experience with this but I was under the impression that some publishers (Paizo comes to mind...I sat in on a Sean Reynolds mapmaking session at Paizocon) did the labeling in Illustrator after map completion (I don't doubt this is the source of much of the mis-labeling that goes on in their maps, which are flawless otherwise).

In general, though, I'd do whatever the heck the publisher wants you to do. They're typically pretty picky about whatever process they've chosen to work with and want it done their way - for good reason, I guess. If they've expressed a preference then I'd stick with it. Having your descriptive labels in a separate layer probably isn't a cardinal sin, though, and it might help the poor guy trying to label it in Illustrator if that's what they do with it.

10-01-2009, 10:40 PM
I can't help with the label vs. number problem, but if you use labels, get rid of all the "The"s. They're unneeded clutter in my opinion.

10-01-2009, 10:54 PM
"The" .. I was thinking that myself. I went through the same phase with my city maps, there's only a few left now, and those are for businesses and the like that seemed to require it to sound right :) Otherwise really, it's a waste of space that could be better used to show the terrain behind it :)

I understand the bit about making things so obvious they don't need labels, but sometimes easier said than done. that having been said, the only building in here that doesn't look like a house or a barn is the church. I think the issue is that at current, the only way to differentiate the Blacksmith shop from the general store from thaddeus's house is ... well, there is no way without labels or a key. they just look the same. The sawmill and grist mill could use waterwheels or something similar, though i can see in the grist mill it might be difficult to show due to the angle, but you could maybe have it poking out the front. I would also expect to see a fairly impressive chimney on the blacksmith and the kiln, at present there are none (though it's very possible you are getting ready to address those observations, Ive just beaten you to it in expressing them, heh)

I don't like keys. If I have to put work into figuring out what things are, i'm more likely to skip over them. Then again that's from a purely viewing perspective - from a gamemastering perspective they have their uses, but even then I would find myself jotting notes on the map itself so i didn't have to go look things up again.

Personal opinions there of course.

10-02-2009, 03:52 AM
In regards to the potential Papyrus debate: Papyrus is a bad font choice due to its overuse and that is why designers will pick on you if you use it. Now, Papyrus isn't an ugly font, it's just that because it was a good looking font people started using it... a LOT... for things it wasn't intended for, where it's intended for a specific mood and design and for decoration. Now, for all I usually don't like the font, I think it looks all right for the building labels here (though I do believe there are better choices) but it doesn't look good at all for the 'Village of' larger label text. I'd really use another font there.

I prefer the idea of text labels myself, to numbers, because numbers involve going back and forth to a key. Text labels clarify things better. I would definately kill unnecessary 'the's and consider putting a background behind each label, in comic book fashion, to make them clearer to read. I realize this will cover some of your art but your goal here is to have it convey information, after all, and if that information is contained on the art you need to make sure it's easy to read--a glow behind or outline will help that.

I agree with this:

I don't like keys. If I have to put work into figuring out what things are, i'm more likely to skip over them. Then again that's from a purely viewing perspective - from a gamemastering perspective they have their uses, but even then I would find myself jotting notes on the map itself so i didn't have to go look things up again.

Your map style is great, though! Beautiful artwork. I love the angle and the paths and the trees and the water and the lighting and oh, just everything! It's like a painting. But also a map! Beautiful.

Steel General
10-02-2009, 07:06 AM
Here's my $0.02 (or less due to inflation, etc. :)). If you're going to keep the area at the bottom where the title and compass rose are then I would go with the numbers and use that space for the key.

Otherwise I'd drop that whole portion and go with the labels (I also agree with dropping the "The"s), though maybe decrease the size a bit.

10-02-2009, 07:18 AM
Excellent! Great feedbak, folks! If I keep the tags as names, I'll delete the "The's" except where its part of an establishement's proper name, like "The Crooked Man" and "The Barns." Dropping Papyrus poses no problem.

There are quite a few individual building features my rush to prep for the Challenge didn't allow me to fit in. Most noteably, even the author's map has a big water wheel on the western side filling the space over the channel. But the buildings as a whole will continue to look largely alike, so I'm inclined to keep the name tags unless the publisher specifies otherwise. I know this publisher and have seen it do far more numbers than tags but, unlike Paizo, it doesn't shun keys and tags altogether. For the moment at least, I've got my choice.

10-02-2009, 08:45 PM
Super-quick tag revisions. Slightly larger font, Nyala this time (which Open Design asked me to use on my last project, unless it was Wes, I'll have to check). Not the coolest font, but I haven't loaded a plethora of groovy fonts onto my computer.

Legible enough? Tags overwhelm the map?

10-02-2009, 09:17 PM
I'm a fan of subtle tags that stay in the background unless you want to read them, but that's very much a me opinion. In the specific contxt of this map, if the focus is meant to be on the locations themselves, and the background is just to look pretty, then it works pretty well. No question as to what is where at this point :)

Incidentally, i forgot to mention - two things I really love about this map - the water (very very nice) and the roads - I love the cart track effect.

10-03-2009, 05:39 AM
A more subtle version. Not sure which I prefer. Still not lovin' the font.

10-03-2009, 07:30 AM
Nice move with the opacity, the labels are still very much there but not so in your face :)

Not sure what to suggest in regards with which font to use.. I kind of just go through my collection and eyeball it as i go for each map, I rarely remember the names.

10-03-2009, 08:37 AM
I like the opacity, but I'm agreeing with you on the font. It looks a little too ... I don't know, formal? Maybe something nicely handwritten.

Steel General
10-03-2009, 09:28 AM
The opacity change on the font is great, but I think it's still to large.

10-03-2009, 01:30 PM
Smaller, subtler, less-formal tags.

10-03-2009, 01:52 PM
This is better. I think subtle labels work best for this map.
Still no waterwheel? ;)

10-03-2009, 01:59 PM
Ahh, that feels right. It's always looked awesome, but now the labels make it even better. The only thing I'd do at this point is maybe add a tiny drop shadow; there's one or two that are a bit tough to read (in particular the Grist Mill and the Carding Barn).

10-03-2009, 04:58 PM
Here are all the tags (at least until the author or publisher changes them). Now it's back to the drawing board, quite literally. I need to add four entire buildings to the lower map (I ran out of time to begin those for the Challenge), alter one of them that I demolished too much (and perhaps more than one), and add features to the upper map buildings (notably two water wheels, plus other stuff).

Rather than adding a drop shadow to bring out text that's too faint against background elements, I can repaint those background elements to support the text. That should look more natural.

I also need to convince the author to let me add some kind of a haunting light source to a building or two in the bottom map.

10-03-2009, 10:53 PM
I like the haunting light idea, can't wait to see it. Also, I noticed this long before the challenge ended but never said anything ... I really like that compass.

10-04-2009, 06:18 AM
While admiring the map (which I like a lot!), I noticed something strange about the shadows in the "top" image. The shadows of the uppermost buildings are cast toward the upper right, while the shadows of the lowermost ones are cast toward the lower right. It's as if the illumination source were quite low and near the ground.

If the shadows were being cast by the Sun, shouldn't they all point in the same direction?

10-04-2009, 12:24 PM
If the shadows were being cast by the Sun, shouldn't they all point in the same direction?

Great question! The answer is, not unless the area within which the objects and their shadows fall is narrow.

[Puts on landscape-painter hat.] Outdoors, when depicting large areas from up close to the horizon, shadows seem to change their orientation as they move away from the viewer. The shadow angles are actually uniform. If the viewer stood the same distance away from each object in turn, each object’s shadow would have the same angle. But the viewer, in a big outdoor scene with considerable depth, is not the same distance from each object. The laws of linear perspective that govern how things look from the viewer's vantage point come into play. The effect for a light streaming from somewhat behind a series of objects (creating something like a 35-degree angle shadow for objects up close) is that shadows seem stand at a raked angle for close objects but at an almost flat angle for objects at the horizon. The more the artist depicts an object as beneath him from his vantage point, the steeper the object’s shadow angle will be (and the deeper top-to-bottom the shadow’s area will be as well).

Where shadows are cast at something like a 35-degree angle, as they are in my image, they'll look that way only for objects close up, for the ones almost beneath the viewer's feet. Perspective makes the shadows seem to get flatter ( become more horizontal) and thinner (top-to-bottom) as they move away from the viewer towards the horizon.

Here’s a quick sketch (full and detail) illustrating the principle. And here are a couple of photograph showing how shadow angles change. They're not great photos -- I only spent a few minutes looking for illustrations on the web -- but they make the point.

In the photo of the pillars’ shadows running down the portico, the light comes from the front right of the pillars rather than from behind them, so their shadows' angles lean away from the viewer. Moreover, the viewer’s vantage is narrow; it doesn’t widen out to show the shadows close to the viewer’s feet, which would make the angle of the closest shadows steeper9. Even so, you can see the angle of the shadows gradually flattening as they move away from the viewer.

Having said all of that, I eyeballed my shadows rather than sketching out all of their vanishing lines to the shadow vanishing point. It's possible some of my top shadows don't just lie flat but accidently tip upward. I'll have to check them all.

The bigger issue for my map is that I eyeballed all of my buildings' perspective and, most importantly, didn't bother to use three-point perspective. I stuck to two-point perspective, which diminishes the three-dimensional character of the map tremendously. I'd originally planned to draw out all of the three-point-perspective vanishing lines with care, but used the excuse of the Challenge's deadline to abandon that exceptionally time-consuming task. I'd already made the task particularly daunting by chosing to include such a gargantuan number of buildings all at different angles (so all with different vanishing points).

Perspective is a consistent problem with isometric maps. Cartographers routinely use only two point perspective in isometric maps and don't have objects diminish in size and flatten (and their shadows flatten their angles) as they move back in space. Hence, as a landscape painter, isometric maps always look disturbingly unnatural. They're fun and very informative, but their deliberate decision to discard half of the perspective rules always makes them smell . . . odd.

10-04-2009, 01:34 PM
That's a great writeout Ashenvale... I always thought shadows should all be cast the in same direction, so you opened my eyes :)

10-04-2009, 01:37 PM
Oh, and looking at your map again... maybe you can add some cows or sheep to the "good" village. Just a suggestion, it doesn't need cattle, but it might make the map look even more great.

10-04-2009, 03:01 PM
Thanks for the clarification!

That does seem to make sense, even to a non-artist like myself.

10-04-2009, 08:01 PM
Is there a good, solid tutorial here on perspective rules? I'd hate to think our members are shaky on two- and three-point perspective if they're working with isometric maps (or even mountain clones that depict mountains from the side).

10-04-2009, 09:30 PM
I don't remember one being here at the guild and I've never looked for one on the web (learned it way back when). That's why I was asking you back in the challenge wip if you laid yours out or just eyeballed it...either way, nice. If you want to do one then go ahead, I'll give ya a good rating for a needed tut :)

10-04-2009, 10:06 PM
Shaping up delightfully. I'll have to read this thread up and down later when I have some time to absorb it.

10-05-2009, 12:55 PM
Almost off topic, Inkscape does support 2 point perspective (cubes at least) which can be handy as a guide for further work/painting/sketching.


You can also change the vanishing points for previously drawn items connected to those perspective points, and they will change to follow the new point(s).

-Rob A>