View Full Version : Imperium Saerdastim

Gregorus Prime
10-06-2009, 07:53 PM
At long last, I've finally gotten to work on the main continent for my campaign. I figured if I put it off any longer my group's current campaign will end before I can get all the maps finished.

What I'm posting here is in the planning stages. The continent's shape is pretty much just how I want it. What I'm asking for is advice on placement of biomes and geographical features. I think this rough makes sense for what I want. I figure the heart of the Roman-esque empire, the little kingdom that grew into a republic and then went on a continent-conquering warpath that ensured every last speck of dirt was owned by the human known as Holy Emperor Saerdast, to be centered in that big eastern projection bordered by mountains to the west and north. Above that are the forests that were once the heart of the Eladrin empire that collapsed several millennia before the rise of the human empire. To the northeast, the Nordic-flavored goliath and shifter kingdoms/trading hubs/nomad lands that have a tributary relationship with the Imperium.

Northwest, more human lands with a bit more of a medieval feel to them, all stone castles, sharecroppers, and a smattering of independently-owned farming communities where people would rather live as poor landowners and live with the risk of raiders and famine than give up their rights for the stability and security of life as plantation slaves. Southwest, the dwarf and drow kingdoms, who like the goliaths and shifters decided to live with tribute and occupation rather than get embroiled in a bloody war that they would eventually lose. At least this way they get to keep their own governments.

So please, keeping these things in mind, tell me if you can see any big problems with my planned layout. I think the wetlands might be a little too extensive for the scale I'm planning (very, very big, this is a large continent), but just give any advice you can.

10-07-2009, 08:00 AM
Looks good to me. The wetlands may indeed be a little large, but you can tweak those as you go.

Gregorus Prime
10-08-2009, 03:43 AM
Worked a bit on this. Tell me what you think.

Steel General
10-08-2009, 07:38 AM
Not to bad so far, though when zoomed in to full-rez everything seems a bit fuzzy.

10-08-2009, 09:45 AM
Looking pretty good, I like the colors alot. The only thing I'd add to the fuzziness already mentioned is that the ocean texture looks a little too tiled, imho. You might think about either toning it down a little so that it's less obvious, or adding some sort of smear or displace to break up the tiling a bit.

Gregorus Prime
10-08-2009, 10:27 PM
I've changed up the shapes of the forest, plains, and tundra masks and I think those parts are looking much better now. But I hate doing mountains so very much.

If I make any part too thick then it all comes out as a big congealed mass. If I make them too thin, as I have in this example, too many parts are difficult to make out. And then of course there is the constant problem of giving them depth.

Does anyone know an easy way of making sinous, tapering lines with lots of similarly-shaped branches in either GIMP or Inkscape? That would probably make experimenting with these mountains a lot easier.

10-09-2009, 12:35 AM
You could make a brush that looks sort of like a snake spine with ribs that stick out but put a little wave in the ribs. Then warp the spine once it has been painted, then use some blurs or glows or airbrushing to flesh out some area around it. Here's a pic of a spine brush that I have as an example to show you how you could take something similar and make it into a mountain spine brush.

Gregorus Prime
10-09-2009, 02:25 AM
I don't know how to make brushes, and I'm working with nothing but a mouse. No pressure sensitivity with that.

Free-selecting is the only thing left to me for the moment, I suppose.

EDIT: Made some adjustments to my map. I think given the scale I'm working in the mountains are about the right size. My only concern is that they're too sparse, and that the ones bordering the wetlands in the south don't stand out enough. Slapping a height map overlay onto the plains could add something, too, I suppose. Thoughts?

10-09-2009, 10:07 AM
I had two thought while looking at it. There are no hills right now so adding some might help beef up the mountains. The other thing might be a question of scale...the forests look good but also look like really big trees when compared to the mountains. So maybe if you put some smaller texture in there to make it look like a billion trees instead of a handful it might look better.

10-09-2009, 10:31 AM
Maybe the mountains are properly placed, but they seem awfully thin, and as Ascension mentioned, next to them are some really bushy forests. Why such big trees and such skinny mountains? I think you need to both thicken those mountains (throw in some hills) and make much less "big" trees.


Gregorus Prime
10-10-2009, 01:25 AM
Yet another crack at mountaineering. The problem mountain chain bordering the southern wetlands might have to be taken care of on its own. I'll have to make some adjustments to the forest mask as well, but I think this is better than what I've had before. I do think the height map for the terrain makes a difference.

Looking at the mountains now I think it's awesome how far I've come from my first map. I might have to go back and re-do that one using the techniques I've taught myself.

Steel General
10-10-2009, 08:33 AM
Looking at the mountains now I think it's awesome how far I've come from my first map. I might have to go back and re-do that one using the techniques I've taught myself.

That in and of itself is part of the reason I enjoy this place so much.

10-10-2009, 10:02 AM
They're looking pretty good!

The only thing I'd suggest is to make your spurs less even. They tend to come out from each side of the main range at the same point and to the same length, which makes the ranges kinda look like big centipedes.

Gregorus Prime
10-10-2009, 04:17 PM
Luckily I was smart enough to keep the jagged shapes I based the mask off of this time, so it shouldn't take too long to do just that.

I'm thinking I should also add some brownish-yellow patches to what I want to be the warmer or drier parts of the plains, just for variety's sake.

Gregorus Prime
10-11-2009, 04:36 PM
I made some adjustments to the forest and mountain shapes/masks and added some noise, discoloration, and semi-transparent mask areas to the plains layer. I think the map looks much better for it. I'm mostly satisfied with it now and can start on lakes and rivers soon.

Gregorus Prime
10-27-2009, 03:28 AM
Hey how about that I'm not dead at all.

Been a bit sidetracked recently. I did finally make the time to put in rivers, and they look terrible, but damned if I know how to make them look better. Luckily during this bit of downtime I've had plenty of time to get some more ideas for my campaign and even roughly pencil out the skeleton of an adventure.

Steel General
10-27-2009, 06:47 AM
Your rivers may be a bit to wide, and it appears that your ocean texture is 'taking over'. You might consider doing the rivers in a solid color on their own layer (above the ocean but below the land so they don't appear to float.)

Also, this may just be me but when I zoom in to full resolution the map appears very fuzzy/blurry.

Overall it looks pretty nice.

Gregorus Prime
10-27-2009, 05:54 PM
The rivers are their own layer with their own noise effect. Just having a flat sky blue looks absolutely terrible. But when you say below the land, do you mean below the mountains and forests? Also, I'm afraid that if I make them any thinner they would be too hard to see.

ANd yes, I know about the blurriness. I'll have to redefine the masks a bit, reduce the blur effect on them and such.

Gregorus Prime
11-06-2009, 10:02 PM
Bumping yet again, I really need some advice.

I've sharpened up the masks on the forest and mountain layers to make them stand out a bit more, but I'm completely lost on the rivers. I need a way to make them show up through the forests (hopefully without redoing the forests themselves) and to stand out against the background without making them look like they're floating, which is all that adding a shore stroke does even if I ensure it doesn't show up on the mountains and forests.

Any ideas?

11-06-2009, 11:08 PM
What I do for my rivers is to put them just above the basic terrain but below all other terrain like mountains and forests. I then erase where these features go over the river with a very low opacity eraser. This allows the water to just peak through a little bit while maintaining some integrity to the forest. You could use the same principle on a mask but instead use a very low opacity brush with white.

Gregorus Prime
11-08-2009, 05:00 PM
I decided to make the forested river areas slightly transparent and darker. I think it achieves the desired effect. I'm eager to finish this thing so I can start laying down labels and such, then move into the individual regions of the map from there. Tell me what you think.

Gregorus Prime
01-09-2010, 03:15 AM
Oh man, it's been quite a while. I've been slacking off a bit on my cartography and I just wanted to see if anyone was still interested in my stupid map. :P

Anyway, as you can see the topography itself is pretty much finalized and I've moved on to labels. The pillars are human cities, the pentagrams tiefling, masks goliaths/shifters, towers eladrin, spiders drow, and vaguely Communist tools overlaid atop one another are the dwarves. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfied with the roads and borders but they'll do, I suppose. Any criticism is welcome.

01-09-2010, 01:29 PM
The only thing that I notice is that the lines are dominating. For purely mappy reasons that is a good thing as the information is more important but for artsy reasons I'd make the lines thinner and/or maybe a little more transparent to let the terrain come back. The symbols look really nice but the glows are a bit dominating as well, maybe reduce the size of the glow or the opacity there as well. But overall you've got your head wrapped around this right, it just needs some subtlety. Nice work and nowhere near "stupid".

01-09-2010, 05:29 PM
Personally, I think that's pretty damn nice looking! The terrain layout is natural and makes sense, I love that sea patterning, and the idea of using different symbols for different races' cities is cool.

One question: what are the two-headed eagles, little temples, and the ships representing?

Gregorus Prime
01-10-2010, 12:57 AM
The Aquilas are Imperial capitols, the pillars are Imperial cities, and the boats are (what else) ports.

01-12-2010, 02:42 PM
I strongly agree with Ascension! The map looks great, but the lines are so strong that they obscure the background too much.

01-12-2010, 03:20 PM
I love how you did your forest, it looks great.
I agree about the lines, I also noticed some of the 'glows' around your symbols have colours which don't really 'fit in' entirely with the rest of the map. Especially the green around the towers and the pink for the spiders seem a little too saturated and 'unnatural' in comparison with the landscape colours surrounding them. (just a personal opinion btw, if you don't agree, feel free to ignore me ;) ).

Gregorus Prime
01-13-2010, 10:03 PM
Thanks for the advice, everyone. I've re-done the roads in a thinner line that is still plainly visible but not quite so overpowering. I actually like the symbols as they are now. I made half of them from scratch in GIMP and adapted the other half from existing symbols I found, and I assure you the bright glows are intentionally high-contrast so that they stand out more. I'm reluctant to re-do them completely since it's a lot of tedious work to copy them over, scale them, clone them, place them, and glow them all over again, but I think reducing opacity on those glows (with selective erasure) might be a good idea.

I'm dealing with labeling right now. The mountain ranges still need names, as do the rivers, comically oversized lakes, and the major this-is-a-big-deal roads. Recent dental work is causing me discomfort so my progress is a little slowed at the moment, and I have only the faintest inkling of what I want my group's first adventure to be anyway, so maybe taking a break on it to hammer out some more abstract ideas is a good course of action at this point.

Gregorus Prime
01-18-2010, 12:07 AM
Hello, everyone. I have made some adjustments to the map itself in light of criticism elsewhere on how I have my biomes laid out. I've made the central province drier and redone the forests and rivers to make a little bit more sense. It's even given me some insight on what happens in that central province as well. (Rich flood plains make for ideal conditions for raising cash crops, etc.)

Labeling of cities and mountains is done. Next comes the little things: rivers, roads, forests, etc.

01-18-2010, 02:15 AM
I still think that your graphics (thick roads, wide glows, and large text) are overwhelming the map underneath but, shrug, if that's how ya want it then so be it.

01-18-2010, 02:22 AM
I can see what Ascension is talking about. It has a sort of game-board feel where the icons are more important than the terrain. If that is the intent then you have achieved it. If not it's still a nice map.

Gregorus Prime
01-18-2010, 02:33 AM
If the text gets any smaller then I begin to lose details. If I lose or downplay the glows too much then the text and icons are not legible. I plan on playing around with transparency levels once I get everything labeled, but I'll keep your criticisms in mind.

EDIT: Scaled down text/icons for some areas for view as comparison. Roads and borders re-drawn, province/mountain range labels blurred slightly and made less opaque.

I'll probably have to re-do the text if I go with the smaller icons. If they look bad I probably wouldn't mind re-doing the icons as well. Tell me what you think.

01-18-2010, 02:42 PM
Looking better. I'm totally fine with the icon size, they look great. I'm guessing that purple is for borders and red is for roads. The thing about the roads is that they look like the blue rivers with the same glow...that's where I get all mixed up. Since your glows are color coordinated by country why not just use say a green text with a green icon for one country and red text with a red icon for a different country and then put a small black stroke on them? At any rate, it is looking better.

Gregorus Prime
01-18-2010, 05:01 PM
They're provinces of an empire, actually, as the thread title indicates. The rivers don't have any glow underneath them, that's meant to be the shoreline. I guess I can go back and spread it a bit or make the effect stronger. I really don't like the purple borders but I can't think of any other way to make it stand out without making what's underneath illegible. And you're now seeing why I had such strong lines for the roads as well: they really do need to stand out.

01-18-2010, 06:29 PM
You could use a solid black line for the borders (maybe with a small low opacity glow) and change the roads to a dotted low-opacity tan color and that should stand out well against the terrain.

Gregorus Prime
01-19-2010, 02:00 AM
Here is another new version. All of the icons and labels for them have been re-done. It's frustrating that the colors go a bit off and it loses some definition even if I export it as an uncompressed PNG file, but it's pointless to lament such limitations.

I think this version strikes a good balance between making the important things stand out without obscuring the topography too much.

01-22-2010, 01:37 AM
You definitely have much clearer roads--those look spot-on. Icons look great. I thinkThe city names look better with a single-color glow as well. I think, though, that the problem with the text readability is not the size or the effect behind them but the font itself. Those skinny letters aren't very readable at smaller sizes. Does that font have a bold weight? If not, I would try a font that has more weight to it.

Gregorus Prime
01-23-2010, 08:30 AM
That IS the bold typeface. Trajan is the name of the font and it's the only font I've found that has the nice strong Roman feel I need but isn't so ridiculously thin that it's completely illegible at smaller sizes.

But anyway, the map is done after an all-night mapping session. Tomorrow I take an uncompressed PNG export of it down to the local copy center to get it printed on photo paper and laminated for protection. And before you ask, yes I left most of the roads blank on purpose. The Western Road and the Imperial Road are the two most important roads on the continent and to be frank I didn't want to think up a whole bunch of road names that will probably never get used.

Still plenty of prep work to do for my session tomorrow, though. For one thing, I still need to write up an adventure. I'll put it up to a vote to see if they still want to run my most likely half-done adventure come tomorrow or let someone else run one more time.

01-25-2010, 11:19 AM
Well if you're looking for a good Roman font with a little weight to it I would recommend Roman SD (http://www.dafont.com/roman-sd.font) from dafont.com (it's completely free as well ;)), I've been using it exclusively on my current map Hestia Revisited (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?8896-Hestia-Revisited-[WIP-Fantasy-Map]/page2) if you want to see what it looks like in practice.

I hope that helps with your current dilemma. :)