View Full Version : [wip] The Isle of Cathava

12-13-2009, 07:38 PM
Recently after a 20 year gap I returned to thinking about D&D. I had ran a campaign many years ago and now my daughters are older and interested I wished to run a small campaign for them. This time however I wanted to learn more of the art of making a fantasy world live and breath. Luckily I had joined this website a while ago, when I felt the urge to do some role-playing returning.

My first thought was to make a map, I had often found in the past that just the act of putting something onto paper started me thinking about what was happening in that area of the map. So after some time spent looking at all the cool tools available to people these days I was most intrigued by a product used by a number of people here, Fractal Terrain Pro. I already had access to Photoshop and Illustrator at work, so I went and purchased Campaign Cartographer and Fractal Terrain Pro to round off my Software collection.

Fractal Terrain Pro turned out to be fascinating and the tutorials on this site and the authors helped make it usable. After attempting to make three or four worlds from the ground up, I finally got the hang of it (no expert mind, but I could get it to do most of the things I want). My latest world with the right touch ups, desert making and temperature fiddling turned out the way I wanted it to be. It took that long for me to "get" that I had to use the product to make the worlds I wanted, rather expect it to churn out perfect worlds from scratch. Once I "got" it, it turned out to be a great tool for the job and I would recommend it to anyone "making worlds"!

Armed with a world, I set out to find a 200mile long island to play with. After a quick look I noticed one perfectly placed in the southern hemisphere, and after a quick session of mountain raising and temperature fiddling it met my requirements perfectly. Oddly I also notice it had not had any generated rivers on it, although the rest of my world had a number, but more on this later.

Having found my Island, I named it the "Isle of Cathava" and saved the "View" of it in the view manager, and set about extracting the useful information from Fratal Terrain Pro. First of all I produced a large JPG file about 4096 pixels wide, with the shading turned on for land, and all the altitudes set to white, and the sea was black. I took this and opened it up in Photoshop, where I captured and moved the shading to a new layer, made a blank white outline of the island on another layer and saved it all for later as a PSD file. You can see an example below and if clicked upon will take you to a higher resolution image.

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavabasicthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavabasicsmall.jpg)

In FTP the island is pretty much covered in Temperate forest, apart from the top of the large mountain, which has some ice and tundra. The background story had a fallen Hobgoblin civilisation inhabiting the island, which had fragmented into a number of different tribes of Hobgoblins, Goblins and Bugbears (with a few other nasties thrown in here and there). Human settlers had arrived 40 years or so ago on the southern tip of the island and had rapidly spread north deforesting and settling en route.

Moving forward I wanted at least three maps, showing terrain, contours and political. As the contour information is held in FTP, I saved my view as a CC2 file, took it into campaign cartographer, where I saved it straight back out again as a DXF file. I loaded the DXF file into Adobe Illustrator, selected all the contour lines and cut and pasted them as a smart object onto my map in photoshop in another window. After a small amount of resizing and placement it fit exactly where I wanted it to and I had the start of my contour map.

With a little selecting and painting of Hypsometric colors stolen from an 1880's french map on reliefshading.com (http://www.reliefshading.com/colors/hypsometric.html) I had the basics of a reasonable contour map, after quickly turning on the shading layer (relief from now on) and halving the opacity we end up with a contour map which you can see below, click on it for a larger version: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavacontourthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavacontoursmall.jpg)

With the contour map almost finished (still need rivers), I moved onto playing with textures for the terrain map, this process was more complex than I can explain here. Suffice to say the southern tip has significantly less forest to account for the encroaching settlers. Anyway to cut to the chase here it is, unfinished, but starting to come together. Again, you can click for a larger version: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavaterrainthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavaterrainsmall.jpg)

As you can see I added a scale, compass rose and some text, I am still unhappy with the scale and plan to remove it and try again with something less modern looking, the rest is ok. Also please note no rivers ...

Then with increasing confidence I grabbed hold of Wilbur (from the author of FTP), exported the view of my island as an MDR and headed off to generate some rivers. Only to be sadly thwarted, when the rivers seemed to do all kinds of weird things. If anyone else can get it working, I would love to see the result, here is a link to the MDR file I exported from FTP.

cathava.mdr (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathava.mdr)

Not being one to be put off, until I can work out how to get Wilbur to do what I want, I read the river police thread and attempted to add my own rivers. It would be most helpful if anyone could check them over for me and tell me where I have made any mistakes in placement. Once again please click for a larger image, in addition this time a yet larger image is also available below: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavarivertestthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavarivertestsmall.jpg)

Much larger image (2mb) (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavarivertestlarge.jpg)

There are notes regarding river placement on the map itself, these reflect changes which need to be transferred back to the source maps.

Please note these maps are all works in progress and as such may be a little rough in certain parts. I would be interested in any comments anyone has to share as this is my first foray into mapping.


12-13-2009, 09:06 PM
I'd say that you have done your homework quite well...A+. The author of Wilbur is a member here, Waldronate, and he should be able to help you with anything there. Other than that, welcome and great work so far.

12-13-2009, 10:45 PM
Wow phenomenal work! Well done indeed!

12-14-2009, 12:42 AM
My suspicions are that your two doubly-forked rivers immediately above your compass rose might actually join via the little "point" of the lower contour. AND that many of your rivers will be "streams/creeks/things that aren't rivers but still drain water"

12-14-2009, 01:45 AM
great looking map

Steel General
12-14-2009, 05:54 AM
Very nice...looking forward to seeing more from you.

12-14-2009, 07:29 AM
Rivers. Always a touchy point with software. The models are always wrong and the users demand so much.

The most likely reason that FT didn't find any rivers is that FT runs rivers at fairly low resolution. If the map area is 200 miles across then FT might be able to put almost one river simulation grid cell across the area. Not conducive to getting godo results. Pulling the area out and trying it in Wilbur is a good idea. There is a difficulty with this process, however, as you have found out.

FT uses an algorithm that generates information at all scales. To get a semi-plausible fractal forgery, the algorithm generates both positive and negative values that sum to zero on average. The BIG lumps during the initial generation process (positive lumps = continents, negative lumps = oceans) are modified with progressively smaller and smaller positive and negative lumps to get the final result. This process unfortunately gives little basins all over the place at all scales. Rivers run into these basins and stop because the river routing tool in Wilbur and FT both assume that the landscape flows downward to desired basins. See the attached image for an example of what rivers look like when routed from your MDR before and after fill basins.

To fix the problem with river routing in Wilbur, do a fill basins operation before finding rivers. It will fill in your lakes, but that's a minor nuisance that can be easily fixed (see http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/FunWithWilburVol5/index.html for an example). The second image is the result of playing with the tutorial referenced above.

The river network shown is fairly plausible, but there are some minor issues. When you're routing rivers on a contour map, remember that rivers ALWAYS cross contour at right angles. It's the path of steepest descent. The rivers joining in the little basin in the middle-right of the map seem a little awkward. Otherwise a pretty good job. I'm too lazy to put that much effort into my work, though.

12-14-2009, 08:43 AM
I added a mask to get only the lake you wanted (to a first approximation) and added a little noise to prevent the rivers from being too straight to get the image shown below. It's still the generic Wilbur color scheme, though. I should probably stop now.

12-14-2009, 09:19 AM
@ Everyone : Thank you for your comments, I am pleased at the response for a first try.

@ Waldronate : You definitely shouldn't stop, its really good to see what can be achieved with Fractal Terrain Pro/Wilbur at such a scale. It looks amazing ... You don't perchance have the MDR file available do you? <grins> I would love to see how you did that and it would save me a lot of work!

Its exactly what I was trying to achieve, thank you so much for all the effort. Its nice to know I was on the right track heading to Wilbur to add the river detail and even more pleasing to see it looks great.

Is there any easy way to extract the river data from the MDR, so I can convert it to a vector form in Illustrator or some such ?

I kind of get the feeling that at this point, I leave the work in FTP and work up close in Wilbur for each section of the map that I am interested in adding detailed rivers to, before moving to the final phase of making it prettier in Photoshop / Illustrator.

Ok I am off to experiment some more with Wilbur!

12-14-2009, 12:08 PM
I didn't keep the MDR file. It only takes a couple of minutes to generate it so there didn't seem much need. It was pretty much a basin fill followed by selecting everything above 0 followed by a uniform noise of 10 followed by a height clip between 0.1 and 100000. Then a basin fill and river run to get the river mask.

The final image was assembled in Photoshop from bits and pieces made in Wilbur as per the Wilbur Rivers and Lakes tutorial. The only things I did differently were to use the basins image and select only the lakes I wanted, turn that image into a black and white mask, then feed it back into Wilbur as a selection mask for another Basin Delta round.

I keep hoping to get some new features into Wilbur that would simplify this sort of thing but I just can't seem to get the magic combination of free time and enthusiasm at the same instant.

The next step would be to extract the colors from the base map you were using and set those colors as the height information followed by slapping a contour shader on top of that.

There isn't a good way to export the vector contours from Wilbur. Note that you can take the MDR that you modified in Wilbur and then put it back into FT as a new world as shown in http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/ThereandBackAgain/ - just fudge the boundaries so that the top and bottom are at +/- 90 and the left and right at whatever place is appropriate to keep the image aspect ratio. All of the FT tools including river finding will then be available with effectively greatly increased resolution. Note that some of the tools won't be semantically correct (great circle distance computations, for example, will be totally meaningless; climate, temperature, rainfall, etc., will also be incorrect), but most of the tools don't try to deal with context too much.

12-17-2009, 07:34 PM
Well that all took longer than I hoped!

The good news is I managed to recreate the results Waldronate got in Wilbur and generate some lakes and rivers successfully. Although I kept on getting straightline rivers eventually by experimenting with higher and higher values of noise finally managed to get some wiggly rivers!

I pulled two things out of Wilbur, first there was the rivers (click on image for more detail): -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/riversthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/riverssmall.jpg)

The reason the rivers are against a black background is so I can easily extract them by selecting the colour black and deleting it, leaving just the rivers.

Then there were the Basins, destined to become lakes. (click on image for more detail): -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/basinsthumb.png (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/basinssmall.png)

Once again to ease extraction they are against a black background.

Obviously there were far to many basins, so after some pruning I arrived at what I considered to be a reasonable number of lakes as you can see in the next image: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/finallakesthumb.png (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/finallakessmall.png)

From that point on it was merely working out how to represent them on the Terrrain map and the Contour Map as you will soon see.

I simplified and reduced the scale bar on the map and was happier with the result, and finally I bordered the maps to finish them off.

Here is the finished Contour Map: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalcontourthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalcontoursmall.jpg)

Click here for the full size map (2.5mb) (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalcontour.jpg)

There was slight shadowing on the rivers to make them stand out and the Lakes also had a minor photoshop treatment to highlight their edges.

Finally the Terrain map: -

http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalterrainthumb.jpg (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalterrainsmall.jpg)

Click here for the full size map (2.5mb) (http://www.spellbound.co.uk/maps/cathavafinalterrain.jpg)

The rivers in the terrain map are only visible in the unforested areas (as one would expect) and can be seen better in the lower south easter section of the map.

With these two maps complete, I have to consider the policital map next. This will be especially critical as I am planning on using Birthright rules to run a "meta" campaign and control all the countries.

I still am not quite sure as to a good example of map style to adopt for the political map, if anyone has any examples or recommendations I would be interested.


12-18-2009, 04:54 AM
Still not sure where to go with the Political map ... anyone got any recommendations for a political map for use with the old D&D supplement Birthright ?

12-18-2009, 04:59 AM
Hmm thats odd .. I made a post with some updated maps last night and it isn't showing, yet it just showed my comment about the political map.

Are all image postings subject to some kind of moderator review? ... or did something else swallow my post ?

12-18-2009, 05:14 AM
Well in case it was lost ... Here are the two latest maps

If the "lost post" ever turns up there are details about how to get "wiggly" rivers in wilbur and taking the basins and making them into lakes!

I also added a border and changed the scale to something more in keeping with the rest of the work.

12-18-2009, 05:35 AM
If it's any consolation, I've noticed that sometimes my posts get eaten by the Void as well. You're not alone :) I haven't noticed a pattern yet, I started thinking maybe there's some kind of backup or restoral that my posting times crossover with (I tend to do a lot of stuff after midnight, when most people are doing maintenance type stuff).

That having been said, nice maps! i like'em so far.

12-18-2009, 05:58 AM
It was indeed after midnight ... if it doesnt show up by tomorrow I will redo it over the weekend.

12-18-2009, 08:05 AM
We've been having this problem for about two weeks and we have no idea what's causing it. The one on the left looks really good to this ole sat-style mapper.

12-18-2009, 08:40 AM
Thank you Ascension, out of the two its my personal favourite also. However at an analysis level I can "use" the contour map more. It did make me think a bit about maps as artwork compared to usability, I came to the conclusion I had done the terrain map because I wished to "feel" what Cathava was like, while the contour map was to help me generate more information about Cathava. Basically a mixture of emotional content and intellectual content, both leading to a better understanding in their own way.

Hmm and that last paragraph was way too deep ...

If the other post has gone the way of the Dodo ... I will throw in some of the images I had taken showing the deveolpment of the rivers and basins/lakes.

There are three images, the riverssmall.jpg shows the succesful conclusion of experimenting with Wilbur. Waldronate may take a couple of minutes to produce that information, it took me a bit longer to be honest. The key discovery was the use of higher noise values to generate the "wiggly" rivers look I was after. When I used the recommended setting of about 10, I didn't get the look I was after, but around 14 or 15 and it fell into place.

The rest of the instructions supplied worked very well as did the tutorial referenced and got me the basins.png view you can see below. I then cleaned this up and decided to keep a number of the more pronounced lakes. Which led to the creation of finallakes.png.

Using photoshop I blended the lakes into the terrain map with subtle drop shadow, glow and bevelling. Theses blended effects were for tiny amounts in the 1-2 pixel regions and served to give a slightly pronounced edge effect to the lakes. A similar effect was produced for the rivers to make them stand out, after they were stripped out of the black background and placed on a seperate layer in the photoshop document.

12-18-2009, 09:56 PM
Those are beautiful, and about as fully-realized as I think anyone can get! Nice job.

12-19-2009, 01:30 AM
Thank you ... and finally the "missing" post appears above ... sorry for the duplication !

12-19-2009, 02:32 PM
The small amplitude noise works well if it's applied several times with frequent pitfills in between. I usually get best results with Absolute Magnitude noise and a touch of Percentage noise for high areas. The pitfill tends to drown small noise wigglies, but if you keep adding noise on top of the flat areas generated by pitfill, you eventually wind up with a lot of small variations. This also happens to be one of those weird exceptions where it is better to start in low-res resample up and build smaller and smaller details.

One thing I liked from Bryce was Slope Noise. I think I can do workaround for that effect in Wilbur. Build your desired initial hf, and save it. Create a greyscale slopemap in textures. Apply the texture as a selection. You may need to invert the selection cause I think Wilbur shows flat surfaces as white. Save the selection with a memorable name like slopeselect.bmp. Reload your saved hf, load your shiny new selection mask, and just add noise. But I digress.

Deterministic flow algorithms almost always fail in the same way. I personally prefer Wilbur's Incise Flow to the Flow Accumulation tool that comes with ArcGIS. That thing is uuuhg-lee! The biggest problem is rivers go straight right where real rivers get all wavy: on the flats. The problem is a lack of data on which to determine flow direction. Up in the hills, eroding a place down a few inches here, depositing things up a few inches there doesn't make much of a difference when the river is surrounded by steep slopes hundreds of feet high. If the river is in an area where the surface is flat, a bit of deposition will turn the stream drastically away and a bit of erosion will pull the river in. If you don't simulate realistic erosion in excruciating detail with a lot of iterations you don't get that effect. I've seen sims like this, they usually cover a short reach(tens to hundreds of meters maybe, not more than a few miles) in very high resolution. They're also time-consuming.

Many, very subtle iterations of Incise Flow and Precipiton Erosion with frequent small amplitude noise applications might get you a decent approximation, but that would be pretty slow, too.

It might be nice to have a tool that determines limits of a river meander area based on a threshold for local elevation change. Say a selection of all areas within a user-selected height above a nearby part of an existing river selection. Then you could draw new river meanders inside the selection boundaries.