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Thread: Hi folks. I need to learn how to map the *entire* Spelljammer universe

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      Big Mac is offline
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    Post Hi folks. I need to learn how to map the *entire* Spelljammer universe

    Hi Cartographers.

    I'm a big fan of an out of print Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting called Spelljammer. Spelljammer is a (sometimes misunderstood) fantasy setting that takes Dungeons and Dragons adventures into space. Built around Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms (and Kara-Tur and other FR subsettings) the game wraps worlds in things called crystal spheres. Each crystal sphere contains a number of worlds (which can be of four elemental types) and the game involves the PCs visiting other worlds in the Known Spheres (or exploring strange new spheres). Dozens of worlds have been created (but not fully detailed) by TSR and GMs are also encouraged to sandbox their own planets.

    I've been looking at maps drawn by others for a few years now, but need to learn how to make them myself. Robert S. Conley (from Bat in the Attic) has put up some sandboxing tutorials which I hope to adjust to create a process that will help me create (or expand) Spelljammer worlds. Robert has made me realise that I need to design the geography of the world alongside its history and other details. Robert was really only aiming his tutorials at people designing a single world, but I'm going to want to knock out dozens of them (eventually).

    BTW: I highly recommend Robert's tutorials, for anyone who wants to flesh out their own world maps, but isn't sure how to do the non-cartographic stuff.

    Spelljammer has four types of worlds (based on the elements) and I'm expecting it to be hard to find tutorials for some of the weirder types.
    • Earth worlds,
    • Water worlds,
    • Air worlds and
    • Fire worlds.


    Earth worlds are terrestrial planets. While some are excessively large or small, I'm figuring that most of the tutorials and experts here will help me with that sort of thing.

    Water worlds are worlds that are mostly made from water. They might have floating islands on them or might have underwater cities. I'm figuring there are some people who have mapped things like Atlantis or done maps of sea currents. I'm guessing that regular cartography would be harder to do, but I could add details like bands of plankton or ice caps to make world maps be more than sheets of blue.

    Air worlds are usually giant gas planets. They might have rocky islands floating or tumbling in their atmosphere.

    Fire worlds are suns, or smaller balls of fire. But being D&D these often have fire creatures living on them. So I might need to make maps for some of them.

    If that isn't enough, Spelljammer has some unusual rules for gravity that make it possible for people to walk around on celestial bodies as large as Saturn or as small as asteroids. So the normal geological forces (that shape the land in most maps) may well not apply to a lot of the maps I'll need to create.

    And with small objects like asteroids (or the ships that sail in space) having double-sided gravity, I will often be needing to make a pair of maps with mirrored outlines that represent the top and bottom of something.

    Spelljammer also allows some weird shaped celestial bodies including:
    • Cubes,
    • Flatworlds,
    • Ribbon worlds,
    • Dyson spheres,
    • Clusters (of asteroids) and
    • Any other funky shape that someone can think of.


    So I could be needing to make all sorts of maps that break all the normal rules.

    Obviously that is a lot to learn. And I want to learn how to make country maps, town maps, building plans and (for SJ the all important) ship deck plans. And Spelljammer needs to have the sort of crystal sphere charts that you would normally see in a sci-fi game, like Traveller. But these need to be rendered in a fantasy style to help sell the fact that SJ is not a SF game.

    Needless to say I'm not entirely sure where to start. But looking at Rober S. Conley's tutorials, I think I need to start off with global maps and work down in size.

    Anyhoo. Hello!
    David "Big Mac" Shepheard
    New to cartography and seeking advice - eventual goal to make a large number of maps for the many worlds of the Spelljammer Campaign Setting

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      jtougas is offline
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    Spelljammer Woot!! thats a very ambitious idea and It should be fun to watch your progress (I remember trying to do a small map of Greyspace a dozen or so years ago but never got very far) Check out the tutorial section and post up a WIP we're a friendly bunch and love to offer feedback..
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      mearrin69 is offline
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    Welcome to the Guild! That's an ambitious project. I never played Spelljammer but always thought it looked like a fun setting. Some of what you want (mapping Earth-like worlds and locations) is right here. A few of the odder things you mentioned can be cobbled together from the techniques you'll learn along the way. A couple of them you might have to pioneer on your own. It's a worthy project, though, and I'd be happy to help out with advice if I can. I've been working on a ship battlemap for a bit now (link) and have maybe a little experience that can help with deckplans. So. Yeah. Pick something and start working on a map and then post a work-in-progress in the appropriate forum.
    M

    NB Neogi kinda rock. They're from Spelljammer, no? And those colonial hippo things?

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    Are you doing world to regional to city/town all the way to encounter? And by encounter I mean its like dungeon type areas and popular locales/points of interest? Because that's a lot of work haha. But worth it in some ways. I know that the Cartographer's Guild has the CWBP (Cooperative Worldbuilding Project) but unfortunately with the project all maps aren't in nearly in the same style or range of styles. If you do this their will be a much more cohesive note throughout the world. Wish you luck and welcome!
    Cheers, Julien

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    Google-Fu......HEEEEEEEEEYAAAAAAAA!

    http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&so...=&oq=&gs_rfai=

    And, there is talk of a 4e version in 2011: http://www.theweem.com/2010/09/14/sp...er-4e-in-2011/

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    I really like that sandbox write up as a disciplined approach to creating a fantasy world. Take a look at the mapping quickstart thread (at the top of this subforum) for an overview of tools and basic techniques. It's sounds a huge project, don't rush the mapping side of it. Work on finding a style that you're comfortable with and which is easily replicated.
    Best of luck

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      Big Mac is offline
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    Post Re: Hi folks. I need to learn how to map the *entire* Spelljammer universe

    Wow! That is a lot of replies!

    Quote Originally Posted by jtougas View Post
    Spelljammer Woot!! thats a very ambitious idea and It should be fun to watch your progress (I remember trying to do a small map of Greyspace a dozen or so years ago but never got very far) Check out the tutorial section and post up a WIP we're a friendly bunch and love to offer feedback..
    There is a ton-o-stuff to be done for Spelljammer. Probably far too much for myself alone. I'm in touch with some other people who make Spelljammer art. In fact I got press-ganged into being an admin at the Spelljammer Image Group (on Flickr).

    I'd love to see what your map of Greyspace looked like. I've got to say that I'm slightly dissatisfied with the original canon sphere map style, as it looks far too like science fiction art for something that is supposed to be fantasy space. I would rather see crystal sphere maps that retain the SJ symbols, but look a lot more like sea charts. I was talking about this to a guy called John "Paladine" Baxter (on the Spelljammer Mailing List) about this and he knocked up some pretty great looking maps of Greyspace.

    (One of the things I really like about Paladine's charts, is that he has altered the positions of the outer planets, in order to chop off the outer parts of the orbits and get more of the central area onto the page. That is something I'd like to do myself, when I eventually attempt a sphere map.)

    Quote Originally Posted by mearrin69 View Post
    Welcome to the Guild! That's an ambitious project. I never played Spelljammer but always thought it looked like a fun setting. Some of what you want (mapping Earth-like worlds and locations) is right here. A few of the odder things you mentioned can be cobbled together from the techniques you'll learn along the way. A couple of them you might have to pioneer on your own. It's a worthy project, though, and I'd be happy to help out with advice if I can. I've been working on a ship battlemap for a bit now (link) and have maybe a little experience that can help with deckplans. So. Yeah. Pick something and start working on a map and then post a work-in-progress in the appropriate forum.
    M
    I love your ship. Over on The Piazza, there is a guy called Twin Agate Dragons, who is hoping to get blank deck plans done for all of the ships of Spelljammer. A guy called Leroy Van Camp III started doing this years back, but only did some of them. I figure that blank ships would be great images to load into the bottom layer of a drawing package (GIMP, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro) and then use as the basis of a bespoke ship plan.

    Quote Originally Posted by mearrin69 View Post
    NB Neogi kinda rock. They're from Spelljammer, no? And those colonial hippo things?
    Yep. Neogi and giff (the hippo-headed guys who love guns) are from Spelljammer. Some of the SJ monsters were actually raided from an earlier TSR sci-fi game, so I might need to buy that for further inspiration on "racial style" of maps that are supposed to be designed by an NPC from their race.

    Quote Originally Posted by geamon View Post
    Are you doing world to regional to city/town all the way to encounter? And by encounter I mean its like dungeon type areas and popular locales/points of interest? Because that's a lot of work haha. But worth it in some ways. I know that the Cartographer's Guild has the CWBP (Cooperative Worldbuilding Project) but unfortunately with the project all maps aren't in nearly in the same style or range of styles. If you do this their will be a much more cohesive note throughout the world. Wish you luck and welcome!
    I might need to do world, to region, to city/town, as I don't have a map-monkey to do them for me!

    I actually had a brief look around that Cooperative Worldbuilding Project. It looked very interesting. With the different styles it reminded me of a BBC TV program where Rolf Harris (yes the guy that draws kangaroos) got a ton-o-people to all do pictures that were stuck together to make a gigantic painting. That seems to be what you lot are doing (only with a giant map instead of a painting).

    I think there is going to need to be an element of colaboration among Spelljammer fans, as I don't think that any one person can do everything by themselves. (Although we have a couple of guys in the fan community who come pretty darn close - they actually went to Kenzer and Company and got them to buy and publish a SJ reboot called HackJammer.)

    Quote Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
    Google-Fu......HEEEEEEEEEYAAAAAAAA!

    http://www.google.ca/images?hl=en&so...=&oq=&gs_rfai=
    I actually see a few of my SJ motivational posters in there!

    Quote Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
    And, there is talk of a 4e version in 2011: http://www.theweem.com/2010/09/14/sp...er-4e-in-2011/
    I already heard that rumour (and did my own bit to spread it about with a picture I planted in a few places )

    But that cover picture is great. I'll have to "distribute" that to some people that I know will appreciate its beauty.

    Quote Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
    Oh, and Welcome to the Guild!
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by ravells View Post
    I really like that sandbox write up as a disciplined approach to creating a fantasy world. Take a look at the mapping quickstart thread (at the top of this subforum) for an overview of tools and basic techniques. It's sounds a huge project, don't rush the mapping side of it. Work on finding a style that you're comfortable with and which is easily replicated.
    Best of luck
    Thanks. I think you are right. The "replication" thing is something that is vital if I'm going to give a feel of consistency to a bunch of maps that are supposed to be parts of the same world.

    I've been floundering around trying to complete a few projects for ages. Robert S. Conley's method is something I want to try to come at this from another angle (and actually get some meat onto the bones via maps). It's been a few years since I did any art stuff. I've had a couple of lessons with Photoshop, but I've got a lot to learn.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steel General View Post
    Welcome Aboard!
    Thanks!

    Now I'll have to actually do something!
    David "Big Mac" Shepheard
    New to cartography and seeking advice - eventual goal to make a large number of maps for the many worlds of the Spelljammer Campaign Setting

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
    I've been looking at maps drawn by others for a few years now, but need to learn how to make them myself. Robert S. Conley (from Bat in the Attic) has put up some sandboxing tutorials which I hope to adjust to create a process that will help me create (or expand) Spelljammer worlds. Robert has made me realise that I need to design the geography of the world alongside its history and other details. Robert was really only aiming his tutorials at people designing a single world, but I'm going to want to knock out dozens of them (eventually).

    BTW: I highly recommend Robert's tutorials, for anyone who wants to flesh out their own world maps, but isn't sure how to do the non-cartographic stuff.
    Appreciate the compliment.

    As for adapting my sandbox tutorial I do have a Traveller Sandbox post. What I am trying to do with my How to create a Sandbox tutorial is manage the amount of detail you need to create. I focus on a 200 by 150 mile regions due to my experience with D&D style fantasy campaigns but different sub-genres and campaign styles could have different focuses. As you observed Spell Jammer wouldn't focuses on such a small area.

    What I would recommend is that you use the Traveller Sandbox to get your broad overview and then apply the Fantasy Sandbox steps to various worlds "of interest". Substituting world for region. For example the home base I describe in Fantasy Sandbox could be the main city or rather the most interesting city.

    Good luck.

    Rob Conley

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      ravells is offline
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    Hi Robert and welcome to the Guild. Just had a read of your Traveller sandbox tutorial and it looks like a great way to go about populating a sector (although personally I would build the information around plots). Do you have a finished sample (either Traveller or fantasy) which we can look at? I had a poke around on your blog but couldn't find one!

    Regarding maps for Traveller, have you seen Isomage's sub-sector and world map generators?

    (Apologies to Mac for jacking the thread, if this goes on I'll create another one).

    All the best

    Ravs

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