Touenkoku / Taoyangou
Yes, it's a Fantasy China through a Japanese lens for a multiverse of manga- and anime-trope based stories with one side character taking part in all of them. The idea for the setting (using a protagonist who lives at the crossroads of different genre domains and acts as a go-between and a surprise factor) is versatile, and I've had two versions in my head: Elizabeth Ekstrand (Ellie Extra), inhabitant of Not Sunnyville somewhere on the shores of I Can't Believe It's Not Lake Superior, and this one, with Yamada Tarou, normal boy. For reasons I will leave for the reader to figure out, I ended up thinking that making Yamada's story would be easier (because I am probably not going to figure out Minnesota), so here's one part of that multiverse. The previous map I worked on here was for Elysion, a more straightforward JRPG / Japanese high fantasy world that you'll find in this forum.
Touenkoku, the Land of the Peach Orchard, is a really fantastic, high-on-wonder Fantasy China. It is ruled by the Emperor or the Empress, may they reign a thousand years, milk flows and trees grow delicious fruit and animal does not kill animal because all the people are shapeshifting animals. The northern steppes have hordes of galloping horse warriors, or warrior horses, and the south is dominated by oxen in the fields, tigers and cats tend to go into law enforcement, and mice and rats are rich and poor merchants, etc. etc. Gain enough mojo and magic, and maybe your animal forms turns into a qilin or dragon or a justice beast (especially if you're a tiger already), gain enough strength and prestige and turn into a tiger if you're a cat, etc. etc. that sort of thing. The current Empress is a phoenix. Everyone is vegan. Well, maybe they might eat fish and insects, haven't figured that out yet.
The land is divided into five major provinces, eastern Blue, western white, northern Black, southern Red and central Yellow provinces. The capital, Ōkyō, the Yellow Capital, lies in Yellow province, Ōshū.
If Elysion was tied into the multiverse by being a story where a group of friends are the Chosen Ones ported into that world to defeat an evil emperor, Touenkoku is more of a paradise-like background place from where the powers of a group of taoist/onmyodo inspired magical girls originate. Their Magical Girl Magical Pet is a qilin, they wield swords or other weapons, and fight against spirit monsters that try enter Touenkoku by stepping through a portal that the girls opened with a magical scroll detailing divination techniques a couple years back. Besides fighting these spirit monsters hidden within time-stasis bubbles, the qilin is also a high-ranking member of the court whose job is really recruitment -- for example, recruiting young people who could be groomed into emperors later on during their "retirement" to Touenkoku.
For the map, I've chosen to use this map:
File:GeneralMapOfDistancesAndHistoricCapitals.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
as the basis of the style. The shorelines are different from what I usually do, for example: the "puff" outwards, while I tend to "carve" inwards.
But I've also decided to take it slow with this one, so hopefully I won't update too often.
I like where this is going, your inspiration map is a golden find. (also with that many rivers in close proximity to each other It wouldn't surprise me if they were highly linked with canals) If anything the rivers on the map you linked are really crazy, yours are truly sedate in comparison..
Just a parchment script test with updated river system.
I've gone with Spiro spline rivers to make them look more stylised and abstract. Next step is to modify them in raster, that is, carve out sharp corners, make some lakes, etc. etc. Maybe try to somehow make the strokes a bit less even and precise.
What I'd really like to know is where to find out what the iconography and text formats of the old Chinese EDIT: or maybe rather Korean andor Japanese :TIDE maps mean. I mean, obviously the red rectangles are town or villages, but then there's the red-outlined white rectangles that are found once or twice per nation (Summer and Winter capitals??) then there's big round ones you see around, and some of them have square zigzag lines to denote important walls or fortifications, etc.
And another one, now with wonkified rivers:
I think I've come up with a basic method to make a bit more "freehand" looking rivers.
Rivers made with vector tools, like Inkscape (which is what I've been using because I needed tapering) tend to end up too perfect for my tastes, you can see what I mean from the examples above. I like the stylisation of the Spiro splines, though, so I'd like to just modify the rivers a bit. I tried the iwarp tool in GIMP but that is completely impractical for this scale.
I decided to use it again today, after a break for work and stuff this week again, and accidentally picked the other warp tool, which warps using a b&w filter or map as a basis and went hm.
The rivers in this:
Are too blocky and artifacty, obviously, because I did it all as a test with a 1000x1000 copy of the image, but you see what I mean. As the maps, I used two random noise maps: one desaturated Plasma render and another with a bit more smooth Solid Noise. First the solid noise, then the plasma to "rough" out the outlines on a copied layer. Then adjust the levels to get rid of the greys, and it looks pretty good.
Yeah, not going to use this exact example, but I liked it enough to ask for opinions. I'm going to edit the rivers by hand a bit still, smooth out corners and riverbanks etc, then do this process at full scale (4000 x 4000 for now should be enough I hope).
It sort of look like it works, but it almost gets too deliberately messy for my tastes. :p
It's kinda hard to tell with how rough it all is though.
So many rivers, too many for me. But I like the general style.
You seem to be going to a lot of trouble to make the rivers look freehand. Is there a reason you aren't doing them freehand? Just mildly curious and amused. It is a fabulous style.. I like the greener-grey on parchment test, but the blue is nice too.
There is such a thing as too much freehand. I don't have the skills and/or I don't have the patience to do tapering rivers by hand. But I don't want them to look too perfect.
Originally Posted by Chashio
Thanks for the comments, I'll keep them in mind. When I do the roughing up on a larger canvas, it should both look a bit smoother, but still have a good effect.
half-and-half image, left After, right Before.
One other reason why I do it this way is to get a workflow where I can go back and change things in the original vector (which is simple), and then just redo all the steps up that. It could even be scriptified.
Which I am considering doing now, thinking about adding islands to the south.
Added those islands, went through all the junctions to smooth them out.
Added a couple of test labels, GIMP is not suitable, I'll do the rest in Inkscape.
I am not looking forward to naming everything. 1. it's hard to come up with something that isn't already used (Taoyuan=Touen is a city in Taiwan, for example), 2. man foreign languages with their writing system yknowhatimean 3. have to figure out the icons and stuff and also what terms to use for provinces and stuff, might go for dō/dao instead of shū etc.
One nice thing I've realised is that it's probably super simple to generate surnames for people by using all hanzi that refer to animals. Ma, Horse, is a real-life example. Then, Saiunkoku Monogatari style, colour terms, starting with the usual suspects.
The new city in the east is going to be the place where the East portal exists. I named it Fusangmen, Fusoumon, "Fusang-gate". Fusang is the mythical tree to the east of China upon which the ten Suns perch as they're waiting for their turn to light up the day (until nine were shot down by a mythical archer for staying in the sky with their brothers), and later Fusang became a placename for a mythical eastern land that became gradually associated with Japan or something close by.