Hello Cartographer's Guild! My name is Nicholas. A while back, I posted a thread in "Map Requests", asking for a talented cartographer to make a beautiful map for me and my team. We are based in Texas and Japan, and belong to a group of papermakers, developers, roleplayers, and historians. With our powers combined, we are creating a tabletop, pen&paper roleplaying experience set in Edo period Japan.
For most of my team, it's a part-time job. For me and Maiko (our current expert in Japanese linguistics and folktales), it's a full-time affair. I myself am a scholar of Japanese papermaking and book arts (and that comes with historical research into the Edo period itself) -- I have received a master's degree in these art forms, and continue to strive to learn more about them. So, I come from a traditional, hands-on approach to making artwork. Digital is not my forte. That is why I wanted someone to help me out. But, I was looking for someone who shared my "traditional" approach and concept. The artist we ended up picking is the Guild's very own Schwarzkreuz.
This thread will be a development diary of sorts (combined with my blog). Maiko is from Japan (and still lives there, but is currently studying abroad for a master's program in the states), and I myself have lived there, and the two of us have conducted extensive field research into our project. We've traveled to a lot of different places and have met some interesting people.
As such, the map is not a modern, satellite-perfect portrayal of Japan. Instead, it is an attempt to create Japan as citizens under the Tokugawa Shogunate might have seen Japan. Placement of cities and roads, etc. has been key for us, and we deciphered an older script of Japanese (sometimes with a lot of headaches). But all in all, it's been a great experience so far. Additionally, since our game is actually set in an alternate, fantastic version of the Edo period, we wanted to convey a "fantasy" feel, but also one that is intrinsically tied to Japanese mythology, folktales, and aesthetics/Edo period culture.
Schwarzkreuz is doing the artwork, and he can elaborate on that. For now, I will give you our progress on the conceptual side:
1.) We started with a map from the Tokyo National Museum historical archives. It is dated from the Edo period.
2.) Schwarzkreuz traced an outline of the map using a sumi brush stroke. It turned out beautifully. With this outline, Maiko and I were able to go through and begin deciphering the map itself, finding where things go. This was harder than it seems -- the map is definitely "off" compared to modern representations, or Meiji period colonial representations. Additionally, Japan has a modern history of rerouting rivers. Often, Edo period rivers were in slightly different places than their modern counterparts. We had to account for this. Luckily, we had visited many archives while in Japan and were able to get a few samples.
3.) Because travel is so important to our game, we mapped out the entire Tōkaidō and Nakasendō (two major foot highways during the Edo period). We mapped out every station, but our final map will only include "major" post station settlements. We will also include some minor roads, but not many stations on these roads.
4.) I am in the process of making sheets of Japanese paper (washi) to scan and be used for textures on the map. This is my washi making process, which I have studied now for several years. You can read about it here, if you are interested. I will be posting updates on this. We will also be using scans from papers from the makers I know in Japan, since we will also be printing on their paper.
5.) I am also in the process of making color fields by doing mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printing), which I am also somewhat experienced in. So, I am going to print color fields onto my handmade paper using the same techniques ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai used. After making these blocks, I will scan and send to Schwarzkreuz, who, like with the washi, will incorporate them into the map.
6.) Maiko, who is an artist from Japan currently working to get her Master's in Fine Art, also happens to be exceptional at calligraphy. She will be doing some Japanese calligraphy for the compass symbols, and will be writing a lot of the names in English (but using sumi brush calligraphy ... and making it kind of intentionally "messy" to capture our "Vagabonds" feel). We are going to scan these and put them on the map as labels.
The final map will come in both digital versions, poster versions (printed on normal poster paper), and deluxe versions, which will be archival-printed on actual handmade washi from a maker we know in Japan (large size). Therefore, the map you see below is not the full resolution version. We are also making this an illustrative map, rather than a political map. We hope, in the near future, to make an entire atlas of maps relating to Edo period Japan, including zoomed-in art versions of the major highways, maps of regions, and maps of cities/shrine complexes/etc.
Again, I will let Schwarzkreuz go into more detail on the visual stuff. He has done some great work for us already, and we are excited to all be working together.
I look forward to keeping this development diary on these boards, and to your comments/suggestions/whatever. If you're interested in the game itself, check out my signature. We finally started a blog, but the project itself has been in the works for 7+ years. We are expecting the core rulebook to be fully edited and ready to print by early 2014 (the map, hopefully much earlier than that ).
(Below is the original version [sized down] of the map from the Tokyo National Museum historical archives. The second image is some of the crazy stuff we are doing, mapping out the locations on that map [some of which are labeled, others which we have to "find" through careful observation].)