1. ## Multi-Level City with waterfalls...Advice?

I have a city in my campaign world which I have never satisfyingly mapped.

It is on the southern coast of a large continent. It features multiple stepped levels, canals, waterfalls and towers linked by bridges. Any ideas or example of how to depict such a place?

2. First, welcome! Second, wow, sounds ambitious.

The biggest problem I see is in actually getting the various heights to "read" as such to the viewer. There are a couple of tricks that might work: 1) Convey distance through scaling: You might try making the buildings slightly smaller scale as you go down the levels. This might be hard because it'll be hard to tell whether the buildings are just smaller because they're not as large or if they only appear smaller because they're further away. You might need to include common elements (shingles, wells, trees, etc.) that the viewer knows are actually the same size but just appear smaller because they're on a lower level. 2) Convey distance through atmospheric perspective: Over distance, colors of objects become less saturated and wash towards the color of the intervening atmosphere. Usually this happens over a very long distance (i.e. between you and some distant mountains) but it might happen over a shorter range in a "thicker" atmosphere...such as you'd get around a bunch of waterfalls spewing water vapor into the air.

That brings up another idea. The waterfalls and bridges are your opportunities to show the relationships between the levels. A waterfall might start at the top and then fall all the way to the ground level...that gives you a chance to use some actual perspective to show distance. If I see a short waterfall and a long waterfall I can guess that the short one probably ends sooner than a long one. And, if I follow the course of the stream, through a waterfall, through a stream on another level, through another waterfall, and through a stream on a yet lower level, then my brain can establish a relationship between the three levels crossed by that stream. That make any sense? Same thing with bridges, but less so...you might have an opportunity to have a bridge cross between two areas at the same level, showing the level underneath it, establishing distance. You'll want some scaling and atmospherics in there so that it doesn't blend with what's underneath, though.

There's another guy on here with a map that has similar issues. He used fading line-weight to indicate atmospheric perspective. Combined with coloring that might be pretty effective. [edit: here's the link]

Hope any of this helps...and I'm sure some of the others will have some ideas for you. Good luck with it. A city map's ambitious enough without all of these complications!
M

3. Thanks Mearrin,

Good ideas.

Anyone else want to pitch in?

4. I'd say double perspective. Top-down (or nearly top down) and Side-on. Put them both on the same map and on the "side on" map include the major landmarks in each section... for example "Lord's Mansion" in top section, "Public Square/Market" in #2, etc, etc, etc.

Easier to draw in once sense, very "technical drawing"...

5. I have to say that this screams out to be done as an isometric or perspective view (isometric will be clearer).

If you want to do top down you can make the regions clearly different in colour or style - after all the different vertical plateaus are likely to have different styles of houses on them - so the cliffs should clearly divide very different areas of the city. You can make the cliffs quite wide too so they clearly delineate the break between regions. Cliffs are very rarely perfectly vertical anyway. Then indicate the height change with text - +20' for example.

6. ## All I've done so far is...

I have started by mapping the the stepped landscape and water. Each step and level of water is a different layer in PS.

I think I like the idea of a different colour palette to indicate each level. I could also reduce contrast slightly for lower levels too.

Now to look for cliffs and waterfalls...

Thanks everyone.

7. http://www.cartographersguild.com/sh...on-City-Kaidan
http://www.cartographersguild.com/sh...wn-castle-town

Those two maps immediately came to mind as examples of what you're dealing with - top down views with elevation changes (there's a lot of good dungeon examples, but these ones treat outside areas)

Might not help the waterfall issue as much, but it might give you some inspiration for the cliffsides.

8. Also might want to check out the maps for Monte Cook's Ptolus. That city doesn't have waterfalls (IIRC) but does have several levels. Not sure if they're available online anywhere but I bet there's at least a zoomed out view somewhere.
M

9. Ouch! I think making that map will not be easy.

10. ## A small section

I now realise, that to do this properly will take a couple of months, so I decided to do a small section to trial a few techniques.

I tried to use contrast to give a sense of depth. Still have no idea how I'm going to do the cliff faces. And I might have been a little heavy handed with the mist.

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