28 March, 2016

Revisiting Mapping (Part 1)

I got a new toy earlier this year, and haven't had much chance to use it.


It's an electric whiteboard, where I can press a button to scan the image on the board to print it out, or send it to my computer. So, I'm going to use it for a new mapping tutorial series, since the last time I did this (back in 2013 and 2014) it seemed pretty popular. 

I'm starting with a map idea I'm working on for a new LARP. I already posted a map for the project, but I just don't like the way certain things have worked out on that version of the map. So I've reworked it a bit from the ground up and taken snapshots of the map development to show how I might develop a game world map from the ground up. The snapshots are reproduced here, one by one. There are faint yellow grid lines across the board that don't reproduce when the scanning process occurs, I've basically kept to this grid for the sake of simplicity.

Step 1. Laying out what locations are where.
I've had a basic idea for this map, where the game occurs in a mysterious central land with 8 kingdoms which were once the borderlands when the central land was a political power in the region. For an unspecified time (a century, an epoch between celestial alignments, ???) the central land has been subjected to mystical storms and inaccessible. But after a short period of unrest and chaos, the borderlands have settled down into their own kingdoms. The more prominent of these kingdoms will be on the cardinal points (North, South, East, West), with lesser kingdoms on the NE,SE,SW,NW regions.

Step 2. Defining some key geography
Notably at the south of the map, there is a jungle area adjacent to a desert area. Wherever this sort of thing happens on our world there is a major mountain range between the two. Winds push clouds toward the mountains (typically east to west), and when the mountains push up the airstream, the clouds drop their rain. So it makes sense to have a mountain range running along the border of these two regions. Similarly, we've got a defined area of mountains, so I'll pass the mountain range through this part of the map, making sure the give the mountain range a few branching parts for some good valleys, especially since the idea of this region was vaguely analogous to Eastern Europe. Elsewhere I've just thrown in a few fragmentary mountain ranges, just to keep things interesting.

3. Adding Coastlines
Here's where things really start to deviate from the earlier map that I drew up. I don't necessarily want the setting to be a single island continent. I'd be more interested in there clearly being other unexplored parts of the world. Too many fantasy settings seem to be set on a single continent, nicely bordered on all sides by oceans and seas.

I'm just dotting in the coastline initially, I'm sure there will be changes to it.

4. Adding Vegetation   
I'll start with some forests, not jungles, just forests. A few icy forests to the north, some woodlands to the northwest and through some of the valleys in the west, and a decent smattering of forests through the eastern lands. The denser the forest, the more cross hatching appears in the forested square.

5. Adding Rivers
Rivers flow down from mountains to the sea, sometimes they cut across plains, sometimes they cling to the foothills of a mountain range or follow valleys. Since the southwestern region was intended to have a vaguely Arabic/Egyptian feel, I've made sure to include a long river that will be generally analogous to the Nile. Similarly, even though the South-East is intended to feel more like Vietnam/Thailand/South-East-Asia, the river through it might be more like the Amazon than the Mekong. There are other major rivers across the land, but none are quite as significant as these two.

6. Adding Jungle
The forests are hatched in one direction only, so in order to reflect a different type of denser jungle vegetation these squares are cross hatched on both diagonals. The vast majority of the jungle is in the southeast. I don't think there's much elsewhere at all.

7. Filling in the plains 
To mark the fertile grasslands separately to the infertile desert regions, I've marked the grasslands and plains with horizontal lines through the middle of the square. This is typically across the northern half of the map, with everything in the mount range's rain-shadow remaining unhatched and white.

In the northwest, I've added some long grasses on some of the plains to give more of a swampy and boggy look.

8. Adding Towns    
There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference in this map compared to the last one. But this is actually one of the more significant changes. I've added major towns to the map with circles marked with a cross through the centre of them (basically coda marks). Since the cardinal regions are more prominent, they've each been given three towns, while the diagonal regions have been given two. Where possible I'v tried to place towns on river junctions or mouths, on areas where rivers might emerge from mountain ranges or in places that looked like they might hold some kind of strategic value or trade significance.

9. Erasing some of the working
The last part I've reached at this stage is an erasure of the words that gave me an idea of the terrain I was working with. That's left me with a few gaps that will need refilling (most notably in the jungle). I've also added a hint of another land off to the west, and made the coastline more distinct while adding some new features along it.

With this all scanned in, I might start doing some digital work to it.
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