Thursday, 2 March 2017

Fantasy Map Review VII: Erce

For links to all instalments in this series, go here.

Final instalment in my review series of classical maps is my own - The Mythlands of Erce! The main large map is more or less finished by now.

It would seem a bit puerile to review what I like and don't like about my own map, so I am just going to talk a bit about what I am trying to do with it, the process and how I feel about the result.

One of the touches I am pretty happy with (and which really helped me figure out the proper scale of symbols as well) is that this is actually a hex map. Each mountain is a hex, woodlands border to hexes, albeit lazily, so do hills, etc. So this can actually be used a table, players can be told what hex they are in and see what can of primary terrain it has, calculate overland travel, etc (I didn't go for hexes for the seas because imo, sea travel is almost always a pointcrawl anyway).

I feel like I have to show a slightly different rendition to give a clearer idea of how the map divides:

Five different regions, each with it's own theme and outlook to run different types of campaigns (the savage marches being the primary one for old school exploration).

Besides the OSR sandbox area, I wanted a big ol' north at the top to give a sense of vast unexplored wilderness that man could not possibly hope to map or ever fully explore. I wanted a 'kingdoms' region, where players could visit 'that king', 'that queen' and maybe get themselves involved in some politics, or even win a throne, with the Old Lands being the kind of decadent southern S&S lands Conan might find himself in.
The final one, the Hinterlands, was more of an afterthought than the others. I wanted a buffer between the more medieval, knightly, hearthstone lands and the byzantian old lands. I also wanted some open-ended territory that was less empty than the eastern marches. Basically a 'dump other cool stuff here' region.

I made it in GIMP and pretty much learned everything about map-making in GIMP from this one map. Here are some of my early renditions in GIMP to show the learning curve:

Once you get into this and start appreciating different layer effects, colour schemes, etc it's amazing how time you can spend adjusting a map to get just the right 'feel' of a map. And don't even get me started on font choice! The gimp file has 40 layers and is 500 MB in size. The lovely thing about that is that I can re-spin the map for different purposes (such as the regional rendition above) so easily with that level of layering. And with the size of it (6000x4000 pixels), I can even just crop parts of it and relatively quickly blend them into full-sized regional or country maps. For example, like this:

Would be equally simple to hide features on it for player maps as well. It's not just a map - the gimp file is like a campaign tool.

I've played with less satured faded versions, more saturated, more 'realistically' looking. In the end, I settled with what I think is a nice blend between old painted look with a bit of depth and enough colour to give it some life when looking at it. This map has been years underway. I probably made my first hand drawn draft a decade ago. Looking at it now in what is basically its final version leaves me feeling pretty proud that a guy like me, who never had an artful bone in his body, was able to make that from scratch.

I can't wait to print it out in full size on proper paper.