Going old school

2014-08-25 - 1

Lately I’ve started to make old school maps while not being around a computer. Most of the commissions I make I draw in Photoshop or CC3 from Profantasy, you can actually say that my computer is my main tool while making maps.

But before computers you had to do all your maps on paper, that’s how I started out. On Google+ I follow a lot of mappers like Matt Jackson, Simon Forest or Monkeyblood design that makes those lovely handmade old school maps. Inspired by those maps I decided that I had to give it a try myself.

So I acquired a good moleskin notebook, some pens in different sizes and started out. In the beginning it felt quite awkward not being able to hit ctrl+Z as soon as something went wrong, which I did in my mind all the time, but after a while I got used to cover up mistakes so that they looked intentional.

And I must say that I really enjoy making those maps. Nowadays I bring my notebook wherever I go, because you never know when you will have some spare time when you can draw some maps instead of constantly checking Facebook on your mobile.

Some maps are never done

Etrakien 3 sketch

If you have followed my blog for a while you probably know that I’m on and off is working on my own fantasy setting, the Etrakien world. The world is mainly concentrating on the area around Ankh-Bathor, the world’s largest city and market place, dividing the world between east and west.

Earlier I’ve made two versions of the map for this world, but some maps just don’t seem to have a last version, so I’m now restarting the map for a third time. Why you might wonder, well the reason is actually quite simple.

Since the world is developing all the time with twists and turns the map in the end didn’t really work out with the plot. The biggest reason for this is that it felt like everything was too far away from each other, I wanted the world to be more concentrated to one are. This would open up some new possibilities in my world building, and making a new map is never something bad, that is always good.

As you can see in the sketch of the world above I’ve kept quite a lot from the older maps, actually most of the coast lines are from the earlier ones, they have only been moved around quite a lot. I also decided to have less countries then before, mainly because this will make it easier to keep track of the politics of the world. Instead I’m adding some free city states that are under their own rule, but will be in coalition with one or more countries.

I’m in no hurry to finish this map, and it is something I’m working on between commissions and some other stuff, so there might be some time between updates. But it will be a fun project to work on.

Making a lot of maps

Eldolan
It has been rather quiet from me lately. The reason for this is that I’m doing some jobs for Pelgrane press that has occupied most of my spare time that I use for mapping.

The maps are for an upcoming 13th age adventure named Shadow over Eldolan. For this adventure I’ve made a city map (that you can see at the top of this post) and nearly ten different location maps.

The city map is made in CD3 from Profantasy using my customized style that I have developed in the program. You can see some tutorials on how to tweak CD3 to get the same result in the tutorial section of my blog. The tutorial also shows what steps I’m doing in Photoshop to get a more unique look of the map. I still think that the colours in CD3 are too bright to accomplish a satisfying result. So I correct that in Photoshop.

All the location maps are made in the new lovely style by Mike Schley that you can buy from Profantasy’s homepage. The maps are all quite different from each other and you can see an example from one of the maps below. The style was great fun to work with but as always when you use a style in CC3 there will be one or two symbols that you miss when you make a map.

Map H colour preview

Apart from the 13th age maps I’m also doing some maps for their Trail of Cthulhu game. Those maps are however done completely in Photoshop. Originally I was planning on using CC3 here, but when I got the descriptions of what kind of maps they asked for I quickly realized that none of the available styles really would work out. So I started from scratch, making something up on my own. You can see part of a map below. The aim was to make a map that had a 1930th feeling, something that could have been in an Indiana Jones film. I am very pleased with the result and I’m looking forward to see them in print. But first I need to finish all the maps.

Whistle and I’ll Come preview

My June 2014 style for Profantasy

hill fort

If you subscribe to Profantasy’s monthly annual you can this month pick up the latest style I’ve made for them (June 2014). The style is a black and white battle map style that mainly is made for online play on sites like roll20.net.

The idea for the style comes from a commission I got last year when a client contacted me for some maps that he could use for his online games with his friends. The maps were all in the same square sized format and followed some specific rules, which made them rather quick to do. After having done a couple of maps I really started to like doing them, it was a lot of fun.

I made eleven maps before the client’s campaign came to an end, and no more maps were needed. But I couldn’t really drop the idea of the maps, and started to think that there probably are a lot more people out there that would like to have a quick way of making maps like this.

So I contacted Ralf and Simon at Profantasy and asked them if they would be interested in releasing a style based on the maps I made for the client. They thought it was a great idea, and the result you can see in this months (June 2014) annual.

The goal with the style is that you as a GM should be able to make a map in about ten minutes (or more if you really want to fiddle around) that you can use for your game. In the end when you get used with the style you probably can have a short break while gaming, quickly create a map of a small town, mine, forested area or something else you need, and then add it to your gaming night.

In this way you really can be very flexible while playing and if the players decide to something you haven’t prepared, well just make a quick map of it and game on :)

Turning my children into monsters

magician
At the moment I’m working on a commission for the RPG 13th age from Pelgrane press. It is a fun commission that includes both a city map and quite many location maps.

One of the challenges in the commission is to add in symbols for characters and monsters. These are supposed to be from a top down perspective. Which is quite obvious if you want them to work with the maps.

Well I must admit that making symbols of characters from a top down perspective isn’t the easiest thing to do. Luckily for me I have three children that gladly wants to help their dad out. So they quickly assembled all the swords, helmets and other necessary things from their play room while I collected a camera and a stair for me to climb up on while photographing.

We actually had a great time while they pretended to be orcs, witches, guards, zombies and dead adventurers. Later on I used the pictures to be able to draw the symbols on my computer, like the one at the top of this post.

Next step will probably be to collect all their toy animals and start photographing them as well, who doesn’t need a horse, Cow or a dinosaur in their map :)

Back to the future

Ormgudensdal

I started to play RPG’s some years too late to really experience the old hex crawling games. But for some reason I’ve always liked the simplicity in the world and area maps used by then. So when I was asked to make a map for a Swedish old school adventure called “The valley of the Snake god” (Ormgudens dal) I gladly accepted.

The adventure is a tribute to the old hex crawling ones and I was asked to make the full colour hex map in the middle of the book, yes the one you can see at the top of this blog post as well.

The map was really fun to make and to help me out I used the 2010, July annual from Profantasy. As always when you use a style as your base for a commissioned map there will be symbols that are missing. So to solve this I had to make the symbols myself. That maybe doesn’t sound that hard but the problem you get is that even though I easily can make some hex symbols, the one I made had to fit in with the already existing ones.

If you don’t succeed the new symbols will be in the way for the overall harmony of the map, and I know I at least would get very annoyed by that. Lucky for me I’m quite good at copying a style while drawing and I’m very pleased with the new symbols I made for the style, can you spot them?

The adventure itself is a very good one with some “Alien” influences added to it which make it a bit different from many other fantasy adventures I’ve played. If you’re Swedish, or can read Swedish, I can warmly recommend it, if for nothing else so for the beautiful colour map ;)

Skull Island

skull island2

Earlier this year Profantasy ran a competition where you had to create a map of an island, less than three miles wide. The competition ended in March and the map at the top of this post was my entry.

I saw the competition as a perfect way of trying out some new brushes that I had acquired, and also a good way of getting some training of making a free hand drawing using my Cintiq. The map itself is supposed to look like a worn pirate’s map that will lead you to the location of the treasure, if you can avoid all the dangers that are plotted out.

Everything is made in Photoshop and I had a great time making the map. Of course there are always things you can improve but overall I’m quite pleased with the end result, even though I didn’t win. But that wasn’t the important thing here, the important thing was to have fun and do some mapping. I will definitely make more free hand maps in the future, because it really is great fun to do them.