Etrakien revisited

armadien ankh bathor 3

I think we all carry a world inside of us, a world that sometimes just wants to get out and have its story told. For me that world is the Etrakien world. I think I must have been working on and off on it for about 15 years now. I have bits and pieces of it spread around in notebooks, papers and maps. Mostly maps I must admit.

It is so easy to drown in your own creation, one thing leads to another and suddenly you are trying to describe a world so vast that it is impossible to get it all down on paper. Things start to contradict each other and quite soon you are losing control of it all. For me it has been a challenge to try to narrow down my world to a size that is manageable. This whole process has of course forced me to rebuild the world more than once, I’m probably on version three or four now, since I started out.

At the top of this post you see the latest version of the map of the Etrakien world. So what is different in this version compared to the other versions of the map? And why have I decided to do the changes that I have made?

Well first of all I’ve decided to concentrate the development of the world to a smaller area. Before I tried to focus on the whole world but the task soon got a bit overwhelming. And since most of the ideas I have are concentrated around the city Ankh-Bathor and its neighboring states I figured it would be a good idea to make a new map with this area in focus, a map which I can use while continuing the work on my world. Or at least a map I can use until I decide to make a new map again.

So what is the Etrakien world? As I wrote before I’ve been working on the world for almost 15 years. That might sound like a lot, but it hasn’t really been a straight road of work, Sometimes I haven’t worked on it for months, or maybe a year. But for some reason I always come back to it, I kind of like having a world of my own to discover and develop.

The world itself is a Fantasy world where humans are the dominating race, there are other humanoid species as well but they are mainly concentrated to smaller areas in the outskirts. In the world you have the civilized area where you have kingdoms, empires and great cities. Outside the civilized area you have the wilderness, vast forests, great deserts and enormous mountains. Here you can find ruins of past civilizations, mythical creatures and barbarian tribes.

The kingdoms and empires of today are all built upon a world of ruins from an earlier civilization that was destroyed during the war with the gods. This happened a long time ago and today the memories of this time is long gone, only the ruins remains, and the scars in the fabric of the world. Scars that in some areas tend to break, opening a gateway to the other side, the borderlands.

After the war of the gods the world was on the brink of total destruction, but humanity survived and slowly started to rise again, creating a new world in which the darkness of the past only lived on as children’s stories. This new world would be dominated by the Etrakien Empire for hundreds of years. But when the Empire was on its height of power the black plague started to spread, in which nearly half of the world’s population died. This caused the Empire to collapse and from its former domains many smaller kingdoms arose. The Empire itself does still exist but is only a shadow of its former strength, affected by civil war and corruption.

So that is the Etrakien world, a world of adventure, corruption and war. And hopefully one day I can have it finished, but I doubt that will ever happen. It tends to have a life of its own.


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.

The storm lands

This month’s annual for Campaign cartographer 3 from Profantasy offered a very good looking style based on the world map of the upcoming role-playing game the “13th Age” by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet.

I always like to try out new styles so I thought I should give this one a try too. Usually when I make maps I try to make a story around it. If you let the map visualize your story it is often easier to make it more unique and the details will kind of come more naturally. The drawback of working in that way is that it takes much more energy from you making a map, so this time I decided to just make a map without weaving a story around it.

The style itself was very easy and quick to work with. Most of the terrain is made up from seamless bitmap files so making mountains and other types of terrain goes really quick. The mountains however gave me some problems. Sometimes it was hard to get the high peaks in the places where you wanted them. But luckily enough the style also includes single mountains you can add to the mountain texture, which made the process easier.

If you look at the map included in this post I guess it took around three hours to do it, and then I probably spent as much time on labeling as I did on the actual map.

One thing I didn’t like though was that when you added the sheet effects to the map the seas didn’t get any effect added to them. When I made the map I had two larger seas, the sea of pain and little sea, that where close to the oceans. When those seas didn’t get any effect they looked strange compared to the nearby oceans. I tried to add some effects to the sea layer but because the ocean layer lies below the land layer and the seas are on top of the land layer it was hard to get an effect that looked exactly the same.

Apart from that I liked the style and if you want a map in a more stylish satellite style I can really recommend it.

Mapping relations

I’m a big fan of MS Visio. It is a great program that I’m using a lot at work to make pictures that explain my work environment in a clear and easy way. I was also lucky enough to be able to buy the program for a low price to use at home.

But now you might start to think what this has to do with mapping, quite a lot actually. Visio is a great tool even for mapping, but not mapping in the traditional way. Even though you actually can do great maps of offices in it, maps that in style could be great as blue prints in a game that takes place in the modern world.

But I’m more interested in making fantasy maps, so how am I using Visio here. Well so far I’ve mainly used it to map the relations between nations and factions. With it you can make great maps that give you a good look of how the different nations correspond to each other.

As an example I’ll show you the “relation” map of the Etrakien world below.

When I started to create my Etrakien world the main thing I was clear about was that there had been two empires that collided and in the end brought themselves to a collapse. After that the world was divided into a lot more countries then before. In the beginning I only had the name of a few but as I started to map the world I had to make up some more. So now I have fifteen countries around the Etrakien sea, countries that in one way or another have to relate to each other.  

I knew that The Etrakien Empire and the Arnorian Empire hated each other, and still theoretically were at war, and that the Etrakien Empire wanted to reconquer Ankh-Bathor. But what about the rest of the countries, who were they friends or enemies with?

So I decided to make a simple map in Visio to get my ideas and thoughts on paper. In the map you can see the relations between countries with colourful arrows. If there is no arrow between two countries that means that they are neutral to each other.

I started to put in the two obvious ones, the red arrow between Etrakien and Arnor and the orange one between Etrakien and Ankh-bathor. I then started to think what I would have done if I were Ankh Bathor, probably trying to find some allies. No country wants to fight a war at two fronts, so I’d probably try to convince Andamar to be on my side, so if the Etrakien Empire attacks, Andamar would strike them in the back and force Etrakien to divide its forces.

I continued in this way until I had gone through all the countries, and the result you can se above.

Overland mapping part 1

So far on the blog I’ve mostly written tutorials regarding towns and cities so I thought it was time to change the focus for a while and do one on overland mapping. This will be more of an overview tutorial on how I think and plan when I make a map, so it won’t be very technical. This means that you can use this tutorial regardless what program you use when you map, even though I in the tutorial will use a map made in CC3 as a reference and example.

The first thing to take into account when you start an overland map is the landmass. How much of the map will be water and how much will be actual land? This is probably the most important step in your map because it will set the boundaries for what the end result will be. So already here I’m having a quite clear view of where I want to go with the map, shall the map be land based, island based or something in between.

Below you see my map “Sagorike”, that I’m using as an example in this tutorial, with only the landmass viewable. I’ve also written some things in the map that I had in mind while drawing.A good thing to do before starting on your landmass is to look at the real world (Google earth is great for this). If you want a lot of fjords, have a look at Norway, Island based, look at area outside Stockholm for example, and so on. It is always good to find inspiration in the real world. It will make your map look more believable, and believable maps tend to look good.

However when I make maps of worlds the most important thing for me is that they look good and in some part convincing. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t work geologically or physically, as long as it looks convincing. To make it look convincing you have to get the things right that the majority of people can spot, like rivers, they will NEVER split downwards, lakes, there is always only ONE outflow, or deserts, make sure that you place them in a way that it looks probable that no rain will get there, and so on. If those small details are correct it is more likely that the viewer will believe in the whole map, regardless if everything in it is possible according to our physical laws or not.

That is all for now, in the next post we will start by placing the mountains in the map.


As I’ve mentioned on the blog earlier I’ve started to play a simple and easy to understand roleplaying game with my two oldest children. And of course no game can be really appreciated without a world map to look at.

So I decided to make one while trying out the April annual style from Profantasy, made by the artist Herwin Wielink (Djekspek on Cartographers guild).

It is always hard to start working with a new style, it takes a while just to get used to the style itself. What graphics are included, fields, desert, marshes, rivers, forests and so on. A good thing is to just create a couple of test maps to get used to the style, to get the feeling of it. In this case I did that, but not only on purpose. I’ve read on a lot of places that people complain that CC3 can be a bit unstable, that it sometimes crashes a lot.

Well I’ve never experienced that, apart from with one of my more ambitious projects where the actual file grew too large for CC3 to handle. But with this particular style I actually had two crashes where I had to restart the whole project from the start again. That has never happened before, but I guess that the end result ended up better because of this. You can say that I learned from the mistakes in the two earlier maps, so I didn’t need to repeat them in the final map.

The graphics in the style are absolutely gorgeous and mountains, forests and other symbols really melt into the background in a great way that kind of hides the fact that the map is made in CC3. The only other CC3 style I can think of that accomplishes this as good as this one is the 2011 March annual overland style by Jonathan Roberts.

I also like the colour palette a lot in the style. Sometimes I think that maps made in CC3 can be bit cartoonish when it comes to colour, this particular style though has a really nice dark feeling about it. I like that.

Overall the style was very easy to use, the selection of textures and symbols are vast so you can really get some great variation into the map. And variation is very good if you want to make a map that is unique and nice to look at.

As usual I’ve done the labeling in Photoshop, I just can’t get it to work satisfactory in CC3, but that is probably because of me. The font is the same though as the one included in the style.

The lands of Dunver

One of the best things that Profantasy has released is in my opinion the Annuals. If you buy Campaign cartographer 3 from the company you get a really great program, but if you want it to shine you really need the Annuals. It’s here that all the gems are hidden, all those great styles that will let you create fantastic maps.

So every year I buy the annuals, of course not all months include a style that I want or need, but you always learn a bit or two from the including pdf, that you will get every month. So if you want to become a better mapper with Profantasy’s products I can really recommend the Annuals.

This year I’ve decided to try to make a map of all styles that are included in this year’s Annual. So every month I will try to make a map of the included style, as long as it is possible. Some months you don’t get a style from which you can create a map, then it is hard to do a map from it.

So this month you got the Overland Satellite style in the annual. I really liked this style, it is very different from the other styles you have in the program, which is refreshing. It also turned out to be a very easy style to work with. The more stuff you put into the map the better it will look.

When you start the map I can recommend that you put in some time while creating the coastline of your continent. As you can see in my example the coastline is a bit too straight. I realized this half way through the map, so I didn’t bother to go back and change it. But if I’d start a new map in this particular style I’d try to make it a bit more uneven.

I also had some problems with the rivers. For some reason, that I don’t know they always turned out much fainter after having exported them via Cute pdf. In the end I increased the glow on them a bit, which made them OK. But if I decide to make a map in the style in the future I probably will make the rivers in Photoshop.

I also decreased the glow you have around the continent, I thought that the original setting was a bit strong, but that is just my taste. I also made the labeling in Photoshop, but the reason for that is mainly that I work so much faster in Photoshop then in Campaign Cartographer 3, so I decided to take the quick path here.

Anyway here is the final result, The lands of Dunver.