Gen Con Fantasy Mapping Seminar Summary


After a lot of trouble getting a proper room and with a far from good projector the seminar was off to a good start with a bit over 60 attendees. 

The first part of the seminar was an overview of my work from the Flanaess to the latest finished commission for Gryffonlore Games.

I explained how the Creative Commons -BY - NC -SA license basics and why I choose it. 

With a couple of slides I presented the various versions of the Flanaess map.

Then I presented an overview of the other maps I've created and first out where the world of Midgard for Kobold Press. 

Here is a sneak peak on the new updated version of Southlands coming very soon.

and Midgard.

My only published city map, Per-Bastet in Southlands.

and a first look at the new political map of Midgard - Southlands. Note that this is a work in progress and not the final version, will work on a revision just after posting this. But it gives a good hint at what it will look like.

My latest published commissioned map, the Fallen Barony of Wailmoor for Gryffonlore Games.

I did a series of encounter maps for Zombie Sky Press for a Faerie book, my only published encounter maps.

Here is a sample of a map I did for Alex Kammer. It has a lot of snow cover and cold area which was a first for my new WM based technique.

This is a map I did for Hans Cummings, and originally it was in full color. This is an example of the fact that in my job you have to be ready to change formats, colors and sized to suit various forms of publishing, so a firm grasp of computer imaging is a must.

Sometimes you have to work fast and cut corners. Here is a map that I had a week to finish for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Not pretty but it was needed in a hurry for a horror themed project. Everything included the symbols had to be made from scratch with very little references.

Next was a section where I expanded a bit upon my thoughts around fantasy map design.

The first is the base purpose of the map and the Information - Inspiration balance. How cool does map need to be vs how much information should be included. I made the examples with the old "blue style" dungeon maps that became a phenomenon despite the fact that they are very low on the inspiration factor. 

The example below are maps of a zoo in Sweden seen on Google maps vs their own map to try and inspire visitors to see the whole park.

Next is a series of slides that looks at the area of Greyhawk mapped in various ways. First the proper classical fantasy way by Darlene.

and here is what the same area would look like in an modern road atlas:

and in a version for use by airline pilots:

and finally my own take on the same area:

We had a fair bit of discussion on symbols and what could be useful for a DM to have on a map for DM's to reference during (and in between) games.  Below is a sample of the symbols I use on my Flanaess maps:

Then I showed the same area in other map variants more to be used as in game props. First a canvas map that could represent a top end map belonging to wealthy lords.

The nest is a version that could symbolize a map in a for the characters strange language, or maybe they are illiterate.

  and a player version in parchment style:  

and here is a player reference map that can be used with fog of war to show and track overland movement with hexes. I talked a bit about the odd 30 mile hexes on the Darlene map version the now more common 12 mile hex seen here.

and the same map without hexes.

Now onto the section on how I create the 3D terrain for my maps. The image below shows a sample of the many different types of data that goes into the process.

I kicked off this section talking about which tools I use and showed this slide with my main tools.

and here is the map of the Kingdom of Lothmar for Gryffonlore Games that I will use as a reference is the following slides.

The whole process starts with visual programming in World Machine.

and then the actual terrain building in World Machine using the layout tool.

and you can see a primitive preview to get a basic state of things.

after terrain creation is done its time to export things from World Machine into TIFF, JPG and PNG files. First is the grey-scale image that stores the elevation data in the form of a height map.

a basic set of textures. In this case only a single VERY rudimentary texture. Most projects can have a dozen or more textures, but they all need to be touched up and finished in Photoshop later.

a key component is the shading!

Masks makes editing a lot  quicker and easier. Comes in the form of black and white or gray-scale images. Here in the form of a Water Mask.

and a grey-scale Slope mask.

an elevation colored image makes editing easier as well.

and once you have it in Photoshop you can start the often hard work of editing adding things like vegetation and bare rock. Below is a screen shot to show the myriad of layers that you play around with during editing.

This shows how you can use an elevation mask. I often use strong signal colors to better see what is editable or not. 

by combining multiple masks you can quickly and precisely get things the way you want them.

When you're done editing  you can merge the myriad of layers into a more reasonable number for the final image. Here they come from bottom to top. First the base water color which in this case is a simple blue, but by varying this you can make different water get a more natural varied feel to them.

Next is the ground texture. This sample is not finished but close enough to show the process.

add water depth..

snow cover where appropriate..

and forest cover...

and cover it with the shading, with the blend mode set to multiply to get the right effect.

and add an adjustment layer to get the light level back again and the top down terrain is ready for symbols..

Here is a look at it in 3D:

and to show what a finished area can look like I showed the Islands I did as my second Patreon project. 

The next section was some teasers of what is coming (tm!)..

and what most of you as well as most of the seminar audience at Gen Con are waiting for....

My Greyhawk projects that will be a part of my Patreon. First out Flanaess 576 CY...

and Lendore Isles...

and next year Ratik...

Then a couple of Projects that we have to decide the priority of here:

and a final slide on how to help me and follow my work!