New Year - New Horizons


Another year is coming to an end and it is the usual time to reflect and try to look forward. 2019 have been a very busy year for me and in many ways the first year that have been continuously busy with both commissions and Greyhawk related work taking a firm place alongside my commissioned work thanks to all my patreon members. Greyhawk and Midgard for Kobold Press have been worlds that I have been immersed in for a long time now, and the Greyhawk side of things have been a a journey back to the start with a overhaul of the Flanaess map and the the 576 CY version. 

Going back to the start of the Greyhawk campaign have been top of my to do list for a very long time, and now it is ready to be shown to a wider audience. My Patreon members just got the first complete version to look over, after a much longer time than I thought. The research have taken me much longer than I thought, and the results is a map I love way more than I thought I would. Almost playing with the idea of resetting my campaign at 576 CY and starting all over again, we'll see about that. Its been a wonderful journey to go back to the Setting booklet from the 1983 boxed set, From the Ashes and all the other old sources, read them again with over two decades of experience with the setting. Being more proficient, I now see lots of details I missed before and I also feel way more confident in putting the pieces together and trying to acknowledge the additional content created later as well. It is a balancing act but I hope I can make it work for most of you. 

My Greyhawk work this year have been sadly lacking in technical progress, its been mostly about touching up really old content. This means my top patreon members have not got the amount of quality map making content I want to provide. With the new 576 CY map we now have a solid base map to use as a reference for future endeavors, and this means new projects can move ahead using it as a base reducing the time it takes to research things. So next year the plan is to concentrate a lot more on the technical side of things. There are a new generation of tools in the making and it is time to start using them to make Greyhawk maps!

World Machine have been my go to tool for terrain creation for over six years now and it is still very useful, and despite my fears of its demise a while ago development is slowly moving forward. There are a new contender for my most preferred tool though, Gaea from Quadspinner. I've been playing with with a pre-release version of Gaea as well as the just released Gaea v1 for a while now, and I'm impressed. The quality of the terrain produced and ease of use is several steps ahead of World Machine. It still lacks two crucial features, the ability to work on really large terrains and rivers witch are both key to map a fantasy setting the size the Flanaess, or even worse a planet like Oerth. This is soon to change with an update coming soon, so this spring I'll put Gaea up against World Machine to see if it is the better tool for the job. 

Evolving tools are both a blessing and a curse in this line of work. New features means you can do more, better and faster, but it also means that what you did a little while ago soon will look outdated. Consistency across a project is key, my current Flanaess map terrain was all created using Bryce 5.5 that came out in 2005. DAZ Software released newer versions of Bryce 3D, but the results didn't match the earlier versions I had used from 1998 using Bryce 3D v2 through Bryce 3D v5.5. To preserve the same style across the whole map I decided to keep using v5.5 until the Flanaess map Terrain was finished.  

Now I'm in a similar situation with World Machine and Gaea. My Midgard maps will probably be developed in World Machine for a while still so things look like they belong together, but with Greyhawk I now have a choice to make. Do I move on using existing technology in World Machine and hope I can make use of the new features being added, or do I wait a bit and bet on the newcomer Gaea to be a better tool. So far I've mainly opted to wait and see with further Greyhawk development. The Lendore Isles, Ratik and Hepmonaland projects are all waiting for that decision, all being a more or less under way already. Lendore Isles are already almost halfway through but still lacking enough quality for me to really wanting to commit to finish it using existing tools. I've seen what Gaea can do and I want that for my next generation Greyhawk maps. To be sure I'm also hedging my bets working on a 7th generation World Machine setup that will hopefully be a good improvement in case Gaea gets further delayed or not good enough. Delays are to be expected, but the quality of Gaea's results, I'm way more confident it will deliver good results.  My Cartographer Patreons will get walkthroughs of both next year.

The Lendore Isles Project is next in line for completion after the 576 CY is filly published, either using WM or Gaea, and it is my goal to make it a first example of a new Greyhawk mapping standard. Level of detail will go from a mile to 100 ft giving a much clearer look at things, and the data will be in real 3D making a a whole range of new presentations possible from world maps to bridging the gap to battle- and location maps. Ratik will be next using the same workflow and standards. Hepmonaland is a bit different since it is on a huge scale, and originally was my intent to cheat and use Photoshop from the get go. This way I could get something done faster that matched the existing Flanaess map, and skip the 3D bit altogether. I might still go this way, it depends on how well Gaea and WM can deliver, and I'm going to make up my mind this spring.  

A vital part of map making is how you publish your creations. The current Flanaess map is not well suited for any type of publication. It is too large to print and requires quite a bit of computing power to use digitally and the AI format needs Adobe Illustrator to edit. All in all a not very useful way of doing things, and the next generation maps need to be better. There is a whole new world of options since I embarked on creating the existing Flanaess map, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), web based publishing, game engines and RPG tools like World Anvil. A new generation of maps need to be designed with these options in mind. The map data needs to be flexible to be usable in many different ways, and also editable by the end user. This means using standardized formats and open source tools when possible, so enterprising DM's can take my map data and plug in the desired bits into his or her campaigns. In the end this is why I'm doing this, to make maps that are usable by DM's in their own games. Another key part of this is the Creative Commons license, and I intend to keep publishing all my Greyhawk related maps using the Creative Commons license -BY - NC - SA to make them usable, tweak-able and shareable by everyone.

My Patreon will get a Spring work over with some tweaks and changes to the tiers and goals. Nothing major and I will do my best to try and make it better and more value, more on that soon. 

I want to give a huge thank you to all who have helped me making this possible from all my awesome Patreon members, to all my friends who encourage and help me do this is so many ways, research, quality control, spreading the word and more. You make this both possible and so much fun. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Good Needfest and Happy Holidays regardless of what your preferred holiday happens to be!