2021 was a year of projects that refused to die, my two big commissions faced delays, retractions and restarts multiple times, derailing my planning for large parts of the year. Despite all this 2021 was a year with reasonable amount of progress. For the first time in my Greyhawk gaming history I'm really starting to feel like I starting know the setting in depth. For decades I've been nose deep in all types of Greyhawk related material trying to absorb details for my Flanaess map, now I'm starting to connect the dots and my Oerth Project have made me expand my horizons both in space and in time.
After spent twenty years of working on the same map using, for the most part using the same tools, 2021 was the year I broke new ground both in technology and scope. I started a new campaign in 2020, running a campaign online for the first time and I wanted a new set of maps to bring out the landscape and to be a detailed canvas for my ambitious campaign. I've spent almost five years trying to figure out what kind of map would work best, level of details, what data and so forth. I settled for the "Porta Potty ScaleTM" with 5ft/pixel, detailed enough to show individual trees and buildings and still be able to cover many hundreds of square miles per individual map.
A height map as detailed vertically as horizontally and full realism in things and drainage, foliage and texture was the goal. The hardest nut to crack are rivers and there are still parts that have to be made manually but the result with some tedious work is good enough to make me happy and a model of Shield Lands are now taking shape that are a dream come true, a landscape detailed enough for me to act as a canvas for campaigning for years to come. Pouring over the details have inspired me to reach deep into both history and contemporary Shield Lands Content to create my version of the lands and continue the story with my gaming group. We have fought over and liberated Auldet from the clutches of Iuz and are now heading off to the Dragon Hide Caves to find the characters past as well as their future.
Along side the campaign map I'm also developing a standard for encounter maps at 20 pixels/5ft to be used in VTT's an printed for in person games. To map using standards is important for me so when I create things like textures, props, templates etc that can be reused, tweaked and inserted in new places over and over again with minimal fuss. Over time this will speed up things and improve quality making it possible to map as part of game prep with out it taking too much longer. Most VTT maps out there are 100px/5ft or more and look much better than what I have decided to use, what are my rational behind the low quality.
I've found (the hard way) that relying on digital sketching abilities to be much faster than using a specialized mapping software. Tools like Inkarnate, DungeonFog or Campaign Cartographer can produce fantastic results, but they are fiddly to use and brake my flow and they have a hard time to cope with my existing content. Photoshop and Krita have become my go to tools for this, giving me power, speed, flexibility and compatibility. Krita is an open source drawing tool with lots of innovative tools perfect for sketching and painting and a good complement to Photoshop's technical arsenal of sometimes overly complicated tools. For me Krita is a tool I will use mainly for creation of props and decorative elements for maps and other graphics.
The Shield Lands will be a big project this upcoming spring and early summer, and I need to have maps and prints ready for my D&D in Castle Campaign in England. All the material will be available for download and you will be able to order prints of them as well.
It was with trepidation I took on the task of creating my first model of the whole planet Oerth, a simple and more sketch-like one, but covering the entire planet. It was very much unchartered territory when I started planning for it a couple of years ago, first reading what little material I could find and study what others had done. My approach was to concentrate on the physical aspect of the planet and try to create a "best of" version and be inclusive, Oerth is a very big place with room for a lot. I started with the rightfully terrible Dragon Annual map and a few extras like Frank Menzers Antaria (or Aquaria) that I have chosen to call Menzeri in his honor.
After months of sketching and nearly a hundred versions later I felt I had transformed the "DA1 cowhide" into something I felt I could progress with. After that my Oerth project took on a life of its own with a deep dive into what kind of planet could have generated the Flanaess and its cherished stories. A climate sketch and historical variations opened up a huge rabbit hole for my imagination and a series of articles that are the most interesting thing I've done so far. The geography and its history are a skeleton for a deeper historic series of articles I intend to develop for my own campaign and share with you all. No time plan for completion, but snippets are being created already and its is a lot of fun and make me feel at home in the setting.
Ancient Flan history is what I have begun with and it is one of the main plot lines of my Shield Lands campaign. A line of events that can trace its origins to Keraptis, Dragotha and the worship of undead, fiends and worse, at a time when wisdom was scarce, knowledge deadly, lives short and brutal, in the time of the Ur-Flan.
From humble beginnings with the Legends & Lore Show a few years ago it has with the help of Mike Bridges and Jay Scott grown to more than I dared to hope for. We have lots of fun every week and now almost a hundred or so of you tune in every week, thank you so much the talk shows means a lot for men and are a great way to stay in touch with the community and force me to try and stay on top of a myriad of topics.
The Fantasy Mapping Show is of to a good start thanks to my great co-hosts Alyssa and Jay, and we will try and improve in 2022. My vision for the show is for it t be a place to get ideas, inspiration and information about fantasy cartography to help beginners and seasoned veterans alike. We will try and stay away from turning it into a "How-To"" show, and not get bogged down in menus and detailed workflows. That is a side of the craft best suited for Live Mapping Streams, which I had a test run with on YouTube. To my surprise it was way more popular and rewarding than I thought, so it need to come back in 2022. I had a very problematic last try, due to both bad connection and an overloaded computer. I streamed in 1440p which seems a bit too much for my 5 year old computer, so worst case scenario I have to go down to 1080p until I get a better computer. It will be a pain to work in, but for a couple of hours a week I'm willing to sacrifice some ergonomics for a stable stream. With Jay having acquired Twitch partnership for his LordGosumba channel, I'm going to try and use Twitch for my Live Streams and piggy back on his fame a bit as a part of the Greyhawk Creatives Group.
Live Mapping Streams are something I will make into a regular feature for me with a weekly session. I need to invest in better gear like a better webcam, lighting and a capture card s I can separate the burden of video encoding onto separate computer and maybe a greenscreen to make better use of the screen real estate. I will try and hang it behind Minnie so she can still be a part of the show, we will see how it can be done best. The live streams can be deep dives into the minutia of the craft of fantasy cartography, and be a good compliment to the Fantasy Mapping Show and Legends & Lore. Centered on techniques and How To, but with room for how that ties into my campaign and Greyhawk in general.
Heraldry have become a new cherished field for me, and something I love to dig into a few hours a week, and the updated "Real Shields" series have been a huge success with lots of great feedback, so more is coming, way more in fact. I have a new batch almost ready to be published, about two hundred more of the existing shields to make over and a list of new design to do so it will be a regular part of my patreon going forward. I plan to expand it into tabard and battle stands as well.
A Heraldry Compendium is in the works for nest year. Format still TBD, but my thinking is along the lines of a series of 11x17 inch PDF like the atlas and a 24x36 inch poster sized PDF or two as well in print ready quality.
In the middle of the biggest map update since I started mapping the World of Greyhawk over twenty years ago, with a Hepmonaland and Ilse of Dread expansion as well as some small expansions in the other directions. The 576CY version is well under way with a few more sessions left before it is ready. I have a list of a bit over 50 items plus an experiment, I'm going to try out a set of Imperial borders for the Great Kingdom. That way I have four levels of borders instead of three which means I can divide up the North and South province into a bit more detail, this so the mentioned local baronies and similar divisions can be better visualized.
The start of the Atlas work is delayed a couple of weeks due to a Kobold Press emergency commission, and a delayed Griffon Lore Games commission. This has been a recurring theme last year and came back one last time during the holidays, but hopefully that is all done now and I can concentrate on Greyhawk for a couple of months getting it all done. This includes the Flanaess & Hepmonaland Map in both a 576CY and 598CY versions, and Atlas versions of both of them. Will probably keep me occupied until Gary Con, but will be worth it I hope. A good set of updated maps that can serve the community well until a new generation of GIS based maps are ready to replace them.
The massive undertaking to convert the existing maps into proper GIS (Geographical Information Systems) maps will begin in 2022. How long it will take depends on how many hands will work on it, and it will b an ongoing task from now on. First it will be to georeference existing data and associate proper symbols and texts to it, and then when that is done create style templates and then publish templates for different scales, sizes etc. I have only done small tests so far, so it is too early for me to say how long it will take.
One of many benefits with using GIS is tat once its done you can re-use the information when needed which will make future maps make direct use of the existing data. for example my Shield Lands maps will be able to import and then add detail to the large set of data created for the Flanaess. My goal is to dedicate capacity on my webserver to host map data than can me imported straight into QGIS and other GIS tools by anyone as a base for their own versions of Greyhawk.
After years of waiting it looks like 2022 might be the year when a new generation of terrain creation tools is coming. I've just downloaded a new alpha build of Gaea that has tiled builds and proper river tools. I know they are no stable and fully featured yet, but it is a start and I'm very eager to put them to the test. Both World Machine and Gaea now comes with PBR (Physics Based Rendering) materials so you can create texturing and export it properly to other tools like Blender and Unreal.
Game engines are coming of age in 2022 as well with Unreal Engine 5 coming out, and a voxel add on that might be the way to go is here as well. Voxels are bit like fancy Minecraft maps with higher resolution, and the nifty thing is that they can be changed easily afterwards. Things like digging a cave, carving out a road through the mountains and more can be done "in game" which might be very handy in a world management tool.
This spring when the 2022 editions of the Map and Atlas are done I will launch a new Patreon tier for those who want to have and maintain their own custom versions of the map for their own campaigns. I've been doing it for Jay, and I will open up 5 Patreon memberships at $50/month special tier. It is a lot of money but I think it can be worth it for some DM's who doesn't want to get and learn Adobe Creative Suite, and instead hire me a day er month to do the work. It can include anything from terrain edits, settlement changes, heraldry etc. You will hire me a day a month do work on your Greyhawk Campaign map!
If this is successful I might open up more than five spots, or it might not work out and have to be cancelled, we will see. Hopefully it can be a useful service for a few DM's who want to invest a lot more in their cartography. I'm regularly being asked to do this so I think it is worth testing out in a more formal way.
My Greyhawk campaign have existed as loose notes and sketchy maps along side my on and off playing for over thirty years, but now it is starting to take shape in a more organized way. Area and Settlement maps, NPC's, heraldry and history will be published regularly for my mid tier patron members and up. 2021 was a start with Auldet and Bogford, this year look forward to Dragonhide Caves, Serion Keep, Delard, Axeport, Critwall along with old Flan lore and NPC's from my Shield Lands as well as my take on ancient history of the Flanaess.
My goal was to reach 300 patreon members this year and thanks to you we exceeded that a little bit, thank you so much for making a dream come true for me - to work on Greyhawk maps every day!!!! 🙂
Lets make 2022 a great Greyhawk year!!