My fantasy cartography efforts started 25 years ago when I decided to start mapping the World of Greyhawk. Bryce was a new program back then and I was also just a complete newbie in the world of computer arts, graphics and 3D. Despite my shortcomings there are some features from this embryo of a map that are still on the map in its 2022 Edition.
Corel Draw was the first program I used to to label the terrain renders I made in Bryce, and the beginnings where humble here as well. Here is an early attempt that has some features still on the latest edition of the map. The symbols have had several iterations of development, as has the heraldry, but this is when I started to learn and I have progressed slowly but steadily over the years.
Internet and the digital realm was still in its infancy back in the late 1990's so my goal was to make a map that could be printed, and computers where very limited in power which also limited maps size and complexity. Until 2013 my Greyhawk maps where still published like this.
After having used Illustrator for a some years a stable 64bit version came out and it made it possible for me to merge all the small maps together into a single large one and I was ENNIE nominated, my first. Been involved in several projects that have been both nominated and awarded since, which is a great honor even if the Best Cartography Award still eludes me.
In 2019 my main project was an overhaul of the terrain map that hade been around for 20 years without much changes. Here is what it looked like before the update.
The overly saturated and garish colors of the 1990's desperately needed some tweaks and the terrain lacked tonal range and variety seen in the real world. After several months of very tedious work an overhauled version was ready for the 2019 map Edition, and I'm very happy with the result.
In 2020 Hepmonaland was added in full and the map now covers a significant part of the whole Oerth.
This version of the terrain map will live on for years to come and will be gradually replaced as I create detailed maps of areas using modern tools. First out was parts of southern Shield Lands in 2021 and next year it will be the area around Altimira and more of the Shield Lands as they get done.
Last year for me was shaped by a new ways of doing things, both when it comes to my maps and how I interact with all of you. A slew of new and updated tools entered in my workflow and often replaced tools I've been using for a long time. Streaming have helped me so much and given me an online presence which is both a fantastic opportunity, a lot of fun, but also increases the amount of comments, notifications, messages and email I have to go through on a daily basis. Like so may I'm lacking in this department and need to shape up!
I've started to seriously dip into a wider field of content creation with heraldry, and campaign lore. This have been a success both in positive feedback and Patreon backing, it is also both fun and very inspiring for me to create so expect more of it going forward. For the first time since I started playing in the setting I know feel I'm starting to really understand it. I've read and stied it enough to start to make connections and observations, and draw conclusions for my own games.
To keep "MeyerHawk" a bit separate from the standard version of the map and other content is something I'll try my best to uphold going forward, encouraging you to cherry pick the parts you like and ditch the rest. So far it has been a first look at how gods are created, Iuzian Zombie Goats and a first batch of heraldry of Shield Lands and Iuz. I'm working on a customised version of Level Up Advanced 5E from EN World Publishing. I choose to base my campaign on this rule set mainly for its 5E compatibility and that is it fully available both in Print (which I haven't used), PDF and on their website. This makes it easier to use Obsidian.md as my campaign management tool. It is the tool I have always dreamt of having for my games notes.
D&D is again in flux with a new edition looming in the future, eagerly awaited by some, or viewed with suspicion, hatred or fear by a significant part of the community, or ignored all together others. For us who have been around editions changes before this is nothing new, what I think is new this time is that it will not be the rules that are the most important change, it will be the business model and how it is published. It will be interesting to see this unfold in 2023. In our Greyhawk community editions play a much less of a role, we have been spread out over multiple editions and variants of the game for decades, we can incorporate one more!
2022 was a bit of a year when science fiction became a reality for me. I got a computer powerful enough to create the virtual terrain I dreamt of 25 years ago, and to run flight sims real enough to make me happy flying around the world in my virtual XCub using VR.
With my new computer I can now render many thousands of square miles of terrain in one go instead of a few hundred, at the same resolution. With software updates this can be increased even more, making continental and even planetary terrains within reach.
A discussion of technological advances in 2022 wouldn't be complete without mentioning AI art and text generators. General Artificial Intelligence broke through into general use and have caused, and rightly so, a big debate over its moral, political and legal implications. The technology is amazing, powerful and will change (for good and bad) how a lot of things are done, and it will force a lot of people (including me) to be very ready for change. It took decades for the personal computer or the Internet to change society, AI will probably things faster with more disruption. The invention and quick growth of social media serves as a good example, it has been very useful and entertaining for a lot of us (including me as a creator), but also scary, disruptive and divisive. Hopefully we as a society are a little bit more prepared for the AI onslaught.
This year have taught me a lesson about trying to be everywhere, I'm not that good at it. It been a lot of fun dipping into a lot of different projects and helping out in various places, but it makes me feel torn and inadequate and that is not good in the long run. So my main goal for next year will be to try and concentrate on what I do best, map Greyhawk. This means that I will retire my $50 Custom Map Tier, and making sure I finish the projects for those who have been supporting me on that level instead of branching out even more.
I have hopefully 20-25 years ahead of me that I can work on mapping Greyhawk, my goal is to try and make the most of this time. This means: Map Greyhawk, Get Better at it and Teach Others how to do what I do! The getting better part is really important, I've gotten this far by both embracing new technology and learning proven knowledge from old. This is something I intend to continue to do, I'm currently studying both GIS (Thank you Troy!), The History of Cartography (over 3000 pages in 7 volumes!) and dipping my toes into Unreal. I want to understand how maps have been made and used through history, today and into the future. Then pair this knowledge with my RPG experience, needs as a DM as well as draw from real world use of maps for hiking, aviation and military use.
This will be my biggest project this year, the mammoth task of brining my current maps into the world of Geographical Information System technology. This means georeferencing the content, meaning give all the data, terrain, settlements, roads etc, location data so it can be placed and styles as needed for each future map.
GIS is way to manage data for geographic purposes simplifies a lot of things and opens up a lot of new possibilities that I intend to make good use of. A big one is to keep track of all the things on the map, and to add meta data to it, and import and export it easily. What took me more than a hundred hours to do when I did the index for the Atlas will be a simple data export done in a few minutes using GIS.
Using different symbol sets and terrain versions it will be fairly straight forward to create historic versions of Greyhawk. I'm working on the first one already The Era of the Flan which shows my vision of what the Flanaess looked like around two to three thousand years ago.
There are whole range of new types of maps I want to start working on when the my current stuff is georeferenced, player handout versions, heat maps for all sorts of things and more. An idea that has been on my to do list for a long time are weather maps. They are way too much work to be feasible now, but using GIS I plan to start making them. Like a Greyhawk weather service with regular updates on the weather that you can use in your games. Working out the details will take time, but I want it for my own games and of course I want to share it with you guys.
Maps that are more than a pretty pictures should be a key part of my work that I aspire to, but not really live up to yet. With this I mean that creative DM's should be able to download the content from my website, customize it to suit their games and then share it again if they like. For this to work well, usable and persistent file and data formats, as well as intellectual property rights needs to be thought of from the planning stage to finished content.
I've used Creative Commons as the base all my Greyhawk content publication for the last 10 years, this gives everyone the right to download, alter and share my content for non commercial purposes. In return they need to acknowledge the source and publish using the same CC license. I see this as fair and as a way to make sure that my Greyhawk content stays open and usable by the Greyhawk community in the future.
The technical side if this is to try and publish using open and standardized file formats, and keep the data standardized over time and between projects. This means lower costs and and other barriers to use and customize it, and that the end user can mix and match different content as much as possible. I'm working on a refined base set of symbols and stiles that I will use on my future maps. This will come in at least two scale variants for large and small scale maps.
There will be a need for more symbol sets for handout maps, data maps and more. I would love to make special version of handout maps made by Elves, Dwarfs, various Humanoids and others, that will be a fun creative challenge. When all the base symbols are ready to be used I'll start look into the others.
Real world data behind maps like OpenStreetMap, Google map etc need to be standardized across the globe and also over time for things to work. I'm working on the standards needed to best map the World of Greyhawk, what formats, resolution and data types are best suited for the task. Things of this nature is always a balancing act between what is desirable and what is obtainable. With limited amount of time, computing power and storage the right balance and the focus on what what type of data, and the quality of that data, we need for our games. When it comes to this it is very much up to play style and how we as gamers and DM's get inspired and play. I run very "setting centric" games where detailed geography plays a big part in both inspiration and execution of my games, but I hope that my "overprepping" in this department can be of use to you as well.
For planning and running overland games I have found PortaPotty Scale works really well for me, meaning each pixel is a 5 feet square. It gives both an overview of a town or a large chunk of terrain, and at the same time detailed enough to plan encounters and other obstacles and happening while traveling. Individual buildings and trees are discernible, and it is even relatively easy to use it as a base for encounter and settlement maps.
Using a bit of Photoshop magic and some effort with my Wacom pen my PortaPotty Scaletm map can be turned into a decent looking encounter map with 10 or 20 pixels/feet resolution that can even be used in VTT's. An added benefit is that they are automatically accurate without tricky tracing.
It is amazing to see a large part of a country in Greyhawk come to life like this, explore it and create settlements, roads, fields and even buildings and orchards. I hope you want help out and join me in exploring the wonders of the setting we cherish. Thank you so much for your support and I look forward to a new year of more cool maps and other content for our community!
Thank you all!