Georeferencing Oerth, first steps
The quest to place the Flanaess have now reached the first tentative steps. My approach to this is to create an Equirectangular map of Oerth and superimpose a map of Earth using the same projection, and then georeference using the the overlayed map of Earth. To create an Earth overlay on top of the Oerth map I'm using Nasa's Global Map Projector tool: https://www.giss.nasa.gov/tools/gprojector/ It is easy to use use, support Equirectangular map input and its available for free.  Using G Projector I can create a myriad of Oerth maps using different projections, like the Equirectangular Oblique seen on the title image for this post. Various projections are useful for different things and for the purpose of confirm coordinates of the Flanaess I will need to stick with the Equirectangular projection for the first stage of this project. But before we go into the details here are some cool (and weird) projections.   If you want to try it out, here is the Oerth map I created and used for this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ce16npzhb87q446/Oerth%20Equirectangular-2-01.jpg?dl=0 To place the Flanaess, my approach is to start with the big picture and then gradually move in for more and more accuracy. This first step is to get the Flanaess to align with the illustration that best shows its location, from the 1983 Gazetteer. Here we run into a problem right away the longitude lines are straight which is makes me think that they just made it easy for themselves. I'm going to assume that they are most accurate around Greyhawk and then become less and less so as you move towards the edges of the map. This map also shows an islands suspiciously similar to the Isle of Dream much farther north than I remember seeing it in later sources. I used the later sources for my decision to place it south of the area covered by my Flanaess map, there might be reason to take a new look at that again. This map also has shows plenty of islands scattered around the most of the oceans visible which is something I really like, lots of small "worlds" to develop. There are even a few small islands I have missed! Glad I looked at this old map again, there will be to add some new bits of land :) Next step will be to zoom in and fine tune the reference points of the Flanaess. Thank you again for make it possible for me to spend lots of time doing this, to have the base coordinates right will be very useful going forward!
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Cartographer Files
Crater: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mckl4uv57d55gmq/AACMdlxNX6cUwTp6bALODrL3a?dl=0 Islands: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lbet04acuglsu4y/AADZxppuRAe_H7REX8cL5j4Pa?dl=0
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Adventurer files
Crater: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3d5ap4m5bjgzvso/AAD34teVSDxMPDWGCHJE8oXya?dl=0 Islands: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1w8et9kwnktqhtp/AABI5JPJg6nqu94NNbD4ePAea?dl=0
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Old posts now accessible
Before I revamped my Patreon to be focused on my Greyhawk cartography it was focused on generic projects. I managed to run two of these projects, Craters and Islands that was set up to deal with how to tackle the technical difficulties of mapping a fantasy world in detail. The Crater project was a test to work out how to take on the huge elevation spans needed in order to properly map a fantasy world. In this sense it was a huge success, even if the map itself is not among the more prettier or even useful ones I've done.  The Island Project was my first attempt at trying to map an sizable area in minute detail and do so with photoreal quality. The resolution is 10 ft/pixel and the whole area are 32K which turned out to be almost too much for both my computers and my sanity ho handle. The render to over 4 days to do, and thanks to Edison for keeping the power flowing steady that whole time, the best technical achievement of mapping career was made. Most of the posts from back then was locked up behind the much higher pledge levels I used then, so I decided its was time to go back and adjust them to the new regime. You can get the final images here Crater: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9s5q35t695ckkgv/AADAqoeqCrea-qjqfics_pO_a?dl=0 Islands: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lzm075e2wylvswe/AACRwdgxJuGdCZptbmSARLXZa?dl=0   
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Mapping a Fantasy World - Challenges
When I finished my first Flanaess map a couple of years ago almost immediately decided to do it all over again. The main reason for this was the advancement in technology since I started my fantasy mapping career in the late 1990's. Using Bryce and an early versions of CorelDraw and CorelPaint, on my first generation Pentium equipped PC running Windows 95. A lot of the techniques and design decisions I made back then have been with my Flanaess project up until now and still affects much of  the looks and and features of the 2018 Edition.  Back then I was happy just getting something on the screen that looked decent, and there where some many technical hurdles that I didn't know if if was even technically possible to create a map covering the whole Flanaess. I made a big gamble and hoped that Moore's Law would work well enough for me to keep going, and  I made it with capacity to spare! So back in the 90's it was RAM and CPU power that was the main limiting factors in trying to create a top down map using limited 3D terrain tools in the form of Bryce. What are the hurdles to overcome this time around twenty years later? First let me quickly state what I'm trying to achieve. This time around I want to create a realistically textured 3D elevation model of the whole continent at a resolution comparable to what you see in google maps or can download from the USGS in the form of DEM's. The data needs to be geo-tagged so it can be integrated with other data for a whole range of possibilities.  On the hardware side of things not much to worry about, CPU's GPU's, RAM and storage of today can handle this and with the new cool toys on the near horizon no clouds on the hardware skies. The metal and machinery to handle this taks are already near my desk or will be so in the very near future. When it comes to software this is where the clouds start to appear. Windows kinda cam of age when it got 64-bits to play with, and Windows 10-64bit works like a charm for me.  Now we comes to the the applications needed to try and create the terrain model, and this is where the limitations start to darken the fantasy skies. I use the following applications for terrain creation: World Machine, Vue, Terragen. They are in my experience the best and in may ways the only tools that can really be called professional. There are a number of new ones on the horizon and I have tested a number of them, and the only ones of real interest for the kind of heavy high quality lifting I'm after are Gaea and Instant Terra. The guys and gals over at Wysilab seems to have shoot themselves in the foot though, pricing themselves out of the game. Instant Terra Professional subscription costs $1,560/year, and that caps out at 8K render resolution. I'm not even going to ask them how much the Enterprise cost. The beta version I have tested didn't impress me much except in the use of GPU based rendering which made things more or less instantaneous on my machines. So I leave Instant Terra to brood over in France for the foreseeable future.  I've mapped many thousands of square miles using these tools the past five or so years, which have made me impressed with some of their features and deeply frustrated at some of the limitations. First it needs to be said that none of the tools, except for Gaea which I will come to later, where made with the intent of accurately modeling a large fantasy world in this level of detail. All the tools seem to have one of a few of the features needed but always seem to lack in at least one critical area.  I can go on about my frustrations with this for a very long time, but the Flanaess is waiting so I will try and nail down the key problems this undertaking will face going forward. Then in a series of blog posts for the Cartographer backers I will try and explain in detail how I intend to go about tackling these challenges.  Spherical Worlds and Projections This is in many ways the most fundamental of the challenges when trying to map even a modest bit of a planet. The Flanaess are big enough in itself to give you a lot of issues, but it is like Europe best describes as number of peninsulas belonging to a large continent. In the case of the Flanaess it is the super sized continent of Oerik, roughly the size of the Pacific ocean and then some spanning more than half the planet. Both Vue and Terragen can work with whole planet, and they even have fantastic procedural tools to do so. The problem with bot of them is a lack of control, and when you have a fantasy world already decked out with features at certain spots both tools are inadequate for the job. World Machine does a decent job covering large areas and Gaea will soon improve on that even more with better tiling features but they still only work on a flat plane.  The way around this problem is to use some of the same tricks as the real world land surveyors and cartographers use but in a virtual form. So it is time to start forge those survey markers and bring forth the calculator to find the right projections for the job.   Too large to file Terrain elevation models are best stored as images or text data in the form of DEM files, the difference is one is binary and the other is ascii, but both of them will grow too large when they cover more than a few tens of square miles. The Flanaess is somewhere in the vicinity of 6,000 miles across (depending on how far west you include). This means you need to split it up into hundreds of small areas to make the task manageable.  To split it up is a good thing for many reasons. Information storage and handling of course, but a major benefit is to be able to work in parallel. Different areas can be worked on by different people and then the result can be merged afterwards, which will require a robust set of standards. File formats, resolution, naming, meta data etc, all need to be worked out in advance and adhered to.  With careful planning you will be able to use different tools both for added variation, but also to not be stuck with the same tools for years. For consistency I stuck with Bryce 5.5 for a decade, newer versions didn't work well with the humongous file I had created and the results didn't match well enough. This time around I don't want to fall into the same trap, so data need to be stored in formats that can be useful by different tools now and in the future. Shades of Grey Elevation data are usually stored as grey-scaled images, so the number of different elevation levels are limited to how many shades of grey there are. This is measured in the numbers of bits for each pixel, 8-bits, 16-bits and 32-bits are the options here. 8-bit are not enough, unless you can live with a Mindcraft looking terrain and 32-bits tend to be too much for a lot of applications to handle, so 16-bits seems to be the most resonable option here.  16-bits gives enough detail for terrains with an elevation span of up to around 10,000 ft, try and push it harder and things have a tendency to look stretch and featureless. I imagine fantasy worlds to have mountains (and various holes) to span much more than that and the Flanaess is no exception. If we intend to map the rest of Oerth even bigger things might be out there who knows!? So we need to be able to span elevations, up and down, that are many times that. I imagine the Crystalmists and the Yatils to be taller than the Himalayas and the Right Canyon will need some depth to play with indeed. This will force us to look into things like vertical tiling, various base levels and other tricks to make this possible. My first Patreon Project the Crater was a test of the possibilities with an elevation span of way more than 10,000 ft. So it can be done, but it needs to be combined with projections and tiling and the final issue below.  Give me a Creek Water seems to be either very difficult to simulate or seen as a nuisance by the creators of terrain creation tools, especially small amounts of it. Oceans and large bodies of water are well catered for in both Vue and Terragen and they can both create spectacular looking water in the renders produce. The problems comes when water flows downhill and that is the norm even in most fantasy worlds. Vue and Terragen have no functions for rivers, none which is to me a mystery. When you spend years trying to to simulate nature, but skip trying to even implement the most basic forms of rivers large and small.  World Machine have what I would best describe as an embryo for creating rivers, which is clunky and requires a lot of minute fiddling for at best mediocre results. It is only good for creating larger rivers and not the myriad of creeks needed to make wetter areas believable. I have worked on a way to create rivers using the Layout Generator in WM, and after about three years and too many iterations to try and remember it did a better job than the native river tool. But it is still too clunky and then there are those creeks.... Gaea is where I put my money when it comes to first come with a river tool that can effectively do the job. Eventually I'm sure all of the tools mentioned will come with robust river functions, including even those pesky little creeks, but that will take time. Gaea isn't ready for production yet and its river functions months away still. So an interim solution is needed that can do the job for the foreseeable future.  My answer to this is to use the always trusty Photoshop, and paint the rivers. This is nothing new I've been doing it since the early days with Bryce and CorelPhotoPaint, but this time we need to do it in 3D! How to get those creeks and rivers to flow downhill in a natural way where we want them to will require some clever tricks, that I will try and present to the Cartographer backers in the not too distant future. Onward...  There are the four main challenges I see going forward with mapping the Flanaess (and potentially the whole Oerth) in detail. My hit and miss test runs the pass couple of years, combined with my Midgard work for Kobold Press have given me the experience (and stubbornness) to think that now I'm finally ready to start this journey all over again. The next steps will be to sketch out the location of the Flanaess to get the big picture right, and also to work on Lendore Isle as a way to start get the details right. Thanks to your support I will very soon have pleasure to invest in a full set of professional GIS tools that integrate with Illustrator and Photoshop. This will both be a cornerstone in getting this in the right place, but also open up a whole new world of possibilities.  This was a look into the future, next up will be a new Flanaess 2018 pre-release version, Photoshop videos and more Campaign Sketches, all coming in the next few weeks.    Thank you again for your support! :)
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Ocean Overlay Colors
When I presented the Ratik with the updated style there where some good points made about the ocean colors. The concern was that ocean depth wasn't as visible as before. In order to try and tweak it so it comes out the best I've created a set of samples covering different levels of ocean blue opacity from 0% to 100%. They are imaged below. Please vote for the option you like the best for the main map. I write main map because more visible water depths can be used on other maps geared for different needs. This is what you like on the main Flanaess map. I'm using Nyr Dyv (the lake of Unknown Depths) as a test case since it has a broad spectrum of depths.  
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Flanaess Spread Map Kit!
125 patrons and halfway to the next goal wonderful, thank you so much to all of you!! Here comes something that have been on my to do list for a long time, a proper Spread Map Kit. This is a layered PSD file with masks and color layers that you can use to create all sorts of spread maps for things like political, trade, religion or historical maps. The file comes in two sizes 8300 pixels for a bit more detail and a smaller one at 300 pixels to be usable with tools with Realm Works. It is fully layered which means you can show or hide all the text and symbols, and it comes with a parchment layer and a number of color layers and a set of masks for coastlines.  One thing to keep in mind - these are low resolution bitmap versions of the Flanaess Map. That means that small text will NOT be legible, and that comes with making a small bitmap version that makes it easy to paint in colors. I just needed to state that here as a clarification. Text and symbols are layer separated so you can turn each category on or off as needed. Layers are are stacked and blended ready to function with a number of different styles of maps.  If you need more color layers just create more in the Spread Color group. The Spread Color Group also has its own mask that is set to cover land areas, but by inverting this mask you can cover oceans and lakes. If you want to have a set of spreads for land and another for water areas (or something else) copy the group and give it an appropriate mask. The PSD file works in GIMP, and in other image editors able to use PSD (Photoshop) files.  You can also apply layer effects to tweak things to your liking. For example: making the white roads visible on the white spread map background by giving them a purple Color Overlay. Or you can reduce the saturation of the terrain map to make the spread colors pop a bit more. All in all I think every Game Master will need some spread maps sooner for his or her campaign and with a setup like this its not that much work to create something that will look stunning, and all you need are some very basic skills in Photoshop, GIMP or your image editor of choice. Always remember to not save over the original when you make a new new version. This is also the debut for the 2018 Edition Terrain. There is still a lot of details that needs work, but for this low resolution (and crappy low resolution) need it is already good enough. You can grab the 8300 pixel version here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/c37x8kx3pn85joy/Spread%20Map%202017-8300px.psd?dl=0 and the 3000 pixel version here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vhuuvzuspgiqfjn/Spread%20Map%202017-3000px.psd?dl=0
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Flanaess 2018 - first sneak peak!
I'm roughly half way done with the terrain part of the 2018 update so I decided it is time to create a few of sneak peaks that I will use as promo teasers for my Patreon.   My goal with the terrain update is to adjust the garish old colors from back in the 90's when I only had a low resolution VGA monitor with no calibration, and my lack of experience didn't help either! Hopefully a couple of decades of technical progress and me learning a things or two will make a difference, and I'm really pleased with the new look.  I will use these to spread the word while I'm working on the rest. Waters from oceans, coast lines and beaches to rivers and marshlands are my focus for the next round. I hope to have the terrain part done in September and then move on to update text and symbols after that. I will need your help in deciding some new graphic styles for some the text and symbols. They will be presented as polls during the summer. Thank you again for your support! :)
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What is happening.....
Took a day off today to work on Greyhawk again, and on today's agenda: Water from the oceans to marshlands. More natural colors, better shore detail and clean up a lot of artifacts.  Here is a screenshot with the water layers enabled. It is only partly done, but one of the goals is to make Muddich really muddy! There are still several days of work to do on this map update but things are starting to fall in place, with a lot of of the ground (or in this case bottom) work done.  In order to make the oceans look less crazy blue and more like realistic water I created a simplified muddy bottom.  With some blending and masking it will be a huge improvement. Overall colors and saturation will be adjusted as well, and various areas will get individual treatment to make them more natural. Here is an example with a bit of the Tilvanot Peninsula and the northern tip of Hepmonaland.   So far its been mostly large area work, the fine details will come in the next step. When this is done later this summer I think it will be a decent face lift for a map that starting to look like something from old times. I've also just got my new microphone so new videos will come soon. Thank you all for supporting me in doing this all 94 of you!! :)
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A new Journey Begins....
Twenty years ago I started mapping the World of Greyhawk for my own campaign, and then decided to share my work on the then emerging Internet. The rest is an history most of you who read this already know about so instead of looking backwards I'm going to try and look forward. I've decided to start all over again. Yes I mean starting all over again with mapping the Flanaess, and its surroundings. What on Oerth can make me come to this conclusion? I want to do this again for three different reasons. The first one is that I know have the experience needed to do it properly. Second, technology is now beginning to be powerful enough to make it possible to do it right. Thirdly I'm so passionate about it that when I see a way to make a much better job I just have to do it! It took me more than five years of full time work last time, and to remake it the way I want to is not going to  much easier. My estimate for this is for it to take around 5 years of work. How long that will actually take depends on how much time I can devote to it. If I do this as a hobby like last time it will be a decade or so. Thankfully there is a way for you to make it possible for me to devote more time to it, support my Patreon. With a little bit more support mapping the world of Greyhawk will be an ongoing project that I can treat as an commissioned project, with more support it can be my major project or maybe even a full time undertaking. We will see how that develop, it will be my hobby and passion anyway, and also be a big part of my research and development. so I will work on one way or the other. So what are goals this time around? Full elevation model with increased detail to 100/pixel. Enough to make it useful for outdoor adventures by visualizing what an area actually looks like. This can also serve as a solid base for city and encounter maps to be developed that will match the surrounding terrain.  Below is an example of the difference in resolution and a proper elevation model. Global Precision, the Flanaess needs to be accurately placed this time to make it possible to expand the project to cover other parts of Oerth as well. Meta data part of the project from the start. I want to make use of modern GIS (Geographical Information System) standards to make it possible to keep track of things and form a base for better forms of presentation and varied use. Presentation and format needs to be a major focus for this project. The current map is only top down in two formats, JPG and PDF. Next time the data needs to be usable in many more ways. I envision things like game engines, GIS tools, RPG campaign tools like Realm Works, webb based maps and more. To go along with the data should be a set of graphical symbols 2D and 3D, graphical elements fonts and more specially designed to present the World of Greyhawk at its finest. All my Greyhawk content have been free to download and published under the Creative Commons -by -nc license. This going to be the case going forward as well. If Wizard of the Coast changing their stance of Greyhawk fan created content, I might have to look into what they offer, but that is only hypothetical and my guess is that it will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Creative Commons -by -nc, gives you the permission to use, alter and share the content for non commercial purposes as long as the source is indicated.  The main goal with this is that whatever comes out of this should be used by Greyhawk fans and others as much as possible and serve as a platform for anyone who wants to run games set in Greyhawk. That means that it needs to be accessible, modifiable and sharable.  How to try and tackle this huge undertaking? I'm in the planning stage right now, and there are several bits and pieces that needs to fall in place before actual work can begin. This is what most of this year will be occupied with. 2018 revision of the existing map will be more thorough than previous years to make it more compatible with the future content. This is important since it will be years until all of it can be replaced with a new version, so the old have to live side by side with the new as good as possible. My existing map is also my main guide when mapping it again, and we want as good of a guide as possible.   The Oerth Geo Referencing project is what I will call my effort to try and place the Flanaess properly on Oerth. I will try and use all the data from Greyhawk canon sources as well as some of the great pieces written on the topic and try and implement them using GIS tools.  In order to set both standards and work-flow small test areas needs to be mapped. The first one out is the Lendore Isles. Islands are good pilot areas since they are separate from the mainland and can more easily be imported and merged with future content.  These three parts will probably keep me busy this year, and if there are time over there are always interesting tidbits to dig into. things like city sketches, heraldry and touch up other old stuff hidden in various places... 
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