Patreon restart
The Patreon restart is now in effect with a number of changes. Lets start with the monetary bit. I've changed to a monthly charge instead of per project, to better support a long term goal of mapping the world of Greyhawk all over again. To compensate for being greedy I've adjusted the reward levels to $1, $3 and $5. The first charge will be on June 1st, so you have until then to adjust your pledge level, or withdraw your support. I hope most of you will decide to change your pledge and stay, but I can understand if you decide not too. To change the set up after only six months and two projects is not what you singed up for. Those of you who stay will hopefully not regret it, there are lots of content coming. But instead of a few big chunks of it per year expect more of a steady trickle of stuff, most of it will be directly applicable to Greyhawk. Most of it will be usable for your home-brew campaign as well, there will be a non labeled version along with the one with labels. This year I want to do the following:
  • 2018 Revision of my current Flanaess Map, with more changes that previous years.  
  • Properly placing the subcontinent of the Flanaess of Oerth, as a base for future mapping.
  • Create at least one test area to set the standard for future Flanaess (and Oerth) mapping.
  • Create a much improved map presentation standard.
This will be quite a challenge and require a lot of new thinking, but with your help it can be done! For those of you who pledge on the Cartographers Level this means there will probably be more advanced stuff to dig into, so for you this is a change but also a plus. Things I know will be covered this year are:
  • Planetary mapping and projections
  • Rivers and Wetlands in World Machine
  • Large area mapping in World Machine
  • Data Flow setup in World Machine
  • Learning Gaea
  • Touch up and Editing in Photoshop including filters and masking
  • A look at Other World Mapper
  • Map Symbols in 2D and 3D
and more! I have a new campaign I'm working on, and it needs to be mapped, so expect tidbits from a side of my mapping I have rarely shown before. Thank you all for for your support, and I hope will stay on for more!  
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My Patreon going forward....
It has now been over 6 month since I started my Patreon and so far I've done two projects. The first one Craters was well managed but with questionable usability, and the second Islands was terribly managed but with great results but with caveats (more on them later). The outcome and especially the feedback from you guys have taught me some hard lessons. The main one is that Patreon is not well equipped to handle distribution or management of content other than images up to 200MB in size. I've used Dropbox and my website as placement of files but that cause problems for some people depending regardless of size and most of you when the files are bigger than a few hundred MB.  To run things as projects also seem to go against the blog nature of Patreon. My goal this year was to try and do four projects of roughly a months length each with commissioned work filling out the rest of my time. The Island project was overly ambitions which meant it spanned over  nearly three months and resulted in large number of massive files causing issues for many of you.  My goal with this Patreon was to be able to create something in direct connection with you guys. Balancing it with my commissioned work and working on advanced things as a way of improving my skills. This I don't want to change at all, except to say that with enough support for my Patreon it could become more important, meaning I can spend more of my time working on creating for my Patreon. Greyhawk have always been the go to setting for my own games, and the place I use as a base for my efforts to improve and learn. It was always my intention to use my Patreon projects as a base for Greyhawk work, but it might be better to do things the other way around. Focus my Patreon work on mapping the World of Greyhawk and use what is being learned to create other things on the side from time to time. My proposal is to change things a bit, and change is never easy so this have to be something you will have a big say in and time to adjust to (or leave my Patreon if you so want). Focus is going to be not on a few projects a year, instead an ongoing long term effort to develop and use the techniques to map a game setting in full detail. So the results will not be neatly packaged content now and then, but more of bits and pieces of Greyhawk related material of various forms and shapes with generic stuff mixed in on a more regular basis. To better suit this way of working I'm proposing to change my Patreon to charge a monthly fee. This needs to be a smaller amount and fewer tiers to simplify and compensate, I'm thinking three tiers at $1, $3 and $5. $1 for those who just want to support my effort and get the final results early. $3 for those who want to take a more active role in the development and have a say in how and what I should do in what order. $5 for those who want to have an insight in the technical side of things and get source content and how to information. The final Flanaess 2.0 content will be released as Creative Common -by -nc just like my previous maps. Patreons will get early access to the material and also get credited. I'm also willing to dedicate special commission spots for Patreons, with discounts based on the support given thought my Patreon. Details for this have to be worked out. I have to add a disclaimer to this: in case WotC opens up DM's Guild for Greyhawk the situation might need to be looked into again.    So what do I want you to give me money for? To put it bluntly, I want to spend more time working on projects that I'm really passionate about and give the content away to the community when I'm done. I will always spend a bit of time I have left over to do this simply because I love to do it, and it is the best way for me to improve. This means I might spend from a few hours to occasionally a day per week on this, and I would get the Flanaess done within a decade or so. But with your help I could spend more time and have it done in much less time, and also have the means to create something better.  My plan forward look like this: Initially three different projects run in parallel, a 2018 revision of the existing map, a couple of test areas for Flanaess 2.0 mapping standards and set up the grounds for placing the Flanaess (and other continents) properly on Oerth. Flanaess Map 2018 Revision For the first time since 2013 I will edit the terrain to make it more compatible with version 2.0. Adjust colors and add and revise certain details as needed to improve it. There will also be the usual addition and correction of settlements and other symbols.  Flanaess 2.0 - This will be a completely new map using the exiting one as a guide. - The level of detail I'm aiming for is a data resolution of 100 ft per pixel, roughly 10 times better than the existing map.  - Multiple types of data, like texture, elevation, masks and more. This will make it possible to create all multitude of versions for different uses and platforms, like Webb maps, game engines etc. - Presentation is major part of the project. I want to have several different styles created that can cater for both the in game prop type maps as well as the full visualization of the setting.  - The data need to be stored in a form that makes it possible and easy to create more detailed maps of key areas or global maps that match each other in the same way real world maps do. - Special renders, think landscape photography. With a setup like this you as Patreons might get a bit less polished content at first, and it will be in bits and pieces. But I'm sure it will be more and more of it the further we get into this project. When it comes to the technical side of things there will be less huge files, but more technical know how on a more regular basis. I have created a discord server: https://discord.gg/vgqSqd I will create special channels for Patreons and in the future start some form of live mapping sessions for Patreons. A more in depth presentation of Flanaess Map 2.0 with more images will come soon.  My plan is to not charge you until we have had a discussion, and then possibly switch to a monthly charge June 1st at the earliest. In the meantime I will post updates, sneak peaks and articles as usual. Now I'm very interested to hear what your thoughts are!
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Time for Improvement
I started my Fantasy Cartography career 20 years ago when I started my efforts to map the world of Greyhawk. Since the earliest days its been and still is constant strive to try and get better, to learn more, acquire better tools and find a better approach. Working on a single huge map also forced me to be consistent both in technique and style, so when I had found something that worked for me I stuck with it until my Flanaess map was done.  This meant the technology used to created are from the mid 90's and ancient by todays standards, and some of my stylistic choices also feel ancient to me now too. Despite all its shortcomings, it is a work of love and I'm still very proud of my Flanaess map. But the time has come to go back and start over again, this time not from the beginning, this time with two decades of fantasy mapping experience, new tools but with the same love of the mission and the setting. I've not only mapped for two decades I've also read hundreds of pages of text and run hundreds of hours of games in Greyhawk and most importantly I have now a large group of friends equally dedicated to the setting that can guide me even more than last time. With this said its time to go back to the Flanaess, time for my Flanaess 2 adventure! Last time it took me over a decade thanks to lack of skills, tools and time. This time I'm better prepared so hopefully it can be done in about half the time, but I'm still looking at this as a five years plus project. It will be up to home much time I can devote to my passion, and also how I can overcome some of the hurdles and quagmires I know are lurking on the way, and the many others I'm not yet aware of. Just like last time I have to take a leap of faith, work hard and hope for the best. The known hurdles are many, from the cartographic like how to reverse engineer the Oerth and best place the Flanaess to how to best organize the project.   The first steps where taken last night and captured in the images in this post. Its not much to brag about yet but it is the first important steps on a long journey. The first encounter on this is the realization that my Patreon setup is in dire need of a rethink. I will give it a few days of consideration while I'm off a few days of travel. I will present my ideas on how to better go forward for discussion next week. Thank you all for your support and I hope you want to come with me on this quest to map a Game Setting all over again! 
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Isometric Map Previews
Here is a sneak peak at whats coming, and I must say I'm proud of these!
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Project Islands - Final maps roll out!
Its been a long hard struggle to get here but final maps are getting ready. First out will be top down views of the minor islands, with the first one coming later today. The other ones will come in the next two to three days, and the main Island by the end of the week. This gives a hint at what the final maps will looks like. I'm pretty shure this will be the most detailed fantasy terrain ever created for use in RPG's. Working on the last details of the island in Area1, the town and its surroundings. Isometric, detailed 3D views and special maps will come next week.  The last bits to be added to this projects are a set of landscape images and the how-to videos. The reason for this is two fold, the main reason is that this is the first time I've done a project this complicated with a fully 3D terrain covering an area of this size with forest roads and buildings represented. I wanted to find out what actually worked before trying to convey that knowledge to you guys. I have learned some hard lessons about limitations, but technical and personal during the roughly 8 weeks of arduous but very interesting work. Me being more than a bit frustrated with progress, quality and deadlines I've set for this progress, have made me more than usually unfit to record How-To videos. It is much easier when you have understood what you need to do. Now back to Photoshop for a few hours of details....
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What I'm up to - January 2018
Time again for a blog post about what I'm up to for the moment and a look into what is on the horizon. First a huge thank you to all my Patreons who have decided to support me, it means a lot to me! My second Patreon project - Islands, are moving into the final phase adding settlements, roads and other features of civilization. Which features will make it on the map will be decided by my my Patreons who have backed me at the Adventurer level or above. The results will be a set of seasonal islands mapped i exquisite detail, fully modeled in 3D. Perfect for adventures in need of an group of islands to explore. The poll close in 12 hours and at the moment the leading places are, hidden coves with and without pirate camps, the Inn of Lost Tales, Fortress Refuge and a small trading town. I also keep a secret part of the list that will make it on for sure, that is a cartographers privilege, making sure my special favorite details make it on to the map. Delivery of the final maps will begin in about a weeks time after a final touch up. First the basic maps for all backers, followed by the advanced content that will take a little bit longer to create. This is a busy time with a secret project for Kobold Project underway that I'm sure will please fans of Midgard. It will require me to dig deep into the toolbox and think big, really big. The results of this will if everything goes well play a part of launch of the new Midgard hardcover. It is also a first technology test for bringing old "flat maps" into the 3D realm, which will play a major role in a number of projects coming up. Made an appearance a few days ago on Twitch Channel Return to Greyhawk run by DM Shane, you can see the interview here.  Next commission project coming up is the Curse of the Lost Memories by Griffon Lore Games. The Kickstarter just reached the funding goal, and the first stretch goal is to have me mapping the Wailmoor area. Please consider backing this Kickstarter, the gaming community needs more cool sandbox areas to adventure in made by dedicated gamers! If the Gryffon Lore Kickstarter continues to be successful it will include more cartography and interior art by Tad Davis cover art by Oliver Wetter. The top stretch goal listed is the Regional Campaign Guide to Kingdom of Lothmar. I might be more or much more busy later this spring depending on the success of the Griffon Lore Games Kickstarter!  This year mark the 20th year anniversary of my fantasy mapping endeavors that started with my work on a map of the Flanaess. The oldest part of that map are from September 1998, so its time to go back and revisit Greyhawk where it all started for me. This will happen in several ways, most of it done through my Patreon. First out is a new look at the Lendore Isle with the help of Len Lakofka, which will be my next Patreon Project beginning in February. Darlene have graciously accepted to be a Guest Creator on my Patreon, her artistic talent and expertise will bring some unique possibilities to work on projects loved by Greyhawk fans. This will be a great addition to the other Greyhawk themed projects I'm planning later this year. If my Patreon continues to be this successful I plan to dedicate a whole year to Patreon starting this fall and concentrate on my passion with the Flanaess and its surroundings as a way to both recharge my creative ability and to give back to all of you who are supporting me. Thank you again for all your support!
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Island troubles
Don't let the absence of posts here lull you into a sense that I'm slacking off. Its been busy times here with three different projects going in parallel, two commissions and the Island project.  Our islands have had a difficult time to come out of what can best be described as render mayhem. The size, complexity and my determination to get the details out, seems to hit both hardware software and every other limitation my poor computers can conjure. So now I have a fairly good idea of the limits of current technology.  After a week of trials and errors the results are very much to my liking and well worth the day or so of rendering it took me once I figured out how to do the setup.   Left to do on the islands are settlements and roads, which will be determined in a poll coming up shortly. Then a little bit of world Machine work and export of all the data, final Photoshop touch up and Vue renders.  My plan is still to have this project ready by the end of the month, so you can get to used it in your adventures soon. If all the troubles getting this project done is any indications, there will be plenty of great stories to be played out here! Thank you all for joining me in this quest, and welcome to the new ones to arrive!
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Why didn't I think of that before?
Figuring out a better way of doing things can sometimes take a surprisingly long time, and then all of a sudden strike you. I've worked with 3D terrain tools for over twenty years now and one of the main frustrations for me have been to try and create believable lakes and rivers. The situation have always been like this: I have managed to make a great looking landscape. Then when I'm trying to place rivers and lakes they need to shape the landscape around them in order to fit in properly, but this inevitably messed up the geometry and required erosion to be applied again which had to be basked and so on. this It became a vicious cycle of refinement and masking over and over in order to create believable lake and river systems. Over the years I've refined this five major times and made significant improvements, but to the price of more and more recalculations and masking, which take  time to render. Two days ago when I was working in Photoshop listening to music it just struck me to reverse how I did things. Up until now I've always assumed it was best to mimic nature an have lakes and rivers affecting the landscape, but what if you instead started with the lakes and rivers and then let them shape the landscape around them. My idea was that this way you create a single set of elevation data and masks that can then be used throughout the rest of the landscape build. I did a simple test build which kept me up much later than New Years, so now you know my priorities! It turned out really well so now I'm reworking my islands project to take advantage of this way of doing things. So far my impression is that the results are better than anything I've achieved before and much improved performance, so it is a win win. Note that this only affects in which order the data are generated and processed, so nothing stops you from first creating the landscape and then adding lakes and rivers. World Machine will adjust the landscape will readjust to the added water. One of the most striking benefits are the fast response you get when you edit river and lake shapes. The other is that now you can create both lakes and rivers using the same Layout Generator which means that rivers now are properly attached to lakes automatically, in most cases. You still have to make sure they are properly welded and on the same elevation. I haven't extracted data and applied it to texturing yet, so there might be a snafu or two still to be worked out, but I can't see any reason why that should work. That is my mission of the day to put all that back together again using the new lakes and rivers. Here is a link to my basic test file so toy can try it out: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1cvqawlc2k71iuo/Rivers%20First%20-2.tmd?dl=0 Here is my new version of the Island Project using the new rivers: https://www.dropbox.com/s/amknb5d11it2s8k/Islands%20Low-121%20Rivers%20Before.tmd?dl=0 I have to issue a warning for this file. The regular Views are no longer functioning. I've created temporary view here: You can use this one until the textures are back in play again, which I hope to have fixed today.
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How to best celebrate Needfest?
As all us Greyhawk fans I'm getting ready to celebrate Needfest and the new year soon to be upon us, and what better way of doing it that to spend a day working on Lendore Isle! In a burst of creative ideas I just needed to test a new approach to reuse my Flanaess map as a direct base for a 3D version. This involves (as so much of mapping work) masking, so today have been mostly spent in Photoshop painting white to mask the ocean. As a source I'm using a 600 dpi version of my Flanaess terrain, instead of the 200 dpi version used in the final map. I which I could have used it for the final Flanaess map but it is a hefty 15.3 GB in size, and with symbols and text it would bring almost any knows PC (personal computer that is) to its knees. So I had to cut it down to a third of the resolution. As a special Needfest gift I'm going to share the high resolution terrain file with all the Cartographer Level backers for their personal projects. Patreon Project 2 - Islands are also progressing, did all the forests yesterday and will dig into beaches and water texture in a day or two, after I have made a couple of videos that will be posted here for various backer levels. How to best celebrate Needfest, well I leave that up to you with a which that your New Year festivities will be wonderful! I also want to say a special welcome to all our new backers, welcome aboard and thank you so much for your support! 
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A dark horse comeback?
I can't keep this a secret any longer. In my job you constantly have to try and do the impossible and even worse, invent better ways of doing the impossible in order to get better results with less work. The main constraint are either technical or not enough time or both. Back in the 1990's when I laid down the foundations for my Flanaess map the only real option was Bryce 3D, and the 3D is in my case more of a misnomer, I couldn't really create 3D maps. To get something that looks cool and could be done in a reasonable amount of time I had to settle for a top down view of a "Fake 3D" world.  Now it is 25 years later and maybe even a garage opener are way more powerful than the Pentium I used back then. The same goes for software which can now handle thousands if not even many millions times more data effectively, that is the main reason I started to use World Machine. What World Machine couldn't do very effectively (and believe when I say I've tried) to create 3D terrain that accurately match the top down images of my Flanaess map. To do that effectively you need a more artistic approach that are highly controllable. That artistic control are now becoming a reality! The latest version of Vue have support for using your Wacom Pen to sculpt or paint terrain elevation, and Gaea are set to have that support as well. This makes me confident enough to say that it is time to look into a fully 3D version of my Flanaess map! This also opens up another of my Holy Grail's of mapping (been watching Knightfall too much), start big and then detail certain areas as desired. I've already started to work on a World Machine template to create new terrain that will closely match my old Bryce terrain. This is created in one tench the scale which means it can be done many times faster. This terrain can then be imported into Gaea and Vue for refinement and rendering of small area maps in much more detail.   There are still some kinks to work out, but I'm confident enough to say it will work and work well. To combine the power of fractals with an artistic flair is what made me a mapper in the first place, and now is the time to bring that combination into the 21st century. To celebrate my 20th year Flanaess anniversary with a renewal of the old in a new way have me really stoked for next year, and I wanted to share that with you guys before going public with this. there are some more experimentation to do, and I need to spend around $1600 on a Vue upgrade, but its looking very promising indeed! 
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