Oerth Part 4: Revise, Adjust and Improve
First a HUGE thank you, over 300 Patreon members, wow, thank you all for your support!!!! And thank you all for all the great feedback on my Oerth modeling, lots of good creative points that I have tried my best to address with this update. I've recruited help of friends and friends of friends who are experts at climate, oceanography, ecology and geography. Over a series of zoom calls they have helped me trying to come up with cool solutions to try and improve on the Oerth model.  There were three main issues with my first version, too much desert in the west, more islands would be better and the "cowhide factor" is still too high. Below is the revised continental layout: My goal is to try and improve on the three mentioned issues and still try to honor the DA1 map and the other scare source material available. Lets start in the North Western Oerik where I hade made into Hot Steppes and Desert, and the Sundered Empire Map made into a enormous forested and fertile region. So how to turn desert into a lush forest? You have to give the region a decent amount of rainfall reliably spread out over the year. In order to increase the rainfall in the desert zone we need to bring in  humid air and keep dry air away. We started by adding a group of islands in the ocean north of the NW tip of Oerik, large enough and placed to divert the ocean currents coming across the Solnor from the west south along the northern Oerik and then sweep north effectively revering the gyre from my previous version.  This will bring in warm moist air from the west rather than cold dry air from the north giving us a good start with a forested peninsula sticking out. Next is to bring the ocean south by creating a large inlet just west of the peninsula. To make it more interesting I broke it into two with a land tongue and sprinkled in some islands. We added mountains east and west of and they are especially high in the east to create a barrier from the prevailing eastern winds brining in dry desert air, instead forcing moist ocean air south. The humid tropical area at the equator has lots of humidity, so instead of if having most of that flowing west to the coast we added a low range of hills to force the a large part of the rainforests to drain NE. This will fill out the depression SE of the added ocean inlet making the climate humid subtropical to tropical as well as make the geography much more interesting. Hills and mountains in this area will be mostly covered in vegetation ranging from tropical to temperate depending on  elevation and direction. The added islands will have a climate similar to Ireland with an oceanic climate. Here is the legend with adjusted matching colors. Western Oerik is in this version given a much larger area of Tropical Rainforest and Savannah in the northern half, and a much more broke up coast in the southern half along with an rearrangement of the mountain ranges to again keep the dry desert air away from the coast, will make for much larger Mediterranean and Humid Subtropical areas.  The broken up coast and added islands makes the geography more interesting, reduces the cowhide factor and also better matches the Sundered Empire map. Next up is the central valley of Western Oerik, east of the big rift. In my firs model this was hot dry depression shielded from the rainforest east of the huge mountain range. By creating a series of canyons that opens up for winds from the east this depression will become a huge tropical rainforest oasis in a very hot dry desert and rivers draining the mountains will create a lake that seasonally grows to the  size of the Nyr Dyv . East of the lake will be a hot steppe before some of the most impressive mountain pillars on Oerth with large valleys covered in forests of all kinds, a very diverse mix of biomes and adventuring possibilities. It is important to know that climate zones are not monolithic, just because an area is a desert doesn't mean that there are only sand and rock. If you take the Sahara or the Deserts of South Western USA there are large areas with varying forms of vegetation including forests where there are water, open or in aquafers. Thank you so much for your help, I think this is an large improvement and we are getting closer to a really useable model of Oerth.
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May 2021 Update
This post is a month late, sorry for hinting at things and that information is coming and then keeping things to myself. The main reason for this are that my mother got a cancer diagnosis a month ago and even though I live 5000 miles away from here there was still a lot of things to take care of, just in case of the worst.  The prognosis looks much better that what we feared initially, and she is undergoing surgery tomorrow. My calendar for this fall have also been in limbo for a couple of weeks and I've just now confirmed that there will be way more time for me to work on Greyhawk maps this summer and fall, there are some advantages with a pandemic!  I'll tell you more of what has been postponed to next year soon when it it official, in the meantime lets dive into what is going on right now and what I'm working on! The Fantasy Mapping Show Alyssa Faden and me have decided that we need to talk about maps more, so with the help of Jay Scott aka. Lord Gosumba we are starting a new Twitch Show "The Fantasy Mapping Show" which will be a monthly two hour show about all aspects of Fantasy Cartography, from the Underdark to Space, from rooms to worlds and from painting to programming. We want to hear from you to know what topics you want us to cover! First episode will be Friday June 18th @7pm EST on https://www.twitch.tv/lordgosumba Oerth Thank you again for the wonderful reception of my first Oerth planet model, this have given me a taste for more! I'm looking into variants like ice-age and historic (geologic time) versions to drill deeper into the topic. Dissecting Oerth is another interesting project related to this. My own campaign ideas are that the planet actually hosts the inner planes, there of comes the name. The elemental planes are actually a dimension of the planet itself, and elemental interaction creates both underdark realms, a fantasy version of plate tectonics and can be a driver of climate. This way things can be adjusted a bit as needed. A more conventional planet model need to be looked into as well. Campaign Maps My Shield Lands campaign are up and running after a bit of struggling start. The party is still in Auldet in Shield lands and are fighting hard to retake the keep from the Iuz priests who are now countering with laying siege to the village with the animated corpses of all the inhabitants they have killed during their  15 year occupation.  The maps of the area are coming together and live up to my expectations, there will be much more coming this summer in the form of Shields Lands map coverage as a first test of my new mapping standard. Lendore Isles This project have been in the launching phase  for two years now, I haven't had the workflow or tools ready to give Lens Islands justice until  now that is.  I will map Lendore Isle and its smaller sister islands in 5ft/px detail just like my Shield Lands Campaign maps.  Detailed enough to see individual houses, roads and trees. Patreon For a year my Patreon have operated under "pandemic conditions", having all post public as a way for those who could afford to spend money on very much non-essential things like fantasy maps. Thanks to so many of of you have continued to support me I've been able to keep up my Greyhawk related work the past year, thank you so much everyone!! Now it is time to both go back to normal and shake things up a bit, start looking forward and make plans for the future. I have had my goals and tiers the same for the past three years, and to be honest my Patreon Goals was more than a bit fussy and something I just filled out to get things going. Support for my Greyhawk mapping endeavour is now solid at around $900/month which means I can schedule a large chunk of time every week to work on my Greyhawk projects. So what can be done with more resources, what do I want to do with more money? My computers are four and five years old, still functioning but getting a bit out of date and lacks performance. Anyone who have tried to buy powerful computers have noticed that it has been hard to find certain parts and prices have been and still are absurdly high. So computer investments have to be  postponed for a while, maybe next year will be more sane when it comes to computer hardware. GIS The next big leap in my map making will be to start using GIS (Geographical Information systems) tools and standards. I've been prepping myself knowledge wise for this one for several years, and soon ready to launch a new GIS based edition of my Greyhawk maps.  My Oerth modeling is a step in this, figuring out the placement of the Flanaess. When we reach $1000/month will be the official go ahead for this. It is initially very time consuming  referencing and then placing everything on the current map properly on the planet, but worth it for the flexibility and usability of the date once defined. Maps with different styles, sizes and publishing methods will be much easier to create, for example online versions of the map. My plan with GIS is to create a repository for Greyhawk geo data that can be downloaded and used in QGIS and other cartography tools the same way you would use real world data. QGIS is an open source tool so the cost are none, but you still need a bit of knowledge to create your own versions of the map which is unfortunately true regardless of how you try and do it. The GIS Goal is also an important step leading up to my next goal. Print If we can reach $1500/month it is time for something I'm getting asked all the time, prints! With GIS making it much easier to create a variety of map versions specially made for print, and the resources for me to do test prints to make sure they look right. The test prints will then be raffled out among Patreon members and used at conventions as promotion.  It would be a dream come true to have the money to do cool prints, so far I've only printed my Flanaess map in full once, on over 60 sheets of 11x17 inch photo papers, which took days and cost more than I dare to think of on my ink jet, using up more than a dozed cartridges. Low cost generic ones, but still over $100, print is expensive. To help out with this I'm in talks with Noble Dwarf , who does prints and apparel and is located not too far from me. They have done some great work for other cartographers so I'm sure we can get something going when we have the resources.   Will make prints easier to order and less costly, but we need to have a series of different maps of different sizes for this! Unreal The highest goal I'm going to list here now is $2000/month, and if we can reach that its time to level up into the world of Game Engines. The workflow I'm developing now is with the intent for the data to be used in a Game Engine like Unreal or Unity. This requires major investment in both time, software and knowledge. I've been looking at this field for several years and I think it is a major tool in the future for visualising, but also to make customization a lot easier. This is a full time commitment but with this technology it is possible take Fantasy mapping truly to the next level. I've seen a lot of promising projects in the small scale, but nothing on a world level which is where I want to start. Some VTT's and Campaign managers have robust API's which makes interaction possible, and having an interactive world atlas in a new form! Patreon Tiers The three current tiers have some glaring issues, the main one is the $3 tier has been sadly neglected and underused. Haven't been able to create a lot of my own campaign content, and most of it should go directly to all of you and then to the whole Greyhawk community as my other content. The other tier problem is that the $1 tier is plagued by the fact that a disproportional amount of the money get lost in fees. To try and fix this and also make sure that my Patreon is still accessible without a huge investment each month I suggest an updated tier structure: $2 Adventurer Tier All the stuff from the $3 tier for a bit of less money. Giving you early access to all my maps right away including Discord. What happens to the ones who are $1 tier? You will be grandfathered into the new $2 tier and stay on it  for $1 as long as you keep your membership active. $5 Cartographer Tier Will continue to be the "technical" tier giving you "How To" and other articles, source material and similar stuff. Some of that will be available for everyone later and some will be for the tier members only. $10 "Vanity" Tier I sometimes get asked, how do go about pledging more? I'm so humbled by this and haven't really known what to do, what to give and such. Of course I want to make it possible for those of you who want to support me more.  This Tier will get you a special mention on maps, on my website and promotional material. This can be your name, logo or some other message. For legal purposes I have to state the following: I retain the right to not publish names or images I find inappropriate for any reason. Special blog posts where I discuss project ideas and things to come before posting them to the other tiers are another treat I can offer, but to be blunt this is a tier primarily for those of you who want to be my biggest supporters. The New tiers and their Annual plans will start July 1st. Flanaess Map and Atlas 2021 Edition I have a whole Evernote notebook full of map updates and I keep working on the new edition a few hours a week editing and doing research. The Atlas Edition will be expanded south to include the Ilse of Dread and other islands in the Vohun Ocean. Work on the terrain have already started, and my goal is to have the new editions ready this fall. I haven't decided the format for the Atlas yet. Last years remake with a "double"11x17 inch format was cool, but a lot of extra work and also had the drawback of being put together in Photoshop, which meant loosing the vector quality of text and symbols.  I have to make some nest of better ways to do it that are both effective, useful and keep the vector quality. Thank you so much for making this possible!! :)
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Oerth - Part 3: Visualization
Time to put all the data from the previous steps to create an first true attempt at a planet visualization of Oerth. First I need to remind you that this is a only a first take on this and very much a work in progress, but it looked so damn cool that I could wait any longer and have to show what I'm working on. I've used the elevation and climate model to create a rough sketch of what the planet actually looks like in summer, and it is summer in both hemispheres which is not natural but practical for this purpose. The ocean depths are only rudimentary done in Photoshop and need a lot of more work, as well as the the mountain colors, too many black ones. Despite all these shortcomings, I think is a stunning image! This equirectangular map can serve well as a start of making a more detailed image of the planet, both its landmasses and the oceans. Thank you so much for all the support that makes it possible for me to spend serious amount of time on this project!!!! :) A revamp of my Patreon will be announced soon, I'm working out the details, with new more defined  and ambitious goals and a slight adjustment of the tiers.  
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Oerth - Part 2: Climate
First a heartfelt thank you, for all the wonderful and encouraging feedback you have given me for the first Oerth Continent post!! This second instalment will be a look at the climate of Oerth and the Flanaess using a slightly simplified version of the Köppen Climate Classification. For this part of the project I've had help from a friend of mine who has working with oceanography and she has helped me explain how the oceans of the Earth works and what could be the case for a planet like Oerth. I've also leaned on my weather knowledge from having been a pilot and especially my long distance glider piloting which relies heavily on understanding weather patterns. Wikipedia and Artifexian's YouTube channel have been very helpful is applying this knowledge onto a fantasy world. I'm not an expert on climate matters, but I think I have enough understanding of the topic and knowledge of the Greyhawk setting to  feel qualified to create a model of the planet that can be both useful and inspiring for Greyhawk fans who want to expand their campaign horizons. A key guiding principle for this project is to try and create a planetary model that can work as a canvas for both the published stories we know and love, and an inspiration and help in creating new stories from other parts of the planet Oerth. Below is an image showing what the climate looks like for Earth. and here is Oerth for comparison (using a slightly simplified  set of classes) Several differences are striking, Oerth has way more deserts of both the hot and cold variety. This is due to mainly the larger single continent and a larger axial tilt. Larger continents tend to heat up away from oceans and the increased axial tilt exaggerates the tropics and poles, and on Oerth the Tropical Circles are at 30 deg N and S instead of the 23 degrees on Earth.  The same goes for tropical rainforests and should have been the case for savannahs, but due to the dryer larger continent, ocean currents and mountains the savannahs are not as widespread as the could have been. Here is the classes and the temperature and precipitation characteristics Before we go into the details a brief discussion on climate science and how I have used it in my Oerth model.  Climate are influenced by a myriad of things but since this is a fantasy world we can simplify things to aspects that can be more useful for our games. I've chosen geography, meaning where on the planet a region is located, ocean currents and general wind patterns. Geographic location drill down to three general climate regions, the tropics between 30 deg N to 30 deg S, temperate between 30-60 deg N and S respectively, and the polar regions 60-90 deg N and S respectively as illustrated below. The actual climate varies with airflow, ocean currents, humidity, and in some cases magic or other fantasy factors climatologists in the real world don't have to deal with. I've tried to keep them to a minimum and there are only one clear case of this and that is the Bright Desert, and even there it is only marginal as we will se when we get there on this journey. Next up is to take a look at the global ocean currents and how it distributes heat and cold around the planet. Overall Oerth have a 57.56% land and 40.98% ocean (including major lakes and inland seas). Oerth's larger land area is all due to the landmass covering the north pole, apart from this difference the water land ratio are similar. Due to planet rotation and size ocean currents form large rotating gyres, and on an earth-like planet (size and rotation) it will for two gyres N and S of the equator respectively. The can be likened to gigantic cogwheels that move the water around in the large oceans, where they form and how large they are are due continental layout. If we look at the Solnor Ocean north of the equator we have a clockwise gyre that carries warm water and humid water up along the eastern coast of the Flanaess making it both warmer and wetter way far north than would otherwise been the case. Temperatures of ocean currents are relative, meaning they bring in water that are warmer or colder in relation to the average temperature of the area. So cold currents in the tropics can be way warmer than warm currents in the arctics. Warm currents generally makes areas more humid as well as warmer. Reversely cold currents, makes an area dryer as well as cooler. Cold currents in the tropics can mean desert or savannahs instead of rainforests. Warm currents in the arctic can mean oceanic climate instead of sub arctic boreal climate or even polar tundra. How much difference currents make also depends a lot of the wind patterns, are they warm or cold on-shore or off-shore winds. Warm winds are generally a bit more humid than cold, and on-shore winds much more humid that off-shore winds. The combination of all this plus elevation, latitude and water presence determines the climate. Winds are affected by planet rotation and temperature, and form bands of similar airflow across different latitudes. This is very obvious on giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn, but the same mechanics apply to smaller planets as well.  The bands of winds mixes heat and cold across the planet, bringing warm from the tropics into temperate areas, and cold from the arctic south into temperate areas. These wind patterns are persistent enough to create typical weathers in different latitudes.  Low pressure and humid along the equator. High pressure, dry areas north and south if of this create deserts on the edges of the tropics. The temperate zones are dominated by low pressure, humid and windy conditions, and the arctic see mostly high pressure cold and dry conditions. I've done my best to try and take all this into account creating this climate model of Oerth. It gives a rich and varied planet to explore with lots of contrast and every climate zone we have on earth is present in significant areas on several locations. The Flanaess has a rich climate diversity, from frozen arctic in the Black Ice, Yatils, Crystalmists and Corusk Mounatins. A band of boreal subartic from the Barbarian lands in the west to the Thillonrian in the east. Cold steppes stretches from west of  the Fler river to the northern shores of the Nyr Dyv, and are again forming a large part of the North Province.  A temperate humid continental climate reigns over lands from the Baklunish coasts in the west though Ket and much of the central western Flanaess. East of the grat lakes and the steppes are yet another large stretch of humid continental temperate climate. Each of the coastal areas of this temperate belt have wet humid conditions giving rise to rainforest on the north western slopes of the Yatils in Ekbir and showers the islands and cost of the Solnor with rain and warm winters. This is an effect not from magic but warm currents from the south and humid warm winds. It is only a local phenomenon in Ekbir but the much warmer currents on the Solnor warms up and humidifies and much larger area from Hepmonaland to the Sea Barons. The lands around the Azure range from humid subtropic in the west and south to Mediterranean in the north and east giving it excellent living conditions, among the best of the planet in fact, so now wonder that it it has a large population and developed countries. Mediterranean, subtropics and warmer part of the temperate areas are the most prosperous climates to live in for humans and similar creatures dependent on agriculture. The Sheldomar Valley and Flamni basin are prime examples of good areas for empires to develop in. Most of the Baklunish west are dry steppes that get progressively hotter and dryer the further south you get, which give much less support for civilisation to grow.  There is a bad along the cost of the Dramidj and the western slopes of the Yatils all the way to Ket that the Baklunish have been taken advantage of and make a good living in.  The far western end of the Dramidj is another example of good climate conditions for humans (and similar creatures) to thrive, giving DM's plenty of lands to develop civilisations in. Apart from the Flanaess and the western Dramidj I see four main areas for bred baskets, the north western Oerik hava long coast and a peninsula with excellent conditions for settled life. The south western Oerik have a long subtropic coast and temperate lands next to it with a wet oceanic part in the south, like the Baklunish coast in reverse. The south eastern cost of Western Oerik is also a great place to settle with a drier Mediterranean coast and temperate interior. The northern end ready for your Eryptian civilization, with deserts as well as a fertile coast and south.  The large southern continent gives Oerth a huge expanse of land in the temperate zone with great potential for agriculture, plus a cold wild southern interior and coast. Western Oerik gives Oerth several deserts, a huge expanse of tropical savannah, some of its tallest mountains ranges and the biggest canyon on the planet. The mountains and inland seas gives it a wide range of climates in a close proximity, from glaciers, tundra, boreal forest to hot deserts in only a few days journey. Like a big version of California, Central Asia and Africa all in one. There are lots more to look at when it comes to Oerth and climate, this is just a first look and I'm intrigued by all the possibilities!
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Oerth - Part 1: Continents
One thing most Greyhawk fans have in common is a curiosity of what the rest of the planet looks like, with that said, there are probably few issues that will bring up more difference then what the rest of Oerth looks like. So it is with great trepidation I have taken on the task of modeling the planet. My approach is to try be inclusive and make room for lots of things, while still try and pay homage to existing work that have been done before. From the little map in the Glossography, the Dragon Annual #1 map and numerous fan made maps have taken turns at tackling the "cowhide", it is hard to hide the fact that the DA1 map looks like an ugly cowhide.  My approach is to look at all these maps as I would look at real world ancient or medieval maps , a work of art that vaguely resembles the lands it is trying to map.  I kept the basic shape but broke up the coastlines and added lots of detail to try and obfuscate as much as possible. Overall I'm fairly happy with it at this stage, the cowhide is half hidden and broken-up by mountains and other features. Geographically it is a very interesting continental layout with pleasantly habitable areas sprinkled out in several places, and a lot of contrasting areas with plenty of adventuring possibilities. The Flanaess for example stretches from the arctic to the tropics with at least a sliver of every type of climate zone (more on that in the next post in this series) to make it extra interesting. Hepmonaland just south of the Flanaess is the only other continent that is reasonably well mapped in the Scarlet Brotherhood. I've added some more small islands around it to make it a bit more realistic. Some further refinement of the coastlines are probably called for, they are a bit too sterile for my taste. It is a midsize hot continent that spans the equator into a dry south creating an African like environment but on a smaller scale. South Central Oerik  features  Oerth second biggest Mountain range that divides the central continent into three areas, the Baklunish basin that we are already familiar with the eastern part that we call the Baklunish West and southerly regions. The curved southern peninsula really needed to be broken up, the banana shape was terrible. It might need more  work before its good enough, w'll see how it holds up in the discussion. A very interesting region that according to DA1 is one with the polar region preventing the Dramidj Ocean from forming a northern global maritime route. I've kept this land bridge creating a pathway for polar creatures reaching south and vice versa, a good place for mammoth hunting! Due to the larger axial tilt of 30 degrees temperate areas get squished between bigger poles and more expansive tropics so land real estate at these latitudes are very important and a land bridge stops the cold currents from circulating and staying cold.  Keeping the land bridge adds to the land and a shallow enclosed sea keep the water a bit warmer giving the area a boost. Western Oerik, Oerth's big place, and that is giving it a blend of features we recognize from both Afrika and Asia and more. It is defined in the east by Oerth equivalent of the Andes, a north south range separating it from the Central Oerik. To make this was lump of land more interesting I've added a rift valley west of the eastern divide creating a couple of huge inland lakes, that might be fresh, salty or just dried out salt flats. West of this is a second range of highlands with the biggest rift on the planet, a it more than four times the size of the Rift Canyon.  This is an huge dry interior worthy of a Dark Sun like campaign, or a place for Dragons to come to nest or wait for their eternal rest. Several massive mountain rages in this part gives it climate and terrain variety with lots of interesting opportunities beyond dry hot deserts. The western central  part forms a tropical plain with Oerth's largest tropical plains. The northern end reaches beyond the plain with a coast and peninsula that I'm sure some sort of creatures have settled! Western Oerik reaches al the way to the southern arctic circle adding the was variety of different biomes on this end of the continent. In the middle of the Solnor Ocean I've placed a small continent as an homage to Empyrea, Frank Mentzer's part of the planet he was given the right to develop. It is a tropical place with jungle and rainforests, but I added several mountain ranges and a really tall massive in the center to provide a number of different biomes to make it interesting. A Great Southern continent is said to exist, and if you look carefully at DA1 map you can see it hinted at bottom right.  To add to the precious temperate resources of Oerth, and to make room for Empyrea, I placed it touching the southern polar circle giving it a god range of possible biodiversity. The South Pole looks a bit too star-shaped due to Map 2 Globe's quick render. This needs to be mapped properly as a separate project. I'm thinking of keeping a center mountain, might be cool with a huge volcano jutting out of the ice, and maybe it  is an opening to a hollow Oerth.... ;) This was a short presentation of my thoughts and approach to mapping Oerth. This is still a work in progress, and to be able to evaluated it better  I'm working on a climate map using Köppen Classifications. You can create the globe at https://www.maptoglobe.com/ Use this image for texture: https://www.dropbox.com/s/clf737d1kbbh2qc/Equrectangular.jpg?dl=0 and this for heightmap: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6fljvnyzc3hv097/Oerth%20Continental%20Height%20%20-%2021%20blur2.jpg?dl=0
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The Flan - Flanaess seen from the Old Side
Tonight's Legends & Lore Show on LordGosumba - Twitch will be about the Flan, Druidism and the Old Faith, and I was going to bring up some of my take on the topic by trying to look at it from the Flan side of things so I wrote a short history piece, Greyhawk history seen from the Flan perspective.   The Flan, Flanaess seen from the Old Side This is an attempt to write a short version of the history seen from the Flan perspective, it is normally told by the "victorious" Oerdian side. The Flan have always been a people of faith, faith in themselves, their gods and their ability to defend themselves. When the Aerdy arrived in the Flanaess all that was going to be challenged and despite what most historians in the Flanaess have told you, that struggle is still not settled, far from it. The faith of the Flan lives up to its name The Old Faith, because it roots are old, very old. Their devotion for Beory, their planet, Pelor their sun, Rao their wisdom and all the life Obad-Hai nurtured is legendary. Druids have guarded both the Flan people and all other life in their lands, in harmony with the Olves, Noniz and even Dwur since the day of the Ur-Flan. Existence isn’t always harmonious and sometimes interests collide, moral codes and tempers vary and in some cases faith in what is good and well wains. For the Flan this was seen as part of the natural cycle of life and death, growth and decay, and for this they worshipped another set of powers to help them through the dark times and to make sure that the Flan would always prevail in the end, no matter what. This was the Dark Faith, a cabal of powers ready to bring even the worst aspects of the world into submission. Those among the Flan that was too greedy, prone to violence or just sinister enough to be shunned by their peers had in Flan society an outlet that made them useful and important, they were the ultimate guardians of the Flan, called to perform the duties no one else was morally or otherwise quipped to carry out, they were The Horned Ones, guardians of the Flan and the Dark Faith. When discussion, negotiation and even threats were not enough the Horned Ones heard the calling.   The Dark Faith had a menagerie of powers just like the Old Faith, and to everyone knowledgeable of the Flanaess a familiar set it is, Incabulos to get them ready for their doom, Nerull to handle their death, Orcus to bring them beyond death, Zuggtmoy to get rid of even the worst remains, add in the demon Graz’zt to give the Flan motivation, strength and lust to make more Flan and a number of other demon lords including Demogorgon and Jubilex as a service to the most wicked parts of nature. This assured the Horned Ones would make the blood freeze in anyone who dared to opposed them and the Flan cause. A cabal of Dark Druids served these masters to keep the enemies of the Flan, both internal and external, at bay. When the age of the cataclysms entered, they were slowly and reluctantly called in by whispers among the Flan. Everyone knew the toll that came with calling for the Horned Ones, but as times became dire enough, the Horned Ones had to show what they were made of.   First to rise was a young star of the Dark Faith that had mastered both the art of magic and later undeath, Vecna. He created a strong Flan bulwark, and nothing stood in his way to make the Flan the undisputed rulers of all their ancient lands and more. That was the credo of the times until he was betrayed by Kas and destroyed. The Flan was dealt a severe blow that would diminish them for an age.  The good-hearted Flan adherents tried to negotiate with the other people of the Flanaess, both old and new and with some success. Together with the Olve and Noniz they managed to establish a state run by an order of Rao priests that have recruited among both newcomers and Flan for some time. Veluna became a haven for the Old as well as new faiths. With the rise of the Malachite Throne, the Horned Ones took refuge in the north away from the onslaught of newcomers with new ideas, gods and enemies of the old. They bided their time and planned to strike at the heart of the new power that was hellbent in diminishing Flan traditions as well as the lords and ladies of the Flan courts in what has always been Flan lands. The time came when even their best knights of the Great Kingdom became decadent and weak. A well-executed deception made the top echelon of the once valiant Knight Protectors the most powerful servants of the Horned Ones so far unleashed in the Flanaess, but to be sure of victory the Dark Order also added in the worst they could muster from their dark lords most wicked realms, Arendagrost, Maw of the Abyss. In this atrocious act they inadvertently helped the very power they were set to destroy, the fear that flew across the lands was so strong that it united everyone against them even the Druids and people of the brotherly Flan faith they were supposed to protect. A posse led by Sir Benedor defeated Arendagrost, assisted by every priest, mage and warrior brave enough to face it, including the druid brethren from the Adri, Grandwood Thelwood and surrounding lands. The direct strike at Rauxes was a failure but the Death Knights is a serious threat even to this day and the Malachite Throne never regained its former glory. The western lands of the Aerdy gained their independence which also meant that they gained strength, both in political and military terms but also culturally and spiritually. The Old Faith and customs of the Flan was now seen as a thing of the past in large part of the world. The Dark Faith leaders had to find refuge far into the north, desperate for a new champion, someone strong, ruthless and ready to take the fight to the enemy. Graz’zt took on the mission to create a new hero for the Flan, and in the Witch Iggwilv he found the right might, blood and cunning for the mission. He willingly sacrificed some of his essence in return for Iggwilv’s eternal hatred as she was ravaged by the lust of Graz’zt. From this union of deception, violence and wrath came a son, a cambion that Graz’zt gave his advisor Lord Vuron to torture and indoctrinate from the very beginning to be filled of hatred and cunning and never to never give up. To make young Iuz good start he was given a small fief in a secure northly area with the title the Old One to made sure every Flan understood his ambitions. Young Iuz wasn’t taken seriously by anyone except the Dark Ones who had high hopes for the fledgling cambion who soon started to acquire some notoriety for cruelty and success in taking over neighboring realms. After a promising start Iuz was captured by the enemy alongside other powers, both Flan and of other allegiances, and held in Zagyg’s Castle Greyhawk. To try and protect the holdings of their captured hero the Dark Ones scrambled and set up a protective state in the city of Molag run by the Hierarchs of the Horned Society, a name no Flan could mistake. Thanks to secret play by the Dark Ones agents, Iuz and the other power was later freed and once again ready to continue their important work to secure the future power of the Flan. Iuz first offensive move after regaining his freedom was together with Zuggtmoy, to create a diversion in the south to try and make his nearby enemies look the other way while he was preparing his forces at home for his coming attacks. The Horned Society had played out its role and was abolished with wild scenes to give the impression that there was serious internal strife, which was not the case, the Horned Ones was just changing tactics back to the way they had conducted their grizzly business for centuries, in secret.  This is when the plans of the Dark Faith derailed, when Iuz created a diversion using an impression of the god Vatun to lure the Stonefists to attack the very heart of Flan power, Tehn. What lays behind Iuz move few if any outside the court in Dorakaa knows, but in an instant the hero of the Flan had become the enemy. Flan power and culture was dealt one of the worst defeats in Flan history by a protegee devised to lead them to victory. The ranks of the Flan were in true disarray for years, and it gave Iuz the chance to keep advancing despite the lack of support from his old peers. It took until the late 580’s CY for him to lose his momentum and new alliances could be formed to counter the threat. Again, it was the good side of the Old Faith who showed the way by building on the old, the alliances with their Rao brethren of Veluna and the Olve. With the diplomatic power of Mitrik and the newfound strength of the Olve, King Belvor and the new regent in Rel Mord was all aboard in joining forces to counter the threat of the Old One. A secret partner in this alliance is none other than the Horned Ones out to revenge the fall of Tehn. War and politics are strange and now fly the banners of Pelor, Rao, in the form of the Heart and the Shield against the Old One backed in secret by the Horned Ones of the Dark Faith is now hunting one of their own.
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Vohun Ocean Revision
This part of the map have been in need of some TLC for a long time, and in order for changes to be included this year we have to figure out what it should look like. As usual the sources are sketchy this far away from the central Flanaess so a fair bit of guess work has to go into this.    For this project have have used the latitude map from the Glossography Mike bridges excellent map that you ca find on his blog here: http://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2011/06/new-greyhawk-map-south-seas.html The Infamous Best of Dragon Map Oerth map: From all this and maps from Savage Tide and some other fan creations, have started to work crate my own Oerth model. Here is the current version that is still in its early stages: Azure modeled along all these sources could look something like the title image. On the Glossography map there is what looks like a large island that I completely missed, but Mike didn't and its about time to get it on the map. I'll kept the small islands north of it and added in the surrounding islands from Mike's map. I hope its not too many Pirate Isles, it is good for adventuring to have plenty of hideouts to discover! The Mist Kingdom have been squeezed in a bit but I hope they have enough waters around them. Ruja has been moved just south of the Mist Kingdom chain as of the Glossography map. Auxaul Ilses have been moved SW a bit to make room for all the extra stuff added, but its not too far from the Glossography map I hope. The island that started it all the Isle of Dread I moved a bit north compared to Mikes map in order for it to be in a remote location in the center of the Vohun Ocean. It is a bit thrilling to venture so far away from Greyhawk, but is also very interesting, requiring plenty of compromise. What do you guys think?
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Mapping Shield Lands 8: Biomes and Texturing basics
After a long series of technical and behind the scenes post in this series it’s now time to start turning all that work into the first stage of the final map, giving the terrain proper realistic texturing. Nature is both endlessly varied and yet still abide by rules and predictable patterns, and to replicate that using fractals and clever programming is not easy. The SPLAT map is the first stage of that defining what time of Biome each area is a part of the next step is to define each Biome and then blend the Biomes according to the SPLAT map data.  We must turn the SPLAT map below: Into this: Done right a fantasy landscape can look totally believable, yet specially created to suit the stories that are meant to be played out in it. The trick is to define each Biome properly, and have the Biomes appear where they realistically would do so. The example above only has a few Biomes, to types of grass, one short and barren and one longer and richer, bogs, lakes, rivers, reeds, sand, rocks and gravel.  I've used the selection tools that was the focus of the last post in this series to create the SLPAT map, then edited the Splat map in Photoshop to improve on the things that my fractal programming didn't do a good job with. Artistic input in the form of painting using a stylus is also a great way to work in some of the special details from written sources or needed for the stories. This approach also makes it easy to adjust things, make a test render using half resolution and go bac to Photoshop and edit the Splat map fix issues and then render again. Let’s look at a couple of the Biomes, starting with the grasses that are the light and slightly darker green on the SPAT map.  Most of Shield Lands are covered, in my view in either a more barren type of open sparsely overgrown open plains, with short hardier grass and occasional low bushes and other hardy forms of sage. Higher up the grasses are gradually replaced by mosses and hardier forms of ground hugging plants. The darker green are more fertile lands, plenty of grasses, herbs and blooming flowers forming rich meadows, bushes and trees are still rare due to both lack of consistent and ample rainfall, gracing by wild and domestic animals. This is not really the case anymore, the war has decimated and scared off both domestic and wild animals, but the standoff and population decline have made wild animals move back in again to some degree. If the hostilities continue the area might see more bushes and trees, or more fires and devastation that depends on the outcome of your campaign! Here it is important to state that it is exceedingly difficult to model temperate wild plains, that is a habitat that is almost complete gone on Earth today, replaced by industrial agriculture that have turned the landscape into a gigantic production facility. This requires studying the few little remnants left, creativity and some guess work to come up with something that is useful from a gaming perspective, and inspirational. Landscapes have a history, and that needs to be considered to make them believable. Shield Lands the way I see it has a surprising amount of landscape variety and history, I've assumed that this landscape is a mix of mostly old and work down terrain made up of a mixture of sedimentary and harder rock covered by a fair bit of soil in most places. Here and there are the scars of old vulcanism in the form of rugged basalt features, which will get more and more common the closer we get to the majestic White Plume Mountain.  I also assumed that it used to be wetter in recent geological history and used to have way more lakes and bigger rivers. The lakes are now mostly turned into bogs, with small lakes in the center of some of them and a lot of them partly or fully overgrown. This makes the landscape dotted with valleys with a very flat bottom and totally flat areas dotted around in the otherwise covered in rounded low hills. The Southern Coast feature a set of moderate hills, that I have named the Serion Hills in my campaign, with rounded granite peaks rising into about 3000 feet in a few places. Not much to speak of compared to the majestic mountains elsewhere in the Flanaess but still high enough to be different than the surrounding lowlands. Above is an example that even the most boring parts of a game setting has interesting features and stories to tell, even if it is only a green hex on the earlier setting maps. I have found two “islands” surrounded by bogs which seems great places for a keep or a small settlement in easy to defend places. It needs to be stated that all the screenshots in this post are raw renders and should be seen as work in progress and not finished maps, one more refinement of the SLPAT is needed, vegetation added and a final post render polish in Photoshop. That said I’m proud of the results at this stage. Below is the World Machine setup for the Short Grass Biome. It uses two Colorizer Device that uses the colors from images of grasslands with variation driven by distorted fractals. Mixing them using elevation, flow, slope and convexity, and then tweaking the colors according to elevation. The Long Grass is similar setup but with different fractals color tweaks and elevation parameters. Bogs are simpler, a colorizer taking its values from bog images, a fractal to drive variation, and a color selection to insert grass texture on the green areas. And here is what the result can look like with the help of a bit of manual splat map editing. With only an edit or two of the splat map for each area you can re-use the same World Machine texturing file for a whole region that share the same characteristics. Then make gradual tweaks as you move into new areas.
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Mapping Shield Lands Part 7: Masks, the unsung workhorse
Almost every aspect of terrain creation is involves masks, the feature that either hides or reveals things. Mask are a familiar feature to all Photoshop users as that greyscale add-on to layers, and in it comes in many variants in World Machine, GAEA, Blender, Vue and every other 3D tool I know of.  It is a simple greyscale bitmap that uses its brightness value to reveal things and lack of it to hide whatever it is associated with.  This is a very powerful feature that can be used in a surprising number of ways. Bit depth are the key feature of masks, they normally come in 1-bit (black and white), 8-bit, 16-bit and the whopper 32-bit. In most programs like Photoshop for example, you get the bit depth defined in the settings for the file you are working on, but in terrain generating tools you might be required to assign a bit depth to masks either at creation or export. Size difference is the main reason to go low, or the fact that you don't need nuances, at times a clear cut boundary is what you need so even a low value works. Some uses of masks requires very high precision so even a 16-bit mask might not be enough, this is especially true when it comes to heightmaps. 8-bit heightmaps comes with a "Minecraft warning", the low precision creates unnatural terracing across the landscape. 16-bit heightmaps are good enough for most use cases, but if you want to be able to zoom in and create detail maps in the future, or cover large differences in terrain elevation 32-bits are a good precaution. For my Greyhawk project both the ability to create more detailed local maps and cover big elevation differences are vital so a 32-bit height map is needed. More is not always better, and Photoshop can balk at 32-bit mode due to the sheer size of files and when it comes to color edits the human eye have a hard time seeing the difference between even 8-bit and 16-bit color. Few computer monitors offer more than 10-bit color depth anyway so for texture editing 8-bit masks usually do the job well enough. Inside 3D applications and for terrain creation things are another matter, and selection tools in these mask use the internal bit depth of the application which is usually 32-bit so no need to change things. Exporting masks and heightmaps (which is technically just another mask) is when you have to decide on bit depth. World Machine and GAEA comes with a large number of Selection Tools, they are the standard way you create masks. You can Select for Elevation, Direction, Roughness, Convexity, Slope, Wetness, Color, Hue, Brightness, Saturation. The last ones are color related and are a nifty way to place trees or tufts of grass in wetlands for example. Most Selection tools comes with a Falloff  setting that lets you tweak the edge of a selection, sharp and abrupt or smooth  and diffuse.  Enough falloff is critical to have with you, especially when you export for use in Photoshop editing later. You can always sharpen a mask afterwards in Photoshop, but blurring sharp edges usually work less well, and re-renders take lots of times, and can also give you different outcomes, making results not matching. Selections often need to be done in combinations like slope of a certain degree above a certain elevation, and the result of that selection can be refined by erosion masks to only show within the erosion flow areas. This is how I defined areas of boulders accumulating beneath certain slopes, areas they would have naturally have done so in the real world. The number of possible combinations are literary endless, an Erosion Device creates 4 new masks as part of the process and with secondary selections like Roughness and Convexity you can create all the mask data needed for a truly natural looking terrain with an endless amount of incredible detail. Masks are also a key part of every step of the process from the mixing of fractals and erosion impact, in biome allocation, texturing relies heavily on the use of masks as do the touch up editing afterwards. Getting used to and mastering the "grey side" of digital imaging is a vital part of digital terrain creation which makes us Greyhawk fans well prepared! Next part of this series will be a deep dive back into the world of color with texturing.
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Gary Con Seminar Sneak Peak
Sorry for the lack of updates, I've had back problems that kept me away from my desk for a bit but now I'm back again at almost full capacity. Working hard on prepping for my Gary Con Seminar this Friday @6:00pm CDT on  LordGosumba - Twitch channel. Here is are the topics I plan to cover: 2021 A new generation maps meet the old: The old map will gradually be replaced The Atlas, the Easy to Use Version Flanaess 2021 Updates Map Responsibly Limits of Fantasy Cartography Canvas for Our Stories Foundations For TTRPG's - Maps - Stories - Rules Visualizing the World of Greyhawk Data Driven, Editable, Multi Use An Example - Hunold Island Terrain Creation - Lakes & Rivers - Splat Map - Texturing - Vegetation - Touch up My Campaign World Simulation - Dynamic - Local - Detailed - Gritty - Uncertain Oerth - the Home of our Setting What is out there? I hope to see you in Twitch Friday, and tomorrow Wednesday for the Legends & Lore Show at 8pm EDT at the  https://www.twitch.tv/lordgosumba Twitch channel.  
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