Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Step One - Inspiration

For me, inspiration is always the first step to any map. I need something to hang my hat on. Usually this something is a room, a landmark or some kind of feature. As a geologist my predeliction is for natural features like rock formations but it could be anything - a castle layout, a bridge, a statue.. even a tapestry. This inspiration is the anchor that I build the map around. Its an idea I borrowed from Sid Meier. Wanting a unifying theme for one of the Civilization games, Meier prominently displayed a painting in the studio with the instructions that if the developers were ever "stuck", they should come back to the painting and reflect on it. The idea was that the eventual design should not stray too far from the original thought.

The inspiration that I chose for this map was a natural feature in Pennsylvania called 'Arch Spring'. Arch spring is a natural bridge located just downstream from a large, perennial spring. I visited the region many years ago, but never went to the spring (it is on private land).

Arch Spring. Photo apologetically borrowed from Temple University's website until I can find my own.

Natural bridges aren't that rare. The US West has many examples of them (there's a National Park called Arches) and Virginia has a much larger and more majestic example as well. But I happened to like this one. The coziness plus the water plus the thickness of the arch contrasted with the greenery of the surrounding countryside screamed someplace that needed exploring. I knew also that the water that fed the spring came from a cave (though in reality that cave had a far different access that what I was envisioning) and I thought of including that as well. The arch itself suggested a natural palisade which could be easily observed and defended.

So all these thoughts - the arch, the cave, the natural defensive value, changes in elevation, palisades - were bouncing around in my head after in the first few minutes after looking at the photo. In my next post I will take all that and quickly sketch what I think the area should look like.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Expanding the focus of the blog - also what I've been doing for the past few months.

Hi all, 

Its been awhile. Been busy with other things - life, etc... But I wanted to touch base with the blog on two points. 

Point One: I participated in Pathfinder's RPG Superstar Contest this year. While, in retrospect, my first entry needed a lot of work, I was fascinated by Round 2: the map round. This is the first year that Paizo is doing this event. The event consists with doing a map - just a map - for the round. I like the idea of having a map stand on its own. To borrow a baseball phrase - that's right in my wheelhouse. Furthermore, in the associated blogs, forum posts and et cetera, I learned that some companies pay people to design maps! Not the completed, painted-like flip-board maps. I knew about that. No, I'm talking about designing the maps that will then be translated into those works of art. Until last week I thought that the design and the art were all done by one person. While I'm certain that there are such talented individuals who can do both, apparently in practice the task is routinely divided between two people. While I don't yet possess the skills to do the art portion, I can certainly do the design. So, that's going to be a goal - to eventually get paid to design maps.

Point Two: I have been working on Kingmaker-related things. Specifically, I have been working on the area to the east of the Nomen Heights. I've been answering some of the questions as to why this area (which should have been populated and a vital trade route to Casmaron) has remained uninhabited. I have a lot of the back-story done and a bunch of the encounters at least started. But I want to hold onto it some - at least until its finished!

However, I will be posting a series of maps very soon as I did make a map for Round 2 of the RPG Superstar contest on the chance that I did make it in. So, I'd like to share that concept in the next few days. The plan is to walk through the thought process I had in putting this map together. So, stay tuned!