Ramblin Man Part Deux: Game Edition


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Scarab Sages

I did put up a new map the other day, however. I was fooling around with the Marine Dungeon style and created a Sea Hag’s Lair map. It’s….adequate.

Scarab Sages

Weird. Someone came along and liked my FB map page, and I have no idea who this person is. I certainly never invited him. I’m not even sure how he found it.

Scarab Sages

I figured out who the person was. And it was someone I knew from here. He just created a new FB account, apparently.

Anyway, I also revisited a previous map - a Marvel’s Savage Land style location, which I had first developed a map for last October. One part of the map was a location called the Vampire Swamps.

To combat that undead menace, I added an elven location called Balanor (I used Tolkien elvish for this one, just for fun). The name roughly translates as Power of the Sun. So I made it a tower stronghold, using a stylized Sun picture as the basic layout for the buildings. I thought it came out pretty well.

My other thought had been to use a different stylized Sun picture as the layout for the streets of a small city. I’ve done this before with other elven city maps, and liked the way each came out. So I may go back at some point in the future and redo Balanor as a city.

Or, I could also make it a city, but with the tower as the center.

Scarab Sages

I keep a list of interesting places that might inspire a map. Today I used one of those interesting places: Grianan of Aileach, a hilltop fortress in Ireland.

The map wasn’t perfect, but it came out pretty decent. I designed the map as a barbarian fortress guarding a caravan trail between two major settlements.

Scarab Sages

Been working on a new, much larger revision of my Clockwork City map. This new version has key locations, as well as a section for meat bags.

I may or may not have included a landing area for Spelljammer ships, and I may or may not be planning to follow up this map with a Clockwork Spelljamming ship (or ships).

The last time I did a ship like that, it was a Neogi Egg ship (for landing on planets and acquiring things).

Scarab Sages

I finished my revised Clockwork City map.

Then I did a Clockwork Spelljammer vessel. Technically, I did two vessels. One is the larger, central vessel I called the Sun Ship. The other is a support/attack vessel called the Planetary Ship, which can dock with the Sun Ship. I even included an extra image showing multiple Planetary Ships docked with a single Sun Ship.

The reasons I go with Spelljammer are (1) Spelljammer kicks ass, and (2) I’m not friends with anyone who plays Starfinder (or Pathfinder anymore for that matter).

Scarab Sages

Now I’m revisiting a Clockwork Fortress map, and I have to say this new version is much better so far.

Scarab Sages

Finished that Clockwork Fortress map.

Since then, I’ve been taking my time working on a city map for a place called Kel: City of Outcasts. It’s in some hills, just south of a desert, so no port. That’s something I don’t often do for a large(ish) city.

It’s forced me to be creative in thinking up a backstory. For example, a major group in the city is a monastic order that specializes in glass blowing (both art and practical items). I’ve also determined the one major religion in the city (which actually existed before the city itself) is the Charnel God. I took that idea from a Clark Ashton Smith story.

The city also has a tower that once served as a prison for a renegade member of the realm’s royal family. This renegade once fled to that location after an unsuccessful coup. The ruler sent an army to track the renegade, took over the area, built a prison for said renegade, then built much of the major infrastructure to support that prison.

Scarab Sages

Done with that other map. Started to do a city. Then changed my mind and started a new version of an older map - the palace of a Dark Naga crime lord. Originally inspired by Jabba’s Palace, I’m still going along those lines, but doing redesign based on snake physiology (like no stairs).

Scarab Sages

Aaarrrggghhhhh!!! Where are my giant dice?!?

Scarab Sages

On a lighter note, I had started on one city map, but found myself not particularly enthused. Then, last night, I was watched the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, and got inspired by some of the local Greek scenery. Found out one of the places they shot at was an old fortress on the island of Corfu. It’s sweet looking, and perfect for a long-existing location I’ve had in mind.

Scarab Sages

I had a spark of inspiration about where my giant dice might be, and I was correct! HUZZAH!

Scarab Sages

I finished my map inspired by the Old Corfu Fortress. It was….adequate. In truth, showing different elevations has always been a challenge for me with Campaign Cartographer. I’m getting better at it, however. At least, I think so.

Anyway, now I’ve gone back to the other city map I had been working on. I’ve revised it a bit, and I think this way will be better. I’m trying to kind of imply elevation without actually showing it - laying out the roads in such a way as to indicate higher points. As a bonus, this has made it easier for me to divide the city into sections.

Normally I’d make them “districts”, but this time it’s “neighborhoods”. So far, I’ve got “Elden” (mostly half-elves), Old Wall (wealthy humans), Temple Hill (seems self-explanatory), and what I’m thinking I’ll call “Ruling Ridge” (where the government buildings sit). Everything else might just end up “The Commons”.

Scarab Sages

Finished that city map. It came out rather well, I think. One change I did make was to the name. Since this was inspired by Smith’s fictional French city of Vyones, I wanted something French sounding. Finally did a forehead slap and realized the name of the cesspool I grew up in and around (New Orleans), would work. So the city became Orlane.

Not sure what I’ll do next. Maybe a temple. Haven’t done one of those in awhile.

Scarab Sages

AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!

For some as yet unfathomed, but extremely annoying reason, CC3+ will get a bug up its ass and go crazy regarding imported bit map fills. When that happens, whole sections of maps might be affected, appearing to be filled with a white background and red “x”s. As I said, very annoying.

Of course, the simple solution is to no longer import other bit map fill styles, but that means maps that might not look as good because whoever put together the map style is a partial idiot.

Scarab Sages

I started to revisit an older map I called The Spider Pit. The previous revision was 2 years ago. I gotten a bit better that CC3+ since then, plus I’ve got more add-ons.

We’ll see how it goes. So far it’s been a bit frustrating.

Scarab Sages

The revised map turned out much better than I expected. I think, in part, it’s because I’ve both improved with CC3+ over the last 2 years, and purchase more add-ons to the software.

Scarab Sages

So, now I’ve started a new map, but one with a bit of history.

Back in the earlier days of these boards (I’m pretty sure more than 10 years ago), when it was a better community, someone started a website where we’d share stuff. At the time I didn’t have mapping software, so I drew up an island/continent by hand, inspired by India and the surrounding region. It was called Shandura. Over a short time, I also used PowerPoint to make some city maps.

Since then, I’ve recreated many of those maps with CC3+ (they look awesome). There was one that I’ve been holding off on, for no particular reason. A city called Kota.

Anyway, I finally started recreating the Kota map with CC3+, and I found an awesome, real-life location in India to use as a template for the city. I’m very excited about it.

Typically, when I use a real-life location, I try to get a to-scale screen-shot, then import that into the map file so I can draw over it.

Scarab Sages

Aaaaarrrggghhhh!!!!

I had a map pretty much completed, and I deleted it. On purpose.

It was done in one of the map styles I recently purchased, which was really perfect for this particular map. Unfortunately, whatever the young lady who designed this style did seems to have made the style unsuitable for large scale maps (standard is 1000x800, mine was 3000x2400).

Now I’m considering checking to see if there’s another map style I can purchase that might be nearly equal in suitability.

Scarab Sages

Started a new map. Elven city. I used a stylized image of a tree to layout the streets. So far, it’s going well. Although I did erase a bunch of houses at one point, then start over with them.

Scarab Sages

My latest elven city map came out well, I think. Using the tree image, I made the buildings for the “trunk” and “roots” brown in color. The “leaf” area at the top of the tree was either tree houses (which they have cool symbols for) or buildings that were some shade of green. I also threw in plenty of towers for good measure. That’s another elf building style I’ve been using.

Scarab Sages

Just the other day, for fun, I created a temple map inspired by the Konark Sun Temple in India. It came out rather well, I thought.

Anyway, that’s got me thinking more about the old Realm of Shandura, which I’ve adapted and updated in the last few years. I recently did a map for one of the old cities there, and now I want to redo another map (or two).

First, however, I want to broaden my knowledge of Indian Architecture. To that end, I found a website called AbeBooks, which had a much less expensive copy of a book I’d been wanting: Oriental Architecture 1 (from the History of World Architecture series). I’ve already got three books from the same series (Ancient Architecture, Baroque Architecture, and Byzantine Architecture), so I’m very excited to have found this copy on that site (Amazon had it for way more money).

Scarab Sages

I finally got the Oriental Architecture book I ordered. It’s not everything I wanted, but it’s got some great stuff. And it’s already given me a few map ideas.

While waiting for the book, I also did a new island group map. I called them The Cloaked Islands, thinking they’re consistently surrounded by banks of fog and mist. And I made it the location of an oracle.

Scarab Sages

The other day I found a really cool slide show about the layout and planning of the Indian city Jaipur. It goes along with some other research I’ve been doing regarding city/town planning in that region. There’s a lot of Hindu writing about it. It’s really neat.

I’m going to redo at least one of my old Shandura maps (again) based on this information.


It is possible for me to try. Not until a few days from now. Right now, I'm away from home.

Scarab Sages

I was going through some old archive CDs, and found plenty of D&D related files: bunch of Spelljammer ship stuff, maps, adventures, adventure hooks, web enhancements, etc.

Among the maps I found, some where early attempts of mine using Campaign Cartographer. Others were maps I made using PowerPoint. One of the CC maps was a digital version of a hand-drawn map I first made in high school (I think). It was neat to take that stroll down memory lane.

Scarab Sages

Another of the files I found was a comprehensive deities list from D&D (and at least one other RPG). The date on the file is 2005, so I’m guessing that’s when it was created (or close to it).

Scarab Sages

Sometime last week, I ordered two more books in the History of Worls Architecture series - Romanesque Architecture and Gothic Architecture. The Gothic book was the one I really wanted, but both were from the same seller, so I figured why not. Turns out, even though they were from the same seller, the books came from different locations.

I got the Romanesque Architecture book fairly quickly, although it was amusing to watch the tracking. The model-of-efficiency USPS sent it from Houston, up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, then back down to Houston for delivery.

The Gothic Architecture book - left Illinois, and got to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in about two days. Then in disappeared for three days, before finally showing as arriving at a facility in Spring. So, three days to make a roughly four hour trip. Again, I give you the wonderful efficiency of the USPS.

Scarab Sages

I’m debating which book of the series I’ll get next. It’ll either be Islamic Architecture, Pre-Colombian Architecture of Mesoamerica, or maybe Primitive Architecture.

The series also has books on Roman Architecture and Greek Architecture, and I’ve debated getting those as well. However, the excellent Wikipedia articles about those two styles has left me unsure. I suppose I’ll get them eventually, just because.

Scarab Sages

I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but I had an interesting idea for a new map - The Wandering Inn. It moves around via magic. As it moves, it keeps its overall layout, but there are subtle changes depending on the culture and climate.

For example - when it’s in an English-inspired location, it will resemble a Medieval English Inn. When it’s in a Middle East-inspired location, it might resemble a traditional caravanserai.

Scarab Sages

Finished up another map yesterday. This one was a Monastery of Enlightenment, based off a place in Somnathpur, India (according to the book I have).

I’ve been enjoying doing maps based off Hindu architecture because it’s been forcing me to improve on small things, like irregularly shaped walls and floors.

Next up, I may do something inspired by either Gothic architecture or Romanesque architecture. Or, I may work on that Wandering Inn I posted about the other day. I’ve been running ideas about that one in my head.

Scarab Sages

In between that last post and now, I was distracted and didn’t start any new maps. I did, however, have an intriguing idea for a new map….

The idea entered my head of a city with a grand, tower-like structure in the center, at the top of which is The Great Orrery. The city streets would be laid out kind of like a planetary system. Not sure what race would have built it. Maybe elves. Whenever I do a city with a themed layout, it’s usually elves.

Scarab Sages

I’m a long time Spelljammer fan, so I bought the boxed set (different from the old boxed sets of yore) for the new 5E version of the setting.

It was cool, but slightly disappointing. Three books: A basic setting book, a monster manual, and an adventure. Frankly, I think they could have done without the adventure, and expanded the setting and monster books. The only location they provided information for was the Rock of Bral. There were very few ships detailed (only 16), and those entries were poorly edited. Seriously, how many times do you need to mention that a keel would cause a ship to roll on its side if it landed on the ground? (Hint - the answer, apparently, is six). They didn’t mention lifejammers.

There was nothing about the Spelljammer (or the Smalljammers). Nothing about the Scro or the Inhuman Wars. They didn’t even have the Clockwork Horrors (one of my favorites). The only Campaign Spaces mentioned were Realmspace and Krynnspace - something I thought was highly insulting to Greyhawk (but I wasn’t surprised).

Some things I liked: seeing some of the other, classic Spelljammer races and monsters (Giff, Plasmoids, Hadozee, Lunar & Solar Dragons, Mercane, Neogi, Giant Space Hamsters, Zodar). The covers of the books were cool, as was the slip case they fit into. The art was pretty solid. The Rock of Bral was detailed in its own chapter (sparsely, but enough to get something going), and it had a double-sided poster map (very well done). They did away with Crystal Spheres (for the most part), and connect all the Wildspaces via the Astral Plane. The deck plans for most of the ships were copied over from the originals, but nicely touched up a bit.

Overall, I was happy to purchase it. Even if I’ll probably never play another Spelljammer campaign.

Scarab Sages

Something else I was just thinking of….

Not too long ago, I purchased Monsters of the Multiverse (another 5E book). One of the new monster/playable races was the Tortle. They’re essentially anthropomorphic turtles. And now I’d really love to get in a new campaign so I can play a Tortle monk modeled after one of my favorite animated characters - Master Oogway from the Kung Fu Panda films.

Scarab Sages

I finished my map of the city with the big orrery in the center. I did a made-up solar system to layout the city streets. Most of the key locations were based on divination/prophecy/psychic visions type stuff. I had a Diviner’s Guild, a Temple of Dreams, a Temple of the Fates, the Grand Orrery in the city center (for astronomy predictions), and a Tower of the Third Eye for psychic visions.

It came out okay, but I may revisit in the future.

Scarab Sages

Including the Temple of Dreams in my previous map got me thinking about oneiromancy. Now my next map will probably be the Temple of Dreams, and I’ll include something about oneiromancy. I’ve got to do some more reading about dream myth and folklore before I work on it, though.

Scarab Sages

I was thinking about good ways to introduce Psi powers into a game, especially if it’s in a setting that doesn’t have them. As usual, my idea is based in the world I set up to keep track of the maps I create.

In that world, there was once a powerful race of psychics. Some of them saw into the future, when powers such as they possessed would be practically nonexistent. So they created items I call Awakening Crystals. When held by the right person (someone the crystal is keyed to), the item unleashes a wave of power that alters the target’s brain, awakening latent psychic powers.

Maybe someone else has already had this idea. I don’t know. It popped in my head, though. For now, I’ll just keep it in my brain, maybe jot down a note on it so I don’t forget.

Not that I actually use most of these ideas. The flavor of them helps me in my map making sometimes.

Scarab Sages

I was woken up at 4:30 this morning, and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I made a map, the idea for which had been percolating in my head for a few days now.

This new map was of a group of islands. When I do island maps, I like to find some real-world islands and trace screen shots of them for my landforms. I find it gives them a sense of realism. For this map, I used the island that inspired the idea in the first place (which has recently been in the news), plus some other nearby islands. The other half of the inspiration was my recent purchase of the 5E Spelljammer set.

The idea is that several super wealthy Wildspace/Astral Sea merchants have taken this island group for their own, establishing a sort of pleasure enclave (or maybe a place to live year round). They have a port where spelljamming vessels can dock (land or water). There are numerous castles and private estates. And there’s a large fortress in the center(ish) of the main island where the island security force (a private army) is headquartered.

It was a simple map, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea it represents. It’s the kind of thing that could be dropped into nearly any gaming world. And it would have, I think, some great potential for an adventuring party.

Scarab Sages

I had an idea for a magical disease/curse.

The Hag’s Twist more commonly just called The Twist. The curse inflicted by hags causes a person’s face and body to become malformed. Along with a Charisma penalty of some kind, I’d also probably have a random effect, like impaired senses, reduced movement, or maybe even a Dexterity penalty (or, at the least) difficulty holding items).

I got the idea from the Stephen King novel I just finished reading.

Scarab Sages

For some inexplicable reason, the phrase “nights of longing” popped into my head this morning. Then for another inexplicable reason my brain converted it to “knights of longing”. And then my brain started expounding on that idea.

I’d see them as cursed undead of some sort (wights or wraiths), who first render people incapacitated via their “aura of longing”, then move in for the kill with whatever means at their disposal. As for the source of their curse….maybe they failed in their vows, and now long for the peace of death, knowing it can never come to them.

Scarab Sages

I slow walked my most recent map, a revision of the old Shanduran city of Najapur. The reason for the slower pace was that I thought I’d been doing too many maps each month. I wanted to slow things down so as to (hopefully) avoid burnout.

Anyway, this new version of the city incorporates elements of street layouts from Hindu architecture. I also tripled the scale of the city, from 1000x800 to 3000x2400. Lastly, I doubled the number of named locations.

Scarab Sages

Next up will either be a map for The Temple of Dreams, or perhaps something else. I woke up in the middle of the night with a name in my head - The Hollow Tower. I’m not quite sure what it’s going to be like yet. I may have to let it sit and percolate for a bit.

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