Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Boldly Go. . . (Updated May 25th)

Mapped with Hexographer

This article has been updated and vastly expanded.  
>>CLICK HERE<< for the updated version.

This is my first attempt at making a Mystara Gazetteer-style map.  It isn't perfect, judging for example from the use of the basic Arial Black font instead of the traditional Feinen Bold.  I haven't acquired the latter yet, or a close equivalent.  Map icons aren't quite correct either.  I used the free version of Hexographer (after a few false starts and software glitches) with finishing touches on Windows Paint.  The title font, Abaddon, was freeware material I found on the internet, so anyone can actually make maps like this.

Time-allowing (time always is the challenge), I plan on reworking areas previously mapped for Mystara which are almost featureless.  This new map is a rendition of the Province of Ambur, in the Northeastern corner of mainland Alphatia.  The original map had been completed at a 24-mile per hex scale.  The new one was replotted at the more useful 8-mile per hex scale.  I've added lots of visual features and made up a number of details and names, just for the heck of it.

You can download the original file here.

Your comments are welcome, naturally.

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Edit--and now we have the illustrious Thorfinn Tait's updated version:


Thank you, Thorf! 

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Re-Edit:  Naturally, since then, I've updated my map with extra details, and added a closeup of the Starpoint area:

Click on map to enlarge


46 comments:

  1. I have to say, this is very cool. I'm a big of Hexographer myself and the old hex based maps.

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    1. Hi Bone. Good to know this. Maybe I'll come knocking at your door with questions. Do you have the freeware version or did you get the license?

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    2. I have the full version of Hexographer, I would be happy to lend what feeble assistance I may have to you. I am not terribly skilled at graphics stuff, but fortunately Hexographer is pretty simple to use.

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    3. Thank you, Warwynd. Since last May I did get much better acquainted with Hexographer though. :-)

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    4. Kinda figured since this was an old post that you must have improved in it, but just in case I thought I would offer my assistance none-the-less.

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  2. Bruce, I couldn't be more excited to see you working on new maps! It's hard to express just how happy this makes me. But I tried, so here you go:

    http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=File:Bh-ambur-8.png

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    1. Alright!! We got a system working! Thanks for applying the "Thorfinn Touch" to my map. It shall be henceforth known as "being TT'ed." LOL!

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    2. Very cool Thorfinn. Do you make all your maps in photoshop?

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    3. Thanks! The map will eventually be available in PDF version too. I use Adobe Illustrator CS6.

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  3. I will try and keep up with your edits, Bruce. So far I have to add all the reefs, a few roads, change a settlement or two, and perhaps some symbol corrections.

    By the way, I notice you're using quite a few symbols that aren't standard on the original Mystara maps. It's no problem for me to come up with new hexes for my mapping system to match these, but you may be opening a bit of a can of worms by using these symbols.

    Specifically I'm thinking of the farmland hex and the green coloured grasslands hex. The Mystara legend always labelled the plain green hex as "clear, farmland", making it ambiguous what a plain green hex actually meant. As it happens I have already developed my own farmland hex design, but by including it we would also need to go back and include it in all the other hex maps of this scale. The green grasslands hex originated in GAZ12, where it showed fertile grasslands, but it was never used elsewhere. Again, there's no reason no to use it, but doing so will inevitably lead to revising the original maps. Finally, having these two hexes begs the question, what exactly do "clear" hexes contain if they don't have farmland or grassland? Presumably the answer is short grassed untended plains, right?

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    1. My, that's a flurry of comments! :-)

      Ignore the weird symbols. That's just me goofing around with the new toy. I'll cool it with those. The "plowed" farmland was something with which I was playing to denote a denser population level. I know--that's really splitting hair here. Just stick with the standard stuff.

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  4. For the detail map, what do the animal symbols mean? Are they wild animals, or perhaps farm locations? Up until now, fauna details have been relegated to textual labels rather than icons, with the notable exception of whaling spots. Judging by the placement, I'm guessing the green grasslands symbol is indeed meant to show pastureland. It might be good to define a clear distinction between clear, grasslands, fertile grasslands and farmlands hexes.

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    1. Animal symbols are just markers to indicate special resources. That has to do more with mechanics to calculate dominion income and local economy (the Excel worksheets). It's a way for me to say: "Watch out, there be lots of cows around here" as opposed to just farmland in general. I grayed them out for that reason. Again, I'm trying out some new ideas.

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  5. The other question I had is what the Moon Stones are, and whether the symbol is exactly what you had in mind. If necessary I can design a new symbol for you. The statue symbol from HWR3 and the post house symbol from GAZ12 are likely fine as is, right? Please let me know if you are missing anything and I will whip something up. It's more important to conform with the original Mystara maps (or reform them!) than to make full use of Hexographer's full range of hexes.

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    1. The three dots have been used in the past to indicate monuments or special sites. The "Moon Stones" are stones believed to have fallen from the sky. Some ancient forgotten culture embedded them in large boulders and erected them in a sort of stonehenge-like alignment to observe the sky. By the way, I meant the Great Observatory to stand on a "mountain" (actually a large volcanic plug).

      The statue is just that: a large statue standing next to the trail. The Post House was all I could find to show the location of a single structure (the ferry house). The problem with the closeup map is that the city probably occupies more than one hex. I might have to grey out the affected hexes with a pattern reminiscent of an urban area. Any ideas here?

      A new series of symbols may be needed to dress up those small scale maps (to mark the location of mills, bridges, haciendas, farms, etc). The grayed-out "resource" symbols you mentioned earlier (cows, horses, sheep, pigs, camels, bee hives, various common type of agricultural symbols, etc) are strictly for use with *closeup* maps. Don't rush ahead with those. Let's ponder the thought and see if that's the best approach for small-scale closeups. Other than that, I don't think you need to "reform" the existing Gazetteer hex design to conform to Hexographer. We already have plenty to work from.

      One thing does come to mind though -- the great walls in Vertiloch and Theranderol. Could we come up with something better than a crenelated line? of course, as positioned, they don't make much sense. I want to revisit this with the goal of making them more useful and "natural-" looking.

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  6. I have one more question for now. I notice that the coastlines are sometimes a bit, well, hexagonal! I'm tracing them using a pen tablet, so it's easy for me to tidy them up a bit if you don't mind. Also, there were various small remnants and slivers of land along the coast which I have faithfully reproduced. I don't know if you intended them to be there as islands or not, but either way they're fine, right?

    Lastly: you do realise that starting on this tiny corner of the huge Alphatian continent means everyone will expect you to continue on from there? ;-) Exciting times, indeed! I'll be happy to help out. I'm looking forward to doing two levels of maps for neighbouring Floating Ar.

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    1. Please, do tidy up these coastlines! I'm struggling with Hexographer's coastline tool right now, and am not getting the result I want. The leftover slivers are consequences of those drafting mechanics. In Hexographer, you have to trace a thick line to try to mask part of the land hexes to make them appear more like natural coastline. It doesn't work very well and it does not allow much detail (or perhaps my inexperience with the software is showing.) In some cases, I had to trace multiple lines to blot out "orphaned" slivers of land and such.

      Yes, it was my intention to revisit all these areas devoid of interesting map detail, such as Alphatia, Bellissaria, and the Alphatian Islands. It looks like I got Geoff Gander's creative juices flowing just by fleshing out this map!

      I picked Ambur first because it was the smallest province I could find. It became a "test" to see if I could come up with something acceptable. I'm not yet comfortable tackling large areas, so I may be jumping around for a bit until I get used to this tool. Making sure overlapping border areas match is also a mounting concern. It's definitely a work in progress.

      Floating Ar will need some thought to make it look right. Twin level maps are unavoidable, but I need to position the "shadows" of the floating pieces down on the ground level. Some "cloud-like" background would be nice for the sky-level map (or a slightly blurred background showing a pattern of fields, forests, roads, and hamlets dotting the land below--just like those maps used in air combat games if you know what I mean.) Symbols for air current, navigational corridors, and floating lighthouses/buoys may be needed. Closeup maps may become a must. I'm saving that one for later.

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    2. Here's one symbol that could be of use: the bocage (hedgerow) terrain. It's not woods or just plain farmland, but a more difficult type of terrain well known of WWII history buffs.

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    3. There is a better way of doing the coastlines then the coastline tool. It is really only useful in small sections. What you want for the coastlines is the free-form shape drawing tool. You then trace the coastline with it and when you close it off it will blot out all the extraneous land masses. It can be a bit tedious but it tends to give better results in the end.

      The coastline tool does tend to make better rivers then the Shap tool though.

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    4. Since my last posts for this article, I did finally learn to do decent coastlines. I'm fine with that now. Thanks! On the other hand, to what are your referring as the "Shap" tool?

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    5. In Hexographer if you go to the shapes tab, there is the polygon and oval buttons. Within the polygons window you have a number of options available. Among them is the ability to overlay the coastal or ocean background color (or any other for that matter) over the terrain that is in the hex tiles. What I do is draw the map with the clunky hex coastal areas and then draw the ocean over top of the edges of the coastline to trim it back rather nicely. I usually am tracing over top of one of Thorf's maps when I do this and you will not have that luxury because you are drawing a new coastline altogether, but it will still work for you. You simply draw in the coastline and when the shape is closed it will lay overtop of the hex tiles areas and trim the coastline in very nicely and it is both quicker and cleaner than using the coastline tool.

      You just have to make sure that you set it to basic shapes in the drop down box. Make sure you have the "Place Above Terrain" check bubble selected and adjust the line color and fill color to be what you are looking for and finally adjust the border width to an appropriate thickness. The thicker the border on your shapes are the less precise your coasts will be. I usually stick with the default of 3. But for a more jagged coast you could drop that to a 1. Conversely if you wanted to represent a smoother coastline you could bring it up to 4 or 5.

      Another advantage to using the shape tool over the coastline custom lines is that if you make a mistake it is far easier to remove it and start again. With the line draw method you may have to delete many, many lines to fix the whole thing. With the shape tool you just select the shape and then click the delete selected shape button. You can also use this tool (by simply changing the colors) to make small islands and the like that appear on the maps. Simply select the terrain color and draw the island in over your ocean hex terrain.

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    6. That's what I've been doing. I even add a 2pt wide darker edge to the blue coastal polygon plus the fractal effect. :-)

      So, you use polygons for rivers too??

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    7. Sometimes. Kind of depends on the size of the river. Take for instance the Rugalov, in Karameikos. The mouth of that river and much of it's course all the way up to the lake of lost dreams is pretty wide; nearly an entire hex wide at the mouth, in fact. So I used the polygon tool for that one for at least part of the way up that river. After that I finish it out with the Coastline/River or a custom line. Tracing over the map from Thorf, of course. I think I used to for much of the Highreach also. At least down towards the ocean. But generally for rivers I use the line tools instead.

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    8. What I'd like to see as an upgrade for Hexo is a line that has borders. That would make the wider rivers easier to see on a map, rather than just a plain blue line. Hexo doesn't have this option.

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    9. That would be a pretty great improvement to an already pretty great tool. Perhaps we should suggest this to Joe Wexel.

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  7. I just finished a major update to the map, in which I brought in the coastline from the Alphatia 24 mile per hex map. Also, there was a misalignment problem which would have made it hard to properly line up the new maps with other 8 mile per hex maps. These factors have caused the whole coastline to be changed, and I've adapted it accordingly.

    I added the reefs, corrected some mistakes, and added the dominions. I forgot to add the Stargaze label, but it will be in the next update.

    Starpoint is no longer actually on Crystal Lake. If you like, I can change the lake edge a little to put the city on the lake side.

    I've left the farmland there for now. It's easy to remove it later. It does add some useful info to the map, and it would be interesting marking it on the existing maps at a later date. It might be better left to larger scale maps such as your 2 mile per hex map, I don't know.

    I have also left the inland grasslands as yellow grasslands. Should I change them to fertile (green) grasslands?

    Finally, I changed the trees to "predominantly evergreen" hexes in line with Alphatia's latitude.

    There are probably a few other mistakes still.

    http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=File:Ambur-8.png&oldid=718

    (The red border around the coast is temporary, showing the extent to which the coast has changed.)

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  8. I'm not sure I'm following you re. your first paragraph. What are these reddish areas along the coast (are you cutting them off or showing coastline I added?)

    Why the change to Starpoint's location? Wasn't it OK where I'd put it? When I use a 24 miles/hex overlay to draft an 8 miles/hex scale map, I give myself a bit of margin to reposition things +/- 8 miles from the corresponding center of the original 24-mile hex. That's probably what you're running into. I'm likely to do that to help reposition urban areas closer to nearby coasts or rivers.

    Yellow grasslands are fine. The plowed farmland hexes should probably become bocage to avoid confusion with plain farmland. More later on this. Gotta to run off.

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  9. "Bruce map" + "Thorf map" = 2 + 2 = 5!

    It is almost as if Thorf was sent to the Mystara community to be here at the right time to make Bruce's maps look more cool! I shall put on two hats, so that I can take my hat off to *both* of you.

    :-D

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    1. 2+2 = 8. . . Get it right, David! :-)
      (Thanks!)

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  10. Bruce, we're on the same page regarding 24 to 8 mile conversion. As you say, there's a choice of where things go when you zoom in on an area like this. The problem was with the alignment of the two hex grids. Basically, all the old Mystara maps used the same overlay rule, placing one 8 mile hex dead centre, with 6 surrounding it in each 24 mile hex. Your original map here has the grid aligned differently, which is fine for a stand alone map, but woud cause problems later when trying to line up an Alphatia 8 mile per hex map with the neighbouring areas such as the Isle of Dawn.

    My correction repositioned the grid, and also brought in the coastline from the 24 mile per hex map in precise detail. That's why it looks like things moved around a bit.

    The bottom line is that it would definitely be best to fix the hex grid alignment now, and keep it consistent in future maps too. But at the same time there is no need to remain completely faithful to the 24 mile per hex map, and in fact it would be better to add some detail to the coastline just as you have added detail to the terrain. In thy light, I can easily nudge Crystal Lake's northern shore northwards to put Starpoint back on the edge of the lake.

    The red area is coast that was added as a result of the hex grid realignment and bringing in the original coastline. Specifically, the inner edge of the red area is where your original map has the coastline. Sorry it's a bit confusing.

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  11. Okay, now I understand. I thought I had the new grid correctly set up when I positioned the original overlay. I had three hexes fitting vertically within the overlay's 24-mile hex. Was that wrong? Or maybe the width of the hexes was off to begin with. I may have inadvertently altered their proportions. If so, that needs to be fixed indeed. I'll look into that much more carefully when I tackle the next map. Thanks for catching that!

    Yes, I really wanted Starpoint as a port, btw. Feel free to warp that bit of coastline accordingly. :-)

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  12. Three hexes vertically is good, but they also need to be centred in the 24 mile hex. The result is a bullseye like pattern with fragments of hexes in all the corners.

    Regarding hex proportions, Hexographer doesn't seem to work with perfect hexes in the first place, so there's not much to be done about it. But when I import your map to my guide layer, I stretch it to fit my hex layer, so my finished maps all have perfect hexagons. In any case it's not a big deal, because hexes give the illusion of regularity even when squished slightly.

    I am happy to put the time in to tweak and get things just right, as well as making any changes you request, so you don't have to worry about making things pretty, Bruce - unless you want to, of course. In the past I've worked with Geoff in a similar way for his Selhomarr maps, with Geoff roughing up map designs for me to pretty up and produce a finished map. This allowed him to concentrate on design aspects. Missing symbols were just marked with placeholder letters, and coasts, rivers, plateaus and borders just put in rough form. It was a good system, not least because I think just by continuing with the project we each gave the other motivation to carry on with it.

    I'll have to look into Hexographer, but another thing the may well be possible is for me to hand off templates and guides for you to develop. Basically that just means the existing source maps scaled and set as a background layer. That could save you the trouble of doing coastlines altogether - and since coastlines are one of the most time-consuming parts of mapmaking, it's a great time-saver.

    (Sorry for the strange typos by the way. I'm writing this on my iPad, which doesn't like this site and won't allow me to edit text I've already typed.)

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    1. There is some control in Hexographer to alter the height and width of hexes separately. I'll look into that to make fine adjustments. Maybe that will fix the discrepancy. It's fortunate that I picked a small map. Imagine the problem with a really large province.

      Thanks for putting the time into these maps. I'm glad you're checking the accuracy of these drafts for me. It makes my job a heck of a lot easier! As regards coastlines, I may simply draw them as I need and bring finishing touches directly in Windows Paint (basically to erase the pesky leftover slivers). I'll talk to Joe Wetzel, Hexographer's creator, to see if there's anyway he could eventually add a brush to simply paint things over.

      Don't worry about typos. I make plenty myself and I don't use an iPad.

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    2. Hexographer defaults to a slightly stretched or elogated hex, but you can manually addust it so that it is a perfect hex. On that note if I make maps using Hexographer what format do you need to make alterations and corrections etc in Adobe? Your maps have filled a significant portion of my hard drive and they are top notch. I use them as underlays to make my Hexographer maps (for the purpose of editing them to fit my own campaigns) and I am so very greatful that you have taken the considerable amount of time necessary to make them.

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    3. I'm familiar now with the proper scaling of hexes. I do final alterations on MS Paint! I don't have Adobe. Alterations are some of the most minor things you could thing of (adding borders, banners, combining different maps, etc.)

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    4. This post was actually supposed to be directed at Thorfin, since he was unfamiliar with Hexographer. However, That is something I could do with some of my maps now that you mention it.

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  13. I use MS Word to do my maps and MS Paint to polish them up.

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  14. Regarding bocage/hedgerow, is it really necessary to differentiate this from farmlands? Do we need to differentiate between livestock pasture and cultivated fields? It's certainly possible, and I imagine it could be solved by a symbol with pinkish and yellowish fields among the green fields (and solid, not ploughed) a la the game Civilization, but we could also just have the farmlands hex represent all these types.

    On the same subject, I'm growing to like how the farmlands fill out the map and differentiate between truly clear terrain and farmed terrain. To the point where I am seriously considering adding it to all the 8 mile per hex maps in the long run. I think it would help to illustrate the differences between for example mainland Thyatis and neighbouring Karameikos. Of course it's also useful for dominion calculations.

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    1. For peace of mind, I think I'll limit those specialty hexes/symbols to 1 or 2 mile/hex closeup maps.

      Bocage is needed, especially from the point of view of American players who may understand "farmland" as endless miles of flat, open terrain like in the US Midwest, as opposed to the hedgerow terrain, which is very, very, different (even though it too may be relatively flat too.) Just take a drive across Illinois and you'll feel the endless pain of featureless boredom. On top of that, highways go on forever in straight lines (at least as far as the next McDonald's.)

      Wait, wait! I think I see a tree, about twenty miles over there... Nah. It's a mirage.

      Cultivated fields would show furrows. Grazing lands would be like savannah, but greener I guess. Grasslands are basically high grass, like in Ethengar. (Whatever.) I'll stick with the palette of icons available on Hexographer for simplicity, and you can switch the specialty hexes to something that looks better.

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  15. Wonderful map(s), really! They smell like... victory, to say the least. :D
    If you are going to add details to metropolitan Alphatia and Bellissaria you might find useful the two links below. They should save you some research work if you are looking for info in the published material.

    About metropolitan Alphatia (the downloadable map is the main reference here): http://www.pandius.com/metroalp.html

    About Bellissaria:
    http://www.pandius.com/bell_map.html

    Hope they could help. Keep on the great work! :)

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    1. Thanks for that. I'm sure I can use some or all of it.

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  16. Okay, I've updated the map again with an adapted shipping lane for Starpoint, since the port is on the west bank of the inlet, not the north bank of the lake. I also took away all the farmlands hexes as you suggested. How does this look?

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  17. Just finished reworking both the replica and updated maps.

    http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=File:Bh-ambur-8.png&oldid=758
    http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=File:Ambur-8.png&oldid=757

    I added water depths to the updated version - look on the right hand side of the map to get an idea how close the Yannivey Islands are.

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  18. When you have a chance, if you can throw together a quick population density map I should be able to make that version quite quickly - I've been working out some shortcuts to change the terrain to grey that should make it a snap.

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