Map of the Month: Eldolan

MapoftheMonthLogoA real gem this month, from the Pelgrane Press website newsletter, combining two of my current favourite things: maps by Pär Lindström, and the 13th Age RPG. This fantastic town map, done in a classic style which Pär has developed (and written great tutorials on how to produce) is from the upcoming Shadows of Eldolan 13th Age introductory adventure. Awesome :)


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Cartographer’s Annual Challenge: April 2014

Once again I’ve got a bit behind here, so I’m just posting my effort for the April Annual issue, which I highlighted here.

Going along with the ‘Volcanic Island’ vibe, this map depicts the Isle of Heldan (first shown in a couple of maps from last year, here and here), a seemingly idyllic realm, but with a dark secret at its heart …

Isle of Heldan

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The Annual Challenge: April Issue

I didn’t quite get as far as I wanted on the March Challenge, having found that merging a Fractal Terrains full ‘world’ with an already created ‘world map’ in CC3 is not that easy :) There are a number of tutorials and posts on the subject, but I didn’t get enough time to go through the whole process. Still, I did produce a couple of cool looking ‘Tolrendor’ projections with the help of FT3, shown here, so I’m happy that I met the requirements of my challenge! I do expect to update this over the coming months as a side-project.

The April issue is now out, and is a style based on the winner’s map from the recent Profantasy competition, which I posted about here. It’s a regional style well suited to islands and small regions, just like the subject of the competition! After a month spent ‘thinking big’ across the entire Tolrendor globe, it will be nice to drill down to the detail again!

Annual Volcanic Island

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The Annual Challenge: Fractal Fun

The March Annual issue is all about Map Projections, which normally implies that you’re starting with a globe!!

In the last post on this topic I talked about how small and insignificant my Tolrendor ‘World Map’ was when placed on a ‘globe’ sized map. It covers an area of approximately 3500 by 2800 miles … when the full size world (when extrapolated out based on latitude etc.) has a circumference of almost 24000 miles!!

This means there is a huge proportion of Tolrendor that is currently completely uncharted … and therefore pretty boring for any sort of map projection. To fill in the blanks, I decided to have a play with Fractal Terrains, another product from Profantasy. By setting a few parameters, this software can generate realistic looking worlds in seconds. Once you get the hang of it, there are a bewildering array of options to play with. A simple click creates another of the infinite worlds!

The challenge here was to generate a large scale world map that suited my rough ideas for Tolrendor, but that also matched in reasonably with my existing maps. After many attempts, I have settled (for now…) on the below (shown as an Equirectangular Projection):


This suits the concept that my main current campaign area (i.e the World Map area) is the western-most tip of the world’s main continent, and is largely European in inspiration, whilst leaving plenty of scope for more exotic lands to the south and east.

So what are the next steps? From Fractal Terrains, it is simple to export a CC3 file of the entire world, which can then obviously be edited to slot my own maps into it. However, one great feature of Fractal Terrains is its ability to generate map projections directly, such as this Orthograhic Projection seen from the north pole:


The problem is, to be able to generate these correctly, with my ‘World Map’ integrated, requires me to get this data into Fractal Terrains, and from what I can see, this is not simple :(  For now I might have to stick with the one-way export, but I would love to achieve this at some point …

Posted in Cartography, Columns, The Annual Challenge, World Building | 1 Comment

Map of the Month: Profantasy Competition Winner!

MapoftheMonthLogoProfantasy recently had a competition to map an island, less than 3 miles across. The map could be drawn with any tools, as long as it met this basic requirement. There were a number of great entries (see here). Cartographer Mike Schley was asked to judge the competition, and he came up with the following winner, which is deservedly called out here as ‘Map of the Month':


The lucky winner (username xianpryde on the forums) got a full Profantasy Patron Licence, which gives access to all their software! Wow, worth the effort I think! The winner later wrote an article on the Profantasy Blog about his work – very interesting that the main work was actually sketched on an iPad…

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The Annual Challenge: March Issue

MarchIssueI’ve been looking forward to the March Issue!! Map projections are something I’ve never really spent a lot of time thinking about in relation to fantasy maps. I have however, always admired the projection maps produced by Ralf Schemmann (of Profantasy) on his Jhendor site.

So a whole issue devoted to different types of projections looks like a great challenge to take up. A long time ago I did sketch some climate maps of the main campaign area of Tolrendor, and when I dug these out, I discovered these covered from about 35-60 degrees latitude, pretty much the same as the main part of continental Europe. I guess at one point I must have deliberately designed this, as when I calculate out the distances, Tolrendor ends up pretty much the same as our Earth!

However, that does mean when I place my main ‘world’ map onto a correctly sized projection … well it doesn’t cover much of the world (pretty much like Europe):

EquirectangularTolrendorWorldWhich means, if I am going to create a realistic map projection of Tolrendor for this month’s Challenge, I’ve got a lot of landmass to design!! Great, an excuse to play with another Profantasy application that I’ve had for quite a while, but never used: Fractal Terrains. This tool allows you to generate realistic looking ‘worlds’ using fractals, and then export them to CC3. My plan is to see if I can fuse my own hard-created landmasses with some generated ones to come up with a ‘globe’ map!

Sounds like a busy month :)

Of course, if you want to join in with the Challenge, please do: simply post and link to your work in the comments below. Happy Cartography!!

Posted in Cartography, Columns, The Annual Challenge, World Building | 2 Comments

Content Corner: Targrin ‘Shadowblade’

Content Corner LogoAs promised, here is my first 13th Age character, a half-orc fighter created to match the character portrait I created for the February Annual Challenge.

Several key things that need to be created for a 13th Age character are: a One Unique Thing, Backgrounds, and Icon Relationships. These items are discussed in my previous post on the RPG, and are critical to investing the character in the campaign world and story. Below you can find the background story that I developed, and the mechanical items that derived from this. It’s hard to know whether the story came from the mechanics, or the mechanics were derived from the story; but that’s the beauty, in a sense they drive each other, with great results!

Targrin’s Story:

Targrin’s birth was the result of a Orc raid on out outlying settlement of Camlan, in theHalfOrc_Fighter_CA86_Head hills just to the south of the Red river. His mother was captured and raped by the orcs, but was lucky enough to be rescued when a squadron of the Knights of Watch caught up with the raiding party as it tried to escape back across the river. (One Unique Thing: Targrin is the son of a powerful Orc chieftain from the Barrens, north of the Havenscoast. His real father is unaware of his existence)

The birth of a half-Orc nine months later was a great shock to the people of the village, who wanted Targrin put to death. His step-father (a hunter who had been away from the village on the day of the raid) and mother resisted however, as the difficult birth meant they would not have other children. Ostracised by the backwards village folk, they lived in a small stone cottage in the hills, where his step-father hunted and sold meat and pelts for a basic living (Background: Hunter +1). When Targrin was 10 however, his step-father was killed by a great wolf. Knowing they would be unable to survive the winter alone, but fearing to return to the village, his mother took them south, where they eventually ended up in the poor quarter of the town of Bradon.

Here, Targrin’s humanoid heritage was, if not common, at least ignored by most, certainly within the back-streets and slums of the bustling mercantile town. As he grew older, it was only natural that with his height and bulk, as well as his relative lack of other prospects, would lead directly to a career as muscle in the local gang of thieves (Background: Bradon Street Thug +2). Predictably enough, this career had a shelf-life, and eventually Targrin has the burning need to get out of town.

He achieved this by enlisting with the Blue Riders Mercenary Company, one of the largest such outfits in the Havenscoast, specialising in caravan escorts westwards on the Traders’ Way across the Derghai plains to the Kurdar realms. For almost ten years he rode this route, becoming an experienced trail sergeant, as well as getting involved in numerous other missions and petty wars (Background: Blue Rider Mercenary +3). It was in one of these small engagements that he came into possession of his magical sword, from which his nickname derives.

Finally he returned to Bradon after a six-month trip to find that his mother had passed away. Grief-stricken, his thoughts turned inwards and bitter, brooding over the ‘accident’ of his conception. Blaming his real (Orc) father for the trials and tribulations to his mother was subjected, he vowed vengeance. He returned to the northern borders of Camlan, taking every opportunity to undertake raids and missions against the humanoids tribes of the Barrens. Eventually he was asked to join the ‘Eyes’, the undercover special missions force of the Knights of Watch (Background: ‘Eye’ of the Watch +2; Icon Relationship – Positive 1). He volunteers for any dangerous missions going, as long as they give him the chance to one day achieve the vengeance he craves (Icon Relationship: Fire-Lord Asjarn – Negative 2).

And here is his full 13th Age Character Sheet:


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Cartographer’s Annual Challenge: February 2014

The Annual Issue for February wasn’t a style, but a collection of ready-made characters and monsters created using the recently released Character Artist 3 (CA3) add-on for CC3.

Although I recently purchased this add-on, I’d never used it, so this month’s Challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity. Using CA3 is pretty easy; you simply use the various symbol sets, which are organised into various race types, and then into various regions of the body. Each has a range of the expected (i.e the body-part!) symbols, as well as clothing, weapons and other gear as appropriate. You simply build up your character portrait by selecting the symbols you want, which are cleverly placed on sheets to overlap in a realistic manner. There is a huge range of symbols, and most come with a varicoloured option, so in essence the choice is endless!

Here then is my first CA3 effort:


Just for the record, he’s a half-orc fighter, and actually also my first 13th Age RPG character/NPC that I’ve created for my developing Havenscoast campaign. If I get a chance I’ll post his character sheet as well.

Posted in Cartography, Columns, The Annual Challenge | 1 Comment

Map of the Month: Dungeons of Schley

MapoftheMonthLogoFor the past year, due to the Cartographer’s Annual Challenge, most of my personal mapping efforts have been directed at meeting the Challenge. As such, the Map of the Month column has suffered somewhat.

So I’ve decided that from now on, this column will concentrate on highlighting cool cartography from across the internet. It would be hard to find a better way to start than by showing off the new Dungeon styles that are coming in CC3+, the (relatively) soon to be released upgrade to my favourite mapping software. Check this out:

Mike-Schley-DungeonThese new styles are based on artwork by Mike Schley, one of the iconic cartographers of the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (and much more besides, but that is where I know his work from primarily). He was responsible for the map of the Nentir Vale in the 4E DMG, as well as many from the Scales of War Adventure Path published in Dungeon Magazine.

If I can use CC3+ to create maps that look anything like the below (Note – image link requires DDI subscription), count me ecstatic! :)


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Icons and Tolrendor


To play a 13th Age game, you can’t really ignore the Icons; they’re a fundamental part of the RPG. So if you want to play in a setting other than the default Dragon Empire presented in the core rule-book, as a GM you’ve definitely got some prep work to do. Not only does each session have mechanical aspects based on Icons (relationship rolls), but some class powers are also fairly closely associated with these powerful and mysterious NPCs.

Naturally enough, I want to play a 13th Age campaign in my own Tolrendor setting, so I’ve started thinking about the nature of the Icons in my world. This hasn’t turned out to be as simple as you might think.

The 13th Age setting is fairly compact in nature, being centred on essentially a single political entity, the Dragon Empire. Here, it makes sense that all 13 Icons are either significant figures within the Empire (The Emperor, the Archmage, the Crusader etc.), nearby allies (the Elf Queen, the Dwarf King) or direct enemies (the Orc Lord, the Diabolist) who can have impact within a campaign story no matter where in the setting it is based.

Tolrendor by contrast is inspired by such classic fantasy settings such as Gary Gygax’s “Greyhawk“, Ed Greenwood’s “The Forgotten Realms”, and more recently, Wolfgang Baur’s “Midgard Campaign Setting”. In short, it’s what you might term a ‘kitchen sink’ setting; it has many disparate regions, drawn from both historical cultures and fantasy sources. This makes the Icons, and the players’ choices of Icon relationships slightly more complicated; it doesn’t really make sense that in a campaign set in the harsh Viking style lands of the far north, a player could have a strong relationship with say, the Emperor on the Ruby Throne, who rules a decadent and aggressive empire far to the east of the Inner Sea. It’s not impossible of course, but it’s not likely to easily fit within the campaign story.

13th Age setting Icons are primarily individuals of great power, whose very destinies are entwined with that of the Empire. In Tolrendor,  many of the ‘powers’ tend rather to be power ‘groups’, rather than individuals. These factions may appear in different regions of the world, perhaps in a slightly different fashion. How does this relate to the concept of Icons?

I was getting slightly confused at this point, so started analysing the role of an Icon in the 13th Age RPG, and came up with these key points:

  • An Icon is well-known in the campaign. They help to define the setting, and course the players need to know about them to choose their relationships.
  • They need to provide the background information for some classes e.g. especially the Sorcerer, whose Heritage Talents can be directly based on an Icon.
  • Icons represent story-drivers. Many campaign events involve encounters with the Icon’s agents or enemies. They are analogous to ‘factions’ or ‘clans’ in other story-based games.
  • They are behind the scenes. Players do not normally directly interact or confront Icons; certainly not before the story goes Epic :)
  • They are NPCs the players will aid or oppose over the course of each campaign.

Keeping these in mind, I came up with the following guidelines for designing the Icons of Tolrendor:

  • An Icon can be an individual, a group lead by a powerful and well-known individual, or simply an organisation that has no specific figurehead, but is a significant influence in the story of the campaign.
  • Icons have either global or regional scope; clearly some Icons are known throughout the World of Tolrendor. They have massive power and fame, and their agents or minions are likely to crop up in any adventure. These are global Icons. They are also the Icons most likely to appear as the sources of class powers and talents. Other Icons, by contrast, are well-known only in a particular region, and will play a strong role in stories set in that region, (especially at Adventurer tier), but may not be suitable for other regions. These are regional Icons.
  • Regional Icons are often closely associated, or even subordinate to, global Icons. They may be the local boss-man in a bigger organisation, or simply have similar attributes and goals to one of the global Icons. This may be a useful way to move between tiers: when the PCs are lower level, they come up against, and maybe defeat, lesser powers, before coming up against the big boys as they increase their abilities.
  • Global Icons are more permanent. Although Tolrendor Icons do not necessarily have same Age-changing destinies as those of the 13th Age Role-playing Game, you would expect that given their deep influence and power, they will endure and benefit from even world-shattering events. Regional Icons, by contrast, are more vulnerable, and may be defeated and consigned to history by the deeds of the PCs. They’re certainly not pushovers, otherwise they’d have never made Icon status, but they’re not invincible.

Some examples of Tolrendor Icons could include:

The Order of the Pentacle [Scope: Global]

magic-shieldEver since the legendary arch-mage, known only as Kerab’s Bane, founded Kerabos the City of Spires, the stories and rumours regarding this shadowy conclave of arcane power have grown with the long years. Mages of the Order are said to have been responsible for sealing the Demon Well after Samos fell, thus saving the lands north of the Inner Sea from chaos and destruction. It is said the Order still resides in Kerabos, and may even rule the city, but this only the secretive members know for sure, and they are silent. 

Design Note: this Icon is analogous in many ways to the Archmage of the 13th Age Dragon Empire setting.

The Mailed Fist (The Bane Lords) [Scope: Global] 

mailed-fistIt is said that Bane himself, the so-called Dark General of the Gods, has always coveted lordship over the world of Tolrendor. There are many who would welcome this, and seek to impose their rule upon all lands in preparation for this day. All they need is the fabled leader, the Mailed Fist, who will make war upon the enemies of law and order, and bring all peoples under his iron will. Many have tried, none have as yet succeeded.

Design Note: this is a ‘collective’ Icon, a concept rather than an individual. In many regions of Tolrendor, individuals or organisations follow this creed of Bane, and could be classed as regional Icons. Examples are the hobgoblin empire in the north (known in fact as the Banelands), and the city-state of Throngar in the east, where an ancient Iron Dragon rules over one of the former cities of Varandia, the lost empire of the dragonborn. Elsewhere in the world, a GM can use this Icon to support any number of threats or stories.

The Corsair Lord [Scope: Regional, Havenscoast]

sea-dragonThe City of the Corsairs has a long and dubious history, from its long ago origins as the main base of the Slavering Tide, the demon-spawned fleet of Gorak, and through many long years as the most debauched pirate port on the Inner Sea. Now however, a new lord, the Duke of Blood, has arisen to power, and has built the Corsairs into a formidable naval force, threatening the ports and shipping of the Havenscoast, and even the elven galleys of Mirranor.

Design Note: this an example of a power strong enough in the Havenscoast region to be called an Icon, but with limited reach across the rest of Tolrendor. It is also quite likely that the Corsair Lord is  one of the Bane Lords, given his success in wielding the chaotic pirates into a single force. 

The Knights of Watch [Scope: Regional, Havenscoast]

eye-shieldThe Knights of Watch are a religious and military Order charged with the defence of the Havenscoast against the ever-present dangers that lie to the north. Though the Demon Lords of Gorak are long vanquished, their legacy lives on in the seething struggle for supremacy between giants, elemental exiles, demonic sects and worse that still inhabit the broken mountains and reeking fens of the demon-wastes.

Design Note: another typical example of a regional Icon, and also a group Icon. Although the key individuals of the Order (e.g. the Grandmaster) are powerful, it is the collective strength of the Order, the fortresses and mailed knights, which raise it to Icon status. 

Wow, this is fun. I could create Icons for hours! How many Icons is too many Icons? No idea, but I’m sure I will settle on a reasonable number after some refinement. The next steps will be to create the remainder of the key Icons of the Havenscoast region, some of both global and regional scope, and then write them up in more detail. I’m sure I’ll post some of them here as I go :)

Icon images used directly from under licence CC BY 3.0

Posted in 13th Age, Icons | 2 Comments