My work is now almost entirely focused on the Southlands – Adventure beneath the pitiless sun! New monsters, new magic, and realms inspired by the Arabian Nights, Egypt, & pulp adventure tales!
by Kobold Press and for Pathfinder RPG. The Kickstarter is on its final week, so please head over to the Southlands Kickstarter page and find out all the great content that have been unlocked so far. Among them a Campaign map and a number of other maps I’m working on right now, so please consider backing this project!
As my work progress I will make updates on the Southlands Kickstarter page, but also make blog posts here. I know that if you read this you are probably very interested in my work, so here on my site I will go into more of the technical side of my work. For information on the setting, and all the amazing things that are included I suggest you head over to the Kickstarter page or download the free preview from Paizo Store.
This first installment will focus on the basics of terrain and texture. Later on as my work progress there will be more of real map making, now I’m working on settings and programming which can be boring even for the most passionate.
To map a vast continent that stretches for thousands of miles is a major undertaking, and to make it stand up and match the creative fervor of the Kobold Crew and some of the best in the business doesn’t make it easier. But as all brave adventurers know you just have to get going and face the perils!
My approach is to prepare by getting my tools in order and doing my research. That meant pestering the writers on this project for details with lots and lots of questions and reading all there is to read.
With all this in mind, my first goal is to create a preview map, something that can serve as the magnet for critique and inspiration. A deep dive into the world of fractals and textures, and 6 weeks later I had something that could do the job.
This map is done from scratch inside World-Machine using only a few basic fractal “recipes” and to make it quick it uses 1/10 of real scale. Export it into Photoshop for a touch-up, and it looks rather nice in the right light!
With the approval of the Kobold Crew, I now had a firm grip of what the continent looked like and a base to work from. It was time to start work on the full scale map. And by full scale, I mean that the terrain is created with so much detail it can be zoomed in and used for things like village and city maps, which means a lot of data. For Southlands that means 124 GB of TIFF files and fractals.
The way I work is to use some sort of sketch and hand paint a height map, all the way from the depths of the sea to the highest mountains peaks. Why do all this work by hand, why not just let the fractals do its job? For two reasons, first I needed to match an existing map and fractals are difficult to shape; they don’t always do as they are told.
The second reason is that computer-generated algorithms have a tendency to either look repetitive or “non-organic” or just too perfect. Real worlds have a bit of chaos, and in my opinion a fantasy world needs even more of the unpredictable and untamed. A hand-drawn and painted base creates that, though it can be a bit tedious work at times I have to admit.
I added rivers and forest cover on separate layers to match the locations on the various sketches. Each layer can then form the base for fractal terrain, colors, and textures.
In parallel I also worked on the programming bit to create a flow chart, which is a collection of nested “recipes” for how various terrains should look. It is a messy collection of small squares with lines showing in what order things are calculated. This is all done in World-Machine, a genius tool used by special effects departments in movie studios, game studios, and others who need computer-generated landscapes. I use Photoshop for painting height maps, textures and post-render touch ups, then go to Illustrator to bring it all together with symbols and text.
My template has 12 different terrain types, that each gives the terrain a distinct look, from swamps and low gentle hills to majestic peaks. By blending and mixing these types I can recreate virtually any type of landscape imaginable. Together with around 20 types of textures and there are virtually no limits on what can be visualized.
Forest overlay that can be adjusted separately to accommodate everything from a few palm trees at a desert oasis to lush deep jungles are something I’m setting up as well.
If you add color and brightness adjustments and the possibilities are endless!
The textures I’m working with are a combination of computer generated fractals, hand painted parts and colors and patterns I capture with my camera out hiking in the real nature. I have studied landscapes passionately for a long time, and this job let me combine my passions for role playing, hiking and photography.
A vital but often difficult part is to map lakes and rivers. To map a natural water system of lakes and rivers can be difficult in normal top down maps, in 3D it can be downright impossible. During my 15 years of mapping using Bryce a natural lakes and rivers were an unattainable dream. The latest tools doesn’t make it easy, but possible. So I’m proud to show off the first look at my mountain test lake, a canyon and the wetlands at the merging rivers.
Sometimes I can’t resist and have to have a bit of drama.
And every respectable fantasy world needs the extraordinary, a 20 000ft high pillar….
Some artists paint with a pencil on paper or oils on a canvas, and I have great admiration for them and their amazing results which gives me so much inspiration. In my work I try to create useful art by painting with fractals and textures on a digital canvas. The images I have shown here are all work in progress, but with your help I can do my bit to make this project come alive with adventures, treasure, and fun!
I hope you join me on the journey, and welcome to the Southlands!
The next installment in mapping the Southlands, will take you both to vast forests and then a first look at civilization……..