Mapping the Southlands, part 1


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.

hand painting

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…….. 🙂


End of donations!

donate-paypal-logoI just took down my Paypal Donation button, it marks an end of an era for me. The paypal donation button have been on my website in one form or another since 1999. For an amateur artist I used it as a way to try and cover a bit of the costs of running a website, and over the years more and more of you have been very supportive and helped me finance what used to be my hobby.

The last three years your contributions have made it possible for me to devote far more time and resources to my fantasy map making. a whole new generation of tools in the form of better computers and software have elevated my work to new heights. So far only glimpses of that work have become finished maps. But that is about to change, thanks to your inspiration, critique and support I’m now a professional, thank you all for all your help!

So therefore I’m hereby ending the era of donations. From now on you will have to give me financial support by buying the products my maps are published in. In the future I will also sell maps directly through various channels, the content markets of Realm Works and d20Pro, online PDF stores and also directly on my site. I will also launch a custom RPG map service for those of you who want to have a map made just for you.

As a part of this transition I will create and new website under my own name. This site will live on as a home for my Greyhawk map repository and also receive a makeover next year, but my blog, new work and services will be on my new site.

Again that you so much for all your generous support you have given me all these years, and I hope you will be interested in what I’m working on in the future. As Head Cartographer for Kobold Press Southlands I’m working hard on a series of maps for that project. So I’m taking this chance to invite you to take part of the journey to the Southlands by supporting:  Southlands: New Fantasy Options for Pathfinder RPG

Southlands and more!


Now that Gen con is over and I’m back at my desk working again its time for an update. During the month leading up to Gen Con I worked hard a map for Kobold Press Southlands.

The Soutlands, the Kickstarter went live today! So if you want to know more and hopefully get on this really cool project please head over there right away! This book will include a Southland overview map by me. It is the first project where I have used new tools and techniques and I’m really pleased with the results. Below are a part of the opening shot from the video flyover that I made and it is now part of the project video. It shows a little bit of the map from a low flying angle.
With more of your support to unlock more stretch goals, there will be more Southland maps for me to do. It is so much fun to work on the Southlands and I hope to get the chance to visualize more of the continent!
Video edited2pano

Overland maps 2.0

My new generation mapping project are progressing as planned. I’m setting up templates to create highly detailed maps covering anything from a village map to an entire world. These maps are done using a mix of Photoshop CC, World Machine 3, Vue 11 and Illustrator CC.
Screenshot 2014-09-10 17.01.14
Screenshot 2014-09-10 16.56.08
The base is a height map made in Photoshop in the form of a gray-scale image that will make sure the maps are accurate and detailed.  Each height map covers 500 miles of terrain and its possible to use a lot of them to map a whole world. My test map is made up of 1712 height map files, 22GB of data with just under 90 BILLION height points which is enough to detail a world the size of Earth. Detailing parts of a world will now be easy to do and can later be included in a larger map without any extra work. Scaling, accuracy and consistency are now much easier to achieve. So if you have a world you want to have mapped, soon I will provide a service to do that for you. It can be done, a highly detailed a small part at a time, or as an overview map.
Screenshot 2014-09-10 13.13.54
Maps can be top down, 3D directional views and various style options will be available as well. For example parchment, stone or wood engraving, line drawing and more. The finished result will be a high resolution digital image in the format you prefer, for print or digital use.
These screen shots are from work in progress, and colors and texturing is not in place yet. There are still a lot of work before they will be useful as maps, but I hope it will give you a hint at the amount of detail that is now possible.

A few hours left…..

ks1The d20Pro’s Kickstarter that I have backed is on the home stretch with 13 hours left. Please consider to back this very promising project!

I’m working hard on my next generation maps, and I will create several series of maps that will be available on d20Pro content market. I will post soon with more information and pictures here.

Gen Con, ENnies, Concrud and back to height maps again….

gen-con-logoBack home again after my first Gen Con, and it was a fantastic experience. Had the chance to see and meet so many wonderful gamers of all sorts, Greyhawk fans, gaming legends, designers, cartographers and a whole bunch of just passionate gamers just like me!

The ENnies, what an evening! It was a great experience despite I didn’t win this time. Just to be part of the celebration of role playing and the many people that makes the fund games being celebrated for an evening was an experience of a lifetime.

Anna AlyssaGot the chance to meet some of my gaming friends and colleagues I’ve only have had met online with before. One of the first one I found at her booth was Alyssa Faden, Cartographer and Game designer extraordinaire.

Had a chance to hang out with the Kobold Crew and enjoy they gave me a great time. The same goes for the evening I spent with the Greyhawk Meet and Greet, thank you “Mortellan”, Jayson, Skip and “Baronzemo”, you gave me an evening to remember!

Also had a chance to talk business several times, so  there is a chance that I will be busy and long time to come, being involved in a variety of projects. Thank you  all for your help and support, I wouldn’t have got this far without it!

When I got home the so often talked about Con Crud have affected me, so I apparently missed my Fort save. Despite  a runny nose and feeling a bit feverish I’m back at my desk working on creating height map templates. Its one of the most boring parts of 3D map making, but to know how to create precise height mapsScreenshot 2014-08-13 12.16.26

is an essential part of it. Here is what can look like in Photoshop when it is color coded, in order to be easier to read. This is then saved as a grayscale image to be used as and base for the fractal work in World Machine. Using Photoshop to create it makes it easier to convert an existing map into a 3D fractal generated virtual landscape.

The fractals can then be draped in pixels and exported from world Machine back  to Photoshop again as a terrain for a top down map, or to Vue to be rendered from any angle as an illustration.

Below are a screenshot from World Machine, it is one of my terrain experiments trying to work out how to create the transition from savanna to desert. It is a bit like playing god to be able to play around with a whole virtual world, having it all at your fingertips and being able to shape it any way you want.
Screenshot 2014-06-05 13.44.05

One of the hardest things is to try and match a map that already exist like the Greyhawk map. Using Bryce it took me years of trial and error basically, by hand painting fractals and keep doing it until I got the results I wanted. Now I can do so much more much faster. Here is an detail view of a 10 mile bit of the coastline at the city of Admundfort on Walworth Isle in the middle of Nyr Dyv.

Screenshot 2014-08-21 14.46.32

There are not texturing and only the coastline and surrounding waters are defined. Basic terrain with erosion are in place and I’m pleased with the results, with terrain details and texturing it will be a highly detailed map, enough to pick the spot for your castle!


d20Pro Unlimited Virtual Tabletop


I just wanted to spread the word about the latest Kickstarter project I’m backing: d20Pro Unlimited Virtual Tabletop.

The project is to create a new version of d20Pro that can handle multitouch, better graphics and  what caught my attention, Realm Works integration. d20Pro is already a very capable and great Virtual Table Top software, but if this Kickstarter goes well it will be a much more powerful tool for Role Players. It is already well beyond its goal of $10 000, but I’m hoping they reach some of their more ambitious stretch goals.

I’m very soon on my way to Gen Con where I’m going to take a closer look at d20Pro on touch screens among many other thing.


Atlas pages and World Map tests

Page numbering-01Its a few days left before Gen Con and I’m spending them working hard to get some more things ready before I leave.

I’ve added a few more Atlas pages. Slowly working my way across the northern Flanaess. You find them on the Atlas Page.

I’ve also working on whole world mapping techniques, this is so I can offer that as a part of my map commission service. I need a world to work on and my choice is of course Oerth. The challenge with this is the age old dilemma to make flat map of a spherical world. But for Fantasy worlds its usually the the other way, you have a flat map showing at least a part of the world. Here is my first try at Oerth.  Oerth Layout03-01

This is only a first test and I have to state that this is not an attempt to create a proper map of Oerth. This map have spurred a very interesting discussion in the Facebook group Flanaess Geographical Society, with all the passionate and knowledgeable fans around I’m sure there will be some good things coming from it! In the meantime I will work on how to efficiently create a high quality map of a whole world.

render7One of the first things on my agenda is to create templates for each stage of the process, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. The grid on the Oerth globe show 500 miles “squares”, well they are squares at the equator. The reason for a 500 mile grid is to tie in with my “regional map standard” that will be maps 500 miles across.

render9What I’m planning to offer are three types of maps, whole world overview maps, 500 miles regional maps and 15 mile local maps with very high detail level. When I have these three types worked out I will start with “encounter maps” of dungeons, outdoor scenes, houses etc.

Prices will vary with map style, map view, number of details, and symbols and such. But my goal is for the basic top down terrain map to be less than $100. There will be pdf’s and template files provided that will hopefully make both the ordering and work process better and faster. I’m only in the early steps of setting up the service, and I will post here regularly with more details and full size examples of what you get.

I plan to offer among other things:

  • Top down views in “satellite style” with a realistic terrain view, various stylized maps like parchment, engraved in stone and the like.
  • 3D views from any angle you like, to really show off what the terrain looks like. These maps can also be styled.
  • Special rendered views, like landscape photography from your world. To show what a certain special location would look like. Perfect for your computer as desktop background or why not a large wall print 🙂

The map you order will be delivered as high resolution digital files in the format you prefer. So whether you’re a game publisher, novelist or gamer, with a bit of money and some work by you, I will be able to map your world in a spectacular way.

Thanks again for all your support and interest! I hope to meet as many of you as possible in person during Gen Con.




Thank you!!

I just want to take a moment to thank you all for all the great comments, emails, Facebook, Google+ and many other ways I have received so much support!

Thank you all,  and thank you for voting for me!

I hope to see some of you at Gen Con.


My ENnie vote!

ennies 2014 nomineeFirst I want to urge you to vote on who of this years nominees you want to see awarded.

So who are my favorites among this years nominees? Here are my favorite from this years nominees. These are my highly subjective opinions, based on the fact that I haven’t had the chance to play with or even see all the products nominated. So my selection will be based on my at times limited experience.

2014 Judge’s Spotlight Winners

For me the favorite in this category is:  Deep Magic – by Kobold Press. A huge 376-page tome full of great Pathfinder magic, a perfect thing for my game where I’m playing or running games!

Best Adventure

Again this is an easy pick for me:  Rise of the Drow – by AAW GAMES LLC. I pledged in their Kickstarter and I’m impressed with all the cool material as well as the adventure. Now I’m thinking about running an underdark Campaign in Greyhawk again.

Best Aid/Accessory

The Kobold crew strikes again, and its another tome full of great Magic:  Kobold Guide to Magic.

 Best Art, Interior

Here I have two nominees that I both find to be top picks for me: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Gods – Paizo Publishing and Shadows of Esteren Book 2 – Travels – Agate Editions. They both have lots of fantastic and to me highly inspirational art.

Best Art, Cover

Wayne Reynolds, makes fantastic cover art. This seems to be both the judges and my opinion so his art is on two of the nominees in this category this year. But I like dragons far more than were sharks so my pick is  Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures – Paizo Publishing.

Best Blog

I have two favorite blogs nominated this year:  The Other Side by Timothy Brannan and  Dorkland!  by Christopher Helton. Both will give you a good amount of gaming news and thoughts, and more.

Best Cartography

Well I’m too biased to give any advice in this category 😉 The other maps are beautiful and made by some of the best Cartographers in the industry that I’ve been a fan of for many years. My map of the flanaess is different on both style and scope, and even if you don’t like the “satellite” maps style, the sheer size and level of detail in my Map of the Flanaess makes it a worthy competitor for the award, in my humble opinion!

 Best Electronic Book

Well to be honest, I haven’t had the chance to see any of these books yet so I haven’t made any favorites in this category.

Best Family Game

I’ve had some experience with two of the nominees in this category:  Little Wizards –  by Crafty Games and Fate Accelerated Edition – Evil Hat Productions. Both are great fun to play and a good way to introduce newcomers or youngsters to the world of RPG’s.

Best Free Product

Since my map isn’t nominated in this category ;), I have to pick Pathfinder Module: We Be Goblins Too! – Paizo Publishing, which is a great adventure!

Best Game

Among the nominated this year is Fate Core System – from Evil Hat Productions. I haven’t had the chance to play 13th age or Numenera yet. But I’ve had the pleasure of playing Fate a couple of times and I must say I’m impressed by the fluid and narrative way of playing this game. So for me it has to be what I choose.

 Best Miniatures Product

Miniatures have never been my thing really. My lot in gaming life used to be to buy all the rulebooks, plan and run the games as the Game Master, so I made my players by and paint miniatures. Then I introduced a projector and used digital markers. So even though I love to look at miniatures, my knowledge of any of the nominees aren’t enough for me to pick any favorites.

 Best Monster/Adversary

I love the Midgard bestiary but its only nominated in its 13th age incarnation, so my pick will therefore be:  Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Bestiary 4 – Paizo Publishing. Even though I’m not much of a Cthulhu fan it has a lot of cool stuff to offer a GM set on making an impression!

Best Podcast

My favorite podcast Gamerstable isn’t nominated this year, so I’m choosing what I consider to be the 2nd best RPG podcast: All Games Considered. Great stuff, I especially like their news section!

Best Production Values

Of the nominees I have to pick: Numenera Corebook – Monte Cook Games, LLC. Monte have done a terrific job with his Numenera game so he gets my vote in this category!

Best RPG Related Product

Again this is a category where none of the products are familiar enough for me to have enough of an opinion to cast a vote.

Best Rules

I liked Fate Core System – Evil Hat Productions enough to want to see them awarded. Quick, fun, creative and easy to play, a winner in my opinion!

 Best Setting

Well you know what setting I prefer to run my games in ;). But when I’m a player I prefer to be part of games not set in Greyhawk, that way I will not spend the time being irritated about changes made to my favorite setting I have made differently. That said I haven’t played in any of the settings nominated this year, which means I need to start playing more!

Best Supplement

For me there is a sure winner in this category: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Campaign  – Paizo Publishing. This is a book I have wished I had for years, and now I have it. As a Game Master it is a treasure trove of rules and things to use in your campaign, a top pick!

Best Software

This year this is an easy category for me. Despite the fact that their is one map making program and my favorite virtual table top among the nominated, my winner is: Realm Works – Lone Wolf Development. It is a special kind of software that I have dreamt of for years, Lone Wolf Development have done a fantastic job developing Realm Works!

Best Website

This is hard one for me this year, since i haven’t visited any of the sites that much. But I’m very fond of SRD’s so I’ll give Fate SRD a nod!

Product of the Year

Among all the great products nominated this year, I will pick two: Fate Core System – Evil Hat Productions, due to its great game play experience it has given me. And Numenera Corebook – Monte Cook Games, LLC, for making a game that interested me a in a genre I used to not like at all, my hat off to Monte and Co for a great work!

That was who I voted for this year. Now I hope you go to The 2014 ENnies voting Booth and cast your votes on the entrees you want to see win!


More Atlas pages….

Page numbering-01First I must again thank you all for all the support and great comments coming my way, it is fantastic!

Normally this is a rather solitary occupation few people around me even understand what I’m doing, but thanks to the ENnie nomination, that has changed.

In the midst of all the things going on right now I have made three more Atlas pages are added and can be found on the Atlas page!