A couple of weeks ago, I got the push I needed. I started some initial testing to see how well Campaign Cartographer handled hex mapping. As it turned out, CC3 did a flawless job. So well, in fact, that I decided to start a hex mapping project. I’ve always wanted an editable, electronic version of Darlene’s World of Greyhawk map. It’s now time to try my hand at recreating her map myself.
If you want the play-by-play, check out my WIP on the ProFantasy forums.
Starting With Scans
I have high res scans of the two panels that make up Darlene’s map. I’ve tried to scan them myself with a small flatbed scanner, scanning each of the eight sections of each panel and then piecing them together in Photoshop. Every attempt failed miserably. The slightest rotation was amplified throughout the map, and (due to folding) each section was distorted, stretched or compressed, making it very difficult to line them up properly. The two high res scans though were done by someone else and appeared that each panel had been scanned as a single piece on a large poster scanner.
I thought this would be a good place to start. I played with the two PNG files, got them as straight as I could, sized them so that the hexes on both were as close to the same size as I could manage. When I was done, I imported them into a blank CC3 drawing and added a hex grid over the top. I moved the scans around so as to line up the printed hexes with the hex grid overlay.
Sadly, the distortion in the original maps was far worse than I thought. I was able to line up the hexes on the bottom section perfectly. The section above that was so compressed that I gained an entire hex row. The section above that was stretched and I lost an entire hex row. The top section lined up perfectly just like the bottom. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed.
Still, I thought I could account for the discrepancies as I went. I constantly shifted the panels around in order to line up the section I was working on. I finished transferring the landmass, mountains, hills, swamps, forests, and started placing cities. Then I noticed that two sets of hills had one hex between them where there should be two. I was sorely tempted to ignore this, but it was the section just south of the Nyr Dyv. That’s a very important part of the map and I just couldn’t sit there and let it be wrong.
I spent a great deal of time trying to determine just what needed to be fixed. But this nagging voice kept telling me that I couldn’t just patch it; I had to verify the entire map.
I went back and redrew everything, hex by hex. It was tedious and annoying but I’m glad I did. It would have bothered me forever knowing I had a half-ass map. Now I know that it is 100% accurate and I’m much happier.
Moral of the story – Never trace scans.
Darlene is exceptionally skilled in the subtle nuances of letterform design. Throughout the World of Greyhawk maps, each letter is drawn by hand. In addition, Darlene uses distinctly different lettering for different features (regions and cities for instance). Therefore, I couldn’t simply go out and find the font she used. First off, it would be more than one font. Secondly, the lettering is hand-drawn and (though similar) wouldn’t conform precisely to a pre-defined font.
It should be noted that Darlene did actually produce a font for TSR (Greyhawk Uncial) which was later purchased by Paiso. I haven’t attempted to contact them to see if they would be willing to make it publicly available, but I suspect that they would not.
At the suggestion of Anna at Greyhawk Maps, I went with the Carolingia font. Currently, all text is in this font. I think I may select a second font for town names in order to differentiate them more easily.
Darlene used all uppercase text for regions and lowercase for town names. I’m not a fan of either, so instead I capitalize each word of all text (with the exception of: a, the, of, with, etc).
Some text is quite difficult to read due to the black text blending into the background color (specifically forests and mountains). To offset this, I added a blur behind the text in either forest green or mountain brown. This worked well. However, some of the text has yet to be repositioned leaving portions of that text hanging out over the light green plains. This causes a terrible bleed effect that is glaringly noticeable. After a bit of testing, I determined that this is indeed a bug with the blur effect. Ralf responded later expanding on the problem, stating that it is a known problem with using the blur effect on True Type fonts. He describes a workaround in the thread listed above on the ProFantasy forums.
As with text, Darlene did not use any pre-defined symbols. Instead, she drew every symbol by hand. I’m not going to do that, so I need to identify (or build) all the symbols I will need. The list that immediately comes to mind is: mountains, hills, swamps, forests (coniferous, deciduous, tropical), and towns/cities (about six different symbols).
Towns and cities are easy. They all use simple geometric shapes. I duplicated all the ones listed in the World of Greyhawk folio and defined them as symbols (first time I’ve done that). I made them all about twice as big as I should have but being a CAD-based package, it is a simple matter to scale them. Unfortunately, unless you are zoomed in quite close, the symbols devolve into small black smudges on the map. As a result, I made another symbol that is simply a filled black circle. I use this same symbol for all towns and cities and it looks good at all zoom levels. I’ll go back and create another layer with the proper symbols so that I can select which layer to display based on what zoom level I’m using.
Forests were even easier. CC3 has built-in symbols that work for all my forest needs. I’m a little annoyed with the shadows on these symbols. If it bothers me enough, I’ll go back and create another catalog based on those symbols but without the shadows. Where a river goes through a forest, I spent a great deal of time placing trees so that they partially obscured the river (thinking that this looked more natural). It was pointed out that this looked odd. Again, due to the wonderful nature of a CAD-based program, I merely changed the display order which placed the rivers over the trees. I have to admit that this is a much nicer effect.
Symbols for mountains, hills, and swamps will be a bit more involved. CC3 has built-in symbols for these features, but I want symbols that match Darlene’s map. Therefore, I will have to create my own. Many CC3 symbols are actually sets of symbols that randomly select one member of the set each time you place the symbol. This allows you to place numerous mountain symbols (for instance) and have each look different. I’ve just learned how to create symbol sets and want to practice more before I create my own.
What I Have Left To Do
As I said, I need to create a few symbol sets and place them. I need to create another layer and place the correct city/town symbols on it. I want to locate another font to use for city names. When I’m done with everything else, I need to reposition (and in some cases resize) all the text. Unless I’m forgetting something, that’s it.
I’m intentionally going slow here. I hadn’t used CC3 in some time so I had some relearning to do. Plus I have redone various bits numerous times (and probably will continue to do). Also, I get sidetracked by features of the program that I have never played with before. Symbol definition, for instance, can do much more than simply define symbols. Varicolor symbols, multi-layering, smart symbol features, etc are all pretty intriguing. I’m playing with them now and intend to research them much more fully in the near future.
All in all, it is a very interesting project and I’m quite pleased with how well it is turning out. I will certainly repost when I am all done. Be assured that there will be a .FCW (CC3 drawing file) download available when I’m finished.