Sunday, August 16, 2020

Mapping tutorial: Serpent Coast (part 3)

I'm drawing a map of the Serpent Coast, a rugged country from a campaign I'm writing up called The Legend of Copper IslePart 1 showed the steps for drawing a coastline full of fjords, then in part 2 we added rivers and mountains and started labeling.

(One small change: I noticed a much better site for the house of Flying Bar Goose, so I moved it.)

For the next step, we're going to be adding ground cover and labels together.  In this style, ground cover is shown with scattered symbols, so little trees scattered around the landscape indicate forested terrain.  We're not going to blanket the entire map with trees -- like the mountains, we want just enough to show that this is a forested region, not so many that the map is too dense to understand.

The trees themselves are fairly simple: some jagged edges, a fat trunk, and a few quick lines for shadows.

Because the symbols for ground cover don't need to be in precise locations, we can move them around as needed to make room for labels.

If you're drawing this on paper, you might need to plan ahead a bit more carefully.  Since I'm working in Photoshop, I'll just toss down some symbols and move them around later if needed.

With just a few scattered trees we can convey the idea that this entire island group is forested.  To make sure people don't interpret blank as plains, grasslands are marked with tufts of grass.  Little dots mark sandy areas.

A few of the more important islands need to be named.  Island names sometimes go on the island itself and sometimes jut out into the adjacent water.  Because of how dense this map is, all the island names will go out on the water.

Arrows are very helpful for labeling hard-to-reach places:

Checking back on the description of the Serpent Country, let's see what we still need to add:

  • human tribe from a neighboring country -- The longhouse-dwelling Erepacho people live in the country to the south.  We'll add a few of their settlements here.
  • rope bridge at Flying Bar Goose -- I don't think there's enough room to fit it on the map.  We'll just use the description in the sidebar.
  • ruin of an ancient stone bridge -- Site of an ancient battle, near Flying Bar Goose.
  • stump of an ancient tree -- Site of another battle, near Flying Bar Goose.  We should probably have several of these stumps / fallen trees.
  • fallen ancient tree -- Place of shamanist rituals, near Bear-by-Hand.
  • large cavern -- Difficult to reach, place of healing, near Bear-by-Hand.
  • the great tree itself -- Oh, right.  That's probably important, since it's the whole reason why this country is in the adventure.

Let's start by drawing the great tree, then a stump and a fallen log of the same kind.  The tree itself is supposed to be incredibly massive, larger than anything in the real world.  Maybe we'll try making it three times the height of the tree symbols on the map now.

The broken bridge from the ancient kingdom is on what's left of their road network in this region (shown with a dotted line).  I decided to put one of their big stone heads here as well.

The human village of Red Hill uses a longhouse as its symbol, since that's what those humans live in.

At this point, I think we're done:

I've left plenty of space in the upper right for text about the map, as well as a scale and a key to the various symbols here.

For scale: it's around 48 miles (77 km) from Bear-by-Hand to Flying Bar Goose, making this whole country around 7,500 mi² (19,400 km²).  That's around the size of Aroostook County (Maine) or Siskiyou County (California): plenty of wide-open wilderness to wander around in, and plenty of little towns and feuds to get involved with.

I decided to try coloring it.  Not sure what I think of the result, but here it is:

That's it for this tutorial.  Let me know which of the countries from this adventure I should do the map for next.

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