Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mapping Beyond the Flanaess: All Together Now!

Well here we are.

The final corrected versions of the maps are now all gathered into a .rar file (link to the right in the "Free Resources" section). It's pretty big-- took me four minutes to upload on a cable connection, but I think it makes more sense than keeping them all out there individually. These final versions of the maps have a few more tweaks than just correcting the colors of the oceans; a few other things here and there jumped out at me while I was putting this beast together, as a final "thank you" for all the support I've gotten over the last nine weeks or so:

That's in the .rar file, too. The seams between the maps aren't 100% perfect, owing to the cropping on the edges of the Hexographer files I did when transferring them to .png format. But hopefully you can get some idea of the scope of the thing; I also included scans of the original Darlene maps in the far upper-right corner, to give a sense of scale and to show how the Flanaess that we all know and love fits into the larger construct of Oerik.

Over the course of this project, a lot of possibilities came to mind as I was reconciling the various sources, some of which were contradictory (or even self-contradictory). Sure, we know that a chute in the bottom of the original Castle Greyhawk took players to China (Suhfang, above), whence they had to make their way back overland. But what I love are the implications that the various sources bring when put all together.

For example, the Empire of Lynn is apparently sitting out the mad scramble for the panoply of the former war god Stratis off in the northwestern corner of Oerik. Why? Surely a powerful city-state such as that wouldn't let such an opportunity go by without some reason. Does it have something to do with the religious situation in Lynn? Are the powers-that-be so squeamish about anything that smacks of polytheism that they choose not to have one of their own strive for apotheosis?

One also has to wonder how Suhfang, one of the largest empires on the planet, would react to the establishment of a gnoll-minotaur-demon realm on their northwestern border. I envision that Naresh has pretty much run out of petty warlords to take over, and that explains (in part, anyway), their turn back westward over the mountains. Perhaps they calculate that Ravilla would be a softer target than Suhfang; maybe they even had their snouts bloodied once or twice to convince them.

The placement of Zindia and Woguo (aka Nippon) actually makes a lot of sense when viewed in context. It gives a rationale for the existence of martial-arts-wielding monks in the Scarlet Brotherhood (within journeying distance of Woguo). I also envision a southern exodus of Suel refugees into Zindia, after the Rain of Colorless Fire, leading to their becoming established as the fair-skinned master caste (much like the Brahmins of historical India).

On a technical note, my original maps were made using Hexographer Pro, and I can't say enough good things about that program from Inkwell Ideas. It's well worth the modest price, very flexible, and intuitive to use. From there I transferred them to GIMP, where I cropped the edges (and also where I put everything together for the continent-wide map you see above). Perhaps someday soon I will go through the exact process for some of the tricks I used in Hexographer; sometimes the coastlines and islands could be tricky, and I think that half the job is finding the right fonts to use.

Anyway, it's been a load of fun, and quite interesting for me as a scholar of Greyhawk lore, to go through this exercise. I hope my fellow Greyhawk fans find the results of my labor useful. Nothing will ever compare to the hand-drawn maps by the incomparable Darlene, of course. Those gorgeous maps still adorn my office wall (the originals, which I had laminated, still looking great after 32 years) and still inspire me to venture to the Flanaess in my mind's eye whenever I cast my gaze upon them. Thank you, Darlene, for such inspiration, and thanks of course to Gary Gygax for creating the original World of Greyhawk. You are missed, Gary.

Mapping Beyond the Flanaess: The Ocean of Storms

And here we are, the last map of western Oerik. The new map is in the lower-right corner below; I'm including the surrounding maps so you can see how they all fit together.

As usual, the link to the largest size file is off to the right.

One thing I particularly want to mention is the source of the Great River Ithru; I envision it as an enormous spring gushing out of the mountains, with its origins either in the Elemental Plane of Water or the Underoerth, according to contradictory local myth.

I also envision great religiously-fueled tension between Erypt and those lands to its south. The Eryptians revere the river and have a taboo against living on the west bank, which they associate with death. The very existence of cities along the west bank of the river is an affront to their religious sensibilities, and wars have been fought trying to raise them to the ground in the name of faith. (The Eryptian city of Dahina does not count, as it is in the great delta of the river, and not along the river proper.)

The free city of Urush-Pth I see as a haven for outcasts from Erypt, full of plotting and intrigue against the dynasties of the priest-kings, fueled by the agents of Kesh, Memr, and Buha. Its position also makes it the first civilized port of call for eastward-bound trading vessels from Ishtarland, the Tharqish Empire, and Lynn, so it could be a fascinating place indeed.

While at some point I will probably tackle Fireland and Hepmonaland, my principle aim is now achieved; pulling together the disparate sources that described western Oerik and hopefully making some sense out of sometimes contradictory material. One thing I will be doing in the next day or two is to adjust some of the colors on the oceans; I don't have the color progression quite right from shallow to deepest. Once I've made those adjustments and re-run the maps, I'll bundle them all together into a single compressed file for download, and maybe, just maybe, I'll have another surprise at the same time. We'll have to see.

Until then, enjoy, and thanks for everyone's support while I've been doing this. It's been a lot of fun!