Sunday, May 30, 2010

Filling The Hex

Here is the direction of my fun lately:


This is still the same map I usually post up here, except that it has been recolored in order to depict the principal vegetation of the given hex.  Whatever benefits my usual maps may have estimating distances, it isn't enough to provide the very important perception of what 'fills' the hex - and filling the hex is a nightmare I've heard from many a DM.  Obviously, vegetation isn't enough either ... but I am of the opinion that the local flora is the de facto determiner for what is the local fauna.  The above map gives the added benefit of dividing those hexes that are heavily populated from those which are comparatively 'wild.'

I like the above map very much.  It represents some ten million inhabitants, and over three hundred communities.  Because I never do anything the easy way, I've steadfastly computed from my own population statistics (remember, having very little to do with the real world) versus the comparative topography to determine where the intensely cultivated places ought to be.  Not having any idea myself how this would look when I started (the numbers were generated, the rest was simply following rules suggested by a system), I'm pleased that it has given me an interesting scattering of densely populated centers and adjacent forested zones, the combination of which makes for adventure possibilities (along with added features should I ever turn these maps into some immense wargame!) and to suggest ready obstacles to travel.

The specific vegetations are appropriate for those parts of real Germany, applying the formula created by A.W. Kuchler, who created a classification based on whether plants were woody or herbaceous - and if woody, whether they were broadleaf or needleleaf and evergreen, or deciduous.  By and large the system has fallen out of favor with biologists since the 1980s (I couldn't find a decent representation of it on line) but it works excellently for my D&D world (and that would be one more F.U. for those people insisting that what I'm making here is a model).

Just as a side note, and without going long into the subject, I have much the same trouble as everyone else as regards determining what is inside a hex.  If you consider the map, and each hex having a diameter of 20 miles - the reality is that you can put an awful lot into just one of those hexes.  One need only mark out a distance of 20 miles on a real map, and then go out and walk it, to get a sense of just how huge one of these hexes is.  When you consider that what you would see during that twenty mile walk is only a ribbon of the proposed width of a hex ... we are all tackling a gargantuan task just to define the contents of ONE hex, much less the multiples that many of us work with - such as the example above.

As such, however in depth my efforts may seem, they are pathetically shallow when it comes to proposing the events of one day's walk through a world.  I try not to worry about it.  99% of what I do in a running is flat-out right off the top of my head (or from the seat of my pants), and not derived from maps and charts.  However, it is through designing and describing my world in different ways, and forcing myself to obtain new data to do BOTH activities, I am loaded up with new ideas daily which I then have a chance to implement later, when it seems appropriate.  This keeps my mind active - and more importantly, pushes me to think beyond my usual prejudices.

For those DMs who claim proudly that all this work isn't necessary - because they make everything up anyway - I must suppose that the well they draw their water from must be pretty dry, or stale to say the least.  Same 2D characters, same 2D adventures, same 2D arguments about 'what this game is about.'

But to those of you out there carrying water in from new sources, keep at it people.  Water that you sweat for is always sweeter.

6 comments:

R said...

Just wanted to say that I find your meticulous madness inspiring at times. While I don't think I'll get to this level of detail for quite a few years, it's still an incredibly interesting read.

Zzarchov said...

I can only hope someday you package and sell this work of yours. For you are far from alone in your meticulous nature, but you have quite a head start and duplication of efforts is a waste when one could be standing on the shoulders of giants. To anyone I've ever played with my games are considered to be hyper-detailed, but compared to the work you have done I am always forced to remember I am but a small fish in a big pond.

Alexis said...

While I truly appreciate the praise, fellows, I must ask in what manner would I 'package and sell this work'? Sadly, it is all electronic, and in most cases depends upon the electronic version in order to be fully grasped (the maps, for instance, if printed would be 30" square - and if made small would be unreadable). Once sold to any individual, therefore, there is no way to control the copyright, nor assure that I would be recompensed in the long run.

So there it is.

tsojcanth said...

Just as a side note, and without going long into the subject, I have much the same trouble as everyone else as regards determining what is inside a hex. [...] When you consider that what you would see during that twenty mile walk is only a ribbon of the proposed width of a hex ... we are all tackling a gargantuan task just to define the contents of ONE hex, much less the multiples that many of us work with - such as the example above.

Yes. After using for months a "24 miles hexes" map I started mapping a part of it with 5 miles hexes, as per JG maps. And then with ~ 1000 feet hexes in places. And I felt the need to go to ~40feet. Then i realized that the places I can't wing are very few, and I have no clue where my players will wander about (the usual answer is "off the map with the right amount of detail you need"). But the act of filling the map, even at a "wrong" scale, starts to flesh out the location anyway: riffing off it later, for me, is way easier

Steve Lalanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Lalanne said...

A dream idea I've had: somehow create or cobble together a digital topographical map of the world/planet, at the most magnified setting possible. Using the real world would be easiest; Google Maps (under "More" > "Terrain") seems to be ideal; I recommend zooming into mountainous areas to see Google's beautiful shaded refief maps. This would give the DM a "fabric" on which to layer or add any geographical detail, such as villages, ponds, etc., and still be able to "zoom out" to a more general view of the entire region or continent.

Google Maps can be customized via a free Google-provided programming tool known as an API (application programming interface). Notice that placemark balloons on Google Maps have a "more info >>" link. Each such link could be configured to lead to another application or web page that displays location-specific detail, such as a profile page/document with floor plans, a list of inhabitants (sortable by name, level, etc.), recent activity, etc. (All this info would be searchable independently of the map, too.)

The problem for those of us with imaginary continents is that Google Maps only works with maps of the earth (as far as I have been able to determine). It'd be great if Google's map engine could be used with custom maps. Even if this were possible, there's the problem of generating a detailed digital topographical map from a paper drawing that can then be fed to the map engine.