Monday, January 3, 2011

Wiki, January 3, 2011

Despite hopes that I would get back to working on monsters over my holidays, it turns out that obligations outweighed my time, and what I could find left me with too thick a head to work on my biology table.  Making maps was much less cerebral, so that is what I continued to do this last week.

Principally, I tackled the undesirable task of working out Holland's coastline.  The problem is that modern maps are quite different from the reality of 1650, the date of my world, since Holland has continued to expand its territories through the building of polders for a great many centuries.  However, I was lucky enough to find this map, produced by Jan Janssonius in 1658:
It took some considerable effort to match up this map to the accuracy of modern satellite coastlines, but I'm happy with the results.  For posterity's sake (so I can come back myself and look at it years from now), here is the map of the Low Countries as of one week ago, and as of today:

As the reader can see, I've begun plotting the cities, which is the next stage (the tool I use for plotting is on the map).  Also, note that I've had to alter the border for Bentheim, having plotted the location of Enschede.  One must be flexible with new information.  The whole map of Germany can be found on the Wiki.

James, of A Dungeon Master's Tale, has contributed an outline for the Gnome Class, for those gentle readers who play D&D versions prior to AD&D.  I strongly recommend having a good look.

Other new things on the Wiki include lists for the cities of the Swiss Confederacy and for Tuscany.  I have added maps for Anatolia, Asia Minor and Transcaucasia.  The strange warping of the Anatolia map is due to it being located on the 30th Meridian, and thus subject to the 60 degree twist resulting from laying out a round Earth on a flat, hexagonal map; it is something I've talked about before.

I continue to encourage those who have material to post to contact me - my email is  For those who have contacted me, I hope to see your material on the wiki soon.


Zak S said...

is there some specific reason you don't actually just scan in old maps and overlay the grid and color codes onto them? seems like, in a renaissance setting, the coastlines and placement of cities in exploration-era would provide a huge jumpstart to mapping an area.

i don't remember if you've answered this question before so forgive me if i just glazed over the answer.

Alexis said...


Not a problem at all, perfectly fair question. I may expand upon this answer in a post, but quickly:

Since the projection of a map found in a book or online will not be skewed, stretched or otherwise formatted to coincide with the hexagonal layout of my world, it isn't just a question of laying hexes overtop an existing map. I am not only hexing a map, I am in fact adjusting the map projection bit by bit to fit with my format. The differences may seem very minor when only looking at the Holland map, but worldwide, the differences are enormous.

And of course, there are those places where the projection is really skewed, such as the Anatolia map I added to the Wiki.

The purpose for the personal projection has much to do with my trade table, which is dependent upon consistent distances, affected by the path of rivers and changes in elevation, for any place I may choose to draw a line to. While distance formats exist online, they are measured according to roads that don't exist in my world, or through tunnels that don't exist, or across ocean distances which sailed ships wouldn't take. Thus, Google maps distances are utterly useless, since I need distances which would apply to a less modern world.

Having one map (it's cut into pieces for clarity, but it is all one map) allows for tremendous consistency, which pleases me. I enjoy the process, I learn in detail about the areas as I research and plot them, and I have a unique, interactive map that fits my world when it is complete.

Zak S said...

I know about the projection--and I know you've blogged about that before--but I just figured there would be a systematic way to photoshop-distort the distances to match your projection.

As for the aesthetic reasons--well my last post was called "drawing maps is fun", so that's easy to understand.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Hmm. Not directly related to the subject of this post, but it is related to The Same Universe Wiki.

The main page says:

Welcome to The Same Universe! We launched our website on November 15, 2010.

"This wiki is an experiment in virtual world construction. We are a group of individuals who create and develop virtual worlds for tabletop role playing games. This wiki is a discussion of the mechanics of virtual world defnition, organization and deployment. Our systems are not specific to any particular game engine, but may favor some over others.

If you are a guest please take a look around. We'll have mechanisms for feedback in place soon. This

Be advised, membership on the wiki is limited to those [etc.]"

What's up with the floating "this"?

Alexis said...

Don't know. It happens. Fixed.

SupernalClarity said...


I have a totally unrelated question, but I figured the most recent post would be the best place to ask it.

I was wondering: how do you handle languages in your campaign? Since you use the real world as your model, I assumed that you also use real world languages (but correct me, if that's assuming too much). Do you keep track of which characters speak which languages? And, if so, does that ever 'cause problems with adventuring in foreign countries?

The limitations of having a myriad of languages seems like it might be a bit of a hassle, so I was curious if that was an issue you had encountered and/or solved.

Alexis said...

House Rule number 26.

Also, Supernal, you might want to check this out."

gilgamec said...

I understand why you can't just use standard maps; why, though, can't you use maps deformed to your hex projection? Worst-case, you should still be able to project geospatial data (coastlines, rivers, city locations) into any projection you need ... or am I missing something?

Alexis said...


Perhaps someone else with a complex program and experience using that program could manage what you suggest. It seems to me that the biggest problem would be removing all the things from the used map that you didn't want, plus the end result that you'd never be able to legally publish the map you made (since it was technically someone else's map).

But I was always told you couldn't argue with results. I think the results above speak for themselves.

richard said...

So I haven't done my homework (which I should have) and I just now ran across your project here, and I'm wondering; why the Netherlands in 1650? How concerned are you with historical accuracy, and why? And where are you going with it all?

I ask because I'm finishing a PhD on the Dutch East India Company, and I used to be a game designer. I'm not here to give you a hard time or shove my oar in, or to demand more or less history or whatever. I'm wondering if you'd appreciate any help I could give. But I wouldn't be able to start for 6 months anyway, and I don't currently have a gaming group.

So why Holland in the era of globalism and professional armies?

Alexis said...


Not only working on Holland in 1650, but the whole world. You can find a number of maps dated to the same time period (as near as I could muster) all from 1650.

I picked that era because I wanted there to be a fairly developed "new world" which, though still largely wild, would offer options. Anything prior to 1550 would have been too early. 1650 seemed good since colonization had expanded throughout Africa and Asia as well.

The 'globalism' aspect helps justify the trade system that I've developed, which is based on widespread distribution.

Eventually, I will get around to mapping the Dutch East Indies - but not for a long time yet. In that direction I've expanded only as far as western India.

As for help, I have no idea. I've read extensively on the period, but if you have any books talking about the development of trade in the Dutch period, and how the English built a system to overcome it, I'd be interested just because. I always liked that period, though it comes after the time my world takes place. Technically, I'm at the point where the U.P.N. has just freed itself from Spain, right?

richard said...

Eeeeyess... The 80 years war is just over, which means Spain has to formally recognize the Republic, but the Republic has already been trading as independent for close to 80 years, and has already driven the English out of the spice trade, the Japanese silver trade and is working on driving them out of coffee. England's foray into India and cloth looks a bit like a consolation prize at that moment, and next year they'll go to war over Atlantic AND spice trading rights.

You're pretty close to the high point of VOC profitability and promise there: over the next century they'd fill in a lot of infrastructure, downplay their piratical edge and get flabby as an organisation. It's the perfect moment to set an AH that leads to a Dutch World Empire or to stage a Dumasian secret history that explains why it doesn't happen.

Alexis said...

Thankfully, I don't have to follow history exactly. The date my party is actually in would be December 1, 1652 ... so, the war you speak of would be ongoing (though they are in central Hungary right now and completely oblivious to it). The trade system as designed takes in only some of the technical qualities you mention, allowing the Dutch an edge in spices - but from the player's point of view, it would only be that some spices are marginally cheaper and more often available in Holland. Again, since they're not there, and they don't pay attention to those things, they don't notice.

But a player with a unique knowledge of the period's history could do very well, particularly if they threw my own world in my face in a rules-lawyer manner.

Damn, that would be interesting!

richard said...

C r boxer's Dutch Seaborne Empire is still good, though dated in places, likewise holden furber's Rival Empires of Trade. Although it's not great history, Nathaniel's Nutmeg, by giles milton, is fantastic for colour and detail - sourcebook material - on Anglo-Dutch fighting in the east indies. Really mapping the world system in the Indian Ocean, I don't know anyone better than rene barendse (papers more than his book, The Arabian Seas), but both him and Vic Lieberman (Strange Parallels) are probably too economically oriented to be of most use to gaming. Philip Curtin's Cross Cultural Trade in World History is good, because it gives you an idea of what it would be like on the ground, dealing with Parsee middlemen in Calcutta.

richard said...

Just saw your reply, sorry. Levantine trade, of course. Very, very intetesting. What's their reach/political power level? I'm intrigued.

Alexis said...

Sorry ... whose political reach? The party, the Levant or...?

richard said...

the party. I'm trying to imagine how concerned they are/ought to be with things going on outside their line of sight. How far their social networks and obligations and attention might stretch beyond what's right in front of them. How much world they can actually witness.

Alexis said...

The party is primarily concerned with their fiefdom, one 20-mile hex in area, party's 9th level mage in nominal authority, in eastern Transylvania. Transylvania is a client kingdom of the Ottoman Empire, and the party's fief borders on Ottoman-controlled Moldavia. The party is mostly concerned with local matters, and with the division in the party between the catholics (half the party, including the mage, who have adopted this religion to keep the peace with the King and powers of Transylvania) and the celtic-worshipping druid and monk in the party. It is recognized that sooner or later a state-led pogrom is bound to be led against the celtic faction, but a certain tolerance is accepted since the Ottomans are, after all, Islamic.