The Bronchial Forests within the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park were an enormous draw to hiking crowds. The spacious organic caverns, though dark, provided a warm and humid respite for avid hikers from the frigid temperatures of the winter months. Sightseers enjoyed the steady stream of fresh outside air within bronchial passages, despite being thousands of feet underground. It was from these great forests that the iconic and unnerving “moans” of the Mystery Flesh Pit emanated. Sadly, like all of the wondrous geobiological features found within Mystery Flesh Pit National Park, the bronchial forests were closed to the public for good following the tragic disaster in July of 2007, though a keen ear may still be able to hear the moans of the Permian Basin Superorganism as far as Abilene, TX.
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Some months ago, I created a series of maps and diagrams for @iguanodont‘s Birdbug worldbuilding project, representing the planet inhabited by their original species and its planetological data. This isn’t the first time I mapped out this planet, as I was also commissioned by Ripley back in 2020 back when I didn’t have nearly as much experience and knowledge as I do now. Two years later, I’ve been commissioned once again to revisit this world and its peculiarities.
This first map (in Equirectangular projection and poles-centered perspective) depicts the elevation for this planet, with a color gradient applied to the data.
Here is the same elevation data, presented without the color gradient.
This time, the elevation is presented with bodies of liquid water included, such as rivers, oceans, and lakes.
and in this one, the water is isolated from the other data, against a white background
Next, there are the surface temperatures that occur on this planet, the key to which is shown above. The four maps below show the seasonal temperatures for land and sea, in order of Northern Spring Equinox, Northern Summer Solstice, Northern Autumn Equinox, and Northern Winter Solstice.
Correlating closely to the above data is the snow and ice cover, which is fairly extensive on this planet owing to its high obliquity and distance from its star. Land ice only occurs where the snow falls and is compacted year-round, but snow and sea ice can be much more seasonal.
Seasonal precipitation levels were another important phase of this project, and the below diagram shows those levels for a given latitude (y-axis) on a given date (x-axis), with a key attached.
My reference for creating the above graphic is the figure below, which comes from a 2019 paper by A.H. Lobo and S. Bordoni titled “Atmospheric Dynamics of High Obliquity Planets”, and shows Earth’s precipitation levels compared to those of a planet with an 85° obliquity.
The following maps can now be better understood in light of these diagrams and keys.
-Northern Spring Equinox
-Northern Summer Solstice
-Northern Autumn Equinox
-Northern Winter Solstice
I was also tasked with mapping out the extent and density of this planet’s vegetation (or at least its alien equivalent), and from this you can see how wildly it varies by season, with very few year-round holdings. Precipitation is a major factor in where it is possible for plants to flourish, but snow cover and the extreme temperature swings limit it too. Near either pole, for example, within the space of a year temperatures soar far above Earth’s upper limits and also plummet below freezing; if either extreme were to be the annual norm for a region, some plants might adapt to those conditions, but because of the wild fluctuation any adaptations to one extreme would leave plants especially vulnerable to the other. These regions, then, remain barren regardless of rainfall or brief windows of mild temperatures, while areas with less wide temperature ranges allow for at least brief periods of flourishing.
Determining the surface temperatures for this planet required a lot of background work. The first piece of the puzzle for this was knowing the number of daily hours of sunlight for a given latitude and date, which is exemplified first in this diagram for Earth:
and then for the Birdbug planet, below. Since this planet rotates on an axis of 60 degrees, there are many more latitudes within range of either pole that experience periods of sunlight and darkness lasting longer than a day. The higher the latitude, the longer this period lasts, with the poles themselves experiencing either condition for half a year at a time.
Another important factor is the height to which the sun is seen to rise (more scientifically, the angle at which the sun’s light hits parts of the planet’s surface), seen here first for Earth and then for the Birdbug planet. In these diagrams, white represents the sun reaching the zenith of the sky (meeting the surface at a 90° angle), and black represents the sun failing to appear above the horizon (meeting at an angle of 0° or below), while shades of green and purple stand in for angles between those extremes. For Earth and the Birdbug planet alike, the sun reaches the zenith within the bounds of either planet’s Tropic circles of latitude, and fails to rise at all only within the Polar circles of latitude; the difference in obliquity means that the Birdbug planet’s key circles of latitude are flipped compared to Earth’s.
The duration of sunlight and the angle at which that sunlight is reaches the planet’s surface determine a planet’s Insolation, that is, the amount of solar energy it receives. The first image below is a preexisting diagram of Earth’s Insolation, where it is measured in watts per square meter. The next two images are my own attempts at replicating this data for Earth, and then for the Birdbug planet.
As seen in the diagrams above, Insolation on the Birdbug planet differs from Earth not only in its latitudinal distribution, but also in its sheer intensity at the higher latitudes. Compared to Earth there are twice as many latitudes for which the sun is shining longer than one rotational period, and many of those latitudes see the sun shine at a direct or nearly direct angle, whereas the Polar circles of latitude on Earth see the sun shine much more obliquely.
Below, we can see the data that all the above figures were instrumental in finding: that is, surface temperatures. The first image is a preexisting figure that measures Earth’s mean surface temperatures by date and latitude, and below that is my attempt at replicating the data by my own process.
This is done not by just copying the seasonal Insolation data, but by also factoring in the yearly average for each latitude.
Above, we see the temperatures of the land by date and latitude, and below, we see the temperatures at the surface of the sea, which lag behind the land temperatures and remain comparatively mild.
Lastly, here’s an image I created to combine the snow and ice cover as well as the vegetation extent and density, as of the Northern Spring Equinox. This, along with the elevation map also seen here, is what I uploaded to maptoglobe.com in order to produce the screenshot at the top of this post.
These maps and figures (except for the preexisting ones) were all created in Photopea. Higher resolution versions of many of these images can be seen in my dedicated Reddit posts, linked below:
reddit post one, reddit post two
New map shows on PATREON
- CLIP STUDIO PAINT FANTASY CARTOGRAPHY BRUSHES -
All of the showcased brushes are available for pay-what-you-want on my Ko-Fi! And free is an option! Feel free to use them in whatever you want - though I’d appreciate a link to the brushes if you end up posting anything that uses them!!
(Photoshop-compatible versions will hopefully be available in the near future!)
Anonym hat gefragt:
that map you made is stunning! do you have any tips/programs on how to properly make one? i really love looking at these but i never know how to make them myself
Hello there, happy to help! :)
So if you’re interested in making a map, you have several ways of doing that. Ask yourself some questions first:
What is the purpose of the map? Do you want/need a scientific representation of a region or planet (example: Satellite map of the Earth), or is it a highly stylized storytelling tool (example: Map of Middle Earth)? Something in between? Think about what you want to communicate with your map and decide on its setup. As you asked about the map I uploaded, I’ll talk about my approach to satellite/physical maps :)
My personal approach to those maps is pretty scientific because I like hard worldbuilding with a lot of logical thought behind it. The satellite map from yesterday functions both as a physical map for the setup of the planet, but it’s also a base for other maps. For example, the climate chart I worked out uses the physical map as its foundation.
There are some pitfalls when it comes to map projections because we’re dealing with the problem of unwrapping a 3D globe onto a flat, 2D surface. With the standard maps we’re seeing today, areas closer to the poles get increasingly distorted. Just look at how huge Greenland appears on world maps - in real life, it’s pretty small. This is important to consider and I didn’t catch my own mistake until yesterday. If you want to be 100% sure, the best way to do it is to use a 3D program and paint your map directly onto the globe. Unwrapping the texture later gives you the correct distortions. If this is a concern for you, I’m happy to elaborate more, but I’ll stick to the visual side for now :) It’s all done in Photoshop, nothing else required. Screenshots are in German, but I added explanations.
The start of it all is a rough sketch of land and sea areas. It doesn’t need to be perfect or final at this point, just draw shapes you like. You can also add a bit of thought to it - maybe a landmass broke in several parts not too long ago and you still see the puzzle-piece shapes, but that’s another story entirely :) If it’s just about making a nice-looking map, go with what pleases you.
For surface details, I used satellite images and photobashed them onto my surfaces. I had worked out plate tectonics to have an explanation for the location of mountains and plains, but that’s also another story. If you want a mountain range somewhere just because, then put it there :) Collect aerial images which fit what you have in mind. Leave vegetation out for now, it’s just about highs and lows.
Then, roughly lay them over your landmass. I recommend keeping the landmasses on their own layer, separate from the sea, because you can “clip” the satellite image to the landmass layer by hovering your cursor between the layers and pressing alt:
Do this with plains and mountains (no vegation just yet), mix and match and blend until you get a setup you like. Also take a look at satellite images of coastlines so you can use them as a reference for your own. Give your landmass layer a mask on which you can draw to refine your coastline. To add a mask to your layer, select it and then press the button which has a rectangle with a circle on it. Drawing with black subtracts from your image, drawing with white adds to your image. You don’t destroy your base layer by using masks, and if you want to deactivate or delete that mask, right-click it for its context menu.
So now we landed on something similar to this. If you’re having trouble with coastlines, also search for aerial images and use them as references for your own. Where are flat beaches, rugged coastlines, fjords, islands? You can go with science (example: Fjords are valleys of former glaciers, so they’re unlikely to form in warm climates. Rugged coasts in warm areas probably have a different origin) or just do your thing.
I added the seafloor, basically the borders of continental plates, and a soft edge glow to the continents to simulate shallow water around them.
Now, placing vegetation can be a nightmare or ridiculously easy. For a first pass which you can modify later on by using layer masks again, do the following: Duplicate your landmass layer and switch off the layer style if you have one. Now, go to Image > Corrections > Replace color. Use the picker to select a color you want to replace with green. In my case here, I want to have vegetation closer to the mountains, so I pick a slightly darkened brown from my map.
It’s time for the magic :) Now use the three sliders at the bottom of the window to change the picked color to your target color, green in my example. Ho-lee sheeet! :D Use the tolerance slider at the top to narrow or widen the picker’s range, and just go with what you like.
Now you can play around with your vegetation layer as you wish. Add or substract from your layer and/or overlay it with some color variance. Do a second vegetation layer and pick a different color base, maybe the lighter deserts or the darker mountains. Set a different tolerance and color to it... and that’s basically it! Play around with those methods and have fun making maps! :)
have you done any pieces for a game that are more than just covers or interior art? Something like a map or a gameboard or a unique player handout?
The one time I ran a Lancer game for my buddies I had a blast making this map as a handout and also designing this flag for the space pirates they encountered.
I did a 3D cutaway map for Mycosis by Walton Wood which was a really fun challenge.
And I drew this geological survey-inspired map for my own book Coelum (quick plug, if you toss me a buck on Patreon I'll send you the pdf plus you get to see all the other stuff I have on there!)
And that's really it. I'd like to do more maps, cutaways, and graphic design stuff but nobody's asked me. We'll see what the future holds I guess!
“Every map is made with a purpose, and by extension, a point of view. There are maps that provide proper context for themselves—say, a map of the migratory patterns of the American Kestrel from the years 1971-1979, as commissioned by such and such wildlife foundation. Other maps are more insidious, as they present a view of the world as if it were natural law. New names papering over the old names; countries carved out of mountains; voting districts carved out of neighborhoods. Maps have the power to shape the world in their own image. Through maps, empires tell the stories of themselves, over and over, until their fictions replace reality entirely.”
Population density heatmap of Belgium.
Read more and buy prints here.
Ko-fi | RedBubble | Etsy (digital prints)
You find an overturned wagon that hasn’t been fully robbed of its merchandise for some reason. Who could have done this?
You’re traveling to the capital in hopes of finding better paying work there. At one point you find an overturned wagon. You examine the remains of what must have been a small, one-person caravan. The former owner, a merchant, is lying in the bushes – dead. The horse must have escaped. But the realization that the wagon has not been robbed of all goods makes you wonder – who or what attacked this man, and why?
You don’t have to wait long to figure out the answer as you suddenly hear noises coming from the bushes on the left side of the road. You prepare your weapons and magic just in time as a bunch of goblins spring out at your party, armed with spears and short bows. The green-skinned monsters seem to have decided to use the caravan to lure in concerned passersby so they can rob them of even more goods.
However, now that you’re the ones under attack, the goblins’ luck has run out. You’re skilled in the art of adventuring and eliminating monsters, so you make quick work of the noisy enemies. The poor merchant should have known better than to travel alone. This incident is not the first time you have witnessed a caravan that has fallen prey to monsters or bandits, and you suspect it won’t be the last one either.
Get this map on our Patreon!
On your way to the capital you find an upturned wagon with merchandise still lying around. As you wonder who would attack the merchant but fail to didn’t steal all of the items, you are ambushed by a group of goblins. Hopefully, disposing of the enemies will be quick work for skilled adventurers such as yourselves.
You are tasked by the Merchant Guild with finding out why a merchant has not yet made it to Thorwood with the items that the general store requested. You follow the man’s route to that town only to find him dead and his wagon lying on the side. It seems the man suffered a bear attack, as the footprints suggest. You can’t leave the animal to prey on any other caravans, so you decide to venture into the forest to hunt the beast.
You witness a group of bandits attacking a caravan on the road to Thorwood. Before you manage to spring into action against them, they turn the wagon over to act as cover as they shoot arrows at you. But you’re a party of skilled adventurers, so you won’t have a problem getting rid of the enemy, right?
Any ideas for filling out curiosities on a world map? Stuff like dungeons, camps or other oddities that can be marked at a specific place and encountered as the party travels. Or something like the route of a traveling npc that the party can cross paths with. Really whatever. I just like making premade world maps but can never figure out what to fill the space with.
DM tip: Cartography 101
Thanks so much for writing in, dear mapmaker, as you’ve given me a chance to talk about something I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while. I want you to know that I WILL get to your question, I just need to lay out some methodology first.
When I was a younger Dungeonmaster, I used to spend a lot of time drawing maps, but the campaigns I ran on them always seemed to fall apart. It took me a long while to learn that as much as aimless creation a worthwhile persuit, I was jumping the gun, putting a lot of effort into creating a world without an idea of the story I was going to tell in it, That’s why, in my opinion, creating a map is always a step that should come AFTER you’ve decided on the important bones of the story you’re going to tell, that way you can fit your creation to your needs rather than trying to every eventuality and trying to map out an entire planet while your campaign is a mostly linear affair that takes place in one city and the surrounding hinterlands.
Lets look at the different uses for a map, regardless of the story its attached to:
A map is a tiny sliver of an imaginary world,and helps the audience get immersed in that world by helping to build verisimilitude: the feeling that the locations mentioned in the story are real because they exist in relation to other places. This likewise gives the reader an understanding of where things are in relation to eachother, orienting themselves in an unfamiliar geography and helping to tie information they know into a larger context.
A map is a tool for storytellers, gamers, and characters, letting them know how long it might take them to get to a location, how difficult the journey might be, and what they might face along the way. There’s also an element of game design to this, you want your heroes to face challenges, so you put difficult things between them and their goals, and see how they react.
A map facilitates story, with nature largely deciding the arrangement of prosperous settlements, the division between kingdoms, and the formation of societies. Naturally you should tailor your map to the story you’re going to be telling, both in using geography as a “setup” for the history of your world, and as a reflecting what’s going on in the plot by the temperment of the regions the characters are moving through.
Finally, there’s one last utility for a map, but this only exists in games with an “open world” element where the players are deciding on their own direction:
A map hosts a bevy of plot hooks, names and little details that draw the party’s attention and curiosity, asking questions like “What’s the story behind that?”, or “What do you think we’d find there?”. These are generally enough of a heading to get the heroes to head out into the unknown, and encourage them to ask things about the world.
Below the cut I’m going to share my system for turning a story into a map, and then how to fill that map up with extraneous options. Brace yourselves, We’re going to use one from a recent campaign of mine as an example.
So, you’ve got an adventure/campaign in mind and you’re looking to build a map. There are plenty of tutorials online about what rules of geography to follow how to make things look nice, so I’m going to focus here on the narrative and game design elements of building a map
This is Amberbank, or rather, it’s the version of the map I gave my players AFTER they’d finished their first adventure and started thinking about where to go next in the world. It’s basic as heck, but it served the first purpose I listed above the cut of letting players know where they were in relation to other things: They started on the road in the south west of the map, traveling towards the provincial capital, when people they met talked about where they were from, my players were able to look at things and go “ oh, yeah, I know where that is”
Now let me show you what this map looked like when I planned that original adventure:
I took the extra step of drawing most of the map with my computer’s default “ crayon” brush, to illustrate just how simple the primary element of map design really is: the story asks that your players go somewhere, so in order to make going to that place interesting, you put threats of a suitable level between them and their goals. I knew that there were going to be two main geographic areas of interest after the players started, the road TO the town (where I’d scripted a series of encounters to get them used to their characters) and the mostly forgotten trail from the town to the nearby dungeon, which I left more freefrom and survival-y, knowing the party would need to camp once on the way to and from the dungeon they were going to visit thanks to plot reasons. Because I knew where I wanted to have these challenges, I knew where to put the more “wild” locations that’d offer threats and challenges to my party.
Now lets take a look at that original map from a DM’s perspective:
When it came time to actually plan the full campaign, I chose a number of fun adventures ( the kind of which you can find oodles of @dailyadventureprompts ) that I thought my party might enjoy, with the full understanding that they might never get to any of them, depending on their choices. I built out from there as needed but you can see that all the major settlements are divided up by large stretches of open wilderness (where I can throw challenges), and that large sections of the map are divided up into vague regions. These regions help fulfill the second utility of map design I mentioned above, letting players understand what tasks they might face to/from their adventure while providing a distinct feel for different parts of the world.
You’ll also notice there’s a lot of space on this map that isn’t covered by an adventure, which is absolutely intentional: A living story needs space to grow, which meant my map needed territories that had enough personality to be played with, but not so much that they were settled down into anything concrete. When I made this map I couldn’t tell you what was AT starcaller lake because I didn’t know myself. It was only when my party needed to seek out the advice of a great sage that I decided that it was a suitably mystical seeming place one might find a wizard. Likewise, I had no idea Picnic hill was going to be anything, I just thought it’d be funny to give a sweet sounding place a foreboding atmosphere, with “ We don’t go to Picnic Hill” being a recurring thing people said. Lo and behold, when I needed to send my party somewhere spooky as all gettout: picnic hill was right there, waiting for me.
Keeping things light like this helped me fulfill the third and forth utility, without having to stress myself out about deciding what was in each individual hex of my map. After all, a party only tends to wander when they’re given permission to do so, and in my experience, they tend to be very open about their objectives or stick doggedly to the plot you give them.
For the Mapmaker who first got me talking about this: I’d advise you to take it easy, NPC’s are wherever you want them to be, and you’ll have a lot more fun building your maps if you do so in concert with your party’s adventures, rather than trying to make them in advance. If you really want to scratch that cartographic itch, try imagining an adventure and creating a little mini-map for that region. Then when you eventually have a campaign, you’ll have a lot of pieces from which to assemble a greater landscape.
And for everyone who’s going to ask about those adventures, you can find them all listed below:
Dark Dealings with Moonshiners
Fey Teaparty Kidnappings
Who put 600 wolves in this monastery?
A VERY large goldfish is causing problems
The Murderelves won’t leave the very sad dragon alone
its been SO LONG since i last finished one of these wow
THIS was a fun experience fjdksdjks .... it was the beginning of the "eejit runs around Faron noting where the ruins actually are" saga and honestly that was pretty fun, to be continued in the Faron tower region because BOY that one's giving me a headache :L
in addition !! there is also another version now because i hate myself i had fun messing with a sort of pseudo-hylian font inspired by the wonderful Studson Studios sign in his junk miniature build of a BotW stable !! guys content is so impressive and funny to boot 👌👌
i have a feeling that the ghostly hint of Farosh will be absent from the eventual composite map but i felt bad not adding them in here as tribute for the amount of time i spent cheesing the poor fucker for parts here <.<
more content like this, LoZ or otherwise, at friththetraveller 💙
I’ve been posting some reel tutorials over on the CDI Instagram! I call this method “drop a pile of dice and see what happens”. If you’re not a dnd player or otherwise don’t have a hoard of dice lying around, you could try this with any small objects, like coins, dry beans, or even pebbles!
I just finished my first object pack for making RPG maps! This one is bakery themed with sooooo many things that I want to eat. Right now this is just available through the Roll20 marketplace, but I’m working on getting it up on CartographyAssets too.
Once you add up the color variations and such, it’s 330 items total!
i love mapmakers on the internet cause its just like *meticulous detail on north america and western europe* *slaps whatever random shit on the rest of the world and calls it good*
Adventure Map Commissions
My lovely, skilled, tumblrless friend Lani is launching mapmaking commissions! Do you need a cool custom dungeon map for your tabletop games? A trapped room? A haunted tower? An ancient ruin? A quaint little town? Look no further!
Please show her some love on twitter and instagram, and share this with all your nerd friends <3
Commission info is here