Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thoughts on Maps and the Dark Country

After doing some math,* I've come to the conclusion that the Welsh Piper Hex Templates are the best thing ever.  I was already fond of them, but I more or less used them while wishing I had a bad-ass Judges Guild map to use instead.  However, my sloppy number crunching revealed some things to me that might make me prefer Erin's.

First, the "continent" level is just big enough to hold the areas of France and Britain combined.  There is also some room left over for the channel, but you'd probably have to move parts of Scotland off of the map to really get the amount of water that surrounds Britain.  The point is that it easily fits two fairly large kingdoms who can slug at each other constantly, or perhaps even more smaller ones.  But it doesn't end there.  The "regional" level maps are only a tiny bit smaller than the estimated size of the Duchy of Normandy.  Each one of these represents either a powerful magnate's demesne or a smallish kingdom.

Whether or not this was intentional, it provides a great deal more structure than using Wilderlands maps.  I can guesstimate** their size now that I know how large Erin's templates are, but I don't really have as good of an idea of what a single map represents.  Also, the Welsh Piper templates happen to match up to the sizes of areas I'm familiar with historically, so it's a bit easier for me to figure out how many cities and castles they should contain.  I'll still have to rely at least somewhat on other methods, but that certainly helps.

If one thinks about the number of cultures that existed in both Britain and France in the Middle Ages, one can easily see that an "atlas" level map is probably large enough to last any DM the entirety of his or her career.  Admittedly, this does not incorporate flights of fancy that might make him or her want to run something set in a totally different kind of milieu, but as long as he or she is content with whatever kind of setting he or she set up in the first place it should provide a framework for innumerable campaigns.

With this new information under my belt, I'm going to try and remap the Dark Country.  Longtime readers will know that I am constantly tweaking every map I make -- which is part of the fun -- but this is going to be a major overhaul.  I want the "atlas" map to include large parts of the West, the entirety of the Dark Country, and small slivers of Zenopolis and Novgova.  Those are the four areas I'm most interested in running campaigns in, and it makes a kind of rough sense that they would be next to each other.

I'll be doing the mapping by hand because I've become enamored with colored pencil maps like these two.  Since I don't have a scanner, you're not likely to see these in the immediate future; however, I do hope to be able to present them at some point.

One last note unrelated to maps:  I've more or less decided the rough historical date for the Dark Country would be the first half of the 14th century.  This is a bit outside of my normal time frame, but the Sword Brothers represent the Teutonic Knights c. 1250, and I want them to be in the past.  I'm a bit more comfortable making a fantasy setting move at a glacial pace than I would be if this was a historical setting, but I do think that settings need to change over time.***

* I'm really really really bad at math, so if I'v made a mistake let me know.

**Chrome's spell check recognizes guesstimate as a word.

***Not necessarilly published settings.  I hate metaplot as much as the next guy, but if every campaign in the same setting resets to status quo ante bellum, then it starts to feel too artificial.  These changes are for the individual group to make, and it is best if they are created by player action.


  1. The Veil of Brilliance you've pierced wasn't intentional, but but the dimensions seem to pass the sniff test. ;)

    An Atlas/continental map is 390,625 sq. miles (625x625), composed of 25 regional maps, each 15,625 sq. miles (125x125).

    Given an area of ~94K sq. miles, the UK would fill just a hair over 6 regional maps. Put another way, an atlas template could hold ~4.15 United Kingdoms.

    As a reference, Greyhawk is ~11 million sq. miles, and would cover just over 28 atlas templates.

    Glad these are useful - suggestions for improvement are welcome.

  2. I don't have a scanner either. But my university does in the library. You might try looking there. (Warning: unlike ours, your university might actually charge money for its use.)

  3. _Warning: unlike ours, your university might actually charge money for its use._