Saturday, June 17, 2017

Building the World (pt 1) - The Globe

Icosahedral Map of Earth (Progonos)
I've always settled for the standard Mercator Projection (flat, cylindrical) style maps in the past and they've always been fine. It would've been fine this time too, I'm sure, except that I'd become obsessed with this being my greatest and final creation as a world builder. I wanted to take my time and do it right. Design Principle #3 demands persistent and concrete environments, and that requires locations that occupy a logically real space.

Naturally, I'd come across Icosahedral Map templates here and there over the years, but they always seemed fiddly--the difficulty of understanding what you're looking at exceeds the value of accuracy, which is easy enough to account for in a standard game with some hand-waving and a couple installments of the ol', "the voyage takes two-to-three weeks." It wasn't until I encountered Justin Alexander's hexcrawl guide (linked in resources below) and, from there, Ben Robbins' West Marches concept that I had the scales fall from my eyes. It was the notion of zooming in that did it for me--there was no need to operate on the global scale, except to lay down some continental features. After that point, you can build close up flat maps of your regions for play, just checking against the global scale occasionally to reorient yourself to True North.

I'm not the strongest student of math, but I set out to learn what I could about the geometry of hexagons. I hit a few roadblocks along the way to understanding, so if you math-inclined folks notice an error at any point, please speak up. I set a planetary circumference of 18,000 miles (right around halfway between Earth's 25,000 and Mars' 13,000). I settled on a 6-mile hex scale, with 30-mile hex regional scale, and 150-mile hex continental/global scale. If I'm not mistaken (not a given!), that's 3,600,000 6-mile hexes! Design principle #1 is well in hand! Of course, I won't be drilling down to the 6-mile hex scale except to fill in campaign areas, so there's no need to feel intimidated by large numbers here.

I picked up a copy of the Worldographer beta (aka Hexographer 2), had it generate an icosahedral map for me, and then... hmm. You know that feeling when a random generator is a little too random? No matter! I've got my handy-dandy 2E World Builder's Guidebook, and wouldn't I rather do this myself? And so I did. Every couple sentences sent me down rabbit holes of researching geology, volcanism, water cycles, prevailing wind and current patterns, meteorology, and plate tectonics. Two weeks later, I had a map of a world I felt was within the margin of error of being real.

I dub thee... CoolWorld001.png
The beta ran into a few problems when I tried to zoom down to the next scale on a map of this size, so I isolated a region, recreated it by hand, and set that as my world on a second map for purposes of scaling.

It's not Europe. It's not.
As a scaled down, I wanted to use some of the Welsh Piper tricks for terrain placement, but I found them too difficult to implement on the digital map. Time to move over to my good ol' pen and paper. As an exercise, I went ahead and connected two regions to have a look at the area undisturbed by the artifact of the icosahedral projection.

It's not Europe and the Steppe. I'm not seeing it.
From there, I drilled down from 150-mile hexes to 30-mile hexes, which I'll put behind this here link rather than posting here large enough for you to make out. As you can see, things escalate quickly. The center of each 150-mile hex is represented on that scale by the parent hex's terrain type, giving me room to allow for some regional variation in terrain per the Welsh Piper method. I referred to the tables in the World Builder's Guidebook (as well as my own intuition) to place lakes, rivers, foothills, etc. If you look closely, you can see the red borders of kingdoms, which we'll get into in the next post. I won't need to drill down any further until I'm ready to build a local map for actual play.

So, what do you think? What methods do you use to build your worlds? What kind of map projection do you favor? Got any resources you can't do without that I should add to my tool box?

Invaluable Resources
Hexographer - amazing hex mapping program
Hex Based Campaign Design guide from the Welsh Piper blog
Hexcrawl Series from The Alexandrian blog
How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox guide from the Bat in the Attic blog
Medieval Demographics Made Easy by S John Ross
Medieval Demographics Done Right - a tempering companion to the "Made Easy" above
The World Builder's Guidebook - possibly the best money I ever spent on an official 2nd Edition product

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