Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Caldera: Birth of a World

The creation process can be a difficult one for me. I have ideas that I want to integrate into my game, but find that I struggle to put them on paper in a way that satisfies me.  My creativity ultimately is quite derivative - I troll the web until I find something, or many somethings, that are close to what I envision, then massage them together and end up with something I'm reasonably happy with. A "big picture" view of my game world was one of the things I have never been satisfied with, but eventually the pieces seem to fall into place.

What if this is the known world?
The first piece of the puzzle was a post just after Christmas by Erin Smale of The Welsh Piper. He points to a cool vector-based creation tool that makes island maps, called MapGen2. I tried my hand at making my own world map but... meh. With maps via MapGen, I'm getting what I really wanted.  

A couple of weeks later, a was half-listening to the TV while my kids were watching something and hear a word that flipped a switch in my brain. "Caldera". The gears started to spin, and I began to contemplate a place where the entirety of the world was contained within an enormous volcanic caldera.  Like Crater Lake, only... bigger, with each island a continent in and of itself. 

The World of Caldera

Some time spent cycling through random island maps garnered a dozen or so that I liked gave me enough to work with.  I pulled up Photoshop and set to mixing and matching them, re-sizing, rotating and tweaking to taste. Now I have a starting point and can drop these into Hexographer and move forward.

And so Caldera was born.  Drop a couple of Erin's hex templates over the whole thing and I now have a world map (Atlas Template, at 300 miles/hex) and pulled out a Regional map and from there I chose a single 300 mi hex to focus on for my Trevail campaign map.

This bit is pulled from the middle of that triple-island cluster in the center. We'll see what comes of it all.


  1. Wow, Reese. This looks fantastic! And I really like the detail view.

    Biased as I am, I think the hex overlays are a great touch. Are those just low-opacity layers you added in Photoshop? Mine don't look nearly as good as yours.

  2. Thanks, Erin I appreciate the praise!
    For the hex overlays, what I did was to open the PDF of your template in Photoshop, then drag it from the Layers list onto my map. Then, in the layers list for the map I change the properties for the hex layer from "Normal" to "Multiply" to make the white background transparent. Then you just need to resize the map layer to fit into the template. Easy-peasy!

    I'm still struggling with my scale. I like ~300/hx for the overall atlas, but am trying to come up with a reasonable mix of 1:5 and 1:6 sub-hex zooms that gives me a clean 6 mile hex at the final "Local" zoom. Gah - math!

    1. Holy crap, Reese. That was the easiest thing ever. Thanks for cluing me in!

      Side note: I added PNG versions to the Hex Templates download. This may be easier than working with the PDF in Photoshop.

      Thanks again for the tip!

    2. Cool Erin, I'll stop in and grab those PNGs. I expect they will make the job easier. What resolution did you make those? In order to allow plenty of freedom for re-sizing, I'd like to see them at 300 dpi.

      The work you put into both making the templates and demonstrating how to use them is great, and really appreciated. Thank you!

    3. I made them at 150dpi, but after some experimentation, I think they should be 300. Problem is that the file size really grows.

      That said, the PDFs area at 300dpi, so maybe you had the right idea all along...

  3. Thanks for the tip - there's so much I don't know about Photoshop, but I'll give that a try. I really like your detail map.

    The 5 sub-hexes per large hex has the unfortunate side effect of "forcing" scale if you want easy math. When I made the templates, I had the JG standard in mind. For me, it's easier to figure out the scale of the sub-hex, then scale up in multiples of 5.

    That said, one thing I realised is that even a Regional template at 5 miles per sub-hex is a lot of adventuring space (at that scale, your detail map above is about the size of the West Bank). For me, that's plenty to start a campaign, but I do like to have the bigger, world picture at hand.

    1. Oh, I'm not arguing that a 5-mile base hex system makes the math easier, but I get hung up on the appeal of a 6-mile hex (as so well explained >here<). I just like the ease of the 6/7/3.5 distances for walking around a map at that scale.

      I think part of my problem was scaling the atlas template up to 300 mi/hex so I could use just one, rather than tiling multiple templates for the entire world map (as you suggest in your post about them). So, I either need to reduce that scale and use more than 1 (a page of 4 maybe, or even 5, to re-use the same template?).

      Either that, or simply dissociate the world scale from the smaller views. Then I can use 1:6, 6:30 or 6:36, and up from there. I think I need to open up photoshop and play around a bit.