World Workshop

The World Workshop – What’s in a Name?

A whole hell of a lot, as it turns out. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

It’s come to my attention that my somewhat painfully detailed description of how I’m mapping out this setting isn’t really of interest to everyone. Specifically those not interested in how to map or who don’t own Photoshop, may not find it very entertaining. Thus, my habit of intermingling setting development stuff with mapping tips, may make these articles of zero interest to some people.

To which I respond: my bad, I apologize. From here on out I’ll be writing setting development up top, detailed mapping instructions behind a jump. Hopefully that works out best. As always, comments are open.

So, naming. A lot comes down to names, at least for me. Names are power – a silly superstition, but true. I mean, City A? Who the fuck gets all inspired with awe at the majestic name of City A? Nobody, that’s who.

More than helping me to not feel like a moron when referring to a location, names inspire imagery and concepts. Baron Roderic summons up a very different mental picture than Rajah Vishal, doesn’t it? Naming, customs and culture are all tied together, at least in my mind, and having a name is (for me) often the first step in figuring out the greater details of a people, setting, city, or whatever.

The latest version of the setting map. Click to see an enlarged copy.
The latest version of the setting map. Click to see an enlarged copy.

The real development work begins today – after all, picking names for places (descriptive names at least) requires some decision on language. Picking the language used to name a place usually gives an indication of the dominant people in the region – and if it doesn’t, it suggests some sort of story about the place (if a dwarven city has an elvish name there’s got to be a reason, after all).

As an aside, having given it some thought, I’ve decided to go with the “ten languages” concept introduced in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’m typically not a huge fan of the idea of a “Common” language spoken by all humans and at least understood by most other races, but like I said before – I’m embracing the core assumptions of the game, in favor of making this as smooth a learning experience as possible for my players. My players will be learning how to smash orcs and slaughter kobolds – they can worry about how to communicate next time around, maybe.

Today I’ll be sinking my teeth into what will be the starting region for my upcoming campaign, the area surrounding City A – known as Kungarde to its inhabitants. Built on the ruins of Nask Arag, an older city that belonged to the tiefling empire of Bael Turath, Kungarde was settled by one of the human tribes (the Kungathi) native to the surrounding area after that empire’s fall. Several other surrounding tribes migrated in later, resulting in a human-dominated population, with tieflings forming the largest minority.

I mentioned last time that Kungarde is a mercantile power where money is power, and that’s absolutely true – money determines everything. Whether or not you’re permitted to take up permanent residence in Kungarde is based on whether or not you can pay. Citizenship is likewise expensive, and most citizens are merchants. The city is ruled by a council of 200 Merchant-Princes – who acquire their seats on the council by auction. It shouldn’t be all that surprising then that most of the laws and edicts passed by the council are pretty self-serving. “The rich get richer” isn’t seen as a problem by the government of Kungarde – it’s seen as proof that the system is working.

One of the reasons I decided to have the city this way, is that it makes it very easy to introduce almost any concept into the city at a moment’s notice with the explanation “he/she/it is rich.” Thus Kungarde is the most cosmopolitan place in the region. Every player race can reasonably be found there, though some are more common than others. More than just player races are welcome in Kungarde, however – any race that follows the rules and has the coin is welcome. There are probably less than one hundred goblins living in Kungarde (and probably less than a dozen that are full citizens), but that’s not because goblins aren’t allowed in the city – it’s because most goblins don’t have the coin, and those that do typically break the laws and get themselves executed/exiled within their first year. The ones that last are civilized enough to behave (or clever enough to not get caught).

The same goes for the gods. All the gods presented in the Player’s Handbook have a presence in Kungarde, to varying degrees – Avandra’s certainly got the most temples and shrines (as well as the vast majority of temples/shrines built on government coin), as she’s the goddess of trade, while Bahamut or Moradin have very small followings. What I said about unexpected (i.e. “evil”) races, above, also applies to gods – so long as their followers have the coin to build temples and pay taxes, any order or religion can take up residence. Some are more likely than others, naturally – Bane, who is (at his heart) a war god who teaches that the strong are entitled to rule the weak, certainly has an active order in Kungarde. The Cult of Asmodeus, meanwhile, does not – they could if his followers weren’t so overtly evil. Freedom of religion doesn’t exempt a person from obeying those “no murdering” laws the city has.

So that’s a brief look at Kungarde. Next time I’ll be digging into “City B,” also known as Magwer – the largest and most powerful city on Duraun Jörgmadnr (formerly known as “Cock Island”).

Mapping stuff after the jump.

Where we left off last time. Click to see an enlarged copy.
Where we left off last time. Click to see an enlarged copy.

Last time, we stopped mapping right after adding some texture and terrain coloration to our map. You can see the results on the left. This time we’ll be adding some additional detail in the form of hills and mountains. On opening up the file, the first four layers – grid (highlight), grid, base, and hills – should all be hidden, while the last three – land, ocean, and clouds – remain visible.

Reveal and then select hills, ensure your colors are set to black and white (D), and then Filter -> Render -> Difference Clouds, then do it again (Ctrl-F). Duplicate hills, name the new layer mountains, and then hide mountains. Make sure hills stays as the active layer. Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise; set the Amount to 5%, Distribution to “Gaussian,” check Monochromatic, then click on OK. Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects and use the exact same settings you used last time on the land layer.

Make sure black is the foreground color, Select -> Color Range, set Fuzziness to 150, hit OK, delete the selection and then deselect (Ctrl-D). Ctrl-click on base (the preview pane) to select the contents, but make sure you keep hills as the active layer. Select -> Modify -> Contract by 50 pixels, Select -> Modify -> Feather by 50 pixels, invert the selection (Shift-Ctrl-I), delete and deselect (Ctrl-D).

More terrain definition provided by hills. Click to see an enlarged copy.
More terrain definition provided by hills. Click to see an enlarged copy.

Almost finished creating our hills. To finish them up, Layer -> Layer Style -> Color Overlay, set the blend mode (for the effect) to “soft light” and the color to (RGB: 90, 70, 30). Now hit Bevel and Emboss on the left panel; set the style to “emboss,” the technique to “chisel soft,” size to 20 pixels, and the opacity (for both the highlight and the shadow) to 50%. Hit OK, change the layer’s blend mode to “soft light” and its opacity to 50%. You can see the results on the right.

Alright, mountain time. Show and select the mountains layer. Filter -> Render -> Lighting Effects, which brings up the panel with all the settings. Unlike the last two times, remove all but one source of light and place it at the center, with a radius reaching the edges of the map. Set the Style to Spotlight (make sure “On” is checked), Intensity to 25, Focus to 100, Gloss to -100, Material to 100, Exposure to 0, Ambience to 100, Texture Channel to Red (make sure “White is high” is checked), and Height to 100. For those who prefer to see than read, here’s a screenshot. Once you’ve got all the settings plugged in, hit OK.

Make sure black is the foreground color, Select -> Color Range, set Fuzziness to 200, hit OK, delete the selection and then deselect (Ctrl-D). Ctrl-click on base (the preview pane) to select the contents, but make sure you keep mountains as the active layer. Select -> Modify -> Contract by 100 pixels, Select -> Modify -> Feather by 100 pixels, invert the select (Shift-Ctrl-I), delete and deselect (Ctrl-D).

Now we've got mountains and hills in place. Click to see an enlarged copy.
Now we've got mountains and hills in place. Click to see an enlarged copy.

Time to wrap up the mountains. Layer -> Layer Style -> Color Overlay, set the blend mode (for the effect) to “soft light” and the color to (RGB: 90, 70, 30). Now hit Bevel and Emboss on the left panel; use the default settings with the following exceptions: set the technique to “chisel soft,” size to 5 pixels, and the angle to -30. Hit OK and change the layer’s blend mode to “hard light” to finish the mountains. You can see the results on the left.

Alright, so there are a few final issues with our map that we might as well fix before we call it a day. First, the terrain in the lower right corner is a little too bright – it’s meant to be a desert, but it needs to be darkened a little bit. Hide mountains and hills, create a new layer above land and name it adjust1. Working in adjust1, Ctrl-click base (the preview pane) and fill the selection with white, then set the layer’s Fill to 0%. Layer -> Layer Style -> Gradient Overlay; change Angle to 120 degrees, leave the rest of the settings untouched. Make sure white is the foreground color, Select -> Color Range, set Fuzziness to 200, hit OK, delete the selection and then deselect (Ctrl-D). Drop the layer’s opacity down to 10%, and your deserts should stop hurting your eyes when you look at them.

The latest incarnation of our map, with terrain adjustments applied. Click to see an enlarged copy.
The latest incarnation of our map, with terrain adjustments applied. Click to see an enlarged copy.

Now create another layer above adjust1, this one called adjust2. Set the foreground color to (RGB: 64, 80, 24) and the background color to (RGB: 240, 230, 190). Working in adjust2, Ctrl-click base (the preview pane), then Filter -> Render -> Clouds, then deselect (Ctrl-D). Change the layer’s blend mode to “color dodge” and its opacity to 25%. Reveal mountains and hills, and take a look at the end result on the right.

That’s where we’ll leave it for now; next time we’ll add some final details to the terrain, and finally get rid of that ugly black and white sea.

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2 thoughts on “The World Workshop – What’s in a Name?

  1. Well done brothah. I’m a big fan of this series and I look forward to seeing how this world ends up.

    I’m with you on the name, it totally shapes everything. I’ve always wanted to completely change the titles from King, Baron, and even more foreign sounding titles like Rajah or Pharaoh. I remember once when you and I were trying to design a world I suggested that some ruler should be called a “Foisharen” (totally made up, but sounds imposing). I didn’t really explain it then, but I think that it would really go a long way to completely changing the core assumptions of the world. I mean, if the rulers are called Kings then it’s obviously a Northern European setting and mood. If they are called Pharaoh, then we know what we’re getting into. But if they are called Foisharen, or Malabuth, then who knows what we’re getting? It really changed the meta-gaming that goes on and could make for a more fantastic experience.

    To make this comment even longer: I love the money = power thing, it could really help change the tone of the campaign quickly. If the PCs go dungeon crawling and come across a massive horde, all of a sudden they can be plunged into a world of aristocratic intrigue. I think it can keep things very fresh with little explanation needed.

    You keep writing, I’ll keep reading 🙂

    1. It’s funny that on a blog started to talk about Dark Sun, with a title that’s a Dark Sun in-joke, the series with no connection to Dark Sun is most popular. When I update the World Workshop I typically get twice the traffic, if not more, than any other article generates.

      So yeah, I’m gonna keep writing. Someone, apparently, is reading and that’s always gratifying.

      When was that collaborative effort? That only time I recall us designing a campaign together was when we were trying to enter the Wizards-sponsored contest to create the new official setting (that eventually became Eberron). Which is actually a nice segue into telling you I’ve got an idea for something you and I can work together on in the future. I’ll fire you an email when I get a chance.

Comments are closed.