The Making of Earlsdale (by Grimur Fjeldsted)

The Purple BoxA Purple Box

The second-hand store around the corner of my 1995 midtown apartment always had interesting merchandise. Most evenings on my way home, I would jump off my bike at the store and look at the various new items they had in stock for the day. Since they were second-hand I often asked myself questions around previous owners and I found that the items with all their diversity often told small stories.

One night a small purple box still wrapped in plastic had appeared in the store window. Campaign Cartographer for PC, 3.5”. A few days later the floppy disk fired up my MS-DOS. A: DIR, CC.EXE and a land called Jaw Peninsular appeared in 16 beautiful colors on the screen of my Compaq 486.

I have always loved maps and the imagination they spark at the first glimpse. I longer to wander and explore these foreign lands, and a great fantasy map is for me a medium to get closer to that experience.

Now I was able to create the maps myself, learning that the experience of creating fantasy maps is one of asking questions as well. Who lives there? Why do they live there? What do they trade in? Who threatens them? Why?

Answering these questions makes the world come alive, and fantasy maps reveal their stories while you draw them.

World Building

Earlsdale started like that 25 years ago. A small feudal region in the center of the world. Three Duchies fighting for power and a cursed kingship that none of them dares to claim. While fighting each others, the surrounding empires to the east, west and south would expand. Soon their agents infiltrated Earlsdale only to be followed by their armies. War had come to Earlsdale.

Earlsdale was in 16 colors! It’s a shame, I lost the floppy disk and internet was not really a thing with lots of images back then. I would have liked to see it today. Nevermind.
The map changed not only because of updates and new symbols set for Campaign Cartographer, but because the players of my gaming group (same group of friends since 25 years) helped to shape the world in our regular sessions ever since. They answered many of the questions. Adventure sites were added. It happened that a city was burned down. Once the players invested their fortune to build a small keep (Liederburg, east of Schlandern). I added the keep in the CC2/Symbol Set 1 version of Earlsdale back in the days.

So Earlsdale is not the final map, it is only the current state. It is a still image of a 25 years world-building project, that keeps asking questions. We answer them as we explore. The Duchies of Earlsdale evolves and still keeps on revealing its story, since the players entered “The Royal Oak Inn” in Siegesbruck (south-eastern part of the map) in 1995.

There were even rumors at the last gaming session, that the “Tower in the Lake” near Ahnendorf, had sunken into the sea. It has been several years since the players were in Ahnendorf. I don’t know the answer yet, but time and adventure (or a new update/style for CC) will tell.

What you will be looking at below is the CC3+ version of the map. I have collected some of the basic steps and techniques I have used in the following tutorial.

Mini Tutorial

Background

I use the default settings of CC3+ with the Mike Schley overland symbols. For the background I prefer a slightly darker style with more variety in texture. An easy way to accomplish this is to add two new sheets with textures. The first texture is used to get a darker and richer green color, as well as to add more texture into the background. The second texture (Texture 2 below) is used for even more texture and by that variety of the overall background. The sheets effects are key for these overlays, and I use the transparency setting with low opacity (15-25%) to get the result I need.

Textures

Mountains & Hills

Next up are the mountains. In a regional map like this, I like to add some variety in size of the mountains. I use a scale from 0.5-2.5 on the mountain symbols. When the mountains are placed, I use the default mountain- and hills fills drawing tools, as well as the mountain- and hills background drawing tools to fill areas around and between the mountains. The “hills background” drawing tool works well also to create plains to add even more variety to the background. I then add some hill symbols manually around and on top of hills fills and backgrounds and place them on a new sheet. The key for this technique is moving all these sheets beneath the background texture sheets I created above. That way they blend in perfectly with the color and texture of the background. Add another sheet for hill symbols that will need to be in front of mountains or other symbols and place them above the symbols sheet.

Mountains

Ocean, Rivers and Wetlands

Oceans and rivers are now placed with 3-5 different thickness levels (0.75 to 3.5), ranging from narrow at the mountains and broad at the sea. I add a dark green color to the “Outer Glow” sheet effect. Remember to add some broader areas in form of lakes and wider river areas. I add the ocean in the south with the same settings as the river, but with a darker texture for sea contours in deeper areas. I add another sheet for marshland and swamps, but this time keep the following sheets above the background layers I created earlier. The texture is another one from Herwin Wielink overland style (from the Annuals and one of my favorites), with transparency effect and inner edge fade to nicely blend in.

Rivers and Wetlands

Vegetation

For the forest I use another texture than the default as forest background. I create the drawing tool and a new sheet using this texture and add transparency and inner edge fade like for all background elements. I place tree, jungle and swamp symbols on the entire map. Quite a click feast, but its worth it. Remember individual and small clusters of trees everywhere on the map where vegetation is present, like on the foothills of mountains, along rivers and later on in front of settlements.

Vegetation

Civilization

Now my favorite part starts – the structures. I like to vary the structures as well, mixing them a bit up by using combinations of them (castle, hamlet, village – makes a good town). This might not be realistic in scale, but it looks good and creates variety and adds individual character to a settlement. I play around with scale here within the range of 0.75-1.25 and use the mirror function for even more variety.

Around settlements I place farmlands on a new sheet, again adding transparency and inner edge fade effects to blend into background layer, and to avoid sharp edges of the smoothed polygons. Roads are placed between settlements, with a brown outer glow effect. I now place the last structures such as bridges, castles and other sites of interest.

Structures and Roads

Labels and Finishing Touches

Labels and finishing touches are an important part. I create the labels as symbols in various sizes, with a paper background texture. Square corners for cities, towns and villages, round corners for castles and sites and areas. I do various sizes to reflect the size of cities and to match length of the site names. Important cities have shields. I then add sheet effects, such as shadows and outer/inner glow. In the finishing touches I play around with texture and sheet effects to get a result that matches with the overall mood and colors of the map. I add the title (font: “Ode”, Adobe Fonts). Compass and scale bar is added. I export the map in a large format (7300×5903 pixels in this case). I then add the image to a zoom application, customize it and then upload the files to my webspace.

Labels

Final Map

You can see the full map in the zoom application here: Duchies of Earlsdale.

Full Earsldale Map

I should probably dedicate the map to the person that sold the purple box at the second hand store back in 1995. Oh, boy! You missed out so many stories.

If you are interested in some of my other maps, check out mapventures.com.

Happy Mapping,
Grimur Fjeldsted

About Grimur

Grimur is half-icelandic, half-german and lives with his wife and three kids in Germany’s northern most city Flensburg. In his daily job he heads up communications and marketing in a global technology company. He began to create maps in 1995 when he was studying, and he has been part of the Campaign Cartographer community ever since. He enjoys experimenting with styles and creates all his maps for the same home-brew setting. Besides being with his family or making an occasional fantasy map, he enjoys good coffee, history, design, boardgames and all things digital.

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