Orde-on-the-Rock map analysis

Welcome to a brief article about the creation of Orde-on-the-Rock (or just Orde for short), in which I will be attempting to answer most of the questions I have been asked about this map since it was first released last year as a new example map for City Designer 3.

Orde was designed as a map to demonstrate what could be done with CD3 without using any additional add-ons or extra art assets.

Over the years I’ve been using CD3 I’ve done lots of cities using only the assets that come with CD3, so to make it more of a challenge for myself this time I decided not to use any of the regular Bitmap A house symbols.  In their place I used buildings generated by the Building and Street tools, and added a few shaded polygon constructions for variety.

To aid you in understanding what is written here I have linked the FCW file for Orde-on-the-Rock here.  You will need to have CD3 installed to be able to view the map in CC3.

A perfectly ordinary city

Without the cliffs Orde is a relatively ordinary CD3 Bitmap A style city map – one that has been constructed with the Building tools rather than the standard symbols.

The cliffs

The cliffs are what all the questions I seek to answer have been about, so I will move onto them without further delay.  Here (below) they are shown in isolation without the city, and without the hand-drawn ***SHADOW sheet.  This is because the ***SHADOW sheet also contains shadows from the city bridges so is more than just another part of the cliffs – though I will briefly describe it later.

The cliffs themselves are an illusion generated by 5 new sheets immediately below the BACKGROUND sheet in the list of sheets shown in the Sheets and Effects dialog.

Most of the following images have been produced as relatively low resolution screen shots directly from the FCW file.  This is so that you can see the shapes that were drawn more clearly without the added detail of the textures involved.


This sheet is where the full extent of the cliffs are drawn as a single rectangle filled with the standard CD3A Earth 1 texture.

There is a Color Key sheet effect at the top of the list of effects on this sheet, which uses a magenta polygon (visible if you turn off the sheet effects) to cut through the earth-textured rectangle and expose the background grass.  I could have drawn the separate pieces of rock and done away with the Color Key effect, but I used it here to make it easier for me to scale up the rectangle if I needed more of an overlap to counter the Edge Fade, Inner sheet effect (EFI) if it proved to be too big for the existing overlap to absorb.

The overlap can be seen here as the extent that sticks out beyond the edge of the thin black line around the map, which is the default map frame.

The other sheet effects on this sheet are concerned with changing the colour of the visible texture.

CLIFF SHADES sheet (shown here with effects switched off)

This sheet is where I drew the detailed shading of the cliffs using a drawing tool I made to draw plain green fractal polygons wherever I intended there to be a nearly vertical face.  This is a technique that I built on the one expressed in its most recent form by Hans Anders Bergström in his Hand Drawn Battle Maps annual, published by ProFantasy in September of 2019.  I used different sheet effects and added vertical polygons that go up and down the cliff face as well as drawing horizontal ones that go all the way around the cliff.  Note how the vertical polygons are aligned with indents in the outline of the rock mass.

The magenta strip you can see is the shape which the Color Key effect will cut through all the green shading polygons where the road around the cliffs down into the gorge will be drawn.


This is probably the sheet that does most of the work in making the cliffs look like they go down into the map rather than lying flat.  The other sheet that goes the rest of the way in this sense is the ***SHADOW sheet, which adds the more obvious shadows that tell the eye there is something really big here that is casting a shadow.  However, the ***SHADOW sheet can’t tell you just how tall something is if you don’t have anything else in the map to compare in size with the shadow of the cliff.  This is where ambient shading comes into play.  Ambient shading is an expression of the way daylight fades the deeper you go into a gorge.

In this map the ambient shading is created by adding a dark coloured rectangle that is much bigger than the map and using the very same magenta polygon that was applied as a Color Key on the CLIFF ROCK sheet, again with a Color Key here – so that the ambient shading effect is aligned perfectly with the line at the base of the cliffs.

Further sheet effects are applied to fade the dark polygon out towards it’s own centre, and then to blend it with the image rather than just sitting over the top of it like a mist.

You may also notice that in this screen shot I have re-activated the Blend Mode that I switched off for the previous screen shot of the CLIFF SHADES sheet so that you can see how this is all starting to come together with all the sheet effects turned on.

CLIFF Stone cap sheet

This is the sheet that caps the cliffs with a paler surface, such as you might expect to see where more of the light in the sky was being reflected back at the sky.  The polygons on this sheet are the same CD3A Earth 1 texture used on the CLIFF ROCK sheet, but it’s appearance has been modified by the use of both an RGB Matrix Process effect and an Adjust Hue/Saturation effect.


This is the sheet where I drew all the dark lines that give the cliff it’s detail.  The drawing work took me about 2 hours using the freehand drawing tool, but if you are doing this yourself you don’t have to draw quite so many lines if you don’t have time.  I started with the lines that run horizontally around the cliffs, taking care to place them roughly along the top edges of the horizontal shaded areas you can see on the CLIFF SHADES sheet.  Then I drew lots of shorter lines down the cliff face where I could visualise from the shading that there may be cracks in the rock.

Don’t try to draw lines down the places that stick out.  These need to be left alone so that they look paler than the cracks.

***SHADOW sheet

This isn’t strictly speaking one of the cliff sheets since it includes shadows cast by things other than the cliffs.

The ***SHADOW sheet is where I drew a complex polygon to express all the shadows cast by all the entities in the map with the exception of the city buildings which have shadow effects applied on their own sheets.  In this image (right) I have shown the bridges so that you can see what I mean by this sheet not being entirely just to do with the cliffs.

All the shadows are drawn on it in black polygons which are then blended into the map using another Blend Mode sheet effect

How do I draw the shadows on the shadow sheet?

There are many ways to work out where the cliff shadows should fall, but the way I do it is to decide where the edges of the cliff will be and sketch a path to show it with the freehand tool on a temporary sheet that will later be deleted.  I then use hundreds of copies of a simple line that represents the direction of the shadow and its length, given the height of the cliff and the direction of the sun, and paste them attached to path I sketched to show where the shadow should start.  These lines are my measuring sticks.  They show me where I should draw the bottom edge of the shadow.  This process does take time, but the work involved is worth the end result.

The bridge shadows were done exactly the same way.  I used the same measuring stick to tell me where their shadows should hit the floor of the gorge and extrapolated the jagged pieces that go up the cliff face towards the end of each bridge.

So there you have it – the cliffs of Orde-on-the-Rock explained.  I realise I haven’t gone into a lot of detail about some of the effects that were used, but you should be able to work most of them out by looking at the FCW file.  If you have any further questions please ask them on the ProFantasy Forum where others may search for the answers over time.

Thank you for your time and attention 🙂





2 Responses to “Orde-on-the-Rock map analysis”

  1. That is one nicely rendered set of cliffs. I am looking forward to trying them on my next city map. The one open switch for me is the making a custom tool, I’ve not done that before.

  2. Great map and wonderful tutorial on how to get these wonderful effects!