[WIP] Community Atlas competition entry: The Summer Palace of the Winter Queen

The basic premise for this set of maps is that of a wandering sub-surface palace, which is occupied by/part of a powerful humanoid creature, possibly a deity (nobody's very sure). The palace magically shifts elsewhere every day, and changes its form at the same time. It is composed entirely of ice, and has the shape of a gigantic snowflake. It can only appear in an iceberg, in pack ice, an ice cap, or a glacier, or in a huge snow-cloud high in the air. There is always only a single entrance on the surface, surrounded by delicately intricate ice-sculptures of summer flowers and foliage (yes, even in the cloud); the rest of the palace is buried and completely hidden at all times (again, yes, even in the cloud!). The palace fits within an area at most roughly 600 feet by 500 feet, though its size changes from day to day.

My idea is to prepare a location map showing ten potential places the palace may appear, thus giving a simple random option of where it may be using a 1D10 roll. Another 1D10 roll will give the form and size the palace has that day, so I'm working towards having ten different versions of the palace map. The following map is an early version of the locations map, to give an idea of what I'm meaning:

For this, I've basically reworked Shessar's beautiful world map into a very simplified version using one of Monsen's recent blog posts about representing subtly inset features on CC3+ maps. The numbered snowflake symbols (Wingdings font letter "T"s) indicate the potential palace locations. These are not going to be defined more precisely than this, so if the random roll comes up twice the same for two separate days, this just means the palace has moved, but not beyond the general area indicated - so "6" again means it's still somewhere in southern Ezrute, for example. It'll be up to the GM to decide exactly where in the general areas the palace actually is. This is not the final version, which will be a bit larger, and have more information; I've adjusted a couple of the markers since this version was prepared as well.

The 1 & 9 markers are for icebergs/pack ice somewhere on the great northern and southern oceans; the 2 & 10 ones are for the aerial snow-cloud versions, which will be found exclusively somewhere high above those same two oceans.

The palace and its occupier are intended to be things that might be useful to find for very esoteric information, but which are nearly impossible to guarantee locating at all quickly, even by those who know of their existence. I thought this might be an interesting addition for Nibirum more generally.



  • When I started thinking about this, because all my previous Community Atlas mapping has involved a degree of random design, I started looking at random snowflake creation systems online. This is one design I made from the Misha Studios site run by Misha Heesakkers for instance:

    However, this generates only an SVG file if you're using Chrome or Firefox, which is not ideal.

    Another interesting site, Snowflake Generator by Fabian Kober creates fractal, fully adjustable, PNG download files, such as this:

    While these are fascinatingly wonderful - and the fractal versions can be incredibly intricate - they're also perfectly symmetrical, which wasn't really what I wanted, so I started searching for images of real snowflakes online. There are a lot of these! However, when I struck upon the many nicely contrasty black and white photos by Wilson Bentley (1865-1931; Wikipedia link), I decided to make my selections for this project chiefly from those. Wikimedia Commons has a lot of options, for instance.

    I thought it might be useful to give the two image generators here though, as they may be useful for those wanting to create symmetrical snowflake design mazes or labyrinths, for example.

    For the random element in the maps, I opted to stick with that being primarily in where the palace can appear, and in what form.

  • So having chosen my ten snowflake templates, it was time to test things out using CC3+. Summer Palace 1 was drawn using DD3, with the snow fill from SS2 Bitmap A as the backdrop:

    The Palace size doesn't encourage adding too much interior detail, as it starts to look cluttered very quickly, so I settled for showing simply the major, fixed features instead. There'll be text notes and a PDF to accompany all the maps in the final Atlas version, as normal. Each Palace version is intended to have the same seven main areas (Hall of Mirrors is one of the seven, incidentally), though not always in the same order - it is meant to be the same place, just with a different appearance each day, after all.

    I was a little concerned about the narrowest passages, for all I'd checked with the grid on as I was drawing it - the narrowest are between four and five feet wide in the connecting passages. I decided early on that it wasn't going to be necessary to ensure access to every nook and cranny that didn't require direct access. It is meant to be a magically-grown, natural creation, and when real snowflakes can be so complex, that seemed an ideal recommendation to follow!

    There was a degree of experimentation in this, as I wasn't sure how best to work the complex outlines at first, as you may find when you have access to the FCW file later - such as several overlapping floor segments in places. As I was just using the normal straight polygon drawing tool though, not fractal, I probably shouldn't have been too concerned. That's easy to say after the event though ๐Ÿ˜

  • Along the way, I let myself get a bit distracted, and decided a CA3 portrait of the Winter Queen might be an interesting addition to the map set, with a hint of the SS2 Bitmap A Snow Frozen Lake fill texture for the border design, which thanks to the standard CA3 bevel effect, looks rather like fine marble now:

    She's intended to be between 8 and 9 feet tall in (imaginary) reality, 2.4-2.7 metres.

  • What a fabulous concept for a winter or ice dungeon theme. I guess using different shapes for fire would work well for summer or fire themes, flowers for spring and air, and leaves for autumn and earth.

  • Certainly worth considering using images of actual objects, like flames, leaves, etc., for mapping, I think.

    If you're simply using the outline, and maybe some of the main features of the object as shapes to define internal built structures, it shouldn't be too onerous, judging from my experience with the snowflakes so far. I thought beforehand this first one was going to be one of the more intricate, and while to an extent it looks it, it really wasn't very difficult to trace-draw over the JPG original by-hand.

  • FersusFersus Traveler

    What a wonderful idea! Looks really great so far!

    Given that a snowflake has hexagonal symmetry, have you considered using a hex grid instead a square one for this dungeon?

  • What an imagination!

    Great map as well :)

  • Thanks folks!

    @Fersus - Yes, I wondered about a hexagonal grid. However, over the past year, I've been involved in discussions about the use of movement grids in RPGs more generally elsewhere, and the consensus has been almost exclusively for square grids (or occasionally none at all). They're such a feature of most published dungeon maps, it's hard to break away from that, I suspect. Plus because hexes don't scale equally in all dimensions, a square grid works better for estimating distances for the GM by-eye.

    Given the whole point about participating in the Atlas, and contests like this too, is to try different things, at least from time to time, my intention was to try to make each of the ten Palace maps different. So for the second one, I picked the Old School Blue style from CA12 (also known as the Create Your Own Style pack). Blue, ice, seemed apt!

    For continuity, I've decided to stick with the Mason Serif Bold font that comes with CC3+, however.

  • The third Palace map was done using the Caves pack from the first year of the Cartographer's Annual, in CA7, though you might be hard-pressed to tell! After some experimentation, I opted for the Fog, Green Bitmap fill, as with a little colour tweaking, its texture has an interestingly ice-like look - to my eye, anyway! It's also slightly transparent as a texture, so the underlying Dirt, Grey 1 background has an influence on it too.

    The Locations map continues to be tweaked and adjusted still. This is its form after I finished the Third Palace map:

    I've just been using copy & paste versions of the floor designs for the "Palaces" list, since that way, you get an impression of the overall form of each, if in a very simplified/condensed way. It'll need further tweaking before this one's finished, of course, once the rest of the Palaces are filled-in. The "Places" list could probably handle a slightly larger font size, for instance. For now, I wanted to make sure I'd simply got all the key text there though.

  • Palace 4 was also done using the CA7 pack, but this time in the Modern Caves style, though again, that may not be entirely obvious!

    Some of you may recall I used this same style pack to construct The Hive map last June, which perhaps shows the versatility of this pack, like a good many of the CC3+ styles once you start tweaking the parameters and changing some of the Effects settings.

  • I'm really loving these maps, Wyvern :)

  • Thanks Sue! Tracing snowflake shapes is quite addictive after a while - probably just as well, as I've still six more to go...

    I have started making progress on getting the accompanying notes sorted out for the Palace as well, so it's not been all mapping lately. ๐Ÿ˜

  • For the next Palace in the sequence, Number Five, I decided to switch to one of the black-and-white styles, and picked the Mike Schley Inks one to try out for the first time. I'd hoped it might be possible to use some of the actual symbols that come with the style this time, instead of just drawing almost everything, but unfortunately, there seemed to be too much surface texture on the ones I preferred, so that when viewing the whole map, they looked like indeterminate black blobs, which didn't seem ideal. The texture might have worked for the ice furniture the Palace contains in a smaller map, I suspect; all part of the learning curve, of course!

    I also took the opportunity to try out some ideas for colouring the whole map, using Effects like the RGB Matrix Process. That too proved unhelpful, as colouring not just the map, but all of the surrounding CC3+ drawing window as well, which isn't something I've come across before. Then again, I've not used anything other than the "Gray" and "Sepia" settings on an entire map like this previously, so again, live & learn.

    What I did decide upon was to provide an option to view the map with a coloured screen over it, so I simply drew a white rectangle across the whole map and its frame, applied a strong Transparency Effect to its Cover Sheet, and a simple RGB Matrix Process Effect too, favouring an icy pale blue. Hopefully, this can be applied using one of Monsen's special toggles in the final Atlas version.

    It is slightly terrifying to open the CC3+ map now with the Cover Sheet showing, but with the Effects turned off, because all you see is a white screen! First time I did that, there was a moment of panic as to whether I'd lost the whole dratted map! Then I remembered...

    So, two versions of Palace 5 here, the first the straightforward black and white one, the second with that Cover Sheet in action.

    Inevitably, the uncoloured one is the sharper, because to get a sufficient RGB Matrix colour Effect on the blue one, the Transparency can't be set too low, but it seems an acceptable compromise.

  • Palace 6 (that's over halfway!) is another black-and-white map, using the CA48 Black & White Dungeons style. This time, I chanced using a few of the symbols that come with the style, mostly because I liked the throne, and didn't want to just have that one symbol on its own. So we have actual fountains in the Crystal Garden for once, and a set banqueting table, with seats, for the Banqueting Hall (not the clearest in this low-res image, I appreciate). I also did a little more decoration for the floor of the huge central Ballroom, primarily because the forms were on the original snowflake image, and I thought the floral design especially worked well with the overall concept of the Summer Palace idea. Plus that outer large hexagonal line forms a neat border to the Ballroom itself. As last time, the first map is the B&W version, the second one where I've added some blue iciness, this time in the form of a simple blue coloured covering rectangle with a strong Transparency Effect on it. Again, if all goes to plan, this should be available via a toggle in the Atlas version.

    Whereas Palace 5 used a simple drawn polygon for the floor outline, with the internal wall-blocks on that drawn and set up using walls and floor masks on Sheets above the floor one, here, the floor was done as a multipoly, after drawing in the internal walls first, and copying them to the floor sheet before carrying out the command. And treble-checking I wasn't going to need to do more with it later, given you can't adjust nodes on a multipoly later!

    Despite which, if you check very hard in the FCW file, you will find one spot where I had to add a new floor patch because one of the walls had grown just a bit too spiky... Isn't it always the way?

  • As mentioned a couple of days ago, aside from the mapping, I've also been pulling together the notes to accompany this set of maps, so for those who might be interested to know more in advance, here are the general comments from the start of that file, as drafted to date.

    No one is quite sure who or what the Winter Queen really is. The rare tales mentioning her suggest she may be a deity or an exceptionally powerful, probably immortal, perhaps Faerie, creature. Few such tales give useful details on her nature, though many cultures in the higher northern and southern latitudes of Nibirum preserve variants or fragments of the stories, where the Queen has numerous alternative, typically apotropaic, local titles. It is clear she is thought to possess great magic, much exceptionally obscure knowledge, and a considerable burden. Humanoid in form, she appears as very tall (around 8 or 9 feet high; 2.4 to 2.7 metres), dressed in a long, hooded robe, with piercing blue eyes, bearing a long white staff or crook taller than she is, and an air of great sadness. Her clothing and physical features are said to alter subtly from one day to the next.

    She cannot leave the Palace, and has no control over where it goes, as the Palace moves magically, and instantly, once a day to a new location. It is said to be never in exactly the same place twice, but its location is always in an icy, remote, spot, concealed below the surface. Its solitary entrance, while small and hard to find, has no door (there are no doors throughout the Palace), and can be recognised by the profusion of perfect representations of summer flowers and foliage all around it, made of crystal-quality ice. This summer array of perfect specimens is astonishingly beautiful, all of which objects are very fragile. Damaging any is a swift way to raise the Winter Queen's ire, something the tales strongly warn against.

    Wherever the Palace alights and for fifty miles around (eighty kilometres), the weather worsens and turns wintry, if it was not winter when it landed. Sometimes, it settles in the clouds, where it stirs them to winter storms, pouring hail and snow down to the surface beneath in icy gales. Even then, the Palace remains deeply hidden by the clouds, for all it still has its ice-flower-surrounded single entrance.

    While some tales allude to it, one reality about the Palace is that the souls of all who have died recently in the frozen places of the world, and all those who have died from cold elsewhere, must pass through it on their way from wherever they were to wherever they may be going. A few may linger in the Palace for a time, and some may become temporary guests or servants of the Winter Queen. The Queen has no control over which may stay or move on immediately, however. She frequently converses with those passing through even so, from which much of her secret knowledge derives. Occasional tales may hint disparagingly that the Queen is merely running a ferry service for the recently deceased.

    The Palace changes its form whenever it moves, never the same twice, though always in plan-view having the shape of a gigantic snowflake, with walls, floor and ceiling composed entirely of solid, if at least slightly translucent, crystal-like ice. This is always beautiful, with glittering facets like gems that reflect light on or just within the solid ice surfaces. Somehow, light palely manages to illuminate the whole interior with a soft radiance, no matter how deeply buried the Palace may appear to be. At times, rainbow-coloured beams, arcs and spots may be seen, like haloes in the outdoor sky that are created by refraction of sunlight through tiny hexagonal ice-crystals in thin, high-altitude, clouds. Sometimes such light effects may become dazzlingly bright briefly. The ice walls, floors and ceilings reflect light as well, which in places can take on a mirror-quality surface. Such mirrors can allow glimpses of past or future events and places, memories left by the passing spirits, perhaps. The Winter Queen does have some control over such light, vision, visionary and illusory effects within the Palace.

    Queen and Palace are so inseparable because in essence, they are parts of the same thing. Many of the Queen's "servants" are actually living ice-constructs which appear from, and can return into, the inner ice surfaces of the Palace as required, thus too are simply another element of this whole being.

  • On a roll, so Palace 7 was also done with a black-and-white style package, this time the Inked Dungeons one from CA160 last April, the first time I've used this. I must admit I wasn't too sure about it at first, as it uses a quite "busy" looking fill to mask the outside of the subterranean walls. However, when I selected the various snowflake images for the Palace designs, this flake was probably the most obvious to pick, because it looked so different to many of the others, as elongated on one axis. That in turn set me thinking about larger ice crystals, as the central Crystal Garden area here was a single huge ice crystal on the original image, so far as I could tell. So now this Palace has unusually large ice crystals visible along and buried in its translucent outer walls as well, simply because the style pack set me thinking while I was drawing the map!

    In addition, Inked Dungeons comes with relatively few symbols, which isn't so much of a problem with these large-area Palace drawings, since as I've noted above, there can be problems where the symbols have too much interesting surface detail from other style packs. So I used only one, actually designated as a brazier, but repurposed here as its opposite - the fountain in the Crystal Garden - and just drew the few other more obvious features, as has been the case for many of the other Palaces.

    The final step once more was to offer the option of a simple blue cover to colour the whole map, as previously, intended to be a toggle option in the Atlas version, and as with Palace 6, added using a blue rectangle with a strong Transparency Effect. Because it stops me panicking when I open the file and find it's just a blank white emptiness otherwise (see the Palace 5 notes above!).

  • As is fairly obvious, I quickly settled on a standard set of seven areas for each Palace map. It is essentially the same Palace each time of course, just with a different design and layout to keep things interesting. Thus I thought some further notes extracted from the forthcoming PDF texts might be an appropriate additional level of explanation here, following on from the general notes last time.

    The air throughout the Palace is always fresh and calm regardless of conditions immediately outside the Entrance. While cool, it is of an equitable temperature for whoever physically enters it (something which can feel different for every entrant). The atmosphere is ordinarily solemn and slightly saddening, as if coloured by the ephemeral nature of summer, coupled with the presence of the many passing souls. Ceiling heights, while variable as befits an apparently natural crystalline ice form, are rarely less than 15 to 20 ft (4.5 to 6 m), typically of angular, sometimes spectacular, vaulted nature.

    Regardless of its form, there are always seven major areas within the Palace: A guarded Surface Entrance and Reception Area, through which all must first pass, whether physical, immaterial, living or dead; A Ballroom for parties and entertainments; A Banqueting Hall for feasting and its adjoining Kitchen; A Crystal Garden rich with more summer ice-flowers; A Hall of Mirrors of ice; A range of Servant & Guest Quarters; and A Throne Room with the Queen's Chambers nearby.

    Surface Entrance: Surrounded by a small garden of summery ice-flowers and foliage, the entrance is always a low, point-topped, open archway around 5 ft tall by 3 ft wide (1.5 by 0.9 m) set in a back-sloping wall of ice. The ice-plants are placed on both this wall and the more level surface just in front of it, always with a cleared path leading a little indirectly to the Entrance, a little wider than the archway. This platform, wall and arch are present even when the Palace is set in the clouds, as they are parts of the Palace itself. The Palace cannot be entered by any means in any other way. Pushing physically into the surrounding clouds, or digging into the ice beyond wall or platform finds no trace of the Palace, for instance, while magical transportation devices and spells will not function into or out from the Palace. Someone who has died in the right environment or circumstances will have their soul pass through here at some stage, although the timing is always uncertain, and usually inconsistent with that in the physical world. Equally, the dead have no control over when or for how long they may be here. Once through the archway, the Palace opens-up immediately as mapped, and the entrant finds themselves at the start of the Reception Area.

    Reception Area: This commonly has several awkward, narrow places in it, sometimes with separate ice-walled chambers as well. There are physical guards of various kinds, many to most of magically-animated ice construction, often armed and armoured with ice that has the properties of magically-empowered metal. More typical arctic-environment intelligent creatures may be encountered here at times as well. The numbers involved are always more than a physical group could overcome, and fresh ice-constructs will simply manifest from the ice whenever required. Such constructs are rather like antibodies inside a living creature, whose numbers increase to match the level of the invading threat. This means such constructs may appear from any ice surfaces elsewhere in the Palace in response to threats too. A few guards may be incorporeal spirits, souls temporarily on the Palace's staff, and if so, they may be known to whoever has just entered. This latter is always intentional.

    Ballroom: A large, open area for entertainments. When in use, temporary low ice platforms may grow from the floor for performers or an orchestra, say (often made up of passing souls), along with features such as tables and seats with refreshments. Glittering lighting effects, enhanced beyond the Palace norms, can be employed here too. Most guests are normally disembodied spirits, thus the events can have a sombre tone, rather more wake than party, for instance. A literally haunted ballroom.

    Banqueting Hall: A substantial ice-table, commonly of angular "C" or "U" shape, is the dominant fixed feature, with fixed ice seats - usually benches - alongside it, and a larger throne-like chair for the Queen at the table's head. Despite most guests at the feasts here being spirits, any physical guests will find the food and drink of excellent quality, albeit the food is exclusively bread and the drink fresh water. However, the bread has an array of forms that include many typical loaf types, and more made to look like meats and fruits. Each has a hint of the taste its appearance would suggest. The bread provides better sustenance than meals of greater variety found elsewhere, and has mildly healing properties for those in need of it, in addition. Similarly, the water comes in an array of different temperatures, colours and tastes, again with beneficial effects that complement the healing powers of the bread. All the tableware is of exquisitely-fashioned ice, while still possessed of a strength and durability closer to metal and pottery than ice. Even the spirits can partake of the food and drink, using the utensils as normal, though only so long as they are seated at this table.

    A Kitchen area either adjoins or is close-by the Banqueting Hall. This contains a physical, if seemingly much too small, bread oven, materials and workspaces suitable for preparing bread. The Queen may be here at times, physically making the bread. She prepares all of it daily.

    More to follow (if nobody complains this isn't sufficiently map related, at least)!

    The bread concept came about largely because of a paper in the latest issue of the journal Folklore, "Winter Crones and Bread-Givers: The Northern Iberian Vieya" by Cristobo de Milio Carrín (can't provide a link, sorry; the journal's subscription-only currently, though you can find a free-access version of the paper's abstract on Semantic Scholar here), which caught my attention recently. It seemed appropriate, particularly as I wanted to keep things minimalist overall, hence the bread & water theme.

  • Bit of an excursus today. I've never really done full "works-in-progress" reports on the Forum here, chiefly because when I'm working on a map, I'm not thinking about anything else - such as how I've got to the point I have - which means taking screenshots or jotting down notes along the way so others might be able to follow the process is quite alien to me. However, a contest is nothing if not a chance to stretch beyond the expected bounds, so here are some thoughts on how I constructed the basis of Palace 8 in this series.

    Partly, this came about because with working on such a series of similar yet different maps, each using an imported bitmap image as the template, I've established a pattern for doing so, drawing on previous experience, as a lot of my earlier mapping has involved copying layouts from images into CC3+.

    Before even starting any of the maps, I'd picked the ten photo-micrographs of snowflakes I intended to use as the individual Palace shapes, and given them a number each, so I knew what order I'd be working on them. Then I printed-off copies of the ten. I like hard copies of such things to-hand, as it means I can jot notes on them in between mapping sessions, and can think more on the map design without having to be sitting at the computer. Additionally, they can be very handy while I'm tracing the image in CC3+, and find I've suddenly hidden some key item with a polygon that I now need to see!

    These maps were always going to be a bit unusual, because what I'm doing is taking tiny, microscopically-imaged objects and expanding them to Palaces which are several hundred feet across. So there was a scaling issue from the start in that. However, looking over the images and deciding how the final Palaces were to be drawn, it was clear the key trait was going to be the minimum passage width, to allow access to all parts of the final structure. I fixed upon a general minimum width of 10 feet, from which I could then physically measure features on the hard-copy images, that in turn gave me the approximate maximum dimensions for the area each Palace would need to fit within, and hence roughly what the size of each map would need to be to allow for titling, labels and overall layout.

    Palace 8's measured image meant the Palace itself was going to be around 515 feet by 460 feet, so I guessed that a map around 600 feet square might be OK. Firing-up CC3+, and having recently worked on three black-and-white style maps in succession, I opted for the Jon Roberts Dungeon style for Palace 8, from CA54, as a complete change. Aside from setting the size in the New Drawing Wizard, I wanted a paler background than the default to represent snow or grey-white ice, and went with the Stone Light Grey option from what the style offered.

    Once the new map had opened, it was clear the fills for the map's frame and background needed adjusting to avoid the dreaded tiling effect, so I greatly increased both fill sizes using Tools - Set Properties - Fill Styles from the drop-down menus, after a bit of experimentation (and locating the correct fill style after picking the wrong one for the background first of all, and wondering why nothing happened when I adjusted it...).

    After that, I created a new Sheet, BITMAP, and Layer, also imaginatively called BITMAP, into which I could import the map image. Now, placing and correctly rescaling such imported images is something I've long struggled with in CC3+, because of its restricted redraw standards, where most of the time, you can't see what it is you're trying to resize, or where its edges (which almost never coincide with the image edges) are going to land. So my trick now is to create a rectangular polygon with only a thin outer line in a bright colour, place that in the right spot on the map, and only then bring in the bitmap image. It isn't a perfect solution, but it's the one I've grown used to.

    Of course, actually drawing the linear "box" is a bit of a nightmare in itself, because you can't just draw an open rectangle like this and tell CC3+ what size you want it to be as you might in a graphics program, or something even more basic, like Word. Instead it means counting dots on an appropriate-sized grid. For large areas like the Palaces, it's appallingly easy to lose track, so what I do is draw a single line with a kink in it, using the Line tool (not the Path one). For anyone unfamiliar it's:

    That actually creates three separate lines, not just one. On the next image, the grid dots shown are those for the 10' Grid, 2 Snap (so the snap runs at five-feet intervals, with the dots every ten feet), and the lines are in orange:

    Then I rotate the longer line (that at the left side here) through -90° from its left-most point. (This is because CC3+ insists on doing angles backwards, not logically clockwise! We've discussed this on the Forum before. There are good mathematical-programming reasons for CC3+ doing so, which if nothing else will convince you that mathematics has very little to do with reality after all ๐Ÿ˜‰). And then draw a new linear box of the right size, using that left-most point as its top left corner, and the construction lines as templates to give the right size overall:

    Then the construction lines can be deleted, and the new box moved to a more central position, again using the snap grid dots as a guide (not shown here, as the image size meant you could scarcely see where the box was any more with the grid left on):

    After which, using the Draw - Insert File command from the drop-down menus, the correct snowflake bitmap image can be brought in, resized and correctly positioned, using the construction line box (and a fair amount of adjusting and tweaking):

    The box can also then be deleted. Sometimes, I draw in one or two crossed centre-lines like this as well, as they're useful for adding items such as the title, if it's meant to be centred somewhere near the map's periphery. Which means at this point I also often add the map's title, so I can remove all the construction lines together. (If they might be needed again later, I usually set them up on their own Sheet in the first place, so they can be hidden or called back at any stage.) In this case though, the title is long enough it's not hard to centre it without needing that:

    Next up is to start the mapping proper, by drawing the floor. Looking at the image, it's clear there are several areas where the floor should be missing in the final version, within the outermost line of the flake, so I'd already decided with this mapping style, that would be best accomplished using a Multipoly command on the completed outer floor. This is easier by drawing the areas of floor that will eventually be omitted first, and although it's not so useful for seeing all the pieces you've drawn just before going to the Multipoly action, I like to use the same fill style as the final floor will be, mainly so I don't forget later... Thus:

    I really liked that Water Green Light fill in the Jon Roberts style, as representing here ice instead. Just has the right colouring and texture to me to give a magical "zing" to the whole. It is a magical ice Palace, after all. You get a better impression of it once the whole outer floor's drawn:

    And yes, the tiling's very obvious here. While that could be changed, it'll be much less obvious on the finished drawing, so I left it alone, and just carried out the Multipoly command at this stage:

    After which it was time to consider adjusting the Effects on the Floors Sheet:

    and adding the central floor design based on what the imported image showed, using the Solid 10 to 30 fills, which have the perfect level of transparency to still let the underlying "ice" floor show through, even after adding a suitable Bevel Effect to make them look sunken into said floor, after one of Remy Monsen's recent blog posts about using such Effects:

    Beyond which, it should be just a matter of adding other smaller details, labels and a grid. While I'd love to show you what the final map looks like, that will have to wait for another time, as the amount of time and effort involved in putting these notes together meant I didn't manage to get the map itself finished in time to post it today as well!

    Starting to remember why I don't do "proper" WIP threads here now... ๐Ÿ˜

  • Printed to pdf. Thank you !

  • Thanks Jim! Nice to know you found it interesting. I was getting a bit worried at its length, especially once I'd added all the images! And I still have two more Palace maps to finish after number eight...

  • I can visualize things... but something like this I would be clueless on how you did it. I doubt I['ll be doing anything like this, this year. Maybe in a future year.

    But I am glad you showed us how you did it.

  • This whole set, with the write up, is a superb, fantastic and out-of-this-world work of imagination. I am in awe.

  • Thanks Quenten! I started trying to analyse what the influences had been on this set, and while some were obvious enough, the more I thought it over, the more came to mind, mostly from folklore, mythology and fantasy fiction (which latter tends to rely heavily on both the former, of course). Plus as I said back when I started mapping "my" bit of Alarius a couple of years back, I've been working on parts of what was to go into that for decades, and the same is true here too, as essentially another part of the same thing.

    Meanwhile, back to Palace 8, which is finally completed. This is it:

    There have been a number of additions and amendments, mostly of a cosmetic nature, beyond the anticipated scattering of symbols and other internal additions, and the labelling, of course. The most substantial change was probably to reduce the overall size of the map somewhat, as the whole felt a little unbalanced at the top and base of the drawing once everything had been added. That was a bit fiddly, because there are always quite a number of entities to amend on the Map Border and Screen Sheets, as well as things like the Background Sheet, whose rectangle was also then too large.

    I then had to change the fill for the frame. For all it might be thought a little incongruous as not having a very icy/snowy look, I rather liked the default wood-block pattern on the earlier version, and it looked a serious contender to remain, right up until the point where I adjusted the size of said frame. At which point, the lower border (only) suddenly had a dark horizontal line running right through it, because of the way the fill fits itself into drawings at the scale it had. And that quickly became A Distraction, so sadly it had to go.

    The new fill for the frame is Water Green from this CA54 style, scaled-up to prevent it tiling, and holding up remarkably well in doing so, I thought. I was really just experimenting with it, but as soon as it dropped in with the light Bevel Effect, I knew it had to be The One!

  • Next, concluding the Palace area notes from the forthcoming PDF description, begun a few days ago.

    Crystal Garden: A sunken area, a fountain and pool of running fresh water form the primary physical features in this part of the Palace, all sculpted from ice, with lighting that varies from a sparkling summer daylight quality, as if through moving leaves, to a glowing summer twilight. Places to sit and rest will grow up from the ice for any physical people coming through the Garden. The whole area is particularly peaceful and pleasant, if rather in the fashion of a summer graveyard, complete with passing souls wandering through from time to time. The Garden is filled with an astonishing variety and profusion of delicately-tinted summer ice plants, often with a light hint of summer fragrances on the air. The plants may have herbal properties as reputed to them in lore, or additional, sometimes unexpected, magical ones. Such properties can be used only if gifted freely to someone by the Winter Queen. Taking any without permission renders them instantly ineffective. Such ice plants are also fragile and quite easily damaged; doing so purposefully makes the Queen extremely angry. While she can restore the damage fairly easily in most cases, the offender is liable to be expelled from the Palace instantly, deposited on the surface some considerable distance away, yet still within the Palace's fifty-mile region of influence, so the person can enjoy the worst winter weather the Palace's proximity generates.

    Hall of Mirrors: A confusing area set with numerous tall (often ceiling-high) plates of mirror like ice, along with similarly mirrored surfaces on parts of the nearby floor, walls and ceiling. Multiple reflections abound, and it would be very easy to become lost, frightened, or both here, especially as viewing one's own reflection forces the person to revisit their own fears, failings or perceived physical-feature flaws. The longer this goes on, the worse such feelings become. Souls passing through here may be reflected as well, sometimes undergoing a similar process. A few may become trapped within the maze of mirrored reflections and be unable to pass beyond the Palace. Most spirits simply drift through here without problems, however.

    Servant & Guest Quarters: Physical creatures requiring regular rest who serve the Queen, and those who become her guests, will be allocated personal spaces in this area, each - should it be necessary - separated from others by freshly-grown, temporary (or occasionally more permanent), ice walls. Even souls that request a secluded spot may be provided with space here. All such can be accommodated comfortably. The area would simply expand outwards should more space be required.

    Throne Room: A raised area of variable size with the Queen's throne, often with one or more free-standing walls, dominates this part of the Palace. This is where visitors, whether souls or those physically present, are first brought, if they come to the Palace with a specific need or request for the Winter Queen. Here, she will listen and decide what is to be done. The Queen's Chambers, a private apartment suite where few are ever permitted, either adjoin the Throne Room, or are situated nearby, often with concealed accessways when adjacent to the Throne Room itself.

    I decided this wasn't quite enough, because although the ten snowflake Palaces are intended only as examples, each has a character of its own, as well as its variant layout, so I've been adding to a new section for the PDF and text notes as time's allowed, under the heading "Quirks of the Palaces". This adds a few more specific comments for every Palace. As I haven't finished the maps yet, let alone got all these notes typed-up so far, just the quirks for the first five Palaces today.

    The First Palace: Probably the most difficult of the ten Palaces to negotiate, with several very narrow passageways, and a number of other places where the walls are rich with sharp, protruding ice crystals liable to snag loose clothing. The floor-to-ceiling freestanding walls in the Reception Area and Servant & Guest Quarters also continue this "narrow way" theme, if in a smoother-surfaced form, with the Reception Area even having its own enclosed chamber in the centre, including a single access point (no doors, of course). The Hall of Mirrors runs between the central nexus and the Banqueting Hall, in the broadest of the six radially-projecting wings of the Palace, liable to be problematic for those other than the Winter Queen going to and from a feast there.

    The Second Palace: This has a very large, open, central nexus, in the midst of which is the Hall of Mirrors, surrounded by six broad, floor-to-ceiling freestanding walls that each have a "T"-form in plan, which also serve to divide up the outer part of the nexus into the Palace's six other main areas. Only the Reception Area and Throne Room have freestanding walls beyond this. The substantial one in the Reception Area almost blocks the exit into the Palace proper. The Hall of Mirrors is unusually well-ordered, if as problematic to traverse as normal.

    The Third Palace: All parts of this Palace are broad and open, with only the Reception Area having a few freestanding floor-to-ceiling walls to restrict access in a limited way. The large ice-panels separating the central Throne Room from the rest of the complex have mirrored inner surfaces, though they reach only about halfway between floor and ceiling. The central throne on its hexagonal dais can freely rotate to face in any direction. Passage through the Hall of Mirrors is restricted by the numerous, roughly 10 ft tall (3 m) mirror-plates there. Unusually, the Queen's Chambers and Servant & Guest Quarters share the same wing of the Palace.

    The Fourth Palace: Freestanding floor-to-ceiling ice walls create narrow ways in various places, including in the Reception Area, Throne Room, central Hall of Mirrors and the Servant & Guest Quarters. The Reception Area has a large, enclosed chamber at its inner end, constructed from some of its extra walls. The Hall of Mirrors, segregated from the rest of the Palace by mirrored walls (the outer ones mirrored only on their inner sides), has smaller ice-mirrors scattered at different angles within it too. None of these latter rise above 10 ft (3 m) tall, however.

    The Fifth Palace: Dominated by a large Crystal Garden that occupies the entire central nexus, the ice flowers and foliage here coat the six irregular interior wall-blocks and the surrounding outer walls as well, spilling out, increasingly only as lightly scribed forms further from the Garden, into all the radiating six wings. Freestanding floor-to-ceiling walls are few; one each in the Reception Area, Throne Room and Servant & Guest Quarters only. By contrast to the huge Garden, the Hall of Mirrors here seems rather a shrunken afterthought, tucked away in a wing that scarcely need exploring, it might seem. Finally, not a quirk of the Palace as such, rather of the map, as it was drawn using a black-and-white mapping style. By toggling the "Colour Cover" option, the map can be viewed either in its greyscale format, or with an icy-blue filter superimposed on it.

    More to follow, once complete!

  • You always know for these things, no matter how well you do, that Wyvern will present something infinitely more interesting :)

  • Not sure about that, Autumn. I do seem to have got a little carried away with this one though!

    Autumn GettyJimP
  • You got carried away, but in a good way.

  • Thanks very much folks!

    Closing-in on the final stages of this project now though, so here's a view of Palace 9:

    This was done using the SS2 Bitmap A style. I was rather taken with some of the fill options for this, as you might tell! The background here is the snow fill, but the palace itself was drawn using the Water Green 1 fill, as this just seemed such a rich, icy-looking option to give some real colour to this Palace, as a change from some of the previous ones. Not a great many choices from the symbols, unfortunately, as very few come with a varicolor option to better match the icy theme - just the central throne in the end, though at this resolution, you can barely see it, of course.

    I'm going to miss drawing these snowflake patterns, I think, but there's the danger that the more I do, the less interesting they may become, since - as my comments regarding the construction of Palace 8 might indicate - I have developed a pattern for drawing these now, which while useful, isn't necessarily such a good thing, as it discourages exploration and innovation. I have enjoyed seeing the styles that were new to me though. There's so much in the full complement of the CC3+ packages I've never properly explored, so I have been trying to take time during this mapping exercise to go through all the fill styles available in each mapping type I've selected, as well as all the symbol catalogues for each. Probably never going to remember where any of these things are when I next need them, but...

    Haven't managed to get the rest of the "Palace Quirks" notes typed-up yet; they'll likely follow after the Palace 10 map. And hopefully a little while after that, I might finally get the set submitted for the Atlas!

  • For what it is worth, I think the B&W line style art looks the best. But then again, until this contest, I have pretty much only done B&W maps.

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