Creating Hollow Tree Dungeon Style

Kathleen Ann CoxKathleen Ann Cox Surveyor
edited April 2022 in Show and Tell

This discussion began in another one of my threads under Mapping with ProFantasy's Software but as it progressed, I felt it was more appropriate for Show and Tell.

If you are interested, please refer to the link for information about the process of creating the symbols.

The goal of this project is to create a hollow tree dungeon style similar to creating inns, taverns, etc. My current intention is to use it in a scenario for a swamp witch/green hag, but I want to make it useful for a small community of tree dwellers too.



  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    It's a great start. I'm looking forward to where you go with this :)

  • Draft 2

    This map is a quick draft of incorporating suggestions I have received as well as my own ideas.

    I added hallways to the door cutouts along with landings and stairs. I created new tree branch symbols (I am not happy with these symbols, but I think they show what I want to achieve with better ones. The tree branches are placed on two sheets to simulate different heights on the tree. Using individual tree branches instead of just one base tree, allows me to precut the doors (and windows later) without worrying about the placement of stairs and how to incorporate them into the map. I have several tree shapes and colors to work with, so I created another one for this second draft.

    I tried to make the semi-open doors in the graphics program but during my editing and cutting I lost them, but I hope to try including them again in the next draft.

    roflo1[Deleted User]LoopysueMonsenWyvernLautiJimPpablo gonzalez
  • For the internal walls, it might be interesting to try to get them to follow the curved lines in the floor more, so looking like natural parts of the tree that were left in place when the trunk was hollowed out.

  • 3rd Draft of Developing the Style

    I decided to experiment with multi-levels, but I think the angel statues were a horrible idea. I imagine that space on the walls sheet is actually solid tree trunk. The Mid Rise I think works because it is a part of the cleared space. Once I had the different levels placed on the 1 wall & 2 floor sheets, I thought it would make a great theatre or performing space, but I need to tweak the wood symbols so they don't fade into the background. I also need to make the hallway from the stairs area to the bar and then the main room wider. I am still trying to get the "tree" door to work. The bar was hastily drawn and is just a placeholder.

    I ran into a problem with either the shadow or the glow using one of my new symbols bitmaps. I wonder if I accidentally imported bitmap tiles for fills by accident, but I still don't know why that would replace the color black for shadows and glows. I am going to run the update and see if that fixes any paths I may have broken.

    JimPLizzy_MaracujaMonsenLoopysue[Deleted User]GlitchWyvernpablo gonzalezLauti
  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    There can sometimes be interference issues with sheet effects if you have everything jet black. Try turning them darkest grey, or darkest brown, and see if that sorts it out.

    This is looking lovely, by the way :)

  • That is fantastic, @WVFaeryWoman I get a sense of depth in this one, that I wasn't quite getting in the others. You have become quite the teacher now. Thank you.

  • Thanks Quenten. I don't think I qualify as a teacher exactly, but I am glad I am able to share and contribute to the community in some small way.

    New Draft of Hollow Tree Maps. I decided to try and work on the mood I wanted for my map and so here is the "Kill Tree."

    I am not crazy about this map, but I began playing with the tree imperfections more and have small storage spaces below the main space. I found a couple of dead bodies in one of them under a rug! I still have to work out the best way to do doors and windows, but I am beginning to get excited about the new possibilities for mapping I've discovered by diving deep into what the program can do instead of the just skimming the surface. Lots of things are off (scaling for one), but these maps are a form of brainstorming for me.

    LoopysueMonsenJimP[Deleted User]WyvernElflingLillhansGlitchpablo gonzalezKenMand 1 other.
  • edited April 2022

    @WVFaeryWoman I'm not sure what your ultimate purpose is with this, but have you thought of copying your tree foliage to another sheet, which you can switch off and on, to conceal your tree house from unwanted eyes? I guess I'm thinking like an RPG setting, where the players have yet to uncover the secret location but which can be revealed once they do. Anyway, it's just a thought. Great work, by the way.

  • @Elfling I actually wasn't planning on doing that, but I like that idea.

    I have been working up a bunch of different trees, but I think it is time for me to focus on working on the doors/windows issue once and for all. This map, I made the cutout on the bottom. The colors of the map allowed me used the brick tile fill for the small landing area.

    Instead of creating such a heavy outline on the walls, I adjusted the hue/saturation/lightness to make outer perimeter piece to help distinguish it from the floor piece. How is it working?

    Whatever I did this time, I lost all my default floor, room, and wall tools, so I wasn't able to draw any interior walls. I am off to run the updater again and hopefully it fixes whatever I did this time.

    LoopysueGlitch[Deleted User]JimPKenMWyvernLauti
  • Kathleen Ann CoxKathleen Ann Cox Surveyor
    edited April 2022

    Another Tree

    When I put this tree together, I imagined the walls and wooden pillars cut/carved from the original tree, but now that I am looking at it if I really wanted to achieve that effect I should have halved the pillars so they have one irregular (natural) side and one more rounded (carved) side.

    This tree took on a life of its own and did not look the way I expected it to look. I can even see eyes a nose and a mouth in it now. I like the look of it, but I am not still not where I want to be with it.

    And I don't know what I am doing but every time I add symbols or fills or try to create a template, my tools get all weird.

  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    Oh no! Don't start saying that your seeing faces. If you do, then don't say it, or the rest of us will be unable to unsee it... to late! LOL!

    Still great work, though :)

  • I really like the depth you have achieved in the last two images. You asked about using the adjust hue, etc, and it works really well. Very inspiring, @WVFaeryWoman

  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer
    edited April 2022

    You're doing really well :)

    When you are using hue/saturation/lightness in symbol composition to indicate a depth, the general rule is the deeper the darker and bluer, also less saturated. But the rule is extreme, as if you were trying to indicate a thousand foot drop. In less severe differences use only tiny adjustments.

    Of course, this can be a little tricky if you are dealing with walls that are bark and floors that are heart wood. Maby include small indications of the heartwood remaining lining the walls in places? It doesn't have to be all the way around. A couple of places should be enough to trick the perception that the wall is indeed higher than the floor because the lightest bit of the wall is paler than the relatively light floor.

    As with all things, this isn't easy, and not something you can just do on the first try. I usually have to spend the day adjusting the relative tones if I'm doing something like this.

  • Okay no map to show this time, but I just watched the videos by Remy about the symbol catalogs Sue posted in the other thread and that was exactly the information I need to move forward.

    These trees are also a result of my decision to really learn the software :). Dungeon maps were killing me (and they are still the hardest for me to draw), but I knew it would be easier once I found my own way into doing dungeon style maps. The trees are something I really liked and wanted to map, so I had all the motivation I needed to work with the program. For me story and map-making are two parts of my creative process and they inform and inspire each other.

  • @Loopysue I have no graphics or art training and like everything else, I learned the program I am using by trial and error and sheer stubbornness. And the walls are not just bark but include some of the heartwood. I don't know any tricks and techniques except for the ones I get here from the community. I am usually just eying it to see if it looks okay to me. I have a bad habit of being easily charmed by a map I find pretty but it doesn't hold up under close scrutiny or doesn't have the quality of substance I would like.

  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    I think that's how I learned how to use graphics software back in the beginning, where I once painted in oil paints on hand stretched canvas ;)

    If the walls already include heartwood then you've already got the potential there for a contrast between the walls and the floor, which is what you are after.

    I don't have any tree stump photos to show you anything with, so I've scribbled something here for you in GIMP. I've not tried to copy what you are doing, which is a lot more detailed and artistic. I've only done something to illustrate what I was talking about above.

    I don't know what software you are using, but I can do it again in that app if you would prefer.

    Starting with the straight photograph (in this case my scribble) I've drawn a black shape on a new layer above the stump that represents the hollow core.

    Then I've right clicked the black patch layer and picked 'Alpha to selection', so that there is a marque around it. I've then hidden the black patch and moved it below the stump where it won't get in the way, and added a new blank and transparent layer on top of the stump.

    Using a very large very soft brush I've then drawn all the way around the edge with black on this new layer

    Then I've reduced the opacity to about 50-60% and changed the blend mode of this new layer to 'Soft Light', and removed the selection.

    It's not a perfect hole in a stump, and indeed some of yours actually look better than this already (I mean the shading here - obviously your lovely photographs are much better than my scribbled stump), but I hope that you can see that where the black shading is darker and less saturated than anything else in the picture, it's produced a line of contrast between the edge of the wall and the floor lying close to it, while the hole in the middle of the black has allowed the floor to remain relatively light instead of being dark all the way across.

  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    I hope that helps a bit. If you have trouble either applying that method to your own work, or in adapting it to your own ideas, let me know.

  • This tree took on a life of its own...

    Trees are apt to do this, of course 😉

  • Detour Map ...

    So to try out @Loopysue 's technique, I wondered what else could use the hollow tree treatment and I thought of abalone shells (and a bunch more stuff). I have never used the Marine Dungeon Annual, so I used it to make a quick map with an abalone symbol I created with the same methods of hollow trees. The underwater effect probably makes it hard to see.

    I put this together quickly and it is not the greatest, but I think with work it could add a nice unique touch or flourish to my marine dungeon maps.

    LoopysueJimPWyvernKenMEukalyptusNowRoyal Scribe
  • @Wyvern --they sure do. Oddly enough, working so much with trees lately has made me realize how scary they can be with the twisting branches and root systems and size. I guess it is like really seeing how alive they really are and then wondering what something that lives and looks like that might be thinking or planning :).

  • There are a lot of Ent/"Treant" miniatures for RPGs now that take advantage of this look, along with twisted might-be-mobile tree models as well. And of course there are things like the Sleepy Hollow tree (Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" movie from 1999):

    [Image from Wikipedia page on the movie here.]

  • Kathleen Ann CoxKathleen Ann Cox Surveyor
    edited April 2022

    Latest Hollow Tree Map

    This map has the cutouts for doors and windows, but they are not quite in alignment with the symbol shapes yet. I have utilized scrap pieces of the out trunk/bark to help shape the cutout areas. I am using pulpits as bars along the perimeter right now. The yellow chairs represent an orchestra or special effects pit. For the stage, I used a tile fill I created. I think the designs so far are too "busy" and I may work on smoothing them out while trying to keep the tree feeling. Scaling is still wonky, but I am not trying to get them perfect at this point of the process.

    What do you think? Am I improving it or just spinning my wheels. Revision and editing has been the bane of my work forever.

    Loopysue[Deleted User]MonsenGlitchWyvernJimProflo1Lauti
  • Here are the pieces of the puzzle.

    Loopysue[Deleted User]GlitchWyvernJimPLauti
  • You are amazing. This project grows more elaborate and delightful as time goes by.

  • GlitchGlitch Surveyor

    Really nice. The two hardest parts of CC3+ is getting started (I have to have an end vision first), and knowing when you're finished (I wonder if I added........

  • And I started playing around with this map because I am a glutton for punishment:

    A perspective/isometric tree because I have not done much with that program. I actually think with enough time and effort it is doable.

    WyvernLoopysueJimPRicko HascheLauti
  • I think you're right about some of the designs being a little too "busy" currently; they're distracting the eye too much from the physical objects in the tree "rooms", and that's making it harder to visualise exactly what the room is, and what the different levels in it are. Probably don't need much to tone them down a little, and be less distracting, however.

    Useful to keep experimenting too. Such things rarely make smooth progress, though it looks as if you're still maintaining your enthusiasm, which suggests you feel you're still moving in the right direction. I'd recommend persevering!

  • This project seems very dependent on fixed symbols for the outer and inner tree. The textures are very nice but I would like to be able to determine the outer shape of tree trunk myself as a smooth polygon on a WALL sheet, fill it with wood (including tree rings radiating inward from the perimeter), copy it to a FLOOR sheet and carve the hollow part out of the WALL sheet using a color key effect. The rest would just be cosmetics including floor debris, furniture, fixtures and applying bark/branches to the outer tree. To be honest it's the tree ring thing that has me stumped; if we are dealing with trees in a temperate climate they should be present but would probably require an XP to generate. (I keep thinking of the sequential OFFSET1 and SIMPLIFY commands to make them manually and shudder.)
  • jslaytonjslayton Moderator, ProFantasy Mapmaker

    I keep thinking of the sequential OFFSET1 and SIMPLIFY commands to make them manually and shudder.

    If only there were some way to generate multiple contours from a shape... Maybe put some crack symbols along some of the contours? If it could add a little noise in the spacing of the contours and the shape of the contours, that would be ideal! Ah well, only some of those sound like things that CC3+ can do out of the box (CONTOURSM, ESC, and FRX are the ones I'm thinking of: random spacing on CONTOURSM would have to be done with a few iterations of the command for each spacing interval). I did put the noise things for CONTOURSM on the wish list.

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