Dhakos, The City of Spires - Watabou Cities Annual

I wrote an adventure, more of a scenario seed really with an encounter map and some bad guys, awhile back that was for Mongoose's, Elric of Melnibone RQII. It was originally pitched to go in their Signs & Portents magazine but unfortunately the magazine got canned before I received a reply. I ended up self-publishing it, changing the names of things to avoid any legal issues with IP infringement. Anyhow, there is a fan site, Strombringer.com, where I may be able to publish the adventure as originally written.

I've re-drawn the commissioned encounter map but I want to draw the city, Dhakos, Capital of Jharkor and I'm after ideas on how to do what's in the title. A description of the city buldings says they're square or rectangular with central gardens, have low square towers in each corner and a spire connected to each tower overlooking the garden.

The tower isn't a problem - I just add another sheet above the Buildings sheet and apply an approriate wall shadow effect but how to do the spires?

Richard Martin


  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    If you are working on top view maps it's a question of shadows.

    A spire would be either a circular roof or some regular polygon shape, so they can be drawn using the House tool with a roof texture of your choice, on a sheet above all the other building sheets in the map so the long shadows they cast will fall over everything else. Or you could pick from the City Domes annual issue https://www.profantasy.com/annual/2018/bonus18.html which contains all kinds of small regularly shaped rooftops that could top a tall tower.

    A spire might have a tall pinnacle above that roof, so you might need another sheet above that one to draw simple very thin pointy shadows to suggest that the little 'bobble on top' of a roof is actually the pointy bit of the spire.

  • Well this is weird, as I've just dropped-by the Forum here following a lengthy discussion on one of my Discords with someone about the old Chaosium versions of the "Stormbringer" RPG, a few minutes ago!

    Not sure if it'll help with your spires query, but I had to draw my own shadows of not dissimilar form for one of my Atlas maps a while back, the Thalassan Castle Ruins. The FCW might give you a further pointer or two, perhaps. Or perhaps not! Good luck, regardless 😁

  • Thanks Sue and Wyvern,

    I've tried a couple of things on a test map and may have to rethink my prefferred style for this map, or at least, my initial ideas on how to portray a city of spires...

  • @jmabbott

    What's the name of the website? I'm very interested in seeing your work there.

    I've tried "strombringer.com" and "stormbringer.com" without any luck.

  • @seycyrus - It might be https://stormbringerrpg.com/, as that's definitely a fan site for the Stormbringer RPG.

  • Hi, Wyvern is correct. I don’t have anything there yet but it is a great site for Elric RPG fans…

  • edited February 2023

    HI Folks,

    Trying this out in Jonathon Roberts, style. Not sure how this is going to work. Anyhow, here is an intial WIP.

    Generated a Watabou City as a PNG (It's changed a lot...couldn't figure out how to save it as an SVG) trimmed and flipped it in Affinity Photo then exported as a jpeg and inserted it into my drawing. Note: This is only a guide.

    The map is 2300m x 2050m. That black line on the top most harbour arm is a wall - which needs a bit of TLC.

  • Starting to lay in the streets - had to double the size of the wall and towers...

  • edited February 2023

    As per the other large city I did, the highly detailed styles don't work well IMO for publication as a single Letter/A4 page. They're perfectly fine if you're going to print over multiple pages and stitch together or use virtually but not so much for a standard, single page output.

    So, I'm playing around with this to see what a 'manual' Watabou style looks like. If it becomes too difficult or looks rubbish, I'll can it and redo in the Fantasy Cities style (blocks utilising a Color Key effect) - which will keep it consistent with the other city maps I've done for Elric's world.

    I'm going to put a couple towers along each of the breakwalls rather than walls; I figure they would assemble catpults or arbalests or whatever on the tower roofs to take care of any ships approaching and the walls would be an unjustifiable expense, After all, if invaders manage to get past their navy, they're already in trouble...

    Anywho, here is the progress so far in doing the walls and major roads. I decided to keep the keep in it's original position just to make my life a little easier.

    Edit: I added some building blocks, created another tool based off the original so I can change colours easily... This will work quite well I think. I've hidden the Block Outline sheet and bumped up the glow on the City Block sheet to give the required definition (also played around with the glows on the vegetation sheet for the same reason). I reckon this will be my 'go to' for large cities moving forward, somewhat more 'modern' in look, even though it's essentially the same process wise, as the Fantasy Cities style...

  • Hi Folks,

    Work continues, albeit at a snails pace.

    Copied the default City Block tool and changed it to use he Current Colour to make it easier to change building colours. Added both tools to the symbol catalogue to make it easier, that was a technical thing that was surprisingly easy to do once I Googled @Monsen's blog article on the subject.

    The yellow arrow shaped polygon and grey 'bottle cap' polygon are the temples of Law and Chaos respectively.

  • Did a little more tonight. The docks are just construction lines at the moment.

    It's definitely getting there... I was trying to listen to Hawkwind's, Chronicle of the Black Sword while working on this tonight- what else would you listen too when working on Elric stuff? - but for some reason iTunes wouldn't play the whole album, no idea of why...

  • Another update.

    I started to put the fields in (NW Quadrant). I liked the look with the furrows but I don't think it's worth the time to manually draw them so I opted for hedgerows and fills with a bumped up Edge Fade and Transperancy effect.

    Finished separating the existing building blocks, added a title, dirt background to the inner city and put some grass in. I played around with some blend modes for the Buildings sheet and some of them looked really good - except for where I'd put the grass, I wasn't to careful there and just drew a smooth polygon under the buildings - kind of gave a more hand painted look. I may re-visit that by re-doing the grass only in the openings, we'll see. Good thing I'm in no hurry with this one... Cities, to do well are time-consuming beasts...

    Admittedly, this could have been much easier/quicker if I'd realised how to save the Watabou export as an SVG (which I do now)...

  • 6 days later
  • Ok. Changed the title of the thread to be more appropriate as I'm committed to this style now; ain't no going back from here...

    Another update, it's coming together now and looking reasonably good. still quite a few city blocks to go...to fill in the rest...

  • Here's another update. This will do for today.

    The majority of the city blocks are done, just go to finish the outside ones on the eastern side and then use the colour key to break them up. Which, based on the existing blocks, will be fairly time consuming - but worth the effort I think. Then its just a key and some simple labels.

    LoopysueJulianDracosJimPRicko HascheLauti
  • So, when it comes to the buildings, are you just drawing polygons? Or are you using a tool for those?

  • Hi Julian, I'm drawing polygons using the style's Block Drawing tool. I copied the tool and made a version of it that allows me to select the colour. I hide the City Block Outline sheet and adjusted the effects on the City Block sheet adding a Colour Key effect to allow me to 'cut out' the inner squares and individual buildings and adjusted the Glow effects to give the buildings an outline. I'm using the Watabou output (first post with an attached image) as a guide.

  • edited March 2023

    Hi Folks,

    Did a little bit more during some down time at work today. The farmalnds are done. The buildings on 'top' of the north road are finished.

    I've just got the remaining blocks to detail and labelling and I'm done! I might adjust the scaling of the sea fill - that's a little off.

    LoopysueJimPRicko HascheLauti
  • Last WIP before the 'final' version.

    I'm not sold on the way I've done the districts...

    LoopysueMonsenTheschabiJimPRicko Haschehsv216Lauti
  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    I think the districts look fine. The blue is a touch on the bright side for my taste. Don't change it just for me, though!

  • hsv216hsv216 Surveyor

    Looks good! Quick question, but why would old town be further from the water than new town? I would have thought the city might have started near the water, and then expanded inland as it grew.

  • Perhaps it was "urban renewal," which is a polite way of saying "the old old town burned to the ground, and rich people took over the land to rebuild it"?

  • edited March 2023

    When the city was first built, the King of Jharkor lived in Sequaloris, a city further inland on a river. He thought it would be better to move his Capital to the coast so he had his Royal Cartographer locate a suitable area on the Eastern coast. Where the river that Sequaloris was built on entered the sea was all swamp and not suitable but they did find a suitable spot several miles south of the river mouth. The Cartographer and Engineers, drew up plans for the Castle, and the wall. The quarried stone was shipped overland, Oldtown is where the labourers, masons and a company of soldiers were housed and the stone landed. They built the wall first, then the keep. Once this was done the breakwalls and docks were built and the rest flowed outward from there, eventually expanding beyond the walls.

    Does that work? It's the best I can come up with😉

  • Rightio. Another quiet-ish day at the office. I think I'm calling this done!

    MonsenTheschabiLoopysueRicko HascheJimPLoreleiMaidhc O CasainAleDkilma.ard.venomLauti
  • LoopysueLoopysue ProFantasy 🖼️ 39 images Cartographer

    I think it looks a lot better with the blue toned down a bit like that.

    Great work :)

  • edited March 2023

    @hsv216 Disregard my previous post. That was something I came up with in the spare of the moment and TBH did not give it a lot of thought. @taustinoc You were on the money...

    The map represents Dhakos in Elric’s time not when it was first built during the Bright Empire's reign. When the native Jharkorians , along with the other upstart human nations, rose up and overthrew the remnants of the Bright Empire (it had been in gradual decline for centuries) the Melnibonean’s, in a fit of pique, unleashed the dragons on Dhakos and other key cities across what is now known as the Young Kingdoms, their venom raising the city. One small section near the western gate remained relatively unscathed. As the city was rebuilt during the time of Queen Yishana’s Great-great Grandfather, that section became known as Old Town and the rebuilt portion New Town.

    The above fits in much better with world of the Young Kingdoms than my other ill-thought gibberish.

  • As bloody usual, my final map isn't. I was never thrilled with the water fill at this scale. Even scaling it up, it looked unsatisfactory. So, as I'm creating my 'own style' based on this annual, which takes its fills from the Jonathon Roberts, dungeon and city styles, I thought I'd import his overland and Midgard fills to see how they looked. Below is the result, this is The Midgard version and I'm much happier with its overall appearance.

  • Not sure how practical this may be, as it's not a style I've played with as yet, but it might be worth adding some hedgelines to the outer edges of the fields as well. Just looks a bit odd with so many fields where the wildlife can just wander in and graze at will.

  • That's a good point and not hard to do, though I must admit, I thought it looked odd having them totally enclosed...which is why I left them out.

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